Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or anything else that may be referenced in this chapter.
A/N: Humungous thank yous to you all for reading, reviewing, following and favouring; and I hope you all enjoy this chapter! :)
"Good morning Severus- you're not busy, are you."
It was a statement, not a question.
"Not at all," Severus smoothly as he drew back, bowing low.
"Come in, my Lord."
"I saw you walking past my house with that blonde bloke- Dragon."
"Draco- though that is Latin for Dragon," Rose corrected; Dudley smiled sheepishly.
"I did think it was a bit weird to call your son Dragon- even if you are magical. Draco makes more sense."
"Even amongst the magical- you can sit down if you want," Rose waved a hand to the patch of grass beside her to show she wasn't offended by the implication that being magical would alter one's thought process. It was marginally offensive, but she let it slide, reasoning that Dudley was still struggling with the concept of the magic world due to his lack of exposure to it. "Hello, by the way."
"Hello," Dudley replied, sitting down of the grass beside her. "Well, I saw you two walking and it didn't look like you were on particularly friendly terms, so I thought I'd, er, follow you and make sure things went okay. Not that I'd be much good in a fight between two, er, wizards, but my dad used to say that you can never go wrong with the old one-two, and Harry wrote me a really nice letter in September, and you know, we are family; and that's important- even if we don't know each other very well."
"I guess so." Rose acknowledged, pushing her glasses up her nose and eyeing him warily as her- and Draco's, she acknowledged with an inward wince- previous doubts about Dudley's newfound attitude returned to her.
Dudley eyed her back shrewdly. "You remember don't you?" he asked with a smile. "What a prat I was."
"Yeah," Rose nodded; feeling it would be pointless to lie.
"I remember you scaring the hell out of me- I deserved it though," Dudley nodded, "…and you're on the whole 'do people really change' thing?"
"A bit," Rose nodded again. Dudley sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"When my dad died, I had a bit of a think- an epiphany, the school councillor called it," he said. "All of a sudden it was just me and Mum and I realised that the connections you have with people, friendships and that, you know, are what makes life good and enjoyable and fulfilling and everything. So I went back to Little Whinging and tried to make amends with the people I had, er, bullied. Didn't always work, sometimes it did."
"…Right…" Rose nodded slowly again.
"My point is that I've changed, Rose," Dudley went on, "You don't have to believe me, but I have; and if you want to talk about whatever just happened with Blondie that's led to you being sat on the grass with your head on your arms then I'll listen and try and help- I only got here in time to see you sink to the ground."
Rose hesitated, her mind whirling to consider Dudley's offer. Talking out her predicament might actually help, but explaining to Dudley everything that had happened; as she would have to do in order for him to understand… she could make up a story, yes; but all of a sudden Rose found she couldn't be bothered. She had too much going on in her mind already without the bother of twisting it all into some big fairy-tale; especially since she and Dudley had been raised on completely different fairy-tales; and in all honesty he would probably only really understand just as much of the real story as he would a fairy-tale. "…Okay." She agreed after a moment, choosing to take another moment to figure out how, exactly, to start.
"…So what happened?" Dudley spoke within her moment of silence. "He did look really nervous- was he trying to get back together with you or something?"
"Wha- yuck- ew- no!" Rose spluttered, revolted by the mere thought. "He's my brother- except we're not actually siblings."
"Okay, I was just trying to make it easier for you to start," Dudley raised his hands in surrender. "Whatever it is there's obviously a lot for you to think about."
"There is," Rose nodded, running a hand through her hair, too. "Look Dudley are you sure you want to know? There's an awful lot to it and it's really not pleasant- it involves two murders."
"Murders?!" Dudley's eyes widened. "God this really is big- and yes I'm sure. I mean, I don't know anything about murders, but I might be able to offer some advice anyway and I'm very curious now."
So Rose cleared her throat and told him everything- well, almost everything. She told him about the Battle in the Department of Mysteries; about Sirius, how he had died; and her resulting particular aversion to the Imperius Curse and her fallout with Harry; she told him about Draco; the mission that the Dark Lord had given him to avenge his family; how he had tried to protect everyone; how he had eventually opened up to her to some extent over Christmas, let her help him; how it had lead to her thinking of a way to avenge Sirius's death, which she felt she had only done it part. She told him of the Vanishing Cabinet and their plan to fix it; how her helping Draco had lead to her becoming obsessed with fixing the Cabinet, lying to her friends and boyfriend, ruining her health and breaking up with Blaise. She told him of her and Draco's failing to fix the Cabinet; of Draco's braking down and running into the sixth floor boys' bathroom; how she had followed him to comfort him; how Harry had arrived, and the fight that had ensued. She told him of her own epiphany; how she had stopped helping Draco and fixed her friendship with Harry and got back together with Blaise- then that they had gotten into another big fight she didn't want to discuss and had broken up. She told him about the night Draco had managed to fix the Vanishing Cabinet; the arrival of the Death Eaters and Dumbledore's death; leaving out the Horcruxes; making it sound as though Harry had been doing his Astronomy homework and Dumbledore had found him. She continued with finding about Rosmerta, making it sound like McGonagall had found out during an investigation into Dumbledore's death and warned her. She finished with explaining about how she had been able to forgive Severus; making it sound as though Dumbledore had not wanted to be tortured by Death Eaters- which was partially true- and then about Draco, how he had asked her to forgive him; how she had asked for time and wasn't at all sure what to do now. By the time she had vanished her voice was almost entirely gone from talking so much, her mind felt somewhat more ordered from talking at all out- even with the white lies and leaving out details with regards to Horcruxes and her relationship with Blaise- and Dudley was staring at her with his mouth wide open.
"…I told you it was a lot," Rose croaked with a smile after a few moments of Dudley staring at her in silence.
"…Yeah," Dudley nodded slowly. "Yeah you did... Bloody hell. Can I, er, have a minute- to think, you know?"
"Yeah of course," Rose said with a smile. "Take as long as you need- I've got nowhere to be and it gives me a chance to think as well."
Dudley smiled back and the two lapsed into a companionably thoughtful silence. Rose settled as far back into the brick wall as she could, closing her eyes and doing her upmost to take the jumble of thoughts and emotions inside her.
She needed to pinpoint was exactly it was that was hurting her most. Was it the betrayal she felt that Draco had cast the Imperius Curse unnecessarily? Was it the betrayal she felt that he had let her help him knowing that she wouldn't had she known the whole story- that he had been ordered to kill Dumbledore? Was it the fact that Draco could have gotten help but hadn't? Could she put the lying and deception and unwarranted use of unforgiveable curses and brainlessness behind her? could she accept Draco's story that he had been scared for his family, friends and himself? Could she move on from everything and restore her friendship with Draco, because he had explained to her that he had gone along with the Dark Lord's mission, lied to her out of desperation for companionship and tried to kill Dumbledore and done everything else he had done, merely because he was scared? Could she accept that he hadn't so much as tried to find a way out of the situation he had found himself in; hadn't placed his trust in Dumbledore, the only wizard the Dark Lord had ever feared, when he had the chance; because he was scared? Rose chewed her top lip; thinking hard. She may have been able to order the events of the past few years in her mind, from speaking them aloud, save for a few details and the inclusion of the greater yellow-headed vulture, but she rather thought that her emotions, particularly these ones, were going to be rather more difficult to untangle and put into order, never mind use to answer her questions…
"D?" the call of an unfamiliar female voice pulled Rose from her thoughts, how long later she didn't know.
"Annie!" Dudley leapt to his feet, looking around in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
Rose looked around too, getting to her feet as she caught sight of a tall, slim girl with long strawberry blonde hair and grey eyes of about her age walking around the side of the mill wall towards them.
"I wanted to surprise you," the girl replied, stopping as she reached the two. "I went round your house but your Mum said you'd gone out and she didn't know when you'd be home; then this guy, Peter, said that he'd seen you come here so I thought I'd come and surprise you."
"You certainly did that," Dudley smiled, taking the girl's hand and kissing her softly. Annie smiled, lacing her fingers through Dudley's as she turned to look at Rose.
"I don't think we've met." She said, a curious edge to her tone, "I'm Annie."
"Oh yeah," Dudley turned to look at Rose, too, as though he had completely forgotten she was there. "Er Annie- I don't know if you remember my cousin Harry, but this is his twin sister, Rose. Rose, this is my girlfriend Annie Polkiss- she lives in Little Whinging."
"Nice to meet you." Rose smiled, holding out her hand.
"And you," Annie smiled back, shaking her hand. "I remember Harry, but I never knew he had a sister. Did you go to St. Grogory's?"
"No- Harry and I were split up after our parents died. It's a long story." Rose replied, assuming that St. Grogory's was the name of Harry, Dudley and Annie's primary school. She noticed suddenly the way that Annie and Dudley were looking at each other and quickly decided not to intrude upon their time together any longer. "Well, I should probably get going," she said, slightly awkwardly. "Dudley if you have any ideas about my predicament, you know where to find me."
"Actually, I have had one idea." Dudley said as Rose turned to leave, "I think you should forgive him. It's sounds to me like he was put in an impossible position and did what he needed to do to survive; to protect you, and his parents. Then there's the fact that he's come to you and apologised and tried to tell you things he didn't know you knew; he wants a clean slate. And I saw his face- he was anxious- clearly you mean a lot to him and he was scared that he was going to lose you. Probably still is. You can't change the past, God knows I wish I could; but you can try and make amends for your mistakes; and you can definitely change the future. I know that the circumstances of your predicament are a great deal bigger than my bullying; but if I was dictated by my mistakes for the rest of my life, I wouldn't ever be as happy as I am now." He smiled at Annie as he spoke, squeezing her hand.
"I see," Rose replied. "I'll, er keep that in mind- it's a lot, you know. Thanks for your help Dudley."
Dudley shrugged. "It's just my opinion," he said simply, leaning in towards Annie as Rose passed the two and started to head away from the mill wall, back towards her home.
She took her time walking home, thinking over Dudley's words. She knew that Draco really was sorry about his actions and wanted to make amends and be friends again, but she wasn't sure if she could understand… if she could forgive and forget…
By the time she got home her head was aching and Rose wanted nothing more than to curl up in her bedroom with her potions kit and brew all her thoughts away. Even if it was only for half-an-hour or an hour, she just wanted to rest.
Rose glanced over her shoulder as she pulled her wand from her sleeve, making sure there were no Muggles about before she cast an unlocking charm; the need for her key had disappeared after she had turned seventeen. The coast was clear, so Rose cast a swift, non verbal 'Alohomora' and entered the house.
"Rose," Severus appeared at the door of the sitting room, so very expressionless that Rose immediately put up and reinforced her Occlumency wards, knowing instantly that something was wrong. "Can you come into the sitting room, please?" Severus went on. "The Dark Lord is here to see you."
Rose froze, her blood turning to ice in her veins as sickening jumble of confusion, nerves and fear erupted inside her. "…W-what?" she stammered at last. "W-why?"
"He insisted upon waiting until you got here before he said anything." Severus replied. "The sitting room?" he said pointedly, gesturing inside.
As she walked, Rose did her best to prepare herself inwardly, by strengthening her Occlumency wards and remembering that she and Harry were no longer friends.
But whatever her preparations, nothing could have quite prepared her for the sight of the Dark Lord sitting in Severus's favourite armchair, as though it was the most normal thing in the world. He regarded her, and then Severus, almost amusedly as they entered the sitting room; Severus closing the door behind them.
"Good afternoon, Rose," The Dark Lord said smoothly.
"Good afternoon, My Lord," Rose replied as smoothly as she could, bowing as she spoke; her nerves heightening as she endeavoured not to show her fear. "Severus said you wanted to see me- I hope I haven't kept you waiting for long?" she asked, straightening at seeing the time on the clock on the mantelpiece was five minutes' past twelve.
"Not in the slightest," the Dark Lord replied. He made no move to ask either her or Severus to sit down, so they remained where they were, Severus standing by the closed door, and Rose a few steps ahead of him, facing the Dark Lord. "Severus and I had some business to discuss and I find it's better to conduct such matters in private; and Malfoy Manor can be very… constricting. But now our business has been finalised and you're here, I can get onto more pressing matters. I understand that following the death of Sirius Black your relationship with your brother has… soured, to such an extent that he completely and utterly despises you?"
The sickening mix of fear, confusion and nerves rose higher. "Yes, My Lord," Rose replied, meeting his gaze steadfastly, conjuring her false memories and thoughts as Severus had trained her. He eyed her carefully for a moment; Rose saw her false memories flash before her eyes suddenly, without any warning or sensation in her mind-
"…Excellent," the Dark Lord's lipless mouth curled into a faint, thin smile. He took his wand from his pocket as he spoke, and began to spin it around between his fingers, looking at Rose over it as he went on. "You know, I think, that the Wizarding World is currently at War?"
"Yes, My Lord," Rose nodded again, wondering why he would ask when the wizarding world was so very clearly at war.
"There are sides in war, you know," The Dark Lord went on, his voice becoming dangerously soft as his gaze dropped to his wand. "Two, in this case. Your brother has picked a side; Draco, who consider your brother, has picked a side; and Severus here, your adoptive father, has picked a side… I rather think it's time you do the same."
Rose's mouth went dry. The fear started to override her nerves and confusion, shooting through her views life wildfire, turning them into ice anew. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again, catching herself and knowing she could never, ever say what she was really thinking. Not with the Dark Lord around, and definitely not while his wand was on his hand and Severus was near.
"Oh yes, it's definitely time for you to pick a side," the Dark Lord went on softly; so softly it was as though he was speaking more to himself than anyone else. "To have Harry Potter's twin sister, who he utterly despises, who murdered his godfather, his dead father's best friend; well, I'd be a fool not to have you on my side. And you gave me my biggest weapon, how else can I repay you but with the highest honour that can be afforded to any person? You agree I trust?" he raised his voice at this last, his gaze lifting to peer at Rose over the top of his wand.
Rose was frozen on the spot. She couldn't move, for every inch of her was paralysed with fear and her palms were slick with cold sweat. She couldn't move, figuratively or literally, for the Dark Lord had his wand in his hand, and she knew, if she did anything other than agree, he would torture and kill her and Severus. "…Yes, My Lord," she managed at last, hoping that her silence would be interpreted as surprise; awe, even. "T-thank you, My Lord."
"The pleasure is all mine, I assure you," the Dark Lord's thin smile became more prominent and he got to his feet, sweeping across the sitting from to the door. "I will see you both at Malfoy Manor this evening at seven o'clock sharp; for the ceremony."
"Yes, My Lord." Severus bowed courteously as he opened the door. Rose felt herself turn towards the door and bow, too, as the Dark Lord swept out of the room into the foyer. Once there he paused for a moment, looked at Rose and spoke, before sweeping out of sight in the direction of the front door. A tell-tale BANG! of the front door slamming followed and after a moment, Severus turned to look at Rose; pale-faced, stricken and guilty looking. But Rose couldn't move. She couldn't speak. She couldn't think. So consumed by fear was she that she could only stand where she stood in the sitting room, staring out of the door, her ice-cold blood paralysing her veins and mind and her palms slick with sweat as the Dark Lord's final words echoed around in her mind, again and again and again.
"Yes… I rather think that, perhaps unwittingly, you will make an excellent Death Eater."
A/N: Please review! :)