A/N: Thank you for the kind reviews, bbs! I'm glad you guys are still enjoying my story.
:: :: :: ::
"Get away from me!" Rose screamed at little Professor Tofty, who had attempted to help Rose to her feet, but she was already scrambling.
She didn't mind the stares and whispers from her classmates, they were so completely unimportant, and Rose ran for the doors of the Great Hall, chanting, "No, no, nononono…"
"Pressure of examinations!" said the old wizard to the other students. "Never mind that now, everyone. Only a few minutes left—"
Rose burst through the doors, and tore up the Grand Staircase.
This could not be happening. It couldn't. It just couldn't.
Terror clawed up her throat, and she ran for Gryffindor Tower as quickly as she could.
The hallways were crowded with students just leaving exams, and Rose plowed through them, heedless of the second years she knocked to the floor.
Finally in Gryffindor Tower, she ran up to her dormitory – empty, everyone else was still in the exam – and threw open her trunk. The mirror was in here somewhere, and she could just make sure… he was okay, he had to be okay… Snape said that Voldemort could use the visions against her… and, and…
She was sobbing as her hand closed around the mirror. "Si-Sirius!" she cried.
For a while it seemed like nothing would happen, but then his face appeared, grinning. "Lo, Rosie. How are your exams going?"
Rose clapped a hand over her mouth, relief so great she was shaking with it. "Oh, God. Oh, God, thank you. Christ." She dropped her head between her knees, gasping for breath now that she had the time to think about trivialities like breathing.
Sirius voice was worried with a note of panic, calling her name, she could hear it faintly from the mirror still held in her limp hand. One more breath, and a quick swipe at the tears staining her face, and she held the mirror up to her face.
"Hi," she said. "Sorry."
"What is going on? What's happened to you? Has Umbridge—"
"No, no," she said, "Nothing like that. Voldemort sent me this fake vision of you, and he was tor-torturing you— It was just like when Arthur—"
"Oh, Rose. I'm fine, honey. See? Right here. Limbs intact. No more tears, okay?"
She nodded, unable to speak at the moment, sobs of relief choking her.
"You still haven't got the hang of Occlumency then?" he asked. She shook her head, attempting to calm herself down. She shut her eyes, and let out a long breath.
"No, I'm terrible at it. I've been trying, but I just can't… I can't get it."
"It's probably Snape's fault. That effing—"
"It's not. He's been trying, really. He's frustrated with me, but he's still been trying. I think I'm a lost cause."
"Well, summer hols are almost here, and then you won't need to worry about greasy Snivellus any longer," he grinned, cajoling. "Are you better now?"
She hummed out an affirmative, and wiped any lingering tears away. "I'm fine now."
"Tell me about your OWL's."
Grateful with Sirius for knowing that she needed a subject change, Rose rattled off how she thought she'd done on her exams thus far. Thankfully, History of Magic was her final one, and she'd been expecting to do poorly on it anyhow.
Sirius found this amusing. "Tell you what, if you get better scores than I did on the OWL's, you can choose where we have dinner every night of the summer hols. I don't think it's likely, but…"
She snorted. "What if I do better than Remus?"
"Then I'll buy you a new broomstick. Maybe a Quidditch team."
"I have to help Molly with dinner," he said. "You can call back later if you'd like."
"Okay," she nodded, feeling the burn of tears again. God, she was so glad that he was all right. "I'm going to go down for dinner… Hermione is probably wondering why I went mad in the middle of the exam."
"Bye then, Rosie."
She dropped the mirror onto her bed, and fell back onto her pillows, pressing her hands to her eyes. She took many slow, deep breaths, and when she felt like she would not break into a thousand pieces, got up and fixed her makeup.
:: :: :: ::
After changing out of her school uniform into more comfortable Muggle clothes, and making certain that all the redness from her crying had been adequately covered, Rose made her way back down to the Great Hall to have dinner, and to endure the stares of her classmates.
But before she could reach them, Umbridge found her.
"Miss Potter!" She latched her be-ringed hand around Rose's arm painfully. "You have immediate detention!"
"What for?" asked Rose, as she was dragged along. She was going to bruise.
"For your disruption of the History of Magic examination! I heard all about your screaming fit, you horrid brat. I don't know where you get off, thinking that your fame excuses such behavior! But not in my school!"
She pulled Rose through the door to Umbridge's office, and all but threw Rose down into the chair behind the little desk where she had served her previous detention. Rose glared as Umbridge slapped a long roll of parchment and the blood quill down on the desk.
"You will write, 'I must not draw attention to myself,' until I tell you to stop! Do you hear me?"
"I hear you," Rose muttered, and put the quill to parchment.
Umbridge sat down behind her desk, and fluffed her hair. Rose wanted to tell her that it wouldn't help. Her hair was beyond hope.
"I ought to have you expelled," said Umbridge.
"I haven't done anything," said Rose.
"You're an instigator of trouble," said Umbridge. "You should have been thrown out with Dumbledore! I know that you've been holding meetings of your little army—"
"You haven't got any proof." Besides, she hadn't held a meeting since Dumbledore had sacrificed himself for the whole DA.
"I don't need it," Umbridge said nastily. "I'm the Headmistress of this school now, and I have the power of the Ministry behind my every action. No one would bat an eye if I had you thrown out."
Rose glared, the quill digging into the parchment as she wrote.
"I'm certain that you're behind half of the pranks that have been pulled since those horrible Weasley twins have left. Everyone knows the three of you were thick as thieves."
"I've had nothing to do with—"
"You're a liar! You've lied about many things this school year, and you lied about the Dark Lord's return… and I'll prove it."
Rose feigned indifference, and kept her eyes on her parchment until Umbridge had her back turned. The toady woman put her head in the fire, and called for Professor Snape's office. Rose could not hear Snape's half of the conversation, but did hear Umbridge say, "Professor Snape, if you would be so kind, I need another bottle of Veritaserum."
Rose gaped. Umbridge was going to try to poison her again! For Christ sakes, what was wrong with this woman?
But apparently Snape didn't have what Umbridge wanted.
"You can make more, can't you? …What do you mean, a month? But I need it this evening, Snape! …Potter needs to be disciplined. She is lying, once again, and I have had enough… You are on probation! You are being entirely unhelpful! I expected better, Lucius Malfoy always speaks very highly of you!"
She pulled her head out of the fire, hair frizzier than even Hermione's on a bad day, and Rose sent a smirk at the parchment that was only filled with four lines of, 'I must not draw attention to myself.'
"Very well," said Umbridge, muttering to herself. Rose watched her warily out of the corner of her eye. "Very well… I am left with no alternative… This is more than a matter of school discipline… This is an issue of Ministry security… yes… yes…"
When the evil villain began muttering nonsense, it was time to take cover. Rose could feel the pressure in the room changing. Umbridge was staring at Rose, tapping her wand against her palm and breathing heavily.
Rose kept still, sketching out lines slowly with the blood quill. Blood was beading up on the back of her hand, but she paid it no mind.
"You are forcing me, Miss Potter… I do not want to. But sometimes circumstances justify the use… I am sure the Minister will understand that I had no choice…"
Rose finally raised her head, and let the quill fall. Something… something very bad was going to happen here.
"The Cruciatus Curse should loosen your tongue."
Rose's eyes went wide, and she could only stare in horror at the end of Umbridge's wand that had raised and was pointed at her. She scrambled back, falling out of the chair, but it was too late—
The pain was terrible. Afterward she would be able to say that Umbridge's curse was weaker than Voldemort's, but only just, and at those levels of pain a matter of degrees didn't count for much.
Rose screamed, fingers clutching at the fibers of the shaggy pink rug she'd fallen onto. It went on and on, and when she thought she couldn't stand it any longer it stopped.
Rose's limbs went limp, and she sobbed, looking up blankly at the ceiling. She rolled her head, all that she was able to do at that moment, and looked at Umbridge. She was standing there, clad in fuzzy pink, chest heaving, and an unmistakable look of pleasure in her face. Rose gagged, and rolled onto her side.
"You've just broken the law," said Rose. "That's a one way trip to Azkaban, that is. The Minister won't be happy with you."
"What Cornelius doesn't know won't hurt him," Umbridge said, voice almost husky. "He never knew that I'd Polyjuiced into you all summer long, but he was delighted that you'd been so discredited by the press."
Rose blinked. "That was you? You're the imposter? Oh, gross."
"Somebody had to act," Umbridge breathed, her wand pointed at Rose's lolled head. "They were all bleating about silencing you somehow – discrediting you – but I was the one who actually did something about it… And it worked quite well, didn't it? Girls' reputations are so vulnerable… so easy to tarnish…"
"You turned me into the Slut Who Lived," growled Rose. She raised herself on shaking arms. "I lost George because of what you did. I could have lost him for good—"
"Such a stupid girl. You played right into my hands with that interview you gave. It made you look just like the liar you are."
"I am not a liar!" she said, pulling herself to her feet using Umbridge's desk. "He's back, and you're going to be so sorry—"
Umbridge cast, "Crucio!" but Rose dodged, throwing herself behind Umbridge's desk. Umbridge let out a scream, following her, but Rose scrambled, grabbing the nearest thing that felt weapon-like, and went at Umbridge with it.
Rose had learned through many duels with older students and the DA alike that casting spells was most difficult in close quarters, so she jumped at Umbridge, swinging the object she had grabbed, and brained Umbridge over the head with it. Umbridge wobbled with a cry, and fell to the floor. Rose grabbed Umbridge's wand, and quickly cast a stunning spell. Umbridge slumped against the desk in a limp pile of toady limbs and fuzzy pink chenille.
Rose looked down at her teacher, the shard of broken kitten plate in her hand, the scattered bits of china surrounding Umbridge, and the small trickle of blood dripping from Umbridge's hair and down the side of her face.
"Shit," she said, and leaned against the desk. Her arms and legs felt shaky from the after effects of the Cruciatus Curse. Rose breathed deeply and thought quickly. If she woke Umbridge up she would definitely be expelled.
"She just used an Unforgivable on me!" Rose said aloud. Surely, this was – as McGonagall had mentioned long ago – worth going to war over. The Cruciatus Curse was quite a huge thing compared to the bloody line of script on the back of Rose's hand. And the woman had nearly killed her with an overdose of Veritaserum.
This could not be allowed to go on.
Rose re-applied the stunning spell, wary of Umbridge waking up. She fetched her own wand from Umbridge's desk, and put Umbridge's in her pocket, and set a binding spell on the toady woman as well. She was bound and unconscious, but Rose still eyed her guardedly.
"Emmy?" said Rose, voice quiet. There was a quiet pop in the silent room.
"Miss Rose?" said the elf, and then getting a look at Umbridge. "Oh! What has Miss Rose done? She will be in such trouble!"
"It's all right, Emmy," said Rose. "I need you to get me something from Madam Pomfrey's office. Can you do that for me?" Emmy nodded. "There's a file folder, a thick one, and it has Professor Umbridge's name on it. Can you bring it here?"
The house elf brought the file to Rose just moments later, and Rose flipped through it. Madam Pomfrey had made up a cover page of sorts, which listed each incident report in the file. The accounts of blood quill detentions were listed by date. There was the account of overdosing Rose with Veritaserum, and a few other nasty things that Rose hadn't heard about until now.
Rose flicked through the photographs Madam Pomfrey had taken, and moved the most incriminating of the lot to the top of the file, and tucked the folder under her arm.
This would either work or it wouldn't, but Rose wouldn't be in any more trouble than she was already in if it all went wrong.
:: :: :: ::
Rose used the fire in Umbridge's office to Floo to the Ministry. Armed with the folder filled with detailed descriptions and photos of the abuse Umbridge had perpetrated on the students of Hogwarts, as well as Umbridge's wand which would reveal the casting of an Unforgivable, Rose limped up to the security desk in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic and asked for Eric, the night watchman, to direct her to the Auror office.
"I need to report a crime," she said. Rose looked frightful. Her cheeks felt tight where her tears had dried on them, her voice was hoarse from screaming, and she was trembling all over - a result of being under the Cruciatus Curse for a long while.
Eric recognized her immediately, and his eyes widened when he took in the state of her. He hurried out from behind the desk to offer his arm, and led her to the Auror Department himself.
Luckily, the first Auror who saw Rose was also one she knew. Kingsley Shacklebolt was a tall, imposing figure, but Rose knew that he liked ginger biscuits and winding up Sirius at Order meetings. He took her to his cubicle, set her down with a cup of tea, and she told him everything.
She didn't get any further than telling him what had happened that evening, before he yelled out for a team to go to Hogwarts and arrest Dolores Umbridge on the spot.
It was the second best thing Rose had heard all day.
Rose didn't think it would take so long to give a statement, but it was nearly eight o'clock in the evening before she was finished. Kingsley had written down her account of what had happened that evening in Umbridge's office in a nicely appointed interrogation room. Rose hadn't felt interrogated, because Kingsley was very easy to talk to, with his soothing voice and calm questions, but she was exhausted when they'd finished.
She sagged back in her chair, and Kingsley sent her a smile as he rolled up the parchments that he'd just filled out. "You look tired," he said.
"I finished OWL's today," she said. "And then this happened. I'm exhausted."
"Why don't you run down to the cafeteria and get yourself something to eat. I've got some things to do, and I still need to ask you about the Veritaserum incident…"
Rose groaned. "All right. How do I get there?"
Kingsley gave her directions, and a few coins since Rose didn't have any money on her. The Ministry's cafeteria was off the Atrium. Rose doubted that she could miss it. Things like cafeterias were always well marked in places like this.
She wandered out of the Auror office, which was buzzing with the news of Umbridge's arrest, and cries of outrage as they spoke of her crimes against the students of Hogwarts. Rose smiled to herself, and found the bank of elevators they had taken to get up to the Auror office, and stopped short.
Rita Skeeter was standing by the elevators. Her back was to Rose, as she was talking to an Auror. Rose heard Rita say her name, and looked around wildly for an escape route.
A door marked with a plate that said, 'Stairs' was to her right, and Rose darted through it. She was not in the mood to speak to Rita Skeeter. Rose took the stairs down slowly, as she still felt a bit weak from the Cruciatus Curse, and didn't want to take a tumble. Her day had been rough enough.
Several flights of stairs later, Rose reached a door that marked the Atrium. She peered through the door, and found the Atrium empty. Excellent.
She looked around, trying to figure out where the cafeteria was, and seeing no signs, wandered around. It clearly wasn't here. The security desk was unmanned – perhaps Eric had gone home? – and there was no one to ask for directions.
Maybe she had misunderstood Kingsley?
Rose went back to the staircase, and went down one more floor. It made a logical sort of sense that the cafeteria would be below the Atrium. Rose opened the door, cautiously peered out and blinked in shock.
It was the long corridor from her dream. It dead-ended in a dark door.
Rose knew that door like she knew the door to her own dormitory. She knew that it would open to a circular room filled with doors and then…
She found herself walking down the long hallway, steps echoing eerily in the still silence. She reached the door and put her hand out, and then froze at a noise.
It sounded like… a snore. Rose remembered Mr. Weasley being under an invisibility cloak near this very door, and reached slowly towards the source of the noise, and her hand encountered silky fabric. She slowly pulled, and Mundungus Fletcher's slackened face appeared.
He was dead asleep, and smelled strongly of whiskey. Rose rolled her eyes, and covered Dung again with the cloak. She pushed open the door, sent a kick at Dung, and slipped through the door before he could wake and catch her.
She was in the circular room with all the doors, but then they did something they'd never done before. The walls started to spin, and Rose shut her eyes, feeling like she was spinning as well, though she was standing absolutely still. There was a grinding creak, and the doors stopped. Rose opened her eyes, wary of all the identical doors – how would she get out? – which door was the right one?
All of a sudden, it seemed like an awful idea to be in here. She wasn't meant to be in this place. Snape had been trying all year to keep her from dreaming of it. Voldemort had sent her a false vision of it, trying to lure her here. And now she was stuck. Either she would be able to get out, or she wouldn't.
"Let fate decide," she said, and picked a door. It if was the way out, then she would leave, but if it was not… well… she did really want to know what that stupid bauble was, and would be glad to find out, and not be bothered by the questions any longer.
She put her hand to the door, and it swung open easily. It was neither the glittery room, nor the way out. It was a dim room with a large glass tank filled with green water and white things floating in the liquid. Rose didn't like the look of it, and didn't go any further than the threshold of the door, she went to shut it, but—"The room is going to spin again," she said to herself. She had to mark it somehow… Rose remembered a spell that Hermione had taught her, which conjured up little sticky bookmarks to put in her textbooks when they had been in frantic OWL study mode. She conjured up a bright blue one, and stuck it to the door.
She shut the door, and the room spun again.
Another room. She liked this one even less than the last. There was a tall archway set on a large platform in the middle of a sunken theatre. A tattered curtain hung from the arch and swayed in a nonexistent breeze. Rose marked it, and slammed the door shut.
The next door was locked. Rose marked it.
But the next… "This is it," she said to herself, recognizing the bright glitter of the room immediately. She marked the door with a yellow tab, and entered. The noise she'd heard in her dream was actually the ticking of many, many clocks. Tall grandfather ones, small carriage clocks, and tiny pocket watches sitting on bookshelves and tables. Rose winced at the glare coming off all the ticking, shining clocks, and saw the door at the end of the room.
The 'room with all the baubles'. It was so close now.
Rose passed the clocks, not even a bit interested, and put her hand to the door at the end of the room. It swung open, and Rose stepped through.
It was just as she had dreamed it. High as a church, and full of towering shelves all filled with dusty, spun glass orbs. They glimmered dully in the faint light. It was cold in here, Rose could see her breath, and it smelled old and disused – like no one had entered this room in years.
Rose edged forward, peering down the shadowy aisles. She couldn't see anything, couldn't hear anything but the sound of her own breathing, which was growing short with something like excitement.
"Row ninety-seven," she said in a whisper. She took the route she had taken in her dreams, but slowly. Now that she was here she was terrified and curious in equal measure, and expected at any moment to be stopped by some Ministry employee, demanding to know what she was doing here.
But there was no one.
She found the correct aisle, and peered down it. There was no one there. It was just as empty as the other rows had been, and Rose took tentative steps. It was here somewhere… in this aisle. She looked at the little baubles, and noticed that they had names on them.
Maybe… maybe her name?
She found the spot, she was sure of it, where Voldemort had been torturing Sirius in the false vision, and looked around at the baubles, scanning for a name, maybe hers, to jump out at her… and there it was.
A dusty glass bauble with a little yellowed label below with her name and a date some sixteen years ago sat on the shelf. Rose cocked her head to the side, and looked at the little ball wonderingly, because it wasn't just her name on it.
S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.
And Rose Potter
Rose stared at it, and reached out her hand.
Her breathing was harsh in the silence, and she dragged her hand back. Maybe she shouldn't… hadn't there been something in one of her visions about someone being hurt trying to take one of these things? She looked left down the aisle, and then right. There was still no one here.
"It's got my name on," she said to herself, voice just a low nothing that even she could hardly hear. She reached out her hand once more, and closed her fingers around the orb. She had expected it to be cold, as cold as the room, but it wasn't. It was warm, like it had been lying in the sun. Rose waited for something to happen – to fall down dead, or some such – but nothing did. She lifted the ball from the shelf and pulled it close to look at it, blowing the dust off.
And then from right behind her, a drawling voice said, "Very good, Miss Potter. Now turn around, nice and slowly, and give that to me."
Rose didn't turn slowly, she whirled, wand in hand and pointed it at the interloper. Lucius Malfoy, Draco's father.
"Fate is such a bitch," she muttered. He raised an eyebrow at her, and waved his hand.
"The prophecy, Potter. Hand it to me."
His wand was pointed at her chest, and Rose eyed it. One on one, the odds weren't in her favor, but they weren't entirely dire either. She could probably take Lucius Malfoy. Maybe. If she got incredibly lucky in the next few moments. Probably, she should get him talking, and then make her move… whatever that turned out to be.
"Prophecy?" she asked, taking several steps backwards. "Oh, you mean this old thing?"
Why wasn't he cursing her? Why hadn't he cursed her when her back was turned?
"To me," he said again.
"What kind of prophecy are we talking about anyway?" she said, flicking a glance at the bauble, which seemed so insignificant to her.
"You jest," he said, a smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth.
"No," said Rose. "What does Voldemort want with this little thing?"
Lucius let out a huff of agitation. Death Eaters always got so tetchy when Rose said his name.
"Don't play games with me, Miss Potter. Hand over the prophecy, and you can go on your way. Unharmed."
"I don't think you're going to hurt me, Mr. Malfoy. If you were you would have done it already. Now, how about you tell me about this prophecy." She spun the glass ball carelessly on her fingers, and Lucius's eyes went wide and panicked.
"Ooh," she said. "He must really want it."
He glared. "Dumbledore never told you the reason you bear that scar was hidden in the bowels of the Department of Mysteries? I don't believe it."
"Dumbledore and I don't have many heart to hearts," said Rose. "What's this about my scar?"
He snorted. "I can't believe it. Dumbledore never told you. Well, this explains why you didn't come earlier. The Dark Lord wondered why you didn't come running when he showed you the place where it was hidden in your dreams. He thought natural curiosity would make you want to hear the exact wording…"
"Did he? Why did he want me to hear it? Why did he want me to come and get it?"
"Why?" asked Lucius. "Because the only people who are permitted to retrieve a prophecy from the Department of Mysteries, Miss Potter, are those about whom the prophecy was made."
"Ah. So what's so interesting about it? I mean, I don't even take divination, because it's such a crap subject… Why is Voldemort be so interested?"
"The prophecy is about both of you. Haven't you ever wondered, Rose, why the Dark Lord tried to kill you when you were a baby?"
"He tried to kill me because of this?" she said, holding it up. "He tried to kill me because of a prophecy?" The orb was hardly bigger than a Snitch. It seemed like such a little thing. Hardly worth the fuss. "Has he heard it? Why didn't he come get it himself?"
"Why should he get it himself? When the Ministry is doing such a good job of ignoring his return? Why should he reveal himself to the Aurors when they are wasting their time trying to catch Peter Pettigrew?"
It was just as she and Hermione had thought. Rose nodded. "And he's got you doing his dirty work for him." She shook her head at him. "God, Mr. Malfoy, he's turned you into his little errand boy."
Any amusement that lingered on his face was wiped away.
"You have to see what he's doing to you," she said. "The circles under your eyes! Even your hair is lank, and I swear you've got more wrinkles now than you had when I last saw you—"
"Shut your mouth," he said sharply.
"I don't even care about you," she said. "But what about Draco? Do you really want your son, your heir, to wind up in the service of Voldemort? To bow and kneel? Aren't Malfoys meant to be better than that? You know what he'll do to Draco, don't you? You've had it happen to you. Voldemort might even kill him."
He advanced on her, and Rose stepped back. "You do not know what you are speaking of, girl," he snarled.
"Oh, but I do." She tapped her forehead with the hand holding the prophecy. "I've got a nice little view into the Dark Lord's mind after all. If he wasn't crazy before, he's batshit insane now. I mean, come on, Mr. Malfoy," she laughed bitterly, "his main concern these days is killing a little girl." She shrugged her thin shoulders. "And he can't even manage to do that."
Lucius let a breath out through his nose. "Give me the prophecy," he said again.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Malfoy, but I won't," she said. "In fact, it might be better for all concerned if I just—" she let the orb slip a little in her fingers.
"No!" he cried, and reached for it.
Rose cast her Death Eater standby – boom goes the dynamite – and ran.
The roaring noise drowned her ears, and the shelves blasted outwards. Dust and baubles flew through the air and impacted, sending up strange wisps – like ghosts. She couldn't hear them over the noise and the light, but could see their mouths moving. The tall shelves fell like dominoes.
Rose ran, hearing Lucius hurling curses of the verbal variety after her, and reached the door to the room with the clocks. She tore through it, and out to the circular room. She left the door open, and began throwing open the others, wildly trying to find the way out.
Three false alarms and then, "Yes!" she ran through it, hurtling down the long corridor, and heard Dung say, "Hey!" but did not stop.
To the staircase, and oh, up to the Atrium where surely she would be safe…
Up the stairs, panting for breath, and she flew out into the Atrium. It was well lit, and the peacock blue ceiling was cheerful, and there were people—
A figure in black swept in to block her path, and Rose stopped short, gasping. A cold hand wrapped gently around her neck, tilting her chin up—
"Hello, Rose," he said coolly.
Rose looked up into red slitted eyes, now recognizing the long, bone white fingers at her throat – not choking, just holding her in place. "Hello, Tom," she said faintly.
The people who had cluttered the Atrium were screaming, running – they'd noticed Lord Voldemort in their midst – but they were all running away – leaving Rose to her fate. The whole place was a cacophony of noise that echoed around the wide hall, feet pounding on marble, shrill screams, 'It's You-Know-Who!', 'He's back! He's here!' and 'Oh, Merlin, save us!'
Voldemort smiled terribly. "Such silly sheep," he said, eyes fixed with hers. He plucked her wand from her hand and tossed it away. Rose bit back a cry of dismay as it sailed through the air and fell with a plunk into the basin of the Fountain of Magical Brethren. "I believe you have something I want, Rose."
His wand flicked, and Rose looked to the side, too afraid to move her head out of his hand, though every instinct she had was screaming for it, and noticed that he'd put up some kind of barrier between them and the rest of the hall. They were in the center of a column of light. The walls sparkled with magic, and enclosed them in a silent, impenetrable circle.
She was trapped. She cut her eyes back to his, and nodded slowly. "The prophecy," she said, and her voice shook with fear.
His eyes flickered with malicious amusement. "Give it to me, Rose."
"It's got both our names on," she protested, and swallowed. "I think we should both listen to it."
They stared at each other, he very serious, and Rose's heart beating like that of a terrified rabbit. She could hear her own harsh breaths, and the pounding of her heart in her ears, and the pain in her scar because he was so close…
Voldemort nodded. Rose held out the orb in the palm of her hand, and they both looked at it – still dirty with dust and now Rose's fingerprints, and with a flick of his long finger he sent it to the floor, where it shattered.
A ghostly shadow of a younger Professor Trelawney rose up from the shattered remains of the orb. She spoke in a voice that was unlike her own, deep and alien, eyes large behind her glasses…
'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… And the Dark Lord will mark her as his equal, but she will have power the Dark Lord knows not… And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…'
He released his hold on her throat, and frowned mightily at the spot where Professor Trelawney had stood and faded away. Rose rubbed where his fingers had touched her, and muttered, "Well, that was vague."
That was what he'd been after? That was what she'd been obsessing about all year? That was what got her parents killed? That?
How utterly stupid.
Rose crossed her arms, and then jumped as a spell impacted on the outside of the enclosure spell in a burst of bright red light – the Aurors had arrived, and were trying to break through…
Unconcerned with this, Voldemort turned to her, looking murderous. "What power could you possibly have that I do not understand? I, who have traveled the earth and discovered things that you could never even dream of! You are nothing compared to me!"
Rose felt her whole body tighten up in indignation, terror taking a backseat. She wasn't nothing. And she could think of quite a few things that she knew that Voldemort would never understand, but couldn't fathom how any of those things would help her to 'vanquish' him. Then the full meaning of the prophecy took hold, and she spoke the outrageous thought as it occurred to her. "I'm the only one who can kill you?" she said shrilly. "Me? Only me? Me! That can't be right."
"I agree," he said. "You've no chance at all." Though he didn't raise his wand to her. He cast her a speculative look that she didn't like. Probably thinking of when he had attempted to kill her as a baby, and it had gone so wrong for him.
"I could kill you right now," he said thoughtfully, and waved his arm to indicate the useless Aurors beyond the bubble. "I could kill you, and no one could do a thing to stop me."
Rose held herself very tightly, trying to shrink into a smaller target. There was no escape here. He had her held fast, and could very well do whatever he liked to her, and she could do nothing to stop it.
"So ineffectual, aren't they, Rose?" he said, and she could tell that he'd changed the enclosure spell somehow, and everyone in the Atrium could now hear his voice. They all froze, and Kingsley's eyes caught hers. He looked horrified. "I could kill you right now, and none of them could do anything but watch as you died."
He grabbed her, and she gasped in fright. He put his wand to her throat, and her back to his chest. Rose could see the crowd, they were rapt and terrified, and unable to do anything…
"Your Girl Who Lived," he said to the crowd. "Your shining little heroine — and you were unable to protect her. Not even in the very offices of the Ministry of Magic. You can't even protect her from a little bit of pain—Crucio!"
Rose screamed, and fell to the floor thrashing and writhing. Oh, God, it was so much worse than Umbridge's curse. So much worse than it had been that night in the graveyard when Voldemort was newly re-born, and she realized now, weak, because this—she screamed and screamed, sure that any moment her mind would snap, and she would be sharing a hospital ward with Neville's parents… wishing that she could pull away from the pain, oh, where was the blessed blackness…
And then it stopped. Rose choked and sobbed on the floor, whole body trembling from the aftershocks.
"Look, Rose," Voldemort said with pleasure, "the cavalry has arrived." He nudged her with his foot, and she rolled over.
"Dumbledore," she breathed. And not only him, the Order as well – Sirius, Remus, and Mr. Weasley… She shut her eyes.
Voldemort laughed. "Let's see what they can do to help you, Rose. Will they do better than the Aurors, I wonder? We know now that no one here can kill me – least of all you, you trembling wretch."
"Fuck you," she muttered.
"What was that, dear?" he said, and pulled her up by her hair. Rose gave a cry, and attempted to pull her legs under her. She was on her feet, leaning heavily on Voldemort to stay that way, and could feel the point of his wand digging into her temple.
"Let her go, Tom," Rose heard Dumbledore say. She opened her eyes, and locked on Sirius who was struggling to get to her from the tight grip of Remus's arms. She gave a little sob.
"I don't think I will," said Voldemort. "Rose and I have been having quite a nice time in here. Did you know, Dumbledore, that only little Rose here—" he shook her head, hand fisted in her hair, "—has the power to vanquish me? I find this endlessly amusing. She looks so heroic at the moment, doesn't she?" Rose's head lolled when his grip on her hair slackened, and dropped against his shoulder. "Very heroic. I'm trembling. Really."
"You're surrounded, Tom," Dumbledore said. "The Order, the Aurors, you'll never get away. Give up now."
Voldemort laughed, and Rose blinked in dazed agreement. She rather felt that Voldemort would be able to pull a Houdini quite easily.
"Perhaps I'll just take little Rose with me. Keep her as a toy. She's quite entertaining."
"No!" roared Sirius, throwing Remus off, and rushing at the enclosure.
"It's your godfather, Rose! Say hello. Be polite now. You do have such terrible manners."
"Sirius, get back!" she cried, voice hoarse from screaming. She didn't know what would happen if he were to touch the enclosure. Someone outside sent a spell at Sirius, and he stopped before reaching the bubble. Remus was able to drag him back.
"Only this tiny, useless girl between me and complete victory," said Voldemort, sounding as though he was musing aloud.
"Not only Miss Potter," said Dumbledore, approaching the enclosure. "We all stand against you."
"And none of you can stop me," he replied. "I've heard the prophecy now, Dumbledore. All of it. Now I know the truth. Only Rose Potter can kill me." He laughed, a high horrible noise that made Rose shrink away from him. "Either must die at the hand of the other," he quoted.
"There are worse things than death, Tom," said Dumbledore.
"He's got that right," Rose muttered to herself. "This sucks."
"There is nothing worse than death," said Voldemort, ignoring Rose completely, the point of his wand still at her head.
"You are quite wrong," said Dumbledore. "Indeed it is your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death that has always been your greatest weakness."
Voldemort smiled. "Let's test that theory, shall we?" And he vanished.
Without support now, Rose staggered and fell against the barrier. She could hear screams outside, of shock maybe, but didn't mind them. Voldemort was gone, and she sagged in relief against the column, which was surprisingly solid for something that appeared to be made of light. She dropped her head against the spell - it felt like cold plastic. How odd.
"Don't move, Rose!" Dumbledore said to her, but she didn't think she could in any case. The only moving she would be doing was falling to the floor—
Then painpainpain ripped through her skull and she screamed – her scar felt like it was bursting open – oh, God, how could anything be worse than the Cruciatus? She was dead, or would be, she knew it – this was pain that she could not endure—
There was something inside her. Like coils of a snake with red eyes wrapped around her very soul, and she could not tell what was herself and what was the other. They were fused together, bound in pain, and then…
The screaming stopped abruptly, and Rose felt her body, which had somehow stayed upright from when she had propped herself against the barrier, turn sideways to look coyly out at the crowd.
It was odd. The thing – Voldemort – was using her body.
"Kill me now, Dumbledore," she said, looking at the headmaster through lowered eyelashes. "If death is nothing, kill the girl…"
Oh, Christ, Rose thought, pleading. Let him do it. Let him kill me. Death cannot be worse than this…
Rose realized her mouth was speaking those words as well as Voldemort's. "Please," she begged, "Please—"
He took hold of her once more, drawing his wand out of thin air, and putting it to her temple. "Or maybe the old man can't," he mused with her voice. "Either must die at the hand of the other… Do you think this counts, Rose? Shall we give it a try?"
Rose whined in pain, sobbing, and hoped it would end. "Oh, please – what's, what's—"
She couldn't remember the words to the Killing Curse.
There was a bang; fists on the enclosure and Rose's eyes flew open. Sirius was right there in front of her, pounding desperately against the barrier.
"Rosie, honey, put the wand down," he begged.
Rose let out a wail. Oh, god, it hurthurthurt.
"Rose! Rose, no honey, no!" He was crying. She pressed her palm against the barrier. "Sirius."
It didn't matter that Rose couldn't remember the words. Lord Voldemort knew them perfectly well. He took her voice again, and with the wand tip pressed to her temple said, "Avada Kedavra."
The world went dark.
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