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Chapter 41 : Brewing: Rose POV
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I had a lovely space set up with an examination table and a curtain that separated it from the small laboratory in the back corner. It was complete with a full set of basic potion ingredients and all the supplies needed to brew and store the medicinal potions I’d need for healing the Aurors.
I’d placed my desk next to the lone window in the room, and positioned it so I could look out to the side, but still face my patients entering the room. A graduation gift from my parents, it was made of beautiful teakwood and came with a matching file storage cabinet.
As an added bonus, Uncle Harry and Healer Lawrence agreed that Astatine could work with me part time. It was win-win because while she wasn’t a full fledged medi-witch, she had enough medical training to heal minor cuts and injuries, and a vast knowledge of how to organize medical records, so she was the ideal person to help me set up and keep track of everything. She was going to hold down the fort while I was on leave with the baby — at least for the lesser stuff. If there were any major attacks or serious injuries, the Aurors would revert to their old policy of using St. Mungo’s.
“It looks fabulous, Astatine,” I shuffled over to her after I’d finished putting away the lacewing flies and snake fangs in the apothecary drawers. It was nice to have something to focus on, even if it was just for short periods of time. “I think we’ve just about everything set for now. I’ve got some paperwork to finish up just, but I’ll catch you tomorrow and we can do a once over to see if we’ve missed anything, yeah?”
“Sounds fine, love,” she replied. “Got a few things to work out at Mungo’s this affernoon. Bye, Rose!” she waved merrily on her way out the door. I smiled as I watched her frosty wisps of hair fly about as she walked away. There was something comforting about having Astatine around.
“Whatcha working on?” Albus poked his head in a few minutes after she’d left.
“Hi there!” I beamed at him from my seat behind my newly placed desk. He’d taken to visiting me occasionally at my new office. I figured it was his way of easing himself back into the idea of working as an Auror again. It was a good step for him, because we could talk about some cases and other Auror department stuff, but he didn’t feel pressured to jump back into the department and didn’t have to see people and casework that reminded him of Selenia before he was ready. I shifted in my seat. I had about six weeks to go before the baby came and I was absolutely enormous. The little guy kicked me every few minutes and I simply couldn’t stay in the same position for longer than thirty seconds.
Including sleeping. Or rather, attempting sleep.
All the same, I was bound and determined to prove that I could do the job, seven and a half months pregnant or not. Albus was still looking at me, waiting for an answer to his question.
“I’m - urgh,” the baby kicked again and I redistributed my weight to relieve the pressure on my back. I patted the open file on the desk in front of me. One more kick for good measure and I let out a small gasp. “... I’m,” I started again, actually ashamed to admit how long I’d put off my responsibilities. “Erm… still working on my final assignment for my medical records class. Healer Lawrence said I could get to it whenever I was ready, but I think I’ve gone beyond testing his generous nature.” I let out a snicker at that one. If there’s one thing Healer Lawrence didn’t have - it was a generous nature.
Albus chuckled along with me at my comment. He’d been laughing a little more frequently and the bright, cheerful sound warmed my heart. “So what’ve you got? Let’s take a look at it,” he said with a hopeful grin across his face.
I grimaced and tried not to meet his eyes. The photos weren’t the most uplifting of pictures, as the couple in them were clearly deceased. Not to mention the fact that the automobile accident they’d been in had left them in a right state. The photo of the male victim only revealed the top left corner of his head, it was zoomed in to show one grayish eye and a patch of hair. Scratches and cuts were apparent on his high forehead. I had to make the assumption that the rest of his face and head were left unscathed, otherwise I’d been given more pictures to examine. So I’d concluded that he’d seen the crash coming and had turned his head at the last minute by instinct.
The female victim was even worse. The photo obscured her head, but the damage to her torso was the sort of thing that would make the most seasoned Healer retch. Her midsection had been damaged beyond anything I’d ever seen and she must’ve died instantly.
“I dunno, Albus. I don’t recall too much about this case. I’ve been wracking my brain, but all I remember is that S-Selenia—” I glanced nervously at him, but he was eyeing the papers under my hand, a hungry look in his eye. I let out a quick breath of relief and continued, “Selenia found something off about the pictures. It was bizarre enough to make me want to visit Healer Lawrence immediately the following morning - but then I fell down the stairs… Anyway — I erm… I can’t remember what we’d found and I don’t see anything unusual about them. It’s just a couple that were killed in an automobile accident.”
“Please Rose?” he pleaded, and I felt all my resolve wearing away. I simply couldn’t say ‘no’ to him. He was an Auror, after all, and was showing genuine interest in a case for the first time since we’d lost Selenia.
“Alright, have at it.” I plopped the file on the desk and he eagerly slid it towards himself. He flipped quickly through the lab reports, scanning the info. Then he stopped on the photos and stared hard at the one of the man’s eye and forehead, bringing the image right under his nose.
“Where’s the glass?” he asked after a few moments of intense scrutiny.
“You said the couple died in an auto accident. The scratches and marks on this guy’s face sort of look like he was scraped up from something. Since they were killed in the car, it seems likely his face would’ve hit the windscreen, but I don’t see any shards of glass in his hair. If the windscreen hadn’t shattered, he’d only have one large bruise instead of all the scrapes. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Hmmm…” He had a point. But there was more to it than that. “You’re definitely on to something — hold on!” I pulled the photo out of his hands, needing to give it a closer inspection. “These ‘scrapes.’ Don’t they look a little familiar?” I asked him. When he sent me a quizzical look, I grabbed his arm and shoved up the sleeve of his robes revealing the white lines that were fading scars from his verbero scalpere curse.
He looked down at his arm. “Yeah, you’re right. It does look really similar.”
I shook my head and closed my eyes tight, trying to remember the conversation with Selenia. There was something else we’d found. I could feel the same sensation at the realization that this wasn’t simply a car crash. My eyes poured over the picture, examining every tiny scratch and blemish, but nothing else seemed apparent — except a vague resemblance to the marks sustained from verbero scalpere. It wasn’t enough to go on, though, and it seemed odd that’d be something that would make me feel the need to talk to the Head Healer about it.
My fingers scrambled through the paperwork and finally clutched the other photograph - the one of the woman. Her torso showed severe damage, but again, like Albus had pointed out, no glass shards. It was a pretty gruesome sight and after scrutinizing it for several minutes, I couldn’t make out anything significant enough to raise the alarm. I was getting frustrated and shifted my weight again to get comfortable.
“Rose,” Albus started thoughtfully, “If this weren’t a car crash and instead — perhaps — looked like some sort of a mistake, that may be why you and S-Selenia wanted to talk to Lawrence.”
“Yeah,” I said, finally standing up to relieve the pressure on my back. My ankles immediately felt the heavy weight of fluid pooling and swelling, but it was basically just a game of moving myself around so that one body part didn’t get too uncomfortable. I shoved my discomfort aside and continued, “but nothing here is really that big of a deal. I don’t see anything obvious enough to be evidence of a curse. Even interpreting those scars as verbero scalpere is kinda stretching it.”
“Hmmm…” his thumb rubbed at his jawline, deep in thought and I couldn’t help but smile at him. He was finally getting back to a close representation of his old self. And while none of us could ever go back to the way we were before, it was really comforting to see Albus deep in thought, working a case and not thinking about how much he missed Selenia. “But you two had found something. Even if we don’t see it here, it’s worth a mention to Healer Lawrence, isn’t it? Maybe it’s something really small and we’re just missing it.”
I didn’t want to dissuade him by being negative, but in truth, I was fairly certain that Healer Lawrence would probably publicly humiliate me for bringing up such a nuance to him.
I needed to remind myself that this was nothing more than a medical records case and the simplest answer was most likely the correct one. But for Albus’s sake, I nodded in agreement. “We can see him tomorrow morning. We’ll ask your dad if it’s alright if we talk to both of them before they start with their daily meetings.”
Albus’s bright green eyes were eager with anticipation and he couldn’t pry them away from the paperwork in front of him. My heart began to flutter at seeing him get so caught up in the moment. The baby did a little joyful wiggle in my belly and I couldn’t stifle a giggle, but Al didn’t even hear me. He began sifting through the lab reports and asked me for some parchment and a quill so he could take down some details. I happily complied and watched him as he scribbled furiously.
He worked for nearly a half hour, barely looking up to even notice that I was shifting myself between sitting uncomfortably and waddling around the room to put the finishing touches on my space. Despite the fact that I was struggling to find a position I could stay in for longer than a few minutes, I was really excited to see him so enamored with his work.
We were interrupted by a gentle knock at the door. I smiled when Al didn’t even look up, he was so entrenched in taking notes. I crept over and opened the door a small crack, so as not to disturb him. If it wasn’t a medical emergency, I’d ask the patient to come back later. I was surprised to see Scorpius’s red, swollen eyes and his face twisted in agony. Quietly, I slipped out the door and maneuvered him to a secluded corner at the end of the corridor, away from the everyday foot traffic of the busy ministry hallways.
“Albus is in there, helping me out with my last medical records case that I need to get done,” I explained.
He folded himself onto me in a giant hug. I recognized all the signs and symptoms of grief.
“I know, love,” I said. “We all miss her so much.”
He nodded into my shoulder.
“I also know you’ve been trying to hold it together for my sake — and Al’s. But it’s alright to let go. She was an amazing person.” I traced the edge of his face and ran my finger down his jawline.
“I just…” he started. “It’s more than that. I-I can’t lose you. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live if something happened to you or the baby. And this damned prophecy and Stannous and it’s just s-so… ”
He placed a hand on my enormous belly and, as if on cue, the baby started kicking against him.
“Someone’s saying ‘hi’ to his daddy,” I smiled up at him and he pressed his lips together in an attempt to hold back a grin. He nudged a bit harder on my stomach to feel. My hand smoothed his cheek to let him know I was there for as long as he needed. I wanted to show him that even in the midst of all this uncertainty and stress, we could still have these moments. “I don’t know what other magical powers this little guy’s gonna have, but right now, he does a pretty fabulous job of cheering me up on a regular basis and I think that’s downright miraculous.”
He blew out a long breath and finally smiled a tiny bit. The baby always brought around his smile. At the same moment, my stomach growled. It seemed I was hungry almost all the time — and because I was getting so big, I couldn’t eat large amounts in one sitting, so I required a lot of sittings. Scorpius heard the rumble and smirked, “Why don’t we go grab a bite at the cafe on the second floor?”
The baby gave a giant kick and we both laughed out loud when we felt it together. “He thinks that’s an excellent idea,” I giggled.
I tried to keep the conversation light at lunch. I’d stopped asking him if there were any new leads on the case months ago, so I told him about Albus and how he’d stopped by and really got into the medical case file. I hoped to be done in the next few days and then I’d be officially completed with my courses. After a year of practical work, I could get my proper Healer’s license. Scorpius beamed.
“I’m really proud of you, Ro. You’ve had so many things to deal with this past year, and you’ve still plowed through and managed to get all your coursework done. No one would’ve blamed you if you’d decided to take a break or put your studies on hold, but you haven’t let any of the Stannous stuff or the pregnancy slow you down.”
I hadn’t thought of it like that. Being a Healer was pretty much all I’d ever wanted, so that goal was always in the forefront of my mind. We hadn’t officially talked about what our plans would be for when little Weasley-Malfoy made his appearance, but I was sure we’d work something out.
After lunch, we both agreed it was time to check on Albus. We didn’t want him falling too deeply into the depths of research on his first go. Plus, I was interested to know what he’d found.
“Rose!” he blurted out as soon as we opened the door to my office. He’d used every square inch of the desk surface and examination table to lay out the different documents. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t very sanitary to have the documents and papers that had been touched by Merlin knows who all over the space where I’d be presumably healing some open wounds, so I held my tongue. Small squares of parchment with notes on them were attached to all the different papers with a temporary sticking charm. He barely glanced at the two of us before he started talking at a high rate of speed.
“Oh, hey Scorp — didn’t know you were around — anyway there’s something off about all of this. It’s not just the fact that there was no glass from the windscreen.”
I stared, caught between amusement and intrigue. I was waiting for him to take a breath, but that was apparently, not about to happen. He was talking a mile a minute and stood up, rifling through all the papers. He ran around the far side of the desk and picked up one of the lab report scrolls. “Check this out, here!” I joined him, although it took me a few extra seconds to waddle around to the other side of the desk. Scorp stayed behind, gaping at the array of documents and papers everywhere.
“Look at this —” Al exclaimed. I was trying to scan through the roll of parchment in my hand to see what he was so excited about, but his pointy fingers were poking repeatedly at some writing on the page.
“See?!” he was nearly shouting. “This lab report came back with results about the victim’s injuries.”
He finally moved his hand out of the way so I could see the results.
“This looks pretty standard for tests that would be performed on an injured victim,” I commented, not wanted to dissuade him. “X-ray scans, sample bloodwork, and a few other tests that would be used to determine course of treatment. Nothing unusual.”
“Yes!” Al jumped in the air and clapped his hands together in a celebratory sort of dance. I couldn’t help but feel my own excitement lift with his, even if I still couldn’t figure out what he was so thrilled about.
“That’s exactly what I’d hoped,” he continued pacing back and forth in front of the desk. “But I wasn’t sure if these were all basic tests done when a victim first comes in or not.”
“Yes,” I confirmed, “so that’s why I don’t see what you’re on about,” I said timidly, not wanting to burst his bubble. “There’s nothing unusual here. All the reports of broken bones and head trauma are consistent with an automobile accident.” I looked at him and shook my head and turned to Scorp to see if he could possibly know what was causing Al’s frenzy. But Scorpius wasn’t looking at me. He had an odd look on his face and was staring at something on the desk. Before I could ask him anything, Al cut in again.
“The dates! Look at the dates on the orders. Here.” He tapped the top of the parchment with the medical orders on it and I saw the typical format with the date stamped on it. 13 July, 2022
“Okaaay…” I said, still not cottoning on to his meaning.
“But! Then there’s this…” he ran to the back of the desk and rummaged through the paperwork, shoving papers aside in a flurry to locate the one he was looking for. Documents and photographs fluttered to the floor and Scorpius bent down to pick them up. Al found what he was searching for and scampered back over to me. “Here,” he pushed the paper at me as he spoke excitedly. It was the couple’s set of death certificates. He was bouncing up and down, waiting for me to see whatever it was that had caused him such excitement.
But Albus was growing impatient. “Look at the date on the Death Certificate!”
I skimmed the parchment quickly to find the date listed in its usual place at the bottom.
11 July, 2022
Something flashed in the back of my head about that date, but I wasn’t connecting it. I looked up at Albus and he was staring at me with his eyes nearly popping out of his head.
“Rose,” he pushed the paper toward my nose. “How could they still be running tests on these victims two days after they died?!”
“How could I have missed that?” I asked aloud. “I mean, it’s so glaringly obvious, but I didn’t even look at the dates. Neither did Selenia, when she took a look at this with me. I know we both saw something off, but I distinctly remember it was something to do with the photographs.” I glanced up at Albus, but he didn’t flinch at the sound of her name, for once.
“Most likely, you didn’t even think about it, Rose,” Al said. “I mean, you probably look at one hundred of those reports a day. You just naturally skim past the date and other standard stuff at the top of the page. But wait!” he began bouncing again, “There’s more! Where are the photographs?”
Al turned back to the desk and threw all caution to the wind, swiping papers everywhere and littering a trail of parchment around my newly organized office.
“Albus!” I admonished. “I’m trying to maintain an air of professionalism here, can we please be a little more respectful of my case file?”
“Sorry Rose,” Albus said hurriedly, without looking up, still shuffling through all the documents. “I’m really, really sorry, but I wanted to show you what I found.” He was scanning the floor frantically, looking for whatever document he’d clearly shuffled off the desk.
“Where did the pictures go? I wanted to show you that the victims in the photos—”
Scorpius let out a loud sound that was half sob and half squawk and Al and I stopped to look at him. He was standing stock still, white as a ghost and holding both of the pictures with a look of utter shock upon his face. His voice was raspy and barely above a whisper.
“These… are my parents.”
A/N: Gah! So sorry for the wait! I've been in a bit of a slump, writing-wise, but I'll do the best I can to get this story posted. The good news: I have an AMAZING new beta for this story. Thanks so much to Anja (merlins beard) for all your help! If you have a chance, hop on over to her page and read some of her brilliant work! Thanks to everyone who's been so patient with this and especially to those of you who've taken the time to leave a review. I'd love to know what you think of this latest chapter. ♥ Beth
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