I Take All the Blame

Chapter 9

...I'm broken when I'm open
And I don't feel like I am strong enough
'Cause I'm broken when I'm lonesome
And I don't feel right when you're gone away...

*lyrics from "Broken" by Seether featuring Amy Lee


Eventually, Rachel fell asleep. About the same time, so did my right arm, but, miraculously, the tingling didn't force me to move it. All I could focus on was the pain I had caused this beautiful girl.

She looked so peaceful asleep, when in reality her life was filled with torment. I gazed sadly at her serene face, knowing that this was the only way she would find peace for a long time, assuming she didn't dream like me. As soon as she woke, the pain and sadness, the loss of innocence, would again be written plainly on her face. No mask could hide it. As my eyes began to water, I channeled my thoughts in a new direction.

Why had Ron been gone for so long? He new exactly where the bandages were; there was nothing to stop him from returning quickly for Rachel.

…Except Alia of course.

She must have returned to camp when she couldn't find us. When Ron arrived looking for the bandage, naturally she would have wanted to know what was going on and, being her overprotective self, would have been persistent. It hadn't really been that long, had it?

I glanced at my watch and held my breath. It had been almost three hours.

Shielding my panic, I gently woke Rachel from her sleep. Immediately, her soft serene smile faded into a frown.

"Is something wrong?" she asked, alarmed.

"Ron's not back yet," I responded delicately. "He's probably fine, but--"

"Of course," Rachel replied, the slightest bit of panic in her voice.

I shook my head as I helped her stand. Taking her hands in mine, I said, "The last thing we want to do is panic. It's probably nothing."

Rachel nodded, but I could tell she was uneasy.

As we were about to apparate, I paused; my heart dropped as I scanned the clearing. We couldn't leave the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Rollins and Eliza lying on the ground. I glanced at Rachel. She was rigid, suddenly realizing the full reality of her nightmare.

As I was about to speak, she asked, "Were did you bury Nick and Lizzie?"

I studied her face, confused. "Why?"

"Can I see them?" she whispered hesitantly.

I held my breath, but from the pleading look on her face I knew that this was one thing she needed. She needed to have some physical evidence that her brother existed, even if the corpse was only a shell of the brother she once knew.

"I'll have to use this unless we're going to be here all night," I said, raising my wand. Rachel flinched but nodded.

I quickly removed the dirt from the shallow grave. Both bodies were still in relatively good condition; thankfully, neither had begun to decay. Rachel gasped when she saw the look on Nick's face. I turned away, my body shaking slightly.

She stood back and turned to me, arms wrapped tightly around her tight frame. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

"I think they should all be together," she said, nodding. "That's what we were waiting for, what Mum was waiting for..."

Her voice broke off suddenly with a sob. I gave her a strong hug and whispered consoling words into her ear. When we parted, she headed towards the closest body, that of Eliza. She forced a smile as we lowered Eliza into the grave.

"You always were his favorite," she sighed. "Fill his days in Heaven with all the joy you held on Earth."

Next, we carried Mr. Rollins' body to the hole. Before placing him inside with the others, Rachel kneeled down and kissed his forehead.

"You finally have a granddaughter," she said, the tears returning swiftly to her eyes. "Enjoy eternity with her, and teach her about her brave mother on Earth."

By this point I was losing the war with my emotions. We headed over to the last body, Mrs. Rollins', and kneeled beside it. Rachel, shaking, put her hand on the handle of the knife, preparing to pull it out, but soon shook her head.

"I…I can't do it," she said, sobbing. "The knife…"

I replaced her hand with mine. The sound of blade scraping against bone reached both of our ears, and we each winced.

Rachel's hand went immediately to her forehead.

I paused and set the knife down. Rachel began lifting her mother's body, but I motioned her to stop.

"What is it?" she asked, eyes darting to the trees.

"Why did you cover your forehead when you heard the knife?" I asked.

Rachel immediately began shaking. I went to her side and steadied her, eventually helping her sit down.

"I…I didn't…"

"Yes, you did," I said calmly. "Just tell me what happened."

She buried her face in her hands. "I can't, I can't…"

"What really happened, Rachel? The whole story you told me was a lie, wasn't it?"

She nodded shamefully, still sobbing.

"Will you tell me how it happened?"

She shook her head.

"Not…now," she stammered.

I nodded and, after helping her back on her feet, picked up Mrs. Rollins. Rachel let out a groan as we lowered her mother, her last family member, into the grave. She stood there for a moment, gathering herself before she said her final parting words.

"You have him back now," she finally whispered. "Treasure him."

She then knelt and said a prayer that I didn't know. I silently watched and waited for her to finish.

When she stood, I raised my wand. "Ready?" I asked.

Rachel nodded and stood back, wincing when I took out my wand. I filled the hole then knelt by it myself.

"I am so sorry," I sobbed.

We each took a few moments to collect ourselves. I was extremely surprised with Rachel's amount of control over her emotions. She was much stronger than I was when Ron and I buried Nick and Lizzie. After staring at the mound of dirt in front of us for a couple of minutes, Rachel sighed and turned her tear-stained face towards me.

"We need to find Ron," she observed.

I nodded. With her statement, a whole new level of anxiety overcame me. What if something had happened to him? Was I going to hold a service like this for him?

No. It was impossible. He was not dead, and he wouldn't be for a long time.

I was never going to let him go.

***

Although she fought against it, we did end up apparating. We did not, however, apparate to a campsite; we apparated to a clearing.

Everything was gone.

I gasped as I stared at the empty space. The only thing remaining was a scrap of parchment sitting on the grass. After a moment of hesitation, I snatched it up. There were only three words written in the note.

We have them.

I felt all of the air leave my lungs in one breath, and I couldn't seem to fill them again. I sat on the grass slowly, barely conscious of Rachel's presence beside me. She gingerly took the note out of my hands and, after reading it, began shaking once again.

"By 'we' they mean—"

"Yes. The Death Eaters."

She made a choking sound. Looking at the note once more, she asked, "Where do we start looking?"

I was jerked out of my trance. "We don't start looking anywhere."

"Why?" she asked, obviously hurt.

I sighed. "I've cost too many people their lives already. I'm not going to risk anyone else."

There was a moment of silence before Rachel replied.

"What have I got to lose?"

I held my breath. It was exactly the response I would have given, but to hear the words come out of this sixteen-year-old's mouth was disturbing. Yesterday, she had everything she could have ever wanted. Today, it was all burned in the flames of her home. She was so young, and yet, in one day she had matured to a grown adult, capable of making her own decisions.

But that didn't mean her decisions were always the best ones.

"You're a muggle," I said slowly. "You'd have no way of defending yourself. I'd have to defend not only myself but you as well, and Ron and Alia seeing as their wands will have been confiscated. By coming with me, you'll not only endanger yourself but the rest of us as well. It's not a good decision."

I glanced sideways to see her reaction. To my surprise, she was nodding in agreement.

"Then where should I go?"

As if in answer to this question, we abruptly heard a rustling in the bushes behind us. I stood and stepped in front of Rachel, my wand at the ready, to see jet black hair and a lightning-bolt scar emerge from the trees. At seeing me, Harry grinned wider than I thought was possible, dropped his bag, and stuffed the Deluminator in his pocket before rushing to embrace me. He laughed and squeezed me hard, not seeming to realize how out of place his actions were. It was an extremely eerie feeling.

"Ginny had the baby!" he announced, his eyes twinkling. "A baby boy!"

I tried to force a smile on my face, but somehow it seemed impossible. After a moment, Harry realized something was wrong. His smile faded and his voice became serious.

"Where's Ron?"

One more look at my face and he knew the answer. Harry screamed in frustration and pulled at the hair on his head.

Not one to waste time, he headed towards his travelling supplies. Before apparating, he turned to face me, the young, vibrant happiness from when he entered gone and replaced with…age.

"Grimmauld Place," he said swiftly. "It's safe to talk there."

He looked curiously at Rachel.

"Rachel Rollins," I said, putting a protective arm around her shoulders.

Harry searched my eyes to know why she was there, but in the end decided that, at the moment, it was irrelevant. He nodded, and with a 'pop!' was gone.

I realized that Rachel was shaking again. I squeezed her tight.

"Who was that?" she asked, frightened.

I couldn't help but grin. "The greatest wizard of all time."

***

A/N: What did you think? PLEASE let me know ASAP (if you're still interested in reading this since I took so long to post it) Leave a ReViEw!!!

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