Chapter 13 : kettles, death and a lie-low plan
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Saturday 25th December, 9.30am
“What are you trying, missy?” the Auror said. I could see his hands cupping his face as he tried to peer through the frosted glass door.
Ha. That glass works two ways, dickhead.
I resumed my banging. To be honest, I wasn’t really ‘trying’ anything. I only wanted the Auror to get distracted with me so that the still-invisible Scorpius had a chance.
I slammed the kettle into the floor again, aiming for the same dent I had already made.
The kettle ploughed a hole into the floor, taking me by surprise and I nearly fell onto my face. There was a space of about two inches square, from which I could see the dead grass underneath.
That was unexpected.
I jammed the spout in the hole, and, twisting it, a chunk more floor came up. The Auror had stopped banging on the door, and from his silhouette, it seemed that he was searching in his pockets for something.
Probably a key, and then he would open the door and I’d be done for. Where the hell was Scorpius?
Another hunk of floor came up, and I managed to get my hands in the hole, enlarging it further. It was about a foot wide and getting bigger quickly.
He opened the door, charging in. I was ready though, and swung the kettle at his face. It collided with his nose with sickening crunch at the same time he was grabbed from behind.
I took advantage of his wide-eyed confusion by slithering through the hole in the floor like a rabbit returning to its burrow, pulling my backpack behind me. The jagged floor snagged on my clothes and I grazed my elbows, but I landed in a safe heap under the caravan. There was no way he’d follow me through- he was built like a bloody Beater.
I crawled on my stomach to the edge of the caravan, and then hopped to my feet. The Auror was grappling with a slight haze in the air, and then his head snapped back as Scorpius got in a direct punch to the face. The haze jumped off the Auror, and headed straight for me. An invisible hand grabbed mine and pulled me off to the right, further into the caravan park.
“Are you alright?” I shouted.
"Fine,” Scorpius gasped next to me. “You?”
I didn’t reply, but pulled him behind a caravan and scooted underneath it as the air filled with the familiar cracks of Apparition. The grass next to me flattened as Scorpius lay down too. Up close, his Disillusionment charm looked like water flowing over clear glass, distorting the images you could see through Scorpius.
“What’s the plan?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper.
“I don’t know,” I said, breathless, peering out underneath the caravan. All I could see was feet, pacing. I shuffled forwards slightly, craning my neck. “Where’s the wand? If we could both be invisible-”
“I don’t know,” Scorpius said shortly. “I lost it.”
My head fell into my arms. “You lost it,” I said.
“It’s not like I meant to,” he said, immediately starting on the defensive.
“We’re going to make a break for it,” I said, cutting him off.
“We’re just going to have to run. It’s either getting caught lying down or running. At least if we run, we’ve got a half-chance of getting away.”
The ankles and boots were getting closer, robes swishing over the ground. I pointed behind us, and dropped my voice lower.
“We’ll run that way, into the cover of the trees. Just keep running. Don’t stop, and don’t look back. Okay?”
“Okay.” Scorpius barely breathed the word. “When?”
I waited a second, for the pair of shoes closest to me to turn away. As soon as I could see the heels, I whispered, “Now!”
I shuffled backwards, and Scorpius wriggled back as well. As soon as I was clear of the underside, I stood up and ran, weaving through the caravans. I could hear Scorpius’ feet pounding the ground next to me.
There was a shout behind us as the Aurors saw, and a spell shot past me, sending up a spray of earth. I swerved over to the left, seeing the treeline through the caravans. I could only hope Scorpius was following.
“Wait!” the hoarse shout of the first Auror cut through the other yells. “He’s invisible! It’s not just Weasley!”
Crap. Scorpius should have hit him with the kettle. That sucker broke through a caravan floor. I’m pretty sure it could have knocked someone out for a decent while. The Aurors sent out a variety of spells, aiming wide in an attempt to hit Scorpius too. I twisted my head from side to side, but I couldn’t see the tell-tale shimmer in the air which showed he was running alongside me. My heart was hammering in my chest and my breath came in quick, short gasps, but I still managed to clear the bushes on the fringe of the forest with a single leap. Inside the trees, the sunlight was tinged with green and it was far colder in the shade, making the bursts of light from spells even brighter. Fortunately, it is incredibly hard to shoot accurately while running and most of the spells went wide, although a few came close enough for me to shy away.
I ducked to avoid a low branch, and carried on running. The trees were sparse, so I angled to the right, where I could see the trees were thicker. Since I couldn’t see Scorpius, I trusted that he would follow me. The only reason I was keeping ahead of the Aurors was that they were at a disadvantage. They were trying to run and fire at us the same time, which meant they weren’t running as fast as they could, nor could they aim as accurately. Plus, they weren’t running for their life, which I always find adds an extra burst of speed.
I broke through into the thicker parts of the wood and had to slow down, for fear of tripping. I still managed to run at a decent pace, however, despite my shortness of breath. Behind me, the Aurors also run into the thicker part and I could hear muffled swearing as they hit branches and fell over the undergrowth. A jet of light came dangerously close to my head, forcing me to the right, but I could tell I was losing them as I crashed through the trees.
Finally, I stopped, leaning against a tree to catch my breath. My lungs felt like they were on fire and I took great heaving gasps of air. The noise of the Aurors was distant for the most part, but I could hear one closer to me. I took another shuddering breath. I was knackered. There was no way I could go any further, and definitely not outrun somebody. I needed to hide out somewhere, to get some energy back. Then I could regroup with Scorpius...
Scorpius. Where was he? I strained my ears in the muffled silence of the thick forest, but all I could hear was the Auror closest to me, barging his way through the bushes.
I glanced up at the tree I was leaning on. Make like a monkey, I told myself. I crossed my fingers and touched them to my lips once for luck, a sign I had seen Lorcan do more times than I could count, and then I reached up for a branch, and clambered, slowly, painfully, quietly, up the tree.
I managed to get into the first layer of leaves easily enough. In all honesty, it was easier than climbing a drainpipe- there were more holds, and they were bigger too. I sat with my back to the trunk, hitching my legs up onto the branch. I wasn’t entirely sure how I would get down, but I was pretty sure it would be painful. Then- I held my breath and re-crossed my fingers as the Auror blundered underneath me.
I tipped my head back against the tree, exhaling loudly once I was sure the Auror had gone. At least everyone else wouldn’t be having any problems with the Ministry at the moment, I thought. It seemed like the entire Auror office was in this stupid forest. Seriously? Who even had forests anymore? I twanged an imaginary bow. I felt like Robin Hood, only less ‘giving to the poor’.
I was jerked out of my –quite frankly, weird- thoughts by an inhuman howl of pain. I sat bolt upright on my branch. Scorpius. The noise echoed through the trees, and some birds near me took flight, startled. I watched them fly away as a deep-throated cheer followed the cry. It must have been Scorpius.
I glanced in the opposite direction. Now would be an excellent opportunity for me to get as far away as possible, while the Aurors were distracted. I swung a leg over the branch, so I could slide down and set off again.
What could I do for Scorpius anyway? My own words echoed in my head: If I’m caught, for the love of Merlin’s most baggy underwear, don’t play the hero, just get out... Just keep running. Don’t stop, and don’t look back.
I wouldn’t expect him to help me.
But he would anyway.
He shouldn’t have helped after I’d been stuck in the caravan. He should have left the second the car had been blown up. He shouldn’t have hung around to take me to a Healer. But he had, and it meant I had a horrible guilty feeling at the thought of leaving him behind now.
I swore loudly, and slid down the trunk, landing with a thump and twisting my ankle painfully. I kissed my crossed fingers again, hoping against hope that Lorcan’s stupid lucky charm worked, pushed the horrible feeling in my stomach away, which told me to run far, far away from the nasty bad people, and set off again, treading softly.
-Abner Carrow; the Burrow
Sunday 26th December
He knocked on the door loudly, his knuckles rapping against the peeling wood. There was no answer, so he knocked again. This time, the door opened. Molly Weasley stood in the doorway, her iron-grey hair straggling down past her ears, and sunken cheeks in a pasty face.
“Yes?” she asked, her voice subdued.
Harry Potter appeared behind her. “Carrow!” he said, with slightly more energy than Molly. His hair was stuck up over his forehead, like he’d slept on his face. It clearly showed his lightening scar. Carrow’s insides twisted with hatred.
Abner took off his pointed wizard’s hat, and turned it in his hands. “I’d like to speak to Mr and Mrs Malfoy,” he said, making sure his own voice was low. “I believe they are here? I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.”
The blood drained from Potter’s face and he swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing nervously in his throat. Carrow waited on the doorstep, keeping his mournful expression in place carefully, despite his irritation. A cold winter wind swirled around his legs and tugged at his scarf. He shuffled slightly, and it seemed to snap Molly and Harry out of their shock. Molly disappeared to fetch the Malfoy’s while Harry led Carrow into the small, and at present, unoccupied sitting room.
“Is it- is it certain?” he asked, as he turned to leave, his voice hoarse.
Carrow nodded respectfully. “I’m afraid so. We did everything we could.”
Draco and Astoria entered, and Harry quickly left. Abner heard a snippet of Molly Weasley telling someone to ‘give them some privacy’ in an already tear-choked voice.
He turned his attention to the couple in front of him. They held each other’s hands tightly- Carrow could see the strain in the tendons. They were both very pale, and had black rings of sleeplessness under their eyes.
“I’m very sorry to be here with such news,” Abner began in a sombre tone, folding his own hands on his lap. “But I’m afraid that your son, Scorpius, was confirmed as deceased yesterday afternoon.”
Their faces were hard, unmoving stone; but the lines etched by worrying only seemed to get deeper. Astoria blinked once. “Scorpius?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Yes. I’m deeply sorry for your loss,” he said. He studied their faces. Shock, disbelief, denial, it was all there. He wondered absent-mindedly how long until they cracked. Scorpius was, after all, their only son and heir.
“He was hit by a stray spell as he tried to run from Aurors,” Abner continued, forcing his voice to stay soft and sympathetic. “We tried our best to save him.”
Tears had begun to slide down Astoria’s face as she stared ahead blankly. She tried to wipe them away, but they fell faster and faster, splashing onto her skirt.
Draco seemed stunned. He stood up. “Thank you for telling us,” he said. His voice cracked. He had gone even paler; something Carrow didn’t even think was possible.
“I’ll see myself out,” Abner said. “I am very sorry for your loss.” He got up, keeping his sympathetic expression in place, and left them to their immense grief.
“Thank you for coming yourself,” Harry said, leading Carrow to the door.
Abner squeezed the younger man’s shoulder in an act of attempted reassurance. “It was the least I could do.” He shrugged back on his coat. “I’m sorry I didn’t have better news. I don’t want to push them, but they’ll need to officially identify the body, and I’ll try to hold the press off for as long as I can.”
Harry nodded. “Thank you so much for everything you’re doing for us. It is good to know there is someone we can trust.” He sounded so genuine, so trusting, that Carrow pitied him for a moment. But it quickly passed.
Carrow gave a half-smile, and shut the door behind himself, walking away from the ramshackle house, the tails of his coat flapping behind him. Fifteen left.
He wondered how many visits to the Burrow it would take before they learnt to fear his knock.
-Rose: the flat above ‘Tracey’s Boutique’, York
Tuesday 28th December
I sat on the window ledge, looking out over the grey city. Fog hung visibly in the air, and everywhere looked damp and cold, not like Christmas had just passed. In the street below me, pedestrians walked with their heads down and hoods pulled up, looking utterly miserable. I pulled my tatty tartan blanket closer around my shoulders. Tracey, the flat’s owner, was a friend of Roxy’s, and I hadn’t known where else to go. And now, I was just waiting.
I didn’t know what I expected, when I went back to save Scorpius, but I hadn’t expected that. I folded the paper I had been reading up, and tossed it into the corner of the room. It landed headline up; ‘SCORPIUS MALFOY: DEAD’. I didn’t need to reread the article, I already knew it off by heart. According to the Prophet, Scorpius Malfoy had been killed by a stray defensive spell while engaged in a fire-fight with Ministry officials. I hoped that wasn’t what his family had been told, as it couldn’t be further from the truth. At least, I was pretty sure fire-fights didn’t involve one party running away, wandless. Fire had to be returned.
I couldn’t imagine the pain Draco and Astoria would be going through now. I hoped they didn’t know, at least not yet. I badly wanted to see them- at this moment, I wanted to see them more than my own parents. I was distracted from my thoughts by a cough and a groan from the small bed in the corner of the room. I held my breath, looking at the shapeless mass under the grey blanket. I got the colourful one because I could appreciate it.
And then Scorpius sat upright, scaring me half to death. “Merlin,” he groaned. “I feel like I’ve been through four rounds with a troll.”
I couldn’t help myself, I bounded across the room in two leaps and hugged him. He tapped my back.
"It’s hard to breathe, Rose.”
I let go, and smacked him across his head, probably harder than I should have. “You were dead!” I half-screamed at him.
“Ow! God! I was what?”
“Dead! You know, heart not beating, not breathing? Dead!”
He looked at me, eyes wide and mouth open. “Fuck.”
“I KNOW!” I hugged him again, but more gently, feeling the warm, aliveness of his body, his beating heart and breathing lungs.
The pain and confusion and shock and horror that I felt when I saw Scorpius, lying face-down in a clearing, scorch-marks across his clothes and burned into his skin- it was indescribable. They hadn’t even left an Auror behind to guard him, they were so sure he was dead.
I had pounded on his chest and cried and tried to force air into his lungs, surprising myself with the depth of my feelings for Scorpius. Why should I care if he lived or died? I had nearly not returned for him. And then, after what felt like years but in reality was less than a minute, Scorpius had sucked in a large breath, his brown eyes flying open.
That had just made me cry harder, in relief. Scorpius had saved my life twice, and then I had thought I couldn’t even repay half his debt.
“How did we get here?” he asked, bringing me back to the present. I shook my head, trying to rid myself of the evil images which had preyed on me since the woods. “And where are we?”
“We’re above a shop in York. After I... got you back, you were half-awake, and we walked here. When we got here, you crashed and this is the first time you’ve properly woken up. Don’t you remember?”
“Nope,” he cradled his head in his hands. “I have got a massive headache.”
I passed him some paracetamol tablets and a glass of water, trying to act normal despite the fact my hands were shaking. Now I had Scorpius back, it was like my emotions had caught up with me.
“Tracey is a Muggle,” I said apologetically. “So you’ll have to take these until she comes back. She’s out at the moment, trying to get us some wands.”
Scorpius nodded, trying to take it all in. “What’s that?” he asked, pointing to the newspaper I had discarded. The headline was still obvious.
“Dead?” he asked, low and urgent. It was the same voice that he demanded for his wedding ring back, so long ago in the wood. I instinctively took a half-step back. He sounded dangerous. “Do my parents think I am dead?” he said, his words clipped and precise.
Crap. If I said yes, then he’d want to go talk to them. If I lied- well, then I was lying. Fortunately, I was saved from the door opening downstairs. I pushed Scorpius back onto the bed, and held a finger to my lips. He glowered at me, as I picked up the handily placed cricket bat and held it over my shoulder, poised for batting.
“Only me!” called a girly voice, and in slipped Tracey. She was everything I despised about women, to be perfectly honest. Fake boobs, artificially blonde and straightened hair and caked-on make-up. But she was hiding us, and pretty well to be honest, so I’d keep my comments to myself.
She pulled out two wands from her jeans pocket, and presented them to me with a flourish.
“How did you get those?” I asked, astonished. I may have asked her to get wands, but that didn’t mean I expected her to actually do it.
“Oh, I went grave-digging with my mate from up North,” she said, splaying her fingers to show dirt-encrusted nails. “It ruined my manicure. Don’t worry though,” she said, noticing my sudden aversion to the wands. “They were both from doddery old witches who died naturally.”
Tracey went grave-digging? Mother of God.
She turned her attention to Scorpius. “And how are you, handsome?” she asked. “Feeling better?”
Scorpius let Tracey inspect the scorched skin on his back underneath his bandages. To my relief, it looked new and pink and healthy again.
“What can I say?” Tracey said, looking proud of herself. “Roxy taught me all she knows.”
I passed one of the wands to Scorpius, keeping the longer, thinner one for myself. It felt nicer in my hand.
Then the door opened again, and a tall, well-built man entered, his frame blocking the door. After a heart-beat of pure, unadulterated panic, because oh-my-god-it-was-an-Auror-and-he-was-in-the-flat-and-he-had-his-wand-out-and-Scorpius-was-injured-and-I-was-freaking-out- I swallowed down my fear and aimed a Stunning Spell at him, but he deflected it with ease and then my wand and Scorpius’ flew out of our hands.
“Quick reactions,” he said approvingly. “If I’ve found you, then the Aurors must be about four hours behind me. We need to move.”
Scorpius and I just stared at him. He wasn’t an Auror?
“I’m a private detective,” he said, answering my thoughts. “I said, we need to move.”
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