“If only we could see these marks, this graffiti mum was talking about,” Rose mumbled crossly. They were sitting in Scorpius’ room, talking quietly and trying to decide what to do next. Scorpius was itching to get out of the Manor; he was worried about his parents and the missing girls and had spent the majority of the morning muttering to himself and pacing the floor. No one had eaten breakfast; when Rose went down to the dining room, terrified of running into Draco, the room had been empty, food going cold on the table. There was no sign of Roxanne anywhere, or Raven and Lucinda, and Rose assumed they had all been taken home. She had wanted to see Roxanne before she left, to try and apologise for the previous night. No matter what Roxanne had said, she was still her cousin, her family, and Rose didn’t like being at odds with her.
She had found Hugo with Scorpius, the latter almost tearing his hair out in frustration.
“Maybe we can,” Scorpius said slowly, leaning back against the pillows and stretching out on the bed. Hugo was perched on the edge of a chair, also looking tense and tired.
“How?” Rose snapped. She was irritated and hungry. “Do you have a plan to dispose of that hitwizard lurking downstairs? And how will we get through the wards?”
Scorpius shook his head, smiling. “Clara.”
The house elf shot into the room, apparating in the centre of the floor. She cast baleful eyes at Rose and Hugo, who grinned at her. Rose was mildly pleased to see she was not the only Weasley on the elf’s hate list.
“Clara is here, Master,” she said gently.
Scorpius sat up. “Clara,” he began, “I’m going to ask you to do something you won’t want to do, but I need you to do it anyway.” He paused, watching her before lifting his eyes to Rose. “I need you to take us, all three of us, to Diagon Alley.”
Clara shook her head. “No no no. It is a bad place at the moment, Master. I shall not take you there! You cannot ask Clara to do such a thing.”
“Please, Clara,” Scorpius said softly. “It is very important.”
As a free elf, Rose knew Clara was not bound by the old magic, and had the right to refuse Scorpius’ request. She rocked back and forth, shaking her head and wringing her hands, Scorpius pleading solemnly with her. She would not budge, however, and Rose’s heart sank as she shook her head a final time.
“Then we will have to find another way,” Scorpius said firmly.
“Clara is not happy about this,” she warned, pointing a long finger at him. “If anything should happen to Master...”
“It won’t,” Scorpius assured her; she nodded. He stood up, glancing at Rose and then Hugo. “Any ideas?”
“Apparition from the grounds is out, obviously,” Rose murmured.
Hugo jumped up, knocking the chair to the ground. “The car.”
“What?” Rose asked.
“Can we take the car?” Hugo asked Scorpius.
Scorpius shook his head. “I don’t know where it is. Since the day you tried to teach me how to drive, Father keeps it under a permanent disillusionment charm unless he needs it.”
“Alright,” Hugo said slowly. “We walk.”
“Pardon?” Rose said. “London is at least 100 miles away.”
Hugo shook his head. “On the far corner of the property, past the lagoon, is a tree that hangs over the fence. We can climb over the fence no worries. You should probably tell your dad about that, but not yet.”
“How do you know this?” Scorpius asked.
Hugo grinned. “Didn’t you ever wonder how I just showed up here sometimes?”
“Hugo, that’s practically criminal!” Rose scolded, but Scorpius grinned.
“Let’s go,” he said, cutting across Hugo’s remark.
“You want to go now?” Rose asked, and he nodded. “I just need my bag and...”
Hugo disapperated, returning moments later with her camera and her backpack. He handed them to Rose with a wink.
“...my camera,” she finished.
Clara was given the task of distracting the hit wizards, and she did so with ill grace, agreeing only because Master needed her too and not because Rose had suggested it. With their bodyguards occupied, Rose, Scorpius and Hugo were able to easily escape the house through Clara’s little kitchen door. There was no chance of running into Draco or Astoria. Healers had arrived early that morning and were currently with Lucius, trying to come up with a solution to stop his dreams leaking all over the place.
Once outside, Scorpius disillusioned Rose and Hugo. Rose shivered, feeling like someone emptied a bucket of cold water over her. She had to admire his spellwork; he had always been good at charms. She turned her wand on him and Hugo led the way across the grounds. Undetected, they made their way easily through the garden and past the lagoon. Rose got her wish and saw a peacock, stopping a moment to admire the beauty and colour of the strange bird before Hugo called for her to hurry up.
It was odd climbing a tree without being able to see her feet or hands, and Rose scrambled over the fence quickly, terrified she was going to misjudge and fall to the ground. She felt a strange chill and knew she had passed through the edge of the Manor’s protective wards. With the disillusionment charm undone, they stood in silence a moment, waiting, but no hit wizard came crashing through the greenery behind them and no one called out.
Rose snuck a glance at Scorpius, watching as his brow furrowed and he pulled his bottom lip between his teeth, worrying at it. She wanted to reach across and take his hand, and she imagined those long, pale fingers twisted around hers. She swallowed; her hands remained firmly by her side. This was not the time. Afterwards, she would be able to tell him how she felt; show him how she felt.
After a moment of quick discussion, they agreed to apparate into the bathroom at the Leaky Cauldron, and sneak out of the pub as undetected as possible. It would not take long for Draco to realise they were gone.
“What now?” Hugo asked when the three of them were clustered in the Leaky. He peered out the bathroom door. “Heaps of people; it should be easy to simply walk out with the crowd.” He waited until the barman was not looking, and everyone present seemed lost in their drinks, before pushing the door open. “Do we...”
Rose frowned. “I think it best not to go to Diagon Alley yet; once we’re discovered missing, they might come looking for us.”
“Oh goody,” Hugo moaned. “Draco will tell mum.”
“We’ve got time to kill,” Rose mused, ignoring her brother. They would face the wrath of their respective parents later. “We could go into London.”
Hugo grinned. “Feel like being a tourist for the day, Malfoy?”
“I don’t care if I’m a pygmy puff for the day,” Scorpius answered grimly.
They escaped the Leaky undetected, and Rose felt a surpreme sense of relief wash over her as they stepped out into the brightness of the day. It was late-morning and, not wanting to linger, she led the way down Charing Cross Road. Central London was one of Rose’s favourite places; the smell of the Thames, the noise of the traffic and the beauty of the parks and architecture. They took the train from Charing Cross Station to Waterloo, walked across Westminster Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament and into St James’ Park. They looked at Buckingham Palace, and caught the train from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Street, where they crossed into Hyde Park. Here, they sat beneath the trees, Hugo immediately lying back with his hands behind his head.
“Honestly, Hugo, you’re like a cat; you sleep anywhere,” Rose said with a shake of her head. Her brother only shrugged.
“I’m hungry. Conjure me some food, Rosie.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “You can’t conjure food, Hugo.”
“Goes against Gamps Law, you dolt,” Scorpius muttered. “But I could eat something as well.”
“I don’t suppose you have any money, Hugo?” Rose asked, narrowing her eyes. He shook his head and she sighed. “Lunch is on me then.” Whenever she went into muggle London, Rose made sure she carried cash; having been at Malfoy Manor meant she was out of money, but she did have her purse stashed in her backpack, and therefore, access to her bank account.
By the time Rose returned with lunch – burgers and chips – Hugo was snoring and Scorpius was ruthlessly breaking twigs. There was a large pile of them on the ground between his knees. Rose smiled sympathetically, handing him a burger, which he took with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s alright to be nervous,” she said softly, kicking Hugo, who woke with a groan, holding out his hand for his food. Rose dumped the burger on his stomach, not caring.
“I’m not nervous,” Scorpius replied, gingerly unwrapping his food. “Ugh. What is this?”
“Food: the best thing ever,” Hugo answered, at the same time as Rose said, “Just eat it.”
“What now?” Rose asked when they had finished lunch. Birds called from the trees above them and muggles and their children were playing in the park. A football landed near them; Hugo jumped up and kicked it back, receiving a wave of thanks from the little boy who had lost it. Rose smiled. Despite their situation, she felt strangely normal sitting in the park.
Back on the street, that changed. Hugo grabbed her and pulled her behind a phone booth; there was such urgency in his movement that Rose felt a thrill of fear. Scorpius was standing behind Hugo, his eyes scanning the crowd around them, trying to work out what was going on.
“Uncle Harry,” Hugo whispered, pointing, and Rose groaned. There, on the street, looking every inch a muggle in jeans and a t-shirt, was Harry Potter. “Brilliant. Now what do we do?”
Rose bit her lip. “Hide. He knows this place better than we do. We have to get out of here.”
Hugo considered this. “Alright. You two get around the corner and keep an eye on our dear Auror over there and I’ll find us a hidey hole.”
Rose watched her brother’s back as he vanished into the crowd behind them. “Come on,” she told Scorpius and the two of them moved away, Rose looking back to check on her uncle. Harry had moved off in the opposite direction but Rose knew he would not go far. He would comb every inch of Central London until he found them.
Hugo returned forty minutes later, and Rose breathed a sigh of relief, not wanting to admit she had been starting to worry about him. “I found us a room, at a motel about two blocks from here.”
They walked quickly, but not too quickly, needing to look normal. Rose hoped Harry wasn’t handing out pictures of them or something like that. With their hair, she and Hugo had no hope of not being remembered. The motel Hugo found was a dump. Even in the daylight, it looked dark and dirty. Set right against the street, garbage was piled high on one side of the front door, which was little more than a slit in the brickwork. Stale cigarette smoke and alcohol assaulted them when they entered and Rose sniffed in distaste.
“Hugo, this place is utterly foul,” she muttered.
Her brother only shrugged. “It’s cheap,” he said. “And no one would think of looking for us here, not even Uncle Harry, Auror Extraordinaire.”
Rose had to admit he had a point. The man behind the front desk – overweight, balding and smelling like he needed a thorough wash – eyed them with an interest Rose knew and did not like. His gaze combed her body, scratching over her face and Rose felt naked and exposed.
“He’s my brother,” she snapped, pointing to Hugo, “And he’s my cousin,” she added, indicating Scorpius. The man smirked knowingly.
“I’ve heard it all before, lass. I’m not here to pass judgement.” He slid a grimy looking key with the number 26 hanging from it across the desk. “Paying with cash, I assume?”
There was muck on the stairs Rose didn’t want to think about, and the room they were given had a strange smell that also warranted no thought. The taps in the tiny bathroom did not work properly, and the one that did spat a stream of brownish water before gurgling to a halt. At least the toilet flushed, and the shower and mini fridge in the kitchenette worked. Everything else – TV, most of the lights and what used to be a white telephone – were broken.
“Interesting,” Scorpius mused, sitting down with extreme care on one of the beds. There were, Rose noted, two single beds.
“Welcome to the prettier side of the world, rich boy,” Hugo said with a smile.
“Shut up,” Scorpius growled, and then sighed. “Try and rest a bit.”
Rose moaned, sliding her backpack from her shoulder and letting it fall to the ground. “Hugo, you get the floor.”
“No way,” he retorted, flinging himself across the room and onto the other bed. Dust rose from the covers as he landed and he coughed. “Yuck.”
Rose sighed. “Fine,” she ground out through clenched teeth. “Give me a pillow.”
“Have this bed,” Scorpius offered, standing up and crossing to the French doors. There was a tiny balcony that provided a view of the city. He pulled back the shabby curtain and pushed the doors open. Fresh air flooded the room. “I don’t think I will be sleeping anyway.”
Rose was about to protest, to tell him he needed more sleep than her and Hugo combined, when her brother, her stupid, loud-mouthed brother, smirked.
“You can always share.”
“Why don’t you two share?” Rose hissed, stealing a sideways glance at Scorpius, wondering suddenly if he’d told Hugo about last night. “I’m the one paying for this shit hole.”
“I meant sleep in shifts,” Hugo said, linking his hands behind his head. “But is there something you’re not telling me, Rosie? Hmmm?”
“Shut it,” she snapped, advancing on him, her wand in her hand.
Hugo scampered to his feet. “Woah, no magic remember?” She moved left, and he feinted right in some stupid Mexican stand-off, the single, scrawny bed the only barrier between them. “Seriously, it was a joke, Rose. A joke. You do know about them, don’t you?”
“How can I not?” she snarled, “When I have a living joke for a brother!”
Hugo’s face twisted and Rose felt the prick of shame deep in her stomach. She didn’t know what had come over her. She felt frenzied, dislocated from her senses and the tension in her body was starting to hurt. All this waiting was driving her mad and now, their uncle was hunting them, probably their father too, and every Auror in the division. They should just give up and go home.
“Calm down, alright,” Hugo said quietly, his voice wounded and Rose knew she should apologise but didn’t. She couldn’t force the words out. She could feel them there, lurking on her tongue, but they stayed where they were, stored for later.
Sighing, Rose reached up to rub at her temples, noticing Scorpius watching them with interest, his expression concerned. “It’s fine,” she mumbled, pushing past him into the dingy little bathroom where she stood and stared at herself in the streaked mirror. She could hear the boys talking in the other room but their words were garbled, shielded by the tiles on the bathroom wall.
When she felt calm enough, Rose snuck back into the darkened room. Hugo was sprawled on his usurped bed, snoring gently and Scorpius was out on the small balcony, leaning against the railing, his back to the room. A breeze blew gently, carrying the sounds of the city to her ears and Rose stood a moment, listening to the hum of traffic and the occasional flare of a car horn, before stepping out into the sultry air of the growing day.
Scorpius glanced at her, and then behind him, checking that Hugo was still sleeping. He gave her a tiny smile and lifted his arm invitingly and Rose slid underneath it, glad of his warmth and the firmness of his body. He placed a kiss on her forehead and Rose laid her head against his chest; they didn’t speak and she was glad. She had no idea what to say to him anyway, no words that could offer reassurance that it would all be okay. She had already said them all.
Rose made to pull away, but he held her face between his hands. “Wait a moment,” he murmured, and proceeded to kiss her, sweetly and without demand. She felt her body melt into his and she gave herself up to the kiss, just needing to feel something real when everything was so dislocated.
“Okay, now I’ve seen everyting.” Hugo’s voice, low and filled with disbelief, floated across the room and Rose jumped, slowly moving away from Scorpius. “Malfoy,” Hugo began, “I don’t know if –”
Rose stormed inside, an irrational anger taking hold of her. Hugo was standing in the middle of the room, shock etched onto his face. “What, Hugo? You don’t know what? Are you about to warn him off? Tell him I’m nothing but an annoying, humourless, pedantic, uptight waste of his time?”
Hugo shook his head, backing up a pace. “Psycho might be the better word. God, what has gotten into you? You’re turning into Roxanne.”
“Rose...” Scorpius began, coming into the room. “That’s unfair.”
She sank down onto one of the beds, her head falling into her hands. “I know, I know. I’m sorry, Hugo. I’m just tired and stressed.”
He sat down opposite her; their knees were almost touching the beds were crammed so close in the tiny room. “Is that what you honestly believe I think about you? Because I don’t, Rose; I care about you. You’re my sister – I’m supposed to annoy the life out of you. It’s my job.”
Rose looked at her brother through the curtain of red that hung before her face. His eyes were worried, his mouth pulled down and she hated him looking like that. She gave him a small smile, which he returned and suddenly, Scorpius laughed.
“I am glad I’m an only child.”
“You ought to see the whole family,” Rose commented softly, smiling at her brother. She lay back on the musty bed, her eyes on the ceiling, enjoying the odd, peaceful silence that descended on the room.
“So anyway,” Hugo said meaningfully after a while.
“I like your sister,” Scorpius stated. “Any objections?”
“I am in the room,” Rose reminded them stonily, sitting up and glaring. They ignored her.
“Glad I got your permission,” Scorpius replied, grinning.
“You should have come to me first,” Hugo said, also grinning. “We could have arranged a bride price. A thousand galleons is only pocket money for Rose.”
Rose huffed and folded her arms.
“Just treat her right and I’ll be happy with that, becaue I know what you’re like,” Hugo warned, suddenly serious; Scorpius nodded. “Other than that, go for it.”
Rose felt her mouth drop. “You don’t own me, Hugo. I’m not a bloody prized cow.”
Her brother only smiled and lay back on the bed again.
They had an early dinner of some chips and soft drink Hugo found in a vending machine downstairs. “How is it that you have access to Muggle money?” Scorpius asked.
“Mum set up bank accounts for both Hugo and me, when we were children,” Rose explained. “It was a fail safe, a way for her to ensure that if anything should happen, if we needed to disappear from the wizarding world, we would be okay. Having a bank account gives you an identity, something on paper to prove you are who you say you are. The same as a driver’s licence.”
“But what did she think would happen?” Scorpius asked quietly. “You’re the children of war heroes.”
“Exactly,” Hugo said. “Uncle Harry got some threatening letters when James was born – anonymous of course – and it scared mum. She was worried some crazy Voldemort lover – they were still around – would take her or dad out, or try and kidnap us or something. Hey, Rose, do you remember when she told us?”
Rose nodded. “I was eight; Hugo six. Mum called us to her after dinner and explained the whole thing. It was a scary conversation. I was terrified of my own shadow afterwards.”
“Wow,” Scorpius breathed, sitting back against the end of the bed. They had sat on the floor to eat dinner, deciding it was probably cleaner than the table tucked away in the corner. “I’d never thought of that.”
No one spoke for a long moment; they sat and watched the sun sinking in the west. Darkness was slowly cast over the outside world. “We’ll go in a few hours,” Scorpius said quietly. “There won’t be many people around then. It should be easy to get a look at this artwork and get back to the Manor. Dad is going to be furious,” he added with a small smile.
Hugo announced he was going to sleep, and did so promptly, his snoring soon filling the room. “I don’t know how he does that,” Rose murmured, shaking her head. Scorpius smiled, climbed onto the other bed and patted the space next to him. Rose joined him, lying down gingerly. The moment he put his arms around her she relaxed, and soon, drifted into sleep.
Chapter title from the song, Animal I have Become, by Three Days Grace.
I am not a Londener, now have I ever been, so I hope I got the details right.
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