Disclaimer: JK Rowling is awesome and I do not own any of her work.
Stay Close to Me
Chapter One: Fire
Heat. I could feel it all around me as I sat up in my bed, screaming and alarms ringing in my ears, having taken me from my dreams. Bleary eyed, I gave a single look around and climbed as quickly as possible out of bed, trying to find a place to set my bare feet that wasn't engulfed in flames. Panic rose in my chest, fear escalating as I made for the exit, only to find my path bared by what looked like a wall of fire. It was eating its way upwards, through the curtain that had served as my door. I ran backwards, looking around, trying to see any other way out, preparing myself to barrel through the wall of flames if I had to.
An idea hit me then, as I watched the flames burning up everything I had ever known. This may be the most incredibly terrifying fire ever, the most fear inducing thing that I've had to face in my entire life, but was I a witch or not? I threw myself forward, grabbing for the wand that lay on the bedside table. My sweaty fingers grasped at it, but lost the polished wooden stick in their haste and slipperiness. I watched as the one last resort to my making out of this hell alive fell to the floor. I tried to catch it, but it rolled, joining the inferno.
Desperate and coughing, I ran for the window and pulled it open, leaning out. Below I could see the firemen in their yellow jackets running around my family's front lawn. They were unraveling a hose from the fire truck who's lights blared constantly, red joining the flicking light of the orange flames. I opened my mouth to yell, to scream, to try and let them know I was up here. No sound came out, just as always. They couldn't hear me.
Gulping, I looked directly down towards the ground. It was a drop of about twenty five feet from where I was to the grassy lawn below. It would hurt… possibly kill me if I landed badly, but what other choice did I have? If I stayed here, I would surely die among the flames anyway, either burning or choking to death from the smoke.
Using the courage I had left, along with my will to survive this, I climbed up onto the window sill. I sat there, allowing myself to take a couple deep breathes of ashy air before I decided I'd better just get it over with and hope for the best. And with that thought in my head and my eyes closed tight, I let myself go.
The air rushed past my ears, making the fall seem longer than it should have. I know it probably took less than five seconds, but it felt like forever. It was all I could do to brace myself for the impact, knowing it must come sooner rather than later.
I hit the ground with a thud and a terrible cracking, my feet actually landing first before I was shot foreward. My left arm, my wand and writing hand, went out to catch myself and that was went the cracking happened. A terrible pain shot through me, my entire body screaming in protest. At least I was alive.
I laid on the ground, not daring to move, for less than a few moments before I was surrounded. Somebody had their hand to my neck, checking for a pulse that was definitely there. I could feel my heart pounding like crazy, adrenaline rushing through me after what I'd just done. I forced my eyes open.
"She's alive! Hurry with that stretcher! It's going to be alright, we're going to get you to the hospital." The fireman leaning over me said soothingly as he took something from one of his companions and got it around my neck. A brace. Gentle hands lifted me, quickly and with practice, onto the stretcher that arrived moments later. They buckled me down.
My eyes flitted about as I rose into the air and the stretcher began to move, searching. Where were my mother and father? Where was Capurnia, my little sister? My older brother, Gilbert? What about Roxy and Duchess, our two old greyhounds? I couldn't see any of them or hear any of them. There wasn't even any barking. I wanted to ask, needed to know, if they were alright, but my voice was stuck in my throat, not able to come out as it had always been. It was trapped far away, just out of reach, in a place where I would never be able to retrieve it.
I strained my eyes and my ears for any sign of my family, but any sounds were drowned out by the EMTs yelling back and forth to one another. I felt myself loaded up and into an ambulance… and then the doors were closing and we were moving. One of the EMTs sat down beside me, holding a flashlight, checking my eyes while the other one was looking over my arm. I winced, my mouth opening in a silent strangled cry. A mask is placed over my mouth… oxygen. I take a deep breath, the air so much better than the smoke I'd inhaled in my bedroom.
"Hi, I'm Nathan. Don't pay any attention to your arm, look at me. Just try not to think about it. Can you tell me your name?" I just stared at him, quite like a deer caught in the headlights of a tractor trailer that would simply take it out. I couldn't have responded to him if I tried. I couldn't even shake my head at this point due to the way I was pinned down to the stretched. Nathan frowned at me. Apparently, not telling him my name was a bad sign. "How about how old you are?"
Now this, I could do. I wiggled my right hand at him, holding up fingers, trying to get his attention. He seemed to catch on after a moment and looked down. I opened my hand. "Five…" Closed it and opened it again. "Ten." And again. "Fifteen." After this I held up one single finger. "Sixteen. Alright great! How about your birthday?" By now I knew he must have been trying to keep me distracted, like when they have mom's distract kids who are being given shots. I felt a particularly nasty stab of pain shoot up my arm and writhed on the stretcher. I bit my lip, fighting the tears that were forming in my eyes. I wanted my mom and I wanted her now. Where was she?
"Keep still, hun." The other EMT, a woman, stated as she gripped my shoulders firmly and tried to hold me steady. "We're here. Not too long now and you'll be all fixed up."
I can feel the ambulance slowing down all around me, the vibrations changing to a sort of silent hum that I can feel beneath me. The doors open and they roll me out, my stomach doing a little flip as the wheels of the stretcher hit the ground. After the fall I just took, a few feet to the ground on top of a padded surface is absolutely nothing.
The bright lights of the inside of the hospital practically blind me as they wheel me in. I close my eyes tightly against them. There are voices all around me as I'm moved, questions and answers that I try to focus on to keep my mind off of the pain in my arm. I don't think I really need the stretcher at this point, my legs feel fine. But then, I did just jump out of a second story window. What if I did something to my back and can't actually feel my legs? I give my toes a wiggle just to be sure… Pain shoots up my foot and I clench my teeth, but it's not nearly as bad as the pain in my arm. I'd been so focused on my arm I hadn't even noticed it until now. Or the pounding in my head.
"Female, age sixteen. Smoke inhalation, break to the left arm, and possible other injuries, maybe some burns. We didn't have enough time to do a full assessment in the ambulance. She's conscious and responsive, but she hasn't made a single sound."
"How do you know how old she is then?" I turned my eyes to look at the woman in the white lab coat. She must be a doctor.
"She told me with her fingers, but that was all I could get out of her."
The world was beginning to spin now that I was more aware of the rest of my body. It ached as if I'd been hit headlong by a cement truck. Everything was a blur of white, lights, and people that was getting fuzzier and fuzzier around the edges. My stomach churned, not the least bit pleased and finally, my brain couldn't take it anymore. Everything went black.
When I woke again the lights were still blinding, but I forced my eyes to adjust. I had to know what was going on, had to figure out where my family was. Were they in other parts of the hospital? Or had they gotten out of the house soon enough that they didn't need to be here unless it was to see me? Frankly, I hoped for the latter.
"Oh good. You're awake." I turned my head to the right, noting that they'd taken the neck brace off of me. A man dressed in light blue scrubs covered in suns smiles down at me, reaching out to take my wrist in his hand. He looked at his watch, obviously checking my heart rate. "You took quite a tumble out of that window, broke your left arm clean in three places and your right ankle's a little sprained, but it'll heal up real soon." Well yes, I can feel that. I grimace at him and he just laughs at me, dropping my wrist and moving to feel my head. "You got lucky though, no concussion or serious trauma to your spine. We should be able to release you very soon."
I nod to confirm that I understand what he's saying, unable to voice even the simplest of 'yeses'. He smiles at me kindly and checks a few things off on a clipboard hanging from the foot of the bed they've put me in.
"Ah, good afternoon, Zennix." My heart leaps and I breathe a sigh of relief that the old familiar voice. I grin, unbelievably happy to see the face of the man who helped birth me, Dr. Itean. He's been the pediatrician for my family since Gilbert was born. And he knows perfectly well that I cannot speak. "So, Zennix, how are you feeling?"
I raise my right hand, pointing my thumb downwards and sticking my tongue out at him. He sighs, eliciting a small, kind of sad smile. Why is he sad?
"That's what I thought. Unfortunately Zennix, I have some… worse news … than just bits of you being broken." Dr. Itean frowns at me and takes a breath. My eyes screw up in confusion. What could possibly be worse than being stuck in the hospital? I can only think of one thing… "I'm afraid…" I begin shaking my head back and forth, more and more rapidly, not wanting to hear what he has to say. As long as he doesn't say it, it can't be true. But he continues anyway. "I'm afraid that most of your family perished in the fire." I heave, my shoulders rising as my stomach give a nasty turn. I lean over the side of the bed and Dr. Itean is there as quickly as someone with experience can be, catching the contents of my stomach with a bedpan.
My head is swimming as my heart pangs horribly. Surely this can't be happening… they can't be… I think of Gilbert in his basement bedroom that he adored so much because he hates the heat of the summer and of my mother who hates the heat as well. She had taken to sleeping down on the pull out couch bed in the nice little family room she had created in the bigger part of the basement. And then I think of my father, who would join her because he adores her so much and the dogs that always wanted to sleep with him. The basement had a door up the stairs and into the kitchen, and then another larger doubled door thing that came up out of the ground. That one was kept locked from the inside, the key to the lock always hanging on the hook in the hallway. The windows were too small for a person to climb through… there would have only been the one way out… But then, if they had all been in the basement… he had said 'most'. That meant…
My lips move, forming the word I had seen so many times formed on the lips of the others around me. I hold my hand up, forming a sign language 'C'. I had never learned much of the language, though my mother had tried and tried to get me to do so, but I hated being different from the rest of my family. I hated having no voice. Eventually, my family learned how to read my lips, but I do know how to form the letters with my hands in case they get stuck.
I brandish my hand at Dr. Itean, my eyes searching, questioning him, needing to hear that maybe at least…
"Capurnia is fine." I fall back against my pillows, tears of relief falling down my cheeks as I sob silently, gripping tightly to the bed sheets. Sweet, darling little Capurnia was eleven years old and scared of just about everything once the lights went out. After one of her more prominent fits of fear, my parents emptied out the large hallway closet on the first floor of the house and put her bed in there without the bed stand. It did the trick. She sleeps peacefully in there, with the overhead bulb burning brightly. No monsters could hide under her bed, there were no dark windows for faces to pop up in, and definitely nothing to make scary shaped shadows. The door to the closet is no more than four feet away from the front door of the house, she probably made it out unscathed. "She's out in the waiting room with a social worker who has people trying to track down any existing family members as we speak. Would you like to see her?"
I nod enthusiasticly, and Dr. Itean nods, leaving the room. I wipe my face as clean as I can on the thin hospital gown, wanting to be a brave as possible for Capurnia. A few minutes later, they return, my little sister sniffling and rubbing at her eyes. She gives a cry as she spots me and I open my arms to her. She runs at me, her arms locking around my neck as I hoist her up onto the bed, ignoring the stabbing pain in my casted arm. I hold her tightly, rocking her back and forth gently and stroking her hair as she sobs onto my shoulder. We are all each other have left, and she is my responsibility now, no matter what anyone says.
"And so, it is with deepest and greatest of sorrows, that we must say goodbye until we meet in heaven again." The minster over seeing the ceremony of my parents' and my brother's burial closes his book. I am sitting in a plastic chair, my sprained ankle making it difficult to stand for long periods of time, but I can walk short distances. My broken arm hangs down by my side, the cast entirely glow in the dark, my little sister having picked it out. Capurnia is holding tightly to my good hand, tears cascading down her pretty little face and onto her black dress. It has been three days since the fire. Three days since we lost the three most important people in our lives. Three days where everything had changed so incredibly.
We spent the first day in the hospital, not doing much of anything except crying and sleeping. The second day we left the hospital late in the afternoon with the social worker who had been sitting with Capurnia in the sitting room. According to my sister, she was a very nice woman, but I had my doubts. I had heard plenty of horror stories about kids who lost their parents and got placed into foster care, sometimes separated from their siblings. In the wizarding world, I would be of age in a year. But out here in the Muggle world, where things were different, it would be two years. And even once I was eighteen, it was unlikely that the state would grant me custody of my little sister. They would want a better environment for her, something besides a mute sister who was barely of legal age.
And now here we are on the third day, watching the three caskets being lowered into the ground containing the bodies that were burnt so far beyond recognition that we had not been allowed to see them. Some of our family friends were here, people who had loved our parents and our brother. A few younger girls, obviously companions of Capurnia's were there as well, with their families. But there were no actual relations here to speak of.
Both of our parents had been only children of only children, probably the reason why they had wanted three of us. Both sets of our grandparents had died before Gilbert was even born. Our mother's mother had had a heart attack, and her husband had soon followed with a quick suicide. Our father's mother had been quite lovely, or so we'd been told. She was of ill health though, always bedridden with something or other. Eventually sickness took her, and our grandfather had already been long gone from WWII.
"Alright girls, it's time to get going. I know today has been difficult, what with going through what remains of your belongings and the funeral, but we still have the will reading to attend." I nod and Capurnia heaves a sigh, turning to take one last look at the caskets as we move away from them and towards Lidia, our social worker's, car.
We ride in silence, listening to the hum of the car, the only things worth keeping from the house after the fire sitting in a cardboard box on the center of the backseat. Just about everything was destroyed, either from the fire, the smoke, or the water from the hoses. Most of the things are bits of Mother's jewelry and photos that my father got doubles of and placed away inside the fireproof document holder. We'd opened it right in the front yard of the house, taking the album but letting Lidia hold onto the important documents that needed to go to the lawyer, namely, the will.
Capurnia leans forward, holding out her hand. I look down at it and find that she's offering me one of our mother's favorite earrings: a simple silver star dangling from a hook that clasps closed at the back of the ear. I take it with a smile and work it into the hole of my left ear, watching as Capurnia puts the other one in her right ear. It looks a little strange next to her small face, but then she usually was only ever allowed to wear studs except for special occasions. She goes back to digging in the box, searching for something else. She seems to have found it, and I watch curiously as she fumbles about for a few moment, her tongue sticking out from between her lips as it always does when she's concentrating really hard. Eventually, she holds her hand out again.
I choke back the tears as I reach out to take the earring she has created out of one of our father's precious metal paperclips and one of Gilbert's guitar picks, the black one with blue flames that I had always liked the best. I get it into my right ear and turn around to reach my hand back to her. She takes it, Gilbert's punk bunny pick hanging from her left ear. Now we both each have a little bit of them all to take with us where ever we go. My little sister has always been quite smart about these things. The picks must have been in the garage, where my brother's band would practice on the weekends and week nights. The fire didn't reach the garage, luckily enough; otherwise it would have made the lawn mower explode.
The car pulls to a stop and we get out. Capurnia instantly takes my hand as we do so, letting Lidia lead us into the office building. We follow her up a flight of stairs and then down a hallway to a door marked 'Giffer Brothers Law Offices'. I have been here once before, way back when Capurnia was born, so I had to be about five, but I remember. I sat in one of the waiting chairs while my parents had their will redone to include their youngest daughter.
"Ah, you must be the Beltrovy girls." A man with a rather walrus like red mustache and a bald head states kindly from an office opposite the entrance, the door open. "Come in, come in."
I grip Capurnia's hand a little tightly and tug her gently along into the office. We take seats in the chairs across from the man's desk and Lidia stands behind us, closing the door to keep this meeting private. I glance around, noting that he has photos of what I'm guessing to be his family everywhere. He has a son, a tiny little toddler and a pretty wife.
"I was so sorry to hear about the fire. Tragic, absolutely tragic. But, these things happen, and that is why we have wills. So, here we are…" He digs into a file folder that had already been out on his desk. It's marked with our parents' names in black marker. He opens it and shifts through a couple of papers until he finds the one he's looking for. "Well, everything is pretty straightforward." He cleared his throat and lifted the paper a bit, shifting it into a better reading position.
"I would like it to be known, that both Mr. and Mrs. Beltrovy were of sound mind when this was written, and that a Mrs. Jean Evory witnessed the signing. Let's see… To our children, Gilbert Alinstern Beltrovy, Zennix Honor Beltrovy, and Capurnia Freedom Beltrovy, we leave all of our possessions and funds to be split up equally. Not that you have much in the way of possessions to be splitting from what I've heard, pity really. Ahem… onwards we go then… Let's see… mhm… here we are. In the event that we can no longer care nor provide for our children, your names again, they are to be given to the guardianship of Jean Michelle Evory. Unfortunetly, Miss Evory was quite elderly and passed away last summer, as you'll probably remember."
I do remember. And so does Capurnia by looking at her face. Miss Evory had been our babysitter when we were little, a grandmother to all of us and a dear friend of our parents'. Her death had been shocking, but expected as she was old and had been ill for quite some time. Gilbert hadn't come out of his room for two weeks after she left us.
"Which leaves us, with two last alternatives, the second of course being foster care until Zennix is old enough to care for Capurnia, and that's only if the state deems her capable, which is highly unlikely... Anyway, in the event that Miss Evory cannot be the legal guardian of the children, custody of them is to be given to their grandfather, James Vincent Ollivander."
"Our grandparents are all dead. They were before any of us were even born, that's a mistake." Capurnia shakes her head, speaking the words I cannot.
"Well, that's what it says here. And I have had a chance to track him down with the phone number left to me by your parents. A man called Tom answered, said he'd give your great grandfather the message and to send you along, but Miss Lidia will probably wish to speak with him first, as that's her department of expertise."
"Yes." Lidia nodded and dug into her pocket for her cell phone. "If you have the number, I'll make the call now. We've got to get these girls where they belong as soon as is possible, though I'm not sure an elderly man is the best idea."
"Yes, right here." The lawyer handed her a slip of paper and she began typing the number into her phone before frowning after a moment. "This isn't a United States number, it's for England. London, if I'm not mistaken."
"Yes, that is correct. When I asked for Mr. Ollivander though, Tom said he was just down the street. He doesn't have a phone by the sounds of it, quite odd these days if you ask me."
"Well, let's see…" Lidia dialed the number, holding the phone close to her ear. She bobbed back and forth slightly, apparently waiting for someone to pick up on the other end. She stops after a moment, perking up and speaking kindly. "Hello, this is Lidia Perkinson of Social Services of the State of Connecticut. I'm calling for a Mr. James Ollivander regarding his grandchildren…. Oh yes… alright… I'll hold." She sighed. "He's gone to get him…" We waited, watching her get a bit more frustrated over the next two minutes that it took for the person on the other line to apparently track down our grandfather, who at this point, I'm pretty sure isn't actually existent. Maybe they just put down that he's our grandfather or something… we don't have any extended family. Lidia perks back up after the third minute.
"Hello, is this Mr. James Ollivander?... Oh lovely!... Yes that is what's going on… Their parents have passed away in a terrible fire… Your daughter?... Oh that's terrible, Mr. Ollivander… I'm so sorry to hear that… Two girls… Sixteen and eleven…. Oh you will? That's wonderful, but are you sure you can…. Yes, yes, of course, I'll inform the proper authorities and send them over on the next available plane once everything clears through… Oh you will? That would be perfect. Alright… of course, I'll be sure to inform the proper authorities and that they are well taken care of. Alright, have a good day… Good bye." Lidia hangs up the phone, her smile wide. "Wonderful news girls, your grandfather is willing to take you. It's much better than anything else we could have hoped for. He's going to make sure the government knows you're coming… have you got passports?"
"Right here." The lawyer pulls them out of the file folder. Our passports were another thing that our father had kept in the fire proof box. I gulp and elbow Capurnia, pointing over to the other three that are still sitting there out in the open. She gives me a questioning glance and I point even more deliberately.
"She wants the passports." Capurnia states, having finally caught onto what all my monkey gesturing means.
"Oh, of course." The lawyer picks them up and hands them to me, looking a bit confused as to why I would want them. I open the first one and stroke the picture of my mother's face. Capurnia peeks over my shoulder and I feel a wet tear hit my bare arm. I wrap my arm around her shoulders, hugging her close and kissing the top of her head. I keep my tears in the best I can. I must be strong for my baby sister. I need to be someone she can count on now, even if I can't speak for myself when it comes to other people. We'll have to be each other's crutches, the two of us.
"I suppose that's it then, is it?" Lidia asks and the lawyer nods.
"That's all they wrote besides their burial wishes, which have already been carried out by the proper people. Again, I'm very sorry about your parents and brother girls, but I'm sure your grandfather will take good care of you.
"And even if he doesn't, someone will be checking in on you every two weeks. That way we're sure it's a safe environment for you. We'll be sending someone in from the English government to check that it's a good place to you before we even send you over as well."Well, come along then. We'd best get you packed."
I sigh and so does Capurnia. Neither of us really wanted to return to the orphanage where we'd been sleeping for the past few nights when we hadn't been busy going out and taking care of things with Lidia. Well, alright, it wasn't technically referred to as an orphanage anymore. It was a 'children's home', but none of the other kids there called it that either.
Later that evening, with all we had to our names packed up in a single beat up old backpack, Capurnia and I sat on her bed, my hands weaving her hair into the braid our mother had always given her before bed. Capurnia's hair was notorious for having some of the worst tangles in the morning when left loose. The braid made it much more manageable. Once finished, she turned and nestled her head up under my chin. "I don't want to go all the way to London, Zennix. All my friends are here and we don't even know this Mr. Ollivander."
I nodded, knowing exactly how she felt. It would be difficult, maybe even impossible, to adjust to such a new environment as the one we were being thrown into. The man didn't even have a phone for crying out loud. And what was I going to do about my schooling?
I have been attending Salem Witches' Academy ever since I turned eleven. It being only a half an hour away, I could come home every day, but now… where was I going to school? I couldn't very well leave Capurnia, my little Muggle sister, with this man… this Ollivander, could I? And what would he think of my being a witch? My parents had been perfectly fine with it, hell, my mother hadn't even acted surprised at the news. It would come down to one thing.
I'd have to give up my magic and live as a Muggle, if only for the next couple of years and then maybe I could get custody of my sister and we could go home. I could study magic by night then, and become a full fledged witch through a home schooling program. They had them… a girl who used to go to SWA had had a mental breakdown and had to be homeschooled.
Even though magic is the one thing I'm good at, I would do it, give it up… for her, for Capurnia.
Hey ya'll! I decided to edit this a bit and reupload it. It used to just be called 'Zennix and Capurnia', yeah... I know. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the first chapter, lemme know what you though, I always love hearing from you!