Title: The Lion's Star
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Summary: The sequel to "The Hollow's Child." Rose, still reeling from her brother's death, gets thrown into an even stranger situation. Time travel galore.
Note: I just want to get this premise chapter out there so I can get into the bulk of this story, which has been haunting me for awhile, and is mainly visible near the end of Chapter 12 of "The Hollow's Child."
Another Note: Please review!
There was a knock at the door.
The door opened slightly and her Aunt Ginny popped her head into the room.
"Rose, will you be staying for supper again?"
"Yeah." Rose nodded. "If that's alright."
"Of course it's alright. I'll tell Kreacher to set an extra plate."
Her aunt retreated and shut the door, leaving Rose and her cousins, Lily and Albus, on their own in Lily's room.
"This makes, what, two weeks in a row now?" Albus asked from where he sat in one of the pink beanbag chairs on Lily's violet carpet, thumbing through a book for his Auror studies.
"Not nearly," Rose, on a matching beanbag chair, shook her head and placed her finger in the book she had been scanning – one of Lily's N.E.W.T. study guides, this one for Potions – saving her place before she looked up at her cousin. "There were a couple nights in there I ate out with Clothilde. And Maria had me over at her place once."
"Uh huh." Albus rolled his eyes.
"I think it's nice Rose's spent so much time here this summer," Lily said as she watched her own reflection in the mirror. She was twisting her red hair up into a knot on top of her head. "Family togetherness and all that."
"Yeah," Albus snorted. "Only Rose is so together with our family, she's hardly seeing her own."
Rose frowned at Albus. He knew perfectly well why she'd thus far chosen to spend the bulk of her summer at her cousin's house on Grimmauld Place. Ever since learning that her mother had been keeping secret the fact that Rose had another brother – going so far as to use a memory-altering charm on her – Rose had stayed away from her parents' flat. Except for when planning and attending her brother Hugo's wedding two weeks before, Rose had not seen her immediate family at all since discovering the truth. Well, that wasn't exactly true. She'd seen her father a few times, meeting up with him for lunch and making excuses for her chronic absences. But she hadn't seen her mother. She'd told her parents that she'd be staying the summer in Oxford, at her Aunt Muriel's house on Botley Road, to prepare for second year examinations. And it was true, she had been spending her nights there. But she'd been spending her days in London, at her job as a fitting room attendant at Primark, and taking her evening meals with her cousins and their parents. Of course, her cousin Lily had no idea why Rose was upset, as she knew nothing about the secret-brother, who was also her own. Her mother and Lily and Albus' father. They had made Tom. Tom. Who was now missing.
Albus thought Tom was dead. Which made sense, as the last time any of them had seen him, he had been hit by a killing curse cast by Scorpius Malfoy and thrown into a lake filled with inferi. But Rose had not felt Tom's death as she'd thought she would, and so she'd begun to suspect that Tom was not, in fact, dead. She hadn't wanted to tell Albus this – he'd never liked Tom – but she had confessed her suspicions to Malfoy. Malfoy, who was now her boyfriend, maybe. Probably not. He was in New York, training to be a mediwizards, and she was here, in England. They barely saw each other and hardly talked. But Malfoy had listened to her when she'd told him what she thought about Tom and so he had been on the look out for any signs that the boy might still be alive. When he'd actually found something – medical records from a Japanese hospital that matched Tom's profile completely – Rose had not been as surprised as perhaps she should have been. She'd know, felt that her half-brother was still alive.
"Do you think I should wear the blue dress with the white flowers or just jeans and the lacy green shirt?" Lily was walking over to her bed where the two outfits she'd described were laid out.
"And what are you doing tonight?" Rose asked, removing her finger from the book and shutting it for good.
"I'm not sure exactly… Sammy said we'd probably just walk around Diagon Alley-"
"Sammy?" Albus asked, shutting his own book. "Sammy who?"
"Sammy Gudgeon," Lily said in a tone that dripped with 'obviously.'
"Since when are you dating Sammy Gudgeon?"
"I don't know," Lily shrugged. "Since he asked me out a couple days ago when I bumped into him at Flourish & Blotts. He's been getting very handsome over the summer. Even has a beard now. Now, dress or jeans?"
"A beard?" Albus echoed. "No, I won't have my sister going out with anyone with a beard."
"Well too bad you have no authority over what your sister does," Lily humphed. "And anyway, it's not a full blown beard, nothing like what Uncle Bill has, just a little shagginess. It's very attractive."
"Oh, well that's loads better-"
"I like the jeans," Rose interrupted her cousin.
"Thanks Rose." Lily said, emphasizing the fact that her brother was absolutely no help.
Rose was in fact used to this over-protectiveness from her own brother, Hugo. And Hugo's marriage hadn't helped to calm him down any. At the wedding he had threatened to beat up Malfoy if he ever hurt poor baby Rose. Too bad Rose hated being treated like a baby and so had threatened to beat Hugo up right back.
Still, Albus may have a point when it came to Lily…
"You've been dating a lot lately," Rose said in the most nonchalant voice she could muster.
"Yeah, I suppose I have," Lily nodded. "Nothing wrong with that, is there?"
"No, I suppose not…"
Still, Lily had been going through boys with great rapidity, especially in the last month. Or, maybe it was just that Rose had only seen her cousin in the last month, as previous to that Lily had been away at Hogwarts.
"Now, if you two don't mind giving me some privacy…" Lily motioned towards the door.
Rose and Albus both stood, Albus offering some more brotherly words of advice as he went, and made their way out into the hall.
"I don't like it," Albus said, shaking his head. "She's gonna earn herself a reputation."
"No she's not," Rose laughed. "Just because she's dating around doesn't mean she's sleeping around."
"You don't think she's sleeping with all these boys, do you?"
"No!" Rose couldn't believe her cousin sometimes. Of course she couldn't help but wonder if some of Albus' fretting over Lily's 'promiscuity' had to do with his own more bottled sexuality. Rose had only a few months ago discovered that Albus was gay, a fact her cousin did not like to discuss, ever, despite the fact that the two of them were very close. "You worry too much."
"No, I worry exactly the right amount. Really. It's not just the dating, Lily's absolutely lost control this summer. She's been going out every night, coming home super late, and she's barely studied at all for her N.E.W.T.s-"
"She doesn't take them 'til next May-"
"One can never be too prepared."
Of course Albus would say that. He had studied hard and had received top marks, all so that he could get accepted into the Auror training program.
"Supper's ready!" Aunt Ginny's voice echoed up the stairs to where they stood on the top landing.
"Alright! We'll be right down!" Albus shouted back. Then he pounded on Lily's door. "Food!"
"Coming!" Lily called back.
They waited for her on the landing, perhaps unconsciously liking the solidarity of all showing up to dinner together. When Lily finally did emerge a few minutes later, looking very put together in her outfit with some cosmetic charms clearly in place, they all thundered down the many flights of stairs together to get to the basement kitchen.
Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny were already sitting at the table, chatting about their days, as Rose and her cousins took their places in front of the plates of food Kreacher had prepared. Rose always knew exactly which plate was meant for her because it typically held less food and was usually chipped. Kreacher, for whatever reason, had never liked Rose very much.
Her aunt and uncle altered their conversation to include the new arrivals and it turned into a very nice dining experience. Rose always enjoyed spending time at Grimmauld Place, which was perhaps why she had spent so much time there recently.
Towards the end of the meal, just as everyone was laughing and getting full, Lily abruptly rose, looking at the clock on the wall near the head of the table.
"I've gotta get going-"
"Hold it." Aunt Ginny said, throwing out her arm. "And just where are you going?"
"I'm meeting a friend-"
"And what about your studying, young lady-"
"Muuummm, there'll be plenty of time to study later-"
"That's what you've been saying every night-"
"Because it's true! Exams aren't 'til May! And it's only July!"
"You say that now, but come school, you'll be focused on classes and Quidditch and I know you won't have time to study-"
"No! I'll make time I promise-"
It was a very awkward fight to be overhearing. Albus caught Rose's eyes and mimed a 'what can you do?' expression that Rose wasn't completely sure she understood. Albus was probably on the side of his mother, though, anything to keep Lily from going out on another date.
"Ginny," her uncle finally interrupted. "She can't study tomorrow."
Lily smiled broadly at her father, but Aunt Ginny frowned.
"Everyday we say 'tomorrow'-"
"This time we'll mean it." Uncle Harry looked solemnly at his daughter. "Lily, you go meet your friend tonight, but starting tomorrow you're going to be on house arrest-"
"But that's not fair!"
"You're mother is right, when school starts up you'll be too busy to study for your exams. And you're not dropping Quidditch. So, as far as I see it, you've had two good months of free time, and tomorrow you'll start focusing on your future."
Lily was close to seething.
"Fine." She finally said through gritted teeth, undoubtedly already planning to disregard this new rule tomorrow. So with another, pointed, angry look at her mother, Lily turned and left the kitchen, stomping up the stairs and slamming the door to the house so loudly they could hear it from the basement.
"That girl…" Aunt Ginny finally sighed.
"Is a lot like you at that age," Uncle Harry said playfully.
"Not at all!" Her aunt cried, but Rose could tell that the tension was broken.
For now, at least.
Tomorrow night would probably be a different story.
Arriving home to the Botley house had become a strange experience for Rose. Every time she stepped into the familiar entryway she got a feeling in the pit of her stomach that maybe this time things would be back to normal again. But then she'd walk further inside, see the living room that Tandi had redecorated – much to Aunty Muriel's chagrin – or see Tandi, her new roommate, and her cousin James, Tandi's boyfriend, eating in the kitchen and it would strike her, again, that Tom no longer lived here. This evening, walking in, the house was completely silent. Tandi must be working the night shift again. Now that Tandi was a full fledged Auror – having graduated from the training program at the end of May – she wasn't around as much anymore. Rose assumed this would change when Michaelmas term came around, as Tandi was still a registered student in her year at Hertford College, but it was lonely in the meantime.
Always conscious of not wanting to wear out her welcome with her cousins, Rose never stayed too late at Grimmauld Place. Instead she had become quite used to returning to her big empty home and passing the time alone until getting up for work the next day. It all sounded very sad when she thought about it like that, but it wasn't, really. Rose liked the alone time. It gave her plenty of time to read. Having been raised by a Muggle-born mother she had grown up with Muggle literature, and found it quite enjoyable to pass time with.
So Rose settled into a comfy living room chair and picked up a book lying on the floor nearby. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Exactly where she had left it the night before. And as Rose delved into the story once more she didn't feel quite so alone.
Hermione Granger considered herself a sensible woman. She was clever, had a good job, a great husband, and two beautiful children. Well, technically, she had three children. And that was what racked her brain at night when she tried to sleep.
She had not seen her first son in years. Not since that day she had run across him in a London playground. And she had not been back to that playground since. She would be content never to think about that day again, and had nearly pushed it from her mind when her daughter Rose had brought it up, out of the blue, months earlier. Since then she and Rose had barely spoken. Now even her pleasantries were rejected by her daughter. Her daughter who had not been home in weeks. It hurt. Painfully and deeply. And yet Hermione could not blame her daughter. She had been wrong, keeping it a secret all these years.
And it still was a secret. Ron didn't know, nor did Hugo, nor, thankfully, did Harry. And she didn't want them to find out, because whatever anguish the truth caused her, it was her alone who had to suffer. It was her fault, her mistake, and she did not want to burden her loved ones with it.
"'Mione, can't sleep?"
Her husband Ron rolled over in the bed next to her, tossing his arm around her as he did and pushing his front against her back. He sounded half asleep still and Hermione knew he would be out cold again soon.
"Thinking about work. Big project coming up."
"Wanna talk about it?"
But she heard his snores start up again before she even opened her mouth.
It would be her own private suffering. That was how she wanted it. Her own fault, her cross to bear.
She took a deep breath and tried to squeeze her eyes closed. She tried, desperately, not to think about Tom.
"It's awful is what it is!" Lily was practically screaming from behind the blue curtain of her fitting room.
"Uh huh," Rose nodded. While she liked when her cousin came to visit her at work, she was always nervous that her superiors would notice that her full attention was not on her job and that she would then be promptly fired. So Rose was folding a stack of discarded clothes and placing them neatly into a carriage beside the curtain to Lily's room.
"What do you think of this?" Lily's voice was a completely different tone as she pulled back the curtain and stepped out of the room. She was wearing an orange plaid mini skirt and a flowy crème blouse.
"Very…" Rose searched for the right word. "Retro?"
"Well I wouldn't wear these paired together of course," Lily said as she looked down at herself. "But individually I like both pieces a lot."
Lily gave a twirl. Rose had to admit the clothes looked nice on her. She knew that she herself could never pull those items off.
"Wait a tic," Rose said as she finished folding a pretty blue jumper. "What are you even doing out? I thought today was the day you started studying."
Lily shrugged as she retreated back into the fitting room.
"My parents are both off at work," she said through the curtain. "They can't force me to stay home if they're not home themselves."
Rose knew that this was not literally true, of course. She was sure her aunt and uncle could both ably perform a number of spells which would trap Lily in the confines of Grimmauld Place. It was merely that they had trusted their daughter to remain there on her own. Oh well.
"Do you think I could borrow some money to buy these?" Lily asked as she emerged from behind the curtain, wearing her regular clothes again. "I mean, I can pay you back in real money later, I just don't have any…" Rose watched her think. "Pounds? Quids? What do I say?"
"Sure," Rose smiled as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her wallet. Her cousins had not been raised with the same amount of Muggle knowledge as she had been. "Here's twenty quid. You should get change back." Nothing at Primark was very expensive.
"Alright, and I'll owe you, what, twenty galleons?"
Rose had to contain her laugh. She would be turning quite a profit at that exchange rate. And she would have told her cousin this right then, but one of her manager's seemed to be looking at her, as if finally catching on that Rose had been chatting with the same customer now for near fifteen minutes.
"We'll work it out later," Rose said, and with that she pushed the pile of clothes down the narrow fitting room hall.
Rose was exhausted that evening. She was right, her manager had noticed her slacking, and had given her a proper reaming for it, and though Rose had worked double-hard to compensate for the rest of the day, she still felt worthless and anxious by the time she arrived, hours later, at the door of Grimmauld Place.
It was a funny door, one she had never exactly liked. The knocker was made of two snakes intertwined, something leftover from the old pureblood-proud owners who her Uncle Harry had – she didn't know the exact story, actually – inherited the place from. Not only did the snakes like to nip her fingers if she held on too long, but they also refused to open the door from the outside for her. Only the inhabitants could open the door from the outside, a fact Rose found tedious as she spent so much time here she may as well be a resident. The whole house was filled with creepy little enchanted things like the knocker. The living room was papered with the Black family tree, the stairway was permanently affixed with the portrait of that shrill and screaming woman, even Albus' room had some pictures which could not be pried from the walls. Most of them had been covered over. Albus hung Gryffindor tapestries and placards of the Auror doctrine over the Muggle posters of women on motorcycles (it made sense, now that Rose thought of it, that Albus was gay, as he had never liked those posters) to cover up what he could not take down. The only thing he chose not to cover, at his father's insistence he'd once told her, was an old photograph of a group of four boys. One of the boys looked very much like Albus. It was his grandfather, James, Albus has said. And while she knew that another of the boys in the picture was a Black son, the previous owner of the room, she did not know which. His name and picture had been burned off the family tree in the living room. Albus told her that he'd once asked his father about it, but his father had not wanted to say much. Sirius. That was his name. It was her cousin James' middle name. That was the only reason she knew it. It amazed her how her parents and her aunt and uncle shied away from telling their children about their pasts. There was so much she didn't know. At least, she knew nothing more than the typical History of Magic student, because they had been taught all about the second war against Voldemort in that class.
"Yes?" The door finally cracked open to reveal Kreacher. "What does the half-blood want?"
"I'm not a…" Rose took a deep breath and decided to let it go. "I'm here to see Lily."
"Upstairs," Kreacher said curtly, opening the door just enough for her to squeeze inside.
"Thanks," Rose grunted back, only because she knew she should be nice to house elves. Even when the house elves themselves were real prats. Then she started running up the stairs, all the way to the top, where Lily's room was.
She knocked on the door.
"Come in!" She heard from inside.
Twisting the knob and stepping into the room, Rose was confronted with an unfamiliar sight. Lily was studying.
"Oh don't give me that look." Lily said, shutting the book. "My mum said she'd quiz me at dinner."
"Potions." Lily sighed. "I'm awful at Potions. I wanted to drop it after my O.W.L.s, but my parents made me keep it. I think they still think I'm gonna pursue a Ministry career or something. Boy, won't they be surprised."
Lily, Rose knew, had no interest in the Ministry. She couldn't fault her cousin there, she hadn't been interested in wizarding bureaucracy either. However, the fact that Lily was planning on having a professional Quidditch career did alarm Rose a little. While Hugo might be doing just fine – he'd landed a spot at Puddlemere United – Rose knew how difficult it was to get drafted into professional Quidditch. Lily needed a backup plan. Just in case. And doing well on her N.E.W.T.s would certainly help her.
"Here, I can help you'd study if you'd like." Rose walked over and sat down on the bed next to Lily, taking the book from her hands. Lily had been looking at a page instructing how to make Liquid Death. "Is this really where you want to start?"
"I don't know," Lily shrugged. "I just opened the book up to any page. Ugh, it's awful."
"It's tough, yeah, but if we go through it step by step- If you understand the theory-"
"Yeah, I know, theory is very important." Lily cut her off, jumping off the bed. "So, those clothes I bought today from your store, I was thinking about them… Are you sure they look alright?"
Before Rose knew it, Lily was across the room, pulling on her new outfit and once more modeling it for Rose.
"I mean, the orange in the skirt, it doesn't clash too much with my hair?"
"No, it doesn't," Rose shook her head. But her tone did not cover her annoyance at being cut off earlier. She'd only been trying to help Lily. Why was her cousin so hesitant to listen?
Lily, of course, picked up that Rose was irritated, but of course missed why.
"You want me to pay your money back-"
"No, that's alright, you can pay me back later-"
But Lily was already distracted, searching through drawers for the money, chatting about her new outfit and her date with Sammy. She'd decided that she didn't really fancy him, just his beard. Meanwhile, Rose looked down at the open page in front of her. Potions had been her favorite subject. Professor Slughorn had been a great instructor. Predisposed to her, really, because he liked her mother, but still, they'd gotten on well from the beginning. And she'd learned a lot in his courses.
The door opened then, interrupting Lily's chatter and Rose's thoughts, and Albus stalked silently into the room and plopped himself down into one of the beanbag chairs.
"What's with you?" Lily asked as she handed a small sack containing clanking coins to Rose.
"Lonnng day." Albus sighed. "What are you wearing?"
"Clothes." Sneered Lily.
"They look awful."
"Oh. Ha. Well, then, cheery, you can get out of my room. Or," Lily's tone indicated a change of thought, "maybe you can help me study-"
"Oh come on Albus, you're great at this kind of stuff-"
"No, I'm too tired for this-"
Rose retreated into her thoughts again as she stuck in the money into the pocket of her jeans. She'd used an expansion charm on the pocket, so that it could hold her wand and her wallet and whatever else she wanted while she was at work. It had been a bit difficult, but very worth it.
"Fine, one question-and-answer session." Albus declared, giving in. And then he added, for good measure. "And that's it."
Lily flashed a satisfied smile, glad to have gotten her way – and Lily always seemed to be getting her way – and then listened as Rose and Albus took turns asking questions. She barely answered any.
About an hour later, the three of them were called for supper and made their way down to the basement kitchen eager for food. After her parents mocked Lily's outfit just as Albus had done, they all sat down to eat.
"What should you never add to thicken a draught?" Her Uncle Harry asked Lily as they finished off the summer salad Kreacher had prepared for them.
Her uncle gave an annoyed sigh – the answer had been any fresh vegetation – but her aunt pressed on.
"What's a ready-antidote for any poison?"
"How should I know that?"
"Because it's something you'll be tested on."
"Well… I don't… Milkweed?"
A bezoar, Rose thought. Though she'd known the answer to every question. Not that they were especially difficult questions. Just what had Lily been doing these past six years that she seemed to not know anything of basic Potions? Playing Quidditch. And dating, of course. Rose had never dated at Hogwarts, and she hadn't played Quidditch either. But she had been a top student. Rose looked over at her floundering cousin.
"You know," Rose said, interrupting the ongoing interrogation. "Maybe I could tutor Lily. I mean, I did alright in my own exams."
Her aunt and uncle smiled at her.
"That's very nice of you to offer, Rose," Aunt Ginny began, "but we couldn't possibly ask you to spend all your free time doing that. We know you're studying hard for your college work."
"Er, yeah, but…" She was not currently studying hard for her college work. She'd gotten a very nice mark on her prelims just a month earlier and now she was merely biding her time 'til college started up again. "I could still help."
"That'd be great!" Lily smiled brightly at her.
"We'll see," Uncle Harry said sternly. "If Rose is too busy, then Rose is too busy. You have to be responsible on your own to learn this."
"I know," Lily sighed. "I alone sit the exams." She said it in a tone that told Rose it was something she'd been told many times before and was merely repeating. Rose smiled. She liked her cousin's attitude. "How 'bout Rose and I get started studying now?"
Lily looked at Rose with eyes that said 'Please, let's just get away from them.'
"Alright," Rose nodded and stood.
As she and Lily made their way up all the flights of stairs to the very top of the house, Lily turned to her and muttered under her breath: "They act as if getting mediocre marks would be the worst thing in the world…"
"Only 'cause you're capable of scoring really well," Rose said, encouragingly.
"No," Lily shook her head. "It's 'cause they think James is some big failure and they don't want me to follow in his footsteps."
It was true that James was not exactly a success, but Rose would hardly call him a failure. Only two years out of Hogwarts now and he had a steady job working at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, just as Rose's father had done when he'd been just out of school. He was saving up money. And maybe someday he would choose a profession he was really passionate about.
"Your parents don't think that," Rose tried to sound comforting.
"Which part? That James is a failure or that I'm likely to be one too?"
Rose didn't answer her question as they both stepped into her room and found the study guide where they'd left it on Lily's bed.
Rose opened up the book up to the beginning, figuring that'd be a good place to start, but they didn't get very far before they heard the sound of the doorbell – a set of sharp chimes – echo through the house.
"Wonder who that could be…" Lily said idly, but Rose demanded that her cousin not get distracted and instead focus her attention back on the book. "Fine, task master…" Lily muttered, but she did as she was told.
It was only a few moments later that there was a knock on the door.
"Rose," Albus stuck his head into the room without waiting to receive permission to enter. "There's a package for you."
"For me?" Rose looked up, surprised.
"Yeah. Guess you've been spending so much time here that your post is starting to be delivered to this address."
Rose frowned at her cousin, but stood anyway and began to walk towards the door.
"I'll just take a break then, while you're gone-" Lily began.
"No," Rose shook her head with sudden authority. "Come with me and I'll ask you trivia questions as we go."
Lily gave an annoyed sigh, but did as she was told. As they descended down the stairs, Rose asked Lily basic questions off the top of her head – What was the function of lacewings? What was the best way to get the juice out of a sopophorous bean? What should a love potion smell like? – and Lily just guessed at the answers. Her cousin had a lot of work to do if she wanted to get even decent marks in Potions, Rose decided.
When they got to the bottom of the stairs, Aunt Ginny was standing there.
"Lily, you can't really think that a love potion always smells like flowers-" her aunt began, but neither Rose nor Lily heard they end of it as both of them stepped out onto the front step of the house with Lily firmly shutting the door behind them.
"Sorry," Lily said in answer to the shut door. "It's okay when you ask me questions, but when my mum does it just gets my goat."
"No problem," said Rose, who was really not paying attention to Lily, but instead to the fumbling gray owl buckling under the weight or awkward shape of the small brown paper wrapped package tied to his leg. When Rose tried to untie the package the owl hooted angrily at her. That was when she noticed the pen and scrap of paper clasped in the owl's beak. He wanted her to sign for it. "Alright, alright," mumbled Rose as she took what the owl offered and scribbled her name onto the paper. The owl examined her signature – as if checking it was hers, she wondered just how good a security owl this was – before offering her his leg.
As soon as Rose untied the small package the owl was airborne, not even waiting to receive a tip or snack. Well fine, Rose thought, be that way.
"Oooh what is it?" Lily asked over her shoulder.
"I don't know." Shrugged Rose. "No return address."
"Maybe it's something from Scorpius." Lily suggested. "Looks small enough to be jewelry. Oooh! Maybe he got your jewelry!"
Rose laughed off the comment outwardly, but her hands grew suddenly sweaty. The package was an appropriate size to be jewelry. She fumbled with the wrappings. At last, she untied the binding twine and undid the outer layer of brown paper to reveal, inside, an odd little silver necklace.
"It is jewelry, I told you so." Lily said from behind her, leaning closer now to get a look. "Huh. Weird, though."
And it was. Still holding the wrappings, Rose brought the package closer to her. The necklace was very odd. It looked like the inside of a tiny clock, all gears and cogs, and two tiny hands overtop it all, pointing in odd directions at nothing.
"'Huh' is right." Rose brought the necklace closer. The mechanism was thread through a silver chain.
"And no note?" Asked Lily.
"Not that I can see."
"Must be from Scorpius, then. He was never much for words."
It bothered Rose that Lily had once dated Scorpius Malfoy, not that she would ever tell her cousin this. Instead, she moved the brown paper wrappings so that they were supported entirely by one hand. With her other hand, she tentatively reached forward to touch the watch-like necklace.
"Don't touch it!" Lily shrieked.
"Why not?" Rose paused her finger in mid-air.
"Because… It might hurt it or something. This could be an antique."
Rose breathed a sigh of relief, then laughed.
"I think it's okay to touch, even if it is an antique."
"Alright then. But if you ruin it, it's not my fault."
Rose looked her cousin in the eyes and raised an eyebrow. Lily merely shrugged back at her.
Again Rose moved her finger towards the delicate looking mechanism. She felt Lily grip her shoulder.
"Gently!" Lily said, not letting go.
"I'm being gentle!"
And Rose again resumed her very slow reach towards the necklace. When her finger finally got up close to it, Lily's hand still clenched to her shoulder, Rose half expected her cousin to break her arm off. But instead, Rose merely gave the necklace a gentle – she was trying so hard to be gentle – poke. At first nothing happened. Rose heard Lily give a sigh of relief as she squeezed her shoulder ever tighter, and Rose was about to laugh in return when all of a sudden the tiny hands on the mechanism started whirring round.
"What's it doing?" Lily asked. Her voice sounded faint.
"I don't know." Rose shook her head. She felt odd. A sinking feeling was taking its place in the center of her stomach. She should not have touched this necklace, she thought, suddenly.
And then the hands stopped moving. Rose realized that her cousin was grabbing her arm harder than ever, and it hurt now.
"You can let go now," Rose said, moving her free hand up to brush Lily away.
"Sorry," said her cousin. "I just got the worst feeling."
"Really?" This made Rose worried. If it was only she who felt bad then it was nothing, but if two of them at the same time had had some strange feeling…
"Let's go in and finish studying," Lily said. And she gripped the door handle. But the door did not budge. Lily grabbed it harder. One of the silver snakes reached out and bit her finger. "Ow!"
"Excuse me." A woman standing on the street below the stoop was staring up at them. "This is number twelve Grimmauld Place, is it not?" She had a heavy accent, French it sounded like. Rose knew she had never seen this woman before in her life.
"Yeah, it is," said Lily, still clutching her finger. "Who wants to know?"
"I-" The woman was clearly put off by Lily's angry tone. "I'm the tutor. Your father- He must've been your father, hired me to tutor you for your N.E.W.T.s-"
"Ugh!" Lily shrieked, violently, clearly upset now. "I don't need a tutor! We changed our minds! Get out of here!" The woman stared silently up at Lily. "Get! Scram!"
The woman frowned, then hurried down the street.
"Lily, that probably wasn't nice-"
"What do I care what's nice?" Lily said through clenched teeth. "They're so meddling, they can't just trust me. Exams are practically a year away!"
"I know, but they just want what's best for you-"
"What's best for me?" Asked Lily, so angry she was practically laughing now. She gripped the knocker again and again gave it a tug. "What's best for me is to get inside. This isn't funny Albus! Open the fucking door!" She tugged again and when a serpent again bit her finger, she slammed the knocker – and the serpent's head – hard against the wooden door, several times. Well, Rose thought, that must've gotten their attention inside. Even if Albus had locked them out, surely her aunt and uncle must've heard a knock with that much force behind it. "Open up!" Lily shrieked again.
"Lily, calm down-" Rose said, pulling her cousin away from the door. Just as she did, the door began to open. "See, here's-" But she could not finish her thought. Because standing before her was not her aunt, or her uncle, or Albus. It was someone she did not know. Someone she did not recognize. He looked to be about her age, maybe a year or two older, and definitely trying to look older than that. But he was a stranger, certainly.
"Hullo?" The boy who'd answered the door stared at them, squinting his eyes and examining them.
"Uh…" Rose was at a loss for words.
The boy tilted his head to the side. He looked vaguely familiar when he did that. Not so familiar as to be opening the door to her cousins' house, but familiar enough, as if she knew him from somewhere.
"And?" The boy drew out the word, as if trying to prompt their response. Next to her, Lily remained silent. "Is one of you the new tutor?"
"Er…" Rose didn't know what to say.
The boy, a mop of dark hair falling in front of his gray eyes, seemed almost amused by their silence. He was smirking, Rose realized.
"Yes." It was Lily's voice, and it was surprising. "She's the tutor."
Rose felt Lily's hands at her back, pushing her forward.
"Uh, yeah, hi." It was all Rose could do to stick out her hand. She wasn't exactly sure what was going on, what her cousin was trying to pull, but she thought she might as well play along with it. This was a practical joke, that was all, she thought. Maybe James, with some disguise from the store, was putting her up to this.
The boy did not take Rose's hand. Instead, he stepped back into the house, turning to face inwards, and then opening his mouth and shouting at the top of his voice.
"Regulus! Your new tutor's here!" When the shout was done resonating through all of their ears, the boy turned back to Rose. "He'll be down in a second."
"Uh… Yeah." Again the boy smirked at her. She didn't like it. Not at all. And 'Regulus.' Of course the name was instantly familiar to her. Regulus Black, who'd stolen the locket, the locket that had made her brother Tom into a monster. But what Regulus had been long dead. And what would someone else named Regulus be doing in the house now?
"James, if you think this is funny…" Rose began, but she could not finish, as a frown stretched across the boy's face.
"James?" The boy shook his head. "I'm not James Potter."
"Sure," Rose began, nodding, playing along. "I bet-"
"I'm not," said the boy. "I'm Sirius Black."
"Oh," Rose heard Lily say from behind her. "Oh. Merlin's pants."
"Yeah," Rose nodded. "Shit."