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Chapter 17 : Letting Go
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"Erm..." I found myself stumbling over my words, suddenly searching for a cover story.
How could I have forgotten? How could the fact that I was still me have possibly slipped my mind? Had I really become so comfortable in Malfoy's skin that I couldn't even tell the difference? Or was I just so moved to finally see Rose again?
I know that I wanted to know how her hearing went; it killed me that I couldn't be in there during the hearing, and while I was with Malfoy, I had done my best to not think about her. To not stress about how her hearing was going. Knowing I was away from it, I couldn't do anything to change it. So there was no use in worrying, but deep down, I knew that worry was there in the back of my mind. I cared too much for her to not worry. I knew that. And just like how my heart had nearly left my chest, how it stopped beating just for a moment when I laid eyes on her again, I knew I cared deeply for her.
She looked at me, intrigued but not quite dumbfounded. At least that was a good sign.
I shuffled from foot to foot, struggling to find the right thing to say.
"I-I know we weren't," I replied in response to her comment of how Rose and I were never truly close, "but that doesn't mean I care any less about you. I've been worrying about you throughout this case. It's good to see you finally. H-How have you been?"
"I've been okay. Are you in on the case?" she asked me, a little perplexed. She was a smart girl; she had to have known that her father and uncle had been asked to remain impartial.
"Yeah. I am on the case. You and Malfoy each had an Auror assigned to you for the day. Yours was Ruckman; I was assigned to Malfoy," I said. Which was true. Malfoy had been my responsibility.
She nodded and looked over her shoulder to Ruckman. He didn't seem to care much about our conversation anymore. Seeing that I had recovered myself quite well, he had lost interest in us quite fast. By the look on Rose's face, though, that appeared to be what she wanted. She looked at me intently when she saw his lack of interest.
She grasped my elbows, her eyes locked on mine. "Ted, please tell my family that I'm okay. Please. Please tell them."
"Okay," I whispered, forming another promise that I wouldn't keep. Little did she know, her family already knew she was safe. They knew I was taking care of her; they knew they didn't have to worry. "I will; I promise."
"Thank you," she breathed.
I nodded and tried to lighten the mood before Ruckman could notice how intense we got. It felt weird to begin joking about myself, but I didn't know where else to go from there. "At least tell me Malfoy's been taking good care of you there," I commented with a smile.
She grinned at that, and that made my heart flutter a little. She nodded, chuckling. "Don't worry. He has. I'm lucky he can cook because otherwise I'd be screwed."
"All right," I laughed and smiled. Good to know. I rubbed her elbow with my hand, knowing I should leave now if I wanted to allow a proper amount of time to change and come back without suspicion from Rose. "Listen, I've got to go, but it was great to see you. I'm glad you're doing okay, and hey, everything will be okay."
She looked at me, eyes hopeful, and she nodded. "I know it will be. Thanks, Ted."
"You're welcome, Rose," I whispered, and then I asked with a smile. "Hug goodbye?"
"Of course," she answered and stepped into my arms.
My arms went around her and I held her there for quite a while. At first her arms went around me willingly, and she placed her head against my chest. She molded against me, clearly wanting comfort and solace from someone on the outside. I let my cheek rest on top of her head, and my hand slipped into her curls. I kind of lost myself as I held her, losing track of time, of how long I must have been squeezing the hell out of her.
She finally patted my back, muttering my real name in my ear. Oh, how great it felt for her to say my name.
"Right," I stuttered and stepped away, reluctantly releasing her. "I'll tell Malfoy to come out, but then I have somewhere I have to be."
We said goodbye and I slipped down the hall of the department. I would have to strategize my timing, how I came out, how I would see Rose again. I couldnít risk my cover like that. Not again. I don't think I could handle upsetting Rose.
I quickly changed into the outfit Malfoy had worn to his hearing, and I shifted back into his appearance. When I knew I hadn't made any mistakes, I came out of my office. I wasn't too worried about what Rose would think happened to the real me while we reconvened in the department hallway. I as Scorpius could simply say he was taking care of some work in his office, and I knew that Rose and I would be out of there in a reasonable amount of time.
I came out of the hallway, wiping my sweaty palms on my pants. Why was I shaking? Why was I so sweaty? Deep down, why was I so nervous to just see Rose again as Scorpius?
I had come to realize that I thrive off the relationship Rose shares with my alter ego. I needed those hugs, those smiles, those kind eyes, and that meaningful relationship. I wasn't even the one on trial for murder, and yet I was desperate to receive these things from Rose.
I finally reached the department hall where Rose and Ruckman were waiting for me. I rounded the corner, and that was when I saw her again. I only now took in her appearance. Her white dress shirt was still tucked into her black pencil skirt, but she had undone the top button of her blouse and loosened up a little bit probably since the closure of her hearing. Her hair was still curly, bouncy, and perfect, but she looked as if she had sweated off all of her make up - probably out of sheer fear.
She turned at the sound of footsteps, but what she did next surprised the hell out of me. I was expecting a smile from her. Broad, beaming, and bright. I had envisioned it throughout the day: the picture of her beaming face at seeing me again, ready for the hug that I had promised her. But that wasn't what I received. She looked disgusted at the sight of me and rolled her eyes.
I stopped in my tracks temporarily. What had happened? Had something been said about me in court? Damn it; I had done it again. Classified myself as Malfoy without even thinking. Technically, had something been said about Malfoy in court that set her off? What had happened?
I tried to ignore it though. I just wanted to hold her again.
I opened up my arms and stepped forward, a smile and her name on my lips, but she folded her arms across her chest and rolled her eyes again.
"W-What's the matter?" I found myself questioning. Instead of hugging her I delicately grasped her elbows, rubbing her soft skin with my thumb.
She jerked out of my grasp and looked to the floor. "I'll tell you about it later," she muttered under her breath.
I bit my lip in anticipation but didn't question it further. I'll tell you about it later was better than I don't want to talk about it at all. So I just waited. I looked to Ruckman and gave him a nod, suggesting that we were ready for the transition. He led us towards the fireplace within the Auror department and said his goodbyes. He warned us that he would keep us informed of the next required court date, and then Rose and I stepped into the fireplace together. She was extremely cognizant of the space between our bodies, avoiding touch at all costs.
The green flames took us away with a roar, the Auror department disappearing from our view, and we shot out of the fireplace at the summer house in a matter of seconds. As soon as we were uprighted and dusting the soot off of our clothes, I turned to Rose. Unfortunately she was already marching out of the room at a determined pace.
"Rose!" I called after her as she disappeared into the hallway. "Rose, are you going to tell me what's the matter?"
"What do you mean 'am I going to tell you what's the matter'?" she snarled, stomping into her bedroom. She headed straight for her wardrobe where she threw open the drawers vigorously. She shuffled through the contents, throwing the occasional t-shirt on the floor in search for what she wanted. I just watched her in confusion, but she rambled on. "You should know perfectly well! I mean, what the hell was that? You promised! I-I...I needed you, and you promised!"
"Rose, I'm sorry," I stumbled, trying to find a way to ask for the information that I lacked because I wasn't the real Malfoy without being too obvious. "But I don't know what you're talking about. I guess I just wasn't paying attention."
"Clearly you weren't!" she shouted.
I wondered if I should leave the room when she began to unbutton her blouse. She yanked it off, and then there she was, just standing before me in her bra in search of a different top. She finally found it, tugging it over her head. She pulled her skirt up a good few inches, making it much less appropriate for business attire and more so for...partying....
That was when I began to wonder just where she thought she was going to go.
"Where are you going?"
"Out," she exhaled cooly.
"What? We can't! You know we can't leave," I said. I was on her tail, following her as she travelled her entire bedroom. She stopped in front of her full length mirror to pull up more cleavage and un-tame her hair slightly.
"I don't care," she answered. "I need out."
"Are you going to tell me why you're angry with me?"
"I'll let you figure it out," she said, and then she was stomping over to her bed.
She grabbed her wand and coin purse and stuck it into the side of her skirt. I was still frozen to the spot as I watched her storm out. I stuttered after her, my voice only a whisper, before I leapt for the door. "W-Where do you think you're going?"
She was storming out of the summer house, and I was still trying to comprehend just where she thought she was going. We couldn't apparate out of here; we could only floo in and out. We could only apparate unless we walked far enough to reach the border of protective enchantments. I followed her quickly, letting the door to the summer house swing shut behind me. I chased after her, walking at a fast pace towards the ocean.
When her feet touched the sand, she turned to the left and set off at a fast pace. "Where the hell are you going?" I demanded again, still following in her steps.
"These charms end at some point. I'm having a night out. What you decide to do is up to you," she said sternly.
"What?!" I demanded. All of Europe knew our faces - well, knew Malfoy's, not mine. She couldn't just stroll about a random town without getting odd looks, questioning how we were actually supposed to be contained at the Ministry. "Rose, we can't go out! People know we're suspects for a murder!"
"Then we will go far away. I know of a great bar on the coast of Alexandria."
"Rose!" I declared in protest. Did she really think she was going all the way to Egypt tonight?
Her retort cut off my thoughts. "Since when did you become such a baby! It was you who was always caught sneaking around after hours!"
"Well, sure! Ten points from Slytherin and a detention; it's not that big of a deal! But we're talking about getting in trouble with the Ministry here!"
"Whatever, you baby!" she shouted, laughter in her voice for some absurd reason.
"Please, tell me why you're angry with me!" I tried again.
"Take a stab at it!" she snapped.
"I'm trying! Was something said in the Wizengamot about me?" I asked, even though I highly doubted that something could upset her this much.
"You promised me something!" she said, hinting at the source of her anger.
And then the possibility hit me. Had she run into the real Malfoy during the exchange? Maybe when I was with Draco Malfoy in my office. Had Ruckman led the real Malfoy right past Rose? If so, that would have created some confusion. She had demanded a hug upon seeing him again after her trial. I had tried to do so, but by the time I had reached her as Malfoy, she was already angry. It struck me as the only possibility now.
"I-Is it because I didn't hug you?" I asked uneasily.
"What do you think?!" she snapped again, and my question had been answered. It was. "You promised! I told you I would need you there! You're all I've got, and you promised! Then you just blew me off!"
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Rose," I apologized, truly sympathetic. I would have been angry too if it had happened to me, but of course she couldn't be informed of the one silver lining that could assuage her anger. That it hadn't really been the person who had made that promise in their passing. "I-I didn't think you meant then! I was with the Auror. I wasn't sure if he would let me!"
"Still," she sighed, her anger fading and being replaced with disappointment. "You...I...You still could have acknowledged me instead of ignoring me completely!"
"I'm really sorry," I apologized again, and I began to speak again but she whipped around and began her fast pace again. "Let me make it up to you."
She didn't answer me. She just kept on going.
I followed in her wake for quite some time. Her pace was quite determined. I was fully aware of when we stepped out of the boundaries of the protective enchantments I had put up. I said nothing, though. If I did, she would have left in that moment. I also didn't hesitate to step past them; I couldn't or she would jump at the opportunity to leave then and there. I was still holding out for the small hope that she would change her mind, that her anger and frustration would wear off the more she walked. But at some point the thought occurred to her that the boundaries had to be close, when I in fact knew they were a good fifty meters behind us.
She wiped around, her curls hitting her in the face, and she demanded, approaching me with a determined look. "Well? Where is it? The protection enchantments have to end somewhere."
I just pursed my lips. I didn't know how to go about answering that. Did I say we had already passed them? That would make her leave right away. I couldn't lie; that would just come right around to bite me in the ass. But I had to do something. I couldn't let Rose leave. Not while everything was in such a delicate position. It was my job to make sure she stayed safe and that she didn't do anything out of line. And this most certainly crossed the line.
But with those eyes so determined, so fierce, my new bond with her told me I couldn't lie. Not about the simpler things that I could still tell the truth with. At least I would have a clear record when she would someday discover my ultimate lie. So I told her.
"We passed it. Back there," I answered in an undertone.
"Bloody hell, and you didn't tell me then?!" she questioned. She seemed to have remembered something, for she cut me off and added sarcastically. "Oh, right. I forgot you are a little goody-good! I swear, that office at the Daily Prophet has made you soft, Scorpius."
I am not soft! Sure I'm not Scorpius but the actions were mine all the same. And I wasn't wasting my life away in a newspaper office. I'm an Auror, for Merlin's sake!
I couldn't just keep standing there like a mute idiot though, so I kicked the sand with my shoe and muttered under my breath. "I have not gone soft."
She dismissed my weak comment and simply pressed me further. "Well, are you coming or not?!"
"Of course I'm coming!" I said, groaning as I took a step towards her. I had to go; I had to stay with her in case anything.
"Then let's go!" she demanded.
She grabbed hold of my hand, squeezing tightly, and I waited for that familiar feeling in my gut to pull me away. We were gone with a crack and appeared in the middle of a busy street of what I could only assume was a Wizarding town. The people walking about the streets were wearing more muggle attire, but then again, that is what is more appropriate for a night out. People were laughing, talking, drinking, and hanging onto one another as they wondered about from place to place. Rose looked about the town with a smile, like she was glad to be back, and she reached out for my hand again.
She led me through the busy street. The air was thick and warm, but it was pleasant. A gust of wind came through, bringing with it the sound of musicians playing on a corner ahead.
"Oh, it's good to be back," she sighed as she walked, a smile on her face, and she temporarily convinced me that her anger had faded. She hadn't quite yet forgiven me; that much was clear. Maybe her mood would be better once she got some alcohol in her system.
"You really like it here, don't you?" I asked her quietly.
"I do. The people, the atmosphere. I love it all," she answered, not looking to me.
Then she was running ahead, dragging me forward. I could hear the caw of seagulls over our heads, and I could tell she was bringing me closer to the shore as the cobbled road began to saturate with sand. Finally our feet were sinking into the sand, Rose stumbling with her tall heels and holding onto my arm. I untucked my dress shirt to loosen up a little as I saw the bar ahead. It extended out over the water with multiple patios at different levels. There were lights strung about, and music radiating from the walls of the bar and its patios and dance floors.
"Come on!" she said with a smile, pulling me forward.
Rose led me through the front door, past the bouncer like they were old acquaintances. He let us slip right in with a friendly wave to Rose. Once we were inside, I turned to her, curious. "You on a first name basis with everyone here?"
"Osiris!" she called out and waved eagerly with her other hand, answering my question. She burst over to the bar nearest us, nearly making me tumble over. She came to a halt as she slammed into the bar, beaming at the bartender.
"What is this? Do my eyes deceive me? Rose Weasley?!" the man behind the counter said as he mixed a drink together for another costumer.
"Long time, no see, beautiful!" he grinned. I tried not to flinch at the term of endearment. I didn't like him talking to Rose like that. I knew I was protective of Rose, but I was surprised to find my cheeks burning at his tone towards her. "I heard you were on lockdown, sweetheart. What brings you here?"
"Yupp, definitely on lockdown," she answered, twiddling her thumbs at the bar. "We needed to get out, and I only come to the best."
"Wonderful!" the man said and clapped his hands together.
He served a few drinks to some people down the bar, and I continued to look around, feeling out of place. The man she called Osiris looked to her as he began mixing another drink and asked, "Who's your friend?"
"This is Scorpius. Scorpius, this is Osiris," she said, introducing the two of us.
"Pleased to meet you," he said with a cheeky grin. He tossed his long black hair away from his eyes as he passed Rose her drink. If they were on such good speaking terms, I could only assume it was what Osiris knew to be Rose's regular. I nodded to him, and he asked, making small talk. "You a Curse Breaker with Rose?"
"Nah," I answered, shaking my head and sliding into a chair as one became available. "I'm on lockdown with her too."
"You didn't actually do the killing though," he said. It was more of a statement than a question, but I could still feel his uncertainty in the air between us. "I don't serve killers."
I tried to smile. I knew he was only being polite and keeping a joking atmosphere floating about. Rose patted my arm with a laugh. "No, there's no way he did it. Neither of us did."
"Brilliant," he grinned. He dropped a strawberry into Rose's drink and passed it to her. She immediately downed it, and I noticed the bartender's eyebrows lifting in confusion as he noticed. Then he turned to me, pushing it aside and smiling. "Any friend of Rose is a friend of mine. Anyways, first round is on me. What can I get you, Scorpius?"
"Oh," I said, coming back to my senses as I watched Rose slam down the empty glass. "Blishen's firewhiskey on the rocks."
"Now there's a good manly drink," Rose slurred, commenting on my drink of choice.
She let Osiris make my drink, and I had downed about half of it when Rose grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the bar and out onto the dance floor where the ocean breeze was rolling in. She wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me close. Knowing she clearly wanted a dance, I placed my hands on her hips and I began to step with the music. I am a good dancer, and I am comfortable enough in my own skin to dance however the hell I want without caring who sees. That was just part of my personality; I thought it made me more fun, more outgoing. But it was in a time like this where it took more than a good song to get me going, and I hold my alcohol fairly well. So unfortunately my half a drink of firewhiskey hadn't done the trick just yet. So it took a few minutes for me to get comfortable, especially with Rose dancing, wrapped around me, her eyes closed as she just tried to forget everything and let go everything that held her there.
I closed my eyes and tried to do the same. I pressed my hips against her and swayed with the music, trying to forget everything and just thinking about living in the moment with Rose.
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