Who: Susan Bones, Henry Radford
Where: The Radford house
When: 22 May 2002, evening
Susan was making tea. Because if she was focusing on boiling the kettle and warming the teapot then she didn’t have to look at Henry. And if she didn’t look at Henry, she didn’t have to see the expression on his face.
It had been an eventful evening. After stunning Blodwen, Susan had naturally gone straight to Henry for help. To say he’d been concerned would be putting it mildly — he’d wanted to haul Blodwen straight down to the DMLE for questioning — but Susan had managed to persuade him that wasn’t necessary, it was a personal matter and she just wanted him around for support while she woke Blodwen and told her she was fired. But of course, Henry being a Hit Wizard, he hadn’t let the matter drop there, and Susan had been forced to admit that there was more to the story, but she’d tell him everything when they got home.
She spooned tea leaves into the pot, but her hand shook, spilling some on the countertop.
Henry was tense. He knew enough about reading people in general to know that whatever was behind this incident with Blodwen, it wasn’t good. And he knew enough about Susan at this point to know that her stalling and reticence were a very bad sign indeed. Whatever she needed to tell him, it couldn’t be good. Which baffled him because he couldn’t imagine his Susan having much in the way of deep, dark secrets.
It was one of the things that was so refreshing about being with her.
“Are you planning to explain?” he finally asked, trying to be gentle rather than curt. “Or does the tea require your complete attention at the moment?”
“Oh. No, I —” Susan looked at the spoon in her hand like she’d forgotten she was holding it, and then sighed and put it down. “I’m just not entirely sure where to begin,” she said carefully. “It’s complicated. This thing with Blodwen… it goes back a while. Last year, at the Badger Festival, I tripped and fell awkwardly on my arm. It was — well, you know how bad it can get.” Her hand had unconsciously crept up to her shoulder, the site of her old injury from the Battle of Hogwarts.
“I took a double dose of pain potions,” she admitted. “I was… pretty out of it.”
Henry’s brain quickly through the details that he knew from the night of Orpington’s murder. Susan’s alibi (he’d checked it carefully when she’d volunteered to babysit or he would have forgotten it as it was completely unremarkable), was that she had gone home early. That made sense, then, as she tended to need rest when she took the potions for her arm. She had not, however, mentioned the potions to the DMLE which seemed odd as she was usually unfailingly forthright.
“How out of it?”
Susan risked a quick glance up at Henry’s face. “I couldn’t actually remember how I got home. I know, I know, I probably should have mentioned that,” she continued hurriedly, “but I was worried about how it would sound. A man was murdered and I had no memory of that night at all.”
True, all her friends had told her she was ridiculous to even imagine she might have had something to do with Orpington’s death… but at the time, it had seemed easier to leave those details out. She hadn’t exactly planned on dating the lead investigator for the case, much less considered how he would feel if he ever found out she’d been keeping such a big secret from him.
“Why would you expect that having no memory of the night would make you suspicious?” Henry asked tightly. “You’ve never mentioned any interactions of significance with Orpington or any ill-feelings between you.”
Of course, perhaps she hadn’t because she was worried how that might sound.
“There weren’t any ill feelings between Orpington and myself,” Susan assured Henry, glad she could honestly lay claim to that at least. (Especially since in Helga’s Hill it seemed rather unusual not to have a grudge against the dead man.) “But… well, when I woke up the next morning I had — marks on my arms. Bruises and — and scratches, like maybe I’d been in a struggle? I didn’t know what to think.”
“So you woke up the morning after a murder with no memory of the night before and signs of a struggle on your person, and you chose not to report that to law enforcement even when you were questioned about your whereabouts,” Henry said slowly, as if to clarify.
He didn’t pause for her answer. “For fuck’s sake, Susan, that’s illegal! You’ve knowingly given false information to the DMLE during a murder investigation! And on top of that you’ve been lying to me for months while I’ve trusted you with my daughter. How do you expect me to react to this?”
“I know. I know,” Susan said desperately, tangling her fingers in her hair as if to hold onto something, anything, while her world felt like it was falling apart around her. “But at the time I didn’t know that you and I would — that we —” She faltered and broke off, scared by the look on his face and what it meant, but knowing she had to try and make him understand. “I never meant to lie to you. Ever. If I’d thought this was relevant I would’ve said something — but it was so long ago, and I’d pushed it to the back of my mind, and —”
The lump in her throat was becoming painful, and she was dangerously close to tears. It hurt more than anything that Henry had implied she couldn’t be trusted to look after Daisy.
“You didn’t mean to lie to me?” Henry demanded, looking rather like the human equivalent of a thundercloud. “Well, that’s all very well and good, Susan, but do you know what happens when I report this to the DMLE — and I do have to report it — do you? What happens is that everyone is proved right about my competence. They will feel justified in believing I was blinded by my affection for you, because I was. You will become a suspect and I very well might lose my position on a case I have spent over a year of my life on. So excuse me if I don’t give a damn whether or not you meant to lie. You did.”
Standing, he went to look out the nearest window. He put his teacup down before he smashed it.
Susan flinched. She didn’t know what scared her more — Henry’s anger, or the thought of being called in to the DMLE to explain herself. And suddenly a memory surfaced, of getting into trouble as a small child and her Auntie Amelia looking down at her and saying, “You’ve made your bed, my girl. Now you must lie in it.” A pang went through her, and Susan closed her eyes briefly. If Amelia had taught her anything, it was to stand tall and face the consequences of your actions.
“I’m sorry,” she said in a low voice. “I’ll report it to the DMLE myself. If they decide I’m a suspect, so be it, but for what it’s worth my memories of that night came back to me earlier this evening, Henry, and it was nothing to do with Orpington.” Susan looked down at her wrists, wondering again how she could have been so blind to the true nature of someone so close to her. “It was Blodwen. Blodwen attacked me on my way home from the Badger Festival last year.”
Henry nodded sharply in acknowledgement of her decision to speak to the department herself. It wouldn’t make a difference for him, of course, the damage would be done, but he did appreciate the fact that she was handling herself as he’d expect the Susan he’d thought he knew to.
“Is that why you stunned her?” he asked, rubbing his temples and turning back to look at her. “Because you remembered her attacking you?”
“I stunned her because she was reaching for her wand,” Susan said, slightly stung. Did Henry really believe she was the kind of person who went around stunning people without provocation? “Or at least, I thought she was. After what I’d just remembered I wasn’t going to wait to find out.” She gave a helpless half-shrug. She was sure she didn’t need to explain to Henry how on edge she’d been lately.
“I’m glad you defended yourself,” Henry said gruffly after a long pause. It was also good to know that someone in the village had a latent violent streak. Perhaps they ought to look more carefully at Blodwen Cadwallader.
He sighed heavily. Merlin, what a headache.
“I just wish it hadn’t been necessary,” Susan replied, suppressing a sigh of her own at the thought of all the extra work this would make for her — right at the time when she needed it the least. But she pushed those thoughts to one side, because she had more important things to focus on right now, like making sure she and Henry were okay.
“I’m really sorry, you know,” she said quietly, twisting her fingers together. She didn’t blame him for his reaction, but she didn’t think she could bear it if this came between them.
“I know you are,” Henry said, managing not to sigh again. “I do know that. But this changes things, Susan. I won’t lie to you and say that it doesn’t. A relationship is meant to be built on trust. Clearly you didn’t trust me, and now I will have difficulty trusting you.”
She looked so miserable that he stepped closer and took her hand to give it a brief squeeze before letting go. “Trust can be rebuilt. It just takes time.”
Susan bit her lip, because there was nothing she could say in reply to that. She would trust Henry with her life — she had trusted him with her heart — and it hurt that he couldn’t see that, or that somehow this one mistake could be bigger than everything they had together. But as awful as things felt right now, she believed they would get through this. Because didn’t love mean forgiveness?
“All right,” she said, managing a half-smile at him even though her mouth felt strange shaping it. “We have time.”
Henry met her half-smile with a forced one of his own. As conflicted and angry as he felt about all of this, he hated to see her looking so unlike her normal self. Usually Susan shined. She drew people to her with her kindness and her charm and an innate goodness that wasn’t present in the average human being. That part of her was real. He knew that even if he felt betrayed by her secret-keeping in this moment.
Still, he couldn’t stand to see her looking so… diminished. Slipping an arm around her shoulders, he pressed a kiss to her temple. “Yes,” he murmured. “We do.”