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Oblivion by Slide
Chapter 25 : The True Old Times Are Dead
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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The True Old Times are Dead


Scorpius had been left in a sombre silence for the rest of their time at Niemandhorn, and Rose was at first prepared to take that as normalcy. So everything remained at that detached, civil level, the unspoken lines harsh between them, even when they boarded the Niemandhorn Express. This time, Scorpius stopped when he got to a compartment door and handed her a ticket. ‘I got us two compartments. Traffic out of the Castle’s a lot less frantic than going in. There was space.’

Rose kept her expression studied as she took the ticket. It should have been a relief. It wasn’t that she wanted to torment herself with another sleepless night so keenly aware of his presence. It wasn’t even that she wanted to play with fire, see what she couldn’t have dangled in front of her. But it was another line, more distance. ‘Do you want me to take the journal?’ she said instead. ‘No offence, but without knowing the cipher, I’m going to have a better chance of cracking it than you.’

His expression pinched, but he reached into his jacket and pulled out the leather-bound book. ‘Yeah. Alright.’

She could understand his reluctance at parting with such a connection, so she tried to give him a reassuring smile. Once, he would have trusted her with something this important. ‘We’ll talk about what I’ve found over dinner?’

He paused. ‘Yeah - well, the dining cart won’t be as crowded so -’

‘So we can eat alone?’ She forced her smile to remain, to soften. ‘You know how I was being crazy on the outbound journey, pushing you away? We’ve been doing fine this trip, Scorpius. If we’re going to find out what Cassian Malfoy knew, we’re going to need to do this together.’

He flinched and stepped back, but nodded before she could press the point. ‘Alright. Sure. We’ll catch up over dinner.’

Then he fled down the corridor, and with a sigh she slumped into her compartment, sank onto the bottom bunk, and buried her face in her hands. Once, she’d lived and died on the thought of never seeing him again. Right now she was living and dying on whether he’d so much as look at her again.

Of course, came a small, treacherous voice at the back of her mind, you still haven’t told him about you and Matt. It had been an omission to try to make matters less awkward. But perhaps it was at the root of the problem. After all, it wasn’t like their first, proper reunion, in his hotel suite, had been a superb demonstration of self-control. Keeping Matt between them as an unspoken barrier still felt easier and safer. Falling right back into Scorpius Malfoy’s arms, so soon after he’d come back, so soon after Matt had left her, sounded like a recipe for a disaster she didn’t dare court.

And yet it would be so easy.

Niemandhorn and its castle were far, far behind the train chugging towards sunset by the time she unfurled herself from her ball of self-pity and cracked open Cassian Malfoy’s journal, only to be greeted by the now-familiar nonsense in which he’d encoded all of his private thoughts. She grabbed pencil, parchment, and got to work, because work was always the best distraction. By the time she raised her head to look out the window, she couldn’t see the white peaks of the Alps any more, just the black of night, and she had made absolutely no progress in deciphering the sheer babble.

It was time to stop beating her face against a brick wall. In every possible way.

Long years of working alongside Selena had taught her certain things about packing. Some of those things included, ‘Bring a whole wardrobe even for a walk down the street,’ which was not a lesson Rose had adopted. But other lessons were, ‘Always, always, always pack a little black dress.’

‘Pretending everything’s normal,’ Rose told her reflection, as she conducted the exciting task of getting ready and applying makeup in a bathroom cubicle she could barely fit into, ‘isn’t helping anyone. Time to stop obfuscating.’ It wasn’t that she was trying to mess with Scorpius’ head. But looking good made the thudding in her gut fade, made her fit in more with the high class of clientele on board. And she wasn’t going over the top, but she was entitled to look nice for no particular reason, she told herself.

When she knocked on his compartment door after a frantic half-hour, which had included a battle with her hair about which epic ballads should really be written, she had to wonder if she’d gone overboard. When he opened the door, rumpled in jeans and a button-down white shirt, she was pretty certain she had. But at least he could be on the back foot for once.

‘I thought we were getting dinner?’ she said, with the slightest hint of a superior smile.

He blinked. ‘Give me ten minutes, and I’ll meet you there.’

It meant she had half a glass of the table wine down her throat by the time he wandered into the Express’ dining cart, in the same shirt but dark trousers, a well-tailored jacket, his hair not so much tamed as brushed back, still rumpled in that way she’d always found distracting.

She wasn’t sure if he’d thrown things on or if he was trying to beat her at her own game. So she deflected by putting Cassian’s journal on the table. ‘I’ve got nothing.’

Scorpius grimaced and grabbed the journal like it was precious. ‘How do you make progress with breaking a code, anyway? I mean, without the actual code…’

‘Cipher,’ said Rose with a distracted sip of her wine. ‘A code would be a seemingly-innocuous phrase with a predetermined meaning. A cipher is the substitution of letters for others. I tried the more obvious methods - inverted alphabet, that sort of thing, though of course if it was going to be that simple, I’d imagine the Alliance would have figured it out by now. Then I tried to brute-force it.’

Scorpius raised an eyebrow. ‘Brute force?’

‘Oh, you know. Assuming it’s in English, then there will be certain patterns to it. There are only so many three-letter words, only so many single-letter words. So you find a three-letter word, start by assuming it’s, I don’t know, “the”, and then from there try to find a pattern, try to see if you can fill in other words with the same letters. Move on to “and”, or “are” or the like, if that doesn’t work.’

‘And that didn’t work?’

Rose grimaced. ‘It didn’t. Of course, if it’s a cipher into a different language, then that’s going to be a lot harder. Or it’s a completely different trick.’

‘So this could be worthless.’ Scorpius slumped back, expression crumbling so badly she wanted to reach for his hand.

She reached for her wine instead. ‘You found a lot of stuff in Malfoy Manor about Cassian. It’s possible there’s something there.’

‘Or it’s possible the cipher died with him. And even if we figure this out, there’s no guarantee there’s anything in it.’ He rubbed the back of his neck. ‘I went through some of the files Bachelet gave us. Did you realise the two worked together? Like, a lot?’

Rose failed to smother a sad smile. ‘I got that impression.’

‘They had a whole long-term operation out in Finland in 1941, and then another in Russia in 1943, not to mention countless little missions. All of them trying to foil Thule Society activities out there. Most of it was chasing Raskoph, who clearly had some sort of agenda, but I don’t see the pattern in any of it.’

‘I can take a look,’ she said gently.

‘Yeah.’ He looked away, across the half-full dining cart, resplendent in polished dark wood and those handsome imperial blue furnishings. ‘And, I guess, Matt should, too. He’s the historian. He knew about Saint Annard.’

Rose swallowed hard, then reached for the wine to top up their glasses. ‘We’ll do that when we get back, tomorrow. Was it nice to see Harley again?’

He brightened despite himself. ‘Yeah. I’m glad to see he’s doing okay. There’s something he said to me, way back, about proving how I’m not like my father.’ He sat up. ‘That I should use the Malfoy family wealth and influence to actually improve things for House Elves, rather than just not making things worse.’

‘I don’t think you need to prove to anyone you’re not like your father.’

‘I spent eight months with Thane. My father’s on the run from the IMC. There are more similarities than I’d like.’ He shrugged. ‘I was thinking, if Harley’s trying to do things for the House Elves as a whole; they could do with wealth, property. Somewhere they can organise themselves, someplace that’s theirs. Income. Prestige.’

Rose’s eyes narrowed. ‘You’re talking about Malfoy Manor? Giving them Malfoy Manor?’

Scorpius gave a crooked smile, that vicious grin that was as much teeth as it was charm. ‘Can you imagine my father’s reaction? His father’s reaction?’

‘But - it’s your home.’

‘It’s not,’ said Scorpius hotly. ‘And I won’t need it. I don’t need it. I have no desire to go back there. If I spend even one night under that place’s roof, then that’s one night too many, I don’t -’

‘Okay.’ She lifted a hand, smiling. ‘I understand. If you’re sure, I think it’s a great idea.’

‘I might as well do something worthwhile with my life, hm? Now I’ve got it back.’

‘If we find something about Cassian, if we find what he knew about Raskoph, that is going to be worthwhile,’ Rose said gently. ‘And you can make a difference without needing people like Prometheus Thane.’

His gaze flickered down. ‘It was - it was what I had to do at the time.’

‘And that time’s passed.’

It was his turn to go for the wine. ‘Has it?’

‘Lillian got her laws. You know she can order a full investigation of any IMC Councillor at any time? That Harry can do the same? There’s going to be no need for people to take things into their own hands, because the system is going to work.’ She tried another smile, even if this one was more serious. ‘It’s not an ideal sacrifice of liberty, but when Prometheus Thane was doing a better job of fighting the Council of Thorns and keeping us safe, something needed to change. I know what you were doing, Scorpius.’

He tensed, chin jolting up an inch. ‘You do -’

‘You and Thane, you saw yourselves as the necessary evil to protect us from the greater evil. You don’t have to be that any more.’

Scorpius’ gaze dropped. ‘You think a man can stop being that? You saw what I did to Holga, you know how that ended.’

‘You’re talking like I don’t know you.’

Their eyes met, and she held firm, unwavering, staring into the blue-grey gaze she knew so well. When he was warm and smiling, there was so much more blue to his eyes. When he was cold or angry, the steel won, and he looked more like his father than she would ever admit. ‘I think,’ said Scorpius after long heartbeats, ‘you knew me two years ago.’

‘Just like,’ said Rose calmly, ‘you’re assuming I’ve become no more astute in all that time. Or realistic.’ She reached for the wine bottle yet again, and pretended it wasn’t providing tonight’s courage. ‘I assume you checked how the Falcons have been doing the last two years.’

His expression made it plain he thought this was cheating. ‘It’s just Quidditch -’

‘If they don’t cancel the season,’ Rose continued, ‘I still don’t think they’ve got a shot at the Cup.’

‘But -’ Scorpius sputtered. ‘Neatherby has come on in leaps and bounds the last two seasons! Even James has, too! No Keeper can save against them!’

‘That doesn’t count for anything if Shafiq isn’t going to catch the Snitch.’

‘He did, the last two matches -’

‘One of those was against the Cannons…’

It was a cheap tactic, and Rose knew it left a lot churning under the surface. But it broke the furrow of his brow, that new frown she didn’t yet understand and didn’t know how to ease. It could be hidden for the moment, and she could set him ranting - rather begrudgingly - about how good James was playing for his favourite team, how well they’d come along.

And from there it was onto music he’d missed, and yet again he grumbled about the passivity of wizarding bands. But in return he asked her about Gringotts and her job, and for the first time she found she could talk about Egypt as a place she’d ever want to go back to. She’d been incapable of caring when she’d been there. But he grinned when she mentioned the excavations, how they’d outwitted the bureaucracy of their superiors to get their own team, and the incidents became a tale in her past, not a trial.

The night chugged on with the Niemandhorn Express, and their plates cleared and the wine bottles - definitely plural - emptied, until Rose succumbed to a yawn that had been growing for a half-hour.

Scorpius drained his glass. ‘We should probably turn in. If I have any more, I’m going to be a grouchy as hell travel companion tomorrow.’

‘Because we’ve both been rays of sunshine this trip.’ But she smiled and stood, and the two began their comfortable, fuzzy-headed meander back to the compartments.

‘I’m sorry,’ Scorpius said, but she was going first and she couldn’t see his expression. ‘I just - this is awkward, and I was trying to not make it awkward.’

‘Like I once told you, long ago,’ Rose mused. ‘You and I have never been friends.’

She got to her door and turned to find him paused in the corridor, that knot back in his brow, shoulders slumped. ‘You’re right. We never were. I should -’

‘Wait.’ Each heartbeat was like a tremor through her body, tightening her throat, but she couldn’t stop. ‘I wanted - there’s something I need to say.’

That did not make him frown any less. ‘We shouldn’t -’

‘Can you at least come in?’

He followed into the compartment like a skittish cat and stayed near the door. Rose had to draw deep breaths as she brought the dim, orange glow of the lamps to life. She did not need another incident of Scorpius Malfoy fleeing her presence. Even if once she’d have given her right arm for him to be able to.

He folded his arms across his chest. ‘What’s going on?’

‘You’re hiding something from me,’ Rose said, trying to keep her voice gentle, even if the accusation thudded through her. ‘I know this from Legilimency, yes, but I also know this from how you’re acting, because you’ve not changed so badly I can’t read you.’

‘I don’t -’

‘And you can’t chase this Cassian Malfoy lead alone; you shouldn’t, not if you want to get results, not if you want to be successful, and I can see this burning in you. You want to find some shred of your family that’s worth a damn as much as you want to fight the Council.’

The comment on his family made him stop short. ‘I knew you coming was a bad idea…’

‘And yet, you let me anyway. Maybe you’re a weak-willed idiot, or maybe you remember that you and I used to actually be pretty good at figuring things out. Fights. Problems. Each other.’ Gentleness was fleeing her voice for bluntness. ‘We make a good team, and this investigation matters to the world and it matters to you, but we will do even better if you’re frank.’

He stabbed a finger at her. ‘I didn’t ask you to be here. Like you said, Rose, we’re not friends. You’re with Matt; do you really think you and me being close is a good -’

‘Matt left me.’ The admission almost stuck in her throat.

His shoulders squared like they’d been turned to stone, his gaze thunderous. ‘He what?’

‘The night after we made plans to go. The night you were out with - with John. I came home, and Matt was there, and he’d packed a bag and said that he was going. Because he wanted to give me space to think about me and him, about you, to make sure I wasn’t staying with him out of a sense of obligation, or…’

One moment he’d been by the door, stunned and apprehensive; now he flew over and grabbed her arms. It was the first time he’d touched her since that near-miss in his suite, his grasp so electric she almost pulled back. ‘You cannot leave him for me, Rose, you cannot -’

I haven’t done anything,’ Rose pointed out, trying to stop her voice from wavering. ‘But it’s not just about you, Scorpius - we weren’t happy. I didn’t love him, I was just with him because - because it was better than being alone, because I was so broken without you and being with him was the closest I came to being in one piece…’ She pressed on, because too much honesty was right now better than too little. ‘And it wasn’t fair to him, and he realised that. Even if you hadn’t come back, Scorpius, we shouldn’t have been together. It wasn’t right. And technically it’s sort of a break; he told me I should think about what I wanted, and that if it was him, I should tell him that…’

‘Then tell him that!’ Scorpius’ hold was tight enough to hurt, but she didn’t pull back. ‘Rose, you can’t -’

‘I don’t want to tell him that! I don’t want to be back with him!’ The words choked past her throat, and with them came a wave of release, the confession so pure it almost made her bend double with the ache of it. ‘Even aside from you, Scorpius. Look, this is why I didn’t tell you…’ Though she’d never imagined he’d react like this.

His face fell, slumping like there were parts of him being dragged back to the Otherworld, and when he spoke his voice was a low croak. ‘I wanted you to be happy. That’s all I ever wanted for you. Maybe I wasn’t thrilled that you were with Matt, but he loves you…’

‘He once did. Now he loves… a memory, a dream.’

It didn’t look like Scorpius was hearing her, but he let her go and stumbled towards the door. ‘You have to fix this, Rose -’

‘I think the breakup is a fix -’

‘No,’ he snapped. ‘I cannot come back and ruin your relationships, your life. I will not. We’re home tomorrow. Stay away. And fix this.’

And with that he turned on his heel, opened the door, and disappeared into the shadows of the corridor, leaving her not entirely surprised that she now had more questions than answers.


* *


Selena hadn’t stormed out of the house with her coat, and taking a long, scalding shower in a creaky bathroom while Eva took cleaning spells to her clothes had only warmed her a little. So standing before her front door, late at night, was a question of determining if her hesitation outweighed the cold.

Hesitation was powerful enough that she was shivering by the time she let herself in, and closed the door louder than intended. She froze, but nothing happened in the gloom of the hallways. She took to the stairs, and lurked first to the guest bedroom. It was shrouded in darkness, but a peer through the half-open door made it clear that Matt had taken her instruction seriously. All of it was bare.

‘Shit,’ Selena whispered, and slunk to her bedroom. ‘Shit, shit, shit.’ And she swore even more when she stepped in and found Miranda passed out in the armchair by the window.

‘Gah!’ Miranda jerked awake, lustrously long dark hair wild. ‘You’re back! I wasn’t sure you…’

‘Miranda! Merlin, you scared me - were you waiting?’ Selena stared, then turned on the lights so they didn’t have to be startled in the dark.

‘You make it sound like that’s an unreasonable thing to do,’ said Miranda, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. ‘After you stormed off in tears.’

‘I wasn’t in tears.’

‘They were coming,’ said Miranda. Selena was reminded this girl had kept up with Scorpius Malfoy for the long months of their relationship. ‘And I wasn’t sure if you were coming back, but I knew I couldn’t go after you and… are you alright?’

She cringed as she spoke, and with a sigh Selena perched on the edge of her bed. ‘I’m… better,’ she decided. ‘I’m sorry for yelling at you, though. That wasn’t fair.’

Miranda brushed a stray lock of hair back, skin porcelain-white against dark tresses and pale moonlight. ‘If it were true, it would be. We never let you hide because it was convenient for us, Selena.’

Selena sighed, and scrubbed her face with her hands. ‘It’s been pointed out that if I tell people I want to be alone, or that I’m okay, they might do crazy shit like believe me.’

‘After Phlegethon, when Methuselah died…’ Miranda grimaced. ‘We didn’t believe you. I mean, I didn’t think it had been a big deal between you two, I took that at face value, but I didn’t think that meant you were indifferent. You were just - you get very convincing, Selena, you know that? You tell everyone you’ve got it under control, that you’re alright, and even if we don’t believe you, we don’t know how to challenge you.’

‘I suppose I’ve had a lot of practice at that. Lying, I mean.’

‘We see through you. You just don’t let us join you there.’ Miranda hesitated. ‘You haven’t let me, not these last three years.’

Selena jerked her head up. ‘I…’

‘Methuselah. The “holiday”. Even after, even when Scorpius died; it’s not like he meant nothing to me, and you never once acted like I’d understand -’ She stopped herself, mouth clamped shut for long heartbeats until it seemed she could trust herself to continue. ‘We’re your friends. Let us help.’

Selena went back to staring at her hands, and drew a raking breath. ‘I’m not sure how,’ she murmured.

‘Talk, maybe? And talk like you trust us to listen, not judge, not ditch you… because we won’t?’

Selena pulled her legs up, wrapped her arms around her knees, and gritted her teeth before she managed to give Miranda a guilty look. ‘I’m not sure where to start.’

Miranda joined her on the bed, put an arm around her with more of the casual ease and understanding closeness that even Rose had ever managed - because while Selena knew Rose understood her more, had walked with her through fire, there were some simple affections that came only from time, and from not being an emotionally-stunted Weasley.

‘How about,’ Miranda Travers said gently, ‘you tell me about Methuselah Jones?’


* *


‘If de Sablé isn’t in this warehouse by dusk,’ Matt yelled out the door of his office at his frantic team the next afternoon, ‘then I want us to cook up a fucking summoning ritual!’

Lowsley looked up from his desk, on which teetered a large pile of dusty volumes he’d been poring through. ‘Last reports said he has a Portkey in from Venice at five o’ clock. Which is technically after dark this time of year and he won’t be here until six with customs investigation -’

‘Bloody hell.’ Matt scowled. ‘Send word down to the DIMC, tell them we need this man as soon as possible and to fast-track him.’

‘They hate processing de Sablé; where the hell do they file an eight hundred year-old immigrant?’

‘You’re saying this like I give a damn. So long as he’s -’

‘Doyle!’

Matt snapped upright at the familiar voice, and tried to not glower as he saw Scorpius Malfoy striding down the line of desks, jaw tight, eyes blazing. It was an old instinct which made him resent the sight of the man, and deep down he knew he still wasn’t used to seeing him walking. In some ways he wanted to marvel at the miracle that had brought him back, but that was a lot more complicated than an old, nurtured, irrelevant grudge. ‘Scorpius,’ he said, much more amiably. ‘I didn’t know you were back.’

‘Just half an hour ago and we need to talk.’ Scorpius looked pointedly at his office.

‘Oh,’ said Matt. ‘By all means. Make yourself comfortable.’ He rolled his eyes as he let Scorpius in.

Scorpius approached the corkboard, brow furrowing as he stared at the papers, the intricate timeline of the Chalice’s history which Matt was desperately trying to untangle so he could find a starting point on his research. It would be easier once de Sablé was here. ‘…you’ve made progress?’

‘I’ve confirmed what we need to do,’ said Matt. Despite himself, he walked to the desk and began unbuckling his prosthetic hand. His stump ached when stressed, and Scorpius Malfoy was walking stress. ‘I need to figure out the how.’

‘Right,’ said Scorpius, nodding to himself. ‘Right.’ Then he turned, jaw set tight. ‘You broke up with Rose.’

Matt blinked. This was not what he’d expected, and so he took his time finishing his removal of the prosthetic. ‘I did. You seem angry about that, so forgive me if I’m a bit confused.’

‘You can’t do that. ‘She needs you -’

‘Have you been paying any attention?’ Matt set his prosthetic on the desk and stared. ‘She doesn’t need me. She actively needed to be out of that relationship, and so did I!’

‘You can’t let her go, hoping maybe she’ll return to you -’

‘That is not why I did that.’

‘Or, then, being a self-sacrificing idiot and hoping she’ll come back to me!’

Matt drew a deep, calming breath, because this was as confusing as it was infuriating. ‘I left Rose for Rose’s own good,’ he said in a slow, measured voice, ‘but I also left her for my own good. Because she is never going to love me, and we both deserve better. I thought you’d be pleased.’

‘If you think she and I can swan back to being together…’ Scorpius’ expression twisted, and he turned away, waving his hands in the air. ‘Don’t be an idiot!’

‘I wouldn’t think it’s just that easy,’ said Matt, brow knotting. ‘But I did suspect the two of you would work something out. Did something happen in Switzerland?’

‘No,’ said Scorpius flatly. ‘And nothing ever will.’

Matt had envisioned all sorts of awkwardness arising between Rose and Scorpius from the breakup, mostly out of guilt. But none of his calculations included Scorpius losing his shit like this. ‘Scorpius.’ Matt’s voice was cold, tight, controlled. ‘Why can’t you be with Rose?’

He spun around, grey eyes steely. ‘It’s not that simple; we’ve been apart for two years, she’s changed, I’ve changed, and I wanted her to be happy, not needing me…’

‘You’ve barely been back a fortnight; maybe you two will find each other again and maybe you won’t, but I do know it’s too early for you to write it off -’ Matt stopped, breath jerking in his throat as the mental equations spat out an answer, and it was like a punch to the gut. He stared at Scorpius. ‘You’re dying.’

Now it was Scorpius’ turn to reel. ‘I’m - I’m not -’

‘Or your return isn’t permanent, or -’ Matt flew across the space, and grabbed Scorpius’ jacket with his good hand. ‘What the hell - shit! This is why you didn’t come back, this is the real reason you stayed away, isn’t it! Your resurrection isn’t permanent, so you stayed away, you worked with Thane, and you used the time you had to try to fuck up the Council of Thorns, whatever it took!’

Scorpius slumped. ‘I wasn’t supposed to come back - we didn’t know you’d be on the Naglfar…’

Matt just tightened his grip. ‘How do we stop this?’

Scorpius’ head jerked up. ‘You said you’ve confirmed how to destroy Lethe. Is it by destroying the Chalice?’

‘That’s - yes…’

‘Then you can’t stop this. The Chalice is what’s keeping me in this realm; I’m supposed to be in the Otherworld, I’m not the first bastard to die from passing through a Veil. I’m only here because the Chalice dragged me back. It’s my anchor. It gets destroyed, and back I go!’

Now Matt let go, staggering back to slump against the desk. What had a moment ago been the fizz of a problem to solve running through his veins was now ice and horror. ‘There has to be another way…’

‘You think Thane didn’t look for another way? Even he didn’t want this. But he studied the Chalice, he brought it here in the first place. He created and recreated Lethe. There is not a man in the world who has more understanding of the Chalice of Emrys, and this is the only solution he’s figured out.’

‘He could have been lying -’

‘He said this under Veritaserum,’ Scorpius said bluntly. ‘Sure, that means it’s only what he believes, not an absolute truth, but he’s had months on this, you’ve only had five minutes, and he is convinced.’

‘So I will look,’ snarled Matt, ‘for another way.’

No,’ snapped Scorpius. ‘You will continue this line of research, the most sensible and effective line of research, and you will find a way to destroy the Chalice of Emrys. And the moment you find how to do it, you will destroy it.’

‘Even if it kills you?’

‘And if you wait, if you piss around trying to find a third way, how many people die to Lethe?’ Scorpius was yelling now, red-faced, voice echoing off the thin wooden walls. ‘People have already died because I was brought back to bring that plague into the world again! That is the price of my resurrection, and I won’t…’

But his voice was tumbling over itself, and as Matt watched him choke on his words, it was like this man - the man he’d hated, resented for so long, who had always swanned around and got whatever he wanted, smiled and joked his way out of every hot spot, got the girl and cheated death - was a puppet with his strings cut, and with a strangled sob, Scorpius slumped against the wall, eyes shut tight.

Despite himself, Matt approached, jaw clenched, and put his good hand to Scorpius’ shoulder. ‘I will continue to try to destroy the Chalice. But research is a complicated road, and to find out how to destroy the Chalice I need to know more about the Chalice. And if I see so much as a hint of another way, I will find it.’

Scorpius stayed silent for a long moment, chest heaving, but when he spoke again it was with more control, taut and pained. ‘If you delay, and that causes the death of even one person,’ he said, voice grating, ‘then that is too high a price to pay.’

‘We’re not there yet,’ Matt pointed out. Scorpius nodded, bringing up his sleeve to swat at his treacherous eyes, and Matt bit his lip. ‘Do they know?’

‘Of course not,’ said Scorpius thickly. ‘I was a weak fucking idiot to come back; you think I’m strong enough to break their hearts again?’

‘They need to know. Albus, Rose, they need to know…’

‘I know.’ Scorpius groaned, and brought his hands up to cover his face. ‘Rose… I didn’t want to hurt her again…’

‘You dropping dead all of a sudden is going to hurt her too; this being kept from her would - it would be worse.’ Matt locked his gaze on Scorpius’ as the other man drew his hands down. ‘And if you don’t tell them, I will.’ He shoved him free and walked back to the desk with a groan, running his fingers through his hair. ‘I knew this had to get worse before it got better.’

‘It’s almost like the world fucking hates us,’ Scorpius muttered.

Matt leaned on the desk, glowering at his prosthetic hand. ‘Here’s the plan. You’re going to tell them. Albus and Rose and your mother and whoever the fuck needs to hear it from you personally, and this stops being a secret.’

Scorpius nodded, still slumped against the wall. ‘Yeah. Yeah, I know. I really didn’t -’

‘It’s done.’ Matt jabbed his index finger at him. ‘You just try to be honest. And I will try to find everyone a way out of this pigfuck of a situation.’



--------------

A/N: I'm going to be away for all of next week, beyond the internet. Hopefully I can get some writing done, but I digress. At present, the queue won't have this chapter out until I'm already away, in which case there might be quite the break until there's another update. So, bear with me and be patient on the next chapter, it will be out as soon as I am physically capable of posting it, but circumstances may conspire against me!

But this doesn't feel a bad chapter to have a mini-hiatus on!


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