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Starfall by Slide
Chapter 15 : Down a Dark Alley
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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Down a Dark Alley


‘So this guy was thinking of killing you,’ said Selena, ‘and we’re going to act on his information?’

‘We’re going to use him as a starting point for our information,’ said Rose, stood over them as the five gathered in the threadbare sitting area of their run-down Monaco apartment. ‘Because right now we have nothing except for the possibility that Thane and his people are at the Rabbit’s Foot, and that the Chalice is with them.’

‘Why stop to auction off the rest? Why not use it?’ said Albus.

‘We don’t know. That’s the crux of the problem.’ Rose opened her hands. ‘We believe he’s here because everything he stole from Badenheim is here, and because it would be difficult for him to discreetly leave the country with those objects, and the Chalice. Mum’s right, he could get his own, personal international portkey but those take time to put together. But even if he is still in the area we don’t know where he is for sure, what he’s doing, where the Chalice is… and so we need to know more.’

‘Recon,’ said Albus, scratching his chin. ‘Someone needs to go to the Rabbit’s Foot Casino and take a look around.’

‘Yes, but that’ll only get us a look on the casino floor, and it can’t be you, or me, or Selena, or Scorpius. Odds are far too good that Thane will recognise us - Selena stands an outside chance but he’s met me and Scorpius, and you’re, well, Harry Potter’s son.’

Matt lifted his head. ‘So it sounds like I’m going to the casino.’

Scorpius shifted his weight, reluctant to speak. ‘I’ll spot you some money to cover being there for a few days - a week, if we’re there until the auction.’

‘All right.’ Matt didn’t look happy, but nodded. ‘Fifty galleons will do it. I’ll pay you back by the end of the week.’

‘Fifty galleons won’t last long in a fancy casino.’

‘If I lose, sure.’ His smile was small, but smug.

‘This might get us a lucky glimpse at Thane, if he’s still in the area,’ said Rose, in the tone of someone eager to press on. She didn’t look at Scorpius. ‘If this Maisson has ties to the Council, it’s possible he’s lying low there, and using the casino to off-load the relics in exchange for some hard cash. But this only finds out so much. Which brings us to Guerrier’s information.’

‘Again, the man was crazy, paranoid, and wanted to kill you,’ said Selena. ‘Am I the only person with a problem with that?’

‘I found it pretty problematic,’ said Matt.

‘But he’s most angry at whoever robbed from him, and believes us that it might be Thane, or at least someone connected with Maisson. So he’s ready to help us with information about the Rabbit’s Foot,’ said Rose.

Albus lifted his hands. ‘Let me get this straight: If we can confirm Thane and the Chalice are in the casino, what’re we going to do? Rob what is probably the most secure building in Europe?’

Rose hesitated. ‘Let’s take this one step at a time? Guerrier hasn’t given us any specific information. But he knows someone in the organisation who can do that: Maisson’s chief of security, a witch named Paquet. She’s apparently loyal to Maisson, but she sometimes meets Guerrier and gives him insider tips on things like the auctions, letting him know what’s going to be for sale and the kinds of people who are interested. The black market trading at the Rabbit’s Foot is quite infamous.’

‘So she’ll give him tips on how to make a good sale, which sounds like it only benefits Maisson; the money ends up in his pocket anyway,’ said Albus. ‘Why will she tell us if Thane’s there, if the Chalice is there, and how to grab them?’

‘I doubt she’ll do it willingly. But there’s one thing Guerrier can help us with which would otherwise be impossible with someone as highly placed as her in an organisation as horrendously secure as the Rabbit’s Foot: a meeting in private.’

Scorpius lifted his gaze, and tried to not flinch as the two of them made eye contact. ‘You clearly have a plan,’ he said, cutting off any further protests from Albus.

‘I do,’ said Rose. ‘We get Guerrier’s help to lure Paquet to a discreet location - then we capture her, and get all the information we need out of her.’

Albus stood quickly enough to knock his chair rattling back. ‘Absolutely not!’

Rose faced him, expression tense. ‘I know what I’m doing, Al.’

‘How the hell do you intend to get information out of someone like that? This is a professional group, they’re not going to hire someone to head up their security who’ll just fold when confronted by a group of teenagers!’

‘And it’s not like we can get any Veritaserum again,’ said Scorpius. ‘Not easily.’

‘No, I’m sure she’s very well-trained,’ said Rose. ‘She’s probably excellent at Occlumency.’

Albus faltered. ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

‘You and Scorpius spent the last three months training - with Dad, with Harry, working at being better, right? Did you ever wonder what I was up to in those times? Did you think you two were the only ones making ready for something, because we all knew that it wasn’t over with the Council of Thorns?’ Rose tossed her hair over her shoulder. ‘I was working with Mum.’

‘Legilimency?’ Matt said.

‘I am good,’ said Rose, ‘at combat magics, at fast-acting magics. But I knew I’d never be as good as you, Albus - and that’s fine. I can fend for myself. But I figured it was time for me to branch out into something else. So, yes. Amongst other things, Legilimency. And I’m good at it.’

‘Good enough to break through the Occlumency of the chief of security at one of the most famous magical casinos in the world?’ said Albus.

‘I guess we’ll see,’ said Rose. ‘But there’s our plan. Set up a meeting with Guerrier’s help. Capture Paquet, and get what we can out of her. She’ll know if Thane’s around, know what his relationship with Maisson is, know if the Chalice is in there - and maybe even know how to get there.’

‘This still leaves one problem,’ said Matt. ‘We need to capture the chief of security, who’s probably shit-hot with a wand herself.’

Albus gave, at last, a thin smile. ‘Leave that to me. If you’re sure, Rosie… tell me where the meeting is, and then trust me to be able to set up an ambush.’

Selena looked between them. ‘So, Albus continued to train with his hero Auror father. Scorpius has gone from his illusions being little sparks of light to full-on duplicates of people. And Rose has learnt how to plunder secrets from people’s brains.’ She shook her head. ‘You three know you’re absolutely mental, right?’

Matt shrugged. ‘I’m not. And you’re the one who stole a government dossier to then go run after a mercenary loon.’

Selena cast him a sharp, sideways glance. ‘Shut up, I know you’re still working with that magic sword - what’s that book you’ve been reading?’

He coloured. ‘Codex Döbringer,’ he muttered. ‘A medieval text on swordsmanship and associated magical methods with -’

‘Yeah, mental.’

Albus sighed. ‘Nothing about this is normal. But that’s fine. Normal doesn’t win, and I mean to win.’ He looked at Rose and lifted a finger. ‘This doesn’t get out of hand, though. We play by the rules, and you know what the rules are. You don’t need a book to help you draw a line in the sand between right and wrong.’

Rose looked hurt. ‘Albus, I know what I’m -’

‘This goes to us all.’ He turned to the group. ‘We’re going to get Prometheus Thane, and we’re going to get the Chalice off him. And, sure, if we have to piss off the Council of Thorns, or even the Rabbit’s Foot Casino, I don’t care. But we’re going to make sure we can look each other in the eye when we get home. Or I’m pulling the plug on this whole operation.’

Selena frowned. ‘There’s more than you here -’

‘And I will stop you if it looks like this is getting out of hand. We think of ourselves as the good guys. Let’s make sure we act like it. However bad they are.’

Matt quirked an eyebrow. ‘You make it sound like torturing Paquet was on the table. I must have missed that suggestion.’ An awkward silence answered him, and he sat up, clearing his throat. ‘Huh. Right. Well. Guess I better see about doing some recon at the casino.’ He looked at Selena. ‘I need to dress good.’

She quirked an eyebrow and looked him up and down. ‘I’ll say.’

‘You know what I mean. I’m going to learn nothing at a slot machine. I need to be at the poker tables, and I need to be with the high-rollers.’

‘Fifty galleons is going to get you to the high rollers?’ wondered Scorpius.

‘Eventually. But I need to look the part.’

‘And thus,’ said Selena, gesturing at Matt in a flamboyant manner, ‘do we get to my special skill: alchemy. Behold as I turn lead to gold.’

Matt’s expression was flat as he stood. ‘I’m starting to think you derive a special satisfaction out of ripping the shit out of me.’

‘I can’t imagine what would make you think that.’ She clapped her hands together. ‘Go get your nicest clothes on and I’ll tell you why they’re all wrong. Go on, shoo.’ He made a face, but turned for the bedroom shared by the men, Selena keeping an arch expression until the door closed behind him - then she looked to the other three. ‘You do realise this is raising the stakes,’ she said, voice flat.

‘Breaking into the Rabbit’s Foot? Abducting their staff?’ said Rose, voice airy. ‘Yes, it rather is.’

This is the point of no return,’ said Selena. ‘All we’ve done so far is toddle in Thane’s wake. This is taking the fight to him.’

‘I know,’ said Albus. ‘Which is, like I said, why I mean to win. Why did you wait for Matt to be gone?’

‘Because he doesn’t know what this means. Golems underground and getting drunk in catacombs and reading in libraries means nothing, really. This is the point where people will try to kill us.’ Selena exhaled slowly. ‘I didn’t realise all three of you had been this crazy prepared for something to happen.’

Rose winced. ‘We knew something would happen. We just didn’t know what it was going to be.’

Scorpius shifted his weight, and suddenly found all three of them looking at him. ‘We passed the point of no return a long time ago. Maybe even when Phlegethon was let loose. If Doyle wants to tag along, that’s his call. We can’t pretend all of us have more right to be pissed at Thane than a man who was almost killed by Phlegethon.’

‘No,’ said Albus, ‘but so far we’ve only followed Thane. If this works, we’re going to take his prize and ruin his plans, and he will come for us in retribution.’

‘So what else is new?’ Scorpius got to his feet. ‘I’m… going to go get my wallet and give Doyle the loan. If we want him to go lose money on the casino floor. He does know this isn’t the same as playing Exploding Snap, right?’

Rose shrugged, not looking at him. ‘I know he used to play cards with Randolf, Nathaniel and John. I think he always won.’

‘Powerhouse of the gambling world that Gryffindor House is,’ said Scorpius, unable to stop a snide comment - then an awkward silence met his words and he decided it was more judicious to leave. Without looking at Rose he headed for the bedroom, stepping in without knocking to find Matt stood in front of a mirror, buttoning up a shirt.

‘Selena’s going to yell at me for not ironing this,’ he muttered as Scorpius ducked in.

‘No, no. Make snide comments at you, maybe.’

‘Oh, good. Something new.’

Despite himself, Scorpius’ lips twitched as he headed for his pack and rummaged inside for where he kept the money he travelled with, buried deep within the packing so as to not be easily extracted. Not everything could be charged direct to his Gringott’s account. ‘Fifty galleons? Are you sure that’s enough?’

‘It’ll be easy at the start,’ said Matt. ‘You just go through the smaller poker tables and play for low stakes. A lot of people will be at those who are expecting to play a few hands, lose a few galleons, and then carry on with their days. They won’t really know how to play and consider losing a little money to be part of the price of the experience. If you end up at a table with someone who knows how to play, fold, move on. I reckon I can double my money pretty quick with that, and then I’ll look to the high rollers.’

Scorpius straightened, clutching his coin-purse. ‘How the hell do you know that?’

Matt shrugged. ‘I read books.’ There was an awkward moment where he fiddled with his cuffs, making a show of examining himself in the mirror, though Scorpius could see his eyes on him in the reflection. ‘…Rose is upset.’

Scorpius’ back immediately stiffened. ‘Well, you would know, wouldn’t you.’

There was a scowl, and Matt turned. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘It means what I said.’ His lips thinned. ‘I’ve noticed you watching her.’

Matt drew a slow, deep breath. ‘…she’s upset, and it’s clearly to do with you guys considering whatever the hell happened last night, and I’m just saying you should talk to her.’

Fucking hell, she told him? Indignant betrayal flared in his gut, and he was surprised by how furiously familiar the sensation was. Scorpius’ fists clenched. ‘It sounds like you’ve been doing plenty of the talking for me.’

‘Jesus Christ, Malfoy, I’m trying to help -’

‘Why the hell should I accept your help? Why the hell would you want to help me -’

‘For Rose!’ Matt barked, then realised that the walls might not be all that thick, and his voice lowered to a tense hiss. His shoulders squared as the two of them faced off against one another. ‘Because I am respecting her judgement, even if you’re an obnoxious little prick who’s clearly hurt her, and hurt her badly, and if she wants to be happy with you, however crazy that might be, I’d rather see her happy than crying on me!’

‘Really.’ A muscle twitched in the corner of Scorpius’ jaw, and he took a few determined steps forward. ‘I would have thought you’d love that, wouldn’t you, her weeping on you and telling you everything that’s wrong with the relationship? Seeing as you’re just waiting in the wings to swoop in and get her back.’

Matt’s gaze flickered across his face for a moment - then his expression darkened. ‘Yeah, you know what? Fuck you, Malfoy. I have tried being civil to you and you have been an enormous prick to me for no reason other than that I’m Rose’s ex. What is it, you feel threatened? Can’t imagine why, when you push her away like this, and show no interest in the things she cares about at the best of times. This was me doing you a favour. This was me trying to respect this relationship. When it’s fucking obvious that you don’t -’

‘Don’t you make assumptions on me and my damned personal business -’

‘Fine. I won’t.’ Matt jabbed a finger in his chest. ‘Consider this respect of mine over, though. Rose isn’t like these insecure girls you’ve swept after for years, impressed by some pretty words and a bunch of flowers -’

‘And she’s more than just a bookworm who needs flouncy words and a dry, dusty volume to be impressed,’ Scorpius sneered. ‘Or, you know, excited, but I guess it’s clear you never figured that out.’

Matt’s fist clenched, and for a moment Scorpius thought he was going to hit him. But instead he looked away and let out a long, shaking breath, fighting for his composure. ‘I’m not going to demean Rose by implying that you and I get to squabble over her and the best man “wins”. She’s smart. She’s self-aware. She’s got self-respect. So she’s not going to put up with your bullshit forever, and you have now relieved me of any guilt I might have felt about making it damned clear where my interests lie.’

He turned to go past him, but Scorpius shifted his weight, and their shoulders bashed into each other. ‘Really, Doyle? So keen to be second choice, are you?’

‘No,’ said Matt, and gave him a smile that wouldn’t melt butter. ‘Just last choice. Now, if you’d be so kind, you offered me a loan so I could do actual work - and just to make this sweeter, I will have double your money by the end of the week.’

Scorpius scowled, digging into his pouch to pull out the fistful of galleons, which he shoved into Matt’s hand. ‘Keep it,’ he sneered. ‘Plenty more where that came from. Buy yourself a shirt that fits properly.’

‘Oh, no. See, I don’t use blood money for my own gain, and I repay all my debts.’

Now it was Scorpius’ turn to be incited almost to violence, but the door creaked open and in stepped Albus, wearing the neutral expression he reserved for when he knew everything was going wrong. ‘You guys good?’ he said, voice falsely light.

Matt pulled out his coin-purse to slip the galleons away. ‘Yeah,’ he said, gaze not leaving Scorpius’, stormy grey against piercing blue.

‘Tickety-boo,’ said Scorpius, refusing to look away first.

‘Good,’ said Albus in a voice which would brook no misbehaviour. ‘Selena’s looking at cravats, Matt. It’s going to be a long day of being a clothes horse.’

Matt gave an exaggerated sigh, and turned to go. ‘A hard life I lead, being fussed over by women,’ he said, wandering through the door.

Albus closed it behind him and looked to Scorpius. ‘What the hell is going on?’

‘Just a difference of opinion,’ he muttered, stowing his coin-purse.

‘I thought I heard shouting.’

Scorpius hesitated. ‘Did the others?’

‘If so, they ignored it. Are we going to have a problem?’

‘I’m not making a problem. I’m getting on with things. What do you need me to do? Don’t you have an ambush to get on with planning?’

‘Yeah. Rose is doing prep-work for Legilimency. Selena is helping prep Matt for infiltrating.’

‘Oh, do I get to be the class clown again, with no useful talents to contribute except for maybe helping someone else do something they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves? I do so love that -’

‘I need illusions,’ said Albus flatly. ‘We have pictures of Guerrier and Rose has met him. I need you to put together an illusion of him standing at the meeting point to lull Paquet into a false sense of security.’

‘Life-like illusions are hard -’

‘It won’t need to be perfect because it’s going to be dark. But if you get it wrong, it’ll spook Paquet and the whole thing will be off. I want her to be ready to approach and then we slam her. Dispelling charms from Rose to break down any defences she might have up, and then Selena and I Stun her to hell and back. I won’t be hit by any hanging Shields again like I was against Downing. But we need her to not be on her guard.’

Scorpius opened his hands. ‘You want to base this plan off me doing something I’ve never done before? I didn’t need a good illusion to fool a troll -’

‘I’m basing this plan off lots of people’s strengths. You’re just part of it. If it goes wrong, she’s spooked and we have a fight. If it works, everything’s easier.’ Albus’ expression was flat. ‘You’ve wanted to have a job which matters, which you can prepare for and be relied upon, as opposed to backing people up? This is it. This is your job. It’ll keep you busy, it’ll work you hard, and you have every excuse to not deal with Rose or anyone else until it’s done.’ His gaze did soften around the edges. ‘And I’m here if you need me, mate.’

‘All right.’ Scorpius rubbed his temples. ‘I’m sorry. Thanks. I can do this.’ His lips twitched. ‘You know, if you told me to fly to the moon, and that you thought I could do it, I’d try ‘til it killed me?’

Albus gave a wry grin, stepping forward to clap him on the shoulder. ‘Just as well I only ask you to do things I know you can do, then.’

* *


Monaco-Ville was almost dead at night. The quiet, quaint, narrow streets which had changed very little since the Middle Ages were not to where the tourist-driven night life of the region flocked; that was across the bay, down in Monte Carlo proper, with its sights and sounds and bars in one of the most densely-populated urban regions in the whole world. Up here on the Rock, streets which would hustle and bustle in the day and the early evening became subdued, and as night’s shroud fell, it could have been a hundred miles away.

Which suited their needs entirely. They were down a dark alleyway not too far from Guerrier’s home, and thus it was no difficult feat for Rose to manipulate the extant anti-Muggle wards to spread this far. Guerrier had assured her that Paquet would not want to meet at his house; she preferred to meet far from prying eyes so none of his staff knew of their connection. This way, she remained confident they would go uninterrupted.

Or as confident as she could be under the circumstances. She wasn’t sure how much she trusted Guerrier, who had been all-too happy to set up someone who had once been a contact of his, so long as she vowed to wipe the memories of the incident and leave their business relationship intact. When Rose pointed out that if there was a breach in the Rabbit’s Foot’s security based off Paquet’s information it might lead to her being a less-than-useful contact in the future, the old man had smiled and shrugged and said no resource lasted forever - and if this brought him vengeance upon the thieves, then so much the better.

Vengeance. They kept running into that word. Selena had spoken of it in Badenheim, swearing to hunt Thane to the ends of the Earth if necessary, and not for justice - for the sake of making herself feel better. As if anything was going to make her feel better.

Selena had been more subdued and cautious in the two days since Paris, Rose mused to herself as she lurked in the shadow of a doorway to some Muggle house, waiting for the time of the meeting. They had a good fifteen minutes yet, and while she had no desire to distract herself, it was hard for the mind to not wander while they waited. Her part was done until Paquet showed.

They’d spent last night, their first night in Monaco, down in this alleyway, checking it out in the dark. A whole day to go over their plan, talk to Guerrier, make ready. Scorpius had locked himself away in his room, ostensibly practising the illusions, and she’d been of no mind to stop him, interrupt him. Talk to him. Her own preparation had kept her busy enough, and she preferred to focus on that than anything else. Anything personal.

So it was only now, as she stood in the dark and wondered why they did what they did, that she realised something else was chewing on Selena, and Rose quietly cursed herself for having been so self-absorbed as to not notice. She’d dismissed it unconsciously as being further grief for Methuselah - as if that was irrelevant, or as if there was nothing more to say on such a topic - without considering that this was something new.

Was it closeness to Thane? Now they had a good lead, a good chance of catching him, running into him. And what would they do? Capture him? They had no legal grounds to do that. Kill him? No legal grounds either, but easier to cover up -

- and there she was, stood in the dark, considering murder. Right before she tried to abduct and plunder the mind of someone who’d done nothing wrong, who was simply the next step in front of them.

Why are you here, Rose? Do you hate Thane that much?

No, she reasoned to herself. She knew he needed stopping, but she didn’t feel the fervent hate she’d heard in Selena’s voice, the driving, burning need for resolution she sometimes saw in Scorpius’ eyes. She didn’t even feel the ardent determination she saw in Albus on occasion, principle pushing him to one moment argue against an abduction, the next have the broad strokes of a plan laid out, as if this had cooked behind closed doors even as he objected. Always thinking, always planning, always preparing for what came next.

She didn’t have that streak of helplessness that empowered Matt to act. So why was she there? For them, she suspected. To see them through this. And, she wondered, perhaps, to be ready to stop them.

But if she was to be there for them, she would have to see to Selena.

Footsteps thudded along cobbles, and Rose stopped breathing for a few heartbeats until she realised this was stupid. It could have been someone other than Paquet, and even if it was Paquet, she would not rush. She shifted her stance to cast a look down the alleyway, not towards the footsteps but towards where they were going.

Guerrier had offered to tell Paquet it would be an associate of his who would be handling the meeting, but she had assured him this wouldn’t be necessary. Scorpius had cleverly put the illusion just at the edge of the circle of light from the nearest street-light to the meeting spot, casting sharp shadows down upon the humanoid figure who stood there. Albus had wondered if that was going to make it harder, but Scorpius had shook his head. Light and dark were the first tricks in illusion magic. Precision and details were the hard part, especially when it came to producing facsimiles of people - the small movements, the little nuances in appearance and demeanour. The odder the surroundings, such as erratic light, the less an observer would pay attention to such details.

She hoped. Or the illusion of Guerrier would look even odder and the whole thing would fall apart.

To her eyes, the figure Scorpius had produced who stood down the alleyway looked like a damned fine impersonation of the person Paquet was expecting to see, but she reminded herself this was what she wanted to think, to believe. Paquet knew Guerrier better, and was likely a paranoid individual anyway.

So all they could do was hope.

Albus was positioned further down the alleyway, nearer the illusion so he could smack Paquet with a Stun at closer range. Rose would remain shrouded in a spot Paquet would pass, though with the absolute darkness and her camouflaging charm she was confident she would go unnoticed. Selena was nearby, the nooks and crannies of the road making it perfect for this ambush.

Which would, she feared, raise Paquet’s paranoia.

Rose hefted her wand and crouched down behind the pillar to watch, shifting her gaze to get a fix on the witch. Paquet was an older woman, streaks of grey running through a tightly-bound bun, but despite this austere demeanour her garb was plain, hard-wearing. Only by pictures that Guerrier had provided could she identify her, otherwise she could have easily been a local who’d outwitted the anti-Muggle charms somehow.

Not holding her breath was hard. Not moving her wand to see if there were any defensive charms already up and protecting her was even harder, an instinct to make ready as much as she could curbed by the need for secrecy. This was why they had so many of them - she would drop a dispelling charm at Paquet no matter what, and Selena would throw the first Stun just to make sure. That left Albus to finish her off - or free to react if it didn’t work, and by the time he’d acted then she, Rose, would be ready to do something again, and Scorpius would be in backup with the illusion abandoned -

This isn’t like Downing. We’re better than we were.

She slowed her breathing instead, steadied it as Paquet unsuspectingly approached the illusion, hand in her pocket and obviously gripping the wand there, and she stopped some ten metres down the alleyway. Rose bit her lip; she was much further away than they’d hoped for, too far for Selena to get a strong line of sight on her even if Albus could step out into the open with the benefit of the Invisibility Cloak.

‘Monsieur Guerrier?’

Two things struck Rose at once, twisting her gut cold when she realised. The first was that Scorpius couldn’t make his illusion talk to assure Paquet it was fine, that she could approach further.

The second was that even if he could, the only person who spoke French anyway was Matt, right then on the casino floor at the Rabbit’s Foot.

To Scorpius’ credit, the illusion turned and gave her a deep, polite nod, as if acknowledging her and beckoning her closer - but the shadows shifted oddly across the skin as his work failed to be sophisticated enough to keep up with this movement more significant than what they’d counted on -

- and Paquet drew her wand.

‘Shit,’ Rose hissed under her breath, edging towards the corner of her doorway. They still outnumbered Paquet and were still hidden, but the element of surprise was no longer theirs.

Then there was the sound of crashing tiles from back the way Paquet had come, and the witch wheeled around, wand flashing in the gloom. Without thinking, Rose whipped her wand out with the words of the dispelling charm blazing bright in her mind. She didn’t know what had made that sound, but Paquet was distracted and it would have to do, and she was rewarded with the energies rippling across a hanging Shield around Paquet - before the Shield dissipated into nothing.

This isn’t like Downing. We’re better than we were.

Selena’s Stun came darting down the dark street to thud into Paquet from behind, and the witch staggered - but remained upright, the fabric of her jacket rippling with its own protective charms, a secondary layer they had considered a possibility, and Rose swished her wand, preparing another dispell just in case, because Albus hadn’t acted yet -

Then Albus’ Stun shot from a completely different spot to the one Rose had thought he’d be shooting from, and hit Paquet in the head. With barely a gurgle, she dropped to the ground and stayed there.

Incarcerous!’ That was Scorpius’ voice from above, loud and clear. As the ropes shot down from the balcony where he’d lurked out of sight, Rose realised his illusion of Guerrier, botched despite their best efforts, had disappeared. But the bindings wrapped themselves around Paquet, trussing up her unresisting form..

Albus stepped out from the shadows, pulling his Invisibility Cloak off, and Selena came after, looking disgruntled. ‘Good work, everyone,’ he called out as Rose, too, slunk out to join them. ‘We got her.’

‘Sorry,’ called out Scorpius from above. ‘We didn’t factor on, you know. Speaking. Just as well we’re fucking geniuses, hey?’

‘What was that crash?’ Rose asked, looking the direction Paquet had come as Albus crouched over her, making sure that she was fully bound and unconscious. ‘It distracted her enough to let me get a shot off…’

‘That was me,’ said Albus calmly as he stood. ‘I saw her balk at the illusion and I’d set up a triggered blast on the tiles down there earlier. I didn’t think it would be needed.’

Scorpius had swung over the balcony railing and dropped to the ground with the lightness of foot which surprised Rose until she remembered his Quidditch playing. ‘If banking on my skills, always have a backup,’ he said.

The self-deprecating was not charming right then. Rose cleared her throat. ‘Yes, we’ve all done well, but this is only half of the problem,’ she said, voice firm. ‘Let’s get her out of here. I would be surprised if we can keep her captive for more than five hours before the Rabbit’s Foot realises she’s gone, and then anything we learn about their security is going to be suspect.’

Albus’ lips thinned as he flicked his wand to levitate Paquet. ‘You think you can get everything you want out of her head in five hours.’

Rose gave a humourless smile. ‘If five hours is all we have, then I’m going to have to, aren’t I?’



———————

A/N: Not much lore for this one, except that Matt cites the “Codex Döbringer” - which is actually a real book. It’s a book written in old German which discusses fencing techniques and, reputedly, magic. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity for there to be a ‘full’ version in the magical world which goes into greater detail than the ‘Muggle version’. Swords and magic! What’s not to like.

Next chapter, Legilimency!

In the meantime, I have a little announcement to make! With the blessing of the kind staff here, I would like to direct your attention to my Author Profile, which has a few links. One of these in particular, that being the link to where you can get your hands on... my book!

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but some people here have expressed interest in seeing my original fiction and professional work and, thus, here it is. And even if it's not, this doesn't mean I wouldn't be happy to hear from my readers here in the wide world of social media!


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