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Chapter 4 : The First Domino
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Chapter Three: The First Domino
The scars of others should teach us caution. -St. Jerome
The hospital wing was the most boring place in existence.
After Lily left, I lay there, wondering for the umpteenth time why I was still in this horrible, hygienic-smelling, hell hole of a room. There was nothing else wrong with me. My ribs were healed and so was my shoulder.
My other injuries were older and far less likely to be healed by any school nurse.
I briefly considered becoming a runaway patient. But no, I couldn’t walk the halls in the night. It wasn’t wise for one person to do that alone. If I had the invisibility cloak, it would be different, but it was currently tucked somewhere in James’s dorm.
The hospital was a hard place for me to be. This room was not like St. Mungo’s exactly, but it smelled the same. It had the same feeling in the air.
I wondered vaguely why Sirius hadn’t snuck out yet, as I looked around the dark room. Or had he? It was impossible to tell in this light, and something told me that sneaking past a drugged and tired Lindsey Potter would not exactly be a strain on his ability.
I wanted my own bed. I hated hospitals with a passion. That particular bias was relatively new. As little as a year ago, I had held no ill will toward darkness, hospitals, or even abandoned alleyways. Things had changed.
Shivering, I remembered the last time that I had woken up in a hospital, in the dark. Sirius had been there that time as well.
It wasn’t a happy memory, but after denying it for so long, I felt myself getting swept up in it.
“…-remember anything?” a familiar female voice asked.
“Our daughter? She remembers what she’s been taught. She’ll remember faces. Other than that….hopefully she’s blocked it all out. We…we’ll find out who did this. She will be able to tell us.” The voice sounded uncharacteristically angry. Dad?
“I already know who did it, so you don‘t need to interrogate her for information. And she’ll remember everything except faces and particular voices. You won‘t gain anything by asking her to relive it.” Another male voice said, this one unusually bitter and empty. Sirius?
“What do you mean, Sirius?” My dad asked. I shifted, trying to gather the strength to open my eyes. The pain from that little motion made my head spin and I decided that I was happier holding still.
Of course, that pain was nothing. Nothing at all.
“You understand that if I am cited as a source of information…?” Sirius whispered, sounding older than he was. His voice made me shiver. It sounded…wrong. Like some kind of old recording of a boring textbook, it was empty, despite whatever emotion seemed to sit on the surface.
What was going on? I still didn’t feel brave enough to move.
I was getting my wits back. This couldn’t be real. It was another trick. It had to be.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Black, we know how to play the game.” A growly voice that I knew from somewhere intoned.
There was a pause. “Bellatrix Black...Lestrange, now, I suppose. She did this.” Sirius stopped deliberately, seemingly waiting for the coming interruptions.
His voice sounded suddenly…dead. The false emotions were now gone, making me wonder if he had been forcing them out before.
“How do you know that?” The growly voice asked over the suddenly deafening silence.
“Did you see her when the healer changed the bandages? They are taught to never leave marks. Never. But, Bellatrix…she likes to leave scars. She deviates from the rules, but she knows how to cover her tracks, anyway. I know from personal experience, if nothing else.” No, his voice wasn’t dead. Even a dead man’s voice would hold more emotion than what I was now hearing.
During Sirius’s speech, I had managed to pull my eyes open.
He was standing in front of a false window, turned away from my parents and Mad-Eye Moody. With deliberate slowness, he raised the back of his dress shirt without turning, revealing a long, jagged mark. It was tinged a bright purple. I wished that I could see his face.
That scar…I remembered it. When we went swimming last summer…I hadn’t asked.
Why was he dressed up? Why was he here?
“The scars won’t fade. Neither will the memories. Bellatrix is expanding on a very old branch of Dark Magic. Normally, memories fade. But this…everything that happened over the past week will be branded in her memory forever. Lindsey will have perfect recall of every moment. It‘s part of Bellatrix’s signature.”
There was a heavy silence.
Moody growled. “I don’t suppose there’s any way to prove that it was her, besides your word?”
Sirius turned away from the window, making me control a wince, his eyes looked dead too. He was dressed in very expensive dress robes of black, and there was a strange air about him that made the hair on my arms stand and my stomach squirm. The dark circles under his eyes shocked me almost as much as the eyes themselves. How long had he gone without sleep?
And his eyes…they didn’t seem to hold light the way that they should have. I looked away before I could get too worked up. It couldn’t be real. It wasn’t real.
I reminded myself not to get sucked in. This was probably another trick. None of it
“There will never be any proof against them other than my word, Mad-Eye. Bellatrix has the same training I do. She’s immaculate. She will never make a mistake. There won’t be a trace of that magic on her, or her wand. The place you found Lindsey will trace back to a dead muggle family. And their deaths will lead you somewhere else. She’ll have left you with a wild goose chase. The rest of them have less fanciful technique, but just as much finesse. You‘ll never get anything.”
“So the only way to get them for this…?” My father said, looking haggard. It wasn’t a question.
Sirius finished the thought, his emotionless eyes fixing on my father. “…Is to start early.”
Moody growled. “We can’t do that. Dumbledore won‘t allow it, no matter what. And for good reason. We don‘t have enough on them for the death penalty. Yet.”
“We could at least have them locked up. We have enough for that.” My mother said, staring at Sirius, waiting for him to dash another hope.
I got the feeling that they’d had this conversation before.
Sirius crossed his arms, looking older than the world. His eyes were pools of grey stone. Looking at him was painful on my eyes, like trying to see something in the dark that wasn’t really there.
“I already told you. They’ll escape.” He responded flatly. “The dementors have no real loyalty to the ministry. And people like them…they won’t suffer in there. They aren’t capable of the feelings that torment normal criminals when they‘re left with the dementors. They could know that what they did was evil. But they don’t care. They literally can’t. People like them…they don’t have feelings other than hatred and jealousy. Occasionally they have fear, but it isn’t enough. Everything else gets pushed out. Their worst memories won’t faze them. It would be a mistake to put them in there. The dementors…they‘d react to them poorly. They might simply…ignore them. Bellatrix would be at ease.”
“So they are just going to keep doing things like this?” My dad half-asked angrily.
Looking helpless, Sirius nodded. I felt irrationally relived that some emotion was trickling through, into his eyes. It was like watching him come back from something worse than death. “I’m sorry, Mr. Potter. This…I feel like…”
“Sirius, I have known you for years. You could never…this is not your fault.” My dad said firmly.
Sirius’s eyes slid closed. “Do you know what I was doing before I came here?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I was sitting in my fathers house with Andrexus Malfoy, helping him plan his next recruiting adventure. He’s eighteen. I taught him how to do the unforgivable curses when he was eight and I was six. I wasn’t supposed to know them at that age. None of us were. I weasled the information out of an older cousin and taught myself and others. That is my legacy. That‘s what they expect from their children. Now, he‘s going to try to infiltrate the ministry, using the skills that I taught him.”
“That was a long time ago.” My mother consoled. “And I know that you managed to ruin his recruiting trip. Didn’t you?”
Sirius nodded again, but he didn’t seem comforted. “Yes. But what about the next one? And the one after that? And how many people are going to get hurt in the process? This isn‘t going to stop. They have plans. And I‘m part of them.”
There was another silence.
Was this real? Why would Sirius be at his parents house?
“Sirius…you always say ‘they’. What about you? You are different.” My father said, looking concerned, sounding like she was trying to remind him who he was.
Sirius’s eyes went far away. “I may not share their ideals…but I was raised side by side with Bellatrix and the rest. The things she does…the things that she knows…I know all of it too. I’ve…The only difference is that I finally drew a line and never crossed it. I pray to whatever gods there are that I won’t have to cross it. I am one of them, Mrs. Potter. So…every time I say them…it means me too.”
“Sirius, the fact that you drew a line at all proves that you aren’t one of them.” My mother said, looking at him the way she looked at James when she was worried that he was going to get hurt while doing something stupid.
Sirius’s answering smile was tired and cold as he strode toward the door. “I said that I drew a line, Mrs. Potter. I never said where.” With that, he opened the door. “I have to get back to school before James, Remus and Peter realize that I’m gone. I dislike lying to them. I would prefer have James pulled out before I have to look him in the eye and pretend that I don‘t know that his sister is alive and safe.” As his hand began pushing the door back, his eyes fastened on me, then widened before they closed, and he left, shutting the door behind him, possibly a little harder than necessary.
His shock and fear upon seeing me were the first true expressions that I’d seen on his face all night.
“I don’t like it when he’s like that.” My mother lamented, staring out of the window too. It had started to rain. Fat drops of water lashed against the glass as if they were trying to break in and lightning flashed in the distance, followed by the rumble of thunder. “It’s as if he doesn’t care about anything…like he could do anything. And his eyes…”
My father sighed. “It’s necessary. He volunteered for that reason.”
“Necessary. He’s letting his humanity, his self,
“He knows what he’s doing. And he understands it better than we do. Besides, he always comes back. I’ve seen it happen. It just takes a few hours.” Moody said, patting my mother on the shoulder before he turned to leave.
“Yes, but…sometimes I think that we get less of him back every time.” My father said quietly, still looking at the door.
There was another silence, and my mother looked over at me, her face thoughtful.
“You’re awake.” She whispered, looking horrified and joyful at the same time.
My father was by my side in an instant, looking worried about what I’d heard.
Still not entirely trusting that this was all real, I smiled at him. “Dad…what…?”
He looked at me solidly, and began to explain. I wanted to tell him that what he said was wrong. I wanted to say that none of it had happened. But Sirius was right.
I remembered everything.
We all pretended that I hadn’t heard a thing.
could be real. I wasn’t safe. Not even Sirius could protect me, especially when he was like this.die out of necessity?” My mother asked, her eyes shining.
I shuddered at the memory. Sometimes, I wondered if it all wasn’t real. Maybe I had died that week. Maybe this was all a dream.
Sirius had been right about the scars as well. My hand ran absently over the worst one, across my stomach, just above my bellybutton. It was tilted from my right hip, a long, jagged mark that stretched for exactly thirteen inches.
There was another one on my thigh, just below the hem of where my skirts usually fell. Just below my left eye was the smallest one. It almost looked like a birthmark.
None of them would fade. She had told me so. She had told me-…
The memory made me nauseous. I pushed away the memories, reminding myself that thinking about it wouldn’t help me.
Think about something else.
And Sirius. What was he hiding? My condition at the time had prevented me from really understanding the conversation. It would take long hours of concentration to piece together the muddled, disjointed thoughts.
It was like I’d been given a puzzle that had been left out in the rain. I had all of the pieces, but they were bent and misshapen, the colors smeared. Would I ever put them together? Did I want to?
Now, all I could allow myself to do was wonder what Sirius had done, and what he was hiding from all of us. It was something that my parents, Mad-Eye, and Dumbledore knew about, so it couldn’t be terrible, could it?
The sound of hushed arguing pulled me from my reverie. Of course. Sirius hadn’t snuck out, so James and his two sidekicks had snuck in.
It was Sirius, James and Remus. Peter was probably in there somewhere too, but he wasn‘t the shouting type. I sat, musing over the voices, and the dynamics of my brothers gang as a distraction.
Each of them was like a piece of another, less complicated, puzzle. At the center, James and Sirius held the other two in.
Sirius was a mystery, he was serious and intense, like a wire stretched too thin. Some days, it felt like he could snap and unleash his anger and his dark past upon anyone in his path. Sirius was their menace, their smoldering energy source. He was loyal to the death, but sometimes….sometimes I could see the darkness in him.
Remus was the scholar, the source of information and reason. He was their brain. Of course, everyone thought that he was the responsible one. I had a sneaking suspicion that there was an air of trickery that never truly saw the light of day in Remus’s eyes.
Peter was their innocence. He was quiet, but fierce in his own way. There was an air of fear about him, which was natural and understandable. He represented what they were fighting for. Of all of them, Peter was the most transparent and perhaps the most necessary.
James wanted to be straightforward. He was strong and happy. He didn’t need to control his temper, because it almost didn’t exist. His tendency to act like Sirius on a good day was what he saw as his dark side, his fear for his friends was like Peter. He was smart, like Remus. He had a bit of each of them. He was the true leader.
It occurred to me rather suddenly that if one piece of that puzzle were to go missing, the group would probably spiral out of control. How could it not? The more I thought about it, the more they seemed like dominoes, lined up in a row.
I found myself facing the ugly thought of which domino would fall to the dark first, in this world that was tipped on the edge of war. When I realized that I wasn’t sure whether I meant death, or treachery, I closed my eyes and forced the black thoughts away.
My brothers friends-even Sirius-were trustworthy.
The hissing argument continued, frequently varying in volume.
I closed my eyes, trying to block out the whispers. They sounded like a bunch of angry snakes.
What were they arguing about?
Did I really want to know? There were so many things that I wasn’t sure about. My future, my past, James, Sirius, my parents…they were all in danger and they all had secrets. What was happening around me? Didn’t I have a right to know? I had, after all, been in the middle of it all. Maybe I still was.
Suddenly, I was sick of it all. I was sick of the secrets and the lies.
It occurred to me quite suddenly that it didn’t have to be this way. Sirius had left me the clues. James knew that something was amiss. I could investigate with certainty that they would watch my back, even if they were trying to slow me down.
I could figure out what Sirius Black was up to.
The thought triggered my automatic response. The less I knew, the better. If I didn’t know anything, they wouldn’t try to get anything out of me again, right?
But, no. That wasn’t right. They would try again anyway, especially once I joined The Order. And I was done being lied to. Lies were what had gotten me into this mess in the first place, which was part of James’s hang up.
So, I would find out what Sirius was hiding. I focused on the backs of my eyelids and began to plot, wondering at my own daring.
This was going to hurt.
A/N Please review. I am a bit worried about how this chapter turned out. Thoughts? Theories? Criticisms? Please share! :)
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