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?”
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.”
“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.
“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.
“Does your mother know?”
Rose nodded. “She does.”
Her father could not hide his confusion. “I thought you hated him though. What 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.”
“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.
Home sweet home.
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.”
“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!
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