Chapter 1 : Pressure
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If I looked out my window on a day like today, I would see nothing but darkness. Not a figurative darkness to describe the world in which I was born, but a literal and consuming darkness which threatened to push us and the world we lived in, to the edge of destruction. The skyline would be littered with the presence of Dementors, their shredded black cloaks and a fine mist, an obvious sign that they were breeding, following in their wake. I stopped looking outside my window years ago, and I had long given up on the thought of seeing a Dementor-free skyline again, for I can only remember a single time in my life when they were not there, and that is such a distant memory I barely believe there had ever been such a time anymore. I only remember that it all changed on my third birthday, and has been this way for all these years despite the fact that I am growing ever closer to my eighteenth year of existence.
Rookwood Manor was not unlike any other manor in the area, it was old in its design, and had a drawing room and a parlour, which of course were no use to us, but we kept them nevertheless. Perhaps we kept them in the hope that someday we would actually be able to use them, but like most of our hopes, it was pointless to even dare to imagine the thought of them coming even the slightest bit true. I’d learnt long ago the danger of dreaming, of hoping for something more, and as a result I doubted we would see these rooms occupied as my mother desired them to be.
My father - Augustus - didn’t often speak of current matters, his ability to speak to my mother and I was severely compromised by his work. He had decided rather than simply avoiding sharing that which surrounded his work he would become an almost voiceless presence within the home. It was a quiet and empty place to live; my mother – Victoria - was just as bad as my father. She had watched the man she loved slowly vanish before her eyes and now she had as little will left to fight as he did, the only desire they had left was that to serve their master. Although history would suggest that they once dreamed of bigger and greater things. The old photos of them which lay in the dustiest pages of the albums tucked away in the attic revealed two incredibly different people. I had not seen a smile upon either of their lips in years, nor had I seen them show such affection towards one another at any point in my life.
My mother had been beautiful at my age, dark hair, bright eyes and pale skin, traits well associated with the Malfoy women. While I had inherited her pale skin and dark hair, I had my father’s awkward height and his pale blue eyes. If I glanced in a mirror it was not hard to imagine the same empty expression which he carried upon my own face, his eyes giving me the illusion of continual surprise. I often wondered what sort of people they had been in those photos, my mother, of course, like all Malfoy’s had been a socialite. I was quite the opposite - more like my father - I preferred privacy from the prying eyes of the public. I never saw a smile upon her lips anymore, at least not one like those in the photos. They were distant memories now, reminders of a time long past. My father was the same, at least back then he looked slightly excited by life, now it was quite the contrary, he simply looked tired. Tired of everything, including my mother and I.
It is hard to describe the atmosphere in the Manor, perhaps it’s due to a lack of interaction between its occupants that it seems so distant even from my childhood memories, a place I can no longer call home. I remembered my mother inviting a friend to our home, bringing with her three daughters. Narcissa was the eldest, and her sister’s Bellatrix and Andromeda often followed her when visiting; the three girls could not have been more different from one another if they tried. Narcissa was blonde, cold and rather distant, much like her sister Bellatrix who instead had dark hair and tended to be more cruel than kind. Andromeda was the Black sister whom I loved most, dark haired like Bellatrix she was quiet and kind, much like me although a year older, and she unlike her elder sisters, was more than willing to sit quietly and play some sort of game, while her sisters looked on at us disapprovingly. I suppose I always assumed it was a Malfoy trait, to disapprove of that which you didn’t understand; I’m forever grateful that I was not one of those women and more like Andromeda, who clearly managed, despite the odds to break through the stereotype.
I hear whispers downstairs; I close my eyes and slip away into a quiet corner of the house. I am like a shadow when my parents have company, I don’t want to be seen or heard. I am the quiet girl who is expected to follow in their footsteps, I don’t want the pressure of their glares or their expectations already set to soaring heights to weigh down upon me. I had enough of such things from my parents, and I believed that I did not need it from their friends and fellow Death Eaters as well. Perhaps, I thought, if I remained hidden for long enough I would not be noticed, perhaps the expectation for me to someday join them would somehow pass over me and I would be free to do as I pleased. I was foolish to believe such things were actually possible; nothing that happened within the Manor seemed to escape his ever watchful eye.
I had a habit of slipping into locations that would only later be filled with conversation which was clearly not meant for my ears, while not intentional; I had no desire to eavesdrop – I had heard several times that he could hear their thoughts, I never actually placed much time into wondering whether that also applied to me, I simply assumed it did not, again, that again, was foolish of me. It was not until much later from the time I had first heard it that I realised that none was safe from his ever watching eye, and from that moment on I would work to preserve the security and privacy of my own thoughts.
Barely audible, a small gasp escapes from between my lips; the fear that I shall be caught in this location, nestled safely behind a large tapestry causes my heart to beat faster. I swallow as the footsteps stop, mere metres from where I stand, my hands cupped over my mouth to muffle any further unexpected reactions. It is only when the footsteps begin to move away from my location that I can allow myself the freedom to breathe again. I felt like a prisoner, hiding in my own home, but I feared what I only knew to be true. Upon my seventeenth birthday I would become a risk, while they could control me when I lived within their home, my parents would cease to hold control once I became an adult. I would be the sort of risk that was easily removed with a single curse, one which could not be undone. I could not help but believe, despite everything, underneath their cold exteriors, they cared; they worried that I would become the next on an never ending list of victims, victims who in many cases were nothing more than examples. My death would be an example for other families like ours, a timely reminder for some that there was only one choice, and it had to be made correctly.
I cannot say that if my untimely demise were to occur I would be widely missed. Monuments would not be built in my name, nor would I have something named after me, not even a garden, I wasn’t special. I was a girl born into a family who over time, had realised that having a daughter was to their disadvantage as much as it was to their advantage. I could have been used to create useful connections, I had been told a marriage, in particular, my marriage could have been to the families advantage, increasing an ever shortening social network of those deemed worthy to sit within it, but rather I was to their disadvantage, or at least chose to be.
Marriage had been a topic of great discussion between my mother and a woman by the name of Elizabeth Greengrass, she had a son my age, Edmund Greengrass, who while being incredibly handsome, had about as much personality as a tragically plastic piece of fruit, I say tragically because well, everything was tragic about Edmund. From his wasted beauty to the fact that it really was a surprise that he managed to pass each year, or actually knew one end of his wand from another. He was essentially, not someone I could ever picture even beginning to consider spending my life with.
While the opportunity of marriage between myself and Edmund remained as much a possibility as it had the day my mother had suggested it, I wasn’t going to allow it to happen without a fight. While my mother liked to remind me that our Pureblood children would all be undeniably beautiful, the mixture between her bloodline, my father’s and his parents being the perfect combination for beauty, she never once questioned my happiness with him. Never had I once had a conversation that wasn’t forced with him, yes, of course we greeted one another when passing in the corridors, but it was hardly enough interaction to base a lifetime of living with one another off accurately. I couldn’t even imagine the thought of having to share a home with him, let alone a bed, or Merlin forbid, a child. He was simply living proof that beauty, whether it seemed to be or not, was flawed in some way, nothing was perfect.
The door opens; I feel the tapestry sway in the gust of air that hits it, flying upwards revealing my feet. I hear my mother’s voice tell me to stop being foolish and to come greet out guests. Slipping out from my sanctuary I am faced with my mother. Short, stern-looking and more than just a little annoyed. She rarely made requests like this of me; clearly this was a special occasion. She hisses at me to change into something more presentable, pulling my hair up into a bun identical to the one which sits atop her head with a flick of her wand as I walk towards my room. Closing the door and drawing the curtains I change into a simple black dress, tying the piece of black ribbon which bears a small silver family crest upon it around my neck. I look cold like my mother when I dress this way, as though I’m more important than I truly am. Pulling a pair of shoes on I find my mother waiting for me at my door, taking my arm she gently guides me towards the dining room, despite the fact I require no assistance. Perhaps she fears I might run? I had never given her reason to believe that I would do such a thing, but perhaps something had changed.
My eyes focused upon the back wall, dominated heavily by a large mirror, I walk into the room, not bothering to even so much as glance at those who sat at the table, from the corner of my eye I notice that that there are several more people than usual at the table. The rough grain of the dark wooden table holds no interest to me; I’ve examined it closely several times before in situations such as this. No, it is the person sitting directly opposite me who captured my attention, although I’m entirely sure it’s for all the right reasons. Sirius Black is one of the few who I never wished to gain any more of my attention than was completely necessary. The fact that he’s sitting here, in my home fills me with fear, there’s only one reason why people come to our home these days, and it’s not for the lack of social interaction and awkward glances.
I glance across at Sirius, unlike his brother and I he is not in Slytherin, but he has similar features to Regulus, in fact if he were a little older and his hair a little longer, perhaps they could have been the same person, but from what I heard, the brothers were nothing alike. He leaves the room suddenly, his mother and father not breaking their stares at one another across the table. There is fear in their eyes, and it as that moment I realise their eldest son is missing, presumably behind the door in front of me. We all knew exactly what that meant; it also explained why Sirius had left, most likely the shame, the shame at now having a Death Eater for a brother when he stood so strongly for loyalty and bravery.
I could only imagine what James Potter would say if he knew Sirius was here, but perhaps he already knew, the two were practically joined at the hip anyway. It was rather shocking to see him alone, he seemed so small and human without his friends by his side, The Marauders, at least that’s what they called themselves, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, four Gryffindor’s who caused more trouble than everyone else in the school combined. There was nothing to deny that they caused more trouble than should have been possibly allowed, but there was something about them that seemed to be more charismatic than troublesome. The teachers loved them, not only the staff, but it seemed everyone loved them, well that is aside from their victims, Severus Snape and Lily Evans.
I never knew why Lily Evans continued to reject James Potter, if only we could all be so lucky as to have someone like him trying to capture our hearts, I only had Edmund Greengrass, and he was far from being in James Potter’s league. Sirius was much like his best friend, loved by everyone, but he never seemed to allow his attention to stay upon anyone for long. He seemed to be almost uninterested in the girls at the school, perhaps none of them were perfect enough for him or perhaps no-one would put up with his childish behaviour for long enough for it to be considered a relationship. There were always whispers that he was involved with some girl or another, but they always proved to be false, there were enough girls in love with him to form some sort of group. Those girls who seemed to think they had a chance all seemed to be younger, which proved they had little intelligence, he only dated older girls, not younger, they just hadn’t realised he would never be interested in any of them based on that piece of schoolyard gossip.
If anything he was arrogant, he would never have given any of those poor, foolish girls the time of day even if they were successful in capturing his attention. He was your average teenage boy when they carried the knowledge that they held a significant advantage over the competition in the appearance department. He used it to his advantage. Looking up once again I noticed him slipping back into his seat quietly as though he’d never left, his parents certainly hadn’t seemed to have noticed, but perhaps that would come later.
My mother was the first to speak once he had taken his seat, her voice loud and somewhat demanding in tone, not that the situation required it, “This is our daughter, Olivia.” She told them, waving an arm carelessly in my direction. I was just another object to be put on display in this house, their perfect Pureblood daughter.
Mr Black seemed to be the voice of the family opposite me, “This is our son, Sirius.” He said his name with what could almost be described as something far greater than hatred, the very word slipped off his tongue as quickly as the name of a hideous disease might.
It seemed, the name of his youngest son was poison in Mr Black’s very mouth. His mother looked no better when it was spoken. I hadn’t stopped to wonder what life might have been like should I have been sorted into a house aside from Slytherin, but perhaps this was the result, your parents barely being able to utter your name in public for fear of humiliation, and for the first time ever, I felt great pity for Sirius Black.
There was a certain amount of force in his reply to this, “We’ve met,” he hissed, as though his obvious disapproval extended to even me.
I half expected my mother to make some sort of stupid comment along the lines of ‘Is that so?’ Fortunately he spared us her usual mindless commentary in this instance. I assumed the tension in the air informed her that it would not be welcome in such a situation. The Blacks were noticeably preoccupied, and clearly for a good reason. The door opened and Mrs Black inhaled deeply, Regulus walked from behind the door like all those others before him, the older woman, [Mrs Black] stood and hugged her son, her pride almost visible as she took his hand. Sirius’ disgust was obvious from his glare; I had never seen such a reaction before. This was usually a happy day for most supporters, although Sirius Black was hardly considered a supporter of anything aside from mischief and fine looking women.
They stood, thanking my parents; Sirius’s cold stony glare at the wall opposite him barely moved an inch as his mother spoke of how proud she was this day had arrived. Something was wrong, he shouldn’t have looked this way, the figure of infinite laughter and happiness that he was at school had vanished, only to be replaced by the man he was presumably forced to be at home. A man quite different from the one I believed I knew so much about. He looked upset, and only once had I seen someone look even remotely upset the day they or a sibling had been marked.
I still remembered that day, the day the first Black sister had been dragged here for their marking; Narcissa had only been twenty at the time, although she was expected to lead her siblings in becoming the most loyal of his supporters, Bellatrix preoccupied with plans for her wedding to Rodolphus Lestrange. I remembered her tears and the screams which echoed through the house, they seemed to linger in the darkest corners for days following the ending of the whole scene, but I never forgot the way she looked when she left the room. Pale and more quiet and defeated than I had ever seen her, the mark freshly burnt upon her arm. She left the house, shaking as she walked, and I was only nine at the time. Nine and I had already seen my parents allowing this within our home, allowing their master to use our family home to brand his followers.
You never forget the sight of the first person you’ve seen leaving the room following the application of The Mark, there’s something almost missing from them, something that has been drained from their eyes, like happiness and just a hint of their ability to feel anything at all. Sometimes, I believed they got it wrong, and it drained everything, and instead, they exited as entirely lifeless puppets rather than followers. They could hardly be counted among the living when so much of what happened within their lives now depended on the word of their master, and their ability to think freely and act as they once did had been removed.
I used to hide when they marked people, I’d run to the most distant corners of the Manor and wait, wait for it all to end and just hope that I would not have to see another one of them leaving the room again. They used to frighten me as a child, the people who left that room with their empty eyes and the mark freshly burnt into their skin. I used to think they were monsters, that was until I realised that my parents were just like those people leaving the room, monsters too. It was from the age of nine that I had known, I was expected to become one of those monsters someday as well, and from that moment onwards, I dreamed of escaping and running as far away as I could to a place where the empty eyes of the monsters would never fall upon me again.
The Black family left the Manor silently, Sirius gazed back at the house one final time as they walked through the gates where they promptly Disapparated, I would not have noticed had I not been watching them from one of the upstairs windows, but I could not help but hope that he would not return next. It was clear that he didn’t want this life as much as I didn't want it. The problem was, I was behind these walls and it was expected of me, I couldn’t escape it forever. He had a chance to run and never return. I couldn’t run forever, I could not remain as silent as my father the Unspeakable, nor could I simply follow orders as my mother did and the fight for my freedom from this life was really only just beginning.