Chapter 4 : 03: Where Darkness Dwells
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Layers of darkness swirled around the room, flickering from blacks to grays then back to black, draped in shadows from the glow of the gas lamps. Their golden warmth spread across the angular planes of the teenage girl's face.
Her mouth was parted open and her arms were wrapped around her legs, cradling herself awkwardly. She was curled up in one of the plush armchairs, eyes closed in slumber and head resting upon an armrest.
The lamp oils burned and created patterns of black and golds. Black and gold till everything appeared undone and then as one.
One of her legs twitched.
Her body jolted to life.
She raised her head from the armrest and rubbed her neck with her small hands, attempting to massage the knots out of her muscles. Illyana blinked a few times, gathering that she had fallen asleep in her and her mum's secret place...again.
She looked around, hopeful that maybe something had changed since she last was awake.
Shadows danced along the walls and ceiling, but no one was there. The books were still untouched in their place on the shelves. The bookshelf creaked too, awaiting someone to grab a fresh book from its shelves. Yet the bit of parchment that caused her agony was still resting atop the wooden table in front of her.
The room was empty. Her mother had not come back. Only the dreadful letter remained.
Illyana sat upright in the chair; motionless. Her eyes were unfocused, dilated and unnatural, shining black in the shadows then golden brown in the light.
She no longer blinked. She didn't move. She was staring into nothingness.
She was nothingness- hollow, empty, withering away. Her stomach was in pain, roaring in agony. She hadn't a clue what time of day it was or how long she had kept herself holed up in her and her mum's secret place.
Seconds of silence bled into minutes, minutes stretched into hours, and hours into days. Days of numbness and sorrow poured, droplet by droplet, into an elusive valley. A wide expanse of moments in time melting into one shadow. A shadow that crept over everything and nothing at the same time.
She didn't care. The gas lamps stopped flickering.
Illyana heard a creak and she looked up from the ground, blinked, yet heard nothing more. She looked back down at the ground again.
Still as the flame from the gas lamps, Illyana sat.
She was covered in shadows, completely detached from the warmth the room used to provide her and her mother when they used to spend days upon days of their summers stretching in the sofa and catching up on books, boys, spells Illyana learned, recipes her mother was trying, and the politics of the Wizarding World.
Every break, Illyana came home and her mother would always be there with a list of things for them to catch up on and a second list filled with things for them to do together. Every break, her mum would take off from being the Welcome Witch at St. Mungo's, a job that she loathed, Illyana remembered, and they did all they couldn't do while they were separate from each other.
Their winters would be filled with fuzzy, fluffy robes and socks and crackling fires. Her mum would set up the radio, her father would be 'on business' or in Azkaban, and they could enjoy the entirety of their home to themselves. With no worries, only the snow flurries, and all the free time they could muster to be spent with one another.
Tears rolled down Illyana's face as she recalled back all the memories, all the moments that defined her and made her invariably happy.
All were with her mum.
She remembered so many occasions when her and her mum would talk for hours, shop for hours, and play music together every time Illyana was home from Hogwarts. The spring was filled with her mum's songs and Illyana's piano playing. Illyana started to hum one of their best original duets. The words escaped her brain now, but the melody conjured itself easily.
Fa, fa fa, so laa.
Te te, do do ree.
As she hummed, she brought her knees to her chest and cradled them. She began to sway with the choppy and terrible rendition of her mother's melodies. She heard herself, like a buzz in her own ears; an annoying and pathetic scratch of a voice.
Re me, re me, fa so te.
Spiderlike, her fingers tapped out the melodies better than her voice ever could replicate.
Laaa, so la te re.
Tears welled in her eyes and her throat started to dry. Her version of their song died in the room. And left whispers in their wake...
What could have been hours later, Illyana was unsure, she lifted her head up. The room spun; her head was light and her vision clouded by residual tears.
She blinked and the room came to life.
Manifestations of color arose from the contrast between darkness and the light. Her mother's form and her own throughout the years reappeared and disappeared –flickering holograms against the solidity and darkness of their secret place. Snippets conversations from a mother to a daughter resonated around the room, pulling from the depths of Illyana's memory.
Illyana watched as the scenes played out before her. Two blondes stood in the middle of the room. The table that was tangible in front of her did not exist in this vision. It had been moved.
"Not that like, Ana, like so," Julienne stated as she waved her wand in an intricate pattern. A swish left, swiftly up in an arc at precisely 40°, and cascading back down to the left with a wrist flick.
Illyana watched her thirteen year old self as she attempted to reenact her mother's movements.
Illyana nodded and begun by lifting her wand up to the upper left hand corner of her vision. She flicked her wrist to the left, cutting through the air, then went to arc the tip of the wand like her mother did.
As she reached the top of the arc, she hesitated, and then dropped her hand down to the right. Not the left. "Mum" she hesitated again, "what exactly am I learning again?"
"A powerful protection charm," Julienne said. She smiled brightly as she reached her hand out. The room answered her and a book from the shelf flew in her outstretched hand. The book itself was brown, bronze and rusty in coloring it seemed. Three thin leather strings were set in a braid down, along the book's spine, tying the edges of all the parchments together. Three strings formed into one and knotted themselves three times, dangling from the book.
Three becoming one, but still three in the end. A magical number and pattern her mother used to say, Illyana remembered. A few tears had matted themselves against her check.
Julienne thumbed through the pages until she spotted the incantation she desired to teach her daughter. "Here," she exclaimed and showed the page to her daughter.
Fidelius, it read.
Illyana then scanned the old manuscript, absorbing the magic behind the charm and soaking in the riches of the reds, blues, and yellows of the ink. She still didn't understand precisely what the spell was meant for, but her mother shut the book and they tried again and again. And again until Illyana had mastered what apparently was the first step in three to completing the ancient spell.
More tears fell from her eyes. She never felt like she mastered that charm. Yet, without warning, a new vision replaced the previous. Her and her mother were positioned by the other armchair, her mother's armchair. One figure above the other.
"Mum, stop! Stop!" The teenage shrieked through a peel of giggles. Her mother stood above her, carefully avoiding her daughter's unintentional kicks.
Her mother persisted with her onslaught of tickle attacks, tickling under Illyana's neck, armpits, and her sides. She laughed the entire time her daughter twisted in the chair.
"I'll tell you, I'll tell you!" a sixteen year old Illyana screamed whilst throwing up her hands in both defense of her neck and as a signifier of giving up. Her smile was bright and matched her mother's.
"I knew you would finally tell you favourite old mum," Julienne grinned and then sat down atop of her daughter with a smile to her face that made her seem like she was glowing.
Illyana huffed and squirmed underneath her mother, but pushing her off seemed unlikely to happen. "I-cantell -mmmff," she mumbled.
"Can't hear you," Julienne spoke in a sing song voice as she cupped her left ear to emphasize her point, "didn't anyone teach you that it's rude to mumble, Illyana?"
"Arrguff-" Illyana tried again. Her hands reached out as if to grab her mum, but that didn't work either.
"Tsk, tsk, I'm disappointed in you," Julienne said with a careless shrug and pompous upturn of the nose, " And here I thought you were going to finally tell me..."
The vision disappeared as soon as a hint of a smile graced Illyana's lips. Another vision rose in its steed. Her mother still stood over her and she was in the same chair, but she was much younger than the previous memory.
"Darling," Julienne whispered as she hunched over the chair the little girl sat in, "hush, hush now." Julienne's hair fell all around her and her child, as if blocking them both from the noises they heard just outside their door.
Through a few wisps of her mother's long blonde hair, Illyana saw herself.
A little blonde girl with chubby cheeks bobbed her head in compliance with her mother's wishes. She put a fat hand over her mouth and her other hand over her eyes, shielding herself as her mother taught her.
Illyana knew what she was watching. She did not want this memory of her mother and this place to surface. She wanted to see her mother and her happy. Not this.
Anything but this.
Illyana clutched her arms, digging her nails into her own flesh without being conscious of the physical pain. Rather, her emotions were balling like a thick film in the back of her throat. And she almost shut her eyes, but she was drawn to the memory as it was drawn out of her. Chosen by the room.
"That's a good girl," Julienne whispered again, reassuringly brushing her hand against her daughter's cheek. "It will all be over soon. I promise...I promise."
Illyana dropped her hand from her mouth and whispered back, "but Mummy, why are these evil men here?"
Julienne smiled weakly, "these ones aren't evil. They are helping."
A man's scream ripped through the fleeting silence.
The child pouted, "Helpers wouldn't take Daddy away. They are hurting him!"
"My little Ana," Julienne cooed, "yo-your Daddy did some bad things...don't worry though, we are safe in here. They will not hurt us in here."
"No!" Illyana screamed, echoing the sound her young self had just made. The illusion faded. Illyana's tears dropped down from her face and hit the chair with soft plops, reminiscent of her younger self seconds ago.
She didn't want this memory. She wanted joy, not more pain.
She placed her head in the crevice between her knees and squeezed her eyes shut. Harder and harder she tried to pull happiness from her heart and have them play out before her. Yet her brain did not cooperate with her.
The memory, instead of playing out before her, plagued her mind. She had cried for days and asked for her Dad, with nothing but the constant reassurance from her mother that they were safe. But, her dad was not, or so it seemed.
She curled herself tighter and tighter into a ball while pressing her eyes shut as hard as she could, as if that would rid the memories from her mind's eye.
She was only six when he was taken away the first time for a trial, she recalled. Six when her mother and father no longer spoke more than a few meager replies to one another in Illyana's presence. Six when she first heard, and could remember hearing, the words Death Eaters and the Dark Lord. And when she should have known what she could only know now, that her father had killed other fathers and mothers. That he ruined other families and not just his own.
The sound of a deep booming laughter made Illyana jump in her skin and out of the armchair altogether. A throaty whimper escaped from Illyana when she hit the floor.
Was she hearing things? She looked to see if the sound came from a memory.
But the room was draped in black and gold...and as still as ever.
Panicked, Illyana scrambled to stand up.
She stood up awkwardly, one foot and leg maneuver at a time; weak and fumbling for support from the lack of eating and drinking for days.
A crash echoed from just outside the secret place.
They had come for her...or her mother. She knew it. Why else would her mother run? Illyana thought.
Illyana envisioned glass, clay pots, and portrait frames being smashed one at a time to rouse her out of her hiding spot. Soon after, she heard nothing but the crunch of feet against whatever had been smashed and a hollow sounding shout, "I'll be back for you, little one!"
"Be brave, be brave," Illyana whispered, recalling the words from her mother's last letter, as she walked up to the reverse side of her grandfather's portrait.
But she was no Gryffindor; their motto meant nothing to her. Bravery was a fool's trait someone had told her once. She didn't know what that meant, but she knew she was a Slytherin through and through.
She was cunning, ambitious, and silent.
She just wanted to see who it was who wanted her, who it was that drove her mother away from her. Maybe, she thought, she could kill them from her hiding spot. She knew the spells, she'd heard about them, read about them, and seen them happen, despite all her mother's best efforts.
She could kill this person, this monster. She would kill them and her mother would return. Illyana felt warmth around her, as if she was being hugged, and she took a more determined step towards the portrait.
She would be a snake amongst the field, not afraid to attack anything that got in its way.
Illyana touched the translucent coloring of the back of her grandfather's face. A tingle of magic surged through her, stemming from her fingertips, and pulsed. The thick shield of the portrait shimmered and was no longer there. She peered out into the hallway and saw nothing but debris.
She couldn't tell whether the man had lied and was hiding to snatch her or if he had really left. She didn't hear any soft pop of an apparition, but she was certain that whoever was sent for her certainly wasn't in the hallway anymore.
"Be cunning, be resourceful, don't let anyone get in your way of your happiness," Illyana repeated the words in whispers again and again. She reached out for her wand and the room, as her and her mother's shield, answered her. Her oak wand materialized at her feet and she grabbed it up swiftly. She stepped through the hazy film, wand at the ready.
She looked to her left and then to her right. The hallway seemed shorter than it normally did; while whiteness from the walls stretched as far as she could see in each way, the ends of the hall were visible. Whoever entered their house knew their spells.
Her mother had always warned her that evil was always lurking around the corner. Especially when the trace of darkness follows your father and uncle, her mother would say to her. Illyana never had to ask who this evil was. Her mother always supplied the answers for her: Voldemort, Bellatrix and her husband Rodolphus, Snape, the Carrows, Yaxley, Nott, Pettigrew Dolohov...the list continued and continued, sprouting from multiple conversations through many years.
On the floor to her left was the remains of some flower painting; glass toppled over moving photographs. To her right there was nothing, but the prospect of her room and reaching the downstairs through the kitchens for an attack.
She didn't know which way to turn. She could go back into hiding, she thought, but she would not be able to kill anyone once she stepped into the room. The room stopped that kind of darkness on its own and would absorb the magic up before it left a wand's tip.
She shuddered involuntarily, she'd seen that happen too.
She took a tentative step to her right, for her room where she knew her owl, Ludwiggy, would be. Who was she going to owl? Who could she trust?
"Illyaaanaaa!" The man spoke loudly from the left wing, but his pronunciation of her name was like a song. It gave her chills.
Her breathing staggered in her chest. She looked down the hall. She couldn't make out the man's face at all. It looked hollow, aged, and unwashed.
It was only when the face grew closer, when she could see the dark eyes and a familiar toothy grin that she couldn't place, that Illyana realized that the man was coming closer towards her.
He wasn't running, but he did not take his time either.
Her heartbeat quickened unlike ever before. She would've hexed or cursed him, but her lips did not move. She couldn't control them. Her eyes would have welled with tears of fear, if she had any tears left to shed. All her sorrow had been for her mother and now she had nothing else to give this man she knew.
Nothing but herself and her dignity.
She was determined: he would not have it. He would not see her in pain.
With her mouth set in defiance and her wand clutched in her left hand, Illyana ran for her room. She pushed her body's limits. Malnourished and emotionally broken, Illyana ran for her life.
NRB writes: *Sheepish grin* I hope you all enjoyed the update! Any thoughts or constructive criticisms? Please let me know in the form of a review :)
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