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Chapter 18 : Of Final Thoughts
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The woman ushered them into three metal chairs sat before a desk while the man gave a small cough before beginning to speak. “I am Fadil Sawalha and this is my partner Halima Abo-Samra. We believe you have a connection to Frederic Russell and it would be of a great use to know what the connection is.”
Hermione felt Hugo startle forward, ready to recount their whole tale, but she held back with her arm. Her work at the Ministry had taught her that caution should always be heeded in these sorts of situations.
“May I ask why? We have a right to know why you have an interest in Frederic Russell before giving you any information.”
The woman, Halima, gave her a stern look before leaning back against the desk. “We have been looking for Mr Russell for many years. We believe he is linked to the deaths of several people searching for the city of Acanthus. We also believe he is linked to the disappearance of several important Egyptian relics which we wish to have returned. Mr Russell appears to be acting upon a slight against his family which occurred many years ago and is using that as an excuse to cause this horrific crimes. Now, would you please tell us what link you have to him.”
Hermione felt all the information click into place in her mind. That was why whoever looked for Acanthus disappeared. It wasn’t some sinister force that the city had which caused everyone to die. It was him, Frederic Russell. He was the root of their trouble all over again.
Satisfied with their response, she looked them squarely in the eyes and began to recount the tale.
Rose stood beside Lorcan as he muttered away above Anthony’s body trying to quell the fever which was so strong his perspiration had rolled onto his pillow leaving dank, dark stains beneath which only grew larger and larger for each minute which passed. In the hours since they had arrived back at camp from escaping Acanthus, Anthony’s condition had only deteriorated and deteriorated rapidly at that.
Lorcan let out a deep sigh before grabbing the damp cloth beside the bed and sweeping away the pools of sweat which had built up on his temples while Rose watched on. Out of the whole group, Anthony had suffered the worst. The others had come out of it with a few scratches and bruises but nothing serious. Or nothing physical was probably the better term.
The whole mood of the group had changed though and changed suddenly too.
David kept on shooting his sister suspicious looks and whenever she tried to approach him, he would shirk her off and march into another room but that was only after he gave Charlotte the darkest glare Rose had ever seen. In-between chasing her brother, Charlotte strolled around the room with her own pained expression, sometimes quietly inquiring if she could be of any help but otherwise keeping herself to herself.
It was Scorpius that puzzled her the most though. As soon as they had all arrived, he ran into his room and drew the curtain shut, muttering away to himself about possibilities and whether there was any chance of something happening. He hadn’t emerged since.
Anthony gave a groan of pain cutting Rose off from her thoughts and watched Lorcan lean down and listen to his panting cries.
“My head, my head! It feels as if it’s burning, on fire! Do something, put it out, I can’t go on!” he cried out and writhed around in his bed so the sheets tangled around him.
“Can’t you do something for it? Anything? What about more morphine? That might help,” Rose said hopelessly, knowing that if there was a solution to the problem Lorcan surely would have found it by now.
“I can’t.” Lorcan shook his head. “I’ve already given him so much it would harm him if he took anymore. If only Edward was still here, he knew a lot about how to treat things because of the war. He could have solved this.”
The pair of them fell into a silence to remember their friend. The wound which was caused by his death a mere few hours ago felt as if it was never going to close again with the amount of grief for him that Rose currently felt. It felt as if nothing could ever be fixed again.
“We still need to go back, get his body,” Rose said slowly, not knowing if her proposal to return willingly to their attackers would be greeted with outcry or not.
“Yes, at some point. But not yet, not now. We need to wait for Anthony.”
“I agree,” Scorpius said softly, appearing at the door, shocking both of them.
“Rose, can I talk to you? In private? I have something I need to say,” he continued.
She looked to Lorcan for permission to leave and he nodded. “You need a break, Rose, after being there with Edward too, so go. It will do you good and help Anthony if you’re rested.”
“Thanks,” she murmured and headed to Scorpius leaning by the door, her fingers fell down beside his as she drew up next to him, and Rose felt his cool tips curl around them and lead her from Anthony’s room to his own.
They ended up sitting on the edge of his bed, her hand still tightly clamped into Scorpius’s, his fingers calming the pulse surging through the tips of hers. Clutter littered the room, shards of glass were dotted on the small side table and floor, dark remnants of liquid lurking by their side and it seemed as if wherever they fell a pile of clutter had fallen beside it.
They sat there in silence, hands entwined, thoughts probably similar too. No doubt focused on the events which had occurred earlier on in the day. She didn’t dare look at him, she just couldn’t. Something had changed in Scorpius. With the mess, his currently ragged breath and the way he kept on lurking round the issue. Perhaps he knew something, something bigger, more frightful than what had already happened.
Perhaps this was his warning.
“What is it, Scorpius?” she asked him slowly, her fingers dancing around in his palm. “What did you have to tell me in private?”
Their eyes met for the first time at that moment but she could see even that was too much for Scorpius as he quickly looked down again.
“You can tell me,” Rose carried on, trying not to let her sense of despair seep into her voice. “I might be able to help. It’s always better when you tell someone.”
His hands unwrapped themselves from hers and ran round her back drawing Rose closer to him, so close she could feel the heat of his breath dance around on the side of her cheek. She pulled him in too, closer and closer until their lips met and collided against one and another. His hands ran through the mass of her red hair, more feverish, more urgent than he had ever been before. It was as if this was the only thing holding him onto the earth.
Rose fell back against the bed, forgetting about everything else at the moment apart from Scorpius. He fell down with her, the lips of each lover not being parted for a second. Her hands found his neck and wound him closer and closer to her until there was not a gap between them. With Scorpius, she could forget everything and everyone. With him, she could live in the land of dreams.
Scorpius’ mouth moved down, littering kisses down her throat, around her shoulders and chest, each one making Rose’s pound faster and faster than the previous. Moving her hands down from his neck she reached his shirt and fumbled at the top button, slipping it through the hole with ease revealing a sun speckled chest.
With the first one done, the other buttons opened with ease to Rose and her hands wandered down his chest, tracing spiral patterns round and round and round, taking it all in. Her hand wandered down further, resting on top of the buckle of his belt where she waited for his response.
“Are you sure about this?” Scorpius whispered in her ear, his words almost seemed like magic to her.
“I’m sure,” she whispered back and fell back into the bed.
Hours later, Scorpius woke and turned on his side to see Rose’s red curls merged in with her milky white skin and the sight of her sleeping soundly. He couldn’t remember much from those hours, the only thing which really burnt in his mind were his feelings for Rose and the strength and power they had over him.
Rose seemed to bring out so many things in him. Things he never could have imagined if he was without her.
She gave a small yawn and turned to Scorpius smiling at him. “Your staring at me woke me up.”
Her gentle laugh floated around in the air, each note of it hitting Scorpius with more pain and more feeling than he could have emerged. Knowing that their first time together might be their last only worsened it.
Leaning in towards her, Scorpius whispered, “I love you, Rose. Really truly, love you. I know I can’t always say it to your face, and the words stumble before me, but I do mean it, no matter what happens next it’s all done for you.”
“What do you mean, Scorpius? What are you going on about?” she asked, reaching for his hand and wrapping it in hers.
“I don’t want your life plagued with regrets and anger. I don’t want you to pity me for what I chose to do because I chose it because of you, because I wanted you to have a chance at life, because I know I have to do this. I’ve known for a long time, what I have to do to make sure you get back and I’ve come to terms with it. I know it doesn’t seem like I’m making sense right now, but soon you will see what I mean.”
“What are you doing? What are you planning?” With each word that she spoke her voice grew louder and higher in pitch. Perhaps he shouldn’t have said a thing to Rose, perhaps it would have better to simply disappear. He often felt like a spectre so he supposed that it might have been easier that way for everyone involved.
“Nothing, nothing for the moment, but just in case something did happen I want you to know that I love you.”
Scorpius watched a small smile float onto her face. “Ok, but I will be keeping my eyes on you, Scorpius.”
They fell into silence until Rose suddenly leant over him and whispered. “I do love you too though.”
An hour later, Scorpius walked slowly into Anthony’s room, the dank smell of sweat still lurking in the air. This time his visit was at the request of Anthony himself, rather than to pull Rose away. He caught Lorcan’s eyes as he walked in and his friend gave him a small nod before standing up from his chair and wandering over.
“Thanks for coming,” he said slowly. “He’s been calling out for you for a while now, but you were otherwise occupied with Rose it seems. I don’t know what he wants but he made it clear that I wasn’t to be in the room when you talked.”
Lorcan gave his friend a small smile before walking away and out of the room. Scorpius shuffled forward, not really knowing how to deal with the sick man, before collapsing down on the chair beside his bed and smiling at him.
“How are you feeling, Anthony? Is there anything I can get you?”
“I feel rotten,” Anthony mumbled out, managing to crack a small smile at him. “It’s getting worse and worse with the minute no matter how many potions are poured down my throat and wands are prodded at me. Nothing seems to be doing the trick. It seems as if my time’s nearly up. I can feel it all over me.”
“Don’t say that,” Scorpius said quickly. “Don’t say that yet. We can take you back to Cairo, get you properly treated, sort you out. You can be better again, Anthony. There is hope.”
“And then what? Edward, one of my oldest friends, has been butchered to death by that vile, vile, man. I can’t even say his name it hurts so much. I have no parents, siblings, no sweetheart at home to power me on. No, I know this is it. I have lost everything and now I am losing myself and I know there can’t be a way to change it. But there is something I can do for you.”
A silence fell between the two of them which was only broken by intermittent raspy coughs from Anthony. There wasn’t anything anyone could do for Scorpius. He had sealed his fate by coming here. No one could change that. He was a man walking towards his death which came closer and closer for each second which passed.
“There isn’t anything you can do,” he said simply, repeating his thoughts verbally this time.
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong, Scorpius. I believe there is. I know something that you don’t. I know for a fact that out of everyone here, that vile man, George Russell, wants to kill you more than anyone else. I can stop him from killing you though. I can do that.”
Scorpius’s gaze remained on Anthony’s feverish face. He didn’t know what to do. The fact that George wanted to kill him was of little surprise. In fact, it almost made sense. Frederic Russell had hinted at it ages ago, and perhaps this is what caused his death. It would be a final battle between the two of them. Between him and George.
“What do you mean you can save me? How? You don’t need to do anything, Anthony. You’re sick, dying, it wouldn’t be of much use to exert yourself just for me.”
“But I will be of use, Scorpius, I will be,” he said softly. “I can pretend to be you and let him kill me instead. I’m dying so by killing me off earlier and saving you, I can do something good for the world. I can save you.”
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Scorpius cried out, trying to keep his voice under control. “You can’t just give up on life for my life. You can still be saved, you don’t have to do this. Even if we went ahead with this, how could you pretend to be me? I know George is sometimes slow, but I think even he would be able to tell if you simply dyed your hair blonde and thought that would do the trick.”
Anthony slowly raised his hand and held in front of Scorpius’s face. “I shan’t talk to you if you carry on insisting I’m not dying,” he said wearily. “When you approach death, you know that you’re at that moment. I know that I’m there, even though it doesn’t quite seem like it to you. We also do have a way to disguise myself as you. Edward was always one to prepare for all occasions and brought several vats of Polyjuice Potion along so we can use that. Therefore, everything is sorted. We can tell the others too, as there is no harm in them knowing and it will be fine.”
Scorpius shook his head at him. “I don’t think it will be fine. It won’t work. You don’t understand.”
“I do, I understand a lot more than you think. I am dying. You have a person after you who wants to kill you. I can die for you so we only have one death. It makes perfect sense, and we’ve had too many deaths recently it will make it better for everyone.”
“But why? Why do this for me? I barely even know you.”
Anthony sighed. “I like you Scorpius, I don’t want you to have an unnecessarily early death. As I haven’t done many notable things in my life but perhaps me giving you a chance to live can be one. Just accept the deal. I won’t have any arguments about it.”
Scorpius gave a small nod before looking down at the ground.
A day later, they were gathered around a table in Anthony’s room, David, Charlotte, Lorcan, Rose and Scorpius. They hoped Anthony would have enough energy to contribute to the discussions too, but Rose and the others all knew it was unlikely that he would.
“We have to get Edward’s body back,” David started. “We can’t just leave it there. He’s our friend, he has family back home and they need to have it so they can grieve properly. This could be our final thing for him as he does deserve it.”
“I agree,” Rose said. “We need to do it. He was an excellent leader, and he can be honoured in this way. We needn’t all go though. It would be too dangerous as this more of a reconnaissance mission. Just a few of us need to slip in and out and we’ll be fine. I don’t want to risk anyone else dying…”
“I have to be part of that group,” Anthony murmured from the corner, his voice shocking all of them. “I have to go, I have a pact with Scorpius. I have to see it through and going will let me do it.”
“Pact? What pact?” Rose asked, dreading that this could be something to do with what Scorpius hinted earlier on.
“George seems to be fixated on killing Scorpius no matter what and I am approaching my death no matter what you do to me. To spare you too much grief, we can minimise the deaths. I can die for Scorpius. We have discussed this already, and although Scorpius is a little unwilling, it is going ahead and none of you can dissuade us from that so please don’t try. Scorpius will have to naturally stay here though.”
All eyes turned from Anthony to Scorpius who didn’t look pleased at all. “I don’t want to play a part in this as it just seems wrong, but Anthony wants this to be. I feel as if I should honour a dying man’s wish.”
Rose felt something curl up tight in her stomach. Scorpius wasn’t going to die. He would be safe. Protected. But Anthony was destined for death instead. It all seemed so sudden, all these deaths. There were too many, in too short a time. This entire situation seemed far too horrible for her to speak a word. For once, words had failed her.
A similar silence fell between the group. The lines had shifted. They were no longer battling away with the idea they would all come out living, they knew lives were going to end so it was a question of how to make sure as little lives as possible did end. The mere thought chilled Rose.
“If they have settled between themselves, we must accept it then. It seems as if it’s the only reasonable thing to do right now,” David said slowly, the recent admission clearly shocking him too. “We have more important matters to discuss, namely my sister’s loyalty to us.”
A pause followed on from his statement. If the last announcement was designed to shock, this one made it look like a nice surprise. The chill fell upon Rose again. Charlotte, her Charlotte, the woman who had grown to be her friend and confidant had her loyalty put into question? This didn’t make sense, couldn’t make sense. Charlotte couldn’t have sided with George, she fought against him just yesterday. It couldn’t be.
“David, please, don’t do this. You don’t understand,” Charlotte said fearfully.
“Don’t do this? Don’t do this? You’re one to beg!” he hissed at her. “I cannot believe that my own sister would do this. I cannot believe it. You betrayed the whole group, you married George, you sided with that bloody traitor! By doing that, it led to Edward’s death, Anthony’s nearing one and perhaps another one of us will fall soon because of you too. If it wasn’t for one of George’s men letting slip that you were his wife so don’t attack, I never would have known as you would never would have had the courage to say. How could you do that and then have the audacity to sit here and beg for forgiveness knowing what he did. How could you?”
The group was shocked into silence by David’s passion as the man was usually one of fewer words and a calmer temperament. Rose could think that all what he was saying was, in fact, true and that’s what caused him to change so much, but then Charlotte’s actions didn’t make sense either. But one of the must be speaking the truth about the other.
“You don’t understand what it’s like for me. None of you do, except perhaps for Rose,” Charlotte started slowly. “I will simply live and die as a woman, remembered and known for nothing, but George gave me a chance to change that. I took it because I wanted to be remembered, I wanted to have done something and not simply be just a woman. He said that if I helped him throughout, give him inside info and things like that, I would be remembered too. He would make sure of it.”
At that exact moment, Rose lost nearly all respect she had had for her former friend. Rose had to make a name for herself, shine out against the rest of her family, but she did it on her own terms, her own way, not the way Charlotte did it. Not the way that involved betrayal and death.
“You fell for that?” Rose cried. “You really fell for those lies? Even I can tell he doesn’t mean a thing. So, you want to be known, I understand, but you don’t do it that way. You don’t’ betray your friends. You don’t go as far as to marry the person as well.”
At that point she felt Scorpius’s hand wrap around her own and gave her a knowing look. “Be careful what you say, Rose,” he whispered to her. “You don’t want to say anything you might regret later on.”
She fell back in her chair. She had to think, be cautious, be more like Scorpius, in moments like these but her anger had gotten ahead of her. Rose couldn’t even look in the direction of Charlotte though, she just couldn’t bear it. The woman who had helped her grow accustomed to this world had been feeding the enemy information.
“I married him because I had to. Don’t think I had a choice in it, Rose,” she said bitterly. “It was the only way to seal the deal. There is no love between us, there never was. If anything only contempt of what I had to do. I never knew he would go this far though, I never knew he would kill anyone. He never told me about that part. If I had known, I would never have told him a word about our plans, and I would have told you, warned you. You have to believe me about that.”
“Believe you?” David laughed darkly. “Believe you after all of that? I can’t ever bear to see the sight of you, and that’s coming from your own brother. If I had it my way you would just go, disappear, so I never had to see you again.”
Rose didn’t move at that point. She couldn’t. She wanted to believe her, that she never knew a thing, that none of this was really her fault, but Edward’s face crying out in pain flashed before her, Anthony’s contorted body danced in her eyes, all these images pushed further and further into her mind so she couldn’t see anything else but them.
“Is that what you really want, David? Do you want me to go?” Charlotte asked, her voice shaking up and down.
“There isn’t anything I would desire more than that,” he said viciously, his barbed tone scratching at Rose as well as his sister.
“Then I’ll go, leave, anything which might make you forgive me I will do,” she said simply, rising out of her chair, picking up her scarf before resting her hands on her stomach and giving it a small rub. “I hope you won’t judge me or anyone related to me too harshly, David. Please do that just for me.”
She gave one last faint look at Rose before walking out of the tent, her hands held to her eyes. Their number had dropped once more. Now, only five remained, Rose noted sadly. Pain erupted in her heart. The losses didn't seem to ease despite them growing in number.
Fadil and Hamila slowly nodded at Hermione as she finished her tale. It had taken just over an hour, and she didn’t think she would ever feel as drained as she did now.
“Thank you for telling us,” Fadil said slowly, raising his arms to his chest and crossing them.
“It was no problem,” Hermione said softly. “I have one question though, when you spoke about this family revenge he was acting behind, what did you mean exactly?”
Hamila sighed. “We are not completely sure either as the story is a long and complex one too, but we have a faint idea. It seems as if Frederic’s grandfather, a George Russell, was killed by someone, a person looking for Acanthus too, and that’s why he uses that as an excuse to kill off other visitors and steal their treasures. His grandmother, whose name we unfortunately don’t know, couldn’t bear to bring up Frederic’s father it seems.
“She said that her husband had torn their friends apart and had ruined her life so bringing up the child would never let her forget that. He was raised by his uncle, George’s brother, instead. He seemed to have learnt his hatred for everyone from him and then passed it onto his son, Frederic.”
“Thank you,” Hermione replied. “I just wanted to see if that could help me understand him as a person a little more.”
Hamila and Fadil nodded at her and then left her to her thoughts.
Author's Note:Whoo, a quick update as promised and we're getting closer and closer to the end! I expect about 2-3 more chapter left if all goes to plan. What did you make of all the revelations in this one though? With the information about Charlotte, Anthony's pact with Scorpius and the revelation at the end about Frederic Russell? Did any of you see it coming?
Thanks for all the lovely reviews so far, but a small note, please don't swear in the rules as I have to report them as it goes against rules even if it's like this sh*t as it still counts, so please keep them 12+! Thank you for reading, and if you have the time, please review as I love to hear all of your thoughts :D
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