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Chapter 55 : Who Makes Us Free
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Scorpius had been interrogated by Auror Santiago before, but that was in a different life when he’d been a hero. Then, he’d been freed when Hermione Granger appeared and proved his identity and the Portuguese government had not, in fact, condemned them all for unleashing a golem-dragon on the town of Tomar. Now he sat in a cramped, pale room, with one high window beyond which he could hear Muggle traffic and babbling voices. After several Portkey trips and stints in cells, he had no idea where in the world he was any more. It wasn’t the Portuguese Department of Law Enforcement, and Santiago had on occasion been joined by other officials with different names and different accents. None of them were friendly faces.
‘Victor Holga.’ Santiago slapped a glossy picture onto the table between them, and the gurning image of a dead man wasn’t much friendlier than the glaring Auror. ‘You murdered him in his office in Copenhagen.’
‘After interrogating him.’ Scorpius drew a slow breath. ‘Torturing him. Yes.’ Because he was with the Council, because he was going to get a lot of people killed. He bit his tongue. This wasn’t his first round with Santiago. Santiago only wanted the exact question answered, the exact fact confirmed or denied.
‘You admitted to this in our first session. I’ve since gone back through the account of your time with Prometheus Thane you gave to the British Department of Magical Law Enforcement. You mentioned the assassination of Krauser, the attempted murder of Raskoph, the destruction of Horn’s equipment lab on the Ivory Coast -’
‘I didn’t assassinate Krauser; Thane killed Krauser. I was there, though, and I handled his security detail. Like you said, we’ve covered this.’ The first session had been a week ago. Santiago had gone everything with a fine tooth-comb, but Scorpius wasn’t sure what he was driving at, if this would end in a condemnation of him, or a condemnation of Lillian Rourke. Or both.
‘You did. But you didn’t mention Holga to the British.’
‘You understand that you were shown lenience because they believed your actions had solely been against enemies of the IMC?’
‘As it turns out, either everyone was an enemy of the IMC, or nobody was an enemy of the IMC. It’s kind of hard to tell now.’ Scorpius flinched at the cold look in the Auror’s eye. Santiago was a big man, craggy-featured and humourless in the pursuit of his work. Scorpius hoped Harry had kept control of the situation, but he’d not seen him since the reinforcements had arrived at Niemandhorn Castle and Harry had arrested more or less everyone on principle. Harry would, he trusted, make sure the investigators into this mess were honest, reliable, uncorrupt.
Was anyone honest after a conspiracy at the heart of the IMC itself?
‘I did get the idea the DMLE was nice to me because they thought I’d only hurt bad guys, yes,’ Scorpius amended, slumping in the hard-backed chair. ‘They didn’t seem to know about Holga. I didn’t volunteer it. You can understand why. But you also know that after his death the IMC confirmed he was an agent of the Council?’
‘We’ve reopened the Holga case.’ Santiago’s brow furrowed. ‘Victor Holga was a powerful member of the IMC and did not agree with Lillian Rourke on every matter. If Ms Rourke manipulated the Council of Thorns’ actions as a bid for power, we have to consider the possibility that Victor Holga was wiped out by agents acting on her behalf as a political gambit. That his associations with the Council were fabricated.’
Scorpius’ gut lurched. ‘I didn’t think - no, wait, Holga admitted to me -’
‘I’ve seen the state Victor Holga was left in. You must be aware that, under torture, a great many deeds will be confessed to.’
No. No. He was guilty. He wasn’t a rival to Lillian Rourke she had me snuff out. He clutched the table, rattling the manacles. ‘I will tell you,’ he blurted, ‘I will tell you everything Holga told me, everything he admitted to, and if that lines up with what your investigations found after he died - that means it was real, right? If he was just making up stories to make me stop, why would those stories line up with what your investigations found -’
‘Because you told Prometheus Thane what Holga told you, and so evidence could be planted to make the stories line up.’
His throat was tight, clogging up the bubbling underneath, deep inside. ‘Then - then you’re still considering Lillian Rourke’s guilt, she hasn’t got off -’
‘Ms Rourke remains in our custody and the Office continues its investigations,’ said Santiago in the same flat, cold voice he always used.
A grimace. ‘The IMC has been disbanded. There is a tentative accord of global law enforcement and judicial bodies to conduct an inquest into the charges lain at Ms Rourke’s feet and all their implications. The bureaucrats haven’t named it yet. We’ll see how long it lasts.’
‘I swear -’ Scorpius had to swallow a lump in his throat before he could speak on, still clutching the edge of the cold, metal table between them. ‘I swear I thought Holga was crooked, I swear he told me he was crooked, that he was going to sell out those relief workers in the Azores. And there was a Council attack there, but the IMC was ready for it because we leaked the knowledge -’
Santiago held up a hand. ‘I believe you, Mister Malfoy. But now you understand why I’ve gone through everything with you. Every detail, every story, over and over. Nothing can be taken for granted in light of this conspiracy. Everything we knew must be questioned again.’
Scorpius heard the inference in Santiago’s words and stared at the table. He believes I believe it. It doesn’t mean I’m right. It doesn’t mean Holga was a bad guy.
‘It’s unfortunate,’ Santiago continued, ‘that the individuals the Hogwarts Five have accused of being Ms Rourke’s co-conspirators are almost all dead.’
Nat Lockett’s body had been retrieved by Scorpius before reinforcements arrived at Niemandhorn. She’d been tiny in his arms as he’d brought her out of the dark dungeons and into the bright sunlight of the meeting chamber, to be laid to rest with the other casualties. To be, until the stories started, an innocent victim instead of a collaborator with evil.
Albus had found Prometheus Thane’s corpse, broken on the mountainside, frozen in blood and frost and wind. Nobody, not in the mountains or at Niemandhorn, had found any trace of Eva Saida.
But Scorpius hadn’t seen Albus since that day, or Rose, or Selena or anyone else. Just his guards escorting him from holding cell to holding cell until he was here, in the cold bright light above Santiago’s dark, piercing eyes.
‘Almost all,’ continued Santiago, and he put the picture of Holga back into his manila folder. ‘It’s your lucky day, Mister Malfoy. You have a visitor.’
Rose. But that made no sense, not if Santiago was talking about co-conspirators, and Scorpius squinted. ‘A visitor?’
‘He surrendered himself to the Office yesterday. He had only one request, and with his cooperation thus far, we’re inclined to let him see you.’ Santiago stood, and gestured to the door.
Scorpius stared as two burly wizards escorted his father in. ‘You surrendered?’
‘Your father has given us a full account of all of his dealings with Lillian Rourke. Including copies of business transactions, names of further involved individuals. It’s helping the Office tremendously.’ Santiago looked between them. ‘There’s more. But I’ll let you talk first. And give you the news after.’ The three law enforcers exited, leaving Scorpius shackled to a table and staring at Draco Malfoy.
Nothing was said until Scorpius managed, the words feeling too big for his mouth, to repeat, ‘You surrendered.’
‘I did.’ While Scorpius, after all this time of incarceration, wore a scruffy jumpsuit, Draco was still in his fine robes. A little rumpling had not ruined his poise, and it was with meticulous care that he pulled up the chair. ‘I had hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. I had hoped you wouldn’t try to bring down Lillian Rourke. You’ve cast the world into chaos.’
Scorpius shrugged, a move which rattled the manacles. ‘Damned if I know. I’ve been here a week and Santiago’s told me bugger all. I don’t even know where here is, they dragged me through Portkey after Portkey without saying.’
Draco’s lips thinned, and he looked up to the high window. ‘We’re in New York. The Americans pushed the Council out early in the war and have had the infrastructure to resist the worst of the IMC’s corruption, or so we think. They’re the closest to neutral arbiters in all of this.’
‘Harry’s not in the driving seat?’
‘Potter has his hands full with Britain. As does Granger; she’s acting Minister, to absolutely nobody’s surprise.’
Scorpius planted his hands on the table and leaned forwards. ‘And Rose? Albus? The others -’
‘I don’t know.’ Draco’s jaw tightened. ‘I’ve heard the global news. Not the particulars. And the global news - the globe - is going to be caught up in the question of Lillian Rourke for a very, very long time. Nobody knows what to believe, who to believe.’
‘Until you emerged.’
‘I know enough to condemn a lot of people. Including myself.’
Scorpius drew a deep breath. ‘Why? You could have stayed hidden. The world’s a big place and you’re not the biggest fish it has to fry.’
‘I could.’ Draco met his son’s gaze. ‘But then we would never speak again, would we.’
‘We’ve not had a good conversation in a while, even by my perception of time.’
‘And I want to change that. I know that can’t happen if I stay on the run. Aside from the impracticalities, you’d never begin to forgive me if I hid from what I’ve done.’ Draco’s brow knotted. ‘Even if I did so much of it for you.’
Scorpius flinched. ‘Don’t say that. I’ve not asked people to do these things, all the things they’ve done for me. I didn’t want it.’
‘I didn’t have a choice, Scorpius; if I didn’t help Lillian distribute Lethe, help prop her up with finances and connections and keep the Council spinning while she turned it into the monster she could pit herself against, she’d have killed you.’
‘What about before then?’ he spat. ‘That’s how they kept you. How’d they get you, Dad?’
Draco hesitated. ‘It began as a little thing. Just a little thing. And then got bigger, but even then, I started it for the family -’
‘No.’ Scorpius tried stabbing a finger at him, but the manacles jerked his hand halfway, and all he did was rattle indignantly. ‘No, our family needed you to be a father, a husband. To care. To support. You’re talking about your father, your grandfather; you’re talking about dead men you shouldn’t have tried impressing even if they weren’t corpses. You didn’t learn from the Voldemort Wars, did you, Dad? Not really. You saw the Malfoy name ruined by it, and you thought that was what needed fixing. And all you did was make the exact same mistakes.’
His anger echoed off the confined interrogation room, bouncing off walls of depressing beige and drowning out the warbling of New York beyond the high window. With every syllable they seemed to strike Draco like knives, and by the time silence reigned again, his father sat slumped in his chair, all dignity faded, reduced and defeated.
‘My father,’ he said at length, bowing his head, ‘surrendered after the war and told the Ministry everything he knew, everything he’d done. He begged forgiveness for the lives he’d taken, the lives he’d ruined. It did him little good, as he died before his reduced sentence was over. And I knew him well. His remorse wasn’t real. Or, it was… detached. He’d killed Muggle-borns and Muggles and sympathisers over two wars. He wasn’t sorry he’d done it. He was sorry he’d been on the wrong side. But he still surrendered and he still confessed, because he thought that would give the family - give my mother and I - a chance.
‘I resented him and admired him for that. Resented him for his choices, for his deeds. Resented him for losing.’ Draco’s frown deepened. ‘I admired him for, at least, taking on the burden to save us. And for years I’ve told myself I’m better than him. Even with all I’ve done, all the help I gave the Council, I told myself I was better than my father. Because at the least I am not a murderer.’
I am, thought Scorpius, and his throat tightened again.
‘But my father surrendered himself for his family.’ Draco opened his hands. ‘And how can I be better than him, if I’m not even as good as him? And how can I be better than him, if I don’t offer actual remorse? I can’t just be sorry I lost. I have to be sorry I did it.’
Scorpius had to swallow hard before he could talk again. ‘I left home before I knew you worked for the Council.’
‘We had difficult times -’
‘Don’t.’ His breath tore up his insides. ‘You still made living with you hell. I couldn’t wait to get out. I still resented every holiday break from Hogwarts. You didn’t need to sell out to a bloody worldwide conspiracy of evil to be a bastard, Dad. And maybe I can’t judge you for the bad decisions you made with the Council, but I sure as hell can judge you for the bad decisions you made at home.’
Draco stared at him for a moment, then slumped again in his chair. ‘I know. Perhaps I inherited more of my father than I knew. Perhaps I was never better than him, after all - I don’t know. I accept it doesn’t matter.’ His gaze fixed on the table. ‘But I know I can never make amends for that by running, either.’
‘I’m not -’
‘I’m not asking for your forgiveness here and now, Scorpius.’ His eyes snapped up, steely grey. Scorpius knew the hint of blue in his own gaze came from his mother, one of the many softenings she’d given him. ‘I know it’s not that simple. I’ve turned myself in for several reasons, and some of them are about my father, and many of them are about me, and about Astoria, but two of them are about you. I’m asking for a chance. And I can’t have that if I’m on the run. I don’t need an answer. I just want a chance. We have time.’
Scorpius bit the inside of his mouth, unable to meet his father’s gaze any longer. ‘Probably a lot of time, if they’re going to lock us both up and throw away the key.’
‘That’s the second reason I’m here for you.’ Draco gestured to the door. ‘I didn’t cooperate on condition of them letting me see you. I cooperated on condition of leniency. For you.’
Scorpius tried to shoot to his feet, but the manacles stopped him with another furious rattle. ‘You can’t -’
‘I can, and I have. Let me do this much. Let me fail at the little things that matter, let me fail at being a good father or even a good man, Scorpius. But let me have this one, grand gesture.’
The door swung open, and Santiago came in with a ring of jangling. ‘It’s your lucky day, Mister Malfoy. Junior.’
Scorpius tried to reel back. ‘You can’t do this -’
He was trying to escape the manacles and yet cling to them, and so of course could do nothing as Santiago released him. ‘I’ll escort you out of here, return your personal effects, and then you’re free to go. You’ve got someone waiting for you in the lobby.’
‘I don’t -’ Scorpius flapped as Santiago hauled him to his feet, aghast gaze landing on his father. ‘Draco, this isn’t how it works -’
‘It is today,’ said Draco Malfoy, cool and collected, as if being left in a cramped interrogation room was a masterpiece of manoeuvring. ‘And, a chance, Scorpius. That’s all I ask for.’
Then Santiago frog-marched Scorpius from the room. After the long week in cells and shackled to tables, he was weak enough to be putty in the big man’s hands, to be shoved down a long corridor with ease.
‘I thought you’d be happy, Mister Malfoy,’ said Santiago. ‘You’re a free man, and with your father’s help, the Office really can bring down the Rourke Conspiracy. It’ll be a long road, but the world has half a chance of peace. And he gets whatever he deserves, which by all accounts I figured would be icing on the cake.’
Scorpius stopped fighting, because now they were going down a long stairwell and his survival instincts had kicked in over desperation. He looked up at the big man. ‘If my father came in yesterday, and you knew you were letting me go,’ he said, voice croaking, ‘what the hell was that charade about Holga?’
‘Let’s get some things clear, Mister Malfoy. Letting you go has nothing to do with if you’re guilty or innocent, has nothing to do with what you deserve. Your father’s a bigger fish. That’s all.’ Santiago shrugged. ‘So I suppose I was curious what sort of man I’m letting walk.’
Scorpius swallowed bile. ‘Did you reach a conclusion?’
‘I think you really believed you were killing bad men who needed stopping. And, for what it’s worth, I think you were probably right. Victor Holga was bad news. They all were.’
‘That doesn’t really answer my question.’
‘Yeah, I know.’ They’d reached the bottom of the steps by now, and stood at double doors leading to a long corridor that was brightly lit and well-furnished and a far cry from the stark imprisonment he’d been in for the last week. ‘You stop at the kiosk halfway down to pick up your belongings. Then there’s a changing room. Then you just carry on down the corridor and you’re in the lobby. And you’re free to go, Mister Malfoy.’
Auror Santiago left before Scorpius could press him any further, and so he supposed he had no choice but to leave. Anything else was madness.
They’d cleaned his clothes, which was something, except they were the clothes he’d worn when dressing for the hot Sri Lankan sun and he was apparently now in New York in December. So it was in a t-shirt and shorts and with a lot of regrets that Scorpius emerged into what he now realised was the main lobby for the American Department of Magic’s Bureau of Investigation, New York.
It was going to be a cold walk to the Transport Office and its Portkeys.
Albus looked like he’d aged about five years, but his beam was broad enough to split his face in two as he emerged from the lobby’s crowd and pulled him into a bear hug. ‘We thought they’d never let you out.’
The cold wasn’t so bad any more. Nor was the gnawing dread and guilt, and Scorpius couldn’t help but grin back as he broke the hug. ‘They didn’t lock you up and throw away the key? I’m all astonishment.’
‘We got one day in the Ministry. Between Rose, Selena, and me, we could tell most of what we’d found.’ Albus frowned. ‘I guess someone had it in for you.’
‘Lillian had a bit of a hand in letting me out last time.’ Scorpius shrugged. ‘I can’t blame them for being more thorough.’ And truth be told, it’s what I deserve. He couldn’t bring himself to say it, to do anything that might further dent the twinkle in his best friend’s eye. ‘Seems like everyone had more warning about my release than me.’
‘I was only told this morning. Abused Dad’s privilege to hop on a Portkey out.’ Albus hesitated. ‘Rose would be here, but it was sort of last minute and she’s been working with - you’ll laugh - the Canadians in getting Ultima Thule secured.’
‘They’re digging it up?’
‘They’re making sure nobody else digs it up. She’s only liaising but she’s a bit back and forth - she’ll tell you all about it.’
Scorpius huffed. ‘Yeah. Yeah, we’ve got a lot to talk about.’ He drew a slow breath. ‘I bet they’re calling her the big shiny hero this time.’
‘Pretty much.’ Albus’ brow knotted. ‘You know she wasn’t giving up on you, or anything like that -’
‘I know.’ It hadn’t taken him long to hear how Rose had defeated Raskoph, and it hadn’t taken him long to figure how Albus saving her at the last second was not planned. But that was one of the many issues for later. He looked up, corners of his eyes creasing. ‘Any word on Eva?’
Albus faltered, hands dropping by his sides. ‘No,’ he said, voice going rough. ‘No, she’s disappeared.’
‘You don’t know what she -’
‘I know she was mad about you. And I know she was a good person when she didn’t have to be. I can only guess why she’s left, but I don’t need to guess that what you two had was real.’
Albus flinched, but before Scorpius could apologise even though he didn’t know why those words hurt, he pressed on. ‘So your father came clean?’
‘Looks like. My investigator thinks his confession, and everyone else he can implicate and all the evidence he can give, might bring Lillian down.’ Scorpius shoved his hands in his pockets. ‘And it means I can stand here. Free.’
‘He really cares about you -’
‘And he’s also an arsehole who helped the Council and was a shitty father who made me feel like hell for years, which you know better than anyone and -’ Scorpius stopped, his throat tightening. ‘And he’s also my father. Yeah. I know. And maybe I’ll talk to him in the future, when he gets locked up somewhere with visiting rights, and maybe he’ll even be free some day and maybe we’ll have some sort of relationship. I don’t know. But I do know something for sure.’
Scorpius looked from the huge doors leading into the winter-clad streets of New York, and back to the broad, honest face of his best friend. ‘I know I want us to go back to Britain, and be with my family.’
‘Digging’s going to take a while,’ said Rose, handing her mother a roll of parchment. ‘But the site’s secured. Wards up, Canadian authorities alerted.’
Most of her conversations with her mother this past week had happened while they walked and talked. This was no different, the both of them so busy that they didn’t organise proper meetings, just intercepted each other as they passed through the Ministry of Magic en route to other engagements. For Rose, at least, this was her last commitment. Her mother’s would go on a while longer.
Hermione only gave the paper a perfunctory glance, before she passed it on to one of the many assistants following her like a flock of fussing geese. ‘I’m going to have to take your word for it. They’re not trying to excavate?’
‘It’s really not top of their priority list. Maybe some day, but in the meantime, nobody’s going to break in, steal anything. It’s done.’
Hermione nodded, and they stopped as they reached a junction in the Ministry corridors. ‘You’re going to New York now, I take it?’
She shook her head. ‘I’m sure Al can bring Scorpius home fine.’ She’d been in the middle of the frozen wastes of Baffin Island when Albus had sent word, told her that Draco had emerged from hiding and made a deal and that maybe, just maybe not everything about the end of war would be shit. ‘And I have other priorities.’
Hermione’s surprise only lasted a heartbeat, then her lips thinned. ‘Give them my best.’
‘I will.’ Rose hugged her mother, now the busiest woman in Britain, and let her get back to her chaotic task of trying to set the world to rights, or at least, this little corner of it. No one person could set the whole world to rights, the current chaos a cautionary tale against such aspirations.
It felt strange heading for Cambridge after her mind had been filled with digs and history and site planning, like slipping into an old life that couldn’t fit her now even if she’d wanted it to. But deja vu shattered into a million pieces when Matt opened the door to the flat they’d once shared and greeted her with only a blank look.
‘I’m here for Selena,’ said Rose, voice low. ‘I only just got back from Canada.’
He hesitated before he opened the door to let her in. ‘She’s just hopping out the shower.’
Great. Rose slunk in, hands shoved in her pockets, not making a move as presumptuous as taking off her coat would feel. ‘How’ve you been?’ she asked his right shoe.
‘Busy.’ He folded his arms across his chest. ‘Some special interest group wanted to know about the Chalice’s destruction. Trying to make sure it’s not part of Lillian’s diabolical plans.’
Her throat tightened. ‘What did you -’
‘Of course I didn’t tell them.’ His expression pinched. ‘We made it this far. I’m not going to condemn us now. Especially not since you almost…’
She tried taking a step forward, but that was enough to make him pull back, yank his coat off the rack. ‘I’ll give you two some privacy.’
‘You don’t need to leave your flat on my account -’
‘No,’ said Matt, slipping around her, voice still low and taut. ‘It’s on Selena’s account. She’ll be pleased to see you.’ Then he left, and Rose could only watch him disappear with a sinking sense in her stomach.
‘So that was super awkward.’
Rose turned to see Selena come out of the bedroom, still in a dressing gown and towelling her hair. ‘I didn’t expect Niemandhorn to make him just forgive and forget.’ Her throat was hoarser than she’d anticipated.
‘He’s glad you’re alive. Glad you’re doing well. I know he still wants the best for you.’
‘But it doesn’t wipe out what I did. I know that. I’m almost glad he’s still angry at me.’
‘That,’ said Selena, corners of her eyes creasing, ‘sounds an awful lot like self-loathing.’
Rose wrapped her arms around herself. ‘If the world won’t punish us, who will?’
‘I don’t know. I think the world punishes us plenty. Even when we don’t deserve it.’ Then Selena sighed, and hurried over to pull her into a hug. ‘It’s good to see you.’
‘I’m sorry I didn’t come by earlier; I was already heading for Baffin Island when I heard they let you out.’ Selena hadn’t been officially arrested, not like Scorpius. But where Rose, Al and Matt had been questioned and released, the Office had kept Selena for much longer, going over her every story, her every nugget of information. It wasn’t that surprising. Even if Lillian Rourke’s daughter wasn’t in on the conspiracy, there was always the possibility she knew more.
‘It’s okay; I’m pretty happy holing up here. It beats wandering the streets like a pariah.’ Selena pulled back, grimacing. ‘Nobody wants to help the daughter of a dark overlord with her shopping.’
Rose winced. ‘Miranda and Abena -’
‘Are actually being great. Then again, Miranda’s grandfather killed a whole lot of people in the Wars and got locked up for life, so she can’t really throw stones. I feel it’s really given us something to bond about. We can’t be as good friends as we used to be, Weasley, your family aren’t mass-murderers. Tea?’
Rose nodded and sat down and let Selena flap around and be hostly with hot drinks. She suspected a lot of tea would be consumed in the coming weeks. ‘So what’re you going to do now?’
‘Hell if I know. My plans don’t go further than: have some tea. Sit with Rose and try to get her to cut self-loathing out of her diet.’
‘I didn’t come here to bellyache, I came to check up on you.’ Rose accepted the tea when Selena joined her on the comfy chairs, which was about the time she realised she had no idea what to say. ‘I’m so sorry this happened. And it sucks people are giving you hell over this. It’s not like you could have seen it coming; she hid this from the world.’
Selena stared into her cup. ‘I don’t know. The Enforcers believed I didn’t know. But some of them seemed angry about that. Like I should have known. I guess I deserve that.’
Rose sipped her tea. ‘You remember you accused me of self-loathing for feeling something similar not two minutes ago?’
‘Yeah, but -’ Selena looked up. ‘This is different.’
‘I know, I actually did what I’m being blamed for. Your mother lied to you. Manipulated and used you. Even if she had all of these ideals and, trust me, I can see how she started down this road. We cheered her on for the changes she was making. There’s no way you could have suspected she was doing so much good on the back of so much ill. She’s your Mum. You trusted her.’
‘I did.’ Selena’s brow was furrowed and for a horrible moment, Rose thought she was going to burst into tears. But she swallowed hard, her methods for steeling herself familiar by now, and Rose wondered if she’d done all the crying she could.
‘And you’re not alone. I’m glad you’ve got Matt.’
Selena gave her a sidelong look. ‘Are you living vicariously through us again?’
‘I don’t need to. But there’s no two people in the world I want to see happier than you both. Apart or together. I’m glad it’s together.’ Rose let out a slow breath. ‘And while I want to support you, and while you just need to whistle and I’ll come running, I don’t want to make things awkward what with Matt and me and all -’
‘Rose.’ Selena scooted over to join her on the sofa, and reached for her hand. ‘Matt’s not an idiot. He knows that his problem with you isn’t to do with me, and he doesn’t expect me to take sides. I respect his problems, and he respects our friendship. There don’t need to be scenes. It’s not like we were going to start double-dating with you and Scorpius anyway, or anything like that. And at the end of the day…’ She squeezed her hand. ‘You were getting me through crises long before he was.’
Rose smiled, though struggled at letting the expression reach her eyes. ‘I can’t do more than sometimes sit by and let you vent at me. And then sometimes take you out for tea and cakes.’
‘Yes, but you listen to me bitch so much better than Matt does. His eyes sort of glaze over and he’s not sure when he should join in…’ Selena’s voice trailed off, wryness fading as her gaze dropped. ‘I just wish I knew why I saved her.’
Rose sighed, and slung an arm around her friend. ‘Because no matter what she’s done, she’s your Mum.’
Selena slumped. ‘And this isn’t like Scorpius and his father; Mum doesn’t have awkward arsehole feelings about me. She’s been a good parent. Like, if you make allowances for imperfect human beings.’ Her nose wrinkled. ‘Imperfect human beings who are right now being slated in the press as being the new Grindelwald.’
‘The world’s going to reach its conclusions. And it’ll probably forget all the good your mother did and say it was overshadowed by the evil, which is all of the wrestling we’ve done with our own choices, with Eva, with Scorpius. Forget them. The world makes enough of our choices for us; don’t listen to it when you don’t have to. At the end of the day, like you told me a few weeks ago, it doesn’t come down to cosmic justice, some universal balance. It comes down to us, and what we can live with. You’re allowed to feel whatever you bloody well please about your mum, and nobody can tell you differently.’
‘You’re right, nobody can tell me that what I feel is wrong,’ sighed Selena. ‘Because I don’t know what I feel.’ They stayed in silence for a while, Selena small but less tense, and when she spoke again it was with a fresh, deflecting wryness. ‘Keep an eye on your mum. Power-gain is dangerous.’
Rose scoffed. ‘She’s getting rid of the Minister’s job as soon as she can. But don’t worry. I’ve got my eye on her.’
‘Parents.’ Selena rolled her eyes. ‘They were supposed to disappoint us when we grew up and found out they were only human. Not turn out to be global evil masterminds.’ She sipped her tea. ‘I mean, how am I supposed to rebel against that?’
A/N: And still not the end! This is chapter 55; Oblivion has 57 chapters and an Epilogue. More aftermath to go!