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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

Unless these demons follow me home, it's easy to bury the guilt on my own

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

Ryszard knew he should have followed her when she’d rushed out the door during that fateful Divination lesson. Instead, he’d waited in the dormitories while Jaxon went out to look for her. It was cowardly, but he had never claimed to be a good person. He had told his roommate to not trust him—he’d told @Jacqueline Frost he was a wretched human being and didn’t deserve either of them in his life. She had been persistent, much like Jaxon, but he had never meant to hurt Adrina, of all people. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Ryszard had put his own needs before his sister’s, and it had ended in disaster.

 

There was a creeping feeling in his stomach that said his father had always been right about him.

 

It had been a few days since they’d been exposed in the most humiliating manner possible, and Ryszard had taken to spending most of his time in the Slytherin common room. It was safe in there, and even though he found himself distancing from his roommate because of what had happened and the subsequent guilt he felt over it, there was no greater comfort for him than the blond’s proximity. They hadn’t talked about it beyond what was absolutely necessary, the topic too sensitive and explosive to even go near with a ten foot pole. There was an empty feeling inside Ryszard’s chest, but the feeling of pure happiness he felt whenever he was with @Jaxon Sinclair was still there, and it continued to be just as overwhelming as it had been right from the start.

 

He knew that didn’t make things okay—somewhere in the castle was his sister, who still hadn’t appeared in class, and she was hurting. It killed him to know that he was the reason for her pain this time, and there was no way he would ever be able to make it better. This time, he wouldn’t be able to hug and tell her he was there for her and would make everything right again—not unless he planned on following his apologies with erasing whatever currently existed between him and Jaxon.

 

Ryszard had absolutely no intentions of stopping, and he knew the other boy felt the same way.

 

It was just as well that he was busy with his thoughts as he made his way toward the common room, taking a quick shortcut that landed him right in front of the kitchens, between the Slytherin and Hufflepuff common rooms, when he ran right into someone. He caught the person by the shoulders before they fell over and brought him down as well, but he set his teeth. “Can’t you—“ He began, before he looked down and realised who it was. His stomach dropped, the lump in his throat leaving him with a bitter taste. He didn’t let go, not immediately, not when he could feel how unsteady she was.

 

”Addy, I...” His voice trembled, and he swallowed hard. “I’m sorry.”

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

No one could deny they were related, even their habits when faced with such terms of distress were far too similar.  Adrina too had chosen, no felt she had no other option but to sequester herself in the safety of her own dorm in the days following the divination class and the subsequent disaster of a conversation with Jack.  If it could be called that.  She was left feeling suspended somewhere between utter devestation and murderous, so it was probably for the best.  But that didn’t stop her from wondering if Jack nor her brother had even stopped to worry about her absence.  

 

But while she was sure all of her other year-mates were away in class, then she could unbury herself from the fort of tearstained pillows and blankets that she’d buried herself in with the plush hippogriff from Jack that she couldn’t seem to stop clinging too, then with the room to herself she could work on getting herself together without having to answer questions or fake a smile.  Then she could, not-so-bravely navigate the short distance to the kitchens and fill what little space in her stomach she could force to fill before the nauseous feeling returned.  The feeling that reminded her of just how lost and betrayed she felt, how alone and confused.  

 

And then, she’d hurry back to the room and snuggle right back into her bed before anyone could know she’d left.  At least that had been the plan, but today she’d gotten off to a bit of a late start - running into Desmond (who never seemed to have any classes) in the common room and he wanted to talk quidditch, and the kitchen elves had baked up a fresh batch of cupcakes when she’d arrived sending her into a fit of tears and sending them into a tizzy trying to appease her.  

 

So far the day was just smashing. 

 

So smashing in fact that it didn't even surprise the fourth year when she smashed right into someone as she hurried out of the kitchen.  The only surprising thing was who it was that she’d smashed into, and then what he dared to say in the aftermath. 

 

She saw red, faster then she could register it and she backed away from him as if his touch had burned her.  A heat prickled in the corners of her eyes but before anything could break through another emotion powered out and the fist that @Jaxon Sinclair had worked so hard to teach her curled in.  She didn’t think twice about the urge, she just went with it and her punch connected with Ryszard’s mouth long before her words could have met his ears.  

 

“For what?  Stealing my boyfriend or acting like you ever cared about my happiness in the first place?”

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

Ryszard wasn’t surprised when she wrenched herself out of his grip like it burned, but that didn’t stop the hurt from seeping in. Adrina pulling away from him felt like he was losing something so crucial and vital to his person, and it hurt. He didn’t know how to deal with this without lashing out, but there was absolutely no way he would be doing that to his sister.

 

She would most likely not want to acknowledge it anymore, but she was still his sister—they would remain the A-V twins forever, whether they liked it or not.

 

The punch was unexpected, coming from someone like Adrina. He knew she’d slapped his roommate more than once already, and she’d tried to strangle him for treating the blond with less than the respect he deserved—but a direct hit like that, aimed at him left him unbalanced.

 

He flinched, his entire body bowing into the movement, his eyes snapping closed for a second. Ryszard could feel the pain already radiating through his jaw. There was blood in his mouth, but he didn’t think she’d broken anything—Adrina wasn’t Jaxon; she couldn’t—and likely wouldn’t—break his jaw just from one punch. Right now, he wouldn’t put it past her to hit him again, and Ryszard had resolved to take whatever anger she threw his way.

 

Merlin knew he deserved it.

 

That feeling of guilt was pervasive in a way he’d never felt before, especially when he noticed the expression she was wearing, looking like she’d been crying not too long ago.

 

“I’ve always cared about your happiness,” he argued, spitting out blood, his back hitting the wall. A hand pressed against the corner of his mouth, the fingertips coming away bloody. It didn’t matter, it would stop bleeding eventually, and Ryszard would rather she hurt him than herself. “This just...I don’t know how it happened, Addy, but I did everything I could to keep this from hurting you, but it...” He trailed, thinking back to that summer. There was no way Ryszard would be throwing Jaxon under the bus, not when he’d had a worse time of it than him.

 

He shook his head. “You can be as angry as you want with me, Addy. It’s all my fault and only my fault.”

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

Though the instinct to lash out at Jack had left her just as quick as it had come, she found the bubbling rage that urged her to launch into full combat mode with her brother didn't fade away nearly as quickly.  She also realized that she didn't feel the same guilt when she recognized blood on her brothers lips the same way she had when the same red had tipped the fingers of Jack's gloved hands.  As far as she was concerned that same blood was nearly as much her own and she didn't feel a thing.   

 

Well, almost... her knuckles did sting a little and she felt the ring of heartache when she realized the last thing she could do no was rung to Jack and tell him that she actually had thrown a good punch just like he'd taught her.  He probably wouldn't be proud of her for it and seeing him wasn't something she wanted to do anyway, not really.  

 

"Lies, Ryszard." Adrina didn't believe any of it, not anymore.  She thought back on how he'd pushed his way into her relationship, and how he'd tried to stop her from having it in the first place and wondered if he'd only been trying to put himself in her place from the start.  "I trusted you going to Jack's for the summer to keep you safe, and you took away everything that made me happy.  Do you even know what he said to me?!"  it would have appeared not because if Jack had confided in Ryszard anything about the way their conversation had disintegrated the slytherin in him would have tucked tail and ran the other way.   

 

The anger, the frustration and sadness bubbled over in much the same way it always did for her, hot tears fell out of her eyes as she stood in front of her twin, a memory of a time when he might have once tried to wipe them away and comfort her - and when she would have let him - flickered through her - but now her hands clenched fists at her sides.  If he even dared to touch her she wasn't sure what she'd do.   

 

"You called him a monster until he believed it, and somehow I'm the one who's wrong.  How is that fair?" She cried, concentrating hard on the pattern of his tie, loose around his neck.   Then slowly and still somehow all at once Addy looked up and met his eyes, hard and fierce through the glassy wet that still seeped out over her own.  "And what does that make you?"    

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

Ryszard hadn’t really envisioned how this would go, and while he hadn’t expected her to forgive him, he hadn’t thought it would go like this, either. They were both still licking wounds they’d given each other a year ago, and they weren’t healing. He had always known it would all eventually snowball into one big mess, but he had hoped, on some level, that it wouldn’t end this way—standing in a corridor, Ryszard’s split lip bleeding, and shouting at each other.

 

It could only get worse from here.

 

”Y—“ He cut himself off, taking in harsh breaths and squeezing his eyes before he started yelling, and that was the last thing he wanted to do—he had also never wanted to be cruel to her, but that ship had long since sailed. “You didn’t even know where I was staying, Addy! You didn’t even care. So stop acting like you sent me there or like I needed your permission,” he scoffed, but he didn’t think it would be prudent to point out that the summer wouldn’t have mattered—they lived together the rest of the year, too, and both Slytherins had been slowly crawling toward the same conclusion all year. It had been inevitable. 

 

Ryszard was a terrible human being, but Adrina wasn’t completely blame free, either, and part of him wanted to tell her she didn’t have the right to call him out when she’d stopped showing that she cared a long time ago. Last year’s humiliations were still fresh in his mind, and while he’d tried to forget everything that had happened and move on, it popped up suddenly. Adrina hadn’t cared about how lonely and alone he was steadily becoming, and he didn’t think it was fair for her to blame him for latching onto the first person that offered him something other than accusations and disappointed looks.

 

“And I’m not going back to Kenmore this summer, so you can be happy in that knowledge,” he snapped. Ryszard wasn’t leaving because of her, but he imagined she would think that. He also knew this would likely result in a future fight between him and the two Jacks, especially when he would insist on Frost staying on so she could be safe during the full moon.

 

His eyes narrowed at her next words, his free hand pressing hard against the wall behind him. “He didn’t, but he did tell me what you said, and that was low, Addy. Even for you.” Ryszard had kissed him when he’d finally made his way back to the common room, and then he’d walked with him to the Hospital Wing, letting him squeeze his hand when the silver was applied, pain lancing through the blond’s mouth. On the way over, Jaxon had talked and Ryszard had listened.

 

Adrina’s tears had always been his weakness, but now, coupled with her harsh words, Ryszard felt his heart harden.

 

It was the question she asked that had his hands dropping to his sides, nails digging in painfully. They would likely leave red and angry dents for hours, and he would stand in front of the first sink he could find and furiously scrub at his hands until the skin was left raw and redder than it had been a second ago, as if the water could somehow wash away every bad thing he’d ever done.

 

Ryszard had never claimed to be better than he was, and he felt something snap inside his chest; something vital that he would need to be able to breathe after this. “I never said I was a good person, Addy. I always said I was a monster and that I would one day ruin everything,” he said finally, licking at his split lip and feeling it bleed even more profusely. “It just took you this long to figure it out.”

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

Maybe he hadn’t needed her permission, but Ryszard was wrong about everything else.  She had cared, and she’d tried to show him but he had starting shutting her out long before she had ever realized what was happening.  Long before Jack had come along, maybe even long before they’d even set foot past the doors of Hogwarts and been physically separated by the distance of the Dungeon corridors.  It had taken her far too long to realize it but it had punched her in the gut along with the heart wrenching realization of everything else.

 

“That’s not true!  I did care!  Of course I cared but you have been pushing me out of your life since we got here!”  It didn’t matter anyway, her half hearted attempt to defend herself, she knew her brother and he had already made up his mind.  The damage had been done on both their parts and she was far too hurt to really try to fix it now.  

 

Her eyes lowered again at the mention of what she’d said to Jack coming to surface.  Of course he would be quick to share what had angered him about their exchange but not the ugliness that he’d broken her apart with.  She’d been hurting, and angry and drawn to push at something, anything that might burn him the same way she was burning.  “You would know all about that, wouldn’t you?  It’s fitting he didn’t tell you everything.  Then you’d know I don’t care where you stay.” She fired back, even though it did funnel a swell of something like relief through her to know he wouldn’t be there again.  Perhaps because she didn’t want to think about him so close to Jack for so long and also because she wasn’t sure she could be trusted not to keep his secret for another summer.  

 

“I don’t care where you are, or what you do, or what you want.  You wanted me out of your life and I’m fine with that now.  You didn’t want a sister anymore and you don’t have to have one.”  If Jaxon couldn’t relay the message to Ryszard then apparently Addy would have to do it herself, no matter how much it felt like a piece of her was ripping clean out from the inside.  

 

“I hoped for someone better.  I was holding out for that because somehow I thought you could be that for me.”  her voice was gruff and hard while she responded to his claim that he had always known he was going to bring destruction.  “I don’t think I have hope for anything anymore.”

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

”Oh, you really looked like you cared when you were laughing along with everyone else over me throwing up slugs, or maybe that time when you didn’t show up to any of my duels for the tournament.” There were a million other examples he could have laid out at her feet, but instead he shook his head at her. It was almost sad. “Maybe the reason I pushed you out isn’t because I wanted to protect you or whatever, but because you never showed up for the little things, so I didn’t trust you to show up when it really mattered.”

 

It hurt to be like this with her—they were standing so close to each other, but they couldn’t have been further apart. It didn’t stop the words falling from his lips like so much venom. He wasn’t like Jaxon, and even though he knew who he was in front of and he knew he was at fault for everything that had happened, Ryszard had rarely ever been able to stay kind and gentle for too long. In that, he was much more like @Jacqueline Frost than his own twin. Maybe that was why he’d always felt like they were kindred spirits, much closer than someone he had grown up with and was related to by blood.

 

“Not really,” he replied, releasing his hands. “I would never tell him he let himself be changed by something as traumatic and drastic as a bloody werewolf bite.” This wasn’t what they should have been talking about right now, but Ryszard felt fire flare up in his chest at the thought of Jaxon being hurt by Adrina’s careless words. Even in grief, she didn’t have the right to say something like that.

 

He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. He could no longer feel the pain in his lip, everything going numb all at once. He would feel it later, but at least he wouldn’t be standing in front of his sister and spitting out everything he’d been trying to suppress for more than a year now.

 

“And you never cared anyway, Addy, so that’s nothing new.” If she could insist he wanted his sister gone from his life, then he would do the same. Ryszard felt his chest caving in—pretty soon, he wouldn’t be able to breathe anymore, and he would lie there on the concrete floor, nothing but an empty husk. “I don’t need you to forgive me,” he said, hands shaking as he pressed himself against the wall, like he was desperately trying to get away from her. “I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry I hurt you, but I’m not sorry it happened.”

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

The slug thing had been an error in judgement, she should have gone down and helped her brother and for a brief moment she had contemplated it, she remembered, but the adrenaline in the air and the laughter among the group pulsed through her and Jack had kissed her and she hadn't been able to think quite so clearly.  The only thought that had come to mind had been the thought to get a bucket and to collect the slugs and compare them to her own.  Did twin people carry twin slugs?   It was useless to argue about it now but it shocked her that he was still angry about that so long after.   

 

What Adrina could and would argue about were his other points.   "I came to one of them!  I hid on the ground, under the stands because... because... you and Jack and Jack always make me... made me feel like i didn't belong around you all when you were together."  It was a horrible feeling to walk up behind her own boyfriend and feel like she was walking in to be the punch line in a joke they'd just started.   "You would always leave right away, like you didn't want me around, so I wasn't sure you'd want me there either.  But, don't tell me I wasn't there when it mattered."  Her eyebrows furrowed again and her fingers curled in tight.  

 

"I was there with you... HERE with you in this corridor when you told me about Dad's letters and about how you feel about...."  A thought struck her then and her eyes widened, her jaw slacked and she backed up quickly lifting her hand to her mouth with the shock that had registered.  Her dark eyes shot her brother an accusatory look and a ripple of pain shook her whole body as a sob escaped.   "You liked him then didn't you?  When you told me you liked boys and I told you it didn't matter to me, that I loved you anyway.  You liked Jack then."  

 

Suddenly it felt like she couldn't breathe, she was frozen to the spot as little moments played back in her memory like a movie reel and then all at once she started to breathe too fast.  She could hear Ryszard throwing more ugly words her way, but she couldn't find a way to answer them, to tell him that she'd tried to explain herself, that hadn't been the way she meant them but what use was it.  The two people in her world that had cocooned her in safety and had ripped open that netting before her wings had formed.  Instead of being able to fly away from this onslaught, she was crumbling like dust.   

 

Prickles of light faded in at the edge of her vision faster with each breath she sped in and out, fast steps pressed her back against the opposite wall and her brain spun.  "I cared... you... broke..." and a cold feeling slid against her back as she fell to the floor.   

 

 

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Ryszard Althaus-Valerio

If Adrina would have told him about the reason behind her joining in on his humiliation, he would’ve merely shrugged at her. There was something to be said about the fact that Ryszard had done terrible things—this was the worst thing he could’ve done—but he would’ve never done that to her. If she would’ve expressed her shock at the fact that he had been holding onto it for so long, he would’ve asked her if she’d ever faced pure unabashed humiliation on that level, with Jo at the helm, who had once called him a cockroach and told him that no one would ever choose him—but he already knew that she hadn’t.

 

Their parents indiscretions aside, Adrina had been loved ever since she’d stepped foot into Hogwarts. He knew she didn’t have a lot of close friends, much like him—neither of them was equipped for that sort of connection—but people liked her. Anywhere he went where he would mention his sister, their eyes would sparkle and their mouths would pull into wide smiles.

 

Meanwhile, people avoided Ryszard like the plague, pausing for a mild moment to throw harsh insults in his direction. He gave as good as he got, and he usually started it, in most cases, but that didn’t change the fact that, even here, people favoured one twin over the other. He had never felt envious of it—in fact, he had only ever been proud—but he suddenly realised that perhaps he should’ve brought up his resentment a long time ago.

 

It was far too late for that.

 

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Is that supposed to make me feel better, Addy?” He asked. “We never excluded you. It’s not either of our faults if you felt that way, especially if you didn’t even bring it up with anyone.” The accusation stung. Ryszard had been doing his best to stay out of her and Jaxon’s way, and he had failed spectacularly at that, but he’d tried. That was much more than his sister could say for herself. “And you weren’t,” he added quietly. “You only cared when it got too much, and it started affecting you.”

 

Ryszard’s eyes sharpened at her next words. He licked his lips, letting his hands slide into the pockets of his jeans. “I’ve liked him for a long time, Addy,” he confessed, breathing harsh. “Long before you showed me your notebook.” That was the truth, but he had never uttered those words out loud, and he felt the sudden urge to avert his eyes, shame coursing through him for a wrong he hadn’t even done. “And you can’t be mad at me for that,” he added. “Because when we had that conversation, I was trying as hard as I could to kill anything I felt for him, so don’t come at me with that.”

 

It was a second later that he noticed Adrina was getting worse than she had been a mere ten seconds ago, and Ryszard rushed forward to catch her before she hit the floor hard. He swore loud enough to alert anyone outside the door. He lowered her onto the floor, crouching in front of her. “Addy,” he said, shaking her softly. When that had no effect, he sucked in a breath, his heart hammering away faster than the speed of light. He had never meant to hurt her, but he’d always known he would, in the end. This was just the inevitable epilogue.

 

He pulled out his wand, glad he always kept the holster on him. “Fulcire,” he muttered quietly, aimed carefully at his sister. He didn’t know if that would revive her, but he wanted to try one last time before hauling her off to the Hospital Wing.

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Adrina Althaus-Valerio

Steadily and surely they had reached a point of no turning this around.  

 

Adrina felt hollow inside, like a empty space was carved out now where something vital had always been; a piece of her heart, half of her lung... she felt weak and even more so as more accusations began to hurl at her and explanations of his own.  They seemed to have plenty enough to toss back and forth but all of it was more fuel to the fire that was burning the bridge that connected them.   

 

Sometime in the future maybe, she could have thought back on this and agreed that no, she couldn't be mad at her brother for his feelings.  That didn't mean she couldn't be hurt by the fact that he had chosen to keep them from her for so long, and then chosen to act on them in the way that he had... trampling her own feelings into the mud underneath his shoe.   But, in this moment she didn't get to say anything about that at all because the only thing that managed it's way out of her mouth before she collapsed towards the floor was an mess of her thoughts as her vision faded to black with the sight of him rushing across the corridor in her direction.   

 

 

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