Chapter 5 : Rose. --- Squad Assignments.
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Alex, to his considerable relief, did not have to follow his father around for a year. Rose couldn’t quite understand his relief when she saw his assignment - he would be following Lavender Brown and a light-haired man named Camden Crockford around for the following year. Crockford seemed to be all right, but Rose found Lavender Brown to be extremely intimidating. The fact that she was second-in-command of their department only added to the aura the heavy scarring across her face created. She didn’t seem mean, but still, Rose tried to avoid her as often as possible.
“Well, she is his godmother,” Van said when she mentioned it to Victoire shortly after she’d arrived at their small cubicle and taken her seat at a deserted desk in the corner. He had his feet up on his desk, and he was tossing a stuffed manticore up into the air and catching it. “Of course he’s glad he’s been put with her.”
“She is? How do you know?”
Victoire snorted. Unlike Dedworth, she actually appeared to be working; her long red hair was tied back from her face, and she was scrutinising a small stack of reports. “Rosie, never ask Van how he knows something about Lavender - or the Finnigans, for that matter. You’ll just end up confused.”
There was something about the way she said it that made Rose wonder what exactly the subtext was, and if it had just been her and her cousin, she probably would have pressed Victoire for an explanation. However, it wasn’t just them, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to pursue a line of questioning that could annoy or offend her direct supervisor on her very first day.
“So when do we do something interesting?” she asked instead.
This time, it was Dedworth who gave the snort of laughter. “As soon as we find something worth checking out. Don’t worry. Something will come up soon.” He tossed the stuffed manticore onto his desk, swiveled around so his feet were back on the floor, and grabbed a few reports off it that from a distance looked quite similar to the ones Victoire was pouring over. “Something always does.”
Rose felt her heartbeat quicken. This was exactly why she’d been so intent on joining the D.C.B. that she’d signed up two days after she’d taken the Hogwarts Express home for the last time.
In years past, dark wizards had been the major threat facing the wizarding world. There were certainly plenty of magical creatures you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, but attacks on humans were isolated events. They weren’t especially uncommon - everyone had a story about how their cousin’s best mate or their sister’s boyfriend’s aunt had been attacked by a vicious kelpie or a group of grindylows when they were fishing - but they were isolated. They were just part of living in the wizarding world.
But things had changed. Those incidents were more common, and more importantly, attacks by really dangerous creatures - acromantulas, manticores, trolls, and other XXXX or XXXXX creatures - were becoming increasingly common. There had even been rumours that the quintapeds were crossing over to the mainland, though those reports had yet to be substantiated. Nobody seemed to know what was causing the spike, but after about twenty years of ignoring the signs, it was undeniable that something was very, very wrong.
The wizarding world had focused too much of their energy on dark wizards following the Second Wizarding War, and they’d forgotten there were other dark things out there. Now they were paying the price.
“What can I do?” Rose asked.
Victoire and Dedworth both looked over at her, and then at each other. After a moment, Dedworth held up his sheaf of parchments and grinned. “Pull up a seat,” he said. “Vic’s looking into the quintapeds again. It’s not really beginner work. I’ve got some reports claiming that there have been some kelpie sightings in Portsmouth, though.”
“Are there really quintapeds?” Rose asked as she dragged her chair over to his desk.
Victoire glanced up. “Maybe. It’s difficult to tell. The Prophet has been reporting all the rumours to death lately, which means every Bones, Scamander, and Zeller in the country is claiming they’ve seen one. Usually, they’re just seeing shadows, but sometimes it’s acromantulas, and there’ve been a few tips that felt suspicious, but when we swept the area...” She shrugged. “Nothing.”
Rose collapsed into her chair and frowned. “Maybe this is a - well - er - not pleasant question, but if there are quintapeds, what are they eating?”
Victoire let out a sigh, but it was Dedworth who answered. “That’s a very, very good question.” She looked over at him. The grin had vanished from his face. “Makes you think about these disappearances a little differently, doesn’t it?” She shuddered. “Yeah. Right there with you.”
Dedworth wrung enough analysis out of her while they perused the reports of the kelpie sightings that she could tell he was going to be a good person to learn from, and the rest of the day passed quickly. Rose was just getting ready to leave when she heard a very familiar laugh echo down the corridor.
She stuck her head out and saw her cousin James sauntering down the hall with Natalie McDonald and Brennan Pummell. “Did you see its face?” he asked them. “Did you see its face?”
Brennan was clearly struggling to hold back giggles herself. “Well, that answers that question: forest trolls really are too stupid to feel surprised.”
McDonald wasn’t joining in with their gleefulness - which was probably just as well, since she was supposed to be in charge of them - but she was looking quite amused herself. “You both need to calm down,” she said. “We’re inside now, remember? We have a reputation to maintain.”
James brandished an imaginary wand. “A reputation for being brilliant and getting the job done!”
McDonald surveyed the two of them for another moment before turning away. “I need to go report to Seamus,” she said. “Try to calm yourselves down. It was just a few forest trolls. I’m sure you’ll have to fight them again.” She strode down the corridor toward an ajar door and closed it behind her as she slipped into the room beyond it.
James looked around. “Rosie!” he said, his eyes settling on her. “How are you?”
“Fine, but you don’t really care. What happened with forest trolls?”
Her cousin smirked and ran a hand through his shaggy black hair. Brennan had given up trying to suppress her giggles once McDonald had disappeared, but at this point she appeared to be laughing at James as much as with him.
“We bumped into a few of them,” he said. “We were looking into a possible acromantula nest, actually, but we found trolls instead.” He stretched his hands over his head. He looked exceedingly pleased with himself. “I’ve never gotten to fight a forest troll before.”
“How hard could they be?” Rose asked, leaning against the wall. “I thought forest trolls were the smallest.”
“Oh, they are,” Brennan answered. “But they’re tricky little bastards. Give me a good straightforward mountain troll any day.”
Brennan smiled at the scepticism. “No, I’m actually serious, Rose. Forest trolls always travel in packs. They’re dead stupid, but I think they have a hive mind - like bees, or something - because they always attack together. It really is a pain in the arse. I can take a mountain troll alone, but forest trolls...” She shook her head.
Rose had no idea if bees really did have a hive mind. She rather doubted it - that sounded a little too much like something out of Beedle the Bard’s lost stories or something - but she didn’t care enough to find out. “Huh. Learn something new every day.” That was one of her favourite parts of working for the D.C.B.: no matter how much she learned, there always seemed to be something new. She surveyed James and Brennan again - there was blossoming bruise across his collarbone, and she had a large cut with congealing blood on her cheek. “Did you - er - have to stop to get treated for anything?”
James snorted. “No, Rosie, we didn’t go to St. Mungo’s and say hello to your boyfriend.”
She felt her face colour. She hadn’t meant for her question to be quite so obvious, but it seemed that James knew her too well for it to really matter how she phrased it.
“Wait, your boyfriend works in St. Mungo’s?” Brennan asked, cocking her head to one side. “What, as a Healer?” Rose nodded, and Brennan let out a low whistle. “That’s tough,” she said. “I’m sure he can’t wait for you to get brought in.”
Rose looked away from her. What Scorpius would say when she was carted into St. Mungo’s after some tangle with a monster - it was inevitable that it would happen sooner or later - was not something she wanted to think about just then.
There was an awkward moment where no one seemed to quite know what to say, and then Brennan turned away. “I’m going to get going,” she said. “I’ll see you both tomorrow.”
Rose and James were left standing alone in the corridor. She sighed. “Sorry, James. I didn’t mean to ruin your fun.”
He shrugged and gave an easy smile. “Nah, it’s fine. It’d take more than that to ruin my fun.” He nudged her. “C’mon, buy me a drink as congratulations on the forest troll and all of that.”
Rose considered that for a moment before grinning back. “Sure,” she said. “It’s not like I have anything better to do.” James laughed as she ducked back inside her new cubicle. “I’m heading out, okay?”
Victoire looked up from the map she and Dedworth were examining. “Night,” she said. “Tell James congratulations.”
James poked his head inside. “Thank you,” he said cheerfully. “I’m very pleased with myself.”
“I bet you are.” Victoire glanced back down at the map. “Have fun.”
Rose slipped on her jacket as she and James hurried down the hallway. “Let’s stop and see if Al is around,” James suggested. Rose was more than happy to oblige, but by the time they got to the Auror floor, Albus was gone. Given that Bridget was gone, too, they decided that it probably wasn’t worth the effort to track him down.
Twenty minutes later, they were enjoying drinks at the Leaky Cauldron. Thursday was not a popular drinking night, so the pub was nearly empty, which was probably just as well - James got progressively louder as he worked his way through his first drink, and he didn’t stop talking about the trolls until he’d started his second.
“Hope Dedworth and Vic let me into the field sometime soon.” Rose made a face at her empty glass. “You always have all the luck. I bet now it’ll be quiet for weeks.”
“Nah.” He clinked his glass to hers. “You’ll be out there getting wounded with the best of us in no time.” She rolled her eyes, and he smiled at her. “Want another? My treat.”
“Wasn’t I treating you?”
James shrugged. “You’re my ickle baby cousin. It’s no problem. Do you want one?”
Rose glanced at the cracked old clock hanging on the wall; it wasn’t even eight o’clock yet. “Sure,” she said. “Thanks.”
He ruffled her hair with one hand and grabbed her glass with the other. She jerked away, scowling at him. He laughed and headed toward the bar.
Rose loved her cousin dearly, but occasionally she wished he’d treat her a little more like an adult and a little less like his baby cousin. She was less than a year younger than he was, and they were both out of Hogwarts and working in the same division. It really wasn’t necessary.
When he pushed her refilled drink across and the table and slid back into the seat across from her, however, the grin he gave her made her irritation melt away. Sometimes James could be a bit obnoxious, but he really did mean it in good fun, and besides, he’d been such a good friend for so long that she really couldn’t find it in her to get too annoyed with him.
“So what’s going on with Al and Bridget?” she asked as he took a sip of his dragonale. He choked on it, and she winced. “Sorry. That bad?” His eyes were watering, but he brushed the tears away and coughed a few times. “Sorry,” she repeated.
He shook his head. “No, it’s fine. You just caught me by surprise.” He took another sip of his drink and looked up at the ceiling. She didn’t rush him, and eventually, he said, “Well, Albus is being Albus. He doesn’t like conflict, and he doesn’t like to talk about his feelings. So poor Bridget was taken completely by surprise when she discovered during their legilimency/occlumency training - which, by the way, is the stupidest thing ever and Dad is cracked for approving it - that he’s had feelings for her since his fourth year.”
Rose winced. “How’d she take that?”
“Before or after she said, in her very exasperated Bridget way, ‘Al, you should have told me. We could have started going out years ago’?” Rose groaned. “Yeah, exactly. That’s why I thought he could use a drink. But they were both gone, so maybe they’re off patching it up.”
Privately, Rose thought it was unlikely that anything that required Albus to talk to Bridget about his feelings could be patched up in an evening, but she decided against saying so. She didn’t have to: from the look on his face, James was similarly sceptical.
“Enough about Albus.” James sat back in his chair and regarded her with open curiosity. “What’s up with you and Scorpius? You clammed up when Bren asked about him earlier - I heard he wanted you to meet his grandmother?”
Rose sighed, feeling gloom start to settle over her. “Yeah. I told him I would. I haven’t heard back from him since then, and now my stomach is all in knots when I think about it. I just wish I could get it over with.”
James regarded her for a moment. “Want some water?”
Rose didn’t regret telling Scorpius that she would meet Narcissa Malfoy. It was clearly a sticking point for him, and given how long they’d been together, it wasn’t such an unreasonable thing to ask. However, the anticipation was killing her: she had no idea how Narcissa would actually react to her once they were face-to-face. Rose was a halfblood who was seriously threatening the purity of the Malfoy blood. Blood status freaks tended not to be too fond of her.
Of course, they’d never been fond of her, so Scorpius was really just another excuse.
“So when are you meeting her?” James deposited a glass of water in front of her, and she sipped at it gratefully.
“I don’t know yet, but if I’m lucky, it’ll be weeks.”
James gave a snort of laughter as he finished his drink. “Keep dreaming. I know your boyfriend pretty well at this point. I bet he’ll have it set up for Sunday.” Rose groaned, and her cousin shook his head. “Come on, Rosie. It’ll be interesting, at least.”
Rose sighed. “Yeah, well, as long as she doesn’t start going on at me about polluting the Malfoy blood or whatever, I’ll be happy.”
He grimaced. “Oh. Well. There is that, isn’t there?”
“Mm.” She glanced up at the clock, and was about to suggest that they get going when a question she’d had earlier that day occurred to her. “Oh, I wanted to ask you -” She stopped, trying to figure out how to phrase it.
“Ask me what?” James prompted her.
Rose bit her lip. “Um. This is a little weird, but - well - is Dedworth Ms. Brown’s stalker or her boyfriend?”
James broke into raucous laughter, and she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Sorry,” he managed to get out. “It’s just -” He collapsed into another fit of giggles, and she made a face.
It took several minutes for him to calm down enough to answer her, during which time she strongly considered just getting up and leaving. She was about to do so when he finally composed himself.
“Sorry,” he said again. “It’s just - well, first off, she’s Lavender, and he’s Van. She wouldn’t like to be called ‘Ms. Brown,’ and there are two Dedworths in the division, remember?” Rose felt her face start to get red. “And second... oh, Merlin. That’s a good question, and I’m not sure anyone knows the answer except Lavender. And maybe Van.”
“But she’s -” Rose couldn’t think of a tactful way to say it, so she decided to go with the untactful way. “She’s scary and has all those scars and isn’t she about ten years older than him?” James grinned, and she added, ”And she’s his superior. Shouldn’t they not be - um - fraternising, or something?”
“She’s not that scary once you get to know her,” James said. “But all the rest of it - well, kind of, yeah, which is probably why there’s not a simple answer. He’s apparently been in love with her for ages, though.”
“At least a decade. Maybe two.”
Rose didn’t think that she would ever be able to look at Van Dedworth the same way again.
By the time she got home, it was well after nine, and she was ready to collapse. The day had been more than a little draining.
As soon as she closed the door behind her, however, she heard a loud noise from her cousin’s room, and after a moment, Lucy’s face appeared around her partially-ajar door. “Hey,” she said. “Scorpius was here. He left you a note.”
Rose frowned as she dropped her jacket and hat on the threadbare couch in their living room. Lucy pursed her lips together, but before she could voice her disapproval, Rose asked, “When? Did he stay for long?”
“He stopped by around seven,” Lucy said, momentarily diverted. “I told him I didn’t know when you’d be back, though, so he didn’t stay. Rose, you really shouldn’t leave your stuff -”
Rose spotted the folded parchment lying on the old wooden table just outside her door. “Thanks, Luce,” she said, bounding over to her room, snatching up the letter, and slipping inside. Just before she closed her door behind her, she heard her cousin let out an exasperated sigh.
She collapsed onto her bed and opened the letter. It was quite short.
Talked to my grandmother. She said she’s free Saturday or Sunday, whatever’s easiest for us. She can’t wait to meet you. Owl me back your answer, or just stop by tomorrow.
Thanks again for doing this - I’m sure you’ll like her.
A/N: Thank you so much for everyone who’s reviewed or favourited so far - I’m so glad to see my readers are enjoying this so much! I want to give a special thanks to Arithmancy_Wiz for two incredibly helpful reviews on chapters one and two that I referred back to several times as I was writing this.
I also want to thank JChrissy and grangerdanger for nominating ‘Curiosity Is Not a Sin’ for a Dobby, as well as ohmymerlin for nominating me for Most Versatile Author. I’m so happy that you guys think so highly of me and of CINAS.
Thank you so much for reading, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts, even if they're as simple as "Great chapter!"