Chapter 10 : Letters from the Sky
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"Well, who do we know for sure is missing?" Someone shouted through the haziness that surrounded Victoire. Moving blobs of color and light flitted past her like strange shapes in a fish bowl.
"Lorcan and Lucy--"
There was the thundering sound of approaching footsteps in the background.
"We just checked Lucy's room," a familiar male voice stated, "she's not there, and it looks like she hasn't been there for a while."
Consciousness was beginning to come back to Victoire from where she lay on the sofa, the blobs slowly morphing into blurry watercolor images. A head of dark red curls came into direct focus, followed by the pale skin of her cousin Rose's face as she kneeled before her.
"Feeling better?" she asked concernedly, a weak, wry smile playing over her lips as though she realized just how absurd a question it was under the circumstances.
The sound of raised voices floated over from the corner.
"They're still arguing?" She grimaced.
Rose looked up at Victoire empathetically. "Yes. Everyone's scared, but Scorpius and I already cast our vote. Don't really see the point in arguing anymore."
"Yeah, they're debating whether we should just leave or wait until the Aurors get here to start their investigation. Just in case they need to question us."
Scorpius said this, and Victoire glanced down the length of the sofa at him, where he sat with her feet in his lap. He smiled at her and explained, "Al said we had to elevate your feet so that your blood stayed near your head."
"Thanks," she addressed both Rose and Scorpius, "What'd you vote for?"
The young couple exchanged a glance before answering. "Scorp and I want to go home."
Victoire pushed herself into a sitting position and looked around the room. Lysander, Teddy, James, Al, Chrys, Brian, Dexter, and Dominique were standing around the fireplace, arguing about who was missing and what they should do. The room was flooded with soft pink light, and Victoire was surprised to see that the sun was setting when she looked out the window.
"It's already sunset," she mused aloud to no one in particular.
"Yeah," Rose began but was cut off by a tremor that rattled the walls of the room.
Everyone stopped arguing abruptly. They all paused, listening, as the shaking began again, this time stronger. The knick-knacks on top of the mantle bounced from their place and fell to the floor where they shattered. The group jumped backwards in alarm as the poker set followed suit, and the chandelier began to tinkle as its beads began to dance with the vibrations. Victoire gripped the edge of the sofa, her terrified eyes flashing from the equally frightened faces of Scorpius, Rose, and Teddy in the corner, who had his wand out and ready for whatever was coming next. Then, a low whistling filled the room growing louder and stronger with each passing moment.
"It's coming from the chimney!" Hugo shouted just as the strongest gust of wind any of them had ever experienced erupted out of the fireplace. They covered the faces against the spray of ash, soot, bird feathers, and bits of wood that blew into the room, along with several pieces of...parchment?
No, they were letters.
Victoire thought she really must have been seeing things now, because those certainly won't letters tumbling through the air. But, looking intently past the soot she saw the neat folds, the wax seals, and knew she wasn't dreaming. Someone had sent them post through the fireplace.
As the wind died and the trembling stopped, all eyes turned towards the letters that were slowly floating to the floor.
Dominique looked down at the letter that had landed at her feet and saw her name staring back at her. Her stomach tightened into knots. Glancing around the room, she saw most of the others surveying the letters the same way she was, with fear. There was one letter lying at the feet of each person in the room, all of them having magically landed in front of their rightful recipient.
No one moved.
Finally, Brian bent forward and grabbed his off the floor with a resigned sigh. Beside him, Chrys hissed worriedly as though he's just picked up a quintaped, and even Brian held the letter away from his face as he gingerly slit open the seal and unfolded the parchment.
The look of trepidation that he wore abated and was replaced with one of distinct confusion as the rest of the room waited with baited breath.
"I don't get it," he stated.
"What? Why?" James asked quickly.
"It's just one word."
"What?" Lily questioned this time.
Chrys grabbed the letter out of her husband's hands. "All it says is despair."
There was a titter of noise as people let out small noises of confusion and relief.
"Despair?" Rose asked.
"Yeah. What's it supposed to mean, though? I'm not sad or hopeless or anything...I d-don't get it."
Silence followed Brian's words as everyone mulled the riddle over in their heads.
"Well, did everyone get the same letter?" Victoire inquired next.
There was a general scrambling for the letters, though Dominique purposefully moved slower than all the others. She really did not want to know what her letter said, especially if it was different.
"Neglect," Teddy announced, holding his letter up.
"Lust," Victoire called next, her eye catching Teddy's.
"Pride," Hugo said as Scorpius called out, "Sloth."
Everyone looked at each other as a clear pattern was emerging.
"Envy" Al chimed in.
"Wrath," James read aloud from his letter.
"Extravagance," Lily followed suit.
"Chrys's says vanity," Briand added, looking apologetically at the betrayed look his wife wore.
"I have greed," Dexter joined.
"They're all sins," Rose breathed, holding her hand over her mouth, "but I don't understand."
"Why?" Teddy asked, "What does yours say?"
"Treason," she stated, sounding genuinely confused. The room grew uncomfortably tense.
Teddy turned his eyes on the two people who had yet to speak, and who were also the two people who looked the least confused. Dominique stared at the accusation written on the parchment willing her hand not to shake.
"Lysander?" she heard Teddy ask.
She felt Lysander's gaze on her for a moment before he cleared his throat and quietly announced, "Perjury."
The silence was oppressive.
"Dom?" Lysander practically whispered, looking at her in expectation.
She looked up at him and met his clear blue eyes. A silent communication passed between them, an understanding, a decision that it was time to tell a secret they'd kept between them for nearly a decade. Lysander didn't need Dominique to say aloud that one word written on her letter; he already knew what it would be. But he wanted her to; he thought she needed to.
"What does your letter say?" Victoire asked gently.
Dominique looked at her sister and then at her assembled cousins before finally speaking.
“So it’s you then? You murdered Jill and Mary?” Chris impugned from across the room after a long stunned silence.
“Don’t be stupid,” Victoire defended, slowly standing from the sofa and stepping over to her sister, even as some of the others moved away. “Dominique hasn’t killed anybody.”
“The letter would suggest otherwise,” Dexter sneered.
Victoire wrapped her arm around her sister as though trying to protect her from the critical, fearful eyes that were turned upon her. “Stop it,” she said, her voice coming out strong and clear, “we don’t even know what the letters mean, if its sins we have committed or will or if there is any truth to it at all.”
“Victoire’s right,” Rose added, “we don’t know.”
“Oh, is that right, Traitor!” Dexter snapped.
Rose looked shocked as both Hugo and Scorpius stepped forward in anger.
“YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SPEAK TO HER LIKE THAT!”
“APOLOGIZE TO MY SISTER, GADSBY!”
“I’m just repeating what the letter said.” He retorted, cockily holding his hands up in the air in mock surrender.
“Well, who are you to talk, Greedy!” Lily exclaimed from across the room.
Dexter rounded on Lily and laughed mirthlessly. “Extravagance, your highness? What an understatement.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lily snorted derisively, “So, I like pretty things, what’s the harm in that.”
“Nothing, except for all those galleons your father hands over for you to give to charity that never make it,” Dexter rattled off, ignoring the flash of anger in James’ eyes as a manic gleam came into his own.
Lily sputtered, “That was only once, and I didn’t take all of it!”
“Lils?” James and Al asked simultaneously, each brother eyeing their baby sister reproachfully.
“Yeah,” Dexter continued on ruthlessly, “what did you spend it on? That illegally poached dragon hide purse up in your room?”
“YOU WENT INTO MY SISTER’S ROOM!” James roared. Dexter looked frightened now that he realized he had said too much.
“I knew that line about her door being ajar was bullshit!” Dominique spat.
“Dex!” Teddy chided, anger, humiliation, and hurt playing across his face at his friend’s breach of trust.
“Ted, I’m sorry,” Dex replied calmly, appealing to the groom, “but readership is down at The Prophet. Editors are being sacked right, left, and center. It’s anybody’s game, and everybody’s neck. Whoever breaks the story that gets readers to return could be the next Editor-in-Chief.”
“And everyone loves a scandal? Is that it, Dex?”
Dexter didn’t reply, but met Teddy’s steely gaze.
“You disgust me.”
Anger sparked to life in Dexter at Teddy’s harsh censure. “What about you? You didn’t even notice that I was sneaking around or that people were disappearing!”
“Leave him alone!” Victoire cried.
“Oh, and look,” Dexter kept at it, pointing at Victoire without looking away from Teddy, “Speak of the devil, and she will appear. There’s your fucking lust, mate! The number one reason Teddy, the Auror, neglected to protect everyone here!”
“Shut your mouth, Gadsby,” he growled in return. “I’ll have you know that I’ve been running around all day trying to keep these two from having another brawl.”
“Another?” Lily queried, looking back and forth between her two brothers.
“James and I had a bit of a falling out earlier today,” Al explained quickly.
“With their firsts,” Victoire elaborated.
It was Lily’s turn to look disappointed in her siblings.
“Wrath and envy,” Rose interjected.
“What?” James asked as everyone turned to look at her. She shrunk back into the sofa cushions, but continued to speak. “James and Al’s fight; wrath and envy. Everyone knows Al was jealous when James was made groomsman and he wasn’t.”
“So, those are sins that have been committed,” added Hugo, picking up his sister’s train of thought. “Just like how Teddy and Victoire have been so wrapped up in each other and the wedding, so that’s—“
“Lust and neglect,” Scorpius finished, “And I like to sleep in late, so there’s sloth.”
“Right. We’ve also heard about Lily’s extravagance and Dexter’s greed…but the others…my t-treason”—Rose could barely get the word out—“Brian’s despair, and the…murder thing are still unexplained.”
“Could these be things that are about to happen?” Al asked.
As if on cue, the lights went out as with a thunderous ripping noise the chandelier tore from the ceiling and fell, crashing to the floor and sending plaster, wood, and broken crystals flying in every direction.
And, in the darkness, there was a cry of pain.
A/N: Here's another chapter and another cliffie? So, who do you think cried out in pain? What is Dominique and Lorcan hiding? How much do you not like Dexter? How much did you like this chapter (because I think its really exciting!). Please leave any thoughts, predictions, or what have you in a review! They make my day! Thanks for reading; hope you enjoyed it!
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