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The Guilty Ones
May 16th, 1888 - Ari's House
She'd been ignoring the problem for so long that now she might actually have a problem. For days, now, Zelda had waffled - she didn't know what to do or who to talk to. Mr. Darrow was not an option, or he was, but she did not know what to say. The list of people who could help her was short. The list of people who could help her and be guaranteed not to tell her father was, well, non-existent.

She missed Mom.

It was easy enough to break into Ari's house. For one thing, she had spent so much of her Hogwarts summers harassing him and Julian that she had methods. For another, now she could just apparate in. She was sitting on Ari's couch when he got home from work, with one of his books open in front of her, although mostly she had just been rereading the same paragraph for the past ten minutes.

She had some whole nonchalant entrance in her head: Ari was going to walk in, and she was going to shrug her shoulders and hassle him about his workday until she finally broke into her problem. That wasn't what happened. Instead, Ari walked in and Zelda closed the book too fast, dropping it onto his sitting room floor with a clatter.

"Evening Ari," she said, "So - erm - how was work? I want to hear all about how work was."

It was neither cool nor collected; her tone was nothing if not nervous.

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The housekeeper hadn't warned him he had a guest, Ari noted in retrospect, once he had walked into his sitting room unsuspectingly at the end of the day. He wasn't sure his housekeeper had known, in fact. This was not a good sign were his house ever to get burgled.

But it was his sister. So, for the time being, it was alright.

"Evening, Zelda," he returned obligingly, resigned-but-not-quite-surprised. In his experience, he came for dinner at the Fisk house to visit, or when he started to miss the chaos of his family; on the other hand, his family usually came to visit him when they wanted something.

Oddly enough, Ari didn't mind this. One couldn't complain about being needed, even if it was only as a sounding board or a fount of free medical advice. Zelda needed something, that much was obvious from her uneven tone: knowing Zelda, however, that could mean nearly anything. Perhaps she'd gotten into trouble at home, and was trying to lie low to evade their father's disgruntlement.

"Work was as fine as usual, thank you," Ari said with a small smile, and he would have happily gone on if he was the faintest bit convinced Zelda had any interest whatsoever in the hospital's ordinary goings-on. He bent down to retrieve the book she'd dropped for her, giving her shoulder a brotherly squeeze in greeting as he straightened up. He set the book on the side table and paced back to sit in the armchair across from her, not too far off, but a better place to survey his youngest sister's face, so that he might work out how worried he ought to be.

"Would you like tea?" He inquired mildly.

Ari projected good mood - he was perhaps not enthusiastic about her presence, but he wasn't mad either. This was a good sign. She brought her hands together and tucked her chin on top. She smiled softly at his work story, but was very pleased, regardless, that he had not gone on, as there was only so long that the hospital could hold her attention for. (But probably, Zelda thought, Ari knew that already.)

The brotherly squeeze was bolstering, except that it also made Zelda particularly nervous for the coming conversation. Ari had never done anything wrong in his entire life, (except for not getting married,) he was the oldest one, he knew everything and Brannon was almost never mad at him. And then there was Zelda.

"Tea!" she said, as if she had just remembered that tea existed, "Tea would be great, thank you, Ari."

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Despite her nervousness - the funny little way she was acting that made it quite clear something was going on - she had smiled, so perhaps it was nothing too troubling. He had already rethought his first notion and given her the benefit of the doubt on whether she'd done something ill-advised to put their father in a mood: that was simply too usual to see her so skittish as this. (And, in that case, she might have been better off at Julian's, or Katia's, or even sneaking out of the house with Leonid: Ari would never have been the most congratulatory audience for her endeavours.)

It was nice to see her, though, so he was glad she had come, whatever the reason for the visit. Hopefully when she left she would seem more herself.

There was no sense in forcing the matter too soon, so Ari pretended there wasn't something strange hanging in the air, and smiled easily at her agreeing to tea. He rang the bell beside him for it, though he'd scarcely needed to: a cup of tea was always his first restorative measure of choice after a long day, and his housekeeper was at the door only a few moments later, the teapot already full. She was, as he'd suspected, shocked to see Zelda there, but he waved her apologies off, allowed her to bring a second cup, and then insisted she head home at her usual time, since family didn't count as having company and didn't warrant a change of plan.

When the housekeeper had pulled up the door, Ari poured out the tea himself and passed one to his sister. "So," he began, now that his full attention had nowhere else to be but her, though his question was an undemanding one: "how have you been? Busy at work, too, I suppose?" (It was still a marvel that she was old enough to work, to be in the midst of a career of her own. When had that happened? If he hadn't known better, he might have sworn she'd be at Hogwarts forever.)

Now that they had tea, and Ari's housekeeper was gone, Zelda was really feeling the full beam of her eldest brother's attention. It was already starting to make her a little uncomfortable - and, perhaps, even more guilty than she felt when she first got here. She shifted in her seat. If she waited long enough, would Ari figure it out on his own?

Obviously he wouldn't. Which meant that she was going to have to tell him, and she was going to have to look at his face when she did tell him, and she was not looking forward to finding out whatever expression it would make.

"Not as busy as you," she said, wrinkling her nose at him, "Which is to say that people hardly ever bleed on me. But work's been good." Zelda took a sip of her tea.

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Ari shrugged, warming his hands around his mug. While he doubted she'd agree, he was still convinced he had the easier time of it. As varied as his days were, at least he generally knew what to expect, what he was dealing with. Magical accidents, on the other hand? Now they could be anything, anywhere, and on any scale imaginable. And catastrophes? Merlin, it was in the name!

"Oh, you get used to being bled on," Ari replied, with a teasing smile. (You really did.) His mind was not much on his work, however, not for the moment. But Zelda, too, seemed rather nonchalant about hers - she hadn't elaborated on good, but it didn't sound like a lie either - so that, Ari concluded, must not be where the problem lay.

"You're well, though?" He asked swiftly, hoping his baby sister was not going to be the next person to bleed on him today. He still didn't want to press her for the reason of her impromptu visit, but his eyes raked over her in concern anyway, searching for signs of illness of any sort. "Is everything okay?"

If she was going to tell him, then she was going to have to tell him. Zelda took a little sip of her tea and set it down. She looked up at her big brother and her face flushed.

"Ari, I..." This was so much easier than it would have been to explain it to anyone else. Brannon would never forgive her. Julian would feel guilty about letting it happen. Ros and Katia and Marlena had, like Ari, never done anything wrong in their lives. Xena was Xena. And none of them were healers.

Zelda curled in on herself. Her shoulders hunched. "I did something stupid," she said finally.

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"We've all done stupid things," he supplied, an attempt to reassure her - an honest one, too. Not that he condoned doing stupid things in the least, but he wasn't going to pretend lapses in judgement didn't happen to everyone. (Himself included. Merlin, definitely himself included). So. He understood. Zelda could tell him. That was all.

Ari was wary, though, now. She had begun crumpling in on herself, regretful or ashamed, and it was that motion that most made him consider that this might be serious. More serious than he had thought.

Unconsciously following her lead, Ari set his tea down. And just looked at her, worried and waiting, and took a deep breath. "What... what did you do?"

This was somehow just as bad as when Brannon made her confess the situation with Mr. Jameshill, although Zelda supposed that really she was much worse off now. It was just that Ari was soft, in comparison to her father's rough edges, and she didn't think that he was going to be mad at her. Disappointed, instead.

She pulled her sleeves until they covered her hands. "There was this man," Zelda said, "And I... I liked him too much. And I knew it was wrong and I knew it was stupid but I - gave him - my virtue."

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"Zelda..." Ari breathed, before he could stop himself. He shut his mouth so that he did not add anything else, not until he was certain he had digested this; but his expression may have been enough, ashen and utterly aghast.

He didn't know what he had been expecting. But it... was not this. Never mind that Zelda was still a child in his mind, she had never been that sort of girl. Katia had always been a romantic, as Xena had been once too, as well as a flirt; but Zelda hadn't. Zelda had been more interested in swords and ships and adventure. If he had worried about anything, it would have continued to be the idea that she might one day spontaneously run away to become a pirate.

If he had been to consider this eventuality for a single second prior to this stunned moment, he might, at a stretch, have suspected it of her and one of the ragtag band of boys with whom she had spent all her schooldays being friends. It still would have been foolish of her, but teenagers... They were foolish.

Instead, startlingly, she had said a man. Evidently, he did not pay enough attention to his younger siblings' lives. Ari hadn't known she knew any men. (Perhaps she hadn't even known him.)

"Did he pressure you?" He asked firmly, his brow creased. She had made it sound as though it were her fault, as though she had made her choice willingly, but Ari wasn't sure he believed it, that she had been at all in control of that situation, however it had occurred. She was only nineteen, after all; Merlin, and their mother was dead, did she know any better?

Now that he'd started, there was a stream of questions in his head, none of which he especially wanted the answers to, but which... needed to be asked. "When did this happen?"

[-] The following 5 users Like Ari Fisk's post:
   Aldous Crouch, Bella Scrimgeour, Cassius Lestrange, Ophelia Devine, Zelda Fisk

Ari's face. Zelda had never seen him look like that before, never. It was the expression her confession deserved, and her shoulders hunched further. She bit her lower lip and wished that she could shrink into his chair. And Ari was still better than anyone else -- she could not put this on Ros, who may also be able to help her but who was the Minister's wife. The thought of telling her father made her just want to up and die right here. But Ari's face - she didn't want to look at that, either.

"N-no," she stammered, thrown off by his expression, by the way he had said Zelda. She shook her head. "He didn't." If anything, this entire situation was her fault - what had she expected to happen? Not that, surely, but they had been kissing for so long and then he'd started undressing her and he'd asked, he had been hesitant, but Zelda had plunged from the cliff of responsibility somewhere that night and was just starting to find her way back.

"It was April 19th," she whispered, "Ari, I'm sorry."

[-] The following 1 user Likes Zelda Fisk's post:
   Elias Grimstone

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"There's no sense in apologising to me," Ari replied, somewhat less gently than he had intended. This conversation was clearly not for his own sake. It had been stupid of her, and she knew it; if she had not realised that before, he was quite certain she had figured that out by having to admit it aloud now. Her body language radiated shame and contrition, which perhaps meant she had learnt her lesson from it, but it was not the sort of thing that could be undone. It was not the sort of thing that could be changed by sorry.  

April 19th, she said. The date meant little to him, specifically. He didn't know where Zelda had been, or who in the family had been tasked with keeping an eye out for her, who had been responsible for allowing this to happen... though, if - when - he found out, they would have a great deal to answer for. As would the man in question, however his sister framed events: whether or not she had known better, he damn well should have.

No, what April 19th said to him was that it had been a while, nearly a whole month, since then. This was not his little sister coming to her senses the morning after, shocked at herself. If she had come, then, to be consoled about it, well - Ari might have done his best to help her in spite of his shock (though he doubted she would have come to him). But if she had kept it to herself since then, she might never have been found out: so, Ari reasoned, either the remorse of it had begun eating her alive, or she needed help more directly with something. Perhaps it had to do with the man she'd fallen for. He rather hoped it was not breaking the news to their father.

He raked a hand through his hair, making a conscious effort to soften his tone against the disapproval and the dread. "Just - just please tell me you aren't pregnant."

[-] The following 2 users Like Ari Fisk's post:
   Aldous Crouch, Ophelia Devine

She had no mother to tell her these things; Delia had died long before Zelda was even remotely interested in boys, and shortly before, even, she had gotten her monthlies. The monthlies were, she was told, a sign of womanhood - they meant that you could have kids if you interacted with a man in that way. If your monthlies didn't arrive, that meant that you were pregnant. But the thing was - and the Hogwarts nurse had explained this to Zelda - your monthlies usually weren't regular until you were older.

Zelda's had always been sporadic, arriving seemingly as they pleased with long delays, and until now she had never had any reason to be worried about it. But then Mr. Darrow had mentioned trouble in his letter, and as the weeks passed knowledge of the risk hit Zelda like a sudden freight train: if she was pregnant, she would lose everything. Never mind her job and possibly her dignity; she would lose her family, too.

And Fisks were very fertile.

"I don't know," Zelda said, in that same small voice, "I don't know. That's sort of why I'm here."

This was why it had come down to Ari vs. Roslyn: Ros definitely knew how to tell when you were pregnant, but Ari was a healer, and was not, again, married to the Minister of magic.

[-] The following 1 user Likes Zelda Fisk's post:
   Aldous Crouch

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The best case scenario would have been a simple no - at least then, to some extent, they could rest easy. Admittedly, for the moment, that she had not said yes either was almost a blessing in itself. He hadn't had time enough to absorb the possibility, let alone to begin searching for a solution. What they would do if she was pregnant... well, they would cross that bridge if they came to it. There was no sense in broaching the subject if it could be avoided. (Ari prayed it still could.)

Instead, Zelda didn't know. Something in the way she said it made him soften unexpectedly. Suddenly, he felt nothing but sorry for her, that his youngest sister had already been agonising over the prospect, possibly for weeks, perhaps entirely alone. It must be terrifying.

He lifted his eyes to the ceiling for a moment, exhaled slowly in something like defeat. "Alright," Ari said, gaze cautiously alighting on her again. "That's alright. I'm sure you're not." If he could only force himself to pretend she was a stranger, any other patient; that these questions were not near enough life or death to her. "Your monthly cycle... have you had it, since then?"

Zelda folded her arms over her chest. Ari said he was sure she wasn't pregnant, but he had no real reason to think that - instead, he was trying to make her feel better. And maybe it was working - she certainly did not feel as terrible as she had after first confessing - but there was still the matter of the potential pregnancy.

"No," she said, still quiet, "I know that's bad."

But she didn't know how to be sure.
[-] The following 1 user Likes Zelda Fisk's post:
   Aldous Crouch

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That was bad. It was the sixteenth today, Ari recalled, wincing at the mathematics, at the near month it had already been. He didn’t know when precisely hers had been due, but it really ought to have arrived by now. “Well,” he countered, in a forced turn to optimism, “unless it usually arrives like clockwork, there’s still a chance it’ll come.”

There were, Ari knew, ways to induce the menses - forcibly - ways that were tacitly used to disrupt a pregnancy in its early stages. But none of the methods people used were without fault or without peril. Certainly not medically recommended. He worked in Potion and Plant Poisoning, for Merlin’s sake, he’d seen women all but poison themselves in the process.

So he did not plan to bring this up, if he did not have to. “Have you had any other symptoms; anything out of the ordinary?” He tried, surveying her and slowly counting off the possibilities. “Any pain - cramping? Soreness anywhere? Tiredness? What about nausea?” It may be a little early for the latter; but Ari supposed if it had not already, it would begin to become apparent sooner rather than later.

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