Chapter 7: The Compass Round
‘I keep thinking,’ mused Rose as the four of them sat down around her coffee table, ‘that we need a secret headquarters.’
‘I keep thinking we need some goddamn communication.’ Selena gave Scorpius a flat look. ‘Start explaining.’
Scorpius exchanged a glance with Albus that held unspoken complaints about women, and lifted his hands. ‘Hey, the days of me being everyone’s whipping boy are over. Take this up with Matt.’
‘I will, once we pull his arse out of the fire, but I don’t know what that fire is yet.’
‘You know as well as I do that he doesn’t just write bone-crunchingly boring books on the Chalice. He still does bone-crunchingly boring freelancing for Gringotts, follows bone-crunchingly boring leads on the old Templars, and does his own bone-crunchingly boring exploration and research. Sometimes he probably takes you out for bone-crunchingly boring dinners, but that’s again on you -’
‘Yes, yes, he’s a very tiresome magic treasure hunter, but why do you know about a problem before me?’
‘Because we set this up about three years ago.’ He rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Remember when Al and I were in the Azores and ran into you two and had dinner?’ Rose, of course, did not remember, because she must have been hundreds of miles away and three years ago Matt would have never sat down for dinner with her, but Selena and Al nodded. ‘The Foundation was just settling into its post-war routines, and he was just starting to work on things which weren’t the Chalice, so he asked for help. Apparently he does a lot of solo work, and sometimes it might be dangerous. All we did was set up a notification system. Before he goes off on somewhere on his own, especially if he thinks it’s going to be risky, he sends a message to my nearest office with a deadline. If he doesn’t contact that office in that time period, the message is opened, and it’s supposed to contain details of where he’s going, why, and with whom.’
Selena’s expression flickered. ‘Why you?’
Scorpius shrugged. ‘He misses my dazzling charm? Probably because I have the international reach to almost always have someone within a few hundred miles of wherever he’s gone. Because he didn’t want to worry you by giving you a disaster letter every time he was going on a job. I think he didn’t always trust you to not bust those letters open on principle the moment his back was turned. Honestly, I thought he was being a bit melodramatic because it’s just sodding books, it’s never come up before.’
Al leaned forwards. ‘What’s the situation, then?’
‘Brazil, Rio de Janeiro to be precise. He’s meeting a fence, I’ve got a name and address, to buy some old diaries of an old Italian wizard which wound up on the black market.’ Scorpius sighed. ‘That’s as much as he’s told me; the deadline was two hours ago and he’s not got in touch.’
‘Rio,’ said Rose, ‘is a problem.’ Selena looked confused, so she pressed on. ‘If he’s dealing with fences in the Brazilian black market, that’ll mean he’s gone off the grid so far as the local magical government is concerned. Illicit trade of anything and everything in the shanty towns of the city is rife; so rife the government tries to clamp down on all magical transport into and out of the area. Apparition isn’t possible, Portkeys are closely regulated. If you’re not going to a very select part of inner-city Rio, you can’t get about magically. If he’s run into trouble, he’s likely to be on foot.’
‘Of course it’s for some old bloody journals,’ Selena complained. ‘But I don’t -’
‘We’re not just being paranoid,’ Albus interrupted in a low voice, ‘if we’re worried about getting into trouble dealing with the black market at the same time the Red Manticores are smuggling old relics and artifacts across the globe.’ Everyone sobered at that, and he nodded. ‘So let’s contact the Brazilians, and find ourselves a Portkey.’
‘It took me twelve hours to get to the Rocky Mountains,’ Rose said in a low, taut voice. ‘Which is absolutely nothing compared to the travel restrictions we’ll face getting into Rio. Especially…’ She winced. ‘Selena, you know that the moment anyone wants to tighten up their borders, you get held up in customs for -’
‘Ice ages,’ said Selena, jaw tight.
‘I can’t move easily, either,’ said Scorpius, scowling. ‘The Red Manticore situation’s got me watched, and the Ministry has politely asked me to stay in the country. I like to upset them because screw that, I’ve not been arrested, but trying to go to Rio will give the DMLE kittens. Fat kittens that’ll shit in my shoes.’
‘So what do we do?’ snapped Selena. ‘Sit and wait on the Brazilians?’
Rose sighed. ‘I can try to pull some strings through work,’ she said weakly, but considering this hadn’t got her very far when she’d been scrambling to be at the side of Scorpius’ hospital bed, she doubted it’d get her further now. ‘Or we can -’
‘Or we use someone who knows exactly how to procure and use an illegal Portkey.’ Al lifted his eyes, voice calm. ‘Shall I call her in?’
Scorpius sat up. ‘Hang on,’ he said, gaze landing on Rose. ‘Are we saying you two and Eva are going to trot off to Brazil to try to save Matt from possible mortal danger?’
Selena’s lips were pursed. ‘I probably can’t slip past notice right now.’
But Rose heard the unspoken question from Scorpius, and reached over to take his hand. ‘We’ll be fine.’
‘You have no way of knowing - you can’t -’
‘Scorp.’ If she could, she’d have instilled in her voice enough force to make him drop the topic for good. Instead, she could make him drop it while they were in public.
Al stood and straightened his jacket. ‘I’ll go see Eva, then. See what she can put together.’
‘I think you and I could do with her wand, not just her travel aid,’ Rose said.
Selena glanced between her and Scorpius with a suspicious glint in her eye, but also got up. ‘I’m going to see if I at least know anyone in Rio who can be of use.’
And again their friends left in good order, leaving Scorpius exploding to his feet once the door was shut. ‘You cannot be serious, Rose.’
She narrowed her eyes at him. ‘I’m completely serious.’
‘We have no idea what danger Matt’s run into, it could well be the Manticores, it could be Thane, and you’re proposing you go barging in there when you should be at home, in your condition -’
‘I’m pregnant, Scorpius, I’m not ill.’ She stood to face him, hands on her hips. ‘I’m only weeks along. It doesn’t make me any slower, it doesn’t make me any more vulnerable -’
‘Of course it does!’ he sputtered. ‘It - you - you’re taking risks for -’
‘I am taking risks for me, and I am taking risks for Matt, and you can’t stop me from going.’
He dropped his hands, shoulders slumping. ‘I can ask you to not. If something happens -’
‘It’d be awful if something happened anyway; I never intend on getting myself blasted or killed when going into a crisis.’ Except for that one time with Raskoph. ‘Even if I were an Auror or an Enforcer I wouldn’t be obligated yet to tell my boss or to go on light duties!
‘That’s different, that’s professional work, that’s not you shooting off across the globe to risk yourself to save your ex-boyfriend -’
‘Don’t.’ Her jaw tightened. ‘Don’t throw Matt in my face like this is about fidelity and trust to put me off-balance. Yes, I have to go help him, because it’s Matt, because despite everything, despite barely talking to him in five years, he is important to me. Sometimes I’m allowed to have illogical duties and burdens, too! And you don’t get to freak out and shut down about me being pregnant, fail to talk about it or what’s bothering you for days, scuttling off to Malfoy Manor, and then act like I’m the unreasonable one you have to control.’
‘Me processing my feelings is different to you putting yourself in harm’s way.’ But he was subdued at that, shoving his hands in his pockets. ‘In harm’s way, when I can’t be there.’
‘I won’t be alone. I’ll have Al, I’ll have Eva. The best backup we have.’
He stared across the big, open-plan flat, at the tall windows beyond which gloomy spring skies loomed, and when he spoke his voice was hoarse. ‘I didn’t mean to be controlling you,’ Scorpius said awkwardly. ‘I don’t - I wouldn’t -’
A stab of guilt suggested she might have picked more laden words than she intended, and Rose slid across the room to reach for his hand. ‘You’re always allowed to worry. But this is something I have to do.’
‘I understand.’ He swallowed hard, and only now looked her properly in the eye. ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve withdrawn, I’m sorry I’ve panicked.’ He drew a shuddering breath. ‘I want to do what’s right by you, and by the world, and by our child, and I don’t know what that is. But I also don’t want you endangering yourself because you’re still carting around a shedload of guilt about Matt.’
‘That… is a fair concern. But I’m not doing this to try to make things right by Matt, I don’t think. This isn’t some big, dangerous effort at making amends. I gave up on that after I jumped out of a window, I promise.’ She squeezed his arm, grimacing. ‘But there’s a reminder you don’t get to walk around like you’re the only one of us with a dark cloud over your head.’ She pressed on before he could protest, interrupt. ‘And if we’re going to do anything about Thane, about the Manticores, it can be about how the past still holds sway over us, or it can be about us fighting to get free of it, and fighting for a future without those same shadows.’
He looked thoughtful rather than defeated, contemplative rather than combative. ‘If the world will let us. I’m expecting a summons by the DMLE at any moment; Selena isn’t much better off; nor’s Al so long as his star’s shackled to Eva’s.’
‘And we can help them. As for us, when I get back, it’s time for something we should have done a long time ago: we’re talking about Malfoy Manor.’
‘Oh, good, a reason to hope you get shanked in Rio.’ But his smile was sad, tired. ‘I don’t like you going. But I wouldn’t have liked it a month ago. So I’m going to trust you, Rose, and I’m going to trust Al, and I’m even going to trust Eva bloody Saida again. And you can go save that complete pillock of your ex-boyfriend.’
‘The pillock you looked after these past three years.’
The corners of his eyes creased at her unspoken question. ‘I didn’t do that for him. I did it for you.’
Her breath caught at that, for once faltering on something that wasn’t lurching dread or guilt, and she tilted her husband’s face down for a gentle, lingering kiss. ‘It’s almost as if, Scorpius Malfoy, you’re not completely rotten.’
‘Ugh, I’ve been trying to put you off me all these years.’ But his frown was anguished, apprehensive. ‘We made a big deal of our new rule being “where you go, I go”, but I don’t think we’ve ever kept it. So you better remember our old rule didn’t actually get broken.’ He pulled her to him, and this time the kiss wasn’t gentle but enough to have her clutching at his shirt for balance, for breath, and when he let her go his eyes were blazing. ‘Come back to me.’
She had to steel herself to catch her words, but they were no less sincere, no less intense for the effort it took to utter them. ‘Every time.’
Metal shrieked as Eva slid the hatch to the shipping container shut behind them, and darkness reigned until Rose sparked a light from her wand and said, expression flat, ‘Now what?’
‘I haven’t just trapped us in a giant crate. Now, we wait.’ At their looks, Eva reached up and traced a finger along the ritual markings etched onto the inside of the crate, only dimly visible in the gloom. ‘This entire container has been prepared with enchantments and rituals. We’re not waiting for a Portkey; this is a Portkey. More than that, it’s enchanted to observe the ebbs and flows of the magic across the borders to breach them. The moment any international Portkey magic is sensed, we’ll jump to a secure location, as far as we can get. Then the cycle continues. Step by step until we get to Rio. This way we don’t need to wait until we get security clearance from border control; we’re piggy-backing off other people’s transports, any of them.’
Rose, despite herself, looked impressed. ‘This would give my office headaches for days.’
‘What’s our ETA?’ asked Al.
‘Hard to say, but estimations come up to about three hours.’ At Rose’s look, Eva shrugged. ‘There is literally no means of us getting across the world faster without being able to enchant our own Portkey. And if your office can’t do it…’
‘Fine.’ Rose remained mostly without expression, and reached into her backpack - that trusty, magically enlarged haversack from their original adventures it looked like she’d busted out of storage - to pull out a file. ‘Do either of you know Rio?’
Al shook his head. ‘I know some parts of Brazil. They got hit pretty hard when the Circle of Thorns went down; a few pockets refused to go without a fight. Some of the first work I did for Scorpius was out there. But that wasn’t in Rio.’
‘For being the capital, the Thornweavers never got much foothold in Rio. It’s hard to have a flourishing criminal underworld under an oppressive regime,’ Eva said dryly. ‘I popped in and out a few times and I know some of the movers and shakers in the area but I don’t know the streets.’
‘Then we’ll have to hope my company’s security clearance means we’ve got good records.’ Rose bent her head to focus on the folder.
Eva glanced at Al, eyebrow raised. He only shrugged again, a little hapless, but anything they could say was forestalled by the sudden jerk of the shipping container, and then that swirling, lurching sense of the Portkey activation.
Rose swore the moment they settled, clutching her bench. ‘Is that going to keep happening?’
‘And without warning.’
‘What have you even told your company, Rose, about time off?’ said Al.
‘Officially I’m conducting one of our spot inspections of international border security.’ Rose’s expression didn’t change. ‘I’m learning a lot.’
‘If you want to close down these loopholes, then remember how much you need them right now,’ said Eva.
‘Don’t worry. White Wands have always found that trying to control international travel as much as countries do since the war is a futile endeavour which costs money and time and doesn’t stop the people we actually want to clamp down on. But it does give governments great excuses to hike up various taxes on travel.’
‘And this,’ sighed Eva, ‘is the brave new world we fought for.’ Al gave her a startled look at that, and she shrugged. ‘I’ve found over the last five years that what most of the upper echelons of governments want, and what’s best, often have little in common.’
‘Whose definition of “best”?’ said Rose with a hint of acidity, not looking up from her paperwork. ‘Yours?’
‘I would reel off names,’ Eva said, voice perfectly level, ‘but that would be implicating multiple high-ranking law enforcement officials you’ve undoubtedly worked with in the past five years. You recall that situation with the missing children in Beirut the world wrung its hands over and absolutely nobody did anything about? That wouldn’t have been stopped if people hadn’t made deals behind closed doors, shared information, and then sent people like me in.’
Rose hesitated at that, and did at last glance up. ‘That was you?’
Eva looked away. ‘Amongst others. But that’s not my point. The point is doing things the legal way gets very hard if you care about what happens beyond your own borders these days.’
‘That was a lot of children brought back to their families,’ said Rose quietly.
‘More didn’t make it. Some dark magic is on its own level of evil.’
‘They never did catch the wizard who did it,’ Albus said, and she could feel his eyes on her.
She shrugged. ‘Nobody said anything about taking him alive.’ Trials, she knew, were perhaps even messier than international cooperation, and sometimes, just sometimes, what people deserved and the lines between good and evil were very clear.
Rose lowered her paperwork and bit her lip. ‘I’m sorry. I’m tense about Matt and I’m taking it out on you.’
Eva shrugged, still hanging onto one of the leather hand-holds dangling from the ceiling. She found it more comfortable in the lurching of Portkey travel than risking being catapulted out of her seat. ‘I want him safe, too.’ They had never been close, but they’d bonded when they did come together; fighting together across Brillig Island, and she’d respected him tenfold more for that he, unlike her, had risked infection and death for that deed. He’d been the one to put aside all other reservations and trust her on the mission to rescue Selena, and she knew this unspoken connection went both ways, or he would never have loaned her the sword she’d needed so much during the Thornweaver attack in Cape Town.
‘And,’ Rose said, not without difficulty, ‘I’m glad you’re here. I don’t know a better fighter.’
Eva just nodded at that, looking away. Words for such honesty did not come easily; she found Rose Weasley an intense but occasionally unpredictable factor outside of fights, probably the one of the Five she’d found herself to have the least grasp of as time went by, and time away had not made that easier. Selena was all masks with a predictable core, Matt she found she understood, with Scorpius she shared a certain rotten core of guilt, and Al…
…Al cleared his throat, and gestured her further down the shipping container. Uncertain, she followed him, aware of Rose burying her nose deeper into paperwork to avoid overhearing. ‘There’s something I should tell you,’ he said in a low voice once they were stood almost consumed in shadow.
She looked at his face and said, ‘is this the right time?’
‘I met Isabella Castillo. Turns out she was one of the Americans on the New Mexico relief mission Scorpius and my sister were on. Lily and her hit it off. She’s in the UK now with security briefings. She came to see Lily and… I can assume asked to speak to me.’
‘Of course she did,’ said Eva, a detached part of her marvelling at how numb her gut was at such a prospect. ‘She must despise the notion I have any protection from the Potter family.’
‘She seemed to think I needed enlightening.’ He reached into his bag and pulled out a manila folder. ‘She gave me this. I don’t want it.’
Eva didn’t take it off him, but she did bend down a corner to confirm it was what she thought it was. ‘Have you read it?’
‘Not properly -’
‘Then how do you know if you don’t want it?’ She met his gaze. ‘I doubt there’s anything inaccurate in there.’
Al scowled. ‘She gave this to me to try to drive a wedge -’
‘Maybe she did. But a law enforcement officer doesn’t have to be a lunatic blinded by a vendetta to hate me, Al. She just needs to have met me in the line of duty. And regardless of her motivations, perhaps you should read it.’ She could taste something acrid in her mouth, and swallowed down. ‘There’s a lot we haven’t talked about.’
His frown deepened. ‘So perhaps we talk.’
‘That’s not unfair. Some things I should say. But -’ Her gaze flickered down to the folder, and she hesitated. There are some things I’d rather you learnt while I didn’t look you in the eye. ‘I’m sorry this got your sister involved.’
‘Lily’s a grown-up and can fend for herself. I’m more worried about you.’
‘Why? Because I’m facing the consequences of my actions?’ Eva said in a low, dull tone.
‘Because this has every chance of turning into a witch hunt against the person you used to be,’ he hissed. ‘And I won’t stand for it.’
Eva reached out again, but this time it was to push the folder back, press it against his chest. ‘Have a good read of that, remember this is only a snapshot of the things I did before I met you, and maybe then have a think of how far you’ll stand for me,’ she said, and before he could reply she’d turned away, headed back down the shipping container to sit on the bench across from Rose.
He didn’t follow her from out of the shadows as they continued to trundle their way across the world to yet another crisis that meant they didn’t have to think of all their past sins.
Advantages of staying in a hotel paid for by her paper included a modicum of privacy, so Selena almost dropped her tea when the Floo burst to life and out, surrounded by swirling emerald flames, stepped Scorpius Malfoy with a shovel over his shoulder. ‘We’ve got work to do.’
She scrabbled for self control, sipped her tea, and drawled, ‘We’re burying your issues?’
‘Digging up trouble so you can pretend you don’t feel wholly impotent with your wife rushing off into danger?’
‘Exactly.’ Without irony, Scorpius sauntered over. ‘And you’re the only one I can trust to not have me locked up for this, not to mention you’ve got your own little problem of impotence to deal with. So how about we play allies instead of scoring points?’
Her brow furrowed. ‘I’m not sure how that works.’
‘If you’re not pissed off Matt left his emergency precautions with me, and if you’re not pissed off he’s in trouble when last you knew he was just doing boring research, and if you’re not pissed off you can’t go after him, then you’re not the Selena Rourke I know and… know.’
She sipped her tea again. ‘I’m sure if they’re smuggling their way across the world we could have snuck out with them.’
‘Perhaps, but if the DMLE is keeping tabs on me with the Thane thing, then I bet they’re keeping tabs on you while you’re in the country. It sucks but we can’t afford to slow them down.’
‘Scorpius, stop trying to make me feel better or I’ll beat you with the shovel. What’s going on?’
He let the shovel rest on the polished floor in a way she was sure would make a dent and get added to her bill. At least she wasn’t paying. ‘We’re going grave robbing.’
She put down her tea and folded her arms across her chest. ‘I’ve got to give you credit, Scorpius Malfoy. You never fail to escalate in the most unexpected and stupid way. So, where is Thane buried?’
‘How did you know?’
‘Who the fuck else are you going to dig up? My only other option was that you’d finally snapped and it was time to build a throne of bones out of the remains of Malfoy ancestors.’
‘Yeah, no, I think my grandfather might still be gooey, so let’s not.’
‘You know if Thane’s body is still in his grave, he’s going to be gooey.’
Scorpius shouldered the shovel. ‘So it’s a lose-lose. Coming?’
Selena glanced out the window. It was gone ten o’ clock, almost perfect time for skulking around a cemetery without being noticed. ‘Let’s hope the DMLE isn’t paying that close attention to us so long as we’re within British borders. I’ll get changed.’
It was by his Apparition they left the hotel room, all the better to come and go without being noticed, to be dragged through the night-clad skies of England and emerge so close to a hedge that twigs stabbed into Selena’s hair and neck. On instinct she reeled back, swatting, only for Scorpius to grab her arm and hiss, ‘Quiet!’
‘I will not, your steering is atrocious -’
‘I needed to get as close to the verge as possible without breaching the barriers, and I don’t know if anyone keeps track of this place so will you pipe down?’
She repressed a shiver and looked around. A bright moon outshone the stars to smother the night in silver, showing for the moment little more than a country lane and the tall hedgerow Scorpius had almost hurled them into. The rolling hills on the other side glinted here and there with sparks of life from low houses in the distance, but she didn’t recognise the terrain,with its gentle tumbles and sharp inclines. ‘Where are we?’
‘Lake District.’ Scorpius glanced up and down the lane, before turning to the hedge. ‘Specifically, the outskirts of the old Thane family home.’
‘I thought Thane never lived in Britain?’
‘Not unless you count Hogwarts. His grandfather ruined the family by squandering the fortune on Grindelwald’s cause, and they left the country. But nobody wants to buy an old, run-down wizards’ home; Muggles find them creepy as a rule, and it’s considered gauche in the magical world. Either the purview of an upstart, nouveau riche sort of half-blood, or you can’t shake the stigma of the old owners.’ There was a detached tilt to Scorpius’ voice it didn’t take a genius to read between the lines of. ‘So they still own the place, it’s just been left to rot for eighty years.’
He rolled a shoulder. ‘Jericho Thane, Prometheus’ father, is still alive. He lives in the States.’
‘So how come Prometheus Thane is buried here?’
Scorpius pushed past her, she suspected so he couldn’t see her face. ‘It’s what I reckon he would have wanted.’
She followed with a frown, realising that in all the insanity of the aftermath of Niemandhorn, she’d never stopped to think about what happened to Prometheus Thane’s body. There’d been her mother’s arrest and her own investigation and even the burial of Nat Lockett to contend with; Thane had not given her reason to pause. This felt like a very serious oversight now. ‘I didn’t know you organised it.’
‘Somebody had to, and he didn’t get on with his father,’ Scorpius said in a rather taut voice, walking down the length of the hedge. ‘He never considered the US home, either. And you know as well as I do that there are rules about burials on Hogwarts grounds.’
‘Yes, rules against people who tried to wipe out Hogwarts getting the honour of being buried there when people who died to save it don’t.’ That was an old anger, and one which seemed to take them both unawares, enough to push Scorpius into silence. So Selena glared at the back of his head and dropped her voice as she asked, ‘So why didn’t you Apparate right in and why do you need the shovel?’
‘Last I was here there were some minor security wards. Enough to be set off by any spells. So we’re doing this the old-fashioned way.’ He stopped at a gap in the hedge and stuck his head in. ‘Here.’
They slipped through the hedge and clambered over a half-broken fence to land in the ramshackle grounds of the run-down home of the Thane family. These were no grand grounds of a mansion the like of which Selena had seen of the truly old families of the country, but it had clearly once been a great country house in its own way. Now the roof had fallen into disrepair, broken windows showed dusty and scarred interior, and the lawn itself was a mess of weeds and overgrown wilderness.
She looked at Scorpius’ face and saw there the echoes of another old family with its symbols turned to ash. ‘Lead on,’ she whispered. It was not, for once, the time to be sardonic.
Nothing stirred at their arrival, from nature to magic, and it was with some relief she noticed Scorpius was not wholly confident in his surroundings or in finding his way. But he led her around the side of the house to a quieter corner of the grounds, tidier if still overgrown, weeds and ivy crawling up a wooden pergola that stood guard over a gravestone. The worn stone still shone brighter than the walls, but it was to the markings that Selena looked.
Just a name and dates. At least there’s no sentiment here. ‘How’s the ground?’
Scorpius knelt before the gravestone. ‘If this has been disturbed, it’s not recent.’
‘Do you have any idea how long it would take for it get this overgrown?’
‘Do I look like I know weeds?’
Scorpius sighed, rolled up his sleeves, and picked up the shovel. ‘Then let’s stop acting like horti-fucking-culturalists and get to it.’
‘Sure, except for the implied we,’ said Selena, and pretended she was keeping watch while he did all the work.
It took a long time to dig up a grave, and a whole hour before Scorpius finally spoke, rather breathless. ‘So what is Matt looking into in Brazil?’
She scowled. ‘Buggered if I know what his nerd work sends him to.’
‘Wow. That’s a response from old Selena if ever there was one.’ He stabbed the shovel in the ground for a break and wiped his brow. ‘So you two argued.’
‘We did not.’
‘So you two didn’t speak to avoid an argument.’
She wrinkled her nose at him. ‘Keep digging, Malfoy.’
‘I need a break. You can take a shift, or we can talk.’ She didn’t move, so he braced his elbows on the shovel’s handle. ‘Remember how you and I say we’re the only people we can be really awful around?’
‘So awful I’m starting to think that shovel’s a great idea. So I can make you dig your own grave before I murder you.’
‘There’s trouble between you two, then.’
‘The trouble is that he’s got into trouble without me having the slightest clue.’ She sniffed. ‘Look, all he’s done the last five years is write books. Make his name more on the Chalice’s hunt and destruction, and whatever the hell else he slid out of the Templars’ portfolio.’
‘Has he been spending time with them?’
‘They’re not really a thing; before de Sablé died there was some tidying up of loose ends and yes, he’s sifted out the odd old secret of theirs, but he’s still just a historian. It’s not normally that dramatic.’
‘Then why did you fight?’
Selena scowled more. ‘We didn’t -’
‘What didn’t you talk about, then? What was so awful you two, you two, hid shit from each other?’ Scorpius hefted his shovel. ‘I pay some attention. You were always a good team. You didn’t have to work at it, you just had to not be stupidand it came naturally. So what’s made you stupid?’
She looked away, the scowl fading for the heavy guilt she hoped the moonlight wouldn’t shine down upon. ‘He doesn’t say it,’ she said, softer. Scorpius proved why they were sometimes alike, because he said absolutely nothing, and even though she knew what was happening she found words rising to fill the silence. ‘He wants to come home.’
There was another wait before Scorpius answered, but this sounded like he’d been hunting the right words. ‘Five years is a long time to wander the world.’
‘Five years isn’t long enough for Britain to forget the name Rourke.’
‘Will they ever?’
‘He suggested we leave,’ she found herself snapping. ‘He said I could take as long as I wanted, that he could do his work from wherever -’
‘Which is why he’s not said anything, I wager,’ said Scorpius with a huff as he got back to digging. ‘I mean, he’s still a man, if he’s said he’s not going to make a big deal out of this and yet it’s bugging him he’s totally going to walk around like a bear with a bad head and refuse to talk.’
‘It’s not his fault,’ Selena said softly. ‘I don’t -’
She was saved by saying more because that was when the shovel hit the coffin. ‘Show time,’ Scorpius breathed.
It was not, in fact, show-time. Reaching the coffin still meant excavating it, and at this point Selena jumped in the hole to help scrape away the dirt, first with a rock, then with her hands as the work became more intricate. It was another full ten minutes before the coffin was cleared, the ebony wood shining once moonlight pooled into the grave around it, and she watched Scorpius as he cleared the dirt from the hinges. His own eyes shone in the gloom, shone with a mixture of apprehension and anticipation, and as he reached for the lid his hands shook.
‘Whatever’s going on,’ she told him, ‘we’ll get to the bottom of this. We’ll see him finished.’
The emotion betrayed on his face, stealing there like a thief before he caught and locked it away, was so plainly guilt she had to look away. ‘I know,’ said Scorpius instead, and opened the coffin.
It moved with a creak of metal hinges, with starlight rippling over the wooden surface, and the moon tumbled down into the open grave, into the open coffin, and filled all the empty space within. They both stared at the nothingness for long moments, long moments of heart-thudding chest pain and throat-burning breaths not breathed, until Selena managed, in a strangled voice, to speak.
A/N: So, uh, yet again, after a huge break, I slither back. I am not gonna make promises, because that's just not been helpful. I will say that I have quite a bit more of this written. I will say I held off on writing it until I had a more solid grasp of the plot, so I didn't start posting only to write myself into a corner where I couldn't go back and edit, or where I'd run into a brick wall. At last, the problem with this story isn't going to be, you know, the story.
I am, however, elbow-deep in studies. So why am I trying to finish this story now, you ask? Simply put, I need to write to blow off steam. To scratch the creative itch when stressed. This may mean a week or so may go by where I don't have time to write. It happens. But I have a little buffer (writing Chapter 13 at present) and a more solid plan, and I'll try to post once a fortnight or so. And maybe we can finish this dang story, huh?
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