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Chapter 1: This is the Life
This is the Life
She knows too much, they whispered. She is close to the Dark Lord. She knows things that we, even we, could not think about, could barely fathom. She compares strategies with the Dark Lord himself. She was younger than the others!, they exclaimed; she still was learning magic at Hogwarts!
And her name? Scarlett Alysha Devous, the girl everyone pitied, though they didn't know why; the girl everyone fixated on, although her deeds were less than admirable; the girl everyone hated, but could not tear their eyes away from; the girl who barely spoke, but let her actions speak for her instead.
The girl no one knew, but everyone wanted to! She was top-chart! High-class, beautiful, intelligent, bewitching! She was as mysterious as she was dangerous, Hogwarts students said. She stole your breath and your heart and brought them back broken.
But in spite of all the rampant, vicious things that were said about her, it only took one look to realize that the stigma given to Scarlett Devous could not be entirely accurate. It was an ineffable thing, some sort of sparkle in her eye, that kept people questioning.
It was a privilege to know. It was the type of thing, the kind of feeling, that only one person could understand.
The kind of feeling that only one person would understand...
The arrival of September first brought both joy and pain to the Hogwarts students. Donned in robes, their eyes unwavering towards the castle, they operated under suffocated emotion, using superficial conversation as a mechanism to quell their anticipation. The older students, however--the ones that had experienced more years of wear and tear and war than the children in question--chose instead to disguise their emotions through severe silence and stoic phrases.
Scarlett Devous, a seventh year that heavily endorsed lack of expression, sat casually in between the two Black sisters, Narcissa and Bellatrix. On the other side of Bellatrix was Theodore Nott; next to Narcissa was his sister Georgiana.
Theodore had always been the sole male of the group throughout their long run of friendship, and Scarlett thought very highly of him for this, though as they matured an ever-increasing awkwardness had surfaced. Her parents, both pureblood socialites, wished for her hand to go to him or Regulus Black, both boys that Scarlett did not consider romantically in the slightest, let alone consider for marriage. When she thought about it, she could not help but roll her eyes; though she supported tradition, she did not see the benefit of an unwanted and arranged marriage.
The group spoke lowly and infrequently, their tones monotonous and expressionless, though every single one of them could not avoid a bubbling sense of excitement among their weariness. This was it; after six years of homework, exams, and Gryffindors, this was it. They were only one school year away from their futures. Only one school year away from Voldemort.
The Dark Mark had even already been imprinted on their arm, staining the skin permanently. It was a symbol-- of future, of dedication, and of desire. At times they could feel it burning, sometimes a dull prickling, and sometimes an intense flame. Even as she thought it, Scarlett's ached tauntingly.
On one of her sides, Bellatrix Black was examining her long nails. Bellatrix had always had the largest aura of darkness and glamour; her eyes were heavily lidded and her jaw was strong, and with her tan complexion she was the envy of many. She was muscular, though her body was thin, and she used it to her advantage deeply, as if it was her trophy of hard work and sacrifice. She was well known for sadistic, dark humor, as well as sarcasm, which flew to her lips quicker than a blink of the eye. She, out of them all, wanted their future the most, and her radical pride in her future made her the most temperamental and stubborn.
Narcissa was her polar opposite. Wispy blonde hair cascaded down her spine, as light and sweet as an angel's. Her complexion, unlike Bellatrix's, was pale and near sickly, making her, at first glance, seem to be as fragile as a glass. Though there was definitely a sign of physical labor in her frame, she was best known for her mind: it was as fast as a Ravenclaw's though nowhere near as optimistic. She was silent, her vengeance sneaky, and although she looked terribly personable, her manipulative and vain nature stated otherwise.
On Bellatrix's other side, Theodore Nott sat, idly looking at the outdoor scenery. There was no doubt that he was attractive, of course, though Scarlett felt uneasy seeing him as such. He bore olive tinted skin which covered a very strong body, innocently hiding behind his robes, and his brown hair was layered expertly on his head. His eyes were very wide, with flecks of green within the chestnut irises, though they were in no means naïve: if anything, they were logical. Theodore's humor was dry and unpredictable, as was his charm, which was not noticed until it had already worked its magic. He was an absolute essential and complete asset to their cause.
More so than I, Scarlett thought enviously, placing her head in her hands. Her plain brown hair, shoulder-length and unfortunately straight, perfectly matched her wide, dark eyes. Her complexion was smooth and, while not as tan as Bellatrix's, was not as pale as Narcissa's, either. Her face glowed purely from her beautiful cheekbones- however, while they made her attractive, she could not envision herself being as flawless as the friends she surrounded herself with. It was to Scarlett's fortune, though, that she did not care much about her looks, but treasured her mind, which had observed with scrutiny and acquired plenty of secrets from within Hogwarts's walls. It gave her the timeless trait of unpredictability, for she allowed herself to fade into the shadows.
Georgiana, the solitary Ravenclaw, sat next to Narcissa, applying makeup. Her hair was strawberry blonde and thick, and its small ringlets fell down to her waist, even though she had pulled it back into a hasty ponytail. She was, by far, the most optimistic, which may have been due to her House or due to her personality in general. She gossiped frequently with a girl named Ambrose, and, like Ambrose, she seduced and flirted more than occasionally and left boys star-struck. Her charm made her, by far, the most outgoing of the group, though despite her popularity she harbored intense loyalty towards the group, particularly her brother. Although she was not biologically related to him, she loved him all the same, and as she was as pureblooded as the rest of them no animosity was needed.
Their scant conversation turned to Hogwarts.
Theodore put his hands through his hair in anxiety. "This year is going to be awful," he prophesized, and in his case he was entirely correct. Out of the five, Theodore easily beat them as far as school activities went; he was not only enrolled in difficult classes, but also was Quidditch Captain of the Slytherin team. And in addition to his school responsibilities he had to find time for their cause; he had been recruited especially by Voldemort to search for a Transfiguration book that had been made sparingly.
Narcissa, on the other hand, was full of composure, and unconcernedly neglected what Theodore had said. "I need to write to Lucius," she muttered contentedly, a smile playing at the fringes of her lips. Narcissa and Lucius, who were betrothed, loved each other terribly and without shame. Despite the fact that it was an arranged marriage, the two were a perfect match, even without considering Lucius's admirable wealth.
Bellatrix rolled her eyes. "You think too much about Lucius," she chided. "You should be thinking about this--" and she gestured to the school-- "because once this is done, our real futures can begin. Lucius is just a boy, nothing more. He is not worth obsessing over."
No matter where their conversations would go, Bellatrix would always find a way to express her impatience. From the moment the Sorting Hat had been placed upon her head and declared her a Slytherin, she had been impatient, and though she loved her House dearly she still desired for the day that the title would be stripped off of her completely. She did not want to be known as a Slytherin; she wanted to be known as a Death Eater. Her loyalty to the Dark Lord was intense enough that nearly every conversation she was in mentioned the future and what was to come, and there were more often than not occasions when her passionate love for it made her nearly condescending. Who was Lucius to Narcissa?, Bellatrix had wondered. Lucius was too much to her.
And thoughts like that were not expressed hesitantly for Bellatrix.
Narcissa, not in the mood to argue, rolled her eyes, and Scarlett, noticing the change in mood, turned to Theodore and said, "The homework will be unbearable, Theodore."
Theodore looked over to her suddenly, as if he had zoned out of the conversation entirely, and nodded, not bothering to use words to express his agreement. Georgiana, who had also noticed the sudden uncomfortable silence, in turn, asked, "Have you quit your election classes yet? I know you signed up at the end of sixth year for Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, but--"
"Yeah," Scarlett interrupted, shrugging. "I dropped out."
Silence fell through the compartment for a while, though it was soon disrupted by the quiver of the carriage stopping. As if all of their eyes had been opened, they all gazed at each other in apparent surprise, gradually making their way out of the carriage and towards the looming castle.
Georgiana started very evidently at this. "I just remembered, I never told you," she said with haste, turning towards the group. "Sirius Black and Severus Snape got in a fight today."
"Tell us something we don't know," said Bellatrix with sarcasm, rolling her eyes.
"No, no, no," Georgiana said, her words stumbling onto each other; she was always easily excited when it came to gossip. "No, no, the thing was, it was about Remus," she said, and at the grand revelation her breathing calmed. "I don't know why, but, the thing was, Snape started it, but Sirius hit him first, and there was-- I don't know-- a lot of yelling... Well, you had to be there!" she exclaimed in an attempt of redemption. "I mean, I don't see how Remus is in any way worthwhile enough to fight about!
"He is sort of attractive, though," Georgiana admitted absentmindedly, making herself the subject of glares and groans from the entire group. "I'm just saying," Georgiana said in defense. "If you consider the people in our year."
Scarlett herself rolled her eyes, but said nothing; Georgiana had a tendency to disregard House as far as boys went. The silence was not broken to voice this, and no one else said anything for a while, their footsteps slow and deliberate.
"Who wants to miss the Feast?" Scarlett questioned, and even as she said it she yawned and rubbed her eyes. Although Scarlett was by no means very dependent on sleep, she tended to value it more than everyone else; she was not blessed with insomnia, like Bellatrix, or satisfaction with sleeping in a few short hours, like Theodore.
Narcissa nodded her head; Bellatrix and Theodore claimed that they had more important matters to think of at the Feast, Bellatrix the promising first years and Theodore his hunger, while Georgiana was bound to a Prefect's responsibility. Without much care, Scarlett shrugged; the fatigue had come over her like an unquenchable disease, and she thought of it with some obsession, each yawn spilling onto the next with terrible grace.
The method of skipping the Feast was not new. Scarlett and Theodore had done it, back in fifth year, and Scarlett and Bellatrix had done it in sixth. Scarlett's usual lack of occurrence was reasoned easily: the Feast was, in all honesty, at a lower priority than sleeping, and while she was well aware that she was skipping one of the fanciest meals of the year it did not matter much to her.
Narcissa and Scarlett's quick, stealthy steps were not detected by any, to no surprise. After all, wouldn't it have been more of a surprise had they been caught? After all, who would even bother to stomach the fact that maybe, just maybe, people did not care about the Feast, did not care about the first years... hardly cared about anything?
After years, Scarlett and Narcissa were no longer surprised by the slyness which they had acquired. It was not as if they were inept at it; it was, very clearly, the opposite, which Narcissa demonstrated perfectly as she muttered the password she had heard by eavesdropping. Scarlett released a sigh of relief as they were allowed entry.
It was to be expected of them, this type of behavior. Anything else would have been a surprise.
Narcissa instantly went up towards the girl's dormitories in the hope that her bags had arrived, and Scarlett hung back, her gaze momentarily distracted by the crackle of what seemed to be a never-ending fire. Despite the fire's breathtaking glow, not much else illuminated the room: sporadic candles were placed strategically around, some hanging from the wall and some placed on large desks that the students used for studying. Because they were so far underground, the only window in the common room did not show the grounds, instead showing the depths of the water from the lake. It had taken some getting used to, but as a seventh year Scarlett appreciated the solitude of the room; it was a strange quality, but it made her feel at ease to know that they were so far removed. Slytherins always grew to welcome their secluded living space with hospitality.
It was a hospitality that was aware of their uniqueness, a hospitality that embraced it... it was a hospitality that was, while reluctant at first, now trusting. It was a hospitality that every student held for their common room, and it was a hospitality that led Scarlett to the ebony, leather couches, her legs stretching in contentment and her body molding onto the central couch like clay. The heat of the fire and the silence of the room urged her eyes to close, and they did, slight tendrils of hair falling in Scarlett's face as her consciousness slipped away...
Her heart ignited.
Scarlett, while known for having a temper, was generally not known for releasing it, as the behavior would have been considered inappropriate. In the confines of the forest, however, etiquette did not arrive, and her emotion hung in the air for an instant, waiting for it to be repressed by rule and reason and logic.
But, then it exploded, and she made to voice this strange temper, one that was brought about for a reason that she was not really aware of... But, before she could try and yell about things she did not know or understand, a voice beat her to it, the darkness and flurries of snow making it impossible to identify.
"Scarlett, you can't let this happen."
It was said with astounding authority and wisdom, complete conviction, and a shocking sureness that made Scarlett's annoyance fester, though again as she tried to speak the voice cut past it.
"It's wrong!" the voice yelled. "You cannot continue with this, you should have never even let it begin! You have to decide! You cannot repeatedly and heavily defy fate, because fate is the only thing we have, and if you don't choose for yourself then it will choose for you!"
The alarm for midnight struck into the silence.
Scarlett's eyes flickered open at that exact moment, her thoughts disheveled and blurry, even as she attempted to fully regain her consciousness. Her dream slipped away from her, and she frowned, waving it off with questionable suspicion.
The first thing Scarlett noticed was the bed she was sitting on, and her eyebrows furrowed, taking in her surroundings a split second later. The Slytherin common room had vanished, and she was instead in the girl's dormitory.
How had she made it there?
The second thing she noticed was a note written on a shoddy piece of parchment and folded cleanly next to her lamp. Curiosity, though hardly ever something that controlled her actions, did at that moment, and she picked up the note, unfolding it to find the answer to her question in perfectly aligned scrawl.
Sleep tight, Scar.
She could imagine the sarcasm lining his face as he wrote it, the smirk stuck on his lips, and the thought of it made her slightly irritated, a feeling that was unpredictably interrupted by another foreign one... One that came, from not only seeing his handwriting or imagining the smirk on his face, but from the simplicity in the fact that he had carried her up to her bed.
Scarlett shook her head to rid of the thought as she observed the clock, which read five minutes after midnight. It was precise timing, timing that she could have only wished for, and she smiled, pulling on her proper attire--and then, without her consent, she thought about how Theodore had carried her when she had worn a skirt--
Her mind unusually stopped thinking.
Her movements wobbly, both from her treacherous train of thought and her still tired legs, Scarlett sneakily left Hogwarts, keeping a stern eye out for any Prefects that may have tried to make themselves an obstacle. Her path was clear, however, and with pride she allowed her rhythmic footsteps to take her, faster and faster, towards the Forbidden Forest.
The wind was soothing; summer still lingered. Even still, the night was slightly uncomfortable, although Scarlett did not expect anything different from the Scottish countryside. Thoughtlessly, her eyes traveled to the moon one last time before trees blinded her vision; it was nearly full, and its muted rays, distinct from the sun's, helped light her pathway through the forest.
She had been to what had been dubbed the 'outlook' many times; although she had explored other areas of the Forbidden Forest, the outlook was by far her favorite. The most enjoyable creatures in the forest, in Scarlett's opinion, were the centaurs; though few enjoyed her company, she had been lucky to find a soft-spoken, reasonable, and enthralling centaur who was unprejudiced towards humans.
Her footsteps echoed in the frightening silence, and a slight shudder crept through her spine.
Fear did not enter her often, but on the off days when it did it normally was composed of things related to the forest: of getting lost, of being missing, of being caught... of being harmed, of falling, of helplessness, of the suffocating silence that was trapped within the forest's trees...
She ran through familiar landscapes to ease her fears, her trainers wearing. Her eyes repeatedly looked upwards towards the moonlight, and they were fully alert, her consciousness finally regained. Tiredness no longer composed her; if anything, energy did.
Running could have been responsible for this; it had always been integral to her, always a necessity. To run into the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night had occurred to her during the middle of her fifth year, when ice had hugged every twig and unforgiving snowstorms were common. It had, admittedly, been stupid--to this day she couldn't explain why she had started-- but it had shaped everything for her.
It had shaped her future. It had shaped her fate.
When Scarlett stepped into the centaur Tenereus's outlook, her cheeks were slightly flushed in exhilaration and she exhaled a beat faster than she normally would. As she saw him patiently waiting she slowed her run, walking leisurely towards the center of the barren area.
"Hello," she said politely, and smiled at him, an action that Tenereus returned hesitantly.
Tenereus was quiet, knowledgeable and thirsty for answers, his solution being an intensive investigation of the stars above him. It had been entirely by chance that Scarlett had stumbled upon him, and since their first meeting she had visited him nearly every day she was at school.
He inclined his head towards her, his long chestnut hair angled towards the ground. "School has started, then," he said, and she nodded, walking closer towards him.
"Are you ready to see the stars, then?"
Instead of responding, Scarlett lowered herself towards the cool earth, her back resting against an ash tree. She looked towards the stars, which glittered and glowed above the couple, and her expression became blank as she focused on the stars above her.
She had not read the stars in three months, and though Scarlett did not much believe in attachment to anything or anyone unwittingly she had grown fond of the stars that gleamed in the sky. She missed their beauty--she missed their intrigue--she missed knowing, knowing of them, and knowing from them, that ache satisfied as she lost herself in their intricacies.
Her eyes darted from one constellation to the next, while time passed by without her notice. The study of the stars enthralled her, interested her to such an alarming extent that she did not notice anything from her external surrounding until Tenereus nudged her lightly with his hoof hours later.
Her senses flew from the galaxy that they had resided in, and she stood in reluctance, looking up again at the stars in desire. "What have you learned?" Tenereus abruptly asked. "What have they told you?"
"Someone new will join us. The rest of the constellations were hazy."
"A guest or enemy?" he questioned, wary, and at the question Scarlett's eyes shifted back to the stars. Though Scarlett had grown talented at reading the stars as a result of years of practice, the many unthinkable secrets that they held stretched beyond her human reach, and she sighed, struggling to formulate an answer.
"It is a guest, but what it does is monumental. Unpredictable. I don't know who it is."
Tenereus nodded at the information, letting his eyes travel to the stars once more. Centaurs thrived on the stars, and with an intriguing case like the one Scarlett told Tenereuss he could not think of anything else. Allowing him to keep his concentration, Scarlett took her leave without saying goodbye, as she headed towards the castle. It was late, too late, and the trickling desire for sleep entered her senses once more, so that by the time she was in her dormitory it was all she could think about, and she collapsed on her bed, praying for any ounce of sleep...
Always and forever...
The light flickered on annoyingly, merely fifteen minutes later, and Scarlett groaned at it, instinctively shielding her face to no avail. Bellatrix, the sole Slytherin standing, nudged the girls sharply, annoyed.
"Wake up," Bellatrix ordered, her voice hoarse from sleep deprivation but laced with excitement. "We're going to the Pitch in fifteen minutes. Get dressed and meet me in the common room then. Don't bother on your appearance, it's a waste of time and it will only slow you down. And, for Merlin's sake, be sneaky."
Scarlett yawned, eyeing her reflection carefully. There were dark circles under her eyes and her body sagged with fatigue. It was not a good routine to live by, but it was one that somehow grooved into their system each year over time. Yawning once more, she pulled on a pair of lazy shorts and one of her only T-shirts before covering the attire with a thin, inexpensive robe.
"Let's go," she urged, though with little energy, and, the rest of the girls slightly groaning, led them to the common room. Their muscles ached, and their eyes drooped, and their bodies could barely move... but, they were ready, and that was all that their master cared for.