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Chapter 9: The Best Way Out


‘So what,’ said Rose once they were safe in the apartment in the secure part of Rio de Janeiro, ‘were you even doing out here?’ The place had been provided by her work, the White Wands owning multiple secure safe-houses in multiple locations worldwide; usually they were for emergencies and while she knew she’d have some explaining for Marius when she got back, it was a place she trusted to be clear.

She watched as Matt’s gaze washed over her with dismissal to examine Eva before landing on Al. ‘Business deals. There’s a flourishing black market out here. I’ve done business here before, but it’s never gone this badly.’

‘I should hope not,’ said Al, arms folded across his chest. ‘There’s a lot of black market trade in the archaeology business?’

He shrugged. ‘Of course. Objects of ancient magical importance are always of value. Sometimes they’re powerful in their own right, but those are usually accounted for; nothing quite so exciting as the Chalice. Sometimes they’re of interest to collectors who’ll want to show them off in private rooms just to demonstrate how rich and intellectual they are. More often they’re fascinating for research purposes, utterly harmless and of use only to academics, but they’re held in countries and governments who don’t want to sell them on. So they’re stolen and traded.’

‘But this doesn’t seem so harmless,’ said Rose. ‘Not if the Manticores and this fake Thane are after it.’

Matt leaned back on the sofa and opened his hands. ‘I don’t know what to say. I wanted to buy some diaries of the scholar Catalina, specifically on his finding and translating the lost fragment of the Emerald Tablet. The lost fragment is from ancient Greece, written by the wizard Euryleon; Euryleon’s other works established fundamental principles of transmutation and alchemy. The belief is that the lost fragment might give further academic insights. But Catalina was buried with his translations and the knowledge of his burial site is lost.’ He sighed. ‘As you see, this is all fascinating but none of it is the sort of life-and-death thing you’re used to.’

‘Could it really be just about money?’ Al looked to Eva.

She stood against the tall windows, silhouetted against the shine of Rio in the early evening, and did not turn back to them. ‘You met Thane when he worked for greater forces. But for ten years we worked for the money. Historical artifacts wasn’t his usual business, but he’s been flexible.’

‘Historical artifacts have become a hotbed of smuggling with all of the modern restrictions on international travel,’ said Matt. ‘More countries tightening their borders, much less cooperation on research. There’s big money in it. And Catalina’s become the latest big thing, which is sort of my fault.’

Rose arched an eyebrow at him, and saw him not quite look at her. ‘What did you do?’

She could tell he didn’t appreciate the accusing tone she couldn’t quite shake off. ‘One of my academic contacts, Annabeth Delaney, died. I was one of those who went through her archives and it turns out she’d been sat on a goldmine of records she’d not had time to go through. Including the diaries of one of Catalina’s apprentices, which I revealed at a conference last month. It’s what’s set me on this path. Obviously it’s drawn some attention.’

Al raised his hands. ‘History aside, I have one question: is anything in this dangerous, or -’

‘No, no. I’m sure of it. There are interesting implications for alchemy, but that’s all.’

‘This doesn’t deviate much from what the Red Manticores have been up to,’ Rose accepted. ‘We shouldn’t jump at shadows just because this is Thane.’

‘Just because this looks like Thane.’ Al’s gaze turned on Eva.

While her back was still to them, it was as if she sensed the attention. ‘I don’t know,’ she said at length. ‘There’s nothing to make me think it’s not him. I tried to ask him things only he would know; he dodged my question about our confrontation on Niemandhorn. But if it is him, either he came back from the dead or I killed someone else. The latter makes the most sense.’

‘What about questions on other things?’ Rose asked.

‘If it’s a trick, it’s a very good one.’

But Rose had never taken the time to get a good read on Eva, opaque at the best of times, and had no idea if this meant Eva believed Thane or not. ‘Let’s look at the good side of this. We know something the Manticores want. Either they’ll keep pursuing Matt or go for his records, or they’ll follow other sources.’ She paused. ‘And by we, I mean we can pass this information on to Harry.’

‘So it’s my turn to be bait,’ said Matt wryly, then shook his head. ‘If Harry’s heading up a task force for these Manticores, I’ll happily give him all I have. Especially as Thane’s hunt might put some of my colleagues at risk.’ He hesitated. ‘But thank you. All of you. I know this wasn’t easy…’

Rose fumbled for words, grateful when Al scoffed and said, ‘Isn’t this what we do?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Matt, smile small and lopsided. ‘I thought we were retired.’

‘Either way, I’ve managed to secure us a direct Portkey to London through work.’ Rose spotted the look in Eva’s eye. ‘My work allows for some discreet transport. You’ll be fine. The downside is it’s not until morning.’

Eva nodded. ‘Then if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shower.’ She glanced at Matt as she headed for the door to the apartment’s bedrooms. ‘You need to work on your nose for danger, or I’m going to have to take that sword back.’

‘I need it to get out of danger.’ But Matt’s lips curled, and Rose was reminded she had yet again underestimated whatever bond between the two had formed on Brillig Island years ago.

Al glanced between them as Eva left, drumming his fingers on his knees. ‘I’d hoped this was going to give us more answers, not more questions.’

‘Technically, it’s not more questions,’ Rose pointed out. ‘It’s just “is Thane really back?” written in even larger text.’

‘I got close,’ said Matt with a grimace. ‘It seemed like him. But honestly, I dealt with him the least of maybe all of you. I had the chance to check him for illusions; it’s not one, and he was way too active anyway. I’d expect a Polyjuice for that kind of sophistication, and it wouldn’t show up on my spells.’

‘That’s highly unlikely; neither it nor the ingredients from Thane himself would have lasted five years.’

Albus pushed himself to his feet. ‘I’m going to get some rest.’

Old habits died hard; Rose found herself giving Matt a wry glance as he disappeared through the same door as Eva, even if it led to a corridor with all the rooms beyond, and found Matt matching her expression. Then the door shut behind Al, and that seemed to knock sense into him. He, too, stood.

‘You didn’t have to be the one to come here -’

‘Neither Scorpius nor Selena can travel easily or quickly right now,’ Rose said. ‘And it seemed most sensible for Al and Eva to have some backup considering we didn’t know what we were going into, and - and of course I did, Matt!’ Frustration finally bubbled up over all the prim and proper appearances she’d felt she was supposed to keep up.

‘I didn’t mean to worry anyone,’ said Matt, gesturing vaguely with his prosthetic right hand. ‘I expected Scorpius to raise the alarm with local law enforcement when we set up the protocol; I didn’t know he’d told you -’

‘No, he told me when you didn’t check in, and normally we would try local law enforcement, but you happened to be in one of the most dangerous urban magical areas in the world,’ she said flatly. ‘I was unaware of this protocol. As was Selena.’

He flinched. ‘She certainly doesn’t need more worrying.’

‘What’s going on with you two? She was coy and evasive, you’re rushing off to potentially dangerous situations she doesn’t know much about…’

‘This wasn’t meant to be dangerous. I always take security measures in case something like this happens, but it was meant to just be an exchange. And do you honestly think you and I should be talking about this?’

Rose straightened as if struck. ‘I thought you and I were…’ She hesitated. ‘Talking again? Is this really time for -’

‘First, you’re right now trying to poke into my private life,’ Matt pointed out. ‘Until my private life becomes relevant to whatever crisis is hitting the world again, I will always have the right to guard it from whomever I want. Second, we had a chat at a party, I don’t… you still…’

She stood abruptly. ‘I still killed de Sablé, you mean. Matt, I am never going to pretend you should be okay with that; I am never going to be okay with it, but you have to accept that I am always going to care about you. Whether that means trying to help because you and Selena have been terrible at disguising there’s some sort of problem, or saving your life. I didn’t come to Rio out of tactical necessity, I came because I refuse to stand by and let something happen to you!’

He clicked his tongue. ‘And I’m grateful. I am, Rose. But this doesn’t mean I’m about to confide in you.’

‘Then who are you going to confide in? Because travelling the world with Selena’s probably not done wonders for your closeness to anyone else.’

She hadn’t intended an attack, but knew she’d misjudged the moment the words left her lips, and Matt’s expression pinched. ‘So how’s Scorpius if Thane’s back? Is he talking to you about it? What it means for him, his future, his feelings? His sense of betrayal? The things he did when they worked together?’

She’d known Matt a long time. Loved him when she was young, then maybe loved him again for a time after, and he maintained he’d loved her all along. Even after all these years they knew each other so well, well enough to get under one another’s skin, well enough to make the most painful and pointed declarations of war. For some reason they’d never known how to make peace. And even if Scorpius was talking to her about Thane, his return only soured her fears for her pregnancy, and its implications in her marriage. Matt couldn’t know that, but he always knew where she was weak, somehow.

‘We talked at a party,’ he carried on when she hadn’t summoned an answer. ‘I still didn’t want to be at your wedding, I still didn’t come running when Scorpius was hurt, I still don’t want to open up about my private life. I am grateful, Rose. I’m even grateful that you care about me.’ He sounded like he was going to make another bitter statement, but held his tongue. ‘But I still don’t owe you anything.’

He left, because she supposed he had to leave after that, and Rose stood in the gleaming light of the setting sun and reflected that she really needed to stop chasing endangered and injured men on the other side of the globe if they were only going to clam up on her after.

When she entered the corridor she was surprised to hear the sounds of Albus moving about in his room; he had not, it seemed, gone after Eva. So Rose did before she knew what she was thinking, her knock answered by a damp-haired Eva in fresh clothes. Her failure to read the other woman did not improve with the blank expression she received, but then Eva stepped back and let her in.

‘Thank you,’ said Rose, wringing her hands together. ‘I hope the room’s alright for you.’

‘I’ve stayed in far worse,’ said Eva in that usual bland voice of hers, then, ‘Sorry. It’s very nice. Thanks.’

Rose turned her gaze skyward as Eva turned away. She looked like she’d been packing after the shower. ‘I wasn’t fishing for compliments. The company funds all this. I was just checking you don’t need anything.’

‘I know.’ Eva paused, stood by the small desk on which sat the shoulder-bag that seemed to contain all her worldly possessions. It was small and Rose suspected it did not magically extend. ‘I was trying to be polite. Dismissive habits die hard. Though I suspect that’s not the only reason you’re here.’

Rose supposed she shouldn’t be surprised when Eva proved good at reading people. She had been assigned as a spy and infiltrator after all. ‘How sure are you?’

‘About -’

‘You were cagey on your answers back there. We’re not asking - I‘m not asking - you to give a legal statement on this. But I trust your instincts. How sure are you?’

Eva took her time zipping her bag shut. ‘Remember we’re talking about the one man who can turn my instincts upside-down.’

‘One of two men,’ Rose said wryly.

‘Yes.’ Eva did not turn around. ‘I meant what I said back there. He knew a lot, but an impersonator would do his homework. He was evasive, but if it were really him, he’d want to keep us guessing. But I was very sure in the DMC. Now I’m absolutely sure.’

Rose had so many tensions running through her she struggled to keep track of them, but at that the string that was the influence of Prometheus Thane grew more taut. ‘How is this possible?’

‘For you, more than anyone, the impossible is your stock in trade.’ Eva glanced over her shoulder in time to catch Rose’s confused flinch. ‘How many impossible feats have you achieved, Mrs Malfoy?’

Actually, I kept my name. But I suppose if Thane spent eighteen months trying to resurrect Scorpius, even if the circumstances of Scorpius’ resurrection were unique to his bond to the Chalice, we shouldn’t be shocked to discover he might have learnt some secrets along the way.’

‘Exactly. Perhaps something he could have prepared in advance. Perhaps secrets which his allies took and acted on.’ Eva frowned. ‘The problem there is that the only one of the team who could have reasonably achieved something that complicated was killed by law enforcement a couple of years ago. Tackleton, Faust, and Argyris aren’t - it’s wrong to say they’re not bright enough, at least for Faust and Argyris, but neither of them were good at this sort of magic. Griogair Loganach was the only one anywhere near as brilliant as Thane.’

‘The Australians got Loganach, didn’t they?’

That small smile of Eva’s tugged at her lips. ‘You did your homework.’

‘I work for one of the world’s leading security firms. Of course I did.’ Rose hesitated. ‘Not to mention Thane’s importance to my husband.’ She tried to ignore the look in Eva’s eyes, a sardonic glint as if they’d finally got to the meat of the matter. ‘Thane -’

‘Again, you understand better than the rest how the world works. That it’s too simple to call Prometheus Thane pure evil. It would be convenient, but it would blind you to the truth of the matter.’

‘Just because Thane could care about people doesn’t mean that he didn’t unleash a plague on children and cause the deaths of two, not to mention the further physical and psychological impact upon a generation,’ Rose snapped. ‘He might have been sympathetic to you but he still turned you into a child soldier. He might have had some strange over-relating issues with Scorpius, but he kept him hostage for eight months for Lillian Rourke to control his father. And will you stop inferring I’m…’

Eva raised an eyebrow. ‘Inferring you’re what?’

Different.’

She sighed. ‘All of you live on different points on the scale of cynicism. It would be easy to say Scorpius has been most touched by the darkness. Or that Selena is the most pragmatic. And Matt has shown he’s made of sterner stuff than he seems. I’m not in the business of judging you, Rose. But I’m not convinced any of them would have made the cold, calculated choice to kill Reynald de Sablé.’

Why does it always come back to this. Rose’s gaze landed on the bag, the bag neatly packed a day early. ‘I came in here because I am never going to fully understand the hold Prometheus Thane has over my husband, and I thought you might stand the best chance of explaining it to me. That’s not really grounds for you to be provocative and hostile.’

‘I’m not -’

‘Were you planning on sneaking out after I’d gone to bed, or would it have sufficed for me to go to my room?’ Rose’s eyes snapped back on Eva. ‘Remember, I’m married to Scorpius Malfoy. I am more than familiar with emotional attacks to keep people at bay.’

Eva froze, and only after a few long seconds said, ‘This was not my intention. After all, I have all night to run away.’

‘I’m sure abandoning him without saying goodbye for the third time would do you both good. I don’t enormously care if you choose to do that to yourself again, but speaking as someone who had to deal with the fallout both times before, I care about him.’

Eva looked away. ‘He’s better off -’

‘That might have been true the first, or even the second time. But I’m not convinced it’s true this time, and it’s certainly not true since you came back to him. You might have not expected Thane’s return, but there’s always going to be something. And if you want to give up again, if you want to go, you have to do three things: You have to say goodbye, you have to never come back, and you have to tell him that.’

‘I do intend to stay gone forever. But telling him -’

‘Is too painful? For you, or for him?’ Rose took a step forward. ‘Look, I wish I could do this emotionally distant trick too, but believe it or not, I respect you, Eva. I respect that you risked a lot to do what’s right, and to change. My priority may be Albus’ happiness, and I also happen to think we’ll resolve this Manticores crisis more easily with your help, but I have no desire to see you isolated and miserable.’

‘All I can offer him right now is the hope of what we had, for it to be snatched away. I can spare him that.’

‘No, you can’t, because you’ve already dangled that hope. You want to tell me I’m cold? Fine. Here’s the cold advice: fight for what you want and what you need, because the world sure as hell won’t give it to you.’

Eva’s gaze stayed locked on the wall, and she drew a slow breath. ‘I don’t think you’re cold because you fight for what you want. You do what needs to be done. Too many people say they do that, and it’s not true. They wouldn’t have been prepared to die to stop Raskoph.’

Rose gave a short, bitter laugh. ‘If you think that was about heroism or necessity, you’re wrong. Believe it or not, I understand a little something about sacrificing yourself when you don’t know what you deserve.’ She sought the other woman’s gaze and finally caught it. ‘I don’t know if you can have a normal life. I don’t know what Albus is thinking. I don’t know what you deserve. I know Al deserves you not running out on him again. And I think if ever you had a duty, it was in putting the Red Manticores, your former comrades, down. Especially if they’re led by Prometheus Thane.’ She stepped aside and pointed at the door. ‘And if you disagree, then fine. Walk out that door. Get one of your Portkeys, and I won’t stop you. But then you sure as hell will stay gone, stay out of his life, and find some corner of the world to die in.’

Eva’s hand had curled on the strap of her bag, and Rose’s heart lunged into her throat. Surely she hadn’t misread this so badly, but it had been a long five years for everyone. Then, slowly, Eva let go. ‘I don’t know how this ends.’

‘Yes,’ said Rose. ‘I imagine that’s the problem.’

She left, then, and went to bed wondering why she’d come to the far side of the world to deal with the problems of people who didn’t want her to help.

This did not improve the next morning, when she woke early to ensure the Portkey would be ready for them and because the time difference was playing havoc with her body clock. It seemed Al was suffering much the same, for she found him at the breakfast bar with a coffee.

‘So I talked to your girlfriend last night,’ Rose said by way of greeting.

Al winced. ‘What did I do to piss you off?’

She looked at his mug. ‘I never can figure out how to make these coffee machines work.’ For a moment she considered warning him that Eva had almost bolted. ‘She’s squirrelly right now. She’s confident it’s Thane.’

‘I don’t know how clear her thinking is.’ He glanced up. ‘How’s Scorpius been about it?’

‘Too much of Scorpius feels grateful towards Thane, and then guilty for feeling grateful. He’s never had his head screwed on right about that man. Something we have in common in our love lives.’ She slid onto the stool opposite him.

‘I’m really not thinking about my love life right now.’

‘Well, that’s a lie, because you’ve never stopped thinking about Eva, and I’m sure her presence in a crisis hasn’t calmed that down.’ Rose cupped her chin in her hand. ‘You know you can talk to us. To me. Scorpius projects everywhere.’

Al looked back down at his mug. ‘She gave me a file the other day. Her file, from MACUSA. It’s dated a few months before Phlegethon; I think it covers more or less everything from before she and Thane got involved in the Council of Thorns. Every offence she’s wanted for, not just in the US. Everything she’s done.’

‘Everything she’s done that they know about.’ Rose reached for his hand, and mused that maybe Eva had had better reasons to run away after all. ‘That can’t have been easy.’

‘There was nothing surprising in there,’ Al said instead. ‘And I’m sick of this.’

She frowned at the unexpected vehemence. ‘Which “this”?’

‘This - feeling like this. Wanting things, and then feeling guilty for wanting them, and - it’s been five years, Rose. Five years. You know how tempted I was, when I got her letter after Niemandhorn, to say “screw it” and leave and look for her?’

‘Yes,’ said Rose quietly. ‘Look, Al, I get there are no easy answers. And certainly no right answers. I think all we can do is make the choices that won’t break us inside and then figure out how to live with ourselves. And, honestly, screw what everyone else thinks.’

Something in his eyes darkened. ‘Is that why you still have nightmares of falling?’ Her breath caught, and she silently cursed her husband for daring to seek counsel in his worry for her. ‘Is that why you’re completely alright with Matt still struggling to look at you?’

Rose inhaled slowly. ‘I didn’t come here to fight, Al. All of that’s exactly part of figuring out how to live with ourselves. I didn’t say it would be easy. But yes. Those were the choices that wouldn‘t break me inside. Even if someone died both times, and one of them was almost me.’

Al pushed himself to his feet, shaking his head, but he looked tired rather than angry. ‘You ever want to beat Hugo for having a normal life?’

‘Often.’

His lips curled. ‘I would talk, Rosie. Honestly. But I have nothing new to say - how do I forgive her, how do I live with what she did, how do I take the risk that even if I can make peace with myself that she won’t be locked up or executed or Kissed? You can’t answer those questions. All I can do is talk about them over and over, because talking about it feels like progress, if I want to lie to myself.’

She returned the smile with wry sympathy. ‘I know. I can’t tell you anything you don’t know, either. But you know, I’m not here because I give a shit about the truth of Prometheus Thane or not. I care how it affects Scorpius, but that’s it. He’s no different to any monster out there. I’m here because all of this is getting in the way of my future, and I fought for this future. It’s mine. I want it. I’m going to damn well have it. And nobody’s going to give us these futures, Al. Nobody’s going to give us anything.’

He was quiet for a moment, staring at the floor, then gave a short bob of a nod. ‘That’s not quite true,’ said Al. ‘Because I know how to make that coffee machine work, so I can give you a cuppa at least.’

§


Selena was on her feet the moment the door to the flat opened to let in Rose, Al and Matt, the cup of tea Scorpius had provided long forgotten in their tense waiting. ‘Are you alright?’ she demanded, stalking across the open-plan room towards them.

Rose and Al were wise enough to exchange glances and get out from between her and Matt, who lifted his hands in a placating manner. ‘Nothing worse than -’

‘Good,’ she said, then punched him on the arm again and again. ‘What - were - you - thinking!’

‘Hey, I’m - ow!’ He brought up his hands protectively, then one blow hit his prosthetic and she reeled back with a hiss of stinging knuckles. ‘What the hell?’

‘Getting yourself in danger without warning me? I have to find out through bloody Scorpius that you’ve been abducted in the middle of Brazil?’ The fact that ‘bloody Scorpius’, that all of them, lurked near the sofas pretending they were anywhere else was irrelevant right now. ‘Were you going to tell me -’

‘There was nothing more dangerous about this job than any other!’ Matt protested. ‘I met a black market contact to purchase some old diaries, I didn’t think this was going to lead to me getting abducted by Prometheus Thane back from the fucking dead!’

‘You cared enough to set up safety protocols -’

‘Because that’s what my job requires! I’ve been doing this for years, Selena, and you know this! This isn’t on me!’ His gaze softened, though his hands remained raised protectively. ‘I’m sorry I scared you, I really am. I know it must have been bloody awful being here, waiting for news, not able to do anything useful -’

‘We perfectly usefully dug up Prometheus Thane’s grave,’ she sneered without thinking.

Scorpius sighed as Rose and Albus stared at him. ‘Oh good. That came out in a way which makes me sound sane.’

Rose goggled. ‘You exhumed -’

‘Yes, Weasley, we dug him up, he’s in one of Malfoy’s little private rooms while we find out if the corpse is actually him, it’s the best way we can establish if this impostor is real or not,’ Selena said, as if the identity of a man wearing the face of their most notorious enemy was small fry. She turned back to Matt. ‘I hope this diary was worth it.’

His jaw tightened. ‘I am getting pretty sick of being yelled at for something I couldn’t possibly anticipate even though I took all appropriate safety precautions.’ His voice had gone low in that way she knew meant he was really angry, and he looked over her shoulder at the others. ‘I’m going home. Al and Rose can fill you in on the details if you want to play world vigilantes again. Thank you, Scorpius, for the security procedures.’

He didn’t look at her again as he stalked out the door, and Selena stared after him long enough that her expression was studied when she turned to the others, who were all looking like they’d rather be elsewhere. ‘So,’ she said airily, ‘what happened?’

Between them, Al and Rose went over everything; the hunt, the fight, the reports from Matt and Eva’s confirmations of Thane. Then Rose added, ‘and… the corpse?’

Scorpius winced. ‘Look, this is the easiest way to see if Eva’s right. If it’s Thane, we’ve got an impostor. If it’s not… we need to find out how he did this.’

‘I thought,’ said Rose, ‘we were cooperating with the authorities.’

‘I’m not sure how legal it is to grave-rob. Probably not very,’ said Scorpius apologetically. ‘I’m not waiting for the paperwork to -’

‘Oh, here we bloody go again,’ Selena sighed, rubbing her temples. ‘Back to the old days: do we trust authorities or do we go insane and do everything ourselves?’

Maybe,’ said Rose carefully, ‘we tell Harry what happened in Rio and then wait. And maybe we go have conversations instead of acting like we don’t have time because we’re about to lunge into the next crisis.’

‘That’s some discreet work, Rose,’ Selena drawled. ‘I couldn’t possibly tell who you were talking about -’

Rose’s gaze flattened. ‘Talk to Matt or don’t talk to Matt; talk to us or don’t talk to us. That’s all on you, honestly. We just need less sardonic commentary and more action, or choices to not take action.’

There it is. Yet again the point where your problems become inconveniences. Selena didn’t let her expression shift one iota. ‘That’s fine,’ she said. ‘This isn’t my fight; really, it’d be a terrible idea for me to be involved. Look, you all know how to get in touch…’

She turned for the door and it was Scorpius who took a few steps forward, whose voice went placating. ‘Selena, come on, don’t go all like this again -’

‘It’s been five years, Scorpius,’ she said, opening the door. ‘You have no idea what my like this even is any more.’ If they were going after her, they didn’t catch up before she was in the lift and trundling down. She couldn’t be far behind Matt, but she had no desire to catch up. Even if he was long gone, she knew where he’d be.

Home, he’d said. It doubtless meant his family home, his parents’ house, where he hadn’t lived for over five years but had been as good a base as anywhere on the rare occasions they’d returned to the UK. But nowhere else could better claim the title; not the apartments they’d rented for no more than six months at a time, the hotel rooms paid for by his studies or her company, only to move on, and move on, and move on. She’d been in Britain no more than a week and already it felt like hounds nipped at her heels, and every time before he’d noticed her feeling like this and packed his bags without saying a word.

He still wasn’t saying words, because that would break his promises, but he wasn’t packing his bags, either. Which meant only one thing.

Selena Rourke was going to have to make an actual choice.



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A/N: Aw, man! I crack on with this to find the whole dang site is shutting down? A bloody shame. I've had a long, long time here; it's possibly this site which meant I carried on with fanfic after finishing the Anguis series, let alone after finishing the Stygian Trilogy. So I owe this place a lot, and have significant thanks to all who have made this journey easier, or joined me on it.

But it's not over. Either for those who want records of my work or want to see me sloping gently through the ending of Regeneration - much as I'd like things to be different, I'm hoping to start my PhD after the summer so I KINDA doubt I have much more fanfic in me after this slow and stumbling finale. BUT. I am out there. Caution to the wind in light of the oncoming end: find me on Ao3 or on FFN (Fanfiction dot net, I have a motherfucking FOUR DIGIT USER ID ON THERE, that's how GODDAMN OLD I AM), and slowly up on, AHEM, hp fanfic talk dot com (you can figure out this cunning code, bite me auto-edit). But Google should honestly provide all you need.

But I endure, and you folks are still beautiful. I won't be updating any more here, either; that's kind of pointless. I'm only updating here because this is the best way for me to communicate with you!

If I don't see you again, it's been a goddamn honour, and in saving my backlog of reviews I am honestly considering making an "I'm awesome" board for my wall of choice quotes of you fine folks that I don't deserve.

For the last time ever in this place:

- Slide out

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