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Starfall by Slide
Chapter 33 : Like a Stone
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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Like a Stone


‘I hate trains.’ Selena almost fell over when they staggered onto the platform. ‘I’d rather bloody hike wherever we’re going next. No more trains. Please.’

‘If you’re hiking, can you carry your own luggage?’ said Matt, yanking her carry-case down from the carriage with a clatter and a grunt. ‘Or let Rose pack it, or burn it, or basically make sure I don’t have to lug it?’

Rose descended gingerly in the case’s wake, patting her backpack. ‘I’d have packed it if she’d brought it to my compartment!’

‘Yes, but then I’d have risked interrupting an all-important Weasley-Malfoy fumble and, frankly, that’s too much hair for one person to deal with.’ Selena waved her hands about her head to illustrate the sheer volume of hair, then looked around the plain platform, the wooden office, the rolling hills of sunlit Portugal. ‘So. This is Tomar. What a dump.’

‘A dump!’ Matt’s eyebrows went indignant. ‘It was the last Templar town to be made! It thwarted the advance of Caliph Abu Yusuf Al-Mansur! It was the headquarters of -’

We know.’ Selena kept her nose in the air. ‘It’s also a run-down little town in the middle of hilly nowhere. If we’re going to Portugal in May, can we at least have a beach?’

Albus, the last of the six onto the platform, lifted his hands to forestall further bickering. ‘This is where we need to be, and we’re not here to sight-see. Matt, does Tomar have a magical community?’

‘Not to my knowledge. On the one hand, records imply the Templar wizards had a presence here when the place was built and when the Order of Christ “took over”. On the other, records also imply wizards went their separate ways over the -’

‘This is probably for the best,’ interrupted Scorpius. ‘No local wizards to keep an eye on us.’

‘But no local wizards who might have spotted Raskoph and his men,’ said Lisa. Her dark gaze swept up and down the platform, not for a moment resting on them. Selena could see her hand tucked up her sleeve, ready to grasp her wand as if an attacker was going to strike at any moment.

‘We should camp, then,’ said Rose. ‘There are woods near the town, near the castle. I can stick up some wards so the Muggles won’t come near us, and the Council of Thorns shouldn’t be expecting us, so we can investigate freely.’

‘Beans for dinner again. Great,’ sighed Selena.

‘What’s bothering me,’ said Albus, ignoring her, ‘is that we have no idea what Raskoph is after. And he’s got a few days’ head-start on us. He could have been and gone.’

‘Then we’ll find some trace of his passing,’ said Matt. ‘And I still have de Sablé’s papers to go through. Even if Raskoph has been and gone and we have no idea what he was after, we do have avenues of investigation he doesn’t.’

Scorpius looked at Albus. ‘So what’s the plan, boss?’

Albus’ lips twisted at the address. ‘Set up a camp site and take a look at the town and the castle.’

‘I would think the castle’s more likely to be relevant than the town,’ said Matt. ‘The town outside of the walls is relatively modern, probably all post-16th century.’

‘Only to you would that be modern,’ said Selena, rolling her eyes. ‘I’m happy to look for a camp site. And I’m not going with Sir Gabs-A-Lot here.’

Matt’s expression flickered with hurt, and Rose stepped up. ‘I’ll go with her. It’s best I set up the wards anyway.’

‘Right. Then Lisa, Matt, you go up to the castle, have a quick look around. Scorp and I will look at the town. Meet up back here in an hour and then to the camp to figure out our next move?’ Albus nodded. ‘Let’s get to work.’

Selena and Rose didn’t speak until they were out of the humble train station, picking their way across soil baked hard under the blistering sun, towards the wooded hills nearby. ‘I expected Portugal to be flatter,’ was all Selena said once the others were out of sight.

‘It’s pretty hilly.’

‘Well noticed.’

‘Oh,’ said Rose. ‘We’re doing this again.’

Selena glared - then stopped herself and rubbed her temples. ‘Sorry. Been cooped up in a train too long.’

‘You’re allowed to be ratty, considering -’

‘I don’t want a free pass on being a bitch just because my life sucks. Besides. If I’m being a bitch, I’m doing it to get a reaction or I don’t care. I don’t need the free pass.’ Silence fell, the two walking in a more companionable peace into the edges of shade as they descended into woodlands. ‘Thanks.’

Rose hesitated. ‘I couldn’t leave you in there.’

‘A part of me wishes you had. Also, saying “you can leave the man you love and become a crazy cat lady” is, like, the worst argument ever. Just so you know.’

Songs of birds happy to be flittering about these sunlit trees filled the gap between them, a too-late warning for Selena that she’d said too much. Rose’s sigh was heavy. ‘Love.’

Selena exhaled slowly. ‘It’s a word. It’s a - you know, this is just going to go around in circles. I’m alive, he’s dead, and you dragged me kicking and screaming back into this world when I wanted to give up on it. Is there anything more to say?’

‘I don’t know,’ Rose admitted. ‘Except that I meant what I said. I still -’ She paused, and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. ‘I made it sound so minor in there, needing you to kick me out of funks. But I do. Need you, I mean.’

‘Careful, Weasley, we don’t want to cut ourselves on affection.’

But Rose gave a small, relieved smile at the comment. ‘Albus is family and Scorpius is Scorpius. And this sounds weird to say because it’s not like I have much more in common with you than Hestia and Cheryl, but you’re my friend and you get me like they don’t, and I appreciate and I’ve… needed that. Lots of things have helped me grow up the last year but, well, you’re one of them.’

‘It’s not about having something in common with you,’ said Selena. ‘It’s about not being intimidated by you. Hestia Kirke thinks you’re Merlin incarnate. Cheryl thinks you’ll never listen to her, so she never tries. I knew you wouldn’t listen to me, but I didn’t care because I wanted to call you on your shit anyway, and also I reckoned you were smart enough to remember it.’ She picked a path at random, a narrow one winding into darker, thicker woods where, if they could find a clearing, it would be easier to keep their tent hidden.

The trees were different here to Badenheim, or perhaps it was the light. Brighter and more piercing, and making the woodland into shadows with streaks of light, instead of the impenetrable canopy of greenery in Germany. Why was light different in different bits of the world? It was the same sun, only a couple of weeks further into summer, and yet it was like a whole new world in its own way.

And she owed Rose a better answer. ‘…Abena and Miranda let me act like nothing was wrong after Methuselah died.’ She could say it, she realised. Normally she’d have said “after Phlegethon” or “after Hogwarts”, and left the real issue unspoken. It was a cold sort of progress. ‘Sure, it’s what I wanted them to think, but they’ve been my friends for years. Either they couldn’t see through my masks, in which case I’m kind of worried, or they could and didn’t stop to ask, in which case I’m really worried.’

‘What did they say?’ Rose paused. ‘What did you even tell them?’

Selena closed her eyes. She’d tried to not think about this, and the wave of shame was almost choking. ‘That I had a fumble with him which was just fun, just distraction in a crisis, and then he died. I could see what they were thinking - that I was mad to even think about Methuselah Jones, and they’d have mocked me for it if he weren’t dead. I mean, even Scorpius believed my mask, so I shouldn’t complain about people believing what I wanted them to believe -’

‘I didn’t.’

She opened her eyes, fought her smile, and lost. ‘Yes, well, you never listened to me in the first place, Weasley.’ Rose laughed at that, an honest laugh which took the sting out of the conversation, but still shadows lurked in her mind, blacker than the ones in the trees around them. ‘I’m sorry for stirring things up in Ager Sanguinis. I was taking chunks out of you because I felt like hell.’

‘No harm done,’ said Rose, voice honest. ‘Matt and I are over. Maybe I’ve not - I’m not pretending I’ve been a saint, but I’ve tried to walk the road of not being rude without, well, leading him on.’ She paused. ‘Have I been giving him the wrong signals?’

‘Really? No. Just, perhaps, didn’t hold up a neon light so he on occasion saw what he wanted to see. I think he’s okay now.’ She pursed her lips as they reached a bridge across a dip that was almost a gorge in the woodlands, stone and intricately carved despite the weathering of the years. ‘That is one excessively ornate piece of architecture for the middle of nowhere.’

Rose peered at it. ‘Maybe these woods were once… I don’t know. Something to do with the castle, the monastery? And that fell apart but the bridge remained?’

Selena ran her fingers along the cold stone railing, feeling the intricate carving. ‘Dragon scales.’ And the walkway itself was like a dragon’s spine. ‘Well, that’s a bit excessive.’

‘It goes deep, too,’ said Rose, pointing into the dirt. ‘Soil must have buried part of it, or -’

‘Whatever - it’s a bridge. What the hell were you doing to Lisa the other night?’ Selena rolled her eyes and they pressed on.

Rose’s nose wrinkled. ‘Al wanted me to. His head is spinning with worry -’

‘So he decided to break his precious morals and tell you to plunder her brain -’

‘No!’ Her voice was firm. ‘He didn’t ask me to. He doesn’t want to ask. He doesn’t want to do it. But he’s getting turned upside-down, I can see it, and I made the judgement call that I’d get it done and get him the truth without him having to compromise himself.’

‘And now you trust Lisa.’

‘I trust that she’s messed up as all hell,’ said Rose. ‘But I trust that some of that mess is from being captured by Thane, and I trust that she does trust us. There are feelings you get in Legilimency, not just strict images and facts, and those don’t lie.’

There was another long, birdsong-filled gap while Selena rooted for diplomatic words. ‘Albus won’t thank you for that.’

Another wrinkle of the nose from Rose. ‘Probably not. It was probably wrong. An abuse of trust, an abuse of her. I’d be furious if anyone doubted me and so decided to read my mind while I slept.’

‘And yet you don’t regret it.’

Rose stopped, and for a moment Selena thought she’d pushed too far. Then she realised they’d reached the edges of a narrow, sunlit-clearing, hidden amongst the trees and dips of the local landscape, and Rose eventually sighed. ‘Do you think I should?’

Selena shrugged, watching the area, her friend’s expression, the warm sky of Portugal. ‘I think,’ she said at length, ‘that this is a good campsite.’

‘That’s not an answer.’

‘I was doing that thing where I change the topic and that says it all, Weasley, keep up.’ Selena scowled. ‘I think Albus can keep his damned principles if it means we’ve crossed a possible threat off the list. He should be grateful you took the hard decision out of his hands.’

‘That isn’t why I did it without his knowledge.’ Rose unslung her backpack, opened it up to pull out the impossibly-large tent case from inside her magically-enlarged bag.

‘Why, then?’

It took no more than the flash of a wand for the tent to spring to life, so small from the outside that it looked like it’d only hold two people if they wanted to get close. But it meant Rose had a moment or two to steel her expression, even if Selena knew how to look through her amateurish masks by now.

‘I wanted to keep Albus’ principles intact,’ said Rose, ‘because the more you and I erode ours, it means he’ll be there to stop us on the day we try to go really too far.’

Selena sighed. ‘I’m here on a mission of vengeance, Rose. That’s why I started this. That’s why we’re all here. I don’t want him to stop me if I get the chance to go “too far” on Thane.’

‘Maybe not.’ Rose tossed her bag inside the tent, then pulled her wand and started on the protective wands around the tent. ‘But I do. Because while I might want to join you, I don’t want you to do that to yourself.’

* *


‘This place is crawling with Muggles,’ said Matt when he led them through the great arched doorway into the Castle of Tomar. ‘The Convento de Cristo is one of the biggest historical monuments in the country. I’m not sure how Raskoph is moving through here without being noticed.’

Lisa sighed. ‘Like I said. He’ll use charms and wards -’

‘But he needs to know where to look. He can’t just wander through the castle, breaking down doors and cracking open tombs.’

‘Did your first look-around find anything?’ said Albus.

‘That it’s crawling with Muggles, that it’s huge, and that we have no idea where Raskoph might have searched,’ said Matt. ‘But no, we nosed around for a half hour and there was nothing obvious.’

‘He could have been and gone,’ said Rose.

‘And miss out on all of this?’ Scorpius sounded mocking as he swept a hand around the sunlit courtyard of the castle. ‘Crumbling walls? A really old church? That creepy-ass bridge up from the woods? I don’t know who made that bridge, but I bet they really liked dragons.’

‘Those walls are actually some of the first in Portugal to feature round towers in the outer walls,’ said Matt, pointing to the nearest on his left. ‘The Templars learnt of the value of this in France, because the round towers are more resistant to attack than square -’

‘Stop nerding, Doyle, please,’ sighed Scorpius. ‘If you like the walls so much, then go take a look at them while we work.’

‘Yes. Work. You’re good at that, Malfoy; tell me, how many leads have you showed up lately?’

Scorpius opened his mouth for a retort, but it was Rose who spoke first, glaring at him. ‘Scorp, this isn’t helping. Matt’s done lots of reading and research and we wouldn’t have a clue what to look for here if it weren’t for him.’

Matt tried to suppress the surge of satisfaction at not just being backed up, but at being backed up by Rose. It wasn’t just so he didn’t look smug. He didn’t want to reflect too long and too hard on his ex girlfriend siding with him against her boyfriend.

It’s just because you’re right. Nothing more. Being right wasn’t as comforting as it usually was.

He ploughed on. ‘I’ve done some reading on the place, and of de Sablé’s notes. He talks a lot about keeping matters of importance in the tombs of the fallen Templar wizards; they’re usually secure places because the great wizards tend to have all manner of magical protections around their tombs.’

‘That sounds promising,’ said Albus. ‘I’m assuming this place has tombs.’

‘Um. Sure. Somewhere. I can find it in the castle somewhere. Even if we have to Confound some Muggle tour guides and go places we’re not supposed to.’

‘That’s a good start. In case nothing comes of that, Rose, how about you find some high places and see about detecting some magical traces in the area?’

‘I’ll go with her,’ Scorpius volunteered at Albus’ suggestion, and while Matt’s gut twisted the way it always did when he thought of the two of them together, he knew this would be for the best if Scorpius was being crabby. He didn’t want him complaining in his ear all the way through investigating underground.

‘As will I. Extra pair of eyes. Lisa, Selena, you two go with Matt?’

‘Oh,’ said Selena. ‘Yay. More underground.’

Matt’s expression pinched, but he nodded to Albus and waved a hand at his new companions. ‘Let’s try the convent first, then the keep. The religious centre is more likely to have a burial site somewhere underground.’

He didn’t wait before turning on his heel and walking across the dusty courtyard towards the convent, where the biggest surge of crowds of Muggles were. This was easily going to be their most peculiar investigation yet, dodging not Dementors but the non-magical locals, trying to guess where the enemy was. Or had been.

‘Do you know what you’re looking for?’ said Selena when she fell into step next to him, Lisa taking up the rear. He was reassured by Lisa’s presence, at least; if they ran into trouble, having her at his side sounded preferable even to having Albus.

But there was an edge to Selena’s voice and he couldn’t help but snap. ‘I just said, didn’t I? What is this, kick Doyle day?’

‘I thought that was every day -’

He rounded on her with enough speed to kick up the dusty ground around them. ‘I’m the reason we found where the Chalice was kept in the catacombs. I’m the reason we knew to go to Ager Sanguinis. I’m the reason we found de Sablé’s notes in that back room. When do I get as much bloody acclaim as Scorpius for his parlour tricks or you for doing naff all? When I also survive Hogwarts?’

Silence met his words, the dust rising around Selena to diffuse the sunlight and make it give them both hazy halos he knew they didn’t deserve. For a moment she looked stunned, then hurt, then, he thought, even sympathetic - but he wasn’t sure which one was going to win.

Then Lisa spoke. ‘This is not the time for this.’

‘No. It’s not,’ Matt agreed. ‘It’s the time for me to think and for us to hunt. Not for people to take chunks out of me.’

‘No, it’s time for us to stick together and think together,’ said Lisa, and both Matt and Selena turned to look at her with some bewilderment. It was the most warm she’d sounded towards them yet. ‘We’re here to be your eyes as well. Tell us what to look for. Take us through here.’

Selena’s lips twitched. ‘When did you suddenly become a team player?’

‘I’ve worked in groups a lot. Just until now I’ve been trusting you five to know how to work together. Except I think you’ve been getting cabin fever.’

Matt exhaled. ‘You’re right. Okay. Let’s focus. Look for the Celtic knot-work like we saw in Paris and in Ager Sanguinis. I don’t know if this place has anything to do with the Chalice, but it’s worth looking for. Keep discreet detection spells up, see if you can find the slightest flicker of anything magical.’

‘Detection spells are imperfect,’ Lisa reminded him.

‘But it’s a start. Other than that, we’re looking for tombs, we’re looking for the name Reynald de Sablé.’ Matt nodded. ‘So let’s get it done.’

Selena looked, again, like she was half-thinking about apologising - but then he turned and carried on to the convent, and the moment was lost. It was better that way, he thought. He didn’t want to be subject to her fickle moods. He wanted answers. The others were, he suspected, after Raskoph and the Chalice more than anything else, and while he shared their priorities he knew he cared likely more than they did about the nature of the puzzle.

What did the Templar wizards do here? What was so special about this place? Had something mysterious turned back Caliph Al-Mansur’s attack, or had it just been the strength of arms of the Templar knights? They were walking through shrouded history on this quest, and Matt for one cared about the clues on the journey as much as the end result.

The clues in Convento de Cristo, however, were few and far between. Swishes of the wand got them past Muggle ticket vendors and into the building. They got them through the locked doors and blocked passages without obstacle or notice. But despite the astonishing masonry and architecture, despite that if he didn’t have work to do, Matt would have happily spent an afternoon nosing about the building, within two hours they came away with nothing but frustration.

Selena, at least, held her tongue in their failure of a hunt. He didn’t think he’d have tolerated yet more sarcastic comments from her, and he was glad of Lisa’s continued deadpan expression. It wasn’t Albus or Rose’s earnest but pointless supportiveness, nor was it anything caustic like he’d have got from Scorpius. They’d hunted. They would continue to hunt. And she was there to work.

‘The keep,’ Matt sighed when they emerged back into the bright sunlight of the courtyard. ‘And I hope this isn’t a waste of time.’

Selena tied back her long hair as a breeze tugged at it and the dust, sighed, but nodded. ‘Lead on, then.’ She sounded tired, subdued, even borderline disapproving, but she wasn’t being sarcastic. He’d take it.

The keep was a quieter building, further away from the bustling Muggle crowds, and clad in denser stone. Ten minutes inside was enough to deny the sun its warmth, and made Matt glad for the light jacket which hid the sword and his wand but had him suffering in the sunlight. But this time, fortune favoured them more quickly.

It was Selena who swished her wand down one of the corridors, mumbling a detection spell, and so it was she who came to a halt so suddenly that Lisa almost walked into the back of her. ‘Hold up. I’m getting something.’

Matt stopped and turned back. The passageway was gloomy, adorned on either side with tapestries depicting Templar greatness, but there were still Muggles occasionally passing, bustling to and fro at either end of the corridor. ‘Something?’

Selena nodded at one of the sturdy oak doors along the wall that looked thoroughly locked and off-limits. ‘Just a quick spark. Something magic. What do you want from me, I’m not an analyst of this stuff. But it came that way.’

He put his hand in his pocket for his wand. ‘Okay. I’ll do a quick distraction spell; Lisa, if you can crack the lock and… er, maybe you should go first.’

The stairway down was shrouded in shadow, but Lisa still slipped through the door and into the darkness. All Matt and Selena could do was exchange glances and follow, Matt taking a quick look to confirm the Muggles hadn’t heard. The door swung shut behind them to cast them into absolute blackness, and he tried to not curse at this, or jump when Selena, ahead of him, took his arm. He suspected Lisa was leading her, in turn, and so they continued as a careful procession, shuffling down shrouded stairs and trying to not slip and break their necks.

It went on a long way, and in the end all they found was an underground room loaded with modern crates and boxes, storage of display pieces which would be brought up by the Muggles when they wanted to change the presentation of the keep. That, and the section of the far wall where sheer stone had slid open to show a further corridor.

‘So that was once a secret door,’ murmured Selena. ‘The magic’s coming from that way.’

Lisa lifted her wand. ‘Watch my back, and stay silent,’ she said.

Her advance was a glide as smooth and silent as silk on the stone, and Matt felt lurching and undignified as he tried to ape her movements when he followed. The new corridor was different, the stonework older and more intricately carved, and at the far end was a doorway through which flickered firelight.

Then he heard the whispers, too faint to make out, but definitely there and probably human.

What is my life coming to, he wondered, when I have to say probably human and not mean House Elves or something?

‘Cover me,’ Lisa breathed. ‘I’ll take a look.’

She edged down the corridor and Matt grimaced but hunkered down, his wand braced before him, ready with supporting fire so long as she stayed in his line of sight. She put her back to the wall and moved like a cat, not a whiff of magic about her and yet still so light-footed he could only admire her stealth. She stuck to the shadows and all but slithered through the darkness to the door.

‘Ever feel like an amateur?’ Selena whispered.

‘Around you lot?’ His frown deepened. ‘Always.’

She shifted her weight. ‘I just meant -’

‘I know you meant her.’ Matt didn’t take his eyes off Lisa as she reached the end of the corridor, her head just nudging against the doorway to peer through. ‘But one of these days you might let me forget that I haven’t been with you since the beginning.’

‘That’s not what this is about. It’s just Scorpius being a twerp.’

He considered this a moment. ‘Then what’s your excuse?’

Before she could answer, Lisa was beside them again. ‘You two,’ she muttered, ‘are too loud.’ She glanced over her shoulder. ‘There’s four of them. Wizards. Raskoph’s one. There are tombs in there and a central sarcophagus, some sort of ritual.’

Selena shivered. ‘Rituals around a site of death? That sounds familiar.’

‘You think they’re going to drop Eridanos on Tomar?’ asked Matt.

Lisa shrugged. ‘I don’t know. We should get the others -’

‘No.’ Selena’s expression set. ‘There might not be time. We can’t let them, we can’t risk it.’

‘They outnumber us and have you two, at least, out-gunned.’

Matt hefted his wand. ‘Sounds like a good time for an ambush.’

Lisa sighed, but then she nodded and gestured for them to follow. Matt did his best to do as she did, put his feet where hers went, follow the same shadows and be just as light on his feet. He knew he was like a lumbering beast in comparison, though, and even though his grip on his wand tightened, his free hand by instinct came to the hilt of the sword, nestled with its hidden size in his jacket.

It didn’t do you much good at Ager Sanguinis. You needed saving by Scorpius. Maybe that was why Scorpius held such disgust for him. Perhaps he’d proved he couldn’t keep up when it mattered.

Not this time.

Though he didn’t know what would make this time different other than his determination, and Matt knew it took more than determination to win a fight.

It helps.

Lisa gestured for him to take a look through the doorway for himself, and he flattened himself against the wall, peering ahead. The chamber looked like any other burial chamber he’d seen of the Templars, from his experience and his reading, though there was no sign of the markings and etchings that had suggested the presence of the Chalice in the past. But it remained ornate, cast in golden light and flickering shadow of the flaming sconces along the walls, the walls lined with half-a-dozen sarcophagi similar to de Sablé’s in Paris.

In the centre was one more, the largest and most distinctive, the stone slab above it carved with an ornate dragon’s head Matt found familiar but couldn’t place. It was around this sarcophagus that the four figures stood, wearing Muggle clothing and wands in their hand, but he recognised Raskoph. Markings had been drawn in chalk on the ground, though they meant nothing to him. He’d not studied the Phlegethon or Eridanos rituals.

His expression tightened and he looked at Selena, then Lisa, whose gaze was questioning. He just nodded.

Then she was moving.

Her steps were silent and her spells were silent as she burst into the chamber, and so the initial flurry of light and burst of power was eerie - bright light with no sound. He didn’t try the added difficulty of casting wordlessly, and neither did Selena, so when they backed her up, it was like he could hear again after being deaf.

Then they were fighting, and his focus narrowed. No more distractions of the contrast of sight and sound, or worrying about what the ritual was. Just him and his wand, and the enemies.

Stupefy. Protego. Get - the hell - down.

One wizard went down to Lisa’s initial onslaught - another was quick enough to parry Matt’s blast, but then Selena was beside him and, as the Thorns wizard’s shield died, her spell thudded into his chest. He felt a burst of satisfaction at the teamwork. Then Raskoph and the other had shield spells up, the air was alive with bright, crackling magic -

It was bright, Matt realised as he ducked back behind the doorway at the retaliation, spells missing his nose by inches. More bright than just Stuns and slashing curses and shields should be, and then he could smell it, the fizzing that filled the air he recognised as the unleashing of powerful magic.

‘You’re supposed to be dead!’ That was Raskoph, who’d moved to take cover behind the sarcophagus.

There was a silence from the three of them as they exchanged glances, then Selena peered around Matt. ‘Sorry to disappoint!’ She shrugged and muttered, ‘What? Scorpius isn’t here, someone had to say it.’

Lisa rolled her eyes, but Matt didn’t react. ‘Something’s wrong. Something’s seriously wrong.’ He could hear the hushed, urgent voices of Raskoph and his remaining wizard, and though he couldn’t hear the words, he could hear the tone. This was concern, and not concern at being jumped by people they could probably out-class in a fight.

‘We’ve got them pinned in,’ said Lisa, and threw a Stun through the doorway to make sure they kept their heads down. ‘We’ve disrupted their ritual -’

‘Oh, God.’ Realisation slammed into Matt as the fizzing presence of magic began to fade, and its absence was not reassuring. Magic couldn’t just disappear. It had to go somewhere. ‘What the hell was that ritual?’

* *


‘I miss my broom,’ said Scorpius, slouching against the walls. From up there they could see not just the Convent behind them, but the tumbling hills of Portugal and the rest of the town of Tomar, stretching out before them in all its sunlit glory. They were warm, they were comfortable, they had nothing to do.

It made Rose a mixture of bored and tense.

‘I miss clues,’ she muttered.

Albus shrugged, and hauled himself up to sit on the wall before the long drop on the far side in a way which would have given his mother a fit. ‘The others will be out of the keep soon enough, and we can hunt together if they’ve not found anything.’

‘They won’t find anything,’ sighed Scorpius. ‘Nothing’s here. I bet Raskoph’s been and -’

‘I don’t need you being negative, Scorp.’ Albus tilted his face to the sun. ‘We’re in this together. Trust everyone.’

Trust. The word thudded into Rose’s gut and had her shifting her weight. She had to, at some point, come clean to Albus about the Legilimency. It was only fair, considering he’d implied he wanted her to do it. Not that she blamed him. She suspected, deep down, he’d rather it didn’t happen. But it had, and he was the one with questions. He deserved answers.

In truth, she’d have preferred to do this without Scorpius. She feared Albus’ anger, however right he would be to be furious with her. But she didn’t know if Scorpius was going to defend her in front of Albus, which might make it all worse.

And she didn’t know if he’d condemn her, too. Still, they had waited out here a few hours with nothing, and if she couldn’t justify hiding it from Albus then she couldn’t justify hiding it from Scorpius, either. They’d both - they’d all - been hurt too much by lies. Even the little ones. And this wasn’t little.

‘There’s something I should say.’ Then came the noise.

It was like stone scraping on stone and mixed up with a scream, and it came from the woodlands the way they’d come. It rumbled across the trees, across the hills, and Rose felt the wall itself shake. Albus jumped to his feet, and even Scorpius was getting up, everyone’s eyes wide.

‘What was that.’ Albus’ voice was flat.

Rose looked over her shoulder and down to the courtyard, and her eyes narrowed. ‘I don’t know. But the Muggles don’t have a bloody clue, either.’ They were stumbling through doors, coming out into the open, milling together with obvious confusion. Then there was another such sound, this one louder, a roar of stone, and the confusion shifted to fear.

‘Guys…’ Scorpius was standing on the wall, staring into the woodlands. ‘There’s something out there.’

Albus turned. ‘Something?’

Then a shape shot up, up into the sky, high enough to block the sun from view for just a heartbeat, and Rose had the impression of flapping wings to go with that scraping roar.

‘Yeah,’ said Scorpius, voice empty. ‘That’s what I thought it was. There’s a giant stone dragon flying up there.’



———————

A/N: Ugh. I kind of hate this chapter. Portugal has been hell on wheels to write and this is the clunkiest transition chapter I’ve had yet. But on with the show!



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