Chapter 1 : Bittersweet
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A massive thank you to my beta PolyJuice_ and to ValWitch21 who helped me with Fleur's "francicisms"! *hugs* Credit for the gorgeous chapter image goes to visenya. @ TDA!
Note: all words in italics are foreign words; the translations are at the bottom. :)
“Dominique, there has to be an inquiry. We need to know the whole truth about everything that happened. I have to ask your family and friends questions; it's part of my job to conduct inquiries into suspicious and or life-threatening circumstances.”
“And I understand that, Mrs Kettering, but someone needs to be punished! Look at me! My life is ruined, all because of thirty seconds of somebody else's negligence! And all the Ministry are planning to do is ask questions. How is that supposed to help me?”
“So what do you want, Dominique? What do you need me to do?”
“I need somebody to blame.”
He is sitting in the chair opposite mine, his hair long and tangled after he'd run his fingers through his ginger curls several times too many. His eyes are red raw, declaring without his consent the many hours he has spent in tears. When I take my seat, he starts to talk: it is my task to elicit answers, but it is evident that the infamous curse-breaker Bill Weasley, the man who fought in the second war and in the Battle of Hogwarts, has no desire to conceal secrets.
“They called it an accident, simply an unexpected twist of fate. They said that it wasn’t my fault; that it could have happened to anyone and that I wasn’t to blame.” he whispers quietly. “I tried to tell them that they were lying, but the words wouldn't come out. How can I not hold myself responsible for something that I could have and should have prevented? And now because of me or specifically, my irrational foolishness in allowing my daughter to follow in my footsteps, she must suffer from permanent uncertainty.”
“Were you close at all to your daughter?” I ask; it is one of the questions that I have been instructed to ask.
“I still remember the day that Dominique was born. I was the happiest man alive. I had another daughter; a baby sister for Victoire, and she was a perfect addition to our growing family. Just like I had with Victoire, I held my newborn daughter in my arms and stared into her eyes. Even now, I can see Fleur in Dominique’s eyes; a beautiful reminder of how she is compiled of half of my genes and half of my wife’s.”
He answers with longing in his voice while his eyes water at the mere memory he is recollecting. I take the opportunity to survey him anew; to notice the scars that Greyback inflicted which are barely visible, but always there. To see recently hollowed cheeks and despair in his eyes; a despair caused by recent painful events.
“What was the reason behind Dominique's visit to the Gringotts' dig in Egypt?” I ask; another Ministry-approved question.
“For eighteen years, Dominique has been daddy’s little girl just as Victoire has been indisputably her mother’s daughter- Louis, our youngest son, is happy enough being drowned in attention by our vast family. So, when Dominique asked to spend the summer with me in Egypt so that she could train to be a curse breaker like me, I was flattered. I said yes.” he confesses.
“You didn't consider that the job was dangerous, Mr Weasley? That Dominique, like yourself and any other curse-breaker, would be at risk?”
“I was honoured that she wanted to be just like me; so delighted that I happily said yes without regard for all the risks associated with the job.” he admits. “I assumed that I could keep an eye on her just like I kept an eye on the trainee curse breakers that Gringotts hires. I assumed that because I was her father, I could protect her from all the dangers of the world.”
“Who do you consider responsible for what happened to Dominique?”
He looks at me in surprise, before retrieving a photograph from his pocket and placing it in front of me. The picture is of a small flame-haired child, laughing excitedly at the person behind the camera as she tries and fails to climb on a small child-size broom. It is one of those beautiful moments caught in time, and when I look up to him again, his eyes are full of heart-wrenching pain.
“I should have told her no.” he whispers. “I wish that I had said no. And I will live with that regret for the rest of my life. I am the one to blame.”
Lysander Scamander is completely unlike every testimonial of his character that I can recall. The young man who has been described as vivacious and slightly eccentric- hardly unexpected with Luna Lovegood and Rolf Scamander for parents- is currently anything but. He is sitting in his chair when I walk into the room, and looks up to glare at me vehemently with piercing blue eyes, his blonde hair and pale skin reminiscent of his mother's- a reminder that just as Luna concealed a deadly ability at duelling behind her eccentric exterior, it is possible for Lysander to hide the truth behind the anger and resentment that I can feel emitting from him.
“Dominique's got enough problems to deal with,” he hisses defensively. “Why are you stirring up memories better left for us all to try and forget?”
“Please, Ly-Mr Scamander,” I say, holding my hands up in surrender. “A dangerous event occurred that endangered a life. The Ministry are obliged to investigate. The sooner we have all the answers, the sooner we can close this case. All you have to do is tell us what you remember of the day that your girlfriend was cursed.”
“The whole day is fuzzy,” he admits, “but I still remember that moment perfectly, as if it had occurred five minutes ago. We had been digging for gold in the deserts of Giza, about a hour or so outside of Cairo. The sun was blazing hot, scorching all of our skins- particularly Bill’s and Dominique’s, since redheads’ skin is much more sensitive to the sun. I remember sitting down under the gazebo we had erected, finally able to drink water and eat lunch. I remember that one of the goblins wanted to perform one last counter-curse, so Bill stayed to perform it. Dominique stayed too, because that particular one she wanted to practice. I could hear them in the distance; Bill explaining to Dominique patiently the wand motions, the goblin grumbling and telling them to hurry up.” He drifts off then, engulfed in his memories.
“What happened next?” I ask, desperate to keep him talking. The Ministry have allowed me to conduct this investigation, but if I don't do it satisfactorily, they won't let me continue and they'll replace me with someone else. That can't happen.
“I ignored them to carry on reading a letter from my brother Lorcan, until I heard a scream. It was Dominique: from what they said, the tomb we were digging was protected against that counter-curse, so it rebounded onto Dom. I can still see her lying in the sand, unconscious. At that moment, no-one knew what had happened to her.”
“Who do you think is responsible for that incident, Mr Scamander?”
Lysander looks at me, his blue eyes suddenly impossible to read.
“That’s a really hard question, Mrs Kettering Who is to blame? The goblins, for not knowing the truth about that tomb? Dominique, for wanting to learn? Bill, for being willing to teach her and making her a better curse-breaker? Or me?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I was supposed to be the one to perform that counter-curse, but I’d wanted to reply to Lorcan as soon as possible- his owl was underneath the gazebo waiting for my letter, and I didn’t want the poor animal to get sunstroke so I asked Bill if we could switch duties, and he agreed. Dominique and I had already agreed that since I had only been a curse-breaker for two years, I wasn’t exactly qualified to teach her. Which is why I know for certain that if I had performed that counter-curse, she would have gone with everyone else to have her lunch.”
He looks away down to his hands, wringing them- a known method of dealing with stress and guilt while he whispers the rest of his confession.
“If I hadn't switched with Bill, then Dominique wouldn’t have been there; she wouldn’t have been cursed by that tomb.”
A tear rolls down his cheek as he chokes on the final sentence.
“It was my fault.”
While Victoire Weasley had no involvement in the incident at Giza, the Ministry insisted that she could provide valuable information on the consequences. However, when she barges into the interview room, she is nothing like the cheerful young woman with a sweet disposition that I was expecting to see. Her eyes are blazing with fury; her body language describes a person who is the complete opposite of the woman that I thought she was.
“There's no need to start asking questions. You want to know what my relationship was with my sister?” she announces, not even bothering to sit down. “Before the “accident”, as they call it, Dominique and I were the closest sisters you would ever meet. We used to finish each other's sentences; we used to drag my fiancé and her boyfriend on double dates.”
“Sit down please, Miss Weasley,” I say softly, trying to keep her calm. Once she complies with my request, I am able to ask her the question she does not want to ask. “What happened to change your relationship with Dominique?”
“When I first hugged her on the day she came back, she pulled away and looked at me like I had just committed the worst of crimes,” Victoire admits quietly, her initial fury quickly decreasing. “She won't tell me what she saw; says it's one of the consequences of being able to see people's futures. If I'm honest, I don't want to know either, because judging from the way that Dom looked at me, I must have done something terrible.”
“How has Dominique's curse affected you? Her? Your family?”
“I never thought I'd have a Seer for a sister.” she says bitterly. “But this curse- this stupid bloody videre futura involuntarie aliquem tangere pellibus cum has changed everything. I hate it. I hate watching Dominique shy away from touching people because she's afraid that she'll see their futures just like she saw mine. I think what makes it worse is that her ability comes and goes and she can't control it. One minute she can touch someone and nothing happens; the next and she sees their future. It could be something that happens in a few days' time, or it could be years in the future. And I can see that it hurts her. I just don't know what to do. I don't know how to save her.”
She looks at me with pain-filled eyes as she continues.
“They say it's incurable.”
“Who do you feel is to blame?”
“Everybody. I blame everybody, because someone could have saved her. Just one person could have changed the outcome.”
And then she whispers; so quietly that I am not sure if she even said the words, or they were mere figments of my over-active imagination.
The blonde woman is absolutely distraught when I walk into the interview room after my lunch, wondering who is sobbing her heart out. It takes me several moments to realize that she is Fleur Weasley nee Delacour; former contender of the 1994 Triwizard Tournament. I am frozen in my tracks, left to wonder how a strong, confident woman can become reduced to a shell of who she used to be.
“Madame Weasley,” I say softly, “do you know who I am?”
“Oui,” she answers. “You are the Ministry official investigating 'ow Dominique got cursed.”
“Oui,” I reply. “Do you think you could tell me how the curse has affected your daughter?”
“My daughter used to be zis upbeat, confident child,” she answers. “Bill and I constantly received letters from the school informing us zat she 'ad received detention yet again for talking too loudly in class. She was popular. She 'ad dreams and 'opes and concocted plans on 'ow to seize them. And yet now when I look at my baby girl, I see fragments of 'oo she used to be. I can't recognize 'er, not since she came back from Egypt. She doesn't bother to converse; she locks 'erself in 'er bedroom and refuses to leave the 'ouse because of all ze things she could potentially see.”
“And what are your thoughts on that?”
“In a way I can understand,” she admits. “Imagine zat you knew something bad would 'appen to a person. You're left with ze choice of telling zem or not: breaking zeir hearts by forewarning zem, or watching as zey move forward with zeir lives blindly, never knowing ze truth. What would you do?”
“I don't know,” I admit.
“I love my daughter,” she says, her eyes brimming with renewed tears. “And I 'ate watching this curse destroy 'er inside out.”
“Who do you think is responsible for the situation?”
“If you are insinuating zat my 'usband is to blame, I suggest you alter your thought process. It wasn't Bill's fault, or Dominique's, zat she became cursed.” she answers indignantly. “Zat, I don't blame anybody for. What I 'ate are ze consequences. What I 'ate is zat my beautiful, bright, bubbly daughter 'as become shattered remnants of who she used to be, and zat zere is nothing zat I can do.”
“So you hold yourself responsible?”
“Of course. I'm 'er mother. I'm supposed to be able to comfort 'er; to be 'er confidante, ze one person who can patch up any of ze problems she 'as.”
She wipes her eyes futilely, as tears stream down her cheeks.
“But zis one... I can't. I failed.”
I look in the mirror, staring at an unfamiliar face. Four interviews today and they all have somebody different to blame. I thought it would be easy to find out who was responsible for allowing me to end up like this. It's only now, after this emotional day, that I've realized that maybe... maybe nobody is?
“Dominique?” I hear a familiar voice call out, and then the door to the bathroom opens. “Oh, I'm sorry, Mrs Kettering, I was just looking for Dom.”
“It's fine,” I smile, but Roxanne's face suddenly pales.
I turn back to the mirror, realizing why my body has suddenly started to feel so strange: the Polyjuice Potion I have been dosing myself with all day has expired. My time is up. I watch myself in the mirror as I turn from Ministry official to Dominique Weasley, the cursed one.
“You're the one who's been interviewing your family all day?” Roxanne asks in shock.
This time I turn around properly to look at her before I speak. “I had to, Rox. I needed to know whose fault it was.”
“And whose fault was it?” she asks, sitting down on the unusually pristine floor and patting the space next to her.
“I don't know,” I admit, sitting down next to her. “I thought maybe if I heard what my family were really thinking, if I heard all the things that they keeping hiding from me for my “benefit”, then I'd find out who was responsible.”
“So what happened?” Roxanne asks. “And how did you even get Mrs Kettering's hair anyway?”
I survey my best friend and cousin rolled into one with uncertainty. Her chocolate skin is marred with Uncle George's freckles, and her dark hair is as uncontrollable as it always has been. She is the only person who still acts normally while everyone else tiptoes around me nervously. Roxanne, I think, deserves the truth.
“Victoire blames everyone,” I explain. “I think she's kind of looking for someone to blame, just like I was. Dad thinks he's responsible because he let me go to Egypt. Lysander blames himself for switching duties with Dad so he could read a letter from Lorcan. And Maman feels like it's her fault that I can't talk to her about the curse. As for Mrs Kettering, she monitored all the interviews, so if I messed up, she would've stopped me.”
“Why don't you talk to Auntie Fleur about what you see? Or even Victoire?” Roxanne asks. “I know she did something bad, but that's a long way in the future, isn't it?”
“It doesn't change anything,” I whisper. “Do you know what I saw in her future?” When Roxanne nods, I continue. “She was an old woman, like the age that Headmistress McGonagall is now. She was walking down the steps, when she tripped over a frayed carpet that hadn't been replaced- there was a new roll of carpet in the corner waiting to be installed- and she hit her head. I saw my sister die, Roxanne; how can I look her in the eye now?”
“What happens if it's your death I see next? Maman's? Dad's? Lysander's? Louis'?”
She looks at me, and I can see in her eyes that she can't provide an answer. That she, like everyone else, doesn't have the answers that I so desperately need. After today, I know that I must find a way to reassure my family and Lysander that my curse wasn't their fault. But just because there's nobody to blame doesn't mean that living with this curse isn't a nightmare. Until now, I had never realized how much I touched people. I had never counted the hugs I gave, never gave a second thought to people who I brushed past in the street. Now, I do.
I am expected to wait while the Healers at St Mungo's investigate my “condition”; while my father relearns every book he has ever read on the subject of curse-breaking in the hope of finding a way to cure me. But until then, all I can do is hope, and keep away from people because quite frankly, every time my skin meets someone else's, it is a bittersweet touch.
Just like knowing that the only people I can blame also happen to be the people I love the most.
Videre futura involuntarie aliquem tangere pellibus cum = Latin translation for “to see the future of anyone they touch skins with”
Madame = French translation of Mrs
Oui = French translation of Yes
Maman = French translation of Mum
I hope you liked this one-shot, and I'd love a review if you have time! ♥