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Chapter 12 : Excavation
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Nora had underestimated Dumbledore’s own desire to capture and destroy the missing Death Eaters, and it was not long before he employed the dictation that Lestrange Mansion should be searched. This took place exactly one week from the date of the mass breakout from Azkaban, and Nora was quick to join the search party.
“We’ll just be staking it out,” Tonks explained. She and Remus were going to the Lestranges while several other members of the Order looked into assorted places of interest. Molly was to poke around a favorite pub of Jugson, Mad-Eye was going to break into Mulciber’s summer home in Wales; Kingsley would be hunting down Yvette Rookwood, who was the most likely candidate as Secret-Keeper for Augustus Rookwood and could potentially reveal the whereabouts of his Unplottable house. “If anyone’s home, we retreat. We come back to Headquarters and the Order will map out a plan of action from there.”
Remus nodded. “We don’t expect them to be home, but we do think they might have stopped there after the breakout, to loot for their old possessions and maybe put up some additional protective charms.” They were interrupted by a loud snapping noise coming from an adjacent room, but didn’t bother getting up. Kreacher had been acting oddly as of late, and could sometimes be found swinging from a lamp in the attic.
Nora drummed her fingers on the table to earn Remus’s focus back. “We’re ready. Let’s go.”
Remus’s eyes darkened with stern understanding, looking from Nora to Sirius. “We?”
“You can’t go, Sirius,” Tonks interrupted apologetically. “You know you can’t go.”
“What the hell do you mean, I can’t go?” Sirius boomed. “It’s just snooping around the Lestranges! I don’t plan on getting caught any more than the rest of the Order. And just in case you’ve forgotten, I was loose in the mountains of Hogsmeade for months before I came here to Grimmauld Place. Was I ever caught? No. And I pranced around the village as a dog!”
Remus shook his head. “Padfoot, these are dangerous times for you –”
“It’s dangerous for you, too, being a werewolf!” Nora snapped. She did not bang her fists on the table violently as Sirius would, but her calm anger had a way of being just as pronounced, and more effective, than Sirius’s thunderous temper. “And for Tonks, as an Auror. Do you think that if Death Eaters show up, they’re going to present us to the Ministry or pick and choose victims? No! They’re going to try and kill us all! Most of those people are just as hunted by the Ministry as Sirius is – they’re the least likely group in the world to bring him to Fudge. Anyone who goes stalking for Death Eaters has the same odds of being killed, no matter what their name is.”
“But Dumbledore said –”
“It’s easy for Dumbledore to tell Sirius to stay shut up in here,” Nora prattled on, her eyes now resentful slits. “Sirius Black is a grown man and can do whatever he damn well pleases. You’re all a bunch of bloody hypocrites, you know that? Ordering him to keep his nose to the ground and stay hidden while you’re all out flaunting your liberty, going to shops and visiting relatives. You’re free to go to Gringotts or check in on your friends, to sit outside for a nice bit of fresh air. How long do you think either of you could last under the sort of limitations forced upon Sirius?”
No one uttered a reply. Sirius had tilted his chair back on its hind legs, staring haughtily at the fireplace with a mulish expression on his face. Tonks and Remus looked astonished. “Sirius isn’t stupid, he’s not going to let himself be seen by anyone from the Ministry,” Nora finished quietly. “He is an asset. And it’s time he was treated like one.”
Sirius angled his jaw toward Remus without looking at him. “So when do we go?”
Remus lowered his eyes, face tight. “Immediately, I suppose.” Tonks glanced at him questioningly, but smoothed her features when Nora glared at her.
“Right, then,” Tonks spoke up brightly. “Let’s get cracking.”
They all threw cloaks around their shoulders – Nora’s green one had been darned with a yellow polka-dotted patch over the right shoulder where Malfoy had cursed her – and she capped her head with the signature feathery red hat. Tonks teased her endlessly about this fashion choice (You look like you’ve eaten a Canary Cream!), but no amount of bullying could make Nora take it off, as she was rather fond of the hat, and as she had mentioned before, thought that feathers were a good look for her.
Sirius was trying not to look too smug that he had gotten his way, privately elated that he was leaving his parents’ wretched house. Tonks scooted closely to Remus on the doorstep, glad that apparating together gave her an excuse to touch him. “On three,” Remus stated heavily, and Sirius, Tonks, and Nora pinched his sleeve. “One…two…THREE!”
They twirled through space, shooting forward like falling stars for a fraction of a second – and then suddenly, found themselves standing on flat ground again. Or rather, Sirius and Remus were standing again; Tonks was clumsy and had landed without much grace, and tugged Nora down into the snow with her. Sirius chuckled in amusement at the sight of them grappling with each other, trying to use each other to stand up while simultaneously pushing the other down. Finally the men gave up watching them tussle and interceded, pulling Nora and Tonks to their feet. They brushed the snow off their arms and legs, red-faced and huffy.
“Ready?” Remus inquired, raising an eyebrow.
Tonks sucked in her cheeks. “Keep sniggering, Black, and I’m going to sock you.” Sirius laughed merrily, so happy to be free in the real world that not even the possibility of soon being murdered by awaiting Death Eaters could taint his mood. Nora halted in her tracks, caught by the expression on his face. She realized that besides the two seconds when they apparated out of Hogwarts grounds following her stint in the Hospital Wing, she had never seen him outdoors as a man during daylight before, and was unprepared for how she would react to the way the sun seemed to glow from inside of him.
Sirius was absolutely radiant. Flecks of crystalline blue shone vividly in his pale eyes, nearly the same color as the icy sky and framed with thick black lashes. His fair skin flushed with exuberance, and his lips were parted in an alluring smile, the frigid breath escaping in wispy white puffs. Sirius’s dark hair fell in gleaming waves to his shoulders. He pushed a few strands away from his eyes and his gaze fell over Nora, who was still as a statue and staring raptly at him.
“Nora?” Tonks edged tentatively.
Sirius’s heart swelled to see her eyes on him like that, feeling all at once self-conscious and deliriously blissful. He had never seen Nora looking so intense, the wonder painted clear as day on her face. He wished that for just three seconds, he could see into her mind and know what she was thinking. He smiled at her and she watched his flush spread, his pupils dilating. It was an involuntary response to the way she looked at him, the way she cocked her head and drank him in with that compelling expression. That was all it took, and then he was instantaneously filled with her.
He wanted her.
He wanted her very, very badly.
Nora’s mouth opened, her eyebrows raised as though she was ensnared in some kind of amazing phenomenon, and Tonks wondered if maybe she’d been hit with a spell. Her eyes darted all around, seeking out the unseen Death Eater.
“You alright, Nora?” Remus asked, waving a hand over her eyes. Nora jerked out of her own thoughts, blinking a few times and wrenching her gaze from Sirius’s. Sirius stumbled backwards like he was abruptly let loose from a force holding him captive. “Let’s go see if Bellatrix is welcoming guests, shall we?”
The mention of Bellatrix Lestrange brought Nora and Sirius forth into reality, and they joined the ranks of Tonks and Remus, attention fixed on the matter at hand. They were here to find Death Eaters, not to stare at each other like idiots who had never seen other people before. They were here to capture the family who had contributed to Gideon Prewett’s death and tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom.
Wands out, they circled around the bleak fortress. It was a tall and narrow dwelling, with a dozen turrets spiraling up into the white sky. A green hedge surrounded Lestrange Mansion, untouched by snow. There were magical enchantments all around that prevented anything from flying in by stealth, including the fluffy white snowflakes that lay behind them. Nora felt the ambiance grow startlingly warm as they approached, and an ominous dread of foreboding seeped over the small group. Voldemort had been inside these walls; evil, heinous beings had slept under its many jagged roofs, the color and texture of glossy black obsidian. The whole structure was similar to pipes of a grand church organ, only warped into malformed directions.
“Do you feel that?” Remus said in a hushed voice, training his wand on the spiked iron gates.
Tonks nodded solemnly; the atmosphere seemed to be emanating shivers from all around. Nora could look overhead and see ripples of wind bouncing off of its invisible barricades. Sirius met her eyes and they exchanged a wordless warning of caution.
Tonks sidled past them, scrutinizing the gates. With her fingertips she reached out and measured something indecipherable. From her wand she spurted a jet of water at the gates, and just before it struck, burst into flames and shot back several feet. “Ah,” she murmured. Remus watched curiously as Tonks muttered incantations under her breath, directing her wand at various spots. Nora noticed that these spots shimmered faintly, and recognized them as weak holes in the enchantments.
“Alright,” Tonks announced under her breath, glimpsing seriously at them all in turn. “We’re through. When we get close, split up. You know the safety words.”
They nodded. She cast a Silencing Charm over the gates so that they would not creak when opened, and pushed them apart. It was uncomfortably warm underneath the bubble of enchantments, and they made their way up the emerald-tiled walk until they reached the front door. From this point, they had no choice but to divide. Tonks began testing the front entrance with her wand and Remus took the trap door into a cellar. Sirius was to round off the left side of the house while Nora went right, and they tossed glances at each other over their shoulders, confident about their own safety and worried about the others’.
When Nora approached the side of the mansion, she stood back and traveled the slick onyx surface with her eyes. She wouldn’t be able to find a decent footing and climb to the arched window thirty feet up. The only way in required wings.
Nora scoured the yard for a decent sized stone. She tossed away several smooth ones, knowing from experience that they weren’t nearly as effective as a rock with serrated edges. When she found a chunk of the house itself – a piece of gouged obsidian that had crumbled away over the years – she smiled cruelly and tossed it in the air to catch a few times, assessing its weight and density. Nora hurled the rock through the smoky bottle-green stained glass window, shattering it instantly and creating a wide enough gap for an owl to fly through.
Her mind was on Sirius as she transformed, hoping that he hadn’t met any trouble. Nora rose higher and higher in the tepid, stagnant air, watching the wind rebound off of a thin transparent shield that skimmed just over the peak of the tallest, lightning-bolt-shaped tower. She imagined the horrors that awaited anyone who dared hurt Sirius, how she would rip them apart from inside out with the Cruciatus Curse…
When she soared through the destroyed window and landed on its sill, however, she found the room deserted. Hopping down onto the floor, Nora hit the ground with human feet and inspected her environment. Mindful of deceptive appearances, she held out her wand guardedly. “Homenum Revelio.” She waited for the spell to ricochet and come back to her, and when it did she could sense the presence of only three other humans in the house. She could feel at least one other presence-detecting spell that someone else was casting from below.
It looked like she was in a study, as there was a claw-footed desk to her immediate left and shelves lining the round walls. The lighting was green due to vestiges of shining emerald glass dangling around the window’s fringe, and the room reeked of dust and age. She could hardly make out the titles on the spines of books that littered the shelves, for how ancient and yellowing they were. Her footprints were substantial on the filthy powdered floor, but she immediately detected a glistening streak across one end of the room, leading in from under the door and traveling to the desk. Nora peered over the desk, trying to discern what the person who’d recently been here had been digging around for.
Parchment, quills, books, and priceless artifacts were thrown into disarray, clearly with the attitude that the explorer had no intentions of ever coming back and didn’t care what kind of mess they left behind. The whole scene left a quality of desperation hanging in the claustrophobic space, and it reminded Nora of her dreams, the dreams where she plowed through rooms and destroyed furniture, looking…looking…
“What were you after?” she murmured, but her own excavation turned up fruitless. She found nothing out of the ordinary that captured her attention.
Nora took one last sweeping glance at the room around her, and then lit her wand and opened the door. She found a flight of circling steps that led down from the tower into an open, round parlor room. In this room, there were two more flights of tightly-coiled stairs that went up into other turrets, as well as one that went down. But how to reach the front entrance?
Nora picked a set of stairs and mounted it, but when she reached the tower, she only found another empty room with an additional set of stairs springing cock-eyed out of the upper-left corner, sticking out at the strangest angle Nora had ever seen. She went up these stairs and promptly got lost, going down one stairwell just to find another that led into a separate tower. The whole house was a succession of towers and Nora didn’t have the least idea how to navigate it. Every room looked the same – portraits of Bellatrix and Rodolphus and various pure-blood relatives and Death Eaters, their faces pompous even in slumber.
Nora knew that one of these staircases must lead down to the front entrance, which looked generously sized judging by the outside perspective, and was bound to be the chief living area of Bellatrix Lestrange.
“Nora?” an uneasy voice called out.
“Sirius!” She stopped dead on the constricted steps, in limbo between two slanting towers. “Where are you?”
“No idea,” he returned. “But I don’t think any Death Eaters are here.”
“Wonder where Tonks and Remus have gotten to,” she replied, trying to figure out where the direction of his voice was coming from. “How did you get inside?”
“Sealed doorway,” he commented, sounding out of breath. Nora heard the trampling of footsteps coming from above, probably on one of the other crazy stairways. “I could just…sense it. The door was pretending to be an old airing grate from a kitchen, but it showed itself with a simple spell.”
“This house has Death Eater written all over it,” Nora told him, shuddering. “I’m going to go through this door here and see if I find anything – maybe in ten years we’ll eventually get out of this maze.” She paused. “We forgot to use the safety words. Mad-Eye would be absolutely livid with us.”
“I knew it was you,” Sirius remarked blithely. “I don’t need a password to tell if it’s you or an impostor.”
Remus and Sirius were very different in this respect.
When Nora almost ran into him while climbing the tower he was descending from, he aimed his wand at her throat. “Prongs,” he growled, painfully anticipating her face to remain blank and not have any idea what he was talking about.
But Nora, of course, was not a disguised Death Eater. “Stag,” she complied.
Remus relaxed, loosening his shoulders. “This place is a labyrinth.”
“A disgusting one, too,” she added. “Think I’ve seen enough portraits of Bellatrix’s nasty family to last me for eternity, thank you.”
“Shame we couldn’t find the real Bellatrix,” he lamented. “But the house is abandoned.”
Nora tapped her chin with her wand thoughtfully. “Someone was here recently, though. The room I came in through had been investigated – everything was disturbed.”
Remus eyed her sharply. “Which room?”
Nora pointed up the stairs. “Somewhere back the direction I came – couldn’t tell you for sure, I’ve made so many twists and turns. You’ll know the room when you see the broken window.”
Remus hurried off to witness the study for himself, leaving Nora to continue her endless winding up and down stairs from tower to crooked tower. She held out her arms to steady herself, the vertigo of tilting hallways similar to a Muggle funhouse she’d been to once. The dizziness got to her head a bit, and she intended to mount a staircase but accidentally missed her step and fell to the right, tumbling into a door that had previously been posing as an ordinary wall.
“Watch where you’re going!” the door barked gruffly. And this was how she happened across the bedroom of Bellatrix Lestrange.
“Jackpot,” she whispered, avidly milling about the room and whipping out drawers. This tower was more spacious than any of the others so far, and had a square feel to it. Nora was thankful for that, because all of the spherical rooms were beginning to make her feel woozy. She began dumping Bellatrix’s jewelry cases over, not even stopping to peruse her treasure trove of gems or goblin-made hair combs but looking for evidence of Death Eater activity – anything that would point her to where she may be hiding out now. Nora had so been looking forward to locating the Lestranges here, and crossing off a couple of the people on her list.
The universe must have been conspiring against her. Carrow was alive, Malfoy was alive, and now all the others had slipped out of her clutch as well. As for Dolohov – she hadn’t the vaguest inkling where that demon might be concealed.
“Accio map,” she tried. When nothing came to her, she said, “Accio plans. Accio Death Eater stuff. Accio secrets.”
No dice. For half a second she sadistically contemplated saying ‘Accio Voldemort’, just to see what would happen.
Nora muttered some of Sirius's favorite expletives and flipped the mattress over, stripping the pillowcases inside out. The snake of Salazar Slytherin was everywhere – on each burnished bedpost, on the wardrobe, on the door handles. Serpents were crafted into the ends of hair brushes, in designs on the coverlet, and embroidered on throw pillows with silver and green. The whole world was a sea of silver and green, even worse than Grimmauld Place had been before Molly and Nora began cleaning it out – but at least it didn’t have any elf heads stuck to the walls. The Lestranges seemed obsessed with their pure-blood lineage, and took great pains to ensure it was carved into every niche of each room.
“Find anything good?” Sirius piped up, materializing behind Nora. She scowled at him for intentionally trying to scare her, and he grinned. “Just had a lovely chat with my mum. She’s supposed to be hanging up in a guest room, but the darling woman’s been following me from portrait to portrait, screaming at me.” He winked at Nora. “So I blew her up. No more Walburga Black! I imagine she’ll really be after my head when we get back to Number Twelve. Think I did everyone here a favor, though – wouldn’t exactly want to sleep in a guest room with that old hag in it.”
“Well, look at who it is,” one of the portraits sneered, its derisive voice alarmingly familiar. The occupant must have been pretending to sleep while Nora ransacked the room before Sirius’s entrance, because he had not previously spoken and Nora didn’t even notice him hanging up there.
“Phineas,” Sirius replied archly.
“My, my. You’ve been a busy boy. First you obliterate the noble and most ancient House of Black, and now you are here to demolish the Lestrange Mansion?”
“What is this?” demanded another painted figure wearing a pointed velvety hat and a curly beard. “What is going on?”
“Cygnus,” Phineas explained with a vicious smile, “your nephew is destroying Bella’s home.”
“Oh, no he’s not,” Cygnus yelled hotly. “Orion! Orion, get in here!” He disappeared for a moment, and when he entered the silver frame again, was accompanied by a rather attractive man. He had thick black hair and distinguished, refined features, with incredibly light blue eyes. His mouth, however, was turned down at the corners in an unpleasant leer.
“You’re lucky I’m dead,” he spoke in a sinister voice to Sirius. “Or you would be one sorry individual.”
“Can’t really threaten me, though, can you?” Sirius objected cheekily. “Seeing as how you are dead. I even danced on your grave; it was such a happy occasion.”
“I regret the day you were born,” Orion snarled. “I regret that you were ever conceived. You are no son of mine – you are no Black.”
“I’ve never thought of myself as one, so no loss there,” Sirius replied amiably, and then blasted the portrait apart. Nora proceeded to annihilate the other frames as well, so that no one else could use them as vessels to taunt Sirius.
“Idiots,” she muttered. Sirius made a noise of agreement, and they quietly set to examining books on a wide textured brass shelf, molded into the shape of the letter ‘S’. Nora was just beginning to marvel that she had not yet crossed paths with any shrines to Voldemort when Black opened a handsome black cabinet and found one. He pulled quickly away, looking like he wanted to retch.
A miniature effigy of Tom Riddle sat in the middle of it all, and surrounded by him were models of hooded servants. Nora suspected that the one directly at the feet of Voldemort was supposed to represent Bellatrix herself. It wasn’t much of a peculiarity that Bellatrix never had any children; she wasn’t in love with Rodolphus. It was blaringly obvious that Bella had a sickeningly displaced affection for no one but the Dark Lord, and completely ignored the marriage with a man who was undoubtedly a distant relative, matched with her to preserve their pure-blood status. There was no essence of a man ever sharing the room – no male clothes in the wardrobe, no men’s shoes, nothing. They must have had separate bedrooms.
Nora slid down on her back and reached underneath the bed, her wand shining a path of light. It was surprisingly tidy under there, aside from a bit of crumpled parchment in one corner and a rather ugly gold ring…
“Hey!” she cried. Sirius shot up at the unexpected sound of her voice, knocking his head on the ceiling of the black cabinet. Nora dragged the ring out, turning it around in her fingers and eyeing it critically. The piece of jewelry was emblazoned with the Black family crest, and she had seen it only a week ago in Kreacher’s stash in the little cupboard where he slept. “How did this get here?”
Sirius leaned over to see it, and shrugged apathetically. “Search me.”
But Nora put a hand on his shoulder, willing him to meet her gaze and see what this ring in her hand symbolized. “Sirius, Kreacher has been here.”
“He can’t have been,” Sirius told her. “He’s bound to my orders, and I never gave him permission to leave Grimmauld Place.”
But Nora was shaking her head. “It’s the only way that makes sense, Sirius, this was something from his nest – I saw it just last week when I was looking around for him. He’s been so dodgy…Sirius!” She gasped, clutching his sleeve. “Remember that noise earlier, just before we left? I can’t believe I didn’t realize it, but it sounded like apparition. And we all know that only house-elves can apparate and disapparate inside dwellings despite protective enchantments, like Grimmauld Place and Hogwarts…what if Kreacher came here and tipped them off? What if we had just missed them?”
Sirius laughed, scoffing at the idea. “Nora, Kreacher’s an old git. He thinks my mother’s portrait is really her, remember? This is the sodding elf who couldn’t tell a spoon from a bowtruckle.” Sirius chuckled again. “He’s not all there in the head.”
Nora frowned. “I don’t know, I think you might not be giving him enough credit. He listens a lot to what people say around Number Twelve – he spies on the Order all the time. He knows things and just acts like he doesn’t, if you ask me.”
Sirius took the ring and threw it out the open door, and they could hear it clinking down the snaking stairs. “I don’t know how that thing got in here, but I’m just happy I don’t have to see it anymore. I used to have a little red imprint of the ‘Black family crest’ on my face all the time from where my father beat me while wearing that stupid ring.”
Nora didn’t push the issue, and since there wasn’t much else to do in this particular room, she began sifting through the rubbish while Sirius charmed Bellatrix’s little display of Death Eaters so that they were making obscene gestures and doing inappropriate things with each other. It did not shock Nora that the statue of Tom Riddle had been dolled up in racy pink lingerie; Sirius had evidently transfigured the Bellatrix carving to resemble Severus Snape – who had previously been absent – and Snape and Voldemort were locked in a passionate embrace.
“If you’re attempting to provoke Bellatrix, that’s about as good as you’re going to get,” Nora mused, smoothing out the parchment from under the bed. “When she sees that she’s going to completely lose it.”
“Can’t lose what you never had,” he quipped. “The woman’s off her crocker.”
Nora shook her head, smiling. “Oh!” she said. “This looks like a letter. Maybe we’ll find out something.”
“Probably too old to have anything relevant in it,” Sirius guessed, and went back to applying some finishing touches on Narcissa’s newly acquired facial hair. Nora spread the letter before her and read:
I know that you must be rolling your eyes because I only send one letter in reply to every ten of yours. It’s not my fault I’ve been so busy, so do not be unhappy with me, my friend! As it so happens, I have an exceedingly wonderful excuse for being so aloof these days: I’m engaged to be married! He asked me only last night on his birthday and I immediately started writing this morning to tell you all about it. I’ve already sent an owl to Cissa, and of course the two of you shall be my bridesmaids!
Oh, Bella, I could never be happier than I am today, and it’s so nice to feel joy again after the tragic loss of the Dark Lord, which I of course still grieve. I daresay Evan has also regained some of his spirits – do you remember his obsession with the Prewett brothers? They captured and sent his father to Azkaban years ago and he’s been in a state of distress ever since. You may not have been privy to this, as the operation was kept very much under-wraps, but I’ve known Petula Prewett for the past three years! Didn’t really occur to me that the relationship would ever turn up anything advantageous, but it surely did and now I can do something with it. The Prewetts were an excellent source of information and poor Petula trusted me enough to tell me all kinds of things about her other friends in the Order of the Phoenix. It’s all due to her loose lips that Travers got the McKinnons! I still laugh to myself when I think that the credit is due to my own cunning.
Anyway, Bella, I think I’ve topped myself as far as birthday surprises go. Since it was Evan’s birthday yesterday, we went out to dinner. Our dear friend Antonin was there, drinking away his sorrows (who can judge him? Many of us don’t know how else to cope), so we invited him over to our table. I gave Evan the most BRILLIANT gift: the address of Gideon, Fabian, and Petula Prewett. Those lot have been slippery lately, knowing someone was after them, and had been moving around from relative to relative. Fabian’s house was destroyed in the search for them and no one knew where else to go – but then I astounded everyone by having exactly the right information! I don’t think Evan’s ever been so proud of me, and now he sees once and for all that I’m one woman worth hanging on to. No more trying to convince him to marry me – he was so thrilled when I told him the address that he declared he wanted to marry me right then and there! I won’t pretend I’m not enormously relieved – Evan’s always said from the get-go that he wasn’t the marrying type and not to expect anything. I think it’s not boasting to say that I’ve finally trapped him with his words and there’s no taking them back now!
We haven’t got any rings yet, as it was such a rushed and unexpected affair, but if I know my love, he will certainly go looking for a generously sized diamond ring as soon as possible, if not today! I’m glad that I could be a source of renewed pleasure for Evan and Antonin, as they’re in the sitting room discussing their plans now. But I haven’t a care, because soon I will be Mrs. Rosier and nothing else matters! I’ll be going to Twilfit and Tattings this afternoon to look at patterns for a custom-made wedding dress. Do you think I should do white roses or red? Oh, Bellatrix, what were the names of those beautiful vines you had at your wedding? Would you be terribly upset with me if I used them as well? You mustn’t punish the poor bride and groom for getting carried away with decorations when they are so very much in love!
Ah – lovely Antonin has just popped in and asked me to tell you in my letter that he’d like to speak to you ASAP about the Prewetts, but I assured him you would be too busy helping me with wedding preparations to give a hoot about old Mr. and Mrs. P. and that blockhead brother Fabian! Such boring people, and I’m so proud of myself for giving dear Evan his beautiful smile back that I can’t say I care what becomes of them. Their daughter Lenora isn’t too horrible, but rather spoiled because she’s so used to being an only child. If Mrs. P survives, Lenora will be in for a rude awakening when the baby comes! Petula’s nearly seven months along, you know.
Anyway, you must come down to see me soon! By the time you receive this letter I will probably have my ring from darling Evan, and you can admire it with me. The Aurors Frank and Alice Longbottom moved in next door to me a few months ago, I’m not sure if I told you. That Alice has a diamond the size of a sickle, and it will be so satisfying to rub mine in her fat little face! I’ll wait until you’re here so that you can see it. Come to speak of it, haven’t you been looking for the Longbottoms? Well, bless me! I’ve just been a source of top-notch info for everyone these days, haven’t I? I daresay I’ve got enough cheer to spread around to all of my loved ones, and now that I can give you the Longbottoms, you owe me the name of those pretty vines! And I wouldn’t mind those blue curtains in your bedroom, either. You know they would look so much better in my upstairs round windows.
I’ve got to run, dear. My precious Evan will be disapproving if I don’t throw the best wedding any of us have ever seen, and that takes a tidy bit of preparing! Just think of it – me – a wife! I’m going to sign this letter with my soon-to-be surname, just to practice how it feels.
All my love in the world (And my Evan’s, too),
P.S. Isn’t that so much lovelier than Rupnik?
Nora never knew there was a sound for emotions. Only now that her heart had been ripped from her chest, pulsing in her hand and scrawled on with words from a history ago, words in familiar writing, did she detect these sounds.
Her father was like the warbling of a swallow, high up in the oak tree. Her mother had been the solemn lullaby of rain beating steadily against the roof during a thunderstorm – strong, dependent, soothing. And Sirius…Sirius was the beautiful harmony of a violin’s sweetest notes, floating melodiously through the air wherever he went.
This was soundless. This was the loudest, most ear-splitting silence she had ever known. White noise filled her ears, burning excruciatingly in the cornerstones of her memories.
Her father. Her uncle. They were a birthday present to Rosier, and consequentially killed by ‘dear Antonin’, killed by the Lestranges and Carrow. And because of Desdemona, Bellatrix had also gotten her claws on Frank and Alice Longbottom.
And the baby…
Nora’s nerve connections unraveled, splitting off into numbness. There was no baby. She would have remembered it, would have noticed if her mother was ever seven months pregnant. Sirius was talking about something she couldn’t hear, laughing, and he glanced up to see why she wasn’t joining in. He was just about to suggest pairing up with Tonks and Remus and getting out of there, but one fleeting glimpse at the expression on her face hushed him into sobriety. “Nora? What’s wrong?”
What’s wrong? Everything. Everything was wrong. The whole world was crashing down around her and no one else could feel the damage, no one else could see the ocean of rubble that was Nora’s smashed sanity, her peace, her state of mind.
Nora let out a guttural scream of fury that echoed throughout the bleak, dust-swirling mansion. Somewhere downstairs, Tonks and Remus froze mid-rummage, snapping their heads toward the ceiling and wondering what the hell had happened up there to warrant such a horrifying noise.
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