“What makes you say that?” asked Peter, lounging atop his bed and flicking through a Quidditch magazine that had been lying around for the past month.
Her words still reverberated in his mind, constantly playing and replaying from the moment she’d uttered them. He wanted to explain himself better, show her that his determination to be there for her didn’t stem from a desire to prove that he was better off, despite their similar circumstances. The nuance of stability that Sirius had in his life hadn’t been created by himself at all, so it was no good for him to take credit for it. All that he had was thanks to the Potters. It was Amelie who had managed to build everything on her own back, not him. All he wanted to do was give her something to fall back on.
“She’s probably still at the hospital wing, James,” Sirius muttered, the memory of Amelie’s guilt over her friends situation still fresh in his mind. He didn’t bother to roll over and note how his friend would take the reminder of what had happened to Lily. His mind was much too tired to deal with yet another bout of pain and hurt.
There was a pregnant pause.
“Hospital wing. Right.”
Sirius buried his face in his pillow and begged his body to switch off and let him drift off into a peaceful slumber.
When Benjy was a first year, he, like many other Gryffindors, had thought the Gryffindor tower impenetrable by anything remotely connected with Slytherin. The mere name of their rival house was like poison on the tongues of any self-respecting house-member; alluding to any sort of secret alliance was akin to sacrilege. Abhorrence of all things Slytherin was the closest thing to religion that the Gryffindors had.
They were, Benjy realised, foolishly mistaken.
Slytherins were slippery, cunning and interesting. They had a thirst for power that could not be quenched, which Gryffindors had not even tasted. Theirs was a different world, played by different rules, and Benjy was determined to understand it. He was doing away with the false preconceptions, with the inane drivel that spread like wildfire through the Gryffindor grapevine. He smelled change in the air, and he was determined to be the one to bring it about, and restore his position as King of the Castle.
That was another thing that Gryffindors didn’t seem to grasp well. Hierarchy was important. Benjy wanted - no needed to be at the top of that hierarchy, and he was going to use Slytherin means to get there. The prospect of abject humiliation for Black and his Bitch made him feel warm inside. Nothing would be better than the self-satisfaction he would feel, looking down on them both, laughing and spitting in their faces as they realised how short their tenure at the top had lasted. And hopefully, this would all happen sooner rather than later.
He was on his way down to the dungeons again. The little group he’d come to associate himself were beyond clever, charming a sovereign ring they’d given him to burn red hot with the place and time of the next meeting. Over the month, he’d come to change his mind about the pain that the ring gave him. It wasn’t such a bad thing, really; it just reminded him that he’d have to work if he wanted to be the best. He needed to be committed – eyes on the prize, as it were. He had to be careful not to loose focus. People had a habit of asking stupid questions.
His ring finger burned sharper.
“Fuck!” He was sure it had blistered. “Fuck it all! I’m coming, damn it!”
The summons had only begun five minutes ago. It wasn’t his fault that the Gryffindor tower was situated so far from the dungeons. The Slytherin buggers were being awfully merciless, and Benjy gritted his teeth, wanting to get this done as soon as possible.
“Now, now, Fenwick, don’t get flustered. There’s no need to tell the whole world when you’re going to – ah – come.”
“Moonstone,” said Benjy, righting up and giving what he hoped was a nonchalant look, fighting the blush that was threatening to give away his discomfort. “I didn’t know you were here.”
“Clearly,” The Slytherin raised a brow, before turning on his heel and weaving his way through several dark passages. “I should have you know that where we’re about to go, profanity is not approved of - unless of course, it’s in reference to those of inferior parentage, and traitors.”
“Right,” muttered Benjy, with a sinking feeling, suddenly wishing that the night would soon be over. He didn’t give a shit about parentage - he didn’t even know who his own parents were. And here were a bunch of holier-than-thou Slytherins telling him not to swear. Who the fuck were they to tell him if he could swear or not? He’d swear at their mothers if he had to.
“Do try and keep up, Fenwick…”
What a prick.
Benjy’s unpleasant internal monologue continued, so that by the time they reached the Slytherin’s meeting place, his ire was beginning to get the better of him. Even so, the sight of twenty or so figures cloaked in black cloth, quelled his tongue. Looking around, he noted that a few had pulled their hoods over their faces, casting shadows onto seemingly sunken faces. Suddenly he noted the intense drop in temperature, and began wishing he’d thought of thicker clothing himself. A shirt and school trousers, whilst sufficient clothing in the warmth of Gryffindor tower, was nowhere near enough for the badly insulated walls of the dungeons.
“Good evening. Sorry for the delay, Benjy here was having some difficulties.”
“Yeah well that ring was a bleeding pain in the-“
“Fenwick, I do believe I told you to hold your tongue,” snapped Moonstone. “If you’re unable to restrain yourself, I’m sure one of us would be delighted to do it for you.”
The Slytherins laughed.
“Thank-you, Moonstone,” said a voice, clearly amused. “Perhaps we should begin, then?”
Benjy was abashed, his ears bright red. He’d assumed this meeting would be on equal footing. They had offered partnership, not this. He had no idea what this even was. The ill-treatment was getting to him, and he could not help the disdain in his tone when he turned to the hooded figure and asked, “Will you be helping me to get revenge on Avery and Black? Because if not then I’ve got better things to be doing to be honest with you.”
“Now, now, Benjy, no need to get all worked up about it,” said the cloaked figure, creeping closer. Benjy could vaguely make out strands of black hair peeking out from below the hood. “We’re only messing with you. I thought you didn’t mind a bit of good-natured ribbing.”
Whoever this bloke was, nothing in his voice seemed to even hint at a good nature. Where had he even come from, anyway? Surely there weren’t people in Hogwarts weren’t so uptight about everything?
“Whatever. Have you guys thought up something? How are we going to get them back? Fuck with their minds? Catch them fucking each other and get them expelled?”
They laughed again. Benjy’s arm started to itch.
“Your mouth is incurably filthy. Let me clean it for you. Scrougify!”
Benjy didn’t even have time to think much less shield himself before his mouth started frothing with soap bubbles. The taste engulfed his senses and he fell to the ground on all fours and began to wretch, only faintly aware of the background din.
Wasn’t anyone going to help him?
Eventually, the frothing began to decrease. Benjy hastily crawled a few paces forwards, away from the crowd, his throat still making choking noises of its own accord as he tried to catch his breath.
Was this how he was planning to get his reputation back? On all fours?! He bloody well didn’t think so. Benjy spat on the stone floor twice, trying to get rid of the alkaline taste in his mouth. By the time he had righted himself, the shrieks of malicious laughter had died down into mere chuckles, but that didn’t stop the echoes reverberating through the small pace, attacking him together with the cold gaze of a few dozen unflinching, spiteful, pair of eyes.
The hooded boy was speaking again.
“Your ideas aren’t too bad, Fenwick, but perhaps you should think of something a bit more long term? Dumbledore won’t let Black or Avery far from his sight, even if they were expelled. They’re much too precious to his cause.”
Benjy frowned, momentarily forgetting his anger when faced with such well thought-through logic. “So if getting them excluded isn’t the answer, what do you think is?”
“If you want to win back respect,” said Rosier, stepping forward into the flickering light of the torches, his eyes glinting with a dark promise, “you need to get rid of Avery and Black in a way that will strike fear in the heart of anyone who would ever dare to think of doing it again, in any way, shape or form. You want to be at the very top, you need to put yourself there.”
Rosier grew closer to Benjy with every stride he took.
“You want power, Benjy? Then be ready to get your hands dirty.”
“What do you want from me?” cried Benjy, now far too confused and freaked out to comprehend anything. He had been attacked, mocked… for a second he had thought that the negotiations were going to go somewhere, but this talk of power as such an awesome and all-encompassing force made his legs shake underneath him. And if he was going to be really frank, Rosier’s possessed expression didn’t help, either.
“It’s time to step up to the plate, Benjy. We’re going to send you off on a little trip. And afterwards, you’re going to be King of Gryffindor tower.”
Rosier’s face was far too close to Benjy’s, his face was too set, his eyes too unforgiving. Benjy’s eyes flickered past the looming figure in front of him, on a desperate search for an escape. Fear settled in his heart and he threw himself away from Rosier, running in the opposite direction. Unfortunately he ran into, Black, Snape and a few other Slytherins that he couldn’t quite recognise, who’d closed in on him, no doubt anticipating his getting cold feet.
“Now where do you think you’re running to?” spat Snape. “I thought Gryffindors were meant to be known for their courage.”
“Come on, Benjy,” cajoled Regulus Black, his voice smooth. “You’re going to show my brother and his whore how we deal with betrayal. You’ll be perfect, don’t worry. We’ll have your back the whole way.”
“What do you-“
But Benjy didn’t have time to finish his sentence, because Regulus had turned and pushed him roughly, causing him to come face to face with a wand-drawn Rosier, with feral eyes. No sooner than Benjy’s words had died on his lips, Rosier cast his spell, sending it right at Fenwick’s chest.
And then, everything went blissfully blank.
Amelie stumbled and crashed to the ground. Her arms, that she’d used to break her fall, had kept her nose from breaking against the cold stone floor, but were now also sore, tender and achy. They would bruise tomorrow, but for the moment she stayed frozen in time, lying sprawled on her belly, eyes staring blindly at the cold granite mere inches from her face.
Her breaths were laboured, shaking her body and arms, even as they fought to keep her from falling to the floor. Her mouth made retching noises, but there was nothing left to upchuck. Her dark hair was tangled and in her eyes, but her thoughts were too jumbled to think of moving the strands.
She was small again, looking at the world with a bright eyed eagerness, lapping up the colourful luxuries that surrounded her. A cheerful face smiled down at her, grabbed her by her innocent hands and led her to adventure. Roughness was a foreign concept, unless you counted the scratchy hairs on her fathers’ chin. He used to rub it against her face when she got stubborn and frumpy.
‘You’re acting like a little madam today,’ he used to say.
She could never be mad at him for long. Sunshine and fucking daisies.
Why shouldn’t she be mad at him?! - Because fury was everything right then, right now. What right had he, to wrap her up in the warmest of blankets, just to snatch it away from her when she needed to be sheltered most? How dare he be her everything and leave her with nothing?
Dry sobs erupted from Amelie’s lips. Her mouth was open, her eyes were scrunched and she wailed pathetically, but no tears escaped from under the tightly shut lids. A hand took a hold of hers and lifted her off the ground, helping her to her feet, and Amelie unthinkingly obeyed the pressure, mindlessly following the footsteps to nowhere. The curtains had fallen away, and all that remained was a shell; the remains of a person who had spent all her life scraping at survival.
There was sinister hate for her kin, for those whom she should by all accounts love and adore. Instead something dark and twisted ate at her soul, consuming the blood that she knew she shared with them. Even her father’s memory was slowly starting to blacken at the acknowledgement of what his decision had done to her life, to her well-being and to her mind. Though there was affection, too, for Lily, for Kyle, for James, for Dorcas, for Remus – Peter and Alice, too, though she knew the former not so much and the latter had turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. They were rather simple people, she’d always thought, but she’d long come to the conclusion that simplicity wasn’t a bad thing. Ignorance, after all, is bliss. The affection cast a lukewarm spell over her heart, refusing to give into the hate and the dark, but it was the need that had kept her going.
Sirius had kept her going. He’d been her light in the dark, her hope for something new, her foolish minds’ beacon of hope and glory and maybe – perhaps – a sign that dreams maybe did come true. Something to live for, was what she’d wanted and he’d given that to her, if for a time. Maybe if she found him again – what if he could make life happen again? Could he make it safe, provide comfort; provide hope - even after this? Would he save her?
Suddenly the grip on her arm felt all wrong. His skin wasn’t as rough as Sirius’; wasn’t as warm or as gentle as his grips were, either. It was foreign and she was frantic with worry. She tried to pull away but his grip tightened, hard, bruising her wrist from the force. She was being manhandled now, and she opened her blind eyes to see Benjy Fenwick, eyes glazed over and pushing her towards the Room of Requirement, towards what would undoubtedly be the very last moments of her life.
[A/N] Just wanted to thank everyone. I’m nearly at the end of the story here. It’s been a very very very bumpy ride, but the amount of reviews, favourites and reads are seriously staggering and I know that the last few chapters have taken their sweet time in appearing on your screens but seriously I couldn’t have done it without your encouragement, you support and your help. Big thanks to every single one of you who reviewed. I can’t say it enough.