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Oblivion by Slide
Chapter 30 : Live Pure, Speak True, Right Wrong
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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Live Pure, Speak True, Right Wrong


‘What’s happened? Do you need tea? Is something wrong? Do you want to hold Artemis?’ Rose flapped around Selena as her friend stalked into the living room, all poise and precision in a way that dripped apprehension and faltering control.

At the last, Selena gave her a sidelong look. ‘No, I do not want to hold your cat - look. Sit down. Nothing’s wrong. Nobody’s hurt, or dying, or - nothing bad has happened, I just need to - we need to do a thing.’

Heart in her throat, Rose sank back onto the armchair, surrounded by a sea of papers - scribbles, diagrams, hefty volumes, reports, and yet even seeking a solution for Scorpius was less terrifying than Selena Rourke tripping over her words. ‘I could do tea.’

‘Weasley, shut up.’ Selena’s face creased, and she wrung her hands together. ‘Sorry. I’m sorry. I need you to listen, okay? Not blab, not yammer about your theories or your anxieties or fuss about trying to fix things before you’ve even heard -’

‘In my defence,’ said Rose, trying to keep her voice slow and measured, ‘you’re babbling right now.’

Selena scowled. ‘Shut up,’ she said again, much less anxiously. Then she drew a deep breath and apprehension returned. ‘Okay. Okay. It’s okay. We can do this.’

‘Do what -’

‘Shut up.’ Selena twisted her fingers together more. ‘So. There’s a thing you and I don’t talk about. Deliberately. It’s been good, it’s been this little unspoken agreement - we both try to pretend it’s not a thing between us and I appreciate that. I appreciate a good ignoring of the elephant in the room. It’s been healthy. But it’s got to stop.’

Rose stared. ‘I have literally no idea what you’re talking about.’

‘Yes, you do! You do, you’re not stupid, and we have talked about it before. A long time ago. In Monte Carlo.’

Her brow furrowed. Then realisation struck. ‘Oh, you mean in Monaco-’

‘That’s what I said.’

‘Technically, Monte Carlo is a part of Monaco; if you mean when we had coffee in that little café, that was on the Rock of Monaco -’

‘I’m going out with Matt!’ Selena said like a woman so desperate to stop this nit-picking that the confession was welcome.

Rose froze. Then rewound her brain over not just the last five minutes, but the last two and a half years, through everything she’d seen, everything she’d said and not said, every space between every line. She wasn’t sure if it was the old, familiar emotional numbness which meant she couldn’t summon one iota of surprise. ‘Oh.’

Selena cringed. This was obviously not how she’d wanted this to go. ‘Yeah. “Oh”. It’s - it’s complicated - I mean, it’s not, by Venice we had a talk and we basically said without saying that we wanted to. We just both needed a little bit more time - me with Methuselah and him with you, I mean - but then Scorpius died and…’

‘Is that why you two fell out?’ Rose got to her feet, gut twisting in a way she couldn’t yet identify. ‘Did you row, or…’

‘We didn’t fight. Just he was so keen to support you, and I was afraid he would…’ Selena stared at the floor. ‘Drop me for you. So I stayed away. So he couldn’t drop me.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘You weren’t exactly someone’s shoulder to cry on, Rose! And he was your shoulder to cry on! I didn’t want to risk rocking the boat, for you, for me, for any of us.’ Selena wrinkled her nose. ‘Okay, not so much for him. For him I just stayed away. And so he swept around you, and…’

‘And so we hooked up,’ Rose concluded, toneless. ‘I’m… Selena, I’m so sorry…’

Selena stared. ‘You’re sorry?’

‘I… Matt and I were a messed up choice from beginning to end! We were doomed from the start, we should never have got together. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have interfered!’ Rose grimaced. ‘I’m not accusing you for not telling me, I’m just - it’s bad enough I’ve screwed Matt around like that. I never knew I was screwing you around with it, too!’

‘I just came here,’ said Selena, sounding like she was a few steps behind, ‘to admit I’ve hooked up with the boyfriend you broke up with less than two weeks ago, and you’re apologising to me.’

Rose dropped her hands. ‘I’ve been a wreck for years. I never wanted to hurt anyone else with my hurt, though. Are you two… I mean, are you…’

Selena watched her dubiously. ‘I’m not sure I want to let you finish that sentence, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions, either.’

Rose gestured helplessly. ‘Are you happy? Okay? Are things… okay?’

‘It’s early,’ said Selena awkwardly. ‘This only happened the other night. But after so long I’m kind of refusing for this to be an awkward fumbling thing, so I’m trying to do it properly, so I’m telling you before anything gets any further.’

‘You want my blessing?’

‘No, I’m… going to do it anyway.’ Selena winced. ‘I just thought I’d tell you. I owe you that much.’

Rose stepped over and reached for Selena’s arms. ‘You owe me nothing. You’ve been a rock for me these last two years, and that I played even a small part in messing with your happiness is horrifying. I never really thought about you two, you’re right, but of course there was - of course there was something. Even if I ignored it, I knew it. I just want you to be happy.’

‘Well.’ Selena shifted her weight. ‘I’d like that for you, too, you know.’

Rose gave a lopsided smile. ‘Is it your turn to be all awkward about affection?’

‘I thought you were going to yell at me!’ burst Selena indignantly. ‘It’s been less than a fortnight!’

‘I know. But if he thinks he’s ready, then that’s all the more evidence our relationship ran its course, if it even had a course, months ago. I adore Matt, but I’ve mistreated him terribly…’

‘In your defence, he did let it happen all too easily.’

‘Maybe. But I’m still going to claim the lion’s share of responsibility.’ Rose squeezed her arms. ‘The least I can do is be happy for you. Both of you.’

Selena let out a deep breath, tension flowing with it. ‘Thanks,’ she said at last. ‘Because I didn’t want to hurt you more right now.’ She looked over the papers strewn about the living room, and winced. ‘Do you really think you can save him?’

The twist in Rose’s gut had started to unfurl, but the return to the topic of Scorpius brought with it a new twist. This wasn’t a twist of pure dread, because it had that flutter of hope winding in and out, the mixture of conviction and apprehension that had become her new rocket fuel of life. She looked at the research. ‘I think I have a chance.’

Selena nodded. ‘I’m here for you in all this, you know? I know you’re flitting off with him chasing all sorts of things, but… if you need me…’

‘Of course.’ Rose gave a small smile. ‘And if you need to talk about… you and Matt, about anything, I’m - I’m here. And I really am happy for you.’

Finally, Selena returned the smile, and it was a small flutter of pleased anticipation that Rose hadn’t seen since they’d sat in the staff room at Hogwarts, drinking Butterbeer and giggling over a stolen kiss with Methuselah Jones. ‘Thanks. It’s kind of scary, I mean… it’s been so long coming, and he’s insufferable sometimes but you know how he can be really sweet if he puts his mind to it…’

It was hard to not sound wistful when she answered, ‘I know. And he really went out of his mind when you were captured, I mean…’ Rose sighed. ‘I don’t think you’ve got reason to doubt him.’

‘We’re going to take it slowly. It seems safest. I know you two have hardly broken each others’ hearts, but it was only a few weeks ago, so there’s no harm in being careful, but…’

‘No point in holding off out of obligation. I understand. I’m glad.’

Selena looked at the papers again, and bit her lip. ‘How’re you? And Scorpius?’

‘I don’t know. It’s the most bizarre thing where we’re not acting like our feelings just went away these past two years. But even without him thinking he’s got limited time, we’ve still both changed, and we’re still figuring it out, and…’

‘And that’s complicated, and I bet he’s pushing you away.’ Selena rolled her eyes. ‘Not that I don’t understand, but, men.’

Rose grimaced. ‘He did explain that a bit more. He doesn’t want to make it harder for himself if he has to - if there’s no other choice -’

She hadn’t realised what was bubbling up inside her until she was talking around the issue which hummed through her heart with every beat, whispering, You can’t save him. But Selena had seen it, because she immediately threw her arms around her for a close, comforting embrace.

‘You are the most stubborn person I know,’ Selena whispered. ‘And one of the most brilliant. I believe in you.’

Strength faded, the first wavering since she’d pulled herself from the shockwave of Scorpius’ news and buoyed herself up with determination. But if there was anyone she could waver in front of, it was Selena - Selena, who wasn’t counting on her like Scorpius; Selena, who didn’t need supporting like Albus, and so she slumped into the embrace, shoulders hunching.

‘I can’t lose him again,’ she whispered, voice hoarse. ‘I won’t, it can’t happen, I refuse…’

And yet she knew, with every heartbeat, with every word, that stubbornness, determination, and brilliance might all of them count for nothing in the end.

* *


‘Scorpius.’

‘Matt.’

The two men exchanged stiff nods across the interview room, and Rose wondered if she could fuse with the table, because if this was awkward then it was going to get worse. ‘I think,’ she said very fast, ‘we should be sure what we’re asking before we go in.’

Matt watched her for a moment, then he pulled up a chair and put his folder on the table. ‘I need to consult with him. It’s impossible for him to have summoned the Chalice from the Otherworld without knowing more of its nature. And that’s what I’m going to need if I can unweave the magics which made it.’ He spoke in a low, clipped voice, because they all knew ‘unweave the magics’ meant ‘kill Scorpius’.

Scorpius, for his part, shrugged. ‘I’m just here because I know him.’ He was leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest. ‘Let’s get this over with.’

Rose sighed and nodded to the Enforcer at the door, who left. Nothing filled the silence until he returned with the shackled shape of Prometheus Thane.

Weeks of imprisonment had barely affected him. He still walked like a lord, tall and proud and bright-eyed, and he still gave a knife edge’s smile when he sat. ‘Scorpius!’

‘We’re not friends,’ Scorpius said.

‘I don’t have friends.’ Thane extended his hands so he could be shackled to the table by the Enforcer, who then ducked for the door to leave the four of them in the cold meeting room. ‘So you’re one of the closest things I have.’

Rose drew a slow breath. ‘We have questions for you, Thane.’

‘I’ve written down everything I know about the Chalice, about the Stygian Plagues, about the Council of Thorns,’ he said amiably. ‘There’s very little more I can say.’ Thane looked at Scorpius. ‘How are you? It seems like you’re pretending you’ve had nothing to do with me.’

Scorpius’ lip curled. ‘Our alliance was one of convenience, Thane.’

Thane blinked. ‘Not that long ago, you called me Prometheus.’

‘Not that long ago I was on a suicide mission. Holding grudges didn’t seem a sensible thing to do then.’

‘And you’re suddenly off the suicide mission? Just because you’ve been pardoned - or, rather, because they’re not looking too deeply into all the things we did together? Just because you’re back in the world? Did that change anything? Did that change a single reason you stuck by me?’

‘I don’t have to stick by you,’ Scorpius snapped. ‘I have a mission, I have a way to be useful and to fight the Council, and I can do this without hurting the people I care about.’

‘Is that what you’re doing?’ Thane raised his eyebrows.

Rose planted her hands on the table. ‘That’s enough. You two aren’t here to argue.’

‘No, I hadn’t expected arguments, either,’ said Thane, and looked at her. ‘But are you interrupting me because you have better things to do, or do you know it might turn unpleasant if this carries on?’

Looking into Thane’s cold blue eyes was like plunging into ice. She’d only done it once before, squaring off against him in the streets of Monte Carlo, fleeing from a casino and needing to roll a hard six to get out alive. That she’d won that round did not fill her with as much confidence as she’d have liked. ‘I’m here to ask about the Chalice. Not Scorpius.’

‘And Mister Doyle here is, what, your note-taker?’ Thane tilted his head. ‘Awfully reduced from your former glory, aren’t you?’

Rose saw Thane’s gaze linger meaningfully on Matt’s metal prosthetic, saw a muscle in the corner of Matt’s jaw twitch. But he just shuffled a page over. ‘If we unweave the magics which constructed the Chalice,’ said Matt, ‘we’re theorising that would be a means of destroying it. Because you can’t simply destroy something this ancient or powerful.’

Thane clicked his fingers. ‘A fine theory, one I endorse. The Chalice can be removed from this world, as we’ve seen. I did consider tossing it through another Veil, but that strikes me as impermanent and it can’t do the world good to make something keep jumping back and forth between realms.’ He lifted his gaze to give Scorpius a pointed look.

Scorpius rolled his eyes. ‘They know, Prometheus.’

‘Really? You opted for the truth? How very novel of you.’

‘Tossing it through a Veil would not stop it bridging the worlds, which is the problem. To unravel the Chalice,’ said Matt more firmly, ‘we would need to know more of its origins, how it was made. If we can find something detailing even some of the construction magics -’

‘Yes, yes. The building blocks. Undo what has been done. You could also maybe keep an eye out for some sort of magical super-weapon, but I’m not sure even a golem-dragon could destroy the Chalice.’

Rose raised an eyebrow. ‘Did you have any in mind?’

‘None which couldn’t be found in a children’s book of myths, and whose existence had about as much credibility.’ Thane leaned back in his chair. ‘Let me get this straight; he told you his fate was bound to the Chalice, and you’re still seeking its destruction?’

Rose glared. ‘You did.’

‘He and I have a very different relationship, I assure you.’

She didn’t dare look at Scorpius. ‘You have to have some concept of the origin magics of the Chalice.’

‘I have theories,’ said Thane. ‘As do you. Old Celtic magics.’

‘I’m rejecting the belief that this was made in the time of Merlin,’ said Matt bluntly. ‘It can’t be newer than the 5th Century.’

‘I agree,’ Thane said. ‘But there’s nothing to say Merlin didn’t get his hands on it and claimed credit. It’s what all the great wizards do. So you want those Dark Ages records.’

Pre-Age of Camelot?’ Matt made a face. ‘I suppose if Emrys found the Chalice in Dyfed, then perhaps it originated there.’

‘It’s where I would look. I couldn’t move freely in the British Isles these past two years. I had to follow the trail of necromantic magics and the Otherworld.’

‘The Otherworld. Of course, we’re going to want magics intertwined with the worship of Annwn…’

Thane nodded. ‘That’s what I’d do. For whom else would a bridge between the realms be made? Find that, you find the origin of the Chalice, you destroy the Chalice, and you kill him.’ He gestured at Scorpius, who kept staring, gaze impassive. ‘I hadn’t realised the whole world had gone so cold-blooded.’

‘I don’t intend for that to happen,’ said Rose, forcing her voice to be level. ‘Knowing the origins of the Chalice simply means we know more. But did you even look for a different way? Or did you just tell him this was the only way, because that way Scorpius danced to your tune?’

She didn’t look away from Thane, but she did hear Scorpius shift his weight. There was a tense pause before Thane answered, his smile not reaching his eyes. ‘It’s what I believe will happen. The science backs me up.’

‘Yes, I understand that,’ said Rose flatly. ‘I understand that his soul is tethered to the Chalice -’

‘No,’ snapped Thane. ‘He fell through the Veil; he is dead. The sooner you accept that, the simpler this will become.’

‘I am not accepting this without trying -’

‘This isn’t about the Chalice sending him to the Otherworld if you interfere with it; this is about how his soul belongs in the Otherworld, and how the Chalice is the only thing keeping him here. If the Chalice is gone, the rules of the world reassert themselves. He is dead.’

Rose still didn’t dare look at Scorpius, or even Matt, her lips thinned. ‘You made a living out of ignoring rules like that.’

Thane leaned forwards. ‘So long as the Chalice is capable of anchoring him in this world,’ he said coldly, ‘it is powering Lethe.’

And now she gave a slow smile. ‘So what you’re saying is that I need a new anchor.’

Thane paused, and she felt a surge run through her at the idea he clearly hadn’t had. He rolled a shoulder. ‘If you can find anything which shares its properties, its power. Bursting with the same life essence the Chalice exudes, and yet interacting enough with the soul, something so intrinsic to death, to be able to make a tether to him. I have studied the ways of the world and these magics, Miss Weasley. Many magics are of life. Many magics are of death. The Chalice is the only thing - the only thing - which is of both.’ Thane looked up at Scorpius, and when he pressed on, he sounded almost apologetic. ‘And so your fates are entwined, and so you are a dead man walking, Scorpius.’

Scorpius had gone very still, voice grating when he answered. ‘You would say that, wouldn’t you. It makes it easier for me to be controlled -’

‘What possible good could controlling you do me now?’ Thane pointed out. ‘I’m not even due to stay in this country; Chairman Rourke has had her way and I’m shipped to Niemandhorn by the end of the week. You are too far away for me to care to control you.’

Scorpius’ nostrils flared. ‘Then why do you care?’

‘Because I think you’re deluding yourself, Scorpius.’ Thane’s voice dropped. ‘I think you were dragged back into the world against all nature, and now you’re pretending you can live here. Pretending you haven’t gone too far, that you and I didn’t dance too long in the darkness to be damned by it.’

Scorpius shot across the distance, hands thudding on the desk. ‘I am not your weapon any more!’

‘I never said you were,’ said Prometheus Thane, mild-mannered as ever. ‘Of course I had something to gain by your presence, of course you were a useful means of keeping those of the Council loyal to your father off my back. But I could have kept you trussed up, a hostage. I sent you on solo missions, I trusted you to have my back, I had you join me in this war. You think I do that lightly?’

‘Then why?’

‘Why what?’

‘Why me? I don’t mean Project Osiris, I mean why me, forever? Did our paths just cross so often you took a fancy to me -’

‘Partially.’ Thane tilted his head this way and that, before he met Scorpius’ gaze. ‘But since you’ve known who I am, you’ve seen yourself in me, haven’t you, Scorpius?’

‘I’ve seen my darkness in you. Nothing more.’

‘You say that like your darkness isn’t as much a part of you as anything else.’ Thane watched him, then sighed. ‘And since I’ve known you, I’ve seen my light in you.’

Rose sat very still, not sure how to deflect this, still too unsure of Scorpius’ moods to want to risk making a misstep. She glanced at Matt, who didn’t even look up, his quill scribbling notes in the folder by itself.

Scorpius drew a slow, raking breath. ‘So you had to corrupt me?’

‘That wasn’t my intention. The world’s seemed to have better ideas. I just wanted to give you a chance.’

‘A chance at what?’

Thane shrugged. ‘Survival, sometimes. It’s why I never killed you when I had the opportunity. For a while, Scorpius, a tiny part of me - a very old, unprofessional, innocent part of me - rather wanted you to win. Not enough to give up, of course. But enough that, if I was going to be confronted, challenged, it would be by another facet of me. Because then, if you beat me? At least you understood me.’

‘Understood you.’ That was Rose, trying to claw back some sense of control over the conversation. ‘I think I understand that you’ve told us as much as you can, which is precious little we didn’t know or couldn’t figure out, and now you’re back to your old tricks of trying to bluff with no cards.’

Thane looked back at her, expression bland. ‘You can’t cheat death, Miss Weasley. There’s always a price.’

‘You make it sound,’ she said, ‘like I’m not prepared to pay whatever it takes.’ He opened his mouth to retort, but she stood and went to the door, knocking on it to summon the Enforcer back. ‘I think we’re done here.’

Matt closed his folder and tucked away his enchanted quill. ‘I have everything I’d want.’

Scorpius just grunted, but by then the Enforcer was unshackling Thane from the table, hefting him to his feet.

‘A pleasure, as always,’ drawled Thane. ‘I look forward to when we meet again.’

‘I’d only be satisfied,’ said Rose, ‘if that comes never.’

Then Thane was dragged out, and Matt let his chair scrape back noisily as he stood, cleared his throat as he rummaged around with the reports. He only spoke once they were sure Thane and the Enforcer were long gone. ‘I have avenues of research. History of Dyfed was always going to be a start.’

Scorpius was watching the door, a muscle in the corner of his jaw twitching. ‘You do what you have to do, Matt. Whatever it takes to end Lethe.’

‘Yeah.’ He coughed again. ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do with this Ultima Thule thing…’ But his voice trailed off to a mumble, and he left without another word, slinking into the corridors of the DMLE.

Scorpius tossed his hands in the air. ‘This was a waste of time,’ he snapped.

She picked up her notes. ‘It was not.’

‘No, I suppose not. Matt’s found plenty more to get me fucking killed.’

By the time she’d gathered her papers and turned around, he was disappearing out the door. ‘Scorpius!’ He didn’t stop, so she had to hurry after him, surging into the corridors of the DMLE. ‘I learnt things, Scorpius! An anchor? That’s a direction!’

‘Sure!’ He was heading for the Apparition chambers, ignoring the looks of any staff they passed. ‘All you have to do is find something just like this ancient and unique artifact!’

‘It’s more than we knew! Give me more than five minutes and maybe I can -’

‘Can what? Break the laws of reality?’

‘You being here breaks the laws of reality!’ Rose snapped, by now having to break into a trot to keep up. ‘You dying broke the laws of reality; reality isn’t meant to have huge holes to the Otherworld in it in the first place!’

They were really getting stared at now, but she didn’t care. He burst into the Apparition Chamber, but it was to the Floo access that he headed. ‘You need to stop, Rose,’ said Scorpius, and reached for the powder on the mantelpiece. ‘I’ll sort out this Cassian thing myself.’

And he disappeared with a puff of green flames before she could answer. The DMLE staffers operating the room just stared; that they were here meant they had permission, but this was not where the biggest rows of the department tended to happen.

Rose ignored them, snatching up Floo powder. ‘I know where you live, you arse,’ she hissed at thin air, and hopped into the fireplace after him.

Scorpius was only halfway across his suite by the time she staggered out of the hissing green flames. He stopped and rounded on her, no less irate. ‘I was going to shut that off.’

‘You were too slow. We’re going to talk about this.’

‘Talk?’ He stalked back over, taller and angrier than she remembered him ever being. ‘You act like if we talk about this, if we hope about this, it’ll get better. It’s not going to get better.’

‘So that’s it? You’re accepting you’re dead already?’

‘I am dead already!’ Scorpius bellowed, hands thrown in the air. ‘I died! In Syria! Two years ago! I died and all this is, is a cheat, a trick; Thane was right -’

‘I cannot believe you’re listening to Prometheus Thane -’

‘This isn’t about that, but yes! I am! Because he is the only one who recognises the truth of this, a truth you are desperately trying to ignore.’ He took a step forward, looming over her. ‘Even if you could find a way other than destroying the Chalice, the guy you loved is gone.’

Her mouth went dry. ‘Only if you let -’

‘You saw Holga. You know what happened to him.’ Scorpius’ voice dropped, lower and more dangerous. ‘Fifteen people dead, Rose, by my hand. Three, including Holga, killed in cold blood.’

She met his gaze, jaw tight. ‘I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to convince me you’re too monstrous to be worth saving. You’re trying to convince me the Scorpius Malfoy I knew is already gone, so why try to save you? As if it’s that simple.’

‘It is that simple.’

‘Really.’ Rose stuck her hands on her hips. ‘If the roles were reversed, would you give up on me?’

That stopped him short, and his shoulders slumped. Silence fell for long moments, and when he spoke again his voice grated. ‘No,’ Scorpius admitted. ‘Never.’

‘I understand,’ she said quietly, ‘that you don’t want to make this harder. I’m not sure it’s possible, but I respect your choice. But you need to respect that I would rather die than fail.’ She drew a slow breath. ‘Will you let me run some tests? There’s only so much I can do by theory and reading.’

‘Sure,’ he said after a heartbeat, but though his anger was dissipating, his gaze on her was firm. ‘You do, though, need to accept that Thane was right about one thing, Rose. I am dead. The cheat is me being alive.’

Her lips curled, though she could find no humour or warmth to go with the smile. ‘Then it’s just as well,’ she said quietly, ‘that you taught me to care less about the rules.’

* *


Albus kept his hands clasped behind his back as he stepped into Eva’s safehouse, and stayed near the door. ‘You asked to see me?’

She wasn’t quite looking him in the eye, but she did beckon him to the uncomfortable sofa and the coffee table covered with new papers. ‘I have a lead,’ she said, toneless.

It was a different sort of toneless, he thought. Guarded, not empty. But he didn’t want to read into it, so he walked over with a brisk, officious gait and sat down, straight-backed. ‘Candlestone?’

‘Was bribed,’ said Eva. ‘By Malfoy. He had no concept this was a bribe on behalf of the Council of Thorns, but he knows or suspects people above him in the Minister’s office are on the take. I didn’t press that matter. It was hard enough to get him to talk about this, and I had to assure him I only cared about Malfoy.’

‘Do we tell the DMLE?’

‘Maybe. But he’s a small player. They might well go to ground the moment he’s picked up. You can do what you like with the information.’

That disconnect was not forced. She had truly detached from the matters of British law enforcement. He cleared his throat. ‘What did you find?’

‘Financial details from an account Candlestone did find by going through the various false identities and financial records. An old business account of Draco Malfoy’s - twenty years old - from one of his ancient startups which was presumed to have been folded into later corporate ventures. It operates out of Egypt’s Gringotts, so it’s quite discreet.’ Eva pushed over parchment without looking at him. ‘It looks like he’s used it for slush funds for a while. It’s been accessed since his disappearance several times, and while it’s been drawn on so many times from so many different places it’s impossible to tell which is a legitimate withdrawal, there is one name which pops up several times. Gregory Goyle.’

Albus frowned. ‘Who is…?’

‘An old business associate of his. From those early days. I also pulled a background check; they were at school together.’ Eva tugged out a new folder. ‘But he’s had significant payments from Draco Malfoy, and these have only started since his disappearance. And Goyle’s location is pretty interesting.’

‘Greece?’

‘Close - contextually. South Africa. Also known as the latest magical hot-spot of Council aggression and Lethe attacks. If Goyle isn’t sheltering Malfoy directly, then I bet he’ll have a clue where to start.’

Albus stared at the papers. ‘So all we have to do is cross the world to a country which could face a full-on Inferius attack at any moment.’

‘This,’ said Eva, ‘is why you brought me on board.’

One of the reasons. He lifted his gaze to hers, and while that accusation and bitterness was still faded, he wasn’t sure what was left in its wake. ‘If I sort us a Portkey to Cape Town, then,’ said Albus slowly, ‘you’re still with me?’

‘You make it sound,’ said Eva Saida, ‘as if I have a choice but to follow you.’



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