Going the way of NEWTs and babies, Rosmerta tended to tune out any conversation pertaining to weddings. A certain tolerance was necessary, especially if she wishes to converse with girls her age, but when inevitably it came time in the teenage girl chat blueprint for her to describe her dream wedding she stalled. It would be best for her to have an actual allergy to such chatter, at least than she would have an easy out. She did not want to put herself in a pretend scenario just to get on with the conversation, she did not want those things for herself.
Recently, though, her interest in weddings aren’t the cause of anxiety. It is quite fun to discuss. The person who is able to breathe life into an affair that has long lost its meaning to her was of course Archie Edwards. There is no need to think on the matter too much and delve in too deep. As of late it has been best to only accept the fun that Archie brought into her life rather than the questions that tailed the fun. She finds herself pouring over the life and style section of the Prophet in hopes of getting closer to a suitable wedding for them to crash. Her new interest was quickly found out by the other girls in the dorm and it is the suggestion of one that gives her the break she needs.
Within an instant she was ripping through her trunk in search of a dress - she finally settled on a powder blue silk dress because she was told by her housemate that the affair was of two half-bloods. Perfect. Muggles with wizards. Even in small doses, the presence of muggles around wizarding weddings was bound to be enjoyable. It was a shame that their memories would be modified after the event but fun while it lasted.
With a quick heating charm, she curls her hair around her wand as she trots towards the Great Hall where she had caught a glimpse of her friend earlier. The bright smile that presses deeply into her dimples is just another thing she would rather not question when she sees him in the same spot. “I hope your top hat is ready,” she chirps as she makes her way to him, briefly she holds up the time and address of the wedding scribbled on a bit of paper, “Because we have the wedding of the decade to attend to.”
Crowds are no longer a good thing. Crowds mean riots, or postings of the new rules of You-Know-Who’s new world. Crowds are, however, still a draw. Despite herself Rosmerta always finds herself moving forward. She searches for a gap to try and get a visual on what everyone else seems so focused on; but pushing her way through is soon deemed unnecessary when she is grabbed roughly by the elbow and yanked up onto the pedestal of a statue of the original proprietor of the Three Broomsticks. Her kin. The person doing the grabbing was another person she considers kin, Aberforth Dumbledore.
Pleasantries, as it goes normally with Abe, are not exchanged. Instead she rubs her elbow with a wordless grumble and looks forward.
They are all staring at a crying girl. She isn’t much older than Rosmerta, couldn’t be. But she is not anyone she knows - Rosie doesn’t recognize her from Hogsmeade and is certain that she did not attend Hogwarts either. Her toes scrape along the street, she is being held up by some sort of spell and made silent probably by the same wand.
For all intents and purposes, she is no longer a girl. No, now she is a message. A message made obvious by the glowing words just above her head.
I allowed myself to be tainted by a Mud.
Rosie’s eyes are trained on the words, her heartbeat resounds in her ears to the point she can only hear this. Abe nudges her back to reality.
“Who’s casting it?” she asks, searching around with a grip on her own wand.
Aberforth shakes his head. They don’t know. Of course they don’t. Even if anyone in the crowd did, no one would do a thing about it. War did little to prove her wrong about the true nature of most people. Not that she is too keen on being a hero to anyone anyway, she just wants the girl down and away. Mostly for selfish reasons, she tells herself. Because caring about strangers isn’t a way to survive, the crowd has figured that out and Rosie has told herself this long before.
Suddenly, Rosie needs to get back into the Inn. Away from this, away from her, away from that message. As she moves to leave, Aberforth catches her by the elbow once more and keeps her still. “She tried to run with him,” blue eyes bore into her as uncomfortably as the grip on her arm. He isn’t a man of many words, but when he speaks he gets his point across like a slap in the face. “They tried to forge a family tree for him and run."
A flush rushes to Rosmerta’s face, it compensates by contorting into something close to a smile, "And they say you can’t read.” This would have at times gotten a bit of a laugh out of him but Aberforth owns a favorite pub for most dark wizards, he is too close to find her attempt to joke amusing in the moment. Rosmerta thinks about the girl, now soundlessly crying for help, she thinks that someone ought to put her out of her misery. The boy she tried to run with is almost certainly dead and knows she must feel that she is better off that way as well. She blinks, pupils focusing back on the younger of the Dumbledores. “He’s at Hogwarts,” she whispers, “And we both know I’m not going anywhere.”
She wrenches her arm away from him. She is back in the pub without another glance at him or the message. No need when she understands it perfectly.
Prompt: Lily Potter is dead and Archie Edwards is nowhere to be found.
Rosmerta’s eyes shoot open to a bedroom that glows shades of blue, purple, and red; open to the sound of banging and screaming.
Banging at her door.
She’s alone. Alone in a heavily charmed Inn that only barely gives her a sense of security, which she now knows has always been false. She isn’t safe, and now there is no means of escape because of the charms. She’s trapped.
Her eyes flood with tears as she collects herself. A robe which will soon become useless trying to warm a cold body, a wand which will do nothing against the size of the crowd, tears for people who were just going to kill her anyway.
She walks slowly down the stairs, breathing heavily and saying her goodbyes. Because this is what happens, this is the stories that everyone says in hushed tones. The purification of towns has been happening in towns across the United Kingdom. She has gotten lucky, but now it’s her time. She can only thank the heavens that Gramps is at St. Mungo’s and everyone else has been occupied for the night. She won’t be much of a show to tell anyone about, she’ll be a whispered sentence. Another cautionary tale of a pureblood being with a muggleborn. They like to avoid spilling magical blood, they say, but to protect against any sort of contamination they go after the ones who will send a message.
The banging persists. The shouting persists. The words are muffled in a swell of emotions that overcomes her. A swell of emotions that leaves her in a sob when the door swings open violently and she meets the mob sooner than she expected.
But they aren’t cloaked. And the sky is still glowing an unnatural hue, but it isn’t the signature green of the dark mark. When Cornelius Fudge rushes to her and throws his arms around her jubilantly, Rosmerta understands that the crowd isn’t screaming. They are cheering. They aren’t here to kill her and the guests staying in the Inn, they are here to celebrate. As she is hoisted from the stairs, and swung around in the embrace, Rosie’s wide eyes survey the group. Grown men are weeping for joy, a tired little boy clings to his mother as she swings him around in a similar way that the landlady has found herself to be.
To go from certain death to this kind of unadulterated joy is a bit jarring. Rosmerta needs a moment to settle in before she can get the story. Even as she passes out mead and butterbeer and firewhiskey she can only gather bits and pieces.
The boy who lived! they shout, Rosmerta raises a glass and looks to an off duty auror who is laughing manically. She gathers what she can and what she knows is that no one would want to be in this large of a group if the war was still on. People had isolated themselves for fear of secrets being divulged or a Death Eater attack. The war is over. It’s done. She was so sure that it would only end badly for everyone, so certain that it would never be over. But here everyone is, celebrating, weeping, hugging. It’s over.
“On the house!” she calls to the wild whoops of the crowd.
Immediately Rosmerta wants to find Archie. Of course she does. This is a good thing, a very good thing and the only conceivable way to make it better would be to share it with him. Her mind races with plans, her heart pounds against her chest.
Tomorrow, she has promised him for too long.
Sometime past midnight on the first of November 1981 and it seems tomorrow is finally here.
Rosie has to find him. She has to tell him she loves him, tell him they can do whatever he wants now. If he wants to run they can see how far their legs to can take them. If he wants to go to Peru or Poland or one of the Poles she will be ready and packed. If he wants to get married she will start looking for a dress and they can dance and people can marvel about how they are going to make it, how good they are together. They can get a house. Or stay here. They have the whole world waiting for them and without any threat hanging over their heads it would be stupid to wait any longer. Now they have nothing but time. They have been in hiding but Archie has talked about it and now they can finally take the boy out on an adventure, she can meet -
The boy who lived!
Rosmerta freezes in her rushing thoughts, her smile freezes to her face. “Who?” she asks, much too quietly to illicit an answer from anyone.
Shame about the Potters.
A worthy sacrifice!
“What?” she asks, her voice gaining volume as it loses strength. The Potters. Harry. Sacrifice. The boy who lived. The boy. The little boy. Rosmerta’s mind swims again, but not of any coherent plans of everything she has been holding back from. Her thoughts verge on desperate instead, but it’s hard to get answers out of such an excitable crowd. Suddenly needing air, Rosmerta pushes her way back into the kitchen.
Blake is there. Waiting for her, apparently.
She runs her hand through red hair as she gets the story. Gritted out, as if Blake is trying to contain herself from exploding, but the facts are there. Black sold them out, You-Know-Who found them at Godric’s Hollow. Only one person survived after he stepped into that house.
Harry Potter - the Boy Who Lived.
Lily Potter - the woman who died.
Lily Potter. Archie’s Lily. The first. The Lily. His Lily. Rosmerta has only had a sip of mead but suddenly she feels as though she is ready to keel over.
Her palms press into her eyes, hard enough that she sees the colors that illuminate the sky. “I have to find him,” she murmurs, but Blake clutches her hand. In the other room, the crowd cheers and sings. Soon, Rosmerta finds herself out there again. A man missing an arm comes up and kisses her, she doesn’t even have the energy to hex him and even smiles slightly when he tells her he promised himself he would do that if he lived through the war. It barely registers, her mind is on him. Archie. The man can go without missing another arm for such an affront, she’s too dazed.
He’ll still be asleep, she tells herself. Off. Off where he is. Where is it he said? Why wasn’t he with her? Why would she let him out of her sight?
He’s sleeping, she tells herself. She can find him as soon as the crowd disperses. She will find him. She’ll hold him and kiss him and tell him they can do all the things they wanted or they can hide away from the world for awhile as he adjusts. She’ll find him in the morning, Rosmerta swears.
Except she doesn’t find him in the morning.
Or the day after.
Or two weeks from that point.
Not for a lack of trying, of course. She wakes up every morning to something that sounds like the shouting of Lily Potter. Odd. There isn’t (wasn’t, she corrects herself) any kind of possessive nature in the two women’s relationship. They are (were) friends. James is (was) great for a laugh. But Archie. To Archie they were enormous parts of him, of his world. And now it seems as though he has disappeared with them.
She searches in every place she can. She goes to The Rose Café and asks their favorite server if she has seen him, walking away as the girl asks in a concerned tone if they were doing alright. She asks everyone, finds every spot she knows to hold significance (which, anyone knowing Archie would understand, is a very long list) and searches it thoroughly. Gramps is released from Mungo’s the day of the funeral, another opportunity to find him slips through her fingers but then the old man gets in on the search with her.
Desperate times call.
Rosmerta answers by finding herself in the painfully muggle town Archie’s parents live. Her last visit here with him was a success by all accounts, all except their plans for him. She shouldn’t be here, it’s wrong to be here. She doesn’t even want to see them but somewhere inside Rosmerta knows.
Lily Potter, his Lily, the first. She is the reason Archibald retreated and Archie prevailed. She is the major reason why he became the person Rosmerta fell in love with. Without her around, Archie would stumble. Archibald would come back. Quiet, lonely, sad Archibald. A boy that belonged in such a stuffy house with such uncomfortable furniture.
“If you are in some kind of trouble we won’t give you money,” they tell her. Rosmerta can barely register the fact that they are talking about an unplanned pregnancy and fleeing father. But when she does, she looks at them sharply.
“No,” she snaps. Positively scandalized that they would even suggest he would do such a thing. Funny. Usually her stomach would turn at even the possibility of her becoming pregnant. Rosmerta knows she’s too harsh with them, knows they will be unwilling to help without her compliance. So she breathes, “I - uh - I was just wondering if you’ve seen him. If you know where he is.”
Sitting on the mantle she sees a picture of a little boy who she can just barely make out. Someone she knows, but not quite finished yet. Not quite the person that she belongs with. Archie looks like a stranger in that picture.
Is he a stranger now?
They don’t know where he is, and Rosmerta can not be bothered to answer the questions they have for her. She rises on unsteady legs, her eyes still fixed on that picture, she stumbles from the room, then the house. Apparates right in the driveway, lands in Hogsmeade in a heap.
For weeks she has been operating on a false sense of hope, much like that false sense of security the charms on the Three Broomsticks brought her. Now it’s over.
Now she knows he’s a stranger.
People are cheering in the Three Broomsticks. She can’t crawl under her bed and sob the way she wants to, someone will find her. Someone who isn’t the person she wants.
So she runs.
But there isn’t anyone to hold her hand, so she stumbles in desperate gasps for air. She runs until she finds a tree, feels something like a shadow tugging her back down to earth as she claws at the bark and scrambles up. Her elbows bruise, knees scrape, and as she thinks of a picture she once took with Lily of her sitting on a tree branch to make up for their height difference she loses her footing completely.
Rosmerta’s back slams into the ground with a loud, pathetic whine leaving her. Her chest rises and falls in quick, pained succession and tears fall into her dark locks. She stares at the sky, thinking of the shadow that is now beneath her, and cries. The false sense of hope is gone entirely now.
Lily Potter is dead.
She took Archie with her.
He left her. He’s gone. He isn’t coming back.
Rosmerta rolls on the side and cries into the dirt until the desperation she feels is replaced with a subdued, gnawing nothingness.
In her years at Hogwarts, Rosmerta has always been given quite a bit of access to Hogsmeade. Her grandfather needs the help and the professors always understood this, which means she has access to even the passage behind Gregory the Swarmy. Filch always comes running after to catch whoever it is daring to enter one of the access points under his surveillance and while he can never quite hide his dismay at it simply being Rosie, he always does send his regards to her Gramps. She is well aware of the others, in fact she wrote Archie a note just before leaving her common room directing him towards the entrance to the town behind a mirror on the fourth floor, but for her own purposes she sticks with the known passages. To risk being caught and limiting access even more to the town on non-Hogsmeade weekends would be cutting down on a very good customer. No one is ever as thirsty as a student thinking they are getting away with murder.
Hogwarts was wonderful, there are few who would ever disagree with the sentiment, but Hogsmeade is home. Every time Rosmerta steps out onto the road she is able to breathe. Hogwarts is fun, but this is where she belongs. It is only a few steps through the frost for her to walk through the entrance of the Three Broomsticks and the smile that reaches her face in anticipation of the noisy crowd surely inside fades when she finds it is just her grandfather standing behind the bar and no one else. “What is this? What’s going on?” she asks sharply, looking around as she unravels the scarf from her neck.
He doesn’t look up from his paper or remove the cigar from his mouth, “I sent them home.”
The inner corners of her eyebrows mold into the wrinkles in her skin, “What do you mean you sent them home?"
"Told them my little Rose had a date and she needed the place to herself."
She is not exactly sure why the heat of a flush enters her face as quickly as it does, even as she sputters to correct him, "Wh - excuse me, old man? I am - this is not - why would you even? This is not a date!” Ripping off her coat, she throws it on the hook by the door with force.
She fumes as he lets out a bark of a laugh, and seethes when he rubs his chin and looks over at her with a smile in his eyes. “Archibald is a nice boy. You never date nice boys.”
To describe Rosmerta as one to date boys at all would be stretching the truth but she is not going to correct him on this particular assumption. She is very clear and honest with her grandfather on a lot of things, honesty in this department is best left avoided. “I am not dating him, I am thanking him for helping me with you, seeing as you are a stubborn mule. If - if anything you should be the one taking him on a date."
He moves behind the bar and though Rosie is keen on keeping her glare on, he comes and places a kiss on her forehead. "Letting him date my beautiful granddaughter is thanking him, Rosie,” he tells her before nudging her towards the kitchen.
She smiles despite her better efforts and lets out an audible sigh, “Keep an eye out for him, old man.” She pulls out her wand as she walks into the kitchen and waves it to get the meal started, finding it very convenient to blame her reddened cheeks on the heat from the oven.
Prompt: And once you start running, you start to forget, slowly.
As a little girl, you are afraid of your own shadow.
It’s difficult to believe that there are things in the world which are not out to get you. Every person you have encountered is not to be trusted, you learn this either by being told (No, Ro, don’t speak tot the men in the uniform or they’ll take you away from me forever) or through a painful experience.
There is only one person to trust, and she has shadows. Under her eyes, in her eyes, she is what happens when your shadow catches up to you so you can’t trust it. It is the darkness that tries to creep it’s way into you, starting at the feet. If you climb enough, if you move quick enough, you might be able to avoid those shadows. If you stay still, if you let someone near you, you’ll be held down. Your shadows will merge and that darkness will eat you right up to your eyes.
You learn how to climb trees and fire escapes, you learn how to make your small legs strong enough to carry you quickly away. You learn how to hide and be soundless as to avoid being found, even when you have tears streaming down your face and a sob trapped in your chest. You follow, you obey, you don’t dream of anything. Because dreaming is for princesses who have been placed under some sort of curse and who are waiting for someone to come rescue them. No one is coming for you.
As an adolescent, you harden.
Fear and magic is all you know. You find a way to control both, but you no longer let anything define you. You meet people who are not out to get you, but who teach you how to defend yourself against those who are (which is still a very large majority). You learn how to properly curse, which amuses the old man from across the way greatly but makes yours frown (after his own chuckle of course).
You learn not to run away from your opinions, but express them with feet planted on the ground. You find out what your actual, proper birthday is. You learn how to add and subtract and multiply. When you dream it is of recipes and a full pub of laughing people who want nothing more from you than a refilled mug. You learn how to make a bed the proper way, and how to make the perfect stew. You settle, you obey when necessary and grow when allowed. Home is a concept you can understand now, but you don’t wander away because you know those good feelings rarely last and if you move too far it might not be there when you return.
As a teenager, you develop.
More ways than one. Your shadow remains at your ankles, waiting for a moment to spring up into you. One which you do not present. No one touches you without your permission, no shadow comes to merge with your own. Shadows disappear in the dark, you come to learn, and that becomes a satisfying way of keeping the dark at bay. You learn how to charm, dazzle. You learn to clean up your mouth, saving those dirty words for opportune moments of pure frustration. You learn how to walk in heels, how to decipher people’s drinks of choice. Not only are you stationary, but you allow roots to take hold completely. Dreams are plans now, a future that you are certain of.
He comes at the beginning of the teenage years.
“Fitz isn’t here, cutie,” you tell him when he comes bursting through the doors like a lanky boy possessed.
“No, no, no,” he tells you as he grabs you by the hand, “I know that. C’mon!”
Your legs are small but they are strong. No longer from running away but from lifting crates of bottles and riding a broomstick and dancing with boys with pretty smiles. Still, they get the job done and keep up with him sufficiently.
This boy has a pretty smile, but he wants you to run with him before you dance. Eventually dancing comes, but even that feels like running. Exhilarating, dizzying, quick, fun. You run and dance and talk like there is a purpose to it all. He does it like he is trying to learn everything about you and the world but doesn’t mind when you decide to say nothing at all.
Running doesn’t have to be away from something, you learn.
You learn this with him because it is drilled into you through adventures of running through abandoned corridors and after armies of cats towards the most gorgeous sunset you have ever seen.
You run because he asks you to, and you don’t know why you agree to it but it always seems like the best decision you ever made.
You run because you want to.
And once you start running, you start to forget, slowly.
You forget how afraid you are. You forget how to hide, properly, because now there is a part of you that always wants to be found. You dream in vivid color of lives that you want to live and tell stories about. You forget about those helpless princesses but begin to remember that they had a happily ever after. You soften. Maybe you even forget that home might not always be there, but you start to understand that home might now just be a building. You forget to remind yourself that good things never last, instead wish for forever. When you are frustrated, you don’t try and convey it in a dirty word because you forget that no one wants to hear that. You rant. Your climbing ability wanes slightly, you lose the desperation to get away from whatever is on the ground.
You forget how to defend yourself against the shadows. Once, while looking a sunset, you turn around and see that your shadow is holding hands with his, just as you are with him - your shadow looks just as content to stay in that same position as you feel.
A little girl lays on her stomach, large, tear-filled brown eyes peer out at a man she hardly knows from under what he has been calling her bed. The concept seems foreign to her and she has been waiting for the time when she wakes up and is yanked from the comfortable sheets and pulled out into the street by a more familiar hand.
But it has been three days since she has seen her mother. It takes making it to the sunrise of this third day that she comes to this realization.
“She isn’t coming back,” she sobs helplessly, “She left me.”
The less familiar hand reaches in and does something very unusual - brushes tears away. “Oh no, little one,” the man tells her gently, “She’s just lost.”
She blinks, her labored breathing slows. A plan formulates in her head before she has time to blink, determination settles in the pit of her stomach as rapidly as the tears fell moments earlier. “I have to find her.”
But again, she is corrected. “Sometimes they have to find their own way back.”
A little girl and an old man go for a walk together in the crowded streets of an unfamiliar town. For a moment among the new sights and sounds she loses her way but just as desperation latches on to her, she finds him. Sitting in front a store holding two ice cream cones. It isn’t her favorite flavor, not even her second, but she happily eats it regardless.
Large, bright eyes scan over those who bustle around the streets.
Life after the world has ended. As a tongue darts out and obliterates the last of the rainbow colored sprinkles, her hand moves to her chest and checks something.
Thump thump thump, the beat pounded against the palm of her hand.
The world has ended, but it is still turning.
Her heart is broken, but it is still beating.
The world is crashing down around her.
She hurriedly gets dressed, willing herself not to cry as she mismatches buttons on her shirt and hops on one foot to place her shoes back on. When the boy stirs and begins to do the same, she has an inclination. When he looks at her but doesn’t meet her gaze she knows.
This is how she must have felt, the much too young girl thinks to herself. This is how she must have felt every single time.
Skin stinging with embarrassment, she climbs through her bedroom window to find him waiting there. Eyes that are now very familiar, hands that are willing to brush away the tears when they come but she can’t allow him to. She’s too ashamed, too disgusted with herself.
“The important thing is you came back home,” he tells her with a kiss to the top of the head. At the time it only increases the flow of tears, brings her to the point of wanting to tell him how sorry she was. She didn’t want to feel like her. She didn’t want to be her. But if it was inevitable, he needed to know how sorry she was for that as well.
In the bathtub she blinks at the ceiling and slowly slips down beneath the water’s surface.
Thump thump thump, the water echoes with the sound.
When she resurfaces and sucks in air she can see the glimmer of street lamps from outside, she can hear people chatting happily in the summer air.
The world ended but it is still moving.
Her heart was never his to break but she had feared she had crippled it all on her own. Another dip back under the water reminds her it is working just fine.
She dries herself off, gets dressed with the resolve to put an end to useless tears, finds herself something to wear and starts out on a search to find her own backbone.
There are reminders everywhere that the world, which was threatened for far too long, has not ended.
So many have not come out with a pulse, but she has.
Or, at least, on the most base level it has.
In reality, her world has ended. Her heart is broken.
It creeps on her in the middle of the night, catching a glimpse out of the corner of her eye of a memory she doesn’t have the strength to banish. She feels sick, weak, on the days where every bit of her is missing him she has to talk herself out of bed. Smiles hurt. Crying isn’t constant but there are times when she is wiping down glassware she catches a tear on the back of her hand, where she needs to stop and remind herself to breathe.
“He isn’t coming back,” she whispers to herself one night with her hand pressed firmly on her chest. He’s gone. He’s lost. He won’t be returning. She presses harder still.
Thump thump thump.
Someone shoots off fireworks in the distance. Her room glows red, blue, yellow.
The world is still there, still turning. People are going about their lives as if there is something worth celebrating.
She has nothing.
The beat against her hand doesn’t match what she knows to be a broken heart.
The man doesn’t say anything to her now. Not right away, at least. He began to tell her the same thing he said to a nine year old once, that sometimes people needed to find their way back but she won’t hear it. A glass breaks, angry tears well in her eyes. “But I love him,” she growls through gritted teeth, relaxing only after he approaches her as if she is a feral dog. Eventually she settles, leans against him and cries.
She wants to sob, tell him that her world has ended, that her heart is broken. But moments later she collects herself with a sharp intake of air. “Customer,” she mutters before standing up and briskly walking off to meet the patron.
“What if I get lost and can’t find my way back?” a little voice cries out from underneath a bed.
A woman lays down on the ground flat on her stomach and sighs. “You don’t have to worry about that.”
“But what if!” There is a beat, no silence but a muffled sound of a little girl crying out of fear. “What happened? How did it feel?”
Large eyes blink, slowly she moves closer to lift the sheets and see tear-filled eyes staring back at her. “My world ended. My heart broke,” she answers softly, honestly. As she sees more tears blurring the vision of that gaze focused on her, she reaches forward and wipes them away. “But you don’t have to worry about that.”
“Because then I found him.” A smile is beginning to form, curiosity sparking behind wet eyes, “Even if you do get lost, if you feel like the world has ended and your heart has broken, that’s alright. You can feel that way. But just know that I am coming. I will always come and find you. Every single time.”
It was true. Sometimes people needed to find their own way back but sometimes people needed help finding their way.
Small arms reach out for her - out of the corner of her eye she catches a glimpse of something. A memory (thankfully) not banished. As soon as she sits up, she turns and matches his smile.
The things that ought to be found have a way of then staying.
Letter to Archie a bit after Lily's death [OH I AM GOING THERE AND BUYING A KEYRING DO YOU WANT ANYTHING FROM THE GIFTSHOP I'LL GETCHA A T-SHIRT]
My Clever BoyChin BoyArchibaldArchieSweetheart
Well. You aren’t mine anymore, are you?
Everyone is so happy the war is over. Can you hear the celebrations? I’m not sure they’ll ever end. I wasn’t sure the war would, either. So I’ve been wrong before.
I’ve been really wrong a lot.
I’m happy it’s over and I’m not going to apologize for that. If it means you’re safe, Fitz is safe. If it means I don’t have to look at the Prophet every day and see someone’s name I recognize in a list of missing or dead than I am downright ecstatic the war is over. She isn’t part of those lists. She’s a headline. She’s a cheer on the street. I heard they are even constructing a statue of her in Godric’s Hollow.
I hope you aren’t anywhere you can hear the celebrations.
You must be so angry with the world for taking her from you. That’s alright. You are allowed to be. You’re allowed to feel like the world has ended even when everyone else believes it’s been saved. It’s hard enough to move when every bit of you is busy missing someone, isn’t it? So really there is no point in trying to stop yourself from doing anything.
I’m writing you because I’m selfish. Because whether or not you can hear the celebrations doesn’t matter, I want to be where you are. Because every bit of me is missing you. Because I’m afraid I’ll never see you again and that thought scares me more than the war ever did.
I think this is the part in sappy love stories where I say I can’t live without you. Not true. I can. I just don’t want to.
Please don’t make me.
Or, if it’s what you really want, just do one thing for me.
Ro shifts in her seated position on the ground uncomfortably. This is where Mummy left her and this is where she is going to stay until Mummy comes to find her again, she doesn’t want to move even a few feet over to the grass in case she can’t be found so instead she squirms against sidewalk.
She can’t remember a time when she’s been around this many children but there is something comforting about being alone in a group of her peers. And along with the buzzing voices, she can’t help but get excited as well when the magician steps on the stage.
Ro, ever attached to her spot, sits through an afternoon of these shows. The same show over and over. He makes a ball float between his hands, he makes silver rings attach and detach, every show he asks for a volunteer from the audience to come up and pick a card from the deck he’s holding. Every show every other hand but her own waves wildly in the air. Rosmerta does find herself leaning closer, though, to try and tell if the card he finally holds up to them is really the card the dirty hand children had shown to them excitedly a moment earlier. She watches him wave a funny looking stick that he calls a wand and flowers appear, she wonders why he calls it a wand when it really isn’t. Rosmerta watches. Again and again.
His finale is to pull a rabbit out of a top hat.
She figures that there is some kind of trap in the table he sets it on that allows him to reach in and pull the white rabbit out. She tries to tell this to the kids sitting around her in a few of the shows but she remains largely ignored. “But that isn’t real magic,” she huffs.
Through a gap between a pair of girls in front of her, she can see bright eyes looking her way. The boy looks away as soon as her gaze locks on to his, she looks nervously back to the funny looking stick the man is calling a wand.
The shows end after this. As the magician stays, taking pictures with over-excited children and parents Rosmerta turns elsewhere. That boy is talking to very buttoned up older people (his parents) about the rabbit. They are telling him no and Ro doesn’t know why that makes her feel sad for the boy so she moves closer to the makeshift stage to separate herself from that feeling. Reaching out as the man had his back turned, she touches the wand tentatively.
“Careful!” The loud, now very scary man, spins around to face her laughing.
Ro, who had jumped back several feet on the spot, stares at him with wide eyes. “Why?” she breathes, her chest rising and falling in quick succession, showcasing her terror.
“Because it’s a magic wand,” the man tells her, waving his arms wildly. This does nothing to make her less afraid. Though it does sprout up some indignation.
“No it isn’t.” Her arms wave nervously at her sides, her palms begin to sweat and Ro is practically turned around and running off by the time she manages out, “It’s just a silly looking stick, that’s not a real wand!”
She can’t stop running because now she is running away from that man, but the panic settles down eventually. Ro tosses a look over her shoulder and sees that he’s not following but can not feel comfortable enough to stop, so she circles back around and tucks herself behind the trunk of a tree that seems too tall to climb. She needs to wait until he’s gone, she needs to get back to her spot. She needs to -
There’s that boy again.
He’s crouched on the ground, lining what seems to be bits of bread out in the grass. Ro’s eyes tear away from her spot in the distance, they fixate on what he could possibly be doing.
Children around them are running and playing, they are still being very loud and nearly all of them are playing with someone. It takes her a moment to realize they might be the only two kids in the park who are on their own.
Well. He’s not on his own. She sees those buttoned up people talking to a woman with very shiny shoes. But they aren’t paying attention to him, just close by.
So he really is alone - just like she is.
Tan hands stay on the tree as she leans around, tries to get a better idea of what he is doing. She leans in closer and closer, wobbling on the root she is standing on.
When those bright eyes snap in her direction she falls back on her heels , her hands on the tree are the only thing that save her from toppling over on her side.
But her curiosity strikes again as she finds herself leaning forward. This time he doesn’t turn sharply, but she knows that he’s watching her out of the corner of his eyes. She doesn’t know how she knows this, she can just feel it. Without thinking, Ro takes a step forward. And then another. By her third she lets go of the tree. By the fourth she can crouch down close by him.
He rolls up the bits of bread of a sandwich with only a bite taken out of it and then he lays it down in a growing line. Her brown eyes follow this white dotted path all the way back to an ant hill, but she still doesn’t understand. She wants to ask him but her palms are sweating again, her mouth stays glued shut in a nervous panic.
“They can carry one hundred times their weight,” a warm voice says - a warm voice that matches bright eyes. As she chances a look in his direction, she can see he is still eyeing her out of the corners of them and she can see him move to scratch at his cheek nervously.
Ro breathes out. “They can?” she asks, feeling a bit more comfortable knowing he is just as hesitant. She leans down closer to the ants inching their way out of the hole in the ground. “I thought they did nothing.”
She keeps her eyes trained on the ant going for the first in the line of bread, that is until she hears him again. “Nothing does nothing.” When she looks up, he is smiling. Small, unsure; one she can easily return.
“I’m Ro,” she tells him.
“Archibald,” he responds.
Her nose wrinkles at the sound. “That’s a big name.”
“I don’t like it,” he confesses.
A shared smile passes between them once more.
And then, somehow, they find themselves at the jungle gym. Not as boisterous as the other kids running about but Ro is speaking now and so is he. She tells him she can climb to the very top and then she shows him, he tells her more things that she doesn’t know. Squirrels are sometimes planting trees, they forget where they buried their stash and give a whole new life. He points to a pond and tells her that there are water lillies in the rainforest that can grow to be up to six feet.
“How old are you?” she asks as she hangs upside down from the monkey bars.
“Six,” he says and even though it is an interesting fact to her, she can see even from hanging down that he’s not saying it with the same bravado. “How old are you?”
Ro laughs and shakes her head, “I dunno.”
She had a birthday a few weeks ago, she tells him, but it was her second this month. She doesn’t mind his funny look while she drops back down to the ground.
They climb under the jungle gym after that.
“D’you live around here?” he asks, hopeful.
“I live everywhere,” she tells him, honestly.
He looks puzzled again but she doesn’t know why. Then he tells her that under their white fluffy fur, polar bears skin is actually black and she laughs loudly. A laugh that comes back when she pictures it again from her hiding spot when they decide to play hide and seek. She doesn’t really mind losing because then they run over to the duck pond together.
The sun starts to fade, though, and Ro hasn’t even begun to worry about where Mummy is when she hears those buttoned up pair call for him. “Say goodbye to your friend, Archibald, you have to get washed up.”
Ro hasn’t begun worrying about where Mummy is but she really doesn’t want Archibald to leave.
With his parents close by, she figures running won’t work. Deflated, he looks to her.
“Do you want to know a secret?” she says finally, this is something he will be able to understand. He won’t be puzzled by this at all. He nods enthusiastically and tilts his head in closer to offer her an ear.
“I’ve never had a friend before,” she whispers.
When he draws back he’s smiling. Nervous, like the one he wore when they crouched over the ants, but bright. Blinding. Maybe even enough to trick his parents into thinking that the sun hadn’t faded at all. “Me either,” he tells her.
But now, they know, that isn’t true. It’s one of his facts he can say with such joy.
“Do you want to play tomorrow?” He asks. It’s her turn to nod vigorously.
“If I’m here, I’ll be at that spot,” she tells him and points.
He looks like he wants to ask her what if I’m here means but his mother reaches down and grabs his hand.
Bright eyes and the smile he flashes at her over his shoulder somehow keep her warm when she settles back in the uncomfortable spot, even as the sun disappears completely. She hopes Mummy will get her soon as the lamps flicker on, but she also hopes that there is some way come tomorrow she can find herself back in this spot to wait for her friend.
Archie, she decides as she curls her knees to her chest. She’ll call her friend Archie instead of Archibald.
A lovestruck Romeo, he sings the streets of serenade Laying everybody low with a love song that he made Find a convenient streetlight, steps out of the shade He says something like, “You and me, babe, how about it?”