WHO: Susan Bones & Daisy Radford WHERE: The Calliope Heights site WHEN: Thursday 1st May, 3pm
Susan couldn’t have been happier. The sun was shining, the Badger Festival was going off without a hitch, and now she was doing the scavenger hunt with a little girl who kept calling her Mummy. Which should have been strange, but felt so right that she couldn’t stop smiling about it. When she thought back to where she’d been a year ago, it was hard to believe that so much had changed.
“Don’t forget, we still need to find a yellow flower and a black feather!” she called over to Daisy, who was searching through the long grass on the Calliope Heights site. Susan wasn’t letting Daisy roam more than a few metres away from her, and she was hyper-aware of every small sound and movement around them, but she felt a lot more relaxed than she had in weeks. Maybe it was just an effect of the spring sunshine, but for the first time since Daisy’s Imperiusing she allowed herself to feel hopeful that things were going to get better.
“I found a yellow flower!” Daisy said suddenly, jumping to her feet and waving a daffodil in the air. “I wanted to find a black-eyed Susan, but this is pretty!”
“Perfect!” Susan said, taking the daffodil from Daisy and laying it in the basket next to her other finds. “Just the black feather to go, then. Shall we look over here?”
“Okay, Mummy!” Daisy sing-songed, grabbing Susan’s hand and grinning. “Do you think they have blackbirds where they’re making the building?”
“Maybe!” Susan replied, squeezing Daisy’s hand. “Or jackdaws, or rooks, or crows… Though really, they do prefer to live in trees. But if we’re lucky we might find a feather on the ground, so keep your eyes peeled.”
“I will!” Daisy lifted Susan’s hand up and gave it a smacking kiss before letting it go and skipping on ahead towards the big sign and the starts of the building. “I think I see some birds over here! Blackbirds!”
Grinning at the spontaneous kiss, Susan trailed after Daisy. “Blackbirds are smaller, and they have yellow beaks,” she said as she got a proper look at the birds, not stopping to wonder what they were squabbling over. “I think those are carrion crows…”
The weight of the words only hit her after they left her mouth, and with a plunging feeling that she could only describe as a mother’s sixth sense, she lunged forward, already knowing she was too late. “Daisy!”
“I’ll get a feather from them!” Daisy said, hurtling towards the murder of birds with a sort of innocent boldness. “Come here, crows, and give me a feather!”
As the animals scattered and revealed what they’d been clustering around, however, she froze in her tracks. And then she screamed, unable to tear her eyes away from the horrible sight.
Susan was only a second behind, but it was a second too late. Still, she grabbed Daisy and pulled her in towards her body, falling down on her knees as she did so in a way that was sure to hurt later, but right now she didn’t feel a thing. Her hand was firmly on the back of Daisy’s head, pushing the little girl’s face into her shoulder to shield her from the sight, even though Susan knew it was too late for that. Too late. Oh, sweet Helga.
Her heart was thumping wildly. The pleasant afternoon had turned dark and ugly and her mind was spinning. Blaise. Dead. Here.
A shudder went through her, and she clutched Daisy even more tightly.
“The birds, Mummy!” Daisy sobbed, throwing her arms around Susan and clinging to her. “The birds were hurting that man! Why did they hurt him?!”
“They weren’t hurting him, darling,” Susan said, pressing her lips to Daisy’s hair, her temple, her ear. “I promise you he didn’t feel a thing.” She wrapped her arms firmly round Daisy and stood up, leaning back to balance her weight. “Hush now, it’s all right. I’ve got you. I’m here.”
She started backing away from Blaise -- from the body -- although she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the sight. She’d seen death before, but it broke her heart to think of Daisy having seen such a thing. And then her gaze skipped upwards, to the COMING SOON sign above the empty structure of the building, and she saw the words that were daubed there in red.
ASK BLAISE ZABINI WHAT HE SAW.
As if anyone could ask him now.
“Let’s go find Daddy,” Susan murmured into Daisy’s hair. She was worried about what Henry would say when he discovered his daughter had stumbled across a dead body and she bit her lip, guilt surging up in her again. She was supposed to protect Daisy. She'd failed.
“Yes,” Daisy whimpered, clutching Susan even tighter if possible. “I want Daddy. I want Daddy right now.”
“Side-Along it is,” Susan said, even though the Festival was maybe five minutes’ walk away. Truth be told, she also wanted Henry’s reassuring presence as soon as possible. She was just starting to realise what this news would do to Hannah when she found out, and with that realisation Susan knew she had to be the one to tell her.
Closing her eyes briefly, Susan exhaled and tried to find a tiny pocket of calm within herself, and then Disapparated.