Chapter 22 : the end (part one)
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-Rose: Theodore Nott’s house
“Are you sure this is going to be safe?” I asked for about the billionth time. Theodore looked like he wanted to jinx me but James looked equally worried. Nott was setting up protective spells around his home so that our cousins at the shack in the sand dunes could join us. You can understand why we were worried. All of us together in one place for a long time? It was just asking for trouble.
And that was why James was staring at the wall, tapping his fingers restlessly against his knee. I knew he was running over a million scenarios in his head, working out what to do, where he’d go, who he would protect. I knew he wasn’t worrying about me though- and I was glad. I wasn’t factoring him into any plans I was making either. We both knew that the other would be fine on their own. With all that said and done though, there was no-one I’d rather fight beside than James.
Well, apart from Scorpius, I thought.
I nearly jumped. Where did that come from? I was surprised at myself- I was one of the first to admit that Scorpius was not the most skilled wizard, especially at fighting. But I trusted him... and the realisation that I would rather have him instead of James at my back was extraordinary.
Scorpius sat down next to me, as if I’d called him with my thoughts, and put his hands over mine, prising paper from my fingers.
“What’s this?” he asked.
I shrugged. I’d been shredding it into tiny pieces, my busy fingers keeping away the stress and nervousness. He tipped the pieces onto the table and spread them out, pushing them into an order. I could see the words in an emerald green ink- no, they were names. It was the list of our traitor suspects that we’d made, passed from pocket to pocket. I swept them up and shoved them in my pocket, Scorpius’ eyes going wide when he realised as well.
“Should we say something?” he asked in an undertone. Theodore was in the kitchen, making some food and Hugo was asleep on the sofa opposite us. James had gone to watch the road from the upstairs window.
I shook my head. “Probably not. There’s nothing we can do about them now, if they’re still with us.”
“Odds are, it is one of us though Rose,” Scorpius said, and I thought about who was left of us. I couldn’t believe it of any of them.
Theodore came in from the kitchen, a pile of sandwiches and pasta and rice balanced on a tray on the tip of his wand. It lazily glided towards to the dining room table, plates and glasses and butterbeer bottles following it.
“Sorry there’s not more,” Nott said. “I’ve emptied the kitchen.”
I stood up to grab some food before my cousins arrived. They were coming in the same way as us- Apparating a way away and getting a taxi or a bus to the house. I started to fill my plate before realising the food that he’d made for us. High calorie, filling food. Food you’d want before a fight. Theodore caught my gaze and smiled at me weakly.
My cousins arrived in pairs. Molly and Lucy arrived first, with barely a smile between them, and then Lily and Roxanne. James hugged Lily fiercely, and their reunion nearly made me cry. We were silent for half an hour, while everyone ate and Hugo slept. Then I gently shook Hugh awake, we let the plates gently clean themselves in the kitchen, and the nine of us sat around the dining table, ready.
“Before we start,” said Theodore, “can I just say that this plan is completely mental-”
“Hang on a second there Theo,” James said, interrupting. “Before we really begin... this is your chance to step forward. Admit that you have been...” he broke off and swallowed. “Admit to spying on the rest of us, and that you’ve helped this Carrow.”
He laid his palms flat on the table, and waited. No-one spoke. Scorpius was looking steadily at the ground. I was watching everyone else’s faces, as was James. Lily looked on the verge of tears, and Molly and Lucy seemed to be holding hands under the table. The only one of us who looked unconcerned was Roxanne. Her full lips twitched into a smile. James carried on.
“I know we all have our suspicions of who this guy might be...” James’ gaze swept over us again, fixing on Scorpius. He looked up, and met James’ stare. I grabbed his hand.
“If no-one steps forward, then it’s time to put it behind us. But if I find out that it was one of you and you lied to us now, then God help you.”
James settled back into his chair, and I stood up. James’ face was a picture of utter shock for about half a second before he realised I was only reaching for some maps. I spread them out onto the table.
“This is Carrow’s home, Langdon End,” I said. “It’s in Yorkshire, and it’s a private home. We’ve got reliable intelligence from Nott that Lorcan and the others are being held at a prison in Yorkshire-”
“That’s almost definitely a trap then,” Lily said, kneeling up onto her chair to get a better look. She’d wiped away her tears, and her face was hard. “He’s expecting us.”
I couldn’t lie. “Most definitely.”
“And he’ll know we’re all together, since we were seen in Nottingham,” Lucy chipped in.
“Not necessarily,” Scorpius said. “Myself, Lily and Roxanne were probably not seen, and although they’ll assume that Rose and I are together- that’s still only them estimating our numbers at four.”
“Plus, we don’t know if it was Aurors or Fraternity members who saw you,” Hugo said. “Theo says that Carrow hasn’t been seen at the Ministry in days- if it was the Aurors, he might not have had a report. But worst case scenario is that he has heard the radio message and knows we want to meet up, and that four of us are already together.”
When he spelt it out like that, it seemed so easy. We had the upper hand.
“Regardless,” James said. “It’s easier to defend then attack –hell, we know that from personal experience- and we just don’t have the numbers. And he has time to prepare. He still knows we’re coming.”
“And he’s going to assume there are more than four of us. We’ve spent this whole time on the run underestimating this guy,” Lily said. “From what I’ve heard, we’ve escaped through dumb luck most of the time and we can’t count on that again. He will have people guarding the house and he will know us better to think four of us would even dare to try and attack.”
I narrowed my eyes. Somewhere in the back of my head, a plan was forming.
“So, instead there is only going to be eight of us attacking Langdon End?” Roxanne said. “It sounds like suicide, not a rescue mission.”
“Nine,” said Theodore, but I shook my head quickly.
“Eight. Nott, we need you to go to our parents. Tell them what has happened, what we’re going to do. Tell them everything. If we don’t succeed... then at least they know. And Roxy, it’s not a rescue mission to carry on dancing back and forward with Carrow and the Fraternity. We’re finishing this. Once and for all.”
“Seven,” said James.
“What?” said Roxanne, practically spitting poison, but I didn’t even look up. I knew what he was going to say next.
“Lily, I don’t want you to come,” he said, and I made myself look at Hugo. He met my gaze steadily. He was determined to come, no matter what I said or did. The time when I could stand in front of him and protect him had gone.
“I’m coming with you,” Lily said gently, and I knew she’d get her own way as well. If our roles had been reversed, then I know that I would not have been able to stay behind either, but I wasn’t in Lily’s place and I wanted her to stay with Nott with Hugo and keep safe.
“Please Lils,” James said and I closed my eyes to hear the pain in his voice. “I already thought I lost you once, and Albus-”
He couldn’t finish his sentence and Lily reached across the table to pat his hand ineffectually. “That’s why I’m coming,” she said, with the same quiet resolve as Hugo. I hated them for it.
There was a long silence, broken only by Lily pouring herself a firewhisky.
“Do we even have a plan?” said Molly, looking directly at me.
I coughed, and scratched my head. Scorpius’ face fell. “I’m not going to like it, am I?” he asked.
I managed a grin at that. “Call it payback for the motorbike,” I said, and he rubbed my knee under the table, his eyes alive.
“You can’t lie, that was fun!” I bent his fingers back and his mouth opened in an O of pain.
“What’s the plan?” Hugo asked.
I pulled a face, still hanging onto Scorpius’ hand, but to comfort me this time. His hand tightened in mine. “I wouldn’t say it’s a plan, exactly...” I said. “More an idea... it’s a bit rough around the edges...”
Four hours later, it was nearly five in the morning and we had just finalised our plans. Lucy had fallen asleep on the table and Molly had a protective hand on her back. I was struggling to keep my eyes open and even Roxanne was yawning. Theodore clapped his hands.
“Come on kids, it’s time you all went to bed. Mother of Merlin, when was the last time you all slept? Come on. There are blankets in that cupboard and I’ll light the fire for those of you downstairs, and I have five beds upstairs.”
It took less than ten minutes for everyone to be half asleep in bed. James, Roxanne and Lily were sleeping on sofas downstairs, and Theodore had gallantly made himself a bed from leftover blankets and was sleeping on the floor after recasting the protective spells. I had a strong suspicion he wouldn’t sleep at all tonight, and instead watch over us. I climbed the stairs, and looked into the first room. Molly and Lucy were already asleep, intertwined in each other’s arms. When I was younger I couldn’t imagine being that close with my brother, but I kissed the top of Hugo’s head as he lay on a mattress on the floor. He shifted slightly in his sleep, but didn’t wake up, so I softly closed the door and made my way to the other bedroom.
“I like how he’s automatically assumed we’re a couple,” I said, as I sleepily climbed into the double bed that Scorpius was already in, his eyes closed- but I knew he was awake.
I saw the pitfall in the question and tried to backtrack. “It’s a good job more people don’t know you’re married,” I said instead of answering.
Scorpius groaned. “We’re not talking about Louisa. Not tonight.”
“What do you want to talk about then?” I said quietly, smiling, and he poked me in the side.
“Please shut up,” he moaned. “I’m so tired.”
“What? But I’m not tired at all-” my teasing was cut short by a massive yawn.
Then he heaved himself up onto his elbows, and kissed me, hard and passionately, his hands on the pillows tangled with my hair and I leaned up, sat up to meet him and cupped my hands around his face, his neck.
When we finally broke apart, I was definitely not tired anymore.
He brushed my hair back from my face. “Now will you go to sleep?” Scorpius said, his eyes bloodshot.
“I’m not sure I can,” I muttered, but I settled down next to him anyway, and within no time at all, his heavy breathing had lulled me into a deep, dreamless sleep.
I woke around four the next afternoon. I sat up and stretched, and Scorpius tried to pull me back down into the covers, but I resisted, kissing him lightly on the cheek. My... reluctance to let Scorpius interfere with my emotions and my actions had dissipated, and instead I only felt a pressing sense of time. Time which was running out. By this time tomorrow, I might never be able to see Scorpius or any of my family again. I suddenly wanted to make the most of the time I had left.
I padded quietly down the stairs, and into the kitchen. Theodore was sitting in one of the kitchen chairs, his feet propped up on the table and his head tipped back, mouth open. I watched the rise and fall of his chest for a couple of seconds to check if he was alive, like you would do with an old dog. He was, for the record.
I opened the fridge, and pulled out some leftover pasta from last night and tiptoed out the kitchen and back up to Scorpius.
“Hey,” he said, as I walked in. He was pulling on his shirt, his back to me. He turned with a smile, his eyes heavy with sleep. “Is anyone else awake?”
I shook my head. “Just us. We can leave them for a bit longer, I think.”
I climbed back into the warm bed, and so did a fully clothed Scorpius, and we ate pasta and flicked it at each other and giggled as quietly as we could, but by half four, we could hear the rest of the house waking up. We still didn’t get up though. I think Scorpius was feeling the same as me- that nothing would be the same after tonight, even if we did manage to get through it unscathed.
Wednesday 12th January, 9pm
-Rose: Langdon End, Yorkshire
I felt naked. There was no helpful Louis in my ear, no Dom somewhere with a Plan F should anything go awry, no twisting out of a tight spot with the help of my cousins. I was on a joint mission with no communication. All I had was the hope that the plan would go well. Because right now, there was just me.
Me, and Scorpius.
We stood at the back of the house, where the large flower gardens opened out into less tidy lawns, with orchards of dead trees and crumbling stone statues. It was clear that Carrow was only keeping up appearances. There was a tall wall encircling the estate, but that had been easily climbed, and the security so far was minimal. We had dodged one perimeter patrol and so far the protective charms had been bypassed without a hitch.
I was worried.
Scorpius took my hand, feeling how tense I was. “Relax,” he whispered, although I could hear his heart hammering in his chest.
I rolled my eyes, but I knew he couldn’t see me. We were dressed the darkest clothes that Theodore could rustle up, and had Disillusionment Charms on, but they were running out, and fast. We needed to get inside the house, but the trees and bushes were dramatically thinned out and we had barely any cover. I pulled at my hair, twisting the strands around my fingers.
“Come on,” I said, and still holding onto Scorpius’ hand, I started to jog noiselessly across the grass, keeping to the edge of the flower beds and half bent over. They shuddered in the wind, and I counted on their movement and colours to keep our hazy silhouettes disguised.
It was all going well until I fell over, catching my foot on a rock or something and somersaulting forwards. I didn’t hit the ground particularly hard, but I pulled Scorpius over and he landed on top of me with a yell of surprise, sprawling across the dewy grass. We froze, and a light came on in the house, which was about fifty foot away from us.
Six figures came out the house.
I rolled from under Scorpius as quietly as I could manage, keeping a hand on his back so he would stay where he was, and crawled up to meet him.
“You’re going to suggest splitting up, aren’t you?” he said, the words barely a whisper.
I tapped the back of his hand twice, not trusting my own voice, and I could almost feel him roll his eyes.
We stood up, slowly, quietly. I pushed him towards the left, and he nodded. “Loop around and meet by the door,” he whispered, and I grasped his hand hard in farewell.
The six figures spread out, intent on combing the lawns until they found us. I pulled my wand out from my belt, and it felt heavy and strange in my hand. I didn’t want to fight. I never had. I was a thief. My job was to get in and out before you even realised and if you did, you certainly did not remember. I protected myself, I protected my brother, my cousins, my friends. I did not put myself in harm’s way.
This is protecting your family, I reminded myself. But it didn’t matter that I was not the instigator of this, or that everything I had done since escaping from the Ministry was to protect myself, it still felt wrong and unnecessary.
I adjusted my grip on the handle, and it sat a little easier in my palm, although still not comfortable, familiar. The three men closest to me were even closer now, and I summoned all my courage, before shooting a whispered Stunning Spell at the one nearest. I fell to the ground, hugging the floor as their own spells shot above my head, and just as I heard the yells from the other side of the house, a Stunner from Scorpius dropped another of the men.
Now their attention was divided. I aimed a jinx as I was lying on the grass, but missed. I got another couple of spells in return, but they all kicked up dirt a couple of feet away. Then I was on my feet and running towards them, a Shield out in front of me. It deflected a couple of minor spells, and the only Killing Curse they had time to shoot at me went wide, because then I was on top of them.
I smashed one of them in the face with the heel of my palm, realising at the last second it was actually a woman, which confused me. The Fraternity didn’t employ women... did they? She collapsed, and I managed to turn just in time to dodge a curse thrown by the other guy. I shot a beam of ice blue light at him, my adrenaline fuelling a wordless spell, which hit him square in the chest and threw him backwards ten feet.
“Stupefy!” I whispered to the dazed woman at my feet, who slumped back into the grass. I strode over to the man, and poked him with my foot. He didn’t move.
Satisfied, I made my way to the house, and stuck to the shadows against the wall as I approached the door where I was supposed to meet Scorp. It was all quiet out in the garden, and I waited in silence, straining my ears over the throbbing of blood in my ears.
“Scorpius?” I said, straining my eyes to see him in the gloom, but his Disillusionment Charm had nearly completely worn off. “Thank god,” I said, crossing the short distance to him for a bone crushing hug.
“You alright?” he asked, keeping me close as we slowly edged towards the door.
“Fine,” he answered, but his voice sounded slightly strained... and then we were at the door, yellow light pooling in the doorway. I let my eyes adjust, and then stepped inside, my wand outstretched.
We were in a wood panelled hallway, with dressers and decorative vases and prayer chairs and tall oil lamps lined up against the walls. I swallowed nervously, and reached out for Scorpius’ hand, but his found mine first. The house was silent, waiting.
We were in.
It was quite late when Theodore Nott arrived at the Burrow, and he was almost certain he would be turned away and he wouldn’t be able to deliver his messages after all, but Harry Potter opened the door with a tired smile, silver streaking his hair. “Hello, how can I help you?”
Nott shuffled his feet, for a second unsure how to proceed. “I have a message for you... from James. And Lily. And Rose and Hugo and Molly and Lucy and Roxanne,” he said, all in a rush. “I don’t suppose you know where Mr and Mrs Malfoy are either, do you?”
After reassuring the broken parents and grandparents that this was not a joke, and their children really were alive and safe, Audrey and Percy Weasley were called for, along with Draco and Astoria Malfoy and the Johnson-Weasleys. Once again, they were all crammed into the kitchen, with Molly desperately making tea with shaking hands as Theodore Nott took a deep breath, and began his story.
He told them everything he knew- from the Clan’s beginnings when Dominique roped Teddy and Victoire into a quick robbery of an ex-boyfriends, to the Hogwarts break in and their subsequent arrest. He left nothing out- not Lily’s condition, not his suspicions of the traitor in their midst, not what their children were doing at this very second. Except where.
Ron Weasley went nearly as red as his hair, and his wife had to hang onto his arm to stop him punching Theodore in the face. “What do you mean you won’t tell me where they are?” he thundered.
Nott held up his hands in a feeble attempt at diplomacy. “I am sorry, Mr Weasley, but I don’t know exactly where they are, and Yorkshire is a big county- they could be anywhere! And they specifically asked for me not to help you find them either,” he added softly.
Even if Lily and Hugo wouldn’t obey their older siblings and stay behind, it had been unanimous to leave their parents out of their fight completely. Theodore dug into his pockets and produced letters, written earlier that afternoon.
“They wrote you these,” Nott said, apologising for his feeble offering, “and they hoped you’d understand.”
“We’ve got ourselves into this mess, and we’re going to get ourselves out of it,” Ginny read from James’ letter, while Harry’s tears smudged Lily’s.
Rose tried to make me stay behind, but I have to see this through...
I’ve missed you so much, and I love you...
It’s the only way we can prove ourselves innocent, I really hope you can see...
I love you Mum, Dad, and I’m really sorry we put you through all of this...
Don’t blame Theo, he’s done right by us while we’ve mucked everything up...
I know it doesn’t make it any easier, but I am so sorry...
I’ll see you both soon...