“The Muggle Prime Minister has called a lunch meeting today.”
Rose sat and listened, forcing her brain to concentrate on what her Uncle Harry was saying. No one had said anything to her about the shooting but Rose knew they were all thinking about it; she could feel it in their gazes and she knew her mother, sitting to her left in a rare appearance at Auror Council, wanted to ask questions. Rose had assured everyone she was alright, that there was nothing else that she could have done.
Scorpius squeezed her leg under the table, giving her the tiniest of smiles. Her heart sped up, her mouth went dry and she wondered how long she could go without telling him how she felt. Since Hugo’s release, there had never been the right moment. For two days, they had barely been left alone, with Rose’s parents insisting on meeting with the Malfoy’s to talk about the baby and the future, so Rose and Scorpius had spent most of the previous night and day at Malfoy Manor, listening while their respective parents talked and argued.
It didn’t matter what they said, Scorpius had told her. It was not up to them.
Rose suspected much of what her parent’s had put her through recently was to ensure she didn’t spend time thinking about what she had done. Fighting with her boyfriends parents seemed a logical way to focus her attention elsewhere.
Uncle Harry cleared his throat. “Following this meeting, we are hoping to set up further talks with the Muggle leaders, both political and military, of the major European nations. We want this to become a world wide thing eventually.” He paused, glanced meaningfully around the table and continued. “I want to propose that the Statute of Secrecy not be reimposed.”
Murmurs spread like a storm as people looked to their neighbours and there was no disguising the concern on their faces.
“What I suggest instead,” Harry said loudly, and everyone immediately fell silent, “is that treaties are set up between Muggles and Wizards, with rules for proper conduct and a governing body made up of representatives from all communities. There will be penalities for breaking the rules if a nation signs the treaties.”
“Sort of like the United Nations?” Rose said quietly, and her uncle nodded approvingly.
“It is too late to return to the way things were; if we want things to change, if we want peace, we have to try this diplomatically,” Hermione said clearly. “We do not have the manpower or the technology to fight a war – we know this already. An ambassadorial team, consisting of Ministry representatives, media liason, Aurors and, if possible, Muggles, will make their way around the European mainland attending meetings and giving public talks.”
“This team,” Harry said with a nod, “will be headed by Hermione and Neville. The other participants will be decided on in due course.”
Rose gave her mother a quick glance and a smile, knowing just how persuasive her diplomatic techniques were. Hermione and Draco Malfoy had argued for what seemed like hours on the best way to raise and educate a child, with Draco conceding defeat in the end, throwing his hands in the air and telling Scorpius to do what he wants, that he wouldn’t interfere but that he shouldn’t be afraid to use his family name for anything. Hermione had raised an eyebrow and said clearly that if Rose wanted to use her family name she would find more doors opening.
That particular comment had opened a can of worms Rose did not want to delve into, and she had raised her voice at her parents and Scorpius’, not knowing where she found the strength to tell them all they could bugger off. After the apologies, the conversation had then switched to politics and the state of the world and that was when Rose had left, feigning a headache.
“What about the prisoners?” Scorpius asked, and Rose knew he was thinking of Sophie, their newest detainee. “We can’t leave them in our cells for the rest of their lives.”
Harry shook his head. “That is also on the agenda for today’s meeting. I am hoping that the Muggles will take care of their own.” He sighed, pulling at his hair. “So much has to happen. Laws will have to be rewritten and passed through governments and the people of both worlds will have to be educated. I mean, do we go so far as to teach comprehensive Muggle history and politics in schools and insist Muggles do the same with our history? Do we offer field trips to Hogwarts and turn ourselves into zoo exhibits?”
Many people looked uncomfortable at this and Rose could not help a squirming in her seat a little, remembering how it felt to be involved with For Humanity and recalling how her people were judged and spoken about. Racism ran deep, and hatred even deeper. She wasn’t sure if they would ever be completely safe, regardless of how many treaties and rules were implemented.
“Rose has had some success were her rehabilitation of one of the prisoners,” Harry said and Rose blushed as everyone turned to look at her.
“It helps that I knew him before, from the mission to Morocco,” she said rather nervously, “but he has been helpful and willing to listen, which is a start. The others we have in custody have been less approachable. Joe is a smart man – he is a good judge of people and I think, given the opportunity, he could accept wizards as being just like him.”
Rose looked at her father. His face was grim. “This will take time, everyone. We cannot expect either group of people to simply change their thinking and their way of life overnight.”
“We don’t want a band-aid solution,” Neville Longbottom said quietly. “We want something that will last and be profitable to both worlds.”
“The Minister has warned us that we are about to enter the hardest and most challenging part of this whole conflict,” Harry said softly, unable to keep the worry out of his eyes. “Keep your guard up and keep an eye on your family. We are all about to be completely exposed to the world, more than we already have been – the muggle media will be here tomorrow.”
Someone groaned and everyone laughed, the tension in the room immediately dissipating. Rose could not help the tightening in her stomach. The media, both muggle and wizard, had been waiting for them when they returned from the mission, Sophie in bonds and a body in a bag. The questions had been loud, blunt and still made Rose’s head spin thinking about it. Her father had ushered her into the Ministry as quickly as possible, letting Scorpus take care of her while he dealt with the reporters.
Rose smiled to herself: it seemed that the need to tell a story and the need for truth had brought possibily the most influential groups of muggles and wizards together ahead of time. Forget politicians and leaders – everyone knew that the future could be shaped through the media, that lives could be changed and that people’s attitudes could be swayed with only a few careful words. She glanced at Scorpius, wondering whether he’d have to take part in this press conference, or whether it would be left to her uncle and the Minister himself.
As the meeting broke up and everyone filed out, Harry called Rose and Scorpius back. Rose watched her uncle as he took off his glasses and polished them on his shirt, pinching the bridge of his nose between his forefinger and his thumb a moment before slipping his glasses back on.
“I’ve heard from Al and James,” he said in a low voice. Rose felt something twist deep in her stomach. Harry smiled, seeing her look. “They’re okay. Alice was injured in a skirmish, but only mildly, and once she is feeling better they will come home. The mission was a success and the Minister is currently speaking with the Russian government about Vladmir Mahailov and his men. The Russians want them executed for crimes against humanity and while I agree that there is no other way to describe what they have done, I don’t believe killing them is any answer. If we want to start forming real alliances with muggles...” He sighed, letting his voice trail away. “Rose, I need Cass to come around. We, the Ministry, possibly the entire Wizard world, need her to call a stop to the bloodshed.”
Scorpius frowned. “She’s really that important then?”
Harry nodded grimly. “She is. According to James, Mahailov was trying to gather an army to come to her rescue, and Intelligence has heard similar whispers from Northern Africa and the Middle East. For Humanity want her back and they will do whatever they can to get her. It won’t just be a bomb here and there...they will start a full war over this woman.”
Rose swallowed. “What do you need me to do?”
“I want her face on the television. I want her face in the papers – muggle and wizard – and I want her to publically call a halt to For Humanity’s activities around the world,” her uncle replied seriously. “She’s become their poster child.”
“She’s not in complete control though,” Rose argued. “She is only one person. Surely, having her renounce her ways won’t change anything.”
“Maybe not immediately,” Harry said with a small smile, “but it would be a start. And I think you are under-estimating her influence. I think that seeing her speak with kindness, or at least speak neutrally, about the people she hates would have more an effect than we could possibly understand. It only takes one person to change things, sometimes,” he added, scratching self-consciously at his head, and Rose smiled. “Plus, it will put a little rain on For Humanity’s parade if she is seen to be healthy and unhurt. They expected us to mistreat her and they were happy to make a martyr of her. We need to get her out there.”
“In exchange for keeping Sophie safe from harm, Joe agreed to talk to Cass,” Rose said quietly. “I cleared it with him before we rescued Hugo.”
Harry gave her an admirable look. “Well played. Okay, get them together as soon as possible. Mediate but don’t back her into a corner. Don’t push her too hard but be aware that we don’t have a lot of time. Use whatever you have to – whoever you have to – to get this done.”
“No pressure then,” Rose muttered.
“One more thing,” Harry said. “I want you to write a paper on your rehabilitation program – everything you have done so far, everything you have thought of doing and everything you plan to do. I want to distribute it to the Ministries around the world.”
“But...I have no idea how to write such a thing!” Rose exclaimed. “I’m not an academic, Uncle.”
He smiled. “Get your mother to help maybe, or you could ask Uncle Percy. He has a certain way with words that would be useful at the moment.”
“Right,” Rose said blankly.
“And me?” Scorpius asked.
“You,” Harry said, “will be liasing with every major television network and newspaper across two continents. I’ll set you up with several interpreters.”
Scorpius put his head in his hands. “I hate the press.”
Harry laughed. “So do I,” he paused, clearing his throat. “Your father has volunteered his help and if I remember correctly, before all this started, he was quite the smooth-talking business man.”
Scorpius’ head shot up and Rose looked at her uncle in surprise.
“Yes,” Harry continued. “It seems someone said something to him the other night at dinner about how he has done nothing but sit around on his aristocratic arse behind the walls of his fortress as Rome burnt, while the rest of us, including his son, have been fighting for our very existence.”
Rose groaned. “Oh god, she didn’t?”
Scorpius put his head back in his hands and started laughing.
Harry smiled. “We’ll start immediately. I’m going to see Lily and your Aunt Ginny – they’ll want to know how the boys are.”
“Tell them I said hi, and I will see them soon,” Rose said. “That is, when you tell me where they are.”
Harry gave her an apologetic smile and dismissed them. Rose wasn’t cross – she knew he was simply keeping his family safe, as her parents had tried to do. In the hall outside, Rose and Scorpius glanced at one another.
“I guess I should Owl my father then,” he said with a smile.
“I’m so sorry about my mother.”
He laughed. “Don’t be. She’s only said what I’ve been wanting to for years.”
Rose wasn’t sure she believed him but she didn’t say anything more about it. Instead, she pushed herself onto the tips of her toes and kissed his cheek. “I better get to work then.”
“Are you okay with this?” His frown was deep so she smiled and touched his lips with her fingers.
“It’s my job. It will be a long day,” she answered softly. “I’m not looking forward to it but this is my responsibility now and if it helps, I’ll work all night.”
He sighed, pulling a hand through his hair. “I feel like I’ve hardly seen you in days everything has been so chaotic.”
“I know,” she agreed rather sadly. They looked at one another, his eyes walking the lines of her face and the words danced to the tip of her tongue but she swallowed them away. It was not the time for declarations – they both needed to focus, to do their jobs and everything had calmed down they would be able to talk.
Scorpius left her at her office door and went to contact his father. Rose had a message waiting for her from Alice – just thought I’d let you know I’m not dead. We’ll be home in a few days. Your cousin is amazing, oh and Al isn’t too bad. Rose smiled; Alice had been secretly in love with James for as long as she could remember and if someone else could find happiness from tragedy then she was pleased.
She fell into her chair behind the desk and rubbed at her temples. It was only ten in the morning and she was already feeling tired. With Scorpius and her parents out of sight she could take a moment to just let herself be what she felt.
There was a report on the desk about Sophie. She had been interviewed the previous day and Rose felt immediately guilty for not going to see the girl since her arrival in the Ministry cells. No matter what had happened with Hugo, Rose could not blame her for any of it. The need to tell her that dug its claws in and Rose sighed, standing up and stretching. She could almost hear her muscles thank her and she noted absently that her pants were beginning to feel tight. She lifted her shirt and glanced down at the smooth skin that stretched from hip to hip. She scowled – she liked her skin and did not like the idea of stretch-marks. Rose blinked as a sudden vision of herself, huge and very pregnant, raced into her head.
She smiled. It wouldn’t be so bad. It was only skin, and skin was made to stretch.
In the cells, she found Sophie sitting staring at the wall. She was in the room next to Joe and she jumped up the minute Rose entered. They stared at one another a moment before Sophie sighed.
“Is your brother alright?”
“He’s fine,” Rose answered softly.
“I’m really sorry,” Sophie whispered and Rose watched, astonished, as the girl wiped away a tear. “I was just so worried about dad and I didn’t know what to do and Areli...”
“You don’t have to explain,” Rose said. “As strange as it is, I understand. If someone had my father...I might have done something similar.”
Sophie was quiet for a long moment. “Is he dead?”
Rose knew who she meant. “Yes.”
“I shot him.”
Sophie’s eyes widened as the surprise flitted across her face. Her expression darkened a second later and she scowled deeply. “I wish I’d have killed him. He’s not Mossad you know.”
The girl nodded. “He was, once, but when everything started Israel declared herself neutral. It wasn’t made public or anything, but by choosing not to get involved they made their stance clear; at least, that is what dad always said.”
“He says he left the Mossad but I think they kicked him out, or lost track of him and couldn’t be bothered finding him. Either way, they claim no responsibility for him or for what he does. He wasn’t acting in Israel’s best interests so they washed their hands of him and left him to be someone else’s problem.”
“How do you know all this?” Rose asked in disbelief.
Sophie smiled wryly. “You don’t think I spent years in that shit hole in Morocco and didn’t actually listen to what was going on did you?” She laughed, startling Rose. “I wanted to change things. I wanted so badly to change things, to stop the killing and what do I do?” She laughed again, more bitterly this time. “I become the thing I hate.”
“No,” Rose said gently.
“That’s easy to say,” Sophie said after a pause. “What will happen to my dad?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Rose answered. “The Mug...the police will deal with him; with Cass too, and with you.” She swallowed. “I wish I could help, Sophie.”
The girl shrugged. “I did the crime, I’ll do the time I suppose.”
“I suppose,” Rose repeated. “My Uncle Harry doesn’t want heads to roll. He wants this to as fair and equitable as possible, and I promise you, I’ll make sure that the punishment does indeed fit the crime – for both you and your father.”
“And Cass?” Sophie asked in a small voice. “What will happen to her?”
“I don’t know,” Rose said with a shake of her head. She paused, watching as Sophie nodded in acceptance and sat down on her small bed again. “They explained everything to you? The way the room works?”
“Yes.” The girl sighed and tugged at the ends of her hair. “They haven’t let me see him, my dad.”
“I know. I need your father’s help today and once we are done, I will make sure you get to see him, okay?” Rose replied.
Sophie narrowed her eyes, her face pale and abruptly mistrustful. “Why are you being so kind?”
“Because family is important; especially when it is all you have left.”
Sophie nodded and Rose went out, asking the guard to unlock Joe’s cell. The big man smiled when he saw her and before Rose could do anything more, he was on his feet with his arms around her. The guards drew their wands.
“No!” She held up a hand. “It’s alright.”
Joe slowly drew back. “Sorry.”
“What was that for?” Rose asked after reassuring the guards they could wait outside as usual.
“For killing that dog Areli.”
Rose swallowed. “Please don’t congratulate me. I did what I had to do.” She paused and took a deep breath, steadying herself. “And now, you have to do what you promised.”
“I can try, Rose, that’s all,” he answered.
“That is all I ask.”
Under heavy guard, Joe was taken from his cell and marched down the hall, Rose by his side. They stopped at another cell door and Rose nodded; the door flew open and she shared a quick look with Joe before she stepped inside.
“Come to gloat have you?”
“No,” Rose said softly. “I brought someone to talk to you, Cass.”
The blonde woman tossed her head. “Finally resorted to torture?”
“I’ve been having regular chats with these people and as you can see, I’m in one piece,” Joe said in his deep voice, stepping into the cell. “Hey, Cass.”
“Traitor,” she hissed and Joe sighed as she glared at him.
“It’s not treachery, its survival,” he said gently.
“Call it what you will,” she snapped, turning her attention to Rose. “What do you want?”
“I want you to listen to him,” Rose answered slowly and steadily. Joe stepped further into the cell. Cass still hadn’t moved from her bed, where she sat pressed against the wall like a caged animal. She was thin, thinner than she had been when Rose and Scorpius brought her in and Rose recalled then that the guards said the woman had barely been eating. She bit her lip, irritated at herself for not trying harder in the beginning.
Joe sat down at the small, circular table, encouraging Cass to do the same. She rolled her eyes and scampered off the bed as quick as a snake, slipping into a chair with a suspicious glance at Rose and the wizard guards.
“Do they have to be here?”
“I’m afraid so,” Rose answered.
“Fine,” Cass snarled. She turned her glare on Joe. “This had better be good.”
Joe took a deep breath, reaching up to run a hand over his shaggy chin. He looked at Rose briefly and then turned his attention to Cass. “You’ve known me forever, and you know that I would never lie to you but this is over. I almost lost my daughter because I was so blind and so scared and you...you lost your baby.”
“Don’t you dare...”
He leant forward and took her hands between his own large ones. She tried to pull away but he held firm and Rose watched silently as a tear slipped down Cass’s cheek. “I’m not trying to manipulate you; I would never, but you have to give this up. Let it go, Cass, before anyone else we care about dies.”
“You can,” Joe said with firm tenderness. “Rose needs you to tell the world that things have changed. You have to make them see that we need to co-exist.”
“Why me? Why not you?”
“Because you know why – you began this, Cass. It’s up to you to finish it,” Joe answered simply.
“She’s brainwashed you,” Cass spat, indicating Rose with a flick of her head.
“I’m not under any spell,” Joe said slowly. “This is what I believe: I believe we have to co-operate with these people, as we would any person. The government and the military, here and around the world – they are co-operating, so even if we weren’t stuck here, we’d be out of options.” He paused and licked his lips. “We’re already out of options. The cause is finished, Cass.”
“No,” she shook her head, eyes shining with defiance.
“Yes,” he pressed. “Areli is dead, Jill is dead, probably more of our friends in other places...don’t you want to stop that? We have to accept that the world has changed and that things will never be as they once were.”
“And you’re okay with all this...magic are you?” she asked slowly after a long, deep pause where Rose almost forgot to breathe.
He shrugged. “I can’t complain about anything – I have food when I need it, clean clothes when I want them, warmth...it’s not all bad. I’ve heard stories about healing that you wouldn’t believe,” he added and Rose blinked, startled. She glanced around at the guards – one man met her eye and grinned and she grinned in return, chastising herself for thinking that they wouldn’t have spoken to the prisoners. And Joe was easy to like, regardless. She could imagine him and his guards talking into the night.
“We only ever unearthed the negative side of this world,” Joe said softly. “I think it was easier to believe they were all demons like Lord what’s-his-face...”
“Voldemort,” Rose supplied. She flicked her wand, conjuring a third chair and sitting down at the table, placing herself between Cass and Joe. “Cass, I know this must be hard for you -”
“You know nothing,” the other woman spat.
Rose narrowed her eyes. “You should seriously rethink that statement. I’ve been through more at the hands of you and your people than I ever thought possible. You persecuted my race and as far as I understand, that is against everything humanity is supposed to represent. Your United Nations stands for justice and equality and all through history, when one group has butchered another because they were different, humanity did not stand for it. Your history is as littered with blood and bodies as ours – perhaps worse – but I like to think that we, wizard kind, have learnt from our mistakes. Have you learnt from yours, Cass?”
The blonde woman looked away, turning her eyes to the table and to her hands, held firmly between Joe’s. She glanced up, her bottom lip between her teeth, and looked at her friend. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I don’t even know how this all started. I was so scared, so terribly frightened and when I...I wanted so badly to die with him, Joe, but I didn’t. All I could think of was my brother, and what had happened to him and I didn’t want my son to have to go through the same ordeal.” She paused and gulped a lungful of air, her eyes and cheeks wet. “I don’t know how I became what I did, only that it was easier to hate them, and then easy to find others who hated them.”
“I know,” Joe murmured, reaching across the table to brush away her tears with his knuckles. “And that is why this must stop. We cannot continue to hate people because it is the easiest option.”
Cass was silent for a long time and Rose felt her stomach twist. Joe said nothing, just watched his friend, one hand clasped around her smaller ones. Cass closed her eyes briefly; the wizard guard in the room shifted their stance, their wands gripped tight. Rose waited as the seconds became hours until finally, Cass opened her eyes and lifted her head, turning her piercing, predatory gaze on Rose.
“You win,” she whispered, doing absolutely nothing to hide the defeat in her tone.
“It’s not about winning,” Rose said quietly in return. “It’s about what is right.”
Cass nodded and sighed. “What do you want?” she asked, but there was none of the spite and venom that her voice had held when she posed the same question what seemed like hours ago.
“You must publically denounce For Humanity and encourage co-operation between all peoples in this matter. You must sound like you mean it, Cass,” Rose said, leaning forward to give the other woman a critical look. “Even if you have to lie about it.”
Cass nodded as Rose stood up, indicating Joe should do the same. The big man wrapped his arms around Cass, and let the guards lead him out. He followed Rose down the corridor, his eyes widening as she stopped in front of Sophie’s cell.
“Thank you,” Joe breathed as the door was unlocked. She smiled and turned away as Sophie called out to her father. She heard them laughing, heard the girl begin to cry and heard Joe soothing his daughter.
Upstairs, she went searching for Scorpius, simply needing to be with him. Draco Malfoy was lounging comfortably in the chair behind Scorpius’ desk and he glanced up as Rose pushed the door open, giving her a brief smile, a brighter one echoed on his son’s face.
“What we need are translators,” Draco said thoughtfully.
“Harry is organising them.”
Draco shook his head. “No, I mean magical devices. The speaker wears one on their robes and they automatically translate whatever language is being spoken into English. Very handy when dealing with foreign business men.”
“So where do we get some?” Scorpius asked after Draco didn’t volunteer any more information.
His father smiled the same smug smile Rose had seen dozens of times on Scorpius’ face. “Let me organise that.”
“Fine, whatever, just do it quickly,” Scorpius said. “We’re on a deadline.”
Draco turned to Rose, his expression thoughtful. “Is he always this rude?”
“Most of the time, yes,” she answered with a smile.
“Even with you?”
“Especially with me.”
“Turncoat,” Scorpius muttered, reaching for Rose’s hand and pulling her close to his chair. “How did it go with Cass?”
“She’s agreed to speak to the media,” Rose answered softly. “And to accept whatever her fate is. I think she’s tired of fighting, and she’s so sad, Scorpius. Now that there is no point in hating us she has nothing left to feel but regret.”
“When’s the press conference?” Draco asked.
“Tomorrow morning, at nine,” Scorpius answered. “You should get some rest,” he said to Rose, who shook her head. “Rose, please. Just have a nap, a short one even, and eat something. Go home if you can’t sleep here. The place is perfectly safe and -”
“Son,” Draco interrupted. “She’s no fading flower; she’s fine.”
“I know that, but I just think -”
“You will learn,” Draco said firmly, “to let a pregnant woman do as she wishes.”
Scorpius scowled at his father, who merely reached for a quill and parchment and said he’d contact an old associate about the translators. Rose smiled, bending to kiss Scorpius gently on the forehead.
“Do you have time to eat? Because it would be nice if we could do it together,” she whispered but he sighed and shook his head. “No matter,” she said lightly, although part of her was burning with unsaid things. “I might try and start this report Uncle Harry wants me to write.”
Scorpius stood up abruptly. “I’ll walk you back to your office,” he said, leading her from the room quickly. He practically dragged her down the hall and once they were in her office, he had his arms around her and his lips on her skin. “I’m going insane,” he whispered. “I just want to sit down and talk to you.”
“Well,” Rose said, “if you stopped mauling me we could maybe do that.”
He released her, smiling and guided her to the soft lounge. Rose sat down gratefully, sighing in relief and ignoring Scorpius’ raised eyebrow. She didn’t want another discussion about how she should rest.
“I haven’t got much time,” Scorpius began, twisting sideways; she copied his movement and they were facing each other, their eyes locked together. “I want you to move in with me, Rose.”
“We already talked about this,” she began but he shook his head.
“Think about it, please, seriously think about it. It makes sense,” he pressed, taking her hands.
She frowned. “Why does it make sense? Yes, I want to be with you and yes I...” she paused, biting her lip. Just say it, Rose, she snapped at herself, but she sighed instead. “I need...”
“What? What do you need? Just say it and I’ll make sure you get it,” Scorpius said earnestly.
“That is part of the problem,” Rose said slowly. “I’m afraid that if I do move in with you I won’t be allowed to lift a finger. That if I want to clean the apartment the muggle way you won’t let me and you’ll make me use magic so I don’t exert myself and I know I am being ridiculous, Scorpius, I know that but...” she took a deep breath. “I still need to be able to do things for myself and I am worried also that I will simply let you do everything for me because well, it’s nice to not have to clean the toilet sometimes. And what about when the baby comes? What do we do then?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” she said, beginning to feel and sound slightly hysterical. “What do you know about babies? Cause I know nothing really.”
Scorpius gave her a curious look. “I’m sure we will work it out and I’m sure we will be able to do that faster and more efficiently if we’re in the same house.”
“Maybe,” she mumbled, not looking at him. She studied her hands, still clasped in his and then, when he didn’t speak, she studied the colour of her lounge. She glanced up as a memo suddenly appeared in the air above Scorpius’ head. He ignored it, watching her, waiting, then scowling as the memo became more insistent, ramming itself into his head. He took out his wand and incinerated it and they both watched as the burnt remains fluttered to the floor.
“That might have been important,” Rose said.
“You’re more important,” he countered almost fiercely.
She said nothing, unsure of what to say. She knew he was right – it was the only logical explanation but she was terrified. She had never had a relationship so serious and if she was to be honest with herself, she wasn’t sure their relationship was serious enough to warrant co-habitation. They’d not had a moment to be together the whole time they’d been together and that bothered Rose. She wasn’t sure, regardless of how she felt about him, if she was ready for such permanence.
“I just want to be with you,” Scorpius said after a long pause.
“I know,” she whispered. “I just need to think about it some more.”
He kissed her gently. “That is all I ask.” Another memo appeared and he snatched it out of the air, reading it quickly. “I have to go. Father has found the translators. See you soon?”
She nodded and watched as he slipped out of her office. She thought about lunch and groaned, not liking the prospect of having to leave the Ministry. She sighed, and was just slipping her arms into her coat as her mother opened the door, a large paper bag between her hands.
“Lunch,” she said, coming in and taking out her wand. In seconds, Rose’s desk was neat and clear and the take-away sandwiches were arranging themselves neatly on plates and the pumpkin juice was pouring itself into glasses. Hermione sat and Rose joined her, eternally grateful.
“I leave this afternoon,” her mother said, sipping her drink. “We’re just waiting on clearance and we’ll be flying out once that is done.”
“Good luck,” Rose said between bites. “And be careful, mum.”
Her mother smiled. “I will, sweetheart, don’t worry. Harry says James, Albus and Alice will be returning home tomorrow.”
“Oh,” Rose breathed, wiping her fingers on a napkin. “I’m so glad they’re safe.”
“Honey,” her mother began, “About Scorpius...”
Rose fiddled with her glass. “I love him,” she said, wondering why it was so easy to say it to her mother and not the man himself. Hermione smiled.
They smiled at one another and Rose bit back tears as her mother hugged her. It would be weeks before they saw each other again and Rose nearly giggled at the thought of her father and brother having to survive for that long without Hermione. She supposed Grandma Weasley would have some extra house guests.
Rose spent the remainder of the day working on her report. She spent much time with her head in a pensieve, recalling conversations with Joe, the words she used, and the things she said that prompted him to talk. It came to her part way through delving into her memories that he had made it easy – Joe had been a very willing participant and she wondered then what it was she had actually done. She had talked to him, explained things to him and tried to get him to see that there were two sides to every story.
Sitting back, Rose chewed on the end of her quill. Perhaps that was all it was – to encourage compassion and understanding one just needs to show they are human and possess a degree of humanity, and to be able to draw on similarities and not differences in order to promote peace and co-operation.
She laughed. Her so-called programme was really not that impressive. She wondered if her uncle would be disappointed.
Scorpius found her asleep at her desk. He shook her awake gently. “I brought dinner,” he said, helping her to her feet and guiding her to the lounge. “Just fish and chips; nothing fancy.”
“I could eat cardboard and be happy at the moment,” Rose said with a smile. She sat and let him dish out dinner and they ate with their fingers.
“I’m sorry about pressuring you,” Scorpius said later when she was lying with her head in his lap. His fingers were in her hair, stroking her scalp and Rose closed her eyes. She was overcome with tiredness and tried to hide her yawn. He chuckled. “Go to sleep. We’ll talk later.”
Without another word, she slept, and when she woke it was early morning. Scorpius was gone and a large fluffy blanket was tucked around her. Rose groaned and stretched, her eyes finding the clock on the wall. It was eight and the press conference was at nine.
“Shit,” she exclaimed, climbing to her feet. She ran a cleansing charm overself, found a brush and did her hair and to her surprise, found a spare set of clothing on her desk. She blinked, realised quickly that Scorpius had gone home and gotten them for her. She dressed quickly, pausing in the act of pulling on her shoe. “I’m such an idiot,” she hissed towards her boot, her thoughts on Scorpius. Her father stuck his head in the door, startling her.
“Oh good, you’re awake. Cass will be brought up from the cells in half an hour.”
“I’ll meet her before she goes on,” Rose said quietly. Her father nodded and left and the next time Rose looked at the clock, it was eight thirty. She had no idea where thirty minutes had gone but she had no time to think about it. She left her office and headed towards the elevators, jumping in with a bunch of people.
When she stepped out of the elevator, she saw Cass immediately, the white blonde of her hair unmistakeable. Scorpius was standing near her and Rose made her way towards them. One side of the atrium has been screened with a large, heavy curtain, hiding them from view. Rose shivered. The air buzzed, a living thing, and the anticipation around her made her want to be sick. She gave Scorpius a smile.
“Who is out there?” Cass asked in a tight voice.
“Representatives from all muggle media outfits across Europe, in five different languages,” Scorpius answered with a slight scowl. “Plus representatives from the wizard media, also in five different languages.”
Harry stuck his head through the curtain. “Scorpius, where’s your father? The French media are getting agitated; muggle and wizard.”
Draco Malfoy unfolded himself from a chair. “Here, Potter. Are you telling me you can’t manage a couple of Frenchmen? What happened to the universal translators?”
Scorpius and Harry both rolled their eyes as Draco tidied his robes and slipped through the curtain, a ‘bonjour’ on his lips. Moments later, the Minister’s deep voice spread through the atrium. Rose glanced quickly at Cass, standing under heavy guard and then slipped through the curtain to watch. She sucked in a breath, feeling Scorpius come up behind her. The atrium was crowded – people, both magical and non-magical, were crammed in like sardines in a tin, and a tiny flare of pride sprang to life inside her as she realised that this was actually happening – it was almost over. The Minister’s words, and then Cass’s denouncement, would flood the world media.
Kingsley Shacklebot stood behind a podium at the front of the crowd, Harry Potter on one side and the muggle Prime Minister on the other, and behind them, the Heads of all the Ministry Departments, as well as muggle Military and other political personnel.
A hush fell over the assembled crowd as Kingsley began to speak and the atrium was filled with the glow of hundreds of camera flashes.
“Thank you all for coming,” the Minister began, “on this most auspicious day, for today is the day the world changes for the better.” He went on to thank the Prime Minister for his continued support, and to praise the efforts of both the muggle military and police forces and the witches and wizards who fought and continued to work towards establishing peace.
“It is our hope and the hope of the magical community across the globe, that one day we will have representatives in the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the European Union and other major world organisations,” Kingsley said. “Understand though that this process will take time. Treaties are being drawn up but it will be several months before they are ratified and even then, it is important for magical folk to understand that that doesn’t mean they will be automatically protected. Treaties are not laws.”
The muggle Prime Minister added that according to reports, there were currently at least 20,000 displaced magical people across the world and while some were able to begin returning to their homes, others could not and they were being provided for.
Talk then turned to punishment for war criminals.
“Any muggle found to have participated in or assisted in the killing, torture or persecution of magical folk will, at this stage, be dealt with by muggle authorities,” Kingsley said. “Any witch or wizard found to have assisted a muggle terrorist organisation will be dealt with by the Ministry whose jurispudance they fall under. This will again take time.”
“I understand you’ve had prisoners in your cells. What have you been doing with them?” a muggle reporter asked.
The Minister cleared his throat. “A rehabilitation, or education, programme has been set up here at the Ministry to great success. The purpose of such a programme is to show muggles that wizards are not to be feared, and that there are benefits to the merging of the two worlds. The programme will be instigated in other countries as soon as possible.”
“What about For Humanity?” The question came from a tall, dark wizard brandishing a camera.
“Through the co-operation and willingness of key members of the terrorist group For Humanity, the Ministry has been able to begin the long task of closing down their many bases, nurseries and concentration camps. Orphanages are being set up for the many children now without parents or family. We have seen success in Northern Africa and in Russia and steps are being taken to stamp out fear and ignorance throughout the world. With the continued support of muggle governments and military, this is a conflict that is slowly coming to a close,” Kingsley said in his rumbling voice. “To speak further on this matter, I give you Cassandra Templeton.”
A murmour spread through the watching crowd. Rose held her breath but no one called out and the faces that were turned towards the podium were still and thoughtful. All eyes turned to Cass as she was led out; she cleared her throat as dozens of microphones and booms were adjusted and swung closer and the rustle of parchment and the snapping readiness of Quick Quotes Quills seeped through the air.
Cass was pale and her hands were shaking, but she took a deep breath and turned to face the crowd. “I know some of you must hate me for what I have done, and I don’t know how or if it is appropriate to apologise for that at this moment, but I would like to say that what I did was wrong. What I instigated was wrong but I was acting in what I believed were my own and everyone’s best interests. I can see now that those ‘best interests’ did not include wizards, who I know understand to be people, to be human, just as we are all human.”
She paused, taking another deep breath. “I am here to denounce For Humanity and all that it stands for. I am calling on all those who once supported me in hatred to now support me in peace with the magical race. We acted out of fear and for me,” she paused again, closed her eyes briefly and then continued, “out of completely selfish personal reasons. My son, now deceased, was a wizard.”
The room exploded; Kingsely held up a hand called for silence.
Rose saw Cass swallow. “My brother was also a wizard, and he is also dead, long before this conflict began, and his death came about because we didn’t understand what he was or what he needed. I vowed to never let that happen again but in the end, instead of striving to understand and embracing the opportunity to understand, I choose to hate and let that hate control me.” She looked up, her eyes swinging across the rapt crowd. “This is over. This war is ended, and I ask you now, everyone who is watching this, to lay down your weapons and your fear and co-operate. Accept the changes that will happen and don’t let yourselves be ruled by what you do not understand. Use this opportunity to learn and to grow as people.” Cass looked across to where Rose was standing. “Someone asked me had I learnt anything from my mistakes and at the time, I wasn’t sure I could answer, but now, I can say yes, I have. I have learnt that the notion of humanity is a multi-faceted thing and it cannot be determined based on race, religion or what science deems to be ‘true’. Please, let this be over.”
She stepped back, her eyes lowered and let herself be led away from the podium. Rose pushed through the crowd, hurrying to catch up before Cass was taken back to the cells. “Thank you,” she said. Cass nodded, and stepped into the elevator. Rose felt Scorpius’ hand brush against hers.
“What did you say to her to get her to give up?”
Rose shook her head. “It was Joe, not me, and I think, her guilt.”
They moved back to the other side of the curtain and watched the remainder of the press conference, in which Harry spoke in more detail about the treaties and the muggle Prime Minister spoke about proposed changes to the law. By lunch time, Rose was exhausted, mentally more than physically, and she spent the rest of the day locked in her office with Scorpius, neither of them really speaking but just wanting to be together. By mid-afternoon, a memo arrived, saying Harry had called an urgent meeting of the Auror Council.
Rose and Scorpius shared a quick glance and hurried to the conference room, finding it already filled with their colleagues. Before anyone could speculate, Harry strode into the room, a bright smile on his face. He didn’t bother to sit down, standing behind his chair at the head of the table.
“I won’t keep you long. I know you want to get home to your families but I just wanted to share the news that, following the news broadcast this morning, which has been seen by billions of people, initial reports from around the world suggest that For Humanity has fallen and their members are being rounded up by police.”
A great cheer went up around the room and Harry held up his hand. “There is still a lot to do, as you are all aware, but I want to thank you, on behalf of the Ministry of Magic and the wizard community of Britain, for everything,” his eyes swung across the room to focus on Rose, “that you have done.”
He smiled then and said he was off to the airfield to collect his children and left the room as quickly as he had entered it. Scorpius turned to Rose.
“I’m going with him,” he said quietly, and she nodded, watching as he slipped out of the room. She left soon after, not feeling like celebrating. Someone had sent out Owls for a mass order of firewhiskey so Rose returned to her office, plonking herself down on her lounge.
She bit her lip, her head racing, and sprang to her feet again without hesitation. She needed to tell him. She raced down the corridor and pushed her way into the elevator, begging it to hurry. She knew she was being irrational, but she couldn’t keep quiet any longer. Those three little words had become a disease, and she had to get them out. The atrium was crowded – it seemed like half the worlds media were still clustered around and Rose peered over their heads, her eyes searching frantically.
She could see him through the crowd, and a sense of strange desperation flooded her body. She elbowed her way through the throng, almost knocking someone over in her haste to reach him before he stepped into the floo and vanished. He paused, turned and saw her and he did not move until she was standing in front of him.
“Are you okay?” he asked, noting the wild, almost anxious look in her eyes and the hectic colour painted on her cheeks. He waited while she forced her breathing under control. Swallowing, she gave him a tiny smile.
“So, I was wondering, which room will be the nursery?”
A beautiful smile spread its way across his face. “Which ever one you like: are you sure this is what you want?”
She nodded, wanting to throw her arms around him but aware of where they were. “I am.”
He took a step closer, his eyes hot and intense on her face. “I’m ridiculously in love with you, you know that, don’t you?”
Her heartbeat was thunder in her chest and the words flew from her mouth on wings made of sheer relief. “I love you too.”
He smiled again. “Really?”
“Scorpius, I killed a man to save your life. What more proof do you need?” she answered, her cheeks hot and her stomach tight.
“I thought you were just returning the favour, you know, in saving my life.”
“You’re really arrogant, has anyone ever told you that?”
He sighed. “I believe you did once, but other than that...”
A tiny witch materialised in the floo near them, and Rose moved out of her way, stepping closer to Scorpius. A muscle twitched in his jaw.
“How do you feel about public displays of affection?” he asked very softly.
Rose chewed her lip. “Everyone will find out sooner or later; in a couple of months there will be no hiding my belly,” she answered, her voice faint. She was feeling dizzy. He hesitated, looked around once, then cupped her face with both hands and kissed her in full view of an Atrium packed with people.
She didn’t know how long he kissed her or who saw, and she didn’t care. It wasn’t until someone cleared their throat did she reluctantly break away. Her father was standing nearby, his eyebrows lifted.
“Right then,” he said, looking at his shoes. “Let’s get this over with.” Ron glanced at Rose and sighed. “You may as well come, I suppose. I know you want to see them.”
“Come on,” Scorpius whispered and steered her towards the floo. In the moment where she turned around to face the Atrium, she saw Cass being led, her hands bound, towards the fireplaces. She paused, glanced across the crowded room and noticed Rose. A strange look passed over her face, and then, she was guided into the floo by her Auror guard, and was gone. Rose had a moment to wonder whether anything the blonde woman had said as she stood on the podium just that morning had been the truth.
Scorpius tugged on her hand. “Rose?”
“What will happen to her?” Rose murmured, staring at the place where Cass has just been standing.
“I don’t know exactly,” he replied softly. “Let’s go get our friends.”
Rose nodded. She glanced at Scorpius, so tall and straight beside her and smiled.
I want to say thank you to everyone for reading and reviewing. I could never have predicted how well received this fic would be. This is unlike anything I have ever written and I don’t think I could have done it without your support and all your wonderful reviews.
I want to give thanks also to the numerous blogs, travel guides and on-line libraries I accessed in order to write Marrakech and other parts of Africa in enough succulent and hopefully real detail. I would not have been able to write many aspects of this story without the assistance of the World Wide Web.
This story was about fear and ignorance more than anything else, and about how through it all, there is still reason to hope and be happy. The current state of the world is a terrible coincidence but many of you will know that I drew heavily on history for my inspiration.
I am aware that I may have missed something in this last chapter. If I forgot to mention a character or what happened to them, I want you to use your imagination. Make up your own ending for them, whether good or bad. I think I covered everyone important though.
Again, massive thanks to everyone who enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.