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Chapter 33: Thirty-three.
My bones ached with tiredness, and my eyes were red and sore. The papers and photos from Lysander’s file were scattered around my bed, and I watched as the sky turned from black to blue to a reddish-orange that illuminated the countryside outside my window.
It was now midday - the sun was high in the sky, and the birds were singing too merrily to be sweet.
I didn’t know what to do.
I rolled over in my bed, burying my face in the pillow. Maybe I would feel better if I slept, and my tired brain would be able comprehend the ridiculous thoughts coursing through it.
Lysander was going to die, and there was something I could do about it. That was the worst part. His fate was entirely in my hands.
“I was in London! I didn’t see any files!”
“But they were on my desk! You must have seen them!”
Iago and Atticus were arguing just outside my door - I heard their raised voices through the wood. Any idea of sleeping was pushed from my mind as they got louder and louder. Jane’s muted whimpers were added to the fray. I heard my name being mentioned.
“Have you talked to her?”
“No, she was upstairs by the time I got in yesterday.”
“And now?” I saw the door handle twist slightly. I heard it rattle. If they were going to come in, they would see the contents of the missing file spread all over my bed. It would be instantly recognisable - the official sign was stamped all across it. There were pictures of Lysander everywhere.
“I think, Mr Debole,” came Jane’s feeble voice, “I think she’s asleep.”
The rattling stopped. I swept the covers back and crept around my room, picking up the pieces of paper off the floor. I shoved them into the drawers of my desk then jumped back into the bed. I could still hear their voices from the other side of the wall.
“She always sleeps late,” Jane answered lamely. I heard Iago’s disgruntled tut of disapproval, and I heard the door rattle again. I slammed my eyes shut.
And I remembered a brief moment from long ago, when I had killed Anthony Featherby and had arrived here under the impression that I was going to be murdered. But now, it was Lysander.
“Are you awake?”
Atticus was leaning over me, just as he had done then. His breath was tickling the hairs on my neck. This time I remembered to keep breathing, so he didn’t catch me out.
I could imagine them all watching as Atticus tried to wake me. Iago would be standing stock still in the doorway, as enigmatic as ever. Jane would still be outside in the corridor, rocking timidly behind Iago. Maybe Dmitri would be there, cracking his knuckles and loosening his shoulders in some aggressive gesture.
Then Atticus placed a hand on my shoulder and shook it gently, and I couldn’t pretend any longer. I opened my eyes, feigning drowsiness, and turned to look at him, frowning.
“Sorry to wake you, Dom… but we need to talk to you.”
I sat up. “What time is it?”
“Noon,” he replied and Iago scoffed again. “Where were you last night?”
“A party… Atticus, what’s going on?”
“This is pointless,” Mr Debole said, straightening his tie. “I will go to the office and have another look there. She obviously no clue.”
“And what if it’s more serious than that?” Dmitri said quietly. “What if someone has stolen it?”
I took that moment to throw back the covers and stand up, positioning myself by the drawer to the desk. I leant against it heavily. I doubted they would search my room, not when Iago was being so impatient. His usually smooth hair was unkempt, and his eyes were red and sore. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t slept.
“Nothing,” Iago said again. He was buttoning and re-buttoning his suit now, obviously anxious. “I’m going to Mossbury Walton. It’s got to be there.”
I felt agitated. If Iago - cool, collected Iago - was getting this wound up, then obviously the file was of some importance. Huge importance. And that meant Lysander had done something consequential… something that made Iago jumpy and nervous.
But I had read that file… and there was nothing.
Unless the people who wanted him dead were influential, connected, perhaps dangerous. Perhaps Iago was afraid of what might happen to him, or his son.
“What?” I said again.
Atticus glimpsed at his father suspiciously. “We’ve… misplaced something. Just a file, nothing major, just…”
“Major? I’d call it a little more than ‘major’. That’s our secrets!” Iago sneered. He glanced at me, his eyes wide. “That’s Ministry secrets! People’s lives are at stake!”
And then that was when I saw it: the edge of a piece of parchment, just peeking out under the edge of my bed. Panic filled me. It was a photo of Lysander, or a fill of affiliates, or his personal history. It was a sheet from the file.
I kept staring at it, willing it to disappear. My wand was on the other side of the room, and I couldn’t move it. Instead the sheet just lay there, glaring up at me like some bright white warning sign, and I couldn’t move it. They would find it, and Merlin knows what would happen to me…
“Dom? Are you all right?”
That bloody question again.
“What are you looking at?”
And then Iago burst into the room, and fell to his knees, scrambling under the bed. He had seen it too.
Fear spread through me like wildfire, and I stood stock still, as if that would help. I should have made a grab for my wand, cursed him off, but I couldn’t move. I just stood there watching him, untamed and unhinged, as he desperately skirted around the edge of my bed.
At last, his long, pale fingers grabbed it. His eyes grew wide as he stared and stared at it.
It was all over.
He would unearth the file Featherby had on me, and hire one of his own men to kill me, and someone would find my body in a Muggle dumpster or in a river or on a railway line.
Hopefully Scorpius would remember all the names I had told him, and try and find out some answers. Hopefully they wouldn’t be all too grief-stricken, and hopefully nobody would enter into top-secret assassination agencies just to spite their old school friend.
“What is that? Father?” Atticus moved away from me to stand next to him. I waited for the confrontation I thought was coming.
“It’s it. It’s the file, at least part of it. She stole it!”
“So, what now? We kill her?”
I moved quickly away from the desk, towards my bedside table. I grabbed my wand behind my back, and gripped it tightly. I wasn’t going to go own without a fight. Granted, there were three of them - Jane obviously didn’t count, she would just scurry away back to the kitchen - and I probably wouldn’t leave this house with a cut or bruise or perhaps missing a few fingers, but I thought I had a chance.
I waited, while the two men stared at the piece of parchment.
“Just a letter from her friend.”
Iago kept holding it. I let my wand slip from my fingers back onto the table, and plastered a confused look on my face.
“I’ve been all over. First I had to go to this dinner for the Daily Prophet, then a poker night for Noah and his old Ravenclaw friends. I’m starting to get photographed in the street... “
I was wrong. It was just one of Rose’s old letters, swept under the bed with all the other rubbish. I wanted to laugh. Rose’s pompous words sounded silly and immature in Atticus’ voice.
I giggled. I giggled stupidly, and Iago gaped at me.
“I’m going to Mossbury Walton,” he said. “I’ll leave right away. Jane, if you don’t mind…”
And he bustled out of the room and down the stairs. Atticus watched him leave, and then turned to look at me.
“I’m sorry, Dom. He’s a bit restless.”
“I understand,” I replied, and the rest of the group followed Iago down the stairs. I rushed to the door, pressing my ear to it, searching for the sound of their disappearing voices. When all was quiet, I rushed to the desk, grabbing the papers and arranging them on my bed.
I felt a rush of pro-activeness that almost frightened me, a buzz of adrenaline that made my hands shake and my breathing heavy.
I needed to do something. I needed to get out of this house, away from the strained voices of Iago and Atticus, and Jane’s muffled whimpers. I needed to do something drastic, and that would return things to the way they were - I was happy with Lorcan, when Lysander wasn’t here. I was better. I certainly didn’t kill people. I was all right when he wasn’t here… when he was gone.
I scooped up the remnants of the file, briefly flicking through its pages. Then I got dressed, went downstairs, and disapparated.
Lysander looked confused. He stepped out of the house, blocking the doorway, trying to prevent me from getting in. Where his hand was tight around the door handle, my hand clasped my wand in my jacket pocket.
“If you’re looking for Scorpius, he’s just left,” he said.
I nodded, as if I didn’t already know this information and hadn’t been crouching behind a tree, preparing myself mentally for this meeting. “I was actually looking for you.”
“Oh.” He frowned, as if the idea surprised him. “Why?”
He hadn’t had expected my visit. He hadn’t expected me to come here, to see him, not after what happened at the Burrow.
“Can I just come in, please?”
Once last bewildered glance, then, “yeah, all right.”
The house was messy, full of boxes. The furniture was covered in old, greying dustsheets, but I could still make out what they were. There was a sofa near the fireplace where we used to make forts out of the pillows. The dresser in the corner used to rattle and shake whenever anyone came near it. Rolf Scamander, Lysander’s father, used to write notes and extracts from his books from the desk by the door, until they packed up and moved to Galleacht.
“Haven’t unpacked, then?” I said, as I followed Lysander through to the kitchen. I had come here with this massive elaborate plan, this idea that I would confront him - and this time I wouldn’t fail - but all I could come up with was some miserable small talk.
It was definitely easier than pulling out my wand and planting an Unforgivable on him.
“Unpacked? This is all my parents’ stuff. I only had a rucksack or two.”
“It was easier when I was travelling.”
I watched him as he set about making tea in chipped china cups. I wanted desperately to ask what he had been doing when he was travelling, how he had got those scars - what he had been doing that meant he was to be executed.
“Where did you go? When you were abroad, I mean.”
Lysander turned to glance at me, just for a moment. I think he wanted to see whether I was being sincere, or whether I looked on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Then his hand slipped and the teaspoon clanged against the cup, and he returned to the task at hand.
“You definitely don’t sound pretentious.”
He gave a short, derisive laugh. “Why are you asking? I told you everything about it in my letters. Or have you burnt and shredded all of them?”
I laughed weakly with him, and then there was silence.
“Why are you here?” Lysander asked, almost bluntly.
I looked at him for a moment, then said, “I don’t know. I wanted to see you.”
Because ‘I came here to kill you’ was something he definitely didn’t want to hear, and ‘people are coming to kill you’ would demand too many questions. And ‘I want you stroke my arm again’ certainly sounded too creepy, and it was untrue. Definitely false.
“You definitely don’t sound vague.”
He put the cup of tea down in front of me, but the water was too cold: clumps of milk were floating around the top. I took a sip, but couldn’t keep it down. It sloshed around my mouth for a bit while Lysander stared at me, ignoring his own mug.
“I don’t really know what to say,” I said, because I didn’t.
He laughed again. He took a sip of his own tea, then grimaced and got up to pour it down the sink.
“I supposed you had come to scold me about last night; about all the stuff I said about Scorpius.”
“Yeah,” I said noncommittally. I pretended to take another sip of tea, but as soon as I set the cup back down on the table, Lysander snatched it up and poured the contents down the sink. He must have seen my grimace.
“Go on then,” he said, and his tone was more hostile, “say what you have to say.”
I stayed silent. It was strange, how I expected this wealth of chemistry to spark between us - witty conversation bouncing back and forth, long looks, all culminating in either a scrambled removal of clothes or a violent slamming of doors.
“Why did you talk like that? About Scorpius, I mean.”
It was easier to talk about something that wasn’t us, just to get the ball rolling, warm me up for the big confrontation. It might be easier to kill him if he was mid-flow, if his back was turned during some ridiculous anecdote. It would be harder to forget the look of surprise.
“Is that what this is about? You’re fighting Scorpius’ battles for him?”
“He doesn’t know he’s battling anyone, does he?” I replied scathingly. “He thinks you’re still the best of chums.”
“You’ve got to believe that we are.”
“Then why did you say that stuff?”
“Have you tried to talk to Noah?”
I rolled my eyes. “Only occasionally. Only when forced.”
“Then you know! He berates you for boring small talk, he argues with you if your opinions differ to him on any subject. He’s an arse.”
“So you badmouthed your best friend for a chance of impressing Noah?”
“I need a job, and I was hoping…” He sounded unsure, and quiet. He sounded ashamed.
At least he admitted it. At least he knew that he had done wrong. I should probably punish him, jinx him or hex him, something like that. Bet then he might grab his wand and send one back to me, and I didn’t want to duel. I wanted to catch him by surprise.
It would easier that way.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he finally said. “When was the last time you talked to Scorpius? You can’t defend him and attack me when you haven’t seen him in weeks.”
“I saw him yesterday.”
“And did you talk at all?”
“Yes, actually!” I said, and I was surprised by how petulant I sounded. This was the man who had disappeared for two years, came back for a couple of weeks, was accused of murder and then disappeared to France for several months. “And I wasn’t the one using Rose and Scorpius as a way to get back at someone.”
“What?” He sounded confused, but I knew it was just an act.
“Oh, please,” I said. “The letter you sent to him at Rose’s wedding? About coming early? That definitely wasn’t stupid.”
“I was not using them to get to you.”
“No, you were trying to set them up in order to impress me. You know how much I care about them.”
“Don’t you dare make this into something about you.”
“They’re my friends… they matter to me.”
“And you don’t think they matter to me?”
“You’ve been gone,” I said. I wanted it to sound accusatory, but it just came out weakly. I sounded pitiful. “You don’t know what has happened.”
“You’re right. Why don’t you tell me?”
If I did then I would definitely have to kill him. I couldn’t tell him about all the happened at Mossbury Walton, with the Deboles, with Copperfield and Featherby and the ‘Department of Mysteries’.
Scorpius would probably tell him in the long run, if Lysander was still there to listen after tonight, if something had happened to me. I wondered how Lysander would react - badly, I supposed, seeing as I hated and loathed him for apparently killing his brother when I was skipping around the country killing everyone else.
“Talk to Scorpius.”
“I feel too bad.”
“Just tell me.”
“I’ve been in mourning,” I said, hoping he didn’t pick up on the sarcasm. “I’ve barely done anything.”
He sat staring at me. He obviously knew something was wrong, knew that I wasn’t telling him everything. Bloody observant git. He knew me too well.
“You can tell me.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You’ll just tell Noah so you can get a job.”
“Don’t be stupid.”
“Why?” I said, feigning surprise. “You are.”
I would have considered it, if his tone had been gentler and he had stretched his hand to rest on top of mine, or made me another (better) cup of tea or found me something to eat. But he still just sounded like a git, a sarcastic bastard, like he was better than I was. I didn’t want to tell him anything. I knew he would just judge me.
I wanted to get it over and done with. I pulled my wand from my jacket pocket and rested it on top of the table. He barely looked at it, and that was good. It was easier if he didn’t know what was coming.
Things would return to normal now, if the man who changed it all was gone. It would be better, it would be easier. Rose and Scorpius would come together in their grief and I would feel stronger.
I stared at him for a long time. I moved my hand from my lap and placed it on top of my wand, and waited. I remembered all the stuff Lysander had done to hurt me - it came back to me in waves, all the hurt and all the lies.
It was enough, I kept telling myself. It was reason enough to kill him.
I gripped my wand tightly. I had to really mean it.
“Do you want another cup of tea?”
I blinked. His voice was different, kinder. “What?”
“A better one… the first one was cold.”
I stared at him, so he reached out and placed his hand on top of mine, squeezing it gently.
“Are you all right?”
I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I let go of my wand and it rattled away across the table and fell to the floor with a clatter.
“I was going to…”
And then I did something I came to regret. I thought there was no excuse for it. In usual situations like this, people blame it on the heat of the moment, but the only heat in the moment was the warmth from the candles.
I don’t know what came over me. I don’t know whether it was the lack of sleep that was dizzying my thoughts, or just the many emotions that were rushing over me. Grief, anger, confusion, love, lust. He just looked so much like him: the blue eyes, the brown hair and the same strong features. I suppose I got confused. I suppose I thought that Lorcan might have come back to me.
I came here to kill him. What was I doing?
And now I know that these were all excuses. I knew that I had done it because I had wanted to. I wanted to see what it would be like, whether it would be worth it. And that scared me, more than anything else. I had betrayed Lorcan. After all those years of hiding my unruly emotions, after all the confusion and the letters, I thought I had buried them. But somehow, in the living room of Lysander's flat, they had resurfaced.
I had kissed him.
I felt him freeze beneath my touch for just one second, one miniscule moment, one breath. Then he pressed his lips against mine, still gentler than I had remembered: a far cry from the hurried, forced kiss in the kitchen on the Burrow back when I thought Lysander was guilty of killing his brother. This kiss was innocent, chaste. It surprised me.
“Dom, I don’t think…”
Lysander pushed me gently away from him, but I extended a hand and touched the contours of his face, the roughness of his stubble and the softness of his lips. I had forgotten what it was like to be this close to Lysander, without smothering him with tears or hitting him or thinking he killed Lorcan. I felt him shudder beneath my touch, just as Lorcan used to do. I leaned in, and my lips were just millimetres from his.
Within an instant, I was pressed flush against him and his hands were lodged in my hair. He kissed me so hard that I imagined my mouth might be bruised, but I knew that I kissed him even harder.
His heart was thundering against his chest – in perfect synchronicity with mine – and for a moment the world tipped on itself, until I felt his hands slide under my blouse, and heard his breathing hitch at the feel of my skin.
It was similar to what Lorcan used to do - but it was wrong to compare the two of them.
My hands moved from his shoulders to the collar of his shirt, and I tugged on it briefly. This was so strange, so different, but I couldn’t help but enjoy it. I could feel this incessant need for him burning through my body, and it contrasted gloriously with the cold of his hands.
I could feel his breath on my face, and I was suddenly transported back to a time just after Lorcan’s funeral, when he had tried to kiss me in my flat, when Scorpius was out cold in the next room. I should have kissed him then. If I had known then that I would grow to forgive him, then I would have kissed him. I wouldn’t have been so quick to believe that he had killed his brother, I wouldn’t have accepted the job with the Deboles and I wouldn’t have blamed him for everything.
I held onto him, pressing my lips urgently against his closed mouth. He kept trying to speak, when now wasn’t the time for speaking. I wrapped my arms around his neck in an attempt to get closer to him.
“Stop, just one second…”
I started kissing him lightly along his jawline, and I felt his hands move up from my waist to my shoulders. He was trying to push me away, but I wouldn’t let him. I needed this. He obviously wanted this.
Slowly, I untangled myself from him, and stood awkwardly in front of him. He was breathing heavily, smiling at me softly. I felt embarrassed.
“Just calm down, please.” His tone was light and jovial. He was laughing at me, and I was blushing furiously. His hands were still on my shoulders and now they were trailing down my arms and holding onto my hands.
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
“What are you doing?”
“Don’t you like it?”
He blushed, and a shy smile spread across his lips. He opened his mouth to say something then apparently thought better of it. His smile dropped, and suddenly his stare was steely and cold.
“What about her?”
“I… don’t know.”
And he kissed me again, harder and fiercer, and it felt like heaven.
Ehehehehe. Three chapters to go!