-Rose, The White Hart Hotel. Thursday 30th December, 8am
I couldn’t sleep. Scorpius lay curled up in a ball next to me, breathing softly, but even his quiet rhythm couldn’t soothe me. I lay on my back, hands clenched into fists on my stomach, glaring at the ceiling. I had been fighting the tears since we’d gone to bed- we were both too tired after puzzling over Lily’s folder to argue over the double bed- and now it was morning. I hadn’t slept one bit.
I gingerly sat up, levering myself off the bed, thankfully without creaking the springs and waking up Scorpius. I padded softly over to the bathroom, the piece of paper crumpled in my hand. The piece of paper I hadn’t let Scorpius see. The piece of paper I needed to get rid of.
At first, the name had only triggered a faint memory that I couldn’t quite place- and then, once we’d got back to the hotel and I’d had time to look at it again, I remembered.
Jack Howard, Bradley Collins, Zachariah Dalton.
Jack Howard was the name on an old marriage certificate, one that Lorcan found and gave to me as evidence of his ‘evil intentions’. That is a direct Lorcan quote, I’ll have you know. He can be a little forceful.
The address there was somewhere in Yorkshire, a large house called Langdon’s End. Zach never told me about it, but I had never even known he’d come to Britain before, and he hadn’t exactly been truthful with me anyway. And now he was in a Fraternity file? The address sounded pretty fancy, and I wondered if we should go. Zach had helped me at the trial; surely he would do it again?
“Rose?” said a half-panicked voice from the bedroom. I poked my head around the door.
Scorpius flopped backwards into bed, rubbing his eyes tiredly. “I’m going to sleep a bit longer,” he said, and then instantly fell back asleep.
I turned back, ripping the paper up into pieces and dropping down the toilet, the pressing the flush. The paper all disappeared in the swirling vortex, and guilt clutched at me. But I shouldn’t have shown Scorpius. It would make things complicated- even more so than they already were- and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t like thinking about my ex-husband full stop.
-Rose, The White Hart Hotel Thursday 30th December, 12pm
Scorpius sat with a pen in his hand and A3 sized paper spread out in front of him, his brow furrowed. I genuinely don’t think he’s ever planned anything more complicated than a shopping list before, and he was just copying the A-Team.
Nevertheless, I was being patient. I had forced him to come to my apartment, and now he was planning for the trip to Cardiff. He was determined to meet up with the others- and do it his way.
“We’re not going to go tonight,” he said, pulling the laptop towards him and switching it on. I raised an eyebrow, but didn’t ask why. I could see that his hands were shaking as he typed in the password, and as he pushed his hair out from his eyes.
I ran a hand through my own, bright blue hair. It needed washing, but we’d used up all the complimentary shampoos. The receptionist this morning had nearly had a fit when she’d seen me, and I’d tried to explain it away as a drunken dare from Mr Granger. She didn’t look convinced, and I had to admit that it was a weird thing for a newly-wed couple to do. We didn’t act very in love either, but Scorpius was distracted.
Scorpius was grieving. I was just ignoring the fact that I would never see Richie again. It probably wasn’t the best way of dealing with his death, his murder, but it was the only way I could deal with it.
“Are you even listening to me?”
I shook my head. “Not really.”
“Do you think that you could then?” Scorpius asked; the sarcasm heavy. We were just so tired. “We’ll get there tomorrow morning, super early, and then wait on the roof for someone to come. We should be able to hear –or see- anyone who comes.”
He looked at me expectantly, and I smiled. “Sounds good.”
Scorpius nodded to himself and continued, swivelling the laptop over to face me. “This is what the swimming pool looks like,” he said, showing me a satellite picture of a large, disused building. “Theo said that they’d come at eight o’clock at night, and wait for five minutes. Our biggest problem is missing them, because it’s going to be pitch black and they’ll be hidden too-”
“Homenum Revelio?” I asked.
“That’s just what I was going to say,” Scorp said, flashing me a quick smile. He paused. “That’s the bare bones of it, I guess. What do you think?”
I grinned back at him. “It sounds pretty good so far. So, how are we getting there?”
-Rose: disused swimming pool, outside Cardiff Friday 31st December, 7.59pm
We’d spent all day crouched on the viewer’s balcony at the swimming pool. Most of the roof had gone –something that hadn’t showed up in the outdated photos- so we’d improvised and lay instead in between the rows of seating above the dried out pool.
The swimming pool was eerie. It felt dead and neglect was shown in every cobweb and pile of mouldy leaves blown into corners. Outside, the car park was grown over in weeds, and inside the plants were gradually taking it back, pushing up through the tiles and snaking over the linoleum. I wondered, if someday, all the buildings I frequented would end up like this. Maybe even Hogwarts, one day, would appear like it does to Muggles- a tired, old, ruined building open to elements.
Twas a sad thought.
Scorpius tapped my forehead lightly. “It’s eight o’clock,” he whispered. He was lying just down from me on the same aisle; our heads nearly touching, our feet in opposite directions. It made talking easier, and at least I didn’t have to put up with his feet, and my feet were resting on Tracey’s backpack.
I pointed my wand down, towards the pool itself, and whispered; ‘homenum revelio’, my lips barely moving. I waited a couple of seconds, but nothing.
“Nothing,” I whispered back to Scorpius. He shuffled slightly, putting his hands behind his head, and breathing deeply. He stared up at the night sky- the stars gave us plenty of light to see by.
“Try again then.”
“Scorpius?” I said, not even bothering to be quiet anymore. For a second, I thought that he was asleep, but-
“I really think we should go now, and come back tomorrow. They’re not going to come.”
“What’s the time?” His voice sounded hoarse.
“It’s nearly midnight,” I told him, crossing my arms over my chest in a futile effort to keep warm. If I get the flu or something again, it’s not going to be pretty. And I will blame him.
There was really long pause, until he finally said; “Okay. Let’s go.”
I levered myself upright with difficulty, pulling on the crumbling faded orange plastic seats. I stretched, trying to ease the knots out of my muscles and warm them up. Scorpius stood up slowly, like a zombie, listlessly pulling his thick jumper straight over his shoulders. I bent to pick up the rucksack-
And then suddenly there was a popping, cracking sound, deafeningly loud, and suddenly I was on the floor, Scorpius’ body warm above me, a protective shield- and for a second the big mystery was how the hell had he moved so fast? But the noise continued, familiar yet terrifying.
“What the hell is that?” he asked softly, his breath blowing into my ear and tickling.
My right hand was in front of me, protecting my skull from the concrete floor, and in the face of my watch I could see reflected bright colours and sparks against the night sky. I blinked, and re-checked the time.
“Scorpius, get off me,” I said, half-laughing in relief. I felt him start to relax, but he stayed above me. “It’s only fireworks, Scorpius. It’s New Year’s Eve. Well,” I said, tapping my watch so he would look and see. “It’s New Year’s Day now.”
He awkwardly clambered off me- the small space we’d been lying in seeming even smaller. He stuck a hand out to help me up, and I got to my feet, rubbing my elbow where I’d painfully banged it against the metal seat frames.
“Happy New Year,” he said, brushing some dirt from my sleeve. I was suddenly seized by a new happiness, his words had just brushed away my melancholy like sweeping dust under a rug.
“Let’s go see the fireworks,” I said, and grabbed his hand, jumping over the back of the seats to get to the highest row. Scorpius had no choice but to follow, shouldering the backpack. I let go of his hand as we stood on the top row, and balanced myself on the back of the row of seats. The roof was only partially there, and while in front of me there was the drop to the car park, on my left, the breaking roof met me. I jumped, catching hold of the edge of the roof, and hoisted myself up, the muscles in my arms burning from holding my weight. I stood up, and Scorpius joined me, pushing his hair out of his eyes. I grabbed his hand again, and half-ran across the roof, not caring that most of it had already fallen in, and the weight of two people could easily cause the rest to collapse. It was a slope, up to the V in the centre, and that’s where we balanced, watching Cardiff’s New Year fireworks from a distance.
They exploded in burst of bright colour; the emerald flames of a fire after Floo powder, gold and white like the sparklers from Wizard Wheezes, blue like a summer sky and Weasley-hair style red. They spanned the horizon, from east to west, like short-lived blooming flowers-
-and then, and I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I was kissing Scorpius.
He tasted of sweat and dust, and his face was so cold to the touch, but the rest of him was warm, so I wrapped my arms around his neck, my palms brushing the rough two-day stubble on his cheeks and feeling the grit under his collar from lying on the floor. I kind of forgot about the fireworks, which was a shame- because when am I ever going to have a chance to see such a display again?- but Scorpius was taking up all my attention, and I was completely fine with that. He tugged me closer, his hand on the small of my back, until our chests were pressed together and I could feel his heart beating the same erratic rhythm as mine-
-and then I heard a dull thump as someone else climbed onto the roof and a familiar voice.
“Am I interrupting something?” Lysander enquired nonchalantly.
We broke apart, and for a second I couldn’t figure out where Lysander was, I was so disorientated. Scorpius kept his arm around my waist, but I didn’t meet his eyes.
I just kissed a married man. A soon-to-be father.
A Malfoy. Dad was going to kill me.
Lysander held up his hands in a surrendering manner. “My bad,” he continued. “I didn’t really expect to see that though...”
Scorpius found his voice. “The meeting time was hours ago,” he said accusingly.
“You’re still here though, so it wasn’t too bad.”
Lysander strode up to meet us, and as soon as he was close enough, he pulled me away from Scorpius and enveloped me in a massive hug. I hugged him back, half-resting my head on his shoulder. I missed the twins. They were like older brothers, looking out for me rather than the other way around, like I had to with Hugo.
And then Lysander whispered in my ear. His breath was warm, but his words chilled me. “They’re watching us. I was caught. It’s a trap.”
He let go of me and I had to work hard to keep the shock off my face. “Where’s Albus?” I asked, keeping my voice even and light. I was happy to see my friend, I told myself, my friend who definitely didn’t just tell me something. “And have you heard from James or Lily?”
“Albus is with me,” he said, as I slowly retreated back towards Scorpius. “But we’re taking turns to scout out the pool for you guys. I haven’t seen James or Lily, and there’s been no sign of anyone else yet either.”
I heard the double meaning behind his words. James and Lily are safe. No-one else has been caught. He had avoided mentioning Hugo as well- which meant that he was safe, surely?- nevertheless, he had probably wanted to keep Theo’s name out of conversation. But Albus had been caught as well.
Scorpius opened his mouth to say something, but I grabbed at his hand, catching hold of two fingers and snapping them back quickly. The crack! they made was easily audible, and Scorpius yelped with pain.
“What’s wrong?” Lysander asked, like he hadn’t just seen me break Scorpius’ fingers.
“He’s fine,” I said, answering for him. “He gets cramp in his fingers at the weirdest times.”
Scorpius looked at me to Lysander, nursing his fingers against his chest, but wisely just nodded. He could see there was something underneath the surface here, and he suddenly smiled at me, as if to say; I’ll go along with anything.
Now all I had to work out was how to get off this rooftop, and not in a body bag.
But then another face appeared at the edge of the roof hole. A face that had imprinted itself on my memory and my stomach twisted in hatred. He still bore the bruises from his fight with Scorpius, and we both simultaneously whipped out our wands, pointing them at Marcus.
“I really wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said, not even making a move to get his own wand out. Lysander shook his head warningly, and I lowered my wand, motioning for Scorpius to do the same.
“I thought I told you not to give anything away,” he said softly, and Lysander winced. “Never mind,” Marcus continued. “We’re all together now. I have to say, I didn’t expect you two to turn up. Didn’t think you’d be so stupid. Was it Malfoy’s idea?”
He lazily walked towards us, and I took hold of Scorpius’ wrist. I didn’t want to grab his broken fingers, but I didn’t want him to lose himself and launch himself at Marcus. I could see that he wanted to. Every muscle in his body looked tense, and the hatred on his face was curled into an ugly scowl.
“Anyway,” Marcus said. “The honest truth of it is that we have Lorcan, Albus, and now you two. Not quite according to plan, but then, we were planning for people with some degree of intelligence.” Marcus shrugged. “Just in case you were thinking of trying anything, please keep in mind that there is a blanket anti-apparating spell and the whole building is booby-trapped with curses... not to mention I have twenty Fraternity members and a dozen Aurors here.” He shrugged. The number was small, but more than enough for two people. “It seems that the criminals and the crime-fighters have been united with common interests,” he said. “Namely, the end of the Clan. You make everyone look bad.
“I am curious as to how you managed to keep all this from your family, from your friends, from your work colleagues, from the Prophet. Is it memory charms? Confunding people? Or do you just lie, and they mindlessly believe you?”
Marcus was enjoying this, the bastard. Our helplessness, and contrasting that with what we used to have. What we used to have. We used to have a network of informants, bottomless resources and solid alibis. We used to have fun, we used to break the law just to lift the boredom and to live a little, to take a few Galleons off a rich bloke and put it to better use with a party, or extravagant Christmas presents. We used to have each other. All sixteen of us. We were a team, a family, and we were amazing together.
“Oh, and Red, what have you done with your hair? Are you colour-blind?”
“I hate you.” The words fell out of my mouth unbidden, but I didn’t regret them. Marcus just laughed, walking forwards until he was level with Lysander. He stood easily, his hands in his jacket pockets.
“You dyed it specifically to spite me?” he asked, chuckling. But he stopped laughing when a cloud of silver spiralled down on the rooftop, solidifying into a moderately sized bird- a cuckoo, I thought. It perched on an aerial, opening his mouth, and out poured a man’s voice, deep and sounding pleased.
“Dominique and Victoire Weasley, and Theodore Lupin have been secured from Hogwarts.”
Hogwarts. That’s where they had been hiding. I had to admit, it was a good idea. We already had a good idea of how to get in, and Dom would have had a copy of the Marauder’s Map- but we’d already been followed in by the Fraternity once. It must have been easy, the second time.
The bird dissolved into the crisp night air, and Marcus broke into a huge grin. “It’s going to be one big family reunion then!” he said.
“What are you going to do with them?” Scorpius asked stiffly, but Marcus just widened his smile, like a crocodile before it snapped you up.
“Exactly what we’re going to do with you.”
“And that is?” I asked, spitting the words out through clenched teeth.
“Take you up to the boss’ big house in Yorkshire,” he said. “He’s overly fond of theatrics, in my opinion, but he’s enabled me to get rid of you, so I’ll put up with anything while there are still Clan-members to catch. Ooh,” he said suddenly, realising something, “my uncle and granddaddy were Snatchers for Voldemort. I guess it runs in the family.”
And then suddenly Lysander tackled Marcus to the floor, rolling with him down the roof. I was still holding Scorpius’ wrist, and set off running, slipping down the rooftop to the hole. I paused on the edge, looking for Lysander, and saw him wave me away. Marcus’ wand clattered down the slope, spinning off the edge, and Marcus howled in pain as Lysander elbowed him in the face.
“Go, Red!” he yelled, so I tightened my hold on Scorpius, and we jumped together. My right ankle jarred as we landed on the top step of the spectator balcony, but I couldn’t afford to think about that now, so I limped after Scorpius, as he made for the steps down to the main floor. But where the stairs should have been was a thick, sweet-smelling fog. It hung heavily on the floor, occasional tendrils creeping forwards, and then one shot out towards Scorpius, but he jumped backwards just in time.
“Booby-traps,” he snarled, and headed for the balcony instead. “You lower me down,” he said, “and then I’ll catch you.”
“Reparo,” Scorpius said, and winced as his fingers suddenly snapped straight. “That probably isn’t the best solution, but next time you want me to shut up, stand on my foot or something.”
He quickly climbed over the railing, and I leant over, holding onto his wrists and his fingers were wrapped painfully around mine. His own face was screwed up in agony. I hooked my foot around the metal frame for the rows of seats, my muscles burning as I tried to lean as far as I could forwards without falling. Scorpius let go, and fell about six foot to the tiles below, landing heavily.
“Are you alright?”
He picked himself up, taking no notice of me. “The bag?” he asked, and I dropped it over the balcony. He caught it, bending his knees to absorb the weight. There was a yell from the roof, but Scorpius shook his head, tightening the rucksack’s straps on his shoulder.
“Come on!” he told me quickly, looking left and right anxiously.
I swung myself over the railing as well, shuffling down until I was only holding on by my fingertips. “Scorpius?”
“I’ll probably catch you,” he called back.
I let go, and he did half-catch me, but I jarred my ankle again and this time I was pretty sure something snapped. I gritted my teeth and tested my weight- I could walk on it without screaming in agony.
“All the exits are going to be barred,” Scorpius said, and I nodded.
“Try the windows,” I suggested, limping towards one. “Not the ones that have already been smashed.”
Scorpius saw what I meant, and got out his wand. “Wingardium Leviosa!” he said, pointing his wand at an abandoned lifeguard’s chair. It awkwardly climbed into the air, and then he flung his arm towards one of the few surviving whole windows, aiming for the bottom. It crashed through spectacularly, sending a shower of glass down into the empty pool.
I had shielded my face with a sleeve, and now I hobbled across to the window, my shoes crunching the shards. Scorpius ran up behind me, and helped me through the window. He could see I was hurt, even if I wasn’t saying anything. I swear, the only times I am injured is while running away from things. Maybe it’s Godric Gryffindor’s spirit cursing me for not standing and fighting.
I advanced cautiously across the unused car park with Scorpius at my side, scanning the darkness for any signs of the thirty-plus bad guys that Marcus told us about. A shout; and a jet of red light sped towards us. I threw up a Shield Charm, and grabbed Scorpius’ arm, tugging him along. It soon was the other way around, as I concentrated on deflecting and returning fire.
“STUPEFY!” I yelled.
“Christ Red, that was in my ear!” Scorpius moaned.
“Oh, shut up,” I snapped. “CONFRINGO!” I yelled, seeing a tree, and it burst into flames. It was quite interesting to note that in high-stress situations, everyone called me Red. Maybe it was because it was short and snappy; less feminine than the flowery Rose.
Scorpius slowed down running, and I stumbled after him. “I think we can Disapparate now,” he said, and I needed no further encouragement.
-Rose: homeless drop-in centre, Sheffield Saturday 1st January, 6.30am
I’d Apparated us away to another of the Clan’s drop-off points in Sheffield, the goods entrance to a shopping centre. In the early hours of the morning on New Year’s Day, it was deserted. There, we’d strapped up our broken bones and cleaned any scratches we had, and cleaned up our faces.
And I’ll say one thing for Muggles, they certainly were generous during the festive season. We’d found a homeless drop-in centre, and been accepted in without question. I wondered briefly what Scorpius’ parents would have said to see him huddled over a cup of coffee, an empty bowl of soup next to him, and wrapped up against the biting cold in donated scarves. I shuffled over to him. Someone had given me a parka and while warm, the bulk was really restricting.
“So, I may have screwed up a lot back there,” he said sullenly, wincing as he flexed his fingers.
“It was a good idea,” I said, comfortingly.
“No, it was a crap idea. It was what they were expecting us to do.”
“It was a good idea,” I inisisted. “We’re stronger together, or we’ll just get picked off individually, unless we can keep totally under cover like Roxy.”
“So what’s the next big plan?” Scorpius asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
“We’re going to meet up with the rest of us, and then we’re going to storm the house in Yorkshire to get Lysander and Lorcan and the rest back, and to finish this.”
Scorpius didn’t even look at me. “So what’s the real plan?”
“Scorpius, I’m serious. Think of everything we achieved together.” I lowered my voice as a do-gooder refilled Scorpius’ cup, and when she moved away, I carried on. “Together, we were unstoppable. Now, we’re divided and not one-tenth of what we were. Plus, I highly doubt they are expecting us to launch an attack, so we’ll have the element of surprise.”
I could tell Scorpius kind of liked the plan- it was crazy to the point where it could possibly work. With all of us. “You’re completely mad,” he said, shaking his head.
I grinned. “I’ll tell you a secret; all the best people are.”
A/N: I am so sorry for the massive delay in getting this chapter out :( I truly am a bad person, and it was a horrible way to repay all you lovely people for supporting me in the Dobbies. Every vote meant so much to me, and I am indebted to you all. Thank you. I hope this chapter makes up for it, and I hope you enjoyed it. (Please review!) As you can probably tell, we're nearing the end of Hattie now.
Also, 'all the best people are mad' is a wonderful (adapted) quote from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.
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