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Chapter 24 : The Great Escape
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24. THE GREAT ESCAPE
The last caper.
Beneath the clouds, the land blurred into strokes of paint, marred by the odd rooftop. Frost coated her lashes white, and she couldn't blink, only watch, as her abductors pulled her across Britain. On the other side of Cato, Scorpius' body twisted like a rag-doll, but she had seen him wake up...
Bea opened her eyes again and it was black.
Lying on her side, shivering and cramps clamoring, the ground didn't feel quite real, and with all the yanking around in the past hour, she wouldn't be surprised if it weren't.
As her breathing slowed, she heard a second presence behind her; a stifled cough, then a shifting of fabric. The pressure around her wrists wasn't Cato's grip but rope and it tightened. On instinct, she jerked forward, not the best idea without arms to balance as she began to tip over. Oh, the ground was there now. It was about to hit her face.
The other person then steadied her just before impact. "Sorry. Hold still." It was Scorpius. "Invisible knots take a while to—I said, hold still."
Cans clattered by her feet. With her arms bound, her impulsive flail transferred to her knees. "Scorp—" Bea began to say but her throat was bone dry.
His heel pressed into her back, and she felt his fingers wriggle through the loop around her wrist. Scorpius gave one last yank and the ropes fell. "There—careful!"
Hands and limbs banging into box corners, Bea nearly toppled them both over as she twisted around and hugged him, crushing her face into his collar.
She could hear the rumble of his chest, feel its warmth as it thawed. With a breathy laugh, he smoothed back her curls, palms pressed against her cheeks. She could see him now. A nose and crinkled eyes and the tips of his hair. Come back from the dead, he was a marvel.
He shook his head almost reproachfully. "Why are you even here?"
"I could ask the same for you."
"My invention, I know." The tears had come gushing out again. Bea wiped her eyes, brushing against his thumb as he tried to do the same. "And then they took you. What was I supposed to do? I thought you were dead."
His lips twisted oddly. "Did you cry for me?"
She went rigid as his gaze twinkled. She only struck up a search with Fred, combed Knockturn Alley, confronted his captors, only to fall to pieces when she thought the worst. Scorpius didn't know that, but she did, and now he could see it as she sputtered, "Nooo... I—I didn't—my eyes were... malfunctioning."
Scorpius nosed nearer with a great big grin and Bea scrunched up into a ball, like how Lucy's gerbil did whenever a hand reached into its cage. He was teasing her again. Just about everyone did when it came to matters of her heart.
It was the dark side of being adorable. No one took you seriously.
Scorpius knew her itty-bitty crush from the day she started hitting her head repeatedly with her toolbox trying to kill it. He knew that she knew that he knew, and if he fancied her back, he would have kissed her by now, so he obviously didn't. Probably. She ought to just snog him right then and there like there was no tomorrow, because there likely wasn't going to be one at this rate.
And so, Beatrice Chang—champion of impossible inventions, intrepid speeches, and running headfirst into vanishing cabinets—grabbed him by the collar and did exactly that.
Surprised was an understatement, never mind that Scorpius had been inches away and was looking straight at her. He floundered. Pepper shakers fell from the shelves.
Then, his fingers tangled in her hair. He smiled on her scowl as she tried to figure out the logistics and she hit him when he started snickering. But when she pulled away, his hand found the small of her back and pressed her to stay, and he kissed her lightly three times, each one a little different and longer than the last.
Tickled warm from her head to her soles, Bea had barely enough mind to not forget about their uncertain fate. "We should"—she reluctantly finished her sentence after he kissed her a fourth time—"find out where we are."
Scorpius sucked in a breath. "Right. Um." He blinked slowly, dazed. In the few seconds of pause, his lips somehow gravitated back to hers and she gave in without a second thought, because all of her thoughts had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.
They were doomed.
Being rather small, logistics dictated the necessity of climbing, Bea ended up in his lap some minutes later surrounded by boxes of tea knocked down from above. Scorpius' shirt had gone totally rumpled and slightly unbuttoned. It was an accident, she'd swear.
Eventually, he pulled away slightly and held Bea back as she tried to follow. "But we really should..."
Bea retracted her hands from his collar, deliciously tingly and woozy. "Right. Escaping."
Both quite flustered, they combed the room, bumping into each other every way imaginable, and ended up finding little more than food, which wasn't unwelcome as Bea's stomach growled. They nibbled on stale digestives and then Scorpius rebound their ropes; no point in letting on that they had the means to free themselves. The process involved much conversation that did not need repeating out of context ("You can tie me up tighter than that") as well as Bea falling flat on her face. Scorpius' hands were already tied, so he couldn't catch her if he tried and she simply ended up befriending the floor. It was stony.
When Emeric and Cato came to check on them, they had only a few footsteps' worth of warning and the fear that had dissipated returned full-force. The door opened, light blinding, and Bea couldn't see the hand that hauled her outside. Scorpius' muffled shouts did little but shake the walls. They hauled her past the flickering kitchen, no more than a sink and a stove, into a lounge that was many times larger. This next room had a thick green carpet and a cozy triangle of upholstered seats—like a home, not a hideaway. Bea half-expected to see their granny bringing out the tea tray.
Cato left her wrist red and burned when he let go and Emeric came to her side. He pressed his spindly fingers into her back toward the long worktable set up in the center of the room, where her prototype lay, dull and rusty. She wouldn't have wished to see it again if she knew it would be like this. Professor Flitwick should have left it in the rubble or, she thought with a twist of guilt, she shouldn't have made it in the first place.
While she stood at its front, Emeric droned about her invention's new purpose in the ranks of private armies, each utterance more dreadful than the last. "Fortunately, I commend cleverness," he drawled with a chortle. "If you're any good, I'll recommend you to my associates."
From the other side of the table, Cato threw down a wand. It was a pale willow, springier than hers when Bea picked it up, and chipped at its tip—Scorpius' wand, she realized with a gasp.
"Cato will be supervising." Emeric nodded to his accomplice, who clenched his fist around his own wand, and then flicked his gaze back to Bea. "Make it work. You have three days."
He left to the kitchen area, hands clasp and crackling above his tailcoat. Bea listened for the pantry door's creak and then strained to make sense of the muffled conversation until Cato grunted, eyes narrowed. Gulping, she went to work.
It was not a difficult task—quite the opposite, in fact. The blueprint was so clear in her mind that she wished it wasn't, for she would be placing a weapon into the hands of people who would do nothing good with it, if good could be done with such things at all. But she didn't want to find out what happened after three days.
She glanced at the clock. It was a quarter past four. Seventy-two hours to stall.
Bea worked quickly, almost too quickly. If she didn't take every chance to make mistakes whenever Cato looked away—and he often did, usually accompanied by an angry mutter as Emeric called for him—she could have finished in that first day. Her back hunched closer to the table as her fingers grew stiff, and she almost didn't notice the signal to stop at the stroke of midnight. Cato had slapped down a bowl of porridge and she barely scooped three mouthfuls worth before he dragged her back to the pantry and threw her in.
One day gone. As soon as the door shut, she started crying.
Scorpius crawled closer and began to untie her new bindings. Eyes unadjusted, Bea blubbered into the darkness. "I don't know what to do. I don't want to die!"
The grip around her wrist tightened, more nervous than comforting, slashing out any assurance that everything was going to be okay. "Darling, you sound like Rose."
Of course he was calm. He knew these people and exactly what they were capable of. He wasn't cursed with her task. "I'm sore and hungry. That big one stands guard—he didn't leave!—and I never know if he's going to just lunge—" Her brow furrowed. "Don't call me darling."
"What instead? Cupcake?"
"I mean it." The ropes fell and she turned around to meet him. "You call Anjali that and I don't like—oh."
His face was splotched with purple bruises that even the darkness couldn't hide, and his stuck-on smirk wavered under the weight of her stare. "Don't. It doesn't hurt."
He always did this, she thought, chewing her lip and holding the rest of her tears in her stuffed nose. Said that he was okay thinking that it was what people wanted to hear, like it was a matter of politeness. "Emeric?"
"He nicked a few brawn potions before taking us here." Scorpius hacked a cough, one she knew he'd been suppressing. "He, um, was pleased to see how much I've grown to look like my father and—what are you doing?"
Bea had clambered to her knees. She searched the shelves for a honey jar and found one with the comb still inside. "My mum makes this salve. Disinfects and all that."
"You don't need to—"
"Shut up. You're bleeding."
Bea made him sit against the wall, hands flat on the ground so he wouldn't interfere while she dabbed the honey along the cut under his eye.
His smirk had gone lopsided, cheeks dimpling even under the puffy bruises. "Are we going to be like this now?"
"We're kidnapped," Bea sniffed. "I think I'm allowed to fret."
"And cover me in sugar?"
"But sugar? Won't be tempted to lick it all off, will you?"
Her nostrils flared and she hit him in the chest, coating her fingers in sticky velvet fuzz. "I hope you get ants."
Setting the jar on the floor, she screwed the amber-crusted lid back on, wiped the honey on her skirt, and licked the leftovers. Scorpius had gone quiet. She should have known something was wrong. He had been a far too happy hostage but their brush with death had spurred a lot of interesting behavior.
"They killed my father."
She knocked the jar sideways and her pinky dropped from her mouth.
Scorpius kept his gaze level on hers as if her reaction would be the one to define his. "Emeric proved it. He has his ring."
They had decided that Emeric's parting words to Anjali couldn't be trusted or that they could have drugged Scorpius' father like they had done to Scorpius. Anjali had said they weren't killers. Scorpius asserted the same, at least for Emeric who was merely an opportunist. Emeric would reverse Scorpius' search for her invention into a double kidnapping, but he didn't have the nerve to split his own soul.
Mechanically, Bea uprighted the honey jar and pushed it onto the shelves. "Could the ring be a... I don't know, a—"
"A fake? No."
"Or stolen, maybe..."
"You know the phrase 'from my cold, dead hands?'" His mouth twitched grimly. "Funny thing is, they never meant to kill him."
"...oh?" Her voice was tinny.
"When they went to demand ransom, they botched the job. My father got angry, and why not? But they weren't prepared. They struck too hard of a first blow, and he just... crumpled. They thought he was a bigger man than that."
"Emeric said this?"
At last she heard the edge, seethed through Scorpius' teeth, and she had a feeling this story had accompanied his beating, blow by blow. She didn't know much of about what fueled the pale man's bitterness against the Malfoys, but many reasons had come from other mouths. Scorpius often said that his father was a stingy man; he did not pay with money when intimidation would suffice, and Scorpius had been waiting for the day when it would come up short.
And what could she say? A pithy "I'm sorry," the replacement words for when she had none? Instead, when her tongue unstuck, Bea asked what Mum had first asked Grandma when Grandpa passed away. "Are you all right?"
There was a shudder to his breath, neither fear nor sorrow, but thick with thoughts untangling. "Yeah." It seemed to sink in for him now. "I can't believe it but—and we weren't close, I just... wish I had time to understand him."
Bea made a space for herself next to his side, tucking her knees to her chin.
"We talked but I—there are some things that I was afraid—" Scorpius licked his lips. "He's got this air. That shuts you up. But I was his son. I could've tried harder. He spent so much time building up a name he was ashamed of. What was the point, you know?"
"Yeah," she said and took his hand, even though she didn't really know.
"And now that name is on me. I take over automatically—everything—when I'm of age. In a week." He ran his other hand through his hair, wincing as he struck a bruise. "That's the other thing. Emeric wants to strike a deal. An Unbreakable Vow. He'll set us free in return for immunity. If anyone tries to take them in for these crimes, I have to demand that they be dropped. And he wants the invention, of course. And money." He rattled these off, one by one by one.
"Everything in our vaults. Everything short of a name."
Her pursed lips fell open. "Is he mad?"
"It's only money." She found his eyes wide, certain, and—for once—fearful, when they turned to her. "They killed my father. They're already wanted men. I don't know what they're willing to do anymore."
"But you can't—!" Shadows crossed the sliver of light lining the doorway and Bea quieted. The door was thick but she still had to mind her words, especially if they sounded like they were colluding. "There's got to be a better way," she whispered.
"That'll guarantee we'll make it out of here alive?" The lines on his face softened and Scorpius curled an arm around her shoulders, even as she was shaking her head. "I'd love to take a swing at them and fly out of here on a sack of sugar a la Potterpuff, but some things are better without trying tricks. Think of your family and friends, all right?"
She chewed on her tongue wondering, vainly and guiltily, if he was only doing this because she was here, too. "And what about you?"
"I'll be fine. I'm an excellent narcissist." He managed a smile that threatened to squeeze her heart to bits but he was not the one who was supposed to be doing the comforting. "Hopefully, Mother won't be too mad. But I can start over. We Malfoys, we're good at that."
He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and she couldn't bear to tell him about the dilemma that had been plaguing her mind, that she didn't want to fix the invention at all. It had already been decided for her: everything was going to be okay after he paid and she finished her task, because they would be alive and that was more important than anything else.
But Scorpius had lost a father and now a fortune, and she could already imagine the faceless hundreds that would be exploited by an invention that came from her hand, while Emeric and Cato would escape unscathed.
No matter how she spun it, it wasn't okay at all.
A clang broke her sleep. Bea peeled her face from Scorpius' blazer, rubbing her eyes, and caught sight of movement under the door. She shook Scorpius awake and gathered the ropes.
The second day was much of the same. Cato fetched her and she worked while he glared in the corner. Her borrowed wand started acting up. She had to scold it before it cast—a rather appropriate trait considering its owner—and still it resisted, zapping the table instead of the unicorn hair like she wanted it to.
It knew she hadn't decided.
Her hands wanted to smash her invention on the ground, but her mind held back. Scorpius' fate was tied to hers, and she couldn't endanger him. She had to think of Mum and Dad, too, and Freddie and Albus who had spent so much time saving her. Besides, weapons were being developed every hour of every day. What would make her one deed any worse, especially when her life was on the line?
Bea repeated these thoughts until she almost believed that it wasn't just because she was scared to die.
Freddie wouldn't stand for it. He would find a way. He would steal back the invention and bring everyone home safe.
Then she remembered that Fred had barely made it out alive himself.
The wall clock struck six, and a kettle in the kitchen began to whistle. She wondered briefly if it was morning or night, and her gaze traveled down the sconces lighting the room in a neat row like yellow teeth.
There were no windows.
So they were underground. When Cato returned her to the pantry, she found that Scorpius had come to an even exacter conclusion.
Specifically, Scorpius greeted her with a blue tea tin. She first looked for fresh bruises, as she had seen Emeric enter the pantry some hours ago, but thankfully found none. Finally glancing down at the tin's label, she read 'Limon-Lion' under the oval portrait of a well-dressed cat sipping tea, never mind that it lacked opposable thumbs.
"I thought it was strange when I found my grandmother's favorite brand here," Scorpius explained. "Nasty stuff, no one drinks it but her. Then, another thing: I was wondering why Emeric blindfolded me before letting me out to the loo"—which wasn't a loo as much as an extra cupboard with a bucket in it—"He was afraid I'd recognize this place."
"I snuck a look. It's—those bastards. I don't know how they know about it." He shook his head. "We have an old safehouse underneath the manor. I was there once, when I was very young. Mother told me that if anything happened, to go down the secret stairs past the drawing room and there's these catacombs. It's a huge maze and—well, the point is, it leads down here eventually. This place is Untraceable, anti-Apparition, all the fun stuff. Perfect spot to hide out until a real plan. I might still know the way out."
In that moment, she decided: "Then let's make a run for it."
He frowned. "Bea—"
"I can't give them my invention, not like this. Not a weapon." She stood up, limbs locked, so that she had the higher ground before she lost courage. "We can probably make it. They're not killers, you said. Your father's death was an accident."
Scorpius stared at her, agape. Afraid that he was angry, she hastened to add, "It's not fair to you, when you offered everything to save us, and I'm sorry. Thinking about them getting away when I have a chance to run out of here—I have to take that chance." It seemed so selfish either way. "I don't know if you can save yourself, cut a different deal with Emeric and not let on about my plans..."
It was hard holding his gaze when she only wanted to look away and make her decision quietly, but it wasn't only hers to make. Scorpius stood up now, and the lump at his throat bobbed up and down as if he were swallowing and weighing each word.
"You know I won't leave without you."
She did know, in the back of her mind, and that sunk her heart the most. "You don't have to. The invention's my responsibility."
"Ours. We're partners, remember? We signed a contract."
A smile flickered to life. No one could say Scorpius wasn't a man of his word. To think she had met a smarmy-headed heir in September and a few months down the line, he would offer to give up the fattest vault in London for their lives, and he would risk his life for her. She would do—had done—the same for him.
Moving from her spot at last, she wrapped her arms around Scorpius and buried her face into the folds of his shirt. "If we had more time..." She never finished her sentence.
The shadows of the small pantry grew darker, and they lingered in the moment, knowing that it might be all they would have left.
She was clever, daring and a touch nutty, as most good inventors were; it was pretty much a requirement if you wanted to rip the very magic from the air. She hadn't intended that with her invention, but she had built it just the same, and she was the only witch in all of Britain who knew how to fix it.
But the two men who kidnapped her only saw a small, frightened girl.
Which wasn't untrue. She barely topped five feet and had cried more in those three days than she ever had in her life. But it was misleading, like calling the Head Auror a man with a head injury and no fashion sense. There were a few important details missing. The men didn't see her cleverness nor her daring.
On the third day, after she cast the final charm on her invention and lifted it up, she felt the tell-tale pull of magic vanishing into the vacuum between her hands. Cato had his back turned, looking into the other room and was discussing something with Emeric in their native tongue. Clutching her invention tight, she took in one breath.
They wanted an anti-magic weapon? She'd show them one.
Her feet sprang across the carpet. Emeric's shout came two steps in, almost too soon. She skidded down the turn and slid under Cato's arm to throw herself through the kitchen archway. She slammed the flat side of her invention against the pantry door, she prayed she was right about it using lock enchantments and grabbed the knob. It turned.
From the archway, Cato extended his wand. "Stupefy!"
The spell was aimed straight between Scorpius' eyes as he dashed out, but it fizzled into nothing inches ahead. He hurled a fistful of flour into Cato's face, grabbed Bea's hand, and ran.
Seconds of confusion were all they had. Knocking down chairs and vases down in their wake, they reached the painted door as a livid roar erupted behind them. Scorpius wrenched it open and they faced a stone wall.
Her heart sunk to its depths. "Oh no—"
But he ran straight through. She shut her eyes as he pulled her along, body melding through the surface like a ghost, and not once did her legs stop moving.
When she opened her eyes, they were running through the catacombs.
Over her shoulder, Bea saw the jagged quartz that made up the wall where the opening had been—and then two figures that charged out.
"Where's my wand?"
She pulled it from her pocket, careful to not let it nor her invention drop, and thrust it into his hand.
Torches blurred past alongside heavy stone carvings, pillars circled with marbled snakes. They tumbled into walls as they couldn't slow the turns and pushed off in the next direction. The path had forked twice, and stone turned to dirt. Where were the stairs?
The men were quickly gaining ground. Their spells hissed into the walls, nicking their sleeves and ankles as the device in her hand gave them the barest shield.
Bea pumped her legs to their limit. "Are you sure it's this way?"
They had gone down the path that lead further underground. Empty-socketed skulls stared at her from the walls; this was why he called it the catacombs.
Up ahead, the path turned to rubble and a gorge cleaved the path in two, and its darkness roared from underneath. The other side was too far to jump.
"Break it now!" Scorpius stretched his arm as far back as he could and shot a spell behind him.
She had memorized the movement; she couldn't hesitate like when she had lost her invention the first time, and she was more than ready when Scorpius freed her hand. Tearing out the wires in one pull, she then twisted the center shell until it hissed and dulled.
Scorpius grabbed her hand again. "Don't let go!"
They were running too fast to stop. The cliff was coming up rapidly and so were Cato's pounding footsteps and she swore she felt him swipe at her back as her feet reached the edge and she was looking straight into the churning waters of a river.
Their fingers twined as Scorpius pushed off and in their last brush with the ground, his feet turned on the spot and his arm swung in around her. There was a crack, like thunder on bone, and they were falling still. There was no hold to any surface, not underneath her nor to her skin as her organs suspended in weightlessness, and if it were not for Scorpius' grip, she would think she had ceased to exist. She grasped his shirt and mouthed his name but his eyes were half-lidded and vacant.
Then the splash exploded behind her head like glass.
A/N I AM LATE AGAIN BUT HERE IT IS. TWO MORE CHAPTERS + EPILOGUE TO GO~ So I got halfway done with the chapter, and then I totally got burnt out because school ramped up. But now there's lots of things! Scorbeaus! Confirmed death! More running! I have ended the last three chapters with some form of magical transportation. ALSO I almost forgot to say, ♥ to Julia for the 'We (Almost) Killed Scorpius' bakewell tart.
Sidestory: I got the idea for changing the ending (in the original one, Draco didn't die and they didn't have this elaborate kidnapping because I had something else planned that was kind of eh) when I had Emeric say "He's d-d -- " in ch 22, and 'he' is ambiguous and I thought to myself, 'Ha it sounds like Draco died.' .... 'oh my god why didn't I think of that?'
BUT YES. MORE UNCERTAIN FATES. Because I love tugging them around so ♥ please do leave a review! I'll try to respond to them as promptly as I can, but I may be leaving some off until the weekends!
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