Chapter 2 : II: New Trauma
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Inside the Sanatorium, one lone bed had been separated from the rest by a large white curtain. It was motionless and silent, the only sounds in the entire ward was the soft breathing of a sleeping fourth year with measles, and the stabbing ticks of his watch. Beneath the thin white bed sheets slept the corpse of Rose Weasley.
The fourth year shifted in his sleep. We observed, and then pounced.
“Honestly, I’m really not all that sure it’s such a good idea to let the seventh years hold a… party…” Minerva said, seeming to struggle with the word. “They have exams next week!”
Grace chuckled and forked a string bean into her mouth. “It can hardly hurt, Minerva. The worst that can happen is that they’ll wake up with a bad hangover and have to spend their Saturday in bed with a headache.” she shrugged slightly. “It’ll keep their spirits up.”
Minerva pulled a disapproving face and looked across the four house tables. “Well… I suppose so. I asked Albus’ portrait. He offered to put on a red nose and watch over them. Said something about his right knee being a brilliant party trick.”
Grace snorted into her pumpkin juice and even Minerva found herself smiling slightly. Frivolity when there was studying to be done was never her thing, but she had been working the seventh years extra hard over the past few weeks to prepare them… and she supposed Grace was right. What was the worst thing that could happen?
The portrait was still empty. Minerva felt lost and helpless without the image of her old friend looking down over the room like an ancient deity or guardian angel. Never in all her years as Headmistress had something like this happened, and happened so fast, so unexpectedly, that she didn’t even know where to begin.
Scorpius still hadn’t moved. James had taken to pacing the room in an attempt to understand what she had told him over an hour ago, and both Lily and Hugo were now crying into Grace’s shoulders. Minerva sighed.
Then someone screamed.
Grace looked up and glanced between the Headmistress and the office door. Minerva frowned and rose to her feet, crossing the room to open the door with a speed she didn’t even know she possessed. She then stepped aside with equal agility, as the frantic Matron skidded into the room and slid to a halt, eyes wide with what could only be abject terror.
“The boy… the child… measles… in the ward…” she babbled, clutching the front of her Headmistress’s robes. “He’s… we must… they might…”
Impatient and worried, Minerva drew back a hand and slapped her across the face. “Slow down, Alice!” she snapped. “What in the name of Merlin is the matter with you? I thought I requested that you didn’t leave the ward incase one of the students-”
“Dead!” the woman shrieked, eyes bulging with horror. “The boy is dead, Minerva!”
Silence fell in the room, with only the distant sound of the students heading for their first lessons to be heard. Minerva regretted her wish for something to end the heavy silence that had earlier occupied her office; the air was now soundless but sharp and afraid. “What?” she managed, a lump rising in her throat.
“Paul Sanderson! He had measles, he was staying overnight, and I came out of my office a few minutes ago and he’s… he’s… he’s dead, Minerva! And those rose petals are everywhere!” the Matron sobbed, sliding to the floor and hanging her head. “I swear I didn’t hear a thing… I didn’t even know anyone was there…”
Minerva was out of the office in an instant, half-running through the castle with Grace close behind her. Students were pushed aside in her urgency, their protestant cries ignored as she focused all her self-control on keeping a straight face. No matter what happened, keeping the children oblivious seemed the best plan. The only plan she had.
Grace gave way first, racing past her with youthful speed and bursting through the Sanatorium doors. She barely made it three feet before her feet slipped on red and she fell onto the hard floor with a surprised shriek.
Minerva stood in the doorway, breath hitched in her throat. Someone had scattered thousands of rose petals around the infirmary, piled high on one of the beds and spreading out around it to dwindle into nothing by her feet. She tried not to see the pale arm sticking out of the pile.
“There weren’t…” Alice had caught up and was staring over the Headmistress’s shoulder at her ward, looking dazed. “There weren’t this many when I left…”
The minutes that followed were a surreal haze to the three women as they routinely searched the ward, keeping a nauseous distance from Paul Sanderson’s bed. Rose’s body had remained untouched behind the curtain and the carpet of rose petals had stopped long before they reached her bed, leaving Minerva to assume that whoever had been in here wasn’t interested in further desecrating her corpse.
She also noticed that Sanderson’s watch had been broken, leaving the ward eerily silent. Alice confirmed that it had been working when she left; she remembered that one or two people had commented on how loud the ticking was.
“What do we do?” the Matron asked in a tearful whisper. “We have to send the students home! We… Hogwarts hasn’t seen anything this bad since… since… ever!”
“What’s happened?” a hoarse voice prompted the three women to turn back to the door, where Scorpius Malfoy was standing looking down at the petals. “It’s happened again hasn’t it? Someone else has been killed…”
Minerva exhaled, feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders. “Close the door, Mr Malfoy.”
Scorpius did as he was told and stood apart from them on the other side of the sea of petals, unwilling to stand on them. His eyes seemed drawn to the other end of the ward, where he knew the body of Rose was, but he kept them trained on the Headmistress as she silently pondered what to do.
“There is no longer any doubt that Miss Weasley’s death was no accident.” she began carefully, looking intensely down at the petal-drowned bed. “The Ministry will arrive in a few hours and probably cast the decision to close Hogwarts until the culprit of these… crimes… as been arrested and taken to the Dementors. But I must admit, I’m unprepared for this.”
Grace patted her on the shoulder. “Nobody was prepared, Minerva. What matters is what we do now, to keep the students safe. Might I suggest grounding them all to the Great Hall until the Ministry arrives?”
“Yes, good idea.” Alice nodded enigmatically.
“Alice. With the utmost discretion, I would like you to find Nearly-Headless Nick and inform him that the every student needs to be taken to the Great Hall immediately, to remain under the supervision of yourself and Professors White, Sinistra and Mortician. Don’t tell him what’s happened, just make sure he knows it’s urgent. Tell him that every other member of staff is to report to my office immediately.”
Alice nodded and sped out of the room, almost colliding with Scorpius as her feet slid across the petals. Minerva, calmer now that a plan of action was formulating in her mind, turned to Professor Dahlia. “Grace, I’d like you-”
Once again staggering into the room with the speed of a puma, Matron Alice Walker was helpfully saved from slipping by Scorpius as she slipped back into the infirmary waving a piece of parchment. “This just arrived, Headmistress.” she panted. “It’s from the Ministry. They aren’t coming.”
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