Chapter 7 : CHAPTER SEVEN
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Scorpius left for Egypt two days later. Rose stood with Sophie outside the riad, watching with her heart in her throat as he climbed into the back of one of their jeeps. Areli was at the wheel; Cass, Joe, Isobelle and Jillian were already in the vehicle. Another jeep was waiting, carrying five others, and Rose stepped back as Areli pulled hard on the steering wheel, and the jeeps rolled away into the dusty desert morning. They would rendezvous with another group on their way, taking the convoy to twenty people, before they joined Richard’s cell in Egypt.
Rose sighed sadly, watching until she could see them no more, and then turned and followed Sophie inside. The riad was quiet and eerie, and she shivered, pulling her arms around herself. Sophie wandered into the kitchen and she trailed after her, not knowing what else to do.
“When will they be back?” Rose asked, to distract herself more than anything else.
“There is no need to worry about Scott; dad will take care of him.”
Rose nodded. “Oh yes, I know. It’s just...he’s not usually a fighting man, you know? I’ve never seen him hit anyone, he never loses his temper and now...”
“He’s racing off to kill people,” the other woman finished gently. “People change, for the right cause, and anyway, he will be perfectly safe,” she added, seeing and misinterpreting the look on Rose’s face. All Rose could do was nod.
For over a week, they waited, knowing it was a two day journey there and back. There were no messages, no communication of any kind and by the end of the third day, Sophie was irritable, continually pacing the passage ways of the riad and stomping around the kitchen. Rose stayed with her, returning only briefly to the motel to collect some clothing. She didn’t want to leave the girl alone; she knew Sophie was worried about her father.
So they talked, to fill the void. Sophie wanted to attend the university in Marrakech, but not having finished high school meant that she would have to wait. She was attempting to complete her schooling by distance education, but admitted that all the activity surrounding For Humanity made it hard to find time to study. That she could do something so normal in the middle of such incredibly fearsome times made Rose admire her. Sophie was witty and intelligent, and it was easy to like her. She had hope still, and Rose wished she could share in that optimism.
A video call came through from Maria on the fourth night. Rose sat in front of the computer reluctantly, not wanting to have to speak to her. After a moment of quick observation, Rose realised there was nothing in the background that gave away where Maria was; there was only the steady beat of rain on a roof.
“You can tell Cass when she returns that everything is ready.”
“Ready for what?” Rose asked.
“Why, the prisoners of course.”
Maria gave her a shrewd look, her expression slightly pixellated and odd. “You don’t like my work, do you, Rebecca? I can tell, dear, there is no point denying it. Sophie here is just the same.”
“You don’t have to treat them like animals,” Sophie said waspishly from the other side of the kitchen. “They still have rights.”
The scientist laughed. “Darling, I am simply trying to determine their biological status, that is all. Then we can decide who has rights.”
Sophie grumbled something that sounded like ‘monster’, and Maria’s smile deepened.
“This war is no place for your ethics, Sophie,” she chided gently. “Rebecca, you will see that Cass gets my message, yes?”
Rose nodded, unable to do anything else and Maria ended their call.
The days crawled on, filled with heat and sweat, and by the end of the week, Rose and Sophie had run out of things to say to one another. They spent their time in companionable silence, waiting, and as night fell and the amphibian chorus began, the main door of the riad was flung open, banging loudly against the wall.
Sophie leapt to her feet, drawing her weapon, and Rose did the same, heart in her throat. Voices rushed through the darkness towards them, and she could feel terror and anxiety in the air. Sophie lowered her gun and raced into the night, Rose following. Cass came thundering down the passageway, her face set in angry lines; behind her were Joe, Areli and Scorpius and Rose let out a breath, hands shaking. Cass strode into the kitchenette furiously, turning on the taps over the sink and splashing water on her face.
“What happened?” Sophie asked worriedly, her eyes on her father. “Dad, are you hurt?”
“No, I’m fine,” Joe answered quietly, his voice rough. Sophie crossed the room and embraced him, and he planted a kiss on her forehead.
“They knew we were coming,” Cass spat.
Sophie frowned, looking around. “Where’s Jill?”
Rose felt her blood freeze, her hand flying to her mouth. “What?” she whispered.
“Those bastards killed her, three of Richard’s people and two of ours,” Cass shouted, kicking at the cupboard under the sink. “Shit shit shit. Jill’s dead!”
Rose felt her knees give way and she sank slowly to a chair. She was vaguely aware Scorpius was standing beside her and she reached for his hand, gripping it tight, relieved beyond words that he was alive. He dropped to his knees in front of her and rested his forehead against hers, his breathing shallow and ragged. Rose kissed him gently, never thinking of what she was doing; it seemed a natural action.
“Where’s Isobelle?” she whispered; he didn’t answer immediately and the horrible feeling that had been sitting in her stomach all day intensified, rising up and threatening to spill forth. “Is she...”
“No,” Scorpius murmured. There was more, Rose could see it in his face, but she could tell he wasn’t going to speak. Cass and Areli shared a glance, and the tall man left the room, and did not return and Cass sat down at the table, her face tired and dirty.
“Go home,” she said to Rose and Scorpius. “Get some rest. Come back tomorrow. We need to work out what the hell went wrong!”
Scorpius nodded, drawing Rose to her feet. His face was filthy, his eyes harassed and she did not want to think about what he had witnessed or had done. He led her wordlessly from the riad and he did not speak again until he’d showered and was laying face first on the bed.
“What happened?” Rose whispered, sitting down and putting her hand in the middle of his back. He rolled over, rubbing at his face and sighed.
“They knew we were coming, just like Cass said. Rose...it was so hard, having to fight against them, if only for a moment. I tried not to shoot anyone, and I hope I didn’t...there were defensive spells flying everywhere – the air was thick with them. I didn’t know what else to do. I had to defend myself.” He sat up, looking at her seriously. “I watched Jillian die, and all I could think about at the time was that I should save her, because no matter what she had done and who she was, she was still a human being. I was supposed to be protecting her.”
Rose put her arms around him, holding him tight. “You did what you had to do,” she whispered, not knowing what else to say.
“I have been in dangerous situations before, but this was different. I really thought I was going to die – when they came at us, when their spells shot past my ear, all I wanted to do was to run,” he paused, swallowed, and went on, “I feel like a coward, Rose, but what was I supposed to do? Areli would say it was human nature, to want to flee, to survive, but I don’t know about that. This whole thing, this war, this death...how is any of it human nature?” He sighed and shook his head, and she could only let him talk. “Perhaps that is the problem – perhaps it is human nature, and if it is, why are we fighting so hard to be counted as human?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “Maybe we shouldn’t be.”
He sighed softly, and then pulled back to look at her. “They know about Isobelle. At least, I think they do. They know someone gave us away.”
“But how do they know it is her?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Areli thinks it is.”
Rose gasped. “She told me he’d been watching her; she implied it anyway.”
“When did she tell you that?” his voice was sharp.
“When we had lunch together not long after she arrived,” Rose whispered.
“You had lunch with Isobelle? Shit, Rose. Did anyone see you?” Scorpius asked frantically, his eyes flickering over her shocked face. She shook her head.
“No, I don’t think so. And so what if they...oh god,” she breathed, comprehending.
“What were you thinking?” he said softly, stroking the hair back from her face. She shook her head, not knowing what to say. “It’ll be okay,” Scorpius was saying, but she barely heard him.
It was late afternoon by the time they arrived at the riad the following day. The guard at the front entrance gave them a shaded look, and once they were inside, the place was unusually still. Heat rose from the ground and charged along the covered walkway; the sun that beat down from above scorched their skin without touching them. Rose wondered whether it was the hottest day they had experience so far in Morocco.
As they made their way further inside, Scorpius frowned. “Something is up.”
Before Rose could reply, she heard raised voices coming from the weapons pit. Scorpius lifted his eyebrow and she nodded. The gun resting against her spine was cold despite the heat of the day and she reached behind herself, touching it through the fabric of her shirt. She had no idea what was going on, and she glanced quickly at Scorpius as he descended into the pit. She followed, heart in her mouth, her blood screaming. Her muscles were tense, like steel rods, and she wondered how high her blood pressure was and if she was too young to have a heart attack.
In the pit they found Cass, Joe and Sophie. Cass was standing with her arms folded, her mouth a hard line. Joe was beside her, his face tight and his eyes concerned as he watched his daughter. Sophie was pressed against the wall between two crates; it looked like she was trying to disappear into the cement. Joe glanced up briefly as Rose and Scorpius came towards them but he said nothing.
“Did you know?” Cass asked sharply, her eyes moving from Rose to Scorpius. “Did she say anything to either of you? Isobelle?”
Rose shook her head at the same time Scorpius asked what was going on. Cass merely sighed sadly, turning her attention to Sophie, who gave the older woman a ferocious glare.
“Are you certain you knew nothing? She never said anything to you? I know you were friends and -”
“This is madness,” Sophie interjected, pushing herself off the wall. “It’s disgusting.”
“Sophie, please,” Joe began but the girl shook her dark ponytail.
“I’m having no part in this vile act,” she announced, heading for the stairs. “For Humanity: what a joke!”
“Fuck the lot of you,” the girl hissed. “I’ve had enough of this shit. You’re not heroes; you know that, don’t you? You’re just scared and pathetic and people are dead because of it.”
“Put a muzzle on her, Joe,” Cass snarled at Sophie’s retreating back, “Before she gets herself in trouble.”
Sophie threw them all filthy looks and disappeared, and Rose could hear her muttering as she stormed away. She was utterly confused, but as the seconds ticked over, she recalled what Scorpius had said and her stomach twisted. There was a commotion at the top of the stairs and Rose thought Sophie and her temper had returned, but instead, she saw a struggling, weeping Isobelle being dragged down into the pit, her arms pinned to her sides by Areli. He lifted her over his shoulder and carried her the last few steps, dumping her in a chair in front of Cass.
Cass gave Isobelle a long look before she turned and reached for her gun, lying in wait atop a crate beside her. “I trusted you.”
“Oh shit,” Rose whispered.
“Please, you do not understand,” Isobelle began hastily. “I have not done anything wrong.”
“You are a sympathiser,” Cass said, her voice level. It was not an accusation; it was a statement and Isobelle opened her mouth to deny it. “Please, don’t. I know you have been smuggling information about this mission-”
“You were seen,” Cass said, her voice flat and deadly. “Just before we left, at the cafe; the man in the green shirt, Isobelle. Who was he?”
“That man?” Isobelle cried, struggling with her bonds. “He is a friend.”
“He is a traitor – we have been watching him for a while. It’s funny how he has conveniently disappeared, and it’s even funnier how those scum in Egypt knew we were coming,” Joe answered smoothly. “Just tell us the truth, Isobelle. Have you been passing our plans on to the wizards?”
“How would I know wizards?” Isobelle gave a desperate, watery laugh. “Why would I want to help them?”
“You would have your reasons, I imagine,” Cass said simply. “But I cannot have anybody working against me and working against the mission.”
“Please,” Isobelle begged. “I have done nothing wrong. I would never betray my own people.”
Cass just looked at her with hard eyes and her pleas fell silent. Isobelle sucked in a ragged breath and dropped her gaze.
“This is insane,” Rose hissed, grabbing at Scorpius’ arm. “We can’t let them do this!”
“I know,” he hissed back. “But what do you want me to do about it?”
“Anything,” she whispered urgently. “This is wrong.”
“Cass,” Scorpius said loudly, taking a small step in the blonde woman’s direction. “Cass, let’s think about this.”
“What is there to think about?” she snapped. “She’s a traitor, filth, just like them.”
“So we’re killing our own now?” Scorpius asked quietly; Cass flinched.
“I don’t want to have to kill anybody,” she answered firmly. “Not unless I have too. You shouldn’t be here, Scott. Take your wife and wait upstairs.”
“Let her go.”
“Shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cass shouted. Her hand was shaking and Rose sucked in a breath as she lowered the gun an inch. Joe stood beside Cass, his face worried. Rose snuck a glance at Areli; the Israeli was standing on the other side of the room, his expression smooth, and his eyes betraying nothing. He met Rose’s glance, held it until she looked away, trembling.
Isobelle suddenly started laughing, a cold harsh sound that forced everyone in the small space to look at her. “It is you who does not know what they are talking about,” she said firmly. “You are wrong, Cass. Your whole plan is wrong. You will never succeed – they will beat you. There are more like me than you could ever guess.”
“What is she doing?” Rose whispered, noticing the calm, accepting look that had settled on Isobelle’s pretty face. The woman sat with her head held high, her expression determined, her eyes never leaving Cass’s face.
“Maybe Scott’s right,” Joe said softly after a moment of tense silence where nobody moved.
Cass shook her head, and her voice when she spoke was hesitant. “This needs to be done. It has to be done. It is the only way to send a serious message.”
“To whom?” Scorpius asked. “The other sympathisers? Cass, there must be another way. We need to educate them, show them the dangers of getting involved with wizards, not start killing people.”
“Education you think?” she paused, reaching up to grip the gun with both hands; Isobelle’s face was set, her jaw tight, her eyes challenging, mocking Cass. “Jillian is dead because of her!”
“You guys should probably go,” Joe said softly, his eyes finding Rose’s face. She stubbornly shook her head. She could not move: her legs were bricks, her heart a dead weight in her chest. She took a deep breath as Joe moved a step closer to Cass, his expression concerned.
“Do it,” Isobelle whispered. “Make me a martyr. I am not afraid to die for what I know is right. You are a coward, Cass. You fight because you are scared; you are ignorant and frightened and that makes what you do pointless. It is you who needs educating.”
Cass swallowed; there was sweat on her brow and she licked her lips, waiting, watching Isobelle closely. The dark-haired woman did not say another word, and Cass sighed regretfully. “Lesson one.”
Rose didn’t have the chance to close her eyes. The gunshot echoed around the room, loud and burning and she knew she would never forget that sound as long as she existed. Smoke floated from the tip of Cass’ weapon, curling like a snake around the barrel. Rose could not tear her eyes away from Isobelle’s body. Scorpius backed up, until he was standing in front of her, his arms out, as if trying to shield her from the horror that had just unfolded.
“Shit, Cass,” Joe shouted. “Shit!”
Cass turned on him, punching him in the mouth. He staggered back, before lunging at her, folding her in his arms and holding her tightly. His hand reached up and stroked her head and he was whispering to her, soothing her. Rose was shaking violently. She looked around with wild eyes, her heart pounding furiously.
“Come on,” Scorpius whispered, reaching for Rose’s hand and dragging her away, perhaps noticing the boiling, burning fury that rested in her eyes. Joe saw them leaving and did nothing to stop them; he merely nodded in understanding. Rose sought out Areli in dimness of the pit, but he had vanished, silent and slippery as a snake. She knew, without having to be told, that it was him who had discovered Isobelle and turned her in: him who had signed her death warrant.
Before they left the pit and began the slow climb to what was left of the courtyard, Rose heard Cass begin to sob and by the time they were in the street outside the riad, she was crying herself, stumbling, the only thing keeping her upright was Scorpius. He pulled her against his chest. “Come on. Keep it together. We need to focus.”
She sniffed, wiping her face on his shirt. “I can’t believe she just did that! I can’t believe it. She’s insane! She’s bloody insane!”
She was barely aware of the taxi ride back to their motel and she found herself standing in the middle of the room, trembling as Scorpius glanced at her with worried eyes.
“Rose, look at me,” he ordered. She did, slowly, and he came and took her hands again. “You’re in shock. I’m going to get you something to drink.”
“No,” she whispered, gripping his hands tighter. “Don’t leave me alone. I can’t close my eyes without seeing her face and hearing her voice. They’re monsters, brutes, animals,” she added venomously.
“I know,” Scorpius said. “That’s why we have to stop this.”
“I want to liberate the camps,” Rose said suddenly, staring up at him. “No one else should be allowed to die, not like that: murdered in cold blood.”
“We need to think this through. We can’t do it alone, Rose, you know that.”
“Then find us some help,” she snapped. Her shock was morphing into anger and she took refuge in it, in the bubbling, churning hatred that tasted like fire in her mouth. Scorpius’ face was set in hard lines – she knew he hated the camps as much as she did, hated knowing their people were chained and locked up like criminals, tortured, and experimented on. In this, they were completely united.
She stood looking at him, breathing hard. Something kicked over in her stomach, something deep and with thorns. Without any further thought, Rose pressed her lips against his, almost crying at the strength of feeling that rushed through her. She kissed him furiously, almost violently and he kissed her back, his arms strong and tight around her. She pushed him backwards, tearing at his shirt as they both fell onto the bed.
“Rose, you’re not thinking straight.”
“Good,” she whispered, sinking her teeth into his neck, making him gasp and dig his fingers into her flesh.
“Bloody hell,” he hissed, “Slow down.”
“Why?” She paused, waiting for his reason, his rationalising. She felt reckless, out of control, raw, and she needed to feel something alive. She watched his face as he watched her and when he said nothing, she reached for him.
He left her a gasping, watery mess and Rose could only let herself feel, to give herself over to him. If she didn’t, if she stopped to think, she knew she would only see Isobelle, see Cass pull the trigger and hear that dreadful sound. Scorpius must have understood that, perhaps felt it too.
They lay side by side in the big bed, not speaking; Rose had no words for him, nothing to describe how she was feeling inside. She rolled onto her side, away from him and he sighed, reaching his hand out to her, slowly stroking her back, her neck, her hair and the action was so tender, so unlike him, that she felt herself begin to cry, curling up into a protective ball.
“Rose?” he asked worriedly, sitting up and leaning over her. She shook her head and sniffed. “It’ll be alright,” he said softly. “I promise.”
She nodded, falling asleep instantly and when she woke it was dawn, and she had the strong urge to phone her mother: Hermione would ask how she was, if she was okay and Rose would say, no mum, it’s all gone to shit and I’ve just spent the night shagging Scorpius Malfoy for the hell of it, but you know how it is when you’re put in these situations, oh and how are dad and Hugo?
She laughed out loud at the absurdity of it, waking Scorpius, who grumbled and told her to shut up. Rose stretched and kicked him under the sheet. He kicked her back, and soon they were engaged in a mock fight that only ended when he’d pulled her beneath him and a wave of heat had swept through her body.
“So what happens now?” he asked her, his voice husky and rough from sleep, sex and the horror of what they had witnessed.
“I don’t know. We shouldn’t complicate things, I guess.”
“No, we shouldn’t.” He sat back, resting his weight on his knees. Rose stayed where she was, watching as he stretched his head back, moving it slowly from side to side, grinding away any kinks. He had his eyes closed and she noticed for the first time how long his eyelashes were, and how sharp his cheekbones, how strong his jaw and his mouth, the muscles that worked in his neck as he moved...She sat up slowly and touched a trembling hand to his cheek and his eyes flew open.
They spent the remainder of the day in bed, both wanting to forget, and by the time the sun had sunk and Marrakech was once again bathed in darkness, she could map every inch of his body in accurate detail. She’d walked the line of every taunt muscle, travelled the curve of every valley and dip. She wondered at the pearly shell of his ear, so delicate and sensitive, the softness of his mouth and she’d counted each mole and freckle and each tiny opalescent scar. She’d found out he wasn’t married or attached, had no children or pets and lived alone and she’d also discovered he was ticklish behind the knee and liked it when she kissed the inside of his wrist. He talked about his family, she talked about hers.
They talked about everything except Isobelle, or Cass or Joe. Rose wondered absently who would tell Albus.
By the time Scorpius fell asleep beside her, one arm around her waist, she’d seen him vulnerable, humbled, humanised; but above all that, she found he was likeable.
They stayed away from Cass and the riad for two days; they barely spoke to one another but Rose didn’t mind – she needed to think, to absorb and let everything she had seen filter through her brain. She supposed Scorpius was the same. Without consultation, they woke on the third day and decided to return to their job. Rose pushed Isobelle from her mind, showered, dressed and followed Scorpius out the door. At the base, she nodded hello to the man on guard duty, left Scorpius with Joe and Areli, who were in the kitchen having lunch, and found Cass in the board room. The other woman turned from studying the map pinned to the wall, giving Rose a cautious look.
“Anything you need me to do today?” Rose said pleasantly, slipping her handbag off her arm and onto a chair. She saw Cass swallow, shake her head slightly and then nod.
“Umm, there a few emails I need sent and if you could check the news? I want to start a media file – anything we could use: locations, dates, statistics...that sort of thing,” Cass said, her voice low and rough. Rose nodded, faked a cheery smile and took a seat behind the computer. Cass nodded her thanks and went out, and Rose flicked the machine into life, frowning. Cass was obviously affected by what she had done, and somehow, Rose was surprised by that.
She sat back while she waited for the machine to start-up, reaching absently for a white folder near her elbow. On the outside, scrawled in black ink, were the words The Heart of Darkness. Curious, Rose flipped it open, but it was empty. Frowning, she set the folder aside, reaching for the mouse and opening the main directory. Many of the files were password protected and Rose skimmed through them, searching for something that matched the words on the folder. She felt she had heard them before, but could not recall where.
She stopped suddenly, scrolled back, and double-clicked the mouse. The folder labelled Heart of Darkness was locked. Scowling, Rose sat back, jumping when Sophie slipped into the room.
Rose shrugged. “Not really.”
“The database needs updating, if you don’t mind,” Sophie said, dropping a cream coloured binder on the desk.
“Oh? Cass never mentioned that.”
Sophie scowled. “Yeah, well, Cass is not herself at the moment,” she muttered. “You know what? Just between you and me, I’m pleased. It’s about time she had a long think about things.” The girl was wearing her weapon, as usual, and her standard khaki, her dark hair tied into a knot at the base of her slender neck. She was so hard Rose felt sorry for her, for the life that she was leading. She went out, promising to bring Rose a coffee in a while, and when she was gone, Rose reached eagerly for the binder, ripping it open, hoping for some real information.
Inside were profiles on witches and wizards, including photographs and a startling amount of data. Rose swallowed, scanning through them quickly – they were not people she knew, but that did not change anything. A note on a scrap of paper was attached by paperclip to the binder and Rose realised it was a username and password, for the database.
She sat back in the chair, staring at the computer screen. After so long, she was finally going to get a look at this infamous database of Cass’s. Not wanting to waste any time, Rose began sorting through the computer files, until she located the database. She took a deep breath, entered the username and password, and clicked the mouse.
It was more comprehensive than they had imagined. Cass had files on everything: the Ministry, wizard history, Voldemort, Blood Status, muggleborns, the Order of the Phoenix, Death Eaters and even Hogwarts. Rose hated to think how she had gained this knowledge.
Rose continued to work through the database, finding the section she needed to update: individual witches and wizards. With a trembling hand, she clicked on the icon and was immediately confronted with at least two hundred files. Most were names she did not know but as she scanned through them, her mouth went dry, sapped of all liquid as she recognised the most familiar of all names:
Rose held her breath, her stomach swooping low, and clicked on her mother’s file. There, in full colour, was a picture of Hermione. It was at least a few years old, but it was there. Trembling, Rose scrolled down the page, reading every word thoroughly.
They knew where her mother worked, and they knew the names of her extended family, including her children. Shaking violently, Rose closed the document, searching the database for her own name. Her heart stopped: Cass had a file on her, Hugo, her cousins, and Scorpius. Without looking, Rose knew there would be files on her Uncle Harry, and her father, possibly her grandparents as well. Biting her lip, Rose opened her own file, sighing in immediate relief. There was no photograph, but she already knew there wouldn’t be, and the information was minute. They didn’t know where she lived, but they did know she worked for the Ministry. It would only be a matter of time before the blanks were filled in. She checked James’ file, then Albus’, Hugo’s, making her way through her family, and finally, she opened Scorpius’ file.
Like with her file and all the others, there was no picture, and hardly any information. They did know his Ministry status, and they had listed him as ‘dangerous’ and a ‘threat to the mission.’ The same thing had been stated on James’ file.
Rose went back over the database, noting the names of everyone she recognised: Neville Longbottom, Gregory Goyle, Hannah Abbott, Blaise Zabini and finally, Draco and Astoria Malfoy. There were thankfully no photographs of either of Scorpius’ parents, and the information collected on them was minimal – Scorpius didn’t look exactly like his father, but there was enough of a resemblance there to give him away, and she was immediately grateful she looked more like a Prewett than a Weasley.
Harry Potter’s file was the largest of them all and he was listed as a Priority Target, something Rose had noticed was mentioned on her mother’s file. She hadn’t understood what it meant, until she checked her father’s file and found it typed there too, and the penny dropped.
She preyed that they were all safe.
Protocol prevented her from contacting any of them, and she bit her lip, cursing her Uncle and his stupid rules.
Sophie stepped back into the room and Rose quickly closed Ron’s file, clicking the icon that would allow her to create a new file. She smiled at Sophie and began typing in the first name in the binder: Samria Bryar.
“You look like you have seen a ghost,” Sophie commented, setting a cup of coffee down on the desk.
Rose licked her lips. “I never realised the database was so large! And to think, that is only a small number; there are so many more of them out in the world. It’s frightening.” If her voice shook, she hoped Sophie would put it down to slight hysteria and fear, and nothing more.
“We will beat them in the end, Rebecca,” Sophie said firmly, and went out again, leaving Rose to her task. By the time Cass came to tell her knock off, it was dark, and Rose had completed the database updates hours earlier. She had re-read her mother’s file, her father’s, and her brother’s. They knew nothing about Hugo and she was silently thankful for the fact he hadn’t followed the rest of them into the Ministry, choosing to coach Quidditch in the minor leagues instead. She had also, with her heart in her throat and one eye glued to the door, copied the entire database onto a USB drive, which was now hidden in the secret pocket in the bottom of her handbag.
Rose closed the computer down, gathered her things and went to find Scorpius. He was standing with Areli and Joe, laughing and talking and she worked hard to compose her face, pushing a welcoming smile onto her lips. He smiled in turn when he saw her, and Rose’s heart jumped: it was a real smile, a true smile. He was happy to see her and for a moment, Rose wanted to throw herself into his arms and cry on his shoulder.
Instead, she let him fold her close to his chest and kiss her.
“I might take off, then,” Scorpius said lightly, smothering a yawn. “I need a bit of a lie down.”
Joe winked. “Of course you do. Ah, to be newly married again. Maybe I need a wife...”
Areli slung his arm around his friend’s shoulder and told him he could introduce him to some very beautiful women; Rose didn’t doubt it and she wondered if the women who shared his bed knew just how tainted and festered he was inside.
Scorpius steered her out into the street, keeping his arm tight around her waist, and they did not speak again until they were back in their suite. “Anything?”
She nodded, unable to speak.
“What did you find?”
“Everything,” Rose answered flatly, kicking off her shoes and flopping backwards onto the bed. Scorpius lay down beside her, linking his arms behind his head and they spent a companionable moment staring at the intricate ceiling. Rose felt like weeping. It seemed futile, what they were doing, when Cass already knew so much about their world. She couldn’t see how they were ever going to stop For Humanity’s crusade; a crusade which seemed to be gaining momentum and power as every day passed.
Scorpius rolled onto his side when Rose failed to speak again. He stroked a finger lightly down the side of her face and she turned her cheek into him, wanting and needing him with a hunger that frightened her. He kissed her forehead gently, his lips trailing down her nose until he found her mouth and they spent a moment simply kissing. She didn’t want it to end, and wrapped her arms around him, clinging tightly until he gently moved back to look at her face.
She took a deep breath, and slowly and steadily told him what she had discovered.
“Shit,” he whispered, sitting up and rubbing at his face.
“I made a copy of the database,” Rose said, and he nodded, but she knew he was thinking the same thing she was: what did it matter? “Scorpius...”
He looked at her over his shoulder, his face tired, his eyes haunted. He sighed, standing up and holding out his hand and she glanced at him curiously. “That bath is more than big enough for the two of us.”
She didn’t say anything; as much as she wanted to take him up on his offer, it was too intimate. Everything was too intimate recently, all the touching and kissing and embracing and sometimes, she didn’t know where the charade ended and reality began. She looked up at him again, and swallowed, hesitating.
“I just need you right now,” he whispered, unable to look at her. “I need to hold something warm and soft and alive.”
“I need that too,” she whispered back.
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