Chapter 13 : Cracks
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Recent interest in this project has proved most beneficial, not only for the continuance of funding, which at one stage appeared close to termination, but because it has led to uncovering artifacts I was previously unaware of. One such treasure trove was a hidden cache of letters addressed to Caradoc Dearborn, only recently discovered. There were concerns about the validity of these letters, but after extensive testing we have confirmed that the dating claimed by the letters is correct, and the events alluded to in the letters corroborated by other sources. I am most excited at this development and dare to hope more letters and documents will come to light in the future.
Extracts from the correspondences of Caradoc Dearborn, 1944
Despite your appalling behaviour at Christmas, the Rosiers have not decided you are unsuitable suitor, in no small part due to the considerable exertions of your mother and I. We have assured them you remain Druella's most ardent admirer and the gentlemen we raised you to be. I will be seriously displeased if you prove me wrong.
Give my regards to Professor Slughorn, an excellent man, that, and worth knowing.
Yours, & etc
My darling son,
I would like to wring your neck. Your half hearted apology has in no way mollified your father, who remains shockingly cross! As for your actions at Christmas – Caradoc how could you? I know I brought you up better than that, my son. Do be a love and try a tad harder in the future. This entire business is positively dreadful for my poor nerves. When your father isn’t stomping around the manor, Mrs Rosier is dropping delicate little barbs hinting that Druella can do better, or that her son has taken it in his head to call you out, of all things! Pray don’t get into any more fights; I trust that you are past that now.
Caradoc, my dear child, this has gone on long enough. I’ve protected you as long as I can, but it is time for you to grow up and accept your responsibilities as heir to the family. I would also like to see an improvement in your Transfiguration grade, as Mrs Black is under the belief it is somehow below Orion’s.
Your loving mother,
I’ve heard some rumors fluttering around my knitting circle that you are finally about to offer for the lovely Druella. Congratulations my duck, I can’t tell you how glad I am that you were not simply stringing her along; if your affair was the talk of the town, it’s termination set the gossips aflame! It’s for the best Caddy, you could do no less, and at least you actually like her! I thought Miles an insufferable bore when I married him, and now I know I was right! Write me soon, darling, and tell me all the escapades you have been getting up to – no one makes me laugh as you do!
All my love,
Have you gone mad, old chap? Word around the club is that you are set to get leg shackled. She’s a pretty dish and a half to be sure, but stand your ground, soldier! I know the family is worrying away at you so that the line doesn’t die out, but you are barely eighteen, war or no war. You have your whole life before you, enjoy being single and um, sowing your wild oats, if you know what I mean, eh? Uncle Julius won’t actually disown you; he’ll just rant and storm for a few weeks. You don’t have to go through with this, get out now while you still can!
‘Lift your game, children,” Minerva said disapprovingly. Her gaze encompassed Beater Lionel Greengrass, who had managed to nearly knock himself out with his own bat, to Keeper Owen McLaggen, who was rearranging his windswept hair in a pocket mirror.
“We have less than two weeks before the next match, and I cannot have you all losing your focus now!” Minerva snapped, her mouth falling into an unpleasantly thin line.
“It would have been nice if Slytherin had forfeited,” Seeker Sophia Prewett said wistfully. The only other girl on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, her delicate, dreamy face and petite frame were a startling contrast to the burly youths ranged around her in the training room.
Broad shouldered Ignatius Wood snorted loudly at her statement. “Unlikely. Campbell was a terrific Keeper, but there are about four Slytherins backstabbing each other now to take his place.”
“Even if he regains consciousness – which I heard is none too likely – he’s missed three week of practice,” agreed the youngest Chaser, scrawny but quick Edmund Bell.
McLaggen deigned to look up from his mirror at this. “Have they settled on a Keeper yet?” he asked languidly. “He won’t be a patch on me, but it would be good to know what poor sod will be up against me.”
“It could be a girl,” sniped Sophia, raising her eyebrows challengingly. McLaggen sneered and opened his mouth to retort, but Minerva overrode him.
“Caradoc Dearborn,” she said brusquely. The training room fell silent, the braver teammates, like Septimus Weasley, daring to risk a glance at the stern face of their captain. Rumors had settled in a thick carpet on the Hogwarts floors about the shocking intimacy displayed by the Head Girl and the rebel prince of Slytherin house at the ball, and speculation was rife as to the reasons behind its sudden termination. Regardless of what had passed between them, it was generally acknowledged (in lowered tones for safety) that both had been fearfully and wonderfully bad tempered since then, Dearborn hexing anyone who looked in his direction and Minerva threatening to dock house points for untied shoelaces and uncombed hair.
McLaggen, supremely indifferent to the awkwardness of the situation or oblivious to social niceties as usual, blundered in merrily,
“Dearborn.. is he any good?” he asked.
Minerva scowled faintly, her expression so distant Septimus wondered if she was even aware of it.
“He’s an excellent flier, but out of practice. I still want – need – you all to be on the top of your game. Slytherin are training four nights a week, they are not going to be a simple pushover like Hufflepuff was!” she barked. She seemed ready to start a full fledged rant, which was prevented only by an impatient rap on the door of the training room.
Amelia Bones poked her head tentatively through the door and the already charged silence in the training room fairly crackled with tension. No one in Gryffindor Tower had failed to detect the chilly silence maintained by their two golden girls and their loyal companion.
“The Headmaster asked me to summon you,” Amelia said stiffly, looking at a point somewhere above Minerva’s head.
“Is it urgent?” Minerva asked in a similarly constrained tone. Amelia inclined her head fractionally. “He wishes you to join him in his study immediately.”
Minerva nodded; dismissing Quidditch training and following Amelia back to the castle. They walked in silence, neither willing to be the first to break the silence. They were on the very threshold of the castle when Minerva stopped suddenly and touched her fingers lightly to Amelia’s wrist.
“Is this really how it is going to be?” she asked impulsively. “Doesn’t the fact we’ve been friends for years mean anything?”
Amelia’s stony expression softened slightly but her voice remained firm.
“Unless you are wishing me happy, I don’t want to hear it.” She waited a moment for a response from Minerva. When none came, she gave out a bitter laugh and pushed on before her into the Entrance Hall.
Minerva watched her go with a sigh, and then straightened her shoulders and made her way to the Headmaster’s study.
“Ad perpetuam rei memoriam,” she said dully to the guardian gargoyles. She found Alex Prewett already in the study, deep in conversation with Professor Dumbledore, who spared his favourite student a smile. Minerva ran her eyes around the study, ignoring the nodding portraits but noting that not only was every senior prefect crammed in the room but so were all four Heads of Houses; Professors Dumbledore, Slughorn, Flitwick and Beery. This was no ordinary meeting. Minerva resisted the urge to fiddle with her hair. It went against the grain to appear less than immaculate, and in her Quidditch training robes no less, but there was no help for it.
“So kind of you to join us, Minerva,” rasped Dippet from behind his desk. “Now we can begin.”
“Begin what?” Minerva asked blankly.
Dippet nodded to Dumbledore, who pursed his lips under his sweeping auburn beard.
“The war in Europe is spreading – are you alright, my dear?” he asked concernedly, noting her sudden pallor.
“Fine,” Minerva insisted between gritted teeth, although she allowed Alex to force her into a chair. Surely if they knew – if something had happened – she would have been informed. They did not summon half the staff and prefects to tell a student, even the Head Girl, that her father was dead. Did they?
Dumbledore’s light blue gaze remained skeptical as he took in the dilation of her pupils and barely perceptible lip biting but he continued. “Many of the magical schools in the continent have been forced to close as panic spreads. Hogwarts has opened its doors to them, and refugees will be arriving any moment.”
“Refugees – you mean students?” asked Minerva, the tight knot restricting her breathing easing.
“Exactly,” Dumbledore nodded. “In fact, here comes the first lot of them now.” While Minerva’s attention had been focused on avoiding Dumbledore’s too perceptive gaze and wondering where he found claret velvet robes, Dippet’s fireplace had blazed emerald green.
First one, then another and another figure stumbled out of the flames, gathering sooty cloaks around them. They ranged from very young, with wide eyes full of mute appeal, to full grown, with bitter smiles twisting their faces, and there seemed no end to them, Dippet steadily ticking names off his list as children fell through his fireplace. Minerva was busy arranging mentors for each group with Alex, but one name made her look up sharply, her lists and plans forgotten.
“Rosier, Druella. Seventh Year Beauxbaton, will be staying in the Slytherin dormitories. Mr Black will direct you, dear girl. Welcome to Hogwarts.”
Druella curtsied prettily. Like her companions, her face was smeared with soot and slightly gaunt, but her eyes were alight and a slight smile curved her perfect red lips as she took Orion’s arm. She turned her head and caught Minerva openly staring at her but her smile only widened. Other students may have been forced to come to Hogwarts for safety, to flee the horrors of war and because they had no where else to go. Druella Rosier had come to Hogwarts to fight her own war, and everything from the glint of her deceptively soft brown eyes to the flash of her white teeth suggested she took no prisoners.
“Out of my way!” Caradoc snapped, fingering his wand meaningfully. The second years scattered before him and he continued to descend through the levels of Hogwarts like a dark cloud.
His dramatic entrance into the Slytherin common room went unnoticed, not only because the scowl on his face had become a regular fixture, but because everybody was far too busy assessing the strangers huddled in groups in their common room. Some of the more daring, or plain stupid Hogwarts residents had already slipped into motion and engaged the newcomers in cautious conversation, but none of them were of any note except for Riddle. Caradoc watched him from the shadows quietly, his eyes glittering with interest. Riddle had taken the role of a Slytherin leader on himself, he was bestowing a warm welcome on one hand to students he evidently considered potentially worthy of being sheltered by Slytherin, and condemning others to ostracism with a twist of his lips. This was not his job, and it was time the triumvirs of the Brethren reminded him that.
Riddle was smiling charmingly at a tall, dark haired girl – a Selwyn, Caradoc realized, probably one of his own second cousins. She was laughing at some comment he had made, and more than one of the older of the male newcomers, still rugged up in fur, looked distinctly irritated at the small court of newcomers that Riddle had gathered around him effortlessly. It was just like Riddle to show off his unorthodox influence and offer the selections of the newcomers his protection. The only surprising aspect to the scene playing out before him was that Riddle was present in the common room. His sporadic disappearances of late had penetrated even the fog of foul mood clinging to Caradoc, and his reemergence into society was not reassuring in the least.
Caradoc ran a lazy eye across the distinctive blue Beauxbatons uniforms, the patented fur of Durmstrang, as well as the scatterings of maroon – Warsaw Witches Institute, the forest green of Romania’s Academy and the silvery grey of Austria’s Establishment. He was not surprised at the influx of refugees, he had heard from friends and family living abroad that witches and wizards were fleeing the continent in droves. He had expected however that the members of his set – the elite of the purebloods – would have housed their children in their own manors and castles rather than allow them to suffer the oft decried plebian atmosphere of Hogwarts.
Caradoc turned as someone tapped his shoulder lightly. Orion Black stood behind him, with the most pained expression Caradoc had seen him wear since the ball a few weeks back. Orion had been irrepressibly euphoric as news of his engagement leaked through the school gossip channels, but as he shifted on his feet now, horror mixed with reluctance in his face. Caradoc rolled his eyes.
“You’re taking back the offer of best man, aren’t you?” he quipped. That choice had definitely sent the rumors flying around the school. Orion shook his head, his face remaining serious.
“You haven’t had a fight with Amelia again?” Caradoc asked in dismay. He had not signed up for this amount of drama when he agreed to stand in for Alphard as Orion’s best man.
Orion sighed and stepped closer to Caradoc, lowering his voice and speaking very quickly without pausing for breath.
“You’re still best man, wedding is still going ahead, don’t ask me anything because I swore I wouldn’t say and she’s scary, and I want to live to get married, but we’re brothers under Slytherin so I feel like I should inform you that you really, really want to go look in your room.”
Caradoc stared at Orion uncomprehendingly for a moment before the last part of his sentence sunk in. He turned his head sharply to look once more at the throng of new students, their colourful uniforms startling in the usual familiar sea of dull black and then he dropped his school bag on the nearest chair and took the stairs three at a time to sprint to his room.
The fact that it was still locked would have relieved him, if not for the fact that Druella Rosier, her eyes sparkling with trouble, was leaning against it, a dangerous smile curling her lips.
Juliet closed her book and her throbbing eyes for a minute, breathing in the familiar scent of her haven. Even the Ravenclaws, the only ones to venture so deep into the bowels of the library, thought she was quite mad when they noticed her at all. The Muggle literature section was not frequented even by the most dedicated of NEWT students in Muggle Studies, who generally picked the brains of their base born friends. However the dog eared nature of many of the volumes hinted at long years of love from past students. Juliet wondered how many other muggleborns had sought out this treasure trove as an escape from the world.
“What are you reading?” a voice asked and her eyes flew open with a gasp. Leaning against the Shakespeare shelf with a look of practiced contempt was a lanky youth with a Grecian profile she recognized, though they had never spoken before.
“Alphard Black,” she said blankly, her mind working furiously. Had Amelia done something? Was she hurt? Surely she could not have eloped with Black less than halfway through NEWT year?
Black smirked and she let out a sigh of relief. It could not be anything serious if he was impersonating the Cheshire cat. “I highly doubt they’ve written books about me already,” he drawled. “What are you actually reading?”
Juliet mutely handed over Little Women before she realized it and winced as he rifled through the pages carelessly.
“What in Merlin’s name brings you here?” he asked in honest bewilderment, running his fingers along the Shakespeare shelf. “These aren’t even about wizards!”
She shrugged, a sneer of her own forming. Purebloods. Even Min and Amy had needed introductions to the great works of the nineteenth century. “It’s a classic novel,” she explained patronizingly.
“I’ve never heard of it,” he protested. Juliet laughed before she could stop herself.
“You’re a pureblood! And a boy!” she told him, still smiling slightly.
He shrugged. “You know, I have had a classical education. My parents just didn’t think muggle literature was worth the parchment it was scribed on.”
Juliet forced her face into a carefully blank expression as she realized anew the bizarre situation she was in, and who she was talking to.
“What do you want, Black?” she asked bluntly. He blinked, taken off guard by her sudden hostility.
“What’s your name, Gryffindor?” he countered.
Juliet had to work at keeping her mouth closed. Swallowing her ire – the insolent brat, to stroll in here, insult her books and not even bother to find out her name! Snatching her book back from him, she shoved it in her bag and made to walk away, but he flung one hand out and caught her wrist in his delicate hand as she passed him.
“Where are you going?” he asked blankly. She had heard he was the intelligent brother; if he did not quite rival his great friend Riddle, he at least was not so far behind as most merely clever people were. She saw none of his reported wit in his eyes, which were a less brilliant blue grey than his brothers, but the curiously intent expression in his eyes stopped her.
“I need your help,” he said abruptly, a muscle twitching in his cheek as he met her gaze squarely. Juliet felt her eyebrow rise.
“I beg your pardon?”
Black actually squirmed, a dull flush creeping onto his cheek. “You’re best friends with Amelia Bones,” he said roughly. “I’ve seen you with her before, I know you’re close.”
“Why do you care?” Juliet asked, although she had a hunch she already knew his answer.
He hesitated, his eyes darting around the library and glaring at the lone Ravenclaw in eyesight, who scurried away. When he at last spoke, his voice was low,
“She’s not a good match for my brother.”
Juliet’s eyes opened wide and her outrage must have manifested itself on her face because Alphard took a step back and raised his hands defensively.
“I know my family,” he explained defensively. “She won’t fit in, they’ll despise her .. modern sympathies and she’ll be miserable as well as him.”
“Your brother doesn’t seem to think so,” Juliet said icily. Alphard waved this off impatiently.
“Orion only sees what he wants to see,” he said impatiently.
“They love each other,” Juliet said staunchly. Amelia might be acting like a spoilt princess, and was, in fact, a spoilt princess, but she loved passionately and deeply and Orion made her happier than anyone else ever had. She fairly glowed when he was around and whatever Juliet’s personal reservations about the tall brooding Slytherin were, she could not deny that he fairly worshipped the ground Amelia walked on.
“This will only end badly,” Alphard insisted. “Help me stop it. Please.” The note of sincerity in his otherwise gruff voice startled her and for a moment she lifted her turbulent gaze to his guarded face.
“No,” she said, but there was a waver in her voice which made her cheeks burn and sparked a knowing glint in his eye. She turned her back on him and hurried away, aware of his eyes on her back. The line she walked was not steady but she persisted until she was three floors above him. Once she was sure he had not followed, she ducked into an empty classroom and threw her bag on the floor, leaning against the door and catching her breath. She was a good person; she had been brought up to do the right thing. She would do so – as soon as she figured out what that was.
A.N. So: my apologies about the confusing updates, it'll be chronological from here on! I'm horribly, awfully busy, but I've started a new SPY STORY ( a Roxy/Lysander extravaganza - the lighter side of Margravine) and I have 14 and 15 of this drafted :)
Many thanks to everyone who has favourited and reviewed, you are lovely and I love you muchly! Special thanks to Tydemans for being a wonderful beta, to Ayii for almost making me cry with her incredible reviews and to pink_rook for helping me make this ToS-able.
Also, I own nothing you recognise!
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