A/N:Fair warning, all but the first 200 words of this chapter were written after midnight. Inspiration strikes me at the oddest times.
I should have known better. Hell, we both should have. Sneaking around the Ministry of Magic never ends well.
We’d headed towards the third floor, like planned. However, it had proved difficult to inconspicuously spy on the disturbance. Scorpius, ever the keen reporter, had spotter someone skulking around the elevators.
“I reckon he’s on watch,” he whispered to me, nodding to the man, dressed in plain clothes, not Ministry robes.
His eyes were roving the crowd, and he was leaning against the wall, trying to look surly and completely natural. My eyes had completely missed him, glossing over the nondescript man who wasn’t performing any interesting actions. Scorpius was sharper when it came to things like this.
I eyed him now, and something about his face seemed familiar. I wasn’t sure, but I thought he might have been part of the trading circle.
That, or I was paranoid. Both were possible.
Scorpius, while I was busy eyeing the man, had pulled out a notepad and was jotting down things – notes for his story, I’d imagine.
I blinked at him.
“Scorpius!” I hissed, rather exasperated at his apparent need to take notes.
Scorpius looked up, first at me, then at the wall behind me, where the man had been standing.
“Rose, he’s moving!” he whispered excitedly, and I whipped around.
We both crept forward, following the man as he headed into the elevator. We, of course, had to wait for a second one to arrive – going down in the same elevator as the man we were following, who was, quite possibly, a dangerous magical objects trader, was not a good idea.
Part of me knew it was a stupid thing to do as we descended that elevator. We’d pushed every button, hoping to see him on one of the floors. Not the best plan, but it was all we had.
Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky. When we hit the bottom floor, were we’d been only hours earlier, in a cell, I looked at Scorpius, and shrugged.
“Listen,” he whispered quietly to me, his brow furrowing.
I tilted my head, concentrating. There was definitely some sort of disturbance on this floor that had caught his attention.
I wagered the big disturbance on floor three was just a decoy. Whatever was happening here, it sounded bad. Bangs, thuds, low shouts. Whoever these people were, they weren’t worried about being overheard, which either meant they were stupid, or dangerous.
My mind quickly took inventory of the places on this floor. The holding cells, but there weren’t any big cases going on at the moment that would warrant attention. All the objects they confiscated from criminals belonged here too, in vaults. Archives, and other mundane things like that.
The vaults were what piqued my attention. I knew the traders had had an object confiscated. I knew they wanted it back. That man at the elevator had looked suspicious for a reason.
This was the trading circle. It had to be.
I turned to Scorpius, to fill him in on my revelation, but I could see it already dawning on his face.
“Well, shit,” he said, and I couldn’t help but smile slightly at that.
Simultaneously we headed towards the ominous sounds. They’d be trying to get whatever object they were trading back, that I knew for sure.
I’d always been a bit rash and impulsive. Never had I regretted that particular part of my personality so much as this moment. Trapped in a full body bind, my eyes roamed from one trader to the next, and I could sense, rather than feel or see, Scorpius next to me in the same condition.
Turns out, the two of us weren’t exactly a match for the entire trading circle. Especially not when they had leverage.
“You think we didn’t do our research, Weasley?”
One leered at me, carefully pacing back and forth between Scorpius and me, and Sophia, trapped between three of them on the other side of the corridor. The vaults were behind us, and I knew they had already as good as achieved their goal. We were just here for sport.
“Your Daddy’s a powerful man, you know,” he continued on, his hands clasped behind his back, “very, very useful man to know. Thanks to you, sweet pea, it wasn’t hard to steal a lock of his hair. Visiting your house like that, people leave all kinds of things behind. Strolling around the village in the open also isn’t the best way to oneself.”
He smirked at me, and I groaned. They’d gotten Dad’s hair, I shouldn’t be surprised. That would explain how they got down here so easily. I bet my broomstick that part of their plan had only emerged when I’d shown up at Edgeston Primary School. They would have recognized me instantly, and tracked me. They were right, my Dad had visited, and he had walked through town on Auror business several times.
God damn it.
There was one member of the trading circle who I was surprised hadn’t spoken up. Jack Pinton was leaning against the wall, inspecting his fingernails. He would have been the one to hatch the plan involving my father, I wagered.
“Thanks to you, and your father’s hair, we can get back to business and close our deal,” a new trader spoke up, mock bowing in my direction.
This was horrid. We’d walked right into a trap. Everyone else was upstairs, fighting off some mock take over or explosion or god knows what.
Sophia, hunched into a ball, her eyes wide, was staring at me. I could tell she was terrified, but there was nothing I could do.
With a bitter taste in my mouth, I watched as a package wrapped in black cloth was taken from the vault, and vanished by two of the traders. I narrowed my eyes, the only way I had of showing my frustration. They all slowly started to leave, and I started to panic. They were going to get away with it.
They were going to get away with everything. I stared at Sophia, terrified, and at Jack Pinton, smug and triumphant. I saw Sophia’s eyes follow mine.
I didn’t expect her to react. The traders, apparently, didn’t either.
That’s the thing about children with magic. It can manifest itself so suddenly, it’s shocking. It can be quite powerful too, often more powerful than anything they’ll manage for several years.
Sophia’s magic knocked down the traders surrounding her, and blew Jack Pinton into the wall, stunning him. One of those who’d been taken down must have been controlling the curse on Scorpius, because he was free.
He didn’t free me, like I’d expected. No, he did the logical, practical thing. The thing that would save the day.
He set off the alarm.
Within seconds, Aurors and Hitwizards were descending. Some traders had already escaped, the object was long gone, but the leaders were still here. I saw my father among them, and was released by some kind soul.
I flew to Sophia, and hugged the girl to my chest. She was sobbing.
“They were bad men, weren’t they?” she asked me.
“Yes, they were,” I agreed, “you helped capture them.”
I smiled down at her, trying my hardest to stabilize the rather watery and weak smile. Sophia seemed to relax. After a moment, I released her, and stood to speak to my father. This would take a fair bit of explaining from the Ministry, it wasn’t everyday someone managed to break in.
Slowly, it dawned on me just how much of this was my fault. I hadn’t picked up on it soon enough. They’d been right under my nose, all along. They’d used me and my family to get into the Ministry.
It was partly my fault.
I turned on my heel, and fled around the corner of the corridor.
Scorpius, of course.
It was eerie to hear him echo that same phrase, just like he had when I’d broken up with him. He’d been frantic then, and was now too. I heard worry in his tone, exactly like I had then too.
I waited till I rounded the corner and was out of sight from the Aurors before I turned to wait for him.
I didn’t try to explain anything. I couldn’t. I’d dragged him into this too. I’d pried into it like a curious child, not caring about the consequences. I’d walked into attacks too many times to justify myself.
I was reckless.
I looked up at Scorpius, and I broke. I collapsed, his arms reaching out to catch me. I sobbed into his shirt silently.
I’d been right back in Hogwarts. He really did deserve better than me. I thought I’d grown up a bit these past few months. I’d been so focused on this investigation, if you could call it that, that I’d been blind to the big picture. It wasn’t my job to dig around in things like this. I enjoyed it, but it was dangerous. I shouldn’t have dragged him into it.
I ran off into things, I was impulsive. I relied on him far too much. I lied, so much.
I was just as immature as I had been at seventeen.
“I was right,” I finally choked out to Scorpius.
He just stared. That frustrated me, so I said it again.
“I was right,” I repeated, firmly, “back then, to break up with you. I’m an idiot.”
Scorpius’s eyes widened in shock – whatever he’d been expecting me to say, that wasn’t it.
“Rose, the only reason you’re an idiot is because you broke up with me for such a stupid reason,” he reasoned, but I was already shaking my head.
“You don’t get it!” I exclaimed, stepping away from him, my body tense.
“This, all of it,” I said, gesturing to the corridor around us and the Aurors down the hall, “is all my fault! They tracked me, and I didn’t even notice. I walked right into it, I took off on my own and tried to figure things out, which just made it worse.”
I would have continued, but Scorpius stopped me, silencing me with a wave of his wand.
“Rose, you need to stop, and listen, okay?” he asked.
I glared at him, inwardly cursing.
“I love you,” he said simply, and I couldn’t help but tense, my head jerking back slightly, my heart rate increasing.
“No, don’t,” he said, and continued on, “don’t freak out. You know this. I don’t care if you think this is entirely your fault. It’s not, by the way. You didn’t break into the Ministry. You aren’t part of the trading circle. You’ve just been drawn into it, a victim. It’s entirely their fault.”
My eyes followed him as he started to pace. I could have removed the spell on myself with my own wand, especially now that he wasn’t looking at me directly, but I found myself staring at him instead.
“The fact that you’d accept the blame for all of this is one of the reasons I do love you,” he said frankly, and I froze.
“You don’t get it, Rose. You keep pulling away. I’m here. I’ve been here for a long time.”
He hesitated now.
“Look, Rose, I love you, I do, but if you keep pulling away, I’m not going to stay here, waiting, if you’re stuck on your decision. You might change your mind, but I know you, Rose. It’s why I love you. You rarely change your mind. And sitting here, waiting, hoping…it…” he trailed off, looking, for the first time, not at me, but at the floor.
“It hurts,” he finally muttered, and I closed my eyes.
I, too, looked at the floor, my own eyes full of tears. I knew I was treating him badly. Horrifically, even.
He’d move on. He would.
I didn’t say anything, and we stood in silence, both of us looking at the floor. He loved me. Currently, anyway. I’d hurt him, and I had a feeling he wouldn’t ever get over that.
I knew I’d never get over it, and that was the biggest reason I didn’t open my mouth and speak up. I knew, oh, I definitely knew how I felt. I’d been hiding it for a long time, but it was there, clear. It had never really left.
I stayed silent, and watched as his feet moved away from mine. As a tear dripped from my nose, I uttered the words in my head instead.