Chapter 4 : In the Waiting Line
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Rose’s stirring in bed caused Scorpius to open his eyes in the early morning light and see red hair strewn across his pillow. It took a few moments for the previous evening to come back to him as he recalled the pounding on his door, stricken look on Rose’s face, and being unable to her away - not when she was in such a state.
“Thank you for letting me stay over,” Rose whispers, becoming aware of her morning breath and the need to brush her teeth.
Noticing the smudges of what appeared to be eyeliner under Rose’s eyes, causing her to look much older, Scorpius wondered how much effort girls put into their appearance before answering. “It was nothing, Rose. I’m glad you had somewhere to go.”
Smiling, Rose continued, “I just thought you’d know what I was going through with parents who are so controlling.”
This caused a frown to crease Scorpius’ face. “I’m not sure our parents are quite the same,” he commented frostily.
“What do you mean?” Rose asked, propping herself up on an arm. “Yours were against you opening your shop so you- “
“That’s not what happened,” Scorpius interrupted. “Didn’t Albus tell you about my parents?” Scorpius sat up, breaking the languid mood between him and Rose.
“No…” Rose started slowly. “When he told me you two dated he didn’t go into a lot of details but I thought he was just being private about – well, I didn’t push him for more than he gave.” Rose paused as she started to wonder if she had missed something obvious to other people. “And, well, when you moved out from Malfoy Manor I just thought it was to have more freedom.”
The laugh the Scorpius let out was colder than he intended. “It was for more freedom,” he said, trying to keep his tone away from the derisive sarcasm he felt building up. “After we broke up, they wanted me to date another girl and, well,” Scorpius paused, suddenly aware of how damaging the next part of his sentence could be. “You’re a terrific girl, er, woman, but I don’t fancy women.” The words came out slowly as Scorpius saw the jolt of this news hit Rose. “When we were dating I was just trying to make my parents happy and when we broke up I told them I wouldn’t date someone just to make them happy anymore.”
To Scorpius’ abject horror, tears were visible on Rose’s cheeks. “I didn’t know,” she said in a low voice. Wrapping her arms around Scorpius’ shoulders, Rose added, “It must be so lonely to have your family not accept you for who you are.”
“It’s been better since I’ve been out on my own,” Scorpius assured Rose, patting her hair. “It’s just – I wouldn’t lightly put aside my family.”
Rose pulled back from Scorpius and narrowed her eyes. “Are you saying that I’m being frivolous?” she asked in a harsh tone.
“N-no,” he stammered. “It’s not frivolous at all but I don’t know if it’s worth alienation. Family is all some people have and you have a lot of family. You’d be giving up more than your parents.”
Deciding to grapple with that thought before doing anything with it, Rose asked a question that had been nagging her for the minutes since Scorpius’ confession. “Did you like me while we were together?” she asked, her cheeks flushing at the burgeoning self-consciousness that sprouted in her.
It was Scorpius’ turn to blush, except where Rose turned a deep red, his cheeks were tinted with a light shade of pink. He wasn’t sure how to explain his feelings for Rose to himself, let alone to her. They were at best, complicated. “I liked you and…” Scorpius couldn’t think of words that didn’t make him sound like a wretched pig. The ones that came tumbling out were horrid and awkward. “I enjoyed being with you…”
Rose averted her eyes at mention of their past intimacy. “That’s reassuring at least,” she murmured.
“I’m so sorry, Rose… I honestly thought you knew but, Merlin, I must sound like a complete wart but… I was giving girls a go and honestly thought I’d be happy enough with you,” Scorpius said hoping that he was in some way redeeming himself.
“I… I understand,” Rose reassured him not really feeling that understand quite described her feelings. Wanting to get out of the conversation they were having, Rose let out a laugh and said, “How about we get dressed and I buy you breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron?’
“That sounds lovely,” Scorpius agreed before darting out of bed.
Suddenly aware that she was in just a shirt and underthings, Rose carefully dressed as to not reveal more skin than was necessary. She felt like an obtrusive presence though Scorpius gave her no reason to feel that way. Scorpius finished dressing quite fast and waited for Rose outside of the bedroom to give her privacy while she got ready.
When she emerged, fully dressed and make-up resituated on her face, Scorpius noticed her rucksack was over her shoulder. “Going home after breakfast?” he asked, not wanting to sound like he wasn’t willing to welcome her back.
“Oh, no, just going to crash with Lily. I don’t want to intrude on your life too much,” she smiled.
A meal at the Leaky Cauldron always felt like eating at home for Rose. Her parents were friends with the owner, Hannah, and her husband Neville. Rose always felt torn between school-appropriate formality and family-friend casualness when she saw the Longbottoms in public as they had been Professor and Mrs. Longbottom while she was at Hogwarts.
Hannah greeted them both with a welcoming smile. “Nice to see you, Rosie,” she said with a hug that squeezed Rose tightly. “And you, Scorpius,” came Hannah’s slightly more cordial voice. “In for breakfast?” she asked, eyeing the two teenagers.
“Breakfast sounds great,” Rose said, leading Scorpius to a table. Once they were seated, Rose puffed her cheeks out for a moment before exhaling loudly. “Great, she’ll probably owl Dad and tell him where I’m at.”
“You’re not on the run,” Scorpius reminded her with a laugh.
“Clearly you don’t know my dad that well. He probably has a small taskforce of aurors looking for me,” Rose said with a glance around the pub.
Trying not to sound dour, Scorpius said, “It must be nice to be missed.”
Rose’s face fell with the reminder that the wizard across from her had sacrificed so much for his autonomy. “Have you seen your parent since you left?” Rose asked quietly.
“Not my father,” Scorpius told her, looking into his tea. “Mum has stopped by the shop on occasion. We’ve lunched together a few times too.”
The both stopped talking and glanced up and Hannah who was approaching them with two patters of food hovering at shoulder height. “Here’s your favorite, Rosie,” she said cheerily, setting down eggs and bacon with toast. “And yours, Scorpius,” she added as she placed porridge with a side of fruit on the table. “Let me know if you need anything else, dears.”
“Has your mum tried talking your dad around?” Rose asked, breaking the yolks of her eggs with the nice, crisp bacon.
“Of course,” Scorpius said curtly as he took a bite of porridge. “He’s… unwilling to show weakness or compromise.”
“I really wish I could help reconcile you,” Rose told Scorpius earnestly. “I see your point though – about alienating family.”
Scorpius smiled through the mouthful of breakfast he was contending with. As they ate, mostly in silence, Scorpius wondered if they’d be able to be friends after unearthing the hidden truth behind their previous romance. Time would tell.
Albus looked up at the leaning home his mum grew up in and at the overgrown garden that surrounded it. He always liked visiting the Burrow when it was just him, Nana, and Granddad so that he could enjoy a conversation with his grandparents without vying for attention with so many cousins around.
“Albus!” Nana called when she spotted him walking up the garden path. Opening the kitchen door, she welcomed her grandson with open arms. “It’s so good to see you. How are you dear? Are you eating enough living with James? You’re so thin but, then again, your father has always been thin.” She said all of this while holding Albus in a warm hug.
“I’m good, Gran,” Albus said when she released him and he could fill his lungs with air. “James and I eat plenty – though neither of us are that good at cooking. Not like you and Mum.”
“Oh, you’re sweet,” Molly said, smiling. “Granddad is just in the sitting room, reading the Prophet, I think. Arthur!” she called loudly. “Albus is here.”
“I’ll go get him,” Albus said as he cut through the kitchen towards the sitting room. Poking his head into the sunlit room, he could see his granddad asleep with the newspaper draped over his chest.
Moving quietly into the room, Albus sat on the loveseat across from his granddad. The creak of the old springs caused the elderly wizard to start. “Oh, Harry,” he said looking around wildly, adjusting his glasses. “Sorry, Albus,” Granddad corrected himself once his glasses were secured on his nose. “You do look an awful lot like your dad.”
“I’ve heard that once or twice,” Al said, smiling at his granddad. While comparison between Albus and his dad often caused irritation, Al had boundless tolerance for his grandparents’ fumbles and frequent reminiscing.
“Did you read that the muggles are coming out with flying cars?” Arthur asked leaning towards his grandson with a gleam of excitement in his eyes. “I once had a flying car- “
“And you nearly lost your job over it,” came Nana’s stern voice from the doorway. “Lunch is on,” she announced.
Albus took a seat at the table and looked at the food that was laid out. “Are we expecting more people for lunch?” he asked as he shoveled food on his plate.
“Not that I’m aware of, why?”
“It’s just a lot of food for three people,” Albus commented with a mouth full of Shepard’s pie.
“I thought you could take some home – for you and James,” Molly told him with a fond smile.
Arthur was looking at his wife with a fondness that made Albus wonder if he remembered that there was company over. “Thank you, Nana,” Albus said loud enough to snap his granddad out of his loving reverie.
They ate in silence for most of the meal, except when Albus or Granddad had to compliment a particularly delicious dish. Once the meal had slowed down, Arthur glanced at his wife before asking, “Do you want to see the schematics I have for my old flying car?”
Nodding, Albus finished his bite of beans before saying, “That sounds great. Uncle Ron told me about the car before and that he and Dad flew it to Hogwarts once.” A look of maternal sternness passed over Nana’s face causing Albus to add, “They were telling me about the risks of breaking rules at the time.”
Once they were out in the old shed Arthur used to tinker, both with a glass of pumpkin juice to keep them refreshed, Albus looked around the workshop to see if there were any obvious additions to the space. Since retiring, Arthur expanded his shed using an undetectable extension charm and was slowly adding more muggle devices for him to fiddle with.
“I think my old Anglia notes are over here,” Granddad muttered as he opened a file cabinet drawer. A few minutes of shuffling paper later, he exclaimed, “Here they are!”
He handed the notes and drawing to Albus, who was glancing them over trying to make out the faded writing. “You made it invisible?” he asked with an uninhibited tone of incredulity.
“Ah, yes, the invisibility booster – quite tricky to get right,” Arthur recalled, rubbing his chin. “Which, by Ron and Harry’s account, I didn’t!”
“If muggles to come out with flying cars, you wouldn’t need it,” Al offered, still looking over notes on the flying car.
“Now, come on, Al. Muggles won’t be able to work out a flying car for some time still. They don’t have magic for one,” Granddad said heartily. “How they manage…” he added.
Setting down the notes, Albus looked around the shop to see if there was good example of muggle innovation without magic. He saw it – a TV. “Here’s one the muggles did without magic,” Al said pointing at the old TV. “They use this to watch people and get news.”
“But they could use the Floo network for that,” Arthur interjected.
“Not for a bunch of people watching the same thing. It’s like the WWN with pictures,” Al explained, hoping this analogy would resonate.
“You sure know a lot about muggles,” Granddad commented with a sideways glance at Al. “Did you learn that from school or… have you been dating a muggle?”
This question caught Albus by surprise as it was usually Nana who probed into the dating lives of her grandchildren. “Oh, Brandon is muggle-born,” Al told his granddad, wondering if he’d remember the boyfriend that only visited a handful of times.
“Brandon… I like him. Good bloke. Though,” Arthur paused, trying to recall the scarce details he knew about Al’s private life. “You’re not still dating him, are you?”
“Not really. But we’re still friends,” Albus said with a smile at the last time he saw Brandon and their friendly activity together.
“That’s a dangerous title,” his granddad said darkly. Albus, who was surprised by the sudden serious tone looked at Arthur who was cleaning his glasses. “You wouldn’t be the first man in our family to…” he faltered a moment before continuing, “to lose someone to just being friends. You never know what or who might come between you.”
Albus took a sip of his juice to avoid answering right away. He was curious about who had suffered heartache in the family as everyone was married, except Uncle Charlie but he was just so busy with work. Furrowing his brow he asked, “How do you know when it’s the right person? How’d you know with Nana?”
When the same look of total infatuation flashed on his granddad’s face, Albus worried that he askes something he didn’t really want the answer to. “I once had to picture my life without her – had a run-in with a dementor during Defense against the Dark Arts – and realized right away that I couldn’t live without her,” Arthur told his grandson. “I would have figured it out eventually but I was acting the fool and, well, she wouldn’t like me to tell you, but she had quite a few blokes after her.”
“Too bad there aren’t any dementors handy for me to check,” Al laughed.
With his head buried in notes from his latest meeting with the other department heads, Harry walked back into his home away from home – headquarters for the aurors. He was proud of how the department transformed from a corrupt and inept organization into a rather effective and well-run unit of crime-fighting wizards. Harry worried that parts of the Ministry were slipping into corruption that harkened back to the days of Cornelius Fudge and a highly nepotistic way of operating.
It was these thoughts that caused Harry not to see Brandon Savage before they walked into each other. “I’m so sorry, sir,” Savage said, trying to help Harry pick up the loose parchment. “Here,” he waved his wand causing the paper to fly into his hands. Handing the stack back to Harry, he said again, “I should have looked where I was going. My mind was on my cases, I guess.”
Harry took the stack of paperwork and gave Brandon a calculating look. “Are your cases giving you trouble?” It was unusual for Savage to get distracted by his work – passionate and dedicated, yes, but never to the point of pulling his mind from being present.
“It’s just this Broomfield case, I’m following up on it,” Brandon explained. “I came across it and think it might need follow-up.”
The name sounded familiar – it was a witch who was killed by a muggle. Harry didn’t realize the case was still being worked. “You’ll let me know if you need backup on it,” Harry said, not wanting his aurors to go into unsafe situations alone.
“Of course. I’m just following up on a few loose ends. It shouldn’t be dangerous,” Savage told him. “Mostly I’m going to talk with the muggles who saw it happen to see if there’s more to it.”
Glancing at Savage’s outfit, a rather formal muggle suit and tie, Harry understood. “You’re dressed for it.” One change Harry made to the auror department was issuing attire for interacting with muggles to avoid the general confusion they faced when a wizard attempted to don their best imitation of muggle clothing. Overall, the system worked out well excepting those wizards who refused to wear pants.
They were about to part ways when Ron hurried by, bumping into Harry without a word of acknowledgement. Harry’s eyes followed his life-long friend around the corner and saw him enter the lift.
“He’s been in such a state,” Harry commented, more to himself than Savage.
“Trouble with Rose?” Brandon asked, making a shrewd guess rather than commenting on firsthand knowledge.
Harry’s attention snapped to Brandon, his eyebrows forming a sharp line across his face. “How did you know about that? Have you seen Rose?”
Savage could see by Harry’s reaction that his guess was not only correct but it was an unwelcome insight into their family. “No, sir, not recently. We ran into each other not too long ago – she sounded unhappy.”
“Come with me to my office,” Harry said, wanting a chance to speak with Savage in private, rather than in the hallways where anyone could overhear. Once they were in Harry’s office with the door shut, their conversation resumed. “Did she tell you about plans to run off?”
Harry could see the conflict on Brandon’s face as he was looking for the line between being someone’s confidant and a Ministry employee. Finally, Savage said, “No, she didn’t tell me about her plans.”
It was challenging for Brandon to stare down the green-eyed hero of the wizarding world and hold his own when being asked to divulge personal information. Brandon’s mind was whirling when Harry asked, “Can you tell me the contents of your conversation?”
Instead of answering right away, Savage looked around the small office and took note of the familiar but often ignored photos of Harry’s family. There were as many photos of his niece as his own daughter. This, more than any departmental pressure, caused Brandon to comply with the request. “We talked about her job and pressure she felt about it. I suggested she talk to her mum,” Savage supplied, feeling that a broad overview wouldn’t violate Rose’s trust with him.
Crossing his arms, as if this new information required a physical embrace, Harry leaned back in his chair. “I didn’t know you and Rose were friends.”
The statement from his department head shined light on part of Harry’s motivation for pushing Brandon for information – he was concerned for his son’s heart as much as his niece’s whereabouts. “We see each other sometimes,” Savage conceded, hoping that Harry would soon have his fill of new information.
Harry appeared to have his fill of information for the time being. “Thanks, Savage. That’s all I need for now,” Harry said with what he hoped was a polite smile. Before Brandon completely exited the office he called out, “Oh, Savage, be sure to let me know how to Broomfield case goes.”
With a backwards glance at Harry, Brandon nodded, “I’ll report back on it tomorrow.”
Brandon stopped in the hallway to straighten his tie and check that he looked appropriately muggle for the visit. From what he knew of the case and the victim’s family, a wizard’s presence would not be welcome. Hoping that the rest of his day would go smoother than it started, Brandon left auror headquarters with his mind easing back into the details of his case.
A/N: this chapter title, “In the Waiting Line,” is a song by Zero 7. I highly recommend a listen. (And all future chapters – as well as all past – are songs. You can look them up for a listen while reading the chapter.) As always, I’d love your feedback! I’m kind of blah about this chapter but that could be because I’m really excited about the next chapter (maybe should be afraid). Aaand, LightLeviosa asked a few questions on my MTA page that pertain to the plot of this story. You can check that out if you're curious.
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