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.”
“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!
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