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Oblivion by Slide
Chapter 15 : Take Me, Cast Me Away
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10

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Take Me, Cast Me Away

‘Do you want a coffee?’ Scorpius blurted the moment he’d shut the door behind Rose. ‘Because I don’t know how the coffee machine works but if you want a coffee I’ll make it work or Floo room service -’

This is our back-from-the-dead reunion and you’re talking about coffee.

She walked past him, and he couldn’t see her expression as she went to the kitchenette counter and put the box down. He could, however, see how straight she held herself, how tense her shoulders were. Her clothes were more plain, practical than he remembered; her hair kept in a tight plait she’d only worn in the past when she was stressed or expecting a fight, but they were days past the do-or-die moments and she was still in what he remembered as crisis mode.

‘I thought I’d bring you your stuff,’ she said without turning around, her voice too firm, too calm. ‘It’s been in a box for a few years. I didn’t know who’d want it. So I kept it.’

Every movement felt clumsy, undignified, like he was smashing his way through a glass shop as he went to join her. ‘Oh,’ was the stunning response he eventually summoned. ‘Thank you.’

He saw her shoulders clench even more when he got close, saw her chin jerk up and her expression sink into an emotionless mask that made her almost unrecognisable. ‘Your wand’s in there. And your guitar. And some of your clothes.’

‘Thank you,’ he said again, and his voice was as clumsy as his body. She didn’t move, staring into the box, and the suite felt bigger in the silence that stretched out. He flailed for words, eventually settling on, ‘How’s Matt?’

Another flicker of the mask. She still didn’t look at him. ‘Still in hospital. They’re talking about prosthetics.’

‘Prosthetics. Merlin.’ Not liking Matthias Doyle very much didn’t make him unsympathetic to a case of missing appendages. ‘I’m - I’m glad he’s okay. I hear you two live together now.’

‘Yes.’ The word could not have been uttered more emptily. ‘You’re living here?’

‘For now. I can’t live in a hotel forever. I’m not staying at Malfoy Manor, and anyway the DMLE are still going over the place to see if they can find any clues about my father…’

‘I’m sorry,’ she blurted out. ‘About your father, I’m sorry he’s even worse than you thought.’

She was as clumsy as him, another rampaging bull in a china shop. ‘It’s okay,’ he told the counter, because that was easier to look at. ‘I’ve known for months, I’m… I’m sort of sorted with it. As much as one can be.’

‘It’s still - I’m sorry,’ she repeated, and he couldn’t tell if she was trying to apologise for more than his father, or if she didn’t know what else to say. Or both.

He drew a slow breath, fished for words that wouldn’t break glass - then stopped. If she was being as clumsy as him, if she was stumbling and cracking thing, and it wasn’t hurting him, then maybe there wasn’t glass to break. Maybe they were just staggering in the dark, and the only things they’d damage were themselves if they crashed into walls.

He shut his eyes. ‘Rose…’ He heard her voice catch and still didn’t look at her; wasn’t sure what he’d do if he saw her mask shift. ‘I am so, so sorry. Sorry I left, sorry I didn’t come back -’

Her exhale ended with a muffled quaver, and he opened his eyes to see her turn away, press the back of her hand to her mouth. ‘You don’t need to apologise.’ Her voice wasn’t empty any more; pain rolled off every syllable.

‘I didn’t want to come back in case it screwed up your life, and now I’m here, and - if you’re happy, if you’ve got a life now, the last thing I want to do is complicate that.’ Before he could stop himself he’d stepped up, lifted a hand by instinct towards her shoulder - but apprehension of all the unspoken billowed in his gut, and he froze.

‘Happy.’ Her voice was thick enough to lose himself in, and though she tilted her head only an inch, he could see the shine in her eyes. ‘You were gone, how could I be?’

‘I’m back now, but it’s not - so much is happening -’

Then she turned to face him and the words shrivelled and died in his throat. The mask was down, but he didn’t recognise this Rose either, this creature stood before him of grief and pain and wonder, soft dark eyes shimmering but locked on him with utter focus. It was like she was afraid of blinking in case he disappeared, and he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, could hardly breathe.

Her fingertips quivered as she lifted a hand, and it took all of his self-control to remain still as her touch brushed across his jaw, his cheek. He was like rock before a sculptor, formless without her, and yet there under the stone all along.

‘Scorpius…’ She whispered his voice like a prayer and an answer, and the unspoken howled inside him in response, a wolf that would not be denied.

But deny it he did, his hand coming to hers, fingers running along her palm, her wrist. ‘I didn’t want to come back and ruin what you’d rebuilt, but then my hood was off on that ship and I was too weak to lie or run…’

‘Don’t run. Don’t you dare run.’ She reached for his shoulder like he wasn’t real if she couldn’t feel him, and with a fresh quaver in her voice, her fist clenched in his jacket. ‘I’ve just got you back…’

‘Which is why I didn’t - the war’s not over, it’s still dangerous, I don’t… nothing is certain…’ He needed to make her understand without saying, but he could see she was barely listening, and he didn’t really want to talk either.

She was clinging to him for comfort, holding him to make sure he was real, tethering to him like a storm would blow her away, and he could feel the abyss stretching out beneath him, too. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ she breathed. ‘Whatever happened, it doesn’t matter. You think I could hold a grudge, pass judgement…’

It’s not your judgement I’m afraid of. Her eyelashes splashed a tear to her cheek and his hand was there, thumbing it away. ‘I’ve hurt you too much,’ Scorpius whispered, and, like he hadn’t just admonished himself, he bowed his head to hers. He could feel her breath on his lips, see her eyes flutter shut, saw her shoulders slump with release - and then she turned her head to one side like a snap.

‘I…’ The one syllable grated past her throat, and she pulled back as if stung, eyes widening. ‘Scorpius - I’m sorry, I…’

‘No, I’m sorry.’ He stepped away, too, clasped his hands together as if he could wring out his guilt. ‘You - and Matt - and this is crazy…’

‘It’s not crazy.’ Her mask was gone, but so was the shock and awe, and she looked more like the Rose he remembered as she rubbed her temples - if terrified and guilt-ridden. ‘It’s rather like this is a moment I dreamt of for years, so I suddenly forgot reality…’

‘And Matt.’ Scorpius nodded firmly. ‘And, you know, the Council of Thorns trying to kill us all.’

‘And you’ve got to worry about - the Manor, and your money, and what you’re going to do…’ Another step back, and her expression creased. ‘I should go.’

‘Yeah, I… thanks for the stuff.’

She only paused to open the door, frozen there a moment, a silhouette of fading past in the threshold. ‘I’m just… glad I was only keeping it for you for a little while.’ But she didn’t look back, and she didn’t wait for an answer before she was gone. Leaving him alone in a room made for a new life he didn’t know how to use, with a box of an old life he knew could never possibly fit him again.

* *

…the rout from North America speaks for itself. United, this world can fight the Council, and root out their evil wherever it rests. We responded to the Lethe Attacks swiftly and decisively, and cut our enemy off from an influence on an entire continent.

Even if her mother was a good public speaker, by now Selena heard her words as little more than a predictable drone. The usual rhetoric, the inspiring of confidence, the determination to rattle down the wireless and invade all their ears; every bit of it was there, the role the Chairman of the International Magical Convocation needed to play.

I believe this validates my call for emergency powers to be granted to the IMC, and to me. My envoys led the way in North America; Director Potter was in overall command of a multi-national force, and he produced results. In the past, departments have clashed over jurisdiction and authority and this has left us weak. I want to compound our success in Chicago, and the lesson learnt is unity. Leadership.

From her mother’s office in the DIMC, hearing the speech piped from the press conference down in the atrium through the wireless, Selena could almost picture the sight. But it was old and tiring to her mind’s eye, not inspiring.

Perhaps familiarity did breed contempt. Or perhaps the fact that she was coming to see her mother for the first time outside of their frantic reunion, and she’d been asked to wait like the average visitor here on bureaucratic business. Not family.

But soon enough the wireless was dictating her mother’s descent from the podium in the atrium far below, and within five minutes Selena could hear the hustle and bustle from the main DIMC office outside the door as Lillian and her staff swept into business. She had to know Selena was there. And still she stopped to give instructions, still she sent her minions packing with specific orders, because heaven forfend the world be left to cope by itself for ten minutes.

‘I’m not giving you an exclusive,’ said Lillian as she swept into the office, but she was smiling, and Selena remembered that she didn’t actually want a mushy conversation with her mother.

They hugged anyway, Lillian keeping the embrace close a fraction of a second longer than usual, and Selena had to return the wry smile as she turned back. ‘I don’t work for the press any more. You locked up my boss, remember?’

That was Potter,’ said Lillian, wagging a finger. ‘And now it’s Halvard.’

‘And it’s not like you don’t outrank them both.’

‘Maybe, once the next wave of reforms is in, I can tell them to stop being scared little children, terrified of a man who’s not under their control.’

‘And to think you were the one so angry at Gabriel Doyle two years ago.’

Lillian’s expression sank. ‘I didn’t use my actual power in response. I just… shouted, a lot. I’ve had to learn how to deal with these sorts of problems since then.’

Selena fiddled with her sleeve. ‘Yeah,’ she mumbled. ‘Sorry that my being in danger beyond the reach of the formal authorities has become a regular sort of thing.’

‘Don’t you apologise. Especially not for this latest. Really, I should have had a security team assigned to you -’

‘And then how was I supposed to do my job?’ Selena’s expression creased. ‘Let’s face it, Mum. We do our thing, and just take the consequences as they come.’

‘Except these were the consequences for my choices, and I couldn’t even put them right…’

Selena was not accustomed to seeing uncertainty from her mother. All her life, Lillian Rourke had been a storm of control and determination, roaring into any situation like a tornado of organisation and leaving everything Handled in her wake. But now she could hear the apprehension in Lillian’s voice, and that was perhaps more scary than an army of Inferi. She grabbed her mother’s arm. ‘Mum, it’s okay.’

‘The Council of Thorns abducted you to get to me and I had to order our best men to tackle a completely different problem. How is that okay?’

‘Gee,’ said Selena, ‘it’s like they coordinated their plans in order to fuck you over to the maximum degree, and it worked because they’re competent, deranged professionals. I don’t blame you.’ Her mother’s gaze dropped, but this was as much as Selena actually wanted to talk about her abduction with her mother, because otherwise Lillian was going to start worming her way into truths, and that wouldn’t do. ‘It was a good speech.’

‘It was a routine speech. But I need to remind people of our successes. Lethe is controlled in Europe and North America; east Asia’s getting in-hand, the Council are losing men -’

‘And for every cell you wipe out, two more pop back up,’ said Selena with a grimace.

‘Which is why we need better cohesion.’ Lillian gave her an apologetic look. ‘Which means I’m going to be leaving the country soon.’

‘A world-tour of domination?’

Lillian smiled a little. ‘The IMC needs to be centralised if we’re going to get anything done. The Convocation needs a permanent meeting place, task forces need permanent offices. So it’s Switzerland for us. If you need me, just Floo, but I’m sorry I won’t be around while all of this is going on…’

‘It’s fine. I’ll see you all the time, right under the headlines.’

‘Your sadness at our parting is touching.’ She reached out to brush Selena’s hair back, an affectionate gesture recalling bygone eras when they’d had time for more than fly-by-visits and talks. ‘Are you alright?’

‘They didn’t hurt me, Mum.’

‘They still locked you up -’

‘And I’m doing a valiant job of not thinking about it.’ Or how much getting me out cost. ‘So I’ll thank you kindly to let me keep on repressing.’

‘I hear mothers should discourage that.’

‘You’re a busy mother.’

‘I’m a busy politician. My motherly duties are apparently very light.’ She sighed. ‘But my staff will hang me if I delay my afternoon meetings any more…’

They parted ways as quickly and dismissively as ever, never ones for overt displays of affection. Her father had left the family when she was rather young, and the consequent closeness between mother and daughter was unspoken, unassuming. They didn’t need to hug and profess their love at every turn. It just was, in the same way a sunrise was. Anything melodramatic was simply Not Done.

And so Selena returned home, because there she could focus on more pleasant prospects than the week behind her. A nice cup of tea. Playing some music in her room. Returning to some sense of normalcy. Or, that was what she told herself could happen when she let herself in the front door, and was greeted by the unmistakable sounds of a conversation coming to a sharp halt.

Frowning, Selena pushed open the living room door to see Miranda Travers sat across the coffee table with Rose Weasley, and realised she’d blundered into the world’s worst Ex-Girlfriends Convention. ‘Oh, crap on a stick.’

No wonder Abena was nowhere in sight. She’d be hiding upstairs, away from it all.

‘Have you been at work?’ Miranda got to her feet at once, eyes wide. ‘I can’t believe they’ve got you back on the job so soon -’

‘The office is shut,’ said Selena, numb. ‘I was just off to see Mum and shall I get you two some tea and get out of your -’

‘Rose came to see you,’ says Miranda, far too firm. ‘I’ll get out of the way.’

Miranda had never been very adept at Disapparition magic, but she vanished from the living room within a blink anyway, leaving the pale, subdued Rose in an armchair, hands cupped around the mug. She had tea already. Of course tea had already been made. Tea was the very first step in trying to handle a disastrous conversation.

Like, our mutual ex has come back from the dead, how about that.

‘You’re probably the last person who wants to hear about this,’ Rose told her mug. ‘But, help.’

It took all of Selena’s effort to not crumple, and with a sigh she went to Rose’s side, knelt by the chair. ‘What are you talking about?’

It’s so hard,’ Rose said in a mocking, twisted voice that tumbled over itself. ‘The man I loved died and it broke me but now, horror of horrors, he’s back.’ Her nose wrinkled. ‘How do I complain to you about that tale of woe.’

Selena drew a shuddering breath. ‘Then why are you here?’

Rose kept staring at her mug like she was trying to divine from the tea leaves. ‘Because you’re the only person who could even begin to understand.’

‘I think “begin” is about right. Rose - oh, no, you don’t think I’m bitter because Scorpius is back and - and Methuselah isn’t?’ Her voice caught, and she grasped Rose’s wrist.

Rose looked up. ‘Aren’t you?’

‘I am far, far too busy going, “what the hell?” to think anything that complicated,’ Selena confessed. ‘Have you two talked?’

Colour streamed into Rose’s cheeks, red enough to match her hair, and her voice came out in a tumble. ‘I - sort of - we - I went to his flat and…’

Merlin’s beard. Selena’s eyes widened, but she knew better than to leap to conclusions. ‘You…’

‘We spoke for less than five minutes and that was all it took for me to almost kiss him.’

Selena’s heart rate slowed. ‘How much almost?’

‘Almost - there was leaning and then I realised what the hell was going on and pulled away, and - and that’s crazy!’

‘Yes,’ said Selena, tilting her head this way and that, ‘but when I thought I had a second chance with Methuselah, we had metaphysical sex in a metaphysical world, so… crazier things have happened.’

Rose’s nose wrinkled again. ‘But Matt.’

Selena sucked on her teeth. ‘How is he?’

‘He -’ She hesitated, then she pushed herself to her feet, stalking about the cramped living room like a caged animal. ‘I hardly know. He takes his potions, he speaks to the Healers, he’s getting a new hand and will figure out how it works, and we don’t - I don’t know how to ask him about the hand, and I don’t know how on Earth I can talk to him about this. But he’s not an idiot, of course it’s going to be a thing that Scorpius is back…’

‘I understand it’s more than a little awkward, but you kind of have to talk about it. It’s not going away.’

Rose gave her a sidelong look. ‘You think I should tell Matt that I almost kissed Scorpius?’

Selena winced. ‘I… almost isn’t…’

‘So, we’re off to a good start, then.’ Rose’s lips thinned, and she glared at the dreary autumn greyness beyond the window. ‘Let’s talk about some of how I feel, but not all of it. Let’s talk about some of how he feels, but not all of it. Because I know he’s got to have more to say about his hand, about his father, about you, but he doesn’t talk, and I don’t ask!’

It seemed judicious to pretend the ‘about you’ part hadn’t happened. Selena kept her gaze studied. ‘There are fifty gazillion problems here,’ she decided to say in the end, ‘and there’s no one solution to any of them, but I do know that nothing dooms a couple like not communicating.’

Like you two haven’t ever since you got together.

‘It’s not just about my relationship…’

‘But you and Scorpius impacts you and Matt, impacts everything.’

Rose’s shoulders slumped, and the look she gave Selena was so forlorn it could have inspired a thousand depressing paintings. ‘He’s alive, Selena. I didn’t want to believe it at first, I didn’t dare, but it’s him, it’s still him, and he’s back. And part of me wonders what’s happened to him these past few months, and another part of me doesn’t care, and another wants me to run away and never look back…’

‘I don’t think,’ Selena said delicately, ‘that ignoring a problem ever made it go away.’

‘My issue isn’t that I’m trying to ignore these problems. My issue is that I don’t know which problem to even think about first.’

‘But you are thinking. Keep thinking.’ Selena let out a slow breath. ‘I’ll give you the one bit of advice which hasn’t yet backfired in anyone’s face: figure out what makes you happy, and do that. And be honest about it.’

Rose gave her an uncomfortably astute look. ‘Are you following that bit of advice? Being open about what happened?’

‘Nothing happened -’

‘Let’s start, at least, with being honest with each other.’

Selena met her gaze, and thought of Matt, high on painkillers, regretting his choices. No. Let’s not be honest with each other. ‘Fine,’ she said instead. ‘Being locked up by the Council wasn’t fun. Matt losing his hand to save me isn’t thrilling. And, to top it all off, I could have ended this war if I could cast the Killing Curse properly. But we have nowhere near the time to go through all of this. I’m getting there.’

Rose watched her for a moment, then nodded. ‘Let me help you. We’ll go for drinks, we’ll have dinner, we’ll - bloody hell, Selena, who else can we turn to as allies in all of this madness?’

On the one hand, it felt two-faced to sign up for this alliance, considering what Selena knew she wasn’t saying. On the other, Rose’s repression didn’t make her a fool. And on some third, mysterious, additional appendage…

Selena sighed. ‘You know what’s stupid? What’s really, really stupid?’ Rose raised an eyebrow at the question. ‘I’m freaking out. You’re freaking out more. And I feel more like myself, and you look more like yourself, than either of us have in years.’

Rose snorted softly, and Selena felt vindicated. Wry, self-deprecating humour had not been on the cards in a while. ‘Yeah, great,’ she muttered. ‘Chaos comes again, but it brought colour back into the world with it.’

* *

Albus was used to the Auror Offices in the Canary Wharf MLE Headquarters being a bustle of activity. What he didn’t expect was a desperate, pained bustle at the back of the bullpen, everyone steering clear of his father’s office, because that way they could pretend they couldn’t hear the shouting.

The only person who hadn’t moved out of the blast radius was his uncle, sat at his desk just outside Harry’s door, sipping his tea with a long-suffering expression. When Albus approached and recognised the second voice inside as Hermione’s, he understood.

‘They’ve been at it about ten minutes, now,’ sighed Ron in greeting.

‘What’s the problem?’

‘Sit down, you’ll get an earful.’ Ron gestured to the opposite chair. ‘In summary, they’re trying to pull Thane out of our custody.’

‘How come?’

‘There’s the rub. Which is a weird saying. I don’t know where it’s from. What are we rubbing?’ Ron shrugged. ‘Centralisation of the IMC marches on. International law enforcers want Thane somewhere they can all poke him until the information comes out.’

But he’s a British citizen!’ came Harry’s whip-crack from the other side of the door.

Ron nodded as if his assent could weigh in on the argument. ‘A good point.’

Albus squinted at the office. Hermione spoke more softly, but this close in a row this agitated, he could hear her rebuttal. ‘But most of his crimes have been out of the country. Germany and France are pretty furious for everything he pulled during the Chalice of Emrys chase. The Greeks want to try him for Kythos. Amongst others.

Then the Greeks can get in line. He’s my prisoner, Hermione. I don’t see why you’re bowing to what Rourke wants.

This morning you were cheering on Lillian Rourke for being so firm on the American success!

And you were criticising her for wanting to move everything to Niemandhorn!

Albus grimaced. ‘This sounds like it could go on a while.’

‘It could.’ Ron sipped his tea. ‘And on. And on.’

‘That must be fun for you.’

‘I do my job. I keep out of it. We know how to handle this. I mean, sure, they’ve not had wedges between them like this in years, but…’ He frowned. ‘They don’t draw me into it. I just wish I could help.’

‘What do you think?’

‘Ouch, dangerous question.’ Ron shook his head and gave a self-deprecating smile. ‘I’m the sidekick, remember? Hermione’s trying to play watchdog for everyone. Don’t run too fast, don’t wield too much power, don’t upset too many people to win. It’s hard as hell to argue with her, because I don’t disagree with the idea, just in practice you’ve got to crack some skulls sometimes, you know?’

Albus sighed. ‘I know.’

‘On the other hand, Harry really wants to crack every skull. I think he -’ Ron cut himself off with a grimace.

‘You think he what?’

Ron groaned. ‘I don’t blame you, Al. But he’s been rattled. Almost losing you in Kythos, Jones dying, Scorpius dying, you taking off like you did. There are times I worry he’d burn the world if it’d keep the family safe.’ He shook his head. ‘It’s not like the Second War. He didn’t have as much to lose then. He’s not used to being bloody terrified for someone else every single moment.’

Albus opened his mouth, not sure what he’d say - and was saved by Hermione bursting out of the office. ‘I won’t be home until after eight, dear,’ she reeled off to Ron as she stalked past, agitated but somehow affectionate.

‘Ha, I won’t be back until nine, you get to cook,’ was Ron’s retort, and he got a flash of a smile over his wife’s shoulder before she left the bullpen.

Harry stood in the door to his office, arms folded across his chest. ‘I’m glad you can keep your spirits up.’

‘It’s that,’ said Ron, spinning around on his chair, ‘or I’m in the domestic from hell.’

Harry harrumphed, and looked at Albus. ‘What - what can I do for you?’

Al knew he’d stopped himself from saying, ‘what do you want?’ Frustration was knuckled down, partly for Ron’s sake. Now was not the time to get defensive at his father, and he was nervous enough already. ‘I don’t know if this is appropriate, but I’d like to see a prisoner.’

Harry turned his eyes skyward. ‘Doyle and Grey aren’t being released any -’

‘It’s not them I want to see.’ Albus hesitated, but when his father’s face slumped, realised he’d been figured out. ‘Yeah. I don’t know. I just feel I should.’

‘I don’t know about should.’ Harry grimaced. ‘I’ll take you down there.’

‘Uh,’ said Ron, ‘You need to see Trevithick about the Indonesia task force -’

‘Oh, for -’ Harry tossed his hands in the air. ‘Can you run him down?’

Despite the gesture, Al was relieved that it was Ron, not his father, who took him from the office bullpen and down into Canary Wharf’s jail block. The situation was going to be awkward enough without Harry either trying to be supportive or questioning his choices.

‘She’s been cooperative,’ said Ron, voice taut as they descended into the gloomy stone passages. ‘But there were a lot of arrest warrants that predate the Council. France are keen to get their hands on her.’

‘Thane’s being possibly transferred, but not her?’

‘Thane comes with political baggage. She doesn’t. You know, it’s your dad who’s been digging his heels on keeping her in Britain…’

‘If he’s doing that to please me, he needn’t bother.’ Albus hesitated as his voice grated more than he intended. ‘I mean - I don’t know what should be done.’

‘Damned if I know,’ said Ron, and stopped as they reached a corridor junction of the cell block. ‘She’s down there, third on the right.’ He gave an uncertain smile. ‘Good luck.’

Al just nodded as he advanced into the gloom. The cells in Canary Wharf were quiet; most successes against the Council had happened outside of Britain, lately. That was for the best right now, as the last thing he wanted was an audience. An audience might have expectations. And as Albus stopped in front of Eva Saida’s cell, he knew he had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. She was lying on the bench, reading, but she’d looked up at the footsteps and froze at the sight of him.

‘Good book?’ It was all he could think of saying.

‘I’m not much of a reader. But there’s little else to do.’ She put it down and sat up. ‘I didn’t think I’d see you here.’

‘I didn’t think I’d come here.’ His brow knitted. ‘Do you know what’s going to happen to you?’

Her lips twisted. ‘For now, they’re holding me as a confessed Thornweaver, so that means they can lock me up without charging me or giving me a trial or anything like that for as long as they fancy. You’d have a better idea.’

‘Dad’s stopped you from being extradited to France.’

She nodded. ‘I’d say that’s good of him. But maybe he thinks they’d be soft.’

‘No, it’s…’ Albus looked away. ‘If he wanted to bring hell on your head, he’d have done that by now.’

‘I’m getting that impression.’ Eva gave a rattling sigh. ‘How’s Scorpius? I mean, it is him?’

‘It is. He’s…’ He bit his lip. ‘Free. Figuring things out. I guess we all are.’ He put his hands to the bars, and found himself gripping them so hard his knuckles went white. ‘Why did you surrender?’

‘I didn’t think you’d ask that.’

His throat tightened. ‘I’m asking.’

Eva’s jaw clenched, and she studied the floor for long moments before she answered. ‘I wasn’t surprised Baz cut me off. He put on a show in Moscow, but he wasn’t pleased I’d not told him about my history with you all. If I’d left Saint Annard on my own, I was going to have to run. And keep running.’

‘And this is better? You’ve got how many counts of murder under your belt?’

‘I know.’ She put her hands on her knees, shoulders taut. ‘But that’s justice, right? For all I did?’

‘I thought you said you didn’t fancy justice. I thought you said you weren’t sorry enough to want to be locked up for the rest of your life.’ He wasn’t sure if he was confused or bitter.

Eva gave a rueful, empty laugh. ‘There is nothing, nothing going on here that I want.’

‘But you could call this the worst of all evils.’ Albus clenched his jaw. ‘Bloody hell, if France extradite you, they still have Dementors, you will get the Kiss -’

‘And if I ran,’ she said, voice dropping, tensing, ‘then at best I would become another wand for hire, another instrument of someone’s power over others. Another dealer of pain and death. People with my past don’t find gainful employment, they find dark corners of the world and then they make them darker.’

‘Except you’re a survivor. So why surrender?’

She hesitated. ‘Why do you want to know?’

‘Because -’ Frustration caught in his throat, and he slammed the bars with a rattle. ‘I spent the last two years loathing the very idea of you,’ he growled, and the old hatred he’d nursed split his voice. ‘But if it was your fault Scorpius was dead, then it was my fault for trusting you. Only he’s not dead. And you didn’t betray us like I thought you did.’

Eva looked away, hair falling across the side of her face, blocking her expression from view. When she spoke, she was apprehensive, awkward. ‘I meant to leave that night in Venice before anything… happened.’

He flinched at the memory, his mind in the habit of sheering away from the slightest thought of her - his lips on hers, every inch of her under his touch… ‘I don’t want to talk about -’

‘I was weak,’ she blurted, like if she didn’t spill the words in a rush, they would never come. ‘I knew when I left, Lisa Delacroix - the fake Lisa Delacroix - would stop existing, and this is who I’d be again. Eva Saida.’ She stood, and he couldn’t take his eyes off her, hair shimmering in the gloom, shoulders hunched and taut, vulnerable like he’d never seen. ‘Eva Saida’s a monster. Eva Saida’s a killer. Eva Saida deserves to be shipped off to France, given the Kiss, and thrown into the deepest, darkest hole I can imagine. The fake Lisa Delacroix was like her, except the fake Lisa Delacroix changed. She turned from her past and her bad choices and tried to be someone better, and you - you felt something for her, and when you looked at me, it was like you believed I could be her. That it wasn’t too late.’

She padded to the bars of the cell, and all he could do was watch. Instinct told him to shy back, pull away like a dog who’d been kicked, but his limbs wouldn’t react, kept him pinned as she approached. ‘We were wrong,’ she whispered. ‘It was too late. I couldn’t be Lisa Delacroix. The girl you wanted was a myth, a lie. I knew that all along. But then I was in Ager Sanguinis and I didn’t want to be Eva Saida, either. So I betrayed them, so I did what I could for you, so I left. So I went to work for Baz, fought the Council, because…’ Her voice trailed off, and her eyes were on him, drinking in every inch of his face like she was trying to commit the sight to memory. ‘I was an idiot. I thought I could stop being Eva Saida. But once Baz knew, he wanted nothing more to do with me. Once you knew I wasn’t Lisa Delacroix, already reformed, but Eva Saida, lying to you…’

He opened his mouth, but no words came out, and she looked away.

‘You and I both spent the last two years running from our lives. And you and I both realised we can’t escape them. You belong here, with your friends, with your family. And it doesn’t matter if I pretend to be someone else, I am what I am. I’m Eva Saida, and I am a murderer.’ She hesitated, then her hand came up to the bars, inches from his, and he couldn’t pull away even though parts of him screamed the command.

‘I didn’t do this for you,’ she said at last, voice throaty, grating. ‘I didn’t try to change so maybe you would look at me like you used to. But it happened because of you. Because you put the idea in my head that maybe I could be something else. And I wanted so badly, so badly for it to be true that I lied to myself all this time, told myself it was possible.

‘I surrendered because it’s that or become something worse. I surrendered because I’m deluding myself if I pretend I have other, real options. And I surrendered because that slimmer than slim chance you could ever forgive me for lying to you would vanish into nothing if I’d run. And that is the one thing I think I can be forgiven for.’

From what he knew about her and believed, open confessions like that, risky, exposing, did not come naturally. But her eyes blazed as they met his, and as her hand ran up the bars for her fingertips to brush against his knuckles, he understood she could only be so daring because she had nothing to lose.

‘I’ve hated my life, Albus,’ Eva whispered. ‘I’ve been lied to, I’ve lived lies, I’ve been used and I’ve used. I suffered, and I decided the way to cope was to make others suffer. I’ve tried to run from all of that, and discovered that was a lie, too.’ Her breath caught. ‘My whole life, you have been the only thing that’s real.’

The old pain howled in his gut, and now it couldn’t be ignored, now he wasn’t too trapped to be deaf to it, and he jerked back with a gasp, skin crackling when their hands broke apart. ‘I don’t…’ His voice grated, and he swallowed hard to command it again. ‘I don’t know what you want from me.’

She recoiled with a flinch, then visibly steeled herself, and couldn’t quite look him in the eye when she murmured, ‘I’m condemned whatever happens. All I can want is whatever you can give.’

Pain. Torment. Hate. That’s all she gave you, that’s all you can give -

But he’d loved her once, or it had been the glimpse of love, and that joined the vortex howling in his gut to rise to his throat, choke him, spin him around, and in the end the only thing Albus could listen to was the carnage of confusion. He didn’t answer. Didn’t look at her, didn’t speak, just turned on his heel and stormed away from the cell, away from the darkness, away from her, and didn’t dare look back in case he broke.


A/N: ‘There’s the rub,’ is, well, an idiom, but the earliest source I can see is Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ron probably picked it up off Hermione.

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