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Morocco by MajiKat

Format: Novel
Chapters: 16
Word Count: 86,665
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Albus, Rose, Scorpius, OC
Pairings: Rose/Scorpius

First Published: 10/08/2010
Last Chapter: 01/09/2017
Last Updated: 01/09/2017

Summary:

Winner of Best Setting; Runner-Up for Story of the Year, Best Completed Fic and Baddest of the Bad Guys, 2011 TGS awards!





The world is in chaos. Fear reigns and the Wizarding world is in danger of falling to its new enemy - muggles. The Ministry has become a paramilitary organisation, determined to go down fighting. Sent to Northern Africa, Rose must help infiltrate the group responsible for such terror. War is imminent. The only question is, when?


Chapter 1: CHAPTER ONE
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MOROCCO
CHAPTER ONE



It was raining. Rose sat and listened to the water tumble onto the window; this was real rain, Magical Maintenance had nothing to do with it and for that reason, she liked it. She sighed lightly, stretching her arms above her head and twisting her neck from side to side to relieve the kink that had been building there. She wondered how Albus was really doing, holed up at the edge of the African continent. She’d been unable to talk to him for two months. He was undercover and therefore, unavailable for a chat with his cousin. James, the last anyone knew as of three weeks ago, was in St Petersburg, and Rose tried not to be concerned for him. He knew what he was doing.

At thirty one, Rose was already tired. The last few years had taken its toll on everyone. It had happened so quickly, so fast that no one was prepared. It began with a few disappearances, wizards and witches going missing from their homes. At first, the Ministry was worried Dark Magic supporters were rising again, as they had occasionally since Voldemort’s downfall. No indication was ever given that it was something else, not until the first public hanging had occurred.

Since the 10th century, the wizard and muggle worlds had been held separate from one another; the persecution of suspected witches during the Inquisition years in Europe in the 14th century only reiterated the need for the wizarding community to keep themselves secret. Fear, Rose knew, was a powerful weapon. History was filled with examples of how fear could rule a population and force them to commit acts they would never have considered otherwise. With the defeat of Voldemort, the wizarding world had relaxed, believing the danger to be well and truly past them.

Considering recent events, for the first time ever, Rose contemplated the possibility that Voldemort may have been on the right path.

History was beginning to repeat itself. The Minister for Magic, in conjunction with the muggle government, made the decision to integrate the two worlds once again, as they had been in ancient times, but nothing had gone to plan. The smooth operation they had envisaged had quickly turned violent; bashings, public outcry, kidnappings, accusation and then, the event that changed everything forever – the first death. Rose shuddered, remembering the meeting not half an hour earlier. Reports had come in from Al, and from others stationed throughout the world, that things were only getting worse: torture, scientific and medical experiments, subhuman treatment and rumours of internment camps. Rose was stunned that human beings could treat each other so horrifically, realising that it came down to fear and nothing more, nothing deeper, than that.

As a senior investigator for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Rose was well aware of the problem they were facing. The Ministry had, for a time, tried to keep the issue under wraps from the general public, much as the muggle Prime Minister had attempted, but word spread, and hatred gathered speed with all the ferocity of a bushfire. Vigilante action had become popular and every day there were more disappearances. They were at war once again, and this time there was no prophecy to guide them, no foretold saviour. The call to disappear again, to hide themselves, was rejected on all fronts. The Ministry believed the wizarding world had the right to live in peace, where they liked and as they liked. That sentiment was echoed throughout the community, and now, they found themselves fighting for their most basic of human freedoms. Magical creatures were also being hunted again; already, some were nearing extinction and just last week, Rose found out that there were rumoured to be only two unicorns left in the wild. Like the tiger and the elephant, they would be hunted until none remained.

The Ministry also feared war within their world. Many were beginning to believe that Voldemort had seen clearly. But unlike Rose, many were not keeping their thoughts to themselves. Wizards were turning against wizards, while all around them they faced danger from a threat bigger and stronger than they were. With the muggle population reaching over eight billion, they were sorely outnumbered and the Ministry were reluctant to use any form of magical force for fear of only cementing what muggles already believed. And the muggles were organised, far more organised than anyone first believed. Those who disappeared were never seen again. The Ministry suspected they were interred in the camps, but no one had been able to find any evidence of their existence.

The first major attack had occurred in Hogsmeade; three shops were blown to pieces and thirty seven people were injured, three dead. How the muggles managed to infiltrate the village was a topic still hotly contended. The first people blamed for collaborating were the muggle-borns, followed by registered squibs and anyone else thought to have close links with the muggle world. It had been chaos – Rose remembered standing on that street in Hogsmeade, the dead and dying all around her, unable to believe what had happened. Her own mother, a Ministry official, had been hauled off and questioned. It took moments for paranoia to bloom, seconds for suspicion and accusation to be aired and contrived.

The Ministry of Magic was, these days, more a paramilitary organisation than anything else. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement had doubled in size, with the Aurors taking many more than usual into their ranks. No longer employed to catch Dark Wizards, they now acted as the authority on warfare and every day consisted of strategising and formulating battle plans, reading and discussing reports, analysing data and trying to orchestrate the survival of their race.

After the meeting, where they had discovered there had been another mass scale attack on witches in France, Rose had felt sick, wondering when it would end. It was, as the Head of her Department had so bluntly put it, attempted genocide they were facing. He had made the decision to put more agents in the field, one’s like Albus, who would work at infiltrating the muggle terrorist organisation known only as For Humanity.

What started as a grassroots foundation quickly gathered monumental support as more and more muggles began to adopt For Humanity’s philosophies as their own. According to their manifesto, magical folk were not true humans, but a subspecies that needed to be eradicated. They considered witches and wizards ‘dangerous, abominations of nature' with no right to live free and dignified. They needed to be studied, taken apart and ‘cured of their magical malady.’ For Humanity had no apparent government affiliation but it was rumoured their weapons and equipment were supplied by various political groups from around the world. They were the most organised of all terrorist outfits, and the most numerous, with bases throughout mainland Europe, Africa and Asia.

Rose had been given her next assignment, which sat inside a cream coloured folder on her desk, already lost in the paperwork. She rubbed at her temples, reaching for it, pushing the meeting out of her mind so she could concentrate. She read it quickly, beginning to smile. At last, she was going to see some real action, get involved directly in the fight. She had been itching for it, wanting it, and although it worried her parents to no end, they had never told her not to throw herself right in. They were, Rose knew, working their own angles, gathering old friends and colleagues and doing what they could.

She would be going to Morocco: For Humanity had a base there, and Rose had been chosen to help infiltrate that base. She was to pose as a muggle, something she had never found difficult on her short missions around London and Scotland. The aim of the mission was to gather as much intelligence as possible, and to get out. She was not, under any circumstances, to reveal herself as a witch. It would certainly end with incarceration, or worse. They had already lost two agents that year and the Minister was determined not to lose any more.

Rose glanced at the clock. “Shit.” She scooped up her folder and bag and rushed from the office. Her mother was expecting her for dinner and Rose knew that failing to show up on time would send her parents into a tailspin. Hugo had been two minutes late last month and Hermione had already contacted the Ministry declaring him missing by the time he arrived. That sort of panic needed to be avoided and it was happening all the more readily; this whole situation brought back too many horrible memories for her parents and their friends, for anyone who lived and fought through the Wizard Wars. After the Hugo incident, Rose vowed never to be late. She skidded into the elevator before the doors slid closed, almost knocking over two little witches in bright blue robes.

The elevator stopped at level 5, and Rose stood back as the doors opened, letting her fellow passengers out. They smiled at her and she smiled back, surprised that such a simple human act could make her feel so jubilant. She always enjoyed the elevator ride at the end of the day and settled back against the wall, determined to savour that strange feeling of being suspended in the air. Before the doors clicked closed again, a boot was thrust between them. A very shiny boot made of expensive dragon hide. The owner of said boot slid the rest of their body inside and Rose noted the black pants, perfectly tailored, the dark robes open at the front and the black shirt, close-fitting and snug against his chest.

She closed her eyes, resisting the urge to sigh deeply. There was only one person in the entire Ministry who dressed like every day was a funeral. You’d think, Rose mused to herself, things being the way there were a bit of colour wouldn’t go astray.

“Weasley.”

“Malfoy.”

“Are you alright?”

Rose realised she still had her eyes closed. “I’m fine.”

“Whatever you say,” he mumbled and she could hear the indifference in his voice. “Have you been briefed?”

Briefed? What was he on about? Oh, right. Scorpius Malfoy, top level Auror at age thirty one: of course he’d know about her assignment. He probably made the decision to send her to Northern Africa, just to spite her. Scorpius knew she hated the heat, and the dry, and the dust and wind. Rose opened her eyes, gesturing to the folder carried close to her chest. He nodded, his blue eyes as flat and cold as they always were.

“Just remember one thing while out there,” he began and Rose nodded, knowing she was about to get a lecture. He was brilliant at them, at being able to simultaneously make someone feel like they were accomplished and completely incompetent. “I’m in charge.”

“You’re…what?” she spluttered. He gave her a quizzical look. Rose felt her stomach drop; she ripped open the folder and read what she had neglected to notice in her haste and eagerness to discover where she was going. There, on the top of the first page, were the words that made her want to pass out.

Field Agent in Command: Scorpius Malfoy.

Field Agent. Her partner for this mission. The one she was to report to and work with. Why did the universe hate her? Anything would be preferable to this. Even spending time with the Scamander twins on a deserted island was a better option.

“We leave in a week,” Scorpius was saying. “Everything you need to know is in the folder, but I’ve scheduled a meeting for first thing tomorrow morning, in case you have questions.”

Yeah, Rose thought, I’ve got many, like why me?

“Of course,” she said instead. “I’ll read through the reports tonight.”

“I hope you’re ready for this, Weasley,” he said firmly. “I can’t have you with me if you’re not prepared.

Rose groaned, quickly covering it with a yawn and a nod. “It’s been a long day,” she said to his hard expression. Scorpius hated inattention, hated disobedience, and insubordination, anyone going against his word, discussion of any kind, and ideas from anyone other than himself and, Rose thought miserably, he hated her. He had made that clear on many occasion. He thought her undisciplined, flighty, likely to get herself and anyone with her killed. It was not Rose’s fault that she found herself in the tightest of situations, or that the bomb had gone off outside the Leaky on her watch. She didn’t bother to wonder why he had picked her for this mission. She made herself smile before fleeing the elevator to floo to her parents.

Dinner was the usual drawn out affair, with nerves and fear written across everyone’s faces. The response to her assignment was predicted: Hermione shook her head with worry; Ron went white but said she’d be fine with Scorpius there; and Hugo sighed.

“You get to have all the fun; you, Al and James,” he complained, and he spent the next half an hour being lectured by their parents that ‘war is not fun and people are dying.’

Rose slept terribly; her head was filled with images from the files they had been shown at the meeting that day, and she kept hearing Scorpius ask if she was prepared enough to do this mission. When she walked into his office at nine am sharp, she wished she’d stayed in bed. Every conceivable surface was dripping with parchment and maps, and there were photographs and news clippings pinned to the walls. Scorpius was standing behind his desk, his sleeves rolled up, shirt partially unbuttoned, concentrating on something in front of him. He looked up as she entered and nodded in what Rose assumed was good morning to you too.

He didn’t waste any time, getting straight down to business. Rose shed her outer robes and draped them over the back of a chair, tying her hair off her neck at the same time and wishing she’d worn short sleeves. It was hot in his office and she said so, earning nothing more than a raised eyebrow. If this was to be their main form of communication while on assignment she would scream. Scorpius motioned her behind the desk.

“We fly into Tangier and then move onto Marrakech via Casablanca,” Scorpius said, indicating the map spread across his desk. “There is a contact we need to meet in Casablanca, but the main group are stationed in Marrakech. I trust you read the reports?”

“Yes. Who is this contact?” Rose asked, her eyes sweeping from the map to his face.

“A muggle woman, a wizard sympathiser,” he answered. “Her name is Isobelle and she has provided us with all the information we have on this Marrakech branch of For Humanity. She works with the Tangier arm.”

“We can trust her?” Rose asked.

“Yes. She comes via Albus.”

She nodded. “Alright. Where do we meet her?”

“That’s on a need to know basis,” Scorpius said, folding the map with a flick of his wand.

Rose frowned. “Are you keeping things from me? Because this mission will never work unless you cut me in, Scorpius. I need to know as much as you do, in case something happens to you. Standard protocol, remember?”

He quirked his lips. “I won’t know until we get there and she contacts me. You’re coming to the meeting, so you will know all I do. Any other questions?”

“Yes,” Rose said, licking her lips, “About our cover...”

He smiled. “I don’t like it anymore than you do but it will work. Marrakech is a tourist destination. Parading as a couple is the most sensible and realistic option.”

“I understand that, but do we have to be on honeymoon?” Rose asked.

He raised his eyebrows challengingly. “The motel is in the perfect strategic position, right in the middle of the Medina, and it is a known haunt for the newly wedded. Are we going to have a problem?”

Rose sighed and shook her head, pitying the woman who did marry him for real.

“Good. Now, as you know, Albus is stationed in Tangier. We’ll meet with him briefly before flying out and see what he has managed to uncover,” Scorpius said, and she nodded. “Do you have any experience with muggle weapons?”

“None. Do you?”

He shook his head slightly. “No. We start training tomorrow morning; we need to at least look like we know what we are doing. There is no point approaching the group and offering our services without being able to confidently handle their weaponry. That would look instantly suspicious, especially in times like these where almost everyone is carrying a gun. Now,” he went on, reaching for a pile of parchment. “This is everything we have on the Marrakech group. Their leader is a woman named Cass who, from what I understand, is tough as nails. Her deputy is Joe, an Englishman who used to be a cop, so they have the advantage of his experience. Joe is responsible for training all their troops. They also employ mercenaries from Africa and the Middle East.”

“I see,” Rose said. She was studying the photograph attached to the file on Cass. She was a striking woman with shoulder length blonde hair and dark eyes. Rose skim read the file, seeing that Cass was believed to be responsible for the planning of at least thirteen bombings and was the brain behind the internment camps. Rose wondered what this woman had experienced to be carrying such hatred inside her.

Scorpius thrust a folder into her hands.”Your identification.”

Rose laid the folder on the table and eased it open. It contained the usual: fake passport, driver’s licence and birth certificate. Her name, she noted, was now Rebecca Madison. “Who are you?”

“Scott Madison, your husband,” Scorpius replied, sounding bored. “We were married two weeks ago in St James’s Church, in a small ceremony. You work as a retail assistant and I am a cab driver. We live in Croydon in a two bedroom flat. We have no children or pets and have both lost our parents.”

“Right,” Rose said, watching as he moved around the room, picking up bits and pieces of paper and putting them down again. He looked up, catching her mid-stare and smiled a little.

“It’s okay to be nervous.”

“I’m not nervous.” Was he being nice?

Scorpius sighed. “There’s a mobile phone in with your ID. My number is already programmed.”

Rose raised her eyebrows and he glared at her. “Listen, Weasley, do I have to remind you that I outrank you?”

“No, you don’t,” she bristled.

“That means,” Scorpius began, coming around the table to stand in front of her. “That you do as I say. I have no interest in you beyond this assignment, understand that. Understand also that if I believe you are not up to this task I will have you reassigned and will find someone else more capable to do this job. Do you want that, Weasley?”

Rose took a deep breath, looked him in the eye and resisted the strong urge to salute. “No, Sir.”

He turned away with a roll of his eyes, ordering her to start reading up on the general topography and layout of Marrakech. Rose gnawed her lip, glaring at his back. Trumped up, superficial mini-dictator. Morocco was going to be one hell of a ride, if they survived.




Alright, this is new territory for me. I am attempting to write an action/adventure story. There will be romance of course and some darkness (I can’t leave those out) but I’m still not sure about this story. I’m terribly afraid I will not be able to write this convincingly, so readers/writers of this genre, please tell me when I mess up. Reviews are always welcome; constructive criticism is more than welcome.

edited for typo's :P and chapter image added.



Chapter 2: CHAPTER TWO
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CHAPTER TWO




After surviving a week co-operating with Scorpius Malfoy, Rose was certain she could survive anything. He was rude, arrogant and had a supreme superiority complex. All that power had well and truly gone to his head, Rose decided, sneaking a look at his face as they touched down at the Tangier-Boukhalef Airport. It had pleased her to no end to realise he was uncomfortable on planes: he had gripped the arm rests while crossing the Straits of Gibraltar. In fact, Rose realised, he had gripped the arm rests when they flew over the English Channel.

The moment she stepped off the plane Rose was slapped in the face by a hot, dry wind. Her hair whipped around her head and she snarled at the sky, hating the sun glaring at her from above, mocking her.

“I hear the nights are mildly cooler,” Scorpius called smugly, seeing her expression.

“I hate you,” Rose mumbled. She could feel her skin burning already. Her bag bumped against her legs and she shaded her eyes from the blinding sunlight, her mind skimming over the previous week, especially the weapons training. She had detested handling a gun; abhorred the feel of the metal, so cold and deadly, against her skin, but she had persevered, outdoing Scorpius in the end. Their instructor said it was about getting a feel for the weapon, forming a connection to it. The only thing Rose felt for her gun was a deep revulsion. Still, she had to admit she wasn’t bad with it. She hit the target more times than Scorpius, could strip the weapon down and reload it faster than Scorpius and her smaller hands made manoeuvring it smoother. He hadn’t liked that, and made some mumbled comment about how being closer to muggles in terms of blood status must have given her an advantage and Rose had contemplated using him for target practice.

He had, surprisingly, apologised for that afterwards; Rose figured his male pride was simply wounded. She knew he wasn’t a snob.

Scorpius checked their luggage at the airport; they had a flight out to Casablanca in two hours. They were meeting Albus at a busy cafe with a wide view of the Bay of Tangier. It was mid-morning, and Rose wished they had more time – worry for her cousin had been eating away at her, understanding a little more thoroughly exactly what he had been doing for so many months. The taxi wound through the Grand Socco, darting through traffic and Rose looked out the window hungrily as they went, her eyes devouring the city square. She saw women in colourful clothing selling vegetables by the roadside; saw numerous cafes, their old, decayed colonial grandeur speaking of a different time; and the turn off for the Medina and the way to the Mendoubia Gardens. In the distance she could just see the top of the Sidi Bou Abid Mosque.

Al was waiting for them in the cliff-top cafe, which was crawling with tourists, and Rose grinned at the sight of him, looking casual and like he belonged in this exotic part of the world. He raised his eyebrows at her and she laughed, folding him in a quick hug.

“You look like crap,” Rose smiled as she sat down. His hair was sticking up in all directions, and it appeared he hadn’t shaved the whole time he had been in Tangier. His face was wind and sun burnt, the skin around his eyes creased and cracked and he looked much older than his years. He grinned, showing white teeth.

“You wait; I’m sure you’ll look like crap after six months undercover,” Albus nudged her under the table with his foot. “Although I bet you’re being put up in the most expensive motel in Marrakech.”

Rose smiled. “I believe I have access to a spa.”

“Figures,” Albus laughed. “Here I am, slumming it in the Kasbah.” A tiny brunette woman emerged from the cafe, carrying a tray with four cups of tea. Rose could smell the mint before she set it down and she watched with interest as the woman slid into the chair beside Albus. He threw an arm around her shoulders in a familiar manner.

“Who is this?” Scorpius asked and Rose rolled her eyes. He was so direct he may as well have been an axe.

“I’m Isobelle,” the woman said softly, meaningfully. She had a slight accent that Rose could not place; perhaps Spanish, perhaps Italian with a hint of something else thrown in. She watched them watch her, her large doe-like brown eyes flicking between their faces with a trace of worry.

Scorpius frowned. “We were supposed to meet you in Casablanca.”

“I know,” she nodded, seeming to relax under his brashness, “but you have to understand, it’s extremely difficult to get away at the moment. One of our members was revealed as a sympathiser the other day and hauled off. We haven’t seen him since and I suspect he is dead.”

“It’s dangerous,” Albus said quietly, his hand tightening on her shoulder. “We’re all being watched very closely.”

“How many sympathisers are there?” Rose asked, sipping her tea. The mint was refreshing on her tongue, helping to soothe the terrible heat of the air around her.

Isobelle shook her head. “I couldn’t begin to tell you. We aren’t nearly as organised as the humanists.”

“Humanists?” Scorpius echoed. His tea sat untouched. Rose wanted to kick him – they were supposed to be posing as tourists.

“The pet name given to the For Humanity gang,” Albus said quietly. “They gave it to themselves, of course.”

“Why are you helping us?” Rose asked Isobelle quietly. The other woman smiled sadly.

“Because it is wrong for them to hate you simply because of what you are,” she answered softly. “There is no cause for it, nothing real anyway, only fear, and we cannot live in fear. Where is the chance for peace when everyone is looking over their shoulder, watching their neighbour, scared for their children. Meeting Albus, getting to know him...only cemented that belief.”

Isobelle slid a piece of folded paper across the table towards Scorpius, who took it casually, unfolding it. He frowned.

“It’s blank.”

Albus smiled. “It’s charmed, mate. Rose will know what to do.”

Rose nodded. “Family secrets,” she explained as Scorpius raised his eyebrows.

“It’s all I have been able to discover,” Isobelle said. “If I find out more, I will contact you.”

“So how do we make contact with Cass and her people in Marrakech?” Rose asked, her eyes swinging to the Bay and quickly back when Al began to speak.

“She’ll come to you, if you make yourself obvious enough,” he said. “She has spies planted all over the city. Just take yourself to a bar, get drunk and shoot your mouth off.”

“That simple?” Scorpius frowned.

“Yeah mate. They’re desperate for as many people as they can get, especially after their last assassination didn’t come off too well – the wizard they were targeting got away, and Cass is convinced it was down to numbers,” Albus told Rose and Scorpius. “She might watch you a while before speaking with you; it’s her way of working out whether you’re just the bitch and moan type or the type to take up a weapon and easily murder innocent people.”

“What’s it been like, Al?” Rose asked quietly, pulling her lip between her teeth.

“You’re going to see things that will give you nightmares, hear things that will keep you awake half the night,” Albus said in a sad, flat voice. “I didn’t want to believe it, until I saw it. You’ve read the reports, but nothing will prepare you for seeing it in the flesh.”

Albus had nothing new to tell them, so they took a taxi back to the airport. Al was heading back to the Kasbah to sleep before his shift at the base that night and Isobelle was on her way into the city. At the airport, Rose waited while Scorpius spent twenty minutes at the flight desk, arguing about changing their booking. It was mid afternoon by the time they boarded their flight to Marrakech, and Rose was tired, hot, cranky and sick of his company already.

The snow-capped Atlas Mountains towered behind the city, like sentinels guarding some ancient treasure. She barely had time to get her bearings when Scorpius was ushering her into a taxi and they were zipping through the ancient, winding streets of the Medina, heading closer to the heart of the city. Their motel was something out of a dream. Rose climbed from the taxi, pushed the hair and sweat from her eyes and looked at the building appreciatively.

Built in the traditional style, the motel had a central courtyard with a sumptuous garden. It was, they were told, actually several Marrakchi riads combined into one. As they were led down a dark passageway, Rose felt she was entering Aladdin’s cave. She looked around in wonder, not doing anything to hide her awe, her senses taking in the colours and sounds; the tiny birds that flitted everywhere, the date palms and figs, the ripe smell of fruit and mint and the almost invisible sound of water trickling from a fountain. Each architectural feature ran seamlessly into another: the rows of arches around the central atrium, the carved timber, and all the sharp lines and smooth curves of an otherworldly design.

Outside their suite, Scorpius put his arm around her waist and planted a kiss below her ear. Rose froze, feeling every single muscle in her body tense. He tightened his grip, fingers digging into her skin. “At least look like you’re enjoying it,” he whispered, running his nose the length of her neck and along her collarbone, a show for the dark, willowy man who had escorted them.

Rose took a deep breath and twisted around, putting her hands on his chest. She leant up and kissed his cheek, threw back her head and laughed merrily. “Oh Scott, you say the naughtiest things. Can we just go in already? I want to see the city, and you promised you’d take me out for dinner.” She added a pout for good measure and flicked her pony-tail.

“Of course, pumpkin - anything for you,” he said sweetly, taking her hand.

She let go of him the moment the door had closed on them, wiping her fingers on the front of her shorts. It was ridiculously hot; sweat dripped down her back and the side of her face and she could feel it pooling along the top of her hips. She laughed. “Pumpkin?”

Scorpius ignored her and she shrugged, not caring. A warm, dry breeze sauntered in through the wide arched windows with all the subtly of a freight train. It slammed into them, throwing the sheer white curtains wide. Rose stood and watched them dancing.

Their suite was beautiful. It had a private balcony that looked out over the pool, and all the windows faced in towards the central courtyard of their riad. She wondered who was in the rooms across from them; another young couple perhaps, enjoying their honeymoon for real. The ceiling of their suite was high vaulted and hand-painted in such an intricate geometric design that Rose stood and stared at it until her neck hurt. The walls were a soft cream, and paintings, antiques and other beautiful artefacts decorated the room, which was at least sixty square metres in size, almost as large as Rose’s flat in London. The bathroom was marble and the most beautiful place Rose had ever seen, with a bath tub large enough for four people. The suite contained all the modern amenities: air-conditioning, satellite TV, phone, internet, and even a safe. There was also a large living room space endowed with a patterned woven carpet.

“It’s important that we maintain our cover at all times,” Scorpius said, flinging their suitcase onto the King bed with such force it bounced.

“I have done this before, you know,” Rose said wearily, wandering slowly around the room, fingers trailing over the furniture, the fabrics and the colours. It was another world and she breathed it in, feeling oddly drunk. She turned to look at Scorpius, standing near the bed, a lithe, pale thing in this world of colour and bursting fullness. She wondered if he ever noticed anything around him simply because it was beautiful and therefore, worth noticing.

His face was grave. “Not like this you haven’t.”

“Right and I suppose you infiltrate terrorist organisations all the time,” she muttered.

“Prickly, aren’t you? Not get your beauty sleep last night?”

“I just don’t like being taken for an idiot.”

“I’m only saying this is serious,” he said in a low voice.

She sighed. “I know; there is no need to continually remind me.”

He said nothing, straightening and looking around the room with feigned interest as he stretched. Rose heard his joints pop and he groaned, twisting from side to side. “I’m aching. Planes are uncomfortable things.”

Rose considered him a moment, before reaching into her handbag and pulling out some painkillers. She tossed them to him. “Here; two with water.”

“Thanks,” he said, sounding surprised.

“Anything so I don’t have to listen to you complain.”

“You can be a real bitch, you know that, don’t you?” he muttered, swallowing his tablets dry, not seeming to notice the bitter aftertaste. “How you haven’t gotten killed so far is beyond me. You’re rash and abrasive and that sort of attitude will get you in trouble. Think before you speak.”

Rose sighed and grabbed at the suitcase, riffling through it, making sure she tossed his clothes out and onto the floor. She held up her swimsuit in triumph.

“What are you doing?”

We are going to enjoy the sights by the pool, husband,” she said. “Then we are going out to dinner. We are, after all, on our honeymoon.”

“You’re right,” he said after a moment of silence where Rose thought he was going to refuse and make her stay in their room. “We need to maintain pretence of-”

“Yes, yes,” she said airily, wandering to the bathroom to get changed. “Lighten up, Malfoy. You’re so uptight I’m surprised you haven’t split your brain in half.”

Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the colours, the sounds and the smells of this Northern African paradise that made Rose speak her mind so clearly to her senior officer. His eyes narrowed and he strode across the room with an expression of thunder and Rose had the terrible feeling he was going to hit her. Instead, he stopped just inches from her, looking at her seriously.

“We are at war, Weasley.”

“Scorpius, listen, I didn’t mean to imply that you...oh forget it; I’m just tired and hot and feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment, okay?”

He gave her a hard look but nodded, rubbing at his face. “Get changed and we’ll go out.”

They made it to the pool and not much further, Rose falling asleep on a sun lounge that was thankfully parked in the shade. When she woke, Scorpius was beside her, sunglasses on, pretending to read a tourist brochure. Rose knew he was really watching everyone around them, his eyes soaking up faces and descriptive detail.

She stretched and yawned to let him know she was awake and he gave her a sunny smile that startled her until she remembered they were supposed to be newlyweds. Playing the game, Rose reached over and ran her fingers through his hair, smirking when she felt his body stiffen.

“What time is it?” she asked, continuing to play with his hair. He reached up and removed her hand gently, holding it against his chest instead. She could hardly believe that in the sweltering heat he was cool to touch.

“Nearly seven. If we’re going out to eat we’d better go now.”

Rose sighed, reclaiming her hand and swinging her legs to the side, sitting up. In the shadow of the growing night that was sneaking across the city she almost glowed she was that pale. Scorpius too, she noticed. “At least we look like tourists. You do know that the occasional dose of sun is good for the body, don’t you?”

He scowled and stood up and Rose had to smother a giggle. He looked ridiculous in his Hawaiian print board shorts but she supposed she looked no better in a bright pink bikini that clashed with her hair; she vowed suddenly to burn it and buy another one tomorrow, in a more flattering shade. She liked the pool and had decided to spend more time there, when they weren’t working. Scorpius offered her his hand and she let him pull her to her feet.

Back in their room, Rose flopped on the bed. “Can we eat here?”

“I thought you wanted to go out?”

“I’ve changed my mind; it’s so hot I can barely think straight.”

Scorpius sighed and unceremoniously threw the restaurant menu at her. Rose skimmed it, decided what she would eat and then announced that tomorrow, she was visiting the spa. She needed a massage and some pampering. Scorpius reminded her curtly they were on a budget, and were in Morocco to work, not indulge themselves.

“Unless you want to rub my back for me?” she said, rolling onto her front, wanting to niggle him, just a little more. It seemed annoying Scorpius would be her only form of amusement for the next month or so, and in the current situation facing their world, she needed the occasional laugh.

“I will kill you before this is over, you know that, don’t you?” he muttered, and she heard him stalk out onto their private balcony. She changed her clothes and they made their way to the dining courtyard hand in hand, smiling and looking for all the world like the couple they were pretending to be. They smiled at each other over their meal and laughed at each others jokes. Scorpius even went so far as to spoon feed her dessert, and Rose could tell he was working hard not to shove the cutlery down her throat.

After dinner and a shower came the part Rose was not overly enthused about. Back in the suite, they stood either side of the large bed, looking anywhere but at each other. Eventually, she sighed, reaching for the light cover and throwing it back. The bed was big enough so that she wouldn’t have to touch him so Rose climbed in, kicking the crisp cream sheet all the way to the bottom. It was so hot it was suffocating. She rolled onto her side and felt the bed dip slightly as Scorpius lowered his weight onto the mattress. He didn’t say anything, and neither did she. He didn’t even move again once he’d lain down, so Rose flipped onto her back, wriggling around, trying to get comfortable. Sweat had beaded on her brow again, even though she was only five minutes out of the shower. Every article of clothing on her body felt too tight, constricted, and she was only wearing her light pyjamas.

She sighed, flinging her arms out, moving her legs, shifting her hips from side to side, her head twisting on the pillow. It was ridiculous. How was anyone supposed to sleep in this watery heat?

“Will you stop that?” Scorpius hissed from the darkness. Rose lay still, bunching her fists in the bottom sheet to prevent herself from screaming in sheer frustration. She was still awake at midnight, when a sultry breeze came striding through the windows and the chorus of frogs and birds was almost deafening.

“Air conditioning,” she mumbled gratefully, remembering. “Where’s the bloody remote?” She sat up, pulling at her hair and climbed off the bed, moving quickly around the room, searching.

“What are you moaning about now?” came a sleepy voice from the bed. Merlin he was a light sleeper. “Come back to bed.”

“Why, do you miss me already?”

“God, you’re a pain in the arse.”

“Where’s the air con remote?” Rose growled, shutting the windows forcefully.

“Why?”

“Because it’s hot, Scorpius. Hot, hot, hot. Those of us with blood in our veins feel the heat, okay?”

He tossed something across the room at her. It landed on the floor, narrowly missing her foot and she scooped it up. “If you turn this place into the Arctic you will wake up dead.”

“Such wonderful pillow talk, Malfoy.” Rose climbed back onto the bed, fumbling with the remote in the dark, muttering to herself. Scorpius switched on the small lamp near his side of the bed.

“Weasley, why are you in your underwear?”

Rose looked down at herself, noticing that her pyjamas were gone. “Weird. I must have taken my clothes off and not realised. I told you I was hot.”

Scorpius flopped over onto his belly and buried his head under the pillow, and Rose could still hear his grumbling as she lay back down, smiling as cool air washed over her skin.





So what do you think? I am still creating a sense of place and character but the story picks up very soon.
reviews are love

edited 24.11 for typos


Chapter 3: CHAPTER THREE
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CHAPTER THREE


When morning came, the heat kept at bay precariously by the air conditioning, Scorpius had already risen. Rose sighed, stretched and rolled over in the big bed. Her hand brushed the place where he had been sleeping: there was an indent in the sheet, and warmth still littered the mattress. She wondered where he was, to be gone so suddenly. There was no shower running, and no sound in the suite. She hadn’t even heard him get up.

She found him on the balcony, looking out over the courtyard and the swimming pool. Slipping outside, Rose grimaced as the roasting air rushed to meet her, immediately folding itself around her body. She fanned her face with her hand, pushing air from her lungs quickly, sucking in moisture and flame, feeling like she was slowly drowning.

“I don’t know how people breathe here,” she commented softly. Scorpius straightened and turned around, his expression neutral. In his hand he held an apple core, which he balanced perilously on the balcony railing. It wobbled back and forth, eventually clinging to safety, settling into stillness. They were silent, both of them watching the apple core until he shrugged.

“You want breakfast?”

Rose shook her head. “I’m not hungry; I could murder a drink, though.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Murder a drink?”

“It’s a muggle saying. You should learn some.”

He said nothing, turning from her and going inside. Rose followed, realising she was still in her knickers and singlet. She found some clothes, tugging them on quickly as Scorpius flicked the TV on, and then off again, looking bored. Rose watched him discreetly as he moved around the room, making the bed (she chose not to remind him the motel had staff for that), picking clothes and towels up off the floor (all hers) and calling room service to order himself some breakfast.

They did not talk and the silence was still and flat. Rose supposed she should be grateful – he could be barking orders at her or scowling like he seemed to enjoy doing – but she could not help feeling annoyed by his quietness. It made her nervous, itchy and anxious. She just wanted to get on with the job and get home to her bed where she could toss and turn as much as she pleased.

“Sleep well?” she inquired once the maid had placed the breakfast tray on the table and left the room. Scorpius gave her a frustrated look over his coffee mug and she sighed. “I’m sorry, alright. I don’t cope when I’m uncomfortable.”

“Are you talking about the weather, or our arrangement?” he asked, setting his coffee aside and beginning to pick the grapes out of the fruit salad. Rose snatched them up, popping them into her mouth.

“Both, I think,” she answered eventually. “But,” she went on quickly, before he could remind her that it was imperative they maintain their cover, “I’ll get used to you...to it, I mean.”

Scorpius quirked his lips, giving her that smug look he had, the one that made her feel incompetent and childish. Maybe she was being childish – it was part of her job and she always tried to be professional. On a whim, she asked him why he had chosen her for this particular assignment.

“There was no one else.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“I meant there was no one else suitable for the role you need to play. All other...younger women - those fully trained - are already out in the field. I don’t think it would be too realistic if I was to pretend to be newly married to Betty, do you?”

Rose giggled and shook her head. Betty Edgewood was a highly intelligent hit wizard, and also over fifty years old. She was severe, cranky most of the time (Rose resisted telling Scorpius he and Betty would have gotten along beautifully) and preferred to stay indoors, where she could sit on her backside, perfectly contented to do paperwork. Betty was the brain behind a lot of Ministry missions and Rose respected her deeply, however much Betty frightened her.

“Anyway,” Scorpius was saying, “this way I get to keep you out of trouble.”

“Malfoy-”

“I promised your father,” he interjected softly, shocking Rose into silence. “He’s been worried about the risks you’ve been taking lately.”

“What risks?” Rose could not believe he had been talking to her dad about her.

Scorpius smiled; a rare, genuine smile. “Rose, you did not have to try and defuse a bomb, or chase down two armed muggle men on your own. You shouldn’t be so reckless.”

“I was doing my job.”

“You could have been killed,” he added and she looked away, trying to figure out whether he was chastising her, showing concern or merely making an observation. When he said nothing more on the matter, she changed the subject, asking for the paper Isobelle had given him in Tangier. Scorpius fished it from his pocket and slid it across the table towards her, watching with interest as Rose took out her wand. She tapped six times on the paper in a distinct rhythm, and cleared her throat.

“Secrets dim and secrets dark, reveal yourselves on paper stark, this I ask, this I command, show me true so I understand.” Slowly, words in handwriting she recognised as Albus’, as well as an unfamiliar hand, made themselves visible. “It’s a modified protean charm,” Rose explained as the last of the words appeared, sneaking a look at Scorpius, who nodded, impressed. “Mum and Uncle Harry helped us work it out. It’s not complicated spell work really, but you have to know the rhyme, plus there is the rhythm of the taps.” She passed the paper across to Scorpius without reading it.

“Do you think there is something going on between your cousin and Isobelle?” Scorpius asked, sitting back in his seat. He was not looking at her; his eyes swung across the paper, his brow slightly furrowed as he read.

“So what if there is?”

He glanced up. “It’s dangerous.”

Rose sighed. “Everything is dangerous. Al isn’t an idiot – he won’t do anything to jeopardise his position, or hers.”

Scorpius folded the paper again, handing it to Rose to read for herself. “I know that,” he said. “It’s just not wise of him to get too close to her.”

“He knows the rules; let him be happy, at least for a moment,” Rose said stonily. She unfolded the paper, reading it quickly. Isobelle and Albus had unearthed information about the internment camps, which Rose realised were now more than just rumour. In Africa alone, there were three camps, their locations unknown, with over 200 prisoners between them. On the Asian continent, including the Russian Federation, there were five camps, each holding one hundred people. There were no camps on the European mainland, or Australia but there was rumoured to be two in the Americas.

Rose sat back. Over 700 people that they knew of caged as prisoners of war. Isobelle had written that the numbers were only approximations, information she had overheard. She had also written that Cass had begun to compile a database, containing any information she had gathered from her various sources on the wizarding world and its population. Albus had scrawled underneath Isobelle’s neat writing that this information also came to Cass via confessions from prisoners, tortured for what they knew.

Scorpius was very quiet, and Rose felt sick. She pushed her fruit away and gulped down some water, trying to steady the furious beating of her heart, deciding that she would try and get a look at that database, no matter how long it took. The idea that such a thing existed terrified her.

“Well,” Scorpius said eventually, standing up and pulling his hand through his hair. “I guess we should start making ourselves known.”

Rose was confused at first, until she remembered what Albus had said about making contact with Cass and For Humanity. She changed her clothes and collected her bag, put her hand in Scorpius’ and let him lead her from the suite and into a taxi they found on the street outside the motel.

For the next two days, they did all the tourist things expected of them; they attached themselves to groups of people in the souks, visited the mosques, trawled through the medina on foot, snapping photographs and gazing at the architecture. The city was hot and smelly, the souks crowded, filled with tourists and locals hawking their merchandise. Rose was a terrible barterer and returned to the motel on one occasion with a pile of gifts she didn’t need and hadn’t even looked twice at.

They spent night after night in cafe’s and bars, drinking, watching and listening, talking to people and making broad proclamations about the cause they were supposedly willing to lay themselves on the line for. Every night when they crawled back into their bed, half-full of alcohol and food, they would go over the evening, discussing every detail, every face and person who had watched them a little longer than was necessary. Scorpius insisted they practice their lines, and like an actor in a stage show, Rose was well rehearsed by the time dawn rose on each new day.

He was a master at the game, playing each stroke beautifully. He could switch from Scorpius Malfoy, snarly Auror, to Scott Madison, new and loving husband in the blink of an eye. Rose had not expected him to be so good at it and it initially took her by surprise: the caresses, the hand-holding, the arm around her waist, his lips on her skin, until she forgot it was Scorpius and remembered it was Scott, her husband, and she was Rebecca, retail assistant, not Rose Weasley, Ministry spy.

Rose sat sipping her drink, suffering through Scorpius’ arm around her shoulders; it was their fourth night out in the city. It wasn’t that she minded the touching – she’d grown used to it after so many days playing the newly wedded wife; it was just too close, too hot in this already suffocating place. She had become more accustomed to the heat but still, on nights like this, all she wanted was a cool breeze, and nice, thin mountain air to breathe. She felt like she hadn’t taken a proper breath since they had touched down in Tangier.

Scorpius had been nursing the same drink for half an hour and Rose could not tell if he was acting drunk, or if he was drunk. They’d been at the cafe for several hours, picking their way slowly through both the food and drinks menu. She was feeling mildly tipsy and thought they should call it a night, but Scorpius showed no signs of slowing down, having moulded his body to the chair and his hand to his glass. She was feeling just as frustrated as he was that they had been unable to bring themselves to Cass’s attention yet but she figured there was time – they had only been in Marrakech five days, and in a city of over one million people, it was bound to take a while.

There was a television mounted to the wall in the corner near the bar and Rose sat watching it absent-mindedly. Someone won the football, another country declared themselves a Magic Free Zone, and another wizard was killed in Italy, his body paraded through the streets in triumph, held aloft on the shoulders of those who had murdered him. There were no police reprisals, no public outcry. The world seemed content to sit back and watch as innocent people were slaughtered indiscriminately.

“Serves them right,” Scorpius said loudly, raising his glass in a toast to the television. Rose smiled and nodded, playing along. “We need to wipe them from the face of the earth.”

Nobody said anything, but the faces that looked at them showed interest, and more than one person was nodding. The news broadcast continued, showing more scenes of destruction and death.

“Filthy dogs,” one man muttered, as a woman known to be a witch came onto the television screen. She was thin and pale, and had been found locked in a basement in a home in North America. There was no relief for her however; the news said she was being taken to the fires. Rose swallowed and shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

The man who had spoken was sitting at the table next to them, and uninvited, he shifted, slumping down casually into a chair opposite Scorpius. Introductions were made: the man, Robert, was also British. He was thin and tall, with sandy blonde hair and dark eyes that held a malevolence Rose had not seen in any human being before. “We should hunt them down, one by one.”

“And then what?” a woman asked from a nearby table. She spun around in her seat, her face lively and her eyes curious. “We don’t even know how many of them there are.”

Robert shrugged. “No matter. They’ll come out of the woodwork sooner or later, or else go into hiding. Either way, we’ll be rid of them.”

“But what good would that serve,” Scorpius argued, leaning forward, his arm slipping from Rose’s shoulders. “They’d still be there, maybe breeding up an army, biding their time, waiting until we show weakness. No,” he added, shaking his head and tapping the table-top for emphasis. “We need to strike now!”

“Scott, mate,” Robert began, and Rose wondered why people who had only just met called each other ‘mate’. “Just how are we going to do that?”

Scorpius shrugged and Rose noted the woman from the other table watching the interchange between the two men closely. She met Rose’s gaze and smiled, and Rose found herself smiling back. The woman moved to their table, sitting down beside Rose and introducing herself as Sophie. Up close, Rose could see she was young – maybe only eighteen, and very pretty in a hard sort of way. Her dark hair fell gently over one shoulder and her eyes were a deep blue.

“Do you believe all this?” she asked Rose in a low voice.

“Of course,” Rose answered steadily. “My husband is right – we need to act now. How else are we going to protect ourselves and our families?”

Sophie nodded, leaning back in her chair, her eyes flicking between Rose and Scorpius. “Newly married?”

“How can you tell?”

The girl smiled. “People only come here for two things these days: honeymoons, or revenge. Enjoy the city - I might see you around.” With that, she stood up and walked lightly away. Rose followed the movement of her body through the cafe until she disappeared out the door.

Robert left not long after, drawn back to his table by a pretty woman who Rose assumed was either wife or girlfriend, or something in between. He did not turn back to them, or say anything more, and shortly after, Rose suggested they leave. She felt their point had been made.

Outside, Scorpius slung his arm around her waist. “Are you drunk?” she asked him quietly as he leant heavily against her.

“A little,” he whispered. “I’m not much of a drinker.”

She smiled and put her arm around him, holding him steady. “Let’s get you back to the motel.” They hadn’t taken more than three awkward steps when a body emerged from a shadowy side street. Rose stopped, fear flooding her instantly as three more people joined the first.

“Are you the ones looking for the Humanists?” the first one, a woman with a deep, husky voice, asked.

“Depends,” Scorpius said, standing upright now. “Are you them?”

The woman stepped fully into the light and Rose worked hard not the let recognition dawn on her face. “We could be,” Cass said. Rose was quietly stunned at how small she was. She had never expected the rebel leader, the cause of such chaos and bloodshed, to be not much bigger than a twelve year old. Cass’s eyes appraised them, moving critically over their bodies and Rose made herself hold the other woman’s gaze, feeling strangely like a zoo exhibit and knowing it would be so much worse if Cass knew what they really were. Cass relaxed her stance a little. “We’ve been watching you for a few nights. If you’re serious about this, come to us here,” she said, holding out a piece of paper. Scorpius took it with a firm hand and stashed it in his pocket, not bothering to read it.

She turned and walked away, the others following and Rose felt her heart give a jolt when she recognised the young woman from the cafe, Sophie, amongst them. They were, Rose noted, all armed.

Scorpius rubbed at his face, beginning to smile. “Phase One partially complete.”

Their mission had three Phases: find Cass and get involved with For Humanity; work their way into a position of trust; and unearth as much concrete detail about their plans as possible before returning to England and the Ministry. It sounded easy on paper, Rose thought. She wasn’t sure how smoothly it would go in reality, and she knew it could take them weeks, even months, to get the job done. While she wasn’t feeling homesick, Rose missed England; her friends and family in particular, and Scorpius was not easy company.

Back at their motel, Scorpius tumbled into bed gratefully and was asleep in moments. Rose wandered around the room; watching him and listening to him snore, wondering. She really knew nothing about him; they had gone to school together and they worked together, but they had never been friends, not even uneasy ones. She had no idea if he was married, had a partner, children, a dog. All that personal information he kept very close to his chest. Scorpius had, in the past, attended the occasional party thrown by mutual friends, but he’d spend the night in the corner, watching everything, purposefully setting himself aside, just like he had at school.

Then, once everything they knew and loved began to fall apart, he moved swiftly through the Auror ranks, all before Rose had even joined the Ministry. She had been set to join anyway, but had been aiming to work in the Department of International Magical Co-operation, like her cousin Lucy. She had never before considered becoming a hit wizard, but once the murder occurred, she knew she had to do more so at age twenty seven, she found herself lining up with so many others, soldiers signing up for war. The Ministry hadn’t recruited anybody into their ranks – all enlistments had been voluntary.

It was her mother who suggested Rose join the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, where she and so many of the family worked. Rose had the distinct impression Hermione had wanted her to stick to the office, like Lily did, but Rose wanted to do more. She did not, for a second, discount the work her cousin did – Lily was responsible for the organisation of safe houses and authorised the increasingly popular use of the Fidelius Charm. So many people had begun using it that the Ministry had decided it was necessary to keep a record of all homes utilising Secret Keepers, and permission needed to be obtained from the Ministry. Rose knew that with Albus and James in the field, Lily’s office work was one less stress for her Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny.

Rose had worked hard at her Law Enforcement training, showing an aptitude for investigative work. She had always been a critical thinker, ready to step outside the box and stretch the imagination just that little bit further. She liked analysis and research, and as a former Ravenclaw, loved the thrill of searching and pondering, pushing her brain until she had come to a conclusion.

She was, she knew, good at her job, which only made it more annoying when someone like Scorpius made her feel incompetent. Rose sometimes considered this new breed of Auror hired muscle and nothing more – they were the kind to shoot first and ask questions later; they were trigger happy and possessed of an entirely different attitude to her father, who was currently in London working as a war consultant for the Ministry. Rose knew her mother was eternally grateful her husband had made the decision not to step into the field, choosing instead to use his knowledge and experience to guide others. Ron trained Aurors; he had trained Scorpius. Her father’s only consolation to her being in Morocco was that she was with Scorpius. The fact that Ron had told him that, in so many words, made Rose cross, even though she knew her father was looking out for her.

Ron considered Scorpius Malfoy brilliant at his job, something he had declared once when Rose had complained about the disagreeable blonde. Her father was right, of course. Like Al and James, Scorpius was quick-thinking, careful and highly skilled with a wand. He had helped plan and execute many successful missions throughout England and the European mainland. People owed him their lives, Rose realised, watching as he flung his arm out and rolled onto his back. She slipped into bed and did not wake again until the sun was streaming through the windows and the heat had already made itself comfortable against her skin. Scorpius was not in the room, and Rose lay still, enjoying the moment of peaceful quiet. She jumped when the door was flung open and he strode inside, a surly hungover mess.

“Morning,” she called cheerfully. He grunted and tossed a paper bag at her. It was a muffin; blueberry.

“Thanks,” Rose said.

“I didn’t get it for you,” he muttered, sitting down on the end of the bed.

She smiled in sympathy and ignored his comment. He was moody at the best of times so she stretched her arms above her head, leaving the muffin in the bag next to her. “Should we take ourselves off to Cass today like good little soldiers?”

“Yes but not until later. I don’t want to seem too eager; we need to approach this like we don’t know anything about the group. We need to act surprised when each new piece of information is passed our way,” Scorpius answered. “Ugh. I can’t drink this either. Here.” He passed her his take-away cup and Rose breathed deep: coffee, life-blood.

She took a sip and made a face. “Haven’t you ever heard of sugar, Scorpius?”

“I’m sweet enough,” he replied with no trace of humour. Rose rolled her eyes, setting the coffee aside and climbing out of bed. She could feel his eyes as she moved around the room, searching for her clothing. All of her things had slowly made their way around the room, despite his best efforts to keep the place tidy – a shirt dangled from the back of a chair, two pairs of shoes were tossed into a corner, a bra was lying on the ground near the bathroom door and another shirt was on the table. Scorpius’ things, she knew, were packed away neatly in the wardrobe beside the bed.

Scorpius stayed in their room to sleep off his hangover so Rose took advantage of his preoccupation and visited the spa, indulging in everything it had to offer, before returning to their suite smiling and floating on air. He was awake, looking better than he had been earlier in the day, a fresh cup of coffee in his hand. He raised his eyebrows at her blissful expression but said nothing about it.

“We’ll take a taxi to Cass,” he said when Rose had changed her clothes and was sitting down across the small table from him. He indicated the map he had spread over its surface. “The address she gave me is on the edge of the Medina, here.” He dropped his finger and Rose leaned forward to look. The map was in both English and Arabic and she took a moment to study the visual beauty of the foreign language.

“I don’t know what to expect when we get there,” Scorpius continued, “So it will be best if we simply play it by ear. That will call for a bit of improvising,” he added and Rose nodded. “We need a cover story.”

“You mean you haven’t got one figured out yet?”

He scowled. “My head feels like a hippogriff stomped on it; I’ve not had a lot of time to think this morning, Weasley. Do you have any ideas?”

“I’m sorry, are you asking me for advice?” Rose could not resist the jibe, smirking when his expression darkened. “Sorry. Well, one of the main reasons muggles hate us, as far as I understand, is based on the notion that we are genetically inferior to them, that we aren’t true humans and therefore exist against the laws of nature. If science isn’t a plausible option, we could always play the religion card,” she added, chewing her lip.

Scorpius sat back in his seat, his eyes appraising her. “That could work, if we deal it right.”

“’Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,’” Rose quoted sourly. “Exodus 22:18.”

His mouth twisted. “Lovely verse; my favourite, but I think we need a more personal edge to it. If we’re going to convince them we are filled with enough hate to take arms against an entire race, then we need more. Before we left London, I’d been thinking we needed something deep, something tragic, the sort of thing that people won’t ask too many questions about because they don’t wish to offend.”

“That is, if Cass is the polite sort,” Rose said, running her finger gently over the map. She sighed. “Okay, I lost an Uncle.”

Scorpius raised his eyebrows. “It doesn’t have to be that personal.”

“Well,” Rose said softly, “I did, not that I ever knew him.”

“We will go and visit Cass just before dark,” Scorpius said in a quiet voice, and Rose nodded.




Thanks for reading guys and reviews are always appreciated! That was a long chapter O.O but a necessary one.

edited 24.1.11 for typos!



Chapter 4: CHAPTER FOUR
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CHAPTER FOUR



Rose stood in the bathroom, staring at her pallid reflection. She felt sick. Fear assaulted her stomach; her insides twisted and turned in a violent rolling that had her covering her mouth with her hand. Sweat beaded her brow, although that was nothing new in this steamy place, and all along her spine little knives danced, slicing their way through her nerves.

She didn’t think she could do this.

It was one thing to talk about it, to plan it, to sit with Scorpius over a table and discuss the best way to merge as smoothly as possible with an organisation that would not hesitate to kill them. Maybe her mother had been right – maybe she should have stayed in the office. This sort of mission was not meant for her – it was meant for people like Albus and Scorpius, or James, or a dozen other people she could name without thought: people with far more courage.

Rose took a deep breath, splashing cold water across her cheeks, trying to dispel the terrible heat that rested there. She could hear Scorpius in the suite, muttering to himself, checking things off a mental list. He was as cool and poised as he always was and she wanted suddenly to ask him how he did it. How he was able to switch everything off; his hatred, his anger, his complete resentment for the people they were about to befriend. She shook her head, watching her reflection, still pale and sickly looking, copy the action.

There were too many ‘if only’s’ to warrant thought, too much that had happened in such a short space of time. It should never have been this way, Rose thought angrily, splashing more water on her face, feeling it run down her nose and dive off the end, falling into the sink below. The Ministry should never have revealed the truth.

It had been inevitable, her mother had said sadly when Rose had expressed her anger at what she called the Ministry’s stupidity. There were too many muggle-born witches and wizards in the world now; the Statute of Secrecy was becoming harder to maintain. With the general muggle population on a rapid increase, there had been more reports of strange happenings, of muggles finding their way into villages that should not have existed, places that weren’t on the map. Magical creatures, suffering the same fate as their non-magical counterparts, were losing their habitat and were gradually on the move, taking residence wherever they could. Too many odd creatures had been discovered in urban gardens and hedgerows; muggle scientists had been almost bursting with excitement. Rose remembered her nana Granger calling in a panic one day saying something that looked like a little man was in her garden, and Hugo had gone over, having no luck in capturing the rogue gnome.

So the only feasible solution, Hermione had explained, was to reveal themselves and begin the long process of merging two worlds. There had been grand economic plans, among other things, benefits to be gained from the action. Education, finance, law, conservation, tourism...it had all been so systematically organised that Rose wondered just how long the Ministry had been planning such an event.

She could still recall the day the Minister of Magic made the announcement, over three years ago. She didn’t think she would ever forget it; it didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time, but considering the fast descent into the chaos that followed, it was seared into her memory forever. She had been with Lily, enjoying a drink in the Hogs Head while they waited for James and his latest girlfriend to join them. Silence had descended on the pub as the Minister’s voice, grave and serious, echoed through the village. They had all listened as the secrecy laws were updated then and there: it was still not advisable to reveal oneself as a witch or wizard to a muggle; there was still to be no use of magic in public, unless it was an emergency; and all non-magical folk were to continue being treated with the utmost respect.

It was the dawn of a new era, the Minister had said, and he trusted every witch and wizard to work hard to ensure a smooth and trouble-free merging of worlds and cultures, just as the muggle Prime Minister had ensured the full co-operation of his people.

It hadn’t taken long for everything to fall apart. What happened in Britain set off a domino effect that moved quickly across the planet and Rose had watched, eyes glued to television screens, the internet, and the newspapers, as every aspect of the magical world fell into pieces.

Scorpius had been in the pub that day, Rose suddenly remembered as she was pulling her hair into a pony tail. He had been sitting alone, as usual, at the bar, so quiet and still. She had watched him, her eyes glued to his profile throughout the Minister’s speech. She didn’t know why she watched him only that she did. By the time the announcement was over, he had been gone, and she hadn’t even noticed him leave.

Rose sighed, turning from the fear in her gaze and stepping back into the room. Scorpius was on the balcony, his stance tense, and Rose realised maybe she had been wrong – maybe he was just as nervous as she was. His face when he turned to her was the same as it always was though – composed.

“Are you ready?”

She shook her head. “Not really. This will be alright, won’t it, Scorpius?”

He smiled slightly. “Yes. If there is any hint of trouble, we leave that instant, however we can.”

Rose nodded, and crossed the room to perch on the edge of the bed, while Scorpius called for a taxi and they rode in contemplative silence. The address Cass had given them was an old riad on the edge of the Medina and Rose climbed from the taxi nervously, taking a deep breath and trying to instill calm on her trembling insides. Her wand was in the very bottom of her handbag, concealed in a special compartment and she wanted it in her hand, or at least closer to her person. She looked up at the building, at the characteristic slits that served as windows and protection from the outside world, at the faded, earthy orange of the walls and the rich blue of the sky beyond them. Scorpius took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze, and led her towards the door.

They were stopped by a tall, olive-skinned man who stepped from the shadows and gave Rose a fright. “Your business?” he asked, his English uneven. His eyes moved over them quickly, reading them.

“We were told to come,” Scorpius answered. He held out the note with the address. It was written in a woman’s hand and Rose wondered if Cass had written it.

The man put his hands on his hips, the action deliberate. It allowed them to see the weapon resting at his belt. He took the note and looked at it a long moment and then withdrew the gun, and Rose’s heart jumped into her mouth. “Come,” he said, indicating the main archway. He walked them at gun point into the building. Unlike their hotel, the central courtyard of this riad had been dug away. As they passed, Rose noticed rough steps leading down into the earth, which she could see was not bare dirt at all but hardened cement walls, and she could hear movement and voices in a foreign tongue rising up to the surface, tantalising her ears. Half of the pit was covered with a tarpaulin, and weak light shone from beneath it. She wondered what was down there, and their guide offered no explanation.

There were no flowers or trees or anything natural at all – the place had a mechanical feel, an organised feel, like a hive, and it made Rose shiver. The man with the gun stopped them, indicating they were to wait, and another man came forward and the two had a hurried conversation in what Rose assumed was Hebrew, before the second man, darker skinned and shorter, descended the stairs and vanished into the dark pit. Rose heard him call out, and a female voice answered, and moments later, Cass appeared, pushing the sweat from her brow.

“Over a year in this place and I’m still not used to the heat,” she said conversationally, wiping her hands on her shorts. Her blonde hair was pulled back off her face, her skin was tanned and her arms muscled like a man’s. She gestured they follow her and she led them into a small room with sparse furniture. They sat at her direction on hard-backed chairs; Rose was so tense she thought she would shatter with anticipation.

“Your passports,” Cass said. Scorpius handed them over and she crossed the room to lean with predatory grace against a desk. There was a computer humming quietly, and a lamp, providing meagre light in the dark room. Another man, who Rose only just noticed, was sitting behind the desk. He said nothing, watching them carefully, and Cass handed the passports to him. “ID check. We need to make sure you are who you say you are. There are a lot of crazies out there; sympathisers, people convinced they have magic, not to mention all that wizard scum,” she said, seeing Rose’s expression.

Rose heard Scorpius’ teeth snap together and the next few minutes passed agonisingly slow. She held her breath, sweat gathering in her lower back, her muscles screaming. The need to run, to flee this place of organised death, was so strong it made her feel sick. There was no sound in the room except for Scorpius’ breathing and the rhythmic tapping of the keyboard as their identities were run through the system. Cass waited, her arms folded tightly, until the man with the computer nodded, handing her the passports. Cass smiled.

“Well then, Scott, Rebecca,” she said, flipping through their ID casually, and Rose relaxed, thanking the strange faith muggles put in their technology. “You seemed very eager to find us, if your little speeches around the city are anything to go by. Why do you want to join us?”

“Why?” Scorpius repeated, leaning forward eagerly. “Because we want a future. We don’t want to bring our children into a world tainted with such filth.”

Rose nodded. “I’ve been terrified ever since we first heard the announcements,” she said. “That something would happen to Scott, to me, our friends...it’s not right that these...things should be allowed to exist.” Just saying the words made her nauseous, but she forced them out, forced her voice to be strong and confident. “I’ve already lost family over this.”

Cass’s gaze was sharp. “You have?”

“An Uncle. We weren’t close, but he was my family. He was murdered in one of the first retaliation surges. At least I know he died fighting for our future,” Rose said, unable to keep the waver out of her voice as she thought of the uncle she had never known. Cass nodded in sympathy and Rose took a moment to wipe her eyes dramatically as Scorpius put his arm around her shoulders.

“I can understand your pain, but you don’t look like soldiers,” Cass said after a pause. “Just how do you propose to help us?”

“In any way we can,” Scorpius answered. “I want to be able to protect my wife, my freedom. In the future, when my children ask me what I did to help keep our world safe, I want to be able to tell them I fought for our way of life.”

Rose nearly smiled at the double entendre, and Cass nodded. “Good.” She paused, her eyes sweeping over them critically, before she smiled and said they may as well meet the rest of her team.

Scorpius and Rose glanced at one another, unable to prevent their smiles.

As they followed Cass, she told them the riad served as the main operations base, but it was also her home. She and Joe, his daughter and a few others lived there, she said. She saw Rose’s expression and smiled.

“We’re well protected; there is always a guard out the front, as you saw today. No one could get inside this building without me knowing it. That is one of the benefits of Moroccan architecture – you don’t have to worry about thieves crawling through your windows.”

“How many people do you have?” Scorpius asked with interest.

“We have over three hundred here in Northern Africa, in various places. It’s definitely handy, being just outside of the reach of any European laws; besides Marrakech, the main bases are in Tangier and Casablanca. The last report from the European mainland put numbers at over one thousand active supporters, spread across the continent, and in Russia there is a large base in St. Petersburg, and another in Moscow,” Cass said. “There’s been a bit of trouble in Russia – wizards stirring the pot, and those darn sympathisers...”

“Do you have much trouble with them?” Rose asked.

Cass nodded. “Unfortunately, yes. There isn’t much we can do about it, except continue to do what we do and hope the message gets out there.”

She turned into a large room off the courtyard, indicating Rose and Scorpius were to follow her. The room was a sort of communal kitchen, with all the amenities against one wall. The rest of the space was taken up by a long wooden trestle table, and at that table were five people. The girl from the cafe was there, and she smiled at Rose and gave her a small wave.

“You’ve met Sophie,” Cass said with a grin. “She’s Joe daughter: a pain in the arse mostly but handy to have around. This is Jillian,” she introduced a fair-skinned woman with short brown hair and soft eyes. “She’s one of our weapons guys.”

“I prefer the title weapons woman,” Jillian answered good-naturedly, her American accent broad and unmistakable.

“You may, Jillian my sweet, but I do not.” The man who spoke was probably the most incredible looking person Rose had ever seen. He had deep set eyes the colour of the earth, dark hair and rich olive skin. Stubble littered his chin and jaw, setting off the high cheekbones and strength of his nose. He was a painting come to life, an artwork in the flesh and he reached out a hand to her, and Rose took it, feeling shy. “I am Areli; the weapons man.” His voice washed over her, like honey, and Rose could not help blushing as he held her gaze, his eyes smouldering.

“Leave off, dog; she’s married,” Sophie said crossly. Areli shrugged and released Rose’s hand, reaching over to shake Scorpius’.

“You have a very beautiful wife,” he said composedly. Scorpius grinned, his expression smug.

“I know.”

After the laughter died down, and Rose felt her embarrassment slink away a fraction, Cass moved along the table. “This is Kimoni and Tessema,” Cass said, standing behind two large African men. Even sitting, they were almost as tall as her. They glanced at Rose and Scorpius with interested eyes but said nothing. “They don’t speak much English,” Cass explained, running her hand over Kimoni’s head playfully. He slapped at her hand, smiling, and said something in his own language; the sound danced over Rose like rain, gentle and soft, and she got lost in the music of it for a moment.

They sat, were passed water and pieces of fruit, and Rose ate and drank gratefully as conversation flared up around them again. There was a reserved nature to the words, denoting the status of the new arrivals, but she smiled and talked with Sophie, noticing Scorpius doing the same with Jillian. Cass led them out of the kitchen and they were taken to meet Joe, who they found in another room. He was standing with his back to the door, looking at a map he had pinned on the wall. As with the first room Cass had taken them too, this one was sparsely furnished, with just a desk, computer, a few chairs, and the never ending heat, which had sunk into the small space with ease. Joe turned when they entered, his expression tight.

“Good to have you on board,” he said after Cass had explained their presence. He crossed the room to shake Scorpius’ hand, and then Rose’s. He was tall, taller than Scorpius, and well built, like a bear, all muscles and hair. Rose thought he looked strong enough to crush her with her arms alone. His face was unshaven, his shoulder-length brown hair tussled, and like Albus, he looked old and tired. Rose knew from the reports that Joe was forty-six, and Cass forty; this lifestyle had aged them both. There were lines on their faces that shouldn’t be there, and their eyes held a depth of pain that almost made her feel sorry for them. Both wore an air of importance, as if their belief in what they were doing was so strong it made them fundamental to the survival of their species, and the destruction of another.

And from what Rose had witnessed since they had arrived, it did.

Cass grinned at them from the other side of the room. “Welcome to For Humanity. Welcome to the fight.”

Rose and Scorpius returned to their motel with an invitation to come back after lunch the following day. Cass wanted the chance to simply sit and talk with them before she threw them into work. “I don’t want to interrupt your honeymoon too much,” she had said with a smile.

“I can’t help but like them,” Rose said to Scorpius in a small voice, dumping her handbag on the floor. She watched absently as he picked it up and placed it on the table. “They’re like this big family, you know? They are comfortable with one another; they seem to trust each other explicitly.”

Scorpius was silent for a long moment and Rose wondered if she should have spoken what was foremost in her mind. He nodded slightly. “I know, but we cannot, for one second, forget what they are.”

She sighed and went about preparing for bed, but once the lights were out, she was unable to sleep, her head filled with faces. “Scorpius, are you awake?”

“I am now,” a voice grumbled. He rolled over onto his back, his arm brushing Rose’s stomach, sending a shock through her. She swallowed, uncomfortable. “What is it?”

“It’s so different,” she whispered to the darkness.

“What do you mean?”

She turned to face him, rolling onto her side; he copied her action and in the wane moonlight sneaking through the open curtains, she could see his eyes shimmer and the blonde of his hair glow with captured shards of light.

“As weird as it is to say it, they are more human now that we can put faces to names, nuances to voices, experienced their personalities...it’s harder to think of them as simply evil,” Rose said softly.

Scorpius sighed. “But they are.”

“Can you really argue that Sophie is evil? She’s eighteen years old, Scorpius; she’s a child.”

He said nothing; Rose could hear her heartbeat thundering in her ears. “Areli is Mossad, I think,” Scorpius said simply. “He has to be; Jillian told me he could break a man’s neck with a snap of his fingers and that he knows more about anything than anybody she has ever met – secret things, government things. There is something about that man that screams danger.”

“Don’t you think she might have been exaggerating?”

He shrugged. “Maybe, but it makes you wonder. If the Mossad are involved with For Humanity...what are the other major intelligence groups doing world-wide?”

Rose shivered, hating the thought that the world’s military intelligence resources were being pitted against the wizarding community.

“Go to sleep,” Scorpius told her with a small smile. “It won’t seem so dismal when you’ve had time to think about it.” Rose waited for him to roll over but he didn’t, closing his eyes and nestling into the pillow. As she watched, his breathing slowed and became heavier and in minutes, he was snoring gently.

She fell asleep watching him.

The morning passed in a blur of the city as Rose followed Scorpius through the souks. He liked them, he told her; the noise, the activity, the people. Rose found the market alleys smelly and almost frightening, with the press of bodies all around her, and the terrible heat. She would not tell Scorpius that, and went with him without complaint.

Rose could not eat lunch; her stomach was twisted with nerves and it was so hot she felt bloated and full and after Scorpius had eaten, they climbed into another taxi and were soon flying through the Medina. Cass was waiting for them; they heard her voice float up from the pit in the centre of the courtyard as she called them down to her. Rose descended the rough steps warily, unsure of her footing in her strappy sandals. To her absolute relief, it was moderately cool in the pit, which was filled with crates and boxes on unidentifiable things.

“Weapons cache,” Cass announced. Rose blinked, her eyes swinging across the dozens and dozens of boxes. She hated to think how much ammunition was stockpiled down there in the dark. “Most courtesy of our Israeli friend; well, his government at least.”

Scorpius threw Rose a quick, meaningful look.

“I do what I can, Cass my sweet,” Areli called. Rose could not see him, and presumed he was behind the boxes somewhere; a thin vein of light could be seen sneaking above them, gently touching the canvas roof.

Scorpius stood with his hands on his hips, glancing around with interest. Joe came down the stairs, singing out a friendly hello. With him were two men Rose had not seen yesterday – a dark-skinned Arabian man in loose-fitting clothes the colour of the desert, and a shorter, stockier European man. Joe motioned for Scorpius to follow him, and with a quick smile at Rose he went, being lead across the floor to an open crate.

“Here,” Cass said, indifferently handing Rose a handgun. “You know how to use this?”

“Not really,” Rose said quietly, taking the gun and turning it over in her hands, frowning a little and trying to let her inexperience and distaste for the weapon show on her face. “I could never shoot anybody,” she added earnestly, with a glance at Cass.

“Hopefully you won’t have to,” Joe put in, crossing the floor. He took the gun from Rose’s hands and corrected her grip, slowly talking her through what she already knew: the safety, the chamber, how many bullets it held, the kick-back. Cass was watching her closely and Rose felt a thrill of fear rush through her stomach, understanding what life must be like for a prey animal. She knew that if Cass ever found out the truth, she would be instantly devoured.

“I might have something else for you to do,” Cass said slowly, twirling another handgun expertly in her tiny hands. “You really don’t look like the killing type; there is always paperwork that needs doing; databases that need updating, that sort of thing. Most of us don’t have the time or the motivation for desk work, and our files are becoming a bit of a problem. How are you with computers?”

“Oh,” Rose breathed, looking at her gratefully. “No problem. I would love to help in any way I can.”

Cass nodded, indicating the gun. “Keep it; you never know when you might need it.”

Rose nodded seriously, made sure the safety was on, like Joe had just demonstrated, and slid the gun into her bag. She glanced across the room, watching Scorpius, who was sitting on an upturned crate, talking intently to some of the younger men. As Rose watched, he laughed, throwing a good-natured punch at one of the men, who was also laughing. The other man, the beautiful Arab not much older than Scorpius, passed him a rifle for inspection, which Scorpius held confidently between his hands, his eyes sweeping the weapon with interest.

It is so natural for him, Rose thought enviously, seeing just how smoothly he fit into any situation he chose. He felt Rose’s gaze and glanced across at her, and she gave him the sort of smile she thought a wife would give a husband. It earned him another light punch in the arm and a string of words that Rose understood the meaning of instantly, even if they were in another language. She felt her cheeks colour slightly against her will and dropped her eyes, fiddling with her bag.

“You look lost,” a voice mused and Rose looked up in fright, finding Areli watching her. She shrugged and he sank down gracefully beside her, perching on a crate.

“There is so much going on all the time, so many people; is it always so busy around here?”

He nodded. “In Israel, things are quieter. In my home, there is not this everlasting noise and activity. People know how to be still, to watch and listen.”

Rose glanced at him curiously, wondering. He seemed like such a gentle person, so soft and charismatic it was hard to imagine he dealt in weapons for a living, or was a trained killer. “Why are you here, besides the obvious,” she asked him after a while.

Areli fingered his chin. “God, and my government, wills it.”

Rose nodded, not knowing what to say in response to the mention of God. She had no real experience with religion, not having ever found any herself. Her mother’s parents went to church, she knew that, but it was something she had never taken the time to really consider. She supposed in a world like hers, one with magic, many of the questions important to muggles had already been answered. Areli’s comment about his government had her instantly curious.

“And why are you here, Rebecca my sweet?” Areli asked.

“It is necessary, I think, that we should fight for what we believe in.”

Areli nodded. “So very true. Your husband, he is enthusiastic, is he not?”

Rose nodded. “He is, yes.”

“And you do not share his enthusiasm?”

“Oh no,” Rose said quickly, “I do. I guess I’m not comfortable with the idea of him having to kill someone.”

“It is part of human nature; kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. We all understand that, deep down. It is instinct to want to live. We are all capable of being killers, even you, Rebecca,” Areli said in his soft voice. “If it came down to it, you would not hesitate to pull the trigger to protect the one you love.”

Rose drew a deep breath. “I suppose not.”

He smiled and climbed to his feet, walking away without another word.



Another long chapter - sorry about that.
Thanks to all those who read and review!

Edited 2.12 - I got my religions muddled-up!
Chapter Image added!

Chapter 5: CHAPTER FIVE
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CHAPTER FIVE



It was late in the evening when they left the base. All around was stillness and the air was thick with moisture. Rose wondered if it ever rained in this desert city; if it did, she promised herself she would go outside and immerse herself in it and never complain about rainy old England again. Scorpius walked beside her, his expression serene. He was, Rose realised with a jolt, a decent-looking man, and she wondered why she had never seen it before.

She watched him from the corner of her eye as they walked, taking in his height and his build, the softness of eyes she had always thought were hard, the colour of his hair, not as light as his father’s or as dark blonde as Dominique’s, but somewhere in between. His features were sharp, but Rose didn’t think them harsh anymore and she had seen how much his whole expression lit up when his lips stretched into a smile.

He caught her looking at him and she blushed, quickly averting her gaze, turning her attention to the dark-haired girl beside her.

“It isn’t always like this around here,” Sophie said, escorting them to the main entrance of the riad.

“What do you mean?” Rose asked quietly.

“We don’t spend all day every day sitting around checking weapons and trading war stories,” Sophie answered with a smile. She turned and disappeared back inside, her slim body swallowed instantly by the shadows that coated the walls.

“Interesting,” Scorpius remarked softly, and Rose realised suddenly that the last few hours had been a test. Not only had they handled weapons, but they had been given an extensive tour by Joe and Areli, and had sat through a meal filled with conversation surrounding death and torture. That people could be so blasé about their treatment of fellow human beings filled Rose with disgust, but she also realised that they had passed, both of them.

They had been asked to return in the morning, and over the course of the next few days, they settled into a strangely comfortable routine; several hours with For Humanity, and several hours to themselves, exploring the city or simply lying around their suite or by the pool. After almost a week had passed, Rose realised that Sophie had been right. The hours they spent at Cass’s riad were often slow, with a lot of people sitting around doing what seemed like nothing. There was a lot of planning and not much action, and so far, she and Scorpius had barely done a thing to help the group, besides cleaning weapons and sorting through paperwork.

It was not what Rose expected and she said so to Scorpius one night when they had returned to the motel and were sharing dinner.

His eyebrows lifted. “It isn’t what I expected either and I am beginning to see why it has taken Albus so long to discover what he has. We may be in for an extended stay in Morocco.”

“Sometimes it seems more a social occasion than a council of war,” Rose commented softly, pushing her food around her plate. “Did you hear Jillian at lunch, talking about her grandchild in the middle of sorting through explosives? I mean, the bloody things were on the table next to her while she was eating! And Areli, talking to Sophie about the different ways to render a man unconscious or even dead with nothing but your fingertips! It gives me the creeps how they blend ordinary life with such casual talk of death.”

“They are comfortable with what they are doing I suppose,” Scorpius said.

“I can’t stand waiting.”

“Unfortunately, it is the nature of the game; there is no point complaining about it,” was the response. Rose looked at him, narrowing her eyes. She thought she’d been seeing a new Scorpius over the course of the last week; he’d been more relaxed, open and forthcoming with her, and they had been having actual conversations about things not related to work, or the mission. She had found out his father hadn’t liked the idea of him joining the Aurors, thinking his son more suited to diplomatic tasks, like International Relations. She had also found out he went home to his parents for dinner every Sunday night, and it had made her smile to think of it, to imagine him doing something so normal with his family, just like she did.

“I’m not complaining, Malfoy. At least you get to do something – I’m stuck at the bloody computer all the time, or stuck following Cass around like her personal secretary,” Rose grumbled, bristling at his comment and plunging on before he had the gall to remind her of their duties. “You would not believe the stuff I had to type up today – a report from this German woman, Maria. She’s a scientist, based at one of their camps. She seems to be, from what I can gather, trying to extract and identify wizard DNA.”

Scorpius frowned. “I don’t like the sounds of that. Why haven’t we heard about her before? Albus never mentioned her.”

Rose shrugged. “I don’t know – perhaps she is only new, or has been kept a secret because of her work.”

“Did the report say where the camp was?”

“No,” Rose said with a sigh. “I came across the same information Al and Isobelle had given us – statistics, nothing more. I can’t wait to see a map.”

“I might ask Joe,” Scorpius mused, reaching for his drink. “He’s pretty open about everything. You know, you could always ask Areli; batt your eyelashes or something.”

Rose blinked; the line was delivered with no trace of humour. He was looking at her seriously from across the table and she sighed. “Batt your own eyelashes; you’re pretty enough to pass as a woman if you tried.”

Scorpius scowled. “I hardly think that is an appropriate thing to say to your boss, Weasley. And anyway, I saw the way you looked at him on the first day.”

“Bite me,” Rose said neutrally, climbing to her feet and stretching, ignoring the colour in his cheeks. Let him be angry, she didn’t care. “I heard Cass say we would have a visitor tomorrow – someone from the Casablanca cell. Maybe some new information is on the way; maybe someone will finally tell us something. I wish we could contact Albus.”

“You know we can’t.”

Rose nodded. Their conversation was over for the evening, so she showered and collapsed into bed, not bothering to wonder what Scorpius was up to. She fell into a half-sleep; full of dreams and heat and when she felt the bed dip some time later she rolled over, finding herself pressed against him. His skin was cool to touch and in her sleepy state, Rose ran her hands up and down his bare back, lavishing her palms on his crisp flesh.

“Umm, Weasley?”

“Hmmm?”

“What are you doing?”

“Oh crap,” Rose gulped, mortified, and before she could move away, Scorpius had rolled over. They were face to face, almost nose to nose and her eyes snapped open. She looked at him, finding him staring back at her, a strange expression on his face. Her heart beat steadily in her ears, startling her with its volume and she closed her eyes again as she realised her hands were now on his chest. She held her breath, preparing to apologise, but his fingers came to rest on her waist, the contact of his flesh on hers making her jump.

Neither of them moved for a long moment; they were silent, the only sound creeping through the room the gentle hum of the air conditioner and the raucous gurgle of the frogs outside their window. His fingers tightened and she dug her nails into the taut skin of his stomach in retaliation. He sucked in a breath and she bit her lip, dragging her nails lower along his body, testing, teasing. A tight, watery sound escaped his throat and Rose was overwhelmed as his breathing shortened.

Something kick-started inside her stomach and she held her breath as warm, comfortable heat sank through her body. It surprised her, the sensation of floating on air; she had acknowledged he was attractive, but she had not thought about him beyond that. Now, she found herself wanting to pin him to the mattress, but she did not move.

Scorpius pulled her against him suddenly, startling her and she opened her eyes in mild panic. Their faces were mere centimetres apart, their breathing in synch and with him pressed against her so closely, Rose felt like she would explode. His hand slipped around her back and she instinctively hooked her leg over his hip.

“Do you truly want to do this?” he whispered, his voice low and rough.

She swallowed, throat dry. “Do you?”

He groaned. “The sensible part of me says this is stupidly unprofessional and completely irresponsible.”

“And the other part?”

He bit his lip and then lowered his head, kissing her swiftly on the underside of her jaw; she gasped and unconsciously tilted her head back, exposing her throat to his mouth.

“Oh god, this is madness,” Rose bit out. He paid her no heed, his mouth moving across her collarbone and back up as he found her lips in the darkness. She felt like she would faint as his hands slipped beneath her singlet. “Scorpius, we can’t!”

Slowly, he pulled away, his hands stilling on her body. He looked at her briefly, and flipped onto his back. Before Rose could speak, he was out of bed. She watched him, feeling immensely guilty, as he crossed the floor with heavy steps, striding into the bathroom and slamming the door. The sound echoed nastily around the suite and Rose gulped. She hadn’t meant to anger him; she hadn’t meant for any of it to happen.

The following morning was a tense occasion. She wanted to apologise, but she wasn’t sure what for. She was under no obligation to sleep with him – that wasn’t part of her job description. Scorpius didn’t apologise, or even mention what had happened during the night, and so Rose forced herself to put it out of her mind and concentrate on what the day had in store for them.

They did not bother with sight-seeing, going straight to Cass after breakfast, their black moods accompanying them. The moment they stepped from the taxi, Scorpius was all smiles, his perfect mask back in place and Rose took his lead, following him inside with a nod and grin for the bored-looking man on guard duty.

Areli appeared from nowhere, as sly and sinuous as a cat, and Rose blushed, recalling what Scorpius had implied the night before.

“You are here early,” he remarked.

“Should we go?” Rose asked, stopping in her tracks.

Areli shook his head. “No, no. Come. Our visitor is here; she arrived late last night. We are about to see what gifts she has brought us.”

“We?” Scorpius said, eyebrows raised. Areli smiled and gave a soft laugh.

“Cass has decided it is time you knew a few things; she is eager to see how you progress.” He led them without further comment along the covered walkway, turning into the small room where Rose and Scorpius had first met Joe. Joe had called it the ‘board room,’ because it was their planning room and just like any reputable business, they required a specified space to brainstorm.

Cass, Joe and Jillian were spread about the room, in various poses. Cass was standing with her arms folded loosely, Jillian had spread her large frame comfortably into a chair and Joe was sitting behind the desk, his feet up, scattering pieces of the desert over the paperwork. Seated just inside the door, perched delicately like a cat on a chair, was a slender woman with long, dark hair. At first, Rose thought her to be Sophie, but the woman turned when they entered and Rose felt her muscles seize up.

Isobelle.

No hint of recognition flashed in her deep brown eyes; they held instead a warning, and Rose made her face smooth and blank, shifting her eyes quickly to Cass.

“Morning,” the blonde sang. “This is Isobelle.”

Areli made introductions. Isobelle shook Rose’s hand, then Scorpius’, her face betraying absolutely nothing. It made Rose wonder just how long she had been playing the role of spy.

“You’ve spoken to Richard?” Cass asked Isobelle, proceeding immediately to business. Joe sat up straight, sliding his feet off the table, eyes and ears trained on the dark-haired woman across the room.

“Here,” Isobelle said in her soft accent, climbing to her feet and crossing the room. She passed Cass a folder, which the other woman reached for with a greedy expression. “Richard says all you need to know is in there, and he also says if you want to move, you should do it soon. He thinks they are watching him.”

Cass nodded, flipping through the folder as she sank down on the edge of the desk. “This is excellent.”

“He imagined you would be pleased.”

“I want you to stay, help us plan this out and then report back to Richard with the details,” Cass said, the words an order, not an invitation, and Rose watched as Isobelle had no choice but to agree. Cass glanced up, catching Rose’s eye. “There has been a new development. A wizard settlement has been uncovered in Egypt, not far from Alexandria. It is large, and under the protection of the Egyptian Ministry of Magic, or whatever they call themselves there, but I think, with careful planning, we can remove enough people to cause a scene.”

Scorpius nodded slowly. “Do we have the numbers?”

Joe laughed. “What did I tell you, Cass? Keen as mustard, this one. Yeah mate, we’ve got the numbers. Between our people here and those scattered along the coast line, plus Richard’s people in Egypt, we can easily pull this off.”

“So how do we do it?”

Cass stood up and crossed the room, indicating one of the maps pinned to the wall. “Here is where Richard says the settlement is,” she tapped the map. “There isn’t much geographical cover, so whatever we do will have to be swift.”

“Just drop a bomb on the place and be done with it,” Jillian drawled. “I can rig something up that will blow the whole place and anyone in it to dust.”

Areli laughed. “No doubt you could, but I am thinking that Cass wants to be a little more subtle. If Richard is right and they are watching him, they will be expecting an attack and will have done whatever they do to protect themselves from our weaponry.”

Cass nodded. “Exactly, but, Jill, make the bomb anyway – it might be a good idea to have it in reserve, just in case.”

Rose found herself moving towards the map on the wall, her eyes sweeping over it critically, quickly, her mind soaking up every detail even if her brain did not register anything yet. “How long will it take to travel to this settlement?” she asked no one in particular, noting the distance between Marrakech and Alexandria on the map.

“A few days by road,” Areli answered, his smooth voice suddenly behind her.

“Be best to avoid Tunisia,” Isobelle said softly. “They were stopping everyone at the checkpoint. I only just got through.”

Joe narrowed his eyes. “Security must have gotten heavier. Do you know why?” The question was directed to Areli, who fingered his chin contemplatively.

“They were worried about people trafficking weapons,” he answered. “The only people who should be moving anything through Tunisia are the Tunisians. They claim that this war is hurting their economy.”

“Maybe I’ll have to start buying from them,” Jillian sighed. “I hate dealing with Arabs; no offence, Areli, but you people drive a hard bargain.”

“Perhaps, but I am not an Arab, Jillian my sweet.” The Israeli’s smile was sharp. “Tunisia is a part of and completely outside of the European Union, and the African Union. They answer only to the Arab League; my government watches them closely.”

Rose listened, fascinated by their knowledge and the complexity of the Northern African world. Neither truly African nor European, but a little of both, she had lost herself in the history of the region before boarding the plane in London what seemed like months ago. She caught Scorpius’ eye across the room; he too was listening intently, storing what he heard for later.

Cass sighed dramatically, breaking the tension. “I’m starved. Isobelle, come with me. I bet you’re famished. Jill, I need an inventory of what we’ve got. Areli, do something about this checkpoint business will you? I don’t fancy having to skirt the Tunisian border and I most definitely don’t want to have to deal with pissed off Arabs.”

Rose turned back to study the map again briefly, hearing Joe follow Cass out. Areli and Jillian began arguing about what they had in stock, and they left soon after. Only Rose and Scorpius remained and she turned around to look at him. He was frowning, and she followed his gaze to the seat where Isobelle had been sitting. A piece of paper was on the ground beneath it and Rose darted across the room, scooping it up. With a trembling heart, she unfolded it: it was blank, but she recognised the tiny tear in the top right-hand corner. She stuffed it into the pocket of her shorts, wishing she could read it now.

“We should go out, relax, celebrate this new development,” Joe suggested later when they were all gathered in the kitchen sharing a bite to eat. He turned to address Rose and Scorpius, who were both tired, dusty and sweaty, having spent the last two hours helping Areli and Jillian. “Have you two been to the Djemaa El-Fna yet?”

“No,” Rose answered softly. She had wanted to go to the grand marketplace since they had arrived. “When is the best time to go?”

“If it is a true spectacle you are after, make sure you arrive just before sundown. Listen, here’s what we’ll do. You two go to the market – you can’t come to Marrakech and not go – and afterwards, we’ll meet for drinks.”

“Sounds lovely,” Rose smiled, looking at Scorpius. He gave her a smile in return but she thought it was tight on his face; he was still cross with her.

“Will Cass come?” Scorpius inquired and Joe shook his head.

“She doesn’t do celebrations.”

They returned to the motel and had a brief fight over who got the shower first; she won. The darkness on his face transformed into a rolling thunderstorm as he glared at her. “Get ready so we can go to this bloody market and get through this goddamn night. I’ve had enough of your company for one day.”

Rose scowled but did as she was told, and afterwards, he grabbed her hand roughly, practically dragging her from their room and into the street beyond the motel. They followed Joe’s directions, but even without them, it would have been hard to miss the marketplace. Slowly, people turned into the direction of the Djemaa El-Fna; like sleepwalkers they moved through the streets, drawn forward by instinct or habit. Rose let the crowd sweep her through the souks and on towards the eerie music she could hear rising from the great square. As they inched nearer, drum beats, excited shouts and the unmistakeable nuance of a storyteller floated through the air, filling Rose with anticipation, before they finally burst free of the alleyway and found themselves on the edge of a sea of people.

The sun was sinking slowly, bathing the marketplace in a dusty red. On either side were terraced cafes, gardens and hotels, or Rose felt herself moving forward without thought. Scorpius’ hand was wrapped tightly around hers and she led him into the press of bodies weaving in and out on each other in a circular motion. As they moved, they passed snake-charmers, snail-sellers and a Berber storyteller.

It was the music Rose sought, and she let herself be swept along towards the small orchestra congregated near the edge of the square. Out of everything in this city, it was the music that she had come to love the most; the beautiful tones of the voices that danced across the souks, the traditionally inspired songs that floated from cafes, and the haunting, melodic call to prayer that echoed through the city. She paused as the singer, in a ghostly falsetto, lifted his voice above the noise of the crowd. Silence fell, those watching transfixed, and Rose sighed as the first notes of music washed over her.

The drum beat sank into her body and Rose closed her eyes, unconsciously leaning her back against Scorpius’ chest. His arms slipped around her waist and she shivered as his lips touched her shoulder; the doting husband enamoured by his new wife and for once, Rose didn’t care that they were acting. She let the music, the strange, eerie music, swell and wash through her: the darabukkahs, lutes, viols and tambourines, and the lilting, sombre beauty of the singer’s voice. She found her body moving, hips swaying slightly, eyes still closed as the growing night and the marketplace worked its magic on her senses. She stood that way, wrapped in her apparent husband’s arms, until the last sounds died away.

Scorpius rested his head on her shoulder and sighed almost wistfully. Rose reached up and touched his face with her fingers, gently stroking his cheek. His breathing deepened and his lips brushed her skin again, making her tremble.

“Come on,” he said softly, almost regretfully, “We need to meet Joe.” He unwound his arms from her middle, his hand slipping quickly, naturally, into hers and Rose let him lead her slowly away from the market and the people.

Rose found she couldn’t stop looking at him, couldn’t drag her eyes away from his face and more often than not, he was watching her too. Something had changed between them; they still bickered and she still hated him at times but she couldn’t deny that things were different. She didn’t know if it was her or the city or the things they had seen but she felt closer to him, more connected and wondered if he felt it too. It wasn’t sexual, and it wasn’t romantic, what she was feeling: it was almost spiritual. She shook her head, clearing it. It was simply the atmosphere working on her; the sounds and sights, the smells, the muezzin’s call she heard every morning from bed and the deep sense of religious peace, in its happy co-existence with modernity, which floated over the city like a cloud.

Scorpius was still Scorpius – annoying, aloof and uptight, and she made herself remember that, as appealing as he was, he was off limits.

Joe was waiting for them at a once-grand hotel nestled off the marketplace. Rose blinked upon entering the bar; the wall paper was horrendous and clashed with her sense of balance, and she almost stepped on a stray cat that darted from beneath a table. The place was crowded with both tourists and locals, and they found Joe sitting casually at a table against the wall near the door. To Rose, he looked different than usual, calmer and more relaxed with his hair everywhere and his face glistening with sweat and possibly drink, and she couldn’t help but smile at him as they took a seat.

“This place is a dive,” he announced with a grin, “but the beer is drinkable and cheap. Did you enjoy the show?”

“The music was divine,” Rose sighed, pushing her hair out of her eyes and sneaking a glance at Scorpius. He had been just as affected by the rush and swell of sound as she had, and he still wore a blissful expression.

“You look like you need something chilled,” Joe grinned, nudging Scorpius with his elbow and calling for more beer.

“Wine, if that’s okay,” Rose interjected, waving away the idea of beer. Joe amended their order, and no one spoke until a slender boy bearing a tray had placed a bottle and three glasses on their table. Joe paid him, grumbling good-naturedly about the price.

“Avoid the food,” Joe whispered as the boy walked away. “I hope you’ve eaten.”

“That bad?” Rose asked. Scorpius slid a drink towards her and she curled her fingers around the cool, moisture-beaded glass gratefully.

“I had food poisoning for days,” the big man said with a sad shake of his head. “Anyway, here’s to us.” He lifted his glass in a toast, and Rose and Scorpius followed suit. “To the fight.”

“To the fight,” they echoed, draining their glasses. The wine wasn’t terrible; it wasn’t good, but at least it was cold. Their chatter was light, centring around the city and the things they had seen in their time in Marrakech. One bottle of wine became two, and by the time they were on their third, Rose found the courage to ask something she had been thinking since that afternoon.

“Why did Cass not come tonight?”

“You’ll have to ask Cass,” Joe responded, popping a cigar into his mouth and lighting it.

Rose sipped at her drink. “I would but she’s so...”

“Impersonal?” Joe finished. “Yeah, I know. She doesn’t let anyone get close to her, not even me, and I’ve known her for years.” He sighed, puffed on the cigar and ran a hand through his hair. “Alright, but if this gets back to her she’ll most likely kill me.”

“We won’t say anything,” Rose promised, sitting forward in her seat. Scorpius’ arm went around her back but she barely noticed it. Cass fascinated her as much as she frightened her and Rose wanted to know everything about the woman.

“Cass had a brother,” Joe began. “He had magic, this kid, but at first no one knew what it was. Odd things happened around him, things that couldn’t be explained. Then, he got a letter to go to this school for kids like him, only, his parents wouldn’t let him. They were real religious types, Cass said, so they locked the kid in his room, believing him to be possessed by the devil.”

“What happened?” Rose breathed.

“They don’t know for sure. Cass was at school; she said there was some priest coming to do an exorcism or something. Her brother, Michael his name was, blew the house apart somehow; at least, that’s what Cass thinks. The whole building just collapsed and everyone in it was killed – the parents, the priest, and Michael. He was thirteen.”

Rose couldn’t say anything and she felt Scorpius’ hand tighten on her waist.

Joe sighed, sitting back, misreading their expressions. “I know, right? It’s hard to believe that someone like Cass could have had anything to do with magic, but you never know, do you? Maybe if they had of sent him to that freak school he might still be alive, but then again...” Joe let his voice trail off. “It’s probably better he’s dead.”

No one spoke for a moment; snatches of conversation from those around them floated in on the breeze, swirled around their table and drifted out again. Rose felt dislocated, thrown off balance by Joe’s story. Drink, the heat and their company had loosened Joe’s tongue, and as he drained his glass he gave them a serious look.

“I will tell you something else now too, about Cass. This might shock you even more but it might help you to see why she is so determined.”

Scorpius lent forward and refilled Joe’s glass, his face hungry for more news.

“Cass was married once, when she still lived in England. I knew the bloke – he was alright, down to earth, worked hard at his job. They made the perfect couple. Anyway, a few years ago, they had a baby, a boy,” Joe paused and Rose felt herself tense. “He was a normal enough kid but then strange things started happening, much like they had with Michael. Cass tried to ignore it, but when she saw her baby float a toy across the room because he wanted it, she freaked out.”

“What did she do?” It was Scorpius who spoke and Rose wished he hadn’t. She did not want to hear the end of this story.

“She drove her car off a bridge, with the kid in the back,” Joe said sadly. “Cass survived, obviously, but the boy...She told me she would rather know he was dead than alive and one of them.”

“Jesus,” Rose whispered, her hands trembling. Shock was a bucket of cold water, dumped over her head and she shivered. “That poor baby.”

Joe looked at her sharply. “Poor Cass. I would probably have done the same, if it was me, as you would, no doubt; as anyone would.”

Rose could only bite her lip, keeping her eyes on the table so Joe would not see the horror and rage resting there. Scorpius cleared his throat, steering the topic of conversation to something less personal, and through the haze of anger in her head, Rose heard him start talking about the football. Joe was an Englishman and a devout follower of football; he claimed the only thing he missed about England was sport, and the occasional shower of rain.

As they stayed late into the night, Rose gave herself over to the heat for the first time since they had arrived weeks earlier, trying to stamp the dreadful things Joe had told her out of her mind. She let the warmth bathe her, hold her in its embrace, realising with a jolt she liked it. The air slid over her skin gently, caressing her and she closed her eyes momentarily, smiling, and reached for her glass. She shivered at the cool touch of the wine in her throat; it contrasted sharply with the warmth against her body and she gasped.

“Are you alright?” Scorpius mumbled, his mouth close to her ear. She trembled, overtaken with fast flowing desire. The heat, the cool, the weight of the air, him being so close, his breath on her skin...she gulped down her drink.

“Fine,” she managed to whisper. She looked away from him, refilling her glass, the press of the air and his body so close it was painful. There was something overtly sexual about feeling so soft, so warm, so enveloped. She swallowed, trying not to think about the fact that, soon, they would return to the motel and to that wonderfully comfortable bed. Fingers shaking, Rose had another drink, knowing she was drunk but not caring. She felt her heart speed up as his leg brushed against hers under the table.

Frustration crept over her slowly, making her itchy and suddenly she couldn’t sit still. The drumbeat from the market was inside her skin, the music in her blood and she wanted to be back at the Djemaa El-Fna, in his arms. Scorpius didn’t seem to notice anything – he sat talking to Joe, about things like the city, history, colonialism, England and what they thought the future might hold. As Joe stood up to leave an hour and another bottle of wine later, Rose didn’t want him to go.

Outside the cafe, she realised Scorpius was just as intoxicated as she was. He leant heavily against her, his weight pressing on the outside of her brain and Rose couldn’t stand it any longer. The heat rose from the footpath, screamed through the winding streets of the Medina and made her feel faint with alcohol and need.

In the street near their motel, Scorpius pulled her close, guided her backwards until her shoulders hit a wall. There, he put his mouth on hers, and the world went blank.




Finally, yes? The bit you were all waiting for...
Reviews are love!! Thanks for reading!



Chapter 6: CHAPTER SIX
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CHAPTER SIX



Rose groaned, stretching her arms above her head. Every muscle in her body ached, her mouth felt like she had swallowed the desert and her eyes were filled with sand. As the room swam into sharp focus, so did her stomach and she bolted from the bed, flinging open the door to the bathroom. After emptying her gut into the toilet bowl, she rinsed her mouth, moaning, eyes watering. It wasn’t until she was looking at her chalky face in the mirror above the sink did she realise she was naked.

“What the...” she mumbled, her eyes widening slowly. A terrible thought occurred to her and she swallowed, resisting the urge to vomit again. She grabbed her sarong from the hook on the wall and walked back towards the bed on feet made of glass.

Scorpius was sleeping face down, one arm dangling over the side of the bed, his head buried under a pillow. The sheet was bunched around his waist, and his torso was bare. Slowly, Rose lifted the edge of the sheet, raising it high enough to see what she had already worked out was inevitable.

She dropped the sheet, scampering away from it as if it were a deadly snake that would bite.

Or a Scorpion.

“Oh shit,” she said loudly.

Scorpius stirred, rolling over, the pillow falling away from his head. “Why is the sun so loud?” he groaned, groping for something to cover his face. Sunlight sliced through the window, cutting through the room like a knife. Rose was momentarily pleased to discover he was hung-over as well. “Weasley,” he mumbled, opening one eye and glancing at her as he rolled over. “Turn off the sun.”

“How about I punch your lights out instead?” Rose hissed without thought.

“What? Why? What have I done now?”

She pulled her sarong tighter around her body. “Why are we naked?

Scorpius stared at her, his face blank. Slowly, he lifted the sheet and looked down at himself, before groaning. “Great. Do you mean to tell me I had sex and I don’t remember it?”

We had sex!” Rose screeched, making him jump. “I can’t remember a bloody thing after the third bottle of wine!”

Scorpius narrowed his eyes. “I didn’t get you drunk, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Of course not,” she snapped. “I’m a big girl, Malfoy. I can get myself drunk.”

“Yes, I noticed,” he remarked, casually linking his arms behind his head. When she didn’t respond, didn’t even take the bait, he sighed. “Listen, Rose, I’m sorry.”

She nodded brusquely. “Me too, for whatever we did last night.”

“Well,” he smiled sleepily, “We are on our honeymoon.”

“Scorpius, doesn’t it bother you?” Rose asked wearily. “We don’t even like one another and we just slept together.”

“We obviously must have wanted too,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Rose ground her teeth. “I would never have done it under normal circumstances.”

He stared at her, incredulous and she watched his face darken. His voice when he spoke was low and slithered over her like ice. “You could have fooled me, if your actions the other night are anything to go by.”

“You took advantage,” she blurted desperately, knowing it was not true. “You know I don’t like you.”

He sprung from the bed, doing nothing to hide his nakedness from her and Rose had a quick moment to see absolutely everything she could not remember sampling before she lifted her eyes. His face was slowly turning red. “Perhaps you took advantage of me.”

“Oh please,” Rose mumbled, keeping her gaze firmly on his face.

“What? You’re saying only men are capable of that sort of behaviour?”

“This is not a debate about sexual politics,” she hissed at him, stepping closer to the bed. “I had sex with you and I don’t bloody remember it! That is scary! I have never been that drunk before!”

“So are you upset about the alcohol or the sex?”

“Both!” she yelled.

“How do you know we had sex?” Scorpius yelled back. “Can you tell, because I sure as hell can’t.”

“Yes,” Rose whispered. She didn’t explain how she knew, how she could just feel it. Something flashed into her brain, painfully fast and she blinked, seeing his face, sweat-soaked and glistening, rising at her from the blurry darkness in her head. Scorpius sank to the edge of the bed, his back to her. She took a deep breath, looked at his pale, smooth skin and sighed, turning back to the bathroom. She needed a shower and time to think.

“Did I hurt you?” he asked suddenly, gently, and Rose looked at him in surprise. He still had his back to her but she could see his shoulders were tight.

“No,” she said softly. He nodded but said nothing more so Rose ducked into the bathroom, where she stayed for twenty minutes, contemplating never coming out. She had no idea what happened now. Did they just forget it (again) and move on, concentrate on the job and nothing more? She dried her hair vigorously and when she emerged, Scorpius was dressed and standing on the balcony.

She waited a moment, gathering her thoughts, before going to join him. The sun was blinding, the wind hot and dry and Rose closed her eyes briefly, listening to the sound of the world. “What’s on the agenda for today?” she asked, putting her back to the city and leaning against the railing, ignoring the ache in her stomach. Scorpius rubbed at his face. He needed to shave – in the bright sunlight Rose could see the stubble on his chin. There were circles under his eyes and he smelt like the night before. “You should have a shower – you stink.”

“What are you, my mother?” he snapped irritably and then sighed before she could say anything. “I remember drinking, Joe, the cafe, and kissing you, but I don’t remember anything clearly beyond that. It’s all a blur.”

She said nothing.

“Anyway,” he said after a moment. “We can’t undo it so let’s just move on.”

Rose nodded. “Right.”

He gave her a strange look. “Should we do it again? I mean, considering we don’t remember it at all.”

“I’m already hung-over – don’t make it worse.”

“Just a thought,” he answered with a roll of his eyes, “And a simple ‘no’ would have been sufficient. You like insulting me, don’t you?”

“Sorry,” she said, giving him a quick look. “It’s just my way. Everyone gets it – you’re not that special.”

Scorpius shook his head. “You are so terribly complimentary; I don’t know how your family put up with you.”

She shrugged and went inside, flopping onto the bed and looking up at the kaleidoscopic ceiling. When Scorpius didn’t come in, she wondered if he was sulking. “Do you want breakfast?” she called.

“Why? Are you going to poison it?”

She smiled, sitting up. “Not today.” He walked back into the room, and she took a moment to look at him: his shirt was open at the front; his hair was everywhere, a change from the slicked down style he was sporting before they left England; and he looked casual and relaxed in loose shorts and bare feet. She laughed.

“Now what?”

“Maybe you’re not such a stick in the mud after all,” she said.

Scorpius slowly looked down at himself, and shrugged. “Maybe it’s this place, this situation,” he said softly. “Maybe it’s you.”

Rose swallowed, a heat that had nothing to do with the weather spreading through her. “Me?”

“You were right; I can’t believe my brain hadn’t split in half,” he said with a wry smile. “You can be so carefree about life at times, and I envy that, Rose.”

“I’m not carefree about life,” she admonished quietly. “Far from it. It’s just that, if I take the time to get all serious, to brood and bemoan everything, it’s too much. It’s far easier to try and stay positive, light hearted some times, than let the truth weigh me down. It makes it possible for me to fight for this, for our freedoms. I could never do that otherwise.”

“I didn’t mean to offend,” he said gently after a pause, and she glanced at him with interest.

“You didn’t.”

“It’s a good philosophy to have,” he said simply, looking back at her. He held her gaze for a long moment, before he shifted his weight, his expression nervous. “This doesn’t change anything, you know.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Why would it?”

“I just wanted to make sure-”

She snorted. “Malfoy, I can assure you I am not about to turn into some love-sick idiot simply because we slept together. We can’t remember it – it mightn’t have even been good. The last thing I want is to be lusting after a man who isn’t good in bed.”

He blinked. “Well,” he muttered, collecting his towel and vanishing into the bathroom. Rose let herself fall back onto the mattress once more and closed her eyes, listening to the shower running. She felt strangely like crying. Everything Joe had told them about Cass still sat in her head, at the front of her brain. They were due to return to the base after lunch. Cass had planning to do, and Rose wanted to be there, to listen and take in as much as she could. She also wanted to talk to Isobelle, if such a thing would be possible.

She remembered the piece of blank paper left behind yesterday, and climbed off the bed, fishing it out of the pocket of her shorts. Lying on her stomach, she spread the paper before her and took out her wand. Seconds later, she was reading a note from Albus.

Nothing new here.
Lots of talk about Egypt and the settlement.
Cass will no doubt want to attack.
I will try and do what I can from here to get word to the Egyptian Ministry.
Keep an eye on Isobelle for me.
I’m worried about her.
-A.


Sighing, Rose folded the note; she would show Scorpius later. As she was dressing, her mobile rang and she answered it with her heart thudding, not recognising the number. It was Isobelle, and without giving Rose a chance to talk or wonder how she had gotten the phone number, she invited her for lunch at one of the cafes bordering the Djemaa El-Fna. Rose stood with her phone in her hand, thinking furiously, before deciding to go, remembering Albus’ request.

She pulled her hair into a ponytail, hearing the shower switch off. “I’m going out,” she called to Scorpius. She waited, and a moment later the bathroom door was flung open and he emerged with nothing but a towel wrapped around casually his slim hips. She tried not to look at him.

“Where?”

“Shopping,” she said, the beginning of guilt crawling over her. She had just broken protocol, and was about to break it some more by attending an unsolicited meeting. She swallowed, reaching for her bag.

“Since when do you shop?”

“I’m a tourist, remember? I’m meant to shop.”

He raised his eyebrows, folding his arms and leaning in the bathroom doorway. She turned and slipped out the door, hearing his soft voice warning her to be careful. It was a short walk to the cafe, and Rose dodged her way through the midday crowds, avoiding the stalls and hawk-eyed sales people. She found Isobelle waiting for her at the roof-top cafe, and she sat down gingerly.

“Thank you for coming,” Isobelle said softly. “I wasn’t sure if you would.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should,” Rose answered. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to be meeting like this.”

Isobelle smiled. “Relax. I don’t think anyone would believe we were up to no good. If anyone asks, we were simply getting to know one another. After all, you should know the people you work with.”

A waiter appeared and placed a pot of tea and two cups on their table, slipping away once Isobelle had paid him. “Why did you get involved with all of this? In Tangier, you said you didn’t think it was right, but why put yourself at risk?” Rose sipped at her peppermint tea, watching the other woman carefully.

Isobelle sighed. “My Uncle, he has magic. I could not understand how wizards could be called evil, when he is the kindest, gentlest man I have ever known. So I fight for him, and for people like him: for you, and Albus and even your charming husband,” she said with a wry grin. “It is not right.”

“Is your uncle...”

“He is alive, and in hiding. He does not like what I am doing, but I have been very careful. I changed my name, everything about myself before I joined the Humanists. There is nothing of my old life left anymore,” Isobelle answered quietly, and Rose felt a rush of sadness. Their meals arrived and they both fell silent until the waiter had left. A cool breeze blew across the rooftop cafe, kissing the skin on the back of Rose’s neck and she sighed blissfully, reaching for her fork.

“Tell me about Jillian,” she said in a low voice after they had both eaten half their meals.

“She thrives on fear,” Isobelle answered, picking at her food. “She has a family, in America, but she chooses to be here where she can cause the most pain and death. She is very good at what she does, never forget that. And never forget that she is deeply motivated – she is racist and arrogant and thinks that Cass’s way is the only way. She has, like Joe, been with Cass since the beginning.”

Rose frowned. “And Areli?”

“Do not trust that man. He will sell your soul to the highest bidder, Rebecca. He is a snake, a demon. You do not want him to ever know you are his enemy,” Isobelle whispered. “He is always watching, waiting, stalking like a beast. He terrifies me.”

Rose let out the breath she didn’t realise she had been holding, sitting back in her seat. “What will you do now?” she asked Isobelle. “Will you go back to Casablanca?”

Isobelle nodded. “When Cass has finished her planning, I will take that information and pass it along.”

“Be careful, Isobelle,” Rose warned, a shiver passing through her.

“I am always careful,” the other woman answered with a small smile.

On the way back to the motel, Rose made certain she purchased an armful of bangles from the market, not wanting to return empty handed; she would give them to her cousins when they returned to England. Scorpius gave her a firm look when she stepped into their suite but he only told her Joe had called and wanted them at the base. He made her wait while he packed away the small vial Rose knew contained his most recent memories, and she blushed, hoping he’d had the sense to remove the previous night and that morning from his thoughts. She did not want anybody at the Ministry delving into that.

“They are starting planning for the Egypt campaign,” he explained, ushering her back out the door.

“What are we going to do?” Rose asked, and he gave her a quick look. “I mean, are we going to sit there and help them plan another massacre of our people?”

“What choice do we have?” Scorpius answered grimly, and she nodded sadly, letting him steer her down the hallway.

At the base, they found Cass in the board room, staring at the maps pinned to the wall. Rose cleared her throat, and Cass turned to greet them, a smile on her face.

“This is Maria,” she announced, indicating an older woman sitting behind the computer. Maria stood up to shake their hands; she was as tall as Scorpius and heavily built, her face stern and her dark hair streaked liberally with grey. “She has been working with some of our prisoners, but you know that already, right Rebecca?”

“Yes,” Rose answered, not taking her eyes off Maria. “I read the data.”

“And what do you think?” Maria asked, looking back at Rose with critical grey eyes. Rose shrugged.

“I know nothing about science.”

Maria nodded, as if this was expected and turned back to Cass. “I have some new notes for you, if you wouldn’t mind adding them to the database. I don’t have the time to do so myself.”

“Of course,” Cass answered, scooping up a black binder balancing on the edge of the desk. “Rebecca, when you get a chance, would you mind...”

Rose shook her head. “Not at all.”

Maria laughed. “She’s made you her secretary.”

“I don’t mind, really,” Rose swallowed, hesitating, and took a deep breath. “What happens to the children of the wizards you catch? Do you keep them in the camps with their parents?”

“If they are infants, we leave the children with their mothers,” Maria explained, linking her hands behind her back, her voice assuming a lecturing tone. “Any child over three years of age is taken to the Nurseries.”

“Nurseries?” Scorpius echoed, his face a mask of interest.

“Schools, if you will,” Maria elaborated, “where they are taught that they are normal, in an attempt to suppress their magic. We don’t know if it will work – we aren’t sure how much of this magic business is biological or environmental.”

“So you indoctrinate them?” Rose supplied, unable to keep her voice from rising. Scorpius gave her a warning look but she ignored him, thinking of her cousins’ children and imagining them torn away from their families and locked up in some ‘school.’

“Oh Cass, not another bleeding heart,” Maria smiled, turning back to Rose. “You and Sophie must get along brilliantly.”

Rose said nothing but she noticed Cass was frowning slightly.

“I will contact you when I get back,” Maria said to Cass, bending to pick up a briefcase she had resting at her feet. Cass’s frown deepened.

“You’re not staying the night?”

“My dear, I have a comfortable bed in a comfortable motel. I mean no disrespect, but I would like to spend at least one night somewhere dry before I return to the camp.” She went out with a nod at Rose and Scorpius. Cass sighed.

“Scott, Joe needs to see you. Rebecca, would you be able to make a start on this?” she tapped the binder in her arms, handing it to Rose. Scorpius leant over and kissed her cheek, and followed Cass out. Grumbling, Rose took her place behind the computer, pulling a water bottle from her bag, cursing herself for her ‘bleeding heart’, as Maria called it. She would have to be tougher from now on.

As she opened the folder, Isobelle popped her head in the door. She saw Rose and smiled, coming quietly into the room and leaning casually against the desk. “You met Maria then?”

“Yes.”

“She is a nasty woman,” Isobelle concluded, her voice low, and Rose nodded in agreement, unclipping a pile of sheets from the binder and sifting through them. A title caught her eye: The Magic Disease. She picked up the paper with trembling hands, skimming the page. Her vision swam and her throat went dry. Maria considered magic a cancer, and she was, Rose discovered, searching for a ‘cure.’ Swallowing, Rose sat back in her chair, reading quickly.

...Tests so far are inconclusive. The DNA of the test subjects appears to be normal – no abnormalities have been discovered in the nucleotides, nucleosides or overall chromosomal structure. The so-called magic gene has thus far eluded all forms of testing and extraction...

Rose took a deep shaky breath, forcing herself to read on.

...Subject A: female, forty-six years old, normal mother, wizard father...mutagens are not present in the DNA sequence...

The paper shifted perspective then, moving into Maria’s more personal reflections. Is the magic gene a result of a recombination of chromosomes? A genetic abnormality perhaps? ...Junk DNA tested for mutation showed nothing. Next steps: gene splicing and regulation, and DNA sequencing. The population at large needs to be given a fighting chance...solution for the eradication of the magic gene:

...mass sterilisation of those who carry it.


Rose dropped the paper back on to the desk; her hands were trembling, her brow sweaty and her skin cold. She licked her lips, reaching for her water with fingers that refused to be steady, and took a desperate gulp. This was worse than they ever imagined. She forced herself to pick up Maria’s notes once more. Maria’s ultimate aim was to develop a testing procedure that would identify the magic gene and enable scientists and doctors to sterilse it in the body, rendering it impotent and therefore genetically useless, unable to be passed down to children.

She was aiming for medical genocide.

Rose stood up, pushed her hair back from her face and forced calm on herself. Isobelle snatched up the papers, reading quickly, her brow furrowed as Rose stalked around the small room, breathing as steadily as she could, one eye on the door.

“This is terrible,” Isobelle whispered; the pages rustled purposefully as she turned them over.

“It’s barbaric,” Rose answered quietly.

“What should we do?”

We shouldn’t do anything,” Rose replied, sitting down behind the computer again. “This is too dangerous, Isobelle.”

She shook her head. “I want to help you.”

“I know and I am grateful, but you have to leave this part up to us.”

They ate dinner at the riad, all crammed into the small kitchenette. There were fresh faces at the table but Rose was not surprised. She often encountered people she had not seen before; the revolving door that was For Humanity swung constantly, people trickling in and out of the base like soldier ants, carrying supplies or information.

Scorpius was all smiles, but Rose could sense that he was worried. She assumed he knew what had been decided about Egypt and she itched to ask him but in the end, she didn’t have too. Cass wanted to go over the plans once more, to make certain there were no holes. Dinner was cleared away and the table covered with maps and paper.

“We go in here,” she said, tapping her finger on a satellite image of the area surrounding the settlement. The wizard town itself was not clearly visible on the image; Rose knew the whole place would be covered in Muggle Repelling Charms. Scorpius sat beside her, his arm casually around her shoulders and she could feel the tension rolling off him and she hoped if it was noticed by anyone else, his mood would be put down to nerves.

“There are no guards that we know of,” Cass continued, “as they would be relying on whatever magic they are using to alert them. I wish I knew how it worked!”

A hush fell over the table; all eyes swung to their leader.

“It would be beneficial,” she said firmly, casting a challenging look around the table, “to know just how they do what they do. Then we might improve our success rate. I don’t want any more disasters.”

Joe took over. “Richard’s men will attack here; we can’t see a darn thing on this image but he assures us one of the most prominent members of their community lives there. If we can take this wizard out...”

“Cut off the head of the snake and the body will slowly die?” Areli mused. “I hope you are not underestimating them. This will be a hard fight.”

“Whose side are you on?” Jillian growled. Areli merely smiled.

“I am on my own side, my sweet, and I do not wish to die in some stinking heathen hole.”

Joe grinned. “Nor do I. Alright, Richard takes left flank, we take right. Jill, I’ll station someone with you, to watch your back. You need to have your babies ready to fly just in case. We make our way to this point here,” he turned to the topographic map, “and fight from there.”

“The aim is not total annihilation,” Cass said softly. “We want prisoners; we want information. Kill if you must, but watch yourselves.”

The meeting broke up soon after, and Rose gratefully let Scorpius push her into a taxi. Back in the suite, they sat opposite one another at the table, their wands pointed at their temples. Rose watched him for a moment, watched the thin silvery stream float from his head to the tip of his wand, before she closed her eyes and concentrated. She felt her memories, her thoughts and her emotions float from her mind, leaving her oddly dazed. When she opened her eyes, Scorpius was sitting back watching her, his face smooth and expressionless.

Carefully, Rose capped the vial, handing it to Scorpius, who took out the heavy wooden box used for storing their captured memories. She watched as he added it to the collection, waving his wand so that a small ‘R’ was engraved on the glass. With a sigh, he closed the lid, spelled it shut and slipped the box back into its home in the false bottom of the suitcase.

“Are you alright?” he asked her; she snapped, jumping to her feet.

“Who does Maria think she is?” Rose fumed, striding around their suite. “Josef Mengele?”

“What did you find out?”

With an angry sigh, Rose told him about the report, unable to keep the spite from her voice.

“She’s dangerous,” Scorpius said slowly. “Very dangerous, Rose.”

“I know. She has to be stopped.”

Scorpius sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck, a gesture Rose was coming to understand indicated frustration. “We don’t know where she works from though; if we could get our hands on that information, the Ministry could shut her down.”

“Those poor kids!” Rose fumed.

“She is a bloody idiot,” Scorpius sighed. “One of those kids will more than likely blow the place to bits. They can’t control themselves – Maria is playing with fire. I remember setting mother’s curtains alight when I was five. She was most unimpressed.”

“I broke most of the plates,” Rose smiled at the memory, shrugging. “I didn’t want to wash up.”

Scorpius sat down, rubbing at his forehead. “I have a headache. This is so much more involved than we ever imagined. They are thorough, I will give them that, and smart, Rose. Indoctrinating children...that’s sick, but very clever.”

“I think I am beginning to see why some Pure Blood’s still hate muggles,” Rose muttered.

“You can’t judge the entire race on the actions of a few,” Scorpius admonished softly. She looked at him, startled, and he laughed darkly. “Surprised to hear me speak like that?”

“Well, yes,” she answered honestly. “I’m not being prejudiced, Scorpius, but considering...”

He sighed. “The first woman I ever fell in love with was a muggle.”

“What happened to her?” Rose asked, shock making her sit down across from him.

“I ended it, without consultation or negotiation. I just...walked away before I did something stupid like ask her to marry me. It was too hard, having to hide who and what I really was from her,” Scorpius replied, looking at his hands. “And it seems like I did the right thing, in view of how totally messed up the world is at the moment.”

Rose swallowed. “What was her name?”

He gave her a swift look, dropping his eyes again. “Rebecca.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t think anything of it,” he said after a moment.

“I’m not,” Rose mumbled. He said nothing more, letting his silence speak for him, until he sighed.

“Do you think you can get access to Maria’s files?”

“Maybe,” Rose said slowly. “I can definitely try. Perhaps I’ll tell Cass I’m interested in what Maria is doing, and want to know more.” She swallowed her stomach. “I’ll offer to help her, Maria, if she needs it.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Scorpius said softly.

“Yes, I do,” she answered firmly. “We need as much information as possible, and what Maria is doing is more dangerous than anything else.”

Scorpius nodded in agreement and stretched his arms above his head luxuriously. Rose watched the muscles in his arms and shoulders working and made herself look away. The knowledge that they had slept together and she couldn’t remember it annoyed her, and she found herself wishing she could, every single detail. She cleared her throat and stood up. She wanted to talk about the Egypt campaign, but she was too wound up.

“I’m...um...going to have a swim.”

“Now? It’s dark.”

“So?”

“At least let me come with you,” he said, standing up also.

“I’m fine,” she argued, finding her bikini and towel.

“Rose...”

“I said I’m fine, Scorpius,” she snapped. “Leave it.”

He looked taken aback by her tone and she immediately regretted being so harsh, but she simply couldn’t be near him at the moment. Need to be close to him dwelled inside her, like a living beast, and she had to ignore it, push it aside and concentrate on the job. Rose ducked into the bathroom to change and when she came out, he was on the balcony, looking over the courtyard. Without another word she left the room, making her way down to the pool.

She draped her towel over the end of a sun lounge, resisting the urge to look up, knowing he was still on the balcony and knowing he could see her. She shivered, desire like electricity flowing over her, and slipped into the water, ducking under. Her hair snaked around her body as she held her breath, floating just beneath the surface. In the dark aquaeous world surrounding her, Rose relaxed, feeling strangely peaceful. The water was warm and heavy and when she surfaced, it was to find the full moon looking down on her.

She turned and floated on her back, her eyes unwillingly moving to the balcony of her suite. Scorpius was there, but he was not watching her, as she had feared, or maybe hoped. He was watching the moon. Rose lay back in the water, limbs moving languidly at her sides and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, Scorpius was gone inside and she sighed, feeling oddly rejected. The gold band resting on the ring finger of her left hand felt heavy, and she was suddenly more aware of its presence than before. Absently, she reached across her body, twisting it. It would slip off without effort; another reminder that this was a lie. She wondered why it bothered her.

Back in the suite, Scorpius was sprawled shirtless on the white lounge, feet up on the arm, absently watching the television. Rose padded across the room to stand beside him, looking across at the screen.

“Anything interesting?”

“Not really. There’s some crap movie on; hang on.” He flicked through the channels, stopping at Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and they spend a companionable moment watching the main character rush around on screen. “This is so far-fetched,” Scorpius said as Indiana dodged death for the third time in a minute.

Rose laughed. “I think it is supposed to be.”

“Then what is the point?” he argued, looking up at her briefly.

She smiled and tapped him on the forehead with her index finger; he scowled. “The point is so people can escape their boring everyday lives. So that they can feel excited, enlivened by something that would never happen to them.”

“Stupid,” he muttered, making her laugh and rap against his forehead again. He grabbed at her hand, caught it and held it, pulling her closer so that the back of his head rested against her bare stomach. He freed her hand, and his arms went around her, his palms spreading across her lower back. Rose shivered, heat surging almost painfully through her body. Her breathing deepened as his fingers kneaded muscle and danced over flesh.

He released her for a moment, twisting around so he was kneeling on the lounge, his face almost level with hers. Rose shivered as his arms went back around her; with expert fingers, he snapped the clasp of her bikini top open, his eyes never leaving her face.

“Scorpius,” she whispered; her body was on fire. “We...”

He sighed and flopped back onto the lounge. “They’re taking me to Egypt,” he said quietly.

“What?” Rose breathed, hastily doing up her top. Anything she had wanted to say to him had vanished from her brain. “But I thought...”

“So did I,” he sighed, “but apparently, Joe thinks I’m ready.”

“Can’t you...”

“Refuse?” he twisted to look at her again, and his smile was grim. “No. How would that look? This is why we’re here, Rose; to earn their trust.”

She felt faint. “You’re going to have to attack our own people, Scorpius!”

“Don’t you think I realise that?” he said, frustration lacing every syllable. He switched off the TV, throwing the remote across the room in a sudden burst of emotion. “I’m going to have to leave Scorpius Malfoy behind completely for this – I can’t think of him, he doesn’t exist. I can’t think like a wizard.” He got up from the lounge and began pacing the room. “This is going to be hard; the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”

Rose chewed her lip, watching him orbit around. “Just make sure you don’t die, okay?”

He stopped, giving her a shrewd look. “Do you care?”

“Not particularly.”

He laughed lightly, crossed the room, cupped her face and kissed her. The breath fled her body and before she realised what was happening, she was kissing him back hungrily. Scorpius gently removed her arms from around his neck. “So you do care,” he said, his breath hot on her face.

Rose swallowed. “Maybe just a little bit.”

He gave her a small smile and moved away.



Okay so some of you are probably drawing parallels between parts of this and the X-men. Clearly, they are there, but I just wanted to say that my inspiration came firstly from Nazi Germany and Josef Mengele, and his medical experiments on prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Also, science people - please let me know if what I wrote up there was completely incorrect xD

edited 7.1.11 for typos

Chapter 7: CHAPTER SEVEN
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absolutely amazing chapter image by Elysium!!!


CHAPTER SEVEN



Scorpius left for Egypt two days later. Rose stood with Sophie outside the riad, watching with her heart in her throat as he climbed into the back of one of their jeeps. Areli was at the wheel; Cass, Joe, Isobelle and Jillian were already in the vehicle. Another jeep was waiting, carrying five others, and Rose stepped back as Areli pulled hard on the steering wheel, and the jeeps rolled away into the dusty desert morning. They would rendezvous with another group on their way, taking the convoy to twenty people, before they joined Richard’s cell in Egypt.

Rose sighed sadly, watching until she could see them no more, and then turned and followed Sophie inside. The riad was quiet and eerie, and she shivered, pulling her arms around herself. Sophie wandered into the kitchen and she trailed after her, not knowing what else to do.

“When will they be back?” Rose asked, to distract herself more than anything else.

“There is no need to worry about Scott; dad will take care of him.”

Rose nodded. “Oh yes, I know. It’s just...he’s not usually a fighting man, you know? I’ve never seen him hit anyone, he never loses his temper and now...”

“He’s racing off to kill people,” the other woman finished gently. “People change, for the right cause, and anyway, he will be perfectly safe,” she added, seeing and misinterpreting the look on Rose’s face. All Rose could do was nod.

For over a week, they waited, knowing it was a two day journey there and back. There were no messages, no communication of any kind and by the end of the third day, Sophie was irritable, continually pacing the passage ways of the riad and stomping around the kitchen. Rose stayed with her, returning only briefly to the motel to collect some clothing. She didn’t want to leave the girl alone; she knew Sophie was worried about her father.

So they talked, to fill the void. Sophie wanted to attend the university in Marrakech, but not having finished high school meant that she would have to wait. She was attempting to complete her schooling by distance education, but admitted that all the activity surrounding For Humanity made it hard to find time to study. That she could do something so normal in the middle of such incredibly fearsome times made Rose admire her. Sophie was witty and intelligent, and it was easy to like her. She had hope still, and Rose wished she could share in that optimism.

A video call came through from Maria on the fourth night. Rose sat in front of the computer reluctantly, not wanting to have to speak to her. After a moment of quick observation, Rose realised there was nothing in the background that gave away where Maria was; there was only the steady beat of rain on a roof.

“You can tell Cass when she returns that everything is ready.”

“Ready for what?” Rose asked.

“Why, the prisoners of course.”

“I see.”

Maria gave her a shrewd look, her expression slightly pixellated and odd. “You don’t like my work, do you, Rebecca? I can tell, dear, there is no point denying it. Sophie here is just the same.”

“You don’t have to treat them like animals,” Sophie said waspishly from the other side of the kitchen. “They still have rights.”

The scientist laughed. “Darling, I am simply trying to determine their biological status, that is all. Then we can decide who has rights.”

Sophie grumbled something that sounded like ‘monster’, and Maria’s smile deepened.

“This war is no place for your ethics, Sophie,” she chided gently. “Rebecca, you will see that Cass gets my message, yes?”

Rose nodded, unable to do anything else and Maria ended their call.

The days crawled on, filled with heat and sweat, and by the end of the week, Rose and Sophie had run out of things to say to one another. They spent their time in companionable silence, waiting, and as night fell and the amphibian chorus began, the main door of the riad was flung open, banging loudly against the wall.

Sophie leapt to her feet, drawing her weapon, and Rose did the same, heart in her throat. Voices rushed through the darkness towards them, and she could feel terror and anxiety in the air. Sophie lowered her gun and raced into the night, Rose following. Cass came thundering down the passageway, her face set in angry lines; behind her were Joe, Areli and Scorpius and Rose let out a breath, hands shaking. Cass strode into the kitchenette furiously, turning on the taps over the sink and splashing water on her face.

“What happened?” Sophie asked worriedly, her eyes on her father. “Dad, are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine,” Joe answered quietly, his voice rough. Sophie crossed the room and embraced him, and he planted a kiss on her forehead.

“They knew we were coming,” Cass spat.

Sophie frowned, looking around. “Where’s Jill?”

“Dead.”

Rose felt her blood freeze, her hand flying to her mouth. “What?” she whispered.

“Those bastards killed her, three of Richard’s people and two of ours,” Cass shouted, kicking at the cupboard under the sink. “Shit shit shit. Jill’s dead!”

Rose felt her knees give way and she sank slowly to a chair. She was vaguely aware Scorpius was standing beside her and she reached for his hand, gripping it tight, relieved beyond words that he was alive. He dropped to his knees in front of her and rested his forehead against hers, his breathing shallow and ragged. Rose kissed him gently, never thinking of what she was doing; it seemed a natural action.

“Where’s Isobelle?” she whispered; he didn’t answer immediately and the horrible feeling that had been sitting in her stomach all day intensified, rising up and threatening to spill forth. “Is she...”

“No,” Scorpius murmured. There was more, Rose could see it in his face, but she could tell he wasn’t going to speak. Cass and Areli shared a glance, and the tall man left the room, and did not return and Cass sat down at the table, her face tired and dirty.

“Go home,” she said to Rose and Scorpius. “Get some rest. Come back tomorrow. We need to work out what the hell went wrong!”

Scorpius nodded, drawing Rose to her feet. His face was filthy, his eyes harassed and she did not want to think about what he had witnessed or had done. He led her wordlessly from the riad and he did not speak again until he’d showered and was laying face first on the bed.

“Shit.”

“What happened?” Rose whispered, sitting down and putting her hand in the middle of his back. He rolled over, rubbing at his face and sighed.

“They knew we were coming, just like Cass said. Rose...it was so hard, having to fight against them, if only for a moment. I tried not to shoot anyone, and I hope I didn’t...there were defensive spells flying everywhere – the air was thick with them. I didn’t know what else to do. I had to defend myself.” He sat up, looking at her seriously. “I watched Jillian die, and all I could think about at the time was that I should save her, because no matter what she had done and who she was, she was still a human being. I was supposed to be protecting her.”

Rose put her arms around him, holding him tight. “You did what you had to do,” she whispered, not knowing what else to say.

“I have been in dangerous situations before, but this was different. I really thought I was going to die – when they came at us, when their spells shot past my ear, all I wanted to do was to run,” he paused, swallowed, and went on, “I feel like a coward, Rose, but what was I supposed to do? Areli would say it was human nature, to want to flee, to survive, but I don’t know about that. This whole thing, this war, this death...how is any of it human nature?” He sighed and shook his head, and she could only let him talk. “Perhaps that is the problem – perhaps it is human nature, and if it is, why are we fighting so hard to be counted as human?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “Maybe we shouldn’t be.”

He sighed softly, and then pulled back to look at her. “They know about Isobelle. At least, I think they do. They know someone gave us away.”

“But how do they know it is her?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. Areli thinks it is.”

Rose gasped. “She told me he’d been watching her; she implied it anyway.”

“When did she tell you that?” his voice was sharp.

“When we had lunch together not long after she arrived,” Rose whispered.

“You had lunch with Isobelle? Shit, Rose. Did anyone see you?” Scorpius asked frantically, his eyes flickering over her shocked face. She shook her head.

“No, I don’t think so. And so what if they...oh god,” she breathed, comprehending.

“What were you thinking?” he said softly, stroking the hair back from her face. She shook her head, not knowing what to say. “It’ll be okay,” Scorpius was saying, but she barely heard him.

It was late afternoon by the time they arrived at the riad the following day. The guard at the front entrance gave them a shaded look, and once they were inside, the place was unusually still. Heat rose from the ground and charged along the covered walkway; the sun that beat down from above scorched their skin without touching them. Rose wondered whether it was the hottest day they had experience so far in Morocco.

As they made their way further inside, Scorpius frowned. “Something is up.”

Before Rose could reply, she heard raised voices coming from the weapons pit. Scorpius lifted his eyebrow and she nodded. The gun resting against her spine was cold despite the heat of the day and she reached behind herself, touching it through the fabric of her shirt. She had no idea what was going on, and she glanced quickly at Scorpius as he descended into the pit. She followed, heart in her mouth, her blood screaming. Her muscles were tense, like steel rods, and she wondered how high her blood pressure was and if she was too young to have a heart attack.

In the pit they found Cass, Joe and Sophie. Cass was standing with her arms folded, her mouth a hard line. Joe was beside her, his face tight and his eyes concerned as he watched his daughter. Sophie was pressed against the wall between two crates; it looked like she was trying to disappear into the cement. Joe glanced up briefly as Rose and Scorpius came towards them but he said nothing.

“Did you know?” Cass asked sharply, her eyes moving from Rose to Scorpius. “Did she say anything to either of you? Isobelle?”

Rose shook her head at the same time Scorpius asked what was going on. Cass merely sighed sadly, turning her attention to Sophie, who gave the older woman a ferocious glare.

“Are you certain you knew nothing? She never said anything to you? I know you were friends and -”

“This is madness,” Sophie interjected, pushing herself off the wall. “It’s disgusting.”

“Sophie, please,” Joe began but the girl shook her dark ponytail.

“I’m having no part in this vile act,” she announced, heading for the stairs. “For Humanity: what a joke!”

“Soph...”

“Fuck the lot of you,” the girl hissed. “I’ve had enough of this shit. You’re not heroes; you know that, don’t you? You’re just scared and pathetic and people are dead because of it.”

“Put a muzzle on her, Joe,” Cass snarled at Sophie’s retreating back, “Before she gets herself in trouble.”

Sophie threw them all filthy looks and disappeared, and Rose could hear her muttering as she stormed away. She was utterly confused, but as the seconds ticked over, she recalled what Scorpius had said and her stomach twisted. There was a commotion at the top of the stairs and Rose thought Sophie and her temper had returned, but instead, she saw a struggling, weeping Isobelle being dragged down into the pit, her arms pinned to her sides by Areli. He lifted her over his shoulder and carried her the last few steps, dumping her in a chair in front of Cass.

Cass gave Isobelle a long look before she turned and reached for her gun, lying in wait atop a crate beside her. “I trusted you.”

“Oh shit,” Rose whispered.

“Please, you do not understand,” Isobelle began hastily. “I have not done anything wrong.”

“You are a sympathiser,” Cass said, her voice level. It was not an accusation; it was a statement and Isobelle opened her mouth to deny it. “Please, don’t. I know you have been smuggling information about this mission-”

“I didn’t-”

“You were seen,” Cass said, her voice flat and deadly. “Just before we left, at the cafe; the man in the green shirt, Isobelle. Who was he?”

“That man?” Isobelle cried, struggling with her bonds. “He is a friend.”

“He is a traitor – we have been watching him for a while. It’s funny how he has conveniently disappeared, and it’s even funnier how those scum in Egypt knew we were coming,” Joe answered smoothly. “Just tell us the truth, Isobelle. Have you been passing our plans on to the wizards?”

“How would I know wizards?” Isobelle gave a desperate, watery laugh. “Why would I want to help them?”

“You would have your reasons, I imagine,” Cass said simply. “But I cannot have anybody working against me and working against the mission.”

“Please,” Isobelle begged. “I have done nothing wrong. I would never betray my own people.”

Cass just looked at her with hard eyes and her pleas fell silent. Isobelle sucked in a ragged breath and dropped her gaze.

“This is insane,” Rose hissed, grabbing at Scorpius’ arm. “We can’t let them do this!”

“I know,” he hissed back. “But what do you want me to do about it?”

“Anything,” she whispered urgently. “This is wrong.”

“Cass,” Scorpius said loudly, taking a small step in the blonde woman’s direction. “Cass, let’s think about this.”

“What is there to think about?” she snapped. “She’s a traitor, filth, just like them.”

“So we’re killing our own now?” Scorpius asked quietly; Cass flinched.

“I don’t want to have to kill anybody,” she answered firmly. “Not unless I have too. You shouldn’t be here, Scott. Take your wife and wait upstairs.”

“Let her go.”

“Shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cass shouted. Her hand was shaking and Rose sucked in a breath as she lowered the gun an inch. Joe stood beside Cass, his face worried. Rose snuck a glance at Areli; the Israeli was standing on the other side of the room, his expression smooth, and his eyes betraying nothing. He met Rose’s glance, held it until she looked away, trembling.

Isobelle suddenly started laughing, a cold harsh sound that forced everyone in the small space to look at her. “It is you who does not know what they are talking about,” she said firmly. “You are wrong, Cass. Your whole plan is wrong. You will never succeed – they will beat you. There are more like me than you could ever guess.”

“What is she doing?” Rose whispered, noticing the calm, accepting look that had settled on Isobelle’s pretty face. The woman sat with her head held high, her expression determined, her eyes never leaving Cass’s face.

“Maybe Scott’s right,” Joe said softly after a moment of tense silence where nobody moved.

Cass shook her head, and her voice when she spoke was hesitant. “This needs to be done. It has to be done. It is the only way to send a serious message.”

“To whom?” Scorpius asked. “The other sympathisers? Cass, there must be another way. We need to educate them, show them the dangers of getting involved with wizards, not start killing people.”

“Education you think?” she paused, reaching up to grip the gun with both hands; Isobelle’s face was set, her jaw tight, her eyes challenging, mocking Cass. “Jillian is dead because of her!”

“You guys should probably go,” Joe said softly, his eyes finding Rose’s face. She stubbornly shook her head. She could not move: her legs were bricks, her heart a dead weight in her chest. She took a deep breath as Joe moved a step closer to Cass, his expression concerned.

“Do it,” Isobelle whispered. “Make me a martyr. I am not afraid to die for what I know is right. You are a coward, Cass. You fight because you are scared; you are ignorant and frightened and that makes what you do pointless. It is you who needs educating.”

Cass swallowed; there was sweat on her brow and she licked her lips, waiting, watching Isobelle closely. The dark-haired woman did not say another word, and Cass sighed regretfully. “Lesson one.”

Rose didn’t have the chance to close her eyes. The gunshot echoed around the room, loud and burning and she knew she would never forget that sound as long as she existed. Smoke floated from the tip of Cass’ weapon, curling like a snake around the barrel. Rose could not tear her eyes away from Isobelle’s body. Scorpius backed up, until he was standing in front of her, his arms out, as if trying to shield her from the horror that had just unfolded.

“Shit, Cass,” Joe shouted. “Shit!”

Cass turned on him, punching him in the mouth. He staggered back, before lunging at her, folding her in his arms and holding her tightly. His hand reached up and stroked her head and he was whispering to her, soothing her. Rose was shaking violently. She looked around with wild eyes, her heart pounding furiously.

“Come on,” Scorpius whispered, reaching for Rose’s hand and dragging her away, perhaps noticing the boiling, burning fury that rested in her eyes. Joe saw them leaving and did nothing to stop them; he merely nodded in understanding. Rose sought out Areli in dimness of the pit, but he had vanished, silent and slippery as a snake. She knew, without having to be told, that it was him who had discovered Isobelle and turned her in: him who had signed her death warrant.

Before they left the pit and began the slow climb to what was left of the courtyard, Rose heard Cass begin to sob and by the time they were in the street outside the riad, she was crying herself, stumbling, the only thing keeping her upright was Scorpius. He pulled her against his chest. “Come on. Keep it together. We need to focus.”

She sniffed, wiping her face on his shirt. “I can’t believe she just did that! I can’t believe it. She’s insane! She’s bloody insane!”

She was barely aware of the taxi ride back to their motel and she found herself standing in the middle of the room, trembling as Scorpius glanced at her with worried eyes.

“Rose, look at me,” he ordered. She did, slowly, and he came and took her hands again. “You’re in shock. I’m going to get you something to drink.”

“No,” she whispered, gripping his hands tighter. “Don’t leave me alone. I can’t close my eyes without seeing her face and hearing her voice. They’re monsters, brutes, animals,” she added venomously.

“I know,” Scorpius said. “That’s why we have to stop this.”

“I want to liberate the camps,” Rose said suddenly, staring up at him. “No one else should be allowed to die, not like that: murdered in cold blood.”

“We need to think this through. We can’t do it alone, Rose, you know that.”

“Then find us some help,” she snapped. Her shock was morphing into anger and she took refuge in it, in the bubbling, churning hatred that tasted like fire in her mouth. Scorpius’ face was set in hard lines – she knew he hated the camps as much as she did, hated knowing their people were chained and locked up like criminals, tortured, and experimented on. In this, they were completely united.

She stood looking at him, breathing hard. Something kicked over in her stomach, something deep and with thorns. Without any further thought, Rose pressed her lips against his, almost crying at the strength of feeling that rushed through her. She kissed him furiously, almost violently and he kissed her back, his arms strong and tight around her. She pushed him backwards, tearing at his shirt as they both fell onto the bed.

“Rose, you’re not thinking straight.”

“Good,” she whispered, sinking her teeth into his neck, making him gasp and dig his fingers into her flesh.

“Bloody hell,” he hissed, “Slow down.”

“Why?” She paused, waiting for his reason, his rationalising. She felt reckless, out of control, raw, and she needed to feel something alive. She watched his face as he watched her and when he said nothing, she reached for him.

He left her a gasping, watery mess and Rose could only let herself feel, to give herself over to him. If she didn’t, if she stopped to think, she knew she would only see Isobelle, see Cass pull the trigger and hear that dreadful sound. Scorpius must have understood that, perhaps felt it too.

They lay side by side in the big bed, not speaking; Rose had no words for him, nothing to describe how she was feeling inside. She rolled onto her side, away from him and he sighed, reaching his hand out to her, slowly stroking her back, her neck, her hair and the action was so tender, so unlike him, that she felt herself begin to cry, curling up into a protective ball.

“Rose?” he asked worriedly, sitting up and leaning over her. She shook her head and sniffed. “It’ll be alright,” he said softly. “I promise.”

She nodded, falling asleep instantly and when she woke it was dawn, and she had the strong urge to phone her mother: Hermione would ask how she was, if she was okay and Rose would say, no mum, it’s all gone to shit and I’ve just spent the night shagging Scorpius Malfoy for the hell of it, but you know how it is when you’re put in these situations, oh and how are dad and Hugo?

She laughed out loud at the absurdity of it, waking Scorpius, who grumbled and told her to shut up. Rose stretched and kicked him under the sheet. He kicked her back, and soon they were engaged in a mock fight that only ended when he’d pulled her beneath him and a wave of heat had swept through her body.

“So what happens now?” he asked her, his voice husky and rough from sleep, sex and the horror of what they had witnessed.

“I don’t know. We shouldn’t complicate things, I guess.”

“No, we shouldn’t.” He sat back, resting his weight on his knees. Rose stayed where she was, watching as he stretched his head back, moving it slowly from side to side, grinding away any kinks. He had his eyes closed and she noticed for the first time how long his eyelashes were, and how sharp his cheekbones, how strong his jaw and his mouth, the muscles that worked in his neck as he moved...She sat up slowly and touched a trembling hand to his cheek and his eyes flew open.

They spent the remainder of the day in bed, both wanting to forget, and by the time the sun had sunk and Marrakech was once again bathed in darkness, she could map every inch of his body in accurate detail. She’d walked the line of every taunt muscle, travelled the curve of every valley and dip. She wondered at the pearly shell of his ear, so delicate and sensitive, the softness of his mouth and she’d counted each mole and freckle and each tiny opalescent scar. She’d found out he wasn’t married or attached, had no children or pets and lived alone and she’d also discovered he was ticklish behind the knee and liked it when she kissed the inside of his wrist. He talked about his family, she talked about hers.

They talked about everything except Isobelle, or Cass or Joe. Rose wondered absently who would tell Albus.

By the time Scorpius fell asleep beside her, one arm around her waist, she’d seen him vulnerable, humbled, humanised; but above all that, she found he was likeable.

They stayed away from Cass and the riad for two days; they barely spoke to one another but Rose didn’t mind – she needed to think, to absorb and let everything she had seen filter through her brain. She supposed Scorpius was the same. Without consultation, they woke on the third day and decided to return to their job. Rose pushed Isobelle from her mind, showered, dressed and followed Scorpius out the door. At the base, she nodded hello to the man on guard duty, left Scorpius with Joe and Areli, who were in the kitchen having lunch, and found Cass in the board room. The other woman turned from studying the map pinned to the wall, giving Rose a cautious look.

“Anything you need me to do today?” Rose said pleasantly, slipping her handbag off her arm and onto a chair. She saw Cass swallow, shake her head slightly and then nod.

“Umm, there a few emails I need sent and if you could check the news? I want to start a media file – anything we could use: locations, dates, statistics...that sort of thing,” Cass said, her voice low and rough. Rose nodded, faked a cheery smile and took a seat behind the computer. Cass nodded her thanks and went out, and Rose flicked the machine into life, frowning. Cass was obviously affected by what she had done, and somehow, Rose was surprised by that.

She sat back while she waited for the machine to start-up, reaching absently for a white folder near her elbow. On the outside, scrawled in black ink, were the words The Heart of Darkness. Curious, Rose flipped it open, but it was empty. Frowning, she set the folder aside, reaching for the mouse and opening the main directory. Many of the files were password protected and Rose skimmed through them, searching for something that matched the words on the folder. She felt she had heard them before, but could not recall where.

She stopped suddenly, scrolled back, and double-clicked the mouse. The folder labelled Heart of Darkness was locked. Scowling, Rose sat back, jumping when Sophie slipped into the room.

“You busy?”

Rose shrugged. “Not really.”

“The database needs updating, if you don’t mind,” Sophie said, dropping a cream coloured binder on the desk.

“Oh? Cass never mentioned that.”

Sophie scowled. “Yeah, well, Cass is not herself at the moment,” she muttered. “You know what? Just between you and me, I’m pleased. It’s about time she had a long think about things.” The girl was wearing her weapon, as usual, and her standard khaki, her dark hair tied into a knot at the base of her slender neck. She was so hard Rose felt sorry for her, for the life that she was leading. She went out, promising to bring Rose a coffee in a while, and when she was gone, Rose reached eagerly for the binder, ripping it open, hoping for some real information.

Inside were profiles on witches and wizards, including photographs and a startling amount of data. Rose swallowed, scanning through them quickly – they were not people she knew, but that did not change anything. A note on a scrap of paper was attached by paperclip to the binder and Rose realised it was a username and password, for the database.

She sat back in the chair, staring at the computer screen. After so long, she was finally going to get a look at this infamous database of Cass’s. Not wanting to waste any time, Rose began sorting through the computer files, until she located the database. She took a deep breath, entered the username and password, and clicked the mouse.

It was more comprehensive than they had imagined. Cass had files on everything: the Ministry, wizard history, Voldemort, Blood Status, muggleborns, the Order of the Phoenix, Death Eaters and even Hogwarts. Rose hated to think how she had gained this knowledge.

Rose continued to work through the database, finding the section she needed to update: individual witches and wizards. With a trembling hand, she clicked on the icon and was immediately confronted with at least two hundred files. Most were names she did not know but as she scanned through them, her mouth went dry, sapped of all liquid as she recognised the most familiar of all names:

Hermione Granger-Weasley.

Rose held her breath, her stomach swooping low, and clicked on her mother’s file. There, in full colour, was a picture of Hermione. It was at least a few years old, but it was there. Trembling, Rose scrolled down the page, reading every word thoroughly.

They knew where her mother worked, and they knew the names of her extended family, including her children. Shaking violently, Rose closed the document, searching the database for her own name. Her heart stopped: Cass had a file on her, Hugo, her cousins, and Scorpius. Without looking, Rose knew there would be files on her Uncle Harry, and her father, possibly her grandparents as well. Biting her lip, Rose opened her own file, sighing in immediate relief. There was no photograph, but she already knew there wouldn’t be, and the information was minute. They didn’t know where she lived, but they did know she worked for the Ministry. It would only be a matter of time before the blanks were filled in. She checked James’ file, then Albus’, Hugo’s, making her way through her family, and finally, she opened Scorpius’ file.

Like with her file and all the others, there was no picture, and hardly any information. They did know his Ministry status, and they had listed him as ‘dangerous’ and a ‘threat to the mission.’ The same thing had been stated on James’ file.

Rose went back over the database, noting the names of everyone she recognised: Neville Longbottom, Gregory Goyle, Hannah Abbott, Blaise Zabini and finally, Draco and Astoria Malfoy. There were thankfully no photographs of either of Scorpius’ parents, and the information collected on them was minimal – Scorpius didn’t look exactly like his father, but there was enough of a resemblance there to give him away, and she was immediately grateful she looked more like a Prewett than a Weasley.

Harry Potter’s file was the largest of them all and he was listed as a Priority Target, something Rose had noticed was mentioned on her mother’s file. She hadn’t understood what it meant, until she checked her father’s file and found it typed there too, and the penny dropped.

She preyed that they were all safe.

Protocol prevented her from contacting any of them, and she bit her lip, cursing her Uncle and his stupid rules.

Sophie stepped back into the room and Rose quickly closed Ron’s file, clicking the icon that would allow her to create a new file. She smiled at Sophie and began typing in the first name in the binder: Samria Bryar.

“You look like you have seen a ghost,” Sophie commented, setting a cup of coffee down on the desk.

Rose licked her lips. “I never realised the database was so large! And to think, that is only a small number; there are so many more of them out in the world. It’s frightening.” If her voice shook, she hoped Sophie would put it down to slight hysteria and fear, and nothing more.

“We will beat them in the end, Rebecca,” Sophie said firmly, and went out again, leaving Rose to her task. By the time Cass came to tell her knock off, it was dark, and Rose had completed the database updates hours earlier. She had re-read her mother’s file, her father’s, and her brother’s. They knew nothing about Hugo and she was silently thankful for the fact he hadn’t followed the rest of them into the Ministry, choosing to coach Quidditch in the minor leagues instead. She had also, with her heart in her throat and one eye glued to the door, copied the entire database onto a USB drive, which was now hidden in the secret pocket in the bottom of her handbag.

Rose closed the computer down, gathered her things and went to find Scorpius. He was standing with Areli and Joe, laughing and talking and she worked hard to compose her face, pushing a welcoming smile onto her lips. He smiled in turn when he saw her, and Rose’s heart jumped: it was a real smile, a true smile. He was happy to see her and for a moment, Rose wanted to throw herself into his arms and cry on his shoulder.

Instead, she let him fold her close to his chest and kiss her.

“I might take off, then,” Scorpius said lightly, smothering a yawn. “I need a bit of a lie down.”

Joe winked. “Of course you do. Ah, to be newly married again. Maybe I need a wife...”

Areli slung his arm around his friend’s shoulder and told him he could introduce him to some very beautiful women; Rose didn’t doubt it and she wondered if the women who shared his bed knew just how tainted and festered he was inside.

Scorpius steered her out into the street, keeping his arm tight around her waist, and they did not speak again until they were back in their suite. “Anything?”

She nodded, unable to speak.

“What did you find?”

“Everything,” Rose answered flatly, kicking off her shoes and flopping backwards onto the bed. Scorpius lay down beside her, linking his arms behind his head and they spent a companionable moment staring at the intricate ceiling. Rose felt like weeping. It seemed futile, what they were doing, when Cass already knew so much about their world. She couldn’t see how they were ever going to stop For Humanity’s crusade; a crusade which seemed to be gaining momentum and power as every day passed.

Scorpius rolled onto his side when Rose failed to speak again. He stroked a finger lightly down the side of her face and she turned her cheek into him, wanting and needing him with a hunger that frightened her. He kissed her forehead gently, his lips trailing down her nose until he found her mouth and they spent a moment simply kissing. She didn’t want it to end, and wrapped her arms around him, clinging tightly until he gently moved back to look at her face.

“Rose?”

She took a deep breath, and slowly and steadily told him what she had discovered.

“Shit,” he whispered, sitting up and rubbing at his face.

“I made a copy of the database,” Rose said, and he nodded, but she knew he was thinking the same thing she was: what did it matter? “Scorpius...”

He looked at her over his shoulder, his face tired, his eyes haunted. He sighed, standing up and holding out his hand and she glanced at him curiously. “That bath is more than big enough for the two of us.”

She didn’t say anything; as much as she wanted to take him up on his offer, it was too intimate. Everything was too intimate recently, all the touching and kissing and embracing and sometimes, she didn’t know where the charade ended and reality began. She looked up at him again, and swallowed, hesitating.

“I just need you right now,” he whispered, unable to look at her. “I need to hold something warm and soft and alive.”

“I need that too,” she whispered back.



Reviews are, as always, appreciated.


Chapter 8: CHAPTER EIGHT
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CHAPTER EIGHT



They didn’t go back to For Humanity the following day, choosing to spend it locked away from the world in their suite, watching television. Scorpius asked her did she want to pull the plug, go back to England, but she shook her head defiantly. She wanted desperately to return home, to put their whole experience down to a bad dream, but she knew it was not that simple. They had a job to do and she was determined, now more than ever, to see Cass brought down.

“Alright,” he said softly. “We stay, but once we find out where the camps are, we leave, Rose. Get the Ministry to plan a full assault.”

“Fine,” she nodded, turning back to whatever was showing on the television and let silence sink between them again. The day stretched on and more than once, Rose found herself watching him, wanting to hold him. She craved his touch and it frightened her – she hadn’t wanted to feel anything for him and it was becoming harder to tell herself it was only the situation, the horror of what they had seen and discovered. She had no idea what he was thinking or what he felt and she didn’t ask. There was a certain degree of bliss in remaining ignorant.

Scorpius received a text message from Joe just before dinner, asking them to come to the riad the following evening.

“Did he say why?” Rose asked, lazily picking at a salad. Her appetite had vanished as soon as Scorpius’ mobile had beeped and she pushed her plate away, wiping her hands on a napkin, before changing her mind and reaching for her fork once more. Scorpius watched her curiously.

“Are you alright?”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. You seem...not yourself. Are you sick?”

She shook her head. “No. What did Joe say?”

“Nothing else,” Scorpius answered, still watching her. “Rose...”

“We need to stop this,” she said quickly, stabbing at a piece of tomato. He was silent for a long time, but she knew he understood what she meant.

He sighed. “I know.”

“Right, well, that’s that, then,” she muttered.

“Is it really what you want?” His voice was soft, gentle, and she glanced at him before quickly looking away again.

“What do you want?”

“You can’t answer a question with a question.”

She looked at him, almost angry. “Well, I need to know.”

“What would knowing achieve? This can’t continue. We’re putting ourselves in danger. Do you know I almost called you ‘Rose’ yesterday, when I saw you walking towards me?”

She said nothing, pulling her lip between her teeth and he sighed again, a frustrated sound that annoyed her.

“We’re getting too comfortable with one another, too relaxed,” he continued, and she wanted suddenly to punch him, knowing everything he said was correct and knowing she agreed with him. “I don’t want you to get hurt because I might slip up.”

Still she didn’t speak and when he reached across the table to touch her cheek with the back of his hand, she batted him away, angry now for reasons she didn’t understand. Ignoring the wounded look in his eyes she pushed her chair back and stormed away from him, going to lock herself in the bathroom. Her face when she looked in the mirror was wild, her cheeks red, and her eyes fierce, her mouth set in a hard line.

He knocked on the door. “Rose, I’m sorry if I upset you but I-”

“I’m sorry too,” she said shakily, turning on the taps and splashing cold water on her face, forcing herself to take air deep into her lungs. When she opened the door, he was leaning against the wall outside the bathroom, his face indicating he wanted to talk but she walked straight past him to fall onto the bed and in moments, was asleep.

Scorpius went out the next morning. He didn’t ask her to accompany him and she didn’t mind being left alone in the suite, nor did she ask where he was going. He was away half the day, returning just before lunch, his face blank. He looked at her, sprawled over the bed still in her pyjamas and sighed.

“Rose, please.”

“Please what?”

He pulled a hand through his hair. “Don’t fight with me.” When she said nothing he sighed again, stomping across the room to grab her arm. She protested as he made her sit up, shaking him off with an angry hiss. “May I remind you that this was your idea?”

“What was?”

“You were the one to suggest we end this, not me. I just agreed with you because I thought it was what you wanted,” he said firmly, his eyes searching her face. “But I don’t know now – the way you’re acting at the moment...were you lying to me?”

Rose snorted, climbing to her feet and moving away from him. She felt strangely close to tears again but she swallowed them away. “Don’t flatter yourself, Malfoy.”

He laughed harshly. “Right. Thank you. That makes this much easier.” He looked at her sadly, folding his arms, his expression tense. “This, whatever it was, is over.”

“Fine,” she snarled.

The silence that dogged the room for the remainder of the afternoon was as heavy as a stone and Rose felt the weight of it hammering against her head. She wanted to apologise but whenever the words made it to the tip of her tongue, they dissolved, refusing to let themselves be voiced. By the time they were preparing to return to the riad, Rose could not stand the silence any longer. Pulling her hair into a ponytail, she cleared her throat nervously.

“Where did you go this morning?”

Scorpius glanced up from the newspaper he was reading. “Just walked around the medina, talked to a few people, played the tourist – nothing exciting really.” Unsaid was what she knew was the truth – he had to get away from her.

“Are you ready to go?”

“Do you want dinner first?”

“No. Let’s get this over with,” she said firmly, heading for the door.

At the riad, Joe was waiting for them, his face alive with excitement, blue eyes twinkling behind the beard.

“What are you so happy about?” Scorpius asked good-naturedly.

“We’ve got ourselves a wizard,” Joe informed them. Rose felt her stomach tighten as Cass joined them, no sign of her remorse over Isobelle’s death present on her face.

“Where is he?”

“I’ll show you,” Cass replied, her grin feral and predatory. She led them down into the weapons pit, through a small door behind the crates, and into a musty smelling chamber in the darkness. Cass switched on a light and Rose blinked, looking around quickly as her eyes adjusted. The floor was hard concrete, the walls dirty and streaked with grime. She immediately felt claustrophobic and found herself wanting Scorpius, wanting his comfort. He was near her and she reached for him frantically, ignoring the puzzled look he gave her. He took her outstretched hand and squeezed, and she wasn’t sure if it was for her or for Rebecca but she didn’t care.

“Through here,” Cass said, pushing open another door on the far side of the chamber that Rose had failed to notice. Gingerly, she stepped through the gap after Joe, swallowing the lump on her tongue. The air in the little room was stale and as Cass switched on yet another light, Rose gasped.

She almost didn’t recognise him. His hands were bound, his clothes torn and his face bloody, but he was her cousin, and she would know him anywhere. She felt Scorpius squeeze her hand so tightly she was certain he had broken a bone.

“What will happen to him?” she forced herself to whisper, unable to tear her eyes away from Albus’ body. He was unconscious and Rose had to bite her lip to stop from crying at the sight of him.

Cass shrugged. “He’ll go to the compound with the others.”

“Got him yesterday,” Joe said proudly, like a hunter displaying his kill. He walked forward and nudged Albus with the toe of his boot. “Found him looking for his girlfriend.”

“Isobelle,” Scorpius guessed; Cass nodded.

“He tried to convince us he was human and we nearly believed him but then, once he found out what had happened to her he went nuts and tried to use his filthy magic on us.” She laughed, and Rose turned away, unable to see or hear anymore. Cass noticed. “Not got the stomach for it, Rebecca? This is war, honey.”

Rose turned back, opening her mouth but Scorpius spoke instead. “She’s fine. She just hasn’t been feeling too well,” he said quickly. Cass looked sceptical. “We think, we hope, that she’s pregnant,” he improvised smoothly, his tone calm and pleasant, as if chatting to old friends over coffee.

“That’s wonderful,” Cass smiled warmly. “The world needs babies; real people, not scum like that over there.”

Rose could only make herself smile and nod, afraid that if she opened her mouth she would vomit. She didn’t say another word, sitting through a quick supper and then the taxi ride back to the motel in silence, feeling Scorpius watching her the whole way.

“We have to save him,” she said flatly when she and Scorpius were alone.

“Rose, how can we?”

“I don’t know – get him out before they move him to the compound,” she said, pacing the floor and wringing her hands.

“That isn’t the mission,” Scorpius said quietly and she rounded on him, flying across the room and grabbing the front of his shirt. He staggered back a step.

“Don’t talk to me about the bloody mission,” she whispered furiously. “He’s my family, Scorpius! We can’t leave him to be tortured and brutalised.”

“He knew the risks,” Scorpius argued, pushing her away.

Rose slapped him across the cheek. “Go to hell.”

He caught her as she turned away, forcing her to look at him. “You think I don’t care? That I’m as heartless as those murdering bastards back there?” She said nothing and he pulled her closer. “I care, Rose. Albus is my friend – I don’t want to leave him anymore than you do.”

“Then help me,” Rose whispered. “Scorpius, please. Help me save him.”

He stared at her for a long time, his eyes flickering across her face and eventually, he nodded. She turned away and went out onto the balcony, closing her eyes and listening to the night. She could hear Scorpius pacing, his footfall gentle but purposeful as he strode around the room. Rose felt the air pressure drop, the now familiar humidity settling in so she went inside, pulling off her shirt as she walked. He glanced at her curiously as she threw her shirt on the bed.

“I’m having a bath,” she announced, her voice tired and weak. She needed to clear her head, try and formulate some plan of action, some way of rescuing Albus, even if it meant exposing herself to danger. She had to try, no matter what.

“Come here,” Scorpius invited, but she ignored him, moving towards the bathroom. He caught her hand, pulled her back and she allowed him to fold her in his arms a moment. He sighed, letting her go, and she trailed her hand across his stomach as she went, feeling the tight muscle and firm skin that she now knew as well as her own. She could feel his eyes on her but she did not look back, and she heard him move away. Unexpected tears pricked her eyelids and she blinked.

In the bathroom doorway, she paused, understanding suddenly why she had been feeling so tired and emotional, so irritable and needy. She turned, her eyes searching for Scorpius. She found him sitting at the small table, his wand held to his temple as he siphoned off his thoughts. She swallowed the great lump that had grown in her throat, her hands fluttering to her belly unconsciously. She gasped and he turned to look at her, his brow furrowed. It was almost as if he had predicted it and it was only then that she realised that in their drunken wisdom, they had failed to use protection.

“Rose?”

“I’m fine,” she whispered hurriedly, going into the bathroom and closing the door. She needed no doctor or healer to confirm what she knew was the truth.

She was pregnant.

She barely slept that night and she didn’t speak more than two words to Scorpius, rolling onto her side in bed and curling herself into a ball, her hand holding her lower belly, her brain screaming. Scorpius was restless throughout the night, tossing and turning, getting up several times to pace around the suite while Rose pretended to sleep. She wondered what he was thinking but didn’t ask.

“I want you to teach me how to fight,” she announced over a scant breakfast the following morning. She felt dreadful; worried for Albus, worried for herself and Scorpius and, above all that, worried about how she was going to tell her boss she was pregnant with his baby. The rational part of her brain told her not to worry, that it was simply stress, but the other part was screaming at her get to a pharmacy and buy a test. She didn’t know how she’d be able to do such a thing without Scorpius wondering where she was and she started immediately thinking up excuses to go out into the city alone.

He glanced at her curiously. “Why?”

“What do you mean why?” she sighed, pushing her plate away. “I can’t rely on my gun, Scorpuis, and you know I’d rather not have to shoot people. I don’t particularly want to reveal myself as a witch either, not in the company we’ve been keeping lately.”

“You think something is going to happen?”

“I don’t know,” she answered in a low voice. “I’ll admit that I’m afraid; terrified actually.” She paused, swallowing. “So will you teach me?”

He looked at her thoughtfully, shaking his head slightly. “You’re so skinny, Rose – you have no muscles at all. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“As if you could,” she muttered childishly, making him laugh. “I’ll be able to take you, Malfoy, by the end of this; you wait.”

He laughed again. “Alright then, as you wish.” His smile was gentle and Rose swallowed the lump in her throat. They had agreed that being lovers was not a good idea, not when they needed to keep their wits about them and stay focused. It was precisely the reason that Rose was not prepared to tell him about the baby. The last thing she needed was Scorpius getting himself killed trying to protect her.

Rose stood up and stretched and before she had a chance to do anything else Scorpius had leapt up from the table, spun her around and pushed her face-first onto the floor. She struggled automatically, lashing out at him, before she stopped, realising what was going on.

“Very funny,” she said to the lush cream rug.

He let her up, eyebrows raised. “Still want to do this?”

In answer, she grabbed his wrist, twisted his arm out and away from his body, forcing his torso around and his arm up, palm between his shoulder blades. She tugged on his hand, hearing him grunt, and let him go, standing back and waiting until he’d turned around. “I’m a little rusty,” Rose said with a shrug.

“Who taught you that?”

“James.”

He gave her a cautious look as he approached. “Anything else up your sleeve?”

“No; only the standard groin kick,” Rose replied, unable to resist grinning. “But I promise not to do that to you, however much I might want to,” she added with a bitterness he could not understand.

“Hmm I feel much safer,” Scorpius said with mild sarcasm, pulling his shirt over his head so he was naked from the waist up. Rose knew it was so she couldn’t grab his clothing and use it to assist her – James had done the same thing – but she still wished he’d stay dressed. “Alright, I want to show you something.”

For the next hour he taught her how to pull away from an attacker, how to use her fingers, hands, elbows and knees to assist an escape, and how to use her assailant’s weight against them. They worked at it until her muscles screamed and her head hurt. She was certain she’d have bruises but she didn’t care, holding her ground as Scorpius wrapped his arms around her from behind, pulling her tightly into his body. She gasped sharply, swallowing when she realised one of his hands lay beneath her belly button, cradling her womb.

“Am I hurting you?”

“No,” Rose ground out. He wasn’t physically hurting her, not in the way he thought. She couldn’t stand being so close to him, couldn’t think straight with his body pressed against hers. She bit her lip.

“Can you get away from me?” he asked softly; his arms tightened around her and she struggled, trying desperately to break free of his grip, but he held her too firmly.

“I can’t.”.

“So what else could you do if someone had you pinned like this?”

Rose held her breath, feeling faint. She could hear her heart pounding furiously in her ears, a result of physical exertion and the twisted spiral of her emotions. He repeated his question and she shook her head violently, struggling again. She needed to get away from him, needed space and when he wouldn’t let her go, she brought the heel of her foot down on his toes. He yelped and released her, and she stepped away hurriedly.

“Very good,” Scorpius commended. “That hurt.”

“Sorry,” Rose mumbled, folding her arms. She felt strangely vulnerable, exposed and it was making her edgy. She watched from the corner of her eye as he sat down and rubbed at his foot, before he stood and came towards her again. She backed away, and confusion coated his face.

“What is it?”

“I can’t do this anymore,” she whispered.

“I thought you wanted to learn,” he said. “Rose, what’s going on?”

She said nothing, just looked at him, feeling part of herself break in half. His face softened, a spasm of emotion crossing his features, showing he understood just what she was feeling. He stepped closer, hesitantly, and closer still until he was standing right in front of her. She couldn’t breathe.

The silence between them lengthened, deepened and flew into every corner of the room.

“This is hard,” he admitted eventually, his voice low and husky. She nodded, unable to speak. “I just want to kiss you, but I know I shouldn’t.”

“Then walk away,” she whispered, her throat tight.

“I don’t know if I can.”

“Scorpius, please,” she begged. “We agreed...”

He took a breath so deep she saw his ribs shake and before she could look away or say anything more, he slipped one hand behind her head, the other beneath her chin and brought her mouth up to his. She went into his arms willingly, melting against him, the heat of the day slick between them. He kissed her gently, sweetly and with intent, and she wanted to give in to it, to let her desire take hold. Scorpius broke the kiss, resting his forehead against hers, both of them breathing deeply.

“We can’t do this,” she affirmed painfully.

Very slowly, he pulled away, letting his arms fall by his sides. “If we just -”

“No, we can’t,” she said firmly. “We can’t let whatever we feel for each other get in the way.”

He sighed. “What do you feel for me, Rose?”

“I don’t know,” she answered honestly.

“Then I don’t know what you want me to do,” he began, almost angrily. “One moment, you’re acting like...”

“What? Acting like what?”

“Like you give a shit about me, for real,” he shouted suddenly, startling her.

She blinked and took a deep breath. “I do, Scorpius, but what do you want me to say? That I’m in love with you?”

“Are you?” he asked slowly, almost cautiously.

“No, I’m not. Are you...”

He shook his head.

“So what do you want from me?” Rose said hotly.

Scorpius pulled his fingers roughly through his hair, turning and beginning pace around the room. “I want...I need you to...shit, Rose. I just want to get through this and go home and then, we can talk about it, okay?”

“Okay,” she whispered. He didn’t say anymore so she went and lay down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. She could hear him moving around the suite, and she could not help but wonder how different that conversation would have been if she’d told him she thought she was pregnant. She didn’t know what sort of father he’d be, and she had no idea what sort of mother she’d be, or even if it was right to bring a child into the world in the present climate of fear and hate. She dreaded having to tell her parents: she could see the look on her mother’s face now, hear her words – “Oh Rose, how could you be so irresponsible?”

Rose sighed, rolling over onto her front. She was being dramatic, she knew that too. They may even be pleased, if Rose could show them she was happy with the prospect of being a single mother. She had no idea how to break the news to Scorpius; he’d want to do the right thing and support her, be involved with the baby, even though he wasn’t in love with her. He was that sort of man, and she supposed she should be grateful that he wasn’t going to jump on his broom and fly away into the night, never to be heard from again.

If Al’s rescue mission went awry, she wouldn’t have to worry about finding the courage to tell Scorpius anything about the baby.

They would all be dead.

For the next two days, as hard as it was, they went about life as usual; Rose worked for Cass, updating files, copying hand-drawn maps, emailing geographic co-ordinates, keeping an eye on the world media and doing odd jobs around the city. Cass sent her on an errand, to drop a message at a cafe, and Rose took the opportunity to visit a pharmacy. Sitting in the public loo with her head in her hands, she waited, the test strip resting on her knees.

She wanted to cry when those two thin blue lines appeared; she wanted her mother, more than ever before, but had to consol herself with dropping the stick on the floor and stomping on it until it was nothing but a pile of shards.

Scorpius was out with Joe, picking up supplies, and by the time she returned to the riad, he was still not back. Rose found Sophie in the cache; the girl was methodically stripping down and cleaning weapons, her hands moving expertly over the parts. She looked up as Rose came down the stairs, her pretty face lighting up.

“You don’t know how good it’s been to have a woman around here,” she said when Rose was sitting beside her, helping with the work. “Cass is alright; closest thing I have to a mother at the moment, and Jillian...but it’s not the same as having someone I can talk to. Isobelle was...”

Rose gave her a sad smile. “I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you.”

Sophie frowned. “Don’t judge my father, Rebecca. I chose this life. I could have stayed in England with family, but I wanted to be with him. It’s just been the two of us for so long, I didn’t like the idea of him being here by himself.”

“What happened to your mother?”

“Car accident; I was six. Dad never got over it – until now. This...job has given him something again.”

Rose had to bite her lip from telling the girl just how messed up that sounded. Instead, she asked Sophie how she felt about death, and she glanced across at Rose in surprise.

“You’ve been listening to Areli bang on, haven’t you?” she asked, and Rose told her what the Israeli had said to her weeks ago. “He has a way of making you think too much – ignore him, Rebecca. He likes to mess with people’s heads. But me...I don’t like it. I don’t like the killing, and I don’t think it is the answer. Cass is so gung-ho, like something out of a movie, but I think she is wrong. What happened to Isobelle was wrong, and Jill should not have had to die like that.”

Rose swallowed, forcing herseld to ask after Albus. “Sophie, the wizard we have here...what will happen to him?”

The girl shrugged. “Areli questioned him last night, and the night before...I heard him moaning about how the guy, the wizard, is tough. It seems our Grand Inquistioner has not been able to extract a suitable confession from the prisoner. They want to ship him off to god-knows-where tomorrow morning and then, I don’t know exactly.”

“Areli tortured him?” Rose asked in a horrified whisper.

“One of his many talents; it’s the real reason why he is here,” Sophie answered sadly. “He makes me sick.”

Rose wanted to ask her more but they heard Areli’s melodic voice calling out that they were back. Scorpius’ laugh floated down to where she was sitting and Rose felt her face twist. Sophie noticed.

“Is everything okay?”

“I’m just tired.” Rose handed the girl the gun she had been cleaning and made her way back into the blaring sunlight. Scorpius caught her in their customary embrace and she buried her face in his neck, her head filled with the combined scent of him, sweat and the desert. His hand absently stroked her back. She could not look at Areli. She hated to think of what he had done to Albus and she was grateful when Scorpius steered her away from the riad.

They agreed to rescue Albus in the middle of the night, when the guard at the front changed shifts. Cass, Joe and everyone would be sleeping, so it would be easy to get down to Albus’ cell. Getting him out through the front door was something they weren’t sure would be possible.

“He’ll have to apparate out,” Scorpius said, sitting down, his expression weary. On the table in front of him was a half-eaten sandwich, a cup of coffee, his wand and his gun. Rose sat opposite him, her stomach in knots.

“We have spare wands,” she reminded him and he nodded. “I’m giving him the copy of the database, as well as this,” she said, reaching into the wooden box they stored their memories in, and withdrawing a vial with her name on it. “It’s my memories of everything I have seen on the computer, and everything I have heard Maria and Cass say about the camps.”

Scorpius nodded again. “Good.” He paused, giving her a serious look. “Rose, what if he isn’t in any condition to apparate? What if he...”

She shook her head firmly. “He will be. He’d rather risk splinching himself than staying in Cass’s hell hole.”

Scorpius said nothing more and they sat and waited for the clock, Rose ignoring all his suggestions to sleep. At eleven, they began to prepare; they loaded their weapons, stashed wands on their bodies, and then siphoned off their most recent memories of Albus and where he was being held, in case something went wrong. As Rose slipped the USB stick containing the database and the vial of her memories into her pocket, Scorpius cast a patronus and rose watched as the silvery wolf streaked from the room.

“A message for the Ministry,” Scorpius explained.

Rose nodded. She felt sick – fear and adrenalin warred inside her as she realised she had never done anything like this before. She closed her eyes, recalling Albus as she had last seen him – beaten and bloody, and she swallowed, knowing she had made the right choice.

At half past eleven, Scorpius held out his hand and she took it and fifteen minutes later they climbed into a taxi. Rose twisted her neck, staring back at their motel, wondering if they would be returning. They arrived at the riad as the guard was changing; the man taking his position out the front merely nodded to them, still in a sleepy state, having just been woken. They followed the other man inside, waiting until he turned into a room, shutting the door behind him.

Heart in her throat, Rose followed Scorpius down into the weapons pit. At the bottom of the stairs, he paused and she almost ran into his back in the darkness.

“Rose,” he whispered, “The cameras.”

She glanced up at the security camera, knowing they had limited time. The cameras were checked every five minutes. “I don’t care.” She pushed past Scorpius and made her way through the dark to the little door behind the crates. It was unlocked, and it let out a low whine as she eased it open. She could hear Scorpius’ feet on the floor behind her, could hear his breathing and could hear her own thunderous heartbeat. She stopped in front of Albus’ cell, praying he was still in there and Sophie hadn’t got it wrong. Scorpius put his hand on her arm as she withdrew the spare wand.

“This will change everything,” he said in a low voice, and she nodded, quickly unlocking the door. Albus looked up, his face draining of what little colour it possessed when he saw them and realised their intent.

“Don’t be stupid,” he begged as they moved into the room. “Please.”

Rose ignored him, unlocking the chains that bound him to the wall, watching with satisfaction as they fell away. She kept her back to the camera, trying to hide her use of magic, preferring Cass to think them sympathisers, knowing she and Scorpius would both probably die for this. She swallowed her fear – she would gladly exchange her life for Albus’. Her only consolation lay in the manner of her approaching death – as a sympathiser, it would be quick, like Isobelle’s was. She had a moment of quick regret, wishing she hadn’t convinced Scorpius to help her free her cousin and wishing she wasn’t pregnant – maybe Cass would spare her until her baby was born. Rose shuddered, a grim thought crossing her mind: it would probably be better if her child died with her now that she knew the fate that awaited magical children and she had a fleeting moment where she understood what Cass had done to her baby son.

“Get out of here, while you can,” Al hissed, his voice scratchy. He coughed, and grimaced with pain. Rose helped him to stand, passing him the wand, the USB stick with the copied database and the vial containing her memories, which he immediately tried to push back into her hands.

“Take them,” she begged. “Please, Al, there isn’t much time. Get back to London and tell the Ministry everything.”

He shook his head. “And leave you two here to die?”

“We’ll manage,” Rose whispered, dread coiling deep in her stomach. “Just go.”

Heavy footsteps sounded in the distance and Scorpius turned to Al, his expression fierce. “Get out of here.”

“I can’t leave you.”

“You’re in no condition to fight. Do it, Potter,” Scorpius ordered and Rose heard the snap of the air as Albus vanished, whispering to her that he would be back with help. The door was flung open and Cass, Joe and two armed men, one of them the quiet Kimoni, rushed into the room. Rose spun around, her gun jumping from her belt to her hands. Scorpius, she noticed, had done the same. Cass and Joe stood back and the guards came towards them eagerly: hyena’s on a carcass. Their eyes shone with eager fire, their fingers on their triggers. They were smiling and it made Rose feel sick. Kimoni let his gun fall an inch, his eyes sweeping her up and down. Clearly, he didn’t consider her any sort of threat.

Rose swallowed as the big African man came closer. Still hesitant to kill, even in the face of her own death, she moved swiftly, using her gun as a hammer, knocking him off balance. Everything she had learnt in the last few days flooded her mind and she was cool, calmed, her movements fluid as she struck with hands and feet. She was unable to prevent feeling proud when he staggered to his knees but she knew she had had the advantage of surprise. He would have swatted her like a fly if he’d thought he needed to. The other man was already on the floor, out cold and Scorpius moved quickly, finishing what Rose had started.

An eerie, bloated silence filled the room. Cass held her weapon steady and nobody moved for a long minute. “It seems I was wrong, Rebecca,” she said softly, menacingly. “You do know how to handle yourself.”

Rose said nothing, just gripped her gun tighter, every sense in her body screaming and hyper alert.

Cass sighed. “So we took in a couple more sympathisers. I guess I’m to blame, too eager to move forward with everything.”

Still Rose and Scorpius remained silent, poised and prepared.

“Drop your weapons,” Joe intoned, his voice low and filled with disbelief. “Now,” he shouted when nobody moved. The click of the safety being released echoed around the small room, whispering like a living being, taunting them and Joe took a step closer. “Don’t make me kill you.”

“Alright,” Scorpius said, slowly lowering his arm. “Alright.” He bent and put his gun on the floor and Rose followed his action, not taking her eyes from Cass.

“Kick them over,” Joe ordered and they did so, Rose watching with a growing feeling of complete helplessness as her gun slid across the floor. Joe nudged them to the side with his foot but did not move to pick them up. “Was this your intent from the start?”

“Not exactly,” Rose said emotionlessly.

“Who have you been passing information too?” Cass demanded. When no one answered immediately her face hardened. “Who?”

“No one,” Scorpius said, the lie so smooth on his lips. “No one, Cass.”

She laughed bitterly. “You have got to be kidding. Do you think I believe that, Scott?” She put heavy emphasis on his name and Rose knew that their identity was now as in question as their morals. “Get over there, in the corner, both of you,” she snapped, watching as, without hesitation, they did as she ordered.

Cass stepped back, her eyes never leaving Rose’s face and she could not help but feel slightly guilty. Cass liked her, had trusted her and now, she had betrayed them. Rose shook her head a little, dispelling her remorse. If she knew who they were, Cass would not hesitate to kill them and she forced herself to remember that. Cass and Joe began a furious, whispered conversation, both keeping their eyes on their newest prisoners.

“My wand,” Scorpius mouthed, bending his head towards Rose.

She shuffled closer to him, sneaking a look at Cass and Joe, who were still arguing softly across the room. Slowly, Rose put her arms around Scorpius, burying her face in his chest. It was not hard to force her shoulders to shake and a sob to rise from her throat. She was terrified, could literally smell her own death, and feel it creeping up behind her and she tried to keep one eye on Cass. Scorpius returned her embrace, lowering his face towards her so no one would see his lips moving.

“Shield charm,” he whispered. “I have no idea if it stops bullets but we need to create confusion long enough to disapparate. There isn’t enough time to Stun them all.”

Rose reached her hand under his shirt, thankful he was against the wall, hoping he wouldn’t flinch as she pulled the tape away from his skin. Slowly, she removed each piece, until the wand was free and in her hand. She gripped it tight.

“Right,” Cass said loudly, marching over. Rose spun around, keeping the wand out of sight, noticing that Kimoni had regained consciousness. “We’re keeping you here until we can work out what to do with you.”

Scorpius smiled. “See, I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Rose pulled the wand out; she had a moment to witness the shock on Cass’s face before her shield charm sprung up between them, knocking Cass, Joe and the African off balance. Scorpius grabbed her tight and spun them around. She felt the world tighten and start to dissolve into nothing and before they vanished into the darkness, she saw Cass raise her weapon and heard again the terrible sound of a bullet being released from a chamber.



I sincerely apologise for the evil cliff hanger of doom...

28.1 edited for typos



Chapter 9: CHAPTER NINE
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AN I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been reading and reviewing this fic. I could never have predicted the reaction; it is beyond anything I could ever imagine, so thank you so very much.







CHAPTER NINE



They landed on the floor of their motel room in a heap. Scorpius gasped, releasing her, leaning forward and bracing his weight on his hands and knees as he coughed. “Shit, shit, shit,” Rose muttered, sitting back and pulling at her hair. “What do we do now?”

“Rose,” Scorpius murmured. “I don’t feel so hot.”

She clambered over to him as he sat back on the floor, immediately noticing the wound on his shoulder. “Oh god you’ve been shot!”

He groaned weakly.

“Stay still,” she ordered. “I need to look at you.”

Scorpius did as he was told, wincing as Rose pressed her fingers gently around the injury. She tore his shirt away and he hissed in a painful breath as she jerked the material against his skin. “Careful,” he whispered.

“The bullet is still in there,” she said quietly. The air was filled with the scent of fear and she shivered, unsure of what to do next. All her first aid training, muggle and magical, had flown out the window in the face of her growing panic. “We should find a hospital.”

“No; can’t you accio it out?” Scorpius asked, his voice tight and strained and she shook her head.

“It’ll tear you apart.”

“Just do something, Weasley, before I bleed to death.”

She bit her lip. “I’m going to have to do this the hard way. Once I have it out, I can fix you up with magic.”

He nodded and grit his teeth. Rose helped him sit up so she could work out which side was the best to remove the bullet; she choose the entry site, on the back of his shoulder and fetched the first aid kit from the bathroom. She took a deep breath to calm herself and forced her hands to stop trembling, to focus on her task, noticing with relief that the bullet had missed his bones. She realised with a jolt that if he had not have been standing in front of her in that horrid, dank room, that bullet would have landed between her eyes. He saved her life, without even intending to and she bit her lip, wanting to cry.

She cleaned him up and dressed the wound, helping him lie on the bed, amazed that, through the whole operation, he’d barely made a sound or moved.

“Thank you,” he whispered. His forehead when she pressed her palm to it was hot and sticky with sweat, and he was beginning to tremble.

“Sssh, you need to rest. You’re in shock; I’ll get you a potion,” she whispered back. He nodded and closed his eyes. “You saved my life,” she blurted.

He smiled knowingly. “I did?”

“Go to sleep.”

“Am I your hero?”

“Yes,” she laughed softly. She fetched a Blood-Replenishing Potion from their prepared kit, and when he refused to try and sleep, she made him swallow a Sleeping Draught, watching as his eyes slid closed instantly. She tucked a blanket around him, checked his temperature and sat on the end of the bed, listening to him snore lightly.

Rose stayed awake the remainder of the night, continually checking that the door was locked, that the windows were closed. She cast protective charms over the room. She retrieved their spare handguns from the secret compartment in their suitcase, and sat until sunrise methodically stripping down and cleaning both weapons, loading and reloading them, running over every aspect of each gun until she was satisfied they were the perfect killing machines they were meant to be.

Scorpius woke not long after dawn, groaning. His forehead was hot and Rose made him swallow some more painkillers, take another vial of Blood-Replenishing Potion, made him eat and then, she burst into noisy tears. He let her cry, stroking her hair with a soft hand, until she’d emptied herself of all emotion.

“We’re dead,” she whispered, sitting up and wiping at her face.

“Probably,” he answered grimly. “You have to get out of here.”

We have to get out of here,” she responded firmly. He shook his head.

“I can’t apparate, Rose, not in this condition,” Scorpius said calmly. “I’m too weak. And I’m certainly not fit for a fight. So you need to -”

“No.”

“Rose, please...”

“If you think I am leaving you here to die then are mistaken, Scorpius Malfoy,” she snapped, standing up and wiping furiously at her face. “Now get dressed. We’re going.”

“Where? Cass will have the street’s full of her people, looking for us.”

“We’re going home. If we can get out of Marrakech we have a flying start,” she said, quieter now. “We’ve still got our passports and enough money. We just need to make it to the airport.”

He sighed. “This is futile.”

“Just do as I say, please,” she whispered. “I’m calling us a taxi.”

As they waited for the taxi, Rose healed the bullet wound – it has stopped bleeding thanks to the Potion, but he was still weak. She made sure she had a strip of painkillers in her pocket, finding him a shirt and helping him into it. He tried to hide his pain but she saw it anyway. She stashed her gun in the waistband of her shorts, against her spine, and Scorpius did the same. Rose emptied her handbag on the bed, sorting through the contents, putting her wallet, their passports, a pocket knife and what first aid supplies she had in a small pile. The passports and some money went into her pocket; the rest into a small pouch, magically enhanced, which she tied around her middle. She slipped her wand into her pocket.

She looked around the room vaguely, noting her clothes strewn across the floor and two empty coffee cups on the table; the furnishings had lost their colour and she was viewing the world through a dulled curtain of sleeplessness and worry. She was thankful they had never revealed the exact name of their motel to Cass or any of the others, but she knew it was only a matter of time before they were discovered. The Muggle-Repelling Charm she placed on the room would have rendered them invisible throughout the night, but once they stepped out the door, the charm would fail to protect them. Disillusionment was out of the question also – they would need to be visible to get to the airport.

Scorpius was folding maps and other documents, which he handed to her to add to her pouch. He took out the box of vials containing their memories.

“I don’t suppose these will mean anything to anyone other than a wizard but-”

“Destroy them,” Rose nodded. “Just in case.”

He sorted through them, holding out the most important ones for her to add to the pouch and then, slowly, he opened the lid of each vial and they stood back, watching as their memories drifted away like smoke on the breeze. A knock at the door made Rose jump, and then a voice was calling that their taxi had arrived.

As she reached for the door, Scorpius slipped an arm around her middle and pulled her against his chest. He cupped her chin with his spare hand and kissed her. “In case we die,” he whispered, “I want you to know I don’t regret anything.”

Rose took a deep breath. “Me either. Let’s go.”

The taxi was parked outside the motel, its engine still purring, and Rose climbed quickly into the back after Scorpius. “The airport,” she told the driver, tossing some money at him. Their eyes met in the rear vision mirror and she stifled a gasp, but before she could do anything more, he had locked the doors and pulled the vehicle quickly away from the motel.

Scorpius had noticed their driver as well. “Areli, let us go.”

“Please,” Rose added. The Israeli shook his head, his black eyes dancing as he swung the taxi around a sharp bend. The ancient architecture of the Medina rushed past as Rose threw a terrified glance out the window.

“No can do, Rebecca my sweet,” Areli said in his beautiful accent. “Cass wants you and so Cass shall have you. If I didn’t find you, it would have been one of the others. You shall not be leaving this city tonight.”

“Please,” Rose said again, her voice breaking at the end. She turned and lashed out at the window, grabbed the door handle, rattled it, shook it until Scorpius put his arms around her and pulled her back against him.

“Be ready to run,” he whispered and Rose sobbed, not knowing whether her hysteria was real or imagined. She felt out of her body, exhausted, running on adrenalin and nothing more. She needed sleep, and she was hungry and worn out by worry and her emotions. She felt Scorpius slide the wand from her pocket and she tensed, understanding now what he meant to do. In one swift motion, he unlocked the doors, and before Areli realised what was happening, Rose flung open her door.

The taxi careened wildly through the dark street as Areli tried to hold the wheel and reach for his weapon at the same time; the road loomed up to meet them and Scorpius gave her a solid push, and she was falling. Rose tucked her head against her chest, pulled her arms in and rolled, hitting the ground hard and feeling a rib bend. Scorpius thumped against the road a few metres from her, and Rose pushed herself upright, wincing at the sharp pain that laced through her ankle. She flexed and rolled her foot, testing it, before racing towards Scorpius and hauling him to his feet. The taxi had stopped, and Rose nearly screamed as the driver’s side door opened and the tall, sinewy shape of the Mossad agent stepped into the night. A light switched on in an upstairs window, and without waiting another second, they turned and ran, throwing themselves into the nearest alley.

She didn’t know which way they were going, or where. They just wanted to put as much distance between Areli and themselves as was possible. Rose ran until her eyes streamed and her sides split apart, the stitch racing ahead of her, burning into her lungs and throat. When she faltered, Scorpius grabbed her hand, half-dragging her.

As they moved quickly through the darkened streets, empty in the dead of night except for a few stray cats, they approached the vast open space of the Djemaa El-Fna, and paused. Scorpius pulled her into the shadows where they caught their breath.

“Are you alright?” he asked her between gasps and she nodded. “I’m sorry, I panicked. I should have Stunned him, or Imperiused him, or something. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Its okay – I think I’ve been panicking since Isobelle was shot.”

Rose slipped her hand in his and they skirted the edge of the market place, eyes darting into shadows, senses on hyper alert. The city was quiet around them, ominous, causing Rose to shiver with an unbridled sense of anticipation. Something was watching them, she could feel it, and she gripped Scorpius’ hand tighter.

“Are you okay?”

“Just keep moving,” she whispered. Scorpius pulled her into a narrow side street, dodging a pile of boxes, and Rose felt her heart stop as something swung at them from the darkness. She ducked instinctively, and Scorpius let go of her hand as he was grabbed around the middle and tackled to the ground. Rose reached for the gun at her back but it was kicked from her hands before she realised what was happening and she had no idea where her wand had gone.

Cass stepped into the meagre light. She was smiling her delicious tiger smile, and Rose swallowed, terrified of the glint in the other woman’s eye. In her peripheral vision she watched as Scorpius landed a blow on Joe’s jaw, the older man’s head snapping back to hit the brickwork behind him. A third person slipped from the darkness and Rose gave a little cry as Scorpius was knocked to the ground.

“Give up,” Cass ordered, and Rose shook her head, her eyes moving from where Scorpius lay to Cass and her predatory expression. “Do it, or he’s dead.” She nodded, and Joe aimed his gun at Scorpius’ head.

“Alright,” Rose whispered, relaxing the fighting stance she didn’t even realise she had taken. Without another word, or any warning, Cass lifted her fist and Rose felt the world collapse.

She woke with a pounding head; her face hurt, her jaw felt like it had been broken and she had a split lip. She was alone in a room much like the one they had found Al in: possibly the same room.

She sat up, wincing at the pain that bit into her shoulder; an injury from the tumble out of the taxi. She put her hands over her stomach, biting her lip and hoping that the baby was okay. She took comfort in the fact that she wasn’t in any pain in that area of her body and turned her attention to her shoulder. Reaching up to rub it, Rose froze, listening to the footsteps outside the closed and bolted door. She heard muffled voices and the door was thrown open. One of the Africans, a tall, dark man with hard eyes, advanced into the room, a rifle in his large hands. It was trained on her, and Rose sat very still, watching him closely. Another man came in, a body slung over his shoulder.

Rose did not move as Scorpius was dropped to the ground beside her, although she wanted to fly at the men and tear their eyes out. They backed slowly towards the door, eyeing her with extreme distaste and she ignored them, turning to Scorpius. She gasped at the sight of him, spinning around and staring at the guards in mortification.

“What did you do to him?” she whispered. They only laughed and shut the door.

Scorpius groaned. His face was a mess and his shirt was torn and there were cuts and bruises on his torso and arms. Rose ran her hands over his body gently, checking for broken bones and other injuries, finding nothing obvious. She shed her light blouse and ripped it up, tending his wounds as best she could, shivering slightly in her singlet.

“Rose...”

“I’m here,” she whispered, trying to keep the fear out of her voice.

“Areli...”

She choked back a sob. “Don’t talk.”

He nodded slightly but did not open his eyes. Rose lifted his head into her lap, sitting herself back against the cool of the wall, her fingers lightly stroking his hair back from his forehead. Scorpius was silent and she watched the rise and fall of his chest as he slept.

Rose wasn’t sure how long she had sat pressed against the wall; time had lost meaning, had ceased to exist and all that floated through that terrible space was a foreboding sense of doom. Scorpius woke with a groan, attempting to sit up and Rose put her hands on his shoulders, steadying him.

He shook his head miserably. “I couldn’t help it. I’m sorry.”

“They’re barbarians, Scorpius.”

“They know who we are, Rose,” he said flatly, and she swallowed the fresh dread that flooded her stomach. “I told him everything. I had no choice; he threatened to kill you, kill me, our families...”

Rose lent down and kissed his forehead. “It doesn’t matter now,” she whispered.

The door was flung open and Rose heard Cass’s sneering voice. “Isn’t this touching? How’s the honeymoon working out for you? Have you taken lots of pictures to show Hermione and Ron?”

“We’re not married,” Rose answered, glancing up as Cass entered the room, her weapon pointed at them. Fear coiled tight in Rose’s veins as her parent’s names rolled off Cass’s tongue.

“No, that’s right, you’re not. I can’t believe I trusted you,” Cass said after a long moment of simply looking at them. “I let you know our plans, shared things with you and all that time, you were...” she shook her head.

“Doesn’t that tell you something though?” Rose argued gently. “About us? About how we’re no different from you; we’re all people, Cass, human beings.”

“You are not human!” the other woman screamed with such fury Rose was certain she would kill them then and there. “You are a filthy abomination. You shouldn’t exist!”

“But we do,” Scorpius said, sitting up before Rose could stop him. “You know this is pointless, Cass.”

She laughed. “You’re not so tough, wizard, not without this anyway.” In her spare hand, she held Scorpius’ wand. She twirled it between her fingers, watching it with a sick fascination, before she smiled, turning and smashing the wand against the wall, where it snapped in half.

“Put away your toys and say that,” Scorpius snarled, his eyes moving from the remains of his wand to Cass. “I don’t usually hit women, but for you, Cass, I’d make an exception.”

“Shut up,” she snapped, striding into the room. She struck him and pressed the nose of the gun against his temple. “I should just kill you right now and be done with it, Scorpius Malfoy.”

“So you know who we are,” Rose said quickly, trying to stall her, to distract her. “Now what? Are you going to ransom us?”

Cass shrugged. “It’s a possibility, for you especially, Rose. Considering who your parents are...war heroes, the wizard darlings...it shouldn’t be hard to get what I want.”

“And what do you want?”

“Control,” Cass laughed. “I want all filthy wizards labelled. I want to know who you are, where you are, I want you rounded up, locked up. I want you sterilised, so you cannot pollute the world. I want you to pay for what you have done.”

“What we have done?” Scorpius repeated in disbelief. “And what would that be?”

Cass ignored him. “Perhaps I shall just give you to Maria, as gifts. You,” she said, running her fingers through Scorpius’ hair almost playfully, “will make her very happy, I think. She’s not had a Pure Blood wizard to play with yet. Maybe you’re the missing link.”

“Happy to be of service,” Scorpius said waspishly. “Would you like your pound of flesh now, or later?”

“Cute. What’s next? Dante?”

“I don’t believe in Hell.”

“You will.” Cass smiled and shut the door on them.

The night was long and chilled. Rose could not sleep, and Scorpius spent what seemed like hours pacing the small cell until she told him to sit down. They heard the call to prayer some hours later, and knew that it was just after dawn. The bells rang through the city, haunting and sombre, and to Rose, they were a death toll, a dirge, singing for her and Scorpius and all the others who had been killed simply for being what they were.

Some moments later, after the last bell had died away, the door swung open and Sophie entered the room. Rose sat up, startled by the girl’s appearance, a strange and sudden hope swelling inside her. One look at Sophie’s face, however, quickly squashed the feeling. Sophie said nothing, just stared at them, until she sighed in disappointment.

“I’m sorry I had to lie to you,” Rose said softly.

“I can see why you did it,” Sophie replied slowly, “but I cannot forgive you for it.”

“Sophie,” Scorpius began, his voice low and rough. “You know this is wrong.”

The girl shrugged. “Maybe, but I believe what my father believes: you shouldn’t exist. But, unlike my father, I don’t think killing you is the answer. You are here, you’re in the world and yes, something needs to be done but genocide is not the way.”

Rose waited, saying nothing, knowing Sophie had not finished. The girl sighed again, leaning casually against the wall. She was armed, Rose noticed, and once again, it saddened her that a child felt the need to carry a weapon.

“I have tried to talk to my father about you,” Sophie said matter-of-factly. “He won’t budge and you know what? I won’t push him.”

Rose nodded. “I understand, I do,” she said gently.

Sophie shrugged. “I came to say goodbye,” she said. “I doubt I will see you again.”

Without another word, she left, and four heavily armed men stormed into the room. Cass followed them in, Joe close on her heels. His eyes trailed after his daughter, his shoulders tense, before he turned his attention to his prisoners.

“Morning,” Cass sang. “Nice day for a crucifixion, wouldn’t you say?”

Rose felt her stomach turn over. Her eyes found Joe, who held his gun between his strong hands. He would not look at her, casting his eyes to the floor instead.

“Your parents will receive a ransom note soon,” Cass informed Rose.

“They won’t do what you want.”

“Oh I think they will.” She nodded, and the mercenaries edged further into the room. They hauled Scorpius and Rose upright and frog-marched them out of the room. In the street outside Cass’s riad, the sun was blazing and a truck with a covered canopy was waiting, its engine purring contentedly.

Cass gave the signal and Rose and Scorpius were lifted and tossed into the back like sacks of grain. Rose didn’t try to resist. She lay face down, listening as the door to the cage was bolted and locked, and the canvas flap pulled down and secured. Scorpius reached for her, pulling her into his arms. The space was too small to stand in, so they shuffled back until he was able to rest against the rear window of the truck.

As the vehicle pulled away, tyres crunching over gravel, Rose closed her eyes and rested her head against Scorpius’ chest, trying to ignore the animal smell that rose around her body. She figured the truck was usually used for transporting beasts; pigs or goats perhaps. This time, it was moving a different sort of animal and she wondered if she and Scorpius were being given the honour of being the first such passengers, or if many others had come before them.

Rose slept on and off throughout the heat of the day, waking many hours later, and all around her was darkness: night had fallen, and with it came a terrible rush of fear. There was no sound other than the engine and Scorpius’ deep breathing. It was sweltering in the truck; sweat dripped down her spine and beaded her forehead, pooled behind her knees and in her palms. Her cheek where it rested on Scorpius’ chest was slick with moisture and she chocked back a sob, pulling air deep into her lungs.

“Rose?”

“I’m okay,” she whispered, wiping at her face. She was dreadfully thirsty.

“I have no idea where we are,” he whispered back, “We’ve not stopped since we left Marrakech.”

“Al will come; the Ministry will come,” Rose said softly, her voice large in the musty dark. Scorpius said nothing so she twisted in his arms and grabbed the front of his shirt. “He will come. He has my memories; when we don’t report to the Ministry, when no one hears from us, they will know something has gone wrong. They will come looking for us.”

“Rose, we don’t know where the camp is,” Scorpius answered, his voice strained.

“Someone will work it out,” she said, feeling desperation begin to creep into her voice.

“I hope so.”

They clung to each other, waiting, breathing out their fear. The truck did not stop, driving on through the night, drawing them inexorably closer to their destination. They were let out of the truck the following day to go to the bathroom, when the sun was directly overhead, scorching their eyes. Rose stared around her in dismay – there was nothing, no landmark, no sign of civilisation. She had no idea where they were, or how far they had travelled. One of the mercenaries shoved the tip of his rifle into her lower back.

“Move,” he ordered her in his musical voice but before she could take a step and crawl back into the semi-darkness of their temporary prison, one of the other men, older and harder than the rest, blocked her path.

“She’s pretty, for a witch,” he intoned and Rose swallowed, a shiver running the length of her body, like an electric current. “Look at that hair, like fire, and that skin. Under the dirt I bet it is just like cream.” He reached out and touched her cheek and Rose recoiled like an unbroken horse. The man laughed, his eyes combing over her and Rose held his gaze defiantly.

Scorpius called her name, his voice desperate and pained. In her peripheral vision, Rose watched him struggle, watched him kick out at the nearest guard and get hit over the head with the butt of the rifle. He was shoved into the truck, still struggling and they locked him in. She closed her eyes, praying that whatever they did to her, it would not harm her baby.

“What do you think you are doing?”

Rose opened her eyes, watching as a tall man in military fatigues appeared from the side of the truck. His eyes assessed the situation critically and his face hardened. “You are not to touch the prisoner: Cass’s orders. Now move!”

The men slunk away to take their varying positions – some clung to the side of the truck, standing on the wide board that ran the perimeter of the tray.

“Thank you,” Rose whispered to the man who had saved her. He unlocked the cage and indicated she get in.

“I did not do it for you,” he said in his heavy Arab accent. “I did it for my men. Allah would not permit them to live if it was known they had consorted with a devil.” He pushed her in the last few steps and shut the darkness on her once again.

“Rose, are you hurt?”

“I’m fine. I’m grateful and everything but will you stop trying to rescue me?”

“What sort of man would I be if I didn’t at least try?” he asked, making her smile sadly. It was lighter in the truck now with the sun directly overhead; Rose could see a fresh cut on his cheek. She dabbed at it with the edge of his shirt, checking on his other wounds at the same time, knowing there was nothing she could do for him if they were infected. Cass had taken her pouch, their ID and their weapons. They had nothing but their clothes.

“Where do you suppose we are?” she asked when she had finished, sitting back on her heels.

He shrugged and pushed the hair from his face. “I have no idea. I can’t even tell which direction we’ve been travelling in.”

“East,” Rose said automatically. “Or south east – it’s the only option. North or west would have put us in the ocean.”

Scorpius closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the bars. Rose sat opposite him, mirroring his pose. The rattle and shake of the truck became an almost gentle rhythm, accompanied by the rock and sway as the vehicle ploughed on over uneven roads. They stopped again, but it was clear they would not be allowed out.

“Hey,” Scorpius shouted. “Can we get some water?” The men outside ignored him. He indicated Rose should move and she scuttled to the other side of the tray as he crept forward, resting his weight on his hands and leaning back. He drew his knees up and kicked against the bars, again and again, until the tip of a rifle emerged through a slit in the canvas and he drew back hurriedly.

“Shut up that noise, boy, or I’ll shut you up.”

“We’ll be dead before we get there,” Scorpius yelled.

“Fine by me,” the mercenary shouted back, laughing.

“Maybe,” Scorpius replied, his voice lower now. “But I don’t think Cass would be too pleased, would she? She wants us alive.”

Rose heard a furious discussion between the men outside and eventually, the gate was unlocked and a bottle of water tossed in. It was mildly warm and tasted like dirt but Rose did not care. She drank deep and passed Scorpius the bottle. “Do you think it would be going too far to ask for something to eat?” he asked.

“I think so.” She sat beside him and he lifted her hand, cradling it between his.

“I’m sorry, Rose. This is my fault; we’re going to die somewhere in the middle of Africa and it’s my fault.”

“No,” she shook her head as the truck started up and slowly rumbled away. “I need to tell you something, now, while I have the chance.” She looked at their joined hands and took a deep breath. “Scorpius, I’m pregnant.”

“Mine?”

“Yes,” she breathed, not at all offended by the question, and when he didn’t speak for several excruciating minutes, she glanced at his face, not knowing what to expect. He was staring straight ahead, eyes wide and mouth slightly open. As Rose watched, his eyes filled with tears and he blinked furiously, shaking his head. She bit her lip, reaching up to wipe away the water that slid down his cheek.

His eyes found her face then and she smiled hesitantly, but he did not. His expression was fierce, dangerous. “Don’t let them find out, Rose. Maria mustn’t find out. They can do what they bloody well like to me but if they touch you,” he paused, swallowing, “I will kill them.”

“Please don’t do anything stupid,” she begged him, gripping his chin.

Very slowly, he reached over and placed his hand on her abdomen, just below her belly button. “It doesn’t matter what I do now,” he said so low she had to strain to hear it. “We’re all going to die here, eventually.”

“Albus will come,” Rose said again, putting her hand over his as he cradled her still-flat belly. “He will find us.”



Okay so a lot went on in that chapter. I hope it didn’t drag anywhere and each event moved into the next okay. Reviews are love

23.4: edited chapter image added

Chapter 10: CHAPTER TEN
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CHAPTER TEN


They travelled through the night and into the following day, which quickly turned into night, with only one break. No drink or a single scrap of food was offered. Rose had said nothing more about the baby and Scorpius had not mentioned it but he stayed close to her, and some part of him was always touching her. Rose slept with her head in his lap and his fingers in her hair. She guessed it was early morning when the truck stopped for what she assumed was a bathroom break. Groggy, she sat up slowly.

“Where...”

“I’ll have a look,” he whispered, creeping to the side of the cage and peering through the small gap in the canvas flap. He turned back to her, his face creased. “They’ve changed drivers. We just passed into Cameroon, Rose; I saw a sign.”

Rose frowned. “We’ve crossed three countries,” she said in wonder, shaking her head and then, she smiled. Scorpius looked at her like she was crazy. “Scorpius, the heart of darkness,” she breathed excitedly. “’They had behind them, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares’.”

He frowned. “The heart of darkness...”

“It was on those reports, yes,” Rose nodded. “I think it was a reference to The Congo, based off a book written in the 1800’s. That has to be where we are going.”

“So Cass likes classic literature, so what,” Scorpius said, not understanding her excitement.

“So does Albus. Heart of Darkness is one of his favourites,” she said, her smile widening. “He will work it out, I’m sure, and he will come.”

“I hope he’s as smart as you think he is,” Scorpius said, settling back beside her. “And I hope his timing isn’t off.”

They passed into The Congo the following evening; rain dripped lightly onto the canvas roof and it was so humid in their temporary prison Rose was finding it hard to breathe. She was tired, hungry and filled with worry. They were given water, and someone tossed a couple of pieces of over-ripe fruit into the back, which they ate without thought. To Rose, it was the best banana she had ever tasted.

She slept again, a half-sleep, with her head on Scorpius’ thigh. When the truck rolled to a stop suddenly, she was jerked into full consciousness, sitting up quickly. Scorpius clapped his hand over her mouth, rendering her mute and she froze as she heard unfamiliar voices. There were sounds of a scuffle and Rose jumped when a rifle was discharged. She heard the unmistakable sound of a fist hitting flesh and suddenly, the canvas flap was thrown open, the light that flooded in watery and green.

“Rose? Is that you?”

She knew that voice and as the cage was broken open she scrambled forward on hands and knees, throwing herself out of the darkness and into her cousin’s arms, laughing and crying at the same time. “I told you, I told you,” she kept saying to Scorpius, clinging tightly to Albus. He released her, looked her up and down and, satisfied there was no life threatening injuries, turned his attention to Scorpius.

“Did you doubt me, Malfoy?”

Scorpius grinned, rubbing at his face. “You know I’m a pessimist, Potter.”

“You look like death but I am so glad to see you alive, both of you,” Albus stated, throwing his arms around his friend. Rose glanced around as she accepted a mug of water from someone. There were five others with her cousin and she knew not all were wizards. Two carried rifles, the other three, wands and Cass’s hired thugs were out cold, sprawled face down in the mud.

“How did you find us?” Scorpius asked.

“‘The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness’,” Albus answered, glancing at Rose. She shivered at the words, at the way he spoke them, with obvious relish. She had found that book disturbing.

“But how? We’re in the middle of nowhere,” Rose pressed.

Her cousin grinned. “Once I got away, I had people looking out for you, contacts I had made in Tangier. There are more sympathisers than Cass could ever guess. A network exists here in Africa to rival hers.”

Rose smiled, and then grabbed at his arm. “Albus, did my parents receive a ransom note? From Cass?”

He shook his head. “No.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “I guess she meant to just kill us after all.”

“Alright, here’s what we do,” Al was saying when they were sitting beneath the shelter of some trees. It had begun to rain lightly again, and the mist that had arrived with the rain clung to their hair and faces, seeping slowly through their clothes. Rose smiled; the green, equatorial world they found themselves in was a nice change from the heat and wind of the desert. The mercenaries had all been bound tight with magical rope and Rose watched absently as some of Al’s men moved them off the road and under the trees. Albus quickly introduced the people he had brought, and handed out food and more water. “We get you two out of here-”

“No,” Rose interjected. “We have to show up. If we don’t, Cass will know something went wrong. She’ll have them all killed; the others in the camp. She’d rather that than see her little empire start to crumble.”

“Rose is right,” Scorpius said. “We need to arrive, as we were,” he added, refusing the cloth he’d been handed to wash his face and hands with; he’d consented to having his wounds healed and sat still as Sean, a tall, thin wizard with olive skin and dark hair, repaired his damaged flesh. “But this time, we’ll have an escort of our choosing.”

Al ordered his men to strip the guards. “Get everything off them – weapons, radios...leave them nothing. So,” he said, turning to Rose and Scorpius. “Where is this place?”

“We don’t know,” Rose answered quietly.

“Right,” Al frowned, chewing his lip. His eyes brightened and he moved to the man dragged from the driver’s seat. The truck door was open and he peered inside a moment before bending to the African on the ground, Renervating him and imposing a swift Imperius curse. “You will drive us to the camp,” he told the man, “Just as Cass ordered.”

The man nodded and climbed to his feet, lifting his hefty frame back into the truck. Al and his men quickly shed their clothes, pulling on the mismatched military and desert style clothing of the mercenaries.

“How many prisoners have they got out here?” One of the muggles, a thickset man with a deep, rumbling voice, asked.

“At last count, there were at least fifty people,” Rose answered. “Any children over four will have been taken to one of their nursery schools, and I have no idea where they are.”

Albus nodded. “We will deal with that later. Malfoy, do you mind if I take this?”

Rose blinked, confused, until she remembered that Al and Scorpius shared rank. Scorpius made a consenting gesture, and Al continued.

“Okay, when we get there, Rose and Scorpius will be taken inside. Once in, I want you two to alert as many of the prisoners as possible that we are here. I want them ready; we will have to rely on their help and this could end up a fist fight. Rose, it will be up to you to -”

“She’s not fighting,” Scorpius said suddenly.

“What?” Rose practically shouted, climbing to her feet and almost slipping over in the mud. “Of course I am. I am sick of being afraid – the whole time we have been here I have been terrified, Scorpius. I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”

He shook his head, his face and eyes serious. “I understand that, I do, but I won’t have you in danger.”

“You have got to be kidding,” Rose said in disbelief. “I will not stay behind and cower in the shadows like a little girl! I want in this fight!”

“Weasley,” Scorpius barked, sounding more like the man she knew from London. “You will do as I say.”

“Is that an order, Sir?” Rose spat, pointing at him angrily. “Going to lock me up if I refuse?”

She watched as his expression became one of sheer frustration. He stood up, crossed the space between them and grabbed her upper arms, shaking her slightly. “You’re carrying my child!” he yelled, his voice sinking into the jungle around them, startling some birds. “Forgive me if I would like you to stay alive!”

“I’m not sick,” Rose shouted in reply, pushing him away. “I can do this!”

“Rose, please,” he begged painfully, his hands moving to cup her face. “For once, do as I ask.”

Albus cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Um, Rose...”

She turned on him, forgetting rank and protocol. “Don’t you dare tell me what to do, Albus Potter!”

Rose was aware his team were watching them, some wearing little smirks, and one man was laughing openly at the unfolding soap-opera. Albus shook his head, backing away from her anger. “You’re pregnant?”

“Got a problem with that?”

“No, no,” Al breathed, rubbing at his cheek. “I won’t ask and please, spare me the details, but, Malfoy, mate, we do need her.”

Scorpius growled, giving Al a traitorous glare. “If she gets hurt...”

Rose softened. “I won’t, I promise. There’s a woman, Maria. Leave her to me.”

“The scientist,” Albus spat, proving he had read everything Rose had given him. “Is she dangerous?”

“Probably more than anyone else there,” Scorpius said darkly. “But she won’t be armed. She’ll have a guard and Rose can easily deal with him.”

They drove east, passing through dense grasslands, the rain constant and never-ending. They followed the steady flowing Congo River, the truck winding along soggy paths and treacherous terrain. Rose and Scorpius sat in the back, maintaining their prisoner status, and she studied the shifting scenery as they moved slowly through the landscape: the way the grasslands stretched as far as she could see; the mist that rose from the surface of the river, dancing lightly as it spiralled into the air; and the mountains in the distance, mere specks against a horizon streaked with grey and green. The rhythmic rocking and swaying of the truck reminded her of being on board a boat, and as she watched the river snaking alongside them, it was easy to imagine they were indeed ship bound.

The Imperiused driver took them further east, leaving the river behind and heading closer to the mountains. They passed through villages of mismatched colours and stopped for food and water on the outskirts of one, pulling the truck off the muddy road and into the softness of the jungle. Rose ate hungrily; the life growing inside her needed food and so she ate only for that, not for herself. She found she had no appetite, her stomach in knots. The plan was relatively flawless – no one was expecting the truck to arrive in the hands of the enemy but things could still go wrong. Rose had a stash of spare wands concealed in a fresh magical pouch around her middle; Scorpius had been given one of the same.

She didn’t talk to Scorpius much at all. Now that things had changed, that their fate had changed, there seemed little to say to him that wasn’t about the mission. She could feel Albus watching her, sense the worry in his gaze and more often than not, he was watching Scorpius too. She wondered did he expect them to declare their love for one another, falling to their knees in the African mud. Al had always had a touch of the romantic inside him.

Rose swallowed the remains of her lunch and moved back to the truck, getting ready to climb in. She paused, turning and letting her eyes swing wide across her surroundings. It was surreal. They had come so far – the Rwandan border was close, and they were preparing to enter the forest. Here, in the evolutionary home of mankind, they were preparing to walk willingly into a death camp, and she wondered if Cass had chosen the Rift Valley purely for its convenience, or whether she was making a grand statement.

She felt Scorpius come up behind her, felt him hesitate, before he moved to her side, looking across the panoramic landscape much as she was. “What are you thinking?” he asked her quietly. She glanced at him; in the subaqueous world of The Congo, his skin and hair glowed, and in the drowned light, Rose could see every cut and scrape on his face, every bruise and smudge of blood. She reached up and touched his face absent-mindedly, and he smiled slightly. “I look terrible, I bet.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” she answered gently, feeling oddly dazed by him. “You look like a warrior.”

He blushed uncharacteristically and turned his eyes away, gesturing to the world around them. “It’s strangely beautiful here, considering.”

“Yes,” Rose agreed. It began to rain again, heavier this time, droplets catching on their hair and lashes, sinking deep into their skin. She watched the rain smash into the already sodden earth, the drops unfurling instantly into little rivulets, flowing around her feet. She shook her hair, wiped the water from her face and climbed into the truck.

They moved further into the wilderness, the truck rumbling gently beneath them. The ground was wet, the tyres slipping and sliding out from under them on occasions, but the driver manoeuvred the vehicle with expert precision. It was late in the day when the truck rolled to a stop, the engine purring contentedly, waiting, as expectant as its passengers.

Albus threw open the canvas flaps suddenly, startling Rose. “Let’s do this,” he said in a low voice, and Rose felt the pit of her stomach turn over. She nodded, and Al turned around, shouting at the man guarding a twisted congregation of wire and wood that served as a gate. “Open up; two more.”

The man nodded, slinging his rifle over his shoulder as he swung open the gate. The driver backed the truck proficiently into the camp, and the gate swung closed behind him. Rose and Scorpius shared a glance before Sean opened their cage.

“Out,” he ordered gruffly, lifting his rifle and pointing it at them. Carefully, Rose climbed from the truck, Scorpius following her. She blinked the rain from her lashes and licked her lips, her feet moving slowly over the muddy ground. Through the rain, the first of the buildings came into view. No more than shabby huts, their roofs were suffering under the weight of the water, which poured over their lips and onto the ground below. As they were led through the camp, people emerged from the huts and Rose glanced at them, trying not to think about what they had been through. There would be time to grieve, to mourn for her people, later. She needed to remain focused.

They were told to halt, and Scorpius was ordered in one direction, Rose in the other. She went, turning her back on him, her heart in her throat. She was terrified she would never see him again, though every ounce of her common sense told her not to be ridiculous – they were here for liberation, not liquidation, and once Al gave the signal, everything would run like clockwork.

Rose was taken to the women’s quarters, a collection of five huts on the far side of the camp. There, her guard simply left her and marched off. Slowly, the witches emerged, to see who else had come to share their fate. They were thin, starved creatures and Rose had to stamp down on her fury when she noticed one held a mewling infant in her arms. Feeling miserable, Rose allowed them to lead her inside one of the huts, which had no furniture and only woven mats to sleep on. The floor of the hut was woven reed, and was soaked through.

“Where did they catch you?” one of the women asked in broken English. She had beautiful dark skin, her hair long and in braids. Her clothes were thin and she shivered in the damp. Rose swallowed, looking around, noticing the utter despair in the eyes that looked back at her. After checking there was no guard hovering outside the hut, she took a deep breath.

“I’m here to rescue you,” she said and in a quiet voice, told them who she was and where she had come from. She outlined Albus’ plan and slowly, the feeling of desolation that had cloaked the witches like a blanket lifted. “I don’t have wands for all of you,” Rose told them, “but if you are prepared to fight...”

“I will,” the woman with the baby said and Rose shook her head.

“You need to look after that child,” she replied gently, “let us look after you.”

There were fifteen witches in the camp, and they all had horror stories to share. While waiting for Albus’ signal – a flash of red sparks in the sky – Rose passed around what wands she had with her, and sat and listened as the women spoke. They told Rose there were only seven guards in the camp, as well as the scientist, whom they called a butcher. They told Rose they had all been forced into giving blood samples, skin cell samples, and tissue samples. There had been talk, they said, about harvesting, and Rose resisted the urge to vomit, knowing just what Maria wanted that genetic material for.

“We’ve been totally defenceless without our wands,” one of the witches said, cradling her borrowed wand between her grubby hands. “Two wizards were killed for trying to rise up against them. They were hung, and we were all made to watch as an ‘example was made’ of them.”

Rose shuddered, pushing aside her anger once more, sitting down on the damp floor to wait for Albus, not caring that the cold water was slowly seeping through her pants and onto her skin. She relished it, the sudden cold, for it helped to squash the fire that threatened to explode out of her.

As night was falling, a shout was heard from the other side of the camp and Rose rushed into the open, withdrawing her wand as red sparks jumped into the darkening sky. The women all knew where the main gate was, and it was there they were to move towards, staying out of sight as much as possible. The growing dark and the constant grey of everything around them would provide the witches with some cover, and Rose hoped it was enough. It was up to Albus and the others to draw attention to the men’s huts, and allow the witches to reach the entrance undetected. They would fight from there, taking down any guards who tried to stop the men from reaching the gates. Rose watched them go, flitting away into the shadows, and went in search of Maria.

She ducked through the camp, ears and eyes screaming; there were shouts, the rapid burst of bullets and all around her, the air was filled with bright flashes of wandfire. She swallowed, slipping between two huts, preying that everyone was still alive. They expected causalities.

Rose found Maria in her laboratory; the only real building in the whole camp. She Stunned the guard without a sound, took his weapons and bound the man before she stepped quietly into the white room, hiding her wand in her pocket. Maria was standing near the window, watching calmly as the world around her collapsed. She turned, hearing Rose’s footfall on the grey linoleum.

“Rebecca,” she said.

“My name isn’t Rebecca; it’s Rose, and it’s over, Maria.”

“So Cass found you out as a sympathiser,” Maria said simply. “I had my suspicions. You were too soft.”

“I’m not a sympathiser,” Rose said, sliding the wand from her pocket slowly. She cradled it in her hands, aware Maria was watching her every move. “I’m a witch.”

“And you’ve come to kill me?” Maria guessed, showing no surprise or fear. No emotion crossed her face at all.

Rose shook her head, stepping further into the room until only a metal trolley filled with medical instruments separated her from the other woman. “We don’t want to kill anyone. We’re about preserving life, Maria, not creating death.” Unconsciously, Rose’s spare hand dropped to her belly protectively. Maria followed her movement, a small smile appearing on her face.

“Does he know? Scott? He must love you if he’s willing to let a witch bear his child.”

“Yes he knows and his name is Scorpius,” Rose answered. “And there is a chance this child will not be magical. Non-magical children can be born to two magical parents, just as a magical child can be born to two non-magical parents.”

“Two magical parents?” Maria murmured and then laughed. “You really did a brilliant job, both of you, convincing us you were human.”

“But we are human,” Rose said wearily. “Maria, you know this. All your tests, all your work, your experiments – they have shown nothing! We are biologically exactly the same as you.”

“Maybe I haven’t done the right tests yet,” Maria said simply.

Rose shook her head, her frustration growing. “Magical children have been born since the beginning of history,” she said. “They will continue to be born and there is nothing you can do about it. Who’s to say that magic is not simply another branch on the evolutionary tree?”

“It’s a genetic anomaly,” Maria stated and Rose sighed, lifting her wand. Their conversation was over. She shook her head slightly at herself, knowing she was a fool for thinking she could reason with this woman.

“You need to come with me,” she ordered quietly. Maria held her head high, folding her arms. “I won’t kill you, but I can hurt you,” Rose added. “Don’t make me. There has been enough suffering.”

The door opened suddenly and Rose tensed, relaxing when she heard her cousin’s voice. “We need to go, Rose,” Al said. “Bring the...doctor.”

Maria swept from the room proudly, the white of her lab coat stark against the dark of the camp. Al spent a moment searching for any useful information as Rose marched Maria towards the entrance, where all the guards and officials were lined up, some still unconscious and on the ground. All had been disarmed and not a single one was dead, but two were badly wounded. One of the muggle men was tending to them. Maria took her place in the line and Rose bound her hands with magical rope.

“I hope one day you will see the truth,” she said quietly to the older woman, who looked back at her with hard eyes. Rose turned away, searching for Scorpius, who she found with Sean. He was having his arm repaired and Rose rolled her eyes, going over. “Did you get shot again?”

He smiled and then winced when Sean pointed his wand at the wound. “Just a flesh wound, and I wasn’t even trying to save you.” He paused, giving her a serious look. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she said curtly. “I’m just sick of this place. I’m sick of them.”

The prisoners were marched or levitated out the gates, where they were made to turn and look back at the camp. The liberated witches and wizards stood a little way off; most were crying with exhaustion and exhilaration and were watching their jailers with a pity Rose knew she would not be feeling if she was in their situation.

“What you are about to witness is the beginning of the end,” Albus said in a clear voice. “We will find and destroy your camps, your schools and we will break down your operation. We will take back our freedom and perhaps, one day, you will look back on this time as one of the darkest times in your life.”

“We will wipe you out,” shouted one man. “Magical filth!”

“You can kill us all,” Scorpius said, his voice firm and serious. “But you will not eradicate us. It might take a hundred years or more, but magic would return to the world, and your efforts would be for nothing. We have been here, existing alongside of you since the dawn of time, and we will be here at the end.”

Rose, Scorpius and Albus, along with Sean and the other two wizards Al had brought with him, turned and lifted their wands. “Incendio,” Albus said in a clear voice.

“Incendio,” Rose echoed, hearing Scorpius’ voice chime along beside hers. In seconds, the camp was ablaze, fire creeping steadily along the roofs of the huts, the door of Maria’s lab and the dreadful hanging platform. They stood and watched as everything crumbled, consumed by the magical fire that was hungry for its own retribution. Ash floated on the air, touching gently down on faces and hair, on the grass and mud and Rose felt Scorpius slip his hand in hers, squeezing it tight.

“Now,” he said softly, “I want to go home.”



A big thanks to Jack (Inti) on TGS for giving me the perfect Conrad quote. Both quotes in this chapter are from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.






Chapter 11: CHAPTER ELEVEN
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CHAPTER ELEVEN



Albus took charge of their prisoners, immediately beginning planning their extradition to London and the Ministry cells; it had been arranged with the African Ministry before hand that all prisoners would go to the UK. Rose touched his arm, breaking his conversation with Sean and Tom, one of the muggle men.

“We’re heading back to Marrakech,” she told him. He shook his head.

“It’s too dangerous, Rose.”

“Do you want Cass and Joe or not?” she answered in a low voice. She had not discussed this with Scorpius, but she knew they could not leave without them. The thought that Cass was still out there was chilling, and Rose did not want to risk it; the woman was too dangerous and too popular. Like the Hydra of Lerna, For Humanity would only be defeated when its immortal head was severed from its body and Rose was determined to bring Cass in. “We can catch them. We’ll have the element of surprise. Now that they know what we are, there is no need to try and hide it. It won’t take long.”

“Have you told Scorpius your genius plan?” Al retorted, his tone grating.

Rose smiled wryly. “Not yet, but he’ll agree with me.”

“Rose...”

“I will see you in London, Al, I promise,” she said, leaving him to find Scorpius, who was standing with his back to what remained of the camp, looking out over the rolling green landscape. She didn’t even have to convince him; all he did was warn her to be careful before he vanished, and Rose followed, feeling the familiar sensation of apparition closing in as they jumped across the continent. She had never apparated so far before; anger gave her strength, boosted her determination and all the tension of the last few weeks had dissipated, leaving in its wake a serious calm. Their failure to think things through haunted Rose – she should never have apparated them back to their motel after freeing Albus, and they should never have waited to leave, but she knew also that if they hadn’t, one of Cass’s death camps would still be in existence.

They found Cass, Joe and four armed men in their motel room, turning the place upside down. One of the men gave a shout and what happened in the next thirty seconds showed Rose why Scorpius Malfoy really was one of the best the Ministry had to offer. He moved about the room like smoke, taking down one man with fists and feet and Stunning a second. A barrage of gunfire erupted from across the room and Rose rendered the man unconscious with one stroke of her wand as she ducked a flying fist. She Stunned her assailant and found Scorpius facing off with Joe. The big man was pale, and Rose realised he was nervous; hesitant even and it made her pause.
She waited, watching, but Joe did not fire his weapon. He was looking at Scorpius with an unreadable expression, his stance alert and tense. Scorpius stayed very still but did not lower his wand as the two men studied one another. Rose could see the undeniable hurt and betrayal on Joe’s face and something twisted deep in her stomach.

It was Cass who broke the tableau; from the corner of her eye, Rose saw her lift her gun and she disapparated, appearing right in front of the startled woman. She knocked the gun from Cass’ hands, and pointed her wand directly at her face.

Cass smiled her predatory smile. “Rose.”

Rose shivered as her voice washed over her, so silky and filled with distaste. “Scorpius?” she called, keeping her eyes on Cass.

“Under control,” he said.

“So, you escaped,” Cass said with a shrug of her skinny shoulders.

“The camp has been liberated,” Rose informed her. “And burnt to the ground. It is over, Cass.”

“You will never find the other ones,” she said calmly.

“But we will,” Scorpius said. He walked Joe across the room at wand point, gesturing for him to stand beside Cass, where he bound them with magical rope. Joe watched warily as the thick silver strands erupted from the tip of Scorpius’ wand and wrapped themselves around his wrists. “Because you are going to tell us.”

“Never,” Cass spat, and before Rose could answer her, an opalescent shape soared through the window. She recognised it, and lifted her arm, holding her forearm and wrist firm as the Patronus landed. She smiled at it, watching its shining silver head turn and survey the room.

She heard Cass hiss and heard Joe’s intake of breath as the peregrine falcon opened its mouth and spoke with Albus’ deep voice. “Are you alright? Let me know what is going on and I will be there in an instant. We have made the arrangements: the prisoners will be in London by tomorrow evening.”

“What is that thing?” Cass stammered, and Rose glanced at her in surprise as the falcon tossed its beautiful head and faded into smoke and nothing. Cass made a strange sound in the back of her throat, pushing herself against the wall. It was the first time Rose had witnessed her show fear, and she lowered her arm, a twang of sympathy breaking through her as she remembered where Cass’s hatred of magic came from.

“It’s called a Patronus,” Scorpius explained, his voice gentle. “It comes through the witch or wizard, and can be used to send a message, as you have just witnessed. It can’t hurt you,” he added.

Rose pointed her wand at the open window; a moment later, the phantom shape of her cat Patronus burst from the tip and vanished into the night. “I’ve let Al know what is going on; he’ll be here by morning. We should get some sleep.”

Throughout the night, Scorpius sat vigil, his wand never leaving his hand. Rose cast protection spells around the room once more, and Joe watched everything with a critical eye, unable to conceal the interest on his face and Rose realised he had never seen magic at work. She suddenly wanted to talk to him, to explain, to demonstrate all that was good about the wizarding world, but knew that now was not the time.

“So what are you going to do with us?” Joe asked after hours of silence.

“Take you back to London,” Scorpius replied softly. “You will be incarcerated – I’m sorry, Joe, but it has to happen. You need to be tried for your crimes.”

“And under whose brand of justice? Yours? You may as well give me back my gun so I can put myself out of my misery,” Cass spat. Rose shook her head.

“You don’t understand,” she said gently. “We’re not going to kill you, Cass.”

“So what then?”

“I don’t know yet,” Rose answered honestly. She had no idea what the Ministry planned to do with war criminals. “But we don’t kill people.”

“Why?” Joe asked, unable to hide his curiosity.

“Because that’s not what we do,” Rose answered with a patience she did not feel. “There would be no point in us killing you, or any other non-magical person we came across. You have nothing to fear from us.”

“You never had,” Scorpius said rather sadly.

Cass huffed and turned her face away and Rose sighed, falling face first onto the bed. She needed sleep but was so exhausted that it would not come, not even when Scorpius assured her he would be fine if she took a few hours to rest. No one spoke for the rest of the night, and at dawn, Albus’ patronus soared through the window and the man himself was knocking on the door ten minutes later.

With their prisoners Disillusioned, they climbed into a waiting car outside the motel. Rose cast worried glances at the space where Cass and Joe were sitting, wondering just what was going on in their heads. She heard Cass sigh, heard her mutter something to Joe but the intention was there. Rose quickly Silenced her.

“What did you do?” Joe asked, his voice floating through the air.

“It’s a silencing charm. It’s nothing major – she just cannot speak or make a sound until I let her,” Rose explained. “It won’t harm her.”

Joe surprised her by chuckling merrily, before he sighed. “So what happens now?”

“Now we fly to London,” Albus said from behind the wheel.

“What, on a magic carpet?”

Rose smiled, unable to help it. Despite everything, she still liked Joe, liked the man he was and was beginning to see that he could possibly be the key. “No, although it could be arranged, if you wish.”

“We have a plane,” Albus answered. At the airport, Rose was surprised to discover their pilot was a Muggle. He was, Albus explained, one man in the huge network of sympathisers littered throughout mainland Europe and Northern Africa. Albus had met him through Isobelle, who, he told Rose softly, had been orchestrating something much larger than he had realised.

“We’ll talk about it later,” he said quietly, noticing the look of interest in Rose’s eyes, and she nodded, realising how his voice cracked when he said Isobelle’s name. Once their passengers were loaded and the small plane had lifted into the air, Rose let her head rest against the seat and fell asleep with Scorpius’ hand in hers.

Harry Potter was waiting for them in London, a team of Aurors in tow, as they touched down at an airstrip the Ministry had comendeered from the Muggle military in the early days of the war. Stepping off the plane, Rose smiled, hit with a breath of chilled air that she wanted to open her arms and embrace. Joy bubbled up in her chest as her feet touched the tarmac – she was home, they were home, and they were all safe. They had liberated a death camp and had a string of prisoners ready for the Ministry cells.

The mission had been a success.

Her Uncle stepped forward as Cass and Joe were unloaded from the plane. His eyes narrowed and his face hardened but like the professional he was, he did not let any other emotion interfere in his role as Head of the Auror Department. Cass and Joe were taken to a waiting vehicle and Rose watched as they were bundled in and driven away. Neither had made a sound, uttered any protest or made any move to escape.

Albus shook his father’s hand before moving to the second black car waiting for them. Harry looked Rose and Scorpius up and down and smiled.

“I’m glad you are safe.”

“Thanks to Al,” Rose said, wanting suddenly to throw herself into her Uncle’s arms. She hesitated, before doing just that, laughing at his exclamation of surprise. He gave her a tight embrace, before setting her aside and turning to Scorpius.

“Another job well done, Malfoy.” He clasped Scorpius’s hand between his as Scorpius nodded. “Thank you.”

“We will get a full report on the mission to you as soon as possible, Sir,” Scorpius said and Harry smiled.

“Take a break first – have a shower, have something to eat, sleep. See your family, Scorpius. There is no rush,” Harry said gently, steering them towards the car. “Besides, I’ve had about a thousand Owls from your father since you left. You really need to tell him you’re alive.”

Rose smiled as Scorpius muttered something under his breath. “Where are mum and dad and Hugo?”

“They’ll be at Ministry,” Harry answered as she climbed into the car. The ride into London was slow and calm and Rose felt herself drifting into sleep again. Scorpius sat beside her and she wanted to touch him, but she kept her hands where they lay, in her lap. Her thigh pressed against his and she let herself be comforted by that small touch and the occasional press of his eyes on her face as the car crawled through the streets.

Cass and Joe made no comment as they entered the phone booth with their Auror guards. Joe went first, his face expressionless, and Cass followed. Rose met Cass’s eyes through the glass. They shared a look of bleak understanding, and then Cass was gone. Harry and Albus went through next, followed by the other Aurors, and finally, Rose and Scorpius. They didn’t speak as they crammed themselves into the phone booth, pressed closely against each other. Rose closed her eyes, let Scorpius do the talking, and then they were falling.

As they entered the Atrium, Rose recalled the first time she had ever been in the grand building. Then, the place was crowded, witches and wizards rushing in all directions, the floos alive and an excited buzz floating through the air. She had been awed and amazed, exhilarated at finally getting to see where her parents worked, but now, all that was gone. The Atrium was virtually deserted, and those Rose saw were not smiling. A grim determination had quickly settled over the Ministry since the conflict had begun and Rose knew it had been silly to expect anything different on her return, but a deep part of her wanted that place of her childhood: wanted the smiles and colour, the sounds and the press of bodies all around.

Cass and Joe were looking around in fear and wonder, mouths agape, eyes wide. Memos zoomed through the air, a Patronus streaked by and close to where they stood, one of the gilded fireplaces flared into life and a witch stepped out, brushing soot from her clothes. She nodded to them, face composed as she glanced at Cass and Joe, before she hurried away.

Not much had changed physically about the Atrium – the floor was still a dark timber stain, the ceiling still a glaring peacock blue and the hall still lined with fireplaces, the great fountain still standing, but the atmosphere was well and truly gone. Rose sighed, sliding her wand from her pocket and passing it to the wizard on register duty. As she was retrieving her wand, someone began clapping, and she looking around in surprise. There were at least twenty wizards and witches nearby, and every one of them was applauding loudly, the sound like thunder in Rose’s ears.

She didn’t want to hear it, turning her face away. Scorpius was looking at the floor, his lip between his teeth.

“Come on,” Harry said softly, leading the way down the small hall towards the elevators. Once in, the floor dropped away from them and they were flying into the base of the building. No one spoke. Albus was leaning casually against the wall, his eyes closed, his face tired and pained. Rose reached over and squeezed his arm; he did not open his eyes but he smiled at her touch.

At Level Nine, Harry led them past the entrance to the Department of Mysteries and down the small flight of stairs and onto Level Ten. Here were rows of dungeon like cells, and at the end of the hall, the chamber where the Wizengamot still met. Rose saw Cass shiver and she felt a stirring of sympathy in her chest – to one not accustomed to the flickering torches and stone walls, she supposed the corridor would be deeply foreboding. She let none of that sympathy show on her face though.

Rose listened as Harry explained to Cass and Joe that they would be held here indefinitely, until a decision was made about their fate. Rose watched absently as the Aurors unlocked two cells.

“You will find food and water inside,” Harry said softly. “Anything else you need, like a change of clothes or a towel, just ask the room and it will be provided.”

“Just ask the room?” Joe repeated in disbelief, and Harry nodded.

“Whatever you want will be given to you, within reason of course,” he added, eyebrows lifted. He nodded again, and the Aurors indicated the prisoners were to enter the cells. Cass went without a word, her shoulders tight and her chin held high. Joe lingered in the doorway, hesitating.

“I want to call my daughter.”

Harry shook his head slowly. “Not yet.”

“But -”

“I’m sorry, but no.”

Joe nodded in acceptance, turned his back on them and entered the cell, the door swinging closed behind him with a gentle click. Rose stood a moment, her eyes flickering between each door. No sound came from behind either one of them and she turned and began the walk back along the dark corridor, wondering which door held Maria.

Back on Level Two, Harry left them to return to his office, saying he wanted to see them in two days to discuss what they would do with their prisoners. Rose nodded, watching him go. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement had been re-designed in recent years, as its ranks swelled and space was needed. Trainee’s all bunked together in one large room, their desks in rows and separated by partitions. The hallway had been extended, and more offices added for Senior Aurors and Field Agents. Rose thought longingly of the large comfy lounge in hers and sighed.

A door opened down the hall and a body stepped out. “Hey kids.”

“James,” Rose exclaimed in surprise, rushing forward to embrace her cousin. He squeezed her tightly before releasing her and planting a kiss on her forehead.

“I’m glad you’re safe,” he said softly.

“You too. What happened in Russia?” she asked, looking at him closely. He had lost weight in his months away, and his skin was pale, his cheeks sunken. He needed a shave and his hair was longer than she had ever seen it. His eyes still shone brightly, and his smile was the same as she remembered, but something about him was changed as well. She supposed something about all of them was changed.

“We’ve found their camp,” he answered, looking over her head to see Scorpius and Albus. “In Siberia. It shouldn’t be too hard to penetrate; not too many guards, according to our recon anyway.”

“When do we leave?” Scorpius asked.

“Wait, what?” Rose said in disbelief. “Did I just hear you correctly? You want to go away again?”

He nodded quickly, and then sighed, pulling a hand through his hair, his expression switching from eagerness to pain. “Rose...”

She shook her head, not sure what she was feeling. “We can talk about it later.”

“So I take it you’re not coming then, little cousin?” James asked her. “Little brother?”

Albus nodded. “Have you run it by Dad yet?”

“No; I just got in last night. I was planning on speaking to him in the morning. If you two are interested, get here early and I can brief you before the meeting. I can’t really see him saying no, especially since your plan went off without any problems.”

“We got lucky,” Rose argued. She hated the idea of Scorpius and her cousins rushing off into danger again so soon. She wanted a moment to enjoy being alive and being with her family before they scattered all over the globe once more.

A memo zoomed into the space above their heads, fluttering like a white bird and Albus snatched it from the air. “All the prisoners have been settled and provided for,” he said. Silence draped itself around them for a moment before James sighed.

“At least you got your guys – it came right down to the wire; we almost lost a few men but in the end, our targets escaped.”

“So this mission to Siberia has a double objective then?” Scorpius asked with a small smile and James nodded.

“Don’t get yourself killed over this, James,” Rose said firmly, and he smiled and ruffled her hair like he used to when they were younger. She scowled, punched him in the arm and said she needed to go home.

“Wait, I need to see you first,” Scorpius said, catching her arm as she turned away. “We have a report to prepare.”

“Can’t that wait, Malfoy?” James asked, frowning. “She’s dead on her feet.”

Rose glanced at Scorpius’ face – his eyes flickered across her skin, his expression both stern and pleading. She sighed. “Come on, then.” Without waiting, she turned and walked away down the hall; Scorpius followed, his footfall echoing hers and she paused at the door to his office, letting him open it. Their eyes met briefly as Rose slipped inside, going to stand in the centre of the room. The door clicked closed. She sensed him behind her, but did not turn around, and moments later, he was standing in front of her, his lip between his bottom teeth.

“Scorpius, I don’t...”

He lent down and cupped her face with his strong hands. “Before you say anything, let me...”

The door opened suddenly and Rose jumped away from him as a tall, dark-haired woman swept into the room.

“Scorpius, darling,” she said, rushing across the floor on delicate feet to embrace her son. Rose stared; she had never seen Astoria Malfoy in the flesh before, and was taken aback by the older woman’s aristocratic beauty. Taller than Rose, Astoria had pale, creamy skin, high cheekbones and a pert nose. Her hair was coiled into an elaborate roll on the back of her head and her robes were perfectly tailored to her slim figure. She was examining her son with critical eyes.

“Where’s dad?”

“Your father is with the Minister; he will be here shortly. You look...”

“Like shit,” Scorpius answered, and she tutted at his language.

“Are you hurt? I can see marks on your face.”

He waved her away. “I’m okay. Sean fixed me up; really mother,” he added when she narrowed her eyes. Astoria demanded he show her his injuries.

“I’m sure Sean is a wonderful field medic, darling, but he is not a Healer,” she said.

“Neither are you.”

“No, but I am your mother, and a mother knows best,” Astoria replied sternly, and Scorpius sighed and shed his shirt. He met Rose’s glance over his mother’s head and shrugged. Rose turned towards the door as Astoria began muttering about this and that, taking out her wand. She clapped her hands, as if only just realising Rose was there, and twisted around in her sky-high heels with perfect grace.

“Rose, dear,” she said warmly and Rose blinked, not having ever been introduced to her before. “Your parents and your brother are downstairs, in the Atrium. They have only just arrived.”

“Thank you,” Rose answered politely. Astoria smiled.

“I am pleased you are home safe, both of you. Rose, you look pale; are you sick?”

I’m fine, Rose thought, just carrying your first grandchild, nothing to worry about. Instead, she nodded. “I’m just a little tired; thank you for your concern, Mrs Malfoy.”

“Rose,” Scorpius called before she opened the door. She glanced at him, waiting, but whatever he wanted to say seemed to die on his lips, and she wondered what he would have said to her before his mother walked in. He sighed. “Sleep well.”

She nodded, heart-sore, and slipped out.

Rose found her family in the Atrium, with Albus and her Aunt Ginny. She allowed herself to be embraced and petted, fussed over and stroked, forcing a smile and continually telling them she was alright, just tired and hungry.

“I want to go home,” she said softly, breaking gently out of her mother’s embrace.

“Of course, darling,” her mother replied, her hands fluttering over her daughter’s face. “I can have your room ready in an instant.”

Rose shook her head. “No, mum, I want to go to my home.”

Hermione frowned. “But, Rose, you’ve had such an ordeal. You shouldn’t be alone.”

“Alone is what I need right now. I’m sorry, mum,” Rose answered, feeling the beginning of guilt creeping over her.

“But...”

“Let her be, Hermione,” Ron said gently. “You remember what it was like. Rose will be fine. She just needs time to think, to process, isn’t that right, honey? She’ll let us know if she needs anything.”

Rose nodded, eternally grateful for her father’s interference. Her mother did not look convinced and opened her mouth to continue her persuasive speech when Albus threw an arm casually around Rose’s shoulders.

“We can’t go home yet anyway. We have to report in,” he lied, and Rose smothered a grin. Even her mother would not argue with official business. Not so Ginny Potter, however.

“How ridiculous! You just got back – you should be with your family.” Aunt Ginny’s voice rang around the Atrium, as if she expected the Minister of Magic, or perhaps her husband, to be listening and cower under her anger.

“Relax, mum, its part of the job,” Al said with a smile, releasing Rose. His eyes moved past her and back again, and she glanced over her shoulder, seeing Scorpius and his parents. Astoria was still fussing over him, smoothing her hands over his shirt and hair and he batted her away, irritated but smiling. It made Rose smile as she watched him embrace his mother and shake his father’s hand. Draco Malfoy looked across the Atrium, saw the little Weasley-Potter group and nodded his head politely.

“Come, Astoria,” he said.

“I do wish you’d come home with us, darling,” Astoria said to her son and Scorpius shook his head. He lifted his eyes, meeting Rose’s gaze and she looked away hurriedly, embarrassed for reasons she didn’t understand. She turned her attention back to her parents, aware Albus was watching her closely. Her mother was saying something about lunch and Rose nodded absently.

Hugo slipped his arm around her shoulder and rested his head against hers. “I’m glad you’re not dead, although, I had my eye on your stereo,” he whispered, making her laugh. She stood with Albus and waited while their respective families flooed home. Her cousin gave her a sideways look that Rose tried to ignore, but eventually, she sighed.

“So...Malfoy.”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now, Albus,” she said tiredly.

“Okay, but, um, I have one question,” he replied in a low voice. “Do you love him?”

Rose chewed her lip, thinking for a split second. “No. It was just something that happened.”

“But...”

“Leave it, Al,” she warned, turning towards approaching footsteps. Scorpius ran a hand through his hair and sighed. The three of them stood there, not speaking, until Albus shifted his weight from one foot to the other purposefully.

“Right then, I’m sure I have somewhere else to be.”

Scorpius blinked. “What about a drink first?”

Albus rubbed his chin, his eyes darting between Rose and Scorpius. She gave him another warning glare and he smiled. “Sure. Rose?”

She shook her head. “In case you’ve forgotten, I can’t drink alcohol anymore,” she said softly, and then sighed. “I want to see Cass. I’ll find you two in a while.”

“Rose, I don’t think that is a good idea right now,” Scorpius said.

“Maybe not, but I need to talk to her,” Rose replied, turning and walking away before either of them could persuade her otherwise. She wasn’t sure why she wanted to talk to Cass, only that she felt she needed to understand, and needed to try and help Cass understand how wrong she had been. Rose was certain the key to this whole dilemma, to ending the murders and the hatred, was education, just like Scorpius had said before Isobelle was killed. She made a brief stop at the office she shared with Alice Finnegan before continuing on.

On Level Ten, Rose chewed her lip, wondering whether it was stupid of her to expect Cass to be willing to talk. She sighed and approached the cell, flicking her wand. The door trembled, the shutter covering the small window flying free. Inside the cell, Cass sat with her back to the door, her knees tucked up under her chin. The food on the table remained untouched and it was obvious the woman hadn’t asked for any clean, or warmer, clothing.

Rose cleared her throat; Cass threw a murderous glance over her shoulder and turned away again quickly.

“I think you will find our treatment of prisoners much more dignified than yours,” Rose said softly. Cass ignored her and Rose motioned for the wizard on guard to let her into the cell. He shook his head. “She can’t hurt me.”

Cass jumped to her feet and pressed herself against the wall when Rose entered, fear and mistrust clear in her eyes as she noticed Rose’s wand. “What do you want?”

“To see if you are willing to help us.”

“Never,” Cass snapped, folding her arms.

Rose reached into her pocket and slowly drew out a vial of clear liquid, taken from the cabinet in her office. Cass’s eyes watched her every move. “This is veritaserum,” she told Cass. “It’s a truth potion.”

“A placebo; you’re just trying to scare me,” Cass said, although she didn’t seem to sure. She had seen much in the past twenty-four hours to cause her to question her own sense of reality.

“It works,” Rose answered in a quiet voice. “The question is, will you tell us what you know of your own free will or do we have to make you talk? Once this is administered, you will tell us everything. Or there are other ways, wizards who are able to read your mind, enter your memories and find out all we need to know that way. It doesn’t hurt, but it would be less invasive for you if you spoke freely.”

“And why should I tell you anything?”

Rose narrowed her eyes. “Because killing people because they are different to you is wrong, Cass, and you know it. It has to end.”

Cass said nothing and Rose sighed, pushing away her anger. It was too soon to expect anything from Cass, and she had been an idiot to think this conversation was worth anything. In a clear voice, she asked the room for a jacket and a blanket, and in moments, the items had appeared on the table against the wall. Cass stared, face pale.

“It can get cold down here at night,” Rose said. “I will see you later. Remember, if you need anything; ask the room, just like I did.” She turned back at the door. “Joe told me about your brother, Cass, and your baby,” she said sadly; Cass’s eyes grew wide and Rose thought she was beginning to tremble. “I’m sorry that you felt the need to do what you did, to your child. It didn’t have to be that way.”

Cass burst into tears. “I had no choice...”

“I really am sorry,” Rose said softly.

“I don’t want your pity, witch,” Cass spat, but there was less hatred in her tone than before. Rose sighed, and went out and the wizard on guard locked the door behind her. She knew there was nothing more she could do for Cass, not at the moment.



About 4 chapters to go guys!!

Chapter 12: CHAPTER TWELVE
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CHAPTER TWELVE





Rose found Albus in Scorpius’ office, sprawled in a chair, his hand curled around a glass of whiskey. The happy mask he had been wearing for his mother had vanished into the darkness of the room. His eyes were drawn and shadowed, his face pinched and she went and sat by him. Scorpius was sitting on the opposite side of his desk, his eyes partially closed. “I’m so sorry about Isobelle,” Rose said quietly to Albus, who nodded. “Did you love her?”

“I don’t know; maybe, I think so,” her cousin answered softly. “Were you there, when they...”

“Yes. Scorpius tried to stop them, but it all happened so fast, Al; there was nothing we could do,” Rose said, feeling her voice begin to shake as she recalled the details of that terrible night. “She was so brave.” Albus only nodded again and stood up and Rose’s heart ached for him.

“I need to sleep.” He yawned and slipped out of the room without a goodbye, leaving Rose and Scorpius alone in the sudden swelling silence.

“Are you really going to Siberia?” she asked him, looking at the floor. She chewed on her lip, waiting for him to answer.

“I don’t know,” he said finally, sighing. “I should, probably, but...” His voice trailed away and Rose held her breath, not knowing what she wanted him to say. That he wouldn’t go and do his job? That he wanted to stay home and play happy families? He’d said nothing about the baby since they’d been back in London, and she didn’t know whether to be grateful or annoyed. She didn’t know what she felt about him, about them and whatever their strange relationship was. She cared about him, she knew that, but beyond caring...Rose wasn’t sure what she wanted.

She did know that she would rather he not get himself killed; she wanted her child to have a father. She looked at him, wondering what he was thinking, and smiled tiredly. “I should go home too.”

When he didn’t stop her, didn’t call out or throw himself on the ground at her feet, when he didn’t say anything at all, Rose sighed, unable to prevent disappointment from filling her body. She reached for the door handle, hesitated, and suddenly he was there, his long, lean body blocking her exit.

Scorpius touched her face gently, fingers trailing slowly down her cheek. “Come home with me.”

“Why, Scorpius? Why should I?”

“Because I need you,” he breathed, resting his forehead against hers. “Because when I am so close to you I can forget everything, just for a moment; because you understand.”

Rose swallowed, knowing how right he was, because it was how she felt with him. “You come home with me,” she said softly, and he gave her a curious look. “I really do want to be in my own home tonight; in my bed, with my things. I need that, too.”

He smiled in understanding. “I want to go back to my place, just for a moment. To shower and change and then...”

She nodded and moved out of his arms. “Okay.”

“Rose,” he said, pulling her back to him. “I don’t know where you live.”

“Oh, right.” He released her and she found a piece of parchment and quill on his desk, scribbling down her address with a shaking hand. She realised suddenly that she had only been in Scorpius’ office a few scant times before they left for Morocco. Smiling, Rose folded the paper and handed it to him, enjoying the tingle that spread through her as his fingers brushed against hers.

“What are you smiling at?” His voice was soft and curious and she shook her head.

“It’s silly, but I was just thinking how before we left, we didn’t know each other, couldn’t stand each other and now...”

He shared her smile. “I know.”

Rose let him kiss her, feeling completely and surprisingly at ease. She hadn’t known what to expect when they returned home, and they’d only been back several hours, but somehow, she wasn’t worried anymore. He let her go, and in the hall outside she met her Uncle.

“Happy to be home, then?” Harry asked, and Rose felt a blush spread across her face.

“Yes,” she answered, letting him squeeze her arm. “What are we going to do about Cass and the others?”

Harry shook his head. “Go home, Rose. You need to rest. We can talk about it later.”

She nodded, and made her way to the Atrium, glancing around once more at the solemn entrance hall, before flooing home.

Rose’s home was a small cottage in the hills behind Hogsmeade. She could see the village from her kitchen window, and the house was surrounded by trees, well-hidden from the passing eye of both wizards and stray muggles. The cottage had two bedrooms, the smaller of which Rose used as an office. She supposed now it was to become a nursery. Feeling slightly nervous about her house and the fact she was soon to have a visitor, Rose pulled out her wand, rolled up her proverbial sleeves and started cleaning. She knew it didn’t matter, that Scorpius was not going to judge her on the state of her home; he already knew she was a slob, but she wanted the place to look tidy at least.

In the kitchen, she realised she had absolutely no food and nothing to drink. Her Owl was at her parents so she took out quill and parchment and scribbled a quick shopping list, sending it flying out the open window and down into Hogsmeade to her favourite store. Nina, the owner, was familiar with Rose’s lazy shopping methods, and twenty minutes later the floo chimed and Nina’s head appeared in the grill.

“Still alive, I see,” the old witch smiled fondly, and Rose laughed. In Nina’s hands appeared two large paper bags, which Rose took with a smile.

“Thank you, Nina. I know I still owe money on my last bill, but if you could...”

“Not a problem, Rose. It’s good to know people like you are out there keeping us safe. I am glad you’re back, my dear, and I hope everything went well?”

Rose sighed. “Nina, you know I can’t tell you anything.”

The old witch laughed. “I know, I know. I suppose I will have to wait to read about your heroics in the paper then.” She told Rose to send another message if she needed anything else and moments later, her head slipped away and the green flame in the grill died down. Taking her bags into the kitchen, Rose stocked her fridge and left the other groceries on the bench. She was on the way to the bathroom when the floo chimed again and she hurried back to the lounge to watch as Scorpius stepped into her house.

Showered, with his hair washed and pushed off his forehead, his clothing pressed and neat and his dragonhide boots back in place, he looked ridiculously alien in her cottage with its mismatched furniture and clashing colours. Rose’s mother had called her a ‘bohemian’ and rolled her eyes at her daughter’s choice in decor and Rose hadn’t cared at the time. Now, she wondered if she should have.

Scorpius stood up straight, brushed the soot from his shoulders and their eyes met. Nerves flooded Rose’s stomach. “Hi,” she breathed, fiddling with the hem of her still-dirty shirt.

“Hi. I’m sorry, am I early?” he asked.

“No.” She crossed the small lounge room and took his hand. “I got caught up.” She watched as his eyes moved around the room, taking in the pictures on the wall and the mantle, the large windows, the timber floor and the walls that needed a paint job. She swallowed, waiting. She knew where he lived although she had never been there – he had described his home in detail to her; it was a penthouse apartment with views of the Thames.

If he was unimpressed by her house, he didn’t let it show.

“How long have you lived here?” he asked with interest.

“A couple of years, give or take,” she answered. “It’s a bit messy; sorry.”

Scorpius smiled and said it didn’t matter. “Do I get a tour?”

“I really need a shower,” she said. “Feel free to show yourself around – there isn’t much to see. Help yourself to whatever is in the kitchen; not a huge selection I’m afraid.” He nodded, letting her move away. In the shower, Rose scrubbed her body, wincing at the sore spots and stayed in the water until her toes were crinkly and she knew she couldn’t put it off any longer. Wearing only her towel, she found him in her bedroom, sitting on the edge of the large and months-unmade bed.

He glanced at her and smiled. “So I see you’re just as messy at home as you were in Morocco. I was wondering if you were doing it to annoy me.” His tone was light, teasing, and she knew he was trying to relieve the tension in the air. She knew this time was not going to be some alcohol or anger fuelled shag, some moment borne from pain and fear and desperation. This was different, she could sense it, and it scared her, no matter what she tried to tell herself.

That fear melted away as he crossed the room and slowly unwound the towel, taking her hands and guiding her to the bed.

“I didn’t do it annoy you,” she whispered, staring up at him, nervousness flooding her. “I really am a slob. Mum always said I would need a maid and that I’d have to marry someone rich because there was no way she was paying to have my house cleaned.”

His eyebrows lifted and he shook his head, placing a finger against her lips. “Rose, stop talking, please. We can discuss marriage later.”

Panic replaced the nerves. “What? No, I just meant...oh, that was a joke, wasn’t it? Sorry.”

He rolled his eyes and kissed her, and when he pulled her down and planted kisses on her body, pausing to rub the flat of his hand across her lower belly, he looked up at her briefly. Rose could see the wonder in his eyes and thought that she might actually love him in that moment. She didn’t though, she knew that, and afterwards when they were lying side by side, she wanted to ask him what he felt, but she didn’t.

When she woke the following morning, the room was still dark and Scorpius was gone. Rose could smell food and her stomach growled, forcing her up and out of bed. His shirt was on the ground, so she scooped it up. It was much too big but she slipped it on, thinking it would fit perfectly in a couple of months.

She took a moment to stand in front of the large mirror above the dresser, lifting the shirt up to reveal her stomach and torso. There were bruises on her ribs, her hip and one side of her face was still sore from where Cass had hit her days ago. Slowly, Rose let her eyes wander downwards, settling on her belly. She ran her hands over it gently, smiling when she felt what she thought was a tiny swelling of her flesh. She laughed and shook her head – it was much too early for that. Her stomach was the same as it had been before she left for Morocco.

In the mirror, her eyes glanced around her bedroom. It was the place she felt the most comfortable and safe. It was the nicest room in the house, in the best position. In winter, she slept with the curtains open, so that the morning sun would wake her and slowly warm the room. In summer, with the curtains pulled tightly shut, the room was cool and crisp and dark. Smiling, Rose ran a brush through her hair and pulled her mane into a knot at the base of her neck.

She found Scorpius in the kitchen, standing at the large window and looking out over the dense forest surrounding the cottage. He turned when she came in, his expression mildly wary and she smiled to think he was as unsure of everything as she was.

“You have a nice view,” he stated softly, indicating the world outside. She smiled.

“It’s what made me take the place; that, and the convienience to Hogsmeade.”

“Are you hungry?”

“A little,” she answered, going to sit at the table, noticing he’d made breakfast. She poked at the baked beans with her fork. “I haven’t had beans in ages.”

“Eggs are my specialty, but you didn’t have any.”

“Sorry.”

He grinned at her absurd apology. “I make a mean omelette; next time perhaps.”

She didn’t know what to say so she shovelled some food into her mouth. He joined her and they ate in silence. He even read an old copy of The Prophet she had lying around, and it made Rose tremble when she realised how comfortable she was with the tiny slice of domesticity they were sharing. This felt real, not some concocted sense of a life together.

“Rose,” Scorpius said, folding the paper and pushing it away. “We need to talk.”

“About?”

He raised his eyebrows. “Us, the baby...Siberia.”

“Oh, right,” she mumbled, setting her tea aside. “Look, I’d love it if you were involved and everything but you really don’t have to be if you don’t want to. I can do this alone.”

“So you don’t want my help?”

“Of course I want your help, Scorpius – it’s your baby too, but all I’m saying is you’re under no obligation to do anything,” she explained softly. “And you won’t be able to do much from Siberia.”

“And what if I don’t go?” he said, drumming his fingers on the table top. “What if I was to stay here?”

“Here?”

He smiled. “In London, so I can be here for you.”

She sighed, cramming a piece of toast into her mouth. “It is completely up to you,” she said, swallowing, trying to ignore the little jumping of her heart. “But is that what you really want? After the baby comes, it will be midnight feeds, no sleep, nappies, mess, teething, tantrums, toilet training...it’s not going to be easy.”

“And yet you say you can do it alone,” he countered sarcastically. “Why am I not surprised?”

She opened her mouth to chastise him when the sound of a key turning in the front door made her blood run cold. “Shit.”

He was instantly alert, his wand in his hand. “What is it?”

“Rose? I brought you some food, darling.”

Rose moaned. “My mother - I knew this would happen.”

Scorpius put his wand on the table with a shaking hand. “Do I need this?”

“Don’t be silly; she asks questions first and shoots later.”

Hermione strolled into the kitchen, grocery bags in her hands, the smile on her face faltering when she noticed her daughter sitting at the table in a man’s shirt and not much else, and the owner of that shirt sitting across from her, his hair everywhere and his torso bare.

“Oh.”

“Hi mum,” Rose said meekly.

“Hello, Mrs Weasley,” Scorpius said politely; Rose could see his cheeks burning and it almost made her laugh to realise he was both embarrassed and frightened of her mother.

Hermione cleared her throat. “Hello, Scorpius.”

“Before you ask, this is exactly what it looks like,” Rose said quietly. Scorpius looked at her like she was mad and she sighed. “There is no point trying to deny anything; it’s my mother. She’s the most observant person I know and it’s eight o’clock in the morning and I’m wearing your clothes.”

Hermione sat down, the shopping forgotten. “I am assuming you two are...”

“We don’t know yet,” Rose answered.

Her mother sighed. “I know that what you have just been through was a scary experience and it’s natural to want to comfort one another but-”

“You’re only partially correct,” Rose mumbled.

“-You need to think about things seriously now. You barely knew each other before you left and I know that while away, you’ve had plenty of time to warm up to one another but is this really the right-”

“Mum.”

“-Thing to be doing considering how everything is at the moment? You have your jobs to think about and you don’t want to be distracted and-”

“Mum!” Rose shouted.

“Sorry,” her mother mumbled, and then sighed, pulling at her hair. “I need a cup of tea.”

Scorpius fled into the kitchen, reappearing moments later with a fresh cup of tea. Hermione looked at him in surprise as he placed it in front of her and sat back down. “Thank you, Scorpius.”

Rose finished her breakfast as her mother drank her tea. Scorpius didn’t touch another bite, and he barely moved, sitting tense and timid on the edge of his seat. Still hungry, Rose ate the rest of his breakfast, aware her mother was watching her.

“Are you alright, Rose?”

“Of course,” Rose said airily, but her heart was pounding. Her mother couldn’t be that observant, could she? “I didn’t have dinner.”

Hermione leant forward, placing her empty cup on the table. “You’re very pale, and a little thin, sweetheart. Have you been sick?”

“No,” Rose said, hysteria rearing its ugly head again. “Nothing like a quick stay as a prisoner of war to help drop those few extra pounds.” The moment the words were out of her mouth she regretted them: both Scorpius and her mother were looking at her like she was crazy. She sighed, pulling a hand through her hair. “I didn’t mean that. I’m just tired, that’s all.”

Hermione stood up. “Right. I should go, then. Rose, get some rest and don’t worry about lunch - come home for dinner instead. Scorpius, would you like to join us? I’m sure Ron would love to see you.”

He shook his head, the colour draining from his cheeks at the mention of Ron. “Sorry, Mrs Weasley, but I owe my parents some time before work gets out of control again.”

“Siberia; oh Rose, you aren’t thinking of going?”

Rose shook her head. “No mum. I’ve had enough action for the moment.”

Hermione left them, her expression concerned. Dinner would be an interesting affair, to say the least. Rose poked at her empty plate with her fork, hardly able to remember what she had been saying before her mother arrived.

“She knows.” Rose put her head in her hands.

“How can she possibly know?”

“She just does.”

“Rose,” Scorpius said gently. “You’re overreacting. You don’t look pregnant. You’re as thin as a rail.”

She sighed, pulling her legs up beneath her on the hard wooden chair. “I know.” She looked out the window, not knowing what else to say to him. The gentle banter of the morning and talk of possible future mornings had raced away when her mother stepped through the front door.

“We’ve been given the day off; spend it with me,” Scorpius invited softly, when the absence of sound between them had become deep and almost too much to bear. “We need to talk, about a lot of things.” He paused and rubbed at the stubble that littered his chin. Before he could continue, Rose heard her mobile phone screaming at her from the lounge room. She scrambled to her feet, digging through her bag until she found it crammed at the bottom.

“It’s Sophie,” she told Scorpius, looking at the caller ID in amazement.

“Don’t answer it.” Scorpius’s voice was sharp.

“Why?”

“Let her leave a message and then we’ll work out what to do.”

Rose nodded, sitting the phone aside, where it continued to ring. They waited, the silence when it stopped deafening, filling the cottage with a malevolence that made Rose shiver. Finally, the phone beeped, announcing a voice message had been recorded. Rose snatched the phone up, flipping it open and listening as Sophie asked where her father was. It was a simple request, Rose thought, not a threat or anything malicious.

“She wants to see Joe.”

Scorpius shook his head and Rose sighed.

“We have to talk to her, explain, and let her know that he’s okay. He’s her father, Scorpius and she’s worried about him. You’d want the same thing, as would I. It’s not fair on her. The girl has done nothing wrong, not really. She’s guilty by association, that’s all.”

He nodded, agreeing but saying they needed to speak to the Ministry first. They decided to go in to work, foregoing their planned day of conversation. This was more immediate, and needed dealing with now, before Sophie took it in her head to come looking for Joe. Standing in front of the fireplace, Scorpius hesitated, running a hand through his hair, before he cupped Rose’s face with both hands and kissed her softly.

“If I don’t see you at the Ministry...”

He smiled. “You shall see me later tonight; let me know when you get back from dinner.”

Rose nodded, swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat. That sounded very much like something a man would say to his girlfriend, and she wasn’t sure she could call herself that. She wasn’t sure what she could call herself.

For the rest of the day, Rose tried not to think about him, or the baby, or what they were going to do. She plonked herself behind her desk and tried not to think about her feelings, tried not to let her emotions run away from her brain, but in the end, she knew what she wanted: him. She couldn’t deny it any longer, not even when James came to her office and grilled her about what had happened in Morocco. It seemed Albus had not been able to hold her secret for very long, but she didn’t blame him.

“So I shouldn’t be taking him to Siberia then?” James asked calmly, after he’d spent almost half an hour telling Rose she was an idiot and unprofessional and that he should “turn Malfoy inside out for knocking you up.” Rose was charmed at her cousin’s imagery, and told him as much.

“You can’t tell me you and Alice kept your hands to yourselves in Russia?”

James blushed, making Rose smirk in triumph.

“And do what you like,” she added, in answer to his earlier question. “I’ve told him it’s up to him. I don’t want him to go and get killed, mind you, but I...”

“Don’t want him to go,” James finished with a sigh. “He’s one of the best, Rose.”

“I know that, believe me,” she mumbled, reaching for a pile of reports and half-scribbled documents that had appeared on her desk overnight. “I’m not trying to be selfish, James. I know how much you, the Ministry, need him.”

James fingered his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose there is still a lot that needs to be done closer to home. I’ll sort it out, keep him restricted to the Isles. Will that help you sleep at night?”

“Thank you.”

James laughed suddenly. “Your mum was over this morning, moaning to my mum about propriety and people rushing into things – I wonder what that was about, hmm? Can I come to dinner tonight? Please? God knows I need a laugh.”

“Get out; and don’t you think it’s about time you moved out of home properly – you can’t continue showing up in your parents’ kitchen because you have run out of food,” Rose said crossly, and still laughing, he kissed her cheek and left her alone to her paperwork. Lily came to see her after lunch; she had also heard the happy news and didn’t know whether to be offering congratulations or polishing up on her hexes.

“I’m fine, Lily,” Rose said with a smile, watching her cousin stalk around the room planning Scorpius’ murder. “Really.”

“So do you love him, then?” Lily asked, much like Albus had, and Rose shook her head. “But you want to, right? I know you do, Rose. I can see it in your eyes.” She came and sat next to Rose on the hard leather lounge and took her hand. “There is nothing wrong with being happy at the moment, you know. Everything may have gone to shit but you are entitled to enjoy at least one part of your life.”

She went out, and Rose found herself blinking back tears. Lily was right. She was entitled to be happy, and she realised that through it all, she had been denying herself that. She was going to have a baby; that it was Scorpius’ and that it was conceived by accident did not matter at that moment. She was going to be a mother, and she was going to give someone the most valuable gift of all.

Life.


Chapter 13: CHAPTER THIRTEEN
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CHAPTER THIRTEEN




Hugo flung open the front door. “Mum,” he shouted urgently, “she’s here.” Rose rushed forward to embrace her brother, who squeezed her so tightly she thought he’d snap her spine. “You’re thirty seconds late,” he whispered.

“Sorry,” she whispered back. “Look, Hugo, I need to tell you something, before things get out of control.”

Hugo pulled back to look at her. “I already know, mother-to-be; good news travels fast in our family, you know that. Dad doesn’t know, but you know dad. There are things he chooses not to hear.”

“So who knows?” Rose asked incredulously, dragging Hugo into the lounge room and practically tossing him on the lounge. She glared at the portraits on the wall, which all pretended not to be listening. “Please don’t tell me mum knows; oh god she knows doesn’t she?”

Hugo chuckled and shook his head. “James, Al and Lily know, which means Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny will know. If Lily knows, you can be sure Roxanne and Lucy know, which means Molly and Fred will know. And if Fred knows, Louis will know, so Dominique and Victoire and Teddy will all know...have I missed anyone?” Hugo asked, blinking rather innocently. Rose sighed. “Oh, you’d better tell Grandma Molly before Aunty Audrey finds out, because you know that once Audrey and Percy know everyone will know. Hey, do the Malfoy’s know?”

Rose sat down and put her head in her hands. “No, but the way the grapevine is travelling they’ll find out by morning.”

“I guess if Teddy tells his Nan she might tell Narcissa, who in turn would tell Draco...you won’t have to announce it at all, Rose. So anyway, how was Morocco? Did you get to kick arse?”

Rose laughed, hugging her brother, loving his placid outlook on life. It was so typically Hugo to not make a fuss out of the whole thing. They went through to the dining room, where Hermione was dishing up food, looking flustered, and Ron was hovering at her elbow, in the way as usual. He grabbed Rose in a tight hug when he saw her, cupping her chin tenderly.

She started crying, unable to stop, and her father folded her against his chest and let her blubber until her eyes hurt and her face was slick with tears.

“I’m glad you’re home safe,” he whispered, “although I knew you’d be fine, both of you. I knew you’d look after each other.”

Hermione dropped the bread basket on the table with more force than was necessary, and Rose glanced at her with worried eyes as her mother began serving up dinner with short, sharp movements. Rose ate but everything tasted like cardboard. Her stomach was in knots, her throat dry and swallowing became almost painful. She watched her mother from beneath her lashes, noticing how viciously Hermione stabbed at her meat and how violently her potato was attacked. Ron also noticed.

“Are you alright?” he asked his wife, his voice low.

Hermione sucked in a breath. “Fine, fine,” she said airily, forcing a smile. “I’m just a little overwhelmed at the moment, that’s all.”

“Dad, I need to ask your advice,” Rose said quickly. “You know the muggle man we have in custody? Joe? Well, his daughter contacted me this morning. She wants to see her father.”

Ron shook his head much like Scorpius had. “Not a good idea, for her own safety.”

“I understand, but I think I should arrange to meet her, and explain that her dad is okay,” Rose said gently. “She wouldn’t try and hurt me, I don’t think,” she went on, seeing the look on Ron’s face. “And I wouldn’t go alone, of course.”

“We shall discuss it at work,” Ron said briskly. “Let’s just enjoy being together.”

Much to Rose’s relief, her mother did not try to talk about Scorpius. During dessert, Hugo leant across the table, his face alive with interest.

“So what happened?”

“Hugo, don’t pester her,” Hermione scolded.

“Why not? You pester her all the time,” Hugo shot back, making Rose smile.

“It was intense,” she answered softly. “Much more than we ever expected. I thought...well I don’t know what I thought but I didn’t think it would be that hard. Scorpius,” she paused, chewing her lip, feeling her mother watching her closely. “It was hard for him too, having to do the things they wanted.”

“I haven’t had the chance to speak with him yet,” Ron said.

“He had to take arms against our own people,” Rose said to a collective gasp. She outlined the Egypt campaign, her mother shaking her head sadly. “I couldn’t have done it, dad. I don’t know how he was able to...we had to make decisions that were so hard.”

Unable to stop, the whole story came tumbling out, minus her beyond-the-call-of-duty involvement with Scorpius: Isobelle’s execution, Areli, how much she actually liked and feared for Sophie, Cass and her sad history, Maria, the camp and Albus’s rescue.

“He saved my life,” Rose said. “Scorpius.”

“He did?” Her mother breathed.

“Cass...just as we were disapparating out of there, she fired her gun. Scorpius was shot in the shoulder, just here,” Rose whispered, running her fingers over the fleshy section of her shoulder blade. “He put himself in front of a bullet, and if he hadn’t, that bullet would have hit me here.” Slowly, hand shaking, Rose raised her fingers to the middle of her forehead.

“Woah,” Hugo said softly.

“Oh Rose,” her mother whispered, pushing her chair back and racing around the table to put her arms around her daughter.

“I messed up though, dad,” Rose said from her mothers embrace. “I panicked and waited too long to get us safe. Scorpius was hurt and I didn’t know what to do. My stupid decision to stay put and wait it out got us captured and if it hadn’t have been for Albus, we would have been killed.”

“All that matters now is that you’re home and safe,” her father said softly. “Don’t dwell on the things you could have done different. Take the lesson and learn from it, darling, but don’t beat your head against a wall over it. Let it make you a better Auror.”

Her parent’s reluctantly let her go home only after her father said he would escort her, and he insisted on going first. Still grumbling, Rose stepped from the fireplace in her living room, brushing soot off her clothes and wondering where her father was. The house was dark, and she paused, hearing voices coming from the kitchen. She swallowed, taking out her wand and moving as quietly as she could through the small house.

Scorpius was standing in the kitchen, leaning casually against the bench. Her dad was in the doorway, his arms folded. Rose cleared her throat and her father slowly turned to look at her. His face was composed; either he wasn’t concerned or he hadn’t guessed why Scorpius Malfoy was in her cottage at ten at night.

“Sorry,” Scorpius said. “I thought I’d surprise you?”

Rose noticed he’d brought flowers and her heart did a little jump. He was trying unsuccessfully to hide them behind his back, either from her or Ron she didn’t know. She giggled, stepping around her father to collect her flowers. Her fingers brushed Scorpius’ arm and he jumped; a blush spread its way quickly along the length of his neck and Rose wondered what they were supposed to do now.

“Um, Rose...do you want me to...”

Rose shook her head, unable to look her father in the eye. “Good night, dad,” she said firmly.

Her father frowned. “Malfoy, are you sure it’s appropriate for you to-”

“Dad,” Rose interrupted. “Go home, or mum will start worrying about you. It’s fine, really.”

He nodded and ran a hand through his sparse hair and slowly and reluctantly turned to leave. Rose caught a glimpse of his face as he left the kitchen. It came as a great relief to see that while he wasn’t exactly grinning, he wasn’t fuming either. She turned back to Scorpius, heat pulsing through her body.

“You were meant to wait for me to call. You’re lucky he didn’t Stun you, or worse. If he knew about the baby he’d probably castrate you.”

He smiled and kissed her; she dropped her flowers and kissed him back, amazed at the rush of feeling that surged through her. “I need to ask you something,” she said when he pulled away. “If I wasn’t pregnant, would you still be here?”

She watched as he pulled his lip between his teeth, considering, and she held her breath, not knowing what she would do if he said no. Slowly, he nodded. “I think so, yes. I mean, I don’t know for sure, do I, but...does that bother you?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s okay.”

He slept the night curled around her body, his chest pressed to her back and Rose lay awake for a long time after he had fallen asleep, before drifting off caught in the rhythm of his breathing.

The following morning, they were back in the office; for the first time since Rose had started work at the Ministry, she didn’t want to be there. Desolation was everywhere. It was as if the Humanists had won the war before it officially started. She heard many whispered conversations and some not-so-whispered ones, but the message in all of them were clear: the world was falling apart and nobody knew quite what to do about it.

While they were gone the situation in North America had escalated, with more deaths and the public approbation of such made Rose feel sick. There had been brutal killings in the UK, and in France, there were over twenty wizards and witches missing. Vanished without a trace, and it was rumoured the French government was involved with the setting up and funding of death camps and scientific experiments.

In China, in Tiananmen Square, over one hundred witches and wizards had been executed and India was now home to a refugee camp housing thousands of magical folk from the Middle East and South East Asia.

Rose spent the morning writing her report on Morocco for her uncle and by lunch had a screaming headache. Scorpius stuck his head in her office, took one look at her face and said he was taking her out for something to eat. In the Atrium, they found themselves in the middle of an impromtue media circus – the press had heard about Cass’s capture, and Rose had no idea how they had found out. The Ministry had a strict non-disclosure policy but all it took was for one person to let something slip and the media would be all over it.

“Bloody vultures,” Scorpius whispered, taking her arm and steering her away from the elevator and towards the floos. Rose sighed. There were at least twenty people waiting with cameras and quills, and she could not fathom who they all worked for. Scorpius took a deep breath, pulled his shoulders back and walked towards them.

“Mr Malfoy, where are the prisoners being held?”

“In an undisclosed location,” Scorpius answered swiftly. “Miss...”

The slim brunette witch dimpled. “Jones, Melissa Jones, The Daily Prophet. What can you tell us about their state of mind?”

“Miss Weasley,” a reporter began, sticking a camera in Rose’s face. “Andrew Montague, British Wizard International; what is the Ministry planning on doing with the prisoners?”

“The details of such things are confidential,” Rose answered wearily. She had never been in a press conference and although they had been trained to deal with the media, the noise, the camera flashes and the constant stream of questions as rapid as gunfire was overwhelming. She put her hand over her eyes, a strange panic rising inside her, and tried to elbow her way free of the press of bodies. She felt like vomiting.

“The Ministry will be releasing an official statement in the near future,” Scorpius was saying. “We have nothing further to add.”

“What are the Ministry’s plans now that the leader of For Humanity has been captured?”

Scorpius was growing agitated. “Don’t you understand plain English mate? I said I have nothing to add.”

“The public have a right to know,” the short, round wizard said, his voice full of fake confidence as he tried to stare down a glowering Scorpius. “And it’s Dean Wiley, from Wizard Standard.

“Well, Dean Wiley from Wizard Standard, you can just bugger off.”

“Can I quote you on that, Mr Malfoy?”

Rose reached back, caught Scorpius’ arm and tried to drag him after her, before he did something he would regret, or get fired over.

“Miss Weasley, tell me, what was it like working undercover with Mr Malfoy? My readers would love to know what sort of man he really is.”

Rose stopped and stared; the questioner was a petite witch with bright pink robes and very blonde hair. She looked at Rose earnestly, her eyes wide. “I’m sorry, who are you and who are you with?” Rose asked, unable to comprehend such a personal question in the midst of a war.

The witch smiled, reaching up to smooth back a stray strand of hair. “Samantha Appleby, Witch Weekly.”

Rose groaned; Samantha Appleby was waiting patiently, her quill poised, face eager, and it seemed every journalist in the Atrium had paused and was watching her expectantly. Even Scorpius seemed to be waiting for her response. She sighed, shook her head, and said, “No comment,” to a loud groan.

“Shows over,” Scorpius barked, waving to Ministry Security. The two big wizards came over and as they were busy dispersing with the media, Rose let Scorpius lead her back to the elevators. “We can’t go to lunch – they’ll just be waiting outside. Sorry.”

“I supposed we should have expected it, sooner or later.” She shook her head, not really caring. Her appetite had vanished, her head was pounding and she needed a serious lie down. Scorpius kissed her cheek quickly and left her at her office. Alice was inside talking with James; they both blushed when Rose pushed open the door but she was too preoccupied to call either of them on it.

Alice raced across the room and threw her arms around Rose and squeezed tightly, until Rose gasped and pushed her away. “Oh my, did that hurt the baby?”

Rose sighed. “Alice, the baby is not much more than ten centimetres long right now: I think its fine. Who told you?” She glared at James, who shrugged.

Alice smiled. “Lily, I think, or maybe it was someone else. So, the father: care to confirm or deny the rumours?”

One of the things Rose liked about Alice was her bluntness, but this was a time when that bluntness would not have been missed. “Yes, it’s Scorpius’ baby,” she sighed.

Alice started laughing and then sobered under the look Rose gave her. “You always did like a challenge,” she snickered. “I guess chasing the bad guys and almost getting killed in Africa wasn’t enough excitement – now you’re going to try and bring out the human in Malfoy.”

Rose sighed again.

“What’s he like?”

“You don’t even like him,” Rose answered, knowing exactly what Alice meant.

“No, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t jump in the sack with him; have you seen him? Oh wait, I suppose you have,” Alice giggled, pretending to fan herself with a piece of parchment she snatched from Rose’s desk. James laughed. “Maybe I should have gone to Morocco.”

Rose threw a book at her. “Go find something useful to do; both of you, and anyway, why are you laughing, James?” Her cousin ignored her. “Go find me some chips then. I’m hungry. The pregnant lady has to eat.”

The door opened and a harassed looking Scorpius entered. “If you’re planning on leaving the building any time soon, I suggest Disillusioning yourself,” he growled, flopping onto the soft lounge. James raised his eyebrows.

“The media,” Rose said softly. “We were ambushed in the Atrium.”

“I’m ordering take-out,” Scorpius announced, summoning a quill and parchment from the mess that was Rose’s desk. As he sent their order zooming out the door, James snickered.

“Wait till they find out that she,” he pointed at Rose, “is pregnant. I can see the headlines now: ‘what really goes on when Aurors go undercover,’ or, ‘while protecting the world they forgot to’ -”

“You’ll be seeing stars if you don’t shut your mouth,” Rose snapped, making James laugh harder.

“Anyway,” Alice said with a smile, “you’ll be pleased to know, Rose, that your boy here is staying where you can keep an eye on him.”

“Her boy?” Scorpius repeated, eyebrows lifted. “I’m still your superior, Finnegan, so watch what you say.”

Alice waved him away, non-plussed. “James and I are going back to Russia, in a few days. Albus is coming too.”

Rose frowned. “Uncle Harry approved the mission?”

“Of course,” James answered. “Submitted an outline of the plan this morning.”

“And what am I supposed to do while you are off playing in the snow?” Scorpius said, climbing to his feet to answer the door. A delivery wizard, not much older than seventeen, was waiting with two paper bags and an irritated expression. He took Scorpius’ money and pocketed it.

“You lot are Aurors right?” the boy asked hesitantly.

“Your point?” James answered.

“Can you arrest people? I just got bailed up by some journalist wanting to know what was in the bag and who was sharing a romantic lunch.” The delivery wizard adjusted his robes. “Mental, she was.”

“She?” Rose said sharply.

“Some witch in scary pink robes.” The kid left after Scorpius assured him Samantha Appleby would be spoken to, although it was not really an Auror’s job to deal with insane journalists. James was still laughing as Rose unwrapped her food.

“Anyway, Malfoy,” he said, stealing a piece of Rose’s tomato. “Dad needs a press liason.” Scorpius groaned, making James smirk. “Come on, mate. You’ve got an alright mug – they won’t say no to putting pictures of you in the paper. The Ministry needs a face and it may as well be yours.”

“Bloody fantastic; thank you, Potter. I bet this was your doing?”

“Well, you did impregnate my cousin.”

“James!” Alice gasped. “Don’t be so bloody rude!”

“I hate to remind you but it takes two people to make a baby,” Rose snapped. “I’m the one with the ovaries; I did play some part in this.”

He stood up, stretched and told them there would be an official meeting in two days time to let everyone know about Siberia and to discuss what would be done with the prisoners. Alice dragged him away, mouthing an apology to Rose as she pushed James out the door.

Scorpius hadn’t touched his lunch.

“He’s a moron,” Rose growled, going to sit on the lounge. She put her hand on Scorpius’ knee and his arm slipped around her shoulders.

“Yeah, but that’s what people will think isn’t it? That it’s my fault.”

Rose kissed his cheek gently, not knowing what to say. He sighed and startled her by lifting her into his lap and sliding his hands under the back of her shirt. “Are you really okay with staying here?” she asked him, closing her eyes as his fingers kneaded her tense flesh.

“What choice do I have? Orders are orders.”

“I’m sorry,” Rose said meekly. “It’s my fault. I told James not to take you.”

“So you do want me around then?”

“Scorpius, I don’t want you to get hurt or get killed,” Rose whispered, mildly irritated. “And yes, I want you around, but if you really want to go then I guess...”

He kissed her, pulling her close. “No.”

Two days later, the entire upper levels of the Department were crammed into Harry Potter’s office, seated at the long table that had been magically stretched to fit twenty people. Rose sat and listened as the Siberia mission was outlined. James had managed to get his double objective – capture Vladmir Mahailov and his people, and liberate the concentration camp.

James pointed to the large three-dimensional magical map that was suddenly hovering above the table. “The camp is here.” He indicated a vast, seemingly empty space in the Sakha Republic in far Eastern Siberia. “And we plan to...”

Rose couldn’t help it – she felt her mind start to wander as her brain slowly dislocated itself from her body and soon, she was floating somewhere above them all, totally blissed out on her pregnancy hormones until Scorpius nudged her knee under the table. She glanced at him quickly, mouthed an apology and forced her attention back to the meeting.

Scorpius cleared his throat. “Rose was contacted yesterday by the daughter of one of the men we captured in Morocco, Joe Mason. Sophie wants to see her father.”

Harry sighed. “And he wants to see his daughter. He was asking about her again last night. I’m not sure what to do about this, Rose. Do you think the girl is any threat?”

“I don’t know,” Rose answered. “I don’t think so. She is very clever but seems completely opposed to some aspects of Cass’s campaign while embracing others. She doesn’t believe genocide is any answer but she doesn’t believe we should exist either. She is no fanatic, but...”

“Do you trust her?” Ron asked.

“I would trust her to do what she thought was right, which is why I think we should let her know that Joe is safe, to begin with. She loves her father more than anything – he’s her only family – and Sophie is not one of our targets. She has done nothing wrong, other than being the daughter of -”

“That’s lovely and all, Rose,” James cut in, “but you don’t owe her anything.”

Rose glared. “She needs to know her dad is alive, at the very least.”

“I agree,” Harry said, before James could reply. “Rose, you have permission to contact her.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

“So what do we do with our prisoners?” Ron asked, tapping his fingers on the tabletop.

“Execution springs to mind,” someone muttered, and Rose was dismayed to hear many voices lifted in agreement.

“No,” she said loudly, and all eyes swung to her face. “We can’t kill them.”

“They’d kill us if the roles were reversed, Rose,” James said, frowning. She shook her head.

“That is precisely why we can’t kill them. Don’t you understand?” she said passionately, seeing the blatant scepticism in the faces around the long table. “This is the most important decision we will make in the course of this war; history will remember this long after we’re gone. What we do now will change everything.”

“She’s right,” Albus said. “We have to show the mercy they seem unable to, even to their own people.” His voice shook a little and Rose reached over and squeezed his hand.

“If we don’t,” Scorpius put in firmly, before anyone could interject. “We may as well declare outright war and be done with it, because if we kill them, that is what will happen. Any chance we had at peace will be gone.”

Harry sighed, sitting back in his chair, his expression thoughtful. “I agree, but the question is, what do we do with them? They cannot just sit in our cells for the rest of their lives, and we cannot set them free.”

“What about modifying their memories?” someone asked, and Scorpius shook his head.

“We need them to remember; they need to remember in order for them to learn anything at all.”

“We must educate them,” Rose said quietly, glancing at Scorpius. “They are not bad people, not really. Cass has had terrible experiences with magic – she has only seen the negative side of our world – so we need to show her, teach her, that there is good here as well.”

“And who will do this educating?” Ron asked. No one spoke until Rose cleared her throat.

“I will.”

Her father shook his head. “No. It’s dangerous, Rose.”

“They’re unarmed, dad,” she reminded him softly.

“Alright,” Harry said, “Rose, you’re in charge of this education program. Come and see me later and we will sort out the particulars. Everyone, we will meet again in two days, earlier if anyone uncovers anything important. Albus, you had something you needed to tell everyone?”

Rose looked at her cousin curiously, as did everyone in the room. Albus cleared his throat.

“While undercover, I worked closely with a muggle woman named Isobelle. She was a wizard sympathiser. Now, we have all heard that they exist, and there have been rumours of muggles fighting amongst themselves over the current state of things. Isobelle, I found out, was more involved in the sympathiser movement than I knew. She told me, not long before her death, that if anything should happen to her, I needed to contact a man called Bernardo, in Italy.”

Albus paused, taking a deep breath. “Bernado told me that Isobelle was actually the leader of the sympathisers, who had given themselves the name NOW – or the National Organisation for Wizardry. It was role she had taken on reluctantly, worried that it would compromise her undercover position with For Humanity, which, in the end, it did. Almost all branches of For Humanity in Northern Africa and on mainland Europe have been successfully infiltrated by NOW. Bernado gave me these,” Albus flicked his wand and pieces of parchment slid across the table, settling in front of everyone present. “The locations of every base For Humanity has, the number of people in each, the leaders...everything we need to take them down is right here. I checked their validity against other information we had. The information is legit.”

“This is awesome,” James whispered.

Rose picked up her parchment, skimming it, her eyes soaking up the details.

“The only thing missing,” Al continued, “is the locations of any other internment camps and the Nurseries. If we can discover that, then we can shut them down.”

“That is where you come in, Rose,” Harry said. “We need that information, and Cass is probably the only person who can tell us where these places are.”

Rose nodded. “Maria may know also. I will speak with her as well.”

The meeting broke up and Rose trudged back to her office, her feet heavy. How were they to change anything when the attitudes of her own people were so hard? She could understand it, sympathise with it, but they needed to retain their own sense of humanity if they were ever going to truly win this war. She was convinced that force was not the answer – that a passive approach was what was needed.

James and his team left for Siberia the following morning. Rose went to the airfield and saw them off, wondering if it would be the last time she saw her cousins and friends alive. Scorpius slipped his arm around her and she didn’t care that her father and unlce were present. She could feel their gazes, sense their curiosity but she didn’t acknowledge them. She lent heavily on Scorpius as they walked back to the waiting car; she was ridiculously tired, even after getting at least eight hours sleep, and was constantly thirsty.

Back at the Ministry, she took herself down to the cells and stood a moment chewing her lip, debating which person to speak to first. In the end, she picked Joe, hoping to use Sophie as some sort of leverage.

The big man was sitting on his bed, his back against the wall. His face was calm, his eyes bright and alert and he gave her a neutral glance when she entered the cell, her wand out.

“Do I need this, Joe?” she asked, indicating the wand. He sighed and shook his head, and slowly, heart pounding, Rose slipped the wand into her pocket and sat down at the small table in the centre of the room. “Sit,” she said softly and he did, approaching cautiously, hesitantly. “I need your help.”

“Really,” he mused, leaning back casually in his chair. “And why should I help you?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do, and you know it,” she answered swiftly. “Come on, Joe. You knew this would never end well. You knew you’d either end up dead or captured, didn’t you?” He said nothing, and Rose sighed lightly. “She’s very charming, isn’t she? Cass. I can see why she sucked you in.”

“She didn’t suck me in,” he snarled. “I followed her because I believe in wh -”

“Do you?” Rose asked gently, leaning forward, her elbows on the table. “Right now, you’re questioning your judgement, aren’t you? You’re wondering if you picked the losing team, because even though you’re a prisoner, you’re relatively comfortable, aren’t you? You can have whatever you want, whatever you need...would a true enemy treat you so well?”

“So you’ve got fancy tricks and a sweet mouth,” he said with a shrug.

“I’m not your enemy,” she said smoothly. “No wizard is.”

He laughed. “If you set me free in the street outside I’d be torn to pieces by your lot.”

“Could you blame them?”

He sighed. “No, I guess I couldn’t. Why are you here, Rose?”

“Where are the Nurseries? We need to know. Those kids have done nothing wrong and they deserve to be free and with their families,” she replied calmly, although inside, she was on fire with the injustice of the whole scenario. Joe turned his gaze to the table and after minutes of silence, Rose shifted in her seat, making him glance at her, a hint of fear on his face. “I’ve been given permission to contact Sophie, to tell her you’re alright.”

He lifted his head fully. “Are you trying to bribe me?”

“No. It’s the truth.”

He chewed his lip. “Tell you what – you call her and give her a message from me, and then, when I know you’re telling me the truth, I will help you, if I can. And I want to see her.”

“Alright,” Rose said slowly. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Tell her the ducks are on the pond. She’ll know what it means, and she’ll give you a response. You tell me what she says and if it’s not the right answer...I’ll know you’re lying and you’ll get nothing from me, understand?” he asked in a low voice.

She nodded. “The ducks are on the pond.”

It took Rose two days to get in contact with Sophie; in that time, she tried talking to Cass and Maria, but neither woman would speak to her, turning their faces to the wall of their cells. Joe was waiting for her, and the relief was evident on his face when she gave him Sophie’s response – “the guns are loaded.” Over the course of the next few days, Rose spent hours with Joe, going over maps, getting the information checked out, and returning for more. He told her all he could, and she was grateful but unabe to grant his most desired request.

“I can’t bring her here; it’s too dangerous for her,” she told him, after he’d asked to see Sophie again. He sighed and retreated to his bed, lying down and putting his back to her.

“Then leave me alone.”

“Joe...”

“Get lost.”

Rose let Lily talk her into a night out, to cheer her up and relieve some of the stress of the previous week. “Just a nice dinner, no partying or dancing on tables,” her cousin said to Rose’s expression. “You can bring Scorpius to hold your hand, and Hugo can come and help babysit.”

“Babysit?”

“You know both of our parents will be happy if there is a group of us,” Lily answered, and Rose nodded. They settled on a muggle restaraunt in central London, and once they were actually out and eating, Rose began to relax, feeling strangely normal as the world rushed by outside and people went about their lives.

“They either have no idea what is going on, or they don’t care,” Scorpius muttered, watching a group of young muggles walk by the windows.

“Or they realise they can’t do anything to fix it so they just do what they usually do,” Hugo said rather sagely, and Rose raised her eyebrows at him. He grinned and lifted his drink. “To the end of the world.”

Lily laughed, reaching for her drink, her face bright and alive. “That’s morbid, Hugo. Here’s to these two and their impending bundle of joy.”

Scorpius put his hand on Rose’s knee under the table, and as she turned to smile at him, the air seemed to thin and the world darkened.

She felt the blast before it happened; how the ground seemed to tremble, how the water in her glass shook and the cutlery rattled. She felt the air pressure change, and then, the windows exploded. Glass showered the restaurant; Rose was pulled from her chair and onto the floor by Scorpius. Her body felt heavy and her insides screamed in protest as the shockwaves ripped through her. All around them people were wailing in terror, and the air was filled with heat and a burning smell. The atmosphere contracted and Rose put her face on the floor as the air was sucked back into the restaurant, the vacuum from the blast tossing another load of shrapnel around.

Rose screamed her brother’s name, tried to climb to her feet but Scorpius pushed her down as the building heaved and spat a section of roof and wall into the night. Rose could see bodies strewn like dolls, could see people slumped over their tables as fire engulfed the street outside and licked at the front of the restaurant. The sound of a woman crying mingled with the shouts of panic and Rose scrambled away from Scorpius on hands and knees, pushing aside a twisted chair to get to her brother.

Hugo was conscious, lying face down on the debris-coated floor and he rolled over, coughing, as she shook him hard. “I’m okay,” he whispered, wiping the blood away from his cheek. “Where’s Lily?”

“Oh god,” Rose moaned, looking around frantically. Her cousin was lying not far from them, her legs and arms splayed like a broken toy. Lily had been sitting nearest the window and although there were tables between them and the street where the bomb seemed to have originated, Rose had the dreadful feeling her cousin was dead. Scorpius reached Lily first; he turned her over gently. Her eyes were closed and Rose blinked away the hot rush of tears as she noticed the dark stain on the carpet beneath her cousin’s head. Hugo pulled himself up as another tremor floated through the restaurant; Rose lunged for him, caught his ankles and wrestled him to the ground at the same time she realised Lily was breathing.

The building groaned again as another blast tore through the street outside, shattering more windows. Rose covered her head, felt glass slice her upper arm as someone screamed close by. All around them was chaos. She didn’t dare take out her wand; some instinct warned her to keep it hidden, to appear to those around her as a muggle and nothing more. Scorpius was leaning over Lily, shielding her with his body and Rose moved towards them as the street outside filled with fire engines, police and ambulances.

People in uniform rushed into the building; their movement were cautious, tempered and she wished they would hurry up and find them, find Lily. A dog barking caught her attention and she glanced across the room. Through the smoke she saw a police officer with a large dog on a lead. Bomb squad, she thought, too late guys. A voice told her to stay where she was and she obeyed as the muggle ambulance officer took her cousins body gently from Scorpius, laying Lily on a stretcher.

She wanted to go with her, to climb into the back of the ambulance but she was led outside and made to sit as a medic examined her, checking her eyes, her head and assessing the cuts on her arms. Her wounds were treated and she was made to drink. Someone wrapped her in a blanket and it wasn’t until then that she realised she was trembling.

“Lily...”

Scorpius put his hand on her arm. “Stay here; I’ll find out where they are taking her.” He threw off his blanket and picked his way through the crowd and Rose noted absently that his shirt was torn. She saw him talking with a policeman, who was replaced with a medic, and then he was back, his face strained. The front of his shirt was covered with blood: Lily’s. “She’s badly hurt; glass pierced an artery in her neck. Rose...you need to call your uncle.”

“I’ll do it,” Hugo whispered, fishing his phone from his pocket. Scorpius handed him a card and Rose strained her neck to see the name of a hospital scrawled on it. She sat, shocked and trembling, as her brother phoned their uncle. Even through the noise around them, Rose heard Aunt Ginny’s voice cry out down the phone and her throat constricted. She was vaguely aware of Scorpius’ hand on her back, of his lips touching her hair and his voice in her ear, but she barely heard a word he was saying.

They had just survived what could only be a terrorist attack.




And here you all were thinking everything was fine, weren't you? >.<

Huge thanks to notreallyblonde44 on the forums of the name The National Organisation for Wizardry!!

Chapter 14: CHAPTER FOURTEEN
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CHAPTER FOURTEEN




Rose sat staring at the table, her head spinning. Someone pushed something into her hands and she glanced up to see Scorpius looking down at her, his face creased with worry.

“Drink,” he said softly, and she obeyed, sipping at the tea he had brought. It was hot and soothing, and she felt warmth return to her blood and bones. “Your uncle is with the Minister.”

“How is he?”

“Furious,” Scorpius replied, “and I don’t blame him. We should have expected this, taken steps to ensure it didn’t happen.”

“No one expected the muggles to attack their own,” Rose muttered. It had been just over twenty-four hours since the attack on the resteraunt. Lily had been stabilised, but was still in the muggle hospital, along with the other survivors of the blast. Three people had died and now, sitting in Scorpius’ office, with people rushing around the Ministry going about their work, Rose could not shake the extreme sense of surrealism that wrapped its arms around her. She could not fathom how things could be so normal, and yet not.

“Two groups have claimed responsibility for the bombing: For Humanity and some anti-muggle wizard extremist group that has so far escaped Ministry attention,” Scorpius said quietly. “An anonymous representative from For Humanity made an announcement to the media not too long ago. They said that while Cass is being held in a wizard prison, they will continue with their attacks until she is released. The anit-muggle group has declared that while Cass is still alive and being, what did they say? Oh yes, ‘treated with humanity she does not deserve’, they will continue with their plans.”

“And what might they be?” Rose asked, sitting her drink down.

“They won’t say, but an Auror squad is searching for them as we speak,” Scorpius answered grimly. “Similar events have happened around Europe – a train station was bombed in Paris, twenty seven are dead; a government building was attacked in Berlin and twelve people have died; and there have been deaths in Tangier and Tunisia. There are protests and uprisings on the streets in Italy, and just this morning, there was another small blast outside the Leaky Cauldron. No one was hurt; the wizard bomb squad got there in time to diffuse the situation and secure the area.”

“This is madness,” Rose whispered. “How many people have to die for this?”

“Maybe Cass should be Obliterated, and then released,” he mused, his voice low. “I know it’s not what we want but things are getting out of control. I don’t want you...anyone else...to be hurt.”

Rose found she could say nothing, having the dreadful feeling that he was right.

“Your Uncle is issuing a press release later today. Rose, did you know he’d received death threats?”

“What?”

Scorpius nodded sadly. “Not just from muggles either. Your uncle is moving himself and your aunt to an unidentified location as soon as possible. He will have Lily taken from hospital and placed under heavy guard. A team of Healers will be with her,” he added, seeing Rose’s worried expression. “He’s been trying to contact Al and James, to warn them that they might be in more danger than before, but he’s finding it hard to get a message through.”

“I can’t believe this,” she said blankly, getting up to pace the room. “I just can’t believe it.”

“Maybe you should...”

“No, no, I’ll be fine.”

He sighed. “Rose...if this is going to continue, you’re a target. Your parents are targets. You all work for the Ministry.”

“So do you,” she growled. “Are you going to hide as well?”

“If I need to, yes,” he said, surprising her. He came and took her hands. “Listen, we can go to the Manor. It’s highly protected; dad’s paranoia is finally paying off. You’ll be safe there.”

Rose chewed her lip. “No, I don’t want to impose on your parents, but I am willing to compromise. What about your apartment?”

“Alright,” Scorpius said slowly. “I’ll get it ready this afternoon.”

“What’s the official Ministry stance on this?” she asked.

Scorpius sighed. “The Minister issued a statement a while ago; like the muggle government, we do not negotiate with terrorists, be they wizard or muggle.”

“God. What do we do now?” Rose whispered. The word ‘terrorist’ was so heavy, so laden with negative connotations that it made her feel sick.

Scorpius’ office door was thrown open suddenly, and Rose blinked as her father stuck his head in. “Malfoy, you’re needed.”

“What for?” Rose asked as Scorpius moved towards the door.

“Media conference; they’re going mental out there. Here,” he thrust a pile a parchment into Scorpius’ hands. “Just read through this and you’ll be fine.”

Scorpius nodded, his eyes moving over the pages quickly, before he sighed again. He gave Rose a quick smile and left. She waited a moment, before following him, not really understanding why. She wanted to hear what the Ministry had to say to the general population. The noise rising from the Atrium was like a thousand angry bees so she lingered in the background, out of sight, and watched as Scorpius took a deep breath, smoothed out his robes and climbed the small podium that had been set up for such a purpose. He pointed his wand at his throat and soon, the crowd was lulled into silence as his voice filled the air.

“The Ministry of Magic thanks you all for coming and wishes to inform you that all necessary precautions are being taken to ensure your continuing safety. The events of the past twenty-four hours have come as a shock, but we must remember not to retailiate with violence in any form. Those responsible for the bomb in a London restaurant are not to be considered the voice of the entire muggle population, or the wizard population either for that matter.” He paused, glanced at his notes once, and then lifted his head again.

“The Minister is currently in talks with both the muggle Prime Minister and muggle military leaders from major European nations. A system of action is being decided on and the details of such will be released to the public in the near future. This is a serious matter and it is being dealt with. Again, the Ministry urges people not to engage in vigilante action and not to let the shock of such events foster prejudice for muggles. We also ask the public that if they have any information regarding the anti-muggle extremists that details be passed on to the Ministry. We do not wish to see a repeat of such terrible events. It also needs to be reiterated that the Ministry does not and will not negotiate with terrorists or tolerate acts of racially motivated hatred in any form. Thank you.”

Scorpius stepped down, ignoring the rush of voices that assaulted him. Security wizards were on hand, and they forced the crowd back as Scorpius made his way towards the elevator.

“You’re good at that,” Rose said from her hiding place, and he jumped. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“What are you doing here?” He was blushing and it made her smile.

“I wanted to watch. Seriously though, this is a good job for you. You’re an excellent speaker,” she said, reaching for his hand. He glanced around quickly, made sure no one was watching, and planted a swift kiss on her cheek.

“I have to go,” he said quietly. “I have a meeting.”

“Oh.” She felt her face fall and his lips curled into the most inviting of smiles. He ran his hand the length of her arm.

“Don’t go anywhere without me; I’ll slip home after this meeting, secure the place and come back to get you,” he said in a low voice. Rose nodded, swallowing when she realised she would have to tell her parents where she was. Scorpius left her at her office door and she ducked inside, hands shaking as she sat down to pen a memo to her father. She watched it zoom out the door and put her head into her hands. He would argue with her, insist she was safest with her family and she knew the truth of the matter would be right there, in the room with them, and she would have to acknowledge it.

She had no idea how to tell her parents she was pregnant. Her mother knew about Scorpius, and she was certain her father knew – he was more observant than people gave him credit for, but he was quieter about it. That had surely changed – she recalled the words he spoke to her, on Platform 9 ¾, when she was eleven years old and about to climb aboard the Hogwarts Express for the first time.

”Don’t get too friendly with him, though Rosie.”

Well, she thought, sorry dad. Her father had maintained his anti-Malfoy stance for years, but when it was clear that his only daughter had no interest in the aloof, unsociable blonde, he relaxed. When Scorpius joined the Ministry, her father had told her there was no way such a pretty-boy would ever make an Auror, and he’d had to eat his words and the hunble pie that accompanied it when Scorpius quickly proved him wrong; when he proved them all wrong.

Someone knocked lightly on the door, and Rose glanced up, mildly confused. If it were her father, he’d have just barged in, possibly swearing and threatening the wrath of her mother.

“Come in,” she called weakly. Her mouth fell open in shock as Astoria Malfoy glided through the door. Rose felt her nerves collapse on one another as Scorpius’ mother sat without invitation in the chair across the desk from Rose, who managed to stutter out a hello and the offer of a drink.

The beautiful dark-haired woman shook her head. “You’re pregnant,” she said simply; there was no anger in her tone, no surprise either, and Rose gulped.

“Yes.” Denying it never presented itself as an option.

Astoria nodded. “Scorpius told me, dear. Don’t be mad at him – I think he just needed to talk to his mother. He is very worried about you.”

“I know,” Rose said faintly. Astoria was so calm and composed, like her son, and it was making Rose even more nervous. She was waiting for something, some extreme emotion. She was waiting, she realised, for the sort of reaction she would get from her own mother, and she quickly comprehended she was never going to get such a response from Astoria. “Aren’t you angry?”

“Why would I be angry? I admit, it’s not what we had planned for him; we expected him to be married and settled down by now, perhaps with children already, but so much of what was planned has had to change, hasn’t it?” Astoria answered evenly. “And I can never be angry about a baby, Rose, especially not when that baby is a Malfoy.”

“It’s a Weasley too,” Rose reminded her, and Astoria laughed.

“My dear, I am not my husband. The child is also a Greengrass and a Granger, is it not? Draco is such a stuffy old aristocrat,” she said airily. “But he is rather pleased about the prospect of becoming a grandfather.”

“He is?”

“Oh yes, very much so. We always wanted more than one baby ourselves, but it was not to be. And how have your parents taken the news?” Astoria asked, watching Rose closely.

“I haven’t told them yet,” Rose mumbled guiltily.

“Oh dear,” the older woman said, sympathy laced through her tone. “You are worried about what they will say?”

Rose couldn’t help it; she burst into tears. Astoria moved behind the desk and put her arms around Rose, shushing her and letting her cry. “They are going to be s disappointed in me,” Rose muttered, and Astoria told her that was nonsense, that they could never be disappointed when they had such a brave, intelligent young woman for a daughter, and Rose found herself crying harder, clinging to Astoria’s arm and blubbering all over her expensive robes.

“If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask,” Scorpius’ mother said gently after Rose had stopped crying and was drying her eyes.

Rose nodded, unable to speak, and Astoria left soon after. Rose sat staring at the desk when she had gone, her mind spinning, trying desperately to wrap her head around what had just happened. She was busy wiping her face when her father suddenly appeared in front of her desk, a frown between his brows.

“Have you been crying?”

Her response was a rather petulant, “No.”

“You should come home to your family,” he said after a length pause, and Rose sighed.

“Dad...”

“Are you seeing him then? Malfoy?” The question was delivered with hesitation and Rose watched as her father fiddled with the hem of his shirt.

“Yes.”

“Does your mother know?”

Rose nodded. “She does.”

Her father could not hide his confusion. “I thought you hated him though. What happened?”

“Morocco happened.”

Something flashed across his face; pity perhaps, and his voice when he spoke was soft. “As long as you know what you are doing.”

“I do,” she answered weakly. “At least, I think I do.”

“Do you love him?”

“Can we not have this conversation, dad? It’s a little weird, don’t you think?” Rose muttered, looking at the desk. Her father sighed.

“You’d be safer with us.”

Rose raised an eyebrow. “You let me infiltrate a terrorist organistion with Scorpius but now he’s not capable of keeping me safe in London? In his own house?”

“That isn’t what I meant,” her dad argued, before he pulled his hand through his hair. “Your mother will not be happy about this. Be thankful Malfoy’s place is Unplottable.”

Rose blinked, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

Her father smiled almost smugly and while Rose scowled at him, he made her promise to contact them every day. After he had gone, she crept to her lounge and had a quick nap, waking only when Scorpius came to collect her.

“I am assuming you have not told your parents about the baby yet?” he said that night over dinner.

“Why do you assume that?” Rose was finding it hard to speak – she was in awe of his home; of the views and the beautiful furniture and everything about the place. She loved it, and she never wanted to leave. The lounge was wonderfully comfortable, the cupboards were full of food and the bath tub was big enough to swim in.

Scorpius chuckled. “Because I saw your father today and he did not try to castrate me.”

“Oh,” she said, feeling her cheeks heat. “I will tell them, Scorpius, I just need the right moment.” She had not mentioned his mother’s visit and she wasn’t sure if she would. Somehow, that conversation felt too personal, a discussion between women that was not to be invaded.

“Would you consider staying with me after all this is over? Permanently I mean. It will be better when the baby comes,” he asked, pushing his empty plate away. “Your place is too small for the three of us.”

“Shit, Scorpius,” Rose stuttered. Her hands were shaking and she thrust them in her lap. She glanced quickly around his super-secured, amazing, Unplottable penthouse. “You don’t even have a yard,” she added, unable to help it, and he rolled his eyes. “I just don’t see why I have to live with you simply because I am having your baby.”

He gave her a slightly exasperated look. “It’s not just about the baby. I care about you. Look at what has happened – your cousin nearly died because of this stupid war. If this whole experience has taught me anything it’s that life is the most precious thing we have and also the most precious gift we can give, and receive. I don’t want to miss anything.”

“You haven’t missed anything; I tell you everything, not that there is much to tell yet, but you will be the first person I contact when the baby starts moving,” she said quietly. “And you’ll know a millisecond after I do when I go into labour, which, may I remind you, is a way off yet.”

“Rose...”

“And I like my cottage. It might be small but it’s mine, and I like it there,” she argued and he sighed, rubbing at his face angrily. “The moment it’s safe I’m going back.”

“I am missing things,” Scorpius insisted fiercely, leaning across the table towards her. “I’m missing you. I want the first thing I see in the morning when I open my eyes to be you; I want to find your clothes lying all over the house because you’re such a slob; I want to listen to you moan about how terrible your day was or how terrible the weather is; I want to make you dinner and hear you tell me I can’t cook because I can’t; and I want you next to me when I go to sleep at night.”

Rose felt her mouth fall open. She blinked rapidly as an incredible rush of emotion burnt through her, startling her with its power. She looked at him a moment longer, at the complete honesty on his face and felt something inside her fall apart. “Did you mean all that?”

His eyes tore into her skull. “Of course.”

“Can I think about it?” she whispered, her voice watery and weak.

“Yes.” He looked away.

Rose stood up, feeling suddenly nervous and on edge. Her hands trembled. “I’m sorry you’re stuck here,” she said on impulse. “I’m sorry you didn’t go to Siberia.”

He gave her a sad look. “Please don’t think I wish I wasn’t here.”

She nodded, her throat tight, and turned away as he stood up. He caught her arm and pulled her back to him and she knew in an instant she could not refuse him, not for anything. The realisation shocked her, left her gasping and she left him fold her into his chest and hold her close. He didn’t ask any questions, and she was grateful, because she had no words for him.

Scorpius was up when she woke the following morning, and it was still early, so Rose rolled onto her tummy and spread herself all over the mattress, enjoying the feeling of her muscles stretching. She felt at peace, despite everything and she was smiling when she crawled out of bed, searching for a piece of clothing to cover herself. She would have to get her clothing to the Penthouse somehow.

One of Scorpius’ work shirts was hanging from the back of the door in the ensuite, and Rose slipped into it, telling herself she liked the way the expensive material felt against her skin and that it had nothing to do with the fact that it was his clothing.

In the dining room, Scorpius was sitting at the table, yesterday’s copy of The Prophet spread before him, his long fingers curled around a tea cup. The morning sun spread itself gracefully through the large window, illuminating the room. She stood for a moment, simply looking at him – at the way the sunlight touched his hair and face, and the way he sat, relaxed and calm, in his seat. He glanced up, smiling as she lingered in the doorway.

“You look good in my clothes. You should wear them all the time.”

“Are you saying my own clothes don’t look good?”

He gave her a broad grin. “I prefer you without clothes, but if I had to choose, I’d pick mine, because they are mine.”

“So you’re comparing me to clothing now? That’s just lovely,” Rose sighed playfully.

“Not just any clothing, Rose – I only wear the best.”

She blushed and jumped, startled, when she heard a woman’s voice floating from the kitchen. Astoria Malfoy came into view, smiling when she saw Rose.

“Good morning, Rose. Tea for you, I think, dear. Or perhaps you would like a fresh juice? Sit. I’ll get you something to eat.”

Rose swallowed, sinking quickly into a chair before her knees gave way. Scorpius was watching her closely and at her accusing expression he shrugged. “Mother has breakfast with me every Wednesday.”

“You could have mentioned this last night,” Rose hissed, mortified. She could only imagine what Astoria was thinking.

Astoria emerged from the kitchen once more, a tray floating before her, which placed itself in front of Rose, who blushed at being waited on, especially by Astoria Malfoy. “I’m his mother, not his gaoler,” she replied, sitting down and reaching for the tea things. “Dear, where is today’s paper?”

“Not here yet,” Scorpius answered. At that moment, an owl dipped past the glass, turned back and hovered. Scorpius got up and moved to the window, throwing it open. He collected the paper from the owl, paid it, and the bird sped away. He passed the paper at his mother and sat down again, reaching for the TV remote, his expression peaceful with this obviously familiar routine.

Rose ate her breakfast in silence, her face still burning. She told herself not to be embarrassed: Astoria was well aware of what was going on between her and Scorpius, but still, it was uncomfortable to be sitting around in her lover’s shirt with his mother present. Scorpius caught her eye over the table and she gave him a tiny smile. Maybe it wasn’t so bad; it could have been worse. Astoria could have left in a huff, or be asking questions like her mother had. Thinking of her mum made Rose feel guilty again.

“Is it safe for you to be here?” she asked Astoria softly. “I mean, not that I mind or anything, but...”

“I’m fine, thank you,” the other woman answered with a smile. “I take every precaution necessary when I leave the house. The men in my family wouldn’t have it any other way.” She smiled fondly at her son, who nodded. Scorpius flipped to a local news channel and Rose glanced up absently, shoving a bite of toast into her mouth as the grave face of the muggle anchorman came onto the screen.

“And in breaking news, a building was partially destroyed late last night. The building, believed to be the administrative office of the popular wizard sport, Quidditch, suffered considerable damage in what is suspected to be a bomb blast. Police are working with wizard authorities to determine the exact cause of the destruction. Two men were injured and one has been reported missing...”

Rose felt her blood run cold, frozen like ice in her veins. “Hugo,” she whispered.

“What?” Scorpius said, leaning forward. “Rose...”

Astoria screamed as not one, but two owls crashed through the open window. The birds collided, sprawling onto the table and scattering breakfast. The Ministry Owl righted itself, hoping over to Scorpius and the other, a beautiful snowy owl that belonged to her mother, turned to Rose.

She could not force herself to untie the scroll attached to its leg. It was Astoria who did it, reaching around Rose and tutting at the bird to stay still. Rose unfolded the parchment, her eyes skimming the series of squiggles and shapes.

“What does it say?” Astoria asked with interest.

“It’s in code,” Rose explained. “Another Harry Potter and Ron Weasley idea, executed by Hermione Granger, or course.” She swallowed, and took a deep breath. “It says Hugo is missing, and mum wants to know where I am.”

“Oh dear,” Astoria murmured, shaking her head. “I’m so sorry.”

“I have to go into the Ministry. Rose, are you coming?” Scorpius asked, giving her a sympathetic glance.

She nodded, taking the quill Astoria had found and scribbling a response to her mother. Astoria tied the letter to the owl and stood back as the bird soared out the window. Rose put her head in her hands, not looking up until Scorpius told her her phone was beeping.

“Answer it,” Rose whispered, suddenly very tired. She was vaguely aware of Astoria’s hand, firm but soothing, on her back, and then Scorpius was pushing the phone into her hands. He was frowning.

“It’s a ransom note.”

She snatched the phone from him frantically.

We have your brother.
Home sweet home.
ALONE.


Rose slammed the phone shut and pushed her chair back.

“You aren’t thinking of...”

“Of course I’m bloody going,” she shouted at him. “It’s my brother! And you are not coming. Don’t even think about it, Scorpius,” she warned, pointing a shaking finger at him. “If you come anywhere near Hogsmeade I will shoot you myself.”

He glared at her and she glared back. “I don’t like this,” he said at last. “It’s a trap.”

“I don’t care,” she answered. “Keep you mouth closed too – I don’t want my parents knowing anything about this, not yet at least.”

“Rose, shouldn’t you talk to your father first?” Astoria said gently. Rose bit down on her temper, turning to face the worried woman.

“I will be fine; please don’t worry.” She rushed back down the hall, changing into yesterdays clothes and when she came out, Scorpius was standing with his arms folded, his expression stony.

“Think about this, please.”

“What’s to think about?” she argued, moving towards the door. He was quicker, blocking her path and she scowled at him. “Get out of the way, Malfoy.”

“So you’re just going to apparate in there are you?”

“I’m going to apparate into the trees behind my house, take down the wards and use the front door actually,” she replied calmly. “I will get out if I think I am in danger.”

“That’s the problem isn’t it?” he responded darkly. “You never think you’re in danger!”

Rose sighed, reaching up to rub her thumb over the sharp line of his cheekbone. “You can’t protect me all the time, Scorpius; I have to do this. It’s Hugo – he’s my baby brother. I can’t let anything happen to him.”

He grabbed her around the middle and pulled her into his chest. “If anything happens to you...”

“It won’t,” she whispered, hoping she was right. She had to try though, and she knew he knew it. Slowly, she moved away, opening the front door. She looked at him a moment, before she took a deep breath and disapparated.

The trees behind her cottage were unusually still. The breeze that generally waltzed through them was absent, and the birds that often called from the branches were gone. Rose shivered and took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of pine needles and grass. She could see her house; nothing appeared out of the ordinary and she knew, instantly, that Scorpius was right and she was walking into a trap.

She gripped her wand tightly and walked straight down the hill. She did not try and conceal herself, she did not run and she very calmly took down the wards, opened the front door and stepped inside, trying not to think too hard about what she was going to find. The front hall was empty, and the cottage was silent. Rose bit her lip, felt her muscles tense, and slowly moved into her house.

Her feet left the ground abruptly as she was pulled into a hard body and her wand was ripped from her fingers. Hands held her tightly around the middle, trapping both her arms. Rose struggled, forcing enough air into her lungs for a powerful scream, and the man at her back cursed in a foreign tongue, slamming his hand over her mouth so forcefully she felt her lips crack against her teeth. She recognised that voice, the smooth stroke of the tongue over the vowels and she began struggling more ferociously, understanding who held her. He began dragging her backwards; she kicked out with her legs and tried in vain to dig her nails into his flesh. She experienced an instant of pure terror as his strong, slender hands moved over her body expertly and she froze momentarily, before continuing to fight, twisting and writhing in his grip. Fear was in her mouth and her eyes filled with tears as one of the hands moved to her throat, the fingers starting to slide around her skin, preparing to squeeze.
Suddenly, he stopped, holding her firmly against him. She could hear his quick breathing in her ear, feel his breath on her cheek. He relaxed the hand across her lips and she instinctively tried to bite him.

“Hello, my sweet,” he cooed. “If I let you go, do you promise not to eat me?”

Rose nodded, and slowly, he freed her mouth. She gasped, sucking air greedily. “Areli, please.”

“Please what?”

“Don’t hurt me,” she begged in a whisper, swallowing her terror. He had not relaxed his grip on the rest of her body and she was starting to ache. His hand drifted languidly across her stomach, moving purposefully over her body. She could feel her skin screaming in protest beneath her shirt. “Won’t your god be displeased?” Rose rasped, fear shooting through her, hot as fire.

He chuckled. “I would atone for my sin.”

“Please; I’m pregnant.”

“Well now,” he said silkily. “What happy news. And where is the proud father to be?”

“Not here,” Rose answered. “I promise. I told him I’d shoot him if he followed me.”

Areli chuckled and ran his nose along the length of her neck, his hands still holding her tight. “Hmm, I suspected you had a temper to match the colour of your hair.”

“Enough,” a new voice snapped, and Rose held her breath as Sophie stepped into the room. Her eyes were hard and cold, and the expression on her face did not give Rose cause for hope. In her slim hands, the girl held a gun and, Rose realised with a jolt of shock, a wand.

“Where’s my brother?” she asked. Areli released her and Rose wrapped her arms around herself, shuddering with repulsion as the beautiful dark-haired man moved across the room to stand with Sophie. He disengaged the safety from his weapon and trained it on her.

“Relax,” Sophie drawled. “He’s not dead. Not yet, at least.”

“What do you want?” Rose asked coldly. Any sympathy she had for the girl had vanished.

Sophie looked at her with serious eyes. “My father.”

“I can’t just hand him over-”

Areli smiled his silky smile. “But you will, or your brother will die.”

Rose swallowed; her throat was tight, her mouth as dry as the desert she had left behind, and her body was so tense she imagined herself breaking into a million tiny pieces, a pile of rubble on the floor. “I want to see him. Please,” she begged, taking another step forward. She had no idea what she was doing, what she would do – worry for Hugo was hot in her throat, burning and choking her. She knew exactly what these people were capable of.

Sophie shook her head. “No. Not until I know my father is still alive.”

“So instead of waiting for me to call again, to organise something, you blow up a building and kidnap my brother?”

“A life for a life,” Areli said meaningfully and Rose shivered. She glanced down, and saw that Sophie still held Hugo’s wand. An impulsive thought rushed into her head and without waiting for the chance to second-guess herself, she lunged for it, ripping it free. Her hand closed on Areli’s wrist in an instant, and she gripped him tight, pulling him into her body and spinning them around. As the dislocation of apparition closed around them, Rose let her grip on the Israeli slide, breaking him out of the circle of the spell, and when she appeared on the opposite side of the small lounge room, all she could hear were his screams.

“What did you do to him?” Sophie shouted in terror.

Rose shrugged, her heart pounding. “I would imagine he’s been splinched.”

Areli lay on the floor near the fireplace, struggling and gasping in shock, one hand clutched within the other. Sophie leant down, keeping her gun trained on Rose, and demanded to see. He was missing all the fingers from his left hand and he moaned and sat up, his eyes filled with hatred as he cursed her in his own tongue.

“Fix him,” Sophie ordered.

Rose shook her head. “Not until I see my brother.”

Enraged, Sophie crossed the room a few paces, her gun level with Rose’s face. “Fix him or you’re dead.”

“What about your father? If you kill me, you will never get him back, I can assure you of that,” Rose answered with confidence. “Let me see Hugo.”

Sophie bit her lip, her face conflicted. After a moment, she nodded, indicating Areli.

“I need your word,” Rose said in a hard voice. Hugo’s wand was still in her hand and she gripped it tight. “I could kill you both in an instant, you know that, don’t you?”

“Alright, alright; I promise to take you to your brother,” Sophie gasped. She let her gun fall and dropped to her knees beside Areli, who was pale. “Now help him.”

“You will not touch me, witch,” the Israeli spat.

“Fine,” Rose said simply. “Enjoy life without your fingers.”

“Wait,” Sophie cried, as Rose folded her arms, enjoying the blinding feeling of the tables turning. She was trapped and she was under duress, but she was not powerless. “Areli, don’t be an idiot. Please.”

Grumbling, he nodded. Rose crossed the room, kneeling gingerly beside Areli. He looked at her with disgust which she ignored, holding out her hand, indicating he was to place his injured limb in her palm. She examined him carefully, critically, before sighing and sitting back.

“It won’t be hard to fix. I need to get a few things.” She climbed to her feet and left the room, heading to the kitchen. “Sophie, find his fingers. You need to put them on ice.”

“What?” Sophie was pale. Rose repeated her instruction firmly and the girl nodded, swallowed, and began searching the room and while in the kitchen, Rose heard her cry out. “Here’s one, and another and oh god, this is bloody disgusting.”

Rose said nothing; she found the Dittany in a kitchen drawer and slowly started to grin. There, blinking at her, was a Magical Track. It was a modified muggle device, ones the Ministry had been using for a while. All she had to do was activate it, so she tapped it with Hugo’s wand and slipped it into her shirt, inside her bra, where she preyed no one would be looking for it. Sophie yelled for her to hurry up, so she flicked the wand and moments later, a bowl filled with ice floated from the kitchen. Sophie would not touch the severed fingers so Rose floated them to the bowl, watching as they settled themselves gently on top. Areli was moaning and cursing and Rose Silenced him, smirking. She’d had enough of his voice.

She thought she was going to have to Stun him to apply the Dittany, and reminded him in a few short words that he agreed to this and if he didn’t stay still she wouldn’t reattach his fingers. Glaring, he obeyed and Rose sat back, satisfied, as the skin around his fingers slowly regrew. The process took a little under half an hour; no one spoke, and Rose could feel Sophie watching her.

“I want to see my brother,” she announced in a hard voice, handing the wand over without complaint. Sophie hung her head and nodded, and soon, they were trudging through the forest behind the cottage, to where Sophie and Areli had left a car. Areli was pale and sweaty and Rose knew he probably shouldn’t be walking around after a splinching accident, but she didn’t care. Let him rot where he fell; she had absolutely no compassion for him.

Sophie helped Areli into the battered-up vehicle, and Rose slipped into the back, allowing Sophie to tie a blind-fold around her eyes. It didn’t matter; she had the Track pressed against her skin, and it would lead her back to Hugo. She did not trust Sophie or Areli to keep their word, especially Areli.

It was disconcerting to be in a moving vehicle with her vision obscured – memories of the journey across the African continent surfaced and Rose pushed them away, not wanting to think of it. She took a deep breath and focused on her brother. Areli’s breathing had returned to normal, but he was very quiet, and Sophie did not say a word.

Rose estimated they had been driving for forty minutes by the time the car stopped. She was told to keep the blindfold on, and was lead across rocky, uneven ground. She could smell the ocean, and metal and heat, and realised she had no idea where she was. A door was opened with a squeal, and she was nudged in the small of her back. Stumbling, she stepped through the door, the cool of the air hitting her face.

Sophie removed the blindfold and Rose blinked, letting her eyes adjust as she glanced around. “Where is he?” she asked, taking in the mountains of crates in one corner, the rotten old lounge and small articles of regular house-hold furniture arranged in the centre of the room. There was a table and some chairs, a bed, some plates and kitchenware and she wondered how long Sophie and Areli had been here. Evidence of someone living in the building, which she came to realise was a shipping container, was clear. She could smell food and old clothing, soap and sweat.

“Follow me,” Sophie ordered, and Rose felt her skin crawl as Areli took position behind her. She heard the safety on his weapon release and her heart jumped into her throat. She was unarmed again, and a deep sense of vulnerability rushed through her.

Sophie stopped in the darkest corner of the container. She fumbled in the shadows, striking a match and lighting a candle. Rose gasped and took a step forward, but Areli stuck the nose of his weapon between her shoulder blades, halting her movement.

Hugo was tied to a chair, and he was unconscious, but he appeared to be unhurt. “Wake him up,” Rose demanded.

“How am I supposed to do that?” Sophie said, frustrated.

“Give me the wand and I will do it,” Rose said. Areli pressed the gun harder against her skin. “I’m not trying to trick you; I want to know he’s okay before I get your father for you.”

Slowly, ignoring Areli’s protest, Sophie handed over the wand. Rose knew that if she wanted, she could Stun them both, grab Hugo and disappear, but she didn’t. She needed them to trust her, and the last thing she wanted was any more members of her family in this situation, or any more buildings blown to pieces. She could not bear to think what someone like Areli would do to her cousins, or their children, in retaliation.

Sophie watched critically as Rose revived Hugo; his face broke into a smile when he saw her, the happiness quickly falling from his lips as he noticed she was not able to rescue him. “Are you okay?” she asked him softly, reaching up to check his face and eyes.

He nodded. “Just a few bruises, I think. How’s mum and dad?”

“Worried,” she answered, wishing she could say more. Her brother was doing well to keep the fear from his voice, but Rose could see it in his eyes. “Sit tight,” she continued, and he rolled his eyes at her choice of words, but a small smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. “I’m working something out, okay.”

“Enough,” Areli snapped, and she was grabbed around the upper arm and pulled away from her brother. Hugo protested, and was rewarded with a slap around his ears. Rose saw red, and Areli found the pointy end of her wand digging into the skin beneath his chin. He glared at her as she forced his head back. “Do it, and he’s dead,” and Rose realised with a shock that he had the barrel of his gun resting against Hugo’s temple. She hadn’t even seen him move.

She dropped her arm and stepped back, handing the wand to Sophie, who slipped it into her pocket. “You have until noon tomorrow,” she said. “Bring me my father, and your brother goes free. Areli, leave him alone.”

Rose did not move until the Israeli had lowered his weapon. She gave Hugo what she hoped was a promising smile and he nodded in return. Sophie led Rose back through the container and outside. “You can find your own way out of here,” she said. “I won’t move him, I promise. We will be here tomorrow, waiting. If you don’t show up by noon, he will be shot.”

She went inside and slammed the door, leaving Rose standing in the heat and dust of an abandoned industrial zone.



Two chapters to go guys!

Chapter 15: CHAPTER FIFTEEN
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CHAPTER FIFTEEN



It took twenty minutes to find what resembled a well-used road, and another twenty to catch a lift. Rose stood on the side of the road with her thumb out and watched, irritated, as five cars sped by. One eventually stopped. The driver was an elderly man, who smiled, gave Rose a lift to the nearest town, and talked her ear off along the way, moaning about the state of the world and why can’t everyone just let each other be.

On the outskirts of the city, she flexed her Ministry muscles on a muggle cab driver, reminding him that his government wanted the muggle population to co-operate, and the man drove her into the centre of London, handing her a slip of paper that Rose realised was a bill. She promised to see he was paid for his services, and he sped away with a grunt.

The Ministry was its usual busy self, and Rose made her way quickly to her office. She pushed open the door and was immediately confronted by the rush of her parents’ voices.

“Where have you been?”

“Are you trying to give us heart attacks?”

She sighed, knowing Scorpius had given her up, but not blaming him. She shook her head hastily, waving away their panic. “I saw Hugo. He’s okay.”

“Who’s got him?” Ron growled. Rose swallowed, jumping as something moved across the room. Scorpius was standing with his arms folded, his expression dark and she wanted to fly across the desk between them and fling her arms around his neck. She wanted to tell him she was sorry, that she knew he cared and was just looking out for her. She took a small step forward, needing him, and suddenly he was there.

“Sophie.”

“What?” Scorpius whispered.

“She wants her father,” Rose said loudly. “She wants Joe. We should have tried harder to let him see her, dad. This would never have happened otherwise!”

Ron’s expression became stony. “Are you saying this is my fault?”

“Of course not,” Hermione said quickly, giving Rose a stern glance. “She’s upset; we’re all upset. Rose, what, besides Joe, does she want?”

“Just Joe,” she answered, standing up. Her head spun suddenly, her stomach lurched and the world darkened around the edges. “I already told her...” She paused, taking a deep breath and wondering how long it had been since she had eaten. Scorpius put his hand on her back, his eyes plastered to her face as she gripped the edge of the table for support. “I just...she has Areli with her. They were waiting for me...”

“Did he hurt you?” Scorpius’ voice was fierce and she shook her head, the motion too fast, too sudden. She reached out a hand in entreaty, grasping at the air, and a shadow closed over her head and she was falling.

When she opened her eyes, she was on her back on the floor. Scorpius was shaking her gently, his hands on her shoulders, and her mother was hovering, looking torn between shoving Scorpius out of the way and not making a fuss.

“What happened?” Rose whispered, blinking and attempting to sit up. Scorpius shook his head, his hands firm on her shoulders and she gave up, not having the strength or the inclination to fight him.

“You fainted, Weasley.”

“I fainted?” she scoffed. “Seriously?”

“You didn’t eat much breakfast,” he said in a low voice, his expression concerned. “Or get much sleep – you tossed and turned half the night. Do you need a Healer?”

Rose frowned. “Why on earth would I need a Healer?”

Before she could stop him, his hand moved to her belly, and a tender expression flitted across his face. “Because all this excitement can’t be good for the ba -”

Hermione gasped in the background, and Rose pushed Scorpius away hastily; his features froze as he realised what he had done. Slowly, she sat up, keeping her eyes on the ground. Scorpius muttered an apology but she only shook her head. Cautiously, she peeked up at her parents: her mother was kneeling on the ground, her eyes wide with shock, and her father was standing with his arms folded, his expression unreadable, but he was slowly turning red.

“Rose,” her mum breathed, “are you...pregnant?”

Rose swallowed, her voice nothing but a scratch when it clawed its way from her throat. “Yes.” Her mother’s eyes flickered from her face to Scorpius’.

“It’s my baby,” he said, perhaps unnecessarily, because Ron was glowering at him.

“I ought to tear your throat out, Malfoy!”

“Dad, please,” Rose sighed, climbing swiftly to her feet, ignoring Scorpius’ outstretched hand. Her father didn’t know who to direct his anger at – Rose or Scorpius. “He didn’t do this on his own, or on purpose. We made a mistake and anyway, this isn’t the time. We need to be concentrating on Hugo.”

Hermione made a little noise that sounded like a strangled sob. “Oh Rose.”

“You can lecture me later, okay?” Rose muttered.

“I...”

“This changes everything,” Ron interupted, looking at his daughter, who shook her head.

“I have to go – if I don’t show up with Joe, they will kill him, dad,” she said firmly, “and Areli likes to play games with his prey.”

“Polyjuice,” Scorpius cut in. “We can’t release Joe, but Joe still needs to make an appearance.”

“And I suppose you’re volunteering?” Ron growled; Scorpius ignored his black looks.

“I know him. I can be him long enough to get Hugo out of there,” Scorpius answered. “And this way, I can look after Rose.”

“Oh come on,” Rose sighed. “I’m not completely useless, regardless of what you might think, Malfoy.”

Scorpius blinked. “I never thought-”

“I don’t need protecting; it’s no wonder pregnant women suffer from mood swings, with all these men constantly telling them what to do,” Rose grumbled.

“You...I...just...god, you just fainted, Rose. You need to rest, not go running around the countryside,” Scorpius muttered, narrowing his eyes at her. “You’re going to drive me insane, you know that, don’t you?”

“Get used to it,” Ron said darkly from across the table. “This is only the beginning. Wait until she’s shaking you awake at three in the morning wanting pickles and strawberries on toast or something as equally mental.”

“Oh for heavens sake, Ronald,” Hermione scolded, shaking her head. “Rose, I think Scorpius is right. You need to rest for a bit – lie down, eat something.”

“Mum...”

“Rose Weasley, you will do what you are told,” her mother bit back, eyes flashing. “You will lie down and you will eat. You will not do anything else for at least a few hours, do you understand?”

She sighed and nodded; Scorpius looked smug.

“How long have we got to do this deal?” Ron asked.

“Until noon tomorrow; I managed to convince them I needed time,” Rose said. “I need to talk to Joe,” she added, and her father sighed and nodded, before saying he wanted to run the plan by Harry. Rose watched sadly as her parents left the room, her mother lingering in the door for a brief moment, before she lowered her eyes and followed her husband. Scorpius turned to her, pointing his wand at the lounge and Rose watched, feeling strangely disjointed, as it stretched and widened.

“Rest,” he ordered. Without complaint, she lay down, linking her arms behind her head and staring at the ceiling. He sighed. “I am such an idiot.”

“One of your more endearing qualitites,” she said simply. “Don’t worry about it. They had to know sooner or later. I should have told them when we got home.”

“I’ve never thought you couldn’t do this job, Rose,” he said quietly.

“But you...”

“I was doing my job,” Scorpius interrupted. “I apologise if I was short with you, both while we were away and before we left.”

Rose narrowed her eyes. “Are you just saying this because we’re sleeping together?”

He gave a sharp back of laughter. “I would never presume to seduce you with praise.”

She smiled and patted the space of lounge next to her hip. “Oh, shouldn’t you go and speak to Harry?” she asked and he told her no, he was staying where he was and she’d better not complain about it. He sat where she had indicated, his hand slipping beneath her shirt to caress her belly.

“I’m sorry I keep doing this,” he said softly, thumb running across her naval. “I’m just still so amazed by the whole thing. You have another human being growing inside you, Rose. That’s pretty darn incredible – pretty special, actually. I’ve never really thought about it before – pregnancy that is – but I guess I had no reason to.”

She smiled, looking up at him, her eyes taking in the smooth sweep of his forehead and the strong line of his profile. She captured his hand, holding it steady and squeezed, unable to speak that which was foremost in her brain – she was feeling completely overwhelmed with everything: Hugo’s kidnapping, Lily’s injuries, her parents finding out about the baby, and the prospect of being a parent and having her life turned upside down and inside out. She wondered how he felt about that, but she didn’t ask.

Scorpius dropped to his knees and lifted her shirt higher up her body, exposing her tummy to his eyes. He gave her a swift kiss near her belly button, making her giggle, so he did it again, his lips moving feather-light over her skin, until she fisted both her hands in his hair and pulled his head away from her body.

Their eyes locked and Rose felt her muscles tighten as he moved closer to her face, all playfulness vanished from his expression. Slowly, he kissed her; it was tender and tempered and far more intimate than any kiss they had shared so far and she gave herself over to it completely, letting him steal her breath.

“So,” he said, his lips brushing against hers as he talked.

“So,” she repeated, not knowing what else to say and not fully understanding what he meant by the word. The door clicked open and Rose twisted her head, finding herself looking at her mother. Hermione had a small nervous smile on her face as she watched them, and Rose saw she had a plate held between her hands.

“Lunch,” she said gently, coming around and laying the plate on the table near the lounge. “I didn’t get you anything, Scorpius, sorry, but I can go and-”

He shook his head, climbing to his feet, a slight stain kissing his cheeks. “Its fine, Mrs Weasley, I’m not hungry.”

“Don’t you think you’d better start calling me Hermione?”

“If that’s what you wish,” Scorpius replied, running a hand over his hair as an awkward silence crept into the room on heavy feet. “I should go and...umm...”

Rose nodded and he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and she watched him leave the room. Hermione pressed the sandwich into her hands. “Thank you,” Rose mumbled. Her mother didn’t speak again until Rose had wiped her fingers free of crumbs.

“Can I ask how you two ended up in this situation?”

Rose raised an eyebrow. “I thought you knew where babies come from, mum.”

“I’m not asking for details of your sex life, Rose; there are some things even I do not wish to know,” her mother replied, slightly exasperated.

Rose set the plate aside, figuring that blunt honesty would be the best policy. “We were drunk.”

“So you’re telling me my first grandchild was conceived as a result of a random shag?” Hermione said sharply, and Rose flinched.

“I guess so,” she muttered.

Hermione sighed. “Oh Rose; I suppose what’s done is done, then. How far along are you?”

“Not very; two months perhaps, I don’t exactly know.”

The questions began then: how was she feeling? Did she have morning sickness? How had the Malfoy’s taken the news? What were she and Scorpius planning to do once the baby arrived? Had she seen a Healer? Did she intend to keep working? Did she need anything? Books?

Rose said softly, “Scorpius and I are in negotiation at present.”

“Please don’t tell me we’re heading for a custody battle with the sodding Malfoy’s,” Hermione groaned. “Because I don’t think your father and I can afford that. Maybe if we sold the house or that ghastly Goblin jewellery that your father inherited from Aunt Muriel...”

“It’s nothing like that, mum. They’ve been very supportive; well, Astoria has. I’ve not spoken to Mr Malfoy,” she said calmly, watching as her mother’s eyes widened speculatively. “Scorpius says I should move into his place.”

Hermione threw her a sharp look. “Don’t feel obligated. You might be pregnant but that doesn’t mean-”

Rose smiled. “I know, mum.”

Her mother suddenly reached out and smoothed the hair back from her daughter’s face, like she used to do when Rose was a child. Her voice when she spoke next was rough. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“I was afraid,” Rose answered honestly. “I thought you’d be disappointed in me; in us. The whole world has gone to shit and I go and get pregnant in the middle of it.”

“I must admit the timing isn’t brilliant, but I could never be disappointed in you, darling.”

Rose sat very still as Hermione reached out and placed a hand over her belly, much as Scorpius had done when she had told him the news. Rose waited, her anxiety turning to relief as her mother’s eyes slowly filled with tears. “Oh darling,” Hermione whispered. “You’re going to be a mother, Rose. Oh god, I’m going to be a grandmother.”

“Sorry,” Rose grinned, unable to help it. She glanced up at the inner-window of her office; Scorpius was standing in the hall outside, talking with her father and Uncle Harry, and a worried looking Neville Longbottom. Her stomach flopped as she watched the father of her unborn child, making her head spin again. She sensed her mother watching her.

“Scorpius is in love with you,” Hermione said simply; Rose blinked and shook her head. Her mother laughed. “Rose, a blind man could see it. I thought he would wear out the floor boards waiting for you to show up this morning, although he wasn’t the only one pacing around like a caged animal. The only question is how do you feel about him?”

“I...”

Her mother patted her hand. “You’ll work it out,” she whispered, as the door opened. For the rest of the afternoon, Rose’s office was a hive of activity. She couldn’t work out why they had chosen her office to conduct business, and when she said something to her father he simply shrugged and demanded she lie down. Grumbling, she did as she was told, and after a while, she relaxed, enjoying reclining on her lounge like Cleopatra before the Roman’s.

“Are you ready to speak to Joe?” Harry asked her suddenly, and Rose nodded, sitting up and shaking her hair back from her face. “It would be better if he agreed to this voluntarily, but don’t hesitate to remind him we can make him co operate.”

Down in the cells, Joe was waiting for her. “I heard about the bombing,” he said quietly. “The guards were talking about it.”

“Tell me you had nothing to do with it,” Rose said simply.

He blinked. “How could I?”

“Your message to Sophie,” she answered neutrally. Her heart was pounding and she almost feared his response. Joe considered her for a moment, and then shook his shaggy head.

“It wasn’t a code to attack, Rose. It was simply a message; we have a stack of them prepared in case something like this ever happened. It was the first one that came into my head. I used to duck hunt with my grandfather, when I was a boy.”

“If you are lying to me, I will find out,” Rose said calmly, producing a vial of Veritaserum. Joe eyed it warily.

“I’m not completely stupid and anyway, what makes you think Sophie had anything to do with it?”

“She’s here, in London.”

“Can I see her?” he asked almost desperately.

“Not at the moment. That’s why I’m here, actually. I need your assistance,” Rose said quietly. “If you don’t help me, things could end very badly for her.”

His eyebrows lifted. “Is that a threat?”

“No. She’s kidnapped the son of two high-ranking members of our government. If anything happens to my brother...”

He sighed, a sad expression creeping across his face.

“What she is doing doesn’t help the cause, Joe,” Rose argued, leaning forward in her seat.

His mouth twisted. “And which cause is that? Yours or mine?”

“Do you honestly still believe killing us is the answer?” she asked incredulously. “Haven’t you been treated humanely?”

“I suppose...”

“You’ve not been tortured, starved, locked in the dark for days, threatened with death, beaten, raped, experimented on or forced to give information relating to things you know nothing about,” Rose said in a low voice. Still he did not speak and she stood up, deeply angry with him. “And you call us non-human.”

As she reached the door, his voice rose from behind her, small and timid.

“What do you need me to do?”

The following moring, at ten, Rose watched as Scorpius swallowed a vial of Polyjuice potion. They were in the back of a van in the industrial estate where Hugo was being held. She bit her lip as Scorpius doubled over, groaning and rubbing furiously at his face. He put his face between his knees, dry-retching and moments later, when he lifted his head, Joe stared back at her. Rose blinked; she never got over how incredible Polyjuice potion was. Scorpius closed his eyes a moment, sitting up straight, before he gave himself a shake and reclined casually against the wall of the van, spreading his knees apart and letting his hand rest on his thigh, just as Joe would.

“Drive,” he ordered in Joe’s deep voice, and the vehicle pulled away, drawing them closer to Hugo. Joe had offered his help without resistance, reaching up and pulling hair from his head and handing it to Rose calmly. He did not ask questions, just made her promise that Sophie would not get hurt. Areli, he said, could lie dying in the street for getting his daughter involved in something so stupid.

Rose had made one more request of Joe and he had surprised her by agreeing. After the mission was complete, she would take him to Cass. Rose had not mentioned her new plan to anyone; she had been given authority over her education program and she could take whatever steps were necessary as long as security was maintained and she got results.

The van slowed and pulled to a stop. Rose climbed to her feet, taking out her wand as Scorpius turned and offered her his hands. She bound his wrists tightly, apologising as she did so.

“Areli will check, no doubt,” she whispered. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes. Let’s get a move on; we’re on the clock,” he said simply. Rose lifted the leg of his pants and slipped a wand into his sock and a handgun into the waistband, before pointing her wand at his body. When she patted him down, the gun and wand could not be felt and she smiled, repeating the process with the gun for herself. She climbed out of the van, Scorpius following, her wand trained on him. Rose knew Areli would be watching from somewhere nearby, and she walked Scorpius at wand-point to the door of the small warehouse.

It was a fifteen minute walk – Areli had insisted no vehicles approach, and Rose was conscious of the time they were losing. There were Disillusioned Aurors stationed around the industrial area, but they were not to approach until Scorpius’ polyjuiced time was up, regardless of what they heard, or until Rose signalled them.

Areli swung open the door at her knock and they were ushered inside at gun-point. Sophie stood in the background, waiting as he patted them both down. Rose held her breath as his hands moved over her body. He nodded, telling her she may keep her wand but if she tried anything, he would shoot Hugo. He was so calm it sent shivers up her spine, although she expected nothing less of him.

Sophie dashed across the room and threw herself into Scorpius’ arms. She turned to look at Rose. “Thank you,” she whispered, before leading Scorpius to sit. Offers of a drink were made, and he accepted a beer, cracking open the top and drinking with relish. Rose had to hand it to him – if she hadn’t have known any better, she would think he was Joe.

“I’m fine,” he said to Sophie’s questions. “Really.”

“How is Cass?”

“I don’t know – they haven’t let me see her.”

“Bastards,” Sophie spat and Scorpius shook his head, setting his beer aside and reaching for her hands.

“Listen, you need to get out of here, out of the UK. Let the boy go and leave.”

She shook her head. “Not without you.”

He sighed, pulling at his hair. “Okay, okay; Sophie, you’ve done a really brave but really stupid thing. What were you thinking? Didn’t I teach you better than this? You needed to wait.”

Areli was watching the interchange suspiciously and Rose felt her heart leap into her throat. “I want to see my brother,” she announced. “I’ve held up my end. Now it’s your turn.”

Sophie nodded. “Yes, yes, he can go.”

“Sophie -” Areli began, but she glared at him.

“What? Rose did what we asked. Let him go. Dad’s right – this was stupid, Areli.”

Scorpius climbed to his feet; he met Rose’s eye and she nodded slightly. This was the part of the plan she did not like. She was to see Hugo released, get him to safety, and leave Scorpius in the building. The Aurors were to wait for her signal, and then storm the container, capturing ‘Joe’, his daughter and her accomplice.

Slowly, she followed Areli through the musky light, Scorpius and Sophie bringing up the rear. She could see Hugo, still tied to the chair, and her heart tightened. He was sleeping, and she nodded, satisfied that he was alright, and turned back to the others. Scorpius cleared his throat, his face suddenly uncomfortable and Rose’s eyes widened as he groaned.

She watched, horrified, as his hair slowly began to lighten and his build began to thin. He drew a sharp breath as his eyes changed colour and Rose felt the beginning of desperate failure sink into her stomach.

“Dad?” Sophie whispered.

“I’m not your father,” Scorpius said quickly, doubling over as the transformation sped up. It happened swiftly and as he turned and faced them, Sophie drew her weapon.

“What have you done with him?” she shouted.

“Relax,” Rose told her. “He’s safe and right where we left him this morning. Yes, we tricked you but I told you we couldn’t release him. He has a message for you,” she hurried, taking advantage of Sophie’s confusion. “He wants you to stop this. You really does want you to get out of the UK, to be safe. He’s not going to be hurt, Sophie. He’s co-operated and been incredibly helpful. I promise you he will be fine.”

“Enough,” Areli snapped. “Lies. All lies. I’m sorry, but your brother will die.” He lifted his weapon, pointing it towards Hugo.

Scorpius reached down and drew his gun. Areli dropped and rolled to safety. Scorpius used the battered lounge as cover as a storm of bullets suddenly ripped through the air. Sophie was shouting at them to stop, and while chaos reigned for just a moment, Rose spotted a coffee mug sitting on the egde of the wooden table, which she quickly turned into a portkey.

“Stop her!” Areli shouted, and Sophie lunged for Rose, flinging herself quickly across the room. Rose ducked the blow intended for her face and threw herself off balance, staggering back. Sophie came at her again and Rose backed up, giving herself space and before the girl could do anything more, she apparated across the room, landing before her brother, who was looking around desperately.

Hugo struggled with his bonds. “Get me out of here. I can help.”

Rose released him and summoned the cup, jumping out of the way. It landed in Hugo’s lap and he automatically scooped it up. He looked at her, dismayed, before he vanished with a loud snap of the air. Sophie screamed and Rose turned to find herself staring down the barrel of a gun. She swallowed, a strange calm settling over her.

“Why could you just not give me what I wanted?” Sophie whispered.

“I’m sorry,” Rose replied gently. Sophie closed her eyes and crumpled to the ground, and Rose looked up to see Scorpius lower his wand at the same time as Areli raised his weapon; in saving her life he had ended his own. “No!” she shouted, taking a step forward, panic flooding her stomach. She lifted her wand and trained it on the Israeli. Areli’s gun was so close to Scorpius it was almost touching the tip of his nose.

Areli smiled. “So, here we are. I wonder who has the faster trigger.”

“Why are you doing this? What have we ever done to your country, to your people?” Rose asked quietly. “You’re Mossad. What threat could we possibly pose to the national security of Israel?”

“You exist against the wishes of god; therefore, you cannot be allowed to remain -”

Scorpius sighed. “Enough with the religion; admit it – you like killing people. You like fear, and destruction. You thrive on it, Areli. People like you never feel complete unless someone is suffering.”

The Israeli nodded. “Perhaps that is also correct.” He turned to Rose. “Your wand, my sweet.”

“What about it?”

“Destroy it.”

“What?” Rose stammered, gripping her wand tighter.

“I don’t want any sneaky disappearing acts from you; destroy it, or I will shoot him, and then you.”

“You would shoot a pregnant woman?” Rose asked.

“If I must; but how do I know you are not lying to me again.”

“She’s not,” Scorpius growled.

Trembling, Rose closed her eyes. “Alright.” She lowered her wand. She knew she had no choice but to obey.

“Rose, don’t,” Scorpius said fiercely. “Get out of here.”

“No,” she whispered, opening her eyes. She swallowed, turned and brought her wand down heavily on the edge of the wooden table. She felt like crying as it snapped in half and fell to the floor. She wanted to collect the pieces and cradle them in her arms like a lost child but she remained standing.

She felt the burning, tearing hatred inside her coil and flip in her stomach like a living entity, her eyes flickering between Areli and Scorpius. Areli said something too low for her to hear and slowly, while his attention was focused on Scorpius, Rose moved towards Sophie’s body. The girl was breathing but unconscious, and a small cut was present on her forehead. Her gun was lying inches from her body and Rose crouched down, freezing as she heard Areli’s voice echo through the deep silence.

“What are you doing?”

“Checking she’s alive.”

“And is she?”

“Yes.”

“Get over here,” he ordered. “I want to see your face when I kill him.”

Rose glanced at him; he was watching her so she nodded, standing up. When his eyes swung back to Scorpius she nudged Sophie’s gun away quickly with her foot, watching the weapon slide out of the girls reach. Rose twisted her hand behind herself and touched her gun, her heartbeat threatening to drown her; it thundered through her ears, raced through her blood and adrenalin was a drug she swallowed whole. She could feel the weapon resting in the waistband of her pants, against the small of her back, and it pulsed with a life of its own.

Moving quickly, muscles straining, Rose came back to her position by the table. She swallowed, throat dry as Areli adjusted his grip on his weapon and she knew she had seconds. She took a step forward, pushing her weight onto her right leg, her eyes never leaving Scorpius’ face. He was so steady, so calm, and she wondered how he could remain composed moments before he died.

“And now,” Areli whispered gently, “you die. I hope you have made peace with whatever god you serve, my friend.”

“Go to hell,” Scorpius whispered back, as Rose took the opportunity to spread her feet and correct her balance. Her right hand reached for the gun and she drew it out. Her fingers flowed over the weapon like water as she released the safety, locked her wrists and took aim.

There was a moment where she thought he knew what was about to happen; a moment where his eyes found hers and then, the dreadful sound of a bullet screaming from a barrel reverberated through the room and she didn’t know for certain who had fired.

In slow motion, she watched him topple to the floor, the shock of his death sudden and real on his face. Her arm wavered and fell and she tossed the gun away from her, dropping to her knees and dry-heaving, bracing herself on her hands.

If it came down to it, you would not hesitate to pull the trigger to protect the one you love.

Scorpius’ arms were around her and he was holding her close, rocking her against his chest. She sobbed, unable to control it, and against her will, her eyes moved beyond him to the dead body of the Mossad agent. She pushed Scorpius away, turning and emptying what little food was in her stomach onto the floor. At that moment, the Aurors burst their way inside; her father was at the head, his face set and hard and his expression faltered as he took in the bodies strewn across the floor.

“Dad,” Rose called weakly and in an instant, he was there. He Vanished the mess on the concrete and conjured blankets and water, which Rose gulped down greedily. She was aware of Scorpius’ hand on her back, moving in slow circular motions. Slowly, shock took hold and soon she was shaking and wrapped in a blanket, cradled in Scorpius’ arms, vaguely aware he was telling her father what had happened: that the Polyjuice had worn off sooner than expected, that Hugo was safe and that Areli was dead at Rose’s hand.

“Rose,” Ron said gently, sliding his finger under her chin. She thought she saw tears in his eyes, but he blinked, and they were gone.

“I’m okay,” she whispered, shivering. “I’m okay.”

He stroked her hair back from her forehead. “Where is your brother?”

“Oh,” she gasped, “He should be at Nana Granger’s, in the cellar if all went to plan.”

Her father started to smile. “You Portkeyed your brother half-way across the country and dumped him in a cellar?”

“Yeah.”

“Sounds like something your mother would do,” Ron laughed and hugged her, and Rose was sandwiched between the two men she loved more than anything in the world. Her throat suddenly felt tight, her chest constricted as she swallowed, the truth of her feelings hitting her with all the force of a blow.

It was nothing to do with the baby and it was not pretend, not this time.

Her eyes sought Scorpius’ and she stared at him blankly, shock of a different kind slipping its control over her body.

She loved him, completely and honestly, and she could not deny it.





Okay guys, there is only one chapter to go now!!

Chapter 16: CHAPTER SIXTEEN
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CHAPTER SIXTEEN



“The Muggle Prime Minister has called a lunch meeting today.”

Rose forced her brain to concentrate on what her Uncle Harry was saying. No one had said anything to her about the shooting but Rose knew they were all thinking about it; she could feel it in their gazes and she knew her mother, sitting to her left in a rare appearance at Auror Council, had questions she wanted to ask. Rose had assured everyone she was alright, that there was nothing else that she could have done.

Scorpius squeezed her leg under the table, giving her the tiniest of smiles. Her heart sped up, her mouth went dry and she wondered how long she could go without telling him how she felt. Since Hugo’s release, there had never been the right moment. For two days, they had barely been left alone, with Rose’s parents insisting on meeting with the Malfoy’s to talk about the baby and the future, so Rose and Scorpius had spent most of the previous night and day at Malfoy Manor, listening while their respective parents talked and argued.

It didn’t matter what they said, Scorpius had told her. It was not up to them.

Rose suspected much of what her parent’s had put her through recently was to ensure she didn’t spend time thinking about what she had done. Fighting with her boyfriends parents seemed a logical way to focus her attention elsewhere.

Uncle Harry cleared his throat. “Following this meeting, we are hoping to set up further talks with the Muggle leaders, both political and military, of the major European nations. We want this to become a world wide thing eventually.” He paused, glanced meaningfully around the table and continued. “I want to propose that the Statute of Secrecy not be reimposed.”

Murmurs spread like a storm as people looked to their neighbours and there was no disguising the concern on their faces.

“What I suggest instead,” Harry said loudly, and everyone immediately fell silent, “is that treaties are set up between Muggles and Wizards, with rules for proper conduct and a governing body made up of representatives from all communities. There will be penalties for breaking the rules if a nation signs the treaties.”

“Sort of like the United Nations?” Rose said quietly, and her uncle nodded approvingly.

“It is too late to return to the way things were; if we want things to change, if we want peace, we have to try this diplomatically,” Hermione said clearly. “We do not have the manpower or the technology to fight a war – we know this already. An ambassadorial team, consisting of Ministry representatives, media liaison, Aurors and, if possible, Muggles, will make their way around the European mainland attending meetings and giving public talks.”

“This team,” Harry said with a nod, “will be headed by Hermione and Neville. The other participants will be decided on in due course.”

Rose gave her mother a quick glance and a smile, knowing just how persuasive her diplomatic techniques were. Hermione and Draco Malfoy had argued for what seemed like hours on the best way to raise and educate a child, with Draco conceding defeat in the end, throwing his hands in the air and telling Scorpius to do what he wants, that he wouldn’t interfere but that he shouldn’t be afraid to use his family name for anything. Hermione had raised an eyebrow and said clearly that if Rose wanted to use her family name she would find more doors opening.

That particular comment had opened a can of worms Rose did not want to delve into, and she had raised her voice at her parents and Scorpius’, not knowing where she found the strength to tell them all they could bugger off. After the apologies, the conversation had then switched to politics and the state of the world and that was when Rose had left, feigning a headache.

“What about the prisoners?” Scorpius asked, and Rose knew he was thinking of Sophie, their newest detainee. “We can’t leave them in our cells for the rest of their lives.”

Harry shook his head. “That is also on the agenda for today’s meeting. I am hoping that the Muggles will take care of their own.” He sighed, pulling at his hair. “So much has to happen. Laws will have to be rewritten and passed through governments and the people of both worlds will have to be educated. I mean, do we go so far as to teach comprehensive Muggle history and politics in schools and insist Muggles do the same with our history? Do we offer field trips to Hogwarts and turn ourselves into zoo exhibits?”

Many people looked uncomfortable at this and Rose could not help a squirming in her seat a little, remembering how it felt to be involved with For Humanity and recalling how her people were judged and spoken about. Racism ran deep, and hatred even deeper. She wasn’t sure if they would ever be completely safe, regardless of how many treaties and rules were implemented.

“Rose has had some success were her rehabilitation of one of the prisoners,” Harry said and Rose blushed as everyone turned to look at her.

“It helps that I knew him before, from the mission to Morocco,” she said rather nervously, “but he has been helpful and willing to listen, which is a start. The others we have in custody have been less approachable. Joe is a smart man – he is a good judge of people and I think, given the opportunity, he could accept wizards as being just like him.”

Rose looked at her father. His face was grim. “This will take time, everyone. We cannot expect either group of people to simply change their thinking and their way of life overnight.”

“We don’t want a band-aid solution,” Neville Longbottom said quietly. “We want something that will last and be profitable to both worlds.”

“The Minister has warned us that we are about to enter the hardest and most challenging part of this whole conflict,” Harry said softly, unable to keep the worry out of his eyes. “Keep your guard up and keep an eye on your family. We are all about to be completely exposed to the world, more than we already have been – the muggle media will be here tomorrow.”

Someone groaned and everyone laughed, the tension in the room immediately dissipating. Rose could not help the tightening in her stomach. The media, both muggle and wizard, had been waiting for them when they returned from the mission, Sophie in bonds and a body in a bag. The questions had been loud, blunt and still made Rose’s head spin thinking about it. Her father had ushered her into the Ministry as quickly as possible, letting Scorpius take care of her while he dealt with the reporters.

Rose smiled to herself: it seemed that the need to tell a story and the need for truth had brought possibly the most influential groups of muggles and wizards together ahead of time. Forget politicians and leaders – everyone knew that the future could be shaped through the media, that lives could be changed and that people’s attitudes could be swayed with only a few careful words. She glanced at Scorpius, wondering whether he’d have to take part in this press conference, or whether it would be left to her uncle and the Minister himself.

As the meeting broke up and everyone filed out, Harry called Rose and Scorpius back. Rose watched her uncle as he took off his glasses and polished them on his shirt, pinching the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and his thumb a moment before slipping his glasses back on.

“I’ve heard from Al and James,” he said in a low voice. Rose felt something twist deep in her stomach. Harry smiled, seeing her look. “They’re okay. Alice was injured in a skirmish, but only mildly, and once she is feeling better they will come home. The mission was a success and the Minister is currently speaking with the Russian government about Vladmir Mahailov and his men. The Russians want them executed for crimes against humanity and while I agree that there is no other way to describe what they have done, I don’t believe killing them is any answer. If we want to start forming real alliances with muggles...” He sighed, letting his voice trail away. “Rose, I need Cass to come around. We, the Ministry, possibly the entire Wizard world, need her to call a stop to the bloodshed.”

Scorpius frowned. “She’s really that important then?”

Harry nodded grimly. “She is. According to James, Mahailov was trying to gather an army to come to her rescue, and Intelligence has heard similar whispers from Northern Africa and the Middle East. For Humanity want her back and they will do whatever they can to get her. It won’t just be a bomb here and there...they will start a full war over this woman.”

Rose swallowed. “What do you need me to do?”

“I want her face on the television. I want her face in the papers – muggle and wizard – and I want her to publicly call a halt to For Humanity’s activities around the world,” her uncle replied seriously. “She’s become their poster child.”

“She’s not in complete control though,” Rose argued. “She is only one person. Surely, having her renounce her ways won’t change anything.”

“Maybe not immediately,” Harry said with a small smile, “but it would be a start. And I think you are under-estimating her influence. I think that seeing her speak with kindness, or at least speak neutrally, about the people she hates would have more an effect than we could possibly understand. It only takes one person to change things, sometimes,” he added, scratching self-consciously at his head, and Rose smiled. “Plus, it will put a little rain on For Humanity’s parade if she is seen to be healthy and unhurt. They expected us to mistreat her and they were happy to make a martyr of her. We need to get her out there.”

“In exchange for keeping Sophie safe from harm, Joe agreed to talk to Cass,” Rose said quietly. “I cleared it with him before we rescued Hugo.”

Harry gave her an admirable look. “Well played. Okay, get them together as soon as possible. Mediate but don’t back her into a corner. Don’t push her too hard but be aware that we don’t have a lot of time. Use whatever you have to – whoever you have to – to get this done.”

“No pressure then,” Rose muttered.

“One more thing,” Harry said. “I want you to write a paper on your rehabilitation program – everything you have done so far, everything you have thought of doing and everything you plan to do. I want to distribute it to the Ministries around the world.”

“But...I have no idea how to write such a thing!” Rose exclaimed. “I’m not an academic, Uncle.”

He smiled. “Get your mother to help maybe, or you could ask Uncle Percy. He has a certain way with words that would be useful at the moment.”

“Right,” Rose said blankly.

“And me?” Scorpius asked.

“You,” Harry said, “will be liaising with every major television network and newspaper across two continents. I’ll set you up with several interpreters.”

Scorpius put his head in his hands. “I hate the press.”

Harry laughed. “So do I,” he paused, clearing his throat. “Your father has volunteered his help and if I remember correctly, before all this started, he was quite the smooth-talking business man.”

Scorpius’ head shot up and Rose looked at her uncle in surprise.

“Yes,” Harry continued. “It seems someone said something to him the other night at dinner about how he has done nothing but sit around on his aristocratic arse behind the walls of his fortress as Rome burnt, while the rest of us, including his son, have been fighting for our very existence.”

Rose groaned. “Oh god, she didn’t?”

Scorpius put his head back in his hands and started laughing.

Harry smiled. “We’ll start immediately. I’m going to see Lily and your Aunt Ginny – they’ll want to know how the boys are.”

“Tell them I said hi, and I will see them soon,” Rose said. “That is, when you tell me where they are.”

Harry gave her an apologetic smile and dismissed them. Rose wasn’t cross – she knew he was simply keeping his family safe, as her parents had tried to do. In the hall outside, Rose and Scorpius glanced at one another.

“I guess I should Owl my father then,” he said with a smile.

“I’m so sorry about my mother.”

He laughed. “Don’t be. She’s only said what I’ve been wanting to for years.”

Rose wasn’t sure she believed him but she didn’t say anything more about it. Instead, she pushed herself onto the tips of her toes and kissed his cheek. “I better get to work then.”

“Are you okay with this?” His frown was deep so she smiled and touched his lips with her fingers.

“It’s my job. It will be a long day,” she answered softly. “I’m not looking forward to it but this is my responsibility now and if it helps, I’ll work all night.”

He sighed, pulling a hand through his hair. “I feel like I’ve hardly seen you in days everything has been so chaotic.”

“I know,” she agreed rather sadly. They looked at one another, his eyes walking the lines of her face and the words danced to the tip of her tongue but she swallowed them away. It was not the time for declarations – they both needed to focus, to do their jobs and everything had calmed down they would be able to talk.

Scorpius left her at her office door and went to contact his father. Rose had a message waiting for her from Alice – just thought I’d let you know I’m not dead. We’ll be home in a few days. Your cousin is amazing, oh and Al isn’t too bad. Rose smiled; Alice had been secretly in love with James for as long as she could remember and if someone else could find happiness from tragedy then she was pleased.

She fell into her chair behind the desk and rubbed at her temples. It was only ten in the morning and she was already feeling tired. With Scorpius and her parents out of sight she could take a moment to just let herself be what she felt.

There was a report on the desk about Sophie. She had been interviewed the previous day and Rose felt immediately guilty for not going to see the girl since her arrival in the Ministry cells. No matter what had happened with Hugo, Rose could not blame her for any of it. The need to tell her that dug its claws in and Rose sighed, standing up and stretching. She could almost hear her muscles thank her and she noted absently that her pants were beginning to feel tight. She lifted her shirt and glanced down at the smooth skin that stretched from hip to hip. She scowled – she liked her skin and did not like the idea of stretch-marks. Rose blinked as a sudden vision of herself, huge and very pregnant, raced into her head.

She smiled. It wouldn’t be so bad. It was only skin, and skin was made to stretch.

In the cells, she found Sophie sitting staring at the wall. She was in the room next to Joe and she jumped up the minute Rose entered. They stared at one another a moment before Sophie sighed.

“Is your brother alright?”

“He’s fine,” Rose answered softly.

“I’m really sorry,” Sophie whispered and Rose watched, astonished, as the girl wiped away a tear. “I was just so worried about dad and I didn’t know what to do and Areli...”

“You don’t have to explain,” Rose said. “As strange as it is, I understand. If someone had my father...I might have done something similar.”

Sophie was quiet for a long moment. “Is he dead?”

Rose knew who she meant. “Yes.”

“How?”

“I shot him.”

Sophie’s eyes widened as the surprise flitted across her face. Her expression darkened a second later and she scowled deeply. “I wish I’d have killed him. He’s not Mossad you know.”

“What?”

The girl nodded. “He was, once, but when everything started Israel declared herself neutral. It wasn’t made public or anything, but by choosing not to get involved they made their stance clear; at least, that is what dad always said.”

“And Areli?”

“He says he left the Mossad but I think they kicked him out, or lost track of him and couldn’t be bothered finding him. Either way, they claim no responsibility for him or for what he does. He wasn’t acting in Israel’s best interests so they washed their hands of him and left him to be someone else’s problem.”

“How do you know all this?” Rose asked in disbelief.

Sophie smiled wryly. “You don’t think I spent years in that shit hole in Morocco and didn’t actually listen to what was going on did you?” She laughed, startling Rose. “I wanted to change things. I wanted so badly to change things, to stop the killing and what do I do?” She laughed again, more bitterly this time. “I become the thing I hate.”

“No,” Rose said gently.

“That’s easy to say,” Sophie said after a pause. “What will happen to my dad?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Rose answered. “The Mug...the police will deal with him; with Cass too, and with you.” She swallowed. “I wish I could help, Sophie.”

The girl shrugged. “I did the crime, I’ll do the time I suppose.”

“I suppose,” Rose repeated. “My Uncle Harry doesn’t want heads to roll. He wants this to as fair and equitable as possible, and I promise you, I’ll make sure that the punishment does indeed fit the crime – for both you and your father.”

“And Cass?” Sophie asked in a small voice. “What will happen to her?”

“I don’t know,” Rose said with a shake of her head. She paused, watching as Sophie nodded in acceptance and sat down on her small bed again. “They explained everything to you? The way the room works?”

“Yes.” The girl sighed and tugged at the ends of her hair. “They haven’t let me see him, my dad.”

“I know. I need your father’s help today and once we are done, I will make sure you get to see him, okay?” Rose replied.

Sophie narrowed her eyes, her face pale and abruptly mistrustful. “Why are you being so kind?”

“Because family is important; especially when it is all you have left.”

Sophie nodded and Rose went out, asking the guard to unlock Joe’s cell. The big man smiled when he saw her and before Rose could do anything more, he was on his feet with his arms around her. The guards drew their wands.

“No!” She held up a hand. “It’s alright.”

Joe slowly drew back. “Sorry.”

“What was that for?” Rose asked after reassuring the guards they could wait outside as usual.

“For killing that dog Areli.”

Rose swallowed. “Please don’t congratulate me. I did what I had to do.” She paused and took a deep breath, steadying herself. “And now, you have to do what you promised.”

“I can try, Rose, that’s all,” he answered.

“That is all I ask.”

Under heavy guard, Joe was taken from his cell and marched down the hall, Rose by his side. They stopped at another cell door and Rose nodded; the door flew open and she shared a quick look with Joe before she stepped inside.

“Come to gloat have you?”

“No,” Rose said softly. “I brought someone to talk to you, Cass.”

The blonde woman tossed her head. “Finally resorted to torture?”

“I’ve been having regular chats with these people and as you can see, I’m in one piece,” Joe said in his deep voice, stepping into the cell. “Hey, Cass.”

“Traitor,” she hissed and Joe sighed as she glared at him.

“It’s not treachery, its survival,” he said gently.

“Call it what you will,” she snapped, turning her attention to Rose. “What do you want?”

“I want you to listen to him,” Rose answered slowly and steadily. Joe stepped further into the cell. Cass still hadn’t moved from her bed, where she sat pressed against the wall like a caged animal. She was thin, thinner than she had been when Rose and Scorpius brought her in and Rose recalled then that the guards said the woman had barely been eating. She bit her lip, irritated at herself for not trying harder in the beginning.

Joe sat down at the small, circular table, encouraging Cass to do the same. She rolled her eyes and scampered off the bed as quick as a snake, slipping into a chair with a suspicious glance at Rose and the wizard guards.

“Do they have to be here?”

“I’m afraid so,” Rose answered.

“Fine,” Cass snarled. She turned her glare on Joe. “This had better be good.”

Joe took a deep breath, reaching up to run a hand over his shaggy chin. He looked at Rose briefly and then turned his attention to Cass. “You’ve known me forever, and you know that I would never lie to you but this is over. I almost lost my daughter because I was so blind and so scared and you...you lost your baby.”

“Don’t you dare...”

He leant forward and took her hands between his own large ones. She tried to pull away but he held firm and Rose watched silently as a tear slipped down Cass’s cheek. “I’m not trying to manipulate you; I would never, but you have to give this up. Let it go, Cass, before anyone else we care about dies.”

“I can’t...”

“You can,” Joe said with firm tenderness. “Rose needs you to tell the world that things have changed. You have to make them see that we need to co-exist.”

“Why me? Why not you?”

“Because you know why – you began this, Cass. It’s up to you to finish it,” Joe answered simply.

“She’s brainwashed you,” Cass spat, indicating Rose with a flick of her head.

“I’m not under any spell,” Joe said slowly. “This is what I believe: I believe we have to co-operate with these people, as we would any person. The government and the military, here and around the world – they are co-operating, so even if we weren’t stuck here, we’d be out of options.” He paused and licked his lips. “We’re already out of options. The cause is finished, Cass.”

“No,” she shook her head, eyes shining with defiance.

“Yes,” he pressed. “Areli is dead, Jill is dead, probably more of our friends in other places...don’t you want to stop that? We have to accept that the world has changed and that things will never be as they once were.”

“And you’re okay with all this...magic are you?” she asked slowly after a long, deep pause where Rose almost forgot to breathe.

He shrugged. “I can’t complain about anything – I have food when I need it, clean clothes when I want them, warmth...it’s not all bad. I’ve heard stories about healing that you wouldn’t believe,” he added and Rose blinked, startled. She glanced around at the guards – one man met her eye and grinned and she grinned in return, chastising herself for thinking that they wouldn’t have spoken to the prisoners. And Joe was easy to like, regardless. She could imagine him and his guards talking into the night.

“We only ever unearthed the negative side of this world,” Joe said softly. “I think it was easier to believe they were all demons like Lord what’s-his-face...”

“Voldemort,” Rose supplied. She flicked her wand, conjuring a third chair and sitting down at the table, placing herself between Cass and Joe. “Cass, I know this must be hard for you -”

“You know nothing,” the other woman spat.

Rose narrowed her eyes. “You should seriously rethink that statement. I’ve been through more at the hands of you and your people than I ever thought possible. You persecuted my race and as far as I understand, that is against everything humanity is supposed to represent. Your United Nations stands for justice and equality and all through history, when one group has butchered another because they were different, humanity did not stand for it. Your history is as littered with blood and bodies as ours – perhaps worse – but I like to think that we, wizard kind, have learnt from our mistakes. Have you learnt from yours, Cass?”

The blonde woman looked away, turning her eyes to the table and to her hands, held firmly between Joe’s. She glanced up, her bottom lip between her teeth, and looked at her friend. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I don’t even know how this all started. I was so scared, so terribly frightened and when I...I wanted so badly to die with him, Joe, but I didn’t. All I could think of was my brother, and what had happened to him and I didn’t want my son to have to go through the same ordeal.” She paused and gulped a lungful of air, her eyes and cheeks wet. “I don’t know how I became what I did, only that it was easier to hate them, and then easy to find others who hated them.”

“I know,” Joe murmured, reaching across the table to brush away her tears with his knuckles. “And that is why this must stop. We cannot continue to hate people because it is the easiest option.”

Cass was silent for a long time and Rose felt her stomach twist. Joe said nothing, just watched his friend, one hand clasped around her smaller ones. Cass closed her eyes briefly; the wizard guard in the room shifted their stance, their wands gripped tight. Rose waited as the seconds became hours until finally, Cass opened her eyes and lifted her head, turning her piercing, predatory gaze on Rose.

“You win,” she whispered, doing absolutely nothing to hide the defeat in her tone.

“It’s not about winning,” Rose said quietly in return. “It’s about what is right.”

Cass nodded and sighed. “What do you want?” she asked, but there was none of the spite and venom that her voice had held when she posed the same question what seemed like hours ago.

“You must publicly denounce For Humanity and encourage co-operation between all peoples in this matter. You must sound like you mean it, Cass,” Rose said, leaning forward to give the other woman a critical look. “Even if you have to lie about it.”

Cass nodded as Rose stood up, indicating Joe should do the same. The big man wrapped his arms around Cass, and let the guards lead him out. He followed Rose down the corridor, his eyes widening as she stopped in front of Sophie’s cell.

“Thank you,” Joe breathed as the door was unlocked. She smiled and turned away as Sophie called out to her father. She heard them laughing, heard the girl begin to cry and heard Joe soothing his daughter.

Upstairs, she went searching for Scorpius, simply needing to be with him. Draco Malfoy was lounging comfortably in the chair behind Scorpius’ desk and he glanced up as Rose pushed the door open, giving her a brief smile, a brighter one echoed on his son’s face.

“What we need are translators,” Draco said thoughtfully.

“Harry is organising them.”

Draco shook his head. “No, I mean magical devices. The speaker wears one on their robes and they automatically translate whatever language is being spoken into English. Very handy when dealing with foreign business men.”

“So where do we get some?” Scorpius asked after Draco didn’t volunteer any more information.

His father smiled the same smug smile Rose had seen dozens of times on Scorpius’ face. “Let me organise that.”

“Fine, whatever, just do it quickly,” Scorpius said. “We’re on a deadline.”

Draco turned to Rose, his expression thoughtful. “Is he always this rude?”

“Most of the time, yes,” she answered with a smile.

“Even with you?”

“Especially with me.”

“Turncoat,” Scorpius muttered, reaching for Rose’s hand and pulling her close to his chair. “How did it go with Cass?”

“She’s agreed to speak to the media,” Rose answered softly. “And to accept whatever her fate is. I think she’s tired of fighting, and she’s so sad, Scorpius. Now that there is no point in hating us she has nothing left to feel but regret.”

“When’s the press conference?” Draco asked.

“Tomorrow morning, at nine,” Scorpius answered. “You should get some rest,” he said to Rose, who shook her head. “Rose, please. Just have a nap, a short one even, and eat something. Go home if you can’t sleep here. The place is perfectly safe and -”

“Son,” Draco interrupted. “She’s no fading flower; she’s fine.”

“I know that, but I just think -”

“You will learn,” Draco said firmly, “to let a pregnant woman do as she wishes.”

Scorpius scowled at his father, who merely reached for a quill and parchment and said he’d contact an old associate about the translators. Rose smiled, bending to kiss Scorpius gently on the forehead.

“Do you have time to eat? Because it would be nice if we could do it together,” she whispered but he sighed and shook his head. “No matter,” she said lightly, although part of her was burning with unsaid things. “I might try and start this report Uncle Harry wants me to write.”

Scorpius stood up abruptly. “I’ll walk you back to your office,” he said, leading her from the room quickly. He practically dragged her down the hall and once they were in her office, he had his arms around her and his lips on her skin. “I’m going insane,” he whispered. “I just want to sit down and talk to you.”

“Well,” Rose said, “if you stopped mauling me we could maybe do that.”

He released her, smiling and guided her to the soft lounge. Rose sat down gratefully, sighing in relief and ignoring Scorpius’ raised eyebrow. She didn’t want another discussion about how she should rest.

“I haven’t got much time,” Scorpius began, twisting sideways; she copied his movement and they were facing each other, their eyes locked together. “I want you to move in with me, Rose.”

“We already talked about this,” she began but he shook his head.

“Think about it, please, seriously think about it. It makes sense,” he pressed, taking her hands.

She frowned. “Why does it make sense? Yes, I want to be with you and yes I...” she paused, biting her lip. Just say it, Rose, she snapped at herself, but she sighed instead. “I need...”

“What? What do you need? Just say it and I’ll make sure you get it,” Scorpius said earnestly.

“That is part of the problem,” Rose said slowly. “I’m afraid that if I do move in with you I won’t be allowed to lift a finger. That if I want to clean the apartment the muggle way you won’t let me and you’ll make me use magic so I don’t exert myself and I know I am being ridiculous, Scorpius, I know that but...” she took a deep breath. “I still need to be able to do things for myself and I am worried also that I will simply let you do everything for me because well, it’s nice to not have to clean the toilet sometimes. And what about when the baby comes? What do we do then?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” she said, beginning to feel and sound slightly hysterical. “What do you know about babies? Cause I know nothing really.”

Scorpius gave her a curious look. “I’m sure we will work it out and I’m sure we will be able to do that faster and more efficiently if we’re in the same house.”

“Maybe,” she mumbled, not looking at him. She studied her hands, still clasped in his and then, when he didn’t speak, she studied the colour of her lounge. She glanced up as a memo suddenly appeared in the air above Scorpius’ head. He ignored it, watching her, waiting, then scowling as the memo became more insistent, ramming itself into his head. He took out his wand and incinerated it and they both watched as the burnt remains fluttered to the floor.

“That might have been important,” Rose said.

“You’re more important,” he countered almost fiercely.

She said nothing, unsure of what to say. She knew he was right – it was the only logical explanation but she was terrified. She had never had a relationship so serious and if she was to be honest with herself, she wasn’t sure their relationship was serious enough to warrant co-habitation. They’d not had a moment to be together the whole time they’d been together and that bothered Rose. She wasn’t sure, regardless of how she felt about him, if she was ready for such permanence.

“I just want to be with you,” Scorpius said after a long pause.

“I know,” she whispered. “I just need to think about it some more.”

He kissed her gently. “That is all I ask.” Another memo appeared and he snatched it out of the air, reading it quickly. “I have to go. Father has found the translators. See you soon?”

She nodded and watched as he slipped out of her office. She thought about lunch and groaned, not liking the prospect of having to leave the Ministry. She sighed, and was just slipping her arms into her coat as her mother opened the door, a large paper bag between her hands.

“Lunch,” she said, coming in and taking out her wand. In seconds, Rose’s desk was neat and clear and the take-away sandwiches were arranging themselves neatly on plates and the pumpkin juice was pouring itself into glasses. Hermione sat and Rose joined her, eternally grateful.

“I leave this afternoon,” her mother said, sipping her drink. “We’re just waiting on clearance and we’ll be flying out once that is done.”

“Good luck,” Rose said between bites. “And be careful, mum.”

Her mother smiled. “I will, sweetheart, don’t worry. Harry says James, Albus and Alice will be returning home tomorrow.”

“Oh,” Rose breathed, wiping her fingers on a napkin. “I’m so glad they’re safe.”

“Honey,” her mother began, “About Scorpius...”

Rose fiddled with her glass. “I love him,” she said, wondering why it was so easy to say it to her mother and not the man himself. Hermione smiled.

“I know.”

They smiled at one another and Rose bit back tears as her mother hugged her. It would be weeks before they saw each other again and Rose nearly giggled at the thought of her father and brother having to survive for that long without Hermione. She supposed Grandma Weasley would have some extra house guests.

Rose spent the remainder of the day working on her report. She spent much time with her head in a pensieve, recalling conversations with Joe, the words she used, and the things she said that prompted him to talk. It came to her part way through delving into her memories that he had made it easy – Joe had been a very willing participant and she wondered then what it was she had actually done. She had talked to him, explained things to him and tried to get him to see that there were two sides to every story.

Sitting back, Rose chewed on the end of her quill. Perhaps that was all it was – to encourage compassion and understanding one just needs to show they are human and possess a degree of humanity, and to be able to draw on similarities and not differences in order to promote peace and co-operation.

She laughed. Her so-called programme was really not that impressive. She wondered if her uncle would be disappointed.

Scorpius found her asleep at her desk. He shook her awake gently. “I brought dinner,” he said, helping her to her feet and guiding her to the lounge. “Just fish and chips; nothing fancy.”

“I could eat cardboard and be happy at the moment,” Rose said with a smile. She sat and let him dish out dinner and they ate with their fingers.

“I’m sorry about pressuring you,” Scorpius said later when she was lying with her head in his lap. His fingers were in her hair, stroking her scalp and Rose closed her eyes. She was overcome with tiredness and tried to hide her yawn. He chuckled. “Go to sleep. We’ll talk later.”

Without another word, she slept, and when she woke it was early morning. Scorpius was gone and a large fluffy blanket was tucked around her. Rose groaned and stretched, her eyes finding the clock on the wall. It was eight and the press conference was at nine.

“Shit,” she exclaimed, climbing to her feet. She ran a cleansing charm over herself, found a brush and did her hair and to her surprise, found a spare set of clothing on her desk. She blinked, realised quickly that Scorpius had gone home and gotten them for her. She dressed quickly, pausing in the act of pulling on her shoe. “I’m such an idiot,” she hissed towards her boot, her thoughts on Scorpius. Her father stuck his head in the door, startling her.

“Oh good, you’re awake. Cass will be brought up from the cells in half an hour.”

“I’ll meet her before she goes on,” Rose said quietly. Her father nodded and left and the next time Rose looked at the clock, it was eight thirty. She had no idea where thirty minutes had gone but she had no time to think about it. She left her office and headed towards the elevators, jumping in with a bunch of people.

When she stepped out of the elevator, she saw Cass immediately, the white blonde of her hair unmistakable. Scorpius was standing near her and Rose made her way towards them. One side of the atrium has been screened with a large, heavy curtain, hiding them from view. Rose shivered. The air buzzed, a living thing, and the anticipation around her made her want to be sick. She gave Scorpius a smile.

“Who is out there?” Cass asked in a tight voice.

“Representatives from all muggle media outfits across Europe, in five different languages,” Scorpius answered with a slight scowl. “Plus representatives from the wizard media, also in five different languages.”

Harry stuck his head through the curtain. “Scorpius, where’s your father? The French media are getting agitated; muggle and wizard.”

Draco Malfoy unfolded himself from a chair. “Here, Potter. Are you telling me you can’t manage a couple of Frenchmen? What happened to the universal translators?”

Scorpius and Harry both rolled their eyes as Draco tidied his robes and slipped through the curtain, a ‘bonjour’ on his lips. Moments later, the Minister’s deep voice spread through the atrium. Rose glanced quickly at Cass, standing under heavy guard and then slipped through the curtain to watch. She sucked in a breath, feeling Scorpius come up behind her. The atrium was crowded – people, both magical and non-magical, were crammed in like sardines in a tin, and a tiny flare of pride sprang to life inside her as she realised that this was actually happening – it was almost over. The Minister’s words, and then Cass’s denouncement, would flood the world media.

Kingsley Shacklebot stood behind a podium at the front of the crowd, Harry Potter on one side and the muggle Prime Minister on the other, and behind them, the Heads of all the Ministry Departments, as well as muggle Military and other political personnel.

A hush fell over the assembled crowd as Kingsley began to speak and the atrium was filled with the glow of hundreds of camera flashes.

“Thank you all for coming,” the Minister began, “on this most auspicious day, for today is the day the world changes for the better.” He went on to thank the Prime Minister for his continued support, and to praise the efforts of both the muggle military and police forces and the witches and wizards who fought and continued to work towards establishing peace.

“It is our hope and the hope of the magical community across the globe, that one day we will have representatives in the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the European Union and other major world organisations,” Kingsley said. “Understand though that this process will take time. Treaties are being drawn up but it will be several months before they are ratified and even then, it is important for magical folk to understand that that doesn’t mean they will be automatically protected. Treaties are not laws.”

The muggle Prime Minister added that according to reports, there were currently at least 20,000 displaced magical people across the world and while some were able to begin returning to their homes, others could not and they were being provided for.

Talk then turned to punishment for war criminals.

“Any muggle found to have participated in or assisted in the killing, torture or persecution of magical folk will, at this stage, be dealt with by muggle authorities,” Kingsley said. “Any witch or wizard found to have assisted a muggle terrorist organisation will be dealt with by the Ministry whose jurisprudence they fall under. This will again take time.”

“I understand you’ve had prisoners in your cells. What have you been doing with them?” a muggle reporter asked.

The Minister cleared his throat. “A rehabilitation, or education, programme has been set up here at the Ministry to great success. The purpose of such a programme is to show muggles that wizards are not to be feared, and that there are benefits to the merging of the two worlds. The programme will be instigated in other countries as soon as possible.”

“What about For Humanity?” The question came from a tall, dark wizard brandishing a camera.

“Through the co-operation and willingness of key members of the terrorist group For Humanity, the Ministry has been able to begin the long task of closing down their many bases, nurseries and concentration camps. Orphanages are being set up for the many children now without parents or family. We have seen success in Northern Africa and in Russia and steps are being taken to stamp out fear and ignorance throughout the world. With the continued support of muggle governments and military, this is a conflict that is slowly coming to a close,” Kingsley said in his rumbling voice. “To speak further on this matter, I give you Cassandra Templeton.”

A murmour spread through the watching crowd. Rose held her breath but no one called out and the faces that were turned towards the podium were still and thoughtful. All eyes turned to Cass as she was led out; she cleared her throat as dozens of microphones and booms were adjusted and swung closer and the rustle of parchment and the snapping readiness of Quick Quotes Quills seeped through the air.

Cass was pale and her hands were shaking, but she took a deep breath and turned to face the crowd. “I know some of you must hate me for what I have done, and I don’t know how or if it is appropriate to apologise for that at this moment, but I would like to say that what I did was wrong. What I instigated was wrong but I was acting in what I believed were my own and everyone’s best interests. I can see now that those ‘best interests’ did not include wizards, who I know understand to be people, to be human, just as we are all human.”

She paused, taking another deep breath. “I am here to denounce For Humanity and all that it stands for. I am calling on all those who once supported me in hatred to now support me in peace with the magical race. We acted out of fear and for me,” she paused again, closed her eyes briefly and then continued, “out of completely selfish personal reasons. My son, now deceased, was a wizard.”

The room exploded; Kingsely held up a hand called for silence.

Rose saw Cass swallow. “My brother was also a wizard, and he is also dead, long before this conflict began, and his death came about because we didn’t understand what he was or what he needed. I vowed to never let that happen again but in the end, instead of striving to understand and embracing the opportunity to understand, I choose to hate and let that hate control me.” She looked up, her eyes swinging across the rapt crowd. “This is over. This war is ended, and I ask you now, everyone who is watching this, to lay down your weapons and your fear and co-operate. Accept the changes that will happen and don’t let yourselves be ruled by what you do not understand. Use this opportunity to learn and to grow as people.” Cass looked across to where Rose was standing. “Someone asked me had I learnt anything from my mistakes and at the time, I wasn’t sure I could answer, but now, I can say yes, I have. I have learnt that the notion of humanity is a multi-faceted thing and it cannot be determined based on race, religion or what science deems to be ‘true’. Please, let this be over.”

She stepped back, her eyes lowered and let herself be led away from the podium. Rose pushed through the crowd, hurrying to catch up before Cass was taken back to the cells. “Thank you,” she said. Cass nodded, and stepped into the elevator. Rose felt Scorpius’ hand brush against hers.

“What did you say to her to get her to give up?”

Rose shook her head. “It was Joe, not me, and I think, her guilt.”

They moved back to the other side of the curtain and watched the remainder of the press conference, in which Harry spoke in more detail about the treaties and the muggle Prime Minister spoke about proposed changes to the law. By lunch time, Rose was exhausted, mentally more than physically, and she spent the rest of the day locked in her office with Scorpius, neither of them really speaking but just wanting to be together. By mid-afternoon, a memo arrived, saying Harry had called an urgent meeting of the Auror Council.

Rose and Scorpius shared a quick glance and hurried to the conference room, finding it already filled with their colleagues. Before anyone could speculate, Harry strode into the room, a bright smile on his face. He didn’t bother to sit down, standing behind his chair at the head of the table.

“I won’t keep you long. I know you want to get home to your families but I just wanted to share the news that, following the news broadcast this morning, which has been seen by billions of people, initial reports from around the world suggest that For Humanity has fallen and their members are being rounded up by police.”

A great cheer went up around the room and Harry held up his hand. “There is still a lot to do, as you are all aware, but I want to thank you, on behalf of the Ministry of Magic and the wizard community of Britain, for everything,” his eyes swung across the room to focus on Rose, “that you have done.”

He smiled then and said he was off to the airfield to collect his children and left the room as quickly as he had entered it. Scorpius turned to Rose.

“I’m going with him,” he said quietly, and she nodded, watching as he slipped out of the room. She left soon after, not feeling like celebrating. Someone had sent out Owls for a mass order of firewhiskey so Rose returned to her office, plonking herself down on her lounge.

She bit her lip, her head racing, and sprang to her feet again without hesitation. She needed to tell him. She raced down the corridor and pushed her way into the elevator, begging it to hurry. She knew she was being irrational, but she couldn’t keep quiet any longer. Those three little words had become a disease, and she had to get them out. The atrium was crowded – it seemed like half the worlds media were still clustered around and Rose peered over their heads, her eyes searching frantically.

She could see him through the crowd, and a sense of strange desperation flooded her body. She elbowed her way through the throng, almost knocking someone over in her haste to reach him before he stepped into the floo and vanished. He paused, turned and saw her and he did not move until she was standing in front of him.

“Are you okay?” he asked, noting the wild, almost anxious look in her eyes and the hectic colour painted on her cheeks. He waited while she forced her breathing under control. Swallowing, she gave him a tiny smile.

“So, I was wondering, which room will be the nursery?”

A beautiful smile spread its way across his face. “Which ever one you like: are you sure this is what you want?”

She nodded, wanting to throw her arms around him but aware of where they were. “I am.”

He took a step closer, his eyes hot and intense on her face. “I’m ridiculously in love with you, you know that, don’t you?”

Her heartbeat was thunder in her chest and the words flew from her mouth on wings made of sheer relief. “I love you too.”

He smiled again. “Really?”

“Scorpius, I killed a man to save your life. What more proof do you need?” she answered, her cheeks hot and her stomach tight.

“I thought you were just returning the favour, you know, in saving my life.”

“You’re really arrogant, has anyone ever told you that?”

He sighed. “I believe you did once, but other than that...”

A tiny witch materialised in the floo near them, and Rose moved out of her way, stepping closer to Scorpius. A muscle twitched in his jaw.

“How do you feel about public displays of affection?” he asked very softly.

Rose chewed her lip. “Everyone will find out sooner or later; in a couple of months there will be no hiding my belly,” she answered, her voice faint. She was feeling dizzy. He hesitated, looked around once, then cupped her face with both hands and kissed her in full view of an Atrium packed with people.

She didn’t know how long he kissed her or who saw, and she didn’t care. It wasn’t until someone cleared their throat did she reluctantly break away. Her father was standing nearby, his eyebrows lifted.

“Right then,” he said, looking at his shoes. “Let’s get this over with.” Ron glanced at Rose and sighed. “You may as well come, I suppose. I know you want to see them.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Come on,” Scorpius whispered and steered her towards the floo. In the moment where she turned around to face the Atrium, she saw Cass being led, her hands bound, towards the fireplaces. She paused, glanced across the crowded room and noticed Rose. A strange look passed over her face, and then, she was guided into the floo by her Auror guard, and was gone. Rose had a moment to wonder whether anything the blonde woman had said as she stood on the podium just that morning had been the truth.

Scorpius tugged on her hand. “Rose?”

“What will happen to her?” Rose murmured, staring at the place where Cass has just been standing.

“I don’t know exactly,” he replied softly. “Let’s go get our friends.”

Rose nodded. She glanced at Scorpius, so tall and straight beside her and smiled.








I want to say thank you to everyone for reading and reviewing. I could never have predicted how well received this fic would be. This is unlike anything I have ever written and I don’t think I could have done it without your support and all your wonderful reviews.

I want to give thanks also to the numerous blogs, travel guides and on-line libraries I accessed in order to write Marrakech and other parts of Africa in enough succulent and hopefully real detail. I would not have been able to write many aspects of this story without the assistance of the World Wide Web.

This story was about fear and ignorance more than anything else, and about how through it all, there is still reason to hope and be happy. The current state of the world is a terrible coincidence but many of you will know that I drew heavily on history for my inspiration.

I am aware that I may have missed something in this last chapter. If I forgot to mention a character or what happened to them, I want you to use your imagination. Make up your own ending for them, whether good or bad. I think I covered everyone important though.

Again, massive thanks to everyone who enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.


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