Chapter 12 : Chapter 12
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I turned the corner, turning into some public square or another, and was hit with the sound of music. It had been faint for a few blocks, but now it was loud enough that I could hear the words. It was some pop song or another, and a crowd was formed around the square.
I moved closer, wriggling my way in to see what the fuss was about.
In the centre of the square was a group of people, dressed up in costumes. There were doctors, nurses, dentists, ballerinas, princesses, ghosts, dogs, trees – anything you could think of.
And they were dancing.
The Muggles around me had their phones out, and were filming the performance. I’d heard of these before, they were called flash mobs. Spontaneous street performances.
I was used to walking past buskers on the streets, we even had some in Diagon Alley on occasion. I wasn’t musical at all, so I couldn’t speak for their talent, but they seemed to do fairly well for themselves.
This group, however, weren’t asking for money. They were simply dancing, and looked like they were having the time of their lives. I watched them smile and laugh with each other, all the while dancing. It must have been tiring, but they didn’t show it.
They were enjoying themselves.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d truly enjoyed myself. Even when I was just with Scorpius, I had this weight hanging over my head. With Miranda, there was the pressure of our relationships, and she didn’t know everything about me anymore, as she once had. Most of my work life was a mystery to her, and I felt like there was a gap between us now.
It was the same with Albus. All four of us had different lives now, and I could feel myself pulling away, not willingly, but pulling away nevertheless.
I watched the flash mob performance, smiling along like the rest of the crowd was. It was nice to just stand there and not have to do anything, to just be able to enjoy the moment.
That’s all it was, a moment.
Sometimes, a moment was more important than anything else. I’d realised how I felt about Scorpius in a moment, a seemingly innocent moment. Here I was now, contemplating my past and present, in another moment.
Sophia had only stumbled into that house for a moment, overheard just a moment of conversation, but it had been an important one, and her life was changed now.
I froze, thinking over what I’d just realized. She’d only heard a moment of conversation. But it had been important enough for them to try and hunt her down. She’d told me everything she could remember, just like she’d told the Aurors. None of it seemed particularly important.
Yet why would the traders bother to come after her if it hadn’t been important? They were planning a break in, yes, but that wasn’t all of it. She must have heard more, something telling.
That made her a witness. They wouldn’t want a witness wandering around.
They’d come after her once. Surely they’d be trying again. The Aurors had been around the area until two days ago, I was sure of that.
If I knew that, the traders probably did too. If they wanted to wipe Sophia’s memory, now would be the time to do it.
I wasn’t sure on that, however. She obviously knew more than she remembered, but if she hadn’t told by now, would she bother?
Still, it was a hunch, and I had nothing better to go on. I quickly headed back out of the crowd surrounding the flash mob, and to a deserted alleyway next a dodgy looking bar with an elephant on its sign. From what I could tell, it was a belly dancing club, with a Bollywood theme.
I quickly walked in the other direction, and found a quiet spot to apparate from. I appeared outside my house, only then realising that I was stumped.
I didn’t know where to find Sophia. I had a feeling, however, that she’d manage to find me if she was in trouble. She was a resourceful girl, she’d already found my house once.
I stared up at the sky, pondering my next move. My gut was telling me that they were going to try and wipe her memory, just in case. Yes, she hadn’t told yet…but something in me was saying she’d remember, that they were going to do something soon, they were going to act, and it would jog her memory.
With that in mind, I headed off through the streets, well aware that I was acting like a crazy person. Scorpius, Albus and Miranda probably thought I’d fallen into a ditch somewhere. Hopefully they wouldn’t get too worried.
About halfway up the street I had to pull my umbrella out of my bag as it started raining. I had a magically enlarged bag, as most witches did these days. It was a rather ingenious idea.
My umbrella was a rather dodgy one, I must say. It had seen far better days. It was the traditional black colour, with a curved black handle. It wasn’t a fold up one like most were, it was a big thing that I could use as a walking stick if I so felt the need. The spokes were mostly bent, and it often had difficulty opening and closing.
It did the job, though, so I wasn’t going to throw it out just yet.
The rain started out slow, and I had no problem aimlessly walking the streets, hoping to run into the bad guys.
Yes, this was quite possibly the worst plan ever, but quite honestly, I didn’t care. It felt good to be doing something.
At some point, after about half an hour of aimless wandering, I heard footsteps behind me. I didn’t usually skulk around the streets this late at night, but I was fairly sure most people were usually at home.
I whirled around, one hand gripping my semi-broken umbrella, the other closed around my wand in my bag.
All I could see were shadows. Whoever was around definitely wasn’t a Muggle, that much I could tell.
This town was suddenly far more interesting. I’d originally thought I’d be the only witch in miles. Apparently, I was wrong.
“Who’s there?” I called out, only realising after I did so that it was probably a stupid thing to do.
I turned my head in the direction of the soft and scared voice, finding Sophia crouched behind somene’s rubbish bin a few metres from where I stood.
“Sophia! What are you doing out here? You should be at home!” I admonished, very much aware that I was starting to sound like a teacher.
“Mum and Dad are out to dinner tonight, it’s their anniversary,” she explained, apparently forgetting her fear for the moment.
“Why are you hiding?” I asked again, crouching down to her level.
“The bad men are back,” she said softly, her eyes darting around anxiously.
I stood up quickly, the back of my neck prickling. If these men were as professional as I thought they were, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d planned this. Real criminals did their research. They already had a photo of me, it was logical to assume they’d know Sophia’s name and her parents’ names, and things like wedding anniversaries weren’t hard to find out.
“Come on, I’ll walk you home,” I said, taking her hand.
I couldn’t help but contemplate how weird this was. Sophia seemed to trust me and rely on me. She knew where I lived, for god’s sake. I was fairly sure that wasn’t a normal thing for a teacher’s aide to be involved with.
That being said, most people in my position weren’t witches, and didn’t have a student who was a muggleborn.
Nothing in my life was ever simple, it seemed.
“Lead the way,” I said to her, and she did so, though I could see she was anxious.
We made it several blocks without an incident. Of course, once I started thinking that I’d get her home without anything happening, something happened.
Funny how that often happens.
There was once again footsteps behind us, and I tensed, drawing my wand fully this time.
There was a moment’s silence, and then curses started flying. A stunning spell shot past my shoulder, and I immediately went into crisis mode.
They were attacking us in full view of Muggles. This clearly was a lot bigger than I realised.
I crouched down beside Sophia, casting a shield charm.
“Sophia, is there any detail you remember that you didn’t tell me or the Aurors?” I said quietly, sending a stunning spell of my own at one of the black figures.
It was hazy, and hard to see. We were an easier target for them to see than they were for us. I was, thankfully, wearing dark colours once again, but we were standing in a wide-open space of footpath, whereas they were lurking in the shadows.
“Um..” Sophia said, and I could see that she was scared.
Fair enough, too.
“They…they mentioned a name. Something like Hank or Tank or something like that. They said they needed something from him…or they needed him. I don’t know.”
Hank? As in Hank Tusso? The man who’s stolen object was now in Ministry custody? Interesting.
“You should have told the Aurors that, Sophia,” I said firmly.
“I wasn’t sure I heard right! I…I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking clearly then.”
I could see she felt bad for not telling everything, so I smiled gently as I grabbed her wrist, preparing to apparate. I couldn’t fend of these men and talk to her at the same time, it was ridiculous to even try.
“It’s ok,” I said quietly with a reassuring smile, and then I started twisting to apparate.
As the strange sucking feeling started, I felt a strong pain in my shoulder. It spread quickly, moving from a sharp jabbing pain to a throbbing ache across my shoulder, causing me to gasp and hunch forward. Somehow, I still managed to apparate, appearing in my home.
“Sophia, you need to go home,” I gasped, grasping my shoulder tightly with my now free hand, as my umbrella was lying abandoned on the floor.
“How?” She said, and I groaned.
“Fine, stay here,” I said, giving up on making her return home. She’d be alone there anyway, and this way I knew they weren’t attacking her.
I hobbled over to the fireplace, and tossed some floo powder in. Kneeling down carefully, I stuck my head in and flooed my parent’s house.
I actually thought that decision through this time, deciding that I would floo them, not Scorpius, for once.
Once I’d explained the situation to my mother, she left to get Dad, and I pulled my head out, knowing they’d arrive shortly to help me.
“What was that?” Sophia said, staring at the fireplace in awe.
“Nothing,” I said tiredly, too exhausted to care that she wouldn’t accept that as a reasonable answer.
I didn’t care. I was in pain, I had a kid stuck in my house, and I’d lost the trail of the traders. Things were not going well.
On top of that, Albus, Miranda and Scorpius were probably going to be mightily pissed at me for not returning. Scorpius would definitely be mad that I went hunting down clues without him.
I’d blame it on a temporary moment of insanity, I think.
I waited for Dad to arrive, and was forced to realise how stupid I’d been. I’d thought I’d grown up, yet tonight I’d decided to take off on my own, and had gotten myself into a duel, in Muggle territory.
However, I hadn’t received an owl telling me off for that, so I could safely assume that no Muggles had witnessed the magic this time.
That group of criminals certainly weren’t afraid to take risks.
Sitting down, I sighed, and tried to think back over the last few months. I wanted to figure this out, it wasn’t just for Scorpius’ story anymore. I was involved in this, they had a picture of me, and I had been attacked by them. Sophia as well.
Like it or not, I was part of this now, much more so than Scorpius was.
Why did everything in my mind always have something to do with Scorpius sodding Malfoy?
“No, Rose, wait!”
I kept running, running as fast as I could from his voice. He wanted to understand why I’d done that. He was confused, and understandably so.
I’d broken up with him, giving him a false reason. Part of me was sure he knew I was lying.
So I ran.
“Go away, Scorpius!” I said, turning abruptly at the end of the third floor corridor and taking a short cut behind a tapestry.
“Rose, just at least explain, I don’t know what I did-“
The tapestry fell back into place behind me, and I allowed myself a moment to take a breath and calm myself down, before I continued on.
I’d done this for his own good. Not for myself. He was too good for me.
At the time, breaking up with Scorpius seemed to be the only thing I could do. I was young and naďve.
I’d thought I was bad for him, I was so convinced of that fact. I’d been thoroughly sure I was a worthless person, but I hadn’t realised what that meant about me. I was blind to my issues.
I’d let him go, and I had been right, in a way. It had been good for him. It hadn’t, however, been good for me. He’d stopped talking to me after I yelled at him in the middle of the Great Hall at breakfast, claiming that he’d broken my heart.
He hadn’t, of course, but I knew it hurt him to hear me say that, and to try and figure out why I was saying that.
Hell, it hurt me to say it. And now, well, now it was just a big mess.
Nothing was as simple as it seemed. Sure, we’d graduated, but it didn’t magically mean we’d matured. We were still just as prone to acting rashly and doing stupid things as we were last year.
More so, in fact.
I gave all the information to the Aurors, though I still didn’t tell them that they’d had my photo. I knew Dad would go ballistic if he knew that, so I kept it to myself.
A week after the attack, I still felt shaky. I wasn’t exactly sure why, probably because I knew they were directly after Sophia and I. We knew things about them, and that was a weakness for them.
Sure, the Aurors now knew that they were definitely tied to Hank Tusso, the man they had in custody, but Sophia and I were the only two eyewitnesses. If they had any suspects, we would be called into identify them, and that was a big responsibility.
It was also a big reason for them to come after us, but so far everything seemed calm.
Scorpius had apparated into my house the minute he found out, and was livid I’d gone off and got myself into a fight.
“What the hell were you thinking, Rose?” he yelled, running a hand through his hair in frustration.
He was the picture of anguish, with his work shirt unbuttoned slightly, and the sleeves rolled up. I wanted to yell back, but I had nothing to say. He was right.
Besides, I was slightly stunned that he was yelling at me because I’d done something reckless, rather than yelling at me because I’d left him out of it.
“I don’t know! I had an idea, so I followed up on it,” I said truthfully, but Scorpius only glared.
“This is dangerous, Rose. It’s bigger than we thought.” He said softly but carefully, as he approached me.
“I did some research, these guys have been operating for years. We’re out of our depth, we shouldn’t be hunting this. I have enough to build a decent story. If there’s anything more, great, but I don’t want you to risk your safety,” he said seriously, his eyes boring into mine.
It struck me how much he cared for me. Yes, it was as a friend, but I could see it on his face. He’d been truly worried for my safety. That was what really hit me, and made me decide to back down.
Or at least I’d back down when he was around. I still wanted to know how they’d gotten my picture, and why.
Scorpius smiled, obviously relieved that I agreed with him. He was right, in a sense, and I wasn’t entirely lying. I’d back down, because he was worried for me, but I had to know why they had my picture. It was personal.
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