Chapter 91 : Calm After the Storm
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Scarlett and Regulus were found at five fifty-two in the morning.
The sun had risen by then, although the air was still chilly because of the weather from the night before. That morning was mostly quiet, the only interruption the occasional chirping of birds. If anything, the Forbidden Forest did not feel so forbidden at all; with the sun overhead, with the only sounds the awaking wildlife, one might even say that it was calm there that morning, the calm after the storm.
And when they had arrived at Rowena Ravenclaw's outlook—Lily, Dumbledore, McGonagall and Sirius—even the landscape which had been so tumultuous the night before was calm, eerily so. The magnificent tree, covered in raindrops, gleamed in the sunlight, and the technicolor leaves sparkled as if they had been made of jewels.
It was beautiful at first sight. It was calming.
But as they continued towards the middle of the outlook, the calm atmosphere began to reveal the cracks as if to indicate that not all was as calm as it seemed. Suddenly it began to resemble something sinister, a mirror of what had transpired only hours before. The air, which had smelled like rain, started to smell faintly of flesh; the birds grew shriller as their song became a warning. The tree, upon closer investigation, had a tall, skinny cut in its trunk on one side, and on that side there was an empty space that was disconcerting to the eye.
And on the ground...
Lily's eyes found Regulus first; he was closer to the outlook's entrance and was beginning to move, albeit slightly. "Regulus," she said under her breath, and ran to him, brushing the hair from his eyes and checking his injuries. "I'm so happy you're alive, I'm so happy you're all right, oh, Regulus—"
Seeing Regulus alive was a blessing, yet it made Sirius's blood turn cold.
He knew, just as he had known where to go after the school had been checked, that if Regulus were here, Scarlett had to be as well.
Regulus was alive; could that mean that Scarlett was too? Sirius began to walk the perimeter of the outlook, anxiously watching his step and hoping that she was all right. "Scarlett," he said faintly, but got no response. His pace became quicker as he repeated her name, hoping, praying, wishing—
His feet stumbled on something jutting out of the ground and, curious, Sirius looked down. By his feet there was wood, which would have been unsurprising considering where they were, except the wood was polished and slender. It did not look like a branch—it looked like...
A broken wand? Sirius knelt down to pick up the fragment which he had stepped on. It was especially skinny, and the wood was stained a dark mahogany.
Twirling it in his hands, Sirius inspected closer. The scene looked familiar.
A broken wand. He felt himself going back, back to a memory that he dreaded to think about but couldn't stop himself from remembering. That night in the outlook, when Scarlett had screamed at him, revealing her Dark Mark with eyes that were sparkling red...
There had been wand fragments on the floor then...and he hadn't been able to piece together the mystery at that point, had been confused about the wards and confused about the French...
But now...now Sirius knew better. When they had been together in Hogsmeade she had told him that Voldemort had wanted to kill him but she had resisted. Now that he knew that she had been fighting his possession, it all made sense. The broken wand then had been her act of resistance; by destroying the means for Voldemort to kill him, Scarlett had been forced to denounce their relationship instead. The fight had been horrible, yes, but by breaking the wand she had stopped a worse fate.
So the broken wand, here...must have meant the same thing. It must have meant that Scarlett had fought Voldemort to prevent something bad from happening.
Sirius glanced at Regulus, who was being tended to by Lily. Was the broken wand a result of Scarlett trying to protect Regulus? Trying to prevent his death?
He dropped the wand as if it were on fire and continued to walk. If Scarlett had been able to save Regulus's life...then...what about her own?
His footsteps grew more hurried as he called her name again, louder, but there was no reply then either. He was approaching the opposite side of the tree—walking farther and farther away from that spot where he and Scarlett had first kissed, a spot ridiculously close to where Regulus was lying now...
And as he turned, sweeping his eyes fervently for a sign...
He saw her.
Sirius began to run towards her figure. "Scarlett!" he yelled, and as he approached her he put her head in his hands, removing the hair from her eyes to get a better look at her face.
Scarlett Devous looked serene. With her hair spilling over her shoulders, her complexion a little paler than normal, and her dark and wise eyes closed, she looked like an angel.
She looked unusually calm.
Sirius feared this calm after the storm more than anything.
Anxiously, he moved closer to her lips, trying to hear a breath...his hands tried to measure her pulse on her neck but could not because of the presence of a beautiful and white-hot necklace...
Sirius hadn't stopped pacing.
It wasn't just that Sirius was pacing; it was the erratic nature of the pacing, the abrupt back-and-forth movement, that was so bewildering. His hands were constantly through his hair, tugging on it anxiously, yet still he continued to pace fervently, his eyes constantly towards the hospital bed where Scarlett was lying motionless.
Lily stood up—she had been sitting at Regulus's bedside—and interrupted the pathway of Sirius's pacing. He stopped, confused, as if he hadn't realized that Lily had been there at all.
She put her hands on his shoulders. "Not dead, Sirius. That's all we could have asked for."
Sirius blinked and then pushed Lily's hands off his shoulders in order to continue pacing. "She might as well be," he said; he sounded stunned. "You read that book, you know what it said—"
"It's not the same," Lily said gently, but Sirius was not finished—
"That girl got in a coma and never woke up," Sirius said. "And now she's in a coma and she'll never wake up either. I'm going to kill him," he vowed, his tone quickly turning venomous, "I swear that I'll kill him—"
"Sirius," Lily said, "you need to calm down—"
"Calm down! She's as good as dead, how do you expect me to—"
Lily stepped in front of Sirius again; this time his eyes narrowed. "Things are different this time. Trust me on that."
Sirius glanced over in the direction of where Scarlett was as Lily continued. "Dumbledore has been working for hours. He said that he was slowing it down in every possible way.
"And," Lily said, "you know her better than anyone else. You know that she wouldn't lay her life down for Voldemort without a fight."
He sighed and took Lily's seat, his eyes constantly on the hospital bed on the other side of the room. "I wish I could go and see her," he said. "This is killing me."
Lily sat down on the edge of Regulus's bed, her body facing Sirius. "Do you want to know something?" she said, and for a second Sirius looked at her before turning his eyes back to where they'd been. "I've known you for seven years now.
"To be honest, I didn't really rate you much for the first six," she said, and Sirius smiled. "I thought you and James were, well, obnoxious. And childish.
"And then, for whatever reason...I started to fancy James." Lily's face lit up as she thought of him. "I started to realize then that he might be a little daft sometimes, but I had seriously underestimated him. James is one of the most thoughtful and compassionate people I've ever met."
Lily moved closer to Sirius, her eyes travelling to where his were. "But even when I was falling in love with James, I still didn't think that highly of you, Sirius. James had so many great things to say about you...For whatever reason, I wasn't totally convinced. I couldn't shake the idea I had about you. I thought you were an immature womanizer, really."
Sirius smiled again, wryly. "I used to be."
Lily put her hand on Sirius's shoulder. "I'm really sorry I underestimated you," she said. "You didn't deserve that."
Sirius didn't say anything in reply, thinking about her words.
"You're so caring," Lily said, trying to reassure. "She needed someone like you."
At Lily's words and her use of past tense, the gateway that had been blocking Sirius's guilt suddenly snapped, and he stood, pacing again. "That's not true," he said. "He wouldn't have done this to her if it weren't for me. She would have been married and she would have been all right with Theodore. Merlin knows she wouldn't have been in a coma..." He looked helplessly, again, towards where Scarlett was. "If she dies, Lily, it's all my fault..." His voice lowered as he realized the weight of his statement. "And I don't know what I'll do, I just don't."
"It's a horrible situation and I can't promise that everything's going to be all right," Lily said. "But you can't blame yourself for this. Sirius..." Lily stood up too. "You saved her from something worse. You really did. Do you think you've made her happy?"
Sirius didn't pause. "Yes."
"So maybe...all that she went through was worth it, to be with you," said Lily. "You made her happy. If she had stayed with Theodore, she would have been content, maybe. But not happy. There's a big difference between the two.
"And if you hadn't been there, I guarantee Voldemort would have hurt her anyway. She might have even accepted it...but because of you...that Dark Mark doesn't own her anymore. You saved her in that way."
Sirius sighed regardless. "I don't want her to die," he said. "I just don't want her to die."
Lily wrapped her arms around Sirius. "Just trust that everything will be okay," Lily said. "That's all we can do right now, Sirius."
He eased as he pulled her into a hug, but despite all she'd said his eyes did not waver, not for a second, from looking across the Hospital Wing towards Scarlett.
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