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Chapter 32 : Blackout: Rose and Scorpius POV
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When I finally crawled up to our room in Number Twelve, Scorpius wasn't there. Al and Selenia, who'd escorted me home, found him sleeping in his original room on the top floor of Number Twelve - Regulus’s room. In fact, over the days following the engagement party, he basically moved himself up there. After my talk with Albus, I understood where Scorpius was coming from. My ire with him had wilted into something between guilt and pity when I realized that the beautiful, kind soul that I'd fallen desperately in love with didn't have the same nurturing upbringing that I'd had.
The following weeks were a blur of studying, talking and tears. Not talking to Scorpius, of course. He'd get up really early and leave before anyone else was up. He always made me a big breakfast with a warming charm sitting in the kitchen as well as a full, packed lunch in the fridge. I kept telling myself that he just needed some time to work everything out.
My anger about the situation had ebbed, but that didn’t make it easier. It was replaced with a heavy sadness. I cried myself to sleep most nights, but I'd never let anyone know that. If Scorpius knew, he’d just feel worse and draw away even further. If Al knew, he wouldn’t be so sympathetic to Scorpius’s cause and thus alienate him more than he already was.
My one saving grace was Selenia. Thankfully, Uncle Harry agreed that Al and I could let her into our confidence regarding the prophecy and I finally felt like I had my best friend back. She took it really well and, though I never told her that Al had obliviated her all those months ago, she did seem a bit suspicious about how long we all knew about it – but she never asked. She was a great support, as a friend and a colleague. Since Al was pretty much on ‘Scorpius duty,’ Selenia and I had lots of time together to study and talk. I hoped that Scorpius and I being – whatever it was we were being – didn’t put too much of a strain on Al and Selenia’s relationship. Whenever I asked her about it, she always assured me they were just fine.
We were knee deep in throes of our very last Healer Trainee course. The Magical Records Seminar wasn’t really as difficult as everyone had made it out to be. Once we got past the boring part of learning all the medical codes for illnesses, most of it consisted of looking up old files and determining if the Healers had adequately diagnosed the conditions. Some of them were really fascinating. For example, ever since the dragon pox vaccine came out when I was around three, there are very few cases anymore. I'm proud to say that my Uncle Charlie played a lead role in that vaccine, having accidentally discovered that a simple combination of dragon saliva and flobberworm slime could prevent the disease. Therefore, none of us trainees had ever seen an actual person with the disease. We had to rely on photos taken of victims and the medical reports.
Selenia didn’t care for this type of Healing. She, like most of the other trainees, found it tedious. I could agree with her that it was more rewarding to interact with an actual patient, but after we got through the basic parts of proving our skills at recognizing common ailments from photos and medical records, we were given tougher cases to solve. Some of them were cases that had never been cracked before. I really fancied the intrigue of deciphering a puzzle that other Healers couldn’t.
We were each given five unsolved cases as our final exam. We had the last eight weeks of the course to report on the cases to the best of our abilities. I solved three of them in the first week. The fourth one took me another week, mainly because the patient had suffered from both a Fanged Geranium bite and an allergy to kneazles.
The final case was what really stumped me. It was a couple who died nearly seven years earlier. The Healer who worked their case determined c.o.d. (cause of death) to be a muggle auto accident. When I examined the photos of the couple’s injuries, it just didn’t seem to fit.
First off, while more witches and wizards were indeed driving automobiles, an accident was really rare, due to the enchantments typically put on motor vehicles. They almost always had stretching charms on them so that if an object did get too close, the car would shift shapes to move around it. It’s not very likely that a magical couple would be driving a car that didn’t have even some basic charms on it.
But that wasn’t the only thing that seemed unusual about this case. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was troubling me. I stayed up late, night after night, just staring at the photos and reading over the reports, hoping something would jump out at me and explain the uneasy feeling I got when I looked at them. My nightly routine consisted of settling in to my room at around eight o'clock, working on the case for about an hour, and crying my eyes out over Scorpius until I fell asleep. One night in mid-May, a knock at the door broke me out of my concentration.
“Come on in.” The gentle tap-tap told me that it was Selenia, most likely coming in to check on me.
“How are you doing?” she asked. I hadn’t seen her at all that day. We’d spent our time visiting different parts of the hospital to talk to all of the Healers and see how the different departments interacted. Our final apprenticeship requests were due by the end of the following week. Selenia was pretty set on obstetrics and she’d spent most of her day with Healer Chang. I was envious that she already knew what she wanted, especially considering that I had absolutely no idea what specialties to consider. Everything interested me.
My day consisted of visiting the severe curses ward, the emergency care unit, the preventative care ward, and I topped it all off with a visit to the poison unit. After all of that, I still couldn't decide. It was all so overwhelming. Since my pregnancy was no longer a secret, a few of my colleagues suggested that I just take a year leave and be a Mum. I could join the next year’s class in their apprenticeship and it would leave me some time to decide. And while their reasoning made sense, it just felt like I'd be using the baby as an excuse because I couldn’t make up my mind. Also, indecisiveness aside, I was really, really looking forward to practicing Healing. It was what I'd wanted since I was fourteen years old, and it seemed like a little bit of a let down to take a leave of absence right when I was about to reach my end goal.
“I’m all right,” my voice wavered with the weight of everything pressing down on me - Scorpius, indecisions, finishing up my training. It seemed as if everything was happening all at once. Oh, no. The nightly tears were coming a bit early.
“Sorry, Selenia,” I could feel them streaming down my face and pattering onto my shirt. “Please don’t tell Al. I don’t want Scorpius to know that I get so upset.”
“Rose, Al and I both know you cry every night,” she said matter-of-factly, conjuring a pile of tissues and handing one to me. “We just want to help you, love.” She herself next to me on the bed.
“A-Am I that transparent?” Now I was sobbing. I dabbed at my eyes with the tissue.
“No, sweetheart,” she continued, peeling another one off the pile and wiping my face gently. “You are that pregnant. And missing a certain blond companion. It’s completely understandable.” She was rubbing my back with her other hand. Scorpius used to do that. It only made me miss him more and cry harder. I sobbed into a sopping tissue and began to massage my belly with my free hand, where I could feel a slight bump as of late. My next Healer appointment was a week off, but, as with most everything else that only made me feel blue. The thought of Scorpius not coming with me was unbearable.
“You still working on that one case?” Selenia decided to change the subject.
“Uh-huh,” I sniffled, welcoming the distraction and gesturing to the files spread out over the coverlet. “I’m stumped. Want to have a look?”
“Sure!” she said brightly, picking up a photo of one of the victims. “Wow! This is pretty messy. What does the report say?"
"Muggle automobile accident," I was regaining my composure. Focusing on schoolwork had a calming effect on me. "But I don't buy it. There are shards of twisted metal found in both victim's wounds, but no glass. At the very least, you'd think that there'd be some glass from the windscreen..."
"Wait," she sat up, staring at the photograph of the woman. "I’ve seen this type of wound before. It looks like the one Al had after that night at the Quaffle. He said he got hit with a rare curse. Something called verbero scalpere. I recognize the thin red lines that look like whip marks. See here,” she pointed to one of the pictures, “on the female victim?”
I leaned over to look at the photo more closely. She was correct. The very edge of one side of the wounds had distinct, red slashes. It was easy to miss, but I remembered treating Al’s wounds twice daily with dittany. I began scanning the other photos.
“Look!” my heart was in my throat. “The male victim has the same thing! Except, this one is on his temple.”
"So - this wasn't an accident at all... not if curses are involved," she said slowly, reaching for the autopsy reports.
I shook my head, staring intently at the strange mark in the photo. “Can't have been. Nonetheless, this is a huge breakthrough. Thank you Selenia!”
I peered closer at the male victim’s head. The image didn’t show the entire head because of privacy issues. The names had even been removed from the paperwork – from all of the cases. However, because this wizard’s injuries were on his head, the photo showed only the top part of his crown, encompassing the temple and one eye, which was open as it stared out of the photograph without seeing. For a moment I got lost in the depths of that steel-gray eye. It emphasized the tuft of white hair speckled with ash. I could see along the rim of his skull. Looking closer at the hairline, just above the temple, I saw an unmistakable shape. My breath caught at the distinctive injury. I had only seen the shape as a years-old scar, not a fresh wound. However, I would know that lightning bolt anywhere.
Slowly, an idea formed in my mind. “I was wrong. This wound is not from verbero scalpere.”
“How do you know?”
I was too wrapped up in my discovery to answer her. My heart pounded and my eyes widened to be sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.
“Selenia, do you think that this could have been… a-a murder? The victims were attacked and murdered with the killing curse... and then… it was covered up somehow to make it look like - an accident?”
“Holy Merlin, Rose. What makes you think that?” she whispered.
“This.” I pointed to the jagged line. It was thin, but bright red. “It looks just like Uncle Harry’s, but his is quite faded.”
“I see it. I see it! Wow…” she breathed. She pulled the photo closer to her so she could examine it better. In turn, I picked up the photos of the female victim. Because her injuries were confined to her torso, all the pictures of her were cut off at the neck. I scanned the injuries very closely. It was very graphic. Shrapnel had torn through most of the skin on her chest, into the tissue below. At the very heart of the wound, there was another jagged, lightning bolt shaped blemish. But this one was black against the red surrounding tissue. I found it amazing that apparating downstairs could make me so queasy I would lose lunch everywhere, but looking at these photos didn’t even give me butterflies in my stomach. I was just so focused on the task. Solve the puzzle. Figure out the mystery.
Selenia was equally impressed when I pointed out the lightning bolt on the female victim. “Rose. This is serious. According to this, the male victim was hit with the killing curse outright, but the female was tortured first. You should present this to Healer Lawrence first thing in the morning. This is a really big deal. If this is murder…”
“I wish I could know more about the victims. I mean, if they were murdered, there was probably a reason why. It’s not likely they were randomly chosen. And the fact that it was made to look like an accident…” Something else was bothering me about this, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I needed some time to think and the emotion was steadily building inside me.
“Sels… I’m getting pretty tired. I think I’m going to put this on hold until tomorrow and just get some rest.”
“All right, love. Want me to stay? It’s still a bit early.”
“Thank you, but not tonight. I… have to… just rest, I guess.” I knew I was being really obvious, but the tears were already threatening to fall again. Usually, after I made a big breakthrough with one of my courses, I'd share it with Scorpius, but not this time.
She gave me a small smile. I knew I wasn’t fooling her, but I really wanted to be alone and cry by myself – like I did every night. Selenia wrapped me in a warm hug and, when she released, patted my back gently. I smiled in appreciation. All too soon, she was climbing the stairs to her and Al’s room.
As I snuggled into the chilled and empty bed, I couldn’t get the weird feeling out of my head. Something else was amiss with those photos. The thought that I was looking at murder victims sent a shuddering chill through me, but it was more than that. I pondered until my head hurt as I fitfully turned around in the sheets.
Selenia was right, I should bring my findings to Healer Lawrence first thing in the morning and maybe he could shed some light on the case. At the very least, he’d be able to look up their names. Exhaustion trumped my curiosity and then melted into extreme sadness as my thoughts drifted to Scorpius. The tears came, but my fatigue won over in the end. I fell asleep thinking about that one grey eye.
Next morning, I trekked up to Regulus’s room. I knew Scorpius wouldn’t be there. He'd been getting up really early and heading out – to where I'd no idea, but he always seemed to be gone before everyone else was stirring. I was actually running a bit late, having slept in. I wanted to leave him a note about my Healer appointment the following week, on the off chance that he wanted to come. As a last minute thought, I brought the scan photo of the baby with me. Once in his room, I conjured a picture frame and put the parchment in it. Then, I hung the green ribbon marked with “Weasley-Malfoy Baby” that he was so fond of across the edge of the frame. I left it with the note on his bed about the day of the Healer appointment. I knew how much he loved that picture and the ribbon.
I stopped off in my room on the way down to the kitchen to pick up the files for my case. Even though I was running behind, I decided to walk instead of apparating to the bottom floor. Apparation was still making me queasy, so I only did it when necessary. I was examining the photos one more time on my way down when something caught my foot. The entire folder flew from my hand as I looked down to see what I had tripped on. There was nothing there, but all the same, I stumbled down the stairs. I had a moment of relief as I managed to regain my balance on the next step. I let out a breath as my foot found solid ground, but it was fleeting as my other foot slid out from under me and down the next step. My arms immediately flew out to grasp at something, but they couldn’t make contact with the handrail. The next thing I remember was an inexplicable force pushing me forward. Try as I might to avoid it, I tumbled down and down, bumping my shoulder, back and knee as I rolled head over heels. My head banged roughly on an unforgiving wooden tread. As I was desperately flailing my arms to grab on to something, I caught a glimpse of a fuzzy figure in a dark robes with light hair stood on the top step. Then everything went black.
The cool morning air rushed past my face and made my eyes water. I didn’t put on my Quidditch goggles in my haste to get on the broom and start flying – and start forgetting. These early morning flies were meant to keep my nerves in check, but they did little to soothe the anguish of the prophecy and Rose and the baby and our future. Fly and forget became my mantra.
The flying felt great, but the forgetting part wasn’t going so well. Every day, it was getting harder to be apart from Rose. Occasionally Al came with me to the pitch, but the mornings were the only time he had a few minutes with Selenia, so he usually just met me at the Ministry for training.
It'd been nearly three weeks since we found out about the prophecy – or the second part of the prophecy. I was still having a hard time processing it. It left me with more questions than answers. What was my father really like? What did my grandparents do during the war, exactly? Clearly they were housing death eaters and Voldemort at their home, Malfoy Manor. Had they killed innocent muggles and wizards to gain favor with him? How many? And I couldn't get past the fact that my father was involved in that horrible incident that happened to Hermione when Rose’s parents and uncle were taken hostage. Had my father been her torturer? I squeezed my eyes shut against the burning wind and the burning frustration at not knowing.
My thoughts drifted to Rose. I loved her so much it physically hurt to not be near her – and our baby; but I had decided they were better off without me and my tainted blood. My stomach lurched at the thought of how my lineage could poison our baby. If the one thing I could do for my child was to stay far, far away, then I'd do it. It already had the burden of a prophecy hanging over it; I didn’t need to add a wicked family line to the mix.
My eyes began to prick with tears at the thought of how close I'd come. I almost, almost had a family. A wife who loved me and a child on the way. Truthfully, it was all I'd ever wanted - since my parents’ accident. It'd seemed so close I could touch it, only to be cruelly taken out of my hand as if I were a child stealing a sweet from the table meant for someone else.
None of that mattered now. I landed my broom on the edge of the pitch and walked into the changing area. Rose had her family to help her and she was better off without the Malfoy name and all the encumbrances that come with it. I hadn't exactly worked out where I would go, but the sooner I left Number Twelve, the better.
I took a long, hot shower, contemplating how best to tell Al. He'd try to talk me out of it, I was sure. I'd probably have to leave the Auror program - another feat I'd come so close to accomplishing. Al would just have to understand why I was cutting all ties with the lot of them. Rose would need him to be there for her and I wouldn't want to put any of them into a position of choosing sides. I was doing it for the future of my family. The best way for me to take care of them was to be as far away as possible.
Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear. Al was standing outside the washrooms as I entered to change into my training robes. His face was ashen.
“Scorp,” he began, “we have to go. It’s Rose. She’s had an accident.” His green eyes were wild with fear.
My heart stopped and my stomach fell through the floor. No. Not Rose. Not the baby.
Not my whole world.
A/N: Dun dun duuuuuunnn! I don't really have much to say - as I think I've sorta said it all in this chapter - heh heh. Special thanks to Emily (-BookDinosaur-) for the chapter name :) I'd really, really love to know what you think of this one, so please leave a review! ♥ Beth
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