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Chapter 29 : Penance on Myself
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‘So why have you come to me for help?’ said Selena, eyeballing Eva Saida with suspicion.
‘I need backup,’ was the simple answer. ‘I’m not expecting a fight, but I’m not going on my own. You lend an air of legitimacy. You don’t need to claim to represent your mother or the IMC. But I’m happy for people to make that assumption. And you know the case details better than most.’
At this point, Selena was inclined to agree just to get Eva out of her living room. It was a clash of worlds she wasn’t prepared for. But there were still questions, such as, ‘Where’s Albus?’
Eva rested her hand on her holstered wand. ‘I think it’s best he’s not involved in this.’
‘Oh,’ said Selena. ‘We’re going to talk to a man who might have covered up Draco Malfoy’s corporate shenanigans, so who might have information on his whereabouts. But it’s not like Al, who’s officially contracted to work on this, is a better choice for this job than me. You two argued, didn’t you?’
Eva’s gaze dropped. ‘He has a lot on his plate with Scorpius -’
‘I really don’t care,’ Selena sighed. ‘Your drama is a drama too far for me. Even my Niffler’s nose for gossip knows its limits. I like saucy theatrics, not road mines exploding in my face.’
‘Then stop asking questions and just say yes or no.’
She wanted to say no, but someone needed to keep an eye on this situation and she was curious despite her better judgement. Curious of the gossip as much as the situation with Amadeus Candlestone. ‘You’re in luck,’ said Selena with a groan. ‘It’s a Saturday. He’ll be at home.’
‘It’s not luck. It’s why we’re doing this today. He lives alone; separated from his wife, and it’s not the weekend he gets to see his kids.’
‘Good recon!’ said Selena, smiling. ‘Informative and creepy! Is there a particular reason we’re not doing this via the DMLE?’
Eva raised an eyebrow, drew her wand, and extended a hand. ‘Do you trust the Minister’s office?’
‘No. But I don’t know when I started trusting you more.’ And again, despite her better judgement, she shuffled over for the side-along Apparition to one of the more bland and unremarkable lanes that broke off from Diagon Alley. It wasn’t upmarket living, but it wasn’t run-down, either; more or less perfect for a run-of-the-mill government employee.
‘You know,’ said Selena, looking up at the rows of doors leading to the various blocks of flats, ‘if he’s on the take with the Council, he needs a better deal.’
‘Maybe he’s smart enough to keep his bribes quiet,’ said Eva, heading for one of the doors and letting them in. ‘I hope not.’
Amadeus Candlestone was a dour-faced man in his early thirties who looked displeased at being disturbed on a Saturday morning. He opened the door to his second-floor flat with narrowed eyes and a particularly toned, ‘Can I help you?’ which made it clear that help was the last thing on his mind.
‘Amadeus Candlestone? I’m Eva Saida, a consultant with the DMLE. This is Selena Rourke.’
It took only Selena’s surname to make Candlestone take a half-step back. ‘What - what does the DMLE want?’
‘Just a conversation,’ said Eva tonelessly. ‘Can we come in?’
They were ushered into a flat which looked like it had been decorated out of a magazine. If Amadeus Candlestone was on the take, he still didn’t have very good taste in how to spend his ill-gotten gains. But it meant the sofas were comfortable and the tea wasn’t half bad by the time he anxiously set the cups down in front of them.
‘It’s a Saturday, but I’m due back into the office for more work,’ said Candlestone as he sat across from them, and Selena could almost smell the lie. ‘I don’t have all day.’
‘I appreciate that,’ said Eva with cool professionalism, and Selena could almost believe she really was a law enforcer, not a mercenary, from all her calm control. ‘They’ve got me working on a weekend, too. But this doesn’t need to take long.’
‘What can I do for you?’
‘I want to ask you about the buy-out of Pudley Limited and the other companies.’ Eva reached for her magically-enlarged inside pocket to pull out a file. ‘The ones we’ve since identified were used by Draco Malfoy to smuggle Lethe into Britain and elsewhere.’
Candlestone’s eyes widened. ‘I don’t know what to say about that. He obviously had a master forger working for him. Funds had been split across multiple accounts which used multiple false identities, all of them gone now. It looked above board. Look, if you know all this, it must be in the records?’
‘I’ve read the records,’ said Eva, calm. ‘But there are discrepancies and questions. Ms Rourke happens to agree.’ Ms Rourke. Selena tried to not smile. The choice of titles made it very unclear if Eva was talking about her or her mother. ‘That’s why I’m here. I want you to go through this again.’
‘It’s…’ He frowned. ‘Look, I’m not thrilled that I was beaten on this, especially considering the consequences, but I thought I was checking for fraud, not for potential smuggling with a death toll.’
‘You’re saying you might have looked more closely if you’d known how high the stakes were?’ Eva cocked her head. ‘In which case I’d appreciate you taking a second look at the evidence, now you do know the stakes.’
Candlestone worked his jaw. ‘I’d have to go through all of my own records in the office. I don’t have it to hand here, and I dealt with these cases months ago. I really do have work to do for Minister Halvard.’
‘I’m sure Minister Halvard would understand you helping myself and Ms Rourke with a matter of this magnitude,’ said Eva.
I’m never playing poker against you, Selena thought, and just tried to smile amiably. She suspected she was here to be eye candy, to play good cop, and to imply the existence of the concrete donkey that was her mother hanging overhead.
He got to his feet. ‘Yes. But if you make an appointment at my office, I can help you better. I’m sorry; if you just -’
Eva stood, too - but then her wand was in her hand, swishing at the front door, and the lock tumbled with a rattle. ‘No, I think we’ll continue this conversation here, Mister Candlestone.’
She was toneless, expressionless, and Selena’s chest tightened as she looked up at someone she did not recognise - and yet it felt like a decent bet to say this probably was Eva Saida, more than she’d ever been seen by them before.
Candlestone froze. ‘What is this?’
‘A conversation. We’re going to talk about Draco Malfoy’s buy-out of Pudley Limited and the other companies, and you’re going to talk about how you let it happen and what you know of the finances he used.’
‘What makes you think I -’
Eva swished her wand, and Candlestone’s chair shot forward to hit his legs and knock him back down onto it. ‘Don’t lie, Candlestone, you’re not very good at it. I do hate my time being wasted.’
He looked up at her, eyes wide - then found a sneer. ‘If you doubt my words, then take me down to the DMLE. Or there is nothing legal about this conversation.’
‘You’re assuming I care about the legality here. I’m not looking for a conviction, Candlestone. I’m looking for information.’ Eva barely moved but still drew every eye in the room. ‘You should be pleased this is happening this way.’
‘Pleased?’ Candlestone sputtered.
‘We could go down to the DMLE. Do this publicly. And then any of your superiors also in the pay of the Council of Thorns will hear of what has happened, and they’ll cut you loose, sell you out to spare their own necks. You get to swing for them, Candlestone. And I wouldn’t care, but this might mean any trail you give me gets to go to ground.’ Eva cocked her head. ‘So we can do this here. Just us. And nobody needs to know this conversation has happened.’
He struggled to his feet again. ‘I do not work for the Council of Thorns!’
But Eva’s wand swished a half-inch and he fell back into the chair with a gurgle, clutching his throat like he’d been struck there. It was a light blow, but a blow to the neck didn’t need to be hard to stun him for long seconds.
Selena had to fight to keep her seat, the silence filled only by Candlestone’s ragged breathing, and she kept her eyes locked on Eva. She knew voicing opposition could undermine this entire process. But she had not been ready for this, and there was always a bridge too far, and at this rate if she hesitated she might find it far behind them.
‘I have been perfectly honest with you, Candlestone,’ said Eva in that cold, polite voice. ‘The least you can do is return the courtesy. I don’t need to know the deep intricacies of Draco Malfoy’s fraud. I don’t care about the fraud. I care about the money trail. I care about tracing the accounts he used for the buy-out to accounts still active. If he’s alive and out in the world, he will be spending money, and if I find that money I will find him. So, the fact that you were bribed means that the information can be traced; you were just paid to turn a blind eye and patch it over in your reports. I’ll settle for one source. One account number.’
Candlestone rubbed his throat, glaring balefully. ‘When this is done,’ he hissed, ‘I’m going straight to Minister Halvard, and I’m having your contract revoked, and I don’t care if you’re working with Chairman Rourke’s daughter because you have no idea who you’re fucking with -’
Eva stalked forward, and he pressed back in the chair as she leaned down at him. ‘I thought I was talking with a minor staffer of the Minister. One who’s easily cut loose. I am doing you a favour, Candlestone, because if this goes official then you are damned. You tell me what I want to know, and your superiors on both sides don’t need to know anything about this.’ She rolled her wand in her hand. ‘Or we make this go less easily. And, unfortunately, I’m no Legilimens, so I need other ways of loosening your tongue.’
Selena’s throat tightened. If she so much as twitches that wand, I’m going to have to stop her, she thought. And then she remembered combat training with Eva Saida, and then her next thought was, How the hell am I going to do that?
Candlestone looked desperately past Eva at Selena. ‘And this is endorsed by your mother’s office?’ he squawked.
Selena forced herself to shrug. ‘I’m still sat here, aren’t I?’
‘Look,’ said Eva, like this was all getting very tiresome, ‘the Cruciatus is a blunt instrument but it’s a favourite for a reason -’
‘Okay! Okay! Merlin’s beard!’ Candlestone brought his hands up, pinned back in his chair. ‘I didn’t get into this to get tortured by a crazy bitch!’
For a moment Selena thought Eva was going to Crucio him on principle, but then she straightened and gave a slow nod. ‘Just an account number, Mister Candlestone. A live one.’
Eva left the flat with a whole sheaf of paper’s worth of the financial details Candlestone could recall, and Selena followed with what felt like a bucket’s worth of bile in her gut and throat. But they remained silent until they were out in the street, at which point Selena grabbed Eva by the elbow and dragged her towards one of the nearest alleyways.
‘Okay, that was lovely theatre, but we need to talk.’
Eva let herself be dragged, but there was a tension to her gaze once they were out of sight of the road. ‘I got what we needed.’
‘Except I lied, that was neither lovely nor theatre, so tell me why I shouldn’t go running to Albus or the Auror Office right now and tell them how you threatened to torture a guy in his own home if he didn’t give us what we wanted?’ Selena spat, heart thudding in her throat.
‘They don’t need to know about this. I didn’t hurt anyone. We have our information.’
‘You would have done it, though,’ said Selena. ‘Is that why you didn’t want Albus here? You didn’t want him to get his hands dirty, or see the dirty side of you? Or you knew he’d stop you?’
Eva went very still. ‘What makes you think,’ she said, voice dropping, ‘that he’d stop me? You haven’t been paying very much attention to him these last few years, have you?’
Selena stared. ‘Did you not bring him because you were afraid he wouldn’t stop you?’
‘He’s not what he once was.’ Venom crept into Eva’s words. ‘He’d see the necessity of what I did, just like you did, just like I see the necessity, and…’
‘And, what? That upsets you? The truth that he’s become that cynical and that hurt -’
‘He was supposed to be better!’
Oh, thought Selena. There it is. Albus Potter’s got feet of clay. She drew a slow breath. ‘I thought you were supposed to be better, too, these days?’
Eva looked away. ‘I don’t think it matters.’
‘What? Of course it matters. That’s the bloody point, isn’t it? We’re not the good guys because we have shiny titles and sit in government buildings, we’re the good guys because we’re better. Because we don’t hurt people to get what we want, we don’t use our power to cause pain and suffering. Weren’t you getting on board with that? That sometimes, you take a hit, because it’s that or hurt someone who doesn’t need it, doesn’t deserve it?’
‘I didn’t have to take a hit today,’ said Eva. ‘And nor did he.’
‘No, but you weren’t bluffing. Don’t pretend you were bluffing.’ Selena clenched her fists. ‘What is this, now you’re back on the street, you’re right back to what you were?’
A flash crossed Eva’s face, so vitriolic that Selena thought she was going to get herself hexed. ‘I am not what I was -’
‘You’re sure as shit acting like it. And, why? What’s changed? Or are you so upset Albus showed he’s got flaws that you’re giving up?’
She’d meant to be sardonic, but the anger faded from Eva’s gaze as quickly as it had appeared, replaced only with hurt. ‘I was naive,’ she said. ‘The world really doesn’t have time for these kinds of principles -’
‘Are you kidding me?’ Selena goggled. ‘It’s just as well I can tell you’re fibbing, or I’d go get the DMLE to lock you up again.’
‘Maybe you’re thinking that if Al can’t stick to his moral guns, nobody can. But you’re mostly feeling betrayed that he’s dared falter in his precious righteousness! You, who turned your back on the Council of Thorns and ruined your life to do the right thing with absolutely no reason to think you’d get anything in return!’
‘What’s that got to do with it?’
‘Don’t cheapen yourself, Saida. Even if Al has abandoned all of his principles, which I bloody doubt, so what? He didn’t break us loose in Ager Sanguinis. He didn’t work for Vadimas and fight the Council these years. He didn’t turn himself over to the proper authorities for justice. And I cannot believe I am stood here listing a murderer’s virtues, but honestly.’ She tossed her hands in the air. ‘You’ve turned yourself around for you. Don’t give up on that for him. You’re better than that.’
Eva’s frustration fizzled out and she was stood there, forlorn and somehow smaller in this narrow alleyway. Her shoulders slumped, her gaze dropped, and she said, ‘Am I?’
‘I just explained how you are,’ said Selena. Her sympathy only went so far. ‘Don’t say you changed your ways for a guy. That’s just tragic. But what’s worse is ruining yourself for a guy.’
‘It was… for him,’ Eva mumbled at the cobblestones. ‘Or, because of him, because he made me think I could change, that the world could, but he was… he’s just like everyone else, really, isn’t he?’
‘Oh,’ said Selena again as realisation struck, and didn’t sound any more sympathetic when she said, ‘This isn’t about big moral stuff. He hurt you, didn’t he?’ That was perhaps a bridge of indifference too far, and she had to lift her hands at the glower this won. ‘Sorry. Okay. Definitely don’t punish yourself because he fucked up. Even if you think punishing yourself will punish him. You can do a hell of a lot better than that. As for Albus being like everyone else…’
She sighed, and drew a deep breath. ‘Everyone’s like everyone else, really. But everyone’s also a unique being to someone. Do I think Albus has changed? I do. Do I think he’s lost that essential, puppy-like hope and morality and decency? I think it might be dented, but I’m sure it’s not gone. Do I think the principles of the whole world are reliant upon Al Potter’s principles? I do not.’
Eva was actually wringing her hands together now, forlorn and looking much younger than Selena knew she was. ‘Mine were.’
‘They weren’t,’ said Selena helpfully. ‘You did this for over two years without him. So I suppose you could throw that away, but assuming you have a shred of self respect, you have two options. You can say “screw Albus Potter, I’m a badass and I don’t need him.” Or you can take the lessons he taught you and, maybe, show them to him all over again. If he needs to remember who he was.’
A long silence met her words, but when Eva drew a deep breath, strength returned with it. ‘I didn’t bring Albus,’ she said at last, ‘because I didn’t want to deal with him in a fraught situation. And I didn’t want to give him a chance to disappoint me again.’
‘I can understand that.’
‘I didn’t plan to come here and torture Candlestone. I didn’t think you’d go along with that, and I believed it would not be necessary. I thought your presence would make pressure easier to apply. I was right.’ Eva looked away, jaw tight. ‘But so were you. I wasn’t bluffing. Shit.’
‘Two thoughts occur,’ said Selena. ‘The first is that putting you into a situation like that is rather like setting a glass of Firewhiskey in front of an alcoholic. The second is that you should do this work with Albus Potter, because despite all you’ve said, you don’t actually want to disappoint Al. And don’t worry. I’m not offended you don’t care about offending me.’
Eva looked at her and winced. ‘I respect you,’ she said. ‘I just think you don’t expect any better of me.’
That gave Selena an unexpected flash of guilt - that if she saw Eva Saida as a potential monster and made no secret of that, then it would be so much easier for Eva Saida to be a monster. So she took a moment before she replied, after drawing a deep breath. ‘Maybe I don’t expect it,’ she said softly, apologetically. ‘But I do hope for it. For him, as well as for you.’
‘This is fascinating,’ said Rose, pacing about in her parents’ front room. ‘Cassian started this back in 1936; we’ve got almost ten years of his work for the Magical Alliance recorded here, from his personal perspective. He spent quite a bit of time in Berlin in the 30s for his Quidditch team, which was when he came across the rise of the Thule Society in wizarding Germany and Grindelwald’s movement and he was approached even then to spy on and monitor their activities…’
Albus and Scorpius, sat on the sofa, exchanged looks before Scorpius raised a hand. ‘Rose. We can - do we really want to get into the exciting historical rise of Grindelwald?’
She arched an eyebrow at him. ‘First, this is an extensive recording of a fraught period of history from a very unusual source. Second, this is your ancestor’s experiences, experiences which led to what seem to be heroic efforts against the Thule Society! And third, we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for here, so I started at the beginning!’
‘I think reasons one and two were excuses for you to get excited about reading.’ He was lounging on her sofa, an arm across the back of it, wearing that slow, smug smile she remembered. It wasn’t difficult to feel like nothing was wrong, and to stick her tongue out at him as her best, most sophisticated retort.
She didn’t know if she was kidding herself, or making the most of the time she had. ‘I think context is very useful.’
‘Yeah, but if this is so valuable, and he left it behind when he went off on whatever his last mission was, he presumably figured that he might not come back, so we could, you know. Skip to the end.’
‘You do that with all your books, don’t you, Malfoy.’
‘I do; the end’s the best part. But you can’t do it with a text book, it doesn’t work as a time-saver.’
She rolled her eyes and leafed through the leather-bound journal. ‘I thought you might care about Cassian Malfoy’s innermost -’
‘I care,’ said Scorpius. ‘I’d just like to know where he died.’
Rose sighed and flopped onto the armchair. With a flash of grey, Artemis pounced from behind the curtains to land on her knee - and the journal - and stretched out across both, purring contentedly, little paws batting at the air in a demand for attention. ‘Oh, Artemis…’
Scorpius narrowed his eyes at the cat. ‘You.’
Rose wrapped her arms around her pet. ‘Don’t you be mean to her.’
‘She’s not a delicate flower who needs protecting, she’s a perforating machine with purrs!’
Albus stirred on the sofa. He’d had the gaze of a man a million miles away, jerked from his reverie only by the bickering. ‘Are we - are you - can we get to the point?’
Scorpius gave Rose a look, old, silent codes flitting between them in a way she suspected was unintentional. She knew this one. No, I’m not sure what’s up with him either. ‘Sorry, mate, thought you’d… I mean, this might give clues on what my Dad was up to.’
‘Hm. Yeah.’ Albus rubbed his temples. ‘Sorry. I didn’t sleep well.’
Rose started to judiciously wiggle the journal out from underneath Artemis. She’d got it almost out without disturbing the cat until the very last tug, at which point Artemis squirmed, bit her wrist, and then shot off her lap like she’d been mortally offended. ‘Oh, bloody hell.’
‘I see she’s just as sweet-natured as ever,’ Scorpius pointed out.
‘She’s lonely. I couldn’t take her with me after I left Hogwarts. So she pesters Mum for attention but -’
Albus cleared his throat. ‘The journal?’
Rose huffed and flicked to the back pages. ‘Fine. Fine. I’m reading. Go put the kettle on, Al, I can’t think with you brooding there.’
All three of them sat in the same room, poring over some topic or other, bickering and bantering, was strange. It summoned a warm comfort to her chest just as much as it stirred with cold apprehension in her gut. Perhaps this could be the way of things now, the way of her life. Or perhaps this wasn’t going to last, and would be taken from her, too. Certainly, Al’s bad mood hung over them as a reminder that nothing was as it had ever been, but he did go, grumbling, to the kitchen. She didn’t look up from her reading of Cassian Malfoy’s neat, once-hidden handwriting. Not even when Artemis pounced on Scorpius, prompting a fresh wave of cursing.
She did peek up about a minute later, though, to find Artemis curled up on his lap, him scratching behind the cat’s ear, and he was watching her.
Her gaze dropped at once, but she could feel heat rising to her cheeks, feel all of a sudden every little imperfection of her face, her hair. She nudged a springy, rebellious lock behind her ear, and couldn’t fight the curl of a self-conscious smile. ‘What?’
‘I was just waiting. Silently. Letting you work.’ But she could hear the echo of amusement in his voice.
‘You’re distracting,’ she mumbled, and tried to focus on Cassian’s words.
‘I’m just sat here. With a cat. Who’s for once not chewing me up. Maybe she knows I’m an endangered species.’
It was a joke, but it brought the fresh cold twist to her gut, and her shoulders hunched in. ‘Maybe.’
That had him fall silent, though he could still feel his eyes on her, even when Albus tromped back into the living room with three steaming mugs. ‘Sorry,’ Al mumbled as he sat. ‘For sulking, I mean.’
‘Al, you have put up with so many of our sulks over the years,’ said Scorpius. ‘I think we can do the same for you. I mean, I know you’ve indulged my sulks. I’m just assuming you indulged Rose’s. Because you’re indulgent and she’s sulky.’
Rose decided the best way to answer this was to stick her tongue out at him again. Artemis, as if sensing her mistress’ displeasure, reached out to swat Scorpius’ coaster off the coffee table. He swore.
‘Yeah,’ sighed Albus. ‘I just wish I knew what to do.’
‘You’ve got to keep working together,’ said Rose, twirling her pencil. ‘I’m sure it’ll sort itself out.’
‘Don’t listen to her,’ declared Scorpius. ‘She thinks problems get solved with adult conversations and mature dialogue.’
‘Oh, sure, except if Eva’s all traumatised then she’s going to use work as an excuse to be a bristly hedgehog.’ Scorpius clapped his hands together, which made Artemis jump and run away. A glimpse at him showed a little guilt, before he swept to his feet. ‘You should wine and dine her.’
Both Rose and Albus had to look up at this, Rose’s expression particularly dubious. ‘What.’
‘She’ll be evasive in a work environment. Stand-offish. You’ll only make progress if you risk your lives together and, honestly, I’d rather you worried about survival in a situation like that.’ Scorpius was pacing back and forth, bubbling with that hyperactive energy she remembered. She wondered how much of this was about keeping his own demons at bay. ‘So! You need to demonstrate your affection, and take her out of a work situation. Even better, take her out of her comfort zone.’
Albus worked his jaw wordlessly. ‘I… just want her to not be disappointed in me. To talk to me. I’ve hurt her, I’m not trying to seduce her -’
‘Oh.’ Scorpius paused. ‘I have been reading you very wrong, then.’
‘No,’ Rose muttered, turning a page in the journal, reading on. ‘I don’t think you have.’ She’d meant that to be quiet. At Albus’ look of furtive indignation, she realised she’d not been quiet enough. She coughed and bowed her head again.
‘This isn’t - it’s complicated,’ said Albus.
‘This is why he hasn’t talked to us about romance before,’ Scorpius said to Rose. ‘He thinks it’s complicated.’
She gave him a look. ‘Are you kidding me?’
Al let out a breath. ‘Hoo, boy.’
‘No, look -’ Scorpius flapped his hands. ‘You wouldn’t have thrown yourself at her if you didn’t have a thing for her still. She clearly has a thing for you. Just go with it.’
‘This is amazing life advice,’ said Albus wryly. ‘I cannot believe that hadn’t occurred.’
Albus paused. ‘No, but - complicated!’
‘I’m serious.’ Scorpius swept back onto the sofa next to Albus, grabbed his mug, and crossed his legs in an exaggeratedly ‘girly’ posture which rather defeated his words. ‘Take her out of her comfort zone, get her on the back foot, and then she can’t use her usual tactics of evasion and work.’
Rose peered at him. ‘That sounds more like manipulation to me.’
‘Oh. And, you know. Be honest. Did I not say that?’
She rolled her eyes. ‘If anyone cares more about work than upsetting Albus, I’ve found something.’
Albus gave her a desperate look. ‘Please.’
‘The last entry is an interesting one.’ Rose leaned back in the armchair, journal in her lap. ‘Especially as it’s written in 1946, and the entry before that was almost a year earlier, on V-Day. He’s talking about how he has to go on one last mission, and he knows he probably won’t come back. The Magical Alliance won’t give him backup, nobody thinks it’s necessary…’
She shook her head, then lifted the book and began to read directly. ‘The wretched Thule remnant have fled to South America with their Muggle allies. We’re to monitor them only, so says Command. Too many treaties protect them, so it seems that if they limit their spread of filth and pain to the far side of the world, we shouldn’t fuss. Bloody politics. But Raskoph is not amongst them. I was assured, again and again, that he would be hiding like a cockroach under Krauser’s skirts, and of course that is not the case.
‘He has plans. Schemes; Grindelwald’s fall would not waylay him. He knows too much. He was too close to his goals in Amsvartnir. He is a believer, more fiercely than any save Grindelwald himself. If there is a home of magic, a true Ultima Thule - Hyperborea - whatever these madmen would deem it, then he will not rest until it is found.
‘I would consider it nothing but ghost stories, myths by even magic standards, propaganda, had I not seen the powers with my own eyes. He transformed a healthy man to an undead abomination with his magic weaved from the waters of Lake Svetloyar. It is the power of death he seeks, and I fear he is on the right path to find it.
‘The latest rumours of his movement in the far north are ones I cannot ignore. What if I was right? I destroyed the mural on the island, but Adeline refused to destroy her pictures. This was always archaeology to her. Research. Maybe others had records, maybe the Alliance itself is compromised. I trust her with my life, of course I do, but these files go through too many hands in this day and age. What if it did lead to Ultima Thule, what if he’s found it? What if he’s on his way now?
‘They won’t listen. They thought I chased ghosts and legends, even by the standards of wizards. I thought the same, too, until I saw the works of Raskoph. He chases death. But even Adeline thinks it’s time to hang up our wands, accept peace. She’d follow me, if I asked, of course she would, but it would be risking her life for me, not for the cause. So it’s better this way.
‘I hope I’m wrong. If I’m wrong, I’ll spend a few weeks being very cold, and come home, and hang up my wand and maybe accept that vicious lunatic has died in some miserable corner of the world. But I can’t afford to take that chance. The world can’t afford me taking that chance. If I’m complacent and he kills even one more person, that’s on my head.’
Rose stopped at that, Cassian Malfoy’s words thundering through her heart in Scorpius Malfoy’s voice, and she swallowed. ‘The rest is - you can read it, but it’s more personal thoughts. Notes for Adeline Bachelet, which I think I will copy out and send her. But there it is. After the war, Raskoph went somewhere, and Cassian thought he had to follow him.’
‘Cassian Malfoy died out there. Raskoph didn’t,’ said Scorpius, sombre at last. ‘I suppose he failed.’
Rose frowned at the journal. ‘It says Raskoph transformed a healthy man into an undead abomination with magic he found in Russia. Thane’s interrogation mentioned Raskoph had come to the Council of Thorns with information which was eventually turned into Phlegethon. I think this is the origin of the Stygian Plagues. I think Raskoph was chasing them for a hundred years.’
Her heart caught in her chest. If we find the origin of the plagues, we may find another cure. A solution that isn’t the Chalice. Maybe Scorpius had the same idea. She couldn’t tell, so stony was his face when he shot to his feet. ‘We need to go through those Magical Alliance records, then. Find which mission Cassian and Adeline conducted at Amsvartnir. What these photographs were which he reckons lead to a location of Ultima Thule.’
‘Ultima Thule,’ said Rose, ‘is a myth. But then, so was the Chalice of Emrys.’
‘The folders are at mine,’ said Scorpius. ‘So I’m going to Floo back, I’ll get some reading done, I’ll…’
Albus stood, awkward. ‘Do you want me with you?’
‘No, no. I’ll just crack on with research.’
Rose pursed her lips. ‘I want to do some tests on you, Scorpius. It won’t be difficult, just some magical readings -’
‘Sure,’ he said, and headed for the fire. ‘Later.’
Then he was gone in a puff of green flames, and Albus and Rose stood alone in her sitting room. Al’s big shoulders slumped as he turned to her. ‘Do you really think you can do this?’
‘I think I have a chance,’ said Rose, and it didn’t feel like a lie. ‘And the more we know about Scorpius, the Chalice, and the Stygian Plagues, the bigger the chance.’
‘Okay.’ He kicked at the carpet. ‘I’ll… keep up on the hunt for Draco. Maybe Eva’s got us a lead. She said she’d do more work.’
They hugged, and he left, and Rose settled down in the golden light of the fat, late afternoon sun to return to her reading. Not just the journal, but her box of research from Matt’s office, the ongoing research on the Chalice, on Lethe, and especially everything Prometheus Thane had given up on his process for summoning the Chalice back, resurrecting Scorpius with it.
Her father was still in Macedonia, her mother wouldn’t be back for hours, so it was with some trepidation that she stood at the knock on the door. But a peer out of the window showed the flash of familiar blonde hair, and Rose opened up the door with a smile that faded at the awkward, tense look on Selena’s face. ‘What’s happened?’
‘Nothing. Some things.’ Selena Rourke sighed, and pushed inside without invitation, because that was what Selena Rourke did. ‘We need to talk.’
A/N: I get to do a history/legends note again! Woo!
Amsvartnir is a lake from Norse mythology, presumed to be where the gods bound Fenrir. Lake Svetloyar is a real place in central Russia (specifically the Nizhegorod Oblast). It has also been picked specifically!
Ultima Thule is, of course, an island of ancient European legend. It’s been presumed that early Greek explorers referred to places such as Iceland, the Shetland Isles, and Scandinavia by such a name, but it was also considered to be a place at the ends of the Earth. So in some references it’s just a catch-all name for those sorts of places, in other references it’s a lost island, in the vein of Atlantis. Nazi occultists believed Thule, or Hyperborea (the two were considered one and the same) was the birthplace of the Aryan race.