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Prime Suspects by Phoenix_Flames

Format: Novel
Chapters: 35
Word Count: 136,359

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Mystery, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Teddy, Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Rose
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Rose/Scorpius, Other Pairing

First Published: 08/11/2011
Last Chapter: 10/23/2012
Last Updated: 10/23/2012

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Acclaimed Auror for his metamorphmagus abilities, Teddy Lupin, is about to become Scorpius Malfoy for a murder case involving Rose Weasley. And in his opinion, Scorpius Malfoy is not as good looking as him.

2012 Best Plot Twist Runner-Up @ TGS
Keckers 2012 Best Chaptered Story Winner

Chapter 1: Becoming Malfoy
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Disclaimer: I do not own the lovely world of Harry Potter or it's characters.

Thank you to my skype writing group, without whom I would be lost. Thanks to Len(DarkLadyOfSlytherin), Leslie(onestop_hpfan), Lee(SunSation Gal 07), Jenny(Erised), Marina(tell_me_what_the_truth_is), Annie(gingersnape), Ty(tydemans), Gina(justonemorefic), and Sarah(Gryffin_Duck) for encouraging me with this story. And thanks to them for all the title suggestions, even though I did get the suggestion to name this story Sausages while sausages are, in fact, completely irrelevant to this story. :P

My first attempt at a Ted relationship fic. :) Thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Please review.

Enjoy! Watch the beautiful chapter image. It moves! :O

Teddy Lupin - Garrett Hedlund
Scorpius Malfoy - Alex Pettyfer

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Outrageous. Absolutely outrageous. Everyone who was around for the second wizarding war always told us their stories, stories about how scary it was and how lucky we were not to be there. Well, I've heard my fair share of elaborate stories from my god-father and his family, but I feel like I've been stuck right in the middle of it this morning at the Ministry.


The Minister was found dead this morning, and the entire Ministry has gone to hell from there. It's as if, without a Minister, we can't act appropriately and accordingly to our departments. I could, mind you. I'm mature enough, but it seems most of these fifty-year-old crack pots hear some guy's dead and all hell breaks loose.

We've learned that the Minister was murdered; that much is sure. So, most of the employees in the Law Enforcement Department have scattered like flies with the belief that the Minister's laws have upset the people and they will be targeted next. Some have quit, some are running about while madly screaming, some are setting their offices on fire to destroy whatever evidence they might have to upset the killer and removing any skeletons from their closet.

Well, hey, I don't know. Hypothetically speaking with the skeletons, of course.

Poor Hermione is trying to round them up and keep them in order. Some of the wizards in the Law Enforcement Department, along with a few Aurors, have been sent to the crime scene to collect evidence and clean things up. Criminals in the Ministry today for their trail at the Wizengamot have been neglected, lying on the floor in their bounds with silencing charms so their guards can learn more of the situation. Basically, no one is doing their job. Workers from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes have abandoned their work places, letting said catastrophes grow even more out of hand and endanger whatever people are near, and small creatures are attacking the enchanted paper notices flying about.

Me? Well, I was standing smack in the middle of the hall way in the Auror department, trying to take everything in. I mean, really, what idiots. One death and the world has gone to pot. People die every day. Granted, it was the Minister who died this morning due to murder, but still.

Honestly, I didn't get it. The Minister dies and the rest of the wizarding world thinks everyone is out to get them.

Ron Weasley ran by me, trying to stop a rogue co-worker currently screaming at the top of his lungs. "Ted! You're not getting paid to just stand there. Help me, why don't you?"

"Right, sorry," I stuttered to him and chased after the man. I yanked my wand out and shouted, "Petrificus Totalus!"

Ron stopped in his tracks, nodding and seeming quite pleased. I looked to him and waved my wand around like it was the important factor to the entire situation like it was. It was a gesture that read, where is your wand, you idiot? Ron rolled his eyes and commented, "Now's not the time, Teddy."

"Where's Harry?"

"Off dealing with this at the crime scene. Left us Aurors in charge of trying to contain the situation, but - "

"But that's not going very well," I snorted.

Ron gave me that look again, and I lifted my shoulders in questioning. Ron never appreciated my humor. Not in the work place at least.

I never wanted to be an Auror. I had always wanted to maybe write for the Quibbler, or I dunno. Something where my humor could be appreciated. It was never what I pictured myself doing, but even when I was in my Hogwarts years, adults would tell me that the Auror Department would be lucky to have me. What, metamorphmagus and all. I only ever pushed it aside; it was never an option for me, but then I finished my schooling and bloody hell, did that department want me. Even with Harry as the Head, they didn't stop asking me to begin training. I hadn't even applied and they wanted me, but I think my god-father had something to do with that. It was only when the Ministry agreed to pay for my Auror training did I really come to terms that it would be good for me and that I was perfectly suited for such a job.

And the Auror Department sure used me to their advantage. I would be the one sent in disguised as a creepy bloke who hangs out with all the wrong people. I always did discover the most information as such; it's easy to do so when people don't think you're actually an Auror.

"Straighten this up," Ron said. He liked to order me around when he knew he had the power. I'd like to order people around too if I could. "Start with getting any in-control witches or wizards from the Department of International Magical Cooperation to calm everyone down in the Creatures and Magical Catastrophes departments. The Catastrophes Departments should be dealing with this the best, and they're off blowing things up! Then get those damn Wizengamot guards to doing their jobs."

"Yes, sir," I commented and was off. Ron had a point; the workers from the Catastrophes department were off making their own catastrophes and not dealing with the current one at hand, leaving us Aurors to go and pick up the mess, acting like muggle police men and babysitters.

I grabbed the nearest incapacitated criminal from the ground and dragged him down to the Wizengamot. Luckily someone was still doing their job and holding off the dementors off by keeping up his patronus. I looked to him, grateful, and spoke to him and also the dementors. "Any criminals brought down to the Wizengamot are to be escorted back to where they came from. Let them go if they were not under Ministry confinement, or send them right back to Azkaban if that is where they came from. Trials will be rescheduled for another day."

Luckily the mess was all cleaned up in an hour or two, and the workers had somewhat calmed themselves. After the initial shock of things, they were able to clean the Ministry up, restoring it to a somewhat 'good-as-new' condition, and others returned to their work place.

Ron and I went back to our headquarters to cool off, avoiding some still overly stressing wizards. Ron sat down at his desk, kicking back with his hands behind his head and feet on the table. Lucky Ron; he was Harry's right-hand man, so when Harry was out, Ron was pretty much Head Auror. I didn't have a desk; not yet at least. I was still new to the whole Auror Department. I was just approaching my four year mark, and while it sounded like a long time - and oh, Merlin, it has been - it's not too much compared to everyone else here in the office. Harry and Ron are coming up on twenty-four years soon. You had to do something special or be around for a really long time in order to get a desk. Not that I minded much. Most of our work consisted out of office.

I sat down in the chair next to Ron's desk, just trying to figure out how and why the Minister died. Murdered, sure. But how and why, why being the greatest question. Jarvis Eldridge had been a good Minister, I thought. Not as good as Kingsley, of course, who stepped down just a few years ago. But good.

"What do you think happened?" I asked Ron quietly, knowing he was deep in thought about the situation as well.

"No idea," Ron rolled his shoulders.

"What's going to happen to the Ministry?"

"A fast election for a new Minister. For a while everything here will just be trying to deal with keeping everyone calm, already trying to push past it the day it happened. There's still a Ministry to run," Ron commented.

"Right," I sighed.

A few hours later, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Two sets of DNA had been found on the victim's body: Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley. No one knows why, but the tests don't lie. I know other Aurors are fast at work in retrieving Rose and Malfoy from whatever business they were carrying out. I can't speak for Malfoy, but Rose would be having her day interrupted at Gringotts to be hauled off by the authorities.

Rose is a Curse Breaker. Dangerous stuff, if you ask me, and for her job, she travels the world to find ancient tombs to break the curses of and she brings the lot of gold back to Gringotts. Tomb-Raider, I think we all called her for a while after she got the job. It was uncommon for such a young witch to get the job, but thanks to an awesome rec letter from her Uncle Bill, she pulled it off. I never knew Rosie that well, but I know she wouldn't kill someone whether she broke into the tombs of dead people or not.

Actually, as I think about it, Rose travels so much that maybe we haven't been able to notice who she's become. Maybe she would kill someone...

But she wouldn't, would she? Had she been conspiring with this Malfoy?

But after Ron had learned that it was his daughter’s DNA they'd found, he and Uncle Harry had been hauled off and sent to their offices. Ron went kicking and screaming, of course. Actually he wouldn't even go. Harry had to haul him out by the collar of his shirt, knowing what's best for him.

There is a law about relatives of defendants being on cases, and well, it's illegal. So Harry, Ron, and even Hermione, a big time lawyer over in her department, can't be in on the case at all. They have to act like it's not going on around them, and they can't be told any information on the case. Apparently it's found unfair to the Ministry and the defendant, as any relatives could sway the decision of the outcome of the trial.

I find this ridiculous. If Harry, Ron, and Hermione could stay on the case, then Rose would definitely get off the hook. And that's what we needed, right? Little Rosie couldn't be sent to Azkaban. She was innocent, right? I couldn't speak for Malfoy; he probably was guilty in the whole thing, but Rose. No way.

But apparently muggles have this law too.

So that's why I'm stuck in an office with Jimmy Peakes and some big dudes who were just under the Minister in the level of importance. Jimmy was also an Auror, a short man with a broad build who intimidated me even though I stood a full foot taller than him. He was a few years younger than Harry and Ron and had apparently been a pretty fierce beater in his Hogwarts years.

Rose and Malfoy are to be taken into separate solitary confinements for questioning, and a trial may or may not be in the future depending on the results of the confinement.

But wait. Here's the really mortifying part of this: Scorpius is to be taken into solitary confinement for questioning by the big, bad scary Aurors, and Rose...?

Well, she'll be in confinement, but there's this whole other twisted side to the story.

Another Auror has been assigned to pretend like he wants to help Rose and Scorpius in what way he can, so John Ruckman will be taking Rose to a secluded cottage in God-Knows-Where.

Here's where I come in.

I'm going along to be her interrogator. The weirdest kind of interrogator you have ever seen.

If Rose and Malfoy's DNA has been found together, then the Aurors have reason to believe they were either working together or were also being targeted together. Either way, they believe putting the two together would spark some sort of answer. Even if it was just one answer to one of our million questions.

And here's where the Aurors love to use my metamorphmagus abilities to the greatest extent. I will be in confinement with Rose disguised as Scorpius Malfoy.

It's madness. A genius kind of madness, but absolutely ridiculous.

I'd morphed into some pretty weird people before, but never this. I'd been disguised as the sketchy kind of man who would pick-pocket you and was sent into Knockturn Alley to spy on some questionable folk. I'd sprouted a beard before and a massive gut to go with it. I've been four feet tall and stick thin; I've had blue hair just because I felt like it and orange the next. And not even the ginger kind of orange, I mean orange. I've worn warts like an accessory and hair like it was a rat's nest, and all for my job. Hell, they even took advantage of the fact that I could change my gender when they found out.

A fact I always wanted to keep to myself because, honestly, it's quite frightening. I'm a man. A man. And most certainly attracted to the opposite sex, so it's one odd situation when your co-workers require you to sprout breasts, long brown hair, and a pretty face.

I'd done it all for my job. I'd worn the heels, and god-forbid, I'd worn the dress.

And I still feel more masculine than ever, so don't use that against me!

I'd gone the whole nine yards in every which way for my job, but never had I done this. Doing what I did, I just looked like someone else. I didn't act like them as well. When I morphed, I turned into someone I didn't know, perhaps someone who didn't even exist.

But this was different. I wouldn't just look like Scorpius Malfoy. I'd have to act like Malfoy.

I'd become Malfoy.

Merlin, wasn't there some sort of law against this?

"You're serious?" I blurted, even knowing that it was a stupid question. Of course they were serious.

Jimmy Peakes nodded. "Yupp. We've seen what you can do, Lupin, and with Potter off the case because his niece is the potential criminal here, I'm in charge."

He was so short; I could stand up and stomp my foot on him if I wanted to. Squash him like a bug. But Peakes scared me, and I didn't know why.

"This is different!" I blurted, dismissing my urge to use my height as an advantage. "You want me to become Malfoy."

"In order to pull information from Rose Weasley, yes. The amount of information we could get from her is endless," Peakes said. He was shuffling through the papers for the case, already filling out paperwork. "Besides, Weasley is already receiving special treatment here. Scorpius Malfoy is to be placed in solitary confinement here at the Ministry. We have less reason to believe he may be innocent in this great scheme with the decisions his relatives have made, but Rose Weasley comes from a good family. She will most certainly be given the nicest circumstances any defendant has been offered while in solitary confinement."

Great. So we were back to stereotyping people like children. Yeah, Scorpius Malfoy came from a family with a bad reputation, but people change, and from what I heard, Draco Malfoy went through a big change after the war. He certainly would have raised his son to be better than him. No matter how much I dislike a pureblood who is judgmental of someone just because their surname is Weasley, I don't think he should be given bad treatment just because of his name.

And if Rosie is in the case, then Malfoy must be innocent. Rose couldn't possibly have conspired to kill someone.

Despite the fact that I may not have known her the best out of her massive, ever-expanding family, I know that it's not in her nature. No Weasley would, no stereotyping intended. Out of any of my god-father's family, I knew his children the best. Yes, Rosie was one of Al's best friends, but Rose and I didn't live at the Potters. When I was around Rose, she was generally off with Lucy, Lily, and the other girls.

"Look, Lupin," Peakes sighed. "This is all just precaution and protocol. Weasley must be questioned. She's the prime suspect in the murder of the Minister of Magic, for Merlin's sake. It very well may be that she is completely innocent and has been horribly framed, but that's what we need you for."

I sighed and pursed my lips tight together. I clenched my fists in anger and let my currently blond hair shoot a vibrant red to let Peakes know just how angry I was. His eyebrows rose at me, but he knew better than to test me. Peakes wasn't my boss; my god-father was. Even as he whistled under his breath, I gave a nod of consent.

"What about Harry and Ron? They can't know I'm involved in the case in such a crucial way," I inquired.

Peakes shifted through more papers as if my question didn't even matter. "I'll simply tell them you have been sent to Rose Weasley's most current location of work, other than Gringotts, to collect data and probable cause."

There won't be any probable cause for Rose, but whatever.

At least I hope there won't be any.

I'm slightly terrified about what I may learn, actually. I refuse to believe that little Rosie may have played a part in a murder, and I refuse to believe she conspired with Malfoy. But what if she did? What if she and Malfoy were an item or something? Shit, what if I walk in there as Scorpius Malfoy and she kisses me full on? Little Rosie?

Sorry, as much as I like a good snog from a girl as much as any other man, it's Rose. I've known her my entire life. I remember when she and Albus were just infants and gnawing on each other’s fingers; I remember being eight and having to hold her one afternoon, not that I minded. She made cute sounds when she was a baby. I was one of the first people to hold her the day she was born when I was just a boy. I dated her cousin until things went horribly wrong.

She's always been little Rosie to me even though she's now nineteen, living on her own, and supporting herself. And maybe aspiring to be a twinge homicidal? Who knows.

I'm taken shortly to a room near the Wizengamot where Scorpius Malfoy is being confined. It's basically his own prison cell. Only he's got a bed, a small bathroom, a table for eating, and it's warm without the dementors hovering over you to suck out your soul. Much nicer than Azkaban, I'll say.

The guard opened the door for me, and Peakes said to me from behind, "Take all the time you need."

I nodded, slipping in, and saw Malfoy sitting at the table. He was already staring off into space. Great, one hour of solitary and he's already turned into mush. We'll see how effective this proves soon.

I nodded to Malfoy, making myself known since he hasn't seemed to register anything at all or even pay attention. "Oi, Malfoy."

He turned his head and seemed somewhat surprised by my arrival. But he must have known I was an Auror, for he didn't react much further. He turned back, continuing to stare at the wall, and he grumbled under his breath, "What do you want, Lupin?"

“Watch what you say to me," I sneered, still unsure of how I wanted to act around Malfoy. I couldn't read him just yet. He obviously knew what he was in for, and he wasn't protesting. But then again I could have missed the entire show while being held up by Peakes. I'd played my role in the whole good Auror, bad Auror situation before, and sometimes it was fun to play the bad Auror.

"How may I help you then?" Malfoy seethed through gritted teeth. He glared at me from the corner of his eyes.

On our initial meeting, how am I to assume that he didn't kill the Minister? He sat there without protest and without question. I'd never met the kid before, but I guess I had met him on a bad day. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Anything you say can and will be held against you in Wizengamot," I reminded him like it was my protocol to. "So you're lucky all I need you to do is to sit still and keep your mouth shut."

"Why?" he asked.

I sighed. He doesn't like to shut up, and I made a mental note of that for the future.

"Just do as I say," I hissed. I went to stand across from him and just stared with my arms folded across my chest. I knew why I just wanted him to sit still and keep his mouth shut. If I were to become him, I needed to know his features, and I'm sorry but I didn't have Scorpius Malfoy's appearance memorized by heart.

So I took in every aspect of his face. It was round until you reached his jaw, where it narrowed with a thin chin and long, thin lips. He was pale and had the kind of hair that grew darker in the winter and lighter in the summer, and thankfully it wasn't slicked back like his father's always was. Instead, it was loose about his head in curls.

He was an all right lookin' kid, and I decided I could handle being him for a while.

When I knew I had gathered what I needed, I turned to leave without a word. As I thought on the change of my appearance, I could already feel myself beginning to shift. I pushed past Peakes and into the nearest restroom where I looked into the mirror and groaned.

"Bloody hell." Scorpius Malfoy is not as good looking as I am.

Chapter 2: Assumed Fact #1
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I've had the appearance of Scorpius Malfoy for just over an hour now, and I'm already sick of it. He's a pale bloke; I miss my tan skin, and he's somewhat shorter than me. He's not incredibly short like Jimmy Peakes. Actually, I wouldn't even call Malfoy short. I guess I'm just tall, but shrinking a few inches is difficult to get accustomed to.

I've been sitting in Jimmy Peakes' office for the majority of the time since I changed into Malfoy, listening to him drone on and on about what I'm to do and what not to do. Honestly, I haven't even been listening. I get the gist of it: don't jeopardize my position, find out what I can, don't be stupid, relay what I hear to Peakes. Blah, blah, blah.

Really, I'm not an idiot. I can figure out what to do in a situation like this. However ridiculously insane it is.

He'd say something to make sure that I was listening, and I would just nod along, mumbling under my breath. I played with my hair the entire time - or Scorpius Malfoy's hair, more like - just running it through my fingers. It was long enough that I could pull it away from my head in front of me and see the tips of it. Those small tips I could see I focused on to make them shoot a light blue, just enough for me to see and to entertain myself. As soon as I let the strands go, they went back to being their light blonde.

They had allowed me enough time to run home and gather what things I needed and to gather my clothes. Luckily, Malfoy and I are about the same size. The only issue is that my jeans are a tad bit too long, to the extent that they wrap around my heels when I walk, but thankfully, Ruckman went out and bought me a few pairs to wear while I'm being Malfoy. However, I snagged a few pairs from my flat just in case I had the opportunity to be me at some point.

I guess Peakes finished what he wanted to tell me because his voice changed and he grabbed his coat from the chair. "Remember, act like Malfoy," he muttered in a serious tone. He was looking at the ground as he made way for the door as if he had little faith in me.

Which I understood.

Even I had little faith in myself with this!

How the bloody hell was I supposed to act like Malfoy? I don't know the guy. If there's some way that Rose is even on speaking terms with him, then this entire operation would be pointless. My actions could be a dead giveaway. I have no idea how to act like Scorpius Malfoy.

Right now, I find the likelihood of Rose being able to somewhat know Malfoy's personality to be fairly high. If their DNA was found together, they have to have spoken to each other in the past.

This was awful. They should just call the operation off now. I would blow it. There was no doubt about that.

"Look, Peakes," I sighed and followed him out of the office. I rubbed the back of my neck in worry. "This is a great plan and all, but I have no idea how to act like Malfoy. And I have no idea what Rose's relationship may be with him, and Malfoy hasn't said a word about what's happened in his confinement."

Peakes dismissed it. "You're a skilled Legilimens. Use that to your advantage."

"Look, Peakes," I began again. "This is going too far."

"This is the murder of the Minister of Magic. Forget that this is your god-father's niece for two seconds and think logically. She's lucky Hermione Weasley abolished the forced use of Veritaserum or this entire operation wouldn't be necessary. Now, straighten up, and be professional. Or do I need to remove you from the case as well for being emotionally connected to Rose Weasley?"

"No," I shook my head.

Peakes didn't need to remove me from the case. More than anything, I felt like I needed to be on it at all costs. I know my god-father's family is tormented over this incident, and perhaps for this case, I would break my contract by keeping my silence with the Potters and Weasleys and give everyone some peace of mind if I learned Rose was innocent. It was good that I had been brought onto the case. I got to work on all sides of it: I would be in confinement with Rose, learning from the source, and I could pass information to her family to soothe them, and even though they found me to be a far enough relation to now persuade the trial in any way, I cared enough for her to do my best to persuade it in her favor.

I needed to be on this case.

"Right," Peakes agreed.

We went back towards the confinement cells near the Wizengamot on the tenth floor and Peakes tossed me into an empty cell to await the faked bold break-out from Ruckman. For the first ten minutes, I paced the room, impatient to begin this whole act.

Then I got bored and tossed myself onto the bed, staring at the ceiling and counting the tiles. 42.

No wonder Malfoy had already seemed out of it by the time I visited him. What the hell are you supposed to do when you're trapped in a small room with nothing to do?

Then I decided I had better figure out what I wanted to act like while first being put with Rose. I had to make it believable, even though I had no idea what her relationship was to him. Were they in love? Hopefully not. Were they friends? Possibly. Were they enemies? Also possible.

I had no bloody idea.

The door finally flew open, and I resided in mumbling under my breath, remembering how Malfoy had acted while I had briefly been in his confinement cell. "I told you, I don't know anything!"

"Shut up. I'm not here to question you," I recognized John Ruckman's voice, and as I lay there, I grinned at the ceiling. Ruckman was a good actor, I had to hand it to him. But then again, he just had to be himself, pretending to do something he actually wasn't.

Me on the other hand. I had to act like someone I didn't even know and seem surprised by the whole ordeal of what was about to happen. When in truth I knew exactly what was behind everything. I was never good at seeming surprised about things.

I sat up to look at Ruckman, standing in the doorway with Rose behind him. She looked terrified. Tough Rose had tears rolling down her cheeks, and she was frantically looking anywhere but at me. Her eyes remained glued to the scratches in the floor or on the 42 ceiling tiles. Immediately I knew she had to be innocent. There was no way she was guilty. That look. It was heartbreaking, and I felt for her. I just wanted to tell her who I truly was and embrace her, tell her that everything was going to be okay.

Her hands were magically bound, but I knew why.

Ruckman was 'sneaking us away,' and while our department knew that, it would appear to the Ministry as if Ruckman were only transferring Rose and I to different confinement outside of the ministry.

When I'm nervous, I get a bit over-the-top, and this was definitely the type of situation in which I was nervous. I was beyond nervous. If I don't act ridiculous, I end up shaking like a madman, so in order to keep still, I end up just talking like a madman.

"Then what are you here for? Who are you?" I blurted out quickly.

Don't make fun of me. There was no such thing as an acting class at Hogwarts.

"I'm breaking you and Weasley out of here. Nevermind my name; I could lose my job for this. There's no way two nineteen-year-olds are behind the death of the Minister of Magic. I'm taking you some place safe," Ruckman said as he approached me.

I knew I should probably still act a bit hesitant, but I couldn't help myself. I said nothing, shaking a little, lips tightly pursed as I just watched Ruckman.

With Rose behind him, his eyes flashed at me as if I weren't playing my role well enough, but he moved past it. He approached me and pulled out his wand, leaving Rose to stand bewildered in the doorway. Ruckman said to me just loudly enough for Rose to hear, "Now, I'm going to bind your hands. Act normally; say nothing. Leave everything to me. The Ministry will only think you are changing confinement locations."

"Then what?" I asked.

"Then you fall off the map, as far as the Ministry knows," Ruckman said as he bound my hands together and hauled me off the bed. I stumbled to my feet, still trying to become more oriented with Malfoy's height. His - or my - hair fell into my eyes, and I shook my head about to remove it from my sight.

"And as far as you know?" The words fell out of my mouth before I could think twice about them, but I figured it might be in the character of Scorpius Malfoy. Why would Malfoy want to put his trust into an Auror who didn't know? "Why should I trust you?"

"No time to explain. Now, do you want out of here or not?" Ruckman said quickly. His thick brow furrowed at me, and I swallowed.

"Of course I want out," I spat in a sour voice, gritting my teeth. I assumed I looked something like what I had seen just a few hours earlier.

Ruckman pushed out of the cell and past a quivering Rose. I followed in his wake, and I wanted to desperately to tell Rose that everything would be okay. She looked miserable. I had never seen her cry. She had always been one of the tough girls. In fact, I had never even seen her upset. She always dealt with her problems by sharing with Lucy and Roxanne or playing Quidditch until sweat drenched every part of her. Rose was energetic, tough, and strong-willed. I didn't know she even had it in her to cry.

I pursed my lips as we got closer. I tensed as I tried to figure out how to act around her. I decided it would be best for her to show the first sign of emotion, give me something to go off of. I paused at the doorway where she stood, my lips closed tightly, and my eyes moved to hers.

They connected, and she said nothing. She only closed her eyes, tears pushing past the corners and rolling down her cheeks. She turned to follow Ruckman obediently, as did I immediately behind Rosie.

Great, so an expression that told me nothing of her involvement with Malfoy.

We continued to not speak to one another as Ruckman led us through the ministry.

It was odd.

To be in Malfoy's body and to be receiving such awful looks. But I wasn't the only one getting them; Rose was too, but she didn't look at them. She kept her head down, eyes averted to the floor as she continued to cry, her hands bound in front of her. I pursed my lips and tried to glower at the people we passed. Malfoy was being ridiculed for being a suspect in the case, and ridiculed whether they believed he participated in the crime or not, and I had to take it because I was Malfoy.

I should be getting paid double for this case. Plus a bonus.

Ruckman took us to one of the fireplace exits, and the three of us walked in together. We were engulfed by the green flames and taken away from the Ministry and the cruel gazes of all at the Ministry. We fell out of another fireplace and landed on the stone floor of the cottage I knew we were being taken to. I hit the floor with a heavy thud and groaned, my hands still bound and currently mushed against the stone floor and my stomach. I turned to see Rose falling, and to avoid a face-smack on the hard floor for her, I quickly rolled in the way of her fall and braced myself. She collapsed on top of me, her face hitting my thigh, and I sighed in relief that she wasn't currently suffering a nose bleed.

She groaned immediately and wiggled on the floor, her hands tied and of no use. She tossed about quickly, sitting up and maneuvering herself off of me. She gave me a disgusted look and grunted to me. "Get off of me!"

I grimaced and hauled myself to my feet, working with the bonds easier than Rose was. She struggled to rise without the use of her hands, so I reached out my two clasped ones in suggestion. I held them out as an offering for her to grab onto and I would pull her up. But she only shot me a dirty look and spat, tossing her long, red hair from her eyes. "I can do it myself."

She didn't though. Ruckman straightened and pulled Rose to her feet from behind. She shot him a reproachful look as if she were angry at him that she hadn't proven to me she could do it all on her lonesome. Before he could give her the smart ass comment like I knew he would, I cleared my throat and projected in a way I thought a Malfoy would. "Would you undo these bonds then?"

And Ruckman looked at me like I had just stopped him from having a very fun moment. When Rose wasn't looking and was dusting off her jeans, Ruckman came to me and shook his head with that cheeky smile.

My hands now free, I dusted off my clothes and repositioned them correctly.

"You'll find all the things you will need in your rooms. The Ministry will be looking for you, so you can't wonder off. No leaving the cottage. Remember, you two; this could cost me my job. I'm relying on you to trust me while I gather evidence against you." Ruckman didn't look at me with that stern and convincing face, but he looked at Rosie. I looked at her to read her expression, and she seemed truly grateful for his actions. I know I would if I were actually Malfoy and in this position.

I'm having to learn quickly from Rose's actions if I want her to believe that I'm actually Malfoy. So, assumed fact #1: Rose Weasley hates Scorpius Malfoy.

But does Malfoy hate Rose? No idea. Great.

With her hands free, she jumped away from me like I was the plague, and she tried to be oblivious about it. I averted my eyes, trying to make the situation less awkward for the both of us, as she strolled to the back door of the cottage. She looked out the window and asked quietly. "Where are we? And what is this place?"

"It's my family's summer house. We only come here for vacation. It's small, but a nice get-away."

Ruckman went up behind her and touched her shoulder, becoming genuinely kind to her. He knew he was scared as much as I did, and from that I knew Ruckman believed that she could truly be innocent in this whole ordeal. "You'll be fine. Just think of your stay here as exactly that: a vacation. Don't worry about the case, don't worry about any of it, and I will keep in touch. I'll let you know if I find anything, but if you do know something about the murder, it would help if you could tell me now."

Rose shook her head, her long waves rippling across her back. "No," she said firmly. "I know nothing."

Strong Rosie. She was the perfect daughter of Ron and Hermione Weasley; she had their courage.

Poor girl. She was always the young girl I would have to look after while the parents left the room, the girl who I helped catch her first snitch with when she was still terrified of me because she couldn't understand the concept that I could change my appearance at will. Yes, I hadn't known her as well as the Potters, but she had been a part of my childhood, of my life, and I felt obligated to protect her.

Ruckman turned to me for good measure, making us look like we were playing the part, and he gave me a look that obviously meant he was asking me the same thing. I shook my head, showing I didn't know anything either.

"Right," Ruckman nodded. "I will keep you updated."

I pursed my lips and nodded to him. Then he was gone. Rose continued to look out the window as I stood awkwardly behind her. I didn't know what to say to her. How had Malfoy acted to her in the past? It was something I didn't know; therefore, I couldn't do too much until I knew where their relationship stood if I didn't want to jeopardize anything.

Rose finally sighed and turned to face me. She now had her tough face on, that much I could tell. She had her arms folded across her chest, and she stood strong, unwavering. Her eyes moved to me, and in that glance, I felt as if Rose could see right through me. I had to look at my hands to make sure I was still the pale Malfoy kid.

There was no way I would be able to go through this whole thing without caving.

"All right," she began in a strong voice

Finally. The Rose I knew was back. It was time to be bossed around.

"If this is going to work, we have to set up some ground rules. Deal is, we each have our own room. My bedroom belongs to me only; you will not be getting into it in any way, shape, or form. Don't touch me, and don't talk about the murder."

I had never been so excited to be told what to do. Upon hearing her words, I knew she would be all right. At least, she was putting on the face well enough.

But for Rose to react in such a way, it made me quite curious to learn just what had happened to the two in the past. Clearly there was something.

"Malfoy?" she snapped, for I hadn't said anything.

"I heard you," I retorted back.

"You understand?" she pressed again because obviously my statement didn't make it clear enough for her.

I huffed, trying to act like Malfoy but also partly irritated. "Perfectly."

"Good," she replied and stalked off down the small hallway. She opened a door and peaked inside. Realizing it was hers, she disappeared into it

I called after her before the door could slam, "As long as the same rules go for you. My room is mine, and don't talk to me about the case. I don't know shit."

The door gave a loud slam. "Awesome..." I muttered under my breath once I was alone.

It was true. I really didn't know shit.

But whether the real Malfoy knew shit or not was a whole different story.

Chapter 3: Confirmed Fact #1
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Rose didn't leave her room for the next few hours, but I knew I would have to do something to get her out of it. She would hide in there for the rest of the day and the days to come if I didn't do something to lure her out, I believed. When she wanted something, she had her mind set on it, and she remained firm in her beliefs.

So when I got hungry, I knew I would have to cook or conjure something. I knew Rose's favorite meal, fettuccine alfredo with chicken and so much parmesan you could taste it in every bite. So I decided it would make a good dinner.

I know how to cook. Surprised? Don't be; I cook quite well actually. Living on my own in my flat, I have to be able to cook unless I want to waste my money by eating out every meal. I didn't know how to cook very well really until I was on my own. I had helped my grandmother bake cookies in the afternoons of my childhood and help Harry cook whatever steak, chicken, fish, etc. that needed to be cooked, but that was the extent of it. Then I was on my own and going out to get dinner and bring it home every night, take-out or whatever the muggles called it. Half the time I went to muggle food places because muggles sure know how to cook. I ate up to my eyes in Chinese take-out; the only food I had at my flat was packages of cookies, a few fruits, and containers of ice cream. When I realized I couldn't live like that, I had many trial-and-error experiences to teach myself how to cook a decent meal.

Now I can cook just about anything and it's quite tasty, if I may say so myself.

I go into the kitchen and shuffle through all their cooking appliances, finding what I need. I wave my wand to conjure all that I will need for a good dinner and begin to cook.

I don't feel like cooking is too much of a feminine quality. There's nothing wrong with a man who can cook. I actually hear that girls like it apparently. Do they? Please inform me and I will cook every night for all of my future girlfriends so that I can come off more 'cute.' Or 'sexy.' Or whatever.

Before long, I have a steaming bowl of fettuccine alfredo with spiced chicken on top. I garnish it with parsley and load it with parmesan. Pulling garlic bread out of the oven, everything is ready.

I don't know whether or not to take Rose a plate or just leave it out for her to come get her own. I actually think Malfoy wouldn't be that kind to take her her own personal plate like she was a queen, so I decided against that. I made my own plate and put it where I would sit at the table with my dinner. I stalked off down the hallway and knocked weakly against her door.

She didn't reply, but of course, I knew she was in there. "Weasley," I muttered quietly, knowing the name Rose would probably be out of Malfoy's character, "I made dinner. If you're hungry."

She grunted in acknowledgement, and I left it at that. I returned to the table to eat my meal, and when I was maybe halfway done, I heard a small creak come from the hallway. I tried to be nonchalant as she emerged from her room like she was in spy-mode, head out first, then the top half of her body, and then finally stepping out discreetly. I pursed my lips to hide my smile, turning my face down to my food.

She stuck her nose up at me as she passed and went to look at what I had cooked. I tried to catch her face as she spotted her favorite. She looked quite surprised and almost pleased. She said nothing though, clearly trying to hide her gratitude. She didn't need to say thank you; I knew she was grateful, even if it was to Malfoy. Or me. Whoever the hell it is.

She made a plate and didn't sit at the table like I expected her to. She took it to her room and disappeared again.

Frustrated with her lack of cooperation, I fell back against my chair and shook my head.

It was Rosie. Little Rosie.

And it was me.

It was odd to be receiving such treatment from her when we had always been on such good terms. But then again, I was someone else to her. It was difficult to sit back and let it all go. I wanted so badly to tell her who I was and to be there for her when she needed someone.

I spent my evening cleaning up after myself, lying on the grass outside the cottage just looking at the stars, and trying to figure out just how I would lure Rose out of her room. It was only 9 PM when I had nothing else to do and decided to go to bed.

Tomorrow would be a new day, I thought.

But it wasn't really.

It began with the same routine. Rose kept herself locked in her room. I didn't see her at all; I only had proof that she was still alive when I heard the showers run in the morning while I was lying in bed. I heard her mess around in the kitchen, probably grabbing some breakfast, and I debated going to see her or not, but I decided against it. So I just laid there and hoped that she was doing all right on her own. I passed my day flipping through the books that sat in the house. I would have watched television if there was one. I did know how to use the few muggle items, thanks to my god-father. But there was nothing of muggle entertainment in the house.

Why is it that wizards are so against using muggle technology? It most certainly passes the time faster when you have no other means of entertainment.

When evening came around again, I did what I had done last night: I cooked a meal and knocked at Rose's door when it was ready. I didn't think I had to tell her why I was knocking, so I didn't. I sat at my place at the table and began to eat. Rose emerged shortly and made herself a plate. When she was about to disappear again, I said quickly and quietly to her. "You don't have to hide in your room, you know?"

She paused, and I could tell she was debating whether or not to go back to her room. After a moment, she turned on her heels to face me. Pursing her lips, she put her plate down at the table and sat with me. I gave her a weak smile. Weak, for I wasn't sure if Malfoy was even capable of smiling.

She looked nice for being locked in her room all day. I had been told that Rose had the frizzy hair of her mother, so she always curled it or straightened it, using a diffuser potion. But I guess, with her not having such things here, her hair was natural. And it was beautiful. Her hair was a nice red-auburn, a perfect mix of her mother and father's hair, and in its natural state, it wasn't as frizzy as everyone made it out to be. I had never seen it natural before, but I found it quite nice as a matter of fact. With her natural waves, it didn't seem as frizzy. It definitely had volume, but all the waves came together and rippled down her back and over her shoulders.

When she began to eat and I did as well, I felt an awkward sensation come over the both of us. She didn't want to speak about case, but what else was there to speak about other than the case? As far as I was concerned, it was the only thing we had in common so far with my little knowledge of Rose and Malfoy's history and me trying to be him.

"Look," I said slowly, trying to voice what I wanted to say in the most Malfoy way possible even though I didn't really know the Malfoy way, "Weasley, we're both stuck here. It would help us both keep a little sanity in this mess if we each had someone to talk to."

"Yeah? Well, we don't have anyone to talk to," she huffed as she played with her food. I had cooked fish, rice, some vegetables, and biscuits. She had mashed up her fish in frustration until it was in tiny shreds. I wondered if she hated fish even though I knew better. Of course she liked fish; Rose liked just about everything. Finally, she scooped a big helping of it onto her fork and pushed it into her mouth.

She swallowed at the pleasant taste of it, and I was satisfied.

I gave her a somewhat incredulous look as if she weren't being the brightest witch in the world. I had a feeling she knew what I meant but had chosen to act ignorant to it.

"I know, Weasley," I sighed. "That's why I mean me. You can talk to me."

Rose gave me an odd look from the corner of her eye, and I almost regretted my words. But then her mouth pulled into a smile, and she shook her head with a chuckle. I sighed in relief.

"Come on, Malfoy," she said. "I'm not going to talk to you. What? So now that we're both suspects in a murder, you're going to get over your ridiculous grudge?"

I blanched briefly. Grudge? Malfoy had a grudge against Weasley? Odd. So far I had found it to be the other way around.

I tried to be nonchalant and play along just like I knew exactly what was going on. I swallowed down a big gulp of water and nodded. "Sure. It's in the past."

"Right, and you'll just forget that we snogged in a broom cupboard sixth year?"

I nearly spat out my water.

Actually, I did a little bit. I jumped in my chair, water flew across the table, and some dribbled on my chin. I swiftly turned away from Rosie so I could dab at my chin and get a hold of myself. She dropped her fork with a clatter in exasperation and I stuttered out, "S-Sorry."

Confirmed Fact #1: Rose Weasley snogged Scorpius Malfoy in a broom cupboard.

"Oh, whatever. You'll never let me forget that," she sighed, and I expected her to storm off, but she didn't. She remained in her place and continued to eat.

Wow. So why the bloody hell had Rosie snogged Malfoy? They had snogged but they still hated each other? Why was that? Had they had a relationship together that I hadn't known about and had a bad break-up? Sweet Merlin, why was this case so hard?

"Probably not," I muttered.

"Get over it. We only did it because we were dared to. That's all it was. A dare from Albus and your little Slytherin friend who fits in better with the Hufflepuffs. It was strictly physical for both of us. It's not my fault I'm such a good kisser that you wanted to snog me in a cupboard every day from then on out," snorted Rose.


So they had snogged on a dare, apparently strictly physical, and Malfoy wanted to make it a daily thing. I believed I understood. Well, so maybe it was all strictly physical then. Although I've never heard of a girl who can snog someone more than once without there being some deeper meaning. Or maybe that's why she didn't want to continue snogging Malfoy. Because she would develop unwanted feelings for him. Smart Rosie.

Boys, on the other hand, could snog or shag whoever they wanted and could continue to avoid or deny any deeper meaning to it all. Hence why Malfoy could have wanted to continue snogging little Rosie.


I wanted to slap myself - or Malfoy - for that.

"I am over it," I defended myself. "You brought it up."

"But you were thinking about it."

"Was not." It's true. I wasn't. Didn't even know such a thing had happened.

"It was three years ago."

"I know!" I hissed.

"Calm down and pull your wand out of your butt. Don't get so tense," Rose sighed. When she finished eating, she leaned back in her chair with her arms folded across her chest.

"Look," I began. I did agree with Rosie. I didn't need to be so tense if I wanted to keep her from hiding in her room again. But she didn't need to be so tense either. "All right, I'm over it. Really. It was three years ago. I don't want to snog you anyways, but what I was saying before was this: we have each other to talk to. It's going to get lonely here."

"I don't need to talk to anyone. Least of all you," she said in a smart tone and went to wash her dishes in the sink. I followed her, dropping mine into the sink with hers and went to put the food up. But she turned to look at me rebelliously. "Nu-uh. I'm not washing your dishes. You can do that yourself."

I pressed my lips into a tight line in anger. If she had known it was me, she would have been fine with doing my dishes. It was just because they were Malfoy's dishes. "We can compromise," I suggested. "You do the dishes. I put everything away."

"Fine," she eventually agreed.

In no time we had the kitchen clean, and assuming she wouldn't want to spend any more time with me, I disappeared outside and into the yard. I laid down on the lawn and looked up at the stars, nearly wishing I was somewhere else. But it was peaceful here. The yard was lined with flower bushes; there was a small pond, sitting benches, chimes hanging in multiple places, and lights strung from the trees. The wind was rustling, and there was the soft chirp of the crickets. It was lovely and such a nice change from my busy flat in London where street lamps would always be on outside the windows.

Here, there were no lights for miles.

I laid there for many minutes with the cool blades of grass tickling my neck, and then I heard the door of the cottage open. I didn't have to look to know it was Rose. Obviously.

I heard her soft footsteps, and she came to sit beside me. She looked up at the sky with a real smile on her face for the first time this evening. The view of a night sky full of stars was more accessible for Rose than it was for me. Granted, she still lived in a flat in Godric's Hollow down the street from her parents, a place where dim lights always lit up the streets and old houses somewhat obstructed the view of the sky at night, but she could still see it if she wished.

I looked to her, almost in questioning, but I decided to not do anything that could scare her off. I felt as if she were already coming out of her shell more around Malfoy and being herself, and if she was doing so, I didn't want to do anything that would make her retreat. She was so different around Malfoy than she ever was around her family and the people who knew her best.

I knew I would have to start making progress with this case soon. We couldn't just ignore the murder forever; it would surface sooner or later. So to jump start a conversation, I broke one of Rosie's three rules.

"Are you scared?" I asked quietly, not looking at her.

I felt her shift apprehensively next to me, and she knew very well what I was talking about even as she played dumb. She picked at a blade of grass, tucking a strand of her red hair behind her ears. "About what?" she muttered.

"The trial. I know you don't want to talk about it," I began, trying to convince her it was okay to talk about, "but I'm a suspect too, and it's all I can think about. I didn't have any part in this murder. I don't want to go to Azkaban. I'm scared."

"A Malfoy? Scared?" Rose chuckled. It was neither rude nor polite. It was almost a statement.

"Yes," I admitted even though I was not a Malfoy. Only regrettably and distantly related by marriage.

Yes, regrettably related by marriage. Don't judge.

My mother was killed by her cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, whose sister married a Malfoy. But Malfoys weren't as bad as most wizards made them out to be anymore. Yes, they had supported the wrong sort during the war, but they went good. They were and still are good.

"I could spend the rest of my life in Azkaban for something I didn't do. I have a right to be scared. Aren't you?" I asked, rolling onto my side to look at her.

Her gaze finally left the sky and came to rest on me. It was dark, but with the light of the moon and stars, I could make out her form, her face, and I could see the light in her eyes. She ran a hand through her long hair as she nodded. "Yes, I'm scared," Rose admitted.

"What do you think is going on with this murder?" I asked, hoping I could work something out of her.

"I don't know," she shook her head solemnly. She looked down to her lap, twidling her thumbs.

"I don't even understand why someone would want the Minister dead. I thought he did a good job," I mused outloud. Rose sighed and shrugged her shoulders, just as confused on the idea as I was.

"I don't know," she said again.

"You didn't...You weren't..." I faltered. I had no idea how to ask about the murder and what Rose's part in it was. If she actually was behind it. If she had actually done it. How was I supposed to ask little Rosie that? I didn't say much else. "Were you...?"

"I thought we agreed to not talk about the murder," Rose muttered. She pulled her knees up to her chest and let her chin rest on them.

I pursed my lips, and I couldn't read her at all. I honestly couldn't tell if she had played a part in it or not. I suggested quietly, "But we don't have anything to hide, right?"

"Right," she sighed. "It's just touchy. I don't want to be reminded about it."

I nodded, and while I knew Rose much better than that, I knew that she was holding back from Malfoy. She wasn't spilling everything to him for who he was. Perhaps if she had known it was me she would have said something different. She could have blurted out how terrified she was; I know she would have done so with Albus, and maybe even with me. But Rose was strong. She always built up the strongest of thresholds to keep her honest feelings in and keep the outside tough. She didn't want anyone to see past her tough exterior.

Even with me.

I had only known Rose was truly upset by things when I heard from one of the Potters or another Weasley of how Rose had shared with them. I hadn't spent enough time with her to be on that inside circle.

"Fine," I apologized, already feeling like I was making Malfoy much more polite than he actually was. "We don't have to talk about the murder, but I'm here if you ever need to talk."

Rose gave an odd laugh and glanced at me from the corner of her eye. "Sorry, Malfoy, but I'm not exactly going to spill my guts out to you."

I sighed. So I was being too polite.

But I was being me. If someone I cared for was hurt, I wanted to be there for them. And I wanted to be there for Rose. I wanted her to confide in me, and I wanted to make things better for her. She was the little girl I was always supposed to look after.

"I know that," I muttered.

"Do we have to talk about anything at all? Really, I'm not feeling up to talking to anyone." With that she strode off and disappeared into the cottage, and just like that, she had retreated back into her shell just as soon as she had come out.

Chapter 4: Riddle Me This
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The next day Rose seemed more reserved as well. Granted, she didn't hide in her room like she had done the past two days, but she spoke very little as if I had offended her or scared her off. I started the day off by cooking breakfast for the both of us.

Honestly, I was starting to feel as if cooking were my life these past two days. All I did was eat, sleep, be bored out of my mind, and cook.

So I made breakfast and we temporarily sat in silence while Rose picked at the last of the waffles on her plate. I was watching her from the corner of my eye, wondering just what was going through my mind. I glanced to my watch, knowing I was on a somewhat tight schedule for the morning.

I subtly and nonchalantly rinsed my plate and disappeared into my bedroom. I knew Rose wouldn't question my disappearance. It wasn't like she would care.

I locked the door behind me and that was when I sighed in pleasure. I let myself morph back into myself. I felt my legs grow longer, my body get more broad, and my hair shorten just a bit. Knowing I was once me again, I walked to the floor length mirror by the dresser and looked at myself.

I smiled, for I didn't actually think I would ever miss being myself, but I had. I had been tired of being Malfoy; it felt good to be me again. I walked funny in the too short jeans, and not only that, but I looked quite ridiculous as well. So I slipped out of them and tossed them over the edge of the bed. I returned to the dresser to pull on a pair of my own jeans and not a pair that Ruckman had bought for me while I was disguised as Malfoy.

Ah, not only me once again but me wearing my own clothes once again!

It was a wonderful feeling.

Knowing I had to leave to go to the Ministry for an hour or two, I went the enchanted radio on the old, rickety desk. I turned it on, a smooth jazz filling the room, and I turned the volume up quite high until I believed Rose would not be able to hear the sound of my apparation. She couldn't know that I was leaving the premises. As far as she was concerned, she believed there was an anti-apparating charm over the place. I couldn't go blowing my cover just by making a simple mistake.

So, ready to leave for the ministry, I double checked that the door to my bedroom was locked and that Rose would have no way of knowing that I had temporary left. Upon doing so, I apparated out of the cottage and directly into the Auror department at the Ministry of Magic.

I gave the clerk sitting at the desk quite a fright, but grinned at Thomas Newman. He sighed once he saw it was me and inclined his head to me. "Nice to see you again, Thomas."

"And you, Ted," Thomas nodded. "Think Peakes is waiting for you."

"Right," I said and pushed into the hall in which all of our offices were held. It felt odd to be back at the offices. A different feeling, for sure. I felt as if I had actually missed being in my normal work placement, but I assumed that was just because I was stuck doing an assignment I didn't wish to be doing. I felt as if I were betraying Rose in every way possible.

As I made my way down the hall, I passed all the familiar offices. I came upon the office of my god father's, and his door was open. I slowed my pace and let my head peak into his line of vision. I saw him sitting at his desk, scribbling something down with a quill and holding that concentrated look on his face. I pursed my lips and tried to smile as I realized I missed him, that I missed hanging out with the Weasleys and the Potters, something I guess I had always taken for granted.

Now that I was all locked up in confinement with Rose, I was starting to respect the little things I had never really noticed before. And Merlin, I was starting to appreciate all that Chinese take-out of my past even. That was a bad sign.

I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to tell him how my stay with Rose had been; I wanted to tell him all that I knew. I knew he, Ron, and all the others would want to know as well, but I couldn't. Not according to my contract. I couldn't tell him anything about the case, what I was doing, or what I had learned from Rose. I could only talk to him about things that were irrelevant to the case.

But I cared so much for them that I almost wanted to break my contract, jeopardize my work placement. I pushed the urge away and began to straighten up when Harry caught me out of the corner of his eye.

He stopped suddenly and had to do a double take to make sure it was my face he spotted in his doorway.

I half regretted letting him see me and half wanted to hug him like I always did when I was a little boy. He sat up straight and dropped his quill. His face was blank for a long time, probably as his mind pulsed about the case, and then finally he smiled. "Ted," he breathed happily.

"Hey, Harry," I grinned as I stepped completely in front of the door way.

"How are you?" he asked as he rose from his office chair. He came to stand by me, more uneasy about our conversation as he approached the hall where anyone could see or hear. He knew the risks of people seeing us chatting together. Some people could assume that I was giving out all the wrong information to the wrong kind of people. But hopefully my co-workers knew better than to assume that.

I wouldn't break my contract...

Not in public at least...

"I'm all right. Wishing the circumstances weren't the way that they are," I said dully.

"Right. Us as well. I thought you were in Egypt," said Harry.

"There's a lot our department isn't letting you know about," I shrugged my shoulders, slightly irritated with our policy, and then I finally smiled. "Bet it's odd for you. Head Auror and all and not knowing what's going on in your own department. Has it been different?"

"Very," sighed Harry and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm used to knowing about anything and everything that goes on in this office. Now something is going on in the department beneath my level of power that I don't know about. I'm used to calling all the shots. Now there's a case in which I can't know anything, and I can tell you this, it's definitely getting to Peakes' head. He thinks he's a second Head Auror in this place. Well, after this case he goes back to just being another Auror. I have the right to fire him at any given time, so he better be careful."

I grinned at Harry's irritated attitude. I liked it when he got all worked up. He was generally calm about most things until he would bottle them up for too long and burst. I had only come across that a few times though. I think that my god father finally figured out why he would always burst like he did, and that was when he started to not bottle things up so much. He would then vent in small amounts every now and then. I could easily see that now was one of those times, and just from this I could understand just how irritated he was by the whole case. I knew by his last statement that he would fire Peakes after the case if he found out that Peakes had done anything to harm Rose's case.

"Agreed," Teddy nodded. "I could tell that he's feeling a little power-tipsy when he was giving me my orders. I know Ron must be worried. So, could you have in your office when I'm done with Peakes?"

Harry's brow rose significantly as he stood in the doorway with his arms folded across his chest. He gave me an incredulous look as if he disapproved, but I know that, inside, he was grateful for what I was saying. "Teddy," he began in that fatherly tone he had, "I could fire you for that."

"But you won't," I snickered with my mischievous smile, "because I'm your god son, and you and Ron want to know what's going inside the case.

He pursed his lips and remained quiet for many moments as he debated his thoughts and tried to decide which was the better decision in such a situation.

I grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "Well, I've gotta go see Peakes. I'll be back, Harry."

He only nodded and slipped back into his office. I made my way down the hall again and knocked on Peakes' door before allowing myself entrance. He was sitting at his desk with Ruckman, kicked back in his chair and with his feet on his desk. His hands were behind his head, and he and our other co-worker had clearly been having a good laugh. Peakes had a smile on his face as he turned to look at me. I found it to be an odd situation.

I thought Peakes had forgotten to smile during the time he had been assigned Head of Rose's case. He had acted so tough since his temporary "promotion," and I had quite forgotten what it was like to see him smile or hear him laugh. Perhaps he only acted tough around me because he got to boss me around. I actually think that sounds somewhat like Peakes...

"Ah, Ted," he greeted me. He motioned to the other empty chair next to Ruckman. I sat down, and the smile he had been wearing immediately dropped from his face. He only remained somewhat happy as he became all business. "How has it been going at the summer house?"

"Fine. Rose has kept herself locked up in her room for the majority of the time. I haven't learned much. You'll have to give me more time," I said sternly, raising my hands as if he would give me more leeway with the motion.

"Understandable. Just wanted to know what was going on. Your first actions could have immediately set off a reaction for her or give us a lead in some direction. This is good and bad," muttered Peakes as he thought about it. "If she hasn't been too friendly, then that means that she and Malfoy were most likely not accomplices in the murder. What have you told her?"

"I've played dumb. Told her I didn't know anything about the case. She thinks I'm clueless and it hasn't spurred anything from her. So yeah; she and Malfoy clearly aren't accomplices. It doesn't mean that both of them aren't. One of them could be. Malfoy could actually be, or Rose may be and she just hasn't told me. But why would she admit to that? I need more time to work it out of her if she has," I said as professionally as I could. I also tried to work in my sympathy towards Rose at the same time. I had come to learn that Peakes had very little boundaries when it came to the clients in cases. Why would Rose be any different?

"Right you are, Lupin," said Peakes. His hands folded together, and his thumbs pressed themselves against his forehead as he thought more on it.

The dumbass, I thought. I don't know why he thinks he's tough stuff while being the Head of this case. It has definitely gotten to his head, and the sad thing is that he's a poor Auror to begin with. Or at least I think he is. He doesn't even know where to go next. Harry would know exactly what to do even if he had no clue as to what Rose or Malfoy's roles were.

When he didn't say anything, I found it a good opportunity to learn what had gone on about the case inside the Ministry. While I hated all of its constant news and exaggerations of every matter and blowing things out of proportion in every which way, I still needed to know what was going on. I asked, "And Malfoy? Has he said anything?"

"Nohting," Peakes shook his head. "We've gotten hardly a peep from him. His lawyer has told him to do so though. It's a shame Potter abolished the law of forced Veritaserum. We can only give it with Malfoy's consent. Shame; this whole process could be accomplished so much faster."

I felt my nose wrinkle involuntarily at his words. Of course Peakes found it a shame. Like I said. No boundaries. Whatsoever. The dick.

I hope Harry really does fire him after this case. Maybe he will screw up.

"It's illegal now because it's a complete invasion of privacy," I chimed in. I shook my head as if Jimmy was being ridiculous. And he was. He didn't seem to pick up my irritation, so that was a plus. As much as I disliked Peakes, his work ethic, and having him as Head of the case, I needed to be on his good side.

"Yes, of course," he sighed in a disappointed manner. "So if Malfoy won't talk, then Weasley needs to start talking. Find out if she honestly doesn't know. We'll worry about getting Malfoy to talk here; you focus on Weasley and we will reconvene."

"I can do that," I nodded.

And I could. I could get Rose to talk. Sure, for all of both our lives, we had both just been there in the other's life. I would like to believe that she would have talked to me about anything even though we were never the best of friends due to our big age gap.

I would get to know her. As Scorpius, of course, but I was still me. I hadn't lost my personality just because I looked like Malfoy. That meant I could be myself once I got her to warm up to Malfoy and make her forget about said grudge. If I could act like me, we could finally be friends. She could maybe tell me the truth if there was anything to know.

The only downfall of it all was that I would still be Malfoy. She would think all the bonding was with Malfoy.


How am I to cover that up sometime in the future?

I did feel like I was breaking some sort of symbolic trust bond that should exist between myself and any family of my god father's. But I reminded myself as to why I was even doing this case. I wanted to help in any way that I could. If I could find out anything that would benefit Rose in the case, then I wanted to do it. And I trusted myself more than anyone. Right? That makes sense.

I worried about how this would eventually play out when she would find out that I was actually Malfoy. Unless she didn't find out...That could be good.

Oh well. Only thinking about the now.

"Fantastic. Well, then get back to the cottage. Don't let Weasley find out that you've left," Peakes said and waved me off.

I dismissed myself and ran back down the hall. When I passed Harry's office, just like I had requested, Ron was waiting as well. I slipped inside, shutting the door behind me.

Ron clapped me on the shoulder in friendly greeting, and I could see how distressed he had become since Rose had gone into confinement. I could only imagine how upset Hermione is. The three of us sat down, and Harry waved his wand around to place a silencing charm on his office.

"All you have to do, Ted, is tell me that she's all right. You don't have to put your job at risk for this," he shook his head. Good man, he is. No matter how much he said that was all I had to do, I knew he wanted more.

I was lucky I was on the inside of things. Perhaps I could break my contract and not have any cons to it.

"Ron, don't be ridiculous," I dismissed it. "Ask, and I'll tell you. I don't want you to worry."

"You could lose your job, Ted," Harry warned me again. I knew he was only looking after me, but I was a big kid now and I could make such decisions on my own. I'm twenty-seven.

Besides, how jacked up would my priorities be if I chose work over the people I cared about? That's messed up. I knew what was important in life.

"I know I could, but if I can give you lot some piece of mind, then I want to. Besides, you're not going to fire me, Harry, are you?" I inquired. I raised my brow curiously at Harry in such a gesture that was almost laughable.

His lips pursed into a tight line as he acknowledged that I was somewhere in between kidding and being serious. He was fighting against that thin line. His fingers rasped against the table as he clearly debated it. "I don't want to abuse my position like that, Ted," said Harry as he shook his head.

Always the good kiddo.

"We can wait till after the trial," he said again. I knew Harry had that kind of will-power, so I knew he was being serious and could resist the temptation to know what he could. But Ron was a different story. He looked like he was having a hard time sitting in that chair, being all quiet. He rubbed the back of his neck, and Harry looked to him with his brow raised as if he weren't giving Ron an option even though his words said different. "Right, Ron?"

He grunted and pulled his hands away from his neck, flicked something at the ground, and growled. "Yeah. We can wait."

"Good," Harry nodded.

Just then a knock came from the door, and the three of us looked to one another in slight fear. We didn't say anything. Just sat there, completely frozen. We all knew what was pulsing through our minds at that very moment. Was it Peakes? Or Ruckman? Would it be anyone that would assume I was spilling - which I almost did - to Rose's family? Yes, they couldn't hear us, but if that door opened, they could see the three of us clear as day.

I looked to Harry, lost as to what to do. He bit his lp and motioned for me to stand in the corner behind the door. I did so, feeling as if I were kids and playing a stupid game of hide and seek.

"Keep quiet," he whispered to me as he went for his door. Ron remained in his chair, slouching out of his tense stance and looking more nonchalant.

The door creaked open and most of the room was lost from my view, but I could still feel my god father's surprise. Harry swallowed, and from my right I could see him blinking in a confused manner.

"Malfoy?" he asked, quite surprised. He shook off his surprise and whatever childhood disagreements there were and asked more professionally, "What can I do for you?"

"Hey, Weasley," Draco Malfoy greeted Ron in a polite tone.

Apparently Draco Malfoy was a complete dick in his Hogwarts years to anyone who wasn't a Slytherin, but I didn't really get a vibe from him that read 'dick.' So maybe he had been in the past, but even according to Ron and Harry, Scorpius Malfoy's father had clearly undergone a change for the better. He was actually somewhat polite. Granted, I didn't know my own second cousin or whatever the hell it was very well, but the only thing I knew I disliked about him was his hair that was absolutely saturated in gel.

"I...I thought I could talk to you, Potter. If you..." he faltered and it didn't take much else to know that he wanted to ask about his son.

"Oh," said Harry in surprise. He pushed himself into the hall to look for any nearby co-workers. I assumed the coast was clear, for he stepped back in and cleared his throat, making room for Malfoy to enter. "Come in, Draco."

He shut the door behind him and Draco turned on his heels to look about the office. That's when he spotted me pressed against the wall like a bloody wall decoration. My face was expressionless, but at Malfoy's stunned face I let a creepy smile come onto my face. "Hi," I said innocently.

Draco actually smiled once he regained his composure. He lost his tense stance and held a sneaky grin. "Looks like you have your own stowaway, Potter."

"And I'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything," said Harry in a warning voice.

"O'course," said Draco in a breezy voice as I finally peeled myself off of the wall.

I let Malfoy have the third chair, and I went to stand behind Harry's desk.

Malfoy folded his arms across his chest and spoke mostly to Harry. I began to wonder if Ron and I should leave, but Draco seemed comfortable enough to continue with us still in the room. So I assumed it was all right.

"I'm not sure if you can help me. I'm sure you and Ron are in the same situation I am and that I've been asked to remain out of the case in all ways possible."

I figured Draco would have been asked to do so. He wasn't an Auror, and he wasn't a lawyer, but he did work in the Law Enforcement department. If any case arose that involved the close relationship to a Ministry worker, then that Ministry worker was asked to stay out of it no matter where they worked. Draco wouldn't have been any different.

"I doubt you have been allowed access to the case, but I have to know if you know anything..." he finished in a sad and desperate way. He leaned forward and his grey eyes locked with Harry's. "But we're worried. Astoria and I. We just want to know if he's all right."

Harry sat there with his lips pursed, and I felt the tension in the room rise. Harry didn't even know if he was all right, so how was he to answer that?

"I'm sorry, Draco, but I don't know either. I can't help you."

Draco sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He sat there in a defeated manner for many moments. His hands were clasped together before him, his lips pressed to his thumbs as he pondered the entire situation. "He can't be. Scorpius can't be. There's no way he's a part of this."

"Something I would like for myself to believe about him and Rose as well," said Harry in a reassuring tone.

Draco sighed and nodded. "Right. Well, sorry I bothered you then. Just wishful thinking, I guess. I know I was breaking both of our contacts just now. I just...Sorry, forget I asked."

Malfoy actually went on a rant, and I, who didn't have any previous knowledge of Draco's attitude before I came into existence, could tell that Harry and Ron were quite surprised by him.

Yes, I had spent a little time with Draco Malfoy and his family during my years of childhood. My grandmother and I would visit them for holidays to catch up on what goings-on there were. I wasn't around to know of the bad times and the disputes between the entire tangled family that is made up of the Blacks and Malfoys. And now Lupin. But from what I knew, they were all rivals to one another until after the war and suddenly Malfoy became a better person. So I don't know exactly what went down; I just know that he's a good guy now. But Harry and Ron's disbelief towards Malfoy still surprised me at times.

It seemed as if they were still adjusting to his change.

He must have been pretty bad then...

Malfoy made quickly for the door, but Harry stopped him. "Wait, Draco," he said slowly. Draco turned with a hopeful expression on his face, and Harry continued on. "I don't know anything about your son, but someone I trust does."

Harry said it slowly and in a low voice. It was a suspicious voice in which Harry maintained constant eye contact with Draco. There was something deeper behind Harry's statement. Something I didn't quite pick up on immediately, and neither did Ron and Draco. Ron and I looked at each other while we watched Draco try to solve the riddle.

Oh, great. I was never good at riddles, but I tried anyway.

I would assume that the word trust had something more to it. Maybe more than just trust, but people he was close to. Close family he trust in the department. Ron wouldn't know anything because he was just as directly related as Malfoy.

Then it hit me.

No shit.

He was talking about me.

I went tense and felt as if I had suddenly been put on the spot. Malfoy must have figured it out too, for his eyes moved to me and they locked. Harry wanted me to talk to Malfoy, to tell him what I knew of Scorpius.

Harry just didn't want to say it out loud or acknowledge it. With his position, anything he knew of such actions could cost us all our jobs. I nodded, and Harry, seeing that we both mutually understood what was going on, said again. "I don't know what goes on when I'm not around, but what I don't know won't hurt me."

Chapter 5: Kung-Fu Grip
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I should have known that after the talk in Harry's office, Draco would want to speak with me. Soon after Harry spoke in riddling terms yet again, I got the vibe that that was the end of our conversation. So I had hugged my god father, a manly hug mind you, and clapped Ron on the back before leaving the office. Draco followed in my footsteps, and he eventually picked up the pace. When he was next to me, he muttered into my ear before walking in front of me, "My office."

I ground my teeth together. I knew I was partly okay with breaking my contract for Harry and Ron. If you wanted to get all technical, Harry wasn't quite family. Ron wasn't, for sure, but they all felt like family. And I would do anything for them. Even if that meant breaking my contract and risking my job. Granted, I wouldn't just throw my job down the drain. I get paid too well for that, but I would at least try to not get caught.

Breaking my contract with Malfoy was a different thing entirely. I had known him well in my younger years, but now not so much. I don't know what put me on edge about it; I could put my trust in him, definitely. I knew Malfoy wouldn't do anything to jeopardize his job or mine. Really, all he wanted to know was the safety of his kid. I guess it was seeing Harry and Ron's slight discomfort with him still to this day that made me worry.

But I told myself I could trust him. I knew I could.

But what was even worse was that I actually don't know much about what's going on with Scorpius Malfoy. I've been with Rose...pretending to be him...Not actually with him in his confinement here in the ministry.

I followed him through the main atrium and up to his floor. There weren't many eyes upon eyes. No one seemed to pay any close attention to us, and that was good. We didn't want any attention of the wrong sorts. It would be bad if those who would immediately assume the wrong thing saw me with Malfoy. They could potentially assume what is in fact true and could blab to Peakes. And that's the last thing we want.

We reached his office, and he closed the door behind us. Once in his office, I could tell that his shoulders dropped as he relaxed slightly. I knew he was stressed and paranoid, and so I knew he understood the importance of keeping this conversation confidential, of what it could threaten for the both of us.

He looked at me with his lips pursed. He appeared to not know quite where to start. He finally decided with simply asking, "H-How have you been?"

"All right," I nodded. "This case is stressful."

"Yes, it is for many," Draco agreed. He sat down at his desk. His office was fairly similar to Harry's, only Draco's was a little smaller. He had a few pictures of his wife and Scropius on his desk and a few wizard objects as well. "I would just like to know if he's all right. What are they doing to him? Do you know anything?"

"I don't know as much as you think I may know," I began. "Harry mislead you. He isn't on the case for the same reasons you aren't. He knows I'm on the case, therefore, I think he believes I know more than I do. I don't know much about Scorpius. Rose has been my focus on the case."

"Oh," he said. Disappointment filled his eyes, and he looked down in longing. "Then does Rose Weasley know anything about Scorpius' involvement?"

"Not from what she has told me," I said, shaking my head in reassurance to Draco. "She could, but I don't know it yet."

"Have you seen him at all?"

"Only a little," I answered as vaguely as I could. I wouldn't elaborate to any extent unless he asked me.

"When? And where?" Draco asked uneasily.

I should have known better. Of course he would ask for the details.

"A few times at the beginning of the case, and here at the Ministry. He's in confinement for interrogation."

"Interrogation..." muttered Draco as if the word were acid on his tongue.

I immediately felt bad for him and wished I knew more than I did so that I could tell him and give him so peace of mind.

"He's okay," I spluttered out quickly. "I assure you he's all right. I saw him the day he was brought him. He's in a cell here at the Ministry and is being questioned."

"Do you know how he's holding up?"

"He was all right when I saw him," I answered. "He was mad to be there, clearly, and from that it made me believe he is innocent. I don't think he did it."

"So what do you think is going on?" he continued to ask me, and I wondered when the questions would stop.

"I honestly don't know. Perhaps they are being framed, but as to why, I don't know."

Draco pursed his lips and entered silence for many moments. He was in deep thought as he twiddled his thumbs, and he finally looked at me with a curt nod. "All right. Thank you for telling me, Ted. I'm sorry I had to ask, and I understand you have put your job on the line. But it is just good to hear that he is all right. Astoria will be relieved."

"I understand," I said, and I got antsy in that little chair. As I glanced to my watch, I realized just how long I had been gone for. I was pushing two hours. I noted how I wasn't the one who had been all locked up in my bedroom. That had been Rose. Not once had I gone to hide in my room and cut myself off from her if she wished to speak. I hope she didn't find my choice to now cut myself off from her to be odd, and I hoped that she wouldn't try to go into my room to find that I wasn't there.

Even more on top of that, I hoped I could rely on that old, dingy record player to still be running when I apparate into the bedroom shortly to drown out the sound of that really irritating crack.

Guess we will have to wait and see...

"Well, I'm sorry to take you away from your work for the day. I should let you go before anyone spots us and grows suspicious," he finally said.

I nodded in agreement, but before I rose to leave, I remembered one more thing I wished to inquire about. "Oh. With my placement in the case, I've been somewhat cut off of all the news going on. Has there been any news as to who the next Minister will be?"

Draco nodded, scratching at his hair before he answered my question. "Yes. Right now Geoffrey Sondheim is Acting Minister because he was his right-hand man and is most informed about Jarvis' politics, and for now his decisions will do. But actually, Percy Weasley and Sondheim have begun campaigning for Minister. The campaign will be on a fast scale, as we need a new official Minister as soon as possible. We're expecting to have a new Minister of Magic in office in about two weeks."

"Brilliant," I said.

I always thought Percy would make a good Minister of Magic. He definitely had the knowledge to do so, and from my vantage point, I believed he had good views and would make the right kind of choices to lead the English wizarding world.

"Well thanks, Draco," I said and rose.

He thanked me one more time before I apparated directly out of his office and into the bedroom of the cottage once more.

Thankfully, once in the cottage again, the record player was still running, and a jazz sound filled the room. I was sure that it had drowned out the sound of my return, but I wasted no time in shifting back into Scorpius Malfoy. I felt the pant legs of my jean lower past my ankles as I grew a few inches shorter, and my blonde hair lightened and grew longer. I could feel my face changing shape, and my jeans go loose on me.

Knowing I was him once again, I kicked them off and slipped into a different pair that would fit in my second body. I ran my fingers through the blonde hair that appeared flat on top of my head, giving it a little bit of volume. Shutting off the music, I slipped out of the bedroom and went into the living room.

I was surprised to see Rose there, sitting on the floor in a lazy manner. Her legs were sprawled out, and one arm was resting on the couch she was leaning on as she tossed playing cards at a vase. I could see that she had been most unsuccessful. The deck of cards in her hand was getting low, and there were easily more cards sitting on the carpet around the vase than there were actually in it. I smirked and tried not to laugh at her.

If I laughed, she would have most certainly taken it offensively rather than the jesting manner I would have intended it to be.

I sat opposite her, leaning against a leather arm chair, and I picked up a few of the cards nearest to me and joined in with her. I'll be honest, my first three attempts did not go well, but I got the fourth card into the vase. It took all of my power to not yell out, score!"

All right, so I got a little over excited, but hey. There isn't much around this place that is exciting in the least.

Rose finally looked at me and said as she continued to toss the cards. At this point, she wasn't even aiming. "Look at you. Being the little hermit now instead of me."

I rolled my shoulders, for I didn't quite know what to say to that. I wasn't necessarily being a hermit. Which, by the way, is just about the oddest phrase I think I have heard in my entire life, but I guess the description fits.

I had left. Granted, she didn't know that. So to her I guess I did look like a hermit.

"Bored," I decided to utter. "I didn't think you were out here anyways."

"Well, I can rarely sit still, and I can only entertain myself with a small number of things for so long. I've about hit that point in time where I'm bored out of my mind. If you're the only one here, we might as well have each other to talk to," said Rose. She didn't seem too angry or flustered as she said this. I took this as a good sign and that she had gotten off her high horse and decided to suck it up.

I wasn't Malfoy, so maybe I wasn't being his true character, but from Rose's point of view, she could easily think that he had undergone some sort of 'change' during the two years between their graduation at Hogwarts and now. Draco Malfoy went through a change; I as well as Rose know that very well. As far as she's concerned, she had no reason to believe that Scorpius had the potential to be any different.

Maybe she could suck it up and give me someone to talk to as well. I was just as cooped up as she was, and even though I was getting paid to be here, I honestly felt as if I were being punished with so little to do and no one to talk to besides Rose.

Nothing against Rose, of course. She's brilliant. It's just that if she continues to hold that grudge to Malfoy, I might snap.

"Good," I agreed with her. "That was my point from the very beginning before you went and locked yourself in your bedroom. I told you you could talk to me."

"I might have to take you up on that offer. At some point," she stated with a sigh. She gathered all the cards from the floor, yanking the ones out of my hand in the process, and she began to shuffle them. "I can't keep everything to myself. When I finally go crazy from this place, I will need to rant. And I won't want anything from your smart mouth. I will just want you to sit there and listen."

"Fine," I agreed, trying to stay in character. I knew very well that Rose didn't do well with eating up her emotions. She had to let them lose. I could remember countless times when she would pull either Albus, Molly, or any of her other cousins away from me so she could blow off some steam. "As long as you do the same for me."

Her eyes moved to me curiously as she began to deal out the cards. As to what we were about to play, I still didn't know. Her nose wrinkled with her curiosity, and it got a cute crease at the top of it. "Scorpius Malfoy wanting to share emotions? That's unheard of."

"I'll go crazy in this place just as well as you will," I scoffed.

She made a noise of acceptance, and her shoulders quirked up with her mischievous grin. I knew she was smirking, but it was a mix between a giggle as well. An odd response. I looked to the cards she had just finished dealing out, and I tried not to let out my sudden excitement.

I immediately knew what we were going to play. It was a card game the kids at the Potters and Weasleys always played when they were bored and were asked to keep the wizarding pranks and what-not to themselves. I had played multiple times with them, and it was honestly one of the most fun card games I had ever come across. Those damn muggles sure know how to make life good without magic, yet I knew that if I were in their shoes, I would be miserable and bored all the time.

Just like I am here. Bored!

I loved this game, and I was a beast at it. A beast, I tell you. But I knew for a fact that Rose was as well. Rose had been a chaser in her years at Hogwarts, and this card game required the fast reflexes, and quick eyes to acknowledge the cards before your opponent.

But I figured it wouldn't be very much like Malfoy if I know to play the game. Molly was the one to discover how to play the game when she went with her father to a work convention. Molly had played with a few of the other bored children there and brought the game home, teaching it to us. Malfoy probably wouldn't know how to play it. I held back my grin and looked at it in confusion.

"What are we playing?"

Easy. I knew the answer to that. A game called Egyptian Rat Screw.

"Egyptian Rat Screw," she answered and began to lay down all the rules for me. I only acted like I was listening, nodding along when needed. I knew exactly how to play already. I knew all the important things like the sandwich, doubles, the rules for the face cards, and the rules for the slaps.

I want to play already!

This game could go on forever. It went on until one player had the entire deck in their hand, and whoever held the whole deck won. I could win. My only other competitors when I played at the Weasleys and Malfoys were James and Rose. The others just couldn't slap down at the cards fast enough.

The game was simply one card being laid on top of another by different players of the game, and your goal was to slap the cards that were laid down in doubles, like two 10's next laid on top of another, and then sandwiches, things like 3, 8, 3. Whoever slapped it first, got all of the cards that had been laid down

"You got it?" she inquired after she finally finished going on and on about it.

"Got it," I nodded, and she laid down the first card.

We went through the first few cards, one laid down by her, the next by me. The first few slaps I saw come across, things like two threes being right next to each other, I let slip. I noticed them right away and I had the urge to slap them, but I felt like I needed to act like I was still new to the game. So I did, and I quite didn't like it.

Let's be honest; I'm just as competitive as Rose. She teased me when she saw my slow reaction to the cards, and I wanted to show her what I was all about. She had the majority of the deck in her hands when I finally picked up the pace and I got most of the slaps. Soon it was a pretty even game, and I don't even know how long it went on for. We had a great time playing the game, the both of us getting into it.

Every now and then we would slow down between each card being played so that we could better have a focused conversation. I don't even know how the topics we talked about arose, but we talked about anything and everything. I think Rose forgot she was sitting with Malfoy, for when her eyes moved to the cards and we just played the game, I felt like she was talking to her brother or one of her friends or cousins. She had this light back in her eyes, this happy cheer in her voice. I don't know if she was getting more comfortable, if she was more comfortable with Malfoy, or if she had just forgotten everything that was going on. She told me about her favorite Quidditch matches, ones she thinks I had watched her play from the stands, so I would have to nod along as if I remembered.

She talked about her job as a Curse Breaker and the great places she had visited, places I had already heard from her about and seen the pictures from, but it was nice to hear her go further into detail about it. I was glad she could be herself with me. It made me feel more comfortable with myself, and it also made me pleased to see that she wasn't exactly miserable.

She just talked and talked, and I had a happy smile on my face as I listened in perfect contempt, until she realized that I was beginning to have the majority of the deck in my hand. After she realized this, she threw her hands up and let out a distressed squeal. "No!" she roared humorously. "Quit distracting me, Malfoy! You're making me lose."

"Naw," I chuckled and waved away her ridiculous accusation. "That's all you!"

"You liar," she giggled and slapped down her next card.

It was a 7. I thought back quickly; the two previous cards were a queen and then a 7 as well. A sandwich. I slapped my hand down immediately and the sandwich, but Rose had moved just as fast. My hand was on the card for part of it, but Rose's had somehow wiggled her hand under there as well. I tried to snatch the cards from here.

That deck was so mine!

She flipped as I did that and she dropped her own cards and pressed two against the deck, declaring they were hers. "No! Those are mine. That's my hand on the bottom!"

"But mine is too," I retorted. "They are so mine!"

"They are not," she blurted with a laugh and lunged forward as I tugged them away. I swear, she was now lying on the ground with her hands practically attached to mine as I tugged them away. Even though the competitive side within her, I could tell a different side of her was coming forward. Her face was contorted with this girly smile, and this squeamish scream left her throat as I tugged her further away, laughing all the while with her.

I didn't quite know what this side of her was. I had never seen it before, but I ignored it. We were having a good time.

I wiggled away from her on the floor, and we were practically twisted together along the floor, the cards in our hands above our heads. This girl won't let go! She has a kung-fu grip. Kung-fu grip!

Confirmed Fact #2: Rose Weasley is the most competitive girl you will ever meet when it comes to games, and she has a grip like no other.

I looked to our side where I spotted her empty hand lying unattended on the floor, and my eyes filled with an epiphany. I let go with one hand, and I quickly made to grab for her cards just lying on the floor. My arm twisted over her, and I grabbed hold of her other cards. She paused briefly and made a stuttering sound to comprehend what was going on, and that reaction was exactly what I was hoping for.

It was just enough for her to lose focus on the cards in both of our hands for me to grab hers and make it away with the entire deck now in my hand. I rose and darted away from her, waving the cards above my head. "I win, I win, I win!"

She sat on the ground in a defeated manner with this smug but cute and enjoying grin on her face. Rose folded her arms across her like a cute little child, and she shouted with a laugh as I ran around the room. "Cheaters never win! And if they do, they don't deserve it!"

Oh, boo-hoo. I was having too much fun to care.

Chapter 6: Off the High Horse
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"What do you want for dinner tonight, Rose?" I asked her after a few more hours of playing card games.

We had played another round of Egyptian Rat Screw after our minor card fight, and we had played Go Fish and any other card game you could think of.

There's really nothing to do at this bloody place, so we will have to start getting creative if we don't want to lose our minds.

Rose was draped over one of the couches and was having a particularly grand time looking into the kitchen while hanging upside down. She was lying on the couch normally, but her back was bending over the arm of it and she was staring about with her head upside down, her hair touching the floor. She grunted, and my brow quirked up in questioning. "What'cha doing there, Weasley?"

"I'm bored," she said. Her voice sounded stuffy as she said this, and she finally rolled over to look at me properly. "I don't care. I'll eat anything. You know, I had no idea you could cook."


She's probably right about that. I hadn't even wondered if Malfoy actually knew how to cook. When I first cooked, all I wanted to do was pull her out of her shell and get her to open up to me. I had been successful and only continued to do it. But as I thought on it, Rose was right. The real Scorpius Malfoy most likely had no idea how to cook. He probably couldn't even pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave if he tried.

Damn it. Way to stay in character, Teddy.

I hope she didn't suspect anything, but I don't know how she would. She wouldn't even question that the person she was with was anyone other than Scorpius. I'm sure I was still safe. Besides, they hadn't spent much time together in over two years. Perhaps Malfoy had had the chance to learn; Rose wouldn't know of that, right?

I shrugged it off, for I just had to go with the flow now. There was no backtracking this.

"Oh, sure," I rolled my shoulders as I poured myself a glass of water. Thank Merlin, though, that I had some knowledge of Draco's relationship with Scorpius due to the few holiday visits. I guess there was one upside of being some sort of distant family member to Draco. "Well, I didn't used to. I couldn't boil water successfully till two years ago even. Then I moved out. Actually, my father pretty much told me to get out and find a job. So I did that. Learned to cook too."

"Wow," she pursed her lips together and nodded with a smug look on her face. "I'm actually impressed, Malfoy. Well done."

"Okay, Weasley," I teased, turning to her with my arms out in questioning. "Come on now. You really had that little faith in me?"

"Oh, sod off," she dismissed it, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. So that obstacle had been overcome.

Well played, well played.

Rose jumped up from the couch and skipped into kitchen. She heaved herself up onto the counter top island and kicked her feet happily. I knew she was thinking about what she wanted for dinner when she made a humming sound under her breath. Finally she tucked a lock of her red hair behind her ear and chimed a question. "What do you do these days anyway, Malfoy?"

Hmm. I took this with more than just a grain of salt. Such a question could mean a lot in this investigation. If she was asking and it was just the two of us, Rose had no reason to lie or pretend like she didn't know things about Malfoy. Therefore, if she was asking, she truly didn't know. I believed that if Rose didn't know what Malfoy did for work these days, then they mustn't have talked in quite some time. So perhaps they hadn't been associated together...

I made a mental note of that.

But moving on, I was lucky I knew the answer to that.

"Ah," I said in a perky tone and hopped up on the counter opposite of Rose. I kicked her foot as I teased her. "Clearly you don't read my work then, do you?"

"Hmm?" she questioned, her brow pulling up in question.

I downed the rest of my water. "I have my own Magical Games and Sports column in the Prophet. Mostly I write about Quidditch matches. How have you not read any of them?"

I actually was a little surprised. Rose had played Quidditch in her Hogwarts years, and for a time we all wondered if she would go pro one day. But of course, it turned out to not be the thing she wanted to do for the rest of her life. But the rest of her family knew about Scorpius' column; most of them read it. Even Ron did because as time passed, Ron learned that Scorpius hated the Irish Quidditch team just as much as he did, and Ron always loved it when Scorpius practically bashed the Irish in his column.

Where had Rose been living? Under a rock?

"I can't keep up with them. I wish I could, and I used to. But also, I have a second flat in Egypt. I live there part time for my job. We get a different paper over there."

Oh, right. Egypt. I guess that explained most of it.

I was still quite surprised, though. I remembered a year ago when I had gone to the Potters one evening for dinner; Harry had cooked that meal because Ginny was busy writing a letter of recommendation. Dinner had sucked that night because my god-father had cooked it. Honestly, the man was raised by muggles even and he still can't cook a decent meal. He's lucky his wife cooks just as good as her mother.

"And actually," I said, voicing my thoughts. "Your aunt, Ginny Potter, wrote my letter of recommendation when she retired."

"So you took over my aunt's column when she quit?" Rose seemed quite appalled. As if Scorpius couldn't fill her aunt's shoes.

These past five minutes had really tested my memory, and surprisingly, I recalled more about Scorpius than I thought I knew at all.

I shrugged. "I didn't really take it over. Gi - Mrs. Potter was a top-notch Quidditch reporter. Me? Well, I cover more than just Quidditch, but I don't get the big stuff."

"Oh," Rose said. She again made an odd face as she appraised the information I gave her. She nodded along. "That's...That's pretty impressive, Malfoy. Good for you."

"Thanks," I said, and I figured I should ask her the same question. If Rose didn't know about Scorpius, then Scorpius had no obligation to know of Rose's job. "So, Egypt, huh? What do you do over there?"

"I'm a Curse Breaker," she said with a pause, and I took it as an opportunity to show her that I was interested and listening even though I already knew all there was to know.

"Wow. That's pretty high end, isn't it?"

"Yeah. My uncle Bill was also a Curse Breaker, and he put in a good word for me. Just over the past year I've been to some pretty cool places. India, Greece, Mexico, and the majority of the time is over in Egypt with all the tombs and pyramids. So much in Egypt that I have the second flat."

"Wow," I said again. "If you've got a second flat, it must pay pretty well."

"Yeah," she agreed, rolling her shoulders. "It definitely pays well."

I then asked about something that had been in the back of my mind for quite some time now. Rose did spend a fair bit of time gone from her family, and occasionally she missed holidays. She had only missed Christmas once, but without having heard it, I knew it was a potential worry for her parents that Rose would permanently live in another country and rarely visit. "So, uh," I began. "You ever think about living over there permanently?"

"Oh, you want me out of the country, don't you?" Rose snickered. I don't know where such a question came from, but I was glad it wasn't in all hostility. She had an odd look on her face, a smirk twisted with a funny smile, and there was a laugh to her voice.

I was surprised by her, and so I was somewhat blindsided. I had no idea how to go about such a question, so I had to think fast. And I just hoped that there was a part of her that wasn't being serious.

I looked at her from the corner of my eye, and a smile hit my lips. "What are you talking about?"

"Oh, we've had our fair share of fights over the things that are worth nothing. You are an asshole," chimed Rose. She still had that smile on her face, making it all the more difficult for me to predict her point.

I rolled my shoulders. More of playing the part as it comes. "That doesn't mean I'd want you out of the country. And was an asshole."

"Ah. Not an asshole anymore now, are we?" she laughed and hopped down from the counter. She came to the one I sat one and opened the bread drawer, pulling out a piece and beginning to nibble on it.

"Less of an asshole," I laughed.

What was I to say, really? There was clearly some joking and teasing going on about their Hogwarts years together, years I was completely clueless about.

But apparently it worked. Rose continued to buy it, and I could only assume that I pulled off a good Scorpius Malfoy. On top of that even, I was enjoying my time with her. We were laughing and chatting, and I eventually even acted myself. The majority of the things I said were truly my own words, and it pleased me that I could feel a friendship with Rose growing that I had lacked my entire life, unlike the situation with all of her other cousins.

She was finally laughing in delight and kicking happily as I cooked our dinner. I let her taste the seasoning of the grilled vegetables. Rose, who did not have the greatest experience in cooking thus far, had said it needed more of something and had proceeded to dump a crap ton of garlic into my diner. Luckily I stopped her and added only a small amount. We genuinely had a good time preparing our dinner.

Rose was being herself. I had finally gotten her to break free of her shell, and thank Merlin she was finally off that high horse of hers.

Tired of being inside all day - of she from being inside all day; I actually just get antsy in one place for too long - we decided to have our dinner outside. The sun was across the ocean that was a fair ways down the hill.

I don't know why we had stayed in such indoor confinement when it was so beautiful just outside our door. The wind was blowing, and it brought the thick, salty air up to us as we ate. It was the perfect temperature to enjoy a lovely dinner outside. We decided to sit in two hammocks that were strung up between the trees and next to the wind chimes and all sorts of flowers and philodendrons. Our hammocks were parallel, and we sat facing each other as we ate, but I could look to my right and I had a beautiful garden laid before me, or I could look to my left and there was the vast sea.

I reminded myself to go for a swim at some point.

Dinner was enjoyable, and we continued to talk about anything that came to mind. Rose elaborated about her business in Egypt as Curse Breaker.

From what she told me, it sounded like she had done some pretty cool things. And no one was there to take advantage of her in her work placement, like me. Blasted metamorphmagus abilities. Making me turn into a woman. No, she got to do cool things like break into tombs and shit. That's cool stuff.

We finished our meal, and she actually helped me wash all the dishes this time. Of course, she splashed water on my crotch to make it look as if I wet myself, and I got her back by splashing her right in the face, but it was all in good fun. When the sun had set, we began to stroll about the garden, the chimes melodically composing their own song, and we somehow wandered from the safety of the garden, down the grassy hill as the sand began to mix with the grass, and we came to the beach.

We kicked off our shoes and rolled up our jeans, and we just walked along the edge of the ocean. It was a relaxing feeling. It reminded me of the days spent near the beach at Shell Cottage, and I only then realized how long it had been since I had been in the ocean. I had missed the salty water, the smell of the air, and the sound of the rolling waves.

I took an abrupt turn towards the water and I walked until the sand stopped being gritty and instead became thick and darker with the water. I let the ground wiggle beneath my feet, and I moved around till the sand seeped between my toes, and eventually my feet followed.

Rose appeared next to me and began wiggling into the ground at a fast pace. She made an oddly excited noise as she began. "Oooh, I always loved doing that. It's the strangest feeling. When I was young, I once was in so deep that the sand reached my knees. Merlin, James and Albus couldn't get me out and had to go fetch help."

She ended with a laugh, and I was thankful for the dark night as I faced the ocen. If she were to see my face, she would believe me to be all too smiley over that matter.

I was there when Rose got stuck in the sand. Now that she mentioned it, I remembered it quite well. She had, in fact, sunken so far into the sand that it reached her knees. I had been inside the house at Shell Cottage that day, having lunch with my god-father, the rest of the Potters, Rose, and the Bill and Fleur Weasleys, let’s say. I had watched them play in the sand, and I had watched Rose sink in to her knees with this broad grin on her face, a look of pure innocence and no thinking ahead as to how she would get out of the ground. I had watched James and Albus try to pull her free, and I had wondered when they would finally come ask for help.

I had been the one to pull her from the sand.

"I love the feeling," I decided on voicing eventually after I realized I had been silent for quite some time. But Rose hadn't taken notice of the length of my silence; she had had quite the adventure wiggling herself deep into the sand again.

I blanched and then laughed. "Rose! You'll do it again, and I promise I won't help."

"Of course you'll help me," she smiled, immediately calling my bluff. "Come on! It's too much fun. See how deep you can go."

"Fine," I grinned, all too ready for another one of our made up games. We had become pros at making up games. I immediately began to sink deeper into the sand, closing the gap Rose had created in those few minutes before hand.

We fidgeted around until the sand went solid around our thighs and we couldn't go any deeper. In the end, Rose remained only an inch or two lower than me, and she declared herself the winner. But I immediately fought that. "Not true! I'm the winner! You're forgetting about all the mechanics! I'm taller than you! And by more than two inches. So, really, I'm in the ground deeper."

"Oh," she laughed sarcastically. "Technicality!"

I chuckled and pressed my hands against the damp ground, pulling my legs and dirtied jeans from the ground. Once I was free, I dusted off my pants as best as I could and then I watched Rose unsuccessfully struggle to break free. I had to stifle my laughter; I didn't want to receive the Stink Eye. Trust me; Rose gives the best Stink Eyes. You don't want to be on the receiving end of one.

When I knew she had made little to no progress, I plopped down onto the ground before her and folded my arms, my lips tightly pursed to hide my smirk.

She looked at me and immediately knew what I was so tempted to say. "Oh, shut it!"

Rose squirmed a few more times and finally gave in. "Okay. Malfoy, help me."

"Nuh-uh," I grinned. "It's quite fun watching you try. And fail."

"Oh, good. So you'll just leave me out here all night?"

"Maybe," I snickered, but gave in. I rose to my feet and offered her my hands. "All right, Weasley. Grab on."

She latched on tight to my hands, and it was just like the day when she was six and I was fourteen. I pulled her free, and the clumped sand dropped from her legs in heaps. When I set her down, she lost her balance and tumbled backwards. Now, sand not only covered her pants, but her entire backside as well. Not to mention, it was matted in her hair.

She blamed in for this, but stood up and we set off at a walk again.

We were about to turn back to the cottage when I could see the shadow of a person approaching us. I stopped and placed my arm in front of Rose's path, and she looked to see what I had spotted. When she made an odd, inquiring noise, I knew she saw what I did as well.

When they shadow began approaching at a rapid pace, I yanked out my wand, wary.

Clearly the intruder noticed this, for he began to shout to make his identity known. "No, it's all right! Rose, it's me!"

The boy came to a stop as he finally reached us, and Rose froze. She blinked as she stared in confusion, and she finally stuttered out, "Sanny?!"

Lysander Scamander stood in front of us with an odd grin on his face, and knowing he was not in harm's way anymore, he put away his wand. I had met the kid and his twin a few times before, seen them on the platform and maybe once at the Potters, but I didn't know them all that well.

What the bloody hell was Lysander doing here?

"What in the - " Rose questioned. My thoughts exactly. I was at loss for words, so I let her do all the talking. "Sanny, what are you doing here?"

"Merlin, you're one hard girl to find, Rose." He turned to me and inclined his head. "Malfoy."

"Scamander," I acknowledged him equally. He was a fairly tall and lanky kid with his mother's white blonde hair. He had shocking blue eyes and a narrow jaw structure.

"Lysander!" Rose reminded him after the Scamander kid seemed to forget to remind us of what he was doing here. And how on earth he found us anyway.

"I just had to make sure you're all right. Lorcan, Alice, and I are really worried about you. We haven't had the chance to talk to your family at all, but we did know you weren't in confinement."

Okay, great. So they were worried, but that still didn't answer my question as to how he got here...

He continued on. "Alice saw an Auror leading you and Malfoy from confinement and then leave. She dug a little and found out that all the confinement cells were empty except for one. I don't know who was in there; probably someone not important."

Oh, thank Merlin for that. Alice Longbottom could have just potentially blown my entire cover. That someone not important was in fact the real Scorpius Malfoy.

"But we didn't know where you were, and we know your family at the Ministry can't know about the case, so they wouldn't know. Alice found out that the Auror who 'relocated' you was John Ruckman, and so we assumed he smuggled you two out for whatever reason. So we looked into it, and we found out that he has a summer house here. That was our best bet. But Merlin, I don't see a summer house anywhere. I've been walking this stretch of the beach for ages. Where the hell are you two staying?"

"It's just up over that hill. You can't see it because of the repelling charms," Rose said. Rose was partly right. She believed the place was fully loaded with repelling and anti-apparating charms, while in fact the place was only cloaked from any outsider.

"Ah, make sense," Lysander answered.

That gave only one possible explanation then. That Rose and I had walked past the boundaries of the house; that's why Lysander could see us.

"So you're all right?" asked Lysander.

"Yeah," Rose answered with a nod. "We're all right. That auror helped us. He wants us to avoid interrogation; he thinks we're innocent, and he thought it safer to keep us off the map while the case is going on and we aren't needed in Wizengamot."

Oh, there was some serious meddling in the case going on.
"Look, glad I found you, but I have to get back. I'll keep you updated though, okay?" She nodded, and I expected him to leave, but he didn't. Lysander's brow furrowed, and he took a step forward. He touched a strand of Rose's hair and lifted it with an odd look on his face. "You've got sand in your hair, Rose."

"Oh," she made a high-pitched squeak and a little giggle that definitely gave off the wrong impression. My cheeks flushed, and I put one of my hands on my hips, looking in the other direction, and rubbing the back of my neck with the other.

Lysander stopped in his tracks, his arm dropping to his side as Rose swayed on the spot. Lysander blinked and finally blurted out. "Nuh-uh! Rosie! You and Malfoy?!"

"Ohhh," I whistled in a low tone and moved away.

"What?!" she blurted and covered her mouth. She moved away from me as if I were the plague and waved her hands about. "Oh, no, Sanny. It's not like that."

"Ick," Lysander shook his shoulders, wiggled his arms, and twiddled his fingers as if he were shaking off his disgust. He straightened up after a moment and moved past it. "All right then."

Well, that was officially the most awkward moment of my entire life.

Chapter 7: In All Seriousness
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And here is the next chapter! Thank you so much to everyone who is following this story. That means a lot to me. I hope you're enjoying it!

This is a more serious chapter. Sorry, it is a serious matter after all. ;)

Please review and tell me what you think!

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Lysander Scamander came by again the next day and the day following that. I don't know what the two of them talked about while he visited, for he didn't come into the cottage at all, and I didn't go outside to find out. He and Rose would just either sit in the garden of the cottage area on the lush grass or in a hammock or they would stroll the beach together. They always seemed to be in deep conversation, bonding over whatever was being said. If they weren't, then they were sharing a few good laughs.

How do I know that? Because I'll admit that I'm a creeper and would peer out through the windows of the cottage and watch them from afar. Not for too long, of course. Not for hours on end like the stalking sort, but only for a few short minutes or seconds here and there to get the gist of what was going on beyond my reach.

Sometimes I did worry about what Rose was sharing with him. I wondered if I should intervene and stop anything from happening, if I should keep her from saying anything about our whereabouts. I wasn't worried for Rose; I was worried for what Lysander's visit would do to the vase, if it would throw a curve ball into the entire thing.

But Rose couldn't help it. From her knowledge, she believed there was nothing wrong with visiting with the Scamander kid. She thought we were being kept safe while the ministry tried to solve the case.

Well, wrong.

I'm supposed to be collecting information and relaying it to Peakes and also to the Wizengamot. It could change the outcome of the case. It could ruin any chance for an alibi or lead to sufficient evidence against Rose's case if the wrong things were said to Lysander. I could lose my job for already breaking my contract so many times over. Because I don't know the kid, there's no knowing who he would open up his mouth to. Alice Longbottom, a girl working at the Ministry, that's for sure.

But I know I couldn't allow Rose to unintentionally throw her case down the drain. I had to help her case and hope for a positive outcome, not hope she gets thrown in Azkaban! So I decided I had to speak to either Peakes or Harry and ask for their opinion on the matter.

That's why, when Lysander appeared for the third day in a row, I blasted some smooth jazz music from the enchanted record before Rose went out to meet him, and I locked myself in my bedroom. I shut the drapes to my windows, and I felt my body returning to my own appearance. I scrambled into some better fitting clothes and was out of there in the next second.

Soon I was walking the halls of the Ministry of Magic, and once again, it was good to be back amongst the hustle and bustle of the place. I caught sight of Hermione across from the main atrium, and she paused in mid-conversation with her brother-in-law, Percy Weasley. She touched his arm and motioned in my direction. Percy turned to see who she was motioning to, and I inclined my head to the both of them. I didn't think it would be very smart of me if we were to speak in person, so our communication from a distance was enough for now.

There was a mutual understanding the three of us shared together with that nod, and I moved along.

There were actually quite a few Ministry workers who spotted me, did a double-take, and debated saying something to me as they tried to figure out why exactly I was there. I guess word had spread that I was apparently in Egypt working on Rose's case, for I was quite surprised at the workers who were stunned to see me.

I headed down to the Auror department and spotted all the familiar faces. In the Auror lounge, Harry was kneading on the coffee mug in his hands and Ron was sitting next to him with his feet propped up on the nearest chair. Then, to my surprise, I was not expecting to see the guy who plopped down in between the two of them. Harry's son, James, dropped down into one of the chairs with a sigh and a heavy groan. He tossed his long, raven hair about and looked to be in a sense of full tranquility.

I wondered what on earth James was doing here in the Auror department. Perhaps just a visit, was my guess, but I don't know how James had time for a visit these days. Especially at this time of year. He was a Chaser for the Cannons, and they were currently on tour for the World Cup, making their way to - hopefully - play for the Quidditch World Cup. His team had had much success during the new season, and I was sure that their team would go far. He was in America two weeks ago when this whole mess arose, and I hadn't seen him since before that.

Also in the lounge were a few of my Auror friends, but none of them I trusted with seeing me with my god-father and his family. I only trusted Max to not open his mouth and tell Peakes that I was speaking to Harry, so I knew I couldn't risk getting in trouble by talking to them in public. Luckily, they were sitting at the table nearest the door, so I poked my head into the doorframe and whistled low under my breath. "Oi, get out here."

Thankfully, the three of them turned around, and they all gave a start. Harry jumped as he held the mug of coffee in his hand, and some of it splattered onto his hands and his pants. Ron muttered his signature phrase of "bloody hell" under his breath, and I had to give James a wary expression to keep him from shouting about my presence. He was the first to leave his chair. Seeing that they were rising, I backed away from the door and immediately set off down the hall to keep a good distance from them. I only looked over my shoulder once to make sure they were still on my tail, and then I slipped into Harry's office.

As soon as James entered, he grinned and nearly tackled me to the ground. James played rough; always had, and ever since he joined the Cannons two years ago, he had grown even more so. Those Quidditch boys had worn off on him.

"You!" he said with a tease as he jumped on me and rubbed my head.

I chuckled as Ron and Harry filed in, shutting the door behind them, and I pushed James off of me. He was a big kid. Well, not really a kid anymore. The twenty-one-year-old had been fortunate enough to inherit the Weasley height and not his father's, but he did inherit Harry's black hair. James was tall, standing over even my own height, and he was broad and built to go with it, the perfect build for being a professional Chaser. "Wotcher, Jamie," I said with a wink.

"Purple hair, purple hair!" James demanded, and I laughed under my breath before the roots shot a deep purple. He clapped his hands together. "Nice. Very feminine. So you, don't you think?"

"You idiot," I snorted and shoved him.

Harry chuckled at the two of us and approached me, slipping me a manly hug. "Enough rough-housing, you two. Ted, how are you?"

"Doing all right, Harry," I nodded. "How are things here?"

"The same," Harry nodded along. "Or at least for Ron and I. We're not too sure of the things we've missed. What, with us being all out of the loop and what not."

"Right. Guess you two aren't the right person to ask about that, huh," I muttered under my breath.

"How is Rosie doing, Ted?" Ron asked me, dropping into an arm chair. I spun around, deciding where I wanted to plant myself. James had already kicked back in his father's lounge chair, but Harry walked around to the other side of his desk and dumped James out of the chair and onto the floor. I snickered and just decided with sitting on Harry's desk while James went to the other chair across the room.

"She's doing well, Ron," I said. "But that's all I can tell you about that. Unless you want to have the conversation we had last time."

"No," Ron sighed and looked down to his lap. He fiddled with his thumbs and had a disappointed expression on his face. I had the sudden urge to tell him, and it made me not really give a damn about my contract on the case at all. But I resisted as best I could. I glanced to Harry, and he was organizing the items on his desk as he watched us. I could tell he was trying to make sure we followed the rules. His eyes would move to the two of us as he appraised our exterior, trying to decide if we would break the rules.

I couldn't bear to look at him anymore; Harry made me nervous when he did that. He was such a good guy when it came to things like this. Apparently he was always a rule breaker, but when it came to the Auror department and, I guess, the future of his niece, he didn't want any rules being broken.

I looked to James in the arm chair. He was sprawled about all over the place; his limbs were so long he hardly fit in the chair. In fact, he looked like a giant sitting in a little kid's chair. His hair was so long that, with his head tilted down, you could hardly see his eyes. He was currently bewitched with tugging on the ends of his hair. Why exactly he was doing that, I have no idea.

I sighed and had to rid my thoughts of Harry. "So what are you doing here, James? Thought you were in America on tour for the month."

"Yupp," he said, straightening up and adjusting his Cannons shirt. "Was. Until we had all our games. We would have been in America longer if we had lost to Fitchburg Finches; that would have put us in the bottom bracket of the World Cup. But of course, we didn't lose. We won. So we play Puddlemore United in two days. I was just dropping by to visit because we're checking in at the campsite this afternoon as a team."

"Ah," I said and kicked my feet about.

Harry sighed, still watching the focus on the tension in the room on the subject that was at the back of all of our minds. He began to talk about anything other than the case. "So what are you doing back at the Ministry, Teddy?"

"Just dropping in with Peakes, and I'm gonna try to catch up with any other news. I just thought I would drop by," I rolled my shoulders.

"Right. Well, maybe you should go drop in with him. I know you're temptin Ron and I..." He faltered and looked at me hopelessly. I got the memo that he wanted me to leave.

I pursed my lips together. "Oh, right. I'm sorry."

"Hey, it's okay," he said, and I looked to Ron. He looked disappointed in Harry; I knew Ron was nowhere near Harry was. Ron wanted to know what there was to know. "I understand. I know what's going on, and I know you're tempted to ask. You're just doing what's right."

"Yeah, but keep in touch. Owl us every once and a while," Harry urged.

"I will," I said and then dismissed myself. I did notice on my way out, however, that James was particularly disappointed that I was leaving without giving him any news. Actually Ron was as well. With Harry behind me, I gave them both a look that clearly meant I would tell them whatever they wanted to know after my meeting with Peakes if they came to find me.

I left the office and headed towards Peakes'. I knocked before entering, and when he spotted me, he dropped all of his work and looked particularly pleased to see me. "Lupin! I was hoping you'd take the time to drop by today."

"Oh...?" I said in more of a question and not a statement. What the hell did Peakes want me for?

"You're stopping by at the perfect time too. Come, you're now a witness in the case and Scorpius Malfoy begins his trial in Wizengamot in a half hour."

"What the...?" I had to brace myself to keep from yelling fuck at the end of that question, but no matter how hard I tried to refrain my words, my mind was blurting the F-bomb all over the place.

Seriously, a witness? Why?!

"Uh - I..." I spluttered about everywhere, lost and thoroughly irritated. "Why?!"

"Because you've been with one of the defendants, you idiot! You've - I'm sure - learned valuable information since you entered confinement with Weasley. I'm sure you have something beneficial to the case to say."

"I..." I faltered, and really, I had no idea how to get myself out of this hole. "No, I really don't."

"Mmmm," Peakes disagreed. He grabbed the collar of my shirt and hauled me out of his office. "I disagree. There's got to be something in that head of yours that will benefit the case in some way or other, and they need you in Wizengamot simply for formalities to go down on permanent record."

As we entered the hall, Ruckman rounded a corner and blanched. He then seemed to approve of Peakes having me by the collar of my shirt. Obviously Ruckman knew what Jimmy was at. When we passed in the hall, I inclined my head to Ruckman. "Johnny boy."

"Lupi - hey!"

I snickered, but before we had the chance to say anything else to one another, Peakes tossed me into the elevator and we were headed towards the Wizengamot. He began to give me the laydown of what would happen down there. "Because your information may be so useful if we put two and two together, you are allowed to ask Malfoy questions. But be smart, Lupin. Think on your feet and only ask questions that will either convict or release Scorpius Malfoy. No beating around the bush in here."

"But I don't know if he's guilty or innocent! And I'm sure as hell not a lawyer," I defended.

But Peakes didn't care. He hauled me right on down until I was stumbling into the Wizengamot. The chamber was full, and I always hated it you entered a room and all eyes turned towards the new comers. Well, that's exactly what happened, and then I felt as if I were being judged by everyone. But more importantly, I felt as if I were some key part in this case. The way everyone looked at me made me feel as if I had the key to the entire thing.

Why did I accept this case?! I hate the looks I get, and let's face it: having purple hair for the time being wasn't really helping my situation.

I kept my head down and let my roots shoot a natural shade of chocolate brown. My eyes quit being a flamboyant aqua and became a cool green. At least that was more subtle.

"Ah," I heard Geoffrey Sondheim, the Acting Minister for the moment, say from the front of the Wizengamot. "Mr. Lupin. Thank you for joining us."

"Listen, I don't really think I'm qualified for this," I said humbly, but Peakes dumped me in the center of the Wizengamot and went to stand on the edge of the stands, assuming his proper position. I looked to him as he slouched against the wooden side of the stands, and he inclined his head towards me. "Go on then."

Grinding my teeth together, I looked to Geoffrey Sondheim. He motioned to the chair behind me. "Wizengamot calls Ted Remus Lupin to the stand. Sit please."

I let out a grunt as I backed up into that godforsaken chair in the center. It was cold and definitely too large for anyone who would sit in the thing. It made me feel like a child being reprimanded by a bunch of strangers.

"State your name for the record, please," he instructed me.

I was not comfortable in this chair in the least. If the looks weren't enough, I felt like I had become one of the ones to be hated in this case. Like I had something to do with the murder. Just from being in this chair for ten seconds, I have certainly received that vibe.

Why did I have to state my name for the record? He just said it bloody fifteen seconds ago...

"Ted Remus Lupin," I huffed.

"And what is your current form of involvement with defendants Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley?" Sondheim asked, tapping his wand against the wooden railing before him. He looked utterly bored in a good and powerful sense of the word. If he were to win the campaign for Minister of Magic, he would definitely enjoy the position. That much is for sure.

"I am an Auror that has been assigned to the case. I have no involvement with Scorpius Malfoy, but I have been assigned to live with Rose Weasley in confinement for the purpose of discovering leads until further notice."

"And have you had any success?"

"I wouldn't call it success, sir," I said as I fidgeted.

"What have you learned from Rose Weasley concerning the relationship between the two defendants?"

"There was no relationship between the two, if any, until now. The now being me pretending to be Scorpius Malfoy."

"Can you clarify?"

"Yes, sir. I would assume completely that Rose and Malfoy had little to no contact between their completion of Hogwarts and now. Rose had no prior knowledge as to Malfoy's lifestyle these days. Being in confinement and pretending to be him, Rose Weasley has no reason or obligation to lie to me. So I can only conclude that it is the truth that they weren't in contact before the murder and, therefore, they did not conspire the murder together."

A hushed murmur hit the chamber, and I could only assume that this caused a drastic turn in the case. I had just ruled out any possibility of the two working together. That led either Rose to be the criminal. Or Malfoy. Or neither. Which, for the sake of their futures, I hope it is neither.

In all seriousness, I would help in any way I could. I now understood that I had information that others didn’t quite have access to. I could provide an outlet to solving the crime by piecing it together one by one. I realized this as the chamber whispered and fidgeted in their seats, trying to place mental wagers on who committed the crime, if either of them did.

Neither of them deserves Azkaban. Even if one of them did do it, there must have been a motive behind it all. I refused to believe that either of them would do it out of their own free will. I don't know where this case will go or who will be innocent or guilty, but I do hope for the best for the both of them. With the eyes of the members of Wizengamot upon me, I realized just how crucial a part I played in this case. No matter how badly I wanted out of it all.

I didn't wish to be a part of this at all anymore. Someone would be hurt as time and the case progressed. Either Malfoy would be thrown into Azkaban, or Rose would and I couldn't even begin to imagine the reactions she would receive from her family. Not to imagine the reaction I would get when she found out it was me all along. Nothing good could come out this anymore except for the clearing of Rosie's name, and that was my ultimate goal in this whole fiasco.

Chapter 8: A Chaotic Mess
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And the next chapter! Thank you so much to everyone who is following this story so faithfully. I am glad you are enjoying it, and thank you to those who leave me such helpful constructive criticism! I am always looking for that to better my writing and the story itself. So if there is ever anything you think could be done better, always feel free to let me know!

And I’ll leave it at that! Enjoy!

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I don't know exactly what all I said, but from the reaction of the Wizengamot crew, I did help further the case. I don't know whose side I benefited more, if I benefited anyone with the information I was able to give. I realized that I wasn't quite in the know as everyone else was. Staying at the summer house, I knew little about what was going on the inside the Ministry. And I guess I don't know why I didn't think it all the way through. I should have known that the case wouldn't have stopped just because I wasn't there to oversee it, but it was odd to be filled in on the progress of the case that I had taken on single-handedly. For Rose's side at least.

They hadn't made progress with Scorpius Malfoy himself. Apparently he was still being a complete stubborn asshole, but they had made progress with piecing together the information and trying to come up with an alibi for either Malfoy or Rose. Bits and pieces were finally coming together. I just hoped they would be able to piece together a certain alibi for both of them at some point soon so this whole thing could be expunged.

The Wizengamot continued to ask me ridiculous questions. I don't even know how some of them were relevant, but the members of the Wizengamot knew how, that's for sure.

After they were finished asking me all sorts of questions, I was hauled back to Peakes' office where he asked me a few things himself. He asked me how things were going, if Rose suspected anything, and if anything was amiss at the summer house that he should know about.

Immediately, I thought yes. There is something he should know about, but I debated the better decision on the subject concerning Lysander Scamander. Was I to tell Peakes and keep Lysander from interfering in the case? Or did I say nothing and let things fall into place? If I were to tell Peakes and therefore keep Lysander from coming back, Rose would suspect something was amiss. She would begin to question that someone else was watching over us while we were at the house. All sorts of bad could happen from me telling Peakes, but if I didn't, it could jeopardize Rose's future with Scamander meddling in the whole thing.

And if Scamander didn't keep out, and the right information was passed from person to person, he could learn that there is also a Scorpius Malfoy here at the Ministry while there is also one at the summer house. They could find out my role in the entire case.

Worried and conflicted, I eventually decided on telling Peakes that further precautions had to be made around the summer house.

"Things are going well," I answered after he asked me. "Rose is opening up to me. If she were to know of anything, she may tell me soon. But I think extra precautions should be made around the cottage."

"All right," Peakes nodded and agreed without question. I think I was somewhat caught off-guard by this, but I guess, really, what's wrong with that request? "What sort of precautions?"

"Just actual anti-apparating charms and further protection barriers," I answered. I gave a half-hearted shrug to convince him that it wasn't too important, trying to hide my true reasoning. Luckily, he didn't ask.

"That's fine. You are fully capable of doing those charms yourself. At the summer house, you are in charge of what goes on and can make those decisions yourself," said Peakes in a more relaxed manner.

I was surprised by how easily and laid back he was about the whole situation, but I wasn't going to complain. It was swell that he was more calm than normal; he is usually an aggressive mess when it comes to - just about - everything.

"Is that it then?" Peakes asked me after a moment.

"I think so," I debated, but then shook my head. "Well, no. It occurred to me the other day how close Rose Weasley is with Alice Longbottom. They are fairly good friends, and I know Alice has worked her way up the Ministry latter recently. She has also perfected the art of snooping. I would suggest that she be kept out of the Auror department and when Wizengamot is in session."

"Very well," nodded Peakes as if he agreed with me perfectly well once again. "I'll take your word for it. I hadn't considered the Longbottom girl either, but I believe she is dating one of Potter's boys. So, this decision may be for the best as well."

"I agree, sir," I nodded and then felt proud of myself for effectively avoiding meddling in the case to persuade it in a certain direction.

Peakes spun around in his chair, seeming to space out for the time being. Really, why was this guy put in charge of the case? He couldn't honestly care less about the outcome of the trial and Rose and Malfoy's future. "Good," he finally commented. "Right. Well then, keep up the good work. You've been extremely beneficial to us, Lupin. Ah, and I wanted to remind you that we will need the Weasley girl's appearance at Wizengamot in approximately three weeks. This is when Weasley's first appearance on-stand will be. Don't worry about how you will get her here. John Ruckman will take care of that. Just keep that in mind. Also, your appearance as yourself would be appreciated, but you'll have to work that out however you like."

"All right. I'll think about how to work that into everything. Just remember to keep Malfoy and Rose separated while in Wizengamot. If she says the right things to Malfoy about our times at the cottage and being kept as a stowaway, Malfoy will know nothing of what she says, and she will immediately expect something is amiss."

"Right you are. Good work for today, Lupin," Peakes said, and I took that as a dismissal cue. I rose to leave and made for the door when he threw one last comment out there. "Oh, and for your wonderful help today, you're getting a 1,000 galleon bonus. Well done, Ted."

"Wha - ?" I began to stumble over my words and I didn't quite know what to say. 1,000 galleons was a lot to receive just for happening to pop into the office to go to a hearing with the Wizengamot, but I wasn't complaining. "Oh. Uh, thanks."

He nodded and I left his office then. I started playing my cards in my head, planning my next five minutes. I knew how much Ron wanted to know about Rose's safety, and I had no problem with telling him what I knew. Harry was the one who was against breaking my contract, but I could tell Ron and just leave Harry out of it, right? I mean, I could understand a father's worry for his daughter. Harry was already being stronger as an uncle than I would have been.

I slipped into the hallway and went into ninja-mode as I crept in the doorway of the open offices, hoping no one of the wrong sort saw me snooping around. I slipped into Ron's office and was thankful when I saw him sitting alone at his desk, looking quite troubled. He gave a start when he looked up and saw me there. I sat down before he could object, and I immediately said quite bluntly, "What would you like to know?"

"You're sure...?" Ron asked me uneasily as if I would rat myself out.

Oh, yes, I'd do that to myself. I'd throw myself under the bus. I'd risk my job and any good, future references for a job ever again. Yes, I'd run right to Peakes and shout happily, 'Hey, Peakes! I just told Ron Weasley all about my role in the case and everything about his daughter.' Yes, wonderful plan.

I would do that why....?

Actually, thinking all of that just now nearly made me want to rise and leave the office without a word. What was I doing?

"Of course," I finally said. "Assuming you're not going to rat me out?"

"Wha - " he spluttered. "Of course not! Ted, I just want to know if my daughter is okay. And if you actually think she may have had a part in this."

"She's okay, no worries there, Ron. I haven't been Egypt this entire time. I've been living with her. Scorpius Malfoy is still in confinement here at the Ministry, but higher up people have reason to believe that - due to Malfoy's family - he may have actually been a part of this somehow. But because of the family Rose comes from, being you and Harry, the freaking savior of our entire world, they have a higher initiative to believe that her DNA finding could have just been an awful mistake or she was framed. Seems biased to me, but what can you do? So a break-out was simulated for Rose. John Ruckman came and pretended to break us free of confinement here and he took us to his summer house. Of course, this is all clarified with the Wizengamot and further authorities. Everyone inside on the case knows about it; it's just Rose that believes we have been broken out to keep safe for fear of angry witches and wizards who want to avenge their Minister or some shit like that. But anyways, we couldn't breakout just Rose. Malfoy had to come too, but I just told you he's still here. So, Peakes is kinda taking advantage of my metamorphmagus abilities. He's having me pretend to be Malfoy at the cottage with her. So it's been just the two of us for the past two weeks, and she thinks I'm Malfoy. This is good and bad. I know for a fact that they didn't work together on it, and so far she has been playing the innocent role. I don't think Rose could ever do anything like that, and her actions agree with that. I think things will be fine. It will just take some time to get to the bottom of this."

"Wow. Peakes is having you do that?" Ron asked. He seemed somewhat appalled by it, as if he didn't believe me. His face contorted into this weird, concentrated look, and his skin went a little purple as he made an odd noise. "That's...genius, but mad."

"I know. I understand why. There's so much I can find out being on the inside like this, but I feel like I am completely breaking Rose's trust. If she finds out its me, she won't ever trust me again," I shook my head and felt distressed with myself. The more I thought about it, the more I wished I had quit my job before I was assigned the case. I really was breaking this invisible code of trust between Rose and I.

Yes, we were never truly close. We have only ever had - maybe - six conversations with just the two of us. All have been great, but I never took the time to know her to the full capacity like I know James and Albus. But even if I didn't know here on that level, there was this mutual understanding that there would be this level of trust between us. Just like I could put my trust into Louis, or Lucy. Hugo, Molly. Any of the Weasleys. I look after them, and I would do anything for them.

"Well, let's not worry about that," Ron tried to say encouragingly. I knew he meant well, and it was nice. But with his words, I just felt like he was somewhat beating around the bush. Ron was never good at the whole encouragement front. It was always a little awkward, and the words were never as deep as the inside ran. "It may be she doesn't have to find out. If she does, I'm sure she will forgive you. She would understand that you had to do it for your job."

"Thanks. I hope so," I said weakly, but I then didn't wish to address that subject in any way after that. "But that's my part in the case thus far, and I just found out that they will need Rose at the Wizengamot in a few weeks. So I'll take care of that then."

"That's good," said Ron. I didn't really know what classified as 'good,' but hey, if he thinks it's good, then that's bloody wonderful. "It sounds like you have everything under control."

It may seem like that on the outside, and for that I was glad. But on the inside, I was having a raging tantrum. I had to question my every move, ask myself if I was remaining within my character, if Rose would forgive me when she found out, if I was living up to Peakes' standards. My insides were now a constant mess of things these days. I couldn't wait for the end of this case. So if I was appearing calm and controlled on the outside, then that was brilliant.

Everything else on the inside was a chaotic mess.

"Apparently," I huffed and wiped my palms on my jeans. I rose to leave, knowing I couldn't pass off pretending to hide in my room at the summer house for much longer. I said goodbye to Ron before apparating out of his office and directly into my bedroom at the cottage.

I kind of stumbled as my feet hit the floor, and I steadied myself, straightening my clothes and beginning to hum to myself. I hardly noticed anything was amiss as I began to strip my jeans from my body. It was only when I had gone to my dresser when I noticed that the music from the enchanted player was no longer running. It was quiet within the room. I turned and found the door to the bedroom open.

In my boxers, my mouth dropped in confusion. I blurted out as I bolted to the dresser, yanking it open, "Fuck!"

Not knowing where Rose was, I made my quickest effort in shifting back into Malfoy's appearance. As I felt my hair change in length and my height shrink slightly, I stumbled into the jeans that fit Malfoy's height. I buttoned them and zipped the fly, pulling my shirt back down, and I burst into the hallway. As I entered, I tried to calm myself. As long as Rose hadn't seen me apparate into the room in my own appearance, perhaps I didn't have too much to worry about. Sure, my door was open, but perhaps I could pass off the lie that I had been outside. Not in my room that she must have opened the door to, found I was not in there, and shut off the music. And hopefully she didn't hear me apparate into the room.


With my head popping into the hallway, I kept my eye out for Rose. I asked in a worried tone, "R-Rose? You there?"

I didn't hear her, so I stepped fully into the hall. I entered the living room and found it empty, so I turned back into the hall and made my way towards her bedroom. The door was shut, so I assumed that was where she was, but the noise I heard within it was what surprised me the most.

It was Rose's voice, and at the sound of her first few words, a crash followed. Some object within the room must have been falling, and her words grew frantic. I could hear her quick, heated breathing, and immediately worried, I bolted to her door and pressed my ear against it.

"P-Please!" she gasped. "You don't u-understand. I'm doing my best. You have to believe me!"

I heard something else coming from within the room. I was certain it was a second voice, but as to whose it was, I had no idea. Maybe it was Lysander; that was the only logical explanation. His voice was muffled, and I could determine neither the words nor if the voice belonged to Lysander. I pressed harder, my hands playing out over the wood of the door. I could no longer hear him speak, but I heard a stumbling within the room, a grunt, and then Rose sounded as if she were truly terrified. "Stop! Please stop! I promise! Stop, you're hurting me!"

I swallowed in fear and didn't wait a moment longer. She sounded horrified, and if she was claiming she was being hurt, then I wouldn't stand for that. "Rose?!" I blurted out loudly, making my presence known.

The voices within the room stopped, there was some fumbling around, and I asked again, "Rose?! Rose, are you all right?"

No reply came, but more noises that represented scrambling around sounded. "Rose, answer me!" I demanded.

I got no response once again, and I backed away from the door. I demanded a response two more times before I stated loudly, "Rose, say something or I'm going to break down this door!"

I heard a crack that sounded an awful lot like apparation, and I decided against waiting a second longer. I backed away from the door and prepped up my right leg. I took a big step forward and rammed my right foot into the door. It fell with a loud noise and wood splinters scattering about. With the door down, I bolted into the room and found Rose rising from her bed. She was shaking and had her arms wrapped around her body. I fell short on my journey to reach her, surprised at the sight of her, but I finally managed to come to a stop in front of her.

"R-Rose?" I stuttered and gingerly touched her elbow. She made a terrified squeal and scampered away from me. "Rose, what the hell was going on in here just now?"

I was honestly worried for her. I had no idea what had just gone down, but she had sounded genuinely scared. Therefore, I believed I wasn't overreacting. Malfoy wouldn't want her to be physically hurt in anyway; he wasn't a devil spawn like that. So I assumed I didn't have to worry about remaining in Malfoy's character.

She said nothing. She only continued to rub her arms, her eyes glued to the wooden floor as she paced her room. I swallowed in worry and prompted again. "R-Rose? Answer me."

"I-I'm fine," she managed.

"Who was in here just now?"

"No one," she tried to pass off. I wasn't that stupid. She was lying right to my face.

I followed in her footsteps, and seeing her fear made it hard for me to stay in Malfoy's character. "Don't lie to me," I pressed. Demanding the truth. Sure, that sounded pretty Malfoy-ish, right?

"I was napping," she commented. I glanced to her bed to verify this alibi. Indeed the covers were a mess, but this didn't mean she had been certainly napping. "I had a bad dream."

I caught her arm and spun her to face me. Under her right eye, a small welt was forming, and as much as she tried to play it off as a nap, fear had instilled itself within her. I was getting aggravated with her lies. There was no reason for her to lie to me. If she told me the truth, I could help her. I wanted to help her, and Malfoy certainly didn't despise her enough to not want to do the same.

"Tell me the truth," I said in a low voice. We both stood still. She was still hugging her body to her and staring at the floor, but I had to make some sort of progress in making her tell me. So I gingerly took her chin into my grasp between two of my fingers, and I lifted it so her gaze could meet mine. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and her lips trembled. I could feel my demanding exterior begin to diminish at the sight of her. Seeing her so weak and petrified worried me even further. I had to swallow the lump forming in my throat and shake my head to make sure I didn't lose face.

"Tell me the truth," I urged again in a mere whisper.

Her lips trembled, and no words were able to escape her throat. Her arms retracted from around her body, and in a split second, she was throwing them around my neck. I made a small noise of surprise, but I accepted it. I closed my mouth and patted the back of her head with one of my hands. The other wrapped around her back and pulled her close. I simply held her there as she attempted to regain her composure. Her arms were locked about my neck, and I was not expecting her to let go anytime soon.

I stroked her hair and uttered things of reassurance. It was when I felt her choking back tears against me did I have to gather my bearings once more. I felt the front of my shirt grow damp as she began to cry. Tough Rose. I had never seen her cry before. Uneasy, I put both arms around her and pulled her full against me. "Shh. It's all right," I managed. I rubbed her back and didn't know what else to do except to be there for her.

Chapter 9: Confirmed Fact #2
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I don't know how long Rose and I simply stood there in each other’s arms. She seemed thoroughly shaken, so as soon as she flew into them and my arms went around her, I then didn't know what to do. I think I stood there in shock for the first ten minutes before I finally started to attempt to decipher the events. Rose was a strong girl; I had no idea what it took to get her so riled up, so seeing her like this really hit home with me. It was a testimony to how upset she truly was.

After she hugged me, I lost all ability to try and wrangle the truth from her. It was a lost cause. I wanted to know, but seeing how upset she was, I knew it would only distress her further. And that was officially the last thing on my to-do list. So I had given up. After I simply accepted that Rose was seeking Malfoy's sympathy, I think I started to rub her back in reassurance. I think I nuzzled my chin into her hair as she balled my shirt into her first. I think that was when I started to smell like her because her tears drenched my shirt.

But I can't really remember. It's all sort of hazy now. I don't know how much time passed from then until the moment when she finally sniffed and made an attempt to move. I don't remember what made me do it, but I scooped her up into my arms and then set her down on her bed. I could tell she hadn't moved so she could go about her day; she had moved so she could sulk more. So I had made the task easier by placing her on her bed. After I did that, I didn't quite know how to continue. I didn't know if I should join her or leave her be? So I think I stood there oddly for a few minutes before I made any progress whatsoever.

That was when she looked at me from her bed feebly, her hands clasped together as she gnawed on the tips of one of her fingers, her sad eyes meeting mine. I gave her a small nod before I said uneasily then, "I'll be out in the living room if you need me."

That was when she grabbed my elbow and how I came to be now standing before her completely dumbfounded. I had forgotten about the door to my bedroom that had been opened when I apparated back, the music that had been turned off that was supposed to be playing. I forgot that I could have completely blown my cover, and at that moment, I did still have the potential to have blown it entirely.

"Where were you?" she had asked.

"I was outside. By the ocean," I added quickly.

She wrinkled her nose in distress. She seemed to be contemplating my answer, trying to determine if my words were true or not. I tried to make my look as pure and honest as I could, even though it was a lie. If I could appear to be giving an honest face, perhaps I could give her little reason to worry. I didn't want her questioning me. If anything, I wanted her to open up to me and tell me what had happened.

"I left my music on and shut my door when I left," I convinced her. "Why?"

She wrinkled her nose. I couldn't tell what exactly her look was trying to say. Was she trying to reprimand me for not being there? Was she wishing I had stayed away for the entire thing? I couldn't read her, but if I could guess I would have said that she was disappointed I hadn't been there for her in her time of need.

She broke eye contact with me so that she could look up at the ceiling. Eyes affixed on the cracks in it, she gave a hefty sigh and tried to beat around the bush. "Just curious," was her emotionless answer.

I tried to work a smile onto my face as I pushed my way onto the edge of her bed. I sat on the edge, feeling the mattress dip with my weight, and her hip slid down to touch my knee. I rolled my shoulders and tried to joke about it, but I found that even I had a serious side. As much as I hate it, there are some times when joking just doesn't cut it and you can't ignore the facts. This was one of those times.

Hell, this entire day had been one of those times.

I had had one hell of a joke-free day with the whole Wizengamot experience and now this. I need a drink, and then I need a full week of nothing but laughter. All of these serious matters really aren't good for my sense of humor; I can honestly feel it taking a heavy blow to me.

"You can answer that question honestly," I said.

"I was just curious," she emphasized again.

She is such a hard ass about some things. I think, in that moment, she just really didn't want to admit that she might have needed me or was relying on me coming in. I could understand why. To her, I was Malfoy, and well, I wouldn't want Malfoy helping me either or to be spilling all of my problems to him.

"No, you weren't," I corrected her. I watched her curl up into the fetal position, and it almost pained me to see her so scared. Rose was never scared in the past. I would watch her be the daring one and climb trees until the bark scraped her knees and hands; I watched her be the one to pounce on a garden gnome at her grandmother's once, the only one brave enough to do so. I watched her be the one to tell the creepy stories for the intention of freaking her cousins out, rather than she be the one being a big baby. Rose was never a baby.

"Listen," I said again, "I don't know what just happened. But you don't have to lie about it. We're here to stay protected. If you think there's a possibility that we aren't safe anymore, then you should say something."

She swallowed and shook her head. I couldn't wait to be alone once more just so I could whip up the further protection charms. I wanted to keep that bastard out, and for an odd reason that I couldn't quite define, I also wanted to keep the Scamander boy out.

She didn't really answer my question. Well, I could tell it took her a while to debate whether or not she wanted to even answer truthfully. Soon enough she answered and I then knew that she just flat-out wanted to change the subject.

"Why are you being so nice to me?" she asked almost painfully.

"Can I not be nice to you?" I asked in a repulsive tone. I didn't really quite know how to go about the situation, but I figured this could be one of Malfoy's more sympathetic and emotional moments. I think I had some wiggle room to be my actual-caring self.

"It's weird," she said bleakly.

"Sorry if the years have changed me," I joked. I was pleased when I could feel a smile work onto my face, and she believed every word I said. When there was silence I thought I could be persnickety enough to add, "And besides. Here, your safety means my safety."

"Of course," she sighed with an eye roll. "That's the heart of it all, isn't it? Everything you want benefits you in some way."

I joked as I crouched down in front of her. "Don't make me look like the bad guy here."

Rose sighed and then nodded. I think I was somewhat surprised when she didn't tease me back. "You're right. Sorry. I know you aren't trying to be rude. You're just using it as an excuse to not show your actual worry for me. Aren't I right?"

I pursed my lips and didn't want to show her how truly accurate she was. She was dead-on. Nailed it.

"That's a lie," I said with no emotion.

"Lie," she stated firmly without a moment's hesitation.

"Mmm-mmm," I mumbled, shaking my head.

"You're the one lying here," she stated again.

Knowing this could on go forever, I simply sighed and gave up. There was no use in arguing it. I couldn't prove it to Rose, so there was no point in winning. I rose from my crouched position by her bedside and wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans. I sighed and said in a more dismissive tone, knowing it would arouse something from her. "Well, then, if you won't tell me what's going on then I'll just assume you're going crazy. Get some sleep; then maybe you'll clear your head."

"I'm not crazy!" she shouted in a defensive tone as soon as I had finished speaking.

"Oh, really?" I tested, turning back towards her in hopes of igniting her urge to tell me what actually happened in here. That way I could feel productive in this case again. After my sitting in the Wizengamot I almost felt as if I had come to a dead end. I had given away all the information I had; now I had a thirst for more.

"You heard it yourself!"

Aha! It was almost the key phrase I needed to instigate something. I turned completely towards her and began a slow walk back to her. I lowered myself onto the foot of her bed as she watched me uneasily. I could finally see it in her eyes. That desperate urge to tell me.

"It wasn't a bad dream." It was somewhat a question, but it was more so a statement. I was trying to pry something further from her.

She then didn't know what to say. She stared at me for a few minutes, and for some reason, I hoped our eye contact would get her to tell me the truth. But she was strong and adamant. I should have known that Rose was stronger than simple eye contact. She realized she had made a mistake with what she had previously said to me. She had dug herself a hole and now she looked as if it were time to bury herself in it. She was trying to find a way to climb out.

She could try to pass it off as a dream again; I believe that she knows I wouldn't accept that. But she was not yet ready to tell me about what had just happened. That much I could tell.

She finally broke eye contact and buried her face into her knees. "Just leave me alone."

I pursed my lips. I wish that you could always know what to do in a situation. I wish that you could go through the event, take only a moment to analyze it, and then know exactly how to act to get a certain reaction. I wish things were that easy, but they aren't. And I'm not good at playing off of people's emotions anyway. I'm good at joking. Leave the jokes to me and everything will be fine, but when it comes to all the other stuff...

Well, let's face it. I suck.

But I think I do know one thing for sure: leaving Rose alone at this point won't get anything done. Sure, it will help Rose figure out what to say to me in the future. But that's not what either of us need right now. I need to help progress this case, and I also want to support Rose. I hate seeing her like this. Having a conversation about this or at least trying to wiggle a conversation out of her is clearly the best choice right now.

"Rose..." I muttered as a sign that I wasn't quite ready to leave.

"Scorpius," she groaned in irritation. I wrinkled my nose at the name, temporarily forgetting, and then I remembered that I was him.

Knowing she wouldn't do or say anything else, I took the initiative. I crawled up to the head of her bed and sat smack in front of her. She was lying on her side in the fetal position, so once I was near her, I sat cross legged and then leaned over my legs. I placed my elbows on the bed and then supported my chin in my palms so that I was eye-level with her. I huffed under my breath, the position making for an odd-speaking angle for me. "Mmmhmm?"

"Go away."

"Nuh uh," I said, and trying to lighten the mood, I took it in a more positive direction. "I'll be bored. I want to play a game."

"And all I want to do is nap, so leave me alone." After she finished, she took the covers and pulled them over her head. Her mess of red hair peaked from the pillow, but I could make out the shape of her face perfectly beneath the peach colored duvet.

I pulled one of my hands away from my face, and with two fingers I grabbed the top of the duvet and peeled it away from her face. She winced and squeezed her eye shut as they began to dilate with the sunlight. Knowing she wouldn't open her eyes, I let the duvet flutter down to her stomach. Then I slowly reached for her eyes. I think she could feel my arm moving close above her, for she wrinkled her nose and tried to press deeper into her bed. She awaited what I was about to do apprehensively, and when she felt the tips of my fingers gently run over the skin of her closed eyes, tickling her eye lashes, she groaned. "Don'ttttt."

But I didn't listen. With two fingers, I opened one of her eyes and she yanked her arms from beneath the covers. She swatted my hand away and then pressed her palms firmly against her eyes. "Come onnnn," I groaned in frustration, and I then continued to grab hold of her wrists and weakly try to pry them away from her face. "Don't be so anti-social!"

"Let me sleep!" she grunted, but I could tell it wasn't in all seriousness. There was a hint of laughter in her voice, and all I wanted to do was see a smile touch her face and hear her laughter.

"You can sleep later," I said weakly in an attempt to convince her.

I managed to pull her hands away from her head, and I pinned her arms by her side so that I could see her face. I could feel her smile beginning to grow; I just had to work up to it. Hoping that my holding her down wouldn't hit too close to home to the events that took place earlier today for her, I pulled my chest over her stomach so that would do the job instead of my hands. Then with my hands I began to tickle her.

She squealed and squirmed, but my weight on top of her was too heavy for her to escape. There was no way she could. Her laughter finally broke free from her lungs, and it rung about the room. It was loud, pure, and whole, and I felt relieved to hear it. I knew everything would be okay after that. When she began to plea for me to stop tickling her, I did and went limp on top of her.

I don't think Rose realized that I was still lying on top of her for a while. I didn't even notice it right away. She lay there simply, trying to gain her breath back. I could feel my body rising on hers as she sucked in deep breaths, my face mushed against the duvet of the bed. I had to make sure I wasn't crazy when I actually felt one of her hands wiggle free from under me, and her palm pressed against the back of my head.

I was surprised and rather taken aback, but I thought before I reacted. I knew that I couldn't show my surprise, for that action had the potential to frighten her away. I knew this was progress, and I only wanted to make sure it continued.

Her hand rubbed my head, and her fingers began to weave through my locks. I lifted myself from her, moved to look her in the eye, and I went to stroke her shoulder in a friendly fashion. I smile reached my face. It also reached hers, but when our eyes met, I think she came back to reality. It faded just as quickly as it had come, and she blinked as if trying to end a dream. She withdrew her hand and shuddered, finally pushing me off of her.

I huffed under my breath. I was all right with returning to her wanting her space. I was simply glad that we had made a decent amount of progress.

I cleared my throat and slid off the bed. I tried to not make the situation awkward, but I wasn't too good in that department either. "I will - uh - let you sleep now."

Rose was much better at trying to make things as normal as possible. In fact, she quite succeeded. She didn't pay my awkwardness any mind. I opened the door and was prepared to leave, but her voice stopped me. A smile came fluttering back, and her voice was joking when she said, "Thanks. Then we'll play Egyptian Rat Screw or something. Promise."

"I'll take your word for it."

"Oh, and Malfoy?" she asked when I thought the conversation was over.


"If you start to like me, I will hex you in your sleep."

I think I didn't quite know what to say after that. I was rather confused. I had never looked at Rose like that before. She was always little Rosie to me. She was the rose I pulled from the sand years ago. But then I remembered I was Malfoy to her. She had snogged Malfoy.

Confirmed Fact #2: That line that separated me from being myself to acting like Malfoy was slowly diminishing. I could hardly see the lines anymore. It was fading into the distance, and it was becoming all too hard to know when to say or do something in particular. I was becoming a mix of myself and Malfoy.

I didn't really know where the comment had come from. I guess it was from the fact that I had just been lying on top of her and tickling her. To me, it had been simply platonic, and now I remembered that I wasn't supposed to be myself, and that made me realize that my actions could have appeared to be different than simply platonic. As I thought about it and was hit with this realization, I didn't know I felt about that. I didn't want her to come to the conclusion that I was getting feelings for her.

But I couldn't just stand there in the door way like an idiot. I would have to say something. So I tried to seem less caught off-guard, and I straightened up, cleared my throat, and said with much assertion, "I'll hex you right back."

Chapter 10: Between A Rock and A Hard Place
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Here is chapter ten! Thank you so much to those who are following this story. Your faith, encouragement, and kind reviews keep me so inspired for this story! I really enjoyed writing this chapter; I really think it might be favorite thus far. I hope it is the same for you! Enjoy and tell me what you think!

Disclaimer: I, sadly, do not own the lovely world of Harry Potter or its characters.

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When I left Rose's bedroom, my actions surprised myself. She could tell me all she wanted that it was a nightmare, but I wouldn't believe it. There was no way it was a nightmare. She had even slipped up a few times. She almost admitted it to me. Clearly it was something more; she was just too scared to say so.

That meant that someone was after her. Someone was hurting her, harming her, frightening her, and when I left her bedroom, anger took over the calm tranquility that had quickly taken over in her room. I ran to my room and bolted the door behind me, blasting the smooth jazz once more. She couldn't fool me. I would let her believe that it was a nightmare all she wanted, but two could play that game. Two were already playing that game and she wasn't even aware of it.

Rose is a smart girl. I can only begin to comprehend what she is playing at.

All I know now is that someone is trying to hurt her, and I feel like it is my duty to make sure nothing happens to her. With my door locked and my music blaring, I changed back to my normal appearance and yanked on a pair of jeans that fit properly. I apparated directly into Peakes' office. He gave a jolt, throwing his dampened quill into the air, splattering ink on a few pieces of parchment. "Merlin!" he blurted out and looked up at the intruder. He sighed and patted his chest, falling back into his chair behind the desk. "Shit, Ted."

I didn't even take the time to apologize. Hell, I wasn't sorry. "Someone is lying," I said firmly.

Peakes just looked at me for a few moments. What? Is he stupid? I gave him a harsh stare, and he finally reacted. He leaned forward and questioned me to explain myself. I only replied simply. "Someone is lying. Rose or Malfoy. One of them is lying."

"What's happened, Lupin?"

"One of them is lying," I huffed, nostrils flaring and everything. I don't remember the last time I was this angry, this defensive. "One of them is lying, and I'm going to find out who."

I turned abruptly on my heels and left the office. Peakes followed in my wake, pestering me with questions about what had happened to make me give such an accusation, but I said nothing. I was on a mission; I was determined to speak to Malfoy. If I said anything to Peakes, they wouldn't give me clearance. So I just went for it. I was suddenly running down the halls of containees, my anger just building up inside of me. I knew I would regret acting so harshly and on impulse later on, but for now, I couldn't care less.

I finally reached the room Malfoy had been relocated to. I walked right past the guards, and I threw the door open. There he was, relaxing on the thin mattress of a bed he had been provided. He sat up right quickly, surprised at the intrusion.

"Lupin?" he asked quickly, and when he knew I was coming for him, he put his hands up in defense as if they would stop me.

I grasped him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him from his sitting position. He made an odd noise and beat weakly at my hands in surprise, trying to ward me off. I gave him a violent shake.

"Tell me what you know!" I ordered. Malfoy cringed, and noticing that I was having an effect on him, I barked again, "I said, tell me what you know! NOW!"


I didn't even look over my shoulder. Peakes had finally caught up with me, and he was behind me, pulling me off of Malfoy. I was still shouting, wiggling around in Peakes' arms. He was restraining me, and I was vaguely aware of him shouting for the guards to come help. Finally three men were pulling me off of Malfoy, and I was still shouting. The things leaving my mouth were a mix of obscenities and demands. I think I even threw a punch in there until Peakes had my arms restrained by my side.

He hauled me out of the cell, and the last thing I saw before the door slammed shut again was Malfoy's petrified face as he scrambled off of the ground, readjusting his shirt that I had stretched to a ridiculous extent.

"He knows something!" I could finally comprehend my words. "He has to! He knows something!"

"Lupin, calm down this instant!" I heard Peakes shout in my ear. "You're making a fool of yourself."

With Peakes and the guards restraining my arms, I quieted and nodded "All right," I said quietly.

When he believed me, the three of them finally let go and backed away. I stood up straight and adjusted my askew t-shirt. Swallowing down my heavy pant, I turned to Peakes. When I met his infuriated gaze, I only relized what I had done. I had made a scene. I had been seen bolting across the Ministry of Magic like a mad fool. Luckily, they didn't know where I was going or what I was up to. The containee hall was relatively empty, so that was a plus. But I had evaluate myself. What had I just done?

I didn't rage very often. I only ever recall being furious one other time. It was back when Victoire and I were still dating. We were on a date and had gone dancing. I was utterly appalled when some pervert had slapped Victoire's bum. I punched him square in the face without thinking twice. I only got furious when I felt protective of someone or something. Granted, I also did tend to have a shorter fuse when the full moon was around. So that is always a part of it, but I never liked to blame the moon for any rages I may have.

But in this situation, I didn't think I had a choice.

I swallowed and stuttered out quickly, "Sorry. That was rash. Full moon this week and all."

My attempt at jumping Malfoy made me realize how protective I had grown of Rose. It made me uneasy. I loved that I wanted to protect her. It meant that I finally felt closer to her after all these years, but my reaction just now unnerved me.

"You bet your ass it was rash. Now, are you going to tell me what's going on?" Peakes questioned. The guards finally backed away and resumed the job they were being paid to do.

"When I came back, there was someone in Rose's room, and they weren't being nice either. She seemed genuinely scared, like they were threatening her. She wouldn't let me in; I had to break down the door, and once I was in, she was alone, but still scared. She tried to convince me it was a nightmare, but I know better than that. She was lying to my face. I have no doubt in my mind that it had something to do with the murder. "

"And the first thing you choose to do is try to start a fist fight with Scorpius Malfoy?" Peakes didn't seem to understand my train of thought. What wasn't he getting? I understood it perfectly.

"Well, yeah. Well, okay, not the fist fight part. But my first thought was to get Malfoy to talk. Rose was scared. Someone who sounds like that shouldn't be capable of murder. After hearing her like that and seeing her like that, of course I ruled her out. But there was no other reason for someone to be after her. There were only two sets of DNA found; that leaves Malfoy to be a player in this murder."

"I understand your reasoning, Lupin, but you can't just go jumping the containees!" Peakes groaned.

Okay, so he was right about that. Yeah, I shouldn't have acted like I was out for Scorpius Malfoy's blood or something.

In that next moment, I didn't quite know what to do next. I had done the first thing that came to mind, and that was corner Malfoy. In retrospect, I don't know what I expected. What was he gonna do? Fess up that, yeah, he was behind the murder or someone had forced him to do it. That he had framed Rose and that it was all a mistake that she had been pulled into this. What was I after? I guess thinking about Rose and her pain sends me over the edge.

But what was supposed to be next now? Where did we go from here?

Exhaling and still catching my breath, I put my hands on my hips and said in a firm voice. Ah, here's where I get my professional sense back. "We need to get both of them into Wizengamot as soon as we can."

"Look, Ted," Peakes tried to convince me right off the bat. "We can't use Veritaserum. Other than the fact that you simply aren't supposed to lie in court, it's still easy to do so and we would have no way of telling. Either of them could be guilty, but we have no way of forcing the truth from either of them, and I don't think someone's about to fess up. Until we have gained sufficient evidence, enough to convict someone, there isn't a rush."

"There is a rush if Rose's safety is being threatened! I don't know how he found us, but he did!"

"A he?" Peakes asked. I think I was temporarily taken aback by the question. I didn't think it was relevant at all, but then I came to the agreement that, really, anything would help right now.

"Yes," I nodded. "I'm positive it was a guy."

"Thanks, Ted," Peakes said. I don't know what he was trying to do exactly, but it was clear that his goad was still to cool me off. He didn't want to spur any more anger from me. I think that's why he was remaining so professional because, let's face it, Peakes isn't professional. He will just do whatever he needs to get ahead in his job placement. That's why he's so desperate to do good as Acting Head in his case. No matter what the cost. Honestly, I think he's after Harry's job, but everyone knows Harry's the only one for that position as long as Harry's alive.

If he wasn't trying to stay professional and keep me from raging again, he would be screaming his head off at me. Just like he was about to do moments ago. Good thing he's smarter than that.

"You've done enough, and you've told us everything you can. There isn't anything more you can do. I'll take this information to the lawyers and the members of Wizengamot, and they will decide what to do with it from there. It's not our department."

I think he was already trying to convince himself with those words that he had done the best he could, more so than convince me. I just nodded and he kept on going.

"But you can't give away anything to Weasley. It's vital that you keep your cool there. We can't relocate you; it would be too suspicious to the Weasley girl. You can't blow your cover, so for now, we can't do anything. The only thing you can do is go back there, set up those charms and keep everyone possible out. Also, talk to her. Get closer to her. Then maybe she'll open up to you."

I didn't say anything. I was thinking over his words to me. Become her friend so she could confide in me? Become her friend just so I could help Peakes get ahead in the case and help solve it? Yes, it would be wonderful to find everything out, and I've always wanted to be able to call Rose my friend, but I wish that it wouldn't be under such forced conditions. I felt like I was breaking a whole new level of trust.

He kept on going. "Become her confidant. She'll have something helpful to say, no matter which direction it goes. She might have leads. She could be the guilty one. If she confesses to you, we can convict her."

I felt my chest puff out in anger again. I held my breath, keeping all my rage inside with it. How could I do that to Rose? Use our new friendship like that? This was wrong on so many levels. If she was guilty, Rose would rot in Azkaban for the rest of her life, loathing me for betraying her. Her family would probably hate me too for throwing their daughter into Azkaban. But even if Rose is innocent and isn't put in Azkaban, she will certainly learn eventually that it was me all along, and then she would hate me forever for betraying her trust like that.

This wasn't going anywhere good. What had I gotten myself into?

I want to quit. Right here, right now. I know Rose will never trust me again, despite whatever outcome. Let's face it, her trust had already been thrown down the drain, but I also felt as if I had a moral obligation to see this case through. I was vital to this layout of confinement. I could find out the exact information we needed. I was just letting my emotions get in the way.

I exhaled and looked Peakes in the eye. He had been staring at me for quite some time. Drowning in my tormented thoughts, I just hadn't noticed. He was waiting for some kind of reaction from me. I finally spoke, voicing other worries, but on a bigger scale, my words were no comparison to my feelings of losing Rose as a friend forever after this case. "I'm doing my best. Keep in mind that I still have to act like Malfoy. I'm doing my best to be him while trying to warm up to her.

He pressed one more time to make sure I got the point. "I don't care. You better make it fast. Malfoy and the Weasley girl have their hearing in two weeks, and I want this case closed by the end of that hearing. No more extensions. Become her friend, become someone she can trust. Become her lover for all I care. Just get her to fess up to whatever she knows."

"And if she knows nothing?" I asked.

He turned on his heels and headed down the corridor. His ambiance gave me a rotting feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn't trust Peakes. He was up to no good. His words made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, made me feel obligated to see this case through even further for fear of Rose being harmed by Peakes himself. "Then that is a different matter that I will tend to," he said with a smirk.

He left me to stand in the containee corridor in shock. I slid against the wall to recuperate for a few moments as I thought things over.

I know Peakes wants Harry's job. But does he want it so badly to the extent that he would break the law? His words were not pointless; there was a deeper meaning to them that I had yet to understand. If I didn't do my job, if I didn't wiggle the truth free from Rose, would he force it from her? Would he hurt her? Shove Veritaserum down her throat?

The thoughts made me cringe. I was suddenly felt as if I were between a rock and a hard place. Torn between my want to whisk Rose away to some place where no one would ever find her, to turn Peakes in and call it quits. Then I was torn to see this case through to protect Rose from Peakes, to do the job and prove my thoughts that Rose had to be innocent. I had to show the world this was a huge mistake taken from a few hairs found on the Minister of Magic's dead, rotting body and tested by a few wands. Rose was innocent, and I had to prove that. I had to protect her from Peakes, but I knew I couldn't turn him in. No one would believe me if I ranted on about something that was just conjecture drawn from a snide comment.

Hell, Peakes is a big guy. I even feared he would hurt me if I opened my mouth even a centimeter.

When I finally knew what I had to do, I came out of my thoughts and realized that I was shaking. My breathing was rapid, and my palms were clammy. I finally pulled myself off of the ground and wiped my sweaty palms on my denim jeans. I stood up taller and prepared myself to perform outstandingly, to exceed Peakes' expectations. I had to do it myself if I wanted it to be done the right way.

I prepared myself to apparate back to the summer house, thinking only one thing: I have to gain Rose's trust. No matter the cost, no matter what it takes.

Back in my bedroom at the summer house, I changed quickly back into Scorpius and disposed of the jeans that I was now tripping on. I put on the correct pair, shut off the music, and crept out into the hallway. As I expected, it was deserted and the door to Rose's room was still shut. There was no doubt in my mind that she was still in there. Part of me said to leave her alone, that she had had a rough day and I should leave her alone, but I reminded myself that I had two weeks. Two weeks. That was the shortest amount of time I had ever been allotted to gain someone's trust.

I knocked weakly. I didn't want to get a rejection from her, but I also had a feeling that she was attempting to sleep. So I tried to be as gentle as possible. Her door wasn't locked, so I pushed it open and popped my head in. Sure enough, she was curled up in the large bed, drowning in the goose feathers of the plush duvet. Her hair was a mess about her head, and I couldn’t tell if she was conscious or not. She didn't move or respond though, so I crept further in and shut the door behind me.

When I was fully inside, I realized I didn't quite know why I was there? What was I going to do? I was just full of spontaneous actions for the day, I guess.

I slowly approached the bed where her still form laid, and I bent over to tell if she was actually asleep. Her eyes were shut and her breathing was steady. I think it was safe to say that she was asleep. I quietly kicked my shoes off and made up my mind. Gently, I pulled back the covers and slid in next to her. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close. Involuntarily, she made a pleased grunt and nuzzled into my side. She buried her face into my neck, and I sighed with relief as my hands settled on her back.

She smelt of the flower she was named after mixed lightly with honey. It was pleasant, and I only smiled, allowing myself to sleep as she was.

I didn't really know what I was doing just yet. I was moving blindly and vicariously into this. If she awoke to find Scorpius Malfoy holding her, I didn't quite know what I would say. What my excuse would be. At least she wasn't waking up and shoving me out of her bed, but perhaps the shoving was just delayed by a few hours. Clearly she had willingly accepted my presence, even if she was unconscious. But if she woke up, freaking out, I could use that to my reasoning as to why I was in bed with her. Perhaps I could throw in the fact that she was saying Scorpius' name in her sleep. Clever, yeah? At least I had something to use as leverage.

But I did know what I was trying to be to her, what I would always be to her even after the day when she wouldn't trust me anymore. Her protector. I wasn't going to let anything hurt her. So I drifted off in to sleep.

I could think of my excuse later on as to why Scorpius Malfoy was holding her so tightly.

Chapter 11: Friends? Friends.
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I awoke to a gasp, and I received a harsh shove on my chest. It wasn't enough to send me spiraling out of the bed, but it was enough to bring me out of my sleep. At first, I didn't quite register what was going on. Why was I being shoved? Then I heard Rose's voice, and that's when I remembered. How I crawled into her bed while she was sleeping, put my arms around her, how she responded by unconsciously welcoming my presence, how I was supposed to be her confidant.

"What the hell are you doing?!" she shouted in my ear.

I didn't jump. I hardly moved. I should have been more prepared for an outrage when I woke up. I only grunted and rubbed my face with my hands, shoving my head back into the pillow that permeated my senses with the sweet smell of her. I folded it around my head, blocking my ears to drown out her sound. When she saw that I wasn't making any movement to leave, she started shoving weakly at my body, scrambling beneath the covers, as if she could shove me out of the bed. But that was pointless.

I didn't move. I found I was too drowsy from - let's not lie here - the best nap of my entire life. I almost wanted to reach out and grab for her, to hold her again and just drift back into sleep and not have to worry about anything, to completely avoid her wrath.

"Malfoy!" Her shout was suddenly next to my ear, coming from the other side. It was clear that she had jumped out of the bed and was now standing beside it, leaning over me and demanding that I explain. "Answer me!"

"So sleepy, Weasley," I mumbled. My voice was muffled by the pillow, but it was enough to show that I hadn't provided an answer.

She shook my shoulders and turned me over. I kept my eyes squeezed shut though. I refused to look at her angry demeanor. I didn't want to see her looking at me like that. But I saw her anyway. I felt something prodding at my eyes, and I tried to move away, but Rose's fingers were pulling my eyelids apart in the next second. I let out a scream and protected my vision from her prying fingers.

"What are you doing in my bed, Malfoy?!"

"I don't remember!" I defended weakly. I realized how stupid it sounded, but I needed time to organize my thoughts! I needed an answer, and quick! I could generally think on the spot, come up with something witty that couldn't even be questioned, but I found myself completely out of ideas. I racked my brain for something as fast as I could.

"Lie," Rose stated blatantly, folding her arm across her chest. She tapped her foot impatiently, wiggling her nose.

"I went to my room, you fell asleep, but then I heard you yelling!" The words just began to spill out of my mouth. I had no idea where they were coming from, but hey, they seemed pretty good so far! I was impressed with myself! "I thought you were awake and that something was wrong! So I came to check, but you must have been having a nightmare. You were having some sort of fit and talking in your sleep. I tried to calm you down, but I didn't want to wake you! So I just stayed and tried to keep you quiet, but I must have fallen asleep! Anything that happened after that is beyond me!"

"You rotten liar!"

"Rose, I promise!" Lie. As I looked at it, she really did know me well. Well, not completely. Because I was actually Teddy Lupin pretending to be Scorpius Malfoy, but she could sense when I was lying or telling the truth, no matter who I was trying to be. No matter who I was or who I had turned into already on this crazed murder case. "You were having a nightmare!"

"I don't remember having a nightmare!"

"You're probably just telling yourself that," I said, pointing a finger at her. I puffed out my lips and gave her a convincing look. It seemed quite Malfoy-ish to me, to try and make Rose doubt herself for his own benefit, to throw in a random interjection for further persuasion. I also thought it was brilliant because, not only did it seem like the Malfoy thing to do, but it was also in my personality to do the same. Finally one less thing I had to worry about in clashing personalities.

When her mouth clamped shut, I felt a stroke of success. Finally succeeding at something! It took her a moment to consider it, but she finally shook her head. "No!" she argued in return. "I am not telling myself that. I wasn't having a nightmare."

“Sometimes people don't remember. And you don't know what you do while you're sleeping! I'm telling you; you were shouting and I definitely helped."

She didn't have anything to say to that. Success again! After she was quiet for a long time, our eyes just staring into one another's, I finally spoke up. "Weasley, I don't get why it's such a big deal."

She blanched, rapidly blinking. She was now acting like I had moments ago, scrambling as fast as she could to find an answer to my statement. It was now my turn to decide if she was lying or not.

"I-It's not!" she spluttered. "I just wanted to know."

Then she turned on her heels and left the room, leaving me to analyze her words.

Lying. That was for sure. But why. Clearly it was a big deal to her, otherwise she wouldn't have reacted like that, and it wouldn't be such a big deal if she simply wanted to know. If she just wanted to know, why not a casual question? Why try to push me from her bed, shout, yell, and get angry? There was something deeper than she let on. There was a reason, and it clearly was a big deal. Diagnosis: lying.

She was lying for sure. I would have otherwise been angry. I'm a person who wants to know the truth; I hate it when people lie to me, but who enjoys being lied to their face? But I understood why she was lying to me. She was making a big deal out of nothing. It wasn't really a big deal that we were cuddling, but it was to her for no good reason. If there was a reason, then it had to do with her feelings for Malfoy and that alone.

I threw back her covers and jumped out of the bed, chasing after her. Once again, I didn't quite know what I was doing. I really needed to get better at this quick witted stuff. We travelled through the house at a quick pace, and I followed her all the way until the water of the ocean began to dampen our toes. The sun was setting across the horizon, and the tide was rolling in. I felt the salt water lap at my feet, my toes wiggling into the sand.

I came to a stop behind her as she faced the ocean, perhaps wishing she could swim away into the vast sea. I reached out my hands, debating on whether or not I should touch her. I know she had left the bedroom to get away from me, but sometimes people act the direct opposite of what they truly need. I know people will sometimes run away when all they need is comfort. Maybe Rose just needs comfort.

Her confidant. It was my job to comfort her, thanks to Peakes, but I also had this deeper urge to make sure she was all right, to be there for her because I simply wanted to.

I bit my lip, torn between the decision to hold her or to simply stand there and wait for her to say something in her own time. I finally pushed my hands forward. I touched her with only the tips of my fingers at first, grazing her hips. When she didn't swat my hand away, I stepped closer to her and let my hands fully play out over her hips. I felt my chest press against her back, and that was when I wrapped my arms fully around her.

I locked my hands together and let them rest against her abdomen. I could feel how tense she was, her mind befuddled with thoughts of whatever was going on deep inside her and her temptation to probably run away from me. But she didn't. Her shoulders finally slackened, and I smiled. We were making great progress today. Her arms left her side and she folded them across her chest. The wind blew her hair, and it distorted my vision, but I didn't mind. I loved her smell, and her hair was soft against my skin. I noticed how small and fragile she seemed in my arms, as if I could squeeze and I would break her in half. It was such a different feeling, knowing the kind of person she is. How strong, independent, and open-minded she is. Now, in my arms, she felt the opposite, like I was her stronghold.

"What are you doing to me?" she finally whispered.

Her words sent a chill down my spine, and I debated retracting my arms. She brought forward thoughts I hadn't even considered. That maybe I was only screwing with her thoughts more and that maybe that was the exact opposite of what she needed. There had to be a lot of crap going on up there for her right now. I nearly pulled away, but her actions told me not to. She turned so that she was facing me, and I was vaguely aware of my fingertips now grazing her bum. I was entering a whole new territory here, and I didn't quite know how that made me feel.

"Rose," I began. Her name felt good on my tongue. I had spoken it often enough throughout my entire life, but over the past few weeks of calling her Weasley, it felt good to return to her first name. I suddenly found my words hard to form, like I couldn't lie to her anymore. Feeling how weak she was against me, her arms pulled in between my chest and hers, like her strong personality was just a cover up of what was truly going on in the inside, I wanted to tell her everything. How I was the boy who pulled her from the sand so long ago, the boy who took care of her and always will. It was my job to look after Rosie. How could I do that by lying to her, knowing it will only hurt her more?

My voice was only a whisper. I let the wind carry it to her. "I'm here for you. I understand that there are some things you don't want to share. I guess I respect that, but you're having a difficult time. You should know that I'm here for you. I haven't forgotten how stubborn you are. I know you can think you can handle this on your own, but you don't have to. I know we had our disagreements in school and whatever, but it's been two years. I'm a different person. You, however, seem just as independent as ever, but isn't it time to put all those disagreements to rest? I would like to be your friend."

"I don't understand you," was all she said with a laugh sneaking its way into her voice.

I was able to smile at that. "That's because it's been two years since we've seen each other this much. If you took the time, then maybe you would begin to understand me. Friends are there for each other. I could be here for you, if you would let me."

"Why are you being so nice to me?" was her next question.

I didn't understand why she couldn't comprehend the kindness of some people's actions. What had Malfoy done to her that made her so reluctant to believe me? Why was she so adamant in believing that Malfoy couldn't be kind enough to offer friendship? It made me loathe the skin I was in. I kept telling myself that, if she knew it was truly me, she would understand.

"Because I have no reason not to be," was all I could manage.

She said nothing, only looked at her arms drawn against her chest between us. She fumbled with her fingers and finally looked up to me. Her lips were tightly pursed, and I could tell she was trying to hide her smile. I pressed my hands into the small of her back, showing her that I wasn't going anywhere, that I wouldn't let her fall. She finally nodded. "Okay."

"Okay?" I asked. I don't know why I was trying to clarify. If I made her give me the answer twice, she may change it mid-sentence. She could easily change her mind, but I couldn't believe what I was hearing. She nodded again; her grin was growing noticeably bigger.

I released her and offered her my hand. "Friends?"

She gripped it tightly and gave it a firm shake. "Friends."

When she dropped my hand, her mood suddenly changed. She gently pushed me away from her, distancing our bodies by a foot or so, and she gave me this look that was a mix between a smirk and a smile. Her ambiance seemed to have brightened in an instant. "All right," she began. "Now that we're friends, we tell each other the truth. So, was I really yelling in my sleep?"

Ah. So that's where she was going with this. Now was the time to prove how well I could lie. Honestly, I didn't know how well I could lie, but I seemed to be doing well thus far.

Rose was a pro at taking a deeper look on things and finding the truth beneath them. When she and her cousins would build forts in their younger years, Rose didn't demand a password. Instead, she demanded a secret, and if you lied, she somehow knew. There was no room for mess ups now.

I met her eyes. Wasn't the key to persuading someone you were telling the truth to make eye contact?

"Yes," I stressed and nodded.

"No ulterior motives?" she questioned, and I knew what she was trying to do. She was scanning my eyes for my lie. I wanted to cringe. Her gaze made me want to blurt the truth about everything. There was even this sinking feeling that, if she stared long enough, she would know it was me instead of Scorpius Malfoy.

"No ulterior motives," I chuckled, still shaking my head. "We're friends. This is called the friend zone."

She laughed at that, and the heavy weight that had come over me while waiting for Rose's analysis suddenly left. She must have believed me. She let go of my arms and turned away from me. She kicked at the sand, a new vibe taking over her. She was all smiles and her spirit had lifted.

"Fine. I'll believe you," she said with a laugh. "What's for dinner?"

She was trying to change the subject. Not yet!

"Nuh-uh!" I laughed, and I jogged up next to her again. She stopped to wiggle her toes into the sand. I rolled up my jeans and helped by pushing the wet ground onto the tops of her feet. "You can't change the subject. Not yet. If you demand the truth from me, I demand the same."

She clearly didn't like what I was telling her. Deep down, she knew where I was going with this, but I could tell that she wanted me to say it. So I pressed further. "Earlier today...When I broke down the door - "

"Which you are going to fix yourself, by the way! Before I go to bed tonight," she interjected by pointing an accusing finger at me.

I let a smile reach my lips, but dismissed it and continued on. "I will. Promise. But you weren't really telling the truth, were you?"

She didn't answer. More stone cold silence.

"You seriously aren't going to try to keep convincing me that?"

Rose sighed. We both knew the truth, so I didn't know why she kept trying to deny it. Maybe she was still in denial herself.

"I guess not," she whispered painfully.

Instead of continuing to wiggle her feet into the sand, she kicked them free and plopped down into the sand, white shorts and all. She looked pathetic on the ground, knees pulled up to her chest, arms already wrapped comfortingly around her knees. She was rocking back and forth, now staring off into the sea and appearing to be completely off in another world. I sat down next to her and gently patted her back before distracting myself with fiddling with the sand. I felt the fine grain between my fingers, rubbing until it fell back to the earth.

"Wanna talk about it?" I finally pushed.

"Not really," she dismissed.

I huffed. I guess that was fine. Within the past five minutes, I had made plenty of progress. She could call me her friend, and I had at least gotten a sign from her that she would let her lie of having a nightmare go. It was two steps in the right direction. I didn't have to get the answer from her today; I just had to know I could wiggle it from her eventually. But I could keep on trying.

"Rose, I understand that," I muttered quietly, "but if someone was hurting you, shouldn't we owl that Auror who brought us here? We could be in danger. I could know for sure if you would tell me."

"I'm fine, Scorpius," she said.

That name. So unfamiliar to me. I almost gave a jolt at being called it. It was so different. I had just begun to be accustomed to being called Malfoy, and now she was calling me Scorpius. In those past few moments, I had forgotten who I was trying to be. It was becoming easier and easier to act and talk around Rose, like I didn't even have to try.

Scorpius, it's such a weird name anyway. I don't like it.

"I'm fine," she said again for good measure.

"Will you at least let me put up some extra protection charms? I know Scamander is your friend, but I think we would be better off."

She was quiet for many moments. I could tell she was thinking deeply about it, and she finally nodded. "Fine. I can agree to that," she said.

Yes, another success!

"Well, that's good," I said. "Because I would have put up the charms anyway."

Rose actually laughed. She didn't look offended or like I had made the conversation take a wrong turn. She was smiling, laughing, and it was all real. Because of me. She joked along with me actually. "Of course you would," she said.

"Hey!" I chuckled in an accusing yet playful voice. I rocked slightly in my sitting position to nudge her with my shoulders. She nudged back, and when our laughter died down, I pulled my wand out of my pocket and subtly gave it a wave. The sand near our feet began to make a small castle, and her eyes fixed on the small grains that meshed together to form the shape. My eyes, however, were fixed on hers. I watched as her day brightened, and it gave me a sense of hope. I believed that, maybe, this would all be okay.

She could be so stern, so serious. She was such an independent woman; nothing could assuage her thoughts if her mind was set, but then there were times when she looked free as a bird and made me feel the same just by looking at her. She could seem so fragile, delicate, so sweet just when I thought she had the toughest backbone around. I had yet to understand how she worked, but I was curious to find out.

It was in that moment that I became truly proud I could finally call her my friend. We had finally begun to close that gap that had existed all those years. I was finally getting to know Rose. Rose, the girl who Bill would rant on about having the most astounding memory charms just like her mother, after having practiced them during her training before being deported to Egypt for the first time a year ago. Rose, the girl who Albus claimed could do three back handsprings in a row and not even be a tad dizzy. I would be toppling over, so more power to her.

Rose had always seemed like such a great, unique girl, and a girl that I was now regretting our lack of friendship. She was too wonderful to not know. Why had I always neglected the opportunity to get to know her better? Whatever the reason was, I must have been crazy. I was just grateful that she was now my friend.

Of course, she thinks this new friendship is with Scorpius Malfoy. But maybe someday we can have what we never did. Maybe someday...

Chapter 12: Full Moon Rising
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Disclaimer: I do not own the song sang in this chapter. The lyrics are italicized. All rights belong to the artist of that song played the Goblet of Fire movie.

Author's Note: And the next chapter! Thank you so much to everyone who is following the story so faithfully. It really means a lot to me.

I know the pace has been a little off, but things will start to pick up again next chapter. Thank you so much for being so patient.

Be sure to review and let me know what you think! Think Peakes has something to do with it? ;) Guess you will have to wait to find out! Enjoy!

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I have to say that the rest of that day quickly turned around. It had started off terribly, and to be honest, it had been a long and eventful day. The busiest one since Rose and I came to the summer house, for sure. I had been to the Ministry twice, testified once, consoled Rose, taken a nap with her, and now this. All in all, the most important factor about the day was that I could finally call Rose my friend.

Sure, there was a lot more to the day that probably should be more important to me, but the in grand scheme of things, it wasn't. I valued this new relationship with her. Yes, I would have to come up with an idea to get Rose to the Ministry and watch her testify in two weeks, and I think I could honestly say that Peakes was terrifying me to an unusual extent, but that wasn't the most important thing about my day.

After our talk by the beach had quieted down, Rose and I had made a small sand castle. Then we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves afterwards my jumping on it and crushing it for no reason at all. Back at the house, I started to make dinner. Rose didn't leave to escape to her room this time. She actually skinned the potatoes for me and watched me do the rest. I could tell that cooking was not one of her talents. The amount of take-out she must eat probably surpassed the amount I ate when first living by myself. If she had wanted to cook at the flat she would generally rent out in Egypt, she would have a much more difficult time trying to whip something together with all the foreign ingredients she had to work with. I would have gotten take-out too.

"One night I'll make you cook something. See what cooking talents you have up your sleeve," I had mused to her as I cut the potatoes.

She had joked to me about lacking any experience in the cooking field what-so-ever. We talked about what she did in Egypt, how my assumptions were correct in her amount of take-out. We had a great dinner, and I believe that we would have stayed up until the early hours of morning, but we had both had a long day. So shortly after we ate, cleaned the kitchen, and had a cup of tea out in the hammocks, we went to bed. When Rose disappeared into her room, I stayed up a little longer just to put up those protective charms. I knew we were safe now; only Rose and I could come and go as we pleased. And when I told Rose that we had more protection, she wouldn't be told that she could even leave. That moment wouldn't come until we would both leave in two weeks for her hearing.

Not even that Scamander kid could come and go. Which I couldn't quite place a reason on that matter as to why I was relieved to know he couldn't drop by anymore. I wanted him to stay away, and I didn't know why I felt that way. It worried me for unknown reasons, but I told myself I was simply being protective.

But after all that, and despite all the bad for the day, I fell asleep with one of the biggest smiles on my face.

When I woke up the following morning, I woke up to an unfamiliar scent. I didn't open my eyes just yet; I could feel the intensity of the sun pouring into the summer house. But I inhaled deeply, and the scent of cinnamon pastries finally registered with me. I sat up slowly, reaching up to pat my crazed hair down. I threw the covers back, stretched, yawned some, and then entered the hallway.

It would be a good day. I could tell that much. A much better one than yesterday.

The sun had brightened the atmosphere in the house. Instead of being locked up, worrying about damaging my relationship with Rose, finding out who is guilty and who is innocent, I felt like I should be on vacation. But it was good though; it kept me from thinking about all the horrible things going on. Instead, I did treat it like a vacation. When at the house, I couldn't do anything more to help. So why mull over something you can't change?

I entered with a smile, the sun warming my skin, my eyes in search of Rose. I found her at the kitchen table. She had her legs folded beneath her as she sat in a chair, bouncing about in a rather animated fashion. She was munching on something with a hot cup of coffee beside her. Her hair was beautiful; I'll say that outright. It was curly, and she clearly hadn't done anything to tame it. But that was fine with me. I had realized that that was how I liked it best.

"Could have put on a shirt," she commented in between her bounces and taking a bite out of her breakfast. Her voice was a monotone, but I looked at her and saw a joking tone in her eyes and a smirk reaching her face.

I looked down at my body. Oh, I was shirtless. I hadn't realized or considered it important, but with the warm atmosphere, I hadn't even noticed. I was perfectly content. I didn't know why I was trying to impress anyone, if that was the case, but I secretly thanked Malfoy for at least staying in shape. He's pretty cut.

I looked back to her and rolled my shoulders. "Whatever. A man's chest new to you, Rosie?" I asked sarcastically.

She only laughed. As soon as the words had left my mouth, I noticed that I had called her Rosie for the first time while disguised as Malfoy. I wondered to myself if that would appear odd to her, hearing Scorpius Malfoy call her Rosie. But if she considered it weird, she didn't react to it.

I changed the subject as I looked into the kitchen for what smelled so good. I asked, seeming to be pretty surprised. "Did you cook?"

"Oh, Merlin, no," she laughed. She waved a hand of dismissal, and she seemed to know how absurd the question was just as much as I knew. "I can conjure things too though, you know. You just choose to conjure ingredients and then do the work yourself. I conjure the finished product."

"See, I call that cheating," I said. I pointed a finger at her even as I moved to go cut myself as slice of the cinnamon bread on the counter. It was still warm, even. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat opposite of her. I sunk my teeth into the bread. It was delicious, and I found that I inhaled the thing in a matter of seconds. I looked to cut myself another piece, but I saw Rose's surprise on her face and decided to wait a few minutes.

"Geez, Malfoy. Hungry much?"

"Really, I guess," I said. I took a sip at my coffee, feeling my stomach growl. As the coffee hit, I realized how hungry I was. The churning over nothing, the growls. I never woke up this hungry. Well, only on one occasion did I wake up this hungry....

Oh, crap...

My face dropped and I looked at the empty plate in front of me. I wanted it to be full, full of food. And not just Rose's conjured cinnamon rolls that I remember being her mother's splendid recipe, but full of meat. Steak.

Oh, steak...

The full moon was fast approaching, and it had completely slipped my mind.

I don't turn into a werewolf like my dad did. You have to be bitten for that to actually happen, but I did inherit a few of those traits that go with being a full-fledged werewolf. I craved steak like no other, I ate enough for five people during the full moon phase, I would rage about the smallest things that erupted out of nowhere. It was why I freaked out yesterday in front of Peakes, why I basically attacked Malfoy. I had even said so. Why hadn't I made a stronger mental note about it instead of letting it slip my mind?

Rose was trying to be subtle about noticing my changing demeanor, and I tried to act like I didn't notice. I didn't need her to ask me any questions. If she asked me anything in this moment, I would be at loss for answers except for the ones holding the truth.

I simply tried to dismiss her looks and not get up to fix myself a steak for breakfast in that moment. I had to resist getting a second piece already, knowing it was probably too soon to do so. But I had to divert the topic that was looming over us if I didn't want to explode. So I drummed on the table with the palms of my hands and whistled under my breath, leaning back in the wooden chair on its back two legs like I was perfectly content.

Rose finally said something. Glad she could come up with something. I, for one, was lost. "What are we going to do today?"

I was glad to hear her pair the two of us together for our activities for the day. It only reminded me of our new friendship, and that led to the idea that she probably wouldn't lock herself in that room of hers for hours on end anymore. This was great news.

I rolled my shoulders. "I dunno. It will be a lovely day. Wanna do something down by the beach?"

"I can build a bigger and better sand castle than you," she challenged with a smirk.

Oh, game on!

I snorted, followed by a laugh as I took that task. "Challenge accepted!"

"No magic involved," she said. She had a finger pointing at me in a threatening fashion, but I knew she wouldn’t do anything with it other than maybe scratch me with one of those long nails of hers. She was just setting up the ground rules.

"Done," I nodded in agreement.

"You're so gonna lose," she said in a quiet and exasperated voice.

I almost sat up to retort in a jesting tone, but I remembered who I was. Who I was trying to be. Malfoy. I had almost said that I had years of experience from being beachside at Bill and Fleur's, but I remembered I couldn't say that. And that would be exactly the kind of advantage that Rose thought she had on me. Well, she would be in for a surprise. Guess I would just come off as a natural at building sand castles. This would be fun.

It would be good to be out of the house. I didn't do well in confined spaces when the full moon was around. I think I was easily set off by nearly everything. People who said the wrong things to me, music that was too loud. Sometimes I even felt like the walls of buildings were coming down on me, suffocating me. It was always good for me to be outside during that time. Until the moon came up at least, but that was when I would go back indoors, having a nice steak, and go to bed. If we could exhaust ourselves outside today, maybe I wouldn't have too much to worry about today.

We finished our breakfast. I helped her clean up and stole a few pieces of the bread when she wasn't looking. Then Rose did something that I believed would change the way the two of us lived together for the rest of our stay here. She opened the windows, letting that wonderful sea breeze in, and she turned on the wizard radio Ruckman had on one of the shelves. She cranked it up loudly, and the house suddenly had the vibe of springtime. I felt like I was at Bill and Fleur's, the familiar friendly and loving atmosphere, the feeling of togetherness and a sense of perfection. When we were there, even though there were always small troubles, no one ever let it get to them.

I had watched the Weasleys and Potters thrive even in the face of suffering or times of turmoil. They had all seen so much evil in their pasts, I guess, that they knew what the true horrors in life were. They couldn't let the small things like a low income or other day to day struggles get to them. Watching them over the years had been inspiring, a trait I hope I could one day possess, and now it was apparent that Rose had received it as well.

She was a prime suspect in a murder case, and she was holding herself together so well. Just like her mother and father. Just like her family. Rose was a strong woman.

I tried to not act like her actions surprised me for fear that she may turn it all around. I was still afraid that I would scare her off into her room once again, so even as she started singing while I was cleaning, I said nothing. I had a wide smile on myself though, and I found that, soon enough, I even started singing along.

I knew today would be a great day. I wouldn't have any rages. Not with Rose around like this. I could already tell that she did something different to me, the way she acted, the cheery vibe she carried herself with and placed on the entire room and over me. How could I not smile?

When the song grew with life, I found that I remembered the lyrics perfectly. It was an older song by the Weird Sisters. They were still around, but this song came out while my parents were still alive, even. I wasn't a singer; it wasn't pleasant to hear, and I only did it when I was comfortable with myself. Half the time I didn't even notice how into a song I was getting, and I believe that was what happened next. I turned to face Rose from wiping down the table and found myself bobbing my head to the song, shouting the lyrics.

She laughed, enjoying the song and both our singing. She clearly didn't care that I wasn't the best singer. Perhaps I would get crap about it later, but for now it didn't matter. I sang louder, and so did she. Rose had some lungs, that was for sure. She was jumping around in the living room. As she tossed her head, her long, red hair moved majestically behind her.

We sang right through that song and into the next, another by the Weird Sisters. At one point I don't even think what I was doing could be called singing. It was more shouting as I joined Rose in the living room. She jumped up onto one of the couches, bouncing around. I took one of her hands to help her leap from the couch to the coffee table where she kicked off the magazines ecstatically, and we danced around while I held on to her hand. We were laughing as we sang, "Can you dance like a hippogriff? Ma ma ma, ma ma ma, ma ma ma!"

Rose asked over the music with a genuine laugh, "You were the life of the Slytherin common room, weren't you?"

Slytherin? What was she talking about? Oh, right. Malfoy...

I chuckled, shuffling on my feet with her hand in mine. "Of course," I said. I wanted to say more, to keep the conversation going, to say something that could have gone on inside the Slytherin common room. But I didn't know. I didn't know any names of the Slytherins in Rose's year. I didn't go to Hogwarts at the same time as them. The only name I knew was Scorpius, and, well. I was already him.

I did know, though, that relationships between the Gryffindors and the Slytherins had improved greatly over the years. I had only heard stories of how fowl and cruel the lot of them were, but hardly any of them acted like such gits anymore. When I say this, I'm not saying they particularly get along these days, but they don't seek out trouble with each other anymore. There's just a mutual understanding between everyone.

I guess I could bullshit my way through some of it...

"You know, some of those Slytherins are dull duds," I said this as nonchalantly as I could manage. "You have to keep the atmosphere alive in there."

"I'm sure you and Rosier did a fine job of doing that. I'll give that to you. I didn't know you were capable of being so much fun," she said. She jumped from the coffee table to the couch again.

I didn't recognize the name Rosier, other than the one that stood out to me as a Death Eater during the Second Wizarding War, Evan Rosier. Perhaps his grandchild that Scorpius was friends with; maybe it was one of Scorpius' closer friends. I would just have to play along with it.

"Sure did," I smiled.

Luckily Rose didn't ask more about that subject. She hopped down from the couch and said in a perky tone. "I'm going to change. Meet you down by the beach?"

"Race you," I said, and before she could even register my challenge, I was bolting into my bedroom. I threw the door shut and scrambled out of my jeans and t-shirt. I pulled on a plain pair of shorts, sliding into my sandals. I was leaving the room in a matter of seconds, and as I left, I could see that Rose was still in her bedroom. But of course she was; she had gotten in there after I had and I knew she had more to deal with. Girls and making decisions on clothing and all...

I snagged a towel from the bathroom and was leaving the house before I knew it, headed straight for the beach. However, before the door could shut behind me, I heard Rose shout from somewhere within her room. "This isn't fair!"

I only laughed and set off at an easy stroll. I was maybe halfway down the grassy hill, the ground beginning to change from the champagne color grass to sand, when I heard a rumble behind me. I looked over my shoulder and Rose was sprinting down the hill faster than I had ever seen her move. Her eyes were ablaze with life and our game. She had pulled her hair out of its ponytail and was only wearing a long, thin white tank top over her swimsuit.

I made a noise of surprise and picked up my pace. Clearly I wouldn't win that easy. The sand between my toes slowed down my momentum, and Rose was by my side in a matter of seconds. She shouted wildly. "Never give up that easy! I'm going to win!"

I was gaining speed, and that was clearly unacceptable to her, so she grabbed onto the waistband of my shorts and tried to tug me down. She was unsuccessful, but it was a good effort. We ended up reaching the beach at the same time. Afterwards we simply laughed and started to finalize the rules of our sand castle competition. We agreed on things like no tampering with the other's castle, no stealing ideas, no using magic other than to conjure supplies, and so on and so forth. When we finished, I drew a line in the sand with my toe to show her side and mine and our competition was a-go.

We conjured numerous buckets of all shapes and sizes. It was a tedious but fun task. Every now and then I could hear Rose snickering from somewhere over in that huge hole she dug in the sand. My castle was coming along nicely. It took some time because weren't just making any old sand castle. Ours would be intricate. We stopped when we were thirsty to go up to the house and have a glass of water. Rose made a pitcher of lemonade; I made us some sandwiches. We had our lunches in the hammocks on the patio, soaking in the beautiful day. We would stop every now and then to tease the other about what was better about their own castle.

We had a marvelous day and it wasn't until dinner time when we finished up the job. "Done!" I shouted over my work, appraising the castle that stood as tall as my head, towers in each corner, a bridge you could even crawl under, and a moat in the front for any possible waves.

"So am I!" I heard Rose shout, and I peered around my castle to look at hers. It was just as good. I like to win and I don't give in easily, but I'll admit we had a tie. "Mine's better," she chimed with a smile.

"They're the same!" I laughed.

Just as she opened her mouth to retort, high tide rolled in and the ocean water filled the deep hole Rose stood in, taking half of her castle with her. "No, no, no! Not fair!"

I snickered. I knew she had worked hard. At least I had seen it before the waves took it down. I wanted to be kind, but how could I not tease her about that? "Ahh, sucks for you! Should have built a moat like I did."

"Whatever!" she shouted. I looked at her and saw clumps of sand coming my way. I shouted and ducked behind the safety of my castle. Rose was throwing sand.

"Hey now!" I protested. "If that's how it's going to be, then you're under attack!"

Next thing I knew, we were both throwing chunks of sad. Rose was malicious and excited in our castle wars. I was doing my best to be careful with where I threw the sand; I didn't want to nail her in the eyes with it. It was all fun and games, but it wouldn't be if someone got hurt.

I don't know how long we messed around for. The tide eventually washed away both of our castles, leaving us standing in heaps of wet sand, just throwing it at one another until we were covered in it. We rinsed off in the ocean, and by then the sun was setting. That was when I remembered that the full moon was rising tonight. I would need to get inside soon.

We retreated indoors shortly after. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to tease Rose about how she had become a human lobster in a matter of hours. I'm sure I was just as sun-burnt, but I couldn't tell yet. I would probably feel the pain of it tomorrow, and I tried to forget about that.

We had a great dinner. I cooked steak, and while there were only two of us, I cooked four. I told her we would have the other two for a later time, but I actually ate them in my room after she went to bed. We had had a long day, and as I was hoping, the sun had drained much of our energy. I didn't have to come up with any excuses about going to my room for the night. We were both exhausted, but I knew I still had a long night ahead.

Once I was in my room, the sun gone for the day and the full moon taunting me through its appearance in my window, I felt like a different person. Without Rose, I was aware of everything else that I had chosen to neglect all day. I felt the pain of my burnt skin, peeling with the sun's heat. I felt my only growing hunger for red meats. I tried to think about Rose, our day together, how she made me feel, how she calmed me and soothed me, but I found that I could only think about the very things that would ignite that small flicker of a flame into a blazing fire of hatred and anger. I thought about Peakes, how I was beginning to question if he was the root of this all, how I was betraying Rose, how someone had hurt her yesterday.

Suddenly any happiness I had had from the day quickly vanished. I was lying on my bed, clenching at the covers beneath me to divert any anger or rages, but I knew it would be of no use. I was fueled by my need to protect Rose, only then reminded of how yesterday I hadn't. I had let someone hurt her; I hadn't been there for her, and I could have stopped it.

The walls were beginning to feel as if they were coming in on me. Claustrophobia. That was exactly how I felt then. I squeezed my eyes shut as if I could force this world away from me. I could hear my heart drumming wildly in my chest.

I wish I had been smart enough to grab my tonics before coming here. I didn't think this case would take so long.

I gave a jolt, and I yanked the duvet straight off the bed. I rolled from the bed and onto the floor, throwing the duvet over my head as if it would hide me from the moon that I felt was only egging my rages on. I rocked back and forth, I'm ashamed to admit. There I was, huddled on the floor against the bed with the duvet over my head, rocking back and forth in the fetal position as if it would change anything.

Claustrophobia. I had to get out. But I couldn't go outside. Not without the moon making it worse, not without Rose seeing. It was impossible.

Had to make the room bigger.

I gave a distressed yell and rose from the ground. I threw the duvet down, and I didn't know exactly what I was doing next. I was all over the place. I punched the walls, pushed at them as if I could make them expand. I grabbed picture frames and threw them on the floor, listening to the sound of the glass shatter. I grabbed books, yanked them off their shelves and ripped the spines clear away from its pages. I clawed at the walls, throwing any hangings across the room; I tore at the wallpaper until I could hear it shred and the wall was stained with the blood from my fingertips.

In a matter of seconds I had become a crazed mess, and there was no way of stopping me.

If only I had been smart enough to silence my bedroom beforehand. The sound of Rose pounding at my door, asking me if I was all right, was inevitable.

Chapter 13: Breakable
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I woke up the next morning on the floor of my bedroom at the summer house. When I opened my eyes and turned slowly on the hard wooden floor, I felt like I had just come to from a crazed, drunken night being greeted by a terrible hang over. Of course, I knew that wasn't the case but it didn't change anything.

The duvet was twisted about my waist, and I sat up as slowly as I could, rubbing gently at my eyes. My eyes adjusted to the light. I could tell it was well into the daytime, and I wondered how long I had slept for. When I looked about the room, I muttered under my breath in surprise. "Holy shit..."

I was disappointed in myself as I appraised my work. The floor was littered with glass and scraps of book pages, random pieces of parchment, and pillow feathers. A heap of books with distorted spines was next to the shelves. Some of the wall paper was peeling away from the wall beneath it; some already littered the floor. There was a decent patch of missing paper from each wall, and in each patch, there were distinct red smears of blood.

I lifted my hands. Sure enough, my nails had feathers snagged in them, uneven and coated with dried blood. I picked a piece of glass out of my palm, muttering to myself, "I need a straightjacket."

Sometimes I don't understand why I get the way I do when the full moon comes around. You have to be bitten to be a werewolf; I had only inherited a few traits. Some moons were worse than others, but I had never had anything like this before. You would think that I had actually turned into a werewolf last night with a mess like this.

I rose slowly, the duvet falling to the floor, and I went to the door. I opened it slowly and stepped out into the hall, still rubbing my eyes. I wasn't looking where I was going, so it was no surprise to me that I actually tripped over something. But what surprised me was what it was. I looked to see what the object was and found that it was Rose. She was slumped against the wall beside the door in sleep.

Had she slept there all night? What was she doing?

I knelt down in front of her, not quite knowing what to do. Even though I had tripped over her leg, she was still completely out. Her head lolled about, but I couldn't see her face. Her radiant red hair hid her face from me. Uneasily I reached out and brushed her hair away from her face. Beneath the red mass, she looked peaceful and I hated that I was about to disturb her, but I figured that even if she wanted to go back to sleep, her bed would be more comfortable.

I touched her cheek and whispered her name. My hand molded against her cheek, and I rubbed gently with my thumb. "Rosie," I ushered. "Rose, what are you doing?"

"Hmmm?" She finally gave a stir. Her eyes fluttered open, and we made eye contact for a good while before either of us said anything.

I shook my head in confusion. "What are you doing? Did you sleep out here?"

"I guess I did..." she said, her voice faltering. It took her a moment for her to gather her bearings. I could tell that she felt a little out of element. She pushed her hair back, and it was only when she started to rub her eyes that I remembered my hand was still on her cheek. I retracted it and put it on her knee in a friendly fashion, giving a squeeze. The events of the previous night must have hit her because she looked startled then. "You were...You were freaking me out. I wanted to make sure you were okay, but you had the door locked! And, well, I didn't want to invade your privacy. You...I-I was worried."

"You were worried...?" I found myself asking with a smile. I didn't quite know why. I guess I found this somewhat groundbreaking that Rose was worrying about Malfoy. "About?"

"I was worried about you," she admitted in a bashful tone.

"Don't worry about me," I said in an ashamed voice. I didn't deserve her worry. If I could tell her the truth, I could understand her pity. But I would lie to her again in a matter of seconds, and that didn't deserve her pity.

"What happened in there last night?" she asked quietly. One of her hands covered mine, and our eyes made that kind of eye contact that made me want to just tell her everything. How could I lie directly to her face with those eyes?

I figured this conversation would last a little longer, so I maneuvered myself so that I was leaning against the wall next to her. Our shoulders brushed, but I didn't move my hand. I looked at the two of our hands, how hers was placed protectively over mine. I appraised it and the meaning behind it. How her dislike towards Scorpius Malfoy had changed so quickly to that of friendship, trust, and worry.

I couldn't help but smile.

When I didn't say anything, Rose gave my hand a weak squeeze and pressed further. "We had such a good day yesterday. I thought we forgot about everything."

"I-I know," I nodded, and before I even knew how I would play off my actions, Rose gave me an idea. "It did. It really did. You did. You helped me forget about everything. The trial, us being locked up here. It all helped, and I was able to while I was with you. Then we went to bed, and it just...It all came rushing back."

"What were you even doing?" she asked. She must have just noticed the scratched surface of the hand she was touching. She lifted it from her leg and gasped at the sight. I tried to pull it away; I didn't want her to see what I had done, but she wouldn't let me. She gasped in shock. "Scorpius! What the hell did you do?"

"Oh," I rolled my shoulders and tried to lighten the mood, "just scratched at the walls a bit."

"This is more than just scratching, Scorpius," she said in a soft and gentle tone. Her voice was delicate. It soothed me. I closed my eyes and just listened to her reprimand me for being so reckless. I was pulled out of my tranquility when she pulled a shard of glass out of my hand.

I yelped and tried to yank it away, but once again she wouldn't let me. She continued to pull out the feathers, random pieces of glass, all the while muttering her disappointment.

"I had no idea you..." She faltered. I guess she didn't know how to phrase it.

I thought I would help, though. I knew exactly what this was, and it was apparent that Scorpius Malfoy could play it off as well. For different reasons though, obviously. "You had no idea that I have rages."

"Yes," she said.

"S-Sometimes," I said, and as I began this conversation, I felt as if I were sharing a part of my real self with her.

"How often?" That gentle voice again.

"Every now and then," I answered. Once a month, I secretly thought. "It's not something that I would have expected you to know. I didn't do it much at Hogwarts. Only when I was by myself in the...Slytherin dormitory."

"What triggered it? I mean...If you would have let me in, I could have helped. We could have talked about it. There would have been no need to hurt yourself like this." That gentle voice. She was finished with my right hand and placed it delicately in her lap. I let my palm mold against her warm thigh and I let her take my left hand and go to work on that one. "We're here for each other, remember? We are all we've got here."

"I know. I'm sorry. I will next time," I nodded. I watched her face as she focused on her work, her brow pulled together, her nose slightly wrinkled, and her lips creased in a line. I didn't want her to think that yesterday had been a complete waste, so I did chime in with a smile. "Yesterday was a great day, wasn't it?"

"It really was," she giggled. "Although I am absolutely fried. My skin is on fire with this sunburn. I'll be spending today inside."

"Agreed," I said just as she finished with my left hand. She didn't let go of it; I let her hold on to it, turning it over between her hands. I found myself comparing our hands, how mine were large and calloused, and of course currently bleeding in this state, and how hers were small, how my fingers could curl over hers if I wanted them to, how I could probably hold her hands perfectly in mine.

She suddenly rose from her spot on the floor. As she did so, the pops and cracks the bones in her back made from an uncomfortable night on the floor did not go unnoticed. She grunted, and I stood up as well, following her into the bathroom. I watched her shuffle through the vials in the medicine cabinet. I didn't know what she was looking for, but she clearly did. So I waited patiently.

She finally pulled out a bottle of Essence of Dissany and asked me to put out my hands. I held them out to her, palms up, and let her put one drop of the liquid on each of my palms. The scratches, the deep cuts, the slivers of skin hanging off my nails suddenly vanished, and my hands felt a hundred times better. I sighed, rubbing my hands together.

Rose put the bottle away, chiming as she did so, "I don't know about you, but I didn't sleep well on that floor last night. I'm going to go back to bed for a few hours."

"I fell asleep on the floor too. I think I'll do the same."

We left the bathroom and I approached my bedroom, but I stopped when I remembered how destroyed it was. Rose peered into the room to see the damage I had done. The expression on her face showed that she was, at the least, appalled.

"But I kind of..." I faltered, for I didn't know what to say.

But Rose seemed to understand what I was getting at. She turned to face me, leaving my destroyed bedroom behind. She had a smile on her face and simply nodded. "I got it. You can come to my room."

I didn't say anything more. I simply smiled and followed her lead to her bedroom. We didn't say another word to each other as we simultaneously headed for her bed. I picked the left, and she picked the right. There was no arguing about it. We slid under the covers, and I gave her her respective space. I curled onto my side, the bed so inviting. I felt as if I were happily drowning in the goose feathered duvet, my body sinking into the mattress. I had just closed my eyes when I felt Rose shift from beside me. I then felt her cool cheek against the hot skin of my back. Her body moved closer to mine, and I felt her arm go around my waist and her hand rest on top of the duvet.

In any other circumstance, I would have changed this position. I would have gladly turned and put my arm around her in a protective manner because she clearly didn't mind physical contact in this sort of situation, but I remembered that she was taking care of me. She had just tended to my wounds, she was making sure I was all right; she was taking care of me. So I accepted it gladly, and I placed my hand over hers before drifting into sleep.

When we woke up, neither of us commented on the way we had slept. The day had disappeared; we had slept our way through it. Our positions had switched at some point during our sleep. I found myself wrapped around her, instead of the other way around like the nap had started off as. She was curled into a tiny ball, fitting perfectly into the curve of my body. She had pulled my hand into the arch of her body, taking me with her and holding it there, her stronghold.

I had to work my hand free from her grasp, and when it was, I felt the blood come rushing back to it.

But neither of us said anything about how we slept. I only assumed that Rose would accept this new friendship. The sharing of a bed didn't continue though. It didn't that night and the nights that followed. Rose and I spent the next two weeks bonding over our confinement together at the summer house. We repaired my bedroom, spent hours down by the beach, creating numerous games to entertain us in the sand and in the ocean; we would spend every waking minute together, relaxing in the hammocks, cooking together, cleaning up after ourselves together. It felt more like a vacation, rather than the two escapees we were supposed to be.

I don't know about her, but I was really having a grand time. I wasn't becoming bored with the routine. Every day was a new day; Rose made it special. It was an adventure, and there was always something new to do, something new to try. Being with her also helped me keep my head straight. When I was with her, I didn't think about anything but being in that moment with her. There was something about Rose that made me worry-free, that made me understand the chances and opportunities in life and made me want to jump in feet first. It was when I was by myself when I remembered what was truly going on beneath all of this, how it was all a cover-up, how I was playing Rose. It was when I was lying in my bed at night when I started to hate myself.

But then morning would come and Rose would be there. And that would make everything seem worth it.

Because I was having so much fun spending time with Rose, I wasn't surprised that the day of her trial was suddenly upon us. I was aware that it would be the following day. Rose, however, was still oblivious. So I had been anticipating Ruckman's appearance all day to inform us of the hearing. It would come as a surprise to Rose, and I would once again have to show off my acting stills and seem surprised that I, being Scorpius, would be attending my hearing tomorrow.

Ruckman was the only one who could come in and out of the house besides Rose and I. So I knew there wouldn't be an issue there, but when Rose and I had finished dinner and we continued on to cleaning the kitchen, I began to doubt my protective enchantments. Where was Ruckman? I thought he would have come by before now. Perhaps the Ministry had just been hectic all day and he hadn't had a free moment just yet.

Rose and I were having a conversation as I was brewing us some hot tea when a noise came from the fire place. Green flames were suddenly erupting, and Rose yelped in mid-sentence. She pulled her legs up beneath her under the couch and reached for her wand on the coffee table. She pointed it like a threat at the fire place until she could see who it was.

"Woah, woah," I heard John Ruckman's voice as the flames died down and he stepped out, wiping the soot off of his pants. "It's just me, Miss Weasley. Please lower your wand."

"Oh..." she said. I could tell that she could suddenly breathe again upon seeing the man who snuck her out of confinement. "Sorry. I just...It's been the two of us for so long. I wasn't expecting anyone."

"I'm sure you weren't. But I have important news," Ruckman said.

He went to sit in an arm chair. I peered into the sitting room and nodded to him. He nodded back to me, and I could tell from our eye contact that we shared so much more than the simple head nod. I asked him from the kitchen, "Can I get you a cup of tea?"

"Sure, Mr. Malfoy," Ruckman said, adding on my fake surname for good measure.

I poured three cups of tea and performed a good juggling act in taking the three of them into the sitting room. I handed Ruckman his cup and then placed Rose's gently in her hands. I sat right next to her on the couch, our legs touching. I noticed Ruckman's reaction to the two of us. He tried to not react, but I could tell that he was surprised from the progress Rose and I had made with our relationship. I was there when I tried to soften the fall for Rose when we came out of that fire place and she demanded that I not touch her.

"So what's your reason for visiting?" I asked, trying to jumpstart the conversation. I sipped gingerly at my tea. It seared my tongue, but it was the most soothing feeling as it reached my throat.

"Well," Ruckman began, "I have some news for the two of you. We are actually going to need both of you to come to the Ministry tomorrow."

"What...?" Rose's whisper was sudden, and I could tell that she was struck with fear in an instant. I placed my free hand on her back in reassurance and rubbed. She fell into my side, feeling her shake against me. "Why?"

"Your hearing," Ruckman tried to say in a sympathetic voice. His look was kind upon Rose.

I whispered something reassuring in her ear, and when I was done, I turned back to Ruckman. "We will be there. When and where?"

"We will need you on the Department of Mysteries floor at 10 AM tomorrow morning."

We both nodded. I knew that there would be more in-depth instructions for me, but that was something that couldn't be said in front of Rose. There was nothing more to be said, and truthfully I didn't know how to bullshit my way through the rest of it all. Ruckman clearly didn't know what to say either; he simply looked at the two of us.

Rose seemed to be unable to handle it, so she rose and went to drink her tea at the table. As she was walking away though, Ruckman took the opportunity to reach into his back pocket and pass me a note that had what I assumed were my instructions. I slipped it into my back pocket just as Rose sat down, sulking into her mug of tea.

"Well," I spoke up. "What has been going on at the Ministry? Any progress with a new minister?"

"Some. Percy Weasley and Geoffrey Sondheim are campaigning for Minister. The election is approaching," Ruckman said with a firm nod.

I thought this was brilliant news, actually. I didn't know Sondheim's politics well enough to judge if I wanted him to be the new Minister. I knew he was fairly good friends with Peakes, and that scared me a little, but that was something to worry about for another time. Percy, on the other hand. Well, that would be bloody brilliant if he were elected Minister. Clearly someone else in the room, though, disappeared tremendously.

"What?!" Rose gasped in shock, almost horror, from the table. Her hands trembled as she held her tea. I watched as the hot liquid sloshed over the edges and onto the table. She let go of it, clattering onto the wooden surface, and she groped her face. Her fingers lashed out for something to grab hold of, some sort of purchase. "My uncle is running?"

"Yes, Miss Weasley. Why?" Ruckman asked.

She was shaking, and I could tell something was going on. "He can't! H-He can't..."

"Rose, what are you talking about?" I interjected. My brow furrowed, and I wondered what could possibly be wrong. I had no assumptions on that matter.

She didn't answer. She simply dropped her tea and fled from the kitchen, whispering desperately under her breath again. "He can't." Moments later I heard the door to her bedroom slam, and I knew that she would be in there for the rest of the night.

Ruckman and I just looked at each other. He said something under his breath, then reminded me that my instructions were laid out specifically on the sheet in my pocket. So he dismissed himself and was flooing out of the fire place.

Once I was alone, I slowly and uneasily approached Rose's bedroom. I wasn't sure what to do, if I should at least attempt to soothe her, be there for her, to even try to find out what was wrong. It took me a good minute to finally make up my mind. Before then, I was just standing outside her door awkwardly, shuffling from foot to foot. Then I finally knocked and said quietly, hearing dead silence come from her room.

"Rose? You okay?" No response, not that it was much of a surprise. "Do you wanna talk about it?"

No response again.

I gave it a few minutes out there in the hall. I debated getting on the ground, waiting like she had for me two weeks ago. I sat for a good half hour, but I couldn't even hear her stir inside. I eventually retired to my bedroom for the night.

It was an hour or two later after I had showered, cleaned up some more, and had been lying in bed, wide awake and trying to sort out my thoughts, when I heard a knock from my door. I was surprised to say the least to know Rose had come out of her room. I sat up quickly, the covers of the bed pooling about my middle. My voice cracked as I responded. "You can come in."

She slid stealthily into the room. I couldn't see her, and she didn't turn on the light. She was quiet and slow. I could finally make out her silhouette as she stepped into the moonlight. She had a blanket wrapped around her body, clutching it to her. She asked quietly. "You're still awake?"

"Yeah," I answered, sitting up more and leaning against my pillow. "This is when I think. What's wrong?"

She unwrapped herself from the blanket and slid into the bed next to me without an invitation. Not like she needed one though; I didn't mind. She placed the blanket over her legs and etched down into my bed. I could hear her teeth chatter, so I turned towards the center of the bed and pulled the covers higher on her, sliding down beside her. Our heads were sharing a pillow as she turned to face me, and I put a reassuring arm around her waist, just like she had done for me.

"I'm scared," she finally admitted.

They were strange words to hear coming from her mouth. I hadn't known Rose to have such words in her. She always appeared fearless to me, and in all honesty, it terrified me to see her so scared. See her with her body giving off small tremors, her teeth chattering. I hated it. I wanted her to be all right, and it made me feel useless knowing I couldn't do anything about it. But I could try my best. I moved closer to her, as close as I knew possible so that we could still manage a conversation.

"What about?" I whispered. There was no need to talk any louder; she was right there, only a few inches in front of my face. I could smell her conditioner, her long red hair was tickling my arm above my head. I moved one of my hands so that I could absently play with her locks. This seemed to soothe her, and that made me feel slightly better.

"About what that Auror said about my uncle running for Minister," she answered. She stopped talking then, and I wondered if I would have to question her further. But she finally sighed, nuzzling into the pillow and going on. "I'm just scared that...That what happened to Mr. Jarvis will happen to him."

"Oh, Rose," I breathed, sounding more sympathetic and loving rather than sounding ridiculous like my jumbled thoughts. "You needn't worry about that. He will be fine. What happened to Mr. Jarvis was unfortunate, and I'm sure the killer had some motive, and I doubt Jarvis and your uncle have that motive in common."

"N-No," she shook her head as if trying to prove me wrong. "Y-You don't understand."

"I don't understand what?" I pressed.

Was there more to this? Was I about to be told something that could change this entire case? Why was Rose so worried for her uncle? Or was I crazy in thinking that the position as Minister for Magic was now cursed. I mean, being sworn in as Minister wasn't a figurative death sentence now, was it? I was thinking logically, right? It's Rose who is the crazy one here.

What wasn't she telling me? There was something deeper behind this all, something she was keeping to herself, and for whatever reason, I got the vibe that she was trying to hide it from me. That she didn't want me to know. But what could there be that she couldn't possibly want me to know? I was here to help her. We were in this together; didn't she know that by now?

"I..." She pursed her lips in pain, and for a mere second I thought she would cry. I immediately closed the gap between our bodies then, for I couldn't bear it if she cried. Her pain would be too much for me. I pressed myself against her, her arms squished against my chest, her form fragile in my arms as I rubbed her back with one hand, the other still entwined in her hair.

"You can tell me," I whispered directly into her ear. Reassurance. Maybe that was what she needed.

Her breath tickled my neck, made the hairs on the back stand up. It sent goosebumps down my spine, and even though I was warm as can be with Rose against me, I shivered. She noticed my tremors and was the one to comfort me this time as her arms wrapped around me and rubbed my back.

"I don't want to talk about it," she finally managed.


I knew her well enough to know that now without even looking at her. But I let it slide. That's what I did last time and Rose came to me in her own time. That seemed to be how she worked. She was strong, and even though I don't condone it, she kept things on the inside. She would keep it bottled inside until she decided to share in her own time. No matter how much I pushed her or tried to pry it from her, it would only leave her when she was ready for it to.

I could tell Rose was still strong enough to keep her bearings, to stand her ground and abide by her own methods. That's how I knew she was still all right. Rose was fragile. Breakable.She was breaking. Slowly. I could tell that much. She was near tears; she was trembling. All she needed was a push and she would reach her breaking point, but I would never do that to her. But she was hanging by a thin thread.

So I knew there was only one thing to do.

"That's fine," I whispered. "I'm here for you, though, when you decide that you do want to talk about it."

"Thank you, Scorpius," she replied weakly.

"You're welcome," I muttered.

I thought the conversation would be over, but she continued to talk, however about other things. "And I'm nervous. About our hearing. What if we get convicted tomorrow? What if we don’t come back here? What if, twenty-four hours from now, we’re in Azkaban?"

Convicted? My mind was suddenly racing. Was she really that nervous?

"We won't get convicted tomorrow. We know that Auror is on our side. He doesn't believe either one of us did it, and I know I'm innocent. Aren't you?"

"Of course, but - "

"Then we have nothing to worry about," I reassured her. "We just go in there, heads held high, and we tell the truth. Everything will be fine. I'll be right there the entire time. By your side."

"You're so calm in all of this," she commented.

"Because I know I'm innocent. Because I know that all of this was just one huge mess up. If they really found that strand of my hair, it was planted there. If it wasn't mine, then they read the identity wrong. I just have to wait for this to all be expunged."

"You're right," she finally breathed.

I was getting sweaty from being so close to her, breathing against one another, so I backed away from her. I settled onto my back, my arms still around her, and I adjusted her so that her head was on my chest. Rose accepted his action and draped her arm across my bare stomach. I found my free hand disappearing into her hair once again. I weaved through the long strands, untangling it, playing with it until I could feel her cheeks rounding against my chest with her smile. Her heart rate slowed, and I could tell that she was finally breathing easily again.

I nearly thought she had drifted into sleep when I heard her mutter against me. "Can I stay?"

I found myself kissing the top of her head, and I continued to play with her hair, a sign. I whispered into the darkness and said just before I heard her breathing even out in sleep. "As long as you like."

Chapter 14: If I Were Lucky
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And the next chapter! I'm so pleased with how these recent chapters have turned out and the turnover time. School has calmed down over the past two weeks. It will, unfortunately, come back with full force next week, but I've been taking advantage of my free time to update as much as I can!

I want to thank everyone who has been following so faithfully. Your input really makes my days and inspires me to write so much more.

Things are really about to pick up. I hope you enjoy! Be sure to let me know.

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We started talking again at some point. We talked about our worries; we reassured each other of other things. We made promises to always be there for the other. I promised that I would hold her again as soon as her hearing was over and we knew everything would be all right. I fell asleep long after she did, her head on my chest, her hands sprawled out along my stomach. I don't know how long I laid there, fretting the coming day, hating myself for all of my lies, wondering about what kind of person I was becoming, who I was becoming.

But I do know that, once I finally fell asleep, I had the greatest sleep of my entire life with Rose in my arms.

The next morning was slow, though. We both seemed to know what was going on, but neither of us talked about it. We didn't discuss then what was on our minds, what we were worried about. We knew what we were about to walk into, and we both just pretended like it wasn't about to happen.

I was up before Rose. I had so much less to worry about. If everything would go according to plan, Rose shouldn't find out that I am not Malfoy. That was not on my agenda for the day; I wouldn't let it be. In all honesty, I didn't have much to worry about. I found that all of my worry was for Rose.

I got up and fixed breakfast and coffee, and when it was 8:30 and I figured the day needed to get moving, I went to wake Rose up. I sat on the edge of my bed, her warm cup of coffee in my hand, and I nudged her shoulder gently. She grunted, and when she finally gathered her bearings, she sat up and rubbed at her eyes. I pushed her cup of coffee into her hands and then swept her hair out of her eyes. "Morning."


"Unfortunately," I said with a small smile.

She gave a defeated sigh, falling back against the pillow and sipping at the coffee. Her face brightened with the taste, and with that one simple look, I knew I had nailed her coffee for the morning. I had had two weeks to observe her favorite way to drink it. I knew how she liked it. With peppermint creamer, a drop of milk, and two spoons of sugar.

"You know," she smiled.

"Of course I do. I've watched you make your coffee for weeks now," I commented. "And we have a big day today."

The look on her face said that she had temporarily forgotten, that I had reminded her as I saw her fear and pain come rushing back. Her eyes found mine, and she didn't have to say anything to me for me to know that she was pleading with me.

"Hey, hey, everything will be okay," I said quickly. I leaned forward and held her cheek, rubbing my thumb against the smooth skin.

Her hand jumped to mine, and I thought I would lose my hand from the lack of circulation she gave me. "You'll be there, won't you? As soon as it's over. You'll be there?"

"Of course," I said quietly, and I knew she needed my support. I pulled her into my arms, her entire form shaking against me.

"You have to promise me you'll be there. Scorpius, I need you there," she said with shudders. She was crying, I knew it.

Breaking. She's breaking, my mind echoed.

"Rosie," I soothed. Oops, once again that nickname of hers popped out and I wondered what she thought of it. "Rosie, it's okay. I'll be there. I promise."

Once again she had me questioning why she was so worked up. If she didn't have anything to hide, then she shouldn't be worrying. I wish I could get into her head; I wish I could understand what was going on deeper. Or if she would at least tell me. She had me wondering if something huge would come out during her hearing today. Did she have something to say? Would she come clean? Even though I thought she was as innocent as could be, her actions had me worried. She honestly did have me doubting her innocence, and I felt terrible for thinking so.

"Rose, is there something you want to tell me before we go?" I found myself asking. The words just spilled out of my mouth before I could stop them. I didn't want to upset her though, but I found that I couldn't help myself. "Is there something you should tell me?"

"N-No," she gasped between her tears, still plastered to my front. "There's nothing. I would tell you if there was."

I tried to laugh, to change this situation around. "Good. So does that mean that you finally understand that we are in this together?"

"Yes," she whispered.

Even though she fell silent, I still knew how nervous she was, how scared. I hated feeling her so weak and terrified in my arms. It was so unlike her, and while I hated that, I did like being able to comfort her. "The hearing will be fine. You'll do great, and then I will be there as soon as it is over. Right by your side."

"I'm gonna need a hug afterwards," she chuckled as she pulled out of my arms, swiping at her eyes.

I laughed too and rose from the bed. We had to get moving for the day. I walked over to my closet and began to shuffle through the clothes. I had planned for a few hearings to attend as Malfoy, so I had my choices. But I'm a dude; I don't care all too much about what I'm wearing unless it just looks terrible. And I'm not embarrassed to admit that I know the colors that best compliment my skintone with my natural hair. Unfortunately though, I was appearing as Malfoy and I didn't know the best color shades. So I just grabbed a navy button down shirt and threw it on to the bed.

Rose, still there who had perked up slightly, was sipping at her coffee with her legs folded beneath her under the duvet we had shared. She shook her head at my choice. "The navy? No."

"What?" I asked. At first I didn't quite know what she was referring to. Was she really helping me with my clothes selection? "What's wrong with the navy?"

"Well, it's all right, but that crimson in there would look much better," she said. Her fingers were pointing towards the closet, as if it would direct me better towards the shirt she was speaking of.

I looked into the closet and flipped through a few until I came to the crimson dress shirt. Nodding at it in approval, I pulled it out and held it up to my chest. "Really? This one."

"Definitely," she said, nodding ecstatically. "It looks better. In so many ways. Your hair, your eyes. Wear the red. You'll look good."

"If you say so," I chuckled.

I slept shirtless last night, so I just slipped the dress shirt off of its hanger and began to undo the buttons. I was pulling it on over my shoulders and appraising my - well, I guess it wasn't my appearance but Malfoy's - appearance in the full length mirror. The red did look good on me.

It was only when I went to pull on a pair of black slacks did I realize that I was only in my boxers. I hadn't even noticed. I wasn't too embarrassed or moved by the fact that Rose was seeing me, or Malfoy rather in just his boxers. I didn't really mind, and neither did Rose. She didn't do or say anything about it. At least it wasn't an ugly sight for Rose; Malfoy has a good body. I tugged the slacks over my boxers and saw Rose approach my closet.

She rasped her index finger on her chin and pulled out a black and red tie. I straightened, zipping up my pants and tucking in the shirt, and Rose slipped the tie over my head. I became still as I watched her fingers move gracefully with the tie. I watched her do it like it was an everyday task for her. Hell, I couldn't even tie my own tie without magic yet. And she made it look like second nature.

"There," she commented, stepping away once she had finished folding my collar over the tie. When she became still, a different look came over her. Her face dropped, her smile vanished, and I knew something had gone wrong within her.

I took a step forward and grasped her by her elbows. "What is it?" I asked quietly.

She shook her head and pushed me away. Her smile was clearly forced. "It's nothing."

Lie. Obviously. I could only assume that her change in attitude was due to the trial. That she was once again hit with the reality of it. Because her face, to me, appeared guilty of helping me decide on my clothes, as if she were helping me dress myself for my death sentence.

While I was nearly certain that was her reason for her change in mood, it could very well just be because I didn't look as good in the red as she hoped I would.

I turned to look into the full length mirror, half expecting to see my own appearance staring back at me. Of course, it wasn't me though. I was still Scorpius, and I actually sighed in disappointment at that. But I still looked good. It certainly wasn't the color red that had brought Rose down several notches.

I decided to leave her to it though. I knew that was how she operated these days. So I grabbed my black blazer from the closet. I touched her shoulder reassuringly, told her to get ready and that I would make breakfast, and left my bedroom.

Rose was ready in a little more than half an hour. She showered, did her hair, make-up, and whatever it is that those girls do these days. I was sitting at the kitchen table when she came in. Her curled hair was pulled back in a clip, and she was wearing a tight black, knee-length skirt with a white blouse. Over that she wore a black blazer. Her heels were in her hands, and she huffed in an exasperated fashion when she sat down across from me.

"Relax," I commented lightly, sipping at my pumpkin juice.

"I'm trying," she muttered. She did everything but settle down. Her eyes were flying across the room, focusing on everything and yet nothing at all. She ringed her hands together in her lap, her back painfully straight.

"You look good, though," I commented, and even though my statement meant so much more than just her general appearance, no one would know. Rose did look great. She looked beautiful, grown up and like a business woman, and while I would complement her on her beauty any day, I wanted to also compliment her on the way she carried herself. When she is with me these days, it's a different story. She can let herself go a little because she knows that I will always be there for her, that I won't judge her or let my opinion of her change.

So she could show her fear around me. She didn't always have to be strong Rosie with me, but I knew that as soon as we stepped out of that door, she wouldn't let anyone see her fear. No one would know how terrified she truly is; no one would know how petrified, how fearsome, how alone and desperate she felt just for this to all be over.

I think that is one of the things I admire so greatly about her. She is so strong. All the time, and she can control the way she wishes people to perceive her. While I knew she could change the way people viewed her, I knew what was real. I knew her well enough and was smart enough to know that she truly was terrified. Only a fool would believe her to be fearless. I appreciated that she could be herself with me, even if seeing her break was hurting me on the inside.

"Thanks," she answered.

We didn't say anything else though. I could tell she was nervous, and I didn't want to spur those nerves further. When we had both finished eating, we had to do the inevitable though. I asked her if she was ready, and she took a minute to get a hold of herself before we approached the fire place. We stepped into the large hearth, and I grabbed a handful of floo powder before throwing it down and demanding the Auror Department.

We shot out of the fire place at the Auror Department. It was empty, as requested, I know, by Peakes. We stepped out, dusting the soot off of our nice attire and smoothing it out. At our commotion, Peakes and Ruckman stepped into the department.

"Right on schedule," Peakes said with a smile.

Rose's change in atmosphere did not go unnoticed to me. She straightened, went rigid, and I swore she even stopped breathing. She etched closer to me, one of her hands moving to my wrist, clasping it tightly.

Peakes looked at Rose's actions. I watched him eye our hands but quickly return to our faces, and he pushed it aside. "Anyways. You two ready for your hearings?"

"I guess," I commented, speaking for the both of us because I could tell that Rose wouldn't be doing so.

"Then, Miss Weasley, if you will come with me," Peakes said gently. He nodded to Rose and ushered her forward. She looked back and forth between Peakes and me, like she needed coaxing. So I urged her forward.

But I guess that wasn't what she was worried about. "Y-You mean we won't be together?" she questioned, startled.

"Not while Wizengamot is in session. You each have separate hearings."

"B-But," she blurted out painfully, her eyes set on mine.

"It's okay," I reassured her. "What'd I say? I'll be by your side as soon as it’s over."

She didn't move. What more reassurance did she need? Her grip had turned from that of a frightened one to that of death. I had lost my circulation, and she wasn't letting loose or letting me take my hand back any time soon. All I did was nod, look deeply into her eyes and try to make that connection, try to embed that thought into her mind. "Promise."

She finally swallowed and let go of me. Peakes led her away from me and she was leaving the room, but before she turned for the door, our eyes met and I gave her a genuine smile. In that smile, I tried not to let my own fears bring me down. I tried not to think about my tedious directions for the day, how one mistake could send me down the wrong path, how I couldn't blow my cover for Rose today. She needed me to be Scorpius, and as much as I hated lying to her, I had to continue to be Scorpius. She needed me.

I worried that I would see her in my own appearance and I would do something out of character, that my anxiety for her while she was on stand and I was in the room as myself would seem out of place. She would have no reason to suspect me of anything other than worry, but still. The frets were the same.

Then she was gone from my vision and I wouldn't see her again until she was sitting in that domineering chair in the middle of Wizengamot.

Ruckman approached me, snapping me out of my trance. "Ted, get with it," he snapped.

"Right. Sorry."

Ted. My name. It was good to hear again. It reminded me of who I am. I think that I couldn't deny that I had been having an identity crisis recently. Who was I becoming while I was at that summer house? I responded fully to Scorpius now, no second thoughts. Now, Ruckman had called me Ted and I had almost missed it.

"What's going on with you two anyways?" Ruckman asked. He came to stand by my side, staring at the door that Rose and Peakes had just left through.

"What?" I asked, kind of appalled. Did it look like something was going on between us? "Nothing. We're friends. Finally, friends."

"All right. Whatever. I don't really care. Let's get moving," Ruckman said, dragging me with him.

My schedule was precise and had been laid out by Peakes. He was to be with Rose in a prepping room while I was supposed to be taking supreme caution to not be seen by Rose. I was to change into an outfit that Ruckman picked up from my flat. The clothes I wore to the Ministry would be given to Malfoy so that, if Rose and the real Malfoy crossed paths, then he would be wearing the correct outfit.

I followed in Ruckman's wake. He led me to his own office where he dug through a bag, pulling out my own clothes. I recognized the black pants and olive colored shirt. He tossed the items to me, and I quickly stripped down to naught but my boxers. Wearing just that I let myself begin to shift. I could feel myself growing a few inches, my hair growing longer, my nose shortening and turning up slightly at the tip.

I was me again. It was a relief.

I stumbled into my own dress pants, quickly buttoning my shirt, save the top two, and I flared the collar a little. I rumpled my hair, giving it some volume. I was me again, and thrilled to be so. I just wanted to be me. Normally I would come to work with any hair color other than my own, and being the metamorphmagus that I am, my coworkers allowed me to walk around the Ministry with my aqua, sometimes pink or purple, hair. It was normal for me because I liked to attempt to freak people out sometimes with my metamorphmagus abilities, but everyone become more used to it rather than freaked out.

But that aside, I didn't feel like rocking the aqua or black or purple hair for the day. I just wanted to be me. So I let my color change to its normal light, sandy brown color, tossing it to the side. I welcomed back my copper eyes, the grey of Scorpius Malfoy's feeling all too empty when I would look into a mirror.

When Ruckman saw that I was me and dressed, he made one comment before getting us on the move again. "Good to see you again, Lupin."

He picked up the clothes I had just been wearing and folded them, leaving the office. Ruckman and I made our way through the empty Auror Department and through the crazed Ministry. It was packed for the day due to the impending hearing. Word had, of course, spread, and reporters from all over had come to clutter the atrium in hopes of getting a word or two. Luckily they would be allowed nowhere near the Wizengamot.

I guess I hadn't been prepared for the uproar that would come with this day. As soon as Ruckman and I had stepped into sight, we had reporters on our tail. Being two Auros on the case, I guess they could find us of use to them. There was flashing of cameras, questions pitched to us that both of us were instructed to ignore. We forced our way through the crowd and finally reached the containee center.

Ruckman held his wand up to the lock on the door, and it granted us access. We slipped into the containee ward before any reporters could follow, slamming the heavy metal door shut behind us. The containee ward was pleasantly silent. Questions were still ringing in my ears, and while this ward was a simple hallway with cells lining the walls, I just wanted to stay in this ward for the rest of the day.

Ruckman approached the cell holding Malfoy and knocked before once again holding his wand up for access. There was a click, and Ruckman opened the door. I was on his tail, peering into the room over his shoulder. I wanted a good look at Malfoy.

He was curled up in a ball on his bed, facing the opposite wall, and he didn't stir even the slightest. Ruckman banged on the metal door, a loud sound echoing throughout the room. "Oi, Malfoy," Ruckman said loudly, his voice ringing. If Malfoy was a sleep, he would surely be awake now. "It's time for your hearing. Time to get up."

Malfoy didn't move again. He was still for many moments, and I looked to Ruckman, a suggestion on my lips to get Malfoy moving, but Ruckman held me off. He put up a hand, shaking his head. "He's fine. He's been like this for a while now."

Malfoy finally turned. He rolled over, took a good moment to stare at the two of us, his grey eyes empty, and he placed his feet on the cold floor. It took him quite some time to move from there, but he finally sat up. His hair had grown out a fair bit, and he was in desperate need of a shave.

But other than that, it was odd to see the person I was pretending to be. Right there in front of me. In an odd and twisted way, I did feel like I was watching myself. Like it was me sitting on that bed, awaiting my hearing.

Who had I become?

Was I now a mix of my old self and Scorpius? Was I becoming him, losing myself along the way? I responded to the name Scorpius or Malfoy without even thinking twice about it. I had taken on the entirely different persona without even noticing. Tedius.

Ruckman approached him with little patience, throwing the clothes at him. "Get dressed. Your hearing is in a half hour."

He lethargically got up and followed orders. He stripped down, replacing his clothes with the ones Rose had selected for me this morning. When he was dressed and I saw it from a different vantage point, I could firmly agree that she was right. It did look good.

Ruckman looked to me, then asked, "Anything else?"

"Yeah," I commented, looking at Scorpius. "He's in bad need of a shave and a haircut."

"Sure," Ruckman rolled his shoulders. He conjured a razor and scissors. He turned to me with them and muttered quietly before pushing them into my hands. "I have to let Peakes know our location. He's about to transfer Weasley. You let Malfoy do it, but stay on suicide watch."

Suicide watch? Blood hell. Really?

I knew what it was. I had my training; I had been on suicide watch before, but had Malfoy's situation really become so terrible?

I didn't question it. But I nodded and took the two sharp objects before Ruckman left the room. Malfoy knew what would be asked of him, so he came to me and took the objects from my hands. I watched him make his way to the sink and mirror on the other side of his cell where he immediately began to shave.

I stood behind him, my arms folded across my chest as I watched him carefully.

Scorpius finally muttered as he finished his right cheek. "I'm not going to kill myself."

His words surprised me. I guess it was kind of obvious that I was watching him closely for any suicidal actions with that razor in his hands, but I was taken aback to hear him voice that. I gave a sigh, my stance relaxing as my shoulders slouched. I moved from standing behind him to leaning against the wall so I could look at Malfoy properly. I tried to be laid back about it as I talked to him. "I know you are not going to kill yourself."

Malfoy looked at me as he touched up his side burns with the razor. His eyes had looked empty from the second he looked at me a few minutes ago, but now he was starting to look as if he were getting some emotion back. I didn't blame him though. Being locked up in a cell could do a thing or two to you.

"How much longer will this last?" he asked me before my emotions could get too sympathetic for him, before I could start to feel some ridiculous bond between him because I was in his appearance when I wasn't around him or some crazy shit like that.

He didn't specify his question, but I knew what he was asking nonetheless.

"I don't know, Scorpius," I said with a roll of the shoulders, his name sliding off my tongue before I could stop myself. It felt odd to say, instead of hearing it spoken to me. "Hopefully not much longer. If you're lucky, it could all be over today."

"I'm not lucky..." he commented, his voice trailing off as he focused on his appearance in the mirror again. He began to shave his chin. "If I were lucky, I wouldn't have been put in here in the first place. If I were lucky, I wouldn't have been put on trial for a murder I didn't commit. If I were lucky, I would be sitting at my desk at the Prophet still taking my life for granted."

I bit my lip, not quite knowing what to say to that. He was right. He had had some pretty bad luck lately, and he deserved for his fate to face a change. Karma, I thought. It would come. Eventually. It was clearly taking it's sweet time, but Malfoy would be reimbursed for all this that he had gone through. He had to be, right?

I started to feel terrible for him. Why was he receiving such different treatment from Rose? Well, I know exactly why. Because of who Rose's parents are, who her uncle is, and everyone's belief for her to do no harm because of those ties. But Malfoy? Stuck in a confinement cell because his father is Draco Malfoy, because her father was a Death Eater for the shortest of times. Malfoy was being punished for decisions that he hadn't made, decisions made by someone other than him, made when he wasn't even alive. How was that fair?

And somewhere in there he had mentioned that he would 'still be taking his life for granted.' I could understand completely if he had had a life changing experience here in this confinement cell. All he was doing was wasting his life away, waiting for someone else to make the decision on where he would spend it. Had he come to realize all the great things you could do with your life? Had he taken the smallest of things for granted and now understood their importance?

I didn't quite know what to say to him, but I realized then that Malfoy could manipulate your words to sound however he wished, as I had just discovered with one small statement. If he were lucky...That was all it took.

Then I had said it could all be over today. Would it really? I felt selfish when I began to debate my future, rather than the future of two innocent people. Here I was, wondering about ruining my friendship with Rose if she were to discover that it wasn't actually Scorpius Malfoy she had been with the entire time. I am selfish and conceited for thinking such things, and no matter how hard I tried to rather worry about Rose being thrown into Azkaban, I found that I couldn't. I had formed a bond with Rose over these past few weeks, and I found that I was more terrified to lose her as my friend and have her leave my life by choice rather than to see her thrown into Azkaban and taken away from me by force. I couldn't watch her willingly turn her back on me.

What had I gotten myself into? I felt as if I had dug myself my grave. I should have known when getting into this that there would be no easy way out.

If any of us were lucky, this would all blow over. Harmless. Rose and Malfoy wouldn't be sentenced to Azkaban. And if I were lucky, I could keep Rose in my life. If I were lucky, she wouldn't hate me for lying to her. But unfortunately, I just felt like her hate was an impending fate. I knew how she felt about deception like this.

Malfoy finished shaving, and I don't know why I felt like I had to say anything at all when he clearly had his mind so firmly set. So I knew there was only one thing I could say. The truth. He couldn't twist that.

"It may not be today, but you'll be free again. I don't think you killed anyone."

Chapter 15: Let the Sunshine In
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When Scorpius had trimmed his hair and dusted the strands off of his black blazer, it was time for us to approach the Wizengamot. He participated willingly for me. He knew how I would transport him through the Ministry; he offered his hands to me when he knew it was time to leave. I bound them together with a simple spell and we were leaving his small cell. His face brightened just by being in a room other than his cell.

I tried not to pity him as we reached the front of the ward. I instructed him to stay by my side before we left, for as soon as I opened the door, we had reporters jumping on us. They were snapping pictures of Malfoy, asking him questions. Some were even calling him foul things. I ordered them to back away as I kept a firm hold on Malfoy's elbow. He held a grimace, but other than that, he kept his head held strong. He kept his eyes on a straight path and didn't let the reporters get to him. I would have encouraged him, but he was already performing brilliantly without me saying anything.

With Malfoy on my arm, that was the fastest I had ever crossed the main atrium. We were squeezing into an elevator in a matter of seconds and moving closer to the courtroom. In the quiet elevator I began to notice that he was sweating, shaking. I asked even though it was obvious, "Nervous?"

"Little," he commented, looking at me through the corner of his eye.

"You'll do fine. Just tell the truth and you might be out of here," I said.

He didn't reply, just took my advice with a grain of salt and nodded.

While he seemed to be staying strong and I knew he wouldn't be convicted, I did something very suddenly. We were passing the only floor with windows, so I slapped my palm against the emergency stop button, and we came to an immediate halt. I slid the barred door open and escorted Malfoy off the elevator. He stumbled slightly, disoriented with the quick stop and his inability to use his hands. He looked about the empty floor used for office space.

"What are we doing?"

"Just a detour," I said and pulled him forward.

We walked down the hallway. It split off in every which way, but I took the left fork and we walked down that one until we reached a dead end. Scorpius gave me a perplexed look. I felt the corners of my mouth pulling up into a grin as I let go of him and my hands moved to the window curtains. Scorpius hadn't even noticed the rise in temperature, the golden glow on the floor that came from the covered window we were standing before.

I figured this would be Malfoy's only chance for a good while to see the sun, and since we had some time, I thought it wouldn't hurt.

I pulled at the dusty curtains and let them pool together on the floor. Dust filled the air, but Scorpius didn't care once he realized what I was doing. His mouth dropped, and he closed his eyes as the sun touched his cheeks. I actually smiled as I watched him, pleased to see that he would have at least a moment of happiness.

He just took a moment before moving, but when he finally did, he folded his arms and let them rest in the sill of the window, finally opening his eyes. I reached around him and opened up the creaking windows. He took a deep inhale and looked at the world before him, the world that was passing him by as he was kept locked up inside the Ministry.

"You have two minutes," I said quietly. I didn't want to interrupt his peace, but I thought it best he knew how long he had.

He didn't say anything for a good while. He just stood there, leaning into the window. He was breathing in deeply, letting the sun reach his skin and sink in. He finally nodded, and when I was leaning against the wall, staring at a scuff in my shoe, he commented, "Thanks, Lupin."

"What for?"

"For this. It had been too long." He straightened up but still didn't leave the sunlight. "And who knows how long it will be again."

"It will be sooner than you think," I said. He moved aside so I could close the window and replace the curtain. The look on his face as soon as the sunlight vanished made me feel awful for the guy. I wished I could just keep him there, but we had a hearing to get to. "Let's get moving again."

Scorpius nodded and we set off towards the elevator. We walked down the winding hall, the walls a copper metal, bronze doors leading to empty offices. We passed several twists and turns, and due to our silent walk, I was able to make out a faint voice. I wondered who was in this corridor; it was almost always empty.

I stopped Malfoy, placing a hand on his chest. He opened his mouth and began to ask questions, but I silenced him. For some reason I didn't want to be found out. Not until I knew what exactly was going on down here.

I didn't recognize the voices. They were clearly hushed, trying to be quiet. I listened as closely as I could, trying to make out their words, unable to tell which hallway they were at the end of. "This changes things."

"It changes nothing," another said. "We had a deal. The deal included there wouldn't be a conviction. It isn't our fault the job was performed in a sloppy fashion. We will have to work around it, come up with new evidence."

"The deal has changed," the first man hissed. "I don't care anymore who gets convicted and who doesn't. We're almost there."

I wished I could hear more, to find out who was speaking, to just hear a 'he' or a 'she' mentioned in the conversation, but the two men were very careful about their word choice. And unfortunately, I could make out their footsteps. They were leaving the dark corner to which they had held their conversation, and their footsteps were moving towards the center where all the hallways met up.

Scorpius looked appalled, looking at me to do something, to take note, to be able to prove that this conversation had happened. He looked hopeful almost, like he had found the key to his freedom.

"Shh," I hissed, and I latched onto his arm, dragging him out the hall. We were running for the elevator, and I had closed the gate and selected the floor of the Wizengamot without a moment to lose. Thankfully, and unfortunately as well, we were out of sight before we could see the two men.

Malfoy looked as if he would say something, but I stopped him. I grabbed him by the collar, smoothing it out. "Listen, Scorpius. You aren't going to say anything about what we just heard."

"But that could prove it! Those men! They're the ones behind it. Clearly! Were you not listening? They could prove my innocence!"

"Shh," I interrupted. "I know that. I heard what they were saying, but we can't analyze what we heard in ten minutes to overturn your hearing today. That's not enough time. You keep quiet about this, and I'll look into it. You let me do my job."

It took him a moment. I knew it was his trust that was holding him back. Why should he trust me with his fate? I didn't blame him. I didn't deserve anyone's trust.

I agreed with Malfoy. Some questions had been answered, yet others had been created. Someone was being forced to do the dirty work, that was obvious. But who was the one forcing them to do it? What was the motive? And who was being forced? Was it Rose? Was it Malfoy and he wasn't saying anything? Was it someone else completely who's DNA hadn't been left behind. However, the man said that they 'got sloppy.' With that statement, I would assume all persons involved left some sort of DNA behind, and unfortunately the two DNA sets were Rose and Malfoy.

This was too much for me to comprehend in such a short matter of time, and it wouldn't change anything during the hearing. So I knew I would have to put it off until I could think it through clearly.

Unless Malfoy could settle a few questions...

The elevator came to a halt at our appropriate floor, but I asked him before we made any movement to get off. "Scorpius, is there something you should tell me before we walk into that courtroom?"

"What?!" he shouted, outraged with me. "No! You just told me you don't think I killed anyone! What, now that you hear two strangers, you think I did it?"

"Not at all," I said, shaking my head. If he could give me something to work with, anything, I could get on stand to testify again if I believed it would help Malfoy's case. "But if you know anything, it may help you. You weren't being threatened, were you?"


"If they were threatening your family or blackmailing you, you can tell me. We're walking into that room in a matter of minutes. I can help you. If you're being threatened, now is the time to tell me and I can have them behind bars."

"It's not me!" Scorpius hissed, and I believed him then. "I had nothing to do with this until I was dragged out of my office by other Aurors."

"All right. Then I believe you," I nodded.

Did I really though? If I believed all the DNA sets had been found, then that meant Rose was the one who had made a deal. And despite her actions that did have me questioning it at times, I refused to believe that.

I warned him one more time to not speak of what we had heard, and only when he nodded did I escort him out of the elevator and to the Wizengamot. The path from the elevator to the entrance of the courtroom was empty. I assumed the majority of the tribunal was in their appropriate seats, and I also knew Peakes had Rose in a separate room down here on the Department of Mysteries floor, her hearing being after Malfoy's. It was extremely vital to make sure her path and Malfoy's don't overlap.

I was walking casually when we reached the main doors and I realized that Scorpius had fallen back. I stopped in my tracks, turning back to face him. He was staring at the doors in such a way that made me think Malfoy felt as if he were walking towards his death. I couldn't even begin to comprehend all the thoughts that were suddenly rushing through his mind. I'm sure that the reality of having his fate to be handed to him after weeks of simply waiting for it was a difficult thing to comprehend.

"You okay?" I asked.

He pursed his lips, and when he opened them to speak, I could see the word 'yes' about to roll off of him. But we had come to an understanding over the last half hour. So he stopped himself and shook his head. He whispered to me, the silence eerie, "No. I'm not. But that isn't going to change until this is over. So let's go."

"All right," I said. I admired the strength he showed. If it were me on trial for murder, my fate lying in the hands of someone other than myself, I don't know how I would handle it. He was stronger than I believed myself to be. But I also began to believe that, if he were truly at the summer house instead of me, he would still be the shoulder that Rose could lean on. It may have taken more time, but I knew their relationship would have gotten there. Eventually.

It did remind me of my own job, my own performance to Rose, and it did force me to believe that I was truly performing the way Malfoy would.

"Then let's go," I added.

I watched him take two bold, courageous steps, and he was by my side once more. I reached for the door, holding it open for him. I allowed him to pass, and then I escorted him further into the courtroom.

It was intimidating, entering the courtroom with the entire Wizengamot tribunal waiting for us. All eyes were on the pair of us as we entered. I led Scorpius to the large chair I remembered sitting in to testify. I watched Malfoy sit, and I approached him, pulling my wand out. I undid his bonds, but I whispered his next instructions to him, telling to place his arms on either side of the chair. He did so, only for me to clasp the shackles about his wrists.

He hated this, I could tell by the look on his face. He watched me lock him down, and he winced with each bolt I completed. I knew it wasn't physically harming him, but I knew it was only bringing forth the reality of his hearing. I completed his shackles and moved the chains so they weren't twisting about his arms. Before I stepped away, I gave him one more nudge. "You'll do fine."

He nodded, and I stepped back. I took my proper place in the stands beside Ruckman, and upon seeing that I was seated, Geoffrey Sondheim began the trial.

"On May 6th, 2025, Wizengamot calls Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy to the stand. You have been accused for the murder of Minister for Magic, Jarvis Otto Branstone on April 16th, 2025. How do you plead?"

"Not guilty, sir," Scorpius answered in a strong voice. He sat up straight, and for a moment, I thought he looked fearless. He looked like he was simply embracing this case, but I knew what was going on beneath.

"Very well. Can you tell us where you were the night of the event?" Geoffrey said. He wasn't looking at Scorpius. Not now, at least. He was jotting down Scorpius' plea.

He nodded and swallowed. His eyes scanned the courtroom, but for what he was looking for, I had no idea. This was a closed hearing; due to the magnitude of the case, no outsiders were allowed. It was just the Wizengamot tribunal and the select few Aurors who were helping to manage the case. Me, Peakes, and Ruckman. When he realized he had no one in the room to reassure him, his eyes came to land on me. I didn't quite understand why he looked at me, but when he did, I knew the meaning behind that look. He had consoled in me, and I had clearly done something to show him that I was on his side, that he could put his trust in me. He seemed to have grasped that idea completely.

He didn't take his eyes off me, and that was when I realized I was the one person in this room who he trusted. Who he could put his faith into, place his life directly into their hands. If I was theonly one here who he could do that with, I had to be the one to reassure him.

So I gave him a nod and a small smile.

He still looked at me when he said, "I was in my flat."

"Please elaborate," Sondheim immediately demanded.

"I had cooked myself dinner," said Scorpius. I immediately picked up on the term cooked. That was a plus for me. I had no idea if Malfoy could cook, but I had just received verification that I was portraying him correctly at the summer house. "I had had a long day at the office. My article on the Caerphilly Catapults was due by eight PM and I just barely made the deadline. I was in my office until 7:45 that day. I went home, cooked dinner, and scanned the radio for any news for any injuries or player suspensions for the Quidditch World Series. I was asleep by eleven."

"Awfully dull for a man who recently turned twenty, don't you think? For example, you didn't meet any of your friends at a pub for drinks?"

"No, sir," answered Scorpius. Even though I could tell the question aggravated him, he answered politely. Which was great. Irritating Sondheim or anyone on the tribunal was the last thing he needed. "I take my job seriously. I only go out on the weekends."

"Right, and can you prove you were alone at your flat for the evening?"

"Well, my friend Ewan Rosier came by my office around six, asking about having dinner, but I told him I had to meet my deadline and that I couldn't, that I was so exhausted from the day that I would be going straight home as soon as I finished as well. I also had a Puddlemore United match to attend early in the morning for my job. Reporter's box; I wasn't going to miss the match or do anything foolish the night before."

I recognized the name mentioned by Malfoy. Ewan Rosier. That surname had been mentioned to me by Rose. I took a mental note that Ewan was the kid's first name that Malfoy was apparently good friends with. That information could come in handy in the future.

"But you cannot prove that you were at your flat for that entire night?"

"I guess not, sir..." answered Scorpius in defeat.

That's all right. Chin up, kid. He didn't need to give up yet. So that was one question in favor of the Wizengamot. That's all right.

"And the following morning?" Sondheim asked.

"I was up at 5:30. I made breakfast and apparated to the Puddlemore stadium. I was accompanied in my box by Ginny Weasley herself. You - "

"The Potters are to remain impartial in this case and are not allowed mention in this courtroom," Sondheim caught him off so quickly that I was caught off guard. His voice was stern as if he had something against the Potters, but he just kept looking down at his little pad, taking all the notes he could.

Scorpius looked stunned, shocked, and you could see his hope for freedom slowly fading more and more by the second. He had been hoping to mention someone who could testify for him, and of course the person who could potentially be his saving grace wasn't allowed in the courtroom.

"V-Very well," Scorpius muttered, looking down to his lap. My eyes followed the path his did, and I focused on his knuckles. How they were white, strained, the veins popping out of his arms from the tension.

Relax, I thought, and he slowly let loose of his grip. He took in many deep breaths and then sat up straight once more, his composure regained.

"I was in my box for the entire match. I took my notes; it was a close match, and the final score was 210 to Puddlemore and 190 to the Wimbourne Wasps if you want to check me. After the match I went to my office to begin my article. I needed a head start; I didn't need to push another deadline already. I was in my office for maybe an hour when Aurors hauled me off."

"All right, and if you are in fact guilty, can you inform the Wizengamot as to why someone would frame you in such a way? I hope you know that our tests are solid and never lie; your hair was found at the scene of the crime."

"I'm innocent, sir, but I don't know why someone would try to frame me."

"Can you provide proof of your innocence and your alibi?" Sondheim asked.

"No, sir. I cannot prove my innocence, and I have no witnesses to my alibi..."

"Well, that's quite unfortunate, isn't it, Mr. Malfoy?" Sondheim said with a snarky attitude. That voice made me want to smack him upside the head for his lack of care for Scorpius' future. Clearly Malfoy was shaken up. He was young, he had a lot on his plate, he didn't need any of this.

This case wasn't looking so good for Malfoy anymore. He couldn't seem to pull together any firm proof that his alibi was genuine, and Sondheim method of the hearing was appearing biased to me. Maybe the Ministry just wanted a conviction so they could put this murder behind them. But I didn't approve of that. There wasn't going to be a conviction without hard evidence. Unfortunately, a little hair found on the body of the Minister was already enough to test the sentence of being thrown into Azkaban.

"I guess so," Malfoy snarled, his temper being tested by Geoffrey. I wished I could warn him to keep cool, that the Wizengamot wouldn't like him being a smart ass, that it wouldn't get him anywhere in this trial.

"Well, like father like son, perhaps," Sondheim muttered under his breath, taking down another notation.

This comment sent a chill throughout the courtroom. Did he really just say that? The few spectators allowed into the stands made gasps and focused more intently on Sondheim. The tribunal did a fine job of hiding their surprise and their emotions, but perhaps they just agreed with him. But Scorpius was furious. His pale face was suddenly red, and he was grinding his teeth in frustration. I could see him jerking about to break his chains.

"Is that what this is about?! Is that why I'm being treated like this? Because of my family?! I may come from a family who has made some bad decisions but that does not make me a bad person as well!" he shouted in frustration. Murmurs filled the courtroom, but Scorpius continued shouts drowned them out. "And what about Rose Weasley then, hmm?! Is she being fed dinner on silver platters and most likely being pardoned for being a suspect as well?!"

"Speaking out of turn in the Wizengamot," Sondheim accused. "Silence!"

A man across the stands rose cleared his throat. I recognized him vaguely; I knew he was a lawyer, and now I could only assume that he was Malfoy's lawyer. Well, a lot of help he had been during the first part of this hearing. "Sir," the man said over the uproar, "I apologize for my client's behavior. I request a recess so that he may cool off."

"Very well. This hearing will resume in a half hour," Sondheim commented before rising out of his chair. People dispersed, but I watched the lawyer jump down from the stands and rush right to Malfoy. He bent in front of him and scolded him, but he undid his bonds and quickly escorted Malfoy out of the room. I jumped out of the stands and followed them. It was my responsibility to make sure Malfoy didn't do anything out of line or be led anywhere he wasn't supposed to go. Even though I had already broken that rule.

I wanted to see what Malfoy's lawyer had to say, what sort of coaching they had been doing before the trial. Right now Malfoy needed all the help he could get, and I didn't regret taking Malfoy to that window a single bit. Because it looked like Malfoy could use a little sunshine in his life right about now. It wasn't going to be getting any brighter any time soon.

Chapter 16: Cover = Blown
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"Are you going to tell me what the hell that was?" Malfoy's lawyer demanded as he shut the door behind the three of us. Scorpius dropped down into a chair at a table, taking his head into his hands with a heavy sigh as he realized his poor discretion in the courtroom only moments ago.

"I'm sorry. I don't know. I wasn't thinking," he commented, rumpling the hair he had smoothed down for the trial.

"The hell you weren't! We're trying to get you excused of all charges! Not convicted! Or am I just wasting my time?" his lawyer demanded, folding his arms across the chest.

I had been with the guy for only a few moments, and I already knew that I was not a fan of the guy. He was too intense; he clearly didn't care about Malfoy's fate, but only about the money Scorpius' father must be generously paying him.

It was when I was looking at the lawyer, submerged in my own judgmental thoughts when he turned to me with an accusing finger pointing in my direction. "And you! Because I couldn't fit time into my schedule to speak with him this morning, you should have reminded him of what is considered acceptable at this time!"

"You're the lawyer, not me. I don't have a client to keep in line. That's all you," I retorted, arms folded across my chest as I leaned against the wall. I only then realized how short I sounded with the man, but I realized I didn't really care.

"Then what are you doing here?"

"Making sure you stay in line," I snapped.

Damn lawyers. Us Aurors have never really gotten along with the lot of them, but that changed slightly when Hermione took charge of the lawyer department. She kept the lawyers and their snarky attitudes in line while Harry made us do the same. I could see where the disagreements arose, though. Aurors are dark wizard catchers; we often face danger when on mission, and therefore face a little boredom during a normal day at the office. So we entertain ourselves by creating a little ruckus in our department while the lawyers work to maintain disruptions. We had clashing jobs, so to speak. Harry sat by while Ron and I often commandeered unimportant flying messages and lit them on fire for show, while Hermione told her employers to cool off when they were frustrated at us.

"You Aurors," he exhaled under his breath, turning to Malfoy while shaking his head.

I stood up straighter at that. I couldn't do much about the lawyer bad mouthing, but I could always report to Hermione that one of her employers was being a smart ass, my smart ass attitude already aside. "Excuse me," I interjected. "And your name is?"

"Justin Finch-Fletchley," he said, leaving it at that.

Oh, dammit. Talking about this guy to Hermione wouldn't do much good even if I tried. I recognized the name; he was Hermione's best lawyer. Wow, clearly Draco Malfoy was paying the big bucks for his son's case.

He turned back to face Malfoy and focused on his job. "Okay, so it didn't quite go the way we wanted it to in there - "

"Yeah, but I was myself and told the truth, just like you said," Scorpius snapped with just a short of fuse as I had.

Everyone seemed to be running on close to nothing today. Fletchley waved his hands around animatedly. "Was I finished? No. Yes, I told you to tell the truth, but what was the one thing I said was more important than telling the truth? That you get the tribunal to like you! You won't be pardoned by making the tribunal hate you!"

"I'm sorry! I just lost it," shouted Malfoy. His attitude around Fletchley was much different from what it had been with me, in confinement and with Ruckman. I could immediately tell that Malfoy didn't like his lawyer in the slightest, but rather that Fletchely irritated him, got under his skin and Scorpius couldn't seem to shake him off.

"Well, it's going to be extremely difficult to make a comeback after that," he huffed under his breath.

Scorpius watched him pace back and forth from his seat, completely unmoving except for his eyes that moved back and forth. Those grey eyes seemed to be giving death wishes for his lawyer; I wanted to laugh at the hatred that radiated from him for Fletchely.

That made two of us, Malfoy.

"What can I do?" asked Scorpius quietly. He didn't want to work with his lawyer, but he knew that his freedom was dangling by a thread after his remark in the Wizengamot just now. "I'll do anything at this point."

"Good," commented Fletchley. "That's what I want to hear after a show like that from you! But we need something big."

Neither one of them said anything. Scorpius remained looking hopeful, hoping that Fletchley would solve all of his problems while the lawyer himself was still trying to figure things out. I myself had an idea, so I decided to just throw it out there.

"Veritaserum," I muttered under my breath. I thought it was a great idea, but clearly from the looks I was receiving from the both of them, they didn't agree. I rolled my shoulders in questioning, trying to show that this might be their only option at this point if they wanted to avoid a conviction. "What? If he's telling the truth and has nothing to hide, then why not? It's illegal to use it by force, but it is perfectly legal to administer the serum under consent by one of the Wizengamot members."

"Well," began Fletchley. He had this incessant habit of rubbing his chin with his index finger, clearly something he did to help him think, and he continued to do so as he pondered my reasoning. "That makes sense, and it would most certainly prove that you are being honest. Simple as that."

"Exactly," I said, looking to Scorpius now.

"Would you be willing to take the serum?" Fletchley asked him, and Scorpius nodded eagerly.

His lawyer went over with him how the Wizengamot would go about that, how at the resuming of the trial after I chain him down, I can make a motion to administer the serum. It will then be approved by Malfoy, and Sondheim should appropriately send for one of the tribunal members to fetch a bottle of Veritaserum, and we would go from there.

Fletchley and I both made sure Scorpius knew the drill. The thirty minute recess passed quicker than any of us would have liked. As the time got closer, Malfoy got more and more on edge. He grew tense, sweating and shaking in his seat. Fletchely was taking down a few notes in a chair in the corner, not paying attention to his client, so I walked over to Malfoy. I knelt down in front of him, and I watched him digging his nails into the back of his left hand. He had drawn blood, and I noticed the other scars. Perhaps it was a nervous habit he had picked up.

I tried not to mention it as I looked up at him. "Hey. Look at me, kid."

He did so, immediately prying his eyes away from his scarred hand. They were swimming with something I wouldn't necessarily understand from him, but I felt as if I had made a connection with him, and I didn't know why. I know he felt it too, though. In any other situation, he wouldn't have opened up to me; he wouldn't have looked at me, his one hope in that courtroom just now. Maybe it was the fact that I was slowly turning into him, that I was losing grasp of my own self and instead becoming him. That was what made me get soft with Malfoy, and perhaps that was why he had opened up. I was the only one he had spoken to in weeks, aside from his lawyer who didn't get a rat's ass about him.

"You'll do fine. Just mind your tongue, and things will be fine. You're going to take the serum; that will convince the tribunal quite greatly. Don't worry," I said.

Malfoy lowered his voice and leaned forward. I was aware of him glancing at Fletchley; he made sure his lawyer was paying him any mind. That was when he whispered to me.

"They're twisting my case though!" he panicked and a quite hiss. "They're twisting my words to the point where I can't even redeem myself. There's something going on beneath all this, and you know it. We heard those men by the window. This is twist - "

"I know," I hissed out quietly. I said this mostly for the purpose of silencing him, but I found that I believed my own words. And perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut. But I kept on going. "I know that this is twisted. I think you're right; there is something going on beneath all this, something we don't know about. But remember what I told you. You worry about making the tribunal like you, and I will do my job."

I couldn't believe how full-heartedly he trusted me. How he looked at me like I was his only hope.

"You have to," he pressed. "You have to find out what's going on. Please. Don't let me rot here, or worse, in Azkaban."

"I won't. I promise I won't," I answered, but really, how could I keep that promise? I was living the life with Rose at that summer house? Peakes and Ruckman were my only other means of communication. I trusted Ruckman completely, but I didn't trust Peakes. I was beginning to think more and more that Peakes was one of the ones behind this, and he could have Ruckman's every move being watched. Or worse, Ruckman could be doing Peakes' dirty work without even realizing it.

I hated myself more and more these days. Making promises I couldn't keep, lying blatantly to people's faces.

I swallowed and whispered again. "I-I will."

"What are you talking to my client about?" Fletchley sudden questioned.

I jumped slightly; so did Malfoy. We both looked to the lawyer, who was suddenly watching the both of us intently. I rose from in front of him, wiping my sweating palms on my dress pants.

"Reassuring him. Because that's the last thing you're doing, but it's also the first thing he needs right now," I snapped. I looked to my watch that had been synced with Ministry time upon the beginning of the recess. "But it's time to go back to court, so let's go."

I turned back to Malfoy, beginning to pull out my wand. I prepared myself to tell him what I needed of him, but he already complied. He lifted both his hands to me, pressed his wrists together. I gave him a reassuring smile and bound them together. The three of us entered the room. Fletchley took his proper seat, and the rest of the tribunal had been waiting for our return. Malfoy sat back down in the chair, and I strapped him back in. After completing this task, I turned to the tribunal and spoke directly to Sondheim.

"Scorpius Malfoy would like to be administered Veritaserum to prove he is being truthful," I said.

This seemed to surprise the tribunal slightly. I don't know why it always surprised people. Anyone could take it when consent, but not many ever did. When you agreed to take the serum, a full vial of it would be administered. This usually made the accused spill anything and everything, and half the time one little comment - even if they were truly innocent - could be bent the wrong way to have a conviction be made.

"Very well," said Sondheim, and I took my seat. "Mr. Malfoy, do you give your consent?"

"Yes sir," he whispered.

Sondheim gave a wave of the hand, and somewhere a court member rose to fetch the serum. There was an eerie silence in the courtroom, and it was thankfully broken by the footsteps of man who had gone to get it. He returned and showed the vial to the court to prove he was administering the correct serum, and when Sondheim nodded, he turned to Malfoy. He didn't even give Scorpius a second to prepare. The man grasped his jaw, pried his mouth open, and poured it directly down his throat.

Scorpius gagged briefly, and I winced at the sound of it, but he swallowed every drop. When he finished, he brought his head back forward, wiping his chin on his shirt, and he looked to the court, awaiting his questions.

Sondheim wiped the slate clean after that. He folded his hands and asked the simplest, most straightforward questions possible. "Well then. Let's start from the beginning then, shall we? Did you kill Jarvis Otto Branstone?"

"No," Scorpius said immediately with complete lack of emotion. There was a murmur of surprise over the room, and I sat up straighter, proud. Maybe we would actually get somewhere positive with this today. "I did not kill him."

"Do you know how the Minister of Magic was murdered? What was the weapon?"

"I do not know what the weapon was," he said again.

"Did Rose Weasley kill the Minister of Magic?"

"I don't know."

"Do you know who killed the Minister?"

"No, I don't."

The tribunal gave a heavy sigh. I don't know what this meant, though. It seemed as if Malfoy was clearing his name pretty fast, but I think the tribunal was hoping that the serum would at least give them a lead in another direction. However, that clearly wasn't happening. Scorpius Malfoy appeared to not know anything at all.

I thought the rest of his trial went pretty well. The serum had kicked in somewhat - clearly. We all knew his words were truthful, but Malfoy was lucky in the fact that he wasn't spilling his deepest desires or rambling about the strangest things. He only spoke when he was asked, and he answered accordingly. I thought he was doing brilliant. Surely the Wizengamot would get him acquitted after this. I didn't want to think about what that meant for Rose. For the time being, I was worrying only about the man I knew I had to support.

I was expecting Malfoy to be acquitted then and there in the courtroom, but after Malfoy was done being questioned, Sondheim's words surprised me.

"That will be all for today. This hearing is now closed, and the case of Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy is to be put on hold until further notice. There will be no verdict today."

I was shocked. Appalled actually. And I should have contained myself, but there was no stopping what I did next. I was on my feet, my fists tightly clenched by my sides, and suddenly everyone was looking at me in surprise.

"That's outrageous! He's taken Veritaserum; he hasn't killed anybody! What more do you need?!"

Out of my peripherals I could feel Malfoy's eyes on me. I knew he agreed with me; of course he did, and he seemed to be sending me his silent gratitude with that eye contact.

"Mr. Lupin, calm yourself. By your outburst, you don't mean to question the decisions of the Wizengamot tribunal, do you?" he said in a condescending tone with a look to go with it.

Of course I meant to question the decision of the tribunal, but I knew I couldn't say so. I had just involuntarily put my job on the line. With this sick and twisted courtroom, I felt like anything could happen.

"N-No, sir," I said, stumbling over my words and struggling to articulate the right thing to say. "I just...Isn't Veritaserum proof enough to get him acquitted? Why is his case being postponed?"

"This is a dual case, Mr. Lupin; we have two suspects. You know that very well. A verdict will not be given until we have held a hearing for both suspects involved. Not to mention, Veritaserum can prove what Mr. Malfoy knows. However, if he happened to have been Obliviated, then Veritaserum would not do the trick. Someone - perhaps even one of his friends - could have wiped his memory for him. There is always the possibility, and we must keep our options open."

At this mention, Scorpius looked truly horrified. He and I had both thought this would all be over. Not tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month. But today, after he agreed to take the serum. Fletchley had even thought so as well. This had been the last thing we were expecting.

But I just swallowed a thick lump that had formed in my throat and nodded. There was nothing I could do. So I sat my ass right back down before I did something else incredibly stupid.

Ruckman went to unchain Malfoy while I tried to gather my bearings, staring at my knees. When the courtroom had cleared out, I finally rose and exited the place. I ran into Ruckman in one of the halls. He told me that Malfoy was using the loo and that he would watch him for a bit. I thanked him for giving me a temporary break and went to my office to eat lunch.

Inside, I was startled at what I found. I slipped in as fast as I could, slamming the door shut before anyone could notice.

"M-Mr. Malfoy?" I asked, surprised to see Draco Malfoy sitting at my desk.

"H-Hi, Ted," he said quietly. "H-How did it...How did it go? The hearing, I mean."

I sighed heavily and sat across from him. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, illegal, but I had done so many things that were illegal to my contract lately, what was one more? I could hardly care anymore. I looked to the floor, squeezing my hands together and trying to form the right words to tell Scorpius' dad.

"Not as well as we would have liked," I finally answered. "It was awful at first. It really was. But Scorpius agreed to taking Veritaserum, and I thought that was brilliant. He answered everything the way an innocent man would, and I thought he would be acquitted. Then Sondheim suggested that Scorpius could have been obliviated, and that would make the serum absolutely obsolete."

"Shit," Draco cursed under his breath. He leaned forward in my desk chair, taking his head into his hands and rubbing his temple. "He's not a killer....He's just not!"

"I know he's not, and I'm so sorry about this, Draco. But it seems like this will last a little longer," I said. I reached out and gave him a firm pat on the back.

"Very well," he said. He rubbed his chin and stood up. "I'll get out of here before you're seen with me. Thanks again, Ted. For all your help."

I only nodded and watched Draco leave my office.

I shortly met up with Malfoy again, and the two of us bolted across the main atrium, past the screaming bystanders who were throwing things and calling Malfoy foul names. We were by ourselves again in the confinement ward, and I was latching the door behind the two of us.

"You smell good, but your nose is kind of big," he muttered under his breath, looking at me in awe. "Did you know that?"

Oh, Merlin. He had been muttering strange things the entire walk over here, but I hadn't paid them any mind. Now that it was just the two of us and I could hear him clearly, I was just now listening. Clearly the Veritaserum had finally reached its full effect, and Malfoy had reached the point of spilling everything. He was rambling about the strangest things that crossed his mind. He had clearly forgotten about his postponed trial. I just tried to ignore him, but at the sound of Roses' name, I had to tune in.

"I don't think Rose Weasley killed the Minister either, but if she did, I'm going to be so mad. That means I'm here because of her. Weasley is beautiful though, don't you think so? I always loved her hair. She's too thick headed though. She's just about fearless, and I'm afraid of snakes. Ironic that I'm in Slytherin, right? I'm a bloody baby. We snogged once though, and she's fucking good at it."

"Hey!" I finally had to cut him off. He wasn't going on about anything important. "Scorpius! Snap out of it or shut your mouth."

"But you must think so as well," said Scorpius, continuing to ramble on. He took two giant strides so we were shoulder to shoulder as we approached his cell. He looked at me eagerly, not seeming to really care that he was about to be locked up once again until a decision in court could be made.

"Think what?" I asked, not quite caring.

"That Weasley is beautiful. She's got hair like fire," he said, and that was when I knew he wasn't quite there anymore. That was just the Veritaserum talking, making all his deeper thoughts that he would probably never admit to even himself come forward. "We snogged in a broom cupboard. Albus and Ewan locked us in a cupboard and just left us there. We tell people it was a dare, but we both know we did it out of boredom. I always tried to get her to do it again after that, but she never did. Maybe I wasn't good enough at it."

"Oh my god, Malfoy!" I huffed under my breath, holding my wand out to the sensor for access into Malfoy's cell. I wanted him to shut up. Partly for going on and on about the weirdest things, but I found that, deep down, I was uncomfortable with what he was sharing with me. Not because he was making the situation awkward - because he wasn't - but because I didn't like hearing about how he had snogged Rose senseless. I didn't like it. It put me on edge.

I know that I had grown protective of Rose recently, but had I grown this protective?

"I'm sure you were perfectly satisfactory," I commented. I should have just told him to shut up.

"Then why wouldn't she snog me again after that?" he asked, seeming deeply disappointed.

Really, I should have just told him to shut up.

"Maybe because she's a girl; girls like that mushy stuff, even Rose who is one of the strongest women I've ever met. She may have snogged you once for purely physical means, but she still wants
that emotional connection," I rambled.

"Ah. So she wanted feelings?!"


"Well, I don't have those for her," he slurred and I almost laughed.

We were in his cell once more, but he didn't seem too bothered by it just yet. Granted, that was probably because he was high as the sky due to that Veritaserum. I told him as he spun around, looking at the walls, briefly. "All right, Malfoy. Change your - "

"It's looks purple in here..." he stuttered.

"Hey, listen to me. Chan - Wait, what? Are you colorblind or something?" I asked, bewildered. It was a truth serum, not a mentally deranged serum.

"Yeah-huh," he answered.

"Well, that makes more sense. Okay. Strip. It's time for you to get back into your cell clothes," I ordered.

He complied and was shortly handing me the outfit Rose had picked out for me this morning, and it wasn't long before we were parting ways once more. I locked him back in his cell, and I made my way through the main atrium, making my way back towards the Auror department. I had just entered the Auror floor, and then I saw her.

She was already in the room, and as soon as I saw her, I was beaming from ear to ear. I was temporarily glued to the spot as she turned to look at the department's newest companion, and then I was overcome with the joy of seeing her again. I was thrilled. I bolted forward, opening up my arms with her name on the tip of my tongue. Ruckman beside her didn't even matter.

"Oh, Rose," I breathed as I took her into my arms, engulfing her fully and completely.

She didn't do anything. She just stood there, kind of surprised, and I didn't really understand why.

A hug. I had promised her I would give her one. She said she would need one; I was ready to give it.

I rubbed her back, my brow furrowing in confusion. Ruckman was looking at me as if I had lost my mind, and I didn't get it.

"H-Hi," she stuttered out to me, and I pulled away to look at her. "That was a surprise."

"W-What?" I asked. What was she talking about?

"You and I...We've never been...Never mind. It doesn't matter. It's good to see you, Ted," she said, giving me a smile.

Oh, shit. I think I just blew my cover. I had completely forgotten that I was still me.

Chapter 17: Letting Go
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"Erm..." I found myself stumbling over my words, suddenly searching for a cover story.

How could I have forgotten? How could the fact that I was still me have possibly slipped my mind? Had I really become so comfortable in Malfoy's skin that I couldn't even tell the difference? Or was I just so moved to finally see Rose again?

I know that I wanted to know how her hearing went; it killed me that I couldn't be in there during the hearing, and while I was with Malfoy, I had done my best to not think about her. To not stress about how her hearing was going. Knowing I was away from it, I couldn't do anything to change it. So there was no use in worrying, but deep down, I knew that worry was there in the back of my mind. I cared too much for her to not worry. I knew that. And just like how my heart had nearly left my chest, how it stopped beating just for a moment when I laid eyes on her again, I knew I cared deeply for her.

She looked at me, intrigued but not quite dumbfounded. At least that was a good sign.

I shuffled from foot to foot, struggling to find the right thing to say.

"I-I know we weren't," I replied in response to her comment of how Rose and I were never truly close, "but that doesn't mean I care any less about you. I've been worrying about you throughout this case. It's good to see you finally. H-How have you been?"

"I've been okay. Are you in on the case?" she asked me, a little perplexed. She was a smart girl; she had to have known that her father and uncle had been asked to remain impartial.

"Yeah. I am on the case. You and Malfoy each had an Auror assigned to you for the day. Yours was Ruckman; I was assigned to Malfoy," I said. Which was true. Malfoy had been my responsibility.

She nodded and looked over her shoulder to Ruckman. He didn't seem to care much about our conversation anymore. Seeing that I had recovered myself quite well, he had lost interest in us quite fast. By the look on Rose's face, though, that appeared to be what she wanted. She looked at me intently when she saw his lack of interest.

She grasped my elbows, her eyes locked on mine. "Ted, please tell my family that I'm okay. Please. Please tell them."

"Okay," I whispered, forming another promise that I wouldn't keep. Little did she know, her family already knew she was safe. They knew I was taking care of her; they knew they didn't have to worry. "I will; I promise."

"Thank you," she breathed.

I nodded and tried to lighten the mood before Ruckman could notice how intense we got. It felt weird to begin joking about myself, but I didn't know where else to go from there. "At least tell me Malfoy's been taking good care of you there," I commented with a smile.

She grinned at that, and that made my heart flutter a little. She nodded, chuckling. "Don't worry. He has. I'm lucky he can cook because otherwise I'd be screwed."

"All right," I laughed and smiled. Good to know. I rubbed her elbow with my hand, knowing I should leave now if I wanted to allow a proper amount of time to change and come back without suspicion from Rose. "Listen, I've got to go, but it was great to see you. I'm glad you're doing okay, and hey, everything will be okay."

She looked at me, eyes hopeful, and she nodded. "I know it will be. Thanks, Ted."

"You're welcome, Rose," I whispered, and then I asked with a smile. "Hug goodbye?"

"Of course," she answered and stepped into my arms.

My arms went around her and I held her there for quite a while. At first her arms went around me willingly, and she placed her head against my chest. She molded against me, clearly wanting comfort and solace from someone on the outside. I let my cheek rest on top of her head, and my hand slipped into her curls. I kind of lost myself as I held her, losing track of time, of how long I must have been squeezing the hell out of her.

She finally patted my back, muttering my real name in my ear. Oh, how great it felt for her to say my name.

"Right," I stuttered and stepped away, reluctantly releasing her. "I'll tell Malfoy to come out, but then I have somewhere I have to be."

We said goodbye and I slipped down the hall of the department. I would have to strategize my timing, how I came out, how I would see Rose again. I couldn’t risk my cover like that. Not again. I don't think I could handle upsetting Rose.

I quickly changed into the outfit Malfoy had worn to his hearing, and I shifted back into his appearance. When I knew I hadn't made any mistakes, I came out of my office. I wasn't too worried about what Rose would think happened to the real me while we reconvened in the department hallway. I as Scorpius could simply say he was taking care of some work in his office, and I knew that Rose and I would be out of there in a reasonable amount of time.

I came out of the hallway, wiping my sweaty palms on my pants. Why was I shaking? Why was I so sweaty? Deep down, why was I so nervous to just see Rose again as Scorpius?

I had come to realize that I thrive off the relationship Rose shares with my alter ego. I needed those hugs, those smiles, those kind eyes, and that meaningful relationship. I wasn't even the one on trial for murder, and yet I was desperate to receive these things from Rose.

I finally reached the department hall where Rose and Ruckman were waiting for me. I rounded the corner, and that was when I saw her again. I only now took in her appearance. Her white dress shirt was still tucked into her black pencil skirt, but she had undone the top button of her blouse and loosened up a little bit probably since the closure of her hearing. Her hair was still curly, bouncy, and perfect, but she looked as if she had sweated off all of her make up - probably out of sheer fear.

She turned at the sound of footsteps, but what she did next surprised the hell out of me. I was expecting a smile from her. Broad, beaming, and bright. I had envisioned it throughout the day: the picture of her beaming face at seeing me again, ready for the hug that I had promised her. But that wasn't what I received. She looked disgusted at the sight of me and rolled her eyes.

I stopped in my tracks temporarily. What had happened? Had something been said about me in court? Damn it; I had done it again. Classified myself as Malfoy without even thinking. Technically, had something been said about Malfoy in court that set her off? What had happened?

I tried to ignore it though. I just wanted to hold her again.

I opened up my arms and stepped forward, a smile and her name on my lips, but she folded her arms across her chest and rolled her eyes again.

"W-What's the matter?" I found myself questioning. Instead of hugging her I delicately grasped her elbows, rubbing her soft skin with my thumb.

She jerked out of my grasp and looked to the floor. "I'll tell you about it later," she muttered under her breath.

I bit my lip in anticipation but didn't question it further. I'll tell you about it later was better than I don't want to talk about it at all. So I just waited. I looked to Ruckman and gave him a nod, suggesting that we were ready for the transition. He led us towards the fireplace within the Auror department and said his goodbyes. He warned us that he would keep us informed of the next required court date, and then Rose and I stepped into the fireplace together. She was extremely cognizant of the space between our bodies, avoiding touch at all costs.

The green flames took us away with a roar, the Auror department disappearing from our view, and we shot out of the fireplace at the summer house in a matter of seconds. As soon as we were uprighted and dusting the soot off of our clothes, I turned to Rose. Unfortunately she was already marching out of the room at a determined pace.

"Rose!" I called after her as she disappeared into the hallway. "Rose, are you going to tell me what's the matter?"

"What do you mean 'am I going to tell you what's the matter'?" she snarled, stomping into her bedroom. She headed straight for her wardrobe where she threw open the drawers vigorously. She shuffled through the contents, throwing the occasional t-shirt on the floor in search for what she wanted. I just watched her in confusion, but she rambled on. "You should know perfectly well! I mean, what the hell was that? You promised! I-I...I needed you, and you promised!"

"Rose, I'm sorry," I stumbled, trying to find a way to ask for the information that I lacked because I wasn't the real Malfoy without being too obvious. "But I don't know what you're talking about. I guess I just wasn't paying attention."

"Clearly you weren't!" she shouted.

I wondered if I should leave the room when she began to unbutton her blouse. She yanked it off, and then there she was, just standing before me in her bra in search of a different top. She finally found it, tugging it over her head. She pulled her skirt up a good few inches, making it much less appropriate for business attire and more so for...partying....

That was when I began to wonder just where she thought she was going to go.

"Where are you going?"

"Out," she exhaled cooly.

"What? We can't! You know we can't leave," I said. I was on her tail, following her as she travelled her entire bedroom. She stopped in front of her full length mirror to pull up more cleavage and un-tame her hair slightly.

"I don't care," she answered. "I need out."

"Are you going to tell me why you're angry with me?"

"I'll let you figure it out," she said, and then she was stomping over to her bed.

She grabbed her wand and coin purse and stuck it into the side of her skirt. I was still frozen to the spot as I watched her storm out. I stuttered after her, my voice only a whisper, before I leapt for the door. "W-Where do you think you're going?"

She was storming out of the summer house, and I was still trying to comprehend just where she thought she was going. We couldn't apparate out of here; we could only floo in and out. We could only apparate unless we walked far enough to reach the border of protective enchantments. I followed her quickly, letting the door to the summer house swing shut behind me. I chased after her, walking at a fast pace towards the ocean.

When her feet touched the sand, she turned to the left and set off at a fast pace. "Where the hell are you going?" I demanded again, still following in her steps.

"These charms end at some point. I'm having a night out. What you decide to do is up to you," she said sternly.

"What?!" I demanded. All of Europe knew our faces - well, knew Malfoy's, not mine. She couldn't just stroll about a random town without getting odd looks, questioning how we were actually supposed to be contained at the Ministry. "Rose, we can't go out! People know we're suspects for a murder!"

"Then we will go far away. I know of a great bar on the coast of Alexandria."

"Rose!" I declared in protest. Did she really think she was going all the way to Egypt tonight?

Her retort cut off my thoughts. "Since when did you become such a baby! It was you who was always caught sneaking around after hours!"

"Well, sure! Ten points from Slytherin and a detention; it's not that big of a deal! But we're talking about getting in trouble with the Ministry here!"

"Whatever, you baby!" she shouted, laughter in her voice for some absurd reason.

"Please, tell me why you're angry with me!" I tried again.

"Take a stab at it!" she snapped.

"I'm trying! Was something said in the Wizengamot about me?" I asked, even though I highly doubted that something could upset her this much.

"You promised me something!" she said, hinting at the source of her anger.

And then the possibility hit me. Had she run into the real Malfoy during the exchange? Maybe when I was with Draco Malfoy in my office. Had Ruckman led the real Malfoy right past Rose? If so, that would have created some confusion. She had demanded a hug upon seeing him again after her trial. I had tried to do so, but by the time I had reached her as Malfoy, she was already angry. It struck me as the only possibility now.

"I-Is it because I didn't hug you?" I asked uneasily.

"What do you think?!" she snapped again, and my question had been answered. It was. "You promised! I told you I would need you there! You're all I've got, and you promised! Then you just blew me off!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Rose," I apologized, truly sympathetic. I would have been angry too if it had happened to me, but of course she couldn't be informed of the one silver lining that could assuage her anger. That it hadn't really been the person who had made that promise in their passing. "I-I didn't think you meant then! I was with the Auror. I wasn't sure if he would let me!"

"Still," she sighed, her anger fading and being replaced with disappointment. "You...I...You still could have acknowledged me instead of ignoring me completely!"

"I'm really sorry," I apologized again, and I began to speak again but she whipped around and began her fast pace again. "Let me make it up to you."

She didn't answer me. She just kept on going.

I followed in her wake for quite some time. Her pace was quite determined. I was fully aware of when we stepped out of the boundaries of the protective enchantments I had put up. I said nothing, though. If I did, she would have left in that moment. I also didn't hesitate to step past them; I couldn't or she would jump at the opportunity to leave then and there. I was still holding out for the small hope that she would change her mind, that her anger and frustration would wear off the more she walked. But at some point the thought occurred to her that the boundaries had to be close, when I in fact knew they were a good fifty meters behind us.

She wiped around, her curls hitting her in the face, and she demanded, approaching me with a determined look. "Well? Where is it? The protection enchantments have to end somewhere."

I just pursed my lips. I didn't know how to go about answering that. Did I say we had already passed them? That would make her leave right away. I couldn't lie; that would just come right around to bite me in the ass. But I had to do something. I couldn't let Rose leave. Not while everything was in such a delicate position. It was my job to make sure she stayed safe and that she didn't do anything out of line. And this most certainly crossed the line.

But with those eyes so determined, so fierce, my new bond with her told me I couldn't lie. Not about the simpler things that I could still tell the truth with. At least I would have a clear record when she would someday discover my ultimate lie. So I told her.

"We passed it. Back there," I answered in an undertone.

"Bloody hell, and you didn't tell me then?!" she questioned. She seemed to have remembered something, for she cut me off and added sarcastically. "Oh, right. I forgot you are a little goody-good! I swear, that office at the Daily Prophet has made you soft, Scorpius."

I am not soft! Sure I'm not Scorpius but the actions were mine all the same. And I wasn't wasting my life away in a newspaper office. I'm an Auror, for Merlin's sake!

I couldn't just keep standing there like a mute idiot though, so I kicked the sand with my shoe and muttered under my breath. "I have not gone soft."

She dismissed my weak comment and simply pressed me further. "Well, are you coming or not?!"

"Of course I'm coming!" I said, groaning as I took a step towards her. I had to go; I had to stay with her in case anything.

"Then let's go!" she demanded.

She grabbed hold of my hand, squeezing tightly, and I waited for that familiar feeling in my gut to pull me away. We were gone with a crack and appeared in the middle of a busy street of what I could only assume was a Wizarding town. The people walking about the streets were wearing more muggle attire, but then again, that is what is more appropriate for a night out. People were laughing, talking, drinking, and hanging onto one another as they wondered about from place to place. Rose looked about the town with a smile, like she was glad to be back, and she reached out for my hand again.

She led me through the busy street. The air was thick and warm, but it was pleasant. A gust of wind came through, bringing with it the sound of musicians playing on a corner ahead.

"Oh, it's good to be back," she sighed as she walked, a smile on her face, and she temporarily convinced me that her anger had faded. She hadn't quite yet forgiven me; that much was clear. Maybe her mood would be better once she got some alcohol in her system.

"You really like it here, don't you?" I asked her quietly.

"I do. The people, the atmosphere. I love it all," she answered, not looking to me.

Then she was running ahead, dragging me forward. I could hear the caw of seagulls over our heads, and I could tell she was bringing me closer to the shore as the cobbled road began to saturate with sand. Finally our feet were sinking into the sand, Rose stumbling with her tall heels and holding onto my arm. I untucked my dress shirt to loosen up a little as I saw the bar ahead. It extended out over the water with multiple patios at different levels. There were lights strung about, and music radiating from the walls of the bar and its patios and dance floors.

"Come on!" she said with a smile, pulling me forward.

Rose led me through the front door, past the bouncer like they were old acquaintances. He let us slip right in with a friendly wave to Rose. Once we were inside, I turned to her, curious. "You on a first name basis with everyone here?"

"Osiris!" she called out and waved eagerly with her other hand, answering my question. She burst over to the bar nearest us, nearly making me tumble over. She came to a halt as she slammed into the bar, beaming at the bartender.

"What is this? Do my eyes deceive me? Rose Weasley?!" the man behind the counter said as he mixed a drink together for another costumer.

"Hey, Osiris!"

"Long time, no see, beautiful!" he grinned. I tried not to flinch at the term of endearment. I didn't like him talking to Rose like that. I knew I was protective of Rose, but I was surprised to find my cheeks burning at his tone towards her. "I heard you were on lockdown, sweetheart. What brings you here?"

"Yupp, definitely on lockdown," she answered, twiddling her thumbs at the bar. "We needed to get out, and I only come to the best."

"Wonderful!" the man said and clapped his hands together.

He served a few drinks to some people down the bar, and I continued to look around, feeling out of place. The man she called Osiris looked to her as he began mixing another drink and asked, "Who's your friend?"

"This is Scorpius. Scorpius, this is Osiris," she said, introducing the two of us.

"Pleased to meet you," he said with a cheeky grin. He tossed his long black hair away from his eyes as he passed Rose her drink. If they were on such good speaking terms, I could only assume it was what Osiris knew to be Rose's regular. I nodded to him, and he asked, making small talk. "You a Curse Breaker with Rose?"

"Nah," I answered, shaking my head and sliding into a chair as one became available. "I'm on lockdown with her too."

"You didn't actually do the killing though," he said. It was more of a statement than a question, but I could still feel his uncertainty in the air between us. "I don't serve killers."

I tried to smile. I knew he was only being polite and keeping a joking atmosphere floating about. Rose patted my arm with a laugh. "No, there's no way he did it. Neither of us did."

"Brilliant," he grinned. He dropped a strawberry into Rose's drink and passed it to her. She immediately downed it, and I noticed the bartender's eyebrows lifting in confusion as he noticed. Then he turned to me, pushing it aside and smiling. "Any friend of Rose is a friend of mine. Anyways, first round is on me. What can I get you, Scorpius?"

"Oh," I said, coming back to my senses as I watched Rose slam down the empty glass. "Blishen's firewhiskey on the rocks."

"Now there's a good manly drink," Rose slurred, commenting on my drink of choice.

She let Osiris make my drink, and I had downed about half of it when Rose grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the bar and out onto the dance floor where the ocean breeze was rolling in. She wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me close. Knowing she clearly wanted a dance, I placed my hands on her hips and I began to step with the music. I am a good dancer, and I am comfortable enough in my own skin to dance however the hell I want without caring who sees. That was just part of my personality; I thought it made me more fun, more outgoing. But it was in a time like this where it took more than a good song to get me going, and I hold my alcohol fairly well. So unfortunately my half a drink of firewhiskey hadn't done the trick just yet. So it took a few minutes for me to get comfortable, especially with Rose dancing, wrapped around me, her eyes closed as she just tried to forget everything and let go everything that held her there.

I closed my eyes and tried to do the same. I pressed my hips against her and swayed with the music, trying to forget everything and just thinking about living in the moment with Rose.

Chapter 18: And Then She Kissed Me
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At some point I completely let loose. Rose and I danced until the early hours of the morning, and Osiris, clearly picking up that the two of us needed a night out after so much solitude, gladly kept refilling our cups. Rose and I were still dancing when we finally spoke to one another. My hands were on her hips, gripping tightly to keep her close, and she reassured me as she toyed with the hair at the base of my neck with her fingers.

"You finally let loose," she said. Her voice sounded as if she were more sober than she truly was.

"Yeah. Well, I was uncomfortable at first," I admitted.

"I could tell. You didn't like Osiris," she observed.

"What? That's not true," I said, my words coming together. A fake laugh filled them, and it was as if I was joking between the both of us because we both knew the truth. "I just didn't like the way he talked to you. Like you were his."

What was I saying?

"D'aw," she snickered, grinding her hips against me. "Scorpius doesn't know how to share?"

"Not with you," I commented.

"Don't worry. He's just a great friend. I come here far too often when I'm stationed here. I came so often that we finally began to talk. It's worth it; free drinks half the time."

"Still," I sighed. I wrinkled my nose and almost laughed at the guy. "Sweetheart?"

"Scorpius," she laughed, pulling away from me slightly. But I slipped my arms further around her to hold her there, refusing to let her back away from me. "Really, don't worry. He's gay."

"Ohhh," I breathed with a smile. "Well that's okay then!"

"You sure?" she asked with a chuckle. "Because I thought I saw him eyeing you."

"Really now?" I laughed, adding humor into the situation. I loved that I could finally joke again. "At least someone thinks I'm attractive."

That made one of us. I knew Malfoy was a decent looking guy, but I only knew I was proudly attractive when I was in my own skin. Still it made me stand a little taller.

She laughed as she melted against me with the music. Her hands moved to my arms, holding steadfastly. Then she looked up and I could smell the alcohol and strawberries on her breath. I bent down so I could hear her whispering into my ear.

"He's still watching. Maybe you should show him what side you swing to."

Then her hands moved down my arms to the waist band of my dress pants. They moved across my back, and I didn't quite know what she was trying for. The alcohol I had taken in made her hands feel like fire on my skin, but I found that I moved in closer towards her. Her hands moved up once again and to the front where she undid the top two buttons of my dress shirt.

"But you told Osiris we were just friends," I slurred, as if that played a huge factor on the matter. My words seemed to disappoint her, and I didn't really know why. I was oblivious to a lot of things when I wasn't very coherent.

She backed away from me slightly. "Sure, I told him we're friends. But that girl alone at the bar is not your friend."

Then I got the message. She wanted me to show Osiris that I was straight by dancing with another girl. Most like in a provocative fashion if I wanted to get the message across.

I turned to look over my shoulder at the blonde Rose was pointing to. She was certainly beautiful, and if I didn't approach her soon, another man would within the hour. It was only a matter of time before the girl was dancing out here with another bloke. But I didn't want to, strangely enough. I had danced with many beautiful strangers at clubs before; some I took back to my flat and were gone before I could wake up and even recall their name. But now was different. Now I was going back to a cottage where I would be with Rose.

And I was with Rose now. And that was enough for me. I just wanted to be with her. I didn't want to leave her side just so I could dance with a pretty blonde, probably snog her in a corner and leave her after that. I would rather just let Osiris think I was gay and just keep dancing with Rose. I didn't want to leave her alone. Partly because I didn't know who would meet her while I was away from her. Would she meet someone else that would sweep her off her feet? Would she leave the bar with him and I would lose track of her? I couldn't lose sight of her, and I knew that was part of it. But I realized that the other part of me that burned with anxiety at the thought was of how I didn't want another man to even lay eyes on her.

Had I grown so protective? Would I be jealous?

And as I thought about it, I realized that I would. I would be jealous if I saw Rose dancing with another man, and I didn't quite know why. I hated the idea of it.

Worried, I put my arms back around her. Yes, Rose was just my friend, but I had made my decision. I didn't want to be with another woman, and I didn't even want another man to look at Rose with the hopes of her availability. She couldn't look available. So I slipped my hands lower and let them play out over her round bum. I bent down, pushed her flaming hair away from her ear with my nose, and I whispered.

"I'd rather stay with you."

Then I actually felt Rose move next to me with giggles, and I wondered if I had finally gotten through to her, if I had gotten past her thick, brave exterior and into that side where all she was was a vulnerable woman. She curved into me, pressing her chest and hips against me, and I didn't mind. I moved into it, and we continued to dance for the rest of the night. We were hot, sticky with sweat, reeking of alcohol, and clinging to one another when we finally left the bar at 2 AM. We bid goodbye to Osiris, and he appeared to have this knowing smirk on his face that I and my intoxicated self couldn't quite register.

It took some joking and some convincing between the two of us that we could apparate successfully back onto the beach in our state. Rose was the one who argued she could do it, constantly declaring that she was a "winner." When we joked about losing eyebrows or limbs and decided we didn't want that for ourselves, we found a small diner and used their floo network to get back to the cottage. We shot out of the fire place and into the familiar cottage. Sopping with sweat and alcohol, we raced down to the beach and rinsed our bodies of the two things causing us to reek only to be replaced with the smell of salt water. We abandoned our clothes on the sand, and I entered the ocean in only my boxers, Rose in just her bra and underwear. But it wasn't awkward or provocative in the least. We were too intoxicated to even notice that the other was half naked.

We just floated in the water for a good while, letting the waves bring us back into the shore. Then we finally moved up to the porch. Deciding against showering and dirtying our beds, we both haphazardly climbed into the hammock, a wet and slippery mess. We laid there in the hammock together until the early hours of morning. We talked about anything and everything, random things that crossed our mind, and even though I was cognizant of my words as Malfoy and not being myself, I felt more genuine with her than I had ever been with anyone in my entire life.

We lost track of time as it became meaningless to us, and we fell into the welcoming arms of sleep, holding onto one another as tightly as possible.

Rose and I awoke simultaneously the next morning. I believe it was my stirring upon awaking that woke her. Her hair was clinging to my chest with the dried sea water, and our limbs were tangled about. We made no attempt to detangle ourselves though. We both just sighed and gave each other a squeeze. Even though we had fallen asleep in a hammock that was all too small for the both of us with dried salt water covering our bodies, and alcohol in our bloodstream, it was clearly evident that we had both had a great night's sleep.

"Morning," I murmured to her, fidgeting and placing my head back in the crook of her neck.

She turned over, and for some reason, she was shaking her head. One of her arms went around my waist as she protested against me moving any more. "Not yet," she mumbled, and I could only assume that she wished to sleep for a little longer. I happily obliged.

I knew that sleep wouldn't be an option for much longer with the sun rising higher into the sky, the caw of the seagulls, and the May heat intensifying. There was a nice breeze though that ran through our hair and kept it comfortable for the time being.

I said nothing. I let Rose try to sleep some more as she laid half on me and half against me. I started to play with her hair, trying to soothe her back into the optimum tranquility for sleeping, but she said something after a while.

"I think I drank too much last night," she commented.

I stifled my laughter. "Hung-over?"

"Not really," she said as she evaluated herself. "I was just thinking about last night. Did I really call you a loser over and over? And say that I'm a winner?"

"Yupp," I smiled. "You sure did. And not just at racing me down to the beach. But at everything."

"Oh," she groaned. "You hung-over?"

"Nah," I answered, rolling my shoulders. I didn't feel like I was. My head wasn't pounding, not yet at least. The sun didn't feel too bright, and I didn't feel like everything was painfully ringing in my ears. So that was a great sign. "I hold my alcohol fairly well."

"I'll say," she snorted sarcastically. "After your four firewhiskeys and Merlin-knows how many shots."

"It wasn't that many, was it?" I asked uneasily.

"It was a lot, Scorpius," she said in an almost disapproving tone, but she had no room to talk. I had stopped counting her drinks after her fifth one. That was when she started downing shots as well. She shook her head at me, a smile working its way across her lips. "It was you though who suggested we take our clothes off."

I looked down to our bodies. And surely enough I was in my boxers and Rose was in naught but her bra and underwear. I found that my cheeks flushed crimson within a second. I couldn't really recall ever getting rid of them. Then I remembered they were down by the beach, but why initiated the idea to take our clothes off? Had I really? I guess I had forgotten that I am more rambunctious when I'm intoxicated, but I thought I had been fairly maintained last night....

"Did I really?" I asked, uneasy.

"Sure did," she laughed, sitting up.

"Oh," I swallowed. "Sorry."

"Don't worry. It was a good idea," she murmured and turned her head to gaze at the ocean. The wind blew her hair, covering her expression from my vision, and I couldn't read her. Why did she believe it was a good idea? Whatever for she believed it for, I let it pass.

She turned back to me after a few minutes of silence, her voice soft and soothing. "Thank you, Scorpius."

I was pulled out of my thoughts, and I turned to look at her with a smile. "What for?"

"For last night. I know it wasn't my best discretion, but I needed it. So thank you."

"Oh," I said, slightly surprised. "Well, you're welcome. You're right; it wasn't the best discretion. But I don't blame you. We needed out."

We finally climbed out of the hammock a good while later after having pleasant, relaxed conversations. I put on more clothing and decided to postpone a shower even further, deciding that I would probably head down to the water at some point today. I fixed lunch for Rose and I, and we ate down by the water, letting the waves lap at our feet. We threw spare pieces of bread into the sky and watched the seagulls scoop them up in mid-air.

We did go back into the water. We swam out to the second sand-bar and I taught Rose how to look for sand dollars. It was a fun pass time that Rose never learned how. Instead, James, Vic, Dom, and I had mastered the craft years ago. We would dive underwater and stick our fingers into the sand on the ocean floor, wiggle two inches or so beneath the surface and push across until we found sand dollars.

It took a good hour or so for Rose to get the technique. She had found six while I had found twenty already. After a good hour we swam back to shore with the twenty-six sand dollars in a mesh bag we had swam out there with. On the shore we poured them out and watched the live sand dollars try to burrow themselves back into the sand. When it was almost all the way under, we would pry them back up to the surface and watch the process over again.

As Rose pulled one up from the sand, setting it back on the wet sand, she made a comment that made me give my undivided attention. I looked at her from the corner of my eye, listening intently.

"I used to watch Victoire and Teddy Lupin do this," she mumbled.

I smiled at hearing my own name leave her lips. I wanted her to keep talking though about it, about me, so I urged her to say more. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. You remember Teddy, don't you? I guess you would; he would miss out on a few of our holiday dinners to go to yours. Years ago when he was young though. Teddy was the one who found out how, and he taught Vic. James and Dom too, but mostly Victoire. I used to watch all the time," she said, her voice trailing off and a smile creeping onto her lips.

I shook my head, sending water everywhere, and I smiled. I loved hearing her talk about me.

"Of course I remember Teddy," I commented. I recalled my few and brief dinners at the Malfoy house, paying my annual respects to my distant family. "He used to change his nose to a snout or mouth to a beak. Something like that just to make me laugh."

"Yeah," Rose laughed. "I think the aqua hair is his signature favorite."

It is my favorite.

"I think so too," I chuckled. "Were the two of you ever...close?"

Her smile faded at that. "No. We never really were, but now I wish I had taken the time to actually talk to him. Then maybe we would be. Being the's been showing me a lot of things that I should have done differently."

Then I just nodded and let the conversation go at that. We took the sand dollars and pur them back in the water. Except for a small, perfectly symmetrical one; that one I slipped into my pocket with a set plan in mind of what I was going to do with it.

The rest of the day was lovely. It was relaxing, and in all honesty, it was the best day we had shared together thus far at the cottage together. Rose was in a brilliant mood; ever since she had woken up, she hadn't let her thoughts dwell on anything negative. She hadn't spoken about her trial, so I didn't quite know how things went yesterday. But I didn't want to ask, for fear of ruining the mood.

I cooked dinner again as Rose helped out, and we ate in the hammocks together, sitting opposite one another. The sun was setting when we set our plates aside and entered a more serious matter.

"I said I would have gotten to know Teddy better. If I hadn't taken so many things for granted. What would you have done?" she asked me, facing me as the sun made her hair glimmer with light. Her cheeks were tinted pink with our day spent in the sun, but I found it adorable.

I rolled my shoulders. We would be entering dangerous territory with this subject. It was a serious conversation, and I found that, in those conversations, I couldn't help but be myself. Rose had a way of doing that to me, but a more personal conversation recalling past events could potentially ruin me. I didn't know enough about the small details that Scorpius may have done differently that I could improvise with. I could only recall one from when I was in his cell with him.

His job.

I sighed, trying to be nonchalant and reminiscent, sentimental, and yearning for something better. "I don't know, really. I think I would have done something differently with my life. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. Free tickets to all the matches? It's great, but I just keep thinking that there is something out there where I could have done so much more," I said.

In truth, the words all seemed real to me as they came out of my mouth. I, as Teddy, did feel this way. I know that I'm not on trial for murder, but this house arrest situation had taught me some things as well. It had showed me how to live life to the fullest, that you should take every second as it comes to you and do something unexpected. Never have one regret. Now, with some much time being forced in one place without my choosing, I was being shown all the things that I could have done of my own free will.

Being an Auror was never my dream job. Still to this day it isn't, and this stay here had taught me even more that I should have done something different. So, as I opened up to Rose, the words became true for Scorpius Malfoy as well as for me.

Rose nodded. I assumed she didn't say anything more because she couldn't sympathize. She had a great career; she got to travel the world. Something maybe I should have done. She did question me further though.

"What would you have done?"

I shrugged my shoulders at that. "I don't know. Maybe I'd still have the same job, but at least try to take more vacations. Get out and do something, see great places. Thanks for taking me to Egypt," I said. "That was one thing I definitely hadn't done before. One less place to see."

She giggled and responded to my thanks. I began to doubt my words, if I should have said that. I actually didn't know if Malfoy had been to Egypt or not. Maybe he had been there for a match, but I know I hadn't. Rose didn't seem to know any different though, so I was lucky in that aspect.

"What about Joelle Thomas?" Rose asked, and I drew a blank.

Who the hell was that?

I said nothing for a few seconds. I just sat still and hoped that she continued further about the girl so that I could improvise a little instead of free-styling the entire situation. I could feel the heat rush to my face though. It had been awhile since I had faced a difficult conversational task with Rose while trying to be Scorpius.

Her head inclined, and she waited. But I still remained still. She moved closer to me and put a hand on my knee; that gave me the vibe that it would have been a touchy subject with the real Malfoy, but she finally inclined further. "Your ex. Would you have done something different?"

Ah. Joelle Thomas. An ex of Scorpius Malfoy. I made a mental note of that.

I shrugged my shoulders in dismissal, trying to wing it as best as possible.

"Not really. Things with Joelle worked out that way for a reason. She's not worth it, and I've moved on," I said.

I tried to speak from experience, and I did. I thought about my past relationship with Victoire that had ended a good few years ago. We had had our go, fallen in love, and thought it would work out, but it didn't. Too much happened that made Vic feel like she was living with a five-year-old, and I felt like I was living with my gran again. Our break up had been the best for both of us, and now we had both moved on. But Vic was still one of my greatest friends. I turned to her for anything and everything.

"She never should have done that to you," Rose whispered, looking down to one of the holes in the hammock between us.

She poked her finger through it, trying to keep herself busy. I could tell she wanted to the conversation to lead somewhere. There was something she wanted from this conversation, but I couldn't seem to understand just what it was. She kept her eyes averted from me, so I finally reached down and grabbed her hand. I pulled her fingers free from the hammock and clasped it between my own, subduing her nervous habit.

"It's okay," I said quietly, almost a whisper. "I'm past it. I haven't spoken to her in a year."

"But I just don't...How could she have done that to you? To you," she emphasized as if there was something secretly special about Scorpius that I didn't know yet. "You didn't deserve that. You're...You're different, Scorpius."

Rose was getting serious. She almost seemed as if she was beating herself up for something I knew she couldn't change. So I threw in a comment in attempt for a laugh. "Says the girl who didn't want to snog me after our broom cupboard incident."

She did smile, giving a small laugh and embarrassed nod. But she didn't say anything more. Her eyes moved to our clasped hands, and a different expression took over her face. I wondered if she was okay, so I moved forward. I bent down so that I could see her eyes, and her beautiful blue eyes immediately locked with mine. Something filled them, something that made my heart race, made my mouth water and my skin burn.

Her free hand moved to my face, but we didn't dare break eye contact. I could feel her small hand between the two of mine seek purchase with my fingers, and she entwined them. Her palm opened up to my cheek, moving against my skin, and I found that I moved to fit the curve of her hand.

I was not prepared for what she did next. I don't think I could have ever been prepared for this. This changed our entire relationship, broke our boundaries and formed new ones, gave me a better understanding of what had been going on inside her head, of what her eyes had been full of.

Rose kissed me.

Chapter 19: My Home Away From Home
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I couldn't believe what I was doing, what had just happened to me.

It was Rose. Rose was kissing me.

I was taken aback. Completely stunned, and I didn't know what to do.

Her lips on mine suddenly brought forward thoughts I hadn't even considered, thoughts that had never crossed my mind. I found that I was frozen to the spot. I could hardly move, but I don't think Rose even noticed. She closed the gap between our bodies, pressing her chest against mine, and she held my face between her small hands, her lips kissing mine feverishly.

I couldn't close my eyes to take in the moment like I normally would when kissing a woman. I was too bewildered to figure out exactly what I should do; my eyes were open wide, but all I could see were Rose's eyelashes, long and black, batting against mine.

I had to think quickly. Should I push her away? Was I supposed to kiss her back? I didn't quite know how I felt about all of this; I had never given it any thought. I thought Rose and I were friends. Clearly, at some point, that had all changed. Was I to kiss her back even if I didn't quite know how I felt? That would only give her the wrong impression. But how could I push her away...? But no matter what I decided, I had to do it quickly. This kiss was completely one-sided so far, and Rose was bound to notice at some point.

My vision began to blur from focusing on something so close in front of me. I closed my eyes, and a new sensation hit. I melted into that kiss. My hands grasped her hips and pulled her closer if that was even possible.

I didn't think about anything except kissing Rose. I tried to narrow all the things cluttered in my mind down to that one single thing. Her kiss. I was suddenly aware of how soft her lips were, how luscious, how much passion she put into it. Her fingers felt delicate as they toyed with the locks of my hair. They ran through, slick and smooth, and came to rest at the back of my neck, one of her fingers toying the bottom of my hair.

I kissed her back only slightly, still experimenting, still trying to understand just why my heart was racing, why my skin felt as if it were ablaze with passion every inch she touched. I knew I was enjoying it. My hands began to move up her back and into her hair, only kissing her harder, but it was when Rose opened her mouth against mine and I felt the flicker of her tongue did I pull away.

I jolted away, coming to my senses. I couldn't lead her on like that. Not until I cleared up this mess going on in my head. The sun had recently set, but the sky was just the right shade of purple so I could still see her facial features. One of my hands went to cover my mouth in surprise, and my eyes moved to meet hers.

She looked hurt more than anything, embarrassed. Her hands fell weakly to her sides, and I could tell neither of us knew what to say. But I couldn't take her eye contact anymore. If I kept looking into those beautiful blue eyes, I would pour out all my troubles about this and the truth would go with it.

I just couldn't be with her. I had to think this over, think about our situation, but more importantly understand my feelings for her. But seeing her there before me, feeble, embarrassed, beautiful and gentle, when my throat clenched and was unable to form words, I had to consider the possibility that these feelings weren't just friendly. Maybe they were more and I hadn't even noticed the transition.

When did this happen? Merlin, she was beautiful...

I jumped up from the hammock. I had to or I would be kissing her again in a moment.

I turned my back to her, one of my fingers still prodding my kissed lips. I didn't know why I couldn't pull my hand away, but my lips felt as if she were still upon me. Like I would carry that kiss around with me forever.

I turned to look at the door and made way for it. "I need to..." I started. My throat was a choked up mess as I spoke, cracking in a way that made me all too embarrassed. "Think...About this..."

"Scorpius?" Her voice was so fragile. In a single second, it sent a wave of pain and need washing over me.

I shuddered.

It's not Scorpius. Why couldn't I tell her that? Teddy. It's Teddy. That was another factor to consider in all of this that I hadn't even looked at.

Betrayal. A new feeling that sprung along with the thousand others that had only just surfaced.

I had to think.

"Have to think..." I muttered and headed for the door without another moment to lose.

"About what?!" she asked harshly. She scrambled out of the hammock, the rope temporarily twisting about her toes. She stumbled to her feet and was on my tail. I was vaguely aware of her fingers gingerly prodding my back. "Think about what, Scorpius?!"

"I-I don't know," I muttered. Why did I have to be speaking like a fool to top off all these things?

"I thought it was obvious that I felt this way for you! I-I thought you did too," she said painfully.


I didn't know what to say, but thankfully, I didn't have to. We had reached my room. I excused myself without another word and slipped into my bedroom, locking the door behind me before Rose could follow. But her distraught shouts were not silenced by that blockade now between the two of us. "Scorpius!"

Alone, I collapsed onto my bed, feeling as if I were suddenly drowning in all these emotions.

"Scorpius!" Rose shouted in pain one more time.

I didn't say anything. What could I say? I had kissed her back. I had. I'm sure she was confused by my actions, but I couldn't explain myself to her when even I didn't quite know what was going on. I clawed at my face with my hands, digging my nails into my eye sockets as if it would force me to think clearer. However, it did no such thing.

I had to organize myself.

Okay, first things first. Did I feel that way for Rose? Had it changed from friendship to something more without me even realizing it? Had I been acting outside of the friendship boundaries? What made her decide to do that?

I thought we had been friends, but perhaps I had been more physical with her than friends normally are. As I thought about it, I considered that possibility. We had slept in a bed together a few times, cuddling and tightly embraced. We had held hands numerous times; I had kissed her forehead. Then last night we had danced together. I had let her grind her hips against mine, I had let her unbutton my shirt, I had been the one to suggest we take off our clothes, and I had been the one to whisper in her ear of how I would rather stay with her. We had slept in a hammock together in naught but our undergarments.

Oh, Merlin....

As I analyzed my actions, I realized that maybe I had been the one to step outside the boundaries of friendship without even thinking about how Rose would interpret the actions. Did friends - usually a man and a woman - sleep in a bed together in a way that was simply as friends? Did those friends dance provocatively together and undress in front of one another? Did those friends sleep in hammocks together wearing just their underwear?

Friends didn't do that, did they?

We had taken it a step too far. I now understood that my actions could have confused her. I was leading her own without even realizing it. No wonder she had thought I wanted it too; I had done plenty of things to make her think I already liked her like that! Why had I been so stupid?! Why hadn't I realized it? I knew I had been acting the way I had to reassure her, to be there for her, to protect her because she was going through a difficult time. It didn't occur to me that my actions could also be interpreted as more than friendly.

I'm a bloke; I don't look into the deeper things like that, so of course I didn't pay attention to any feelings in our actions! But now I realized that I should have. I had confused Rose greatly. It was all my fault.

But that didn't change anything now. Rose had kissed me, and I was still trying to understand my thoughts. I knew that her change in feelings for Malfoy had been because of me, but did I also like her like that? I realized that I loved sleeping in the same bed with her; I never let go of her when I did so. She fit against me perfectly. She made my heart pound; she made my skin feel as if it were on fire.

I knew I had grown protective of Rose, but I never thought about why I had grown protective. I thought back to when we were at the bar last night. How I didn't want to leave her side, how I didn't want another guy to even lay eyes on her. I thought about why I didn't ask that blonde girl to dance. I hadn't wanted to leave Rose.

I closed my eyes and pictured her dancing with me once more. I tried to imagine her hands all over me again, unbuttoning my shirt, around my neck and playing with my hair.

A shiver shot down my spine at the thought. My heart beat faster, and I lost my breath. I suddenly wanted to hold her again, to have her arms around me, to be dancing with her and be thinking of nothing but the girl I was holding.

Of course those thoughts meant I had an infatuation for her. Why hadn't I realized it sooner? How could I not think of Rose in a romantic way? I suddenly felt foolish for never noticing it. Of course I felt the same way for her as she felt for Scorpius.


For Scorpius...

Not for me.

At that thought, I felt my stomach drop. It felt as if it fell completely out of my body, as if it hit the floor. I ached and longed for her to feel this way for me. Not for Scopius.

Not to mention that not only were her feelings for Scorpius, but I was lying to her. Blatantly lying to her. Constantly. It had been killing me more and more, but this was ridiculous. Could I really be so selfish as to do that to her? She deserved the utmost respect and honesty, and I certainly wasn't giving that to her.

But her beautiful face...

Her eyes, that gorgeous smile, her hands, her delicate form that fit so perfectly against me. Her strong, brave, determined, and courageous personality. All the things about her that I couldn't resist, that made me truly believe I was deeply infatuated with her. How could I avoid all those things? I didn't think I could. And maybe there was a small chance of Rose forgiving me. It was small and unlikely, but maybe...

If she knew how much I cared it could be a possibility, right? Or was that just a fool's hope?

But I knew I couldn't avoid all those things. I thought about the way she made me feel, how she made me a better person, how she had changed my life completely over these past few months, and I knew I couldn't not be with her in a romantic way. I needed to be with her.

Then my head felt clearer than ever. I knew what I wanted, and I couldn't let logic get in my way. I had learned to live from my heart, and how could I deny what it was telling to do?

I rose from my bed and approached my door. I was walking out and through the hallway. I had reached Rose's bedroom. Should I knock? Was it locked? Had I missed my window and she was now angry with me?

I decided to just reach for the handle. If it was unlocked, that was a sign, but I also didn't want to hear her to tell me to go away if she didn't want me in there. Better to ask forgiveness than permission. My hand closed over the knob, and I twisted.


I pushed and entered her bedroom.

The lights were out, but the new moon that had risen in the sky gave off a luminous light. Her room was filled with shadows and white glows. I looked about and saw her figure just sitting on the edge of her bed. I approached her, coming to stand before her. My eyes found hers in the dark room, the whites of her eyes shining brightly. Her mouth was parted, her eyes trying to think, clearly confused just like I had been

"Scorpius..." she whispered quietly. There were so many meanings behind that name in that moment. A sigh of release, a question. She meant so much by it, yet she needn't say more.

I placed my hands on her knees, her skin warm against mine, and I squeezed delicately. I looked at how my hands closed over her entire knee, how small she was beside me. I lifted my head to hers, and then I was all over her.

My hands went to her cheeks, to the back of her neck, knotting themselves in her hair, and I was pushing my lips against hers.

Rose leaped into my arms. Her legs wrapped around my waist, her arms around my neck. Her kisses were even more eager than mine. It only lasted for a moment before her soft lips parted and I could feel her tongue against mine.

And I loved it.

Why hadn't I seen Rose in this light before? It was different, kissing her, but it was exciting, and it felt right. I could barely control myself as she wrapped her body around mine. The weight of her and gravity pulled us down. Her back touched the bed, and I crawled on top of her.

I let my body hover above hers, our lips never breaking. I drank her in, loving the taste of her. Her hands let go of my neck but only repositioned themselves on my chest. Her fingers were tracing circles and drawing patterns on the cotton of my shirt. My hands moved to her hips, pinning her to the bed. She made a pleased grunt at the position of my hands and the take-charge force I used. My hands moved across her stomach, resisting the temptation to move above her bra line in fear of taking it too far all too quickly, moved to her hips, stroked her thighs. I grabbed her legs and hiked them up so that I could settle my body on top of hers, resting perfectly between her legs.

Her hands at the collar of my shirt had pulled me down, and I gladly let her slip them into my shirt when they travelled down to my waistline. Her palms were warm as they pressed against my abs, and when Rose made a noise, I only ended the kiss so that I could kiss her neck.

She loved it. I could tell by the way she arched her back, how she writhed beneath me, her toes curling. I kissed all over the warm skin there until I found the spot that made her the most vulnerable, the one that just made her melt into a puddle beneath me. I found it below her left ear; I could tell by the way she went limp beneath me, her breathing growing even, and I kissed until I knew I had left a mark. Only then did I return to her lips, more gently this time.

She pulled me down and held me there, not daring to let me go. Her hands at the back of my head wouldn't let me pull away even if I tried. Not that I wanted to though.

We kissed slowly, deeply, to the extent that I felt as if I would carry the taste of Rose in my mouth for the rest of my life. And I realized I wanted that. We just took our time to memorize the feel of the others lips, the curve of them, how we moved. Unfortunately, I hated myself for letting her take the time to memorize a pair of lips that weren't even mine. How I wished I could be myself doing this, let her know it was me she was kissing instead of believing she held this kind of relationship with Scorpius.

But I couldn't let myself think too hard about that. Not while I was on top of her like this. I realized I had grown tense, and I didn't want her to notice.

I shoved those thoughts away and thought only of how she made me feel and the two of us in that moment. I lost myself in her. The way she felt, her smooth skin, her smell, the heat of her against me, the butterflies she made me feel that I hadn't felt in years.

I was floating on cloud nine when she gave my chest a small push. I knew what she wanted. I rolled off of her, but she came with me, coming to rest on top of me. She broke our kiss, stroking my cheek and grinning widely to me.

I laughed quietly and ran my hands along her sides, coming to rest on her hips. I loved seeing that wide smile, that happy face, and it only made me tangle my hands in her hair and pull her down on top of me for another kiss, focusing only on Rose.

I woke up the next morning feeling rejuvenated. It was the start of the new day, and with that, I felt as if it were the start of something else entirely. I woke up with a smile on my face and one woman on my mind. Rose.

Not opening my eyes just yet, feeling the light of the sun already pounding against my closed eyelids, I turned over in the unfamiliar bed. The smell of Rose was wonderfully overwhelming, and I inhaled deeply. When I readjusted, I felt Rose's form beside me. She was half-beneath me, one of her arms about me, both my arms tight around her, her hair tangled with mine and both of our bodies. My head was tucked under her chin. I could feel my head rising and falling with her steady breathing. I let out a deep exhale.

The gentle fingers that began to run through my hair startled me. I thought she was still asleep. I opened my eyes, just feeling her hands against my head, and I watched her chest rise and fall with her breathing. It was so peaceful and so sensual just to see her be.

I pulled my head away from her and turned to face her. She was beaming at me. I didn't think I had ever seen a smile so big.

"Good morning," I sighed.

She just smiled, and her hands moved from my hair to my cheeks. She pulled me forward and pressed a kiss to my lips.

I can easily say that the rest of that day was officially the best day of my life thus far. With these newly discovered feelings for Rose, I was the happiest I had ever been. I didn't ever remember being this happy. Even when I had dated Victoire. I think I smiled all day; there wasn't a single second when my cheeks were puffed with my smile and stinging with sore muscles, but I didn't mind. Rose laughed and hardly left my side, and the sound of her laughter brought me even greater joy.

I cooked her breakfast, and we swam in the ocean. We built sand castles together, found sand dollars, and yes, we shared many kisses in between. When we weren't kissing, we were either laughing, smiling, or holding hands or each other in some way.

I completely forgot about the impending trial, that I was on duty and supposed to be digging deeper. I didn't care about any of that. With Rose things were different. I was able to forget all my troubles. With her, I finally felt as if I had found my place. I was home.

Chapter 20: Solace Amongst Insanity
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Time seemed to move faster than ever at the summer house now. That, or with the rest of Rose's hearing around the corner, time seemed to stand still. I couldn't tell. And it didn't matter to me really. I was just happy I was with Rose; I was glad that she had found happiness during a dark time. I knew that the trial was freaking her out. It was there deep down, but I did my best to try to make her forget. Anytime a conversation about it would surface, I would change the subject, divert it with a stupid joke that always got a laugh from her. We tried to keep our thoughts away from the subject, and sometimes it was pretty easy. Others, it was fairly difficult.

We finally came to the agreement one day that we wouldn't talk about the trial until Ruckman appeared again to order us back in the Wizengamot. We knew that neither of us could change anything about the trial or speed up the process, so why worry about something that you couldn't change? I had to convince Rose of this. It was a conversation that showed how truly nervous she was. I could tell that she didn't like me knowing how deeply troubled she was, but when I consoled her and reassured her, I could tell that she was happy she had a shoulder to lean on. She finally agreed, and after that, things had been brilliant.

We spent our days either in our beds together, in the living room playing cards, down by the sand or in the water. Our skin was shades darker due to our many hours out in the sun; we had a bronze tint to our skin now, and it only furthered the impression that we were truly on a vacation.

Time had gone by so quickly that the full moon had come around once again. I had been craving my red meats again, and as such, I cooked us some hearty steaks for dinner. But I had made sure that I was by Rose's side all day to ward off and possible rages. She did something to me that I couldn't quite understand that made me relax, made me understand that everything was all right and it would always be. Despite this, I was dreading the coming of the night. With our new relationship, I wasn't sure how I was supposed to get away with it this time.

There were a lot of things I was beginning to have trouble getting away with. Instead of locking myself in my bedroom and apparating to the Ministry, Peakes and I had to owl each other to stay in touch. I couldn't find a reasonable excuse to get myself away from Rose and the summer house long enough to get to the Ministry and hold an effective conversation with Peakes and the lot of them at the Ministry. This had taken its effect on a lot of things. Certainly my knowledge of the progression of the case, what Peakes had found out, and it had also stumped the speed of the case. I hadn't realized that my ability to go back and forth and my new information was so vital to the timing and the process of the trial. It had slowed down extremely since my romance with Rose started because we had grown closer and I was trying less and less to pressure her about what she knew, if she could truly be helpful at all. Peakes' grand scheme of having me disguise myself was almost entering the obsolete stages. I was an important key part in the trial that I hadn't even realized till now.

If we wanted to end this trial soon - which was growing to be the longest trial the Ministry of Magic had ever seen - then I would have to find a day to go to the Ministry myself, to divert Rose in some way long enough to do so.

I was in the kitchen making us some tea. I poured the hot liquid into two cups, dropped two sugar cubes into Rose's, and went out onto the patio. I handed her own mug to her before I clambered into the hammock beside her. She giggled as it wobbled back and forth, and for a moment I thought I had disturbed its balance enough so that we would topple over, but we finally regained our balance. I leaned over and kissed her cheek, pushing back a lock of her red hair and kissing the newly exposed skin.

Rose and I loved our sunsets in the hammock together. It was how we ended the day now. Sometimes we even fell asleep in the hammock together, using each other's body as a system for heat. As much as I loved the sound of that and could feel Rose anticipating a night in the hammock together, I knew I couldn't do that.

I had to go indoors, and as much as I didn't want Rose to know I would have a fit later this evening, I knew I had to keep her with me if I didn't want to rage too greatly. So I had to come up with a plan. And fast.

Our day had been so peaceful, so tranquil, and so relaxing. It would be a complete surprise to Rose if I started to go crazy later. I had to do something that would lead to it, work up to it in case I did happen to lose control at some point tonight. I would keep Rose with me, though. Maybe with her arms around me, I would stay calm.

Rose and I were just sitting in silence, looking at the sunset when I gave a defeated sigh. I made sure it was loud enough and depressing enough to gain her attention. Her eyes immediately moved to me with worry, and she gripped my knee with her free hand.

"What's wrong?" she said quietly.

"This has been going on for so long now. When will it end?" I asked in pain. And it truly was. The case had been going on for nearly two months now. I was fine at the house. I was with Rose and living a grand vacation, but I knew it stressed her out more and more as the days went by. She had to sit back and wait for someone to order her back to Wizengamot where her freedom would be put on the line. She was holding a great face, but I couldn't imagine how truly distressed she was inside.

Her kind and supportive look immediately faded. Her eyes drifted from mine, and I knew I had struck a nerve.

"I don't know. But we're okay, right? I mean...We have each other now. You've been great for me, for the trial, I mean. You've kept my mind off things, and sometimes when I remember, I try to tell myself that it's just you and me in the world, that we're on vacation and nothing else matters. Then things get better. You've helped me so much. Am I not doing the same for you...?"

"No, no, Rosie," I said quickly. I turned to face her. I set my mug on the ground and cupped her face in my hands, rubbing my thumbs against her cheeks. "Of course you have. You really have. I'm sorry. I'm just having a moment. I mean, we can't stay here forever. What kind of life is this?"

"I know..." she whispered, pulling her face free and looking away. "I'm sure those Aurors are on the case. The world wants to know who killed the Minister. I'm sure they're doing everything in their power to figure out just what happened."

Oh, you have no idea... I thought. Peakes was certainly doing a lot in his power, but if he were doing everything then things would be going a lot differently. I had learned of Peakes recently to be a harsh man. I knew he had no boundaries now.

"Still! Don't get me wrong; I love being with you, and here with you. But I want to be other places too, be other places with you." I was sure to stress that I wanted her by my side, for I didn't want to offend her, and it was the God's honest truth that I wanted her by my side. I did. I didn't ever want her to leave my side either.

Her smile was sad, and she crawled into my lap, putting my arms about her. She wrapped my own arms about her and leaned against my chest to show that she wasn't going anywhere, that I was all hers and that she was all mine, and for us that should be enough. The gesture made my eyes sting with tears. For I knew I was all hers. She had my heart, and would probably have it forever. It just pained me so deeply to know that I was lying to her.

Sometimes I did wish we could run away, that I could be Scorpius forever so she would never have to find out, for how could she possibly trust me after she found out?

"Rose..." I whispered, shaking with every breath I took. The words that left my mouth surprised even myself. "We could leave. We know we are able to leave this place...We could run away; no one could ever find us. It could be just you and me!"

"Scorpius!" she gasped, appalled and turning in my lap to face me. "You know we couldn't get away with that."

"I don't know that! And neither do you!" I said quickly, panting, holding her tightly to my body, never wanting her to leave me, never wanting her to know who I truly am.

Shit, what's wrong with me?!

"W-We couldn't do that..." she whispered, her voice trailing off. Soon enough she turned her head to hide her eyes. She knew I could read everything in her eyes, and she hid them from me purposefully. So that I couldn't see that even she had begun to consider the idea.

It was ridiculous. And wrong. I knew it was wrong in every way. To run away from the law, for one thing, but to live forever as Scorpius and never tell Rose of my deception was another. It was something that I didn't believe I was cruel enough, heartless enough, or dishonest enough to do, and yet I knew I would just for the sake of having Rose in my life. I could let Ted Remus Lupin go and fade into nothing just to have Rose to myself....

Looking over it, Ted Lupin was nothing compared to Scorpius now. Ted Lupin is a liar, a manipulative bastard for betraying someone he was supposed to protect. I am a manipulative, lying bastard. And Scorpius...

Well, Scorpius was here giving all the encouraging words Rose needed to hear, Scorpius was here loving Rose. He had Rose completely and irrevocably to himself. Not me.

Things would be better as Scorpius...

"But we could!" I said, persisting onward with my damned ploy and godforsaken mouth that wouldn't shut up. My hands held her face, brought her gaze back to mine and held it there steadily. "Rose, we could."

"But think about it when we could both be free! Scorpius, neither of us will be convicted. We're innocent. Things will work out in our favor; they have to. Stop thinking like this. I know you're angry we're here, locked up all the time, and constantly worrying about our fate, but we know it will go right! In the end, it will go right," she said, whispering the most encouraging words I had ever heard from her. And they helped the real me, deep down inside. Not the Scorpius Malfoy I was dying to forever live as, but Teddy Lupin. Helping the real me realize the insanity that had taken over me during the past month.

The thing was, I knew it wouldn't go right in the end. Maybe it would for Rose when neither she nor Scorpius was convicted. But not for me. When they will both be released, I will be left to reveal the truth. That I am not who she thinks I am. Then things will never be right for me. Oh, how selfish I had grown...

She saw me open my mouth to protest again, and that's when she silenced me with a deep kiss. She pressed down so hard on my mouth I knew it would be tender tomorrow, and she made sure to let her tongue caress the inside of my mouth so I couldn't manage to get a single word out. My hands knotted themselves in her hair, and I painfully drew her in, wishing that maybe we could just stay here forever.

She finally pulled away when she knew I had shut up for good. Panting, she fell back into the arms of the hammock and tenderly drew my head towards her breasts. They made a pleasant pillow as she ran her fingers through my hair, coaxing some sense into me. My arms tightly went about her, daring the Wizengamot, Peakes, or anyone who thought they could control my or Rose's fate to take her from me. I would fight tooth and nail to keep her right where she belongs.

"I-I-I'm sorry," I finally murmured. "I just..."

"It's okay," she whispered. I could feel her smile as I lay against her, feeling her chest finally even out with relaxed breaths. "We can't all keep our composure all the time. You've constantly been the one that's there for me. I think I've forgotten that you're on trial too, and for that I'm sorry. I should have understood that you're in the same situation I am."

Well, not technically but it was nice to have an easy excuse that I hadn't even come up with. I dragged it out a little further.

I nodded, rubbing her arm with my index finger. "It's all right. I try not to worry about me. I don't really care what happens to me as long as you're all right. I like worrying about you, instead of me."

"Then let me be the one to worry about you," she suggested, a compromise.

I smiled at that. "I can agree to that."

"But let's not worry at all right now," she said in a cheerful voice, forcing everything else behind us and looking at things only with optimism. "I know you want to get out. So tomorrow, why don't we do that? We went to Egypt and it was fine. We could go out to dinner. I don't know where, but somewhere far away."

I liked the sound of that. Loved it actually. I know I had been the one to try and keep Rose at the cottage, but we were on the same page now. I needed out as much as she did to keep me sane. I was slowly beginning to lose it, and it was a good thing she suggested tomorrow. Tonight I needed to be indoors, out of the moonlight with Rose by my side. And this needed to happen soon before I began to rage all too much.

I was nervous to have Rose with me, but we had long ago crossed the line that mutually stated that she would be with me. At the last full moon, I had promised she could be there the next time I raged. I just hoped I wouldn't too badly tonight, at least so she wouldn't question it and would just understand.

"Can we?" I asked breathlessly. "I don't care where we go, but somewhere away from here. Tonight I just want to be with you."

She smiled and tried to pull me against her, but I refused. I couldn't let us fall asleep in the hammock. We needed to get inside; I couldn't stand the feel of the moonlight on my skin any longer. I jumped from the hammock, taking her hand and pulling her with me. She seemed surprised by my sudden movement, but didn't question it. She let me lead her inside and to her bedroom. I chose her bedroom - even though we mostly slept in mine at night - because it receives the least amount of moonlight. In her room, it was just enough to illuminate everything and make gentle silhouettes. In my room, however, the full moon seemed to beat down directly into the room.

Once again she didn't question why I had chosen her room for the night. She just slipped into the bathroom to take care of whatever business she needed to accomplish while I kicked off my jeans and t-shirt. I climbed into her bed and threw the duvet over my head. I didn't care that it grew hot beneath the covers. The feeling of claustrophobia was beginning to take over, and my breathing grew rapid, but I forced my eyes shut and knew it was better to suffer under there than to let the moonlight taunt me. Besides, Rose would be back soon and I knew everything would be well again.

After a few short minutes, she slipped in beside me and put her arms around me. Even though I was burning, I pleasantly shivered as she pressed her nearly bare body against me. I let my hands explore her smooth skin to feel for myself just what little amount of clothing she was still wearing. Her back was bare, smooth and unflawed by any scratches or a bra line. My hand moved down her back and encountered the line of her lacy knickers.

So that was all she was wearing.

I felt my lips pull up into a crooked smile. Rose enjoyed enticing me these days. I knew that much. She had a great time of flaunting herself in front of me, tempting me as I tried to resist her. I knew that she was hoping any night now would be the night when we would finally make love. But I couldn't do that. Not yet. I couldn't even begin to explain how much I wanted to, but I couldn't do that as Scorpius.

As much as I wanted to run away with her and live as Scorpius forever, I found that I still couldn't have sex with her as Scorpius. That just wasn't right.

Well, there was proof then that I'm not completely twisted! Not yet, at least.

I knew Rose was growing restless on the matter, as was I. I was running out of excuses as well, and she was trying harder. Inside, mostly she would just walk around in tiny, lacy kickers with no bra and one of my button down shirts buttoned haphazardly and laying loosely on her shoulders. We slept together wearing just about nothing, and we even showered together occasionally. We had seen each other completely bare and had done plenty of other things, but I still had to hold back that one important deed.

Tonight was no different. Maybe she thought having sex would clear my mind of all my troubles, for her fingers looped around the elastic of my boxers and tried to tug them down. But I quickly grabbed hold of her hands and moved them to my chest, trying to keep her at bay with my abs. Most of the time she forgot about any other goals when she began to feel my abs; she would melt into a pool beneath me and squeeze my stomach, latching on as I kissed her until she finally gave up her pursuit.

Tonight she was more persistent, though, and I had to take her hands into my own, gently massaging them. I delicately kissed her fingers, and then placed one long, loving kiss on her lips before taking her into my arms to show that I wasn't in the mood tonight, even though my body said differently.

Her disappointed sigh into my neck was evident, and I tried not to feel too guilty about it. I knew I was making the right decision. She finally accepted that it, once again, wouldn't happen and she rubbed my back with her small hands.

We grew silent and still for many moments. I thought she had fallen asleep shortly after, so I turned away from her, not wanting to squeeze her too tight. I faced away from the moon, gripped the pillow with all my might and bit down into it to stifle my shouts.

Rose had done well. She had kept the monster in me at bay until she had drifted off into sleep, but now it was clawing its way out and I had to do everything in my power to stay in control.

I felt myself clenching every muscle in my body, demanding to remain still and quiet. I dug my nails into the wood of bed frame, biting down on my pillow so no sound but my heated breathing escaped my throat.

Just when I thought I was losing control, I felt her delicate fingers squeeze my arm. Then her voice followed, and she pressed her chest against my back. "Hey," she whispered lovingly. "Shh, it's all right."

She didn't even know what was wrong, she didn't know if it was all right, and yet there she was. Telling me everything would be fine. I released on the pillow and let out one long, exhausted sigh. I closed my eyes and found peace as Rose stroked my arm. I reached up and entwined our fingers. She didn't ask what was the matter, nor did I say anything to her in return. She seemed to understand that I was struggling with the problems I had recently explained to her about being locked up.

So she just laid there, one arm about me, our other hands tightly entwined, with her head in the crook of my neck as she whispered reassuring things in my ear. Then I had found solace and the moment of the moon tormenting me was gone. That time Rose made sure I was asleep first.

Chapter 21: The Murderer With a Face and a Name
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The next day Rose put on the strong face. It was always me who made breakfast and consoled her, reassuring her that things would be fine, and doing my damnedest to keep a smile on her face. But when I woke up, I found that she already had my coffee in her hands. She swooped down to give me a deep kiss even as I protested to at least give me the chance to brush my teeth, but she denied me of that before she crawled on top of me and gave me the greatest wake-up call I had ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

We sat up together after a good while of splendid kissing, and I told her it was only morning and she had already done too much for me.

"No," she protested, jumping from the bed and running to open the drapes I had made sure were closed before the night ended. My eyes adjusted to the light, but I still watched her joyously scamper about her bedroom. Just watching her put a smile to my face. "I wake up to you just about pushing my coffee into my hands. If you're not that far, then I can already smell it brewing in the kitchen, at least. I finally woke up before you for once, so I took advantage of it! It's my turn to take care of you."

I smiled, placing the mug on the nightstand, and I reached out to capture Rose about her waist. "But I like taking care of you."

She turned and said with a kiss, "We take care of each other."

"Fine," I said as she jumped up from my lap.

I tried not to react too much to her comment about waking up before her. Yes, I had also realized that it never failed that I was the first awake in the morning. Although I most likely knew the reason to this, I liked to pretend that I didn't. Rose would be turning twenty soon, and I was already a whopping twenty-seven. I knew I was still at the tip of my prime, but I'd be leaving those golden years soon. I knew I was already going to bed earlier and waking up earlier as well, and I blamed my blasted age for that. Rose was still young and thriving, in the middle of her prime.

I'm not old; I refused to believe so, but I knew it was a contributing factor.

Rose really went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable and wouldn't have a relapse of last night. Of course I knew I wouldn't because one huge contributing factor was the large, swelling moon in the sky last night, and of course there was none of that. I was fine now, but Rose didn't know that. I tried to make her realize she was doing too much, but she wouldn't listen to anything I had to say.

We just relaxed in the hammock and made a small sandcastle when late afternoon was nearing. Rose and I discussed where we would be going tonight, for we still planned on escaping the summer house one more time. We knew we would have to get out of Europe, perhaps even off the continent if we didn't want to risk exposing ourselves. Our faces were known to the wizarding world now, and we couldn't risk that.

Finally Rose threw out a city that I considered being too dangerous for our faces at first, but as I thought about it, I grew more and more fond of the idea until finally I agreed. Eagerly, Rose ran to shower, put on make-up, and do her hair before our dinner out. I took my time showering, shaving any stubble that had appeared over the past few days, and I changed into a pair of dress pants and a white dress shirt. I flared the collar a little and patiently awaited Rose in the living room.

She finally emerged wearing a small black dress that clung to her every curve. I could feel my body grow hot and tense as she stepped in to the room. She was also grinning at the sight of me. I stumbled to my feet, and she ran to undo the top button of my dress shirt; having the top button undone seemed to be what she liked best. She was still holding her ear rings with her pursed lips as she messed with the buttons, her eyes concentrated hard on her work. To get her to slow down and enjoy the moment, I pulled the diamond drop ear rings from her mouth and grabbed hold of her fingers, pressing a kiss to her mouth.

When we pulled away, she snatched her ear rings back, quickly put them in, and reached for my hand again.

And then we were in New York.

Neither of us had been here. The atmosphere was completely different; especially after adapting to a quiet, remote summer house by the ocean. Rose and I had grown used to the sound of the waves lapping at the shore, the caw of the birds in the morning, the rustle of the wind, the gentle chimes of the garden ornaments, and nothing more. Here, a mixture of white noise suddenly filled our ears.

We knew it was a risk to come to a city that attracted so many tourists, both muggle and magical, but that was also a plus for us. With so many people, it was more likely for us to just slip into the crowd and go unnoticed. We knew that we were taking a huge risk, but neither of us seemed to care at all as we ate at a diner and travelled the busy streets. We saw all the well-known places, living in the moment as we visited Times Square, Rockefeller Center where we went to the top of the observation deck and looked at New York City in its entirety and where Rose and I ice skated together - a disastrous event but perfectly enjoyable with her; Rose and I should really stick to water and sand field. Then Rose and I had champagne and danced together at the Plaza.

We seemed to have forgotten everything except for just being with each other. We spent hours in New York until we realized how late it was. It was with reluctance that we apparated back onto the familiar beach and began the long trek back up to the summer house. Rose kicked off her heels, and I carried her on my back for half of the walk. It was when I could no longer tolerate the kissing and nibbling on my ear when I set her down and we took a few moments just to feel one another.

We kissed deeply, my hands daring to inch her dress up and her fingers twisting my hair. In those kisses, something ignited with in us and we wanted to be back at the summer house, falling down onto a bed together. We were a mix of running, laughing, chasing, and kissing just to get back so we could kindle the lit flame.

We stumbled into the house, the door banging against the wall followed by the thud of Rose's back hitting the wood of the door. I threw her shoes somewhere into the living room and kicked off my own, my lips travelling to her neck. She was already fumbling with the buckle of my pants as I pulled her tiny black dress over her head, throwing it carelessly behind me. I stepped out of pants Rose helped me rid of, and in one fluid motion, I grabbed her by the waist and tossed her over my shoulders, carrying her to my bedroom.

We fell onto my bed in one perfectly molding shape with her legs about my waist and our arms around each other’s, our mouths pressed together. We both fumbled with the buttons of my shirt, clumsily undoing the thing and forcing it down my shoulders. When Rose wore only her lacy knickers and I in my boxers, we slowed to that of just passionate kissing. This was good for me. After a night like this, I didn't know what sort of excuse I was supposed to come up with this time.

I had made that promise to myself to not take our relationship any farther than it had already gone. I promised. I couldn't deceive Rose like that, I knew I couldn't. I wanted to be me and not Malfoy when we finally made that step. I didn't want to be in the body of someone else, but I found that it had become extremely difficult to hold back. It was getting harder and harder with each kiss every day.

I kept my hands tight on her hips. I realized I was probably squeezing a little too tight, but I knew I had to if I didn't want my hands to tug down her knickers, that and my boxers being the only things separating the two of us. It was all too hard. I didn't know if this was the kind of will power and self-control that I had. I also figured that if I didn't initiate sex tonight, Rose would do it herself. She was assertive and bold like that, just another thing that I loved about her.

Loved. I had subconsciously used the L word.

We had to stop. I knew that.

But just a few more kisses...

The taste of her tongue on mine was that of her spearmint toothpaste and her own taste that I couldn't quite describe. She was a mix of honey and tea; it was soothing and sweet. Her hands moved from my neck and to my back. Her nails were short, but I could still feel the pressure she put into my back as she moved them down the curve of my back. Her hands had traveled their course when they settled on my bum, her fingers playing with the rim of my boxers.

I froze at that and stopped moving as she pulled them down.

I had to make a decision. And fast.

I broke our kiss and pressed a finger to her lips. "R-Rose, wait," I stuttered out, unable to catch my breath. Panting, I pressed my forehead to hers. "Just wait."

"I'm tired of waiting. Haven't we waited long enough?"

"Y-Yeah, we have," I admitted. Honestly, we had. I had never waited this long with a woman. I've had my fair share of relationships, and they were never the ones to take it slowly. I am also not ashamed to admit that I have had a few one night stands, and that was the exact opposite of taking one's time. But I didn't mind that we had waited, not that I wanted to wait for the pure fun of it. If I was actually me, this would have been a completely different situation. "But I have something to tell you."

Did I though? What was I going to tell her? What exactly was I planning on saying? I should have thought that through before opening my fat mouth! Hadn't I learned that recently? Why wasn't I more prepared for this moment? Was I about to break my contract? Well, I had already done that, but was I about to send it completely into oblivion? Was I about to tell her who I really was? I was dying to do so, but a part of me wanted to live as Scorpius forever just so I could be with Rose.

Live as Scorpius forever to be with Rose. I could do that, couldn't I?

I'm so fucked up. Maybe I'm losing it...

Rose surprised me though and brought me out of my thoughts that were currently running about on a wild rampage.

"Shh," she said quietly, gently. She kissed the fingers I had placed upon her lips and pulled me down for one long, passionate kiss. When she pulled away, Rose once again caught me off guard. "I have something to tell you too. I know you love me, and I love you too."

Oh, Merlin. Just like our first kiss, it was something I hadn't expected. I was taken aback and too surprised to act properly. But I realized that her words were in fact true. There was no other way to describe how I felt about her. I had been in love before. I know what love feels like, and I know that this is love. I would do anything to protect her, to make sure she was all right, just to know she was happy. Just like my infatuation for her, my love for Rose had snuck up on me. It had caught me unaware and left me speechless.

I had just used the L word with myself, but I hadn't even taken in the fact that I love Rose.

She had been waiting for a response, but suddenly she wasn't anymore. Something within her had changed. Her beautiful blue eyes, sparkling with life and love, suddenly dropped and were filled with fear, and I knew her all too well to understand that they were also filled with guilt and self-loathing.

Her hands left my butt, and this time she whispered it. Whole-heartedly.

"I love you."

It melted my heart, and I knew it was true. It was the last thing I expected, but how could I deny it?

I embraced her, not daring to let go, and I pressed a kiss to her cheek.

"I love you too, Rose," I whispered, and I knew in that moment that I had never spoken anything more true.

"T-Then I..." she muttered, her voice full of pain and her eyes pulling away from me. She was taken over by something much darker, something I didn't understand but wanted her desperately to share.

I rolled off of her, understanding that the moment had thankfully come to an end. I sat up, leaning against the pillow, and I pulled her into my arms. "Tell me what's bothering you."

"N-Nothing," she stuttered, suddenly swiping at her eyes. "Nothing, I promise."

Lie. Blatantly lying.

Perhaps she was trying to convince herself nothing was wrong. She turned in my arms and pushed me down. She gave me one long kiss. My hand moved to her elbow, stroking the skin there, wondering if we would pick up where we left off but I knew I should stop it while I had the chance. But she ended it anyway.

"I love you," she said again, but the words were still heaven to my ears. "That's why I have to do something tomorrow."


She crawled off me and hopped off the bed. She didn't bother to pick up her clothing, to retrieve the bra that was hanging by the knob on the nightstand. She was moving away quickly, towards the door for a clear escape. She put on her best smile, but with her eyes shielded by the darkness, I couldn't tell how genuine she was being. I could see the rest of her though, and Merlin, was she beautiful.

"Don't worry about it. I'm going to do something tomorrow. For you. I'm going to bed. Get some sleep?"

"Y-Yeah, okay..." I answered, confused but going along with it.

"Good. I love you, Scorpius," she said again.

That name...

"I love you too...?" I said, my voice going up to an awkward pitch towards the end. I didn't mean for it to sound so questionable. That was just the way it came out, I guess.

But Rose gave a smile and made me question what had just happened.

I was thankful we hadn't had sex. That was something that was still going to be a Rose and me only event. Not while I'm in Scorpius' appearance and she's moaning his name in my ear. I wouldn't be able to stand that. I realized, though, that I was too happy with the fact that Rose and I had shared our love for me to even care that it had been done while I was in Malfoy's appearance. I was frustrated with it, but I was too happy to focus on that right now.

But I was confused. Confused as to what had gone through Rose's head just now to make her do that. What she had to do tomorrow that made her leave the way she did. If she was okay.

I tried not to think about it, but rather on those three words she had said to me. That she loved me.

"Wait," I suddenly whispered, and Rose thankfully stopped in the doorway. "You can do whatever it is tomorrow, but tonight you can still stay here."

She smiled at that, and I felt an apprehensive weight lift from my shoulders. She nodded and, still bare, slipped beneath the covers once again. She pressed her warm, smooth body against mine, and I engulfed her into my arms. I kissed her cheek and whispered my love to her one more time.

It was her soothing voice that sent me to the arms of sleep.

I couldn't decipher when my feelings had gone further from that of infatuation to love. But I hadn't even noticed when the infatuation had started either, so truthfully I wasn't that surprised. I had been unaware, in the dark and completely oblivious, and I was so thrilled to now be aware of my feelings for her. Deep down there was this loathing hate for myself for also letting her believe Scorpius loved her, and not me truly. I also hated myself for taking it so far, and I wondered if I would ever reveal my secret. But I couldn't think about that just now.

Just like our romance had started, we had fallen in love.

I woke up with a smile on my face, just like I had so many mornings recently. I moved my arms closer together, trying to squeeze Rose within my grasp, but when my arms touched and there was nothing between them, I opened my eyes to see where she was. I was expecting to be holding her in my arms. I hadn't woken up without her in my arms in over a month.

She wasn't in my line of sight. I turned over to look around the room. It was empty, aside from myself.

It wasn't a big deal. Perhaps she was in the bathroom or something. I didn't think much of it, so I lay back down. It was when I had settled once more on my side did my eyes fall on the nightstand beside the bed with a letter propped against the lamp. It had my name on it in Rose's beautiful cursive. Well, not my name...Scorpius' name...

There I went again. Forgetting who I truly am and telling myself I'm Scorpius.

My brow furrowed in curiosity, and I leaned over to snatch it. I settled back down as I flipped up the folded piece of paper, and I began to read.


Last night I realized that I love you, and when you love someone you would do anything for them, right? That's why I'm leaving this morning to go to the Ministry. I don't want to wake you; you're too peaceful, too happy in your sleep. And this is how I want to remember you. If I told you, you would either hate me or refuse to let me go. But I have to. I can't keep going on like this. Maybe I should have said yes when you suggested we run away together, but I can't risk your freedom as well.

I hope you can understand why I did what I did when they come to tell you. I had no choice, and like I said, I would do anything for the ones I love. I'm sorry I ever brought you in to this. It's my fault that you've been put in this situation, but I know I gained something beautiful from it before I make a decision that will forever change both of us.

I hope you can read this before the Aurors find you.

Please understand why I'm turning myself in, and please don't hate me. You're free now, and that will give me peace.

With Love Always,

Chapter 22: The Confession
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A/N: One of the brilliant things about this story is that I absolutely love writing it. I enjoy writing every word, and sometimes I just wish I could write it all down as fast as I possibly can just so I can get what happens out there in the open. Right now is one of those times for this story when I can’t move away from my computer for a minute to stop writing. That’s why I currently have the next five consecutive chapters finished and ready to go. I am updating this story as fast as I can. Once a chapter comes out, I’m sending the next one directly in.

I am so thrilled that so many people are enjoying the story, and I am pleased that people were surprised with the sudden twist of events last chapter! When writing a mystery and you want to keep people guessing, this is a good thing for me!

Thank you so much for your support, your many reviews that I’m doing my best to answer, and my faithful readers and reviewers. I hope you enjoy the next chapters to come, as things are only heating up.

Review and tell me if you really think Rose killed the Minister!

Actors on Image:
Bryce Dallas Howard as Rose Weasley
Josh Lucas as Jimmy Peakes

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favorite chapter image ever by rojia @ TDA!


Last night I realized that I love you, and when you love someone you would do anything for them, right? That's why I'm leaving this morning to go to the Ministry. I don't want to wake you; you're too peaceful, too happy in your sleep. And this is how I want to remember you. If I told you, you would either hate me or refuse to let me go. But I have to. I can't keep going on like this. Maybe I should have said yes when you suggested we run away together, but I can't risk your freedom as well.

I hope you can understand why I did what I did when they come to tell you. I had no choice, and like I said, I would do anything for the ones I love. I'm sorry I ever brought you in to this. It's my fault that you've been put in this situation, but I know I gained something beautiful from it before I make a decision that will forever change both of us.

I hope you can read this before the Aurors find you.

Please understand why I'm turning myself in, and please don't hate me. You're free now, and that will give me peace.

With Love Always,


Oh my god.

No! She couldn't! She wasn't, was she?! What was she trying to say in that letter? Had she killed the Minister? Was she tuning herself in?

Too many thoughts quickly entered my mind, sending me into a wave of panic. I leaped from the bed, discarding the letter on the duvet. I scrambled into a pair of jeans, successfully buttoning them up after falling over a few times. I tugged a shirt over my head that I'm pretty sure I put on backwards and tripped into a pair of shoes.

I had to get to the Ministry as soon as possible. I had to. I didn't quite know what Rose was trying to say in her letter to me, but I had to find out.

If she did it - if she killed the Minister - if she was turning herself in....

Maybe I still had time. Maybe I could stop her. She was right. I wouldn't have let her go! I would have taken her away with me! We could have made it! And then I could have lived as Scorpius forever and no one would ever have to know of my deception. We would have been happy that way! No, now what had she done?

I ran into the bathroom, splashing my face with cold water. I knew I had little time to waste, but I had to at least wake up fully. Either that or the cold water would wake me up from this horrible nightmare. That's what this is, isn't it? It's just a nightmare...

It has to be. There's no way Rose did this. Either way, I bolted from the bathroom, securing my wand in my pocket, and I apparated directly into the Auror Department. I burst through the place on a mad rampage, causing other Aurors to come out of their offices to see what the commotion was. Harry stepped out of his office, his thick, dark eyebrows pulled together in curiosity. At the sight of me, though, he was taken aback. "Mr. Malfoy? No, wait; that's not right. Ted. Teddy, slow down. Calm down; what's the matter?"

"No time!" I shouted to Harry, running past him. I had forgotten I was still Malfoy, but I figured this would be best upon seeing Rose for the first time. While it did confuse most Aurors at first, they soon remembered that the real Malfoy was securely in his confinement cell, and that this mad bloke running through the department looking like him was just another one of their co-workers.

I burst through the department, looking for someone who would actually know where Rose was. However, if the mystery of the Minister's murder had been solved, then I believed the atmosphere in the entire Ministry would have been different. So I must still have time! Rose hadn't turned herself in yet!

I can to Ruckman's office, hoping desperately that he would be in there. His office door was shut, but that didn't stop me. I banged on it with both of my fists with great force, shouting as loudly as I could. "John! John, if you're in there, open up! Where is she?! Where is Rose?!"

His door flew open at my raging voice. Immediately he put his hands up on my chest to settle me, but nothing could do that right now. He didn't react like everyone else. He knew why he was seeing Scorpius Malfoy banging on his office door; he knew it was me.

"Just calm down, Lupin," he coaxed. "Rose was just escorted to the Wizengamot. She showed up here in a right mess and asked to be put on stand. Peakes called the tribunal to court immediately. She seems to have something to confess."

"I know she does!" I shouted. Did he think me stupid?! Of course I knew that. "I've realized that now! I have to stop her. I have to...I can't let her do this!"

"Calm down!" he stressed again, grabbing hold of the collar of my shirt and forcing me to look at him. "You can't change that now. If Peakes sees you like this, he'll pull you from the case for being emotionally attached - which I can clearly tell that you are!"

"Damn right I am!"

I immediately turned on my heels. Rose could be confessing right this very minute. She could be about to testify. If I reached her in time...If I reached her before they strapped her down into that chair....

I didn't know what to do. I had never been in such a panic as this before. My heart was racing, and it felt as if it had climbed up my throat. I felt as if I were choking on the thumping thing. Sweat was beading around my forehead, and my thoughts were in a huge mess as I tried to decipher just what I could do about stopping Rose. I just knew that it couldn't be too late. It couldn't be too late to stop her. And then there was this whole different part. The part where I began to understand that Rose had killed someone. I had seen the file on the Minister of Magic. Brutally stabbed in his sleep. There was no way Rose could possibly have done that. And yet, if she had...

I bolted through the department, John following at my heels. He kept trying to reach out and grab hold of me, as if his fingers on my t-shirt could stop me from bursting into the Wizengamot. Nothing could stop me from doing that. John was shouting my name, but I couldn't hear anything except for a high pitched ringing in my ears from sheer panic and my own rampaging thoughts. Our uproar had caused all the Aurors to pop their heads out of their offices, pause their work and watch the show we put on as I let John follow me as I weaved through the halls just to try and get to the exit that would lead to the elevator.

In passing, I noticed Ron standing outside his door. He looked horrified, as if he knew deep down what was going on, what his daughter was about to face. In our commotion, Ron seemed to abandon the contract I had long ago tossed out the window as well. Ron was running on our heels, and then followed by Harry in an attempt to stop his brother-in-law. Ron wanted to know what was going on; he wanted to stop the inevitable just as much as I did. Harry, always the rule follower and keeper of the peace, was trying to shout better discretion as we bolted from the Auror Department.

The four of us must have looked mad as we ran through the few halls until we finally reached the elevator. Luckily we didn't pass anyone that would be confused at my appearance as Malfoy and let the word get out that I was impersonating him. That wouldn't look good on the Auror Department's part. But then again, that call was all Peakes, so maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing...

I came to a halt inside the elevator and jabbed the button for the Department of Mysteries floor. Just before the door shut, Ron and Harry slid into the elevator, panting.

Harry hissed, clenching his side. "What the hell is going on?!"

John didn't wait for an answer. He turned to me, pushed me right up against the elevator wall, and shouted in my face. It was the most intense reaction I had ever seen come from such a calm and collected man. "What are you doing, Lupin?! What do you think you're going to do when you get in there?! You need to think before you make such a scene!"

"I don't give a shit what kind of scene I make! I just need to talk to her. That's all I have to do," I said desperately. I realized that my voice was full of my own tears, and my vision had long ago grown cloudy from the salty liquid that pooled in my eyes.

"What's happened?" Ron asked, still panting but wanting to be filled in on all he didn't know.

"I'm not sure. Rose...She left a note saying how she had to do something, that she hoped I read it before the Aurors found me, before she made a decision that changed our lives forever. Ron, I think she's turning herself in! I think she killed the Minister!"

Ron fell back against the wall of the elevator, clenching his heart as if he had been struck right in the chest. He was choking on air it seemed as his eyes glazed over and he tried to form words. "No. No, she didn't. That's impossible...My Rosie didn't do it!"

"I don't know. That's what I have to find out," I whispered desperately as the door to the elevator opened and we were on the Department of Mysteries floor. Before the three men could stop me, I jumped out of it and was racing to the courtroom.

The large wooden doors seemed to radiate my sense of impending doom for Rose and I. I knew the moment would come when I would somehow have to show myself. How else would Scorpius Mafoy be allowed into the courtroom? He wouldn't be. I am though because I'm an Auror.

I slammed into the door, my hands fumbling for the knob. I turned and was relieved when the door swung open. If it wasn't locked yet, then the testimony hadn't begun yet. I burst into the courtroom, screaming her name. Harry, Ron, and John were all trying to stop me, but as soon as they entered the courtroom, their shouts of my real name vanished. They were just as confused and anxious to see what I would do just like the rest of the Wizengamot tribunal I had greatly surprised.

Rose gave a jolt from the chair just as guards were strapping her down. The stands were already filled with Sondheim as Acting Minister, Peakes, and the rest of the tribunal. They looked to me, silence falling upon the room for the moment as everyone's minds went blank. Rose whipped around to face me, and her eyes grew wide at the sight of me. She trembled, her lips quivering, and one tear slid down her cheek.

"You weren't supposed to come. You were supposed to be sleeping. I didn't want you to see this," Rose cried out.

I was finally able to lift my feet from the floor. They felt as if they weighed a ton, and I had previously felt as if I had been glued to the spot upon entering the courtroom, but at the sound of her voice, I could finally move again. She didn't even seem to notice her uncle and father standing in the doorway. Her eyes followed me as I raced to her sitting in that domineering chair.

Knowing who I was, the guards backed away. To the tribunal, I didn't pose a threat just yet. Other than burst in unexpectedly, no one knew what a distraught mess I was in or just what I was going to do. But Rose didn't seem to notice this peculiarity, how no one seemed to stop Malfoy or restrain him.

I grasped her face in my hands, cupping her cheeks against my palms and wiping her tears away with my thumbs.

"Stop. D-Don't do this! Please don't! We will go back to the house, and we will talk about it there. W-We will talk about it there," I muttered, shaking my head. I knew I was trying to convince myself, as well as hammer the words into Rose's mind as if she didn't have a choice or a say in the matter.

"No," she whispered. She shook her head as more tears fell steadily down her cheeks. "There's nothing to talk about. I've made my decision. You're here because of me. This is all because of me, and I can't stand it anymore. You don't deserve it. You deserve to be free."

"Rose, no!" I whispered painfully. My voice grew louder and louder with its intensity to change Rose's mind. "No! I don't care! I just want to be with you! What are you saying?!"

"I'm saying..." she began and faltered, not quite sure how to articulate whatever it was going on in her head. "I'm saying that it's time for us to say goodbye...."

"No! Don't even think that," I said, but maybe I was truly shouting.

Finally the Wizengamot knew that something was going on, something outside of their knowledge. It was Peakes to stand up and order us to silence and demand an explanation for our behavior. I whipped around to face the man I knew I could blame for all of this, and I put my hands out protectively behind me, as if he could hurt Rose from inside those stands.

"What is this nonsense? Mr. Malfoy - " he said, and I actually wanted to thank him for letting Rose believe I was still him, "what is your reason for that impolite entrance? Can't you see that Miss Weasley is going to share something vital with us?"

Then I didn't know what to say. I just stood there panting, looking up at their questioning and stunned faces.

"R-Rose has nothing to say to you!" I finally blurted.

"Why don't we find out for ourselves?" Peakes asked in a cool voice. "Now step aside and let Miss Weasley say her piece, or we will be forced to restrain you."

"Then restrain me, God dammit!" I roared, and maybe I shouldn't have, for the guards were immediately upon me. They had my hands magically bound, and they forced me to my knees, holding me stiffly by each arm with a guard on either side of me. I just looked to Rose with pain, hoping she wouldn't do what I thought she was about to do.

We held eye contact, and her eyes seemed to be asking forgiveness as well as expressing all the love I knew she held for me. She mouthed an it's okay and I love you before she turned to her father and uncle. She whispered to them one sentence. "I'm sorry."

Then she turned to face the court with tears in her eyes and trembling with fear. Peakes placed a smug smile upon his face as he sat back down and folded his hands together. He actually looked pleased as he stared at Rose.

The silence that fell over the courtroom was chilling. Rose took a good while to muster her courage to speak. She looked to the tribunal, to her hands, to her father and uncle, and then finally to me. She seemed to be unable to bear the sight of the tribunal, so we held eye contact as she finally opened her mouth to speak.

"I killed the Minister of Magic on April 16th, 2025 with a blade while he slept. I didn't want to be caught, so I framed someone. I framed Scorpius Malfoy with every intention of him going to Azkaban and me being free, b-but that's changed now. I love him, and I couldn't bear to see him put in Azkban. So I'm coming clean...I killed the Minister."

My heart dropped to the floor. The world seemed to fall away from me as I sank lower and lower into my own pit of despair. I was vaguely aware of Ron thrashing about near the door, but Harry was restraining him. He had his hand placed over Ron's mouth to stifle Ron's disturbed shouts and protests of absurdity. Harry was shaking with his own fear and disbelief, but he still kept a steady hold of Ron. John just looked upon Rose in pure shock.

The tribunal sat in silence, and all the while, Jimmy Peakes sat with a smile on his face.

"Rose..." I muttered painfully, distraught. "Why?!"

"Because I love you..." she whispered to me, and that spurred a reaction from everyone other than stark silence.

I grew still. I stopped fighting and thrashing against the arms that were twisting my arms in ways that they weren't supposed to bend. My knees were aching from the cold tile floor, but I didn't care about any of that as she gazed at me. I felt my eyes pool with tears, real tears like I hadn't shed in years, and I let them run down my cheeks.

If only she knew...

Harry and Ron had grown still as well. Ron had grown still and quiet enough for Harry to retract his hand from Ron's mouth, but he still kept a firm grip on his elbow. Their jaws had dropped significantly in surprise.

Then the voice of Peakes filled the courtroom, and everyone's head turned in his direction. "Well, would you look at this? How enchanting. Our two murder suspects have fallen in love. Or should I say one of our prime suspects."

I shot Peakes a harsh glance. Rose looked to him in confusion; her eyes were no longer on me, so I glowered at him. I felt a growl leave my throat. I didn't need this. Rose would be sentenced to Azkaban - that was a given - so why couldn't he just leave it be? Why did he have to pull at a thread that was already frayed?

"P-Please don't," I stuttered, looking upon Peakes with desperation. "Please..."

Chapter 23: The Breaking
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"Well, would you look at this? How enchanting. Our two murder suspects have fallen in love. Or should I say one of our prime suspects."

I shot Peakes a harsh glance. Rose looked to him in confusion; her eyes were no longer on me, so I glowered at him. I felt a growl leave my throat. I didn't need this. Rose would be sentenced to Azkaban - that was a given - so why couldn't he just leave it be? Why did he have to pull at a thread that was already frayed?

"P-Please don't," I stuttered, looking upon Peakes with desperation. "Please..."

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"Miss Weasley has a right to know, don't you agree?" he asked me.

I began to tremble once more. I was aware of Rose's eyes upon me, staring me down and trying to read just what was running through me, trying to figure out what Peakes was saying and what hold he could possibly have over Scorpius Malfoy. I looked to Harry and Ron. They looked back and forth between Rose and I, knowing what Peakes was trying to do. I couldn't figure out what they were thinking. They couldn't help but watch.

I didn't answer his question. I knew she had a right to know; of course she did, but giving myself away was the last thing I wanted to do. Right now I just wanted to keep Rose happy before she was taken away from me and to keep our bond strong so she would have something to hold on to. I knew, if she found out of my betrayal and my lies, she would break. Shatter into a thousand tiny pieces that would never fit back together again. And then she would be put in Azkaban like that, left to rot with nothing to look happily upon. I couldn't do that to her.

"Miss Weasley," Peakes began again, turning his head to her. I immediately knew from the tone in his voice that he wasn't going to let this slide. So the time had finally come for me to expose myself... "your lover has something to say to you."

"N-No," I stuttered, trying to ward it off. "I don't. Other than I love you and I wish you hadn't done this! T-That's it..."

"Oh, come on. You have much more to say than that. Share your secrets with her now before her sentence is placed, and you may have your bittersweet goodbye," he said coolly.

Everyone but Rose seemed to know what Peakes was trying to force. She knew something was wrong, and she began to believe Peakes. She looked at me with pain in her eyes.

I looked to Peakes, begging. "Please. I'll tell her. But let me tell her my own way. L-Let us have a proper goodbye, and I'll tell her..."

"What are you taking about?" Rose finally muttered. "Scorpius, what are you talking about?!"

"Aha, Miss Weasley. That is exactly it. The man before you that you have clearly fallen in love with is not the man you think he is. In fact, his name is not Scorpius Malfoy."

My heart was beating wildly. My stomach grew heavy, and I felt it drop to the floor. My body hung loosely as I trembled, the guards holding me up, and my tears fell steadily down my cheeks.

"Shut up!" I suddenly shouted, mustering what courage I could, seeming drained from the pain of Rose knowing my secret. "Just shut up! Please, Jimmy! Don't say anything else!"

"No!" Rose finally demanded. Peakes had done what he intended to do; he had awoken the creature inside Rose that demanded the truth from me. She now fully believed that I was hiding something from her, and she wanted desperately to know. She tried to leave that chair, the shackles banging around on the chair and on the stone floor. She thrashed, wanting to look me in the eye as I held my gaze from her. "You tell me! Tell me, Scorpius! What is he saying? He's lying, right? He's...lying..."

"Rose," I moaned desperately, and I didn't know why.

"Tell me!" she screamed.

I squeezed my eyes shut at the horrible screech that was directed at me. I raised my head to her. "Rosie, please," I moaned desperately. "You have to understand. I-It's my job. It was my job! I was just doing what I was told!"

"What the hell are you saying?!"

I continued to ramble on. I didn't even know if I was making any sense. "Then things changed, and I wanted to take it all back. I was doing what I was ordered to do for different reasons. To keep you safe because I couldn't bear to lose you! I had to protect you! That's all I was trying to do, Rosie. To protect you."

"Just tell me!" she screamed in horror, hating my statements that were dodging the plain and simple truth. That I'm not Scorpius Malfoy; that I am Teddy Lupin.

I didn't want us to end like this. It wasn't right. I jerked my head to Peakes and looked upon him with hatred. My tears turned to those of rage as I shouted, thrashing and kicking. Suddenly the guards weren't beside me as a precaution anymore. They were restraining me, holding me down, stepping on my calves to keep me on the floor, twisting my arms this way and that.

"Why are you doing this to us?!" I demanded.

He didn't answer me. He just smiled. There was silence, but to me, there seemed to be a maddening crowd in the room with my roaring thoughts. I began to tremble when I heard Jimmy Peakes speak again. He ordered the guards to place me directly in front of Rose. I wasn't allowed to get to my feet. They dragged me by the arms in front of her, and they dropped me there just a foot in front of her. I looked up to her, my eyes full of pity for her future and hate for myself for letting this case get completely out of hand.

Her eyes gave me that one small whim of hope, though. She simply looked confused and angry with me, angry with the rest of the tribunal as well for making a scene that she still only had half-answers for. She wasn't fuming, she wasn't destroyed. Not yet...

"Show her your real face," Peakes demanded.

My eyes, locked with hers at his words, betrayed me, and that was when she knew I wasn't who I had been claiming to be these past few months. My eyes moved away from hers; I didn't want to watch her as she saw who I really was. Instead, I found my god-father, still standing near the door in shock. His eyes were wide, and I could tell he was fuming with how Peakes had treated the situation, with how he had forced me to do this. It was clear in his eyes that he was on my side, and that gave me a little bit of hope. He seemed to understand that I felt as if I would lose everything in those next few seconds, so he smiled as best he could and nodded, silently telling me it would be okay.

Then I let my abilities take over me. I let Scorpius Malfoy fade from my appearance, probably for forever. I felt my legs get longer. My hair darkened and grew longer, and my facial features changed until I knew I was me again. I opened my amber eyes, no longer the bluish grey of Scorpius Malfoy but my own, and Rose blanched.

She grew still, eyes wide, and unresponsive. She had no idea what to think or what to do. Finally, she opened her mouth. "Teddy...? Teddy Lupin?"

The first time my real name had been spoken by her since we had fallen in love, and it was still heaven to my ears.

"Yes," I answered. "I-It was never Scorpius Malfoy. It was always me."

"What?" she breathed, trying to grasp just what I was saying. Then she was suddenly ranting. "No. No, it wasn't. It wasn't. You're lying! No...It couldn't be!"

"I'm sorry," I whispered. "It was my assignment to impersonate Scorpius Malfoy and interrogate you. That way, if you and Malfoy had worked together, I would know immediately. But you didn't! And then it was too late, and I wish I could take it all back! Rose, I'm so sorry!"

"It was you?!" she questioned. I was aware of the volume of her voice growing with anger, with her feeling of betrayal. "It was you the whole time?!"

"Rose, I'm sorry," I said, already beginning my process of begging for her forgiveness before it was too late. "I'm so sorry. I was only doing my job! Then everything changed. All I wanted to do was protect you, and I fell in love!"

"It was you from the beginning? When that Auror took us out of the Ministry and to the summer house? Even then?!"


"I can't believe you! How could you do this to me?! Oh, and that explains why you hugged me when you saw me and I was confused! And why I was mad at you - at Malfoy! Because I saw the real one, and he didn't even know what was going on! You were impersonating him! You were lying to me to the whole time! I thought...I thought...How could you do this?!"

She was screaming now, tossing herself about in that chair. She wanted to slap me; I could see the urge in her eyes. I cringed as she thrashed even though I knew she couldn't strike me, not from that chair. She didn't ask any other questions. She didn't even want to. She didn't care where the real Malfoy had been the entire time. She didn't care why she had clearly gotten different treatment than the real one. She didn't question any of it. Maybe those curiosities were there deep down, but for now, she didn't even think about the situation other than my deception.

I was lost as to what to do. What could I possibly do? I knew this day had to come, and yet I felt myself slowly crumbling, dissolving into nothing with the wrath Rose unleashed upon me. Was I to beg for her forgiveness? She would never accept it. There was no way I could possibly voice my thoughts and my feelings. It had started off as strictly business, then it became personal, and by then I was in too deep. I had fallen into the character of Malfoy; I had taken him on gladly, adapted him to my own personality. I knew the man I had been trying to be for the first few days at the summer house was now the real me. I was a changed person, and I had grown slightly insane along the way. I knew that. If I wasn't mad, then how did I possibly think I could ever get away with this? That this wouldn't end with Rose's hatred? With my destruction and her breaking?

"I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. I don't, but Rose, I love you!"

"Shush!" I was aware of her ordering me. She closed her eyes to block out the sight of me. She was trying to silence me. She didn't want to hear what I had to say, but she would hear it! "Shut up!"

"I won't! Not until you understand why I was deceiving you! Please, Rose. It was my assignment, and I wanted to keep you safe! Then you became everything to me! Please understand. I love you so much," I moaned.

"No! No, you don't! You're a liar. How could you love me?! It was all a lie. We have been practically family all our lives. We were never close, but it was always a given that we could trust each other and rely on one another! How could you possibly break that?!"

"I-I don't know...Rose, I'm so sorry! Please understand. I love you," I whispered.

"Stop saying that!" she shouted, cringing as her salty tears seeped between her lips. "I love him!"

"But that's still me, Rosie! It's me. I'm that same person you fell in love with. It's me," I whispered desperately, begging, trying for her to understand that it was me she had fallen in love with.

"No. I fell in love with Scorpius Malfoy. Not Teddy Lupin," she cried.

Then I grew quiet, if only temporarily, but the pause allowed Peakes enough time to nudge Sondheim. Sondheim cleared his throat to gain everyone's attention. Despite this, hardly anyone could pay attention to him. Rose and I had made a scene that no one could possibly forget, that no one could tear their eyes from.

"I am sorry to interrupt such a sad and tormenting moment, but this can take place elsewhere. Rose Weasley's testimony concludes the case for the murder of Jarvis Otto Branstone. Rose Weasley will be sentenced to life in Azkaban Prison to begin immediately."

I quaked with fear, my eyes shooting to her to read her expression. She was trembling, staring at Sondheim. For that one moment, her composure diminished slightly. Her eyes scanned the room for anyone to save her as she was hit with the reality of being sent to Azkaban. For one brief moment, her eyes landed on me, and she did seem to beg with me as I had done with her. Then she looked back to Sondheim, and to Peakes. They gave her a look that seemed to read you were the one who voluntarily confessed.

The guards shoved me aside. I landed on the cold, stone floor with a thud. I watched as the guards released Rose's shackles and pulled her from the chair. She uneasily stood on her feet and looked at the tribunal with horror. I rose to my feet and ran towards her. I had to hold her one more time, one more kiss, maybe convince her that our love was real if I could. However, as soon as my hands had submerged themselves in her hair, she took one look at me and was bolting out of the door of the courtroom.

My eyes went wide. Members of the tribunal gasped with shock, raising to their feet. The guards looked to Peakes, the Auror who called the shots due to his position as Acting Auror. Peakes shook his head, and I knew why. He was going to give me a moment with her. So I shot out of the Wizengamot courtroom. From behind me I heard Sondheim shouted wildly, pointing for the door. "Stop her!"

I figured I knew why she was running. I didn't believe her to be running from her sentence. She was running from me. She was so desperate to get away from me that she would run from the Wizengamot court.

I was running after her as fast as I could, right past a startled Ron and my god-father. The guards were on my tail as well, doing their best to seize Rose who would now appear as an outlaw for what she had done. Did she really not care that much?

I was closing in on her. She was already panting from crying so hard, and I already had the physical advantage on her. She didn't go for the elevator. She went for the back stairs and raced up many flights of stairs. When I was finally able to see her, her red hair whipping around the next corner up in a blur, I shouted to her.

"Rose, don't run! They'll think you're running away from your sentence!"

"I don't care! Anything to get away from you," she shouted, choking on her tears.

"Rose!" I shouted, and I was fully aware of the begging tone that filled my voice. But I knew I was. I was desperate. I was begging. Begging for her to just listen, to hear me out, to try to understand my weak argument and what little reasoning I had. I had to beg. I couldn't lose her. Not now.

She finally left the stairwell, and we were running through the main floor. I shouted after her. "Rose, just wait! Wait and listen to me! Please!"

"No!" she shouted, rounding on me. She stopped running just so she could look me in the eye and I could see her hatred. It made me feel cold, empty, and it made me hate myself more than I already did. "Why should I?! I trusted you. You were lying to me that entire time."

"I know, and I'm sorry," I said quickly, trying to defend myself.

"Oh, sorry doesn't even cut it! Don't you even begin to apologize to me. There's no use," she said, full of rage.

"Rose!" I cried out, and tears filled my eyes. I can't even remember the last time I cried. "I never meant to hurt you! I never meant for it to go this far. I thought it wouldn't take as long as it did, and I never expected this to happen! I was just doing my job! I never...I had no idea!"

"So what?!" she snarled. "So what if you were just doing your job?! You should have quit as soon as you were given the assignment! How could you possibly think this would be okay? Did you think everything would go just peachy and everything would return to normal after the case, huh?! You should have known from the very beginning, that no matter what happened, I would have found out the truth. Sooner or later!"

"I don't know what I thought. I wasn't thinking! Please, Rose, I'm so sorry."

I could hear the thunderous footsteps of the Wizengamot guards chasing after us. Peakes had given us a little time, most likely to let us have this conversation, but it wasn't enough. No amount of time would ever be enough to explain to Rose before she would be hauled off to Azkaban for the rest of her life.

"You...You betrayed me! How could you?! After what I just did...After what I just said! I thought I was going to Azkaban for Scorpius! For Scorpius! Not for you, and you've been lying to me this whole time. What we had...isn't even real! It's - "

"But it is real! It is! It was real the whole time!" Why couldn't she see that?

"No, it wasn't! I thought I was in love with Scorpius! I turned myself in for him! So he could be free! And now for nothing!"

We had stopped running. She was holding onto her side as if my betrayal were physically hurting her. Her tears were fluid down her cheeks, her eyes bloodshot, and her jaw set in anger.

"N-No," I said as my tears escaped my eyes. I blinked so my vision would clear. I wanted to see her beautiful face, even if she was hating me, before I would never see her again. "If I had known what you were doing, I wouldn't have let you go! I never would have let you leave my side. I would have kept you safe."

"Shut up!" she shouted in pain, clamping her hands over her ears.

The guards were closer. I whipped around to look at them, running at full speed. The one in the front withdrew his wand, and with a simple wave, he bound Rose's hands together. They flew down from her ears, clamping together at the wrists, and a gold spark had them magically bound. She yelped in surprise, temporarily losing her balance and sending her emotions even more spiraling out of control. I jumped forward to steady her before she could fall, just like our first day at the summer house when I softened her fall out of the fire place. And just like then as well, she reacted to my touch as if I were acidic.

She screamed until I let go of her, and then she only fell to her knees. The guards had reached her now, and they were pulling her up by her elbows. Rose wasn't even moving, wasn't fighting it in the least. She was letting herself be hauled away, her eyes squeezed shut to maybe fight off the sight of me. The guards were informing her of how she was being escorted directly to Azkaban now, no chances for goodbyes to her family, no last meals from within the Ministry. No, those privileges had been revoked as soon as she ran out of the courtroom after being sentenced to Azkaban.

I realized this would be the last I would ever see of her. She would rot away in a cell in Azkaban, maybe go insane. Maybe that would be better for her now, though, after the damage I had done to her. But I knew I couldn't leave it like this.

I quickly ran after her just to stay by her side for a few more minutes.

"Rosie," I said, this time my voice soft and desperate, loving. "I love you, Rose."

"Don't you dare tell me that," she said, her voice torn between a whisper and a crying shout.

"But I do, Rose. I want you to know that. I don't care what you think, but you have to know that I love you. If we are to never see each other again, can't you look me in the eye and understand? Just tell me one more time that you love me."

"But I don't love you."

"Yes, you do. I may not be Scorpius, but I'm still the same man who was at the summer house with you. I'm still him. I'm still that man who fell in love with you and that you fell in love with as well." I tried to be gentle now, to be sweet and encouraging. She was about to meet her doom; I just wanted her to be at peace with how she went. But I knew that I was also looking for an understanding before she wasted away in that prison.

She said nothing though, so I only pressed on further.

"You will regret it if you don't make things right with me right now."

"No, I won't," she said sternly. "With the memories of the man I killed, the Dementors hovering over me, and your betrayal, I'll go mad in a matter of days. Therefore, nothing really matters."

"Rose," I begged again. I hated the sound of her going mad. She couldn't. "Please. I love you, and I know you love me."

We had reached the fire place to which Rose would floo directly into Azkaban. This was it. This would be the last I would see of her. I looked at her desperately, for some form of hope from her.

"I don't love you."

"You know that's not true!" I shouted, demanding more from her. Two guards stepped into the fire place with her, Rose smushed in between them. I tried to step in there with them, to take her into my arms, but the guards gave me harsh shoves and I fell onto the cold, tile floor of the atrium. I looked at her, the tears running down my cheeks, and I shouted over the roar of the flickering flame. "You know you love me!"

"I don't. The man I fell in love with doesn't even exist." Then the green flames took her away. I had successfully broken Rose, shattered her into a million pieces. I was never to see her again, and my heart went with her.

Chapter 24: A Little Push
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A/N: You guys are wonderful! I'm trying every day to get these reviews answered, but don't worry! I see them all, read them all, and love and appreciate all of them! I'm always open to criticism as well!

I just want to remind you readers about something very important about this story: this is NOT the climax. Don't worry about what you wish for the characters because it could very well happen - whatever your wishes may be. Anything can still happen because I'm assuming there will be at LEAST another ten chapters to this story.

Also, another very important thing I wanted to point out: this is a mystery. And yes, some questions about the murder have been answered. In some ways, I guess. But you will not know the WHOLE and TRUE story all together until the second to last chapter. You have been given pieces of information. Some of it is a lie, and some of it is truth. What you think happened is up to you, but bear in mind that you don't have all the pieces together yet. :)

And with that, happy reading! :) Please review! I love hearing everyone's suspicions!

Garrett Hedlund as Teddy Lupin
Josh Lucas as Jimmy Peakes

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stunning chapter image by laelia @ TDA

"See, madness, as you know, is like gravity: all it takes is a little push!"
-The Joker, Batman: The Dark Knight

The world seemed to fall away from me after that. I stood there in silence and in shock for quite some time. My heart was pounding inside my chest; I felt as if I could hardly breathe. My world had been fine, had been perfect, and then it had all come crashing down. Rose had been taken away from me; Rose had left me. Both in one day. She had chosen to walk away from me for what I had done, but she had also been stolen from me to a place where I couldn't even follow to fight for her love, to request for it to return. There was no fixing this.

I had lost her for good.

That thought hit me hard. My tears grew thick and heavy, and I didn't even try to hold them back. No shame. I had lost the woman I loved. I had never been this torn, this distraught over a girl. I had loved before, but when that ended I had never been this upset. It was nothing like this when it ended with Victoire. Now, I felt like a girl, crying in sadness over my lost relationship, but I found I could hardly care. Sometimes it's just not worth it to hold those tears in.

I expected to just sit on the ground or leave, to wallow alone in my sadness, but I found that I couldn't.

I hadn't noticed Ruckman and Peakes entering the atrium, but I was suddenly aware of them behind me.

John seemed sympathetic towards me. Of course he understood; he's married with two beautiful children. He asked in a small voice, unsure of how to comfort a weeping man. "You were in love with her?"

I corrected him immediately. I let my voice fill with acidity and hatred; I wanted Peakes to feel what was boiling through me. "I am in love with her."

"You were supposed to tell us if anything like that happened, Lupin. So that we could avoid it getting this bad," sighed Peakes. I don't know why he was saying it. Was he really trying to tell me what I should have done differently? At a time like this?

I whipped around in fury, and I found that I held nothing back. I let everything go. I jumped on him like I had Malfoy so long ago. I grabbed him by the collar and shook him, aggravated. "Of course I didn't tell you! I wouldn't have let you take her from me! I love her now! I would have done everything in my power to keep her safe, to keep her out of prison! To keep her with me!"

Ruckman tried not to move. He knew I was fragile in this state. He put his hands up in defense, his lips quivering as he tried to tell me to calm down. Peakes moved from beside us to interfere, but as soon as I felt his cold hands on my arms, trying to pull me away, I voluntarily let go of John only to round on Peakes.

"And you!" I shouted. "You did this! I know it's you! You had something to do with this! You could have done something, you bastard!"

I don't know what came over me next, but I hit him. I struck him with full force. My clenched fist hit him square in the nose, and he stumbled back, clutching it as blood poured down his face.

"Woah, take it easy," Ruckman encouraged, and he put both of his hands up, bravely approaching me. If I believed that he stepped out of line, I might have struck him as well.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Peakes demanded as he pulled his hand away from his face to look at the blood in his palm.

I took two large steps forward. I knew it was him; there was no denying he knew it just as well as I did. We could both feel my certainty, and his retort only pissed me off even more.

"What the hell is wrong with me?! This is all your fault, you asshole! I love her, and now you've ruined everything!"

While Ruckman was busy holding me back, I noticed the inevitable smirk that spread across his face. I hissed as we came to a mutual understanding that he had been behind it all along. That was enough to send me over the edge. I stopped trying to claw at the air and instead grabbed Ruckman again. I lifted him up and threw him aside, leaping forward after Peakes. I jumped on top of him, and we fell to the ground. My fist came down on his face again, this time repeatedly. He stopped fighting at one point and just took the beating until other Aurors that had entered the atrium due to my outbreak pulled me off of him. I went kicking and screaming as they pulled me to my feet, threatening to arrest me.

Peakes quickly acted as if he had not just given himself away to me. "It's all right," he said, a professional voice taking over. He wiped the blood from his face and came to stand in front of me and the two guards on either side of me. "Mr. Lupin is just distraught over the loss of his loved one. Release him."

They let go of me, and I only didn't attack him again because I knew they would haul me away if I did so. I smoothed out my clothes, breathing deeply and doing my best to calm myself.

I was suddenly lost as I tried to decide what would happen next. I wanted to quit. Oh, I wanted to quit right then and there if I didn't happen to get fired anyway. But was quitting the best decision? Now that I knew Peakes was behind it all - in some way, that part still foreign to me - I had to prove it. No one would trust my judgment; after my scene in the Wizengamot and here in the atrium, everyone knows of my love for Rose, how I would do anything to free her. They wouldn't accept my word simply on trust now. I had blown that opportunity. I had to get solid proof if I was to overturn Rose's sentence. This meant I had to stay close to Peakes; I had to get him to admit the truth somehow. But employed as an Auror, didn't I have a better chance of doing so? If I quit, I had no reason to be inside the Ministry. To be around Peakes at all.

I had to keep my job...

"Go on," Peakes said. He looked as if he truly didn't care, but I knew better. He waved off the two Aurors who were still standing by my side, ready to seize me again at any moment. He waved to Ruckman as well, adding, "All of you. I will handle this."

Confused and defeated, they obeyed their Acting Head Auror. I watched them leave, now knowing Peakes wanted a private word with me. He took a few bold steps forward, and I stood up straighter, showing him that I wasn't afraid. I had lost everything when I lost Rose. What more did I have to lose?

His voice was cool when he spoke to me. "You'll never speak of this, you understand? I'll be sure of that. You're lucky you aren't being fired after a scene like that, but I know better. Your god-father would have you reinstated in a heartbeat. Sondheim will be Minister, though. Even if we have to get rid of Percy Weasley. Then once Sondheim is Minister it will be goodbye for your god-father in the Auror Department and I will take over. Then we will see how long you'll last with me."

"You wouldn't fire me," I sneered. I found myself twisting my words to make him believe he needed me, to keep me close to him. "I'm too valuable to you. You will never find anyone as good as me with what I do."

"I beg to differ. Clearly there is someone better out there if you're going to continue falling in love with the suspects."

I felt my face grow hot. I wanted to strike him again.

"But we will see what happens," he added. "I know you'll keep quiet. You know why? Because when I'm Head Auror, I will have direct control of the Azkaban prisoners. If you even put a toe out of line, it's the Dementor's Kiss for your precious Rose."

I grew stiff with hatred. I clenched my fists, dug my nails into my palms, and I felt the blood begin to sink under my nails. The thought of that happening to Rose. Of her body becoming just a shell, what defines her completely gone, lost into the abyss...I hated it. I trembled as I whispered to him in fury. "You wouldn't do that to her."

"Would I?" he asked with a smirk. "Think about who you're dealing with, Lupin. You have miraculously figured out I was the one behind the murder. You may prove that you were hired as an Auror for more than just your metamorphmagus abilities, but you and I both know Rose wouldn't hurt anyone without a little push."

"You blackmailed her," I hissed, beginning to piece things together.

"Well done," Peakes grinned.

"But why?!" I asked. "What could you have possibly held over her head to make her kill the Minister of Magic?!"

He didn't answer me, and he didn't let me say anymore after that. With a proud smirk, he turned on his heels and stalked off. Still rooted to the spot, I shouted after him. "Peakes! What did you do?!"

He was gone then, and I was left to pick up the pieces of my broken demeanor and figure out where to go from here. Where did I go from here? I had lost everything, and I had to get it back. But how do I stand up to a man who knows how to break one of the strongest people I know? He had gotten Rose to kill the Minister. What had he threatened her with in order for her to do something so extravagant and something so willingly and brutally by the looks of the four holes in Jarvis Branstone's chest? One would have done the trick, if it had been in the right place. Two possibly, but Rose had stabbed him four times. I had seen the photographs of the body.

I stood still for minutes. I don't know how long I just stood there and trembled, letting my tears steadily fall. It wasn't until I heard two pairs of footsteps did I look up from the granite floor of the atrium. Harry and Ron were suddenly before me, both panting and shaking as reality hit them, reality that a girl we had all loved and thought to be so peaceful had brutally killed a man. Ron was distraught and on the verge of losing himself completely, but I could tell that Harry was the only thing keeping him together now.

Ron and I looked at one another. Our eyes met, and we both voluntarily moved towards one another. In a mess his arms enveloped around me and mine around him. We fed off of each other's pain, each other's will to get through this, for we both had one vitally important thing in common now. We had both lost a woman we so dearly loved. Ron had lost his only daughter, and I had lost the most important woman to ever walk into my life.

"I'm sorry," I apologized as I cried, and Ron patted my back to soothe me. "I'm sorry, Ron. I would have stopped her if I had known. I would never have let them take her."

"Shh," he said in my ear. I had never known Ron to be a very eloquent man or voice his thoughts very well or very often, but his words were thoughtful and consoled me even as he was a father who had lost his child. "There was nothing you could have done. She intended it to be this way, and no matter what she may have said to you, I know she loves you. I have never seen her like that. Before she knew it was you...I could see her love for you in her eyes."

"I'm sorry," I moaned again.

He hadn't even known the whole story; he hadn't even read Rose's letter to me, and yet he still knew. At least Ron was of the right mind in that courtroom. Just during the testimony, he was able
to tell that Rose had left without my knowing, that she intended to turn herself in for my sake - or for Malfoy's sake - and that she still loved me.

No matter what he said, I blamed myself. If I had woken up earlier, I could have been there before she left. Maybe she wouldn't have gone, or maybe I could have convinced her to leave with me. Or even if I had told her who I truly was before she turned herself in, she wouldn't have done it. It was my fault, and anyone could tell me differently, but I knew the truth. And now Rose's family would have to deal with the repercussions of my stupidity and poor indiscretion for the rest of their life.

I felt a separate hand on my back, and when Ron shuddered against me, I knew one had been placed on his back too. When new arms enveloped the both of us, we knew it was Harry. He pressed his forehead against ours, and silence took over the three of us. We latched onto each other's pity, each other's love, and together we mourned over what we had all lost and over what Rose would suffer through for the rest of her life. Neither one of us cared that Rose had killed someone. That seemed to be a minor detail. We all seemed to understand that it wasn't of her own doing or decision making. There was something much darker behind it, and while they didn't know what I knew, they didn't classify Rose as a murderer. She would never be a murderer in the eyes of her family or those who loved her.

Soon the world would know who killed Jarvis Branstone. The Weasleys would have to deal with the judging eyes of the witches and wizards around them for Rose's doing, and for that, I pitied them. Even Harry and his family would receive some of the reprimanding, I'm sure. Due to this, their lives would surely change.

I don't know how long we stood there for, just three men who didn't care what anyone thought, who let their guard down one time when they all otherwise held so strongly. We heard footsteps, but neither one of us reacted.

Finally John Ruckman's voice was behind me, gentle and uneasy. "Ted..." he muttered in an attempt to get my attention.

I sniffed and rubbed my wet cheeks on Ron's shoulder, turning to face him. John blinked when our eyes met, probably from the surprise of seeing my bloodshot eyes.

"I-I'm sorry," he said to me, and I believed him. I believed he was sorry for what had happened, for what Rose had said to me, and for what we had gone through. I believed that he did pity me, but I also believed that he could have done something different. Why didn't he realize that the boss he so whole-heartedly obeyed was up to no good?

I understood that he had more to say to me other than his apology, so I turned Ron into the arms of my god-father. He put an arm around his shoulder and led him from the atrium. I approached Ruckman, swiping at my eyes and sniffing so I could speak clearly. "What is it?" I asked, my voice empty.

John blinked and wondered if he should have waited to tell me what it was he had to say. He knew I was fragile, and he knew how easily I could snap. He spoke delicately to me. "A new contract has been made, between the Aurors and the Wizengamot tribunal. The tribunal has agreed to not speak of your involvement in the case, and the Auror Department is classifying your case as Restricted. No one will know."

For some reason, this soothed me. I didn't want the world to know what I had done. If people were to know I had fallen in love with Rose, I didn't want them to know how twisted I was for allowing it to happen while I was impersonating someone else. While I wanted everyone to know how screwed up Peakes was for making me do something so outrageous, I didn't want anyone to know.

I nodded, and yet he went on.

"The tribunal won't speak of what they witnessed, and neither will the department. You know that. They will - respect - your feelings. You've also been allowed a leave of absence. Ted, really, I'm so sorry," he said.

At first I wondered why I was hearing this from John. Why wasn't I hearing it from Sondheim as the Acting Minister, or Peakes for that matter while he was still the Auror in charge of the case. Then I realized I knew the answer. I knew why Peakes wouldn't come talk to me. Not after what he told me; Peakes and I would distance ourselves from one another for some time. I realized I was actually grateful John had been the one to tell me this. If I saw Jimmy Peakes again, I don't know what I would have done.

All I did was nod yet again.

"And the summer house...You're welcome to take as long as you need with taking your things. Really, no rush at all," he said kindly.

Right. I had completely forgotten that all of our things were still at the house, and they had to be taken care of it some way. And then I thought of how I would be returning to my flat now. My flat that had been empty for so long, that had probably collected dust. It would suddenly feel lonelier than ever, and I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to leave the summer house where all of my best memories had taken place.

"Can I stay there?" I found myself suddenly asking. I looked to John, hopeful that he wouldn't remove me from his summer house just yet. "Please. I...I don't want to leave. Not yet."

He seemed to understand that, in a way, I was holding on to Rose by wishing to stay there, so he nodded. Ruckman said with a kind smile, "You're welcome to stay there as long as you like."

And I did. During that delicate transition time between the Wizengamot tribunal cooling off and when the press would soon hear of the case, spreading the news worldwide, I left the Ministry. I knew Harry would take care of Ron, and they would spread the word of what had happened to the rest of their family. I wanted to be gone before the reporters would be running amuck throughout the Ministry, so I apparated back to the summer house.

It was suddenly so lonely inside those warm walls, so chilling. I looked about the kitchen where Rose's cup of coffee sat, half drunk, the mug still warm to the touch. The cottage looked as if nothing had gone amiss. A deck of cards was still scattered over the coffee table in the sitting room, the blankets strewn about the couch from when we cuddled there yesterday afternoon. I willed myself to move, and mustering what courage I could, I stepped into the small hallway that led to the bathroom and two bedrooms.

I didn't have to think twice about where I would go first. I stepped into Rose's room and took one look around. It looked as if her room was just graciously awaiting her return. The bed was unmade, as it so often was, and her clothes were either sitting in an arm chair or on top of the wardrobe, rarely in the drawers where they belonged. I walked over to the wardrobe and fingered the articles of clothing, the black dress she had worn to New York, one of my t-shirts that had slipped into the mix of her clothes that she liked to wear around the house. Then I sauntered over to her bed, touched the duvet, and I collapsed onto the soft mattress.

Weakly and pathetically I crawled under the covers. Even though it was hot with the heat of summer fading and entering autumn, I threw the covers over my head and inhaled the scent of Rose. I smiled when I realized it was still fresh, still there as if she had just left her bed a few minutes ago.

I stayed like that for the rest of the day. I didn't eat, nor did I leave her bed to do anything else. I thought about all the things I had done that made me hate myself and in turn made Rose hate me. I thought of how I had deceived her, I thought of what I could have done differently - if anything. But then I also thought of all the good. Of our first kiss, of all the laughs we had shared, the late nights in the hammock and by the water, the fun and endless card games, the many nights spent in each other's arms. I reminisced of all our times together, and I knew immediately that there was no way Rose didn't love me. She did; she loved me. She had to. I wouldn't believe a word she said. I couldn't let that get to me; I couldn't let that interfere with what I would have to do in order to get Peakes to confess. I would fight for her till the ends of the earth even if she didn't love me.

I fell asleep early into the night with tears in my eyes, and I had a restless night. I knew I tossed and turned in fits, but I slept for hours on end. When I awoke, it was well into the next day. It took me awhile to leave her bed, but when I did, I took care of myself, and with what little perseverance I could muster, I began to sort through Rose's things. I knew I couldn't stay at the summer house forever; it didn't belong to me. It was John's.

Slowly I began to filter through her belongings. The process took me almost a whole week. I packed up her toiletries, her shampoo, her conditioner, make up and all those other things, and placed them into a bag that I placed an Undetectable Extension charm on. Out of all those things, her perfume was the one thing I kept, storing it safely into my own suitcase I had slowly begun to pack up. I packed up her clothes and her shoes, and finally there was nothing of hers left in the house.

When I hadn't left a trace of Rose or myself behind, I mustered the only strength I had left and apparated back to my own flat. As I expected, it was lonely and cold, dusty with its lack of visitation. I set my stuff down and fell immediately down into my bed. I didn't know what to do with Rose's belongings. Did I force them upon her parents and remind them of their daughter who had suffered in Azkaban for a week now? Did I return them to her flat and leave it there abandoned? Did Rose even have a flat anymore, or had her parents already clear it out for leasing? I knew I would have to talk to her parents about all of this sooner or later.

For the next few weeks, I felt as if I were living in a different world. One where I didn't believe happiness was possible and one where I had forgotten what it meant to truly live. I did what Ruckman told me I was allowed; I took a leave of absence from the office. The time allotted had been declared as unforeseeable, which I was grateful for. I wasn't going to show up anyway until I was certain news of the murder and Rose's imprisonment had calmed down, though I doubted it ever would.

I spent my days doing nothing. Just sitting, staring out the window, sometimes staring at blank walls. I had no motivation to do anything else. Not yet. I didn't even have a plan yet. I tried to figure a plan out, but most of the time that just ended up in me cursing and smashing things. My living room was now an assortment of broken fixtures and shattered meaningless frames.

There was a day when there was an incessant knocking on the door of my flat for a half hour or so. I had gone to look through the peep-hole to see who the visitor was. It was Harry. In a way, I wasn't surprised. He probably wanted to talk to me, to see how I was faring, but I refused to answer the door. He knew I was inside; he must have. Yet I didn't answer. I sat on my couch, pulling at a frayed thread in a blanket until he finally gave up his constant knocking, saying before leaving. "I know you're in there, Ted. I just want to see how you're doing. You know I'm here when you're ready to talk."

Then his footsteps signaled his leave.

I kept up with the progress of the new minister campaign through the Prophet. I had diverted my owls with their delivery of the Prophet when I knew the front page would be all about Rose's sentence. When that was no longer on the front page, I started to look at the paper again. I learned that Scorpius Malfoy had been released only an hour after Rose's confession, and he was welcomed back into the Wizarding society with open and apologetic arms. The Malfoy name had never seen such good graces, and he quickly resumed his column in the Prophet. Percy Weasley had been forced to step down in his campaign as Minister for Magic. He seemed to know that he would never win the campaign after Rose's conviction. The Weasley name would be matched with that of a murderer's for quite some time, and of course no one wanted their new Minister to be involved with a killer. Not only this, but if Rose had killed the Minister and then her uncle took the position, it would appear to everyone else as Rose Weasley killing Jarvis for the sole purpose of bettering her Uncle's career.

Due to Percy stepping down, there was only one option now. Sondheim was soon elected as Minister for Magic. With this, I knew many things would change. Sondheim was buddy-buddy with Peakes, and therefore Peakes would have his way with just about everything. I could only imagine what would happen inside the Ministry now. The world was quickly changing into something I could no longer tolerate, into something I could no longer stand.

I had sworn to do my best to free Rose, and yet I had done nothing. But what was I to do? What could I do? Sondheim was Minister, and Peakes would have his way. Everything suddenly seemed as if it ended in a no-win scenario. Everything was hopeless.

I realized Peakes was right. We had so much inside of us, powers to do things we never thought we could. It's just sitting there inside of us, dormat and waiting for a trigger. Whether it be the capability to murder someone, or like me, to go insane slowly and painfully. Peakes was right. All it takes is a push.

Chapter 25: Picking Up the Pieces
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Here is the next chapter! Things are finally picking up again! I can't wait for the rest of the story, here on out! It's all so exciting!

Just to let you guys know, the queue closes on the 1st of July, so this will be the last posted chapter until the queue reopens on July 7th! Come back then when chapter 26 is up! :)

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The day came two weeks later after I hadn't stepped foot outside of my flat when the knocking came again. Once again, I knew who it was. So I didn't leave my bed. I had grown weak and lethargic, not to mention filthy. I had cooked until I had just about bled my kitchen dry of what ingredients it held, and then I relied on conjuring my food so I didn't have to leave my flat. I had showered recently, but I hadn't shaved once. Neither had I done my laundry or taken care of the place. I was embarrassed by my behavior to say the least, but I found that I couldn't muster the strength or the will to do any of that. I simply spent all my time sulking to myself, wondering if Rose was still sane, if she was alive or had died within her cell. Then the thoughts of her losing her mind or being dead made me even more deranged.

Harry's shouting made me find my voice, the voice I hadn't used in three weeks. "Go away!" I tried to shout, finding my throat dried up and croaking.

Then a huge crash came, and I groaned, knowing Harry had forced himself into my flat. But whether he broke down my door or used a charm to get in, I didn't know, but the crashing sound suggested my living room was an even greater mess now. I didn't budge from my bed. From there, I listened to the crunching of glass beneath my god-father's feet, and I heard him say in exasperation, "What the fuck happened in here, Ted?"

"Leave me alone," I groaned, my voice droning from its lack of use.

The shuffling moved closer, and I knew he now stood at the entrance into my bedroom. Still I didn't budge, so he finally threw my covers off of me and onto the ground. I cringed at the light I hadn't seen in days, and he drew in a sharp breath at the sight of me. I knew that my facial hair was nothing like it had ever been before.

"Holy shit, Ted," he huffed again. I turned to face him. Harry's eyes appeared sunken, almost hollow in his eye sockets with the skin darkened around them. I could tell he lacked sleep and had been stressed lately. "What the hell has happened to you? Pull yourself together, boy! You can't keep going on like this."

I grunted. He was angry with me; I could tell, and so he began to reprimand me like I was his own child.

Harry turned away from me and began to pick up after me. I watched him pick up my t-shirts, the dirty socks, and the many pairs of pants, throwing them into my closet. I sat up, placing my feet on the floor and rubbing my eyes. I didn't need Harry to take care of me. That was the last thing I needed.

"Cut it out," I told him, watching him violently pull open the drapes to let in the sunlight. "You don't need to pick up after me."

"Then pick up after yourself," he snapped, whipping around to face me.

His snap sent a chill down my spine. He was pissed. I didn't want to irritate him, but I also didn't want to put up with him. I didn't need him doing this right now. I thought about what day it was and the sunlight spilling in. I knew it had been approximately three weeks since Rose's confession, but I didn't know what day it was. They had sort of started to bleed together, and I could no longer tell. I think it's Thursday...

In the middle of the day. So Harry should be at the office.

"What the bloody hell are you doing here anyway? Shouldn't you be at the Ministry?" I asked. I rose and snatched one of my t-shirts from his hands, putting it away myself.

"I've been sacked," Harry answered.

This caught my attention. I paused and rounded on him, my eyes wide. "You've what?!"

"You heard me," he answered, rolling his shoulders. He had moved to my bed, replacing my covers but probably just to give himself something to do to keep his eyes from meeting mine. "I was sacked."


"Maybe a week ago," he answered dully. I could tell the conversation was hard for him, but he kept a strong face.

Well, that explained why I didn't know. After I had read all I needed to about Sondheim becoming Minister, I had stopped reading the paper. Instead, they had just collected on my window sill where I ditched them after the owl delivered them. I hadn't read the papers to find out anything, and I had of course diverted all outside communication for the past three weeks.

Somehow I wasn't surprised. I should have known this was coming, and I should have given Harry a fair warning. It was obvious to me now that once Sondheim was Minister, he had sacked Harry and hired Peakes as the new Head Auror.

I uneasily asked him this. "And Peakes is now Head...?"

"Yup," he said again. This time he stood up straight, placed his hands on his hips, and his eyes met mine.

"That bastard," I muttered under my breath.

"Don't worry about it," sighed Harry. He finally left the mess that was my bedroom alone and went into the living room. Thankfully he just dropped down onto the couch without picking up anymore of the mess.

Now I felt terrible. Here I was letting myself go and not giving a damn about anyone but myself, and everyone else had suffered as well. Ron, Hermione, and Hugo were suffering. Hell, all of the Weasleys and the Potters, and to top it off, Harry had been fired. Yet here he was, picking up after me like he always had.

I chewed on the nail of my thumb as I listened to him try to convince me things were all right.

"I'd been thinking about retiring anyway. Twenty-five years in the place is a long time, and I certainly have enough money. Besides, the kids are old enough now to be taking care of themselves. We'll be fine," he sighed.

"I'm sorry, Harry," I muttered.

"Really now?" he questioned, putting on that stern look and that fatherly, reprimanding tone he always got when he fussed at his kids. "You've been dodging all of our owls, locking yourself up in your flat, taking an exceptionally long leave of absence from your job, letting your flat go to pot and not giving a damn about anything else. Ted, you have to straighten up."

"I will," I answered in a bashful tone. I could feel my cheeks flushing a deep crimson. I felt terrible, so guilty for my actions and my behavior. I was beyond embarrassed. Mortified even.

"We are all going through a rough patch here," he said. His tone grew softer, and that made me feel a little better. "We are all struggling. Especially Ron and Hermione. We know what you've lost, and we understand that, but cutting us off is not how we deal with things. We're family, and we handle things together."

"Absolutely," I said, nodding with him.

He looked me over for a good few moments, trying to see if I was mocking him or not. But I wasn't. Harry had come here to set me straight, and he had. It hadn't taken anything to put me in line after hearing he had been sacked by Sondheim. It forced me to realize that we all have some weight to carry, but we always have to keep moving. And we have each other when we need the extra help and a shoulder to lean on.

When he believed me to be serious, he nodded in return.

I took a step towards the kitchen, pointing towards the coffee pot. "Can I get you some coffee?"

At least I could try to make up for being an immature, conceited jackass.

"That'd be great," sighed Harry and he kicked his feet up onto the coffee table.

I quickly made us two cups of coffee. Luckily coffee beans were the one thing I still had in my flat. I hadn't had any need to make coffee the past few weeks, as all I wanted to do was sleep. Coffee would have kept me awake so I could worry about my troubles, and I didn't want that.

I handed Harry his mug, sitting next to him on the couch, and we turned to face each other.

"How is everyone?" I asked uneasily.

"They're holding up. Hermione is...distraught, to say the least. Ron is managing, but it's obvious this blow has been hard on him. Hugo is getting along. Everyone? Well, we're all making it."

I looked at Harry with admiration. He is one of the bravest, strongest men I know. I don't know how he does it.

"And Ron. He's still employed at the Ministry, right?" I asked because I wasn't all that sure. If Harry had been sacked, granted for Peakes' job, I found it likely that Ron had been sacked as well.

"Yeah, Ron is still employed, but no one knows for how much longer. We know why I was sacked. Sondheim wanted Peakes to have my position. In Sondheim's and Peakes' eyes, Ron is just another Auror. But if he isn't sacked soon, then the ridicule he is facing at the office may be too much for him soon. No Weasley is in good graces anymore."

I sighed in defeat. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling of how this all seemed to be my fault. I knew it was, and I voiced these thoughts.

"Stop blaming yourself," breathed Harry in an exasperated voice. "You didn't kill the Minister. You didn't force Rose to do it, and nothing can change that. She made her own decision."

"So you think she was forced too?!" I asked quickly. I took his reassurance with a grain of salt, but his words brought forth another thought within me. I knew Rose had been forced into killing the Minister. Blackmailed. Yet I would hold this bit of information within me for a while longer until I had more information and leverage.

Harry sighed and thought hard about his opinion, and then he did his best to articulate his thoughts. "I never thought Rose to have an evil bone in her body. In a way, yes, I think something made her do it. She would never do that of her own choosing."

"What does everyone else think?" I asked. I didn't know if I should be worried about the answer or not. If her uncle believed her to be half innocent, then her parents should at least think that way too, right?

"No one in her family thinks her to be a killer. She may have killed him, but no one thinks she made the choice to do so. We all think she was either forced, blackmailed, or Imperiurised."

I had never felt so relieved in my life.

"I know she was, Harry! Of course she was! So why can't we try to prove it?!" I demanded.

"It would be nearly impossible. We have no evidence, and to obtain that evidence is even more far-fetched. Not to mention, we would probably be acting illegally to obtain this evidence."

"So what?!" I roared. "Who gives a damn? We can't just let her rot!"

I felt hypocritical. I had sworn to free her, to prove how she had been blackmailed, and yet I had done nothing but let her rot for three weeks. Oh, Merlin, what's wrong with me...? I had been so absorbed in my sulking that I had forgotten Rose was still alive, still breathing, and still being tormented by her memory of me and the Dementors in Azkaban. What had I done?

"Ted, even if we could do this, no life sentence in Azkaban has ever been overturned."

"There's a first time for everything!" I breathed.

"I think you need to slow down and think about what you're saying," suggested Harry. The look he gave me didn't put me in a better mood either. He sipped at his coffee as he looked at me begrudgingly from the rim of his mug. He seemed to be thinking what had gone through my head just a few minutes earlier: how I had cut myself off from the world and let Rose just let Azkaban take over her. Now I wanted to fight for her with every fiber of my being.

Well, sorry, Harry, if I can't have a dawning moment of realization in my life that I had done something stupid and decided to make a change, I thought sarcastically.

"I don't need to think," I began sternly. "I know I've been a conceited ass the past three weeks, but I'm going to free the woman I love and that's that."

"You will do what you wish. You're strong-minded like that. I think you're coming upon a dead-end here, but prove me wrong. When you have a plan, I'll contribute everything I can. I know Ron will jump right on board with you," Harry said, throwing in his last comment. He said it under his breath, and he tried to restrain an eye roll as if he disapproved this from Ron. I wanted to smack Harry for doubting Ron and I. What was wrong with him?! We want to free his niece and he's just sitting back.

I didn't argue it though. I didn't need to pester him any further. I had disturbed him enough, and he had enough to worry about. I didn't need to add myself to the list of his troubles. I was mortified by my behavior and hoped he would overlook what I had done the past three weeks.

We had a good chat, catching up on what else had happened, trying to focus on the better things. How James would be heading to the Quidditch World Cup in a month with his team, how when Lily had come home from Hogwarts a few weeks ago from completing her seventh year, she told her parents of her relationship with Lysander Scamander. Harry asked how Rose and I had begun, and I gladly told him. You would think that after everything, thinking of Rose would only upset me, but it didn't. It kept me sane. If I could even be called sane anymore. It made me happy.

I told him of we had developed a friendship that we had lacked throughout our entire life, and then suddenly with her kiss it had grown into something more and I realized it was where I should have been all along. Harry looked at me like he never had before. His smile was wide, his eyes appraising my words and my emotions. He seemed to suck in the happiness that filled me when I talked about Rose, and he seemed pleased to see me in such a way.

When I was done, his words reflected his expression over the past few minutes. "I've never seen you speak so passionately about anything. Or anyone for that matter," he whispered.

"That's because there's never been anyone like her," I answered.

I knew what he was thinking when I said that. His eyes deceived him. They seemed to question, Even Vic? But he didn't say it. And of course even Vic. Victoire and I had had our go, and it didn't go as planned. We were always clumsy on the romantic side. We had always bumped our noses when we kissed, stepped on each others toes when we danced, hands foolishly and awkwardly placed. We argued about the little things that shouldn't even matter that made us appear to be an old married couple, and we soon realized that maybe things were that way because we were too good of friends. We knew that our feelings had betrayed us into romance. We felt nothing more than the strongest of friendship. That was why we had kissed so clumsily, why there had been a lack of spark in our touch for the both of us. And that was why it was so easy to end our relationship on such great terms. We were too good of friends, and always would be. I would still lay down my life for her without a moment's hesitation, and always would.

I realized I missed her then. I needed to see her and talk to her about Rose. She always had something great to say. I then questioned why she hadn't come pounding on my door yet, but then I remembered from months before Jarvis Branstone's murder case. Her book involving magical creatures and their relations with humans was published about two months ago, and she was on tour. Either she was still traveling the world or she was back and busy catching up with her duties as owner of Flourish and Blotts.

He nodded when he understood my feelings for Rose. That they were like nothing I had ever felt before and that he could compare them to that of his relationship with his wife.

Shortly afterwards, Harry said his parting goodbyes, but at the door he turned to face me and pointed a reprimanding finger at me, that fatherly tone back in his voice. "Don't go all incognito on us again. Dinner. My place tonight at 6. You will be there."

"Yes, sir," I answered with a firm nod.

And I was. At approximately 6 PM I apparated onto the Potter's doorstep. I gave a knock to signal my arrival before I let myself in. Their quaint home was quiet and peaceful on the outside, but as soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by the familiar sound of chatter, laughter, and grand times like the homes of the Potters or Weasleys were usually full of. It was like old times. Only so different. Maybe only for me; maybe everyone just tried to forget about whom we were lacking, but I couldn't forget. Her name kept ringing in my ears, and it stung with intense acidity.

I pushed in, trying to smile at everyone as I entered. I could feel the change in ambiance as I entered. Everyone tried to keep their conversation going, to try and not make a big deal of my arrival, but I knew what was running through everyone's mind. I felt the dooming sensation that everyone knew of my love for Rose.

Ginny was the first to act like everything was normal. She rose from the couch where she was chatting with Audrey and moved over to me. She opened up her arms, a smile wide on her face, and she embraced me. I buried my face into her neck, temporarily letting my guard down. I whispered into her ear. "Harry didn't say the whole family would be here."

"Of course he didn't," Ginny said, patting my back. The chuckle in her voice was unmistakable. "But when can we ever have a quiet get-together?"

"That's true," I smiled as she pulled away. Ginny stepped away from me, but I was only to be engulfed into the arms of Rose's grandmother. Molly Weasley was one of the kindest women I had ever met, and she always reminded me of my own grandmother who passed away a few years ago. Arthur was behind her, and he delivered a hard pat on my shoulder. I went into auto-pilot, overwhelmed by all the greetings, some normal and others all too cheerful to simply put on a face, as I was passed off from person to person.

And that's when I saw just the person I needed to see. Victoire was standing at the back of the room, leaning in the doorway with her cute smile as she watched me, a glass of wine perched within her long fingers.

I pushed Fred, Roxy, and Lucy out of the way. They were pestering me with demands to change my nose and other facial features, something I had always done to entertain the lot of them, but since my incognito mission with Scorpius Malfoy, I hadn't changed my appearance at all. I shoved them off and beamed a true smile as I burst over to Victoire.

Knowing I was coming, she set down her glass of wine and opened up her arms just as I scooped her up into mine and spun her around joyously. Her laughter breathed the life back into me, and when I set her down, I kissed both of her cheeks. When I held her face, forcing her eyes to meet with mine, I whispered so no one else could hear. "You're just the person I've been needing to see."

"I knew you would," she answered with a smile. "When Harry told me you would be coming, I decided to cancel my appointments for the day and come back. I have to be back in Paris on Saturday though."

"That's enough for me," I said, my smile widening.

I was thankful when the sound of chatter resumed behind me. That meant all eyes and attention was no longer on me, and I was thankful for that. They were leaving us be.

"So how's the tour? The book? How is everything?" I asked her. I wanted to know how she was. We had gone over three months without speaking. I believe that was the longest in our entire lives that we hadn't spoken to one another. Ever since her first word, we were always speaking.

"Oh, shut up, Teddy," she said, rolling her eyes. "We can talk about all of that later. What I want to talk about is you and how you're doing."

"Do we really have to right now?" I asked, whining like a child. I knew that I had wanted to speak with Victoire for those exact reasons - to discuss things with Rose and what had happened, to have someone to vent to and to rely on her opinions - but now I found that I just wanted to forget.

"I only have twenty-four hours," she sighed, seeming truly disappointed with how little time we had together. "And Jack would absolutely kill me if I didn't spend some time with him as well."

"Later. I promise," I said, finding it odd that I was the one promising a venting session later on tonight when she would be the one who would sit there and listen to me hash it out. Whenever she wanted to vent, I always tried to run in the other direction. She was always so eager and so understanding when it was me to complain. What did I do to deserve a friend like her? She was only home for two days, and sure she had probably already spent the afternoon with her husband, but she was giving up her time with him to be with me. I told myself she could have tomorrow with her husband as well so I wouldn’t feel so guilty.

I gave her one more hug of thanks before I turned and looked at everyone again. I saw Ron sitting in a chair in the corner, his chin perched on his hand, perfectly still. It was only then did I realize that he hadn't greeted me. I dismissed myself from Vic and went to him. I knelt beside him, placing my hand on his knee. That was when he turned, slowly and lethargically, to see who his greeter was. He tried to muster a smile but failed, but he still took my hand into his.

"How are you?" I asked him apprehensively.

"I'm alive, aren't I?" he muttered.

I tried to swallow down my anxiety. It felt as if sucking down a box of nails. I cleared my throat and said the only thing that could come to mind. "I know..."

I managed a squeeze. The pressure I felt in my hand in return was a good sign. Then I didn't know what else to say to him. I patted his knee and let him be. As the evening went on, I learned a few things. That no one believed Rose to be a cold blooded killer. Like Harry said, everyone believed she had been forced to do it in some way. Harry and Ron had also respected my privacy and my embarrassment; they hadn't told the entire family about my feelings for Rose. I soon learned that only a select few knew. Molly and Arthur knew, as well as Hermione, Ginny, and Victoire, of course. But other than that, no one else knew. Everyone knew of my involvement in the case though; that much had been shared. They knew of how I had impersonated Scorpius Malfoy by means of obtaining information from Rose, but anything beyond that was a secret. And I was thankful for that. Everyone assumed that Rose and I had grown close during our stay, perhaps to that of friends, but I don't think anyone else assumed that we had fallen in love.

After we had eaten dinner and the first few people left, Victoire and I dismissed ourselves. We apparated into my flat where she looked at the mess that I had yet to touch, and she seemed appalled. Her disappointment in me was radiated in her gaze.

"You've really let yourself fall apart, haven't you?" she muttered, kicking a broken picture frame. She pulled out her wand, gave a wave, and we watched as my flat repaired itself.

I watched her busy herself about my kitchen. She flawlessly remembered where I kept everything, and she made us both a cup of coffee. We knew it was late, but I immediately knew why she was making us both a cup. It would be just like the nights when we would stay up for hours on end just talking. With so much to catch up on, tonight would be one of those nights.

And it was. I poured my heart out to Victoire, and she just sat there and listened. She nodded when she needed to and asked for me to elaborate when she wanted. She was a brilliant listener, as I made sure to not leave out a single detail. I gave her the whole story, even the parts I was keeping from Harry and Ron. That I believed Peakes to be the root of this all, how he told me he had blackmailed her into doing it, and how there was still so much more I didn't know but Peakes refused to tell me. She gave me advice and consoled me when I needed it. Having her there was exactly what I needed.

Victoire told me from her heart that she believes Rose and I belong together. I know we do. Now if only I could find a way to bring us back together.

Peakes had convinced me all I needed was a push to make me go mad. I had reached that point; I had gone mad - and quite easily so – but all it took was a push from my uncle and from Victoire to get me moving again. Slowly, I was beginning to pick up the pieces.

Chapter 26: Heed My Warning
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Victoire and I made and ate breakfast together the next morning, and we shared a good chat before she had to leave to visit with her husband before returning to Paris. I hated to see her go; she had helped me out a great deal, but I knew she had to leave. And I had straightened up exponentially within the past twenty-four hours.

I was slowly beginning to plot. I had to start somewhere, but the difficulty was finding out where. I knew I had to get back to work, and I decided that I would return on Monday. It was Friday and the afternoon was approaching, so I would wait it out for the weekend and go back on Monday, ready to be Peakes' most humble and obeying employee. I had to be if I didn't want him to suspect me of doing anything that he would consider out of line. I especially didn't want him threatening me again and suspecting me.

That was step one. But what is step two? How am I supposed to get him to publically confess?

This was where I knew I was lost. I needed further input, and I had tried to receive it from Harry. He had chosen to sit aside and wait, to let me figure it out, and if it seemed plausible enough, he would join in. But he already believed me to be a little mad; I knew that much. I needed someone who would know what they were talking about, who had experience in figuring these things out, who knew their way around the Ministry. I needed Ron, I realized.

That was the next step. Getting Ron on board.

It was Friday and in the middle of the day, so I knew Ron would be at the office. So I had the rest of the day to figure out just what I would say to him. I wanted to come up with a plan, and if it was good enough, then perhaps I could get Ron and my god-father on board at the same time. But I knew this was unlikely of Harry.

I spent the day trying to come up with something good. Flawless. Something that Peakes would never suspect. Unfortunately, I didn't succeed very well, and when I knew Ron would be home from his day of work and settling down at home, I apparated over there empty-handed, hoping that I could just wing it. I had gotten good and free-handing conversations after confinement with Rose, and I hoped I would be just as good at it with her father.

Hermione welcomed me graciously. She hugged me, kissed my cheeks, and asked me if I would like some tea. I declined her offer but promised I would stay for dinner, and leaving it at that, I went to find Ron.

He was sitting in a chair in Hermione's reading room, a room full of all sorts of books. It contained readings over anything you could possibly imagine. From spellbooks, old and dusty books, to children's fairytales. Ron was there, just staring out the window, but when he was disturbed - probably something that was surprising to him, and I realized then that he had probably picked Hermione's reading room for a reason: to be left alone - he looked up, startled.

When he saw it was only me, he fell back into his chair with a heavy sigh. Still he said nothing.

I motioned to the chair opposite of him. "You mind?"

He shook his head and waved his hand about, motioning that he didn't mind at all. I sat across from him and racked my mind for something better to say.

"I think it's high time to do something about Rose's imprisonment," I stated, just throwing it out there bluntly. I decided I didn't want to beat around the bush with it any longer. I needed to get out with what I wanted. "You and I both know very well that she didn't choose to do it."

"Come back to me when you have evidence," sulked Ron. I had half the mind to shout at him. Ron too?! What the hell had happened to these two men who had held so much passion and ferocity for the things they loved, in things they found worth fighting for?! I thought surely Ron - out of everyone else! - would be willing to put forth the effort, but this was all he was willing to give?!

"Listen to me," I said sternly, leaning forward so his head held so low could see my determined eyes. "Evidence isn't just going to pop up out of nowhere. We have to do some digging for it, and I'm not going to let your daughter rot in Azkaban."

"Quite hypocritical of you," muttered Ron.

I breathed a heavy sigh, forcing my eyes shut. I told myself to take a deep breath and just relax. I knew Ron was a little dysfunctional right now; maybe he didn't mean it. And I know Ron was observing my previous behavior with my behavior in this moment, and I knew it did appear hypocritical. But once again, what's wrong with someone having an epiphany?!

"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," I commented. When he said nothing, I let it slide.

"Listen," I said again. "I'm going to tell you something I haven't told anyone. And I need you to look me in the eye and listen - and I mean listen good - to what I'm saying."

"I'm all ears," he said dully, and I wondered if he was mocking me, but I took a stab at it anyway.

"There was a day back at the summer house when I came back from my meetings with Jimmy Peakes. It was the day when I went to your office and told you of my involvement for the case. After I talked to you, I went back to the summer house and I heard something odd from inside Rose's room. I heard another man's voice. It was cruel, shouting, threatening, and Rose seemed terrified. As soon as I made my presence known, I heard him apparate out. I had to break down Rose's door because she wouldn't let me in; I was worried she was hurt. She tried to pass it off as nothing, but I knew better. That was the first time I began to question if she was actually being threatened. And then...I heard two men inside the Ministry talking about a deal. I was able to slowly piece things together that Jimmy Peakes is the one behind all of this. He blackmailed Rose. I thought I had it all figured out, and then after Rose was taken to Azkaban, he told me himself he blackmailed her and that was it. Nothing more, not what his leverage was, not what he expected to gain in return or why he did it - although I can assume now it was for Harry's position."

"Jimmy Peakes is the reason my daughter is in prison?" Ron asked. He suddenly seemed awake; he had returned to the world with that burning passion I had wanted from him all along.

"Yes," I answered. "I know he is. He's told me himself. I just have to find a way to make him publically say it. To expose him."

"How are we supposed to do that?!" he asked. He was intrigued now. I could see that with each passing second, his urge to fight for his daughter’s freedom grew. Like me, he had returned in full swing.

"I don't know! That's why I've been trying to talk to you. I've tried talking to Harry, and he's not very willing, but I can't do this alone," I said.

"Yes, yes," Ron said very fast. He lowered his head, suddenly in deep thought. He tried to think things through, to come up with a plan just as I had done. I hoped he would be more successful than me, though. "You say you heard two men in the Ministry?"

"Yes, two. I still can't figure out who the second is," I said, wondering if Ron was on to something.

"Let's think about this," he commented, and then he began to voice his thoughts out loud. "You are almost certain that Peakes threatened Rosie so he could become Head Auror in the end."

"Almost 100%," I said, even thought I was really unsure. Peakes had been so decisive; really, I wasn't certain about anything other than the fact that he was the one who had threatened Rose.

"That's good enough for me," commented Ron, and I grinned. Suddenly he was alive again. I was beginning to recognize the old him. "Anyways. We will say that the root of this all is Peakes' desire to be Head Auror. How would he get heard Auror? From appearing to handle a case superbly, enough to have Harry removed from the position. But who's in charge of that position? That'd be the Minister..."

Ron faltered as if he had realized something. I could hardly keep up with his muttering already, but I did my best to listen closely. He kept his eyes shut, one of his hands pointing at the air, as if he were creating a chain the air, envisioning it in his head.

"But the Minister was killed. So...Maybe..." Ron grunted loudly, but tried harder. Hell, he was doing better than I had. "Maybe Jimmy knew he would never get the position when Jarvis was Minister. Jarvis loved Harry and would never sack him. So Peakes got rid of the Minister. That's why Jarvis was killed! It must be; I know it. Because Peakes knew he would never get that job while Jarvis and Harry were still hanging around. And...Peakes knows our laws and regulations stating that relatives can't participate on a case. So he would have had to choose a relative of Harry's. James is on tour: unavailable to be threatened. Albus is in and out of the country just as often. Rose, sure, often worked in Egypt, but when she's here, her location is all too convenient. That's why he chose Rose! Dammit! That's why he picked her! He knew Harry and I would be taken off the case, leaving him as Acting Head Auror!"

Ron was right.

It struck me, and I could see it clear as day. There was no way Ron was wrong. He had figured it out, dead on. There was no denying it now. Rose had simply been his most accessible, and he had chosen her to do his dirty work so that Harry and Ron would be removed from the situation.

There was still one thing to figure out, though.

"But there are plenty of aurors that could have been selected as Acting Head Auror. How could Peakes be so certain he'd be chosen?"

"I'm not finished," commented Ron abruptly before ranting on once more. "Exactly. There are plenty who could have done Peakes' job - and much better, at that - so he had to be sure he was selected. Sondheim immediately became Acting Minister. Granted, Sondheim's a loved politician. People were glad to either have him or Percy as their Minister; it only makes sense that they were the two candidates. So what does Peakes do? He gets Sondheim on his side. Either by choice or force, still don't know about that. Maybe Sondheim has a darker side that we don't know about and was all for the threats and dirty work, or Peakes bribed him. Said 'I can guarantee you will be the Minister of Magic if you help me out,' because of course, Percy wouldn't win it after everyone found out what Rose had done. And there you have it; Sondheim was the second man you heard."

"Oh my god," I breathed.

I had handed Ron the information not five minutes ago, and he already had it all figured out. I had known for weeks, and I hadn't gotten that far. How the bloody hell did he do it? And the thing was, I believed that Ron was 100% accurate. Everything sounded so perfect. Of course Peakes had chosen Rose because of her accessibility and relation to both Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Right there two Aurors and one of the best lawyers was thrown out the window for the crime of the century, people were quickly calling it.

"You..How did you figure that out? That has to be what happened," I said. Ron only rolled his shoulders, and I praised him even more. "Honestly. Have you always been that quick to figure things out? You don't get the credit you deserve."

And I was being honest. I never knew Ron to be so quick, and maybe it was because of what was at stake - his daughter's life - and that made him think quick on his feet. Or he really was great at it with years of experience. If Harry wasn't to be reinstated at the end of all this, then I'm rooting for Ron as Head Auror. He'd be fantastic.

"Well, that's nice of you," Ron said with a roll of his shoulders.

"Right, so we'll say Peakes and Sondheim are together in some way. But how do we prove that? You and I are the most untrusted wizards in the world right now."

"I don't know," Ron said, almost sounding defeated, but there was still that tone in his voice that said he would never give up. "That's where I'm stumped. If we could get him to confess in front of the Wizengamot, then we're golden. But that's highly unlikely unless we force him in there and shove Veritaserum down his throat - "

"That's always an option," I threw out there with a quick chuckle.

The hint of a smile on Ron's face was evident, but he shook it off and began focusing on real options. "We can set that aside and use it as a last resort. We have to get him to confess in front of someone, whether it be you or a conversation with Sondheim overheard by the necessary people. The tough thing is, is that Sondheim must take part in it because he is our new Minister. No one will be willing to turn against their Minister without solid proof."

"I know. This is beginning to seem impossible..." I muttered under my breath. I was still ever-hopeful, but I didn't like Ron's realism. I preferred to look at things in a purely optimistic way and ignore the possibility that we could fail.

"No. Not impossible. We just have to give it everything we've got," said Ron. This time he met me in the eye with that look of reassurance, pumping the optimism back into me that had just left my veins.

"I'm willing to give it all I've got. I know that there will be no going back from this if we fail," I said.

"I know you are. You love my daughter," he said, and I knew he was speaking from his heart again.

I could tell now that Rose's imprisonment had changed him. He was always so quiet with his words, unsharing, leaving it to silence and the hope that you would understand. Now, he voiced his thoughts, his emotions, and his feelings. Perhaps with Rose gone, knowing he wouldn't be able to tell her he loved her again, he realized that he couldn't let a good comment go unsaid.

"I wish the two of you could have parted on a different note, but when we free her, I only hope that she will realize how foolish she was. She loves you; I know she does, and I couldn't possibly think of a better man for my daughter."

My heart pumped loudly as it beat faster with pride and admiration. I wanted to thank Ron, but I found myself speechless. When I regained composure, I cleared my throat and dismissed his praise.

"I have to win her over again, first," I muttered.

Ron only nodded, and I rattled my brain for an idea on how to get Peakes to confess. Or to at least prove his guilt in this whole mess.

After a while, I suggested, "What about a device that can record a conversation? That way, I can get Peakes alone and get him to say at least something on the matter. He had no problem with telling me last time. He trusted that I wouldn't say anything; he very well might say more."

"That could get messy," Ron said under his breath.

"I don't care. I'll do what I have to," I said fiercely.

"I do think you may need to be on the inside of things. Meaning there when Peakes is confessing or something like that."

"Yes," I said quietly, thinking hard on the matter. "I think I've come to that understanding also."

"Don't worry, though," said Ron in that reassuring voice once more. He reached forward and gave my neck a squeeze. I was beginning to feel like a fatherly figure to me in just this small amount of time. Harry had always assumed that role, but now I felt like I had two, and I loved that. "This is going to be difficult, but we will figure it out. And no matter what happens, we will get Rose out of that hell-hole, and I'll always have your back."

The day finally came when Ron and I knew our plan had been finalized down to the T, and we knew we had to execute it now before we wasted anymore time. We were aware that with each precious minute that went by, Rose was still wasting away in Azkaban. We had taken the time we needed to devise a plan, fully aware of the amount of time we were taking, and that's why we had to act now. We had taken a good ten days in coming up with a plan, but it was one that I had great faith in.

As of now, Rose had been imprisoned in Azkaban for 43 days.

I had returned back to the office that previous Monday as I had planned. Surprisingly I was welcomed back with open arms. Peakes had only given me a firm nod, this growing hatred and tension still resting silently between us, but we said nothing to each other. I acted as if I were passed it, something I needed him to believe. Ruckman had given me an awkward hug and deep apology. The rest of the department, though, acted as if I were a changed person, a time bomb waiting to explode. They looked uneasy around me and were either too incredibly kind or avoided me entirely. I didn't really mind though. I was never close with many people in the office, only Harry and Ron of course, so I didn't care. And now that I was back, I had one goal and one goal only. Nothing else mattered.

The morning Ron and I knew our plan would be put into effect I was drinking my coffee in his office. Even though I was wide away, I still drank my daily cup. I sat in his office chair, trying not to quake on the spot.

Ron looked to me from across the office. "Hey, relax."

"I just want..." I began and faltered. My teeth were bared, and I could hardly voice my thoughts without trembling with hatred. "I just want it to be over with."

"Don't we all," he muttered under his breath. He glanced to his watch and then straightened up. "We should get moving. Sondheim should be in the observation room in five minutes."

I nodded.

This morning Sondheim was to hold a meeting in one of the observation rooms opposite an interrogation room. The observation room he was scheduled to be in was often the location of small meetings due to his comfortable seating and quiet, secluded location. Luckily for us, it was also adjoining with the interrogation room directly next to it. Both rooms were connected with a wall with a two way glass. Those inside the interrogation room couldn't see into the observation room; if people didn't know better, you couldn't even tell another room was on the other side of it. However, in the observation room it is all too easy to hear and see into the interrogation room.

Sondheim was scheduled to be in his meeting at 10 AM, and the hour was fast approaching. Ron was on the board that would be meeting in there, so that had been a lucky plus for us. Ron would make sure Sondheim was in the observation room; to relay the message to me, we both had conjoining coins that would grow hot when you rub them. Ron's signal would be to rub the coin when Sondheim was in place, and I would feel the heat of my own coin. That would be my cue.

The rest was up to me, though, and that's where I began to fret. I had to be the one to get Peakes into the interrogation room and then hold a conversation that grabbed the attention of those in the observation room. I had to make him tell me again. I had planned out conversations in my head, ways I could go about it, but the problem is is that there's no telling what Peakes will say.

It could be that I get him in that room and he chooses to say nothing. I know, though, that I have to get him in there calmly and peacefully; I can't give myself away. Then Ron and I are screwed, and I don't think we could come up with a better plan than this one if we tried. And while this one seemed pretty good and well-thought out, we knew it was rough around the edges. Things had to go our way in order for this to work.

I rose and headed back for the door. I looked back to Ron with a serious look about me. I wanted him to heed my warning. "You rub that coin as soon as Sondheim is in position."

"And you if something with Peakes goes wrong," said Ron.

"W-We can do this," I said, but I think I said it more to myself than to Ron. He had been the optimistic one lately, not me.

"We will get her back, Ted," he said seriously.

Then I didn't say any more. I slipped quietly out of Ron's office and went unnoticed as I tip-toed down the hallway. Watching to see if it was clear, I waved to Ron, signaling him to leave and head to the observation room. He left his office, and when he passed me, he muttered under his breath. "Don't lose face."

I swallowed and nodded. As the moment grew closer, I grew more and more anxious. I don't know why though. I had been slightly anxious with Rose, and then I had been acting while I still had to try to be Malfoy. I had proven to myself that I could freestyle a conversation and not lose face. I know I can do that, but now as Rose's fate began to rely more and more on this one conversation I was about to have, I couldn't help but worry.

I took a deep breath and decided I needed to heed my own warning.

Chapter 27: Day 43
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A/N: Woohoo, the next chapter! I'm having such a great time writing this story over these last few chapters. An absolute blast, and it's all so exciting. What's even better is that it will be this way till the end of the story!

Thank again to those who have followed this story so faithfully and who have read, reviewed, and favorited. That means everything to me.

And thanks to my fellow HPFF friends and such for our long skype sessions of word wars and muse-seeking conversations. My list of these brilliant fellow writers is endless. You guys are amazing.

Also, sometimes I find a part goes very well with a song I have listened to, and I will collaborate that chapter with that song. For this chapter, I have done just that. The song Einstein's Wrong by Steve Jablonsky from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Original Score) is the song that this chapter collaborates with. If you would like, you can listen to it as you read to get the mood I envision for this chapter. I hope you do, and I hope it gets you excited! The part to begin listening to this song is cued in the chapter. :)

Be sure to review and let me know what you think!

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As soon as Ron disappeared from the Auror Department, I uneasily approached Peakes' office. It was my first time to go into his new office that once belonged to my god father. It was a strange feeling, to be approaching the office that I could always just open the door and let myself in to. Now I was shaking as I raised my fist to knock.

Peakes' voice came from within it. He sounded relaxed and care free. "Who is it?"

"It's Ted," I said, my voice cracking as I did so.

"Ah," he said, and the tone of his voice didn't change. This was good for me, I guess. I didn't want him to be angry with me as we spoke or question my true intentions. "Come in, Lupin."

I entered but didn't settle myself in; I knew we had to get moving soon. The office was so different. There was no plush maroon rug on the floor that I could remember Lily playing on as a young girl when she came to visit her father at the office; there were no family pictures of the Potter family sitting on the desk, or a portrait of the famous golden trio with the addition of Ginny hanging on the wall. It was bare, empty, lonely.

Uneasily I clapped my hands together, puffing out my lips until I finally stuttered out my words. "I've been meaning to talk to you. I was going to fetch a snack from downstairs. Mind coming with me?"

"O'course not," Peakes shrugged. He dropped the Prophet he had been reading and strolled to my side. He even smiled as he approached me. "I could use a cup of coffee myself."

"Great," I commented under my breath and we were heading out of his office.

We started at a steady pace, weaving through the Auror Department and towards the exit that would lead to the elevator. The observation and interrogation rooms would be in the hallway we would take to get to the elevator. I folded my hands behind my back, and as soon as I opened my mouth to speak, I felt the coin in the right pocket of my jeans grow hot. It grew so hot so fast that I wondered if it would burn my skin, but I didn't care. That meant the first part of our plan had gone well. Sondheim was stationed in the observation room and Ron would remain there until this was over.

Now it was all up to me.

"I - uh," I began uneasily and rubbed a kink out of the back of my neck. "I've been meaning to talk to you about Rose."

Peakes gave a tsk and shook his head. "Should have known you'd be coming to talk to me about her sooner or later."

"It's not about what you think it is, though," I said quickly, still not wanting to have him questioning my actions. "I've thought a lot about it, and whether she loves me or not, she killed the Minister. And she should pay the price for that."

I was disgusted by the words that left my mouth. They were far from the truth; every word that seeped from my lips was a pure lie, but I had to say it if I wanted to bring up the topic of Rose and still not have him questioning any ulterior motives that I may have. Like exposing him for good...

"Glad you're on the same page as us now," he said.

"Right," I dismissed that quickly. "I just...I do wish we had left things on a better note. I want to make things right with her. Is she accepting visitors?"

"She is not, but you know I have the capability to change that status. Is that why you have come to talk to me?" he asked. He just wanted the answer; I could tell he didn't really care why as long as he didn't think I was exposing him.

We were leaving the Auror Department quarters now and slipping into the hallway. We were only feet away from the interrogation room. How was I to get him in there?!

There was a huddle of Ministry workers in the hall, and so I did the first thing that came to mind. I placed one hand on Peakes' back and guided him towards the door of the interrogation room.

"Here," I said quietly. "We can talk in private. Just for a moment."

"Sure," he said. He was the one who reached for the handle and let himself into the unlocked room. I followed behind him, and he shut the door once we were both securely inside.

"That's exactly why, really," I said, resuming our past conversation and answering his question. "I just want to mend things between us. Before she goes too...mad..."

*Begin Einstein's Wrong by Steve Jablonsky*
From Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Original Score)

"Lupin," Peakes said seriously. The short bloke folded his arms across his chest and gave me a serious look. "Let me give you a piece of advice. She's been imprisoned. For life, and for good. You should move on. Sooner or later she'll be so insane she won't even remember she loved you."

I shuddered. My blood boiled with the urge to scream at the thought, with the idea to break her out of Azkaban in that very moment, and the urge to strike Peakes as hard as I could across the face.

"Perhaps you're right," I muttered under my breath. Where could I go from here?! How was I to make him talk about how he bribed her? "It's just...I had never loved a woman like her before. It's so unfair that I fell in love with her and now she's gone. Why her, Jim...? Why did you choose her out of all people?"

I had spoken the words. Now Peakes just had to go along with it. Just one simple answer would be enough if he could just forget that those in the observation room could hear every word we were saying. Please let him forget...

"Look, Lupin," he began seriously. "I'm sorry you love her. You did a pretty poor job by letting yourself fall in love with her. That was never supposed to happen. But I'm going to be honest with you because you've done a superb job of keeping your mouth shut. I chose Weasley because of her relation to both Potter, her father, and Percy. Too many targets that could all be taken down with just one girl. She made it all too easy; of course she was perfect. Think about it; with Weasley in Azkaban, Potter couldn't possibly continue as Head. Ron's lasted a bit, but we will see how long that streak will continue for, and then there would be no way Percy Weasley would continue in the running for Minister. That let me slide right into Head Auror, and Sondheim has always been fond of me."

By the end of his speech, his eyes had pulled down into slits and his voice had grown cool and superior. I could tell his ego grew larger and larger with each passing minute as he said this.

I sucked in a deep breath. We had gotten part of what we were looking for, but would this be enough? What would be enough to overturn Rose's case? I knew it was now or never, so I pushed onward.

"She's so brave though. What did you blackmail her with?" I uneasily asked.

Oh, I was beginning to think Peakes dumber and dumber as he spoke.

"Of course I threatened her with the life of her father. Her mother. Her uncle. Any family member, really. I tort - "

Suddenly a knock came from the door, and both Peakes and I gave a jump. We whipped to face the door where Sondheim was bursting into the interrogation room. The look on his face was demonic and intimidating, but a part of me began to soar. I think we did it! There was hope after all!

"Lupin," Sondheim addressed me, but he kept his eyes locked with Peakes, who was beginning to grow fearful of what he had just done, "you are dismissed. Immediately!"

"Yes, sir," I muttered and slipped from the room.

But I didn't wander far. I slipped immediately into observation room where Ron was standing next to the glass with his nose almost pressed against the thing. The room, though, was now empty except for him. He whispered to me, ever hopeful, as I came to rest by his side. "We heard you. We all heard you!"

A smile reached my face, but I turned to the window and looked into the interrogation room where Sondheim, standing over Peakes, was fuming. The vein in his temple was bulging, his face growing red, and he began to shout.

"Do you have ANY idea what you done?! You could have just blown everything! Everything! I was in the observation room! With half the Wizengamot tribunal, and all we could hear was you GIVING yourself away!"

"Fuck..." hissed Peakes under his breath, rubbing his neck. "Shit, oh, shit."

"You know I'm on your side. I've been by your side through this entire thing, and I would deny anything said against you, but I can't after something like this. They all heard you, and I can't play favorites. I have no choice. You better come up with a good lie. And fast. The murder case for Jarvis Branstone has been reopened, and you've been called to the stand."

It was the best feeling for Ron and I when the signal for an immediate Wizengamot tribunal hearing ran throughout the Ministry. Members of the Wizengamot were startled and alarmed, wondering what case could possibly be so important, or what information could possibly be so vital that they be called together on such short notice. I had never felt so triumphant in my life as I watched the members file into the tribunal until Sondheim collected everyone's undivided attention and his voice rang throughout the court.

"I apologize for calling us together on such short notice, but vital information concerning the murder of Jarvis Otto Branstone has surfaced. I hereby declare the murder case of Jarvis Branstone reopened."

The court erupted into whispers with shock upon their faces. It was clear to me then that the Wizengamot had done their best to forget about the murder case involving the Minister. No one wanted to think about it, really, and now it was being forced back under their noses.

Sondheim looked extremely distressed as he began the case. I could tell he didn't know how to go about it. Just in the last hour I had been able to piece together our one missing piece of information. Ron and I hadn't known if Sondheim had been forced to get in on things with Peakes or if he had chosen to, but things were beginning to clear up. Sondheim's frustration and distress over everything proved that he hadn't been threatened; Sondheim was in on the whole thing.

He rubbed his eyes as he called out to the tribunal. "The Wizengamot calls Jim Anthony Peakes to the stand."

Ron and I directed out attention to the main doors as they opened upon Sondheim's words and Jimmy was escorted inside. Like me, he was being dragged by his arms, his knees bent and legs dragging on the floor with all of his limbs shackled.

I loved the sight of him like that. After everything he has done, he deserved it. I hissed triumphantly. "He can't get out of this now."

"We will see about that," said Ron, but even his smile was the biggest I had ever seen. "That bloody asshole is about to be thrown into Azkaban."

Ron and I cackled under our breath before turning back to Sondheim.

"Mr. Peakes," began Sondheim with a groan, "please explain to the Wizengamot and myself why we are going through this trouble with the murder case of Jarvis Branstone?"

Peakes did look desperate, and I hoped he wasn't smart enough to get out of this. Or I hoped Sondheim wasn't going to be lenient and twist Peakes' words to keep him innocent. I cursed under my breath at that possibility. With Sondheim willingly partaking in the ploy and his position as Minister of Magic, all of the odds were in their favor. But maybe...What more did Sondheim need with Peakes? Sondheim had been voted Minister; the job was his. Unless they were great friends, what reason did Sondheim have to keep Peakes out of Azkaban? If Sondheim would just convict Peakes, no one would need to know that he was involved in the least...

"Minister, I was just having a conversation that was misinterpreted. My words have been twisted. I had nothing to do with the murder of Minister Branstone."

"How do you defend 'I chose Weasley because of her relation to both Potter, her father, and Percy?'" Sondheim asked with a sigh. Even he seemed to know that this trial would be Jimmy Peakes' downfall.

"I...I..." he blubbered, desperate for an excuse. "It's been misinterpreted! I wasn't saying I chose Weasley as a murderer; I was just telling Lupin that from the beginning I believed Weasley to be the killer. I didn't think Scorpius Malfoy did it; my opinion chose Weasley."

A hushed and eerie silence feel over the Wizengamot. I think everyone was trying to figure out what to make of Peakes' words. That had been a pretty quick and clever lie. Damn it, Jimmy. If he somehow found a way to convince the Wizengamot...

I realized I was fuming. He couldn't get away with this! I didn't realize I was sinking my teeth into my bottom lip, drawing blood, holding in a growl, and digging my nails into my knees until Ron patted my forearm.

"Easy," Ron coached and patted me. How was he being so clam at a time like this? "This can still go our way."

Jimmy's continuation of the hearing turned our attention back to the matter at hand. "And everything that I said after that statement - about too many targets, being easy, perfect - all of it was just an overview of why I think Rose Weasley killed the Minister. We know she did it, but I was just musing out loud as to why she decided to do it. Most of you heard, but for those who didn't, I believe Rose may have held higher ambitions for her family members. Her uncle and father are both high class Aurors. Her mother practically runs the law department, and Percy Weasley would have been a perfect candidate for the next Minister. I think if Percy Weasley was elected Minister, he would pull all the strings and perhaps further Rose Weasley in her career path or any other ulterior motives."

"Shit..." I cursed under my breath. He had the Wizengamot entrapped with his words, and people were starting to think it through. And of course - in his own twisted way - Peakes was speaking the truth on some level, but he just left out the one major, pivotal detail. As I watched the faces of the Wizengamot, I knew he had the tribunal eating out of the palm of his hand.

Sondheim resumed speaking next. "Very well. Then what did Ted Lupin mean by his question 'what did you blackmail her with?'"

"You might very well be called to the stand," Ron leaned over to mutter to me.

I hadn't even thought of that. But the idea was beginning to seem more and more likely; I was a part of the conversation that had pulled this entire case out of the dark. A part of me was eager to contribute, to speak my truth and see what would happen from there, but the other part of me didn't want to be so bold and risky. What if I opened my mouth, spoke the real truth, and nothing changed? Then Peakes would be on the loose, and I now know him to be capable of nearly anything. I knew he wouldn't have a problem with hurting a loved one. My thoughts immediately went to Rose.

Jimmy's head twisted about, and I knew he was scanning the crowd for me. I crouched lower in my seat; I didn't want him to see him. When he couldn't find me soon enough, he directed his attention back to Sondheim and the court.

"I have no idea where that came from. I did not blackmail Rose Weasley," said Peakes sternly.

I swallowed a lump in my throat.

Sondheim continued to go on. "Then what did you mean when you said 'I threatened her with the life of her father. Her mother. Her uncle. Any family member, really?"

"I didn't!" blurted Peakes painfully.

"You said the words, Jimmy. What did you mean?" Sondheim's eyes were beginning to narrow at his friends.

My level of optimism was beginning to grow, and I could feel the smile returning to my face. Sondheim was making the right decision; as Minister of Magic, he could get away with this without ever letting on that he had taken a part of it. Why would he be stupid enough to not take it?

"I..." gasped Jim. He was floundering for a better response. His face was beat red, and he was panting.

"Did you or did you not have an involvement in the murder of Jarvis Branstone?"

"No!" shouted Peakes horrendously.

"Then why can't you provide a sufficient alibi to your words?"

"I - "

"On this 43rd day of Rose Weasley’s imprisonment, I – Geoffrey Sondheim, Minister for Magic – hereby declare Rose Weasley to be released from Azkaban on her 61st day of imprisonment. The duration of this release is unforeseeable. I reserve the right to - at any time - return Miss Weasley to Azkaban, but until the murder case of Jarvis Branstone reaches a resolved conclusion, no one shall be convicted of the murder of Jarvis Branstone. Jimmy Peakes, you are hereby relieved of your duties as Head Auror, as you now must remain impartial for being an involved party member. Aurors Ron Weasley and Teddy Lupin will also step down from their positions for the unforeseeable duration for their relationship with Rose Weasley. I now declare this case to take on an eighteen day recess. Jimmy Peakes and tribunal members, you are dismissed. This session is now closed."

Oh my god. Rose is coming home.

Chapter 28: Day 61
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I could not contain the uncontrollable joy that I felt upon the closing of that hearing. Jimmy Peakes was escorted from the tribunal, and Ron and I watched the members filter out of the courtroom. We sat there in awe until it was empty, and we meandered our way back to his office. When we were safely behind the closed doors of his office, with one look to each other we were all smiles. We jumped around like uncontrollable children with sheer happiness, and we embraced each other, cheering.

"She's coming home! She's coming home!" Ron chanted. When we separated I could see his tears of joy streaming down his cheeks.

"We did it. It's not over yet, but it's a step," I beamed.

"Yes," nodded Ron in agreement, swiping at his eyes. "But at least she will be out of Azkaban. Eighteen days. Just eighteen days."

"Eighteen days," I muttered under my breath.

Eighteen days. It sounded like a lifetime from now. I understood why Sondheim extended her sentence to 61 days. Her life sentence had been overturned - a first in the history of Azkaban's prisoners - and if Rose were to be acquitted in the near future, her sentence couldn't just sit at 43 days. It was too strange a number, so Sondheim rounded it up to the most reasonable sentence. 61 days. Two months.

It didn't seem like much. Compared to a life sentence, it was nothing at all. But to wait another eighteen days just to see Rose again? I didn't know if I could do it. My heart was racing just with the thought of seeing her again.

Ron hugged me again, this time tightly, as if he thought he would lose me if he let go. "Thank you so much," he said through his tears.

"Ron, what for?" I asked in surprise, trying to suppress a chuckle.

"For taking care of my daughter."

"No," I said quickly, cutting him off. "Don't go down that road. She wouldn't have even set foot in Azkaban if it weren't for me..."

"You don't know that," he said quickly. "Besides, if it weren't for you, we wouldn't be looking forward to her return in eighteen days. We don't know what she will be like when she comes home, but I hope she comes around."

He had changed subjects. I knew what he was speaking of. He was talking about her feelings for me. I grew stiff at the thought of how Rose and I had left things off. The memory flashed across my mind, and I tried to ignore the pain that came with it. I did hope she would come around. I tried to think about how she would react upon seeing me again. Would she hate me more? Will she have forgiven me? I couldn’t possibly anticipate what would happen in the near future, but I hoped she would come around too.

It was pure heartbreak to just hear her say that the man she fell in love with doesn't even exist.

Ron noticed how tense I grew against him, and he patted my back to loosen me up. "Hey, don't worry about it. My daughter loves you."

"I-I hope so," I murmured, losing face as Ron held me like I was his own child. "I love her. I love her so much..."

"I know," said Ron, and I could feel his smile. I think he was proud for me to be in love with his daughter. When we separated, he gave me that knowing smile again.

Oh, Ron. I was so thankful to have grown so close to him over these past few weeks. He had always been reserved and kept to himself, but he was beginning to open up to me. He was letting me in to what was going on in his head. What's even better is that he is rooting for me and his daughter. He didn't even seem embarrassed that he was sharing his emotions with me. In fact, he seemed comfortable.

He clapped me twice on the shoulder with a firm nod. "Well, I'm going to go tell Hermione the news. You go find Harry and tell him we proved him wrong."

Those next eighteen days were the slowest of my entire life. The entire family knew, and everyone was just as anxious as I was to see Rose. As the 61st day grew closer, it became a huge debate as to how we should go about the situation. At first it sounded like a good idea to cook a great feast and show everyone's enthusiasm in having her home again with a family dinner. But as we thought about it more and more, it didn't seem like such a good idea.

None of us could anticipate just how Rose will react when she comes home. She could quickly get back into the swing of things, and while that is what everyone hopes for, we tried to plan for the worst. So it was decided food would be ready for her upon her arrival home, but her introduction back into the family would come slowly and in small numbers. That would probably be best.

Another troubling factor to take into account was where I should be. Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Ginny had no idea if I should be there when she comes home or not. They had no recommendations or ideas on how to approach the matter, so I would have to wing it tomorrow.

On the night of her 60th day in Azkaban, I was a fitful mess. I couldn't sleep. I lay in bed, trying to imagine just how the next day would pan out. Victoire came home for her return and spent the night at my flat. She was by my side the entire night, trying to coax me into tranquility so I could sleep. She gently cooed to me as she lay next to me, stroking my hair. I appreciated her efforts, but I found that no one could subdue my jumbled emotions. I was anxious, excited, and nervous all in one.

Finally the morning of Rose's 61st day of imprisonment came and I prepared myself for the day's events. I showered, dressed, and pumped myself full of coffee to avoid getting too drowsy later on in the day.

Ron would be picking her up from the Ministry at 10 AM. At 9:30 I bid goodbye to Victoire and I apparated to Ron and Hermione's place where I was greeted by an anxious Hermione, Ginny, Harry, and Hugo. Everyone else in the Weasley-Potter family would have to wait to say hello to Rose again.

Hermione, ever the gracious hostess and despite her nerves, offered me some breakfast upon my arrival. I turned it down and instead joined everyone else at the kitchen table where the silence was eerie and thick. It made me uncomfortable, but no one quite knew what to say in a situation such as this. So we sat in silence.

10 AM rolled around, and we were all impatiently waiting for Rose on the edge of our seats.

10:05. I couldn't stop biting my nails in anticipation.

10:10. Hugo was beginning to pace the room.

10:15. Hermione could no longer hold back her tears.

Finally 10:20 rolled around and that familiar crack echoed throughout the kitchen. We were all startled by their arrival even though we had been anticipating it, but it felt strange for it to finally be here.

Suddenly there was a quick commotion. Ron was stumbling forward, and the mass of rags and red hair in his arms was Rose.

Oh my god...

He ran over to Hermione quickly, his tears streaming freely down his cheeks. "Hermione," he blurted out in haste, terrified. "Get some blankets. Ginny, get some warm water. Warm."

She was huddled against her father, but other than that she was limp. Her face was buried into Ron's chest, hiding herself from the light. Panic immediately swept through me. I feared for her safety. For her life. She looked as if she were only inches away from the arms of death.

Hermione fled from the room to fetch blankets, and Ginny began to heat up some water. Ron bolted from the room, Harry, Hugo, and I following in his wake. He set Rose down on a couch in the living room and quickly draped the nearest blanket over her body.

"Oh my god, Rosie," muttered Ron in horror. He knelt by her side and took her fragile hands into his own. "I'm so sorry. You're safe now. You're safe."

Ginny burst into the living room with a mug of warm water between her hands and a damp cloth, most likely warm from the water. Ron moved aside so Ginny could place the cloth around Rose's neck, spreading the heat throughout her limbs, and she gingerly held the cup up to Rose's limp lips.

She pressed the plaster against her plush lips, quietly begging for her to drink. Rose remained unmoving, her eyes closed, and the only sound that came from her was a faint moan of resistance.

"Come on, Rosie," ushered Ginny. "Drink."

Ginny slowly tipped the glass, and the warm water ran down her throat. Rose swallowed once, and Ginny nodded in satisfaction. She backed away with the water. Hermione entered with heaps of blankets in her arms, and she delicately laid them on her limp form.

I wanted to cry at the sight of her. Lying there on the couch, unable to carry her own weight or even speak, she was hopeless. So different from the Rose I knew only two months ago. What happened to my fierce Rose?

Ginny turned to Hermione, both of the women crying steady tears. "'Mione, what can we do to help?"

"N-Nothing now," answered Hermione. I could tell she was doing her best to keep her composure. "Thank you for your help."

"Of course. I think Harry and I will give her some space then. Harry, come," Ginny weakly said. As she rose, she entwined her hand with her husband's.

One at a time they kissed Rose's forehead. Rose responded each time by muttering something that couldn't be deciphered, and then Harry and Ginny slipped silently out of the room. With tears in my eyes, I looked to Ron and Hermione. Hugo was busy pacing on the other side of the room, running his hands through his hair.

"S-Should I leave...?" I asked quietly. Because, really, I didn't know what I should do.

Ron and Hermione both looked to me again. Their expressions were blank. They didn't know if I should leave either, and they didn't seem to care either way.

Despite their confused and befuddled expressions, someone else in the room spoke on my behalf. A murmur came from Rose, the first coherent words for her to utter.


And it was my name.

"Teddy's here...?" she asked again. Her voice was hoarse, and I could feel her pain in having to speak. I couldn't tell what emotions there were in her voice, if she could muster any at all. Did she want me to be there?

Ron and Hermione parted the way for me, granting me entrance to their daughter. With my heart pounding and sitting in the back of my throat, I knelt down next to her. I debated if I should touch her or not, but after a few moments of silence, I brushed her matted hair away from her face. I pushed it back and tried not to gasp at the sight of her face. Her eyes were sunken, her cheekbones fully exposed due to her loss of weight. Her eyes, though, were still closed. Perhaps she couldn't find the energy to open them or she didn't want to see me.

She let out a heavy sigh at my touch. A sigh of what? Relief? Satisfaction? Anger? I couldn't tell.

I refrained from touching her further, though, so I retracted my hand. I whispered kindly to her. "Yes. It's me..."

She was quiet for many moments, still aside from her shivering. Then she spoke again, and her words cut through me like a knife.

"Please...Leave..." she moaned.

A great pain tore through my heart. Worse than the kind I felt when she told me she didn't love me, worse from when I saw her leave to go to Azkaban when I thought I would never see her again. I had never felt a pain like this. What I feared had come true. I was horrified of Rose telling me to leave her. Thankfully, last time she had only denied her love for me. She hadn't chosen to walk away from me; she had been taken from me. And now...

She was back, looking fifteen pounds thinner, her hair matted and frayed, her eyes sunken, skin pale and bruised, dirty, her clothes hanging from her all too thin frame. She was back all but two minutes, and now she was telling me to leave.

I choked on my tears, and I didn't bother with holding them back. They fell down my cheeks as I took in her words.

I love her so much. Why couldn't she see that? Why couldn't she see that she was my entire life now?

But what could I do other than obey her one command?

Uneasily, I staggered to my feet. I was aware of the eyes upon me. Hugo was gaping in shock while Ron and Hermione were simply struck with pity and horror. I backed away from Rose, and with each step I felt as if I lost more and more of myself. I was leaving it with the girl who was nearly unconscious on the couch.

Ron's mouth opened and closed as he debated saying something to me. He looked at me with pity, and finally he whispered, "I-I'm sorry, Ted."

"It's what she wants..." I muttered through my tears. I could taste the salt on my lips.

"We will keep you updated."

I only nodded.

Then for some reason my love came pouring out of me. I covered my mouth with my hand and moaned in pain. "I love her so much. I love her."

"W-We know," Hermione whispered as she hugged me.

When she let go of me, I apparated back to my flat before my sobs consumed me. Feeling as if I had truly hit rock bottom, I sank to the floor of my bedroom. I pulled my knees up to my chest where I let my cries take over me. Never in my life had I cried like this, but alone - truly alone - I let it wash over me. I didn't even care if I should try to be strong.

I lost track of time. I cried until my eyes refused to shed anymore tears. At some point in time I laid down on the wooden floor, curling into the fetal position. It was dark when the familiar crack of apparation sounded in my living room, but I didn't bother with moving. Victoire's voice filled my flat, calling for me, but she found me soon enough. She kneeled down next to me and rubbed my back in reassurance. Her voice was filled of true pity, but I didn't want her pity. I didn't want anyone's pity. I had done this to myself. I should have known from the beginning it would turn out like this.

"Oh, Teddy," she moaned in my ear. She tried to tug on my arm so I would either sit or move to my bed, but I didn't budge. Finally she lay down next to me and wrapped her arms around me protectively. "Hermione told me. I knew I had to see how you were holding up."

She pressed her cheek to my back, and her left hand rubbed my stomach. I was surprised to find my own voice somewhere underneath all my cries. My voice was hoarse and it didn't sound anything like me. "I’m not holding up. I’m breaking. I love her, Vic. I love her."

That seemed to be all I could say today.

"I know you do," she answered in that soothing voice of hers.

She continued to rub my arms, back, and stomach, trying to coax me into tranquility. Finally my rugged breathing settled down and I turned to face her on the warm wood.

I could see the whites of her eyes, beautifully illuminated by the moonlight, and she was trying to hold back her tears for me.

"Don't cry for me," I whispered.

"But I've never seen you like this," she said, border-line crying. She blinked them back, refusing to cry, and gave a heavy sniff. "It's tearing me apart. I care about you, Teddy. I hate to see you like this."

"I'm sorry."

I found myself apologizing, and I didn't know why. Maybe because I didn't want Vic to worry about me? Her cousin was home from prison. She should be happy, she should be getting ready to visit her, but instead she was here consoling me.

"Don't you apologize for one second," she snapped.

I didn't say anything after that. I just nodded. What was I to say?

Her tone softened after a moment, and she moved on to better things. "Besides, Rose is probably trying to cope with all this. She's hardly conscious, and when she is, she says nothing. Ron and Hermione aren't even sure yet if Rose understands that this is real. She might even think that she's still in Azkaban, that she's dreaming this all.”

Oh my god, does Rose really think she's still in Azkaban? I hadn't even considered that. I tried not to believe it. I tried not to believe that my strong, courageous Rose was now so battered both mentally and physically.

"It's going to take time for her to get better and adjust. And then, once she knows she's home and safe, maybe she will start to think about her relationship with you. She could change her mind. She might realize that she really does love you."

I shivered. Oh, how I desperately wanted that. But I found myself pained with another epiphany.

What if Rose finally did realize that she was out of Azkaban, that this wasn't a dream, only to be thrown back in? What if Ron and I couldn't do this? And Rose had to go back to Azkaban? I shuddered and tried not to let the idea sit. Instead, I forced it to the back of my mind.

"There's still hope, Teddy," Vic cooed to me.

I nodded. I tried to tell myself this. Vic could be right, couldn't she? Especially if Rose thinks this is all a dream. What if - once she realizes she's home and safe - she realizes she loves me?

A whim of hope surged through my veins. It was small, but it was enough to keep me going.

"Tell me I'm right."

I knew she could see the hope that filled my eyes with her last statement. We both knew she had given me that small amount, but she wanted me to voice it. "You're right," I whispered.

"I know I am. Now, all you have to do is be patient. And you can't go to work now, can you?"

"Not until this case is final."

"Great. Then you're coming to Paris with me tomorrow."


"You heard," she said. She rose and pulled me with her. I couldn't move much though; I was only able to relocate to my bed where Victoire helpfully and gladly tucked me in. She crawled in next to me, propping herself up on one elbow. "You're coming with me tomorrow. To Paris. You need to clear your head. You're not working; all you'll do is sit here and wallow about Rose. Come with me. You've always said you wanted to see the world. Sure, you've been places for work, but come to Paris. No strings attached, no job commitments. Just you in Paris, clearing your head."

Could I leave for Paris, though? I was supposed to be at Sondheim’s disposal in case I got called to the stand during this case, but Sondheim had made an announcement stating that court would not resume until Rose was in a right state of mind. This should mean I had a window to get away while Rose was recovering. And if she still thought she was in Azkaban, then I definitely had a decent amount of time.

Merlin, she made it sound wonderful, and I realized I needed it. I did need a break. Perhaps this was the perfect time as well while Rose would be recovering. I nodded, and Vic beamed.

"All right, I'll come."

Chapter 29: The Road to Recovery
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Vic and I were up the next morning at an early hour. She had to drag me out of bed to get me moving, but she got me there. I was reluctant to move. I forgot about my promise to go to Paris with her and was once again reminded of ever-expanding pit of despair inside my chest. That hole seemed to grow bigger over night, but Victoire did her best to maintain it. I put up a weak fight as she dragged me out of bed and practically threw me under my cold shower in my boxers and t-shirt.

I got the message, and once she left my bathroom, I stripped and let the cold water wash over me, rejuvenate me to the core. When I had shaved and dressed, the sweet aroma of coffee and pancakes filled my flat. I entered my kitchen to see Victoire happily making herself a plate of the splendid breakfast she had cooked. She was bouncing around enthusiastically, her curls flaring as she moved.

"Hey, look at that! Your legs do work," she joked.

"Shut it," I said even as a smile worked its way onto my lips.

"I made your favorite," she commented as she sat down at the breakfast bar.

"Oh, you're brilliant," I sighed as the heavenly smell coaxed my senses.

I made myself a heaping plate of the pancakes, putting a dollop of the strawberry filling on top and drowning it in syrup. Vic motioned to my already-made mug of coffee on the bar beside her. As I set my plate down and slid in next to her, I gave her a thankful kiss on the cheek. "What would I do without you?"

She actually snorted. Graceful Vic snorted. "You'd probably be a washed up drunkard."

"No doubt," I agreed. I tried to ignore the fact that that scenario would have been highly likely if it weren't for Peakes letting me in on his scheme or Vic putting me on the right track. I don't know where I would be without her. Or even with Peakes and his poor indiscretion. He gave me hope that I could fix this.

"I've already packed your bag," she commented as I shoveled a forkful of pancakes into my mouth. I turned to look at her from the corner of my eye. I almost wanted to back out, but she sensed that and spoke before I could change my mind. "Hope you don't mind. I wasn't going to let you get out of this one."

"I was going to try," I dully commented. I rolled my shoulders. "But I never win with you."

Vic giggled as she hopped down from the barstool. "Well, did you ever really win before?"

"No," I said with a shake of the head and a chuckle.

"Well, great! Now that we're on the same page and you know you won't be winning, we'll be off as soon as you're finished."

Vic stuck to her word. As soon as I finished eating and we had cleaned up my kitchen, I took her hand and we were off to Paris. We settled into her hotel room, and after a pleasant lunch at a cafe, she had to go to her conference. I was left to my own resolve on the streets of Pairs.

Strangely enough, Vic was right. Paris relaxed me. Even though I was out of my element and lost in this massive city, I was able to forget. I cleared my head and wandered the streets. I went back to the hotel a good while later where Vic was waiting for me. I could see the doubt that had sat in her mind before I came back; had she believed for a moment that I had gone home again? Either way, she looked relieved when she saw me and embraced me.

We talked about her conference and had dinner together. It was great for it to just be the two of us again. I was glad to be spending so much one-on-one time with my best friend after so long. I can easily say that the rest of the Paris trip was enlightening. While Rose was at home recovering, I was recovering in Paris. I know that I had gotten pretty fucked up at the summer house, and even more so during Rose's imprisonment. And after she returned home, even more so...

I had grown to be a mix of myself and Scorpius Malfoy. I wasn't pretending to be him by the end anymore, I was changing myself. He had grown to be a part of me. By the end, I needed to be Malfoy. I fed off the person I was while I was with him because I had Rose. I began to love her unconditionally. It was no longer Malfoy I needed. It was Rose. I needed her.

Then Peakes.

I grew deranged.

Now Rose.

I'm so messed up.

Paris helped. Greatly. But even as I packed my bags on our final morning, I knew my sense of crazy wasn't completely gone. Paris hadn't gotten rid of it; it had only subdued it.

After a week of relaxing and trying to sort myself out, I apparated home only to drop off my bags. My first thing was to check on Rose's progress. Even if she still didn't want to see me, I could still find out how she was doing. So I apparated on Ron and Hermione's doorstep. Sucking up my courage and preparing myself for the possibility of another order I didn't want to hear from Rose, I raised a fist and knocked.

Ron was the one to answer the door, and he looked truly happy to see me. He embraced me again, and I was glad to see that our new bond hadn't diminished due to his daughter's order.

"Ted," he said with a grin against my ear. "It really is good to see you. Paris has treated you well."

"It really did," I breathed as we stepped away from one another. "I needed it."

"That's good to hear, Ted," he said.

"W-Well, I guess you know why I'm here. H-How is she?" I was stumbling over my words and main reason for coming unannounced before I could stop myself.

Ron shuffled from foot to foot as we still remained on their patio. He looked uneasy, and that didn't settle well with me. "She's doing better. She's talking. Occasionally; when asked. She knows she's home now. Hermione and my mum are always cooking and stuffing her full of her favorite meals. She's put on a few pounds."

"That's great news," I nodded.

I found that I breathed a huge sigh of relief. A heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders. I just wanted her to be okay. I wanted her to be on a healthy, steady road to recovery.

Ron and I both seemed to be avoiding the one topic we knew I was desperate to ask about. What Rose thought of me, if she would let me see her. I didn't want to ask the dreadful question. Finally Ron conquered the subject with a furrow of the brow and a truly apologetic expression.

"Listen..." he huffed. "Ted, I...Rose, she..."

"She doesn't want to see me, does she...?" I finally asked for him. I could tell he was having a hard enough time trying to get the words out.

"I'm sorry," was all Ron could manage, but it was enough to answer my question.

"I understand," I muttered painfully, but I did anything but understand. I didn't.

"Merlin, Ted, I'm so sorry," grunted Ron again. It was probably the expression on my face that made him apologize profusely. "She knows though. Hermione and I are talking to her. Sometimes we will tell her about our day. She'll lay there and listen with her eyes shut. When Hermione's around, she doesn't want to discuss any topics that will spur any emotion or reaction from Rose. So when Hermione isn't there, I talk to Rose about all the important things. I've told her about the postponing of the trial. I told her about Peakes. I tried to get her to talk about it, but she still won't do that. The most I got from her was a small noise, and I told her that she wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. She knows; she knows all you've done."

"I won't rest until she's cleared. Peakes will be behind bars at the end of this," I hissed.

As I said this, I realized how true it was. I wasn't going to stop until this ended my way. Rose would be cleared of all charges, and by the end of this, I would make sure Peakes is locked up in Azkaban for good. He won't get away with this. I then realized that Rose's freedom was all that mattered to me. I just want her to be happy. I want her to have a free life, make the decisions she wishes, but most of all to be happy. Happy with whatever she decides to do in her life, whatever that may be. Whether she chooses to move to Egypt permanently and forget about me completely, whether she never forgives me. I just wanted her to be happy.

I realized that is the price you pay when you love someone. You'll do anything to make sure they're happy. It's all that matters to you, and you will do everything in your power to see that they receive that happiness. Even if it means your sadness and destruction along the way. It's just what you do.

Of course, I want her to love me. I want her to be with me, but only on her own terms. Whatever makes her happy.

My own sadness and hatred for myself that I will now carry with me always is just collateral damage. That's all I am. Collateral damage to giving Rose a happy life.

I'm okay with it.

"I know you won't," said Ron. "But please, Ted. Don't forget to take care of yourself along the way."

“I won't," I reassured him.

"And while you do that and work on exposing Peakes, I will be here, taking care of Rose. I can see that you just want her to be happy, but I'm not settling for that. I want you to be happy as well, Ted. You deserve to be happy; you deserve to be with my daughter."

"She doesn't want me," I murmured.

"Right now she doesn't. But there's still hope. I think you should come in anyways," said Ron, and he stepped aside to allow me entrance. I looked at him apprehensively. I don't know why he thought this was I could idea. I could tell that he was subtly trying to force me onto Rose, and despite how much I wanted to see her or be with her, I didn't want to disturb her.

But somehow my urge to be closer to her took charge, and I found myself entering their home. Ron closed the door behind me, and we went up the stairs of the home. We weaved through the hall until we came to stand near an open door where a soft humming was emerging. I looked at Ron with a questioning look on my face, and he answered in a whisper. "That's Hermione. She's humming a lullaby. Her parents used to sing it to her, and we sang it to our children when they were young. The first thing she said to either of us after you left that day was to hear the lullaby again. Now, Hermione sings it to her every day. It soothes her."

I smiled. Hearing this from Ron relaxed me. It put my worry over Rose at ease. He then whispered to me again. "Rose may not want to see you, but you are welcome to our house. You may come and go as you like and just...listen until she is ready to see you."

"I appreciate it, Ron," was all I could manage.

He smiled and gave my shoulder a squeeze. Knowing I couldn't go into her bedroom, I remained out of the doorway and I leaned against the wall in the hall. I slid down to the ground, pulled my knees to my chest, and I just listened to Hermione hum her lullaby to Rosie. Ron's footsteps signaled his entrance into Rose's bedroom. After Hermione finished the lullaby, Ron gave a small exchange with Rose. It was of little importance, but I just listened to her voice. She sounded a thousand times better from that day when I saw her lying weak and hopeless on the couch. It gave me hope for her and her future, hope for her recovery.

He didn't say anything about how I was sitting in the hall, nor did I expect him to. I didn't expect to go in and see her, talk to her, or anything of the sort. I just sat there and listened to them. An hour may have gone by before Ron and Hermione both left her room together. Hermione smiled at me and hugged me. Then she spoke in a whisper. "She's asleep. You can go see her if you like."

I wasn't going to turn down this opportunity. I wanted to see her. Even if she was sleeping. It would be better that way, at least while she still firmly refuses to see me. This way we could both have what we wanted; I could see Rose, and she wouldn't see me.

I briefly and quietly hugged Ron and Hermione, whispering my thanks. Then they disappeared and left me to it. Almost uneasily I slipped into her bedroom. I don't know why I was so nervous. She was unconscious, for Merlin's sake, and yet my heart was racing, and I felt as if it had jumped into my throat. I forced the uncomfortable lump down and gained a steady rhythm once again.

I had never been in her room before. I never had any reason to. It was small but comfortable, and all of the room's contents screamed her personality to me. From the unorganized stack of books beside her empty bookshelf. Beside it was an array of maps, probably of Egypt and other places Rose had been to during her days as a Curse Breaker. In the back of my mind I wondered if she would ever go back to work. Granted, she had to be acquitted first now, but I wouldn't rest until that happened. Her walls were covered in pictures and souvenir plaques and pictures from her trips, things probably taken out of her flat before Ron and Hermione sold it a month back. The walls were a nice pale, sky blue, and her bed was a painted white brass with a patchwork quilt her grandmother must have made her.

She was tucked beneath her blankets, and her red hair was beautifully spread about her pillow. The color had come back to it; I could already see the life returning to her. I felt my heart clench, and I was surprised to feel the tears in my eyes. They blurred my vision, and I paused to blink them away, prudent to not trip in the process. When I reached her bed, I decided against sitting on the mattress beside her. Despite how much I wanted to be close to her, I didn't want to wake her. So I kneeled beside her bed and lowered my face to hers.

She had recovered greatly. Her eyes were still darkened with her sunken lids, but her cheeks looked fuller, and the color had returned to her skin. Her one arm that wasn't under the covers even looked more healthy. Seeing her health return even while she was asleep made me smile.

I was suddenly grinning like mad, and before I could control myself, I was reaching out to her. I longed to feel her warm skin against mine. I didn't want to wake her though. So before I could touch her, I retracted my hand and pursed my lips in disappointment. I resulted in just watching her. She was so peaceful, so motionless and perfectly content. Her breathing was even, and one of her hairs would flutter every time she exhaled.

Her exposed hand moved from her side up to her chin as she subconsciously curled into fetal position. She let out a grunt, and I grew still in fear of her waking up. But once she let out another long breath, I knew she was still in deep sleep. Her fingers began to curl and uncurl around nothing. Occasionally the quilt would bunch beneath her fingers, but she seemed to be searching for something to knead, something to hold.

Puffing my lips and growing even more cognizant, I etched my hand onto her bed. I began at the edge, my fingertips grazing the quilt, moving closer and closer to her. When her fingers uncurled again, I let the tip of my index finger enter the cocoon her palm made and I readily braced for the feel of her hand for when she would squeeze again.

It came soon. Her touch was warm and desperate, loving even in her sleep. She squeezed the tip of my index finger, and I smiled. When her hand released yet again, I etched more of my finger into her grasp. It became a slow process of her embracing only a small part of my finger, releasing it, only for me to move more into her grasp, until finally I had my full hand beneath hers. A groan escaped her lips when her subconscious seemed to register my hand, and she squeezed. This time she didn't let go.

I released a heavy breath and laid my head down on her bed. Uneasily I whispered, some part of me hoping she could hear. "Why can't you see how much I love you?"

I quickly felt uneasy. As if I was being watched. Had Rose awakened? Her hand was still tightly holding mine, though. My eyes shot open, and without moving my head, I looked in my line of vision. It wasn't Rose but Ron who looked at me hopelessly. His expression quickly grew embarrassed, as if he was sorry for watching me with his daughter. He just stood motionlessly in the doorway, his lips tightly pursed, and his large hands bracing either side of the doorway. He quickly waved a hand of apology, gave me some sort of approving nod, and then he was gone.

I ignored it. The moment passed, and I went back to thinking about Rose still tightly holding my hand, her breath making the locks of my hair gently fluttered. It tickled in its own way. The quilt was warm and soft against my cheek, and it smelled of Rose. I turned my nose into it and inhaled deeply. It reminded me of all those days at the summer house when she would be wrapped around me or I would wake up with her hair drowning my senses.

I found myself whispering to her again, just wishing she could hear me. I don't know what prompted me to begin my rant; maybe it was just knowing now would be the only time I could say my piece without her telling me to go to hell. While she was unconscious. I just hoped that - somehow - she could hear me.

"I love you like I've never loved anyone before. I loved my gran when she was alive; I still do, and I do love my parents, even though I've never met them. And I love Vic like a sister, and I love Harry and all of you Potters and Weasleys. But Rosie, I have never loved anyone like I love you. I didn't know I could love like this. I never had my parents to love unconditionally. Just my gran and Harry, of course. Then you came along. And now I know what love is really like. It's unconditional; you can hate me or you can love me, but no matter what I will always love you. So why can't you see that I am still that same person. I'm the same person who pulled you from the sand when you were little. I'm the same person you knew all along, and I'm the same person you fell in love with at the summer house. That man does exist, Rosie, and he's right here. He's right here, loving you. And I will always be waiting for you to love me back."

I closed my eyes, falling into silence as her evened breathing still rustled my long copper locks. I listened to the drumming of her heart and her gentle exhales, and I slowed mine until it matched hers. Then before I knew it, I was drifting into sleep.

I don't know how long I slept for. It was still daylight when my eyes opened again, and my cheeks felt damp. Had I cried in my sleep? If I had slept for quite some time, Rose could be awaking at any minute. My right hand was still warm and tightly enclosed in Rose's grasp; I took this as a sure sign that she was still asleep. Not wanting to risk her seeing me, I lifted my head from her bed. I could feel the indention in my cheek fromthe patchwork quilt.

Watching her beautiful face, I slowly began to retract my hand. As I pulled away, though, I could feel her grip tightening until I had to pull with gentle force to retrieve it from her.

"Even in your own body, I would still know your hand anywhere."

I grew stiff. I had awoken her by trying to retract my hand. I didn't mean to wake her. As much as I loved to hear her voice, I didn't want to anger her. Slowly I lifted my head to see her. She was still tightly curled in the fetal position, and she was still holding my hand. Her eyes were empty of all emotion, and her voice was flat and just as emotionless as her face.

I swallowed when she met my eyes. Neither of us said anything, and neither of us moved.

I finally cleared my throat, my voice cracking as I spoke. "I'm sorry. I can leave."

I knew she wasn't ready for me. Not yet. I tried to take away my hand, but she still held strong. Did she want me to stay...?

Her eyes briefly betrayed her confusion. I could see how distressed she was with her thoughts. It was as if she didn't want to allow me near her, yet her heart was telling her different. I could see it and feel it, and it gave me hope. Listen to your heart.

"My father let you in, didn't he?" Rose weakly asked. I could tell she was beating around the bush with my last comment by not telling me to either leave or stay. She just ignored it completely. Again, she had little emotion. I was having difficulty reading her, but our hands were still tightly clasped. I took this is a good sign.

I only nodded in return.

"I don't know what you did to him while I was gone, but he loves you now. It's kind of creepy."

I actually grinned and chuckled at that. Even if she had little emotion in her voice, at least some of her personality was returning to her words. The Rose I remember was slowly beginning to return.

I only had one answer. "We worked hard to bring you back home. We spent a lot of time together."

She fell into silence, her expression ashen, until she finally whispered. "Thank you..."

I didn't have to ask to know what she was speaking of. I nodded and squeezed her hand. "You're welcome."

At the pressure I supplied her hand with, she looked to them in skeptical wonder. Her thumb ran over the backside of my hand, her touch leaving a trail of fire, and while I wanted to believe she was tenderly stroking me, I knew she was analyzing my hand for my differences. How different my hand is now from what it was when I was Malfoy.

"Your laugh is the same..." she muttered as she did her work.

I knew what she spoke of now as well. She wasn't talking about me changing throughout the years. She was comparing my laugh now to mine at the summer house. Of course it was the same. I let out a heavy sigh.

"That's because I am the same person. It was all me, Rose. Why can't you see that?" My whispers were desperate. I just wanted her to understand in that moment. More than anything.

Her next words gave me hope. Even if it was small. "Maybe someday I will."

Chapter 30: Glass
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A/N: Hello everyone! A thanks again to everyone who is still following this story so faithfully! It really means the world to me.

I just thought I would mention one thing real fast! Rough chapter estimate till conclusion of story: 7 chapters. I can't believe how fast this going, and it saddens me that this story is so close to hitting the climax!

It all begins next chapter! Please enjoy! :)

chapter graphic by me.
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Over the next few weeks, Peakes was kept under close watch. He wasn't in confinement for questioning or anything, but he had an escort nearly 24/7 to make sure he stayed in line. Sondheim kept in close contact with Ron just to make sure Rose was making a steady recovery. While we knew he want to speed the process of the trial along, he was kind and understanding when it came to Rose's recovery. He didn't want to resume the trial until he knew she was prepared and had made a full recovery.

And every day she was recovering more and more. The idea of a full recovery, though, seems unlikely even now. I don't know if Rose will ever be the same, but as each day passes she becomes more and more prepared to face the Wizengamot court once again.

I'm often at the Weasleys. I don't really hang out at my flat much these days to do anything other than shower and change clothes. Hermione always drags me to their kitchen table for each meal and insists that I eat with them. During the day when Rose is conscious, I sit on the floor outside her bedroom and just listen to the goings-on inside the room in tranquility. I listen to Hermione sing their lullaby to her daughter; I listen to Ron try and convince Rose that she should love me. I listen to them just talk, and it soothes me. While I don't want to intrude and sometimes feel like I am a burden, Ron and Hermione both constantly demand that I stay. They want me there.

I think she knows I'm there. I don't go in unless asked. Despite how much I want to, I give her the space she needs and hope that she will someday feel what is right in her heart.

After weeks now of being catered to and treated like glass, Rose has finally begun to take care of herself again. She gets out of her bed, maneuvers around the house to do whatever she pleases, and she eats with her family. Nowadays when they're eating, I normally leave to take care of the other things I should be doing. Like paying my rent, showering, and maintaining my flat. The boring grown-up stuff.

Then, one day when I went back to the Weasleys after they had lunch, I found Rose tying her scarf about her neck. She stopped briefly to look at me. We didn't converse much these days, and now was no different. She acknowledged with a small incline of the head and brushed past me. I tried to ignore her actions towards me, but I was too curious as to what she was doing. As I watched her stop in front of the mirror in the living room and fix her hear, I realized she was going out.

She was leaving her house.

Before I could begin questioning where, Ron was swooping into the room. He looked appalled, and I could tell he wanted to keep Rose by his side. Wherever it was she was going, Ron did not want her to go. He ran past me, and I wondered if he had even taken note of my presence.

"Rose," said Ron quickly. He stood behind his daughter as she ran her fingers through her curls, adding volume. "Don't go see him. You will only be hurt in the end."

"I can't know that if I don't try, Dad," Rose said under her breath.

"Rose! Don't do this," demanded Ron. "I have only your best interests at heart, and honey, I know this won't end well."

"I can't go on just wondering what could have been if I don't try though, Daddy," said Rose again. Then she pulled her coat over her shoulders and stalked past him. I practically jumped out of her way, and she exited the house. The sound of her apparating away was apparent.

Ron was left to stand in the living room in shock. He couldn't seem to take his eyes off the mahogany wood on the floor.

"What's happened?" I finally asked.

Ron looked at me apprehensively, as if he knew this conversation could potentially hurt me. Heeding his warning, I sucked in a deep breath and did my best to prepare myself. I told myself that I wouldn't be hurt or afraid. He finally ended the excruciating wait by speaking.

"Rose has this mindset that...she loves the real Scorpius Malfoy, and she believes that he will love her in return. Someday," said Ron uneasily.

I blanched. I felt my heart drop into my stomach; I could feel it trying to climb up the wall of my chest cavity, to return to its proper location, but it just kept sinking deeper and deeper. Rock bottom. I thought I had hit it long ago, but this was it, wasn't it? How could Rose think that the real Malfoy would love her? After what she did? After what she confessed? There couldn't possibly be a way he would even go out for a cup of coffee with her.

"What?!" I was suddenly shouting. Fury took over me. It was fury in Rose's stupidity, and fury and jealousy for Scorpius Malfoy to have the opportunity to be with the woman I love.

"She can't date him! He...He's not...He's not me! She fell in love with me! Not him! And he told me himself, he would be furious with her if he discovered she was the reason for his confinement! He will never even give her the time of day! She will only be hurt in the end," I shouted. I was pacing the living room, pulling at my hair as the roots shot a deep raven.

"Don't you think I know that? I was doing everything I could to keep her here. But I can't strap her down or demand it. She's a woman now; I can't keep a leash on her..."

"I know," I sighed. I did understand. I knew that Ron could only do so much to try to stop her. He couldn't keep her here if she was determined enough. I sank down onto their leather couch, and tears were suddenly in my eyes. "I know you can't do that. She just...Merlin, she's such an idiot, isn't she?"

"I know she is," Ron groaned. "I can't tell you how disappointed I am in her. She's going to get hurt, that's a given. And I...I'm still rooting for you, Ted."

I looked at him at that statement and blinked away my tears. In that moment, I knew how genuine Ron was being. He really had taken me in like his second son. He was like a father to me now, and he wanted me to be with his daughter. More than anything.

I couldn't believe how stupid Rose is. Did she really think the real Scorpius Malfoy could love her? He told me himself he would never forgive her if she was the reason for his confinement, and she was. It was all her fault. Well, not completely. It was Peakes' fault, but Malfoy doesn't know that! It wouldn't matter to him. He would throw her out without even thinking twice about it.

I paced about Ron's living room. He was watching me, refusing to take his eyes off me, probably wondering what I would do next.

Then I suddenly realized I couldn't do anything until I found out what happened between Rose and Scorpius. I had been polite and respectful of Rose's space, requests, and privacy. In this moment now, I threw all of that out the window. I didn't care about giving her the space she needs now. Her happiness was my first priority, and it wouldn't come to her by making a pass at Scorpius Malfoy. I needed to be here when she came home; she would be devastated, and she would need a shoulder to lean on.

I was staying. I had made up my mind. So I dropped down onto the couch. I leaned forward and braced my elbows against my knees, entwining my fingers, and letting my chin rest on the folds.

Ron appraised my stance as I glued my eyes to the door, and he seemed to know what I had decided. With a curt nod, he left the room.

I sat there for what felt like hours. The wait was excruciating, and I didn't tear my eyes away from the door. They grew dry and tired, but I refused to look away.

Finally the recognizable sound of appration sounded and the front door was flung open. In a mess, Rose bolted into the house. Her cloak was hanging off her shoulders, and her cheeks were damp with fresh tears. She was hiccupping as she scaled the room in a blur, bolting up the stairs. I was on my feet in an instant, following in her wake.

"Rose!" I called to her, letting her know that I was pursuing her and I wasn't going to give in. "Rose, what happened?"

"Leave me alone! I don't want to talk about it!" she called over her shoulder to me.

That didn't push me away. I continued to follow her up the stairs, through the hall, and into her bedroom. She dropped to the floor in the corner of her bedroom, pulling her knees up to her chest, and burying her face between them. There, her cries grew louder.

I kneeled down in front of her and gingerly touching her calf. "Rosie," I muttered, "please tell me what happened."

"I'm not telling you," she hissed into her knees. "You out of all people."

"Rose, I - "

"No! I'm not telling you!" she cried. She actually lifted her head. She used her hands to emphasize her upset, and her mascara was smeared down her cheeks from being pushed against her knees. "You will think I'm so stupid. You'll probably laugh at me, and for Merlin's sake, you love me! I can't talk to you about this."

"Rose," I whispered lovingly, coaxingly, "don't think about my feelings for you right now. Why don't you talk to me like I'm your friend? I am your friend."

She hiccupped, and I could tell she was debating it. Finally she nodded, wiping away her tears and smudging her mascara even further.

"I thought...I thought Scorpius Malfoy would give me a chance. I thought that - since you were pretending to be him and clearly there was a connection - then I would have a connection with the real Malfoy also. I thought that, maybe, if I loved the Malfoy at the summer house, then I could love the real one. I thought that if the Malfoy at the summer house could love me, then so could the real one...I went to see him. I didn't straight up tell him that I wanted him to love me. I just...I just asked if we could get coffee sometime. He said yes, and now as I'm looking back at it, he probably thought I wanted to take him out to coffee to apologize for everything that happened...So he actually cleared his lunch schedule and we went out to coffee. He seemed anxious. Now I realize he was trying to dial down his anger with me, but I didn't notice that until it was already over. He then rudely asked if I had just wanted to go to coffee just to chat, and when I said yes, he snapped. He started yelling at me about how this was all my fault! How it was my fault he was held in confinement for so long! That it was all my fault and he would never forgive me for it. And then he left and..."

I just stared blankly at her, trying to take it all in. Her words had hurt. It hurt to hear her phrase things as 'the Malfoy at the summer house.' Not phrased as 'you,' but as someone who in her mind didn't even exist anymore. It was painful. Then to hear about her foolish choice in going to see Malfoy. Of course he reacted that way. I don't blame him.

With her pained expression, I knew she was about to rant even further. But she was about to dive deeper into her raging emotions. She was done with telling me the basics; now she was going to go into the emotions. And I took that small amount of time to man up and try to put my emotions and feelings for her aside. I needed to do what I told her; I needed to listen to her next words as her friend and not think about my love for her or worry about how her next words could potentially hurt me.

I sucked in a deep breath as she began again.

"And I was devastated! I think I love him. If you were being him, you were being him! Him! I could love him. I could be happy; he could be happy! I could make him happy, and I want to make him happy! I just want to be happy again and forget about everything! I just want to forget about the murder, and I just want to forget about the summer house, and about Azkaban! I don't want to remember it because it's all just too painful. I need someone, and I know it sounds foolish and conceited, but I've been destroyed, Teddy! Azkaban...I can't even begin to tell you what it's like. I've been ripped to shreds and stitched back together by my parents, and I'll never be the same again. Damaged goods! I'm damaged goods, Teddy! I need someone to be there for me and to love me, and I want to love them!"

Her words finally came to an end, only for her to cry with loud sobs. I tried to hold back my tears, her words tearing my heart into a thousand pieces. "I'm sorry, Rose..."

Why couldn't she see that someone is here for her?! That someone is wanting to love her, and someone needs her! I want her, and I love her. I need her, and I want to be therefore her and she for me! I was willing to give her all those things she just mentioned. Yet she refused to even look my way in a loving manner.

She wanted someone, she had made that much clear. Did I take this opportunity to show her that I could be that person? Did I try to do that again for my own benefit and potentially her own? Or did I be the friend I said I would be and just listen and console her? What was I to do?

"I love someone," she sobbed, holding onto her head, shaking it. "I know I love someone. I just can't find him anymore."

I knew I couldn't sit back and be her friend. Not now when I knew I could convince her otherwise. I moved closer to her, and I reached out and cupped her face in my hands. I wiped her tears with my thumbs, and held her gaze to mine.

"You love me, Rose," I said sternly. "You love me. He's been here this whole time."

"No," she sobbed desperately, shaking her head in my grasp, but I still didn't let go. "I don't love you."

Well, if that's how she wanted to play for now, I would take it. I could work off of that.

"Okay then. Say you don't love me now, but Rosie, I'm here for you. You know that I am. I could be the one you're looking for. Why can't you just give me that chance?" I whispered. Even as I continued to stroke her cheek as she shook her head, I was moving closer to her. Her legs were touching mine, her head bowing closer and closer to mine. Finally my hands moved from her face and about her body. I pulled her into my lap, my arms going about her waist, and I rocked her in my grasp.

"You betrayed me," she sobbed against my shirt. She was doing a terrible job of fighting against me. For one so firmly adamant about not wanting to give a chance to, it was surprising how much she was letting me touch her.

"I know I did," I whispered. "But I made a mistake, and I ask for your forgiveness. Someone is right here loving you, and he always will. He will always be there for you, and you make him so happy. You know that?"

"No..." she muttered, her response to my question.

I whispered more things like that, and as I did so I planted soft, gentle kisses on her body. I kissed her shoulder, her collar bone, her cheek. With each kiss, I could feel Rose moving against me. It wasn't in refusal or denial. In fact, I could feel her inching closer and closer to me. Her mind may be protesting me, but her body was saying different. I could feel her turning into me. Her arms were slowly going about me, and she would turn to expose bits of her flesh for me to kiss.

She was finally understanding.

I held her face, whispering against her. "Let me love you the way I already do."

She didn't say anything. Her eyes found mine, beseeching me, and then she surprised me by wrapping her arms around my neck. Then she kissed me. This one was different from any before. She was nervous, uneasy. I could tell she was putting too much thought into that kiss. She was analyzing the way I moved - which wasn't much because I was still coping with the shock - and I could tell she was comparing kisses. In that moment I didn't care. She was kissing me. She moved slowly at first, unsure, but as my lips moved against hers with reassurance, her confidence grew.

She kissed me harder, moving in my lap so she was straddling me, pushing her chest against mine. My hands moved into her hair, running through her curls like I so often would at the summer house. Everything suddenly felt in its place; it felt like nothing had changed. It felt like I had just kissed her yesterday; I forgot about the months of pain I had felt. I forgot about her abandonment, her imprisonment, her stupidity in refusing to acknowledge my love and turning to Scorpius. We kissed with the remembrance of our past relationship, and it seemed like second nature once again.

Her hand moved to my shoulder where she gently pushed, and I was willingly falling back onto the wooden floor, letting her climb on top of me. She settled comfortably on top of me, her tongue finding mine and breathing heavily into my mouth.

It was when her hands moved to my chest did I finally freeze. I grew still beneath her, and suddenly I pushed Rose off of me, and I scrambled away from her like she was the plague. I backed away into the corner.

I couldn't do it. Not like this, and the realization had stuck me hard. I couldn't kiss her like this; I couldn't begin a relationship with her like this. Not while she was in such a vulnerable state.

I shook my head, fresh tears clouding my vision, and I choked out to her as she looked at me in shock. "No. No, no, no, Rosie. I can't."

"What?! You just said you would be here for me!"

"I know I did," I moaned. "And I want to be. I love you more than anything, and I want to be with you romantically, but...Not like this. I can't kiss you like this. You're not kissing me because you love me or are even infatuated with me. You kissed me because you felt lonely. You kissed me because you wanted someone to kiss you and make you feel wanted, and you are, Rose, but - "

"Then kiss me!" she demanded, interrupting me.

"But I can't take advantage of you like that! And I don't want to be your second choice. I want to be your first, and I want you to kiss me because you love me. I don't want to be your rebound or someone who will just snog you when you want. I've been here for you this entire month; I was even here for you while you were in Azkaban. I've been waiting for you, putting my life on hold to make sure you got yours on the right track again and are happy. That's all I want, Rose, but I can't destroy myself along the way. I have to keep some of my dignity, and I couldn't stoop so low as to give you what you want just so you can feel loved. I want you to want me the way I want you. I know you've been through a lot, but after everything I've done for you, I deserve better than that."

"T-Teddy," she cried out painfully as if she had realized what she had done.

I felt terrible then. I didn't mean to upset her. She was already upset enough, and I hated to be the cause of her disappointment, but I had to be. It was wrong of me to take that chance. I shouldn't have kissed her. I shouldn't have tried to take that window when I had the chance. Now look at what I had done.

"If I'm going to be the one you want to snog when you are pitying yourself, then I refuse. I can only be your friend."

I had nothing more to say after that, and I didn't want to watch her cry. So I rose from the ground and headed for the door, looking at Rose all curled up on the wooden floor, crying and calling for me.

"Teddy, I'm sorry! I know you deserve better! You do. I'm sorry. I just...I'm broken. I'm sorry," she continued to apologize profusely. "Will you ever be more than my friend?"

"Will you ever kiss me for me, or love me for me?" I asked her, for the answer to that question would decide my answer to hers.

"I-I don't know," she whispered desolately. "I can't know for sure."

"Then I don't know either. Until you know, however, I am only your friend. I can't be anything more."

"But you love me!" she declared.

"You're right. I do love you, and because of that, I will always do what is best for you. And trust me. This is what's best."

Then, without waiting for her to respond or to even take a moment and glance at her expression, I left her room. Before my tears could spread, I bolted down the stairs. Ron had been sitting on the couch in the living room, and upon hearing my thundering footsteps, he stood in surprise. He inquired what the matter was, but I plainly ignored him. I moved across his living room in a blur. I didn't want him to see me cry; I didn't want him to know that I was breaking. Not now.

"Where are you going? What did she do to you?" Ron demanded from me. His voice wasn't one ready to defend his daughter; it was ready to defend me. He wanted to know why she had hurt me. I knew in that moment that Ron didn't have just two children to protect now; he had taken on a third a long time ago. He loved me and would look after me, even if that meant protecting me from his daughter. "What did my daughter do to you?!"

"Nothing. I can't stay here anymore," I choked out.

And I left him standing there, looking upon me with defeat. He wanted to help me. I could tell that much, and with the look he shot towards the stairs, I could tell he wished to reprimand his daughter. But she was fragile still.

"Why? You're not staying here anymore? Not for dinner? Or in the guest room? You're...leaving?" he asked, hurt.

"I'm leaving. For good. I can't stay here," I said.

And I didn't let him question me further. I pushed past him, and as soon as my foot stepped past the threshold, I apparated the hell out of there. I had to put some distance between Rose and myself. I couldn't handle it anymore.

Glass. We were all like glass. Not just Rose. Seeing Ron like that in his living room like I had physically wounded him, I realized he was glass as well. I thought back to how I had felt when kissing Rose. How happy I had been, and how quickly that had changed. How I suddenly hated myself for leading her on like that, for taking advantage of her damaged state like that. I thought to how I was feeling now. A broken mess. Rose and Ron weren't the only ones made of glass. I was made of glass too, and I had long ago begun to break.

Chapter 31: A Vile Man
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Author's Note: And the climax begins! I'm so excited for it, and I hope you are too!

Just a small note - there will be about 4 chapters left after this. It's so sad to think that this story will be coming to an end soon!

Thank you so much to everyone who has always followed this story so faithfully.

I hope you enjoy this chapter and the rest to come! Be sure to leave your thoughts. :)

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beautiful chapter graphic by .asperity @ TDA

I did as I promised. I steered clear of the Weasley house, despite Ron's persistent letters asking me to at least come by for dinner. He'd promise me things like I wouldn't even have to see Rose, that he just wanted to talk to me and see how I was doing. He would ask me to go out to lunch. Anything to get me to see him again, but I didn't back down from my promise. I couldn't handle it.

I knew I had gone about everything with the mindset that I could handle it. I had had the mindset that I could do anything to make Rose happy and free her. I thought that I could be selfless in the process, that my own happiness and sanity didn't matter. But I found that it did. I couldn't lose myself along the way. I had already lost myself long ago, and I had become a changed person since I left the summer house. I had only recently discovered who I am today; I realized that I couldn't give that all up again. I had to take care of myself; going to Paris had shown me that.

I could do both. I could free Rose and make her happy; I could just have to be careful and find the fine line between giving my entire sanity up in the process. This was the only way to do it. I could only be her friend. That way she had a shoulder to cry on, someone to turn to, someone to be there for her unconditionally and platonically, and that way I could get my wee bit of happiness by just being with her. It wouldn't matter in what way. At least we were together and happy. Being friends was the only way. But I couldn't see her again until she wished to see me without the intention of snogging me, despite how much I wanted to kiss her senseless as well.

This meant avoiding Ron as well. He was like mine and Rosie's personal match-maker. He was trying to push us together in a romantic way in any way possible, but of course, he didn't know of my new epiphany. So I had to avoid him.

I convinced myself this was the only way. And while I was doing nothing at home, I took that time to finish this for good. I could end this all. I could put Peakes in his rightful place and release Rose of all charges. I just had to find a way, and I took this precious time to do exactly that.

I came up with a plan. A weak one, one that could be easily flawed and one that had to have every detail go the exact way, but it was a start. I had time to tweak it.

At least I thought I had time.

One day I received an owl from Ron. I assumed it was just another desperate plea for me to come over for dinner, but I was dead wrong.

Word had spread to the Ministry about Rose's recovery. Ron had done a great job in keeping her recovery on the DL. He didn't want Rose to go back to that stand, and so he had done his best to hold it off as long as possible. Rose had been ready for that stand perhaps a week before her decision to see the real Scorpius Malfoy, and the Ministry became aware of this after her foolish actions. Of course Scorpius told his father about what had happened, who Draco then shared with one of his friends in the Auror Department. Then through the grapevine, word reached Geoffrey Sondheim, and court was once again resumed.

Rose's trial date was set, and Ron had owled to inform me of this.


Her trial is tomorrow. I had no time anymore. My rough sketch of a plan didn't have time to be perfected. Tomorrow would be the day it all comes down to. Tomorrow will determine everyone's future.

Sweaty. Clamy palms. Shaking. I was a mess, but I had to gather my composure. I knocked on the door to Peakes' office. I hadn't seen him since the day he had been called to the stand. He had been stranded at his home just like Ron and I had been, but on the day of the hearings, he was in his office probably taking care of a few things.

I heard him from somewhere inside, giving me entrance. The door swung open, and when Peakes saw me, he blanched. "Can I help you?" he asked. He seemed a little sour, but he wasn't full of hatred. He probably blamed me slightly for what had happened, but I don't think he suspected me to be the culprit behind it.

Oh no. I drew a blank. I had had my draft of a plan, but as soon as I stepped into his office, I blanked.

"H-How are you doing?" I asked. At least it would be a conversation starter.

"Going crazy," he answered in an undertone. "Sitting at home, doing nothing but dreading this day. I'm only in this position because I opened my stupid mouth."

I pursed my lips. He was right about that. It was his fault he was in this position. I had only taken a chance that he would say all the right things. But how did I go about this now? How was I to carry out my plan? Luckily, Peakes carried out the conversation, giving me a few minutes to gather my bearings.

"And yourself?" asked Peakes.

"The same. Going a little crazy."

"Well, we knew you were going crazy a long time ago. So that's not news to me. You going to do your damnedest to get Weasley acquitted again today?" he asked. At first it seemed like supple conversation, and while his tone hadn't grown harsh, I could tell he was giving me a hard time.

Oh, you have no idea, I thought.

But I just shook my head. "Rose and I have...had disagreements lately," I said. I didn't know how else to phrase it.

"I heard. Heard she went to Malfoy," commented Peakes as he shuffled through some paperwork.

"She did. She doesn't want me," I added. The words that would leave my mouth next would be the biggest lies I had ever spoken. I dreaded speaking them; I dreaded feeling pain when I said them, but I had to perform flawlessly. I had to convince Peakes that I didn't really care. I had to get him to talk. "She won't ever love me. Besides, she's stupid for thinking Malfoy could ever love her. She's shot me down over and over, and she refuses to speak to me. longer has...any hold over me. I'm only here because I have to be. She can...go back to Azkaban for all I care."

Peakes didn't even look at me as I said this, but he grinned. "Sounds like you've finally come to your senses."

My breath caught, and I tried to hold my ground. "Guess I have," I muttered.

"So you really don't give a fuck, do you?" asked Peakes. He was appraising me now, my stance, my voice, my composure. He was trying to determine if I was lying, and I assumed now I needed to look weak and hopeless.

So I dropped my shoulders and sulked, and I tried to look as careless as possible. I rolled my shoulders.

"Not really," I sighed.

Peakes nodded after a minute. I don't know why, but I hoped it was a good nod. When he seemed to not care as well, I took my leap of faith.

"So how'd you do it?" I asked quietly, my brow furrowing in true curiosity.

He looked at me uneasily, and after a minute, somehow I gained his trust. He began to speak to me openly, and I only hoped he was speaking the truth.

"Quite easily," he said as he dropped into his desk chair. "You might have figured it out. I wanted the job I now have. Head Auror. I wanted it. Badly, and Geoffrey wanted Minister. We knew we could tackle both. Together. Take down Jarvis, and with Sondheim's brilliant background, we knew he would be appointed as Acting Minister. Selecting our candidate for murder was just as easy. Rose Weasley had such a great tie to both Harry Potter and Ron and Hermione Weasley. I knew it had to be a Potter or Weasley child. Rose was simply the easiest to get a hold of. Then getting her to do it. That was the tricky part. I gave her a deal. The deal was: she kill Jarvis and she gets away with it, free of charge. It would be easy to frame Scorpius Malfoy. Sure, Death Eater families are on good terms with the world now, but it is so easy to change that. I simply plucked Scorpius Malfoy out of the herd. I had got a hold of a few of his hairs, told Weasley to plant them at the scene of the crime, do the killing, and we would take care of the rest. Weasley wasn't supposed to get a conviction if she did the job well. Malfoy was supposed to be the one to go to Azkaban. But even with the assurance that she would get away with it, I started off with blackmailing her and threatening her. She is a strong woman when it comes to the ones she loves. I thought I could break her, but it took a more real approach to convince Rose I wasn't joking. I told her I'd rid of any of her family members who stood in our way. Ask Ron Weasley about the scars on his ribs next time you see him."

"What?" I breathed. I tried to hide my shock, my hate, and my frustration.

I couldn't believe how real Peakes was being with me. He had just opened his mouth and started pouring out everything. So Ron had been right about everything. Both Sondheim and Peakes wanted high Ministry positions, and Rose was just the luck of the draw. But had he tortured Ron to get Rose to do it? Had he threatened the life of all the Weasleys to make her do it?

"You tortured Ron?"

"A few times, actually," he answered carelessly. "Then obliviated him afterwards. So of course, Mr. Weasley won't know why he has scars on his ribs now. But seeing her father bleeding, crying, and screaming in front of her had the more radical effect I had been looking for. The second time I did it was when Rose agreed. She went to Branstone's home with the intention of going through with it, but when I saw Jarvis at work the next day, clearly Rose hadn't gone through with it. It took a third torture session to make Rose finally do it."

"So she did do it?" I gasped. A part of me had the sinking, gut-wrenching feeling that she did, but hearing it from Peakes was a whole different level. I couldn't believe it. Rose. A killer.

The photographs of Jarvis Branstone's body with the four gaping stab holes flashed across my mind.

"She did it." Peakes' voice was cool, eerie, and domineering. I dropped down into the arm chair in the corner of my god-father's old office as I was struck painfully with the horrible truth.

Now I was stuck. Rose had done the killing, so would Peakes' confession about blackmailing and threatening her be enough to keep Rose out of Azkaban?

I held onto my head as I tried to grasp what Peakes was telling me. He looked at me, that cool smirk on his face, and he actually chuckled cruelly. "Hard time believing it, huh?"

"I just...How could she? She's so...She really killed him?" I asked.

"All right, so I couldn't get her to fully do it. In the end, I Imperiurised her."

Oh my god.

The truth in its entirety. It had finally come out. After months of waiting, of trying, prying, and desperation. The truth had come out, and it wasn't a pretty one. Ron and I had some things figured out, but I couldn't believe what all we had missed.

Ron had been tortured. Three times and he didn't even know it; only Rose and Peakes had known. Rose had been given everything in the book from blackmailing, to threatening, to an ultimatum, and still in the end she had been Imperiurised.

This was it. This was enough. I could get Peakes convicted with this.

I quickly rose to my feet and headed for the door, but Peakes gave his wand a flourish, and the door bolted shut. I turned to face him. What did he have in mind?

"Not so fast. Where do you think you're going?" he questioned.

"I've heard enough. I may not care about Rose's fate anymore, but I'm still human," I snarled. "What you did was horrible. I just want to have some time to myself before the trial begins."

"Bull shit," said Peakes. His voice, which had seemed so calm, collected, and at peace, suddenly grew intense and cold. His ulterior motive was suddenly beginning to show. "You think I would just tell you everything free of charge? I'm not letting you go anywhere."

"I won't tell anyone," I said, the exact opposite of my intentions, growing stiff.

I watched Peakes move from behind his desk and approach me. The short man who still intimidated me to the core moved in front of me, a snicker forming on his face.

"Don't play me for a fool, Lupin," he sneered.

What was I to do? He was coming on to me forcefully. I had the sudden feeling that he wouldn't be letting me leave this room with this information. How did I go about this?

I stood my ground, keeping my head held high and my shoulders back. I towered over Peakes, and I didn't let him see my fear. If he knew I was afraid, my composure would rapidly vanish.

"Why not?" I choked out. I tried to keep my voice from cracking. "Why not play you for a fool? You were fool enough to fall for my trick that day in the observation room. Just like you were fool enough now to confess to me what you did. Now everyone will now."

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the handheld wizarding radio I had enchanted to now record conversations. My entire conversation with Peakes was now recorded on this radio. I shook it in my grasp with a proud snicker. I slipped it back into my pocket as Peakes' face grew red.

"You fucker!" he shouted.

Then he was lunging at me. His hands were outstretched, no wand in his grasp. I put up my hands in defense, trying to ready myself for the hand-to-hand combat I knew Peakes would instigate. His long, thick fingers found my neck where he took purchase. I let out a choked, gurgling sound as gravity pulled his body and my neck towards the ground.

My left hand swung up and into his stomach as I bent forward with his hold around my neck. His grip tightened, twisting, trying to choke me or break my neck, one of the two. I punched him repeatedly in the stomach, blow after blow, but his grip wouldn't loosen. I could feel the oxygen leaving my lungs. I could feel myself growing short of breath, my vision beginning to blacken around the edges. He was keeping his hold even as I delivered punch after punch to his stomach. Knowing it wouldn't be enough, I swiftly raised my knee, and with his flailing body, it rammed into his stomach.

It collided with a horrendous smack, and Peakes let out a shout of pain. He stumbled back, losing his hold on my neck so he could grab his stomach in pain, trying to ignore the urge to retch, but he recovered before I could even strike him again. He raised his fist, prepared to punch, but I held mine high at the ready, and our forearms collided as we blocked the others blow. Again and again, we sent fists flying, knees reeling up into the others stomach or sometimes forehead.

We were a mess of grunting, groaning, and bleeding men. He had kicked me in the stomach twice, and my nose was oozing blood from one of his punches.

My hands reached out and found his thick neck. I grabbed on and whipped my body around, using his neck for support. He bent and shouted under the pressure, and with my body in its new location, I slammed Peakes forcefully into the wall of his office. Pictures were disturbed and fell to the floor with violent shatters, sending glass everywhere. It crunched under our feet as we stumbled, my hands tightening about Peakes' throat as I attempted to strangle him.

I had never had a physical fight with anyone before. This was entirely new territory to me, but when a fist was coming at me or someone's hands were around my throat, instinct kicked in. I felt like I knew what to do; I knew what I had to do to get myself out of this. Peakes wasn't fighting me just to fight me; he was fighting me to get rid of me. To eliminate me from his path. To kill me. And I would have to retaliate just the same. I had to protect myself, even if it meant killing Peakes along the way. I had the proof in my pocket; Rose could still be acquitted even if Peakes was dead.

He was growing purple in the face when he sent his right hook flying towards my jaw. It collided with a terrible impact, and I knew he had dislocated my jaw. I fell back, stumbling into his desk. He leaped towards me with new vigor, his hands outstretched and fingers determined to twist my neck.

"You bastard! I'll kill you for ruining my plan!" he screamed. I kicked and thrashed, trying to throw him off. For such a short man, he was surprisingly muscular and heavy. His knees jabbed into my stomach as he landed on top of me, and I dry-heaved at the impact as he began to strike me in the face. "It was flawless! No one would have known! We would have done it if it weren’t for you, you crazy son of a bitch!"

I said nothing to him in reply, only grunted as I squirmed, trying to fight him off of me. As one of his hands jabbed into my neck, cutting off my windpipe and pinning me down, his other dove into my pocket and pulled out the radio.

"No!" I gurgled out as he dangled the radio above me like the threat it was. I couldn't let him destroy the radio. It was evidence. It was the proof.

I thought of Rose going back to Azkaban. Of Ron with scars on his ribs, unknowing of where they had come from. Of my own life as everything seemed to go dark. So much relied on this one moment. I had to do this.

Adrenaline. It shot through me, coursing through my veins, and with a heavy scream I reached over my head and snatched a few of his quills from his desk. I bunched them together in my hands, and with no remorse, I drove the quills into his stomach. His blood spread across my fingers, pooling onto my t-shirt with the pull of gravity. He grunted, and I knew it wouldn't be enough to kill him. Not now. I had only wounded him. But I took his moment of shock as an opportunity. I pulled the three quills out of his body and forcefully rammed them back in. This time I left them there and then kicked him directly where the quills were embedded into his stomach, forcing them deeper in.

He howled in pain, and I shoved him off of me. His body collapsed to the ground, and I fell on top of him, my hands reaching for the radio still clasped between his desperate fingers. He held a firm grip, but in his weakened state, I succeeded. I held the radio in my hands.

Victory. Success. I held it all in my hands, and I felt proud. Proud that I had finally done it.

Now I just had to apparate myself the hell out of there. I was just beginning to feel that pull in my stomach when Peakes let out a scream, and he jumped on me with full force.


We were sucked in together, and together we were a mess of fighting limbs, tearing flesh and clawing. Splinched.

Chapter 32: Truth Will Out
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I dropped into the Wizengamot alone. I had shaken off Peakes in the process, and I don't know where he had been left.

As soon as my feet touched down on the tile of the courtroom, I knew something was wrong. Really wrong. My right side was numb, and suddenly I was soaked. Soaked in what? I looked down.


It was my blood. Everywhere. It coated my entire right side, and I was aware of it coating the inside of my mouth. It pooled beneath my feet, and I collapsed onto my knees with the sudden loss of energy. I couldn't stand; I couldn't move. I only rolled involuntarily onto my uninjured side, holding the radio to my chest with my uninjured arm.

Splinched. I had been splinched in an attempt to apparate here.

I wasn't even aware of the Wizengamot around me until there were hands on me. Prodding, poking, pulling my shirt off. Doing what, I don't know. I had gone numb. I couldn't feel. My eyes drifted shut with the urge to pass out, but I knew I had to stay awake. I was here for a reason; I had put myself through this for a reason.

"Mr. Lupin!"


It was Sondheim.

"What's happened to you?!" His voice seemed to be a million miles away, in a completely different world. He seemed so far away from me as my world began to fade.

"Splinched," I gurgled, choking on my blood. I coughed and spat it all over the courtroom floor.

Then I finally looked around, and the first pair of eyes that I met weren't who I was expecting. I was expecting to look into Sondheim's scared eyes, but instead I found the eyes of the woman I love. Rose. There she was in all her beauty, her weakness. She grew pale at the sight of me, and I could see how frightened she was, how vulnerable she was as she sat shackled to that domineering chair.

My eyes moved from her as I had to deposit another pool of my blood that had formed in my mouth.

"Get me the nearest Healer you can find!" shouted Sondheim, a demand.

He was trying to save me. Is it really that bad? I couldn't move. Not even if I tried. I couldn't see the damage that had been done to me by Peakes, but was it really that bad?

There was some scurrying from near the doors, and I then knew that the security guards had bolted from the courtroom to find me a Healer or the proper medicinal products.

Where was Peakes? If I had managed to apparate here alone, then I knew Peaks would be here shortly. Perhaps he had taken this small amount of time to heal the stab wounds I had inflicted upon him.

"Who splinched you?" Sondheim demanded to know.

Wow, was he really worried about my well-being?

"Jimmy Peakes," I groaned.

The pain was becoming unbearable. I couldn't tolerate it anymore. My world was starting to grow dark around the edges, and my vision blurred.

I could see Sondheim's lips move with another question, but I couldn't hear him. Did he believe me? I tried to push the radio towards Sondheim, but he didn't seem to care about it in this moment. If only he knew its significance! I could tell he was more worried about my well-being rather than anything else.

All I could hear now was a high-pitched ringing. If he wasn't going to listen to the radio, then I would tell him! I said over the ringing, wondering if I was shouting or not, but I couldn't tell. I could be whispering for all I could tell. "Give me Veritaserum. Give it to me. Give it to Rose. Give me Veritaserum!"

"Teddy!" I could finally make out another voice. It was Ron. Ron was coming to my rescue.

He knelt down next to him; I knew it was him from his blur of red hair.

I rambled more about Veritaserum. About the radio, trying to push it to someone coherent and important enough to listen to it and end the case then and there. I was aware of everyone else demanding I receive medical attention, but I shook my head in protest and began to shout more about Veritaserum and the radio. I wanted to reveal the truth! I had to before I went unconscious! I was so close to freeing her. I had all the answers. Only me. If I didn't do it now, no one would ever know!

Ron was prodding at my arm, fumbling with things, and I wondered just what he was doing. I couldn't see the damage; I didn't know how badly I was hurt, nor could I feel it anymore. I could only feel the pool of blood I was lying in.

"Ted," Ron gasped quickly. He had tears in his eyes, and he seemed to be searching for some escape to pull him from this nightmare. "Stay with me. Keep your eyes open, all right? Just keep looking at me. Everything's going to be fine. You can't take the serum now. This is...Don't worry about that. Just stay with me."

"What...?" I moaned in pain. Why? Why was he so worked up? Why wouldn't he let me free his daughter? Why now after everything...?

Then it hit me. It hit me hard in my chest, and I felt what little blood was left in my veins begin to boil.

I whispered with a cry. "Am I dying?"

Ron didn't answer me, and this sent a wave of panic running through me. I asked again, this time louder, demanding my answer.

"R-Ron, am I dying? Am I going to die?"

"No!" he finally spluttered out, but I could see the defeat in his eyes. Oh, he was putting on a strong, brave mask.

Then I knew the truth. My injury was bad. I was dying.

But I didn't have time to think this over. Not now.

There was another loud crack from within the courtroom. Silence fell over everyone like an eerie blanket. From beside me, Ron and Geoffrey looked towards the newcomer. I didn't have to look to know who it was. I knew it was Peakes. Rose let out a scream of bloody murder. I guess now, here in the Wizengamot, with the truth coming out, her fear of him came unchecked. It now made sense to me. How she would quiver with fear around him, fall into silence and appear guarded to her every word and move. She had always been afraid of him, terrified of him, of what he could do and what he had done. How had I not seen it before?

I thought back to that day at the summer house when Ruckman came by to inform us of the trial. He had mentioned Percy running for office, and Rose had been terrified to the core. It now made sense to me. The whole reason for this escapade was for Sondheim to be Minister and for Peakes to be Head. Of course they would have eliminated any other obstacles within their way after Jarvis. Percy would have been one of those obstacles, and as such, Rose knew he posed a threat for running. She had feared for his safety.

It all made sense.

Everyone grew still, speechless. No one knew how to react as bodies surrounded me. I felt like they were trying to protect me, especially Ron as he jumped to his feet and held out his arms to guard me from Peakes. As he shifted from foot to foot, splattering sounds occurred as he stood in my blood.

"You stay away from him!" shouted Ron.

My own protector. Like a father. How I loved him now.

My weak and only mobile hand fumbled around with the radio. I gently swatted the back of Ron's leg with it, grunting. "No, Ron. He's mine."

Everyone looked at me. The expressions on their face showed they thought me crazy, but I didn't care. I looked to Rose, panting and thrashing, beating at her chains to try and stop me. After these days of not seeing her, she still cared. She cared for me. She always had; that much was evident now.

"Teddy, no!" she screamed through her tears.

As I watched her desperately struggle to keep me safe, I mustered my courage and strength. I could do this. I could finish this for good. I had gone through too much to have it end like this. I was so close. Placing my hands on the cold tile in the pool of my blood, I stood. My right side temporarily gave out. I fell to my knees, sliding on the tile in my blood. It was like I was bathing in the red liquid. Ron helped me to my feet, ignoring the blood now getting everywhere.

I shoved the radio into his chest where he fumbled with the thing, looking at me in question. I exhaled heavily, trying to find the strength to breathe.

"Proof," I droned. At first I felt weak. Then, with each word, I felt stronger. I wanted the Wizengamot to hear me, to feel my shock, hatred, and pain. "That Jimmy Peakes tortured Ron Weasley! Framed Scorpius Malfoy, and blackmailed, threatened, and Imperiurised Rose Weasley to do the killing all for Harry Potter's job!"

Ron looked to me in shock, blanching and losing his breath. His hands flew to his ribs, covered by his shirt, and the expression he held showed that he had been given all the answers he wanted.

Jimmy Peakes glared at me, his teeth bared, his shoulders tense with his hatred, his wand between his fingers. He still had the holes in his shirt from where I had stabbed him earlier, the fabric stained, but there were no holes in his stomach anymore. Like I had assumed, he had most likely poured some Essence of Dissany over it to heal what he could.

"You asshole!!" he screamed, and he was leaping forward.

Everyone seemed to regain their thoughts as Peakes jumped for me. They moved out of our way and let Peakes and I have it. My uninjured arm raised and punched him as hard as I could when he got close enough. My fist collided with his jaw, and together we fell to the ground, once again beating at one another with full force. We rolled along the cold tile in my blood. We were sopping, throwing punches, Peakes shouting obscenities while I just tried to maintain use of my body before it gave out.

"You've ruined everything! I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"

"I won't let you get away with this!" I shouted in return, kicking him once with my good leg, and he went flying. "Did you think you could get away with torturing Ron to make Rose do you bidding?! Did you think you get could away with framing Malfoy and forcing her to do it?!"

"It was perfect until you came along!!" he roared and was pointing his wand at me.

"Stop it! The both of you!" shouted Sondheim.

Peakes, in his deranged state with blood pouring out of his mouth and nose, pointed his wand at Sondheim and yelled horrifically. "Silence! Shut up, Geoffrey!"

He gave his wand a flourish, and everyone in the room but Peakes and myself was silenced and forced along the seats lining the Wizengamot. Rose remained chained to the chair in the middle of the room, thrashing and screaming. "Teddy, don't fight him!" screamed Rose.

"Leave it alone, Rosie!" I shouted to her. I couldn't worry about her now. "Let me handle this!"

"You're not risking your life for me!" she screamed.

"I'm dying anyways," I muttered.

This is what it would come down to. Peakes and I.

I raised my wand, prepared to stun Peakes, but the words that left his mouth sent me to the floor.

"Crucio!" Peakes shouted. Apparently his thought process of breaking the law already in front of the Wizengamot court didn't stop him from breaking another. The Unforgiveable left his mouth with no regrets and with the full intention to inflict pain.

I had never had the Cruciatus Cruse placed on me. I had no idea what it felt like. I tried to prepare myself for the pain. Before it struck me, I could see everyone through my peripherals. Rose tried to stand, and her scream tore through the courtroom. I could see Ron, forced to stand along the wall lining the Wizengamot. He was thrashing in an attempt to rush to my aide, and his mouth was open wide with a scream, a look of hate and horror on his face. He would be screaming if he could. Sondheim from beside him put an arm on his shoulder to console him as I was hit in the chest with the curse.

I fell to the floor, collapsing in the large pool of my blood. It coated the back of my head, staining my hair red, and I released violent thrashes. The pain was unbearable. Unimagineable, and the look on Peakes' face terrified me. It was relentless.

"You will die!" I heard Peakes scream, and I believed him.

I had lost so much blood. My entire right side had been skinned completely, exposing flesh, and my clothes were ripped. I could no longer feel my right side. I had given the proof to Ron. He held it in his hands now. Rose would be freed. I had done what I had set out to do. I could die now, couldn't I? With the pain of the Cruciatus Curse drowning me and pulling me under, I wished to succumb to death. I wanted it to take me. I'd accept death gladly.

I could hear Rose screaming, screaming for Peakes to stop, begging for him to lift it, for me to just hold on a little longer. Why did I have to hold on? Ron had the truth. Surely someone would tame Peakes. Sooner or later. He would be brought down. In the end. I was bleeding out, losing consciousness as each second passed. I continued to thrash on the floor, waiting for the moment when Peakes would lift the curse. It had to come soon, right? Either that or death.

With each passing second, I grew more and more desperate. Somewhere, deep inside me, I hoped for death.

Death didn't take me. Not even after I begged for it in my mind. Not yet. There was still a fight left me in me.

Finally he did lift it, and I scrambled for my wand with my only mobile hand. My right arm was dragging by my side as shreds of my skin fell from my arm.

I couldn't hold myself up much longer; I didn't know if I could handle it anymore. I was numb. Numb all over. Why wasn't I dead yet?

I watched Peakes raise his wand, and in that brief moment, I knew I wouldn't last much longer. I couldn't go on. If this continued, I would be dead soon and Peakes would have won. And I wouldn't have that. I had to fight; I had to give it my all. Just one more time.

So I raised my wand, and with a strength I didn't know I had left, I shouted. "Expelliarmus!"

Peakes' wand went flying from his hand, and before he could react even further, my next move was already leaving my lips. "Petrificus Totalus! Incarcerus!"

Peakes fell to the floor, still as stone, and ropes shot out from the end of my wand. They spiraled about the room and wrapped Peakes within their bonds, and he was secured. Immobile and unable to fight back. That was how it was supposed to be. The Wizengamot could deal with him from here.

I limped forward, taking three uneasy steps, and I hovered over Peakes' still body. I had done it; triumph fueled me as I leaned over him. His eyes moved within their sockets, desperate, pleading with me as realized he had failed. I actually snickered, and I hissed to him.

"You will never hurt anyone I love ever again," I spat. "You will never hurt Ron again; you will never hurt Rose again. You won't touch them. I should kill you for what you did, and it would be considered justified and self-defense. I could do it, you know? But I won't. I think the Kiss is a far better punishment for you."

Then, looking at the fear that reached his eyes at my words, I turned away from him. I limped away from him, and when all my energy left, I fell to my knees. Before my body could give out, I raised my wand to the Wizengamot, still pinned against the walls of the courtroom.

"Finite Incantatem," I breathed.

A gush of air left my wand and spread throughout the room. The stiff bodies of those lining the walls exhaled and sighed in relief. Their voices and deep breaths filled the room once more; the door to the Wizengamot flung open with the new privilege to do so.

I left everyone to their own devices. Everything was right. Peakes was restrained; he wasn't going anywhere. I had done it. Rose would be freed, and Peakes would pay for what he did. Ron had been given answers I didn't even know he had been seeking; Harry could get his job back. Everything would be right.

I dropped my wand and fell to the ground, unable to hold myself up anymore. Involuntarily, I rolled onto my uninjured side, my splinched right side facing the cold air.

Everyone came rushing back to my side. The guards who had been sent for help had now returned with a Healer in tow with a large vial of Essence of Dissany. He dumped the entire thing onto my right side, and it slowly attempted to mend itself back together. My senses were beginning to weaken; I watched the Healer's lips move, his face contorted with a worried expression, but I couldn't hear him. I didn't try either. Maybe I didn't want to know.

"Please!" I could hear Rose's voice. Of course I could. I could hear her anywhere. "Let me see him! Let me hold him!"

She wanted to hold me.

Ron cradled my head, and Sondheim touched my cheek with great care. He gave me a desolate look, and then he looked over his shoulder. His voice, though, was clear as day.

"Unchain Miss Weasley!" Sondheim demanded, snapping his fingers and pointing to the chair in which Rose was strapped to as Sondheim held my head.

Oh my god. He's unchaining her; he was going to let her hold me. Happiness filled me; I didn't care about everything else. I only cared about feeling her touch one more time.

The guards raced to Rose, still chained in the center of the Wizengamot. They fumbled with the shackles, and as soon as she was freed of her bonds, she was bolting from that chair. She ran directly to my side, and she fell to her knees beside me in the pool of blood we were all sitting in. She looked frantic. Panic was stricken across her face. She was pale, and tears were running down her cheeks. Shaking, she pushed her father’s hands away from me and replaced them with her own. She pulled my head into her lap, her fingers going through my hair.

I felt my cheeks dampen, and I realized it was from her tears. The salty liquid ran down my cheeks and seeped between my lips. I could taste them as I panted, desperate to breathe.

"Why did you do that, Teddy? Why?" she sobbed desperately.

"Because I would do...anything...for you," I sighed, searching for my breath.

"You're so stupid," she cried. "So stupid."

"It's done with. You're free," I whispered.

I felt my world grow cold. My vision grew hazy, and my senses diminished. I couldn't hear or see much. I couldn't feel either. This must have registered with those around me, for Rose started shaking me frantically. "N-N-No! No, no. Teddy, look at me. Everything's going to be okay, all right? You'll be okay. I won't leave you. I'm right here. I'm sorry for what I said and did; I was so stupid. I do love you, Teddy."

Relief. I was so relieved to hear this from her. Perhaps seeing me like this had made her realize her true feelings; I knew she had always loved me. There was no way she didn't, and I knew that. I was so happy she had finally realized that.

"I love you, Rose," I whispered in return.

"Oh, Teddy. Why did you do this? Why? N-Now you're...You're...We should be together now that we can! And now that I know I love you! But...but now you're..."

Dying. I wanted to finish for her, but I couldn't find the voice. I'm dying.

"R-Rosie," I choked as she rocked me. I thought back to that day in her bedroom when I told her I could only be her friend and nothing more until I was her first choice. "Do you love me for me?"

"Yes, Teddy," she gasped. "I do. I love you for you, and I'm so sorry I'm too late."

"Never too late..." I coughed out. She kissed my forehead as I turned my head to dispose of another dollop of blood. "Your love is enough."

"I love you with all of my heart," she reassured.

My world was fading all too quickly. All I could do was think of Rose, holding me so lovingly. I could hear only her voice, but it all seemed so distant. I didn't know if she was whispering or screaming, but her tears, frantic breathing, and rocking suggested she was mortified and along the lines of shouting. My eyes closed for a split second, and I wondered if this was the end.

Had it finally come? Was I dying?

Is this how it would end? Me dying in her arms in exchange for her freedom? I'd give my life gladly, but the reality of it all terrified me.

I could feel Rose's panic as she faded from my vision. I could still vaguely hear her screaming my lines and something else I couldn't decipher. Maybe she was telling me she loved me. Oh, what I would give to hear her say those words. Whatever it was, her words finally came to an abrupt halt, and I felt her lips upon mine.

Kissing me. She was kissing me. And rightly so this time. It wasn't me as Scorpius Malfoy, impersonating him, and it wasn't Rose kissing me out of loneliness. She was kissing me for all the right reasons. Because she didn't want to lose me, because she knew now that she loved me.

I wished I could envelop her into my arms and hold her tight until my last breath, for my saving grace didn't seem to be anywhere near, but I couldn't move. My arms were limp by my side. All I could manage was a weak push of my lips against hers.

She kissed me deeper, and I sighed into her mouth. I felt the breath leave my lungs, and I thought maybe this was finally it; I would die with Rose kissing me. But maybe I would just slip into unconsciousness. Maybe I would see her beautiful face again, maybe I would hear her voice again, and maybe I would kiss her again. I didn't know what was happening to me in that moment, but I couldn't do anything other than hope and pray for the chance to live on.

Then I lost all sensation, and my vision faded. I welcomed whatever darkness took over me.

Chapter 33: A New Beginning
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Author's Note: Only two chapters remain to be posted! That feels so crazy to say! I just want to give a quick thank you to all my faithful readers, reviewers, and all of those who nominated/voted for the awards this story has won. Everyone who has supported this story and my ambition to write it. You are all awesome, and without you, this story would never have made it this far! I can only hope that the conclusion of this story lives up to your expectations.

Thank you so much.

And also, a fair warning: sensitive topic chapter!


Sterile. Linen sheets. Soap.

These were the smells that greeted me when I awoke. My vision was hazy, but it was filled with white. I blinked rapidly, trying to clear the haze from my eyesight. I inhaled deeply, trying to gather more than just the strange three clean things I could smell.

Was I dead? I thought I had died. This was heaven, wasn't it? Bleeding out on the cold tile like I had, there was no way I wasn't dead. The right Healers and supplies hadn't gotten to me in time.

My vision finally cleared up, and I found myself staring at a white ceiling. I stirred, and there was a rustling noise. It felt scratchy almost, starchy, and there was a rustling noise that came with it. Bed sheets, I finally realized. Unmistakable now.

I was in a bed. The sterile bed sheets, the smell of soap, the overwhelming white that seemed to fill my vision; slowly it was beginning to fall into place. A hospital. I was in a hospital.

Did that mean I was alive?

I tried to move so I could gather more of my surroundings than just the plain white ceiling that was blindingly bright. I squeezed my eyes shut as I tried to move, not ready for the light. I felt my body refusing my desire to move as I tried to fidget. I was unsuccessful. My left side was willing, my arm moving to throw back the covers on that side of the bed.

When only half of my bed sheets had obeyed, I knew something was wrong. Really wrong. My right side wasn't participating. Did I even dare look? Did I even have a right side anymore? Mustering my courage, I looked down to my right side. My right hand was there, still fully intact, and I had all five fingers. Nothing was missing.

So I tried to move my arm, hand, or fingers again. Even just a twitch. Nothing. Why couldn't I move? I begged myself to move, desperate, groaning as I tried. Frustrated, I reached over and grabbed my right wrist with my left hand. I lifted it with my left hand, my fingers hanging limp, and then I let go of it. It dropped onto the bed, limp as a rag doll.

I groaned as the realization dawned on me. "No, no, no," I moaned.

Tears filled my eyes. My right side is paralyzed. I'm paralyzed...

I moaned, never stopping my attempt to move my right arm. My arm had to move; it had to. There was no way I was paralyzed. I was a mess of flailing sheets and failed attempts with long slurs of curse words and maledictions when the door flew open.

It was Harry. "You're awake!"

His surprise quickly subdued once he saw me. He rushed to my side, his hands going on, and he pinned my left side down, leaning over me, cooing to me.

"Shh," he said, holding me down until I calmed. He then resulted in pulling up my sheets and pushing back my hair. "Stop. Just stop. It's not going to happen."

"Why?" I demanded to know. "Why not? What's wrong?"

"Your right arm has been paralyzed, Ted," said Harry, and the words sent a chill to my heart. Panic went over me; I didn't want this. I wanted to be able to move. "It may only be temporary. There's no way of telling yet, but you may be able to move your right arm again. Someday. Don't worry about that now. Right now you just need to rest."

"W-What's happened?" I finally asked after I calmed myself. I needed to know. I needed to know if it was over with, if it had all finally come to an end. "What happened with the hearing?"

"Don't worry," he tried to calm me again. He sat down on the edge of my pristine hospital bed, careful to not sit on my right hand even thought I wouldn't have been able to feel the difference. "You did it. I'm sorry I didn't have the faith in you that I should have had. I never should have doubted you."

"That's great, Harry," I said quickly, "but Rosie. What about Rose?"

He grinned at my anxiety. I don't know why he found it funny, but all right.

"She's been cleared of all charges," he said with a smile.

I had never been so relieved in my entire life. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to ask more, but there was a knock on my door. Why couldn't people just leave us alone?! I was desperate for more answers!

Both Harry and I turned to face my visitor, who had opened the door to let his identity be known. There was Geoffrey Sondheim, standing in the middle of my doorway. My brow furrowed. What was he doing here? Harry straightened at the sight of our Minister, and we both waited for Sondheim to explain himself.

"Erm," he began uneasily. "Mr. Potter, would you mind giving me a minute with Mr. Lupin?"

Harry tensed and he didn't move. He set his mouth in a tight-line, and his words surprised me. "I'd rather not, Minister. Anything you need to say to my godson you can say in front of me."

"Actually - "

"It's okay, Harry," I said quickly.

I could tell Harry didn't want me to be bombarded with Ministry business already. I agreed with him; I didn't want that just yet, but Harry didn't know the full story. Ron didn't even know the full story. No one did except for Geoffrey and I still, and because of that, I found that - on some level - I did want to speak to him in private about what had gone down with Peakes.

Surprised, Harry abruptly turned to face me. He appraised my expression, trying to determine if I was being serious or not. I kept a straight face, holding eye contact. I was dead serious, and when he finally believed this, he swallowed and nodded.

I smiled to my godfather as he rose and dismissed himself. Geoffrey was prudent to make sure the door was firmly shut before approaching my bed.

"Ted," he greeted me with a genuine smile. I looked at him in confusion even as he reached out his left hand. I looked at it in questioning until I realized what he had intended. A handshake. I then pursed my lips, knowing why Geoffrey had offered me his left hand to shake with when it was custom to shake with your right. He knew of my condition. He knew I couldn't move my right arm, so I awkwardly reached over my body to shake his left hand.

"Minister," I replied in greeting.

He pulled the chair along the wall up to my bed and lowered himself down, a serious look taking over his face. I watched him, anticipating his next words, but he seemed to lose face as he looked at me. Any intentions of a specific conversation left as his eyes met mine. He appeared lost. He was a blubbering mess when he finally did speak.

"The Wealseys and Potters cannot thank you enough for you what you did," he said, still trying to sound more eloquent than he appeared. "You were brave, you know? Jim - and myself actually - underestimated you at all turns."

"What are you doing?" I asked, stopping him before he could give me any more praise. I didn't want to hear it from him. I knew what he had done, and I wanted an explanation for it. "Stop trying to act like you and I both don't know that you were a part of this whole thing as well."

"I know," he finally said, and the reason for his vision suddenly became evident. "That's why I'm here. You never mentioned my name in the Wizengamot that day - "

His words made me pause and think. That day? Was it not the same day? How many days had passed since I had nearly bled out on the Wizengamot floor? I put the thought aside for later.

" - and for that I am grateful. I know what I did can potentially jeopardize my career, especially with Peakes facing the fate he does and with what you know. I need to know what Peakes told you about my involvement in his scheme, and I want to explain myself."

"Then explain," I said sharply. I didn't have much sympathy for a man who had schemed with a master killer.

"I knew who was behind it all along; I knew what he did and what he planned to do. I didn't want him to go through with it. Countless times I tried to tell him not to. But he has a way with words. You and I both know this now. He bribed me with the position I now have. Minister for Magic. The public has always liked me; we knew I would be a great candidate and I could win the election with enough campaigning. He said he would make it easy for me; he'd give me the opportunity to be Minister, as long as I gave him something in return. Harry Potter's job. I didn't know he meant killing the Minister until he had already had his first torture session with Ron Weasley, forcing his daughter to watch. By then I wanted out of it, but he said I knew too much. He took to threatening my own family, and I did nothing more to stop him..."

Without planning to at all, I found myself sympathizing for Geoffrey. Like Rose, he had been manipulated by Peakes and then threatened. He was just another victim.

"I never meant for this to go the way it did. Jim wanted to frame Scorpius Malfoy; the family names of known Death Eaters are still vulnerable and are closely being watched for a small slip up. He knew it would be easy to get away with Malfoy. Rose was to simply do the deed. His deal with her - she would get off, free of charge, no conviction, nothing at all. She wouldn't have anything to do with it. But then she started to resist him. He was fed up with her; he was tired of waiting and he was tired of resisting. So he Imperiurised her, and while he had her under the spell, he broke his deal with Rose Weasley. He made her pull out a strand of her hair - the single source of DNA found for her - just because he was mad at her resisting and didn't care anymore if she was convicted. Then the hearing came along, and while Peakes didn't give a shit what happened to who, I knew someone had to be convicted. It was then up to me to decide who to convict, for it could go either way."

I thought back to Scorpius Malfoy's trial, how unfair it had been and how biased it had seemed. Now I knew that it had been intentional. "You chose to focus on convicting Malfoy."

"Yes," sighed Sondheim. "That is why his trial went the way it did."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"I want you to know...that I'm not Jimmy Peakes. I'm not like him. I never wanted to be, and had I known how far he would go, I would have..." he faltered, looking desolate.

"You want to know if I'm going to say anything..." I suggested.

"Are you?"

"I don't know yet..." I admitted.

How strange. To know you hold the power of your Minister for Magic's fate in your own hands. If I were to open my mouth, it would be bye-bye to Sondheim.

"Well," he sighed in defeat, "no matter what you decide, I assume I can't persuade you? I haven't done anything to deserve your reasoning, but no matter what you decide, I will no longer be the Minister for Magic."

"What?" I asked, stunned.

"You may decide to share my involvement with Peakes. The world will not want a Minister who agreed to such a scheme, and I will be overthrown. There's no doubt about it. However, even if you do not speak of my wrongdoings, I am resigning. Next week. The world does not need a Minister like me. Because he was in the most recent campaign and our race was so close, Percy Weasley will be Minister, no matter what you decide."

I pursed my lips, thinking hard. I didn't like being in such a delicate position. I know I had been in the same position the past few months, knowing of Peakes' evil nature and having the potential to overthrow him, but that was different. Convicting Peakes and sharing his true identity was the right thing to do. But Sondheim was a different story. What was the right thing to do here?

Had he really been just another victim of Jimmy Peakes' ploy?

I thought back to that day at the Wizengamot when I had bled out on the floor, anticipating my death at any moment. He had been by my side; his panic had been evident, and he seemed to care. I remember thinking he truly cared about my well-being, and he wanted me to rid of Peakes. He had wanted it as badly as I had. Perhaps he had just been tied down by Peakes' threats, and when he saw the opportunity to be rid of them, he had found his ability to stand up for himself.

Should I really ruin his good-standing with the world by sharing something when he could still very well be a good man?

My first condition would for Sondheim to not be Minister anymore. If I were to tell the truth, it would be to get Sondheim out of office, but he was stepping down anyway. So was the plausible destruction of his reputation really worth it?

The words left me before I had even thought it all the way through. "I will never tell a single soul," I breathed.

His shoulders dropped significantly, and for the first time, Geoffrey Sondheim let his guard down. His head fell and he looked to his lap as relief washed over him. "Oh, thank you," he whispered. "Thank you, Ted. Out of all the mistakes I've made in my life, this one is by far the worst. I cannot thank you enough."

I thought back on my own mistakes. How I should have told Rose who I was from the beginning, how I never should have let it become to so bad, how I never should have let Peakes manipulate me, how Rose was right - I should have quit in that very moment.

"I understand," I said in return. "I've made some pretty bad mistakes myself."

Geoffrey started ranting then. "Before I resign, I am going to reinstate Harry as Head Auror. I will personally apologize for the hardships Rose and Scorpius faced, and you...You will get a raise and a promotion. Effectively immediately. You are a great Auror, Ted. Even when everyone underestimated you, you prevailed."

"I don't need a raise and a promotion, Geoffrey," I said quickly. He quickly looked to me with surprise, curiosity furrowing his brow.

"You deserve it," he quickly argued. "In fact, it's well overdue."

"That doesn't matter," I said, and I finally knew where I was going. My words had been getting ahead of me, trying to figure myself out and speaking before I could even think it through. I just trusted them and went with my gut, but now I knew what I needed to do. What I wanted to do, what I should have done a long time ago.

"Sure it does."

"No, it doesn't," I said again, "because I'm resigning. Immediately."

Sondheim looked appalled, but as he analyzed this surprise, the look quickly faded. "I actually can't say I'm surprised," he said as the idea settled in. "You never wanted to be an Auror. It took everything in Harry's arsenal to get you into that department, and now after this, I can understand perfectly why you are resigning."

I nodded, grateful Sondheim understood where I was coming from. "I can't do it anymore," I elaborated. "Let you guys use me for what I can do, and while I know Harry would never take advantage of me like that, Peakes has...He's scared me. Forever. I can't let someone have control over me like that anymore."

"I understand," Geoffrey said kindly. "I will compile your resignation forms as soon as I return to the office."

I nodded and then we fell into a mutual silence. Neither one of us spoke. While we couldn't figure out what to say next, there was still so much to be said. He knew so much on subjects I knew so little of, but I didn't even know where to begin. So I just looked at him desperately, giving him that nudge he needed to begin speaking.

"I'm sure you would like to be filled in," he finally inquired after getting the memo. I nodded, and he pursed his lips, trying to figure out just where to begin. "I suppose you know nothing, then, as Harry was only in here moments before I intruded. You've been unconscious for three days now. You lost tremendous amounts of blood. We thought...We you passed out on the Wizengamot floor, we thought you died. We thought that was it, but then the Healer found your heartbeat and we moved you here immediately. You received quite a few transfusions, and as you can tell, they stitched up your arm. You were only minutes away from losing your entire right arm, Ted. For what it's worth, you're lucky you've only been paralyzed. Besides, your Healer says you may regain the use of it someday. I've been here...just about the entire time, along with Harry, Ron, and Rose of course. Although, we all know Miss Weasley is still recovering. She's fragile. Her father has been making her spend the majority of her time at home for her to recover as well; he promised Harry and himself would be here all the time, and of course they have."

"Rose has been here?" I interrupted. "You mean she's not..."

I faltered. I didn't quite know how to word those thoughts.

"Yes," answered Geoffrey, the beginnings of a smile reaching his face. He actually grinned. "Yes, Miss Weasley has been here. After the whole ordeal, there was a recess until I could get back in the courtroom. As soon as I set foot in there two days ago, I made the sentence. Rose has been cleared of all charges, and Jimmy Peakes faces Azkaban. Perhaps the Kiss, as well. There is also another matter to which I came to speak with you. I can make the call before I resign or leave it up to Percy Weasley to make the choice, but I wanted to know what you believe Jimmy’s fate should be…”

He was looking at me for answers. Answers I didn’t know if I could give. Deciding a man’s fate, that was a huge decision, and yet I had tried to take his life from him that day in the Wizengamot court. I had already decided I wanted to kill him long ago. But now that the threat was over, I had reason to think justly. And Sondheim was really asking for my personal preference?

“I couldn’t decide that…” I weakly argued.

“You have a right to. Granted, you can’t make the call. But I owe it to you to at least know what you want.”

I tried to think reasonably. What if Peakes was to get out of Azkaban? He would come back with a vengeance….It didn’t matter to me if Sirius Black was the only one to ever escape Azkaban; to me, that meant it could be done, and a vile man such as Jimmy Peakes could figure it out if he grew desperate enough. I then thought of Rose. Her safety, the safety of Ron, of Harry. Everyone I love, whom Peakes would then take from me in a heartbeat if he had the chance. All of them. I couldn’t do this again.

The words were out of me before I could help myself. “The Kiss.”

Sondheim nodded. “Very well. It will be done.”

“Will people think it just?” I asked apprehensively.

“Oh, yes,” sighed Geoffrey. “The Kiss has been given to those condemned for less. Now for another matter, Ted. I am embarrassed - for Jim's sake - of what you did for this case. How you were manipulated. That is why this case will be classified as Confidential. Completely shut down as soon as the records are locked up. No one will know, I can promise you that. The case will be signed and filed accordingly where it will never be read, and no one will ever know of what they made you do, and no one will ever know..."

He trailed off, seeming embarrassed. But he pulled himself together and looked to me sternly.

"No one will know what I did as well. No one will know how much of a coward I was. Those involved in the case have signed the report: all of Wizengamot, Harry, Ron, Rose, and myself. All we need is your signature, and we can put this all behind us. If that's what you want."

I listened to Geoffrey and what he was saying very closely. I could read between the lines and figure out why he wanted to classify this case as Confidential. While I did agree in some aspects that yes - I don't want the world to know what I did and what a twisted man I was - I knew why Geoffrey wanted this more than I. He didn't want the world to know of his wrongdoings involving Jarvis' murder. He didn't want anyone to know that he had been threatened and ultimately agreed. He didn't want to seem weak or evil, for that matter, and I could understand how he had gotten everyone else on board as well. Ron most likely wouldn't want the world to know how he had been tortured and then obliviated to forget it entirely, leaving him with scars on his ribs to wonder what happened to him. And Rose. Well, it upsets me to consider the fact that she may want the case to be Confidential so that the world doesn't question her sanity for still loving a man who was blatantly pretending to be someone else. It made perfect sense.

I then thought about what I wanted - how I held the delicate position once more and the balance was in my hands. Geoffrey needed all signatures to sign the Confidentiality Agreement that none of us would speak of the case again. If we didn't sign, then there was no way of holding us accountable for our words. All signatures had to appear to make it valid, and I would be the last to sign.

I thought about how I had pretended to be Malfoy, how I had lied, how Rose had reacted when she found out and how horrified and disgusted she had been with me. I didn't want that, and I didn't want the rest of the world to think that way of me either.

No, I knew what I would do. That settled it. I would sign the agreement. Sondheim was right; I just wanted to put it all behind me and start anew.

Chapter 34: The Lesser of Two Evils
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Author's Note: Only one more chapter after this one! :) Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading, reviewing, and favoriting this story! It means so much to me! Also, thank you so much to everyone who nominated and voted for this story in the Dobbys! That means the WORLD to me!

I hope everyone enjoys this chapter! One more to come.

My recovery at St. Mungo's was an uneventful one. Although after everything that had happened, I didn't feel like complaining much. I was fine with relaxing in the hospital bed, listening to the Weasleys and Potter share stories and fill my ward with laughter. There was always someone visiting me, and this made me happy. While my ward was filled with true sounds of laughter and happy words, I could tell there was something beneath all the happiness. While the happiness was genuine, it performed as a mask as well, a mask for their pity.

They pitied me. They try to pretend like I don't notice, but I do. I notice when they watch me try to move, watch me try to adjust my life to my new circumstance: my inability to move my right arm. The healers are hopeful, but still there is nothing.

I've learned to cope. Whether or not I regain the mobility in my right arm, it doesn't matter. I can cope, and it's not what's important. What's important is that Rose is always by my side, holding my left hand and squeezing it. She never lets go. Even when everyone thinks I'm asleep; her hand is still there, holding mine, stroking mine, kissing mine. At least, this is what I tell myself is important, and I'm able to agree until it comes time for me to do other things such as button my pants. I still can't manage that with the one hand. Then I'm just plain angry.

Rose and I haven't had the opportunity to talk much about the aspect of us. Every time we try, someone else barges in. We've shared perhaps a few kisses since my awakening in the hospital, but nothing more.

I am continuing to take a few elixirs, but my day of release has finally come after being in St. Mungo's for a week. My healer helped me sign my sloppy signature - I guess I'm a lefty now, huh? - as I was discharged, and she gave me my final instructions on taking my elixir to help my arm repair the nerves. She left my ward and I was left to my own devices. I used the shower in my bathroom and began to dress myself.

My arm still hung like a limp rag doll by my side. I was able to step into my boxers and inch them up my legs until they sat snugly against my hips. Then I did the same with my jeans. I managed to get both feet through the legs and then pull them up to my waist, but then I fumbled hopelessly with both flaps of the denim as I tried to button them.

I growled and pressed one flap into my abdomen as I fumbled with the button with my fingers, but it was no use. I let out a groan of frustration and resulted in hopelessly holding up my jeans with my left hand.

I hated this. I hated being unable to use my right arm. I felt incompetent and pathetic, and I needed to be able to do this myself.

Sucking in a growl of frustration, I attempted to button my jeans once again. After minutes of trial and error in all sorts of methods, I heard the door to my ward open and knew someone was in my room. Seeing the emptiness of it, the visitor made themselves known. "Teddy? You in there?"

Ugh. As much as I wanted to see Rose, I didn't want her to see me like this: incompetent and useless. It was degrading.

In agitation, I called to her from the bathroom. "Yeah, I'm in here."

She could sense my irritation. Oh, it was a reassuring moment, and I knew that she truly loved me. She knew me like a book from front to back.

"You okay?"

"Fine, Rose," I said under my breath.

"Need help?"

Fuck, it's like she's a mind reader.

"No, I've got it just - "

But she didn't listen. Of course she didn't listen. The door to my bathroom swung open, and I paused what I was doing. I looked to her from having my waist pressed against the counter with my left hand still desperately attempting to button my jeans. My head shot to her, my body still with my crotch pressed against the cold marble counter.

She took one second to analyze my stance, and then she just giggled and shook her head. Discreetly, she shut the bathroom door and sauntered towards me. I remained still until she snaked her arms around my waist and turned me to face her.

"Let me help," she said quietly and with a grin.

"I don't want help," I said in a throaty voice. "I'm putting on a pair of jeans, for Merlin's sake! I should be able to do it myself."

"Teddy," she said quietly, but it was still in that voice of hers I knew so well for her to be scolding me, "it's okay to accept help."

"Not when I'm simply trying to dress myself!" I snarled, a tad too harsh. I didn't mean to be short or rude. I was just frustrated.

I'm twenty-seven! I can dress myself! It's a daily action that we all have to do, and I can't even do that!

She placed her hand on my chest to silence me. Her warm palm spread out along my flesh, and her fingers crawled over my skin. It came to rest over my heart, and she patted it delicately. In a matter of seconds, she calmed me with just her touch. My breathing returned to normal, and I was able to be still as I watched her move.

"You have basically been paralyzed in your right arm, Teddy. It's going to be awhile before you can use it normally again. You - "

"Exacly!" I blurted out. "This is why I should learn to do it myself! I'm just angry I can't button my fucking pants!"

"Shh," she soothed.

I remained still, just watching her hand as it moved down my stomach. My words were true; I did want to do it myself, but even as I remained a firm believer in this philosophy, I watched Rose's hand get closer to the button on my jeans. Finally I moved my hand without hesitation when she gripped either flap and delicately buttoned them up, tugging up the zipper.

I said nothing. I only remained still and let Rose help me. I watched her grab my belt from the counter and begin to thread it through the loops of my jeans, and she buckled it snuggly.

"Thanks," I finally muttered to her. I pulled my head downward and buried my nose into her hair briefly as she moved past me, inhaling deeply.

Her smile was wide. She was enjoying herself, and I could tell she had some secret thought that even I couldn't decipher. I ignored it as her expression change. Her smirk faded and was replaced by something else, something much more desolate. What was that? Guilt? Her eyes grew sad, and I followed her eyes to discover the source of her sorrow. Her eyes were resting on my arm socket, and I then knew why she grew sad. She stared at my scars, the jagged crosshatch work of the healers to save my arm.

I pursed my lips. Being treated differently due to my condition now was something I was beginning to grow accustomed to. I was getting used to the stares, to the persistent questions on my well-being, but something I had not gotten used to was the sad looks. The looks of pity or guilt. My state wasn't anyone's fault but Peakes' and my own. I did this to myself; why couldn't anyone else see that? Why did everyone have to feel so guilty about what had happened to me? I didn't want anyone to feel this way.

Her fingers moved from my belt buckle up my stomach, across my chest, and to the long line of pink scars. She delicately touched the line of them that circled around my arm socket. At her first touch, she looked to me to see if I felt any pain upon her touch. When I didn't react, she continued. Her fingers traced over the scars that led around the socket, along my neck line to my collar bone, to my back, around to my shoulder blade, and then down the entire length of my arm down into the back of my hand. I stared at the scars she was suddenly so fascinated in; I looked like a patchwork quilt, to be honest. Like bits of skin had been slapped in place and then sewn there again.

I guess I should get used to having my right arm look like a prop from a muggle horror movie, I suppose. I had already been told that while I will eventually regain the mobility in my arm, the scars will never fully fade.

But that's okay. If the Healers had taken any longer than they did, I would have lost my right arm completely. I didn't mind it now; this was the lesser of two evils.

It was chilling. To watch her fingers move across my flesh and to not feel a thing. This was the only thing I hated; I hated not being able to feel her touch. I watched her fingers move along the scars. Finally, when she reached the back of my hand where they finally came to an end, she drew my hand to her lips and kissed the scars. "I'm so sorry," she cried against my hand.

"Don't apologize," I breathed. "You know I would do anything for you."

"Yes, but Ted - "

"But nothing," I said again.

She pulled her face away from my hand, and kindly she placed my limp arm back by my side. With my left hand, I stroked her cheek and brought her gaze to mine. "Now, stop this. Let me see that smile of yours again.

And she did. It returned in an instant, and she was putting it behind her. She moved to pick up my t-shirt.

"Bend over and let your arms hang down," she instructed.

I was grinning now. I ignored my stubborn feeling to be able to dress myself and let Rose do it, for she was certainly loving the moment for whatever reason. I did as she demanded. My right arm was already limp by my side, but I dropped my left and bent over so both of my arms hung to floor. I could hear her shuffling around as I stared at the tops of my bare feet, and finally I felt her slip my hands through the arm holes of the shirt. She cleverly threaded the fabric up my arms, opening for me to slip my head through.

Once my head peaked through the top, rustling my hair, I stood up straight as she tugged it down the remainder of my torso. Then she was just standing before me, gazing into my eyes with her hands planted on my hips. I was aware of her firm grasp loosening into a loving caress. She rubbed my hips, her fingers toying along the line where the rim of my jeans and my t-shirt met. Delicately a few fingers even slipped under the cotton of my shirt and moved gracefully along my skin. I gave a shiver, at loss for words and unknowing of Rose's intentions.

Thankfully, she was the first to speak. Her eyes moved to my immobile arm once again, and I groaned.

"I'm so sorry, Ted," she breathed. "About your arm. It...It wouldn't have happened if not for me. I - "

"Rose, stop it," I said immediately. My fingers flew to her lips where I gently pressed them against the soft skin there. She breathed against my fingers, and as I intended, she silenced. Knowing I wouldn't let her go on about it anymore, she only pressed a kiss to my fingers. "You know I would do anything for you. Anything. I would have killed Peakes in that courtroom right there for you, I would take the Killing Curse for you, I would have taken your place in Azkaban for you. Rose, anything. Out of all the things I would do for you, I only got an arm that is temporarily paralyzed. There are worse things. Things like losing you."

Tears filled her eyes. I know they were at my words and they were happy tears, but I didn't want to make her cry. My strong Rose, one I would have always thought to never shed tears of happiness, was crying. Oh, how we had both changed over this past year. When one escaped the corner of her eye, I moved to kiss it from her cheek. But before I could place my lips there, she rose onto her tiptoes and turned her head. Suddenly she was pushing her lips against mine, and her hands were knotting themselves in my hair.

I was taken aback, but it was a wonderful sensation. I stumbled back with the force of her kiss, and my one working arm wrapped around her and pulled her close.

Kissing because we love each other. Kissing because we want to. Kissing with no lies and only the truth to be shared between us. This was what I wanted all along. This was what I had envisioned. This was the way it was meant to be, and it felt so right.

I melted against her, and we moved with perfect rhythm, bending as one breathed and holding on to the other as we exhaled. We meshed perfectly, and suddenly tears were in my eyes as well.

I had gone through so much. I couldn't believe how this had all begun. It began with a lie. And a huge one at that. Then it had moved to friendship, to infatuation, to love. Then to betrayal and heartbreak, to loneliness. To despair, rejection, and more heartbreak. And now? Now all was forgiven, now Rose understood me, now there was nothing but an understanding of everything we had done together and it was all pardoned, for none of it mattered now because we had one another.

I was quickly embarrassed in front of Rose for my second reason that day. Strange how I had never been embarrassed about anything in front of her, and in one day, there had been two instances. I normally don't care when others see me cry; I don't care if there are rules about men crying. Everyone cries, even if it is only internally for some, but everyone cries, and why should we have to hide it? It's okay for everyone to have weaker moments than others, to break down and just let it all go. Hell, I had broken down and had plenty of those moments in the recent past, but now...? Now I was shedding happy tears, and I didn't want Rose to know it.

But she knew already. We finally broke our kiss, and she made a gasp of surprise as she felt my tears dampen her cheeks. She kissed them away like I had tried to do to hers. I lowered my face to hers, allowing her kisses to shower over me, and I moaned happily as she did so. "Don't you see now how much I love you? I always have, and I always will. Rosie, I love you. I'm him, I promise. That man at the summer house; I'm him, I swear to you."

"Oh, I know you are," she gasped. "I know you are. I see that now, and I was stupid to not see it for so long. I'm sorry it took such drastic measures for me to realize it, but I've loved you all along. Of course I have."

Those words. Rose loves me! Me. Not Scorpius Malfoy me, but Ted Lupin me. Oh, the words were heaven to my ears.

Our lips were all over each other. Hers moved across my cheeks, over my eyelids, to my forehead, to my throat, and back to my lips. Mine were just as busy on her.

"It was just my job, Rose," I kept on ranting. "It was just my job, and I wanted to keep you safe. I had to be on the inside. I never meant to hurt you."

"I know, I know," she cried as I kissed her throat. "I do. I'm so sorry."

We both seemed to be ranting. "I love you," I said quickly.

"I love you too. Did you not hear me in the Wizengamot? When I was holding you?" she asked.

I was reminded of that painful day in the courtroom when I was lying in a pool of my own blood. I remembered not taking in anything except Rose's arms around me and her beautiful face. I shook my head.

She grasped my face and looked me sternly in the eyes. "I was telling you how much I love you. How much I need you. How sorry I am. And then your eyes closed and I thought...I thought I was too late! I thought you had died, and that killed me. I felt my heart go with you, and then I knew it belonged to you long before that. I love you so much, Teddy."

I love you so much, Teddy.

Her love and my name. The perfect combination.

I only breathed out a heavy sigh and pressed my forehead to hers. "You have no idea how long I have waited to hear you say that."

"I'm sure it's felt like a lifetime to you, and I'm so sorry," she moaned. Her tears were now those of pain. "Oh, Teddy, I'm sorry. I can't believe how stupid I was."

"There's no need to apologize," I cut her off before she could rant again. I kissed her delicately before stroking her cheek with my one mobile hand, and I looked to her lovingly. I spoke to her like we would be together forever, like she had no intention of ever leaving me - which she better not. "It's in the past. Now we have each other, and that's all I care about. I am going to take care of you, always. I am going to love you forever."

She molded against me, the clay, and I could feel her tears dampen my shirt.

"I did nothing to deserve you," she muttered into my chest.

"It doesn't matter what you did. It's who you are," I whispered.

She pulled away with a bright smile and knew there was nothing more to say. She rose onto her tiptoes, and while I couldn't feel her touch, I saw her stroke my immobile arm. Being unable to feel her touch sent a temporary panic through me, but her gentle stroking moved from my right arm to my neck, and I breathed a sigh of release when I could feel her touch again. Her fingers dove into my hair, and she pulled my head to hers and kissed me lovingly.

My words were true. I didn't care about what she had done; none of that mattered. It didn't matter to me how she had planted Scorpius Malfoy's hair at the scene of a murder, had tried to kill a man herself. It didn't matter; none of it did. Not now.

Nothing mattered, really. We had been through enough for these things to matter. My arm, what she had done; all of it. I would rather take my paralyzed arm than be dead. We still had a lot of shit wrong with us; looking at us as a pair, we were a pretty messed up lot, but it all really is the lesser of two evils. At least we're together.

Chapter 35: Epilogue - Wounds
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Author's Note: And the final chapter is here! I can't believe this story is coming to a close.

Thank you so much to everyone who followed this story so closely over the past year! It really means the world to me. And thank you SO MUCH to everyone who voted and nominated this story for awards over the past year. Over the year it has accumulated the awards:
2012 Dobby Award - Best Mystery
2012 Golden Snitches - Best Plot Twist Runner-Up
2012 Keckers Awards - Best Chaptered Story

Again, thank you so much! And I really hope everyone enjoys this chapter. I did my absolute best to make sure it is satisfying and fulfilling to everyone who loves Ted and Rose. I must say this though, this is not a fairytale. Just a gentle reminder. It's not a fairytale. It's not perfectly happy, but there is hope and it's bittersweet, in my opinion. I tried to find the perfect balance, so please do share your opinion.

I really hope you enjoy it! And thank you again to everyone! :)

chapter graphic by me.
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It was a few weeks later when Rose and I were having dinner in the living room of my flat - a picnic, we liked to jokingly call it. The evening was approaching, and we were having our normal evening date together. We didn't have a date every night, but it felt like we did, and we both loved it. I cooked while she changed a few things up in my flat - well, I should say our flat now. She's officially moved in, and I never really had any preference as to the decor, so I've let her take full reign of the place.

It was the first day in which Rose wasn't busy with other family things in a while, and it was the first day I didn't have physical therapy for my arm in a long time. So we had a great day painting, rearranging furniture, and I split off to do the cooking. We were helping the food onto our plates on the floor of the living room, sitting on a blanket, when I ran into the kitchen to grab the wine.

Walking back into the living room with two wine glasses in my good hand with the bottle tucked against my side. I stopped dead in my tracks. Rose stood in the middle of the living room, holding onto herself and looking desperately scared. She was shaking, trying to hold back her tears. Immediately I set down the glasses and the wine bottle. My mind began to race. What could possibly be wrong now?

Things had been so perfect, and I immediately thought the worst. Rose and I had watched Peakes get the Kiss last week, but what could have gone wrong?

Scared, I ran to her, taking her into my arms where she began to sob. "Rosie, Rosie, what's wrong?" I asked in fear.

I only then realized the room was ablaze with light. We had turned off the lights and had intended to light some candles. The candles remained unlit, and instead all the lights were once again on.

"N-Nothing," she choked out.

"That's a lie," I said, trying to chuckle.

"Please don't think I-I'm...Please don't think I'm a baby or anything."

"I'll never think that," I encouraged her.

"It was dark," she whispered painfully. "S-So dark, and I...I panicked. I don't know why. I just panicked. I'm sorry, Teddy!"

"Shhh," I consoled, taking a step back to hold her at arm's length. Was she really upset about being alone in the dark? Was she scared of the dark? "Don't apologize. At all. Rosie, were you scared of the dark?"

She pursed her lips, looking at me as if I was judging her, and with her tears seeping between her lips, she nodded. "Yes. Yes, I was. I am."

"All the time?" I asked, for this was new information to me.

"A-All the time," she hiccuped.

Why had I not known? We had slept in the same bed together for weeks now. Since I had left St. Mungo's, I had shared every night with Rose. I had been with her in the dark. How had I not known?

"Rose, I've been with you. How...Why didn't I know?"

"B-Because," she said with a cry and a roll of her shoulders. "You were exactly that. You were with me. I was braver then. Or I tried to be, at least. It didn't matter because you were there and I knew you would protect me. You wouldn't let anything happen to me. But I was alone just now...And I just panicked. I'm sorry, Teddy."

"Shhh," I soothed once again. Stroking her arm with, I coaxed her to the ground. She curled into a ball on the blanket we had laid out, and I went to fetch the wine glasses and wine bottle again. I struggled briefly, working with my torso to secure the bottle of wine against my forearm and my stomach before I grabbed the two wine glasses by the stems and held them between my fingers. I plopped down next to her, set down the wine glasses, and then uncorked the bottle with my teeth. I was surprising myself every day; I was managing. It wasn't always the prettiest of actions or very civilized, but I was getting things done.

I poured her a glass and pushed it into her hands, which she graciously accepted and began to gingerly sip at.

"You don't have to be sorry," I encouraged. "We all get scared. Tell me why you're afraid of the dark."

It took her a moment, my brave Rose, but finally she continued. "I just am...Ever since Azkaban. The dark...It was where all that bad happened. The dementors, the screaming of the mad inmates. I can't handle it. I just can't."

"Rose, why hadn't you said anything?!" I asked, gasping. I didn't want her to be scared. I knew she was still recovering. Of course I knew that, and I always paid careful attention to it. She always seemed to be all smiles, and we were always having a great time now. It didn't occur to me that there could have been something going on beneath the surface. How rude of me to not even ask.

I thought I knew Rose perfectly. Back to front. How could this have gone unnoticed to me? I felt awful. Like an awful boyfriend, and we already began our entire relationship on a lie.

Not it all dawned on me. It had always been there. She had just used my arm to divert her fears and all that was bothering her. I should have noticed how she would flinch every time I would shut off the lights before climbing into bed. I should have noticed how my flat was degrees warmer ever since she moved in because she likes to keep it warm; the cold terrified her now. There were so many little things. How had I not known?

"Because!" she groaned. "I didn't want you to worry. It was pointless. You were always there, and that was enough! There was no need for me to worry you, a-and we've been having so much fun! I am able to live so happily with you, Teddy, and I love it. I didn't want to tell you because, when I was with you, I could just forget about that part of me...That part of me that hasn't mentally healed from Azkaban. And you have your arm, and everything you went through at the Wizengamot for me, and it just wasn't my place to give you another burden."

"Rosie," I said sternly, holding her chin between two fingers and forcing her to make eye contact with me. "Don't think like that. Your thoughts, feelings, your fears, and your happiness is not a burden for me to bear. It is something I would gladly take on because I love you. It's not a burden because we're supposed to share these things. You don't have to worry about how I'm coping to share your fears with me, a-and you didn't want to tell me because of my arm?"

"I just didn't want to bother you with something so small when you have other, bigger, more important things that you're dealing with right now," she cried.

"Stop thinking like this," I said, kissing her cheek once and pulling back again. "My arm is miniscule. It is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Rosie, I'm paralyzed. You went to Azkaban. Don't you think for one minute that my arm is more important than what Azkaban did to you, and I'm sorry I didn't ever ask. I just...It didn't occur to me, Rose, and I'm sorry about that. But please. You have to start telling me these things."

She just nodded and, abandoning her glass of wine, she crawled into my lap and held onto me tightly. While she cried, I rocked her back and forth. I debated whether or not I wanted to make her remember what else she feared due to Azkaban, or if I should save that for another time. So for now, I just smoothed down her hair and kissed her cheek.

"We don't have to turn the lights off, you know," I commented. "We can leave them on. Even at night."

She shook her head against me. "I won't make us sleep with the lights on."

"But, Rose, if it will help, we can do it," I said.

"No, Ted," she whispered. "Really, it's fine. When you're there, everything seems to be okay. I'm not scared when I'm with you. It's like...I know you'll always be there to protect me."

I actually chuckled and smiled at that, leaving a kiss on the top of her head. "Of course I will be. I'm your boyfriend, and I love you more than anything. I will always protect you."

"I love you, Teddy," she breathed in an angelic voice as she moved in my lap.

She wrapped her arms around my neck and looked to me. I wiped the tears from her cheeks, our foreheads pressed to each other’s. Tenderly I began to kiss her, moving my mouth slowly against hers. She responded quickly, pulling herself tightly against me and sending her hands into my hair. When her mouth opened up to me, I could taste the wine on her tongue. One of her hands moved down my still arm and to the hem of my shirt, where her fingers began to inch their way under my shirt. Passion coursed through our veins, a fire igniting with her touch and our hearts beating out a loving hymn for one another.

In one fluid motion, I wrapped my arm about her waist and laid her down on the blanket. Our bodies rocked back and forth as we worked to free the other of their shirt. Rose threw mine aside, and I briefly struggled pull hers off with my one arm. Finally, I did so and threw it aside. As Rose rolled onto her back once more, my paralyzed arm became trapped under her back. But this didn't bother me. Not in the slightest. It didn't make a difference to me if I couldn't feel it or move it.

I moved to kiss her neck, moving slowly and passionately. As Rose's lips were freed of mine, she gasped out into the living room, pulling at my hair. "What about dinner?"

It wasn't a notion to stop; I could tell that much. Her panting and talented fingers suggested differently: that she wanted us to continue by all means.

"Forget about dinner," I panted against her collar bone.

Rose and I both knew what tonight would hold for us. Tonight would be the night we finally make love. We never did that while I was impersonating Malfoy, and after everything involving the case, we had started anew. We both knew we were in love, and Rose quickly moved in with me, but we took our physical relationship slowly. Tonight would be the night, and now that we were down to the removing of clothing part, I didn't care that we hadn't eaten dinner. I could care less. We could eat after. Or not at all. It didn't matter to me, in all honestly.

"Gladly," she breathed into my ear, kissing the skin beneath it.

She let out a pleased giggle, and I knew my Rose was back. She moved talentedly and pleasurably beneath me until I had to grunt against her throat. "Rosie, you’re on my hand."

"No, I'm not," she said carelessly, continuing to kiss my chest. "Your hand is in my hair."

"No, it's not," I weakly argued. "I can feel it. It's numb; you're lying on it."

"Teddy," she said sternly, "it's in my hair."

"Not that one, the - "

Then I stopped mid-sentence. Rose and I stopped kissing. We finally looked at one another, our eyes wide as we both realized what had just happened. Finally, I breathed out the rest of that sentence that was hanging in the air between us. "My other hand..."

"You can feel it?!" Rose asked, startled, and she quickly crawled out from under me. We both looked to my right hand in awe, as if it would move of its own accord.

"I-I can feel it..." I breathed.

And I did. I could feel the faintest, numbing, tingling sensation running through my fingers. It was weak, but it was there nonetheless. I knew I had the potential to gain mobility back in my right arm and hand, but after weeks of useless physical therapy, I had given up and was just trying to learn how to live with my arm.

Rose smiled brightly and eagerly sat up. "Try moving it!"

I looked at it, and I tried. I did my best. I watched my hand, still limp, and begged for it to move, but it just lay there motionlessly. I finally shook my head, and Rose was the positive one this time. "That's okay though, Teddy! You can feel it! That's the first step!"

"I know," I said, grinning. "I know! It's great."

"Here," she said brightly, and she scooped my hand into her grasp. She opened my palm up wide and stroked my skin. "Can you feel this?"

"Faintly," I responded with a smile, watching Rose move with my hand.

She lifted it to her lips and planted a kiss there in the middle of my palm, and the warmest sensation I had ever felt ignited in my skin there. It shot through my finger tips and up my arm. It warmed me from the inside out, and I shimmied with pleasure. "I felt that."

She smiled and kissed the tip of every finger in return, finally holding it against her heart. Her smile was bright, and it warmed me from the inside out. With my cheeks stinging from my smile, I leaned forward and closed the gap between us, kissing her with everything I have.

- Epilogue -
Months Later

Rose is still the bravest woman I know. Some of her experiences may have left lasting scars, but who wouldn't be changed after what she has gone through?

Some days are rough, some more so than others, but every now and then there is a day when things are almost normal. Rose will smile, she will laugh the way she used to, she'll cling to my side because she loves me and is proud that I am hers. Not because she is trembling with fear or with her memories of a worse time.

Some nights she will sleep it all the way through, snuggling against my side, but always drowning in her blankets. Even when it causes both of us to sweat. She still can't tolerate the cold. In the winter, we go to Egypt or to a beach somewhere to get away from the cold because it terrifies her so greatly. Even if the day is just a little bit chilly, she closes the windows and starts a fire. She basks in the warmth, too afraid to leave the heat, for the cold brings back the very memories she tries so hard to forget.

The same thing goes for storms. She can tolerate the rain; a simple shower is when she gives herself therapy and will stand under the precipitation. But it's when the thunder crashes and the lightning strikes that her bravery fades. She will close the curtains and crawl into bed when storms hit, cowering in fear and doing her best to not shriek with the rolls of the thunder. But we both know how terrified she is.

Most nights she wakes up screaming. Screaming about the imaginary dementors hovering over her, screaming about how she was losing her mind, screaming about the nightmares that constantly plague her of her time spent in Azkaban. I am always there to console her when she wakes up. When she starts to thrash and mutter under her breath, I try to wake her before the screaming begins. No matter if she wakes to me shaking her shoulder or to the sound of her own screams, she always jumps into my arms with fear. Her tears will drench my chest and I rock her in my arms, telling her it was just a nightmare. That she's safe with me now.

Sometimes it irritates me. How I bend, twist, and turn in every which way to fit her needs. But I can understand it. She is recovering, and I know it will be different. Someday it will be better, and it's all worth it because I love her.

It often pleases me when I remember what she told me after she got out of Azkaban and experimented with the real Malfoy. What she realized while she was imprisoned. That I am the definition of her happiness.

Sometimes she will have real moments of clarity when she pours herself out to me. When she knows Azkaban is in her past. She will rant about how sorry she is that she wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, how she keeps the house at a toasty temperature, how she makes us flee somewhere warm in the winter, how she cowers under blankets during storms, that she's always trying to do better. She'll cry as she expresses her apologies. Maybe she only does so when she begins to fear that I will leave her for all these things, but I only reassure her that it is okay. That I don't mind, because I truly don't. We all have our baggage; I know I certainly have mine.

I don't have as much as I did when we started to properly date. Back then I couldn't move my right arm. Now I have regained all sense of feeling and partial mobility. I remember the first time I felt my fingers twitch against Rose's flesh one afternoon. Therapy helps; every day I can move my arm, hand, and fingers more and more, but it's the least of my worries.

I know that she stays with me because she loves me. Not because she needs someone to be her stronghold while she recovers. If she didn't love me, she wouldn't put up with my metamorphmagus abilities after what I did to her. I know she loves me for the man I truly am and not the one I was pretending to be years ago at that summer house. If she didn't love me, she wouldn't have said yes when I proposed to her months ago.

The planning of our wedding keeps us both sane sometimes. When things seem to be falling apart or we are reminded of our past, we often sit down together and flip through the wedding book Victoire made us and try to agree on our center pieces, our invitations, or our color scheme. We look forward to the life we will spend together.

I don't listen to her when she apologizes because it doesn't matter if she's laughing or crying. I'll be by her side anyways. I don't sleep on the couch when she's having a restless night; I hold her in my arms and whisper soothing things to her instead. I don't sit outside when she makes the house too hot; I sit there and hold her instead, sweating all the while.

She will never be fearless like she once was, or as brave, but she will always love as steadfastly with the same passion that made her go to any ends to protect the ones she loves. And I consider myself lucky to be the one she would go to the end of the earth for. I would do exactly the same.

The road to recovery has not been an easy one, and we both know that it will take some time before things finally return to normal. But we're all right with that because we have each other. We still take strolls by the beach, something she can still tolerate from the times when I was lying blatantly to her face. She still enjoys the sand between her toes and still wiggles down to her knees, making me the one to pull her out. We still laugh and smile when there are no tears. She surprises me with lunch at work - where I am now an editor of The Daily Prophet - while I bring home the occasional flowers and chocolates. We're still what we like to call normal. Our past may have left some scars, but with so much good and so much love in our life, everything else - all that bad - is just a wound that will someday be healed.