Besides the few times her family had decided to take their car out into London, Rose had never really had a reason to use muggle transportation. It was rare that she had anywhere to travel in the muggle world during her childhood, and even then it was often easier to use portkeys or floo powder. Standing inside the Heathrow Airport in London was an entirely new experience to her, and her eyes darted quickly back and forth as she watched busy travelers zip quickly through the corridors to their destinations. Scorpius was inwardly just as nervous as Rose appeared to be, but he attempted to keep his apprehension hidden so as to calm his wife. The plan seemed to be unfolding nicely, but he was waiting for things to be shaken up for the worst at any moment.
They were to catch a flight from London to Washington Dulles airport in Virginia. They could then disapparate into the heart of Washington DC and find the wizarding underground located there. The plan was flimsy at best, but options were limited. Even though he had fiercely justified his reasons for this impromptu trip across the ocean, his beliefs were mostly in staunch defense of his wife. There had never been any reason for Scorpius to even fathom leaving the copious comforts of his home country. Travelling was something that those with money and status did, and given the events of his father’s childhood and adolescence, the Malfoy family seemed to prefer the cocoon of familiarity built around them, rather than branch out into the wide world of unknown.
One thing he did seem to like as people streamed by him was the divine feeling of anonymity. Even though they were still on British soil, none of these people seemed to be actively searching for a rogue witch and wizard on the run. They were too busy with their morning coffees and newspapers, yapping quickly on their mobiles or wrangling children up in preparation for boarding. No one even paid them a second glance, and it was a most welcome feeling.
Rose was somewhat knowledgeable about muggle money, and with a disfigurement charm, she was able to change some of their galleons and sickles into British Pounds and American Dollars before leaving France, in a specialized wizarding village not far from the vacation home. Scorpius’s father had supplemented their small supply, and had given them several pieces of well received advice before returning home the night before. Now she stood with the British bills in her hands, and they felt unnatural and foreign to her, even though they were the currency of her country.
The lady at the ticket counter greeted the two with a large smile.
“Two tickets to America please.” Her voice was loud and confident as she spoke, as though she traveled to the country frequently for business and pleasure.
“And where would you like to go in America?” The woman’s voice seemed strained, as though the question had annoyed her in some way.
“We’d like to go to Washington DC. Dulles Airport, on the next available flight.” The woman typed swiftly on the computer in front of her, her manicured fingernails inducing a piercing click with every movement.
“I don’t have anything until 5 PM. Will that be alright?”
“You have nothing else?” She asked.
“No. You could fly into New York, if you’d like. There you could catch a connecting flight to…” she paused as her fingers continued to move across the keyboard, “Baltimore Washington International. If you wish to wait longer, there’s a flight directly into Washington DC from New York at Ronald Reagan International, but if you choose that you might as well just wait for the one to Dulles. If you take the first option, you would be arriving there about five hours earlier.”
Rose’s eyes peered at Scorpius, nearly begging him to make the decision for her.
“We’ll take the earlier one, that’s fine.”
The cost of the two tickets was staggering, catching Rose completely off guard. Counting out the bills one by one, they just barely had enough money to cover it. The representative behind the counter watched her count slowly, seemingly annoyed that the two of them did not have one of the plastic thin cards to swipe in the fancy muggle machine.
“Do you have any luggage?” the woman asked.
“Yes,” Rose replied, following suit with everyone else around her by sticking their red suitcase up on a scale. They’d placed a charm on it to shrink all their belongings, so they had as much with them as possible.
“Traveling lightly, I see,” the woman said under her breath. “Ten pounds. Enjoy your flight.” She handed the tickets to the couple and instructed them that they would need their identification again later. They walked away, Rose gripping Scorpius’s hand tightly, and made their way toward the security line.
“So where are we going again?” she asked.
“New York City. Then, we’re catching a connecting flight to Baltimore Washington International. We’ll be able to disapparate from there, love. “
“Scorpius…” Rose trailed off as she stopped in the middle of the busy hall. She turned to face her husband, her eyes swimming with the fear that she’d been trying to strangle ever since escaping prison. “I’m scared.”
“I am too, baby. We don’t have to do this, not if you don’t want to. We can leave, we can get out of the country anywhere…anywhere you want to go. We’ll start a new life. We don’t have to go to America to look for him.” He smoothed down her hair as he watched the crystal tears spill from her eyes
“I’m not guilty. It’s not fair for me to live my life as a recluse because of something I didn’t do. He’s alive, and I have to find him, and I know he’s in Washington, I just know. I don’t know why I know…” She cleared her throat and swiped her hand quickly under her eyes. “Come on, let’s go. I want to get where we’re going.”
Going through the security line was a pain, especially since they had to remove their shoes and Scorpius kept setting the stupid big boxy alarm off. He was searched, and Rose uttered a quick spell to shield his wand so the officer who was searching him didn’t find it.
By half six in the morning, they had boarded their plane and buckled themselves in. American accents filled the aircraft as several businessmen boarded and sprinkled themselves around the couple. The thought of leaving the ground made Rose uneasy, but she forced her eyes shut and gripped Scorpius’s hand tightly, happy for the brief moment to herself.
Scorpius, on the other hand, was pale white, and perspiration was beginning to soak through his clothes. In comparison to the exposure Rose had gained to muggle society, Scorpius was relatively uninformed. The thought of the plane leaving the ground for him was akin to the thought of someone recognizing them as fugitives. He was thoroughly terrified. It simply wasn’t natural to expect a humongous muggle-made death trap to lithely take flight without care and transport him safely across the ocean to America. Of course, there were ways for wizards to travel across oceans, port keys being one of them, but all wizard modes of travel were being watched. It seemed, rather ironically, that his pristine Malfoy heritage and immaculately pure blood would be resting in the hands of muggles, if only for a short time.
He snuck a glance toward her, hoping for an overwhelming sense of calm at seeing her beautiful face. A brief flicker of adoration swept through him as he gazed at her before it was brutally maimed to bloody nothingness by the monstrous amount of terror coursing through his veins. Painfully slowly, he turned his head toward the window and watched the crew on the tarmac carelessly throw luggage into the bowels of the plane. The aircraft was becoming increasingly more crowded, and a portly gentleman carrying a briefcase and a copy of a popular English tabloid now occupied the aisle seat.
Scorpius had never felt more trapped in his entire life, not even when he’d been locked in a broom closet with a particularly vindictive jilted lover in his 6th year at Hogwarts. He saw a rather homely looking brunette flight attendant with horridly crooked teeth shoved awkwardly into her nearly non-existent gums standing at the front of the plane, holding up a brochure. He located the same brochure in the back pocket of the seat in front of him, and followed intensely, memorizing every intonation from the woman’s Australian accent.
“In the event that we experience a loss of cabin pressure, masks will drop from the ceiling. Please secure your own mask before helping anyone else secure their masks. In the event of an emergency, your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device…”
A floatation device? Scorpius swallowed hard and sucked in a deep breath. Oh hell no. No way in blackest hell would he and Rose be anywhere near the plane if it started to go down. He didn’t care if they disapparated and ended up in Iceland or Canada or some foreign place with aborigines, there was no one on the face of the Earth who would make him turn some shoddily made cushion into a floating device. He didn’t care who saw them, they’d be gone, end of discussion. Despite this, he continued to pay rapt attention to the woman until the end of her spiel, when she abandoned her post to safely strap into her own floatation device.
The plane roared to life then, making Scorpius’s skin crawl. Rose cracked her eye open, squeezed her husband’s hand, and then resumed the thorough examination of the backs of her eyelids. As the aircraft joined the queue in preparation for liftoff, Scorpius finally squeezed his own eyes shut, clutching the safety brochure as well as a sick bag, just in case. It was going to be a very long flight.
He knew the spot next to him was empty even before he opened his eyes. She had predictably risen at least thirty minutes before he stirred in order to shower and apply her make-up, and was probably several seconds away assuring her husband was awake. He grunted before she got the chance, rolling over to his left and burying his head in the pillow.
“Morning. You’ll want to get up soon, love. Lily and Al are going to be here soon, and I really do want to be on time for the funeral. I picked out your formal robes from the closet.”
It was still the sweetest voice he’d ever heard, even if it was a little bossy and self-serving from time to time.
“Thanks, babe. Good morning to you.” Harry pushed himself up out of bed and swung his legs over the side. The floor was icy cold despite the warm spring temperatures outside. He stretched, feeling his shoulder and lower back joints pop loudly with movement. He stood slowly, wincing at the brief shock of pain in his knees before ambling to the bathroom. It was still steamy from Ginny’s shower, and he clumsily reached with his left hand to turn the damp knob, initiating a steady stream of water.
It was the morning of Nathan Longbottom’s memorial service. Calling it a funeral would be a disservice to the deceased everywhere. Harry rubbed shampoo into his unruly hair, feeling the dread slide slowly into his stomach until it felt like a lead weight there. Of course he was going to support one of his oldest friends, but the truth of the matter was, he just didn’t think that Nathan was actually dead.
“Hurry, dear! Lily’s just arrived!” He heard Ginny say as she checked herself in the mirror, which allowed him the opportunity to sneak a glance at her modest black dress before she left the room. She still looked radiant after all these years, after enduring the rocky years after the last wizarding war and then raising three children together. She would always be the woman of his dreams, and he could never even possibly begin to dream of being with anyone other than her.
After his shower, Harry quickly dressed and slapped on some aftershave before heading downstairs for a quick bite to eat before the service. Lily was sitting on the couch, her vibrant auburn hair tied up elegantly, stylish glasses perched on the end of her nose.
“Dad!” She said, standing to greet him. It had been several weeks since he’d seen his baby girl. She worked diligently with a privately owned firm conducting research on the creation of new potions to help heal the sick, and was often away on business. She’d only been with the company a year or two and was currently paying her dues at the bottom of the totem pole, but he’d never been happier for her, not even when she became head girl at Hogwarts.
“Lily,” he smiled, wrapping her in a warm hug. “I missed you! How is work?”
“Oh, same old. Going to Ireland next week to look at some interesting plant findings. Lots of traveling as always. I never thought I would get so cultured after studying alchemy. ”
“Well, that’s ok, I’m just glad you’re happy with your job. Seen your brother yet?” He asked, making his way toward the kitchen.
“Not yet, He’ll be around I’m sure.” Harry nodded at his daughter before grabbing a muffin. He plopped down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, lazily unfolding The Daily Prophet which had been previously untouched. He bit into the muffin, relishing the taste of banana nut, before nearly choking on it.
The headline on the newspaper shouted at him: “DOUBTS RAISED ABOUT CERTAINTY OF LONGBOTTOM’S DEATH: Lack of Evidence May Exonerate Malfoy.” Rose’s mugshot stared out at him, and below the picture was a smaller headline that read, “But If He’s Not Dead, Where Is He?”
Great. Not only was he going to have to go to this painful memorial service where there was clearly nothing to remember, but then he was going to have to spend the rest of his day off answering questions from the press and the rest of his team. Sighing, he folded the paper to read later, and downed the rest of his muffin. He saw Ginny run down the stairs seconds before hearing the familiar pop signaling the arrival of his son. It was too much to think about at the moment. He had an image to uphold, after all.
As the family arrived at the Longbottom's estate, Harry felt his grip tighten around Ginny's strong hand. It seemed as though the morning’s headline had not kept away the crowds, as the most famous and well known wizards in Britain had turned out for the event. Nate was, first and foremost, the son of one of the most revered war heroes of the time, and everyone wanted to pay their respects.
The Longbottom's garden was manicured and set with rows of chairs. The finish on the empty oak casket glistened in the sunlight as people filed by, their heads tilted downward to pay their respect for the boy whose absent corpse was glaringly suspicious. The sight of it all made Harry sick.
He had known someone else once who had faked his own death for selfish and dishonorable reasons. As much as the tattered, dusty old memories hurt as they resurfaced, Harry could not help but think of Peter Pettigrew. He had once done the same thing he suspected Neville's son of doing, except Pettigrew destroyed other lives in the process. There was nothing left of Nathan. He had seemingly vanished into thin air.
Surveying the crowd, Harry let his mind wander to the night before, when he had poured through the case, trying to align all the facts.
First of all, Rose and Nathan had been together at a pub, conversing unremarkably. Several rounds of alcohol had been consumed by both parties, resulting in intoxication. Eventually the exchange had grown heated, and Rose had threatened Nate with her wand. Scorpius had entered shortly before the supposed act had occurred. Witnesses report seeing him with his wand drawn as well, but the general consensus was that Rose had been one to inflict the “killing curse.” After careful research, it had been concluded that the local townspeople had seen Rose whisper something and then the pub had been enveloped in blackness. Soon after, there were several flashes of light, and Longbottom was mysteriously gone. Rose was left, looking bewildered, repeating incessantly that she had murdered him.
When the aurors had arrived at the scene, they found Rose in the center of the room, but she was wandless. Because of this, the aurors were unable to perform a priori incantantem charm, that would have proven Rose definitively guilty or innocent. It would also appear that Scorpius had disappeared from the scene as soon as the aurors had arrived. He was unable to be located after they’d taken his wife into custody. Not long after her first court appearance, Rose broke from her prison cell and, after being spotted at the Shrieking Shack, her location was unknown. As for Longbottom, if he wasn’t dead, then he was very good at hiding. His wand had been left at the scene, he had not performed any wizard travel, and the muggle airports had no record of him. He was, by all intents and purposes, gone.
The original claims of his death were a gross misjudgment substantiated on very little fact, but what other choice was there?
Harry's concentration was broken by the sight of his son, James, hand in hand with girl he'd never seen before. Her blonde hair flowed in wide ringlets down to the small of her back, and her cornflower blue eyes sparkled in the sun. Though she was lovely, Harry was more concerned with the look on his son's face. James and Nathan had been close over the years, and James looked devastated as he skirted the side of the Longbottom's sprawling country estate to meet his family. His dark hair was tamed in a way that Harry’s could never hope to be, and he wore long black formal robes despite the balmy mid-morning temperatures.
Ginny released Harry's hand and made her way over to James, wrapping him in a large hug. His other two children followed suit, and Harry figured he ought to as well, to keep up appearances.
“I can't believe he's gone,” James said, his face twisted in grief.
“I know, dear,” Ginny soothed quietly, patting her oldest son's shoulder. “Who is this lovely lady?”
“This is Annaliese Covington. We've been seeing each other for a while, she's been keeping me sane ever since this happened.”
“Hello,” she said politely, and Harry's head snapped up immediately. Her voice had a quiet, musical, American quality to it. American.
“You're an American?” Harry blurted out suddenly, earning him a stern glance from his wife.
“Yes, I am.”
“The east coast,” she replied, a nervous smile blossoming on her painted lips.
“That's fascinating. You’re a long way away from home! What brings you here?” Harry asked curiously.
“Dad, seriously, calm down. Let's get through this and then we can play twenty questions,” The irritation was evident in James's voice.
“Right, sorry, James. Welcome to England, Annaliese. Let's find our seats,” Harry said, quickly redirecting his thoughts.
The service, ridiculous as its purpose may have been, was done beautifully. Neville, dressed in fine onyx dress robes, looked nothing like the Gryffindor who was known for decapitating Voldemort's snake Nagini and helping bring peace to the wizarding world. His general features had been chiseled by Hogwarts and the stresses of teaching young students about the wonders of plant life. His face was still friendly and welcoming, but his eyes were clouded and unreadable as he spoke of his only child, a son who was the light of his mother's eye. A quidditch player, well-loved at Hogwarts. So many friends, so many memories, vanished.
His heart lurched painfully as Harry fondly remembered much simpler times when his children were still small and bursting with the promises of youth. Nathan would come around often and stay for dinner with his children, Ron's children, and little Teddy Lupin. Best friends with Luna and Rolf's kids. Full of hope and life, the lot of them.
Speaking of the Scamander family, Harry scanned the crowd and easily found Luna, her long hair now dually tinted with her familiar dull blonde hue at the bottom and a fresh sprinkling of silver near her roots. Rolf sat next to her, his hair already a flat shade of gray. When had everyone grown so old?
To Harry’s great surprise, he saw Ron and Hermione seated three rows in front of him. He had not expected them to show up given the circumstances, but he was not surprised by the amount of compassion and empathy they exhibited by attending. Hermione sat with perfectly erect posture, her hair wrapped in a strict French twist. Ron was slumped forward beside her, his shoulders visibly tensed, and Hugo rounded out the broken family, his head buried deeply within the confines of his hands.
Sobs rang out from the front of the service, and Hannah Abbott, Neville’s wife, was crouched on the ground, sickly thin wails issuing from her tired lungs. Neville’s eulogy had finished, and the crowd sat quietly as he vacated his post at the podium to calm his hysterical wife. It was terribly tragic, but almost funny in a way. There was not even the tiniest sliver of doubt in Harry's mind that Nate was alive. It pained him to see his friends' agony, but Harry had very nearly had enough of it. Without warning, he stood and avoided his wife's questioning gaze as he shuffled through the aisle and toward the house.
Toward the side of the property, there was an old swing that was constructed to overlook a beautiful garden of wildflowers that Hannah had been tending to since they moved into the house when Nate had been very young. It was a lovely area, perfect for digesting particularly worrisome thoughts.
What piece was he missing? A brochure found in the Shrieking Shack for Washington DC, hundreds of pictures depicting his happy family life and questionable situations with Rose. It was almost like Nate wanted to be found, like he had specifically planned someone to follow him. But who? Certainly not the aurors; even the dumbest criminals were usually smart enough not to leave blatant trails. Given the arrangement of the pictures, it almost appeared as if he wanted Rose to pick up the trail, but she was supposed to be incarcerated. If he wanted her to find him, he should have thought of a different way to off himself that didn't involve taking her freedom in the cheesiest and most oddball way possible.
Of course there was the chance that Rose had been involved the entire time, and that they had planned the operation in cahoots. Maybe it was a clever ploy to leave Scorpius and run away with Nate. But then, why put her whole family in jeopardy by loudly proclaiming her undying love for the supposedly reformed Malfoy family? In addition, they’d been spotted at the Shrieking Shack together, so this option was most likely not plausible.
Harry had briefly remembered Nate having a crush on Rose in their youth; he'd follow her around like a puppy, and she had brushed him off as a mere annoyance. He returned this sentiment as they got older, and Harry remembered the strain it put on some of her cousins as they had to choose between her and Nate, James' best friend. Apparently at some point they had come together with a truce, or so the graphic pictures suggested in the shrieking shack. Harry wondered if they had been doctored in some way, but he was unsure.
The sick feeling that had invaded him earlier returned as he considered his own children’s possible involvement with Nate. Had he confided anything in James, any sort of plotting that might give clues. Harry knew it was the responsible thing to do, interrogating his children, but there was no way he would be able to do it himself. Removing Ron from his team had made sense at the time, but now he was beginning to realize his own emotional involvement. In order to stay on the case, he would absolutely have to give the order to have his children questioned, and perhaps James’s pretty little American friend as well.
“Harry?” he heard the edge in his wife's voice as Ginny approached. “Are you all right?”
“Fine,” he replied dismissively.
“The funeral is over. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate with the case and everything, but we really need to say a few words to Neville before leaving.
Harry sighed and stood, feeling remorse at the thought of leaving his thinking post.
“How are the kids dealing?” He asked, joining her for the walk back.
“James is still a mess, of course. Al is taking it in stride, and Lily is strangely detached from the whole thing. They’re talking to Hugo right now. I really wanted to talk to Ron and Hermione before they left but I haven’t seen them in a few minutes.”
“There they are,” Harry replied, gesturing in Neville’s general direction. They were in line to speak with the Longbottoms.
“My God,” Ginny said, squeezing Harry’s hand as they made their way to the line. “They must really be trying to make things right. I can’t even imagine what it must be like. They won’t let me in at all. I’ve tried several times to contact both of them, it’s like they just shut themselves off from the rest of the world.” Harry nodded as he watched the Weasleys move to the front of the queue.
Neville’s face was stony as he accepted Ron’s handshake. Harry couldn’t make out the exchange, but he could tell that it was halted and unfriendly. Hermione’s frown stretched widely across her face, and Hannah looked generally uncomfortable as tears continued to leak from the corners of her eyes.
“Look at them,” Ginny whispered in his ear, sending shivers down the back of his neck. He hated whispering, it was a lifelong effect from the war and having a foreign voice inside his head.
“It’s the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen,” Harry replied quietly. He averted his eyes, trying not to pry into the conversation of two very well-known couples, each dealing with a horrendous loss.
What occurred in the seconds that followed, Harry never learned. All he knew for certain was that a woman screamed loudly and he heard the sickening sound of a fist colliding harshly with bone. Harry’s head whipped sharply around and noted that Neville was holding his hand, his eyes narrowed into slits so tiny he resembled a snake.
“What the Fuck, Neville!” Ron shrieked, holding the spot on his cheek that Neville had just introduced to his fist. Copious amounts of blood poured from his nose.
”Get off my property!” Neville screamed in return.
“Come on, Ron! Come on!” Hermione urged, trying to pull her husband away from the fight. But, never one to give up lightly, Ron lunged at Neville, growling in anger as he approached, seemingly forgetting that he was in possession of a wand. “RON!” She yelled again.
Hannah collapsed on the ground once more, gravity openly accepting her tears.
“There is no proof!” Ron yelled, suddenly remembering he was a wizard. He brandished his wand in seconds, and Neville followed suit.
“There’s enough! She was imprisoned, wasn’t she? For the murder of my son. Who knows what those Malfoys taught her.”
“Don’t you dare bring them into this!” Ron spat angrily, moving toward Neville. A small crowd was beginning to gather, but they stayed deathly silent.
“Don’t you for a minute think I haven’t heard the rumors. She hasn’t been around for months. Who knows the things she has seen, what she has done! “
“My son is dead! Your daughter has ruined my family, and has created her own mess! Now get the hell off my property!”
“Ron! For Merlin’s sake! Don’t!” Hermione screeched, attempting to pull on Ron’s arm. Harry had seen enough, and quickly ran to the defense of his oldest friend.
“Ron. Lower your wand. Come on.” Ron continued to snarl at Neville, keeping his wand raised. He looked wild against the backdrop of a brilliant spring day, blood running down his face. “Ron!”
“Dad?” It was the only voice that could have broken through the tension, the only one that had any chance of startling Ron from his wild streak of anger. He looked over into Hugo’s face, which was contorted in confusion and sadness. “Dad, just stop. Let’s go home.”
The two old Gryffindor housemates and friends continued to stare each other in the eye as both lowered their wands.
“Go home with your son, Ron. Enjoy being with him. While you still have something to hold on to.”
Hugo walked forward and grabbed his father’s arm, dragging him away from the altercation. Hermione’s eyes were dry as she solemnly nodded toward Neville and followed her family before they disapparated away from the scene. Neville looked over at Harry, making brief but significant eye contact, and announced that the event was over, and that he and his wife wanted to grieve in peace.
Harry turned to rejoin his family, who were standing a few yards away, clearly shocked at the turn of events. After slowly nodding to his wife, the six of them, including Annaliese, disapparated back to the house to discuss the turn of events. Harry had never been so proud of his nephew, but he had also never been so relieved to have his entire family together and safe. He had no idea what the future held in store for his niece, nor did he understand the motive and reasoning behind Nathan’s disappearance. What he did know was that all of his babies were under one roof, and he vowed that nothing would cross his mind while in their company.
A/N: I know there is no excuse for the lateness of this chapter, and I do apologize profusely. It has been since October since I updated and there’s absolutely nothing I can say that makes that any better. What I will say is that I had a great time writing this chapter and, after listening to the advice of J. Gabriel Gates from the Writer’s Table podcast, I realized that, even when you have writer’s block, you need to sit down and write through it. So that’s what I did.
For those of you who enjoy the story, I have written a prequel to the Molly and Arthur storyline. It’s called Don’t Lose Me, and you can find it on my author’s page. It’s really sad with the sensitive topic of Alzheimer’s, but I generally like it and hope you will too.
and now to the dedications! This chapter has a lot of them :)
1) Drummergirlred, Caomoyl, and Gingersnape: They encouraged me to not only finish this chapter, but also lobbied for a Ron/Neville fight, because that was something I was hesitant to do. I think it worked out well, though, so kudos to them!
2)LouiseIShere: for reading a portion of the story and encouraging me! She was great!
3)Giola: I’m sure she did something….I don’t know what it is off the top of my head, but I’m sure it was important. Plus, she’s just generally a cheerleader for me anyway!
I love my HPPC people, please make sure you head over there and listen to podcasts and stories read out loud, as well as checking out the story seekers podcast!