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Regeneration by Slide
Chapter 2 : There Are Only Middles
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6

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Chapter 2: There Are Only Middles

A thousand miles away, Al Potter’s life had taken a hard swerve left. Some moments it felt like a thousand years ago, too; others, merely heartbeats gone. His head still hummed with the madness of it, such that he could walk down a sun-soaked street in Cape Town and close his eyes and think himself again on that dusky beach in the Caribbean.

The sounds of the party had rushed away behind him, jubilation and politics washed into the sea for all he could care. An evening breeze tugged at the fading warmth of the day as he crossed the sand thick enough to keep his gait slow, as if he needed more reason to hesitate. The silhouette had turned before he was halfway there, for so long just an outline he still recognised from the other side of the beach. But by the time he was twenty metres away he could see her face, and it was all he could do to not break into a run.

Last he’d seen her, she’d been boarding a train for a meeting to decide her future. Or their future, as it truly was; they’d stopped pretending her freedom and her fate wouldn’t affect them both, but their paths had pulled them apart then, sent him to the far side of the world. He’d kissed her and said he’d see her in a few days once it was over, assured her he believed in her, and then let her go and never seen her again. They’d both had their other loyalties, him to Scorpius and her to what she felt was right.

For five years he’d dreamt of this moment, of finding her again, but now it was here and as Al walked up to Eva, all he could think was to say, ‘Do you want a drink?’ and offer her one of Scorpius’ ridiculous cocktails-in-a-coconut.

Time had changed her, changed them both. Her hair was longer, tied back in a tight braid and midnight-black enough to fight the sunset’s efforts to reach it. Now he looked at a leaner face, but behind the sharpness was a more measured gaze, observing but less detached, less condemning, and even after all this time he could see the apprehension in her eyes as she watched him.

He was, he knew, softer. His was a demanding lifestyle, but not one of life and death. Weeks spent in the back of beyond had seen him grow out a short beard, though it itched in the heat and now he was out of Russia he’d considered shaving it off. He couldn’t imagine how he looked to her, because he wasn’t sure how he looked to himself these days.

She drew a deep breath, and took the coconut. ‘Thanks.’

Together they turned to the sea as the sun tried to drown itself in the horizon. A thousand things to say, and I have no idea where to start. ‘Were you here long?’ he asked at last.

There was the slightest furrow of her brow. On her it might have been apprehension of small-talk, or consternation at the world’s end. ‘My Portkey only just got in. I came down to wait - Scorpius suggested -’

She stopped herself, and he felt his unbidden smile rise. ‘He told me to come out here. It’s alright. So, you two... planned this?’

‘I ran into him in South Africa a few weeks ago. Your organisation’s work down there crossed paths with Roux, I happened to be there at the time...’

His throat tightened. ‘So it’s only chance you’re here.’ So you’ve not decided to come back. Scorpius badgered you into it -

‘It’s - he - I don’t know,’ Eva admitted. ‘I’ve been doing work, important work, and it’s not over yet. But Scorpius and I talked, and he mentioned the party, and we thought - I thought...’

He turned to face her, shoulders tense. ‘That you’d come to check in, and then walk away again?’

‘I didn’t want to make any assumptions. I don’t know what happens next.’

He’d barely had any of these drinks, but already his head was spinning. Slamming back the entire coconut cocktail didn’t help, but it gave him something to do with his hands, as did throwing the coconut into the sea. ‘Then let me know when you do know.’

Voices screamed in his head when he turned away, but it still felt safer, easier. Staying meant finding out what he thought and wanted, meant scrambling for words even when they might not be the right ones, even when he might not want the right thing. Pulling away was safer, because he knew where that road led. He’d been walking it for years.

But he’d barely got two steps before Eva spoke, voice as tight and desperate as he could remember - and he remembered her voice every night. ‘If I can get this job done, Roux thinks he can make the Assembly give me amnesty.’ He stopped, heard the shudder in her breath, felt her walk over beside him. ‘Maybe I should have waited until it was done, until I had something concrete - maybe this wasn’t fair to you, to me, to anyone - but I had the chance, and I...’

Al froze, fear and frustration bubbling away for shame, and he turned to face her. ‘I’m sorry,’ he told her shoulder, because that was easier than meeting her gaze. ‘This wasn’t how I imagined this going.’

The corners of her eyes crinkled with ardent apprehension. ‘How did you imagine it?’

‘Without final tasks,’ he admitted. ‘Or politics. I always imagined it actually... over.’

‘I’m sorry. There isn’t a lot to go, but I can’t pretend I know what will happen.’

‘Then what’s left?’

‘I’ve been working with the South African government off the books the last year. There’s a new smuggling network shipping stolen magical artifacts between countries. The thieves or rogue curse-breakers are usually locals, but the smugglers have a broader setup. So Judge Roux’s been backing a task force down there for tackling them, but I can help work across borders.’


‘Usually just old relics, things collectors are interested in. Nothing serious.’

Nothing like the Chalice. There’d been a fresh burst of tension in his gut at that thought, one which made him all of a sudden very, very weary. The relief was palpable. ‘So what else do you need to do?’

‘Not much. There’s a debriefing in Cape Town in a few days, talking to the future Assembly committee who’ll be taking this on. If it’s not a hand-over, it’ll be making the road map for one. Once the GWA is properly established, they’ll have the coordination to fight international groups like this.’

‘And then it’s over for you.’

She hesitated. ‘Depending on what the GWA decides to do with me.’

So here we are again. ‘Then you... we...’ He stopped, swallowed the stumbling words, and tried again. ‘I don’t want to distract from this,’ he said, though it wasn’t really what he’d meant to say.

‘You don’t distract. But we should talk. More. Properly.’ She shifted, hesitated - then blurted, ‘Come with me to Cape Town. If that’s what you want -’

‘It is,’ he said in a rush. ‘If I won’t be in the way, I don’t want to be -’

‘You won’t, and having you there might help -’

‘If you’re sure -’

‘I’m sure,’ she said, and finally sounded like she stood on solid ground as she turned to him. ‘It’s just a few days.’

A few days. And then what?

He’d know soon enough. They’d travelled to Cape Town together, not a short process in a wizarding world controlling transport wherever possible, paranoid in the echoes of the Thorn War. Eva had explained how much she’d come to rely on Muggle transportation in the past five years, seen as a wanted criminal by many magical governments, now moving freely only because of paper signed by the redoubtable Judge Roux.

But they’d parted ways on arrival, her whisked away to see the man himself and prepare for the debriefing, and him left to wander the city. He had not wanted to stay in the Department of Magic. Memories of the Thornweaver incursion were too strong; of Inferi stalking the corridors, of his own brush with death, of Eva...

This was not how he had expected their reunion to go. With peace or with fire; those were the only two options he had imagined. Not this half-life, of one fraught conversation followed by the turgid roll of bureaucracy. There had been no privacy in their travels, and he had barely seen her in the days since their arrival.

So he’d walked the streets, soaked in the city, both magic and Muggle. So he’d done as he’d done these past five years: filled his time watching people, or reading, and pretending to be perfectly fulfilled. Except now his blood hummed in his veins and his heart thudded in his chest, and Albus Potter had to accept that, even locked in apprehension, he felt more alive than he had in years.

It was at last, at least, the day of the debriefing, and while he would not be allowed to witness as a mere civilian, Eva had directed him to the nearest lobby. She had not asked him to wait, but he remembered enough of her way to read between the lines. It suited him fine. He had not dared ask if she wanted him there at the beginning, and at the end.

Despite his best efforts, it was difficult to ignore the memories which echoed along his footsteps in the front lobby of the Department of Magic. Sunlight still streamed down through the great, domed window, the frame casting crisscrossing shadows across the floor. He’d been thrown to the ground by Erik Geiger there, and the Thornweaver who’d taken his Invisibility Cloak had slipped into the shadows there, and Eva had been stabbed there -

He rode the lift down with fist and jaw clenched tight, and the sight of Eva when the doors opened to the lobby of the International Relations Division almost didn’t ease him. It was almost too easy to imagine they were again trapped in that crucible.

For once, she seemed more at ease than him - but then, she must have spent time here these past five years. There was only a smattering of witches and wizards in the lobby, looking as if they’d come from the four corners of the world, and she extracted herself from a conversation with a tall law enforcement officer to approach.

‘This keeps getting delayed,’ she said by way of explanation and apology. ‘It should have been yesterday, but the Americans still aren’t here. Some crisis. Apparently they’re inbound, and should be here within the hour...’

‘It’s alright,’ he said, not sure if he imagined the air of tension around her, not sure if he wanted to see her fraught and apprehensive at the sight of him. He knew he was fraught and apprehensive at the sight of her. ‘I don’t mind waiting. And better waiting here than in the city.’

Eva nodded, looking back at the waiting crowd. ‘This shouldn’t take long. It’s only a debriefing. A hand-over meeting.’

And maybe a meeting where they decide your whole future. ‘I’ll - we should talk. Tonight.’ He didn’t know if it was boorish to assume she would be able to talk. ‘I don’t know. Maybe over dinner.’

A hint of tension at her shoulders loosened. ‘You’ll have to figure out where. I don’t know Cape Town.’

‘You’ve been here years.’

‘On and off, and there weren’t exactly dinner dates in my life.’

‘I should have got an apartment, not a hotel, so I could have cooked,’ Al found himself blurting.

‘Then we’ll just have to do that another night.’

Again he felt light-headed, drunk on nerves and apprehension and the sheer thought of her. ‘I’ll hold you to that.’

Guilt tugged at her expression, but then the lift doors slid open behind Albus and a trio of witches and wizards stomped out. The lead witch was older, grizzled, scowling, and the moment she opened her mouth Al guessed this was the delayed American delegation. ‘...Portkey system in southern Africa really sucks,’ she growled. ‘We’re here. Not all of us. Rest are coming, held up as they had to come through Austin. They’ll catch up. We going to get this started?’

A rumble ran through the lobby, and Al smothered his smirk as the Americans acted like everyone waiting was the cause for delay, not their tardiness. Eva rolled her eyes out of their line of sight, but reached to touch his arm with tense apprehension. ‘I’ll - it’ll -’

‘It’ll take as long as it takes,’ he said with a small smile, ‘and I’ll be here.’

He saw her breath catch in her throat, watched her drop her gaze. ‘Thank you.’

Then she left with the rest, heading out of the lobby and into a large meeting chamber. Leaving him alone with only the echoes of their footsteps and the last time he’d been in this building, and the apprehension of how his world would be changed forever when she came back through those doors.


Last night, she’d dreamt the falling dream again. Icy winds rushing past her, stealing her breath even as the shattered rocks below promised to steal her life. But you couldn’t steal what was freely given, and she’d chosen this, hadn’t she; taken Raskoph and all his evil in her hands and hurled them both into the abyss.

She hadn’t dreamt the dream in months. Maybe a year. Perhaps she was getting better, perhaps the echoes of the past had fallen silent with time, with the wedding, with the promise of a future. Perhaps she had just been too busy, too tired to dream of days gone by. And then she’d woken up to the black-winged owl sent by her husband’s company to tell her he was in hospital.

‘Try to not murder the receptionist, Weasley.’ Selena didn’t break step with Rose as she stormed down the corridors of the Cabot Salvation Hospital, hidden deep in the stone of the Coloradan Rocky Mountains. ‘It’s not her fault.’

‘Not her fault, what, that even in an emergency it’s taken me the better part of twelve hours to get here by Portkey? When the damned things allow instantaneous travel and the Ministry’s brimming with them, and it only takes them twenty minutes to charm one for its destination?’

‘All true, but still not her fault.’ Selena had met her in Saint Augustine, the old Florida city their first point of arrival on the US mainland. There’d been no warning, no prior message; Rose had just emerged into the umpteenth waiting lounge to find her old friend sat there with a stack of magazines and a serene expression. From there, internal travel had been much faster, though as foreign nationals MACUSA had subjected them to no end of scrutiny. ‘You could almost say it’s ours; if we hadn’t foiled my mother we’d probably have a united magical global government by now, complete with freedom of movement.’

Rose’s jaw tightened. ‘That’s not funny.’

‘I’m serious.’ Selena reached for her arm as they hurried up the next flight of stairs. ‘Rose. Breathe. Lily’s letter said he was alright. She wouldn’t have lied.’

Rose didn’t break her stride. ‘But that was hours ago, and anything could have happened since then.’

‘Sure; flying monkeys could have whisked him away, or perhaps ninjas broke into the ward overnight and even the receptionist doesn’t know -’

‘This is not funny.’

Selena harrumphed as they turned through another set of doors. ‘You used to like my jokes.’

‘I was young, stupid. Desperate.’

‘We’re arguably still all of these things.’

Rose ignored her. They were on the right floor now, and she could see the cluster of witches and wizards in the next lobby, some of which she dimly recognised as working for the Methuselah Jones Foundation or families thereof. The air was all tense silence and begrudging impatience and stale coffee, the sound of murmured efforts at comfort bouncing off pale walls with their peeling paint. The metal double doors beyond were manned, though, by a pair of tall wizards in uniforms of American law enforcement, and one of them raised a hand as she approached.

‘Sorry, ma’am; staff only past this point.’

Rose straightened, and looked him in the eye. ‘The injured from Aguilar are inside?’

‘Being seen to, ma’am; a doctor will be with you shortly.’

‘Ma’am,’ she repeated softly, and glanced over her shoulder at Selena. ‘When did I become a ma’am? I’m not even twenty-five.’

Selena let out a slow breath. ‘Hoo, boy, good luck,’ she told the Enforcer.

‘I know this is a difficult time,’ he said, ‘but -’

‘But what? But some superior of yours said nobody’s to get past this point for security reasons?’

‘Those are my orders, and I’m sorry -’

‘You’re not,’ Rose snapped. ‘So stop saying it. I’m going in, because my husband is inside. You have no more right to be here, this rag-tag security setup dragged in from across the country; no more right to be here than me.’

‘Ma’am, this is a perfectly professional -’

‘You’re all dragged in from nowhere to stand at doors; you don’t have a damned clue. You’re wearing the insignia for the Boston Patrollers and he’s got an award badge from the south border guard unit. And I know this because your bosses seek my opinion every time they build a new secure facility or want existing wards reinforced. You don’t want to upset your superiors? You should worry about upsetting me; my name is Rose Weasley and I ended the Lethe Scourge, I killed the Dark Lord Raskoph, and my security clearance with world governments is high enough that I can get you reassigned to the middle of nowhere in Newfoundland for the rest of your miserable careers if you don’t let me in to see my husband!’

Somewhere down the line, everyone in the waiting lounge had fallen quiet. The two Enforcers stared at her with mixtures of shock and apprehension, in the distance a door slammed shut, and Selena leaned in. ‘I hate to, like, ruin the moment,’ she murmured, ‘but they’re Yanks and Newfoundland is in Canada -’

The Enforcer she’d not been talking to pulled out a clipboard and offered it. ‘If you sign in, Ms Weasley, I’m sure we can square it with our boss later, as it’s someone with your security credentials.’ Rose snatched the pen and scribbled quickly, but when he offered the clipboard to Selena seemingly out of panic, Selena laughed.

‘Oh, sweetie, no.’ She smiled wistfully. ‘My name shows up on that clipboard and forget Newfoundland, you’ll end up in Greenland.’ Selena squeezed Rose’s arm. ‘I’ll be out here, drinking bad coffee.’

Rose nodded, turned for the doors - then hesitated and looked back. ‘Thank you.’

Selena shrugged. ‘I was in the neighbourhood,’ she said simply, as if a thousand mile trip just to keep her company was nothing.

But this couldn’t wait, and Rose hurried into the secure wards. The lighting was gloomy, but the walls better painted. Through the doors to side-rooms she could hear moans, hushed voices, saw Healers hurrying back and forth, guards posted at several doors, and she had no idea where she was going until she turned a corner and saw her cousin sat huddled on a bench outside a private room.

‘Rose!’ Lily lunged to her feet and fair flew down the corridor, thudding into her to wrap her arms around her. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I sent the letter as soon as I -’

Rose could only return the hug in a brief, perfunctory manner, before pulling back and grabbing Lily by the elbows. ‘Where is he? How is he?’

Lily was pale, face smeared with blood and reddish-brown dirt, hair tied back in that strict, no-nonsense way Rose would never have associated with one of her youngest cousins before the surprise revelation that she wanted to be a Healer, not an Obliviator. Right then, tired and dirty, she looked younger, like a child caught playing in the flower patch at the end of the garden. ‘He’s in that room there, and he’s going to be okay; he took a slashing curse to the gut but they managed to cleanse the dark magic and stop the bleeding -’

‘What happened?’

Lily bit her lip. ‘Aguilar was attacked, some band of thieves - I don’t know, Rose, you’d have to ask the security -’

‘I mean, how did it happen to Scorpius?’ Her chest was tight, throat seizing up with apprehension and anger, and the worst thing of all was that this - the sizzling panic, the numbing inside as she fought fear with feeling nothing at all, every sensation that said her world threatened to slip through her fingertips - was achingly, agonisingly familiar.

‘He - they wanted hostages and Scorpius put himself in the way, but Rose, the leader, he knew him. Said they went back a way.’

Rose’s jaw tightened. ‘Who was he?’

‘I don’t - I don’t know -’

For a moment, Rose wanted to shout - grab Lily tighter shake her, scream at her, demand how she could not know, how she could be so inattentive in a life-or-death situation to not pick up on every detail, remember every fact, demand how she could let this happen -

But then someone else stepped up, a tall witch in a dragonhide jacket Rose didn’t recognise, who put a hand on Lily’s shoulder. ‘If your cousin hadn’t got to Mr Malfoy when she did, the curse would have caused way more internal injuries before being cleansed -’

‘I know what dark magic curses do,’ said Rose, and the scars on her abdomen from Elijah Downing’s curse seven and a half years ago throbbed. But the interruption still stopped the howling in her ears, and her hands slid to Lily’s grasping comfortingly instead of accusingly. ‘Thank you.’

Lily let out a slow breath, and nodded to the other woman. ‘This is Auror Castillo, she was on the security detail and helped drive the attackers off...’

Not soon enough, Rose thought, looking at the tall Auror, and instead just said, ‘Thank you,’ again.

Castillo gave a small nod. ‘I should be going. Got a meeting in Cape Town I’m already late for. They’re only so understanding out there.’ She squeezed Lily’s shoulder before letting go, and Rose wondered if she was supposed to pick up on this, or the hint of a blush on Lily’s cheeks. Then she wondered if she was supposed to care. ‘I’ll write you. Miss Potter, Mrs Malfoy.’

‘Don’t call me that,’ Rose mumbled, but if Castillo heard, she didn’t correct herself as she left. ‘How come they let you in here?’ she asked Lily once the doors shut.

Lily grimaced. ‘I was pretty much clamped on to him to stop the bleeding; they didn’t have much choice and didn’t argue once they realised I was a Healer.’ She let go of Rose’s hands. ‘You should go. If he’s not awake, he will be soon enough. I’ll get you -’

‘I’ll be fine,’ said Rose, and went into the room.

It smelled tart and floral, like someone had covered it in disinfectant then tried to disguise the scent, and the result was something uncomfortably mixed. But it was not the first medical ward Rose had been into, though she’d hoped it would never happen again.

Scorpius was propped up on a bed under blankets, perhaps quieter and stiller than she’d ever seen him, and this was enough to make Rose’s breath catch in her throat. He looked smaller now, shrunken in the big room with the big bed, though she knew he was only looking his actual size. Not the boisterous figure bursting into a room and owning his space, demanding all eyes on him, controlling everything even beyond arm’s reach.

She wanted to linger there, wait at the door and watch him – watch the rise and fall of his chest, feel the serenity of the room, because Lily had been right: he was, after all, going to be alright. But that was just the physicality. Other wounds went deeper. Older wounds went deepest.

Then his eyes flickered open as she tried shutting the door quietly, and the moment was lost as he gave her that sleepy, silly half-smile she could see right through. ‘You’re late.’

Rose fought to keep a straight face as she went to his bedside. ‘International traffic’s a killer right now, darling.’

‘I’ve been languishing here hours,’ he groaned, flopping back on the pillows. ‘With shitty hospital food and this ugly décor and only Lily and her crush for company –’

But she couldn’t keep up the deflection any more, and with a swallowed sob Rose snatched for his hand. ‘What happened?’

She saw the flicker at the corner of his jaw, saw him consider deflecting with humour. Then that old knot returned to his brow, so rare these days, and it was like watching ancient burdens settle again at his shoulders. ‘Turns out Aguilar’s such an ancient wizarding settlement that some opportunistic bastards thought the disaster was a time to sack it for old treasures.’

‘Old –’

‘Some old stone tablets, genuinely just historical crap only someone like Doyle would care about.’ His assurance was quick. ‘But they were ready to rough up and even kill for it.’

‘And you got in the way.’

Scorpius’ gaze drifted to the ceiling. ‘They were starting on the townsfolk – those guys had been through enough –’

‘Lily already told me you knew the leader.’ She felt him tense, and raised her other hand to his brow, pushed hair out of his face and kept close.

‘Yeah.’ He sighed. ‘Argyris. Niko Argyris. He was – some of the others might have been, there were hoods and I only got a good look at him – and I’m not really sure…’

‘He was one of Thane’s people,’ Rose finished, feeling her chest tighten. ‘You worked with him, when – after –’

‘After I came back through the Veil. Yes.’ He only barely met her gaze. ‘I swear, I didn’t think I’d see those guys again.’

‘Only, what, two were arrested after the war?’

‘They went to ground after we brought in Thane in Saint Annard. Well, after you brought in Thane in Saint Annard. Perhaps they were waiting for whatever came next in Lillian and Thane’s plan – they had to be in on it, or at least prepared to follow Thane’s word blindly enough to be on his side. But I suppose the plan didn’t account for the Battle of Niemandhorn. So they stayed underground.’

‘And you told the authorities everything when you were in New York.’ Her hand at his cheek tensed, stopping him from looking away. ‘You cooperated fully to try to get them brought in?’

His eyes widened. ‘Of course I did – are you asking if I covered for them? They’re brutes and crooks.’

And you worked with them for eight months, my love, and you have never lacked for loyalty. You were even, in a way, loyal to Thane. ‘I don’t think you covered for them,’ said Rose quickly. ‘But if this Argyris is resurfacing, and you think there might be others, the last thing we need is for anyone to be suspicious of you.’

Scorpius flumped back down, expression twisting. ‘I didn’t consider that,’ he admitted with a groan. ‘But I reckon you’re over-thinking, love. Argyris wasn’t the worst, and maybe I’m imagining things, wondering if any of the others were with him in Aguilar. Memory’s a bit blurry. Someone like him was going to resurface some day.’

‘You’re right,’ said Rose, not feeling at all reassured. But her gut had good reasons right then to jump at shadows, and especially the shadows of the past, so she tried to assuage the tensions in them both by squeezing her husband’s hand. ‘Are you really alright?’

A smirk tugged at the corner of his lip. ‘Now she asks.’

‘Scorpius, don’t tease –’ But emotion had risen in her throat, choking again, and she could feel the threat of tears. So long had it been since she’d felt like this; five long years without that particular surge of adrenaline, that particular taste of bitter fear in her mouth, and now it was back like an unwelcome guest.

‘Hey, don’t – I’m okay,’ he insisted, eyes widening with horrified concern, his hand coming up to her cheek and thumbing away the threatening tears. ‘It was a nasty blast and yeah, I got myself in trouble, but Lily was on me right away, the Healers here are great, and a couple more days and I’ll be fine…’

‘But you don’t get to do this to me again,’ she said, voice shaking. ‘I can’t do it again, I can’t do waking up to find an owl telling me you’ve been hurt, I can’t do the last twelve hours being sick with terror that something’s happened to you; it’s over, the war’s over, and I won’t do this –’

He was supposed to be the one in need of comfort, but it was Scorpius who sat up, Scorpius who wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, Scorpius who whispered comforting nonsense as finally she broke and sobbed into his shoulder.

‘I’m sorry,’ he mumbled at last as she got a grip on a smattering of control. ‘I never want to hurt you like this again, scare you like this again. Hell, I don’t want to be shot again, it’s rubbish.’

‘I’m sorry, too – you’re the one who’s been hurt, I shouldn’t, this shouldn’t be about me…’

‘I’m pretty sure,’ whispered Scorpius, pulling back enough to rest his forehead against hers, ‘that last year we made some sort of promise where nothing’s about just one of us, it’s about both of us…’

She gave a weak nod, brushing her nose against his, forcing her breathing to slow. ‘You’re right. Have the Aurors properly taken your statement?’

‘Yeah. I was a bit high, so they might do it again.’ He held her hand tight as she finally pulled up the stool to perch by the bed. ‘If it’s anything more than sheer coincidence that Argyris attacked the town I was at, it’s news to me. Hell, under normal circumstances it would have been Al he ran into.’

‘Have you heard from Albus?’

‘Just that he’s headed for Cape Town, or should be there by now. GWA business there, something Eva’s still wrapped up in. You’d be more in the loop than me.’

Rose shrugged. ‘I’ve been up to my eyeballs in the new meeting chambers’ security warding; the company’s not had me worrying about people or international crime in months. I’ll send out some feelers.’ She winced. ‘If Argyris was one of Thane’s people, and Eva’s out there…’

‘She might know something. I – I don’t know what she’s up to, I really don’t, but I’ll send word if I can.’ He met her gaze cautiously. ‘And that’s all I’m going to do. I promise, unless someone specifically needs something I specifically know…’

‘Then this isn’t our job.’ She swallowed down fresh bitterness, and wasn’t sure of this particular flavour. Did she resent the world for dragging her back into danger, even a little? Did she resent the instincts which looked at danger on the horizon and refused to saddle up? ‘We can observe. Make sure nothing takes us by surprise. Warn Al and Selena.’

‘Al needs a break,’ Scorpius groaned. ‘I’d say we need a break, but we just had a holiday.’

‘Your fundraisers aren’t holidays, dear.’

‘Then maybe we’ll do that,’ said Scorpius, brightening a little. ‘Once I’m out of here.’

He looked like he meant it, sounded like he meant it, and so she just smiled and squeezed his hand. ‘And you can practice your dodging.’ Because it was easier to pretend they would both go away quietly if there was another lost disciple of Prometheus Thane prowling the shadows of the world, and if there was a thing they could do to stop him.

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