everything you touch, only dies
Amazingly stunning image by milominderbinder at TDA.
And time passes, and it floods.
“If only it had truly ended in Nurmengard,” Eugenie Bones says to me. She sits in her new cell, dressed in white robes. Her hair is tied in a messy ponytail and her eyes are half closed, skull tipped back against the wall.
For the first twenty-four hours of Eugenie’s imprisonment, I refuse to leave her. “She’s scared,” I tell the others. She’s lonely. She’s been alone and scared for so long.”
They tolerate this at first. Eugenie’s arrest is not merely a blight on the record of the Aurors’ integrity, but a personal shock to those who knew her well. At the end of the first day, Uncle Harry comes to the door. He can barely look at Eugenie.
“You have to come out, or we will force you out, Lou,” he says to me, shuffling back and forth. He clutches a folio of parchment as a buffer between us, or to give his hands something to do. He means business, though, and so I pry my fingers free of Eugenie’s pale hands. I do not turn to look at her as I step beyond the cell. Nobody understands why it hurts so badly to leave her.
When I am escorted home to the flat, James and Dominique and Victoire and my parents are all there. They are so worried about me that they forgot to fuss over Dominique’s return, though Victoire keeps a guarded eye on her as if making sure our middle sister can’t disappear again. Dominique wouldn’t dream of it, though, not when I need her here. That’s not what we do.
Mum forces me to eat something and drink some water. Then she draws me up a bath, like I am a toddler, and leaves me in there to wash. I keep my clothes on and twirl the hot water with my fingers. My clothes and skin smell like Eugenie, like fear. Dad comes in and sighs. He sits on the toilet seat and tries to talk to me: about illness and grief and betrayal. Good people do bad things, he says again and again. I saw it, we all saw it, during the war. At some point I make my way into my room and fall asleep. Images play again and again in my head: Mr. Nott’s bulging eyes, the blood on the dark robes, a silver knife glinting in the morning light as it stole through the curtains.
Ruth Coffman, or whoever she truly was, dies the day she is put into a cell at the Ministry. The Aurors find her shortly after, a slight smile on her pale, dry lips. There are no red ribbons at her death, only a handful of mourners from the Shining Gurdyroot who knew her as the quiet old lady Ruth Coffman. And Molly, and myself.
“She truly was a lovely lady. She did the right thing in the end,” Molly whispers. She links her arm through mine. “Did you come in Bones’ place, because… well…”
“She asked me to,” I tell her. The casket is closed, enclosing the old shell of a woman for the final time. Eugenie isn’t doing very well, but she will speak to me, and once or twice the old fire has reignited in her pale eyes. “Molly, you and I and…and Eugenie are the only ones who know what she did, the information she passed on. I think it is best we keep it that way. Especially from the press. Or just from anyone.”
My cousin nodded in agreement, freckles dancing on her wrinkled nose. She has suspicions about Ruth’s true identity – which she originally confided to Eugenie and eventually to me. But the old woman is dead and gone and there is nothing else to prove, no accusations to float through the air. Whether she was killer or victim does not matter anymore.
A month passes, and then another. My sisters are worried about me. But things are starting to come back into focus, now, and I return to the present.
“Don’t you think it’s time to move on from this…affair, and get back to the job you worked so hard for?” Victoire asks, looking down her long, pale nose. But her eyes are filled with pity, and she squeezes my shoulder gently as she walk past on the way to fill her glass of water.
“Maybe it’s time you started dating a new girl, Louis,” Dominique chimes in later. “You know, a girl who you can actually take out, and kiss, and laugh with. I really want that for you.”
Steak nods importantly, his arm draped around my sister’s shoulders.
“You don’t get it,” I say. “Bonds between Aurors aren’t like that. I can’t just get another girl.” Thoughts of Emily flit through my mind: one of the other people who loved Eugenie, who might be able to understand. But we have been unable to meet in our grief, unable to mend our friendship. Sometimes, across a busy room, there passes a look between us, but that is all.
Later, I go into the bathroom and sit on the toilet for a long, long time, staring at my hands, listening to the strains of anxious conversation floating in underneath the door. The toilet paper falls off its ring and rolls across the floor, leaving a long, white trail, and I amuse myself by trying to pull the roll back without unrolling it any farther. It’s a child’s game, but better than being out there with them.
“Doesn’t Louis realize that cow was using him?” Victoire hisses from outside the door. “She knew he was inexperienced, that he wasn’t the best of the crop, I bet you anything that’s why she asked to be partnered with him. And… she tricked him into fancying her. Did I ever tell you about the time she kissed Teddy at Hogwarts? And this dreadful theory about the sixth victim…” Her voice breaks, and she sniffs loudly. “I can’t even bring myself to…to…that bloody bitch.”
“You shouldn’t say those things, love,” Dominique says back. Her voice rises slightly, deliberately. “Nobody believes Molly about her theory with the sixth – it’s taking this whole thing too far. Louis is an amazing Auror, and I think Bones genuinely cares about him. You haven’t seen them together: it’s sort of sweet, how he’s so sweet to her.” A moment of silence, and then – “Ouch! But yes, erm, I agree, he definitely needs to break free, like I said before.” She lowers her voice again, and I have to strain to hear her next words. “You mustn’t speak about that in front of Louis – he can’t bear it.”
“Don’t look at me like that, Dommie,” Victoire hisses. She sighs, and the breath travels under the door. I pause in my raveling, and lean forward slightly to hear what she says. “You know I just want our little brother back.”
There is a trial, and Eugenie is chained to a chair, her dark head bowed as she faces the Wizemgamot. Magical cameras flashed in her face, documenting her stillness in the moving, breathing courtroom. James and Alfie come with me to sit among the spectators, and each one grips one of my wrists.
I’ll hex you right away if you try anything heroic, mate,” Alfie whispers when one of the Wizemgamot members asked a particularly prying question. His eyes are filled with pity.
The Wizemgamot don’t know what to do about Eugenie. Her lawyers are arguing for mental illness, which might spare her a lifetime sentence in Azkaban. When Eugenie is called upon to speak, her voice travels eloquently across the courtroom, where the son and killer of Arietta Silver had sat over a year ago to defend himself.
“Ms. Bones, did you steal your godfather’s borrowed invisibility cloak to sneak into Azkaban and kill Bartemius Crouch, Junior?”
“Yes. He tortured and killed my mother’s family when she was a little girl.”
“And did you pretend to be Emily Longbottom so that you could have access to the top security floor at the Shining Gurdyroot and kill Dolores Umbridge?”
“Yes. She was a wicked woman who caused many to suffer during the war.”
“Did you stay after hours at the Ministry of Magic, hiding Gregory Goyle’s body in a broom cupboard, and then kill Pius Thicknesse as he was leaving his office?”
“Yes. Goyle covered for my parents when they were sneaking around at Hogwarts. Thicknesse took over for my great-aunt, Amelia Bones, when the Death Eaters ruled the Ministry. He was present at her death.”
“Did you poison Draco Malfoy, and conspire to finish him when he was helpless in St. Mungo’s?”
“Yes. He helped my father abandon my mother and I when I was a baby. He helped seal her lips and those of her friends through the Unbreakable Vow. But they quarreled, Malfoy and Nott. I knew that killing him would make Nott look guilty.”
“Who was the sixth person you intended to kill?”
“I do not need to divulge that. I decided against that course of action long ago, I – I believe I would never have completed it.”
“And if you had your way, would Theodore Nott’s body have been found floating in the river on July twenty-first?”
“That is correct.”
Theodore Nott, who has recovered in hospital and withdrawn his candidacy for the Ministerial race in order to go abroad, is of course not in attendance at the trial of his daughter, but sitting with Mrs. Longbottom is a gray-haired woman with Eugenie’s sharp chin and regal way of holding up her head. Emily’s mum has an arm around Susan Bones, and the latter stares at her hands, hardly able to look at her daughter sitting proudly in the chair with the chains.
Three months after I found Eugenie in Nott’s room, she is still being held at the Ministry. A retrial has been scheduled, and Eugenie spends her time reading books. I’ve been temporarily taken off the Aurors due to personal circumstances – a euphemism, for they don’t trust me to be stable after my first case turned out so destructive. Formal visiting hours have been set up, and I try to visit Eugenie every few days, bringing her news from the outside – carefully cutting out any articles that mention her name in the Prophet, including a cruel political cartoon which ran in the Sunday edition – and telling her about my family, the weather, anything.
We never talk about what could have been.
“So, Alfie somehow talked James into going on a date with him – did I tell you about that, yet?” Eugnie smiles slightly and shakes her head. “And I came home to them snogging in the kitchen. Nobody is really surprised. I mean, James is like a puppy. He loves anyone and everyone, regardless of their gender.”
“What did Ha-erm, his parents say?”
“They think Alfie is a good influence because he’s my mate and a Ravenclaw. Also, if James is dating a bloke then he can’t get anybody pregnant,” I explain. I’m sitting on the visitor’s chair, and she’s perched on her little writing desk. The window in the cell doesn’t lead anywhere: it’s simply an illusion, reflecting a constructed scene of a country cottage with wildflowers stretching up towards the thatched roof. “Wrongly, of course, since Alfie is an awful influence. But they seem happy enough, if it continues, that is. When Taryntula found out, she came in the middle of the night and threw rotten Doxy eggs at our windows.”
Eugenie laughs, a rare, steady sound. Her pale eyes shine from beneath the lenses of her glasses. “That seems a little dramatic. Though, this is coming from the girl who murdered several people to orchestrate the dramatic killing of her own father.” She frowns, looking at the floor of the cell.
“Hey, hey, don’t think like that,” I tell her, sliding myself onto the desk beside her. My bum crunches a sheet of parchment, and moving it out of the way, I realize it’s the list of her victims and her would-be victims. I put it out of the way before I can see something dreadful, something so personal I could not ignore it. The secret of the sixth lingers between us. “You’re nowhere near as bonkers as the Taryntula, I promise.” I slide an arm around her delicate shoulders, carefully.
“Just a few murders under my belt,” she whispers, wiping her nose. “You know, I dream about them. Crouch and Umbridge, Goyle and Runcorn. Malfoy and… that man. I dream about…that person who was meant to be the sixth. The people I…and the people were going to.” Mist condenses on the lenses of her glasses.
“You’re going to get better,” I say, not knowing if it’s the truth, or if Eugenie Bones will only ever see the inside of a cell for the rest of her life. The move – from the Ministry to Azkaban – is surely coming. At least, then, she might get a glimpse of the sky.
“Ada never did,” she says. “Every time I went to see her, when we spoke about her life. They never stopped haunting her. She was never free.” I open my mouth to say something false and comforting, but she stops me. “Please, let’s not speak of it again. Tell me about Emily.”
“She’s trying to be supportive. She wants to come and see you, but I’m not sure if she’s quite ready yet. Her family sends their love.”
“That is sweet of them,” Eugenie says. A lock of dark hair falls in her face – she’s abandoned the customary ponytail of her Auror days. With her hair loose and dark around her pale face and blue circles under her eyes, she looks very young. “They are good people, to forgive.”
I haven’t yet told Emily that when I burst into that bedroom at Nott’s mansion, I almost expected it to be her. I almost hoped it would be her. There are some things which cannot be said, even to myself. My hand tightens around Eugenie’s shoulders.
“You are going to be alright,” I parrot. Her skin smells like stone. In some ways, we are only just learning to know one another, in this place of darkness and truth. Infatuation has faded into something harder and darker: reliance. Fear. Dread.
The cell door swings open: it’s Quentin, his wand in his hand, just in case he needs it. “Erm, Louis? Visiting hours are over. They’ve sent me to retrieve you.” He glances at the floor, the window, the bed. Anything but to see Eugenie’s shame.
I nod, untangling myself from her once again. She pulls her knees up to her chest, the desk creaking as I move my weight.
“I’ll be back,” I promise her, and she smiles without showing her teeth, eyes looking down below the frames of her glasses at her lap. I smooth a strand of dark hair behind her ear, hair moving swiftly through my fingers. I step away, walk backwards to the door, without turning my back.
As the door closes, Eugenie Bones looks very small, like a china doll whose pale cheeks are flushed with fear. She is no saint – she is no martyr. Her dreams are colored with the faces of her victims, the gauntness of their selves.
Nobody carries a red ribbon.
Author's Note: And so ends my very first completed novel! It is so terrifying and amazing to finally post the final chapter and know that Louis' story is complete, even if the ending was a little unsatisfying. Huge thanks to all of you, who have read and/or left me incredible reviews: you've truly made this such a positive experience, especially red_headed_juliet and patronus_charm for all your lovely and dedicated thoughts on the story. If you have any reactions/questions/criticism, I would love to hear it. Thank you. ♥ And I will miss you, Sevenfold.
The chapter title is a lyric from the song 'Let Her Go' by Passenger.
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