Chapter 24 : Twenty-four.
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I was leaning against the door with my head tilted backwards, listening to the sound of their knocking. It was Rose, no doubt gloriously freckled and healthy looking as a result of the Grecian sun. She was no doubt clutching a reluctant Noah to her side as she smiled and knocked again on the door to my room at the Leaky Cauldron.
I should tell Hannah to restrict my many callers and admirers to only the ones I genuinely like.
So basically Louis. who had already gone back to France.
“Dom… we know you’re in there.”
I groaned silently and mimicked throttling an invisible person in front of me. She was going to be all smarmy and stupid about how right she was about Lysander, how right she was about marrying Noah, how wonderfully right her perfect life was now. She would smile sympathetically at me, repeat phrases like ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘talking makes it all better’ and sit with her hand on her knee so her obnoxiously large and disgustingly sparkly wedding ring glinted at me.
I ran my fingertips through my hair and pinched my cheeks so it didn’t look like I was corpse. I was being bitter. I hadn’t seen my friend and her complete arsehole of a husband since the wedding, and any news I had received from them had been short, curt letters or postcards. One time she even sent me a picture of the two of them outside a temple.
It was great.
“Come on, Dominique,” Noah’s voice now, and he sounded as if he was tired of waiting around in his expensive Italian loafers. They were probably pinching his toes.
I was wary of seeing the two of them, possibly because Scorpius had asked me to kill Noah so that he could run away with the love of his life and live happily ever after and hope that Rose never found out. I was scared that if the newlyweds came in and Noah started talking, that I might agree with Scorpius and hit him with a quick killing curse.
“We’ve got presents for you!”
I opened the door.
“I knew you’d open it,” Rose said brightly, smiling and squeezing my cheek patronizingly and I already regretted letting them in. “We found it in this really lovely little market just outside of…”
I grabbed the little brown package and ripped the paper off, ignoring the irritated look Rose and Noah shared. I smiled at them. It may have been a little sarcastic.
“Listen, Dom, I just wanted…”
Something small and silver fell out onto my palm. It was a beautiful pendant with a turquoise stone. Rose squealed excitedly and clapped her hands. She had become more annoying since she went away. I remembered her being sensible and motherly, intelligent and caring, if a little irritatingly ignorant, but now it seemed she had picked up some of her husband’s more unattractive qualities. I would have hugged and thanked her for the necklace, I would have smiled genuinely and possibly, maybe even thanked Noah if she hadn’t have sounded so disgustingly condescending.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
I nodded, running the silver chain through my fingers. Of course it was, Rose had excellent taste apart from her choice in men. The couple was still standing awkwardly in the doorway, Noah looking agitated and uptight and his wife looking hopeful. I ushered them in silently.
“Tea? I can get Hannah to send some up.”
“No, don’t worry. There’s no need.”
I nodded. I had wanted something to distract me, to give me an excuse so I didn’t have to speak to the two of them. I watched as they sat down, and could hear Noah whisper to Rose about ‘getting back to the office’ and I fluffed the pillow rather more violently than I needed to. It would probably be better if he did go before he started a conversation and I found myself really wanting to kill him.
“So, Dominique…” Too late. His overly superior tone really made me reassess Scorpius’ offer of bumping him off. Obviously it was against my moral rights and after killing Copperfield I really didn’t want to get blood on my hands again, but Noah was so very annoying.
“Noah,” I replied curtly, placing three mugs on the coffee table.
“I was just wondering how you’ve been. You seem different.”
“I got a haircut.”
Noah’s lips twitched in attempt at a smile. At least he knew it was a joke. He was more tanned than before and his dark hair was swept back from his face, and I supposed if I didn’t know what he was like, I would have found him quite handsome. I could imagine local Grecian girls fawning over him while Rose looked on jealously, the temple guide creasing in her hands.
“I suspect you heard that we’re not the only ones that are coming home?”
Rose leaned forwards and pinched me comfortingly on the knee, her red curls bouncing with so much youthful energy I wanted to vomit. I picked up my cup of tea and stared into it.
“No,” I said, “what are you talking about?”
“Oh please,” Rose replied, “Teddy was telling me all about Lysander coming home and how they’ve found new evidence and how Mr. Higgins had talked to you about it…”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Of course you don’t,” my cousin said, pursing her lips, “you’re finally realizing that you’re wrong.”
“Five minutes and we are already arguing. We didn’t even get through all the lovely small talk about your honeymoon and the Burrow and how I was doing…”
Noah shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He looked at his watch, looked out of the window, and glanced around at the pictures and paintings on the wall of my room. He hated being here, I could tell, and Rose gripped his fingers, almost restraining him from leaving his seat.
“Oh, Dom, come on… it’s been so long now, you’ve got to start believing that Lysander is innocent. Even the Aurors think so now. There’s proof.”
“Until someone is thrown in Azkaban, I won’t be happy.”
“They’ll find this Featherby man and then it’ll all be over.”
I grunted ungainly and picked distractedly at the cover of the moth eaten covers of my bed.
“What did Lysander do to you, anyway?”
She obviously wouldn’t recognize unrequited love. It took an announcement and a kiss from Scorpius for her to realise that he was in love with him. She wouldn’t have noticed Lysander’s affection for me.
“He was just a git, that’s all.”
“Oh, Dom,” she said, “people are gits all the time. That’s no need to think they killed your boyfriend.”
“There was proof, Rose. They thought it was him and so did I.”
“I still can’t believe that you chose the Aurors over your old best friend. He told you he didn’t do it.”
“I didn’t believe him. It’s that simple.”
She bit her lip, searching for something to say. Noah looked bored, tired with overhearing the same argument. Well, Mr Bryant, we have finally found something that we have in common.
“It’s been months, Dom. He’s probably changed. You’ve got to start…”
“What? Believing in people? Trusting people? Everyone’s let me down.”
“I haven’t,” she said and I stared pointedly at Noah. I was going to mention the whole overly patronising thing but I’m pretty sure she’d just think it was the insomniac in me talking and pass it off as overtiredness, rather than an actual insult.
“I think that you are wrong.” Noah had turned to face me, his features set in a determined scowl. His seriousness made me suddenly feel the need to laugh.
“Oh, it speaks.”
“My Rose has been good to you,” he said and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, mainly for the way he referred to Rose as a possession. “We all know you’ve been through a lot lately. It’s been difficult for all of this, of course it has. We’ve pulled through it though because we have each other…”
“This is beginning to sound like one of those Fifi LaFolle novels,” I interjected, and he didn’t attempt to smile this time. Rose was staring at their entwined fingers.
“But you’ve alienated everyone. We know it was bad for you, and then when Henry died we guessed it was just because of the memories and everything.”
Or because I killed him, you choose.
“Noah, I think that…” Rose started, but Noah ignored her. She knew that he was going into dangerous territory, that him trying to talk to me was definitely not a good idea.
“Everyone has tried to help you. We tried to be sensitive, but it’s been months and you haven’t gone back to work or even tried to get over what happened…”
“Don’t. Don’t try,” I interrupted. Scorpius’ proposal suddenly sounded very tempting.
“I’m sorry?” There was a stupidly ignorant look on his face that made me think he didn’t know what he was doing. I wanted to laugh again.
“Look, Noah,” I started and once I did, I couldn’t get the sarcastic tone out of my head. “We all get that you’re wonderfully sensitive, that Rose has made such a great catch, that you’re a fantastically wise and worldly man who has probably seen and done it all. I mean, come on, you edit the bestselling witches’ magazine in Britain, probably the world…”
I felt a flicker of hatred through my body as Noah smirked smugly at my words, his ego inflating at the speed of light. He ran his fingers through his neatly combed hair.
“But you’re an arsehole.”
He stopped smirking at that one. In fact, he looked positively furious and suddenly I was laughing, great peels of laughter that echoed around the tiny room. He looked scandalized, a blush forming in his cheeks. He was angry. Rose looked a little scared. She hadn’t seen me this animated in weeks, in months, and she probably thought I had gone mad.
“No really,” I said, struggling to get out words because of the lack of air, “I supported you, I know, I told Scorpius that he shouldn’t do anything to break you up… but…” I hiccupped ungainly as my heartbeat and breathing rate returned to normal. “looking at you now, with your stupid loafers and ugly cufflinks, I don’t really know what Rose was thinking…”
He opened and closed his mouth so many times I thought he was having some sort of fit. Rose still hadn’t said anything.
“What? I’m sorry? Are you trying to say something, Noah?”
He growled and I smiled again.
“I’m sure it’s something about how it’s been months since my boyfriend was murdered and how I should have been over it by now, right? I think that’s what you were trying to say to me. I’m just paraphrasing, but you had a little awkward turn of phrase…”
“I… I think that… I mean… you’re very rude.”
“No, I’m not… you’re just overly sensitive. Some girls really love that.”
“Dom, you should…” Rose began.
“What? Lie down? Drink fluids? Go out? I can’t, I’ve got to stay at home and cry over my dead boyfriend and the horrible situation I am in.” I tried to make it sound sarcastic, but it hit home. That was what I was going to do. If I had told them about the Deboles and Copperfield, they would have given me an excuse, but Rose and Noah didn’t know and would never know.
“Look,” I said, standing up and crossing to the kitchen, “thank you for the necklace, and thank you for visiting. I appreciate it, really, but it would probably be best if you just left.”
“Dom, don’t be stupid.”
“I feel like being stupid.”
Rose pursed her lips and picked up her handbag. She rearranged her jacket with all the air of propriety and gestured to Noah. He stood up sulkily, like some petulant schoolboy, and glowered at me. I smiled sweetly back.
“Bye Noah!” I said enthusiastically. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hexed me. He slunk out into the corridor and, after telling his wife he’d meet her in the pub, went downstairs. Rose turned to face me.
“Dom. We should talk. You’re not… right. Something’s different.”
I stared at her, standing with her perfect curls and smart outfit and holiday tan. She was perfect.
“You and Scorpius, you’ve… you’ve both changed.”
“No, we’ve always thought that Noah was an arsehole. And since when were you going to see Scorpius?”
“I was looking for Dad at the Auror office and ran into him,” she said quietly. I was really surprised when tears began welling up in her eyes, and her cheeks had gone pale. “He was all wrong. Shouting at everyone, he looked really rough. A lot like you.”
I wanted to keep this cold exterior. I wanted her to know how much her stupid husband annoyed me. I wanted her not to worry about me, but for the first time in a while, I was concerned for Rose. Seeing Scorpius had obviously shaken her.
“Well,” I said, and my voice was croaky and barely there, “we’ve both lost something.”
She smiled sadly and gathered me up in her arms. I tried to resist this sign of affection but couldn’t, and I tightly gripped her around the waist. She still smelt like roses, and I realised how much I missed this, how much I missed family.
“Did something happen between the two of you?”
“He looked even paler when I mentioned you and knocked over a pile of files. He even said something about the Manor and someone kissing you at the pub. I thought that you two might have…” Rose made an awkward hand gesture and blushed slightly.
“Yes, right here on this floor,” I answered sarcastically, but Rose shuffled on the spot and clenched her jaw. At least she appeared to be jealous. “No, Rose, we did not… we didn’t do that. We just had a little argument, that’s all. Nothing major.”
She smiled with relief.
“You look pretty happy at the news that I am not sleeping with Scorpius.”
She stopped smiling.
“Go and see him, will you?” Rose continued, “I think he’s faring worse than you. I’ve never seen him like this.”
“And whose fault is that?” I replied and the grip on Rose’s handbag tightened, her knuckles white. She looked down at the floor. I stepped forward and kissed her on the cheek.
“I can’t believe you called Noah an arsehole.”
“It was a long time coming, believe me. I was going to mention how patronising you sounded as well, but I think it wears off when you’re not around him.”
“I wish you’d just be happy for me.”
“Not until you’re married to Scorpius and have lots of cute blonde babies all called Dominique,” I said jokingly and a tear escaped Rose’s eye, but she caught it, ever dignified.
“I want him to get better.”
“He will. It’ll just take time.”
Another hug. I was getting quite used to all this affection. My cousin stepped out onto the corridor, looking as always like she belonged in some fancy brochure.
“Thank you again for the necklace. It really is beautiful.”
“Goodbye, Dom. Don’t be a stranger.”
“I won’t.” And with another smile and lingering hug, she was gone, down the stairs, into the waiting arms of a husband who didn’t deserve her. I shut the door quietly, and lay down on the bed. It was time for me to see Scorpius and to tell him that I wasn’t going to murder anyone else.
The map to Featherby’s house lay hidden under my pillow, and I pulled out, running a finger over the roads and pathways that would get me to his house.
Well, apart from one more.
Bit of a filler, I know, but we've been pretty heavy on the drama so I thought I'd even it out a little. Thanks for reading and thank you for Becca for beta-ing!
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