Her boss let her off early for once. Siobhan Fitzgibbon was very pleased, since it meant she could get to her best friend's house that much sooner and be at the pub with all her friends. Girls' night out. It was Hattie's idea, as 'gatherings' always were, but Siobhan enjoyed it. It kept them together now they'd all left school, and Siobhan put up with it, because they were the only people she knew any more: her school friends.
She set off toward the Fletcher family's large Georgian home in the centre of London. The house was disguised from Muggle eyes through spells and wards, and it always gave Siobhan a small thrill to see the house and know no one else on the street could, an echo of that feeling when she'd first learned she was a witch. It was a route she'd travelled many times, and she hardly paid attention to the journey any more.
She rounded a corner and the sight that met her on Cecilia's street made her heart stop.
A yawning green skull was set above the familiar house, a snake protruding obscenely from its open mouth. A pall hung over the neighbourhood. The street was completely empty; unusual for this time of evening. It was as if the Muggles knew something was wrong, even though they couldn't see it. Siobhan started to run, her footsteps echoing on the silent street.
One of the oak double doors was off its hinges, and spells had left scorch marks on the polished wood of the frame and on the foyer walls. She could smell death in the house even from here. Siobhan dashed inside, and fell to her knees at the dining room's open door. “No,” she gasped, and her voice was thin and cracked. “Oh God, Jesus, no...”
Cecilia was stretched out on the floor on her stomach, her head turned to the side and hair spread out as if she'd been pushed over by a strong wind. Her wand was still in her hand. Her eyes were open and staring, and Siobhan didn't have to go to her to know she was dead.
Cecilia's parents, who had always been so kind to Siobhan, lay dead on the silk carpet as well, their wands lying next to them where they'd fallen in the attack.
Siobhan stared at the bodies of the Fletcher family, feeling as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. She could not draw a breath. She could feel her chest burning, but her lungs would not obey and expand.
Ministry officials had arrived, and Aurors led the way in, their wands drawn. She allowed them to take her wand, unresisting, and saw them with a small part of her mind as they tested the wand and apparently determined she was not a murderer, but when they tried to make her leave, she refused to budge.
She could not leave Cecilia lying there, cold and alone on the floor, in the uncaring arms of the Ministry. She could feel hands trying to make her stand, and she swatted them away, her chest still burning as she stared at Cecilia.
She had no sense of time passing. People were walking all around, and some still tried to move her, but she would not go, screaming at them to leave her alone. And then a voice she recognized was saying her name, telling her to come away, but she pushed Molly Prewett aside. She was not leaving, they could not make her.
Soon Molly's voice disappeared, and Siobhan crawled closer, taking Cecilia's hand. She started murmuring the Hail Mary in Latin. She'd never been very religious, Cecilia even less so, but suddenly she knew the words meant something. It wasn't just empty ritual any more. The words needed to be said, and she knew she was the only one to do it. The rest of the scene disappeared; the Ministry officials might have been invisible for all Siobhan saw them, and there was nothing but her, the murmured words, and the soft feel of Cecilia's hand in hers, a universe in a moment.
She was still sitting, stroking Cecilia's hand, almost a full Rosary later, when she felt a pair of strong hands taking her shoulders. She fought like a wildcat not to go, screaming at the man who picked her up and brought her out of the house, screaming that she would not leave Cecilia. But he carried her away anyway, and she knew it must be Arthur Weasley when she heard Molly's voice at his side. Suddenly his red hair registered, and then the entire world flooded back to her, overwhelming her with sounds and the chaos all around.
The Dark Mark still floated above the house. Molly was in tears, apologizing over and over, and Arthur was silent, his face stoic. He set her down in the street outside Cecilia's house, and she wrenched away from him, stepping into the darkness of Apparition with a tiny spark inside her that wanted never to come back out.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
She reappeared on a beach in Northumberland, a deserted stretch of sand fronting a bay. She'd come here once with the Fletchers on holiday, a few years back. The wind was blowing hard and nearly knocked her over, and she collapsed to the sand, her eyes feeling tight and dry.
She wished the day would start over again, wished she could go back and do it over. Warn them. Save them.
The night sky was cloudy above her as she sat cross-legged on the beach, staring at the inky black of the ocean. The sound of the wild waves crashing against the shore helped soothe her aching soul, if only for a moment. She buried her hands in the warm sand next to her, feeling the grains against her skin, as if proof that she was still alive. She lifted a handful of sand and watched the wind blow it away in front of her.
Gone. Just like that, she was gone. The one person who had been family to Siobhan since the death of her grandmother, and she'd been ripped violently away, leaving her adrift on the tide, no port in the storm.
She returned eventually to London, to her other friends. They seemed almost strangers to her now, as if the death of Cecilia had altered the entire world, so Siobhan no longer knew who anyone was, who she was. She felt cold to her very bones. Broken.
She knew she had to leave. Cecilia had kept her tied to the British Isles, her wandering spirit tethered by her love for her best friend, her soul's sister. Now she was cut free, and she could feel the wide world calling to her. It was time to go.
A/N: Yes, I know. That was a horrible thing to do, and I do apologize that Cecilia had to die. Please don't have me whacked ;) This story directly precedes Molly and Arthur's elopement, which will be titled “Over The Anvil”. I'll begin posting that this weekend, so keep an eye on my author page for the return of the romance between Molly and Arthur (and angst, of course, since their friend just died). It will pick up a few days after Cecilia's death, at her burial. Thank you for reading (and not flaming)! ;)