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Chapter 32 : Thirty-two.
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The party was dwindling down, and it was left to the last stragglers to keep the conversation flowing. Nana Molly and Grandpa had gone to bed years ago, and the only person above forty still around was Audrey, who was furiously scrubbing at a red wine stain on the carpet with Mrs. Scower’s All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover.
The champagne glass in my hand was full, but my head was still buzzing from the firewhiskey that I had drunk to allow myself to handle the conversation with Lysander. My ears were ringing, and I was pretty sure that if I stood up, I would stumble and stagger, the picture of perfect sobriety and gracefulness.
I didn’t know why I stayed. I should have gone home and gone to sleep, but instead Lysander’s wildly bright eyes and suddenly pale face swam before me, and I felt a compulsive urge to stay, to see how this panned out, whether we would have the chance to talk again. Looking back on it, my dramatic exit had seemed completely stupid and pretentious, and I should have just stayed to talk to him longer.
The hairs on my arm were still raised from where he touched me.
Scorpius was talking to Louis on the other side of the room, smiling and laughing together. I debated going to talk to him, whether he would see through my false smile, whether he would decipher that I was hiding something.
"Scorpius, most of all. You've put him in a massively awkward position. Do you care, at all?"
I let my head fall against the back of the chair. I didn’t want to speak to Scorpius, or Lysander, or any of them… they all knew me too well, they would see that something wasn’t right.
But I couldn’t leave. They would scold me if I did, and maybe Lysander wanted to talk some more… maybe he would be kinder. I just couldn’t be around these people - not Molly, definitely not Molly - and my sister was staring at me with a knowing look. She would obviously ambush with some deep conversation, and order me to express my feelings in a way that meant I would never share them with her.
I stood up. I took some time to rearrange my dress, to make sure that I was completely balanced and able to walk before moving towards the kitchen. It was as cluttered as always, and a large pile of dishes was sitting in the sink, the remnants of the meal plastered all over them.
They could be finished easily within ten minutes with the right spell, but I wanted something to do: something that would distract me from Lysander and Molly and the whole family and my whole situation, so I set to work. It was oddly therapeutic. I had been doing it for an hour before I realised that there was muffled music coming from the next room.
I looked up from the sink to see Rose staring at me from the doorway, her cheeks flushed and her hair slightly awry. I dropped the pan I was scrubbing and the soapy water splashed onto my dress.
“We’ve been dancing,” she said. “Molly put the wireless on.”
She took a while to leave her spot at the door, her hands gripping the frame as she rocked slightly backwards and forwards, as if she felt like an intruder. She stared at me for a while before smiling weakly and crossing the kitchen to get a glass from a cupboard.
“You know you’re a witch, right?” She said, nudging me with her elbow and gesturing at the soapy dishes. She leaned over and filled her glass with water.
I smiled. I knew that out of our close-knit circle of friends, I had become most alienated from my cousin, what with her new, ridiculous lifestyle and her even more ridiculous husband.
I had only known all about Scorpius and his problems because he was the only one I could really trust to talk to - he knew all of my secrets.
And Lysander had always been a constant source of my attention, despite his absence from my life. I had always thought about him. He had influenced my every action, clouded my judgment with hate and loathing, confused me with his letters and his revelations.
Rose was different. I hadn't even thought about her for so long - I had assumed she was all right, that we were all right, that our friendship was still a friendship as a result of years spent together. I had supposed that our closeness would have survived without any effort.
“Are you all right, Dom?”
I had heard that question so many times over the past few months - and I had never known how to answer. The answer would never be simple.
“Fine,” I said. It was easier to pretend. Rose nodded.
“A couple of us are thinking of staying,” she said. Her voice was slightly cold. “There’s a spare room if you’re interested.”
I felt my throat constricting as I imagined what it would be like to stay in my cousins’ company longer than was truly necessary - whether I would have to engage in any awkward breakfast conversation with a hangover, whether Molly and Lysander would stay…
“I’ve got to be up early tomorrow.”
“We’ll all be going to bed soon. Teddy keeps nodding off,” she said, laughing weakly. There was a pregnant pause and I scrubbed the tomato sauce off several plates. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Rose open and close her mouth, as if she was about to start speaking.
“I’m worried about you,” she finally said. Inspired.
“Don’t be. I’m fine,” I replied automatically.
“You’re not. I’ve barely seen you.”
I could feel annoyance ignite deep down, a heat in my chest that meant I would reject any offer of help and lash out at anyone willing to give it. It was an automatic reaction, born out of years of patronising cousins and an independence that was almost self-destructive. I didn’t want to rely on anyone.
“Maybe that’s why I’m fine.” I didn’t look at her: I kept scrubbing dishes, my actions becoming increasingly more violent.
“You’re obviously not! Look at yourself! You’ve locked yourself away in that house, doing Merlin knows what…”
“I’ve been working.”
“The Department of Mysteries?”
“So you can’t talk about it. Handy,” she replied sarcastically. Her voice was getting louder - she was getting a little hysterical, hell-bent on proving that something was wrong with me. She was intent on talking to me and there was no way I could escape. “I never see you around the Ministry.”
“I don’t work at that office.”
“Fundraisers? Galas? Some are compulsory.”
“I respectfully decline. Remind me too much of Lorcan.”
Her eyebrows had disappeared into her hair, but now they had returned to their normal position. Her gaze had been wild and accusing, but now was downcast. It was good to know I could still pull the Lorcan card - that it would still elicit the same reaction, and that I could get away with things as long as I blamed them on the death of my boyfriend.
But then the Wizengamot would probably not regard that as a suitable excuse when murder was the sentence. Maybe if I pretended I was insane…
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Don’t be,” I responded coolly.
Rose filled up her glass again and drank it in one. I figured she would leave, go back to the happy-go-lucky scamps in the next room, what with their merry dancing and laughing voices being the better option than a miserable girl doing the washing up.
“Has something else happened? Something about Lysander returning?”
“He just looks a lot like him, that’s all,” I lied smoothly. I still didn’t look at her - the pots and pans in the sink were apparently much more exciting.
“All right,” she muttered. “Don’t stay in here all night, will you? Some people will want to say goodbye.”
And then she bustled out of the kitchen. As she opened the door, I could hear the music from the wireless - why they still played Celestina, I never knew - and Teddy’s dulcet tones, and Victoire’s laugh. Louis was shouting something. It lasted just a second, one moment. A glimpse into a life of happiness that I could never have nor deserve now that I had split my soul into pieces. One decision that had changed my life forever, and based off some stupid revenge plan. I had blamed it all on Lysander.
The plate I was holding slipped from my soapy fingers and crashed onto the floor, smashing into lots of tiny pieces. Rose was long gone, and no one would hear from the next room.
I started to cry. Heavy, warm tears trailed down my cheeks as it became difficult to breath. I sunk to the floor, wrapping my arms around my knees.
I was truly alone. Scorpius had returned to his older, better friend, Rose had Noah, and the family had each other. I had no one. Lorcan was gone, and he had been for months.
I sobbed to the music of Celestina Warbeck for what seemed like hours, until the door to the kitchen opened and Scorpius stood in the doorframe, staring down at me. He didn’t say anything, instead sat down next to me and let me put my tear-stained face on his shoulder.
Maybe I wasn’t so alone.
There was a warm glow coming from the windows of the country house as my insides straightened out, and the nausea I associated with apparition ceased. I stumbled gracefully towards the door and I could see Jane tottering around the kitchen, her apron wrapped around her waist and her wand levitating various pots and pans in the air. I opened the door, and she smiled at me.
I would do the washing up once she was finished.
I felt more comfortable here than I did at the Burrow, surrounded by my family and friends. It was baffling, how far I had estranged myself from them. I had felt this strange stoicism since I killed Featherby and started living at the house - but tonight had been the first sign of true emotion in a while.
Maybe I wasn’t as cold and heartless as I believed myself to be.
"Where's Atticus?" I asked.
"London," Jane replied. "He's expecting some large order from the apothecary. Dmitri went with him to collect it."
"Right..." I flicked through the pile of post on the coffee table: nothing for me, obviously.
"Mr Debole is in the office, if you want to speak to him," Jane continued, now stirring some creamy sauce in a pan. The smell of chicken wafted from the oven. "He was asking for you earlier."
I nodded, picking up the Daily Prophet and skimming the front page before turning to some important article about the new Port key bill. A picture of Mum stared up at me from the page, her eyes wide as various photographers accosted her.
I walked towards the door of the office as I read. There was some boring official talking about how it would never work, how it would require too much legwork and a lot more pressure on an already dwindling workforce - I read, with a wince, as he mentioned Henry Copperfield’s death, and how there was now only nineteen people working at the office. He didn’t seem to mention the benefits.
I grumbled as I pushed open the door with my shoulder. I had no qualms about interrupting Debole during his work - usually around this time, he was smoking one of his strange purple cigars and swirling a glass of fancy brandy. He never scolded me for interrupting or entering without knocking.
And he was expecting me. Jane had said so.
“I can’t believe they still don’t think it’s a good idea… Iago?”
There was no one there. The office was the same as it always had been: the shelves were neat and organized, not a loose piece of parchment anywhere, and the room was filled with the smell of polish where Jane had ruthlessly raged war on the dust. Debole’s cloak was resting on the back of the chair, and his wand was resting on a stack of parchment on his desk.
I sat casually in the seat on the other side, waiting for him to return. I read the rest of the article - the boring journalist did not sum up his argument very well - and then flicked through the rest of the paper aimlessly.
The French windows had been opened, and a breeze wafted throughout the room. I stood up and went to close them, looking out at the darkening garden and the low cloud clinging to the rolling hills on the horizon.
I shut the door quickly, and then looked around the room again. My fingertips trailed along the spines of the old, leather bound books, and I glanced at the numerous foe glasses. An old Sneakoscope lay redundant on a top shelf, gathering dust in the area where Jane couldn’t reach with her feather duster.
There was a pile of official looking documents on the desk. Files that looked suspiciously like Copperfield’s were piled ten high. I wondered whether I would find mine within the pile - the one Scorpius had found in Featherby’s possession - and I also thought about whether my name would crop up… whether I would be asked to kill again. I didn’t feel any excitement or dread at the thought; merely curiosity.
I sat down in the leather armchair, reaching for the first five files. I leafed through them quickly - no names stuck out, and no faces. Some were old, and some were barely out of Hogwarts. I recognised the photo on the last file - Miss Pennybright, the old woman from Mossbury Walton. Perhaps she had become too old, too weak to carry out her work. Perhaps she knew too much.
I swallowed. Maybe they would do the same to me.
The next few files contained nothing exciting, no scandalous names or celebrity faces. A lot of them worked for the Ministry, some were old Death Eaters… all of them with hidden pasts and hidden lives, doing horribly hideous things to innocent people. Some files were too gruesome - I sometimes had to pause and close my eyes for a second, or close the folder quickly. There were pictures of victims too deformed and too distorted to look at.
One of them, some man who had been in Ravenclaw, had tested potions and poisons on young children. Apparently, he had been insistent on finding the cure for all disease. There were pictures: small bodies blackened and burnt, bones turned to dust, eyes bulging out of broken skulls - all the results of experiments gone wrong.
I looked around me before opening the last file on Iago’s desk. The French windows were still closed, and I could hear Jane still pottering around in the kitchen. The house was silent apart from that.
The file was new: there were barely any papers in it. They needed Iago’s signature before they could proceed with a full investigation. There were just some photographs, a list of associates - and finally, here was my name, printed in black ink on a single piece of parchment.
Dominique Weasley, 22: friend, possible romantic interest - girlfriend of brother, Lorcan Scamander (deceased). Known contact by letter. Currently residing in Suffolk, employed by the company.
I had found Lysander’s name, in a pile of people waiting to be cursed or drowned or stabbed. He was going to die. He was going to be processed by the company, and he would be taken care of.
It was strange to see our complex relationship condensed into so little words.
His face stared up at me from the photos, scars more prominent than ever. I read every single detail on every single piece of paper in the file, but Iago knew nothing. There were no details on what he had done to deserve this. But then images of his scars and his mysterious alibi and his years spent ‘travelling’…
He must have done something; something that warranted him a death sentence, something other than lying and manipulating and abandoning everyone.
I saw the handle of the study door turning before I heard Iago’s voice in the hallway. Gathering the papers quickly in my arms, I rearranged his desk so it looked vaguely like it had done before, and opened the French windows. I crept out into the night, swinging the door closed just as Iago turned to look at his desk.
I pressed myself against the cold brick wall of the house. My heart pounded in my chest, and I shoved the file inside my jacket. There was silence.
After a while, I leant slowly around the corner to look through the windows. Iago was sitting as his desk, his back towards me. He was checking the files, making notes in a leather bound book.
Time passed achingly slowly. He finally got the bottom of the pile, and paused. He trailed his fingers over the folders, counting each one. He looked back at his notebook, then counted again.
I moved quickly, back into the shadows. I heard Jane’s voice, and Iago’s raised tones as he asked her whether she had seen any files around the house. He got angrier and angrier, and she became more hysterical. I pressed my body so far into the wall that I hoped I could disappear. The rough stone grazed my bare arms.
“Enough!” Debole shouted. I could hear the door slam, and Jane’s whimpers abruptly stopped.
Then the Sneakoscope started whistling and whirring, its lights leaching through the window and creating patterns on the paving stones outside. The sound felt so childish, so thin and metallic against the dark night. A shiver crept its way up my spine, pricking at my arms and legs, making the hairs stand on end.
They were going to kill Lysander, and the night suddenly seemed even colder.
And the spinning and whistling of the Sneakoscope stopped, and the night returned to its peaceful calm. The sharp edge of the folder dug into my side as I crept around the house, through the back door and up to my room: to lie awake all night, with visions of Lysander’s wild eyes slowly turning blank and empty.
He was going to die.
ERMAHGHERDLFKDJHGLSDF, RIGHT? Exciting stuff. Hope you liked it! I can't believe there's only four chapters left!
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