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Chapter 21: Quiet
I'm not yours, and you're not mine
But we can sit and pass the time
No fighting wars, no ringing chimes
We're just feeling fine
Quiet - Lights
He stared at the door, asking himself what on earth he was doing here. It was quite a nice door, he observed; oak, heavily knotted, not unlike the kind of doors his parents had had in the house he grew up in.
He shook his head in disgust.
“Doors?” he muttered to himself scathingly. “Pull yourself together, Prewett.”
After a last glance up and down the corridor, he knocked softly on the door. After a few seconds passed with no reply, he slowly turned the knob and pushed the door open.
Araminta was lying in bed, curled up on her right hand side, facing the door. A few unruly black curls hung over her face, but they weren’t enough to completely hide the scratches and bruises on her face.
He quietly shut the door behind him, and crossed the room to sit down on the bed beside her. He gently brushed the hair away from her face, and ran his thumb across her scratched cheek.
Her eyes flickered open, and she slowly rolled over onto her back, lifted her hand and placed it over his.
“Did I wake you?” he asked her.
“I was half awake anyway,” she replied hoarsely. She smiled slightly, pushed herself up against her pillows, and drew her knees up under her chin.
“How are you feeling?”
She shrugged slightly.
He took a deep breath.
“Listen – I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you earlier. I should have believed you, trusted you and Dumbledore, and instead I-”
She raised a hand, and he fell quiet.
“It’s okay,” she replied. “I’d probably have done the same if I were you.”
“But I had no reason to treat you the way I did-”
“You’d just suffered from a massive loss. It was the reaction I should have been expecting, if I’m honest. I shouldn’t have expected you to just forgive me and pretend all was well.”
He frowned. He’d been dreading another argument with her, but now he thought he’d prefer that to the way she waved aside his apologies as though his actions had been acceptable.
“Well ... can I get you anything?”
She looked across the room, out of the window.
“Can I go outside?” she asked. “I haven’t been outside in a while.”
He winced at the almost carefree manner in which she touched upon her ordeal.
“Sure you can.” He got to his feet. “I’ll take you now if you want?”
“That would be nice.” She smiled gratefully, and pushed aside her covers. “I’ll need to get dressed first, but then could we sit outside for a bit?”
“That’ll be fine. I’ll wait for you just outside the door.”
He left the room, shutting the door behind him.
A few minutes later, she emerged, in jeans and a top, and a cloak slung over her shoulders. Her hair was pulled back from her face, which only served to emphasise the extent of her injuries.
She was very wobbly on her feet, as might be expected from somebody who’d been hit with the Cruciatus curse and spent a day in bed, and she’d taken a firm grip round Gideon’s arm before they’d reached the stairs.
“Are you sure you’re well enough to go outside?” he asked as he helped her down the staircase.
“I’m fine,” she said stubbornly. “I’m just short of energy. I can’t stay inside any longer.” She paused. “Besides, I’ve not been in the garden before. It looks stunning, though.”
“Oh, it is. Mrs Potter was a very fond gardener, by all accounts. James and Lily were married out there. I can’t think of many places better.”
He led her outside and down the garden. They stopped under the large willow beside a small fish pond.
“Does it look as good from the outside as it does from through the window?” he asked as they sat down against the trunk.
“It’s beautiful,” she breathed. “I grew up in a large house, with a garden that wasn’t quite as big as this, but was still fairly large. It was never maintained nearly as well though; it was mostly left to grow wild.”
He nodded, turning to look at her.
“What – what happened to you?” he asked gingerly. “Did Voldemort discover that you’ve turned?”
“If he had, I’d be dead,” Araminta replied, echoing Sirius’s words from the night before. “No, he’s just frustrated that things aren’t being done as quick as he’d like, and, as he usually does, he picked a scapegoat. It just happened to be me this time.”
Her fists clenched, and her mouth hardened.
“He picked me. I used to be his favourite, his right-hand woman. I was his prodigy, you know, he took it upon himself to carry on teaching me after my parents died; I guess he saw potential in me. Naturally, he ditched most things, and just taught me Dark magic, Occlumency and Legilimency. He trusted me with one of the most important jobs he had lined up. And now, that bitch Bellatrix has smarmed up to him, convinced him I’m not doing well enough, and I’m just target practice for him, like the Averys of this world.”
She scowled, and pulled a clump of grass out of the ground.
She raised an eyebrow.
“And here was me thinking you were clever,” she said. “Tracking you, of course. What else would it be? You’re in his top five targets in the Order. He can’t let a dueller as good as you carry on prancing around like you are.”
His jaw dropped.
“Me?” He paused. “But-” he stopped again. “Who else is a top target?”
“Well, Fabian, naturally. Marlene was, I think. Dumbledore, Moody and Black. For some reason, the Potters and the Longbottoms are high on his list too. I don’t see why as they don’t fight any more, but he obviously has his reasons.”
Gideon nodded, thinking of Lily and James, and Alice and Frank. Both couples were, of course, in hiding. Dumbledore had suspected they were targets of Voldemort’s; it seemed as though he was right.
“What other spies does Voldemort have?” he asked her.
“Well, no one Death Eater knows all others, so if a Death Eater turns traitor, he or she can’t give everybody away,” she explained. “I can tell you all the Death Eaters I know, but that’s mostly useless, as you know them all already. But I know for a fact that he has a spy in the Order-”
“We know that already,” Gideon nodded.
“Do you have any idea who it is?” she asked him.
“I think James and Sirius have an idea,” he said slowly. “It’s awful – I think they suspect Remus – Lupin, that is. I’m not sure why but he’s rarely involved in Order business any more, and every time I ask them why he’s not around, they both look shifty. They’re the ones that would normally keep him up to date with Order meetings and the like, you see. I think they’re already guarding a secret of his; every now and again he’d miss a meeting. But it’s more frequent now and they seem more guarded. I can’t possibly see it, myself, but then ... to think that anyone within the Order is betraying us ... it’s a horrible thought.”
She nodded solemnly.
“Well, I’ve not seen him around anywhere,” she said. “That’s not to say that he’s not involved, of course. I am on the lookout for anyone, though, and I have the advantage that few of the Order know I’ve turned, so the traitor won’t necessarily be on their guard with me.”
“Who does know?” Gideon asked.
“You, Dumbledore, Moody, Arieda, Sirius, and now Lily and James, are the only ones, I think,” she replied. “And I can’t believe that any of you are the traitor.”
He shook his head.
“They’re the ones I trust most,” he said slowly. “You’ll just have to keep your head down while you’re here.”
“I am, don’t worry,” she said. “Anyway, you were asking about other spies that the Dark Lord has. Aside from the one in the Order, there are a couple in the Ministry, including somebody close to the Minister, I believe, though I’m not sure who it is. There’s at least one other, I think, though I have no idea what department.”
“Anybody tailing Fabian, or Sirius?”
She shook her head.
“Not that I’m aware of; unless Shacklebolt is working for the Dark Lord.” She smiled slightly. “I doubt that, though. So no, just you.”
“I hardly see how I’m that special-”
“Well, the theory was that I could discover not just where you lived, but also where Fabian and Marlene lived, and potentially others. Obviously things haven’t exactly worked out for the Dark Lord though.” She smiled wryly.
“Why didn’t you give away my address?” he asked. “You found out where I lived before the wedding, before you found out about Louisa, before ... well, anything, really. Why, at that stage, did you decide not to say anything?”
“The part of me that wanted to deny everything else tried to reason that there was more I could find out; that I could get Fabian’s address, get the McKinnon’s address, get more information. But the real reason, I guess, was that you were just too nice to me from the start, infuriating questioning and flirtation aside. Few people, since my parents died, have treated me like a real person. The Dark Lord was the only one who came close, but even then I knew that I was just one of his servants, even if his plans were for me to become one of his most trusted and most skilled followers. His recent actions have just come to prove the point that at the end of the day, I’m dispensable. You were nice to me from the start, and I guess I just craved a relationship in which I would be treated as an equal, not a servant to be bossed around everywhere. Even Travers thought I was of less importance than him, despite my ranking higher in the Dark Lord’s eyes, and my role as spy. I was his wife, therefore I was his to order around, to do his bidding. All those times I turned up at the Ministry with bruises, those were from Travers. He forbade me from putting a Concealment charm on them; I could have done it easily if not for that.”
Her voice cracked and Gideon awkwardly wrapped his arm round her shoulders, squeezing her tightly and, he hoped, comfortingly.
“I had to tell him your address in the end, obviously,” she continued. “I couldn’t keep things quiet from him for much longer; he was growing suspicious. So I told him, then I tried to figure out how to let you know you were in immediate danger without making my role obvious. Luckily, I know who his spy in the Dark Lord’s ranks is, so I told them that the Dark Lord had discovered your location, and had them alert Dumbledore.”
“Wait – so, you didn’t tell him yourself?”
“How could I? It would give the game away. I was still in limbo at that point; I had become so fed up with Travers’ treatment of me, and was questioning the whole theory of pureblood supremacy, thanks to people like Arieda and Lily, who are two of the nicest people I could ever dream of meeting – and of course you, with your ability to treat absolutely everyone the same, despite their background, despite their name. That, added to the fact that I simply didn’t want to hand over you, or Fabian, or Marlene, meant that I tried to put off doing so for as long as possible. I’d thought of switching sides at that point, but just didn’t know how, or when, or even if I was sure about it. After all, it was all I knew, all I’d been brought up to believe. It was only when I was forced to join in with the raid on the McKinnons’ house, to watch...” She brushed a tear away, “...to watch as Marlene, and Sandrine, and Celine...”
She buried her head in her hands.
“I just couldn’t, I couldn’t do it any longer. But Marlene had just died, so I could hardly tell you then what I was thinking. Maybe if I’d told you before then, who I really was, maybe things would have been different, but not after that.
“And then I found out about my parents, that while they may have believed in a hierarchy, they’d never advocated mass genocide, they’d never wanted to join the Dark Lord, or wanted me to either, that it was he who ordered their deaths, not the Order, and that was it. How could I fight for the same person who’d ordered their deaths? I realise now, of course, that they’d dropped me so many hints; I just didn’t pick them up. I thought they’d taught me Dark magic too, but they hadn’t at all; they knew such magic, of course they did, but they barely taught me any of it. They wanted me to escape from it all. They just believed that through being homeschooled, I would escape the corruption, and they were wrong, so wrong. They should have sent me to Hogwarts because I’m certain, certain, that after seven years of being in the same year as you, and Fabian, and Marlene, and Louisa, I would have seen that there is no hierarchy. It took you barely two weeks to begin to turn my head, as a twenty-two year old indoctrinated Death Eater; what chance would an eleven year old, still naive Araminta have?”
“Sirius said something along those lines,” Gideon said quietly. “Said that you’ve made exactly the same choice as him, just a bit further down the line...”
He mentally kicked himself. He’d spent weeks – no, months – working with Araminta. He should have known her well enough by that point, surely? And yet Sirius, all along, had understood her far better than he had, had given her the credit she deserved.
“I don’t hold it against you, you know.” She was now making a daisy chain. “I should have known you’d react like that. I abused your trust; it was the least I deserved.”
“You didn’t abuse it,” he argued. “You could hardly stop me from trusting you and still do your job, could you? You were doing what you had to. And you’re just lucky that you didn’t do anything too bad-”
“I dunno; I think I cocked up your raid on Malfoy Manor pretty spectacularly.”
“That – that was you?”
“Course it was. It was there, plain to see, on the top of your files. So naturally, I told the Dark Lord. I’ve told him a few snippets like that. But I haven’t delivered you to him, which is where I’ve failed him.”
They fell silent for a moment. Araminta concentrated on making the chain.
Gideon finally broke the silence to ask something that had been bugging him
“How did you not know I was married to Louisa before I told you? I mean, she was in the Order too, she was a regular dueller for us, how did you not know of her?”
“I was abroad,” she replied. “I only returned for the last year of Auror training.”
“Where were you?”
“Eastern Europe, wooing those giants that Fabian was with the other month. I’m afraid we beat him to the punch rather. I’m pretty good at international relations, you see – not that you’d believe it based on my interactions with you.”
They both grinned wryly.
“How do you know he was with the giants?” he asked curiously.
“I knew he was in the Order, and what the rough aims of the Order were, so when you told me he was in Eastern Europe it was easy to put two and two together. I told the Dark Lord that little snippet of information. I was only a week in by then, so it made no difference to me.”
“When did you do your Auror training then?”
She turned to face him, a sly grin crossing her face.
“You forget, I’m a Death Eater,” she said. “A few Imperius and Confundus charms here and there, a couple of forged documents, and it was all too easy to pretend I’d done the first two years in France. I had to do the last year here though; it was the only way I could get into the Auror department. I only returned last summer. The Dark Lord briefed me on all the Order members, and naturally Louisa wasn’t one of them. They never told me about her at all, so I had no way of knowing. It came as a bit of a shock, I’ll tell you. I suspected there was something you were keeping back, but I didn’t expect a marriage of all things.”
“It’s the age of eloping,” he reminded her.
“That it is,” she conceded. “But you have to remember, I was married at seventeen in an arranged marriage; to me the concept of marrying for love was – still is, to some extent – a bewildering one. I couldn’t imagine somebody doing so at such a young age.
“But now, having seen Marlene and Fabian, and Lily and James, and Molly and Arthur, I see what marriage is really about. It’s not about convenience, about names, or reputation, or money. It’s about love, about that willingness to do anything for the one you love, whatever that entails, and knowing they’d do the same for you in a heartbeat, and knowing that whatever you’ve done, whatever you say, whatever mood you’re in, you’ve always got that one constant in your life, that one person who’ll never judge you for it.
“It’s such a wonderful emotion, and yet the Dark Lord shuts it out, disregards it. That’s where he’s most wrong, I think, because if he embraced that emotion, and the resulting ability to care for others, to have proper friendships, he may not be the way he is now, and we may not be in this awful predicament.”
He let her words wash over him.
“Have you ever been in love?” he asked her.
He’d asked her before, but that was when she’d been spying on him, before she had opened up, so he was unsure if she’d told the truth.
“I once thought I was,” she said, her eyes still fixed on the pond. “Then I thought I was wrong, then I changed my mind again. I loved my parents, of course, but I don’t think that’s the same kind of love.”
“No,” he murmured, “it isn’t.”
They fell into a peaceful silence. He threaded his fingers through her black, messy curls and considered just how much he’d missed her presence. Only now that she was sitting next to him did he really realise how much he had. It had been nearly a month, he calculated, since Marlene’s death, and it was only now, when it was clear to him that she was serious about spying for the Order, that he realised his anger towards her had been slowly dissipating over the last few weeks.
Before she’d arrived at the Ministry he had been wallowing in grief and guilt, not knowing what shape his life was to take without Louisa. Her arrival had broken the monotony of his routine, and somehow she’d encouraged him to move on. When she’d told him about her true identity, he’d jumped to such awful conclusions, and he’d fallen backwards, back into that pit of despair which had become all too familiar to him. He needed her, he realised with a jolt, to give his life some meaning. With her help, he could drag himself out of that pit, and continue stumbling forwards; without her ... well, he was a mess.
They’d both become dependent on one another to some extent, he supposed, as he turned towards the pond, without really seeing it. She’d always had the capacity to fight on the side of the Order, but she’d needed to see the world through someone else’s eyes – through his eyes – to realise that her childhood environment had led her in the wrong direction.
What a kick in the teeth it would be for old Volders if he were ever to find out that it was effectively his doing that cost him one of his greatest followers...
“What will you do now?” he asked her suddenly, as his thoughts drifted in that direction.
“I shall return to the Dark Lord when he next requires my services,” she replied calmly.
“After all he’s done to you?” he cried. “You’d go back to that?”
“I have to,” she said, in that same calm voice. “The Order needs spies in the Dark Lord’s camp. I’m one of the closest to him. I can’t just back out now that I’ve created that opportunity. Besides, so long as I keep my pretence up, I’m safer now than I would be if I backed out; the Dark Lord thinks I’m still loyal to him. With Dumbledore’s help, I can lead false trails easier than before ... and besides, by teaching me Legilimency, the Dark Lord has given me all the tools I need to deceive him. After all, who better to teach me how to keep him out of my mind than himself? He really should have thought of that before he taught me it to such a high standard...”
“But he tortured you!”
“Hopefully I’ll be able to give him more information now, and ease the pressure on myself. Obviously I can’t just feed him duff information or he’ll get suspicious, but at least if I give him, say, your address, I can tell you when an attack is planned, and the Order can be as ready as it’s possible to be without giving away that you’ve a spy yourselves. Really, Gideon,” she said, turning to face him again. “I’m not that scared about it. I know you’re worried, but I’m in the perfect situation here in terms of the Order. And if I left him, I’d have to go into hiding like the Potters. Things are bad enough as they are now, but that really would be awful. They barely cope cooped up like that, and they have each other and little Harry. I’d be on my own. I’d doubt I’d last three days without going insane.”
“You wouldn’t be on your own. You think I’d let you sit alone all day, every day? Of course I wouldn’t. Besides, who else am I going to play chess with?”
She laughed, a rare sound.
“You have such a good heart,” she said, resting her head upon his shoulder. “It’s just a shame you’re so hot-headed.”
“I resent that remark.” He poked her in the shoulder and she squirmed. “Are you busy tomorrow?”
“It depends on what the Dark Lord has planned for me,” she replied dryly. “Why?”
“I have a little niece I’d like you to meet.”
“You want me to meet her?” She raised her head to look up at him, the expression on her face unmistakeably one of joy.
“Sure.” He grinned at her. “Besides, Molly keeps asking me about you. So does Arthur, for that matter, but then I think he likes the way the kids looked up to you at the wedding. Anything for a bit of time off from parenting, eh?”
She laughed, and set her head back on his shoulder, then took his right arm and set it in her lap, fixing the daisy chain round it.
There was another pause.
“You know, I think I could stay here forever, and never grow tired of it,” she finally said quietly.
He silently agreed – though he thought he could stay in this moment forever and it wouldn’t be long enough.