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Frozen by water_lily43175
Chapter 15 : Rootless
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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Lower case society
Tied to no community
A kingdom without a king
With no sense of belonging

Rootless – Marina and the Diamonds



Moody drew his wand and aimed it straight at Araminta’s heart.

Dumbledore, however, did not move a jolt, though his eyes were fixed on the Dark Mark on her forearm.

He then looked up at her.

“Why are you here?” he asked quietly.

She left her arm fall, and the sleeve covered the ugly mark.

“I want to join the Order,” she stated, knowing that beating about the bush would not do her any good. “I no longer wish to serve the Dark Lord. I offer you my services as a spy in the Dark Lord’s camp.”

Dumbledore didn’t speak. He merely stared at her. She knew he was a very powerful Legilimens, and realised that in order for him to believe her, she had to show him that she had nothing to hide. For the first time in years, she dropped her mental barriers, allowing him full access to her mind, in the hope that he would believe her.

After several minutes, he leaned back in his chair.

“Why?” he asked.

He already knew her motives, he had seen them in her mind, but she knew he wanted to hear them from her mouth anyway.

“My parents died when I was fifteen,” she stated. “I wasn’t there, I only saw their bodies when I arrived home. The Dark Lord and several of his servants were there. He told me that the Order had killed them. I believed him. My family is an extension of the Black family, and therefore believe in the theory of pureblood supremacy. I believed that my parents were supporters of the Dark Lord. They were never Death Eaters, but I believed that they intended for me to become one. I had no reason to believe otherwise; my entire childhood was spent with others who felt the same about Muggles and I had no reason not to believe the Dark Lord when he said the Order murdered my parents.”

She paused to collect her thoughts. Moody’s wand was still trained on her.

“The Dark Lord took responsibility of me, taught me Dark magic, and branded his mark on me. He then sent me to Europe to gain the support of the giants on his behalf. Last summer, he charged me with the job of becoming a spy for him, in the Auror department. We faked proof of two years’ training in France, and I did the last year here. Then I became Gideon Prewett’s apprentice at the beginning of June. My job was to leak information relating to the Death Eaters back to them – such as any planned raids. I leaked the information regarding the Malfoy Manor raid back to the Dark Lord. I was also charged with discovering Gideon Prewett’s address, and relaying that back to him.

“But that-” She swallowed, realising her throat was suddenly dry. “That’s where it started to go wrong, I guess.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “It took three weeks for me to find out where he lived, but I ... I withheld that information for another three weeks.” She opened her eyes again, and saw Dumbledore still watching her. His expression had changed, but it was still unreadable. “I don’t quite know why I kept it quiet,” she continued, “but I was eventually forced to give it up. Gideon moved house the next day. I ... I know who your spy in the Death Eaters is. I informed that spy that the Dark Lord knew the address, and ensured you were told as soon as possible. I used the Confundus Charm so that the leak could not be traced back to me.”

She paused again.

“It has caused confusion amongst the Dark Lord’s closest circle. Only a select few were told of the discovery of the address, and so he no longer fully trusts any of them. Your spy, of course, was not among those told, and so is safe from suspicion. He does not suspect me, either ... I think he trusts me beyond doubt. He believes I know of no other way. That is why he chose me to work undercover in the Auror department, alongside the Prewetts, Marlene McKinnon, Sirius Black, the most loyal members of the Order of the Phoenix. He believes I cannot be swayed.”

She laughed, hollowly.

“And now here I am...” She bit her lip, before continuing. “After that, I stopped giving away information so freely. I ... I’m not sure why, but I think that maybe ...  maybe it was because, for the two months I have worked with him, Gideon Prewett has shown me nothing but kindness, kindness of a sort that I seldom receive from those in the Dark Lord’s circle. And ... I know I am one of his most trusted, I know he trusts me with information that he does not even trust the Lestranges with, but in the seven years I have been his protégée, he has never treated me nearly as well as Gideon, and Fabian, and Marlene-” She choked over Marlene’s name. She closed her eyes again, trying to collect herself, to swallow the lump in her throat.

“Here.”

She looked up, as Dumbledore placed a glass of water on the desk in front of her.

“Thank you,” she said quietly. She took a sip of water.

She was silent for a moment or two, then said, “I married Casimir Travers when I was seventeen. It was an arranged marriage, of course. He has been my main link with the Dark Lord, and ... he has been ... heavy-handed ... in extracting information. He made me make the Unbreakable Vow, to prevent me from telling anyone how he was treating me. I wasn’t even allowed to hide the injuries. It’s the kind of thing he would have found amusing.”

Finally being able to tell her story after all the weeks she’d had to remain tight-lipped out of literal self-preservation, brought indescribable relief.

“When I stopped giving him information, he grew angry. He came to see me on Sunday night. He ... he took me to a house. Several other Death Eaters were there already.”

She raised her eyes, from the glass in her lap, to meet Dumbledore’s.

“I did not give the McKinnons’ address to the Dark Lord,” she said clearly. “I did not know where Marlene’s parents lived. You have a spy in your Order. It was he, or she, who gave that address to the Dark Lord, I believe. But I assure you, it was not me ... I need you to believe me...”

Moody made a noise deep in his throat. She jumped; she had forgotten he was there.

“I believe you, Miss Gamp,” Dumbledore said quietly.

Moody stepped forwards and opened his mouth to speak. Dumbledore raised a hand and Moody stepped backwards and shut his mouth again.

“Continue.” Dumbledore turned back to her.

She drew a deep breath.

“I was forced to watch as the family was tortured and ... and killed.” Her voice was growing shaky. “They left Marlene till last. Bellatrix and Travers ordered me to kill her. I have never been able to kill. They knew that. They wanted to punish me for my lack of information, they wanted to watch me as I did it, to see the look on her face when she realised my betrayal...”

She closed her eyes, but the image of Marlene’s terrified but defiant face lay behind her eyelids, and so she opened them again. A tear ran down her cheek.

“I couldn’t do it,” she said. “And then ... the Order came ... Gideon and Fabian ... and  ... and I took my chance, and Disapparated.”

She took a gulp of water, and placed the glass on the desk.

“I went to work on Monday. I had to keep up my facade. But the night before, I couldn’t sleep ... I didn’t know what to do. I guess it only hit home, what I’d done, once somebody had died. And I don’t know why it bothered me, because I’ve done this before, that’s why the Dark Lord chose me for this, because he knows I can do it, without second guessing and doubting myself...”

She rested her forehead in her hands.

“Travers came to visit me yesterday,” she told the floor. “He was ... livid. I’ve never seen him so mad. He ...” She took a deep breath. “He told me that he killed my parents. The Dark Lord had ordered my parents’ deaths seven years ago, they’d never supported this mass genocide, they hadn’t wanted me to join him, they’d refused to allow him to recruit me, and so he ordered their deaths, to get them out of the way, and Travers was one of the ones who did it, he and Bellatrix-”

She lifted her head sharply and looked back at Dumbledore. Tears were streaking down her cheeks.

“I thought I was fighting to avenge them,” she choked. “All this ... the recruiting, the spying ... I thought ... it was for them. And now I see ... I was working for the man who’d killed them. I was doing what ... what they dreaded me doing. I’ve been played, played for a complete fool, and I won’t do it, I won’t work for him, I refuse, I can’t betray Gideon any longer, I can’t put him in this danger, he deserves so much better, he’s already lost his wife, and now he’s lost his best friend, and I feel that it’s all my fault...”

She dissolved into tears, unable to control herself any longer.

Dumbledore conjured a box of tissues and slid them across the desk. She took a handful and wiped her eyes with them, trying to suppress the tears.

 “I ... I’m sorry,” she said once she had managed to compose herself, wiping a tear from her cheek. “I didn’t mean to cry...”

“It is perfectly fine.” Dumbledore paused. “You wish to become a spy for the Order? You do not wish to leave Lord Voldemort’s service?”

She breathed in deeply.

“I could do,” she said. “But ... to do so would mean signing my death sentence. The other option is to remain in his service, to keep up the facade of spying for him in the Auror department, but to become a spy for you, for the Order of the Phoenix. I can tell you right now that the Dark Lord is stepping up his search for the Potters and the Longbottoms. I don’t know why, but he wants them dead. They need to be placed under the greatest protection you have available. I can tell you that he wants Dorcas Meadowes dead too. He has Death Eaters on the lookout for her. There is most definitely a Death Eater in the Department of Mysteries. I can also tell you that the Death Eaters have a meeting place just around the corner from the house you raided in Wimbourne in mid-June. In the next month or two, they plan to attack Diagon Alley again. And I can also tell you that if you were to venture to a spot not far from said meeting-place in Wimbourne, you will find the dead body of Casimir Travers, awaiting discovery by the Death Eaters. He died last night, and I believe your Order will be held responsible for that death. I hope you can forgive me for that.”

There was a twinkle in one of Dumbledore’s eyes.

“May I ask who his assassin was?” he said gently.

“My coffee table,” she replied. “It is made of marble. I assure you, sir, it was a complete accident, I did not intend it to happen-”

He raised a hand and she fell silent.

“You do not need to explain.” He paused. “You say that discovering your parents’ fate has changed your mind...”

“I think I was already having second thoughts about everything,” she said quietly. “I kept Gideon’s address secret for weeks. After the raid on Diagon Alley, he took me back to his flat to treat an injury to my arm, from Snape’s curse, Sectumsempra, but it felt like a betrayal, giving up his address when he had shown me such kindness.”

“I can’t think of many Death Eaters that would have kept that information quiet, injury or no injury.” Moody finally spoke.

“I duelled not only Snape, but Mulciber and my husband that day. They all knew who I was, that I was one of them. There was no reason for them all to duel me. I guess it was partly anger that fuelled it. After that, though ... both Prewetts and Marlene were so ... so nice to me. I know it sounds daft, me apparently changing my mind because of niceties ... but that’s the way it is, I guess. And then I met Arieda, who is such a lovely girl, and I found out that she’s Muggleborn. It’s one thing getting on with purebloods who believe in equality, but it took the discovery that Muggleborns aren’t really any different from purebloods to make me realise that Muggles are ... just non-magical people. That there’s no real reason to persecute them. And that made me think ... well, why persecute them? Of course, the argument is that they’d would persecute us if they knew magic existed, but surely using magic against them just fuels that? And the argument about Muggleborns stealing magic... well, how do Squibs exist? It ... it’s all ridiculous, once you get out of the stifling pureblood circle and are able to see things for yourself. And then I learned about Louisa ... she was more gifted at magic than some of my fellow Death Eaters are!”

She frowned.

“It took a while, I guess, for me to realise that I’d come to that conclusion. I only twigged it for sure on Sunday night, and then learning about my parents last night gave me that final shove in the right direction. And so, here I am, at your mercy...”

She tailed off, feeling much less confident about her fate than she had been. She’d hoped that Dumbledore would believe her, that he would trust her ... but why should he? He had no reason to. After all, who would put their trust in someone who claimed to be changing sides?

But if he didn’t believe her, she didn’t know where that would leave her – except in a cell in Azkaban.

After a moment’s silence, Dumbledore cleared his throat. “You know that we have a spy in the Order.”

She nodded.

“Therefore you will understand when I say that if I was to accept your request, nobody outside this room would learn of the arrangement. We could continue as though you were simply an Auror, with no connections to either the Order or Lord Voldemort.”

She nodded.

“Very well.” He leaned back in his chair and turned to Moody. “Alastor, do you see any reason why we should not trust Miss Gamp?”

Moody stepped forwards, looking pensieve.

“If you trust her, Dumbledore, I can’t argue; you know I trust your judgement. But I don’t like the idea of a spy in the Auror department...”

“Well, I’ve been there for two months now, so the cat’s already amongst the pixies.” Araminta shrugged and then cowered slightly in her seat as Moody glared at her.

“If I were to agree, it would be on the basis that you would only reveal to Voldemort the information that I allowed you to,” he said.

“Of course, sir.”

“And I will have a very close eye on you.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less, sir.”

“Very well.” He nodded, and turned back to Dumbledore. “I’d suggest one other person knowing, though. We need to know that Gamp is safe. I am her boss, social calls from me would immediately raise suspicion. I would suggest that a member of the Order whom the Death Eaters know is an acquaintance of Gamp’s is told of this arrangement. That way, it wouldn’t look so suspicious.”

Dumbledore nodded slowly.

“I do not think that Mr Prewett would be a good choice at this present moment in time. Either of them,” he added. “That leaves Mr Black-”

Araminta winced. She didn’t have a problem with Sirius herself, especially not after their interaction the previous day, but she didn’t think Gideon would take too kindly to her seeing more of him.

“Or perhaps not.” Dumbledore smiled slightly. “Very well .. that leaves Miss Platt then, I believe?”

She frowned.

“I’m sorry ... who?”

“Arieda Platt,” Moody grunted. “She’s meant to be in Auror training, Dumbledore, but she’s got a few days off, she’s with the Prewetts at the moment.”

Of course. She hadn’t known Arieda’s surname and hadn’t considered that she might be a member of the Order, but now it seemed blindingly obvious that she should be.

She nodded.

“She will hear me out before judging, too, unlike ... others.” At least, she hoped she would, and that Marlene’s death wouldn’t cloud her judgement.

Dumbledore nodded, and she wondered if he knew that she had been about to say Gideon’s name.

“Very well, then.” He turned to the perch beside him, which a magnificent phoenix sat upon. “Fawkes?”

The phoenix chirped, and vanished in a burst of flames.

“She will be here momentarily,” Dumbledore said in a pleasant tone of voice such as one might use when discussing the Quidditch results.

Araminta twitched slightly in her seat, the nervousness growing inside her. If she ever hoped to get Gideon on side, she needed Arieda to understand her. She didn’t think she could keep this secret from him for much longer.

“What kind of skills do you offer Voldemort?” Moody growled.

She was slightly taken-aback at the question.

“Recruitment and persuasion, mostly. I recruited the giants several years ago. The Dark Lord himself has trained me in both Occlumency and Legilimency-”

“Naturally,” Dumbledore murmured. They both turned to face him. “My apologies,” he added with a wave of his hand. “Do continue.”

She nodded, slightly unsettled, and turned back to her boss.

“I’m quite gifted with the Imperius curse too. I can duel, but he prefers not to use me in that capacity. He would rather keep my existence quiet, so that I can go undetected. I’ve done spying before too ... better than I managed this time-” she added hurriedly. It was odd; despite her desperation for them to see that she had had a change of heart, she didn’t think she could bear the thought of them thinking she was bad at her job.

A flash of flame interrupted the conversation and Arieda appeared in the office.  She looked slightly bewildered, and even more so when she saw Araminta.

“You wanted to see me, Professor?” she asked, turning to Dumbledore.

He gave a slight smile and his eyes twinkled.

“You sound like you are still one of my pupils,” he said. “I hope I haven’t called for you at a bad moment-”

“Nothing particularly bad. I was with Fabian. He’s ... not good ... but he’ll manage without me for a few minutes, and I assume this is something important...”

“It is. I was rather hoping you would assist us with a certain matter. You are, after all, the best candidate for the job...”

“Okay ... what is this job, exactly?”

Dumbledore gestured towards Araminta, which caught Arieda’s attention.

“The floor is yours,” he said.

Araminta took a deep breath, and silently cursed Dumbledore. It had been hard enough having to tell him her story.  Arieda, a young woman who seemed to like her and who knew more than she ought to about her issues with Gideon, was a different prospect.

“I ... I’ve been spying. For the Dark Lord. In the Auror department. But ... I want to join the Order, to help your cause...”

Arieda had heard the words, but it didn’t seem as though they’d properly sunk in.

“I ... you ... what?” Then, as she began to process the information, “you’ve been spying ... on Gideon...”

“The Auror department as a whole,” Araminta corrected – it sounded like less of a betrayal of Gideon’s trust that way. “But I’ve changed my mind-”

“You’ve been working for You-Know-Who this whole time?  You’ve been working for You-Know-Who-”

“Well, yes, but I don’t want to any more, and I didn’t pass much information to him-”

“That’s beside the point.” Arieda’s voice was stronger, angrier. “You’ve been working in the Auror department, with Gideon, under false pretences. You’ve led him on, you’ve led us all on ... Marlene invited you to her wedding-” Saying her name seemed to trigger something. “You did it, didn’t you? You betrayed her, you told your scum Death Eater pals where her parents lived, you led her to her death-”

“No!” Araminta was desperate for Arieda to understand, before she’d totally convinced herself of those assumptions. “I didn’t betray Marlene. I didn’t even know where she and Fabian lived, let alone where her parents lived, or that she’d be there. The first I knew of it was when I was taken there the other night-”

It was the wrong thing to say.

“You were there?”

“I didn’t do anything! I couldn’t do anything-”

“You could have stopped them! If you really have changed your mind, you’d have done something-”

“It wouldn’t have achieved anything, except I’d have ended up dead too!”

“Well, maybe that would have been better than this.”

“But I can help! I want to help, that’s the point! I can give you information about the Dark Lord-”

“What, like you’re giving him information about us?”

“I’ve barely told him anything! And what I have told him has been near useless! Where do you think the tip about Gideon’s address came from?”

“The same place that the initial leak came from, I expect,” she sneered, her lip curling. She turned back to Dumbledore. “You believe this tosh?”

“I do, Arieda,” he said, resting his chin on his fingertips. “And I would like to think that I am a good judge of character.”

Araminta did not think Dumbledore had meant it to be a snub, but Arieda seemed abashed regardless.

“I...” She wrinkled her nose. “Of course. But...”

She fell silent, seeming unsure of what to think or say.

“Miss Gamp wishes to become a spy for the Order,” Dumbledore continued, taking advantage of her silence. “I have accepted this offer. She is to continue working in the Auror department, but she needs a go-between, somebody whose presence would not be too suspicious for the Death Eaters. I was rather hoping you might be able to do this for us. You are, after all, the ideal candidate.”

Worded this way, Araminta thought, it would be impossible for Arieda to say no.

“I...” She still looked unwilling. “I suppose I can...”

“Wonderful.” He smiled. “Now, if you will excuse me, I believe the House Elves are baking treacle tart for lunch, and I would feel much more at ease if someone were to taste it before it is served. Alastor?”

It may have been phrased as a query, but his intentions were clear to everybody.

Moody nodded.

“I’ll be seeing you in the office tomorrow morning, Gamp. Take the rest of the day off. You’ll be no use to anyone right now.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said quietly.

Dumbledore and Moody left the office, leaving the two women alone to talk.

Araminta seized the opportunity to begin before Arieda could.

“It’s all I’ve ever known,” she said quietly. “My parents were from pureblooded families, and I grew up in that environment. I had no reason to believe any differently. I thought my parents had been killed by the Order. But now I’ve found out that the Dark Lord ordered their deaths...”

“So you’ve changed your mind just like that?” Arieda raised an eyebrow.

“My mind was already changing! I don’t know exactly when, or why, but when I found out about my parents, it was as if things all fell into place. I think I’d been having reservations for weeks. And I want to help you. I promise you, I’m telling the honest truth...”

Arieda said nothing for a moment, but sat down cross-legged on the floor. A slight movement in the corner of Araminta’s eye drew her attention to the wall; it was only now that she noticed the portraits adorning them. She scowled as she saw that they were all inconspicuously eavesdropping on their conversation. It was probably one of the reasons why Dumbledore had been so content to leave them to themselves.

 “I wish I could just believe you like Dumbledore does,” Arieda said now. “Because I really did grow to like you, and I don’t like the thought of you working for You-Know-Who. I thought more of you than that. But...” She hesitated for a moment. “You’ve got to see how dodgy this all looks. I mean, Marlene and her family were killed two days ago. And ... I just don’t know what to think.” She frowned. “I mean, you say that it’s because of your parents – wait, why were they killed?”

“They didn’t want me to join the Dark Lord. Tried to stop him recruiting me. That’s why they had me home-schooled, apparently; so they could prevent me from going down that path...”

“Well, that worked well.”

“You think I don’t realise that?” Araminta snapped. In truth, it wasn’t Arieda she was angry with, but herself. She had let her parents down in the biggest way possible, she hadn’t truly listened to them, and in the end they’d died in vain...

“To my mind, the best thing to do would have been to send you to Hogwarts. You’d have had more exposure to us second-rate witches and wizards that way. I mean, look at Sirius.”

“I know,” she said dully, not letting herself rise at the dig.

“I can understand, though. The whole thing about wanting to avenge a loved one’s death. I can see how that can be a motivating factor. I guess it just doesn’t sit easy with me that that’s the only reason though, if it is. I mean, that you can have done all you’ve done and then just change your mind like that-”

“What do you mean, ‘all I’ve done’? You have no idea what I’ve done! Or haven’t done, as the case may be! I’ve only ever killed once, and even then I had no choice and she would have died anyway. I’m not like Bellatrix, I don’t see the need to torture anyone and everyone. I don’t take pleasure out of other people’s pain. How dare you assume I’m just as bad as them!” She rose to her feet, finally letting her anger get the better of her. “You have no idea what I’ve been through, and yet you sit there and judge!”

“I-” Arieda looked as though she was about to defend herself, but then her shoulders sagged. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Araminta fell back into her chair, taken aback by the meekness of the response.

“I guess I’ve never had to question what I believe,” Arieda continued. “I’m a Muggleborn; of course I’m against You-Know-Who. And then Louisa was killed fighting his followers ... well, it’s obvious what side I’m on, isn’t it? And ... and we all praise Sirius for having the strength of character to deviate from the path he was supposed to be on...” She chewed her lip. “So, you tell me what you learn, and I tell the Order? Is that the arrangement?”

“I think so.”

“Where am I supposed to say I’ve got the information from? I’m assuming I can’t go telling the rest of the Order about you; otherwise I wouldn’t need to be the go-between...” She sighed heavily. “Another spanner in the works. You know, I was kind of hoping I could rely on you to help me out.”

“How do you mean?”

“Marlene is dead.” She paused. “Gideon and Fabian, they’re both grieving. I need someone to help me, because I can’t be with them both at the same time. I’d hoped you could go to see Gideon. But now...”

“I still can, if you want,” she offered.

Arieda shook her head.

“That ... would not be the best idea.” She bit her lip. “Gideon ... I fear he’s become a little ... dependant. On you. And given this turn of events ... well, I don’t think you’re good for him.”

Araminta’s blood boiled.

“I’m not good enough for him, am I?” she said angrily. “So now you’ve found out who I am, you suddenly change your mind-”

“I didn’t say you weren’t good enough for him,” Arieda said wearily. “I said you weren’t good for him. That doesn’t mean you don’t reach the standards I think he ought to set, it means you’re ... not compatible. And given your position, I don’t think it’s wise, for either of you to become too close. It’s too dangerous.”

“These are dangerous times,” she pointed out.

“Look, it wouldn’t be a good idea, okay? He’s already being hunted by the Death Eaters, and the closer you two become, the harder you’re going to find it to keep up this facade. If the Death Eaters find out you’re not their woman, you’ll go straight to the top of their hit list. It’s not a good idea to keep seeing Gideon.”

Araminta’s temper was simmering again.

“But then who else does he have? As you seem to have prioritised Fabian over him-”

“It’s not like that,” Arieda snapped. She took a few breaths, before continuing. “How can anyone decide whether a wife or best friend is more important? The love of a partner or the lifelong love of a friend? Nobody can decide that, so there is no easy way to decide whether Gid or Fabe needs me more. But I’ve had to choose, because there is nobody else who is close enough to either of them to fully understand them, to understand what they’re going through.” She paused. “Except you.” She looked down at her hands.

“But you don’t want me to see Gideon,” Araminta said. “Who’s he been with?”

“Lily. Molly wanted to help, but I don’t want to put any added stress on her, not when she’s so close to giving birth. But ... while Lily is a wonderful woman, she can’t help him enough.”

Arieda looked up at the older woman.

“See, my reasoning, is that ... Fabian’s better with his emotions that Gideon is. He always has been. And I know that he’ll take a few days, maybe a week, to deal with it, and then he’ll be okay ... not properly, but okay enough to return to work. Gideon ... it’s not so easy. I guarantee Fabe will be back at work before Gid. But, if I don’t help Fabe now, he won’t find it so easy. Whereas I know Gideon will be almost as bad, even if I do help him. So ... I’m with Fabian, just until he can get back on his feet, and then I can turn my attention to Gideon. Basically, I guess it’s a case of prioritising Fabian short-term so as to prioritise Gideon long-term. It’s the only way to do it.”

Araminta hesitated for a moment, before speaking up.

“But what’s wrong with me going to see him? Just for a couple of hours. If you think I’ll help him-”

“I’m not sacrificing either of you, to death or each other, just so he’s a bit happier for a couple of hours. It’s not worth the risk. And don’t look at me like that,” she added as Araminta glared at her, “I know what I’m talking about. Yes, he’s finally accepting Louisa’s death, but at what price? You’ve already become too close, I’m not risking it any longer.”

Araminta laughed hollowly.

“You know, you sound just like Gideon. ‘Don’t get close to people, it’ll hurt more when you lose them.’ What kind of life is that, anyway?”

“What kind of life is killing Muggleborns?” Arieda shot back, as she stood up. Araminta stood also, clenching her fists. “It’s not a case of him living, it’s a case of who it is he’s getting close to. He’s become obsessed – no, dependant – on you! And it can’t go on like this! Because that way, sooner or later he’ll find out who you really are, and then it’ll all be a massive mess. And then you’ll decide not to spy any more, and we’ll all end up putting our lives on the line to keep you alive. So I apologise if you want to go to see him, but I can’t let you do that.”

“So you want to just keep this a secret? You don’t want me to tell him anything? You think I should lie to him even more?”

“Don’t go making your life choices my issues! It’s not my fault you decided to join You-Know-Who, and it’s not my fault that you and Gideon have gotten yourselves into this mess. But I sure as hell am not going to stand back and watch you mess his life up even more! If you’d confided in him before all this, then he may well have been much more understanding, but as it is you haven’t got a chance-”

“How could I have told him? There was nothing to tell; I thought I was still the Dark Lord’s woman! Not to mention the Unbreakable Vow I had to make-”

What?”

“Casimir Travers. He was my go-between while I’ve been spying. He was the one who’s been injuring me. We had some twisted wedding vows...”

Arieda stared at her, seeming lost for words.

“So, yes. I could have told him. And then promptly died on his floor. That would have gotten the point across, wouldn’t it?”

“Bloody hell...” Arieda shook her head. “You Death Eaters are twisted... Either way, the fact still remains, Gideon is vulnerable as hell, you tell him you’re a spy and he’ll take that seriously badly.”

“I know,” Araminta murmured. “But what about once he’s ... better ... I could see him, help him out, then ... tell him ... once he’s better...” She tailed off, the idea sounding horrendously bad now it was vocalised.

“Yeah. You see my point?”

“But I can’t not tell him! He was already doing all he could to get it out of me...”

“Just tell him it was an abusive relationship that you’re now out of.” Arieda shrugged. “There’s no reason for him to disbelieve it.”

“I just don’t like the thought of lying to him...”

“You’ve been making a living out of lying; you ought to be used to it by now.”

“But ... it’s different...”

“Because you’re in love with Gideon. Yeah, I’ve gathered that,” she said dryly, rolling her eyes.

Araminta frowned.

“I’m not in love with him-”

“Well there’s something there, that’s for sure. If you’d like to make your mind up as to what it is fairly soon, it would make things much easier for me.” She paused, and massaged her temples with her fingertips. “Look, I’m sorry if I’m being blunt. It’s just, it’s hard to adjust to. It’s not an ideal situation to be in. I’ve been trying to look after Gideon for two years now, and then you came along and he started getting better, and just as I was beginning to think you were a saviour of sorts, it turns out that you could end up making him worse than before. It’s not exactly a good thing, even if the Order are gaining another spy in You-Know-Who’s camp.” She chewed on her lip. “Anyway, I should be getting back to Fabian...”

“Of course.” Araminta nodded. “I ... thank you. For ... for believing me.”

Areida smiled weakly.

“Don’t go thanking me just yet. I’m still not entirely sure what I think right now. Just  ... look after yourself. And stay away from Gideon, at least for the moment.” She headed to the mantelpiece. “I don’t suppose any of you nosy portraits want to tell me where Dumbledore keeps his Floo powder?”

“I say; you youth these days are ever so rude-” began one of the portraits, whom Araminta recognised as one of her ancestors, Phineas Nigellus.

“In the urn to the right of the griffin on the mantelpiece, dear,” said a witch with long silver ringlets.

“Thanks!” Arieda took a pinch of the powder and threw it into the roaring fire, turning the flames green. She stepped into the fire, saying something inaudible, and was whisked away by the flames.

Araminta sat back down on the chair, with a thump. She wasn’t quite sure how to feel. She’d been worried that Dumbledore wouldn’t believe her, so surely she should be happy now that he did?

But instead, she felt disappointment – no, sadness – at Arieda’s reaction. Not that she would necessarily have expected the younger girl to welcome her into the fold with open arms ... but the hostility was still difficult to cope with.

It was odd. Since her parents had died, Araminta had felt alone, with no family or friends – for the Death Eaters certainly did not count as either. But it was only now, with the blinkers off, that she felt as though she had nowhere to belong; that she was well and truly rootless.


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