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Stairway to Heaven by gryffindorseeker
Chapter 21 : I Will Follow You into the Dark
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 19


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The response from the last chapter has been nothing short of incredible. I can’t believe the amount of speculation for how this series will end. Obviously, I do not want to give it away. But ponder this: is this story a comedy or a tradegy (ŕ la the movie Stranger Than Fiction)?

Think about it. Take a moment.

Okay, good?

Here we go!

Also, the title is from the Death Cab for Cutie song, owned by Atlantic Records.

~

When Rhian materialized, the world was pitch black around her. The sky was completely black, from the clouds covering the moon and stars. A cool wind made her body shiver. It was not quite spring, and she hadn’t thought to bring a jacket. But Rhian didn’t care about her comfort anymore. The cold was pain, and pain was good. She was tired as well. Rhian had awoken at six the previous morning and had spent almost the entire day at Auror training and studying. It must have been nearly midnight now.

She stood in front of an enormous stone castle that reminded her eerily of the Bastille of eighteenth century Muggle France. There was a damp fog hovering over the turrets and ramparts. If any building was the antithesis of Hogwarts, it was this. The Lestrange residence oozed sentiments of hopelessness and corruption.

Barty Crouch, Jr. stood to the side, glancing around uncomfortably. Rhian had known him in another life. They hadn’t been childhood friends, or anything, but they had attended many of the same stuffy Ministry functions in their youth and politely conversed about how they’d rather be anywhere but there. Did Barty Crouch, Sr. have any idea what his only child was? What had driven the younger Crouch to join Voldemort?

Dolohov Apparated. “Get her inside,” he grumbled to Crouch, as if his waiting for Dolohov was ridiculous and immature.

Crouch walked in front of Rhian and she followed him, very aware that Dolohov was following close behind her.

“You don’t have a Fidelius Charm on this house?” Rhian asked to neither in particular.

“It’s not our headquarters,” Dolohov sneered. “Bring an Order member and an Auror-in-training straight into the heart of our operations? How foolish do you think the Dark Lord is? At any rate, he had an inkling that you won’t go blabbing to your former friends about this meeting.”

Former? Rhian thought to herself. This entire situation was very peculiar. Rhian figured she was extremely stupid to agree to meet in person with Voldemort, but she had trouble mustering up any concern for her own well-being. Her soul was damaged; a part of it was dead and rotting. She doubted that it would ever heal.

Crouch opened the front door without so much as knocking. Rhian followed him inside, with Dolohov straight on her heels.

They entered an enormous, dark foyer, the air inside stagnant and dusty. The floor was a dull green marble and the walls were a rich, dirty mahogany. Cobwebs dangled from the crystal chandelier and wooden railing of the grand staircase. This entryway had once been beautiful, but had become decrepit through neglect.

Crouch led the other two through a door to the right. It opened up to a sitting room, and Rhian gasped. The room contained five cloaked Death Eaters, each missing their mask. Rhian recognized their faces: Bellatrix, Rodolphus, and Rabastan Lestrange, Igor Karkaroff, and Severus Snape. It was almost unreal for Rhian to see Snape here, but she knew she shouldn’t have been surprised. People like James and Sirius had unwittingly driven Snape to love the Dark Arts, and Rhian realized it was be perfectly natural for him to join the Death Eaters. She hadn’t seen Snape since their graduation two years before; perhaps that was why he seemed out of place.

“She came?” Bellatrix Lestrange asked, confused and disappointed. She must have been hoping that her colleagues would fail and endure Voldemort’s wrath.

“Of course, Bellatrix,” said Crouch rudely.

“Stop talking about me as if I wasn’t here!” Rhian shouted, out of nowhere. Why bother controlling her emotions? These people utterly disgusted her.

“Well, it seems as if my former classmate still has that temper,” Snape drawled. “Antonin, Barty, the Dark Lord said not to anger her.”

“Stop being so condescending, Severus,” Dolohov spat, agitated that a much younger man spoke to him like that. “We did not harm her. She’s obviously got a short fuse.”

Rhian turned and stared hard at Dolohov. “You didn’t hurt me?” she said in a barely audible whisper. “Do you have any idea what a vile excuse for a living thing you are? All of you!” her voice got louder and she pointed her wand at the seven Death Eaters. “You’re despicable, disgusting, pathetic, lecherous, selfish cowards, every last one of you! You cause death and destruction because you’re SCARED of kinds of people you might not know much about! And oh yeah, WHY do you hate Muggles and Muggle-borns so much? What did they ever do to YOU? Just because some Muggle-borns are better at magic then you are, you think they should be EXTERMINATED? That’s so fucking sick! I don’t know what the hell your MASTER wants with me, but YOU,” she pointed her wand in Dolohov’s face, “definitely HURT me.”

Rhian took a step back, as if to cool off, then she raised her wand again and sent an Entrail-Expelling Curse at Dolohov. He screamed in pain as his inner organs tumbled out of his body, spewing blood. His cohorts watched in disgust and with mild interest. No one stepped forward to help him.

“You!” Rhian shouted, pointed her wand at the Death Eaters who currently did not have bile spewing from them. “See, you’re despicable even now! You don’t even care about him! Crouch!” She cast a Knee-Reversing Hex at him, and he cried in pain as his kneecaps twisted around.

The other five finally realized that they should grab their wands because they could be next, but Rhian, in her moment of mindless rage, was too quick for them.

Incarcerous!” Rhian shouted at Bellatrix. A dozen ropes jumped from Rhian’s wand and bound the female Death Eater, who dropped her wand because the ropes cut off circulation to her hands. Rhian immediately pointed her wand at Rodolphus, said the same incantation in her head, and he too was tied up. She did the same with Rabastan, Karkaroff, and Snape before they could react. Now that she had incapacitated five Death Eaters, she shot arrows out of her wand at Bellatrix, threw a Bat-Bogey Hex at Rodolphus, a Leek Jinx at Rabastan, a Stunning Spell at Karkaroff, and a Levicorpus at Snape. Rhian grinned evilly because he had invented this spell himself while at Hogwarts.

She glanced around the room. Rhian had single-handedly incapacitated seven Death Eaters in a moment of blind anger. Dolohov and Crouch were in too much pain to use their wands to save themselves, and the other five had been physically forced to let go of their wands when the ropes bound them so tightly. In another life, Rhian would have been proud of her remarkable performance in a sticky situation. But nothing seemed to matter anymore.

The door at the other end of the sitting room opened, and a very familiar face poked out.

“Peter?” Rhian almost stuttered. Oh no, had they taken him hostage or something? He could barely do magic at all, he couldn’t defend himself!

“The—the Dark Lord will see you now,” said Peter, terrified that Rhian was going to attack him like the other seven.

“But Peter…what are you doing here?” Rhian asked, concerned. “Come on, we can escape.”

“The Dark Lord will see you now!” Peter said with an extra burst of confidence, holding the door further open.

“Peter…you’re a Death Eater?” she asked, shocked.

“They respect me!” Peter insisted. “More than you all ever did!”

Rhian doubted anyone could respect someone who didn’t respect himself. “I suppose you’re right,” she admitted. “We should have treated you better.”

Peter looked confused at her frankness. “You really ought to come in here!”

Rhian shrugged. Well, this day just keeps getting better, she thought sarcastically. Will died and Peter Pettigrew turned out to be a Death Eater. But what could Rhian lose by chatting with Voldemort? It didn’t really matter. Her heart had already been ripped out and hit successively with a meat tenderizer.

She walked in the room off of the sitting room. It was an ornately furnished office, the only room in the house that wasn’t coated with a thick layer of dust. A roaring fire cackled in the fireplace to the side, and Rhian made her way toward the desk at the other end. She kept her gaze straight forward and her expression emotionless, taking a seat directly across from Lord Voldemort.

He did seem a bit surprised that she didn’t even shudder in his presence. Granted, he was a rather terrifying figure that Rhian could have better appreciated on any other day. He sat up, tall and thin, on the tall leather desk chair, with red pupils in eyes that had evovled to more like a snake’s than a human’s. He gazed at her with an intent, but relaxed, expression. Voldemort’s head looked as if it had no skin, but was merely a skull, bald and white. His thin, malnourished body was draped in a black cloak.

Voldemort looked as if he tried to twist his face in a smile, but couldn’t. “Well, it is an honor to meet you, Rhiannon Clark,” his hoarse voice whispered.

Rhian felt impossibly numb and indifferent. “The pleasure’s all yours,” she said obnoxiously.

He seemed taken aback. “You seem disheveled.” Voldemort frowned and stared hard at Rhian.

She felt as if a burglar had slipped into her mind and was rummaging through her thoughts. Dammit, why didn’t they teach me Occlumency yet? Rhian thought openly, knowing that Voldemort could read this and giving up on even considering fighting back. What would be the point?

“I understand,” said Voldemort, after reading her thoughts, “that my associates did not follow their orders. My sincerest apologies, but I hope you understand how important this meeting is.”

“You’re sorry?” Rhian laughed callously.

“But I see you took your own revenge.” Voldemort didn’t even try to pretend that he wasn’t using Legilimency. “You debilitated seven of my Death Eaters?” He almost sounded impressed.

“You, better than anyone, know what they’ve done,” Rhian growled.

“Very interesting,” he said lightly, “most intriguing. Wormtail!” Voldemort shouted to Peter, who had been hovering awkwardly at the other side of the office.

“Y—yes, master?” Peter quickly scurried over to him. So much for his new buddy respecting him.

“Wormtail has kept me abreast of your progress, Clark,” Voldemort said casually.

“Why?” Rhian asked bluntly.

“Well,” Voldemort seemed to be suppressing any ideas of punishing Rhian for her rudeness, “due to his former allegiances, he had to present me with crucial information to prove his true loyalties.”

“What, like as Death Eater inaugration?” said Rhian, unconvinced and cruel. This was ridiculous. Peter, go behind all his friends’ backs and turn bad? What kind of Gryffindor was he?

“Yes,” Voldemort’s patience was being tested. “He has alerted me that you’re the bright beacon of the Auror department.”

“Ug, don’t say it like that, you make me sound like a martyr,” Rhian said offensively.

“Watch…your…tongue.” Voldemort clenched his teeth.

“Sorry, dude.” Rhian shrugged her shoulders. Playing the Push Voldemort Over The Edge Game was fun.

“Albus Dumbledore also thinks highly of you,” Voldemort spat Dumbledore’s name, “which greatly concerns me. Any of ally of Dumbledore must be kept under close watch.”

“So, you’re going to stalk me, then? Thanks for the heads up!” Rhian smirked. Why didn’t he just get on with it?

“I have,” Voldmort grinded his teeth, “a proposition for you.”

“Shoot,” Rhian commanded.

“Though you are currently exhibiting an unacceptable level of independence and disrespect,” Voldemort finally could express his disapproval at Rhian’s behavior, “it would be in your best interest to join my ranks.”

“Come again?” Rhian was dumbfounded. This was completely unexpected.

Voldemort sighed. “I strongly encourage you to join me and my associates. You’re extremely powerful and, with the right training, could put that power to good use.” He almost seemed surprised when Rhian did not interrupt him with a snide comment. “You’ve clearly got a lot of boiled up anger, Clark, and that will help you in the study of the Dark Arts.”

“You want me,” Rhian said slowly and quietly, “to become a Death Eater?”

“I want you,” said Voldemort more quickly, “to join the winning side. Even Dumbledore has acknowledged that it’s impossible for him to win! Clark, some people will tell you that following the obsolete ethical code of society is the only road, and haven’t you ever felt trapped? You have the potential to do such great things, and deep down, you know that this straight and narrow path is wrong. It’s about power…power is all that matters! Some people are plagued by pride, and it is this pride that prevents them from succeeding in this world.”

Rhian stared hard at him. She now knew firsthand why Voldemort was able to amass such a following. He was an excellent orator and was dangerously convincing.

“I see you’re hesitating,” Voldemort continued. “I understand that I am springing a lot on you at once. But see, I wouldn’t even offer if I didn’t know that you truly wanted power.” His thin lips curled into a grin. “You could have everything you’ve ever wanted, Clark. Fame, prestige…how thrilling it is to have fear instilled in your name! And don’t worry about the nonsense they’ve taught you at Hogwarts and at the Ministry. I will personally teach you curses that have not been used for a thousand years! Once you have the right training, and depending upon how loyal you can prove you are to me, you will be my most trusted confidant.”

“You want me to be a Death Eater?” Rhian asked calmly again.

Voldemort paused. “Obviously.”

“You killed my father,” Rhian said matter-of-factly.

“He was not meant to die,” said Voldemort, almost annoyed at having to address this. “Your father was a fool, I’m sorry to admit. The Minister of Magic was my target, but your father valued his life more than his own.”

“But you murdered him,” Rhian stated. “You said that you didn’t mean to; then why did you do it?”

“He was a prime example of the evil that I am fighting!” said Voldemort, exasperated. “This old and outdated idea of chivalry and self-sacrifice? The Middle Ages are long over! We live in a new world now. One must look out for oneself, and oneself only, otherwise progress is inhibited. You have to see what you want and take it!”

“Is killing thousands of innocent people actually fighting evil, or just spreading it?” Rhian’s voice was infused with heartfelt emotion for the first time since Will died. “What’s wrong with you? That would never work! If everyone goes out and only cares for their own self-interests, the whole world would be an anarchy!”

“It wouldn’t be anarchy,” he responded with authority. “Naturally, I would be run it effectively. I would greatly reward those who helped me on my quest—”

“So you want a dictatorship?” Rhian was aghast. “Yeah, that worked out really well with Grindelwald.”

“DO—NOT—DISRESPECT—ME!” Voldemort seethed.

“Get over it, everyone in the wizarding world already hates you!” Rhian spat. “They’re either scared of you, which is really the same thing, or are working against you! Your new world order wouldn’t be as populated as you think it would!”

“This is unbelievable,” said Voldemort, chuckling. “I offer you a chance anyone would kill for…”

“YOU killed my dad!” Rhian shouted. “YOU killed my best friend’s mum! YOUR Death Eaters killed lots of my friends in the Order! YOUR Death Eater killed the man I loved!”

“Emotional ties will only halt your power!” Voldemort shook his head. “Don’t you see? To be remembered as great, you can’t let anyone get in your way!”

“You don’t even care!” Rhian was almost crying. “Are you really that emotionally void? You can’t even comprehend all the destruction you’ve caused! The lives you’ve ruined! MY LIFE!” she screamed and whipped out her wand and sent a Killing Curse at Voldemort.

He raised his own wand and blocked it, laughing cruelly. “You’ve never even tried to cast one of those, have you? You really thought you could kill me with one simple curse? You dared to do so?” He pointed his wand and blasted Rhian across the room.

She hit a bookcase hard and didn’t want to move. Tears were streaming down her face, her entire body was sore, and she was impossibly tired.

Voldemort strode toward her while Wormtail whimpered in the corner. “You give up this easily? I’m quite glad that I didn’t let you join my ranks, then!” Voldemort sneered.

“I ELECTED to not join, you dumbass!” Rhian jumped up. Since she was battling with the world’s greatest Legilimens, it was futile to bother with a nonverbal spell. She mustered as much courage and energy as she could and shouted, “Crucio!”

Voldemort easily blocked this as well. “My, you really need more practice with those Unforgivable Curses!”

To say Rhian was frustrated would be an understatement. The monster who showed no remorse for killing her father, who had actually tried to recruit her for his own cause, mocked her as she struggled to battle against him.

Furnuculus,” Rhian sighed, desperate. Something had to work. It just had to.

Once again, Voldemort shielded himself. “Boils?” he snickered. “You thought putting boils on my body could stop me?”

Rhian stood her ground. “It was worth a try.”

Voldemort stepped back and thought for a moment. “You have fortitude, certainly,” he admitted in a low voice. “Some people find that admirable. I, however, do not. Your courage has only led to your downfall.”

He raised his long, thin arm and concentrated. The world seemed to transform into slow motion. Rhian literally saw the green light of the Killing Curse leave Voldemort’s wand and speed toward her chest. She fumbled, awkwardly shouting Protego as a last resort to shield herself. But she was too late. Voldemort’s dark voice cackled. The green flash hit her chest and all went black.

~

Rhian’s small frame fell backwards, softly hitting the ground. Her pretty face was now permanently affixed in an expression of fear and horror. Her soul had left her body the moment the curse stopped her heartbeat and was now beyond the veil.

Rhiannon Clark, the young, talented, Welsh witch, was gone. Hers was an untimely and tragic death.

~

If there was ever an appropriate time to hurl sharp knives at my face, now is it. Any individual questions or comments can be directed at me through the review box. Emotional ramblings are also appropriate. I’m sincerely sorry, and I promise the coming epilogue will do Rhian justice. Before you sharpen your knives, I hope you’ll read the epilogue. P.S.: The last word is scar.


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