As Taylor ran from the Gryffindor Common Room towards her little alcove behind the dancing pigs, Sirius was being temporarily detained. Very temporarily detained.
“What do you think you’re doing, Black?” McGonagall asked him sternly as he sped past her. Sirius, as usual, didn’t listen to her at all and kept running at breakneck speed. It was only when he successfully turned a corner without running into a wall or tripping over his own feet that McGonagall realized what was different.
‘Holy Crap,’ she thought, ‘Black can see!’ Still, she raced after him angrily, deciding that not even the recovery of his sight permitted him to run through the corridors all haphazard and willy-nilly. Dumbledore had been right, however, to suggest that she take up Yoga or another form of exercise. Being a professor in a school where magic was able to fulfill your almost every whim was not, after all, physically strenuous. Therefore she quickly lost the well-built Quidditch player in the maze that was Hogwarts. She made a quick mental note to give him a detention later before giving up.
Long ago she had learned that taking House points from any of the Marauders made no difference at all. No matter how many she took away, they were still very lackadaisical towards school rules. Plus, it only resulted in her House losing standing, something Professor Slughorn was always very happy to point out. So now she never took points from the Marauders. Instead, every time they broke a rule, no matter how small, she simply gave them a detention for the infraction. They had managed to wrack up an amazing (and alarming) amount of detentions last year alone, but this year she seemed to finally have gotten to them. At least, she hoped desperately that they weren’t just distracted planning something incredibly stupid and dangerous. She wasn’t as young as she used to be, after all.
Changing course, and at a more reasonable pace, she once again set off to see Dumbledore, panting heavily for most of the way. She now regretted the lack of exercise her job entailed. Maybe she should have become a traveling Tranfiguration lecturer and seen the world like her mother had suggested all those years ago. Oh well, there was no use crying over spilt milk. Besides, she rather liked her job.
“Albus, you’ll never guess!” She called out excitedly as she entered his office.
“Er…well, this is rather embarrassing,” said Dumbledore from his down-dog position on top of his desk while wearing a pink exercise sweat-suit. McGonagall covered her eyes and backed away from the desk as though it was a mad hippogriff that was foaming at the mouth. “I really should lay off the lemon drops. Now,” Dumbledore continued unabashedly, sitting on the edge of his desk now, “what was it you wanted, again?”
“Um…I, er…I’ll tell you later,” McGonagall shut the door to his office firmly and vowed to always knock before entering from now on. Her new internal mantra became ‘I did not just see that. I imagined the entire thing. I did not just see that…’ It was one of those things you never mention again, and hope is erased from memory soon. There were some things she simply didn’t want to know about her colleagues.
‘I should’ve known that he’d hate me in the end!’ Taylor half sobbed, half scolded herself. She was wrapped comfortingly in the large mass of bedding that she had stowed behind the dancing pigs. When she had left the Girls’ Dorm she might’ve stolen…er, borrowed quite a few blankets, sheets, and pillows, leaving only the scratchy, uncomfortable ones for the Vultures she hated so very much.
Now she was busy just trying not to be so depressed over a boy. She kept telling herself that it meant nothing if he didn’t like her for superficial reasons. The problem with that was she had thought Sirius was different. She had let herself think that he would actually like her and stick with her. Lily had even managed to make her hope that, maybe, he fancied her. But maybe they had both only imagined it. She dried her eyes on the corner of a blanket, only succeeding in making room for the many more that were falling from her pained eyes.
‘I shouldn’t’ve let him get to me like that. Should’ve guarded my heart like I’ve done so many times before. I NEVER SHOULD’VE TALKED TO HIM! I NEVER SHOULD’VE LET HIM GET TO ME!’ She tried to steal herself to the pain of rejection. Tried desperately to forget the small frown he’d worn while looking at her for the first time. ‘It’s going to be ok,’ she told herself, ‘it’s going to be ok. I’ll just go back to the way it was…before. Everything will be fine. Everything will be the same.’
But if there was one thing she knew in the very bottom of her heart it was that she didn’t want everything to be the same as before. ‘Before’ was totally, completely, and absolutely horrible. ‘Before’ she had no friends and no life. But just that morning everything had been starting to look up. She had her new/old friend Lily back, even if it was on a probationary basis, the Marauders no longer hated her, and, best of all, she had woken up to Sirius hanging onto her like she was the best thing in the world. That morning had been her own personal fantasy come to life. Then it had all come crashing down with a single, though prolonged, frown.
She tried to suck it up. Tried not to cry like a baby as she hugged the blankets around her for comfort. But nothing worked. And suddenly there was someone else in the alcove. Someone who sat down and pulled her onto his lap, blankets and all. Someone who rocked her back and forth gently like a baby, or something fragile he didn’t ever want to break. No one had treated her like that before. Upon realizing this, she burst into a fresh peal of sobs. She was a strong girl, but she had been broken too often. This was her breaking point.
“What’s wrong?” Sirius asked, wiping tears away from her face gently with the side of his hand.
“You…” she sobbed, Sirius stiffened, “you hate me!” He relaxed slightly.
“No I don’t,” Sirius soothed the red-faced, weeping bundle in his arms. Normally when girl’s cried around him he couldn’t get away fast enough. They usually cried over the silliest things too, like broken nails and jealous friends. For some incomprehensible reason they expected Sirius to comfort them and were surprised when he ran away. Strangely, however, Sirius felt very protective towards this girl. He actually needed to comfort her, to wipe away the tears from her eyes and make her feel alright again. This strange instinct frightened him very much, but even as he realized the instinct was real and frightening the instinct grew stronger. It grew so strong that he was unable to resist it, or even want to.
It was strange, too, although Sirius didn’t realize it at the time, that as she’d run away from him, as she’d hated him and sobbed because of his silly mistake, everything around him grew more and more blurred. And he definitely hadn’t been crying, either.
“Yes,” Taylor told him with a shaking voice, “you do. Now that you can see, you don’t want anything to do with me!” Her voice broke. “And everyone will still hate me, and beat me, and you won’t even be there to talk to, and Lily will hate me again, and I really will have to become a stripper to escape! And then, one day after I’m done stripping for money and tips for the night, a stranger will proposition me, and of course I’ll reject him, but he’ll kidnap me on the way to my car, and I’ll be one of those lost people you see on TV! Eventually, years from now, some farm boy will find my decomposed body in a field, and you’ll see the story in a side note in the Daily Prophet, and you’ll think to yourself, ‘Didn’t I once know a girl named Taylor Brown?’, but you won’t remember exactly, and neither will anyone else, except the Slytherins, who’ll throw an enormous party to celebrate my death.” She drew in a long, rasping breath and prepared to start ranting again. Sirius blinked.
“Gwnie…” he started, looking down at her in amusement she did not see.
“No, don’t say you’re ‘sorry, but…’ I understand, okay! Who could like me…ever? I’m just this dull, plain, ranting raving girl who you met one day. But…but I deserve something! Yeah! So don’t explain to me why you don’t like me at all! I don’t want to hear your excuses! I may have to become an uncoordinated stripper to pay the bills, but I’m worthy of…something! And don’t you ever forget it, Sirius Black!” Although she said this quietly from her place on his lap, her words carried weight as she finally stood up for herself.
“Gwnie,” Sirius tried again, “I don’t hate you! I don’t even know what gave you that idea. And I don’t think you need to become a stripper anytime soon, no matter how much I’d like to see that,” he added with a devilish smirk. She looked up with him with hope shining in her eyes, even as she smacked his arm for the crude comment.
“Really?” She asked, unsure, “You don’t think I’m an ugly…batch of cookies who deserves everything she gets?”
“Definitely not. No one deserves to be…crucio’d,” at the memory, his face hardened. “I’m going to make them pay for what they did to you, Gwnie, don’t you worry about that!”
“Sirius, don’t do anything rash. Please don’t ‘punish’ the Slytherins. They’ll only find me and…” she shuddered.
“But, but!” Sirius protested.
“Please?” Taylor insisted softly. His face softened, and he sighed heavily.
“Fine,” he said shortly. They were silent, each enjoying the company of the other immensely. Sirius’s stomach rumbled loudly.
“I think someone’s hungry,” Taylor snickered, feeling the rumblings from her spot on his lap. Suddenly aware of their position, Taylor got up. So did Sirius. Neither of them looked at the other.
“So,” Sirius finally said, looking around with interest, “nice place you got here.”
“It’s not much, but it’s home,” Taylor replied in a grave voice. Then she let out an unladylike snort. “You got to get me out of here! I’m not sure how much longer I can last!” She got down on her knees, clasping her hands together and inching towards him, only half joking.
“It’s about time someone gave me the respect I so richly deserve,” Sirius joked. “Would you mind doing that again, only this time in front of James and Remus?”
“Not on your life!” Taylor laughed, getting up and smacking him on the arm. “Seriously, though, you have got to get me out of here! I’ve been sleeping on the floor for weeks now, and let me tell you, it’s definitely not the best place to grab some shut eye!”
“Accompany me to breakfast, and we shall see,” Sirius granted her in a faux-grand voice.
“I would,” she told him, sounding sad, “but breakfast is over.” A chuckle at his crestfallen face escaped her pressed lips despite her best efforts.
“Well,” Sirius continued, recovering somewhat, “to the kitchens, then!” Without giving her any room to object, he grabbed her arm and dragged her off to the kitchens where they ate and conversed happily together. Funnily enough, now that they were together and everything was good between them again his eyesight wasn’t blurry in the least.
Somewhere deep in the castle a meeting was being held. It was not the sort of meeting that imposed warm feelings upon its attendants, or one that called for delicious cupcakes to be shared amongst them. This meeting was in the darkest and dankest of the school’s dungeons, where no student would ever normally wander. Many teachers were even afraid to go down there alone, although, this was for an entirely different reason than it merely being dark, damp, and generally very unpleasant. Several students, most but not all of whom were clad in green, were standing in a wide spaced out circle, as though none trusted the others an inch. Only one sat on the ground. He was feeling much too depressed to bother about the message of his inferiority this sent to the others in the room. The majority of the room was actually happy to be there, scared out of their minds, certainly, but also happy and honored. This was a meeting of Hogwart’s elite, or so they often told themselves. And Bellatrix Black was in her element.
“Soon,” she smiled widely at her comrades. The glee that was clearly evident in her expression made her look somewhat off. The sight made those nearest her squirm. “Soon, we will set out to serve our Dark Lord. A most noble task indeed. He will no doubt be pleased that I have brought so many to serve him,” she smiled a wishful, hopeful little smile and gazed towards the heavens…or, in this case, the slimy, oozing green ceiling. “I have but one word of advice to you cowering, sniveling cowards; be faithful and serve my Lord well, or die, by his hand or mine, it doesn’t matter: you’ll be equally dead.”
The dark-clad figures around her squirmed miserably. They weren’t use to being on the receiving end of death threats yet. Bellatrix smiled her wide, manic smile once more. She was about to be in the very presence of her Lord, the man she’d do anything for, even, though she shuddered at the very thought, suffer through years of Azkaban. He, at least, knew what he wanted and went for it, unlike many of the sniveling cowards before her now. Even her cousin Regulus seemed upset and frightened to be here, though she was saddened to admit such of her own kin. She’d had high hopes for him, to be perfectly honest. Maybe even as her right hand man, to keep it all in the family. Now she’d have to make do with Lestrange. Frankly, this didn’t bother her. She quite liked Lestrange, well, as much as she could like anyone who was not the Dark Lord. And now it almost looked like, though it was blasphemy to even think it, Regulus wanted out. If he did he was sure to be dead within the week. And she’d be the one who’d track him down. She frowned, the look suiting her face more than the happy smile ever could. Maybe she’d have to have a talk with her darling cousin…but in the meantime she hoped at least one of her companions in this recruitment meeting got tortured. And, if she was really lucky, the Dark Lord would even let her torture one or two of them herself! She gazed off into the middle distance, imagining this wonderful scenario come wonderfully true.
Regulus was used to being in the company of dark and dangerous wizards. Growing up at Number 12, Grimmauld Place, he’d had too. He was not, however, used to being one of those dark wizards who’d made his childhood a living hell. During that time, his only had been his slightly-uninfluenced-by-it-all brother Sirius. And he had been okay with that. Back then they’d been almost the very best of friends. Part of him wanted to be just like Sirius: strong, and completely apart from the nutter pureblood fanatics surrounding him. For a short time Regulus wanted to become a blood-traitor too, and renounce his family as Sirius had done so willingly. But Sirius had friends and refuge to turn to. Sirius was in a completely separate House from said nutters, and was currently, if the gossip he’d painstakingly dug out of his other cousin, the barely-hanging-on-to-family-approval Andromeda Black, living off his inheritance from their Uncle Alphard.
As for Andromeda, the prestigious Black Family had not been pleased when she’d been sorted into Ravenclaw, but as they’d pointed out to his brother, ‘better that than Gryffindor, or even Hufflepuff.’ If his family only knew what Andromeda got up to at school, the people she hung out with or the views she now held, they wouldn’t be nearly so tolerant. Anyway, Regulus certainly wasn’t so lucky as either one of them. Apparently the Slytherin hat saw ‘ambition, and what’s more…oh this is interesting, you play a very important part in…well, I’ll just let you figure that one out in good time, my boy. I suppose you’d best, for all involved…SLYTHERIN!’ Sirius had glared at him and the hat, of course, but Bella and Cissy (who’d still been at Hogwarts at the time) had clapped and welcomed him heartily to Slytherin. And now, years later, he had no way of escaping the claws of Slytherins, whether current or former. As he realized that his hands were basically tied, he stood up and waited with the others, joining their wide circle. Seeing this, his cousin Bella sent him an approving look.
It was late before they actually set off away from the corridor in the dungeons. At no signal that any of the others could see, Bellatrix abruptly told them that it was time to go, that they’d better keep up or get lost and never be found again because she certainly wouldn’t look for them. And, she had added with a small smirk that seemed a prerequisite to all Slytherins, she wouldn’t fancy running into some of the creatures that lurked down here, and certainly not all alone and in the dark. And, if they annoyed her and the mood struck, wand less. Needless to say, the other students all kept pace with her, hardly even daring to look down the many off shooting corridors, random staircases, and barred cells, for fear of losing her as she wound her way through the dark maze. Although, one of them was certain that he saw a skeleton pacing one of the cells as though just waiting to be released…or someone to replace him in his prison sentence.
None of them dared to ask the question that was on many of their minds, ‘Where are we going?’ Oh, they knew, of course that meeting a band of Deatheaters and a terrifying man with red eyes and slit-like nostrils was the main point on their agenda, none of them was that stupid. But they wondered how wandering around in the school’s oldest dungeons would help in any way shape or form to achieve that goal. Bellatrix seemed to know where she was going, and no one ever questioned Bellatrix. Not even the ever-present Lestrange boy, of whom she seemed the most fond out of all of them.
The smooth, even stone floor soon began to grow mossy and haphazard, and eventually it gave way to dirt. One boy squeaked at the low dirt ceiling, apparently claustrophobic. Bellatrix simply kept walking, without even a hitch in her stride. If anything, she sped up in her eagerness.
None of the boys could pinpoint the exact moment that they were no longer in the small, dark, dirt tunnel but now rather in a tunnel of closely-knit trees. The branches overhead and to each side seemed to be closely interwoven. Although it was still only late afternoon, no light could be seen. Eventually dim light appeared at the end of the long tunnel.
Most seemed to see this as a good sign, and grew more relaxed. But Regulus, with all his experience dealing with darkness, knew that sometimes you were safer in the dark. The light tended to reveal things you’d rather keep securely hidden. The darkness hid you from creatures, or a hideous half-monster Dark Lord, that you’d really rather not face just yet. At the ripe old age of 16, Regulus knew more about life than his companions would perhaps ever know. When he saw the darkness lightening into a grey then into a very light yellow and finally the light at the end of the tunnel, he stiffened both his spine and his resolve. Now there really was no going back, although at the moment he wished for nothing more than to run back down the hellish tunnel and face the maze that may or may not be filled with horrible monsters. He blocked out all thoughts against the Dark Lord and his plans for his world, as he often had to do when at home or in the Slytherin Common Room.
Sitting in a chair that had likely graced the room of some large and ornate manner, judging by its own elaborate styling, was the man that had already managed to invoke fear into most of the brave men in the world. He was not alone in the clearing, that would be paramount to stupidity, and if Voldemort was anything it was not stupid. In fact, many of his enemies had described him as a brilliant man, although that had been long before he had revealed his true intentions and even before he started some of his, shall we say, shadier dealings.
Those loyal subjects who had already proven themselves to him stood silent guardians. They were frightening pillars that formed a perfect circle with Voldemort as the center. Each was much like the other. A few were taller, a few were shorter, some were stout and some were lean, but all wore the same Deatheater robes and masks that marked them as followers of an evil Dark Lord bent on destruction and death. None could be distinguished as an individual: all stood in very much the same position, with their right hand pulling back the sleeve of their left, revealing the dark mark that branded each and every one of them. The snake tongue of the skull seemed to thrash and writhe, their beedy little eyes watching the new recruits as though they were alive. It seemed to Regulus that they were measuring each recruit to decide who would die and who would thrive. As the wayward students of Hogwarts and also Voldemort’s new minions entered the clearing in the fading light, Voldemort twirled his yew wand around his long fingers and watched them unnervingly with his red eyes.
Bellatrix quickly walked in front of Voldemort and, at a respectful distance, threw herself down to the ground in a show of complete subservience. The students she had brought with her quickly followed suit. They had never seen Bellatrix show respect and undying loyalty to anyone before. To many of them she was their leader. But somehow it didn’t seem out of place that she was bowing down to this impressive and terrifying man-snake.
“You may all rise,” said Voldemort in a pleased sort of tone, “tell me, my useful Miss Black, what have you brought me tonight?”
“My Lord,” Bellatrix told him happily and respectfully, “these students approached me, told me that they were loyal to the cause, they will do whatever you want, if it pleases you, Master.” She clasped her hand together behind her back and bowed her head in deference to her master. Voldemort surveyed the group of students who were being presented to him.
“And if these volunteers are not as faithful as they first appear?” Voldemort hissed. “If they unwisely choose to reveal our secrets to the meddling fool Dumbledore or someone else at his crock of a school?”
“I have tested them, of course, my Lord,” Bellatrix told him hesitantly and demurely.
“Crucio,” he said lightly. Bellatrix flinched slightly and also, contradictorily, half smiled. But the screaming that soon erupted in an unending wave came from behind her. The boy in blue fell to the ground, writhing in pain. She watched him curiously and with a sick sort of longing. As soon as the curse was lifted, the boy rose to his feet once more, his eyes wider than they had been, but not about to run for his life either. “It seems you have done well for me, Miss Black, but do not do anything potentially dangerous like this again, or I will not be nearly so accepting.”
“Yes, my Lord. Of course, my Lord,” Bellatrix agreed, outwardly somber but extremely pleased with herself despite the reprimand.
“But we are not here tonight to discuss the new recruits,” he told the circle at large. “What do you miserly beggars know about a prophesy? More particularly, a prophesy outlining my downfall?” The outside circle showed no emotion, no doubt they had already been informed about this little hitch, but the young students inside the circle gasped. Bellatrix looked at her Master in horror and disbelief. Regulus, meanwhile, neither showed emotion or let it permeate his thoughts and internal mind. Voldemort twirled his wand menacingly.
Author’s Note: So, tell me what you think? Voldemort evil enough? Bellatrix too evil? Regulus not committed enough to the cause? Taylor and Sirius too sappy?
Personally I like it, but that’s just because it’s mine. I want to know what an impartial judge (that being you, the reader) has to say. So, without further ado (insert large flourish and grin here) to the review box!
Reader, Review Box. Review Box, Reader. There, now you’re friends. Talk to each other. ;)