The small Hogsmeade street blazed with streaks of colored light. Men shouted in the throes of war and pain as wands glided effortlessly. All around them, shutters were slamming closed and doors were bolted shut. In the distance, a baby wailed.
One of the Order members—a female, by the long blonde hair under her cloak hood—headed towards the forest in a painful limping hobble. Rabastan spotted her and picked up the pace, hot on her heels.
“Oi, Lestrange!” a man shouted from behind. Rab slowed down, curious. The voice sounded oddly familiar, but it had matured since he had last heard it. “Stay the fuck away from McKinnon!”
Rabastan stopped and whipped around, peering through the trees. “Regulus, what the hell do you think you’re doing out here?” he shouted through the brush behind him. “The blood traitor’s none of your business. Get back to school!”
“Regulus?” The man let out a sharp, dry bark of a laugh, panting slightly from chasing Rabastan through the forest. “Lestrange, you’ve got the wrong man.” Rabastan raised and readied his wand arm, his heart pounding in fury, as the bushes moved and Sirius Black stepped through.
“Crucio!” he snapped, but Black jumped aside and the curse clipped through the thick brush.
Black laughed again, grinding his feet into the autumn leaves. “Is that all you can do?” he taunted. “Well, there’s nothing wrong with showing a little love. After all,”—and he bared his teeth in the moonlight—“we’re cousins now.”
“You’ll never be family, Black. I’ll take you down, and the other filthy blood traitor, too,” Rabastan growled. He flicked his wand once more, but something animalistic had ignited in Black’s eyes and the other man leaped towards Rabastan with frightening agility. Black had not shielded himself, but Rabastan scrambled backwards without a second thought to attacking him.
“McKinnon was hurt, Lestrange.” The blood traitor advanced on Rabastan. Beyond the trees they could hear the battle still raging. “What were you gonna follow her in here for, huh? Were you gonna kill her when she couldn’t even fight?”
Black’s lip curled in disgust and Rabastan was nearly blind with hatred. Black wasn’t even worthy to lick the polish off his wand, yet here he was, bold as brass. “You were, weren’t you?” Black sneered. “You were gonna do it, because that’s what you lot do. Isn’t it?”
“Crucio!” Rabastan shouted again, seething with offense. Black leaped away, whooping like an Indian or a very small child.
“You’re a coward, Lestrange!” he called, lashing easily with his wand. Rabastan ducked as a jet of blue light whistled over his head. He tried to get his wand arm back up, but Black was too quick. He struck again and again, forcing Rabastan to turn around and run further into the forest.
“Take that, you fucking coward!” Sirius Black roared once more. Rabastan cried out as a jet of pain slashed his left calf open. Without waiting to see if Black was really going to finish him off, he spun quickly on his good foot and Apparated back to Malfoy Manor, their rendezvous spot.
Narcissa Black—only recently Narcissa Malfoy—paced the marble-tiled entrance hall of Malfoy Manor, wringing her hands anxiously. When Rabastan staggered in and crashed to the floor in front of her, his leg oozing blood, she cried out in surprise. A house elf standing nearby ran to fetch the Healer.
“Merlin, Rab, who got you?”
“It’s nothing, love,” Rabastan forced out through gritted teeth, “only your darling cousin Sirius.” Narcissa clicked her tongue and placed some cushions on the ground, then helped Rab to prop his bad leg up to slow the bleeding. “I’m fine, love, really.” Rabastan grunted at her to stop fussing, but she settled herself down onto the floor next to him anyway.
“Don’t be silly, Rab,” Narcissa said firmly, handing him a goblet of cold water, followed by one of blood replenishing potion. “I’ve got to get you fixed up. You’re bleeding all over my floors.”
Rabastan hesitated before realizing that Narcissa was joking, her white teeth flashing brightly. He strained a smile in return and reached out to take her hand. “You’re always looking out for me, Cissy,” he said affectionately.
Narcissa squeezed his hand, and with her other, pushed the damp hair away from his forehead. “Drink the potion,” she ordered, rising to her knees and forcing the goblet close to his lips.
Rabastan had nearly finished when the front door swung open with a loud bang and Lucius Malfoy strode in, the rest of the Death Eaters close behind. “Little Lestrange, you made it back,” he remarked smoothly. “How…lucky Cissa was here to help you. We were worried. If we had lost you tonight, then you couldn’t present your proposal at tomorrow’s meeting.”
“I’m fine!” Rabastan interjected roughly, batting her hands away as Narcissa began to fuss again. “I’m—I’m perfectly fine.”
“Good to hear.” Lucius raised his eyebrows. “We’ll be going out to the pub in Knockturn Alley pretty soon to celebrate, if you’d care to join us.” A hint of a smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Maybe you’ll finally meet some women there.” Rabastan managed a weak smile, avoiding his brother’s questioning eyes.
“No, you can’t go out again in this condition,” Narcissa argued. “I’ll have the Healer fix you up, and then you can sleep in one of the guest rooms for the night. That’s alright, isn’t it, Lucius?”
Lucius shrugged his shoulders. He was already on his way back out the door. When it slammed shut behind him, Narcissa let out a sigh of relief. Then she patted Rab on the shoulder once more and left to prepare the guest bedroom.
When Rabastan returned from his trip the next day, he paused for a moment on the threshold of his still house. He slumped, grayer and more ashen-faced than that which seemed normal on a man of his youth. Desperately he wished for a hot meal and bath, but he knew that if he did not greet Alanna first, doubtless she would raise a fuss about it. She must have heard the door open, so there was no choice for Rabastan but to head to the sitting room to do his duty.
“Alanna?” he called into the silence. He shut the door behind him and hung up his hat, but there was no response from her. “Alanna, it’s me!” It had been this way the last time, too. With a sigh, Rabastan pushed away strange worries that things were changing and began down the hall.
Alanna was waiting for him in the doorway to the large dining hall, half-concealed by the shadows of the cavernous room. Rabastan was so distracted that he would not have noticed her standing there had she not called out.
“I’d like to ask you something, Rab.”
Rabastan started, every nerve underneath his skin jumping in surprise. He had had one too many close scrapes the night before and was not yet fully recovered from the stress. What in the world was Alanna doing, sneaking up on him when he was already on edge? She was the only person in his life that he could depend on to be perfectly honest—and even when she was not, he could still read her face like an open book.
Now there was unmistakable anger in her voice. Rabastan took a step towards her with a slightly uneasy smile. “Now, what have I done to deserve that sort of greeting from you, love?” he asked soothingly. “I thought we had this all sorted out before I left.”
Alanna pursed her lips in an expression that Rabastan had barely ever seen on her before. Her light eyes, shining with a strange new energy beside her dark hair, contemplated him so thoroughly that he was disconcerted. Where had that energy come from? What new revelations had she found while he was gone? Things were changing—she was changing—and Rabastan could feel the familiar anxiety begin to curdle his stomach.
“Do you still love me?” she asked clearly.
Rabastan blanched, something guilty flickering across his face. “What?”
Alanna didn’t flinch. “I said, do you still love me?”
The start of a confused frown was beginning to build on Rabastan’s brow, but no matter how closely he peered into Alanna’s face there was no telling what she was thinking. Rather, the closer he got to her, the more it felt like she was seeing him with higher clarity. Rabastan discovered that it was uncomfortable to be transparent before her. It was uncomfortable to be able to see nothing in return. He struggled to reach higher ground, stretched taut in his effort to cover both his worlds without snapping.
“I don’t know why you would feel the need to ask such a question,” he declared with more force than necessary. “You live in my house. And I’m here, with you, in my house. Isn’t that an answer enough?”
Alanna didn’t offer any reply for a moment. Then, slowly, she shook her head. “No, it’s not. What’s happened to you, Rabastan? You were never like this to me before. There’s something horribly wrong with you.”
Her precise, razor-sharp tone was slipping, the words tumbling out over each other in their haste to release themselves. They were too closely tied together to come out as crisp and composed as Alanna had wanted them to.
Rabastan ground his teeth, his fingers clenching and unclenching in irritation inside his coat pockets. Alanna was wasting his time with these stupid, dangerous questions just when he most urgently needed time alone to think more important things through. His home had been a haven, a guarantee of a secure place to return to without question—and so had Alanna. Here, his guards were down. He wasn’t ready to be attacked and examined like this.
“Well, then your memory must fail you,” he retorted shortly, making to go past her and towards the kitchens. She stood her ground, blocking the way with her small frame. They were almost nose to nose.
“No, it hasn’t,” Alanna persisted. “You know that I have a perfect memory. What’s wrong? Why won’t you tell me?”
Rabastan let out an aggravated sigh just as Alanna released a trembling one. Her face expressed nothing, but her limbs were shaking uncontrollably with energy. She couldn’t wait for him to fabricate a proper response—he was moving too slowly. “Rab,” she whispered, “don’t you remember how much fun it was? I’m sure you do. Back when we were at Hogwarts?”
Rabastan began to protest, “Well, we’re not at Hogwarts now, are we?”, but Alanna plowed on, determined to reach him through his preoccupation. Her gaze grew fiercer.
“Because I remember,” she said. “You used to be such a gentleman. You never had anything but kindness for me.”
“I still do,” Rabastan muttered uncomfortably, focusing on something past Alanna’s shoulder so that he wouldn’t have to meet her gaze. Beyond the entrance to the kitchens, a small, squat shadow of a house elf darted quickly out of sight, but Rabastan was too exhausted even to care. Lestrange house elves had always been too nosy for their own good, but they knew the consequence of selling Lestrange secrets.
Alanna pursed her lips in anger. She refused to believe that Rabastan could not bring himself to concentrate on her. He just wasn’t trying. “You never ignored me like you do now. You had never shut me out, even when we had a row. I loved you because I knew you cared for me, too. What happened to that?”
There was an alarmed moment of clarity, and suddenly he wrenched his entire attention in to focus on her.
“N-nothing happened!” Rabastan exclaimed harshly. “You expect too much, Alanna! I still do care for you, but that was the past, don’t you understand? I’ve grown up since then, and things are changing everywhere. I’ve seen them! You can’t expect us all to carry on in same way like when we were still kids. It’s time you learned that not everyone’s going to mollycoddle you like I have been.” He had returned from that dangerous world only minutes ago, and with the previous night’s experiences fresh in his mind it was all the justification he needed to fervently believe he was telling the truth.
Rabastan gripped Alanna’s shoulders, frightened and trying to change her back as he knew her. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that you can’t repeat the past?” he asked roughly. “Once we’ve seen the present, we can’t go back.”
Alanna twisted away from him and frowned, all sorts of romantic specters drifting in front of her eyes. “What in the name of Merlin do you mean? Of course we can go back. Everything’s still the same—we’re both still here. All we have to do is try,” she whispered with conviction.
“Don’t be daft,” Rabastan snapped frostily. “We’re not kids anymore. I have real problems and real responsibilities to take care of. You certainly wouldn’t know anything about that.” He spun around impatiently and headed back down the hall towards the living room, calling to the house elves to bring him something to eat.
Alanna trailed after him uncertainly, her thoughts roaring in her ears. Suddenly the tables had turned again and the advantage that she had wielded over Rabastan was gone. Rabastan was turning his back on her and walking away with no more a sliver of conscience than a criminal. The back of his coat drifted in and out of focus as she blinked back tears. With sickening force, Alanna’s mind again fluttered to the black pin, and she knew that her deteriorating relationship with Rabastan could not be a coincidence.
A house elf scuttled by her with a tray, brushing the hem of her skirt. The tiny elf peered up at Alanna with curious, watery eyes and suddenly Alanna felt ashamed. House elves—nothing short of unconditional devotion and servitude—were pitiful creatures. Unlike them, she owned her own mind and her pride, and she was going to get through to him.
Ahead, he stormed into the living room and threw himself down into the largest, most comfortable armchair—the one in which he had often read books at night years ago. Alanna remembered thinking that the books had been strange for him, stories of Grindelwald and other violent and glorious social revolutions. Yet Rab never seemed to be affected by them emotionally. She could only assume that his upbringing had removed him so far from suffering that he couldn’t possibly relate—but this was not so with her. At any rate, he had not read in a long, long time and the chair had stayed mostly empty until now.
Alanna stumbled as she crossed over the threshold into the living room after him, her hair flying over her eyes. Rabastan was surprised—he had not expected her to follow—but did not move to help her, regarding her coldly like a king from his seat.
There was a painful pause in which Alanna righted her twisted skirt, her heart pounding against her chest. She was frightened. She had never persisted this far against Rabastan without relenting completely. But the discovery of that black pin—that lover’s token—had lit an insatiable desire in her heart, for which she could muster the courage and concentration that she had always lacked in other tasks. She was determined to find a remedy to the situation, and bring things between them back to the way they had been at Hogwarts, before his work and family had derailed them.
Alanna collected herself and prepared to speak again.
“I know I’m not perfect, love, but you didn’t care back then. We had so much fun.” She appealed to the stone figure in the chair. “Remember that day by the lake—or when we camped behind the big couch in the common room? We had so much fun,” she said again, desperate for him to remember and want it like she did.
The words that threatened to bubble recklessly from Rabastan’s tongue were too dangerous. He only barely suppressed them.
A sob hovered in Alanna’s chest when she saw that Rabastan had no reply. “Let’s go to France,” she whispered desperately to the carpet. “Remember that? We were going to get a little blue house by the sea. That’s what we need, Rab. The little blue house and the sky and the water.”
Still he stared, his lips quivering with suppressed mirth. His face was so terrible she couldn’t look anywhere else. “Merlin, Rab, I can’t stay in this house any longer!” Alanna cried, clenching her skirt. “We need to go—London is ruining you! We have to go, now. We should go to France.”
Rabastan’s laugh cut cruelly through the air with a crack. “You’re a child,” he sneered, unable to control his disdain any longer. His temper burned the coldest at its pinnacle. “You know nothing of the world.”
“Let’s go, let’s go,” Alanna urged again, wringing her hands violently. “I—I can’t stay in this house, Rabastan! I have to leave. There’s a little blue house on the beach. Please, let’s go there.”
He saw now, more than ever, that compared to the world outside of this house—and compared to the women he knew there—Alanna was nothing. Recklessly he thought that there were far worse things than to break an innocent heart, far more important things than to protect one, and he had seen them done. “We never had a house in France.”
Alanna had barely heard him speak, her breath rattled so loudly. “I know, but we can do this, Rab, it’s so easy,” she pleaded. “If only you would just try.” She braved a glance at him. His face looked so pale and drawn with fear and exhaustion that she almost relented, but she had gone so far already. There was no point in returning when she could already see her success. “You—you will try, won’t you?”
Rabastan grunted. “I have a lot of work to do, Alanna. Don’t waste my time with this drivel.”
Alanna shook her head, staring at the clock on the mantel and imagining its tick, tick in the silent house. The tears that burned in her eyes glittered defiantly, refusing to drop. “Don’t patronize me,” Alanna forced out through gritted teeth. “If you don’t love me, Rabastan Lestrange, say it aloud. Just say it!”
Rabastan gaped as something clicked. He and Alanna had been teetering in an explosive balance for years, forever driven to the edge. Finally he realized what small impurity had wormed its way in, had changed everything.
“I hope this isn’t still because of what happened with Bella,” he warned, his eyebrows drawing together into a fierce expression. “I’ve already apologized time and time again for her. Just let it go.”
“You have done nothing to defend yourself against her claims,” Alanna proclaimed.
“How can I?” he asked bitterly, pity flowing into his eyes without softening the disdain glittering in them. “She is Bellatrix Black—actually, she’s Bellatrix Lestrange. If you have a problem with her, don’t blame me for it!”
Alanna recoiled—of everything he had said tonight, this was the closing curtain. He had all but shouted the truth in her face, and it was too much of an insult to bear. She whirled around and left the living room, leaving Rabastan alone to sit in the big armchair with his tray of cold food.
A/N: I'm sorry for the long wait, but I just don't know how I feel about this chapter. If I have any readers left, please drop a teeny review telling me what you thought?
Beautiful chapter image by SwissMiss.
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Saviour.: Bid for Freedom