At precisely nine o’clock, Sophia knocked on my door. It was a Saturday, so no one was around. I opened the door, not at all surprised to see her, and let her in.
“You said you’d explain,” she piped up as soon as she entered the kitchen, and I had to admire her confidence.
Not many kids would act that way.
“Yes,” I said slowly, wondering how exactly to go about this.
Usually her parents would say this sort of thing, or a teacher from Hogwarts would explain it. I wasn’t sure if I was even allowed to, but I wanted to hear her account from the night, and I needed to explain things to her in order for her to trust me, and to understand why she needed to tell me.
“You know that big pencil of mine?” I asked, grabbing my bag and pulling my wand out as I did so.
“Yes,” she said, cocking her head to one side.
“It’s not a pencil,” I said, grinning at her.
She jumped up in her chair, visibly excited.
“I knew it! What is it?” she said eagerly, leaning forward in her chair to look at the wand more closely.
I drew it back towards me, out of her reach, and held it up in front of me.
“It’s a wand. A magic wand.”
I watched as her eyes widened, then narrowed.
I sighed. Of course she’d think that. Any sensible kid would.
I pointed to the teacup lying on the kitchen bench with my wand, and transfigured it into a flowerpot, complete with a daffodil.
Her eyes widened, and she stared at the flower, going and picking it up and examining it, before turning back to me.
“There’s a whole world, Sophia, hidden away from normal people. You and me, however, we aren’t normal. You’ll get to do things like this soon, you’ll get to do magic,” I said with a smile, and she just gaped at me.
“There’s magic? What….I…I can do magic?”
She was confused, excited, flabbergasted and dazed all at once. I went through and explained the magical world to her, and Hogwarts, and how her parents didn’t know yet, and she wasn’t to tell them until her letter came. I thought that was the safest way to proceed, as I wasn’t sure I was allowed to let her know.
It didn’t matter, I certainly wasn’t going to alert the Ministry to the matter.
We then moved to the more serious matter of the attack and what she’d heard the men saying, and I explained who they were, and what that meant.
“So they’re wizards? And you were fighting them off with these wands?” she said in awe, examining my wand that I’d let her hold briefly.
“Yes.” I nodded.
“And that man, the blonde one, is he your boyfriend?” she asked, this time her gaze sharp and a slight smile on her mouth as she looked at me.
I paused, blinking at her in shock.
“He…he….no, he’s not,” I eventually choked out, rather shocked that she had the audacity to ask such a question.
Sophia didn’t say anything to that, but I could see the doubt in her eyes.
She told me what she’d heard, but I didn’t find out anything Dad hadn’t already told me. It seemed like they were using the abandoned house as a base of some kind, which suggested at least one of their group was from around here. That would guarantee the Aurors would snoop around a bit, but I knew Scorpius and I had the advantage.
We were only looking for a story after all, nothing more. We didn’t need to solve the case or do things ethically, we just needed information.
I sent Sophia home shortly after, and headed to the Leaky Cauldron for a rather impromptu meet up with Scorpius, Albus and Miranda. We’d only owled each other that morning about it, but Albus had heard about the attack, as he’d been called into obliviate a Muggle who’d heard the shouts and seen a few flashes of light.
Naturally, he was curious, and I would bet my wand Miranda wanted to question me about the fact that Scorpius had been there.
I apparated over, dressed still in my black clothes, feeling much more confident and bad ass in them than I did in my work outfits.
I wasn’t surprised to find Scorpius already seated at our usual table in the empty pub, and I slid in opposite him.
“How are you?” I enquired, running my eyes up and down his face and torso, not picking up anything out of the ordinary.
“Fine,” he said with a shrug.
“You get anything new out of Sophia?” he asked, and I shook my head in reply.
He groaned at that.
“That sucks. Guess we need to snoop on foot.”
I smiled at him.
“Sounds good to me.”
We stopped talking after that, ordering our butterbeers and sitting their quietly, waiting for the others to arrive.
I watched him drink, and wondered why exactly I was helping him with this story. Sure, my student was involved and it was in my town, but I didn’t really have a personal stake in it, or anything to gain like he did. Why was I doing it then?
I stared at him, as he looked off into the distance, watching the entrances for a sign of Albus or Miranda.
I knew why.
It was those feelings. Those bloody feelings that he’d stirred up that night. Looking at him now, I could feel them swirling around in my stomach. They’d influenced my decision.
Feelings were always such complicated things.
I stood next to Scorpius at the bottom of the stairs in the Entrance Hall, both of us staring at the Great Hall doors, not quite ready to enter.
I forced myself to breathe deeply, and looked sideways at him. He nodded, and grasped my hand.
Here we go.
It would be a shock to the Hogwarts population, that much I knew. I expected the gasps and the whispers, but experiencing them was another thing.
A lot of people didn’t seem to care, and I was ok with that. It worked well for me. Anyone related to me, and most of my year, however, did care. I could see them watching us, wondering how and why he was dating me.
Why anyone would date me?
“Stop panicking,” he whispered in my ear, dragging me over to the table.
I just looked at him, right into his eyes.
“It doesn’t matter what they think.”
He smiled at me, and despite everything, I found myself smiling back. He was right, what they said didn’t matter. I felt something for him, and he said he felt something back.
What else mattered?
I looked up, shaking my head to get rid of my daze. I’d been so lost in memories that I hadn’t realised Miranda had entered the Leaky, and was now sitting next to me, waiting expectantly for my side of the story.
“Spill what?” I said innocently, trying to buy myself time.
I was still caught up in the memory of what had been between Scorpius and I, I couldn’t deal with questions about the present and our relationship now from Miranda at that minute.
“Why was Scorpius there?” she said slowly, and I turned abruptly in my seat, ignoring her.
“None of your business.”
As soon as those words left my mouth, I knew they weren’t the smartest thing to say. She’d only be more intrigued now.
Scorpius kicked me under the table, and I narrowed my eyes at him. Clearly he knew exactly what Miranda was trying to do, and what was going through my mind.
“I wanted to ask her about a case her father’s working on,” Scorpius chimed in, saving me from Miranda’s withering stare.
“Really?” she said, her face falling, and I could tell she was disappointed.
I played along, sending Scorpius a falsely annoyed look for ‘telling’, and turned to her.
“Yes,” I grumbled, and she sighed.
“Well, that’s boring.”
Whilst she turned and ordered her drink, I silently thanked Scorpius, who just smiled back at me.
Albus arrived then, and Scorpius and I set about catching them up on the events of that night, and then we all talked about our recent news, i.e. work.
All we seemed to do now was talk about work, and I couldn’t help but find it mildly depressing. I stared into my glass morosely, only to look up and see a similar look of boredom on Scorpius’ face.
“Right, er, this has been fun, but I’ve got work to do,” he said after a while, excusing himself.
I looked at Albus and Miranda, they both looked mildly shocked at this, but didn’t say anything. They’d been a bit distracted sneaking glances at each other all day, and I knew we needed to get moving on our plan to get them together. Miranda would never say anything herself, and Albus was a blind idiot.
I also excused myself, saying I had errands to run, and followed Scorpius out into the dreary London streets.
“So, you up for some snooping?” he said as soon as I caught up to him.
I laughed, not at all surprised that he’d been expecting me to leave as soon as he did, and had even anticipated what I’d left to do.
“Sure. We could even plot out ideas of how to get Miranda and Albus together at the same time,” I said mildly, and I saw him raise his eyebrows as he contemplated my idea.
“Multitasking. I like it.”
We both laughed lightly like that, and I was struck by how comfortable I was around him. We really were acting like friends now.
It was odd.
I grabbed his arm, and we Side-Along apparated to my house. I figured it was safer to apparate directly into it than outside the abandoned house, where we were heading towards. Less risk of being seen this way.
We headed out and walked up to the house, and prepared to do some snooping. If they’d used this place as a base, it would have been full of clues and leads. However, I had a feeling these guys were good, and wouldn’t have left anything behind.
Still, it was a place to start. Scorpius already had a lot to go on, and even had a camera with him so he could take pictures of the ‘hideout’.
We approached the house, and did a quick sweep around the perimeter to check that we couldn’t see any activity. There was nothing as far as we could tell, so I decided it was fine to enter, and approached the front door, my wand out.
I had next to no experience with this sort of thing, but I felt being cautious was the best way to go.
“Check that side,” I said, gesturing towards the east rooms of the bottom floor of the house. Scorpius nodded, and took that side while I took the west.
I found nothing except a lot of dust and moth eaten curtains, and met him back next to the flight of stairs.
“Nothing?” I asked him, though I expected he hadn’t found anything, since he didn’t look excited.
“Nothing. Took some pictures though, just in case,” he said with a shrug, and stepped on the bottom stair, leading the way to the upper level.
The stairs creaked as we made our way up, and I had a feeling that’s how they were alerted to Sophia’s presence. They wouldn’t have been talking quietly, the wouldn’t have felt the need.
I had a feeling there were probably Muggle repelling charms around the house, which would explain why Sophia was the first person to enter it. It would also explain why they choose the house. It wasn’t a magical village, so they had less chance of being discovered.
I wondered where they were now, but I knew I had no chance of finding the answer.
Scorpius headed down the hall, following the trail of footprints on the dusty wooden floor. There was a room at the end with its door ajar, and none of the other rooms looked to be touched, as the dust was uninterrupted in front of their doors.
“Let’s check it out,” I said, grinning maliciously at Scorpius as we stood on either side of the door, and I pushed it open fully with my hand.
It was a bedroom, or had been. The bed was pushed to the side, and covered with bits of paper, most of them cuttings from the Daily Prophet. They weren’t anything particularly revealing, mostly articles about dark objects and such, and from the brief look over I gave them, they didn’t seem to be connected. With my limited knowledge, I had a feeling they were simply gathering information together, trying to figure out what objects were out there, or who had been caught in the past and why, or even what objects were in Ministry custody.
All of those were certainly plausible ideas.
I looked up from the bed, moving to stand next to Scorpius. He was crouching in the corner, a loose floorboard in his hand.
“How’d you find this?” I said, glancing at the hidden compartment he’d revealed.
“Floorboard wasn’t dusty. Simple, really,” he said, and I smiled.
I didn’t say it out loud, but I was impressed. I’d grown up with an Auror as a father, I had some knowledge of those sorts of things and common sense when it came to solving problems and figuring things out. Scorpius, however, seemed to just be a natural.
He stuck his hand inside, and pulled out an assortment of things. One was a rolled up sheet of parchment, which, when I unrolled it, was completely blank. I put that aside, not sure if it was actually blank, or if it was charmed so.
Either way, we’d be leaving it for the Aurors. Scorpius and I had agreed on the walk over that we wouldn’t remove any evidence from the scene, we did, after all, want the Aurors to find these guys. We’d simply take photos and use anything we did discover as knowledge for his story. We didn’t really need the solid proof as long as we had a photo.
Next, he pulled out an object I recognized as a Secrecy Sensor. It was dull now, as its owner wasn’t around.
Beyond that, there was a variety of cursed items and items such as Peruvian Darkness Powder, and one of my Uncle George’s Shield Hats, things that would certainly help those in the business of stealing and trading dark objects.
The last thing was a stack of photographs. This one surprised me, clearly the men were doing their research, or someone had given these to them.
Most of them were of objects, but none of them jumped out at me. I wasn’t sure if they were objects they were sent to acquire, or were already things on the market, but I knew the Aurors would figure that out.
Scorpius next to me was quickly snapping pictures of all the items, and I pulled out one photograph from the bunch, one that looked newer, and stuck out slightly.
It wasn’t a photo of an object, or of anything that I expected.
It was a photo of me.
I was at work, heading out of the school grounds. I could see Jack Pinton inside his classroom behind me, staring out, looking at something behind the photographer. I could almost imagine that he could see the person taking the photo, but I doubted it. I certainly hadn’t seen them.
From the outfit I’d been wearing, I’d guess it was taken about two weeks ago.
Wordlessly, I handed it to Scorpius, my mind completely blank. Why on earth did they have a picture of me? How was I tied into all of this? It just didn’t make sense.
“This…this is you,” Scorpius stated quietly, and I saw him look up from the picture to look at me.
I just gazed at him, not sure what to think.
“Have you got everything you need?” I asked, lifting my chin slightly and resolving to put it out of my mind.
“Oh, erm…yes, I think so,” Scorpius stuttered. I snatched the picture out of his hands viciously.
“Brilliant. Let’s go then.”
I shoved the pictures and the other objects back into the hole they’d come from, but I stashed the picture of me inside my jacket, without alerting Scorpius to my actions. I didn’t want the Aurors seeing it.
I just didn’t.
The picture was of me anyway, surely I had a right to take it.
We snuck out of the house the same way we’d come in, and headed back to my home. As comfortable as I was with Scorpius, it still felt awkward. Until recently we’d hardly spoken or been left alone together, and the added pressure of my recently resurrected feelings didn’t help matters.
With narrowed eyes, I watched as he sat down at the Slytherin table and struck up an animated conversation with Albus and some girl in sixth year.
We’d been dating for a while now, but I still felt insecure. He said he loved me. But really, how could he? Seventh year hadn’t made me any prettier or any more desirable.
He certainly had other options.
We had exams, not for a few months, but they were coming. I was fine to ignore them, but I knew he wanted to do well, to please his father. We were different like that.
He needed to do well. I, well, I thought I knew a sure way he could do that, but I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to do it.
I was a Gryffindor, I suppose, but could I break up with him, the one person who’d shown interest in me, the one person who loved me, who wasn’t related to me, for his own good?
I didn’t think I could do that.
So I sat, and stared, and kept my distance for a while. He talked and laughed with others, and I watched. He thought all was fine, but I could see his star rising, and mine only continuing to fall.
He was Scorpius Malfoy, born with a bad history attached to his name. I was Rose Weasley, of opposite circumstances.
Yet here we were, him on his way to surely being a success after school, and me being a failure. I had no plans, none whatsoever. People kept telling me I’d figure it out, but I was starting to panic and I strongly believed that I’d live my life as a drifter with no real ambition.
Scorpius deserved better than me, he always had. I’d been selfish to accept the date with him in the first place.
I needed to find my courage and break up with him. I just needed a good cover story first.
I stared morosely ahead, my mind now filled with the memories from seventh year. I’d thought I’d known best. In truth, breaking up with Scorpius probably had helped him pass his owls, but he also didn’t speak to me for many months.
I’d done damage I had thought was irreparable. Apparently, I was wrong, as he now stood in my kitchen, excitingly pouring over photographs of the evidence.
“Anything solid enough to use in your story?” I called as I moved to stand beside him.
“Plenty,” He said, smiling, and starting pointing out pictures and explaining things.
He had several scenarios and hypothesis running through his mind, and I could see he was just itching to write his ideas down. I summoned a quill and parchment, and left him to it.
I knew it was time I talked to Miranda. I couldn’t keep everything bottled up inside me, that’s what I had done last time, and it hadn’t worked out well. I peeked my head around the corner, and saw that Scorpius was hard at work. He wasn’t likely to stop soon, so I flooed Miranda, and asked her to apparate into my room.
I wasn’t skilled enough or rich enough to have anti-apparition wards around my house, and besides, I didn’t really need them. Until the other day I hadn’t even known other witches and wizards were in the area.
Miranda apparated into my room with a crack, and even though I’d been expecting it, I was startled.
“God, Miranda, you scared me,” I said, before grinning and embracing her.
“You said you needed to talk? Urgently?” she said, plopping herself down on my bed as I paced the room.
I couldn’t really explain why I’d felt the need to talk now. I suppose waiting would have been better, especially since Scorpius was right downstairs.
“Yes. About…about….” I trailed off, biting my lip.
Once again, I found myself needing my Gryffindor courage. Damn it, I needed to just say it.
“About Scorpius,” I whispered, and I heard her intake of breath.
I stopped pacing, and turned to face her, my brow furrowed. I was worried, and I was scared.
In short, I had no idea what to do.
“Scorpius?” Miranda asked, her eyes wide and her expression confused.
I just looked at her, and sighed. I watched as she realised what had happened, and she stood up, moving to wrap her arms around me. This was why we were friends. We weren’t usually the touchy feeling type, but when I needed her, or she needed me, we knew how to act.
“I just…I don’t know anymore, Miranda. Maybe I was wrong to do what I did.”
Without my brain really having any control over it, a tear slipped down my cheek, and I hastily pulled away from Miranda and wiped it away. I never cried.
That was surely a sign that I was tired from work, and stressed.
It didn’t mean anything more than that. It didn’t’.
“It felt right at the time. But now…now…he’s just always here, and he’s helpful, and he understands...and…”
I cut off, this time the flow of tears unstoppable. I saw the look of alarm cross Miranda’s face, clearly she was as shocked as I was about my sudden outburst.
She grabbed the nearest tissue box and handed it to me, and I blubbered my thanks at her.
“What am I going to do, Miranda?” I finally said, taking the tissue away from my face with an air of desperation.
She just looked at me, her eyes full of pity.
“You’re asking the wrong girl, Rose,” she said with a sad smile, and I gave a watery chuckle.
It was true, in a pathetic way. She was hung up on Albus, not that she’d admit it out loud, and I was all full of emotions for Scorpius.