Disclaimer: Any characters you see and recognise throughout this story are property of JK Rowling.
Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up. – Joseph Campbell.
Amelie Avery had become the ideal pureblood daughter. Her grasp of the French language was unreal – her fluency rivalling her aunts at their best. Her impeccable manners and etiquette had become somewhat renowned in the community, which, together with the manifestation of perfection her façade conveyed, made her formidable. Never showing any signs of weakness, the young girl held an icy composure that froze everything in her vicinity – yet her eyes held in them a fire so blistering that would seem burn the very soul of anyone who would dare cross her.
It was a swelteringly hot day, the sun duly scorching everything in its vicinity, and Amelie had positioned herself under the shade provided by an old oak tree that she was particularly fond of. Oddly enough, sitting under its huge, antediluvian boughs brought to her a sense of comfort, much like the one most people feel when sitting next to a favourite grandparent. Having been informed by her mother and step-father earlier that day of a formal gathering of sorts that was to be held at their house that evening, she had managed to slip away from the gloomy surroundings of the mansion to her favourite hide-out so that she could clear her thoughts before the night, where she would be, of course, wearing her finest clothing and on her best behaviour.
Never had anyone ever guessed or caught any signs to point that Amelie detested the continuous torture of having to feign delight at being stuffed into overly-fancy dresses, fawned over by vile, middle-aged women, hearing about muggle hunting and the like; that she loathed the formalities and the empty shows of emotion that each pure-blood showed the other, only to whisper about them mutinously as soon as their backs were turned.
Even though she knew she had brought it upon herself, it pained Amelie to know that no one knew her. She was a cold, ice princess; withdrawn and yet indulgent. She hated to know that she had no one to trust, no shoulder to cry on. Having experienced trauma at such a young age and forced to fend for herself, she was perfectly aware that she was an unnatural child, not having experienced the joys and innocence of childhood. She had not kept a diary or a journal to pour out her secrets in, knowing full well that anything written down could be used as blackmail by her less-than-amorous family. Had she even had locked the thing with magic, there would have surely been someone who could open it. There wasn’t a lack of motive: many would jump at the chance to bring her down from her exalted position – her cousins first and foremost. Those pathetic creatures that had let the evil ambience of their own family engulf them – warped ideals and all.
Though her subconscious dreaded the upcoming evening and its frivolities, the forefront of her mind had become almost numb to these routine gatherings. Another evening of mingling with the Rosier’s, Mulciber’s, Black’s, Malfoy’s, Crabbe’s, Goyle’s, Nott’s, Parkinson’s… ‘really, what more could I possibly wish for?’ Ignoring the fact that half of them were related to her in some way or another (for purebloods did not mind incest as long as the purity of their blood remained in tact through the generations), and each of the families having at least one eligible male for her, she was sure to be plagued by scores of pure blood mothers, trying to take a good look at her for ‘future reference’, leaving her to stand whilst been gawped at, looking as appealing as possible. Of course, the odd blush or two for the odd occasion of a male passing her wouldn’t hurt, either. It really wouldn’t be too hard, what with all of the practice…
Resigned to her fate, Amelie stood up, weaving her way past the rosebushes and undergrowth that made up part of the garden. Creaking open the back door, Amelie stepped into the cool shade of the kitchens.
The house-elves were frantic. Running zigzagged (to prevent any collisions with one another) left, right and centre, each had one thing on their mind: perfection. After all, their heads were at risk – quite literally. Amelie walked past them all, not sparing a second-glance, heading for the parlour where her mother was inevitably gossiping with her Aunty Annette, whilst their husbands would talk of their businesses and such – how typically Victorian.
But indeed, within a year of divorcing Amelie’s father, Antoinette Avery had managed to bag another husband. It wasn’t that shocking, considering that she was renowned for her dark beauty. No, it was more the fact that Amelie had been forced to call this new man her father – this man who she wanted nothing to do with. Even though she kept with her mother’s maiden name (which had been thrust upon her at her father’s departure), she had been forced to obey to Cepheus Nott’s every word since he had entered her miserable life, respecting him like a father.
To the eye, she revered the man. No one really understood how the little girl supposedly grew attached to him so quickly, but then again, no one really understood the little girl. Though she hated the man with a vengeance, she had to keep up appearances. It took a great deal of effort to refrain from scratching the living daylights out of him when she had first seen him, though, as with most things, Amelie learnt to push her emotions on the topic to the back of her mind, locking them securely.
Talk in the parlour was, as usual, incredibly bland. Amelie had, thankfully, learned to zone out of these over the past few years, appearing attentive to the eye. Though, of course, the adults did not pay much attention to the young ones, believing that they should be seen and not heard. As long as they were present and properly quiet, all was good.
“And then, I went and told the man, ‘If you really want to help that mudblood, go pick his gravestone for him!’”
‘Hilarious man, my step-father,’
The comment was met by hearty guffaws from her uncle, and appreciative laughter from the women. Her mother practically threw herself on the man, tittering, with an expression that strongly resembled someone in ecstasy. Amelie chortled, though only half-heartedly. She felt sick. That poor man; he didn’t know how deep that threat could really go.
Her train of thoughts, however, was cut short, as she realised that her mother and aunt were both standing, asking permission to part from the table. Apparently, it was time to get ready. ‘Get ready for routine torture,’ she thought.
When the purebloods all gathered together, it was not so much of a social gathering, but of a show of status. Hence, each family wore their finest clothing, and set about dressing up their children with greatest care, each hoping to ensure that their own child looked the best. Sitting in front of a cluttered, French dressing table upstairs, the women set down to work, daintily applying their make-up with the greatest deal of precision on themselves and then their children, not wanting to look second-best in comparison to any of their guests. Being the hosts, it would be dreadfully embarrassing if they did.
Soon the room was strewn with layers of petticoats, lacy dresses and frills, as Amelie’s cousins, Drusilla and Agrippa fought over what to wear.
“But mother, I saw that necklace first!” whined Agrippa, her voice at an ear-splitting pitch.
“Mother! That isn’t true!” snapped Drusilla, her teeth clenched. Noticing that this behaviour wouldn’t get her anywhere, she sat up, refined herself and, in what she thought was a ladylike manner continued her argument. “Besides, I am the eldest. Think, mother: I’m going to be the one that the other women are looking at!”
Amelie restrained herself, barely refraining from rolling her eyes. Recently it had been so much harder to keep her emotions in check… ‘that girl is trying far too hard’ (she couldn’t bring herself to refer to her as her cousin). Even an idiot could see that she was still boiling with rage – her hands were even shaking.
“You know, Agrippa, I have another necklace that is simply untouchable – much more suitable for the dress that you’re wearing now. How about giving that necklace to Drusilla, hmm? She is the eldest, and you would do well to respect her.” Amelie’s aunt shot a furtive glance at her elder sister, trying not to voice her shame over her daughter’s despicable behaviour. They were making an utter fool out of her, but she wouldn’t let dear Antoinette know of her unease.
Ignoring the bickering girls and their stuck-up, rule-abiding mother, Amelie allowed her mother to help her into her dress, tightening up the bows and laces, fixing the frills as they were needed to be, and handed her some of the family’s finest eighteenth-century jewels before setting about fixing up her daughter’s face to utter perfection.
Amelie looked at her face in the mirror, feeling oddly empty. The girl she was looking at in the mirror was not her. She was disgusted. ‘Damn it, I’m only eleven!’ (Yes, our darling little Amelie had very colourful, inventive vocabulary stored away in the depths of her mind.) And here she was, made out to look like some royal in the Victorian ages. ‘So much for purebloods being the way forwards’. So repulsed by what she saw in front of her, she barely noticed the minutes slipping by, her cousins, aunt and mother leaving the room to entertain the guests who were slowly arriving. Her hand went up to her necklace, touching it delicately. It was indeed a beautiful thing, if only it didn’t feel so tainted on her skin…
“Darling, Amelie!” called her mother, shaking her out of her reverie. Amelie could hear the tinkling of wine glasses and hearty guffaws of the men downstairs, indicating that the guests had in fact arrived. As her duty, she had to welcome them all. ‘How bloody tedious’, she sighed, fixing a raven coloured lock of hair before heading downstairs.
“Ah, Amelie!” she exclaimed, catching a glimpse of her daughter at the top of the stairs. “I’m sure you know of Mrs. Black?”
“How do you do?” Once Amelie reached he bottom stair, she curtsied, looking politely, with a tinge of bashfulness at Mrs. Black’s gaze, aware of two boys standing next to her, even though both of whom were in truth having no such affect on her whatsoever. For an eleven-year old, Amelie had been forced to endure far too many lustful gazes from men than the usual normal girl, being brought up how she had. Not all of the gazes were welcome either – in fact, most of them weren’t. However, she always managed to somehow keep her formidable look whilst looking rightly modest. Such a darling girl, she was.
“My, my! Antoinette, dear! You never told me you’re daughter was such a darling! Her beauty is quite fitting for a pureblood.” Mrs. Black told Amelie’s mother, who in turn looked at her daughter with a certain degree of pride.
“Why thank you, Walburga.” ‘What a horrendous name’, thought Amelie. “I could easily say the same – you’re two sons are turning out to be strapping young men.”
Amelie would have pretended to blush at the banter of the two blustering women, but frankly, she was quite repulsed at the woman’s comment. Fitting for a pureblood, my arse. Nevertheless, her mother’s blusher did the trick for her.
“I’m sure you know of my sons,” began Mrs. Black, now talking to Amelie. “Young Sirius and Regulus Black? Sirius here is starting in Hogwarts this year, too…”
Amelie had in fact received a letter of acceptance from Hogwarts, but wasn’t entirely sure of whether she should be happy or not. She was adamant that she would not go into Slytherin, as her family full well expected her to, but then again, there was the question of what to do when she wasn’t one. She had spent all this time building up her perfect pure-blood persona, and now everything she had strived for would be ruined. All the pretence of enjoying her life, loving her step-father and mother - she had always known it would have to end sooner or later, but she would have preferred it if it was later. Yet if she went into Slytherin, then she would be back where she started: stuck in her own little world, trying to fight for her sanity through all the warped misconceptions of the pureblood world.
Her eyes shifted on to Sirius; a young boy with stylish black hair falling elegantly into his misty grey eyes. Admittedly, he was probably one of the best-looking she had seen so far, and she found herself wondering why she hadn’t seen him beforehand. His eyes were unreadable – something that Amelie found quite disconcerting, having always been able to discern what people were thinking. ‘Strange…’
His brother was also quite easy on the eye, though his aura was much less enticing, and his eyes were brown – not to mention that he was a good three years younger than her. Somehow, his eyes seemed to be transfixed on Amelie, his mouth slightly open. Amelie had to fight with herself to refrain from raising an eyebrow at the youngest Black. How could someone’s salivary glands produce that much drool?
Regardless of their looks, they were both obviously revelling in their luxurious lives, being the newest generation of Blacks, and if they did not see the need to pull away from such an atmosphere, she didn’t see the need of pointing it out to them. She was not going to make matters worse for herself, anyhow.
Just her luck to have to be in the same year as one of them…
Politely, she curtsied to the two boys, both of whom bowed back formally. Regulus looked slightly foolish, almost tripping over his dress robes as he kept eye contact with the girl in front of him. The three of them exchanged greetings, none appearing to be forced, and were soon after shepherded off by their mothers, who had just finished their conversation.
As she had expected, she saw many more men that night, ranging from eleven to nineteen, each pausing to slip a charming comment or two her way, before passing on to woo some other unfortunate girl. She politely talked to each, not suggesting anything, but not denying them either. Her life had, so far, been kind, allowing her to take a middle-route in her decisions and choices – up until now. Soon, she knew she had to make a decision: one that would change her entire plans, and determine where her loyalties truly lay.
After a few hours of formal banter, battering eyelashes and a few sips of white wine, she headed out into the garden, fanning herself with her white-gloved hand, as she sat down beside her favourite oak tree. People had been dancing inside, and the room was growing quite hot. She had been forced to dance with at least five men before she could squirm her way out of the place to retreat into her own thoughts.
“Why hullo, Miss Avery,”
She looked up to see Lucius Malfoy, a pale boy of around sixteen or so, standing above her. Somewhere in her peripheral vision, she could make out Ursa Malfoy, his mother eyeing the situation cautiously. Obviously, she had put him up to this.
“Good evening, Mr. Malfoy.” She might as well play along.
“What might a young lady as beautiful as yourself be doing sitting out her all alone? Surely you should be dancing…”
Before he could suggest anything, as Amelie knew he would, she cut into his words. “Thank you for your kindness, sir, but I was merely taking a breath of fresh air. I’ll be sure to come back in when I feel refreshed.” She didn’t smile, or frown. She just said what she said and looked around, her head held high. With a jolt she noticed they weren’t alone, but didn’t say anything.
“Very well,” Malfoy said. He took her hand and kissed it, his eyes lingering on hers for any show of emotion. Finding nothing, he bowed and left. ‘Honestly,’ she thought, ‘If they weren’t about five years older than me they might have had the slightest chance…’
“My, my, aren’t we an icy one?” For the second time that night, Amelie heard a voice behind her. Looking back again, she saw Sirius Black sitting on one of the boughs of her favourite tree, one foot dangling down, the other bent at the knee, staring down at her. He was lying down across one of the stronger branches, his head casually tilted towards her, and though his posture screamed conceited, his tone was much less stuck-up than the others she had heard that night. Half of her longed to talk back to him like that, but she refrained. Not yet.
“Master Black! What are you doing up that tree?”
“Why, looking at the magnificent view, of course.”
“Oh my, I’m terribly sorry,” said Amelie, well aware that she didn’t sound sorry at all, staring him down even though he was a good few metres above her. “I presumed that you liked to pry into people’s conversations. Though I daresay, some of them would be interesting... ”
“It’s not really my problem that Malfoy decided to have a cosy little chat with you right under my nose now, is it?” With a flip, the young boys swung round the tree branch and jumped down within centimetres of Amelie’s face, with the perfect poise of a cat, looking straight into Amelie’s eyes. He was standing uncomfortably close, but Amelie refused to show any sign of indignation. After all, he was in her garden. Who was she to move away? He bent closer to her, faces practically touching as he whispered, “Besides, watching is so much more interesting than being in the thick of things, don’t you think?”
Amelie struggled hard not to feel unnerved. So what if she always watched situations from the sidelines, feigning to be in the thick of it all? He didn’t know anything about her. Why should she start feeling uncomfortable now? “I wouldn’t really know…”
“Oh, really?!” There was a definite aura of disbelief in the boys’ voice as he circled Amelie like a vulture, ready to swoop down on its’ prey, never breaking eye-contact with the girl. “You know, people don’t realise that they can betray themselves when they think someone isn’t looking.”
“What are you trying to suggest, Master Black?” her tone became snappy as she became defensive. She had spent all this time building up a persona, only to have someone whom she only knew existed a few minutes ago to begin to pick at the seems of her closely-tailored life.
“I’m saying, Miss Avery, that there is more to people than meets the eye.” He had still not backed away, his voice incredibly smooth, his breath tickling her skin, his nose practically brushing against hers. For the first time in her life, Amelie felt out of her depth.
“Like who?” Her voice grew menacing, but he was undeterred. He came closer to her, practically pinning her next to the ancient oak tree he had been sitting in, trying, and succeeding, to be intimidating.
He bent his head close to her ear as he whispered, “People like you.”
Her throat clenched. “What do you know about me?” Her voice came out in a strangled cry. She couldn’t believe herself. After all she’d been through; she had somehow managed to get herself into this position. ‘Damn it, he’s only eleven!’, she thought, then berating herself for it. After all, it wasn’t like she was much older.
“A fair bit,” he said nonchalantly, now sitting down with his back to the tree, his legs outstretched towards her, tilting his head up at her so that his eyes would peer at hers through his hair. He looked quite amused; watching the Ice Queen turn into a bundle of nerves in front of his eyes was a sight not seen regularly.
“Care to explain?!” she spat through clenched teeth, her eyes boring into his.
“You really want to know what I know?” he asked, suddenly backing away, leaving Amelie feeling oddly cold and exposed for a moment, before she reverted back to her old self.
“You know, I think that might just be what I was trying to tell you for the past five minutes…” The sarcasm was not missed on him.
“Fine, I’ll tell you.” He said, leaning his back another tree trunk, still staring at her. “I’ve seen you loads of times at these stupid get-togethers and such… I know you don’t like them. You pretend to.” His eyes scanned hers to see her reaction as he went through his analysis in a monotone. “You try your best to act like the perfect little girl, and, mind you, plenty buy into it, though that’s probably because they want to believe that you like it all. You, though - you hate the whole thing. That’s why you act so bloody threatening: if anyone saw through you then they’d know that you weren’t like them at all, and then everything would be in shambles, wouldn’t it? You’re playing make-believe, and sometimes you even fool yourself. Deep down, though, you know you’re a fake, and you’re almost proud of it.”
His lips curled into a smile as he saw her face. For the first time in years, her guard was down. He felt satisfied as she stopped acting as an ice princess. It was comforting to see that she was just another eleven-year-old with feelings. Her mouth had dropped down and her eyes were practically bulging out of her head in disbelief.
“Looks like I was right,” he snickered, obviously enjoying his victory.
There was a moment of pause as he stood up, coming closer to her to look at her eyes better. All she could do was stare as he dissected her life before her very eyes. The silence was intense; almost electrifying, almost as if the world outside the two of them had come to a standstill. A deep breath, and then came thunder.
She didn’t bother to scream, or shout. She feigned a turn to leave, only to turn back around and throw her full weight into a punch that hit him squarely in the nose. With a satisfying crunch, she noted that she had hit her target. Sparing him a look of disdain, she walked quickly away from the scene and headed back into the house, her face no longer bare of emotion, but full of hatred and anger.
“Amelie!” screamed her mother later that night. Soon after Sirius Black had entered the house with a broken nose, the night came to an abrupt halt. What with all the parents being so shocked and surprised, no one really felt in the mood to party – especially not in a house where they didn’t stick to their rules by the letter.
“Je suis folle d’inquiétude! What possessed you to do that to Master Black?! Tu sais qu’on l’interdit de les gens de sangs purs se frappent?!”
For the tenth time that night – or it perhaps fiftieth, it was hard to tell – her mother reminded her child of the taboo against hitting other purebloods. To say the least, she was angry. Her respectability replaced with decadence, her mother’s dark eyes blazed with a fire that had not been seen since the days of her fights with her father, ashamed that her own daughter had anything to do such a thing. She was meant to be the role-model: the perfect pureblood - the exemplary child. The last few hours of the night had changed all of that. Upon seeing the poor boy splattered with his own blood, word spread quickly. People saw her daughter angry. No, not angry – furious, livid, seething, apoplectic with rage. The girl they had all thought was the epitome of modesty and decorum was swearing and blinding left, right and centre.
Many blamed the outburst on her father: he wasn’t worth much. It was bound to come out in her in some way or another. Pity, they thought. She would have been such a brilliant addition to their family. This, in itself, heightened Antoinette Avery’s anger. She was once again reminded of that piece of filth, just as she had thought that her life was back on track, her daughter had turned out to be just as bad. The piece of shit couldn’t even give her a decent child. Filth.
Amelie’s blood, however, had not run cold. If her mother was angry, she was beside herself with rage. She was fed up – all those nights being beaten into pulp by a man whom she was forced to call her father, being sneered at by her aunt and cousins, forced to believe that anyone who wasn’t a pureblood was a piece of shit… the latch that locked all her thoughts away in her mind for the past eleven years had been opened, and she was sure that it wasn’t going to close anytime soon.
“Mais, maman!” she screamed back. “Il est agaçant! He kept asking me stupid bloody questions. I didn’t want to answer the bastard! If he’d’ve moved then his nose wouldn’t’ve got smashed either!”
In a voice barely higher than a whisper, with each syllable laced in cold fury, her mother voiced the thing Amelie had been both wanting and trying to postpone for a long time. “Je suis très déçu dans toi.”
Her mother was disappointed. Her family was disappointed. Now she was left with two choices – she could either work to try and re-earn some of that respect, or she could finally break away and be who she wanted to be, and not be strung along like a stupid puppet. She knew full well that she would never be able to get back to the status she had held just hours ago. Whatever she did now, to those people she would no longer seem flawless, and, quite frankly, she didn’t care anymore.
Still trying to realise the immensity of what was being said to her, she remembered her father’s words “…Be a good little girl for Daddy while he’s gone. I know how you love to make trouble…” She smirked.
Trouble it is then.
[A/N] I hope the French is alright… I didn’t have anyone to check it for me but hey! If anyone can correct me, please leave a comment and I’ll fix it.