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Seeing Double by Aphoride
Chapter 10 : IX
 
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IX

For ten days, she spent her time moving, constantly moving. She didn’t stop - didn’t dare stop - just in case that the one moment where she paused for breath or to rest for a while would be the one moment when Bellatrix caught up with her. Every now and then she caught a glimpse of a shadow over her shoulder - silly things, like a student walking along the corridor behind her, the teacher passing along the back of the classroom, the shadow of a cloud shifting with the movement of the sun - and she would panic, her heart thumping wildly as she waited for the inevitable to come her way.

It didn’t, though - not for ten consecutive days. Each day, Bellatrix would pass her in the hallways, see her in the common room or at mealtimes and each time she did, without fail, she would do her best to act as though nothing had happened. As though it didn’t matter. As though she wasn’t terrified the Head Girl was intending to blast her into a thousand and four tiny shards and then look down on the remains of her body with that cruel, satisfied smile of hers.

Emelda hadn’t spoken to her again after the conversation in her room. It was a welcome silence - for the first few days, she was angry with her, her words running over and over in Malea’s mind:

He is dangerous. He’ll hurt you, whether or not he knows he’s doing it. Nothing will ever happen. He’s dangerous. He’ll hurt you. Nothing will ever happen. He’s dangerous. He’ll hurt you. Nothing will ever happen. He’s dangerous. He’ll hurt you. Nothing will ever happen…

After a while, though, her anger died down, shrinking from being a roaring fire to a small, indignant flame stubbornly refusing to go away. A part of her, she had to admit, wondered about what Emelda had said, about whether or not there was any truth in it. That thought hadn’t lasted long before she’d dismissed it. The idea of Rodolphus Lestrange being some sadistic, psychopathic Dark wizard just didn’t fit with the image she had of him and so, she concluded, it wasn’t possible. He couldn’t be both.

Nevertheless, Malea wasn’t happy with her and, whereas previously she might have wanted Emelda to talk to her or felt slighted by the silence, she welcomed the space given to her.

Emelda wasn’t the only one avoiding her, either. Malcolm had been suspiciously absent from her life for the last ten days and counting. Normally, he would have spoken to her after Bellatrix talked to her - found out what she’d said, sussed out what was going on, and then left her alone - but this time he hadn’t said anything. He hadn’t come to speak to her about it, hadn’t mentioned the incident, had barely spoken to her at all recently. It was unusual and she wondered about it, but she didn’t know what to do. Going up to him and demanding to know why he hadn’t been talking to her was, after all, childish beyond words. Even Melisandra, who was ten, didn’t do that anymore and hadn’t done it for a few years now. No, all she could do was wait for it to pass.

As she made her way down the sloping passage towards the Slytherin common room, Malea found herself feeling oddly content. Everything seemed to be going well. Emelda was ignoring her (which wasn’t much of a problem), Malcolm and Medora weren’t interfering with her life, Bellatrix had yet to find her and finish that conversation from ten days ago; her marks were looking up - she was edging towards Exceeds Expectations in Potions - and she just felt so much better. More confident, more mature, more capable.

The air began to get colder as she went deeper, down into the heart of the school and, eventually, she knew, out under the lake. It didn’t bother her, though, as Heating Charms were elementary spells for all Slytherins and commonly used when it approached winter - hers were already on her robes.

From round the corner, she could hear a faint, soft rustling sound. It was only present for a moment, before it stopped and she could hear nothing. The sound did, though, remind her of another time she’d heard a similar sound - that night when she’d stayed up, with the people in the corridor.

Her eyes lit up, hungry for gossip and information - she would be able to lord it over the others in her year for once, knowing something they didn’t - and she felt her heartbeat increase. Taking care to be absolutely silent, she tiptoed towards the corner. Hesitating a moment, she lingered, hidden from whoever was on the other side, before stepping out.

Stopping dead in her tracks, freezing as perfectly as if she’d beeلإn hit with a Full Body-Bind, she just stared.

In front of her, Rodolphus Lestrange pulled reluctantly away from Bellatrix, his hands on her hips not relinquishing any of his power, and turned to look at her. She tried not to notice how her lips were now a deep rose-red, how her hair was tangled and messy, falling down over her shoulders, or how her arms were still wrapped tightly around his neck.

“Flint,” Rodolphus acknowledged her. Unlike other times she’d heard him speak, his voice was deeper, husky and slathered with lust. Underneath it all, she could hear a faint strain of irritation - he wanted her gone, he wished she hadn’t interrupted.

Bellatrix watched her, her head resting against the stone wall, her fingers idly playing with his hair. Her eyes were sharp when Malea looked at her - icy, haughty, challenging - and Malea found she couldn’t hold her gaze for long.

“Roddy,” she spoke softly - Malea noted with a pang that she was speaking only to him and decided bitterly that it was probably deliberate. “Perhaps we should -”

“Be quiet,” Rodolphus ordered her, glancing at her, adjusting his grip on her hips. He ran one hand lightly down the side of her face, cupping her cheek. “Flint will go and then we, chérie, can continue.” Bellatrix gave a small smile, her eyes fixed on him, transfixed, tilting her head slightly to one side in anticipation of the kiss to come.

Malea said nothing - she couldn’t say anything, couldn’t find any words to say, let alone her voice to say them - and hurried past. Her face was burning, the back of her eyes pricking. For some unknown reason (a sense of closure, perhaps, or a slight moment of masochism?), she cast a glance back at them over her shoulder.

He was kissing her deeply, passionately, slowly, his hand tight on her hip, her arms locked around his neck, one hand buried in his hair.

Swallowing, blinking rapidly, she forced herself to look away and raced on towards the common room, her eyes staring at the floor.

Reaching the common room, she muttered the password, slipping inside once the crack in the wall was barely big enough to let her through. Once she was through, she carried on going, not stopping, not slowing down, not looking up. She didn’t pass anyone in the long passageway that led from the entrance to the common room and the silence, although welcome, was heavy. It pressed down on her shoulders and head, pushing her into the floor, compressing her even as she moved.

Malea stepped into the common room, finding it - for the first time in her life, she knew - impossibly bright and cheerful. Everywhere she looked, people were sitting with their friends, talking and chatting happily, the occasional smile and rare giggle appearing for a moment or two before vanishing. It didn’t do anything to ease the tidal wave of emotion threatening to drag her under - in fact, if anything, it only made it worse.

Fixing an impassive expression on her face (well, as close to impassive as she could get at this moment in time), she walked quickly through the room. Thankfully, she’d gone back to being invisible the moment she stopped walking around with the Black sisters, so no one noticed her passing. Being invisible had never before felt so good, so perfect, so useful. Malea didn’t think she’d ever actually wanted to be unnoticed, to slide underneath the radar before. Now, it was a lifeline, even if they didn’t realise it.

Stepping from the common room into the darker, colder passage that led to the rooms, she felt slight relief, but she didn’t allow herself to relax. There was always the chance that someone might come down the passage as she went up and see her - and the fifth year girls’ rooms were a fair way up the passage.

Tilting her head backwards slightly so as to dissuade the tears that had gradually swum to the front of her eyes from falling, she almost jogged up the corridor. Torches and doors seemed to fly by, almost as if she was standing still and the world was moving around her, until she reached her room.

Her hand fumbled for the door handle, her fingers closing around the cool metal and she slipped inside just as the tears finally burst free from her attempts to hold them back. Still, though, she didn’t dare make a sound - it was hardly proper behaviour, after all, for a young lady to sob over a boy (a boy, of all things! A boy who hadn’t even been hers!) in public - until she was inside and the door was firmly shut to block out any noise that she might make.

Once everything was safely in place, however, Malea slumped onto her bed, staring dejectedly at her hands.

The tears began to fall. One by one at first, slowly dripping down from her cheeks, her nose, her chin. After a minute or so, the alarm clock ticking slowly in the background, the floodgates opened, the dam burst and she started to cry in earnest. Tears, small and salty, cascaded down her face, dropping into her lap like a small shower of rain. Her nose began to feel runny, her breath came in short gasps as she sobbed and she knew that her skin was turning blotchy and her eyes red-rimmed.

She didn’t care. Her appearance didn’t matter. No one was going to come in, no one would even be looking for her and, regardless of whether or not they did, she had lost him. She had lost him definitively, decisively, permanently. There was no way she could compete with a girl like Bellatrix Black. She was everything Malea wanted to be, everything Malea aspired to be and hoped to be, and everything Malea wasn’t. He was hers, she was his, and that was the end of that.

The worst part was that even in her bitter, utter defeat, a tiny part of her still hoped and wished he was be hers. Maybe they would break up - Bellatrix was known to be particularly difficult to please and he wasn’t known for having long-lasting relationships either. Maybe they would argue and he’d see that she wasn’t right for him. Maybe… Maybe… Maybe…

Giving a half-strangled, half-choking sob, Malea put her head in her hands, ignoring the watery stains on her face from her tears. She had been so foolish to think she had a chance, so foolish to spend all her time mooning and sighing over him, so foolish to idolise her completely.

A knock on the door startled her out of her misery and she glanced up, wondering who it could possibly be. Hoping that if she was silent, they might go away, she swallowed, ceasing to sob. It didn’t last long, however, as the image of Rodolphus’ hands on Bellatrix, his mouth pressed firmly against hers, the lustful look in his eyes as he eyed her crept back into Malea’s mind and she collapsed into a fresh wave of tears.

The door to her room opened with a soft click and then closed again. She heard the floorboards creak slightly as someone made their way over to her, and felt the bed sink as they sat down. She didn’t look up, though, and didn’t bother trying to stop herself from crying, or quieten her sobs. They’d already seen her crying, heard her sobbing, so it was really all a bit too late for that.

“I saw you coming in,” Medora whispered from next to her sister, by way of explanation for her presence. “What’s wrong?”

For a couple of moments she struggled to hold back her tears, blinking rapidly, wiping her eyes with her fingers, before eventually giving it up as a lost cause.

“I saw,” Malea managed to choke out between sobs. “Him… w-with B-Bellatrix… in the h-hallway.”

As her tears partially ceased, she gathered her resolve and glanced up at her sister. To Malea’s surprise, instead of looking sympathetic or upset or angry on her behalf, Medora simply looked confused, a frown marring her forehead.

“They might just be friends,” she ventured quietly. “They might just have been talking about school, or an upcoming ball.”

Despite knowing that her words were meant to comfort, not hurt, Malea felt a bitter pang and dissolved into a new batch of sobs. She hadn’t thought… Oh Merlin, she hadn’t thought about balls. Christmas was fast approaching and it was, as always, prime ball and party season. Everyone had a party, even if it was only a small get-together. She would have to stomach seeing them together, seeing her on his arm, hearing people talking about them, commenting on what a gorgeous couple they made for her entire holiday. Handling it while being at school was going to be bad enough, but at least at Hogwarts she could always hide in her room, or avoid them in the corridors, and she wouldn’t see them that often anyway, being in different years. However, at home… she could hardly refuse to go to a ball simply because they would both be there, could she?

At some point, Malea remembered that she hadn’t told Medora what she’d seen and that she was probably sitting there, in silence, extremely confused and at a loss to know what to do or say or how to act.

“H-He,” she took a deep breath, her voice shaking through the sobs. “W-was k-kissing her.” As soon as the last syllable left her lips, she buried her head in her hands, covering her eyes completely with her fingers.

She heard Medora’s breath leave her in a sigh.

“Oh, Malea,” she whispered, wrapping an arm around her sister’s shoulders in an awkward half-hearted attempt at a hug. “I’m so sorry.” Malea was perfectly aware that she, despite her words, didn’t sound as sorry as she made herself out to be, but she didn’t care about that. It was a big enough surprise that she’d actually said she was sorry, rather than simply smirking and crowing ‘I told you so’ in her ear.

Soon, although it felt like hours later, her tears began to dry up, flowing more and more slowly, sporadically, gently drawing meandering paths down her cheeks. Her breathing slowed, although her chest still heaved from the exertion of crying so hard for so long.

Without warning, her door was flung open.

“What happened?” Malcolm demanded, shutting the door behind himself as he strode over to Malea and Medora. His expression was stony, his eyes confused, and he took in her tear-stained face with little emotion.

“Nothing,” she replied hastily, wiping away the last dredges of tears in the corners of her eyes. “Nothing happened. I’m fine.”

“Malea saw Rodolphus Lestrange and Bellatrix Black kissing in the corridor,” Medora told him quietly. Malea glared at her, equally angry and embarrassed that she dared tell him. Couldn’t she tell that she didn’t want her to say anything, that she didn’t want Malcolm to find out why she’d been crying? Medora didn’t react, though, didn’t even flinch, simply gazed back at her, her dark eyes shining with sympathy.

“Oh. Right,” Malcolm looked suddenly uncomfortable. Whereas before he had seemed ready to throttle the person who had made her cry, he now appeared to be nervous about something. “That’s pretty bad, Lea. I’m sorry.”

Malea watched him for a couple of minutes, taking in the way he acted, the way he just stood there, not daring to come near her, the way he wouldn’t meet her eyes for very long, the way he carefully plastered on a sympathetic smile.

“You knew, didn’t you?” she said quietly, the idea taking root in her mind with unholy force. “You knew they were dating, you just didn’t want to tell me! Wait, didn’t want to tell me, or didn’t have the guts to?” she sneered at him, feeling angrier than she could remember being. The fury she had felt towards Emelda seemed to pale in comparison.

Malcolm said nothing, refusing to even react to her bold statement. That, more than if he had even tried to say anything to defend himself or explain the situation, told her all she needed to know.

“How could you!” Malea shrieked, thanking Merlin briefly for the charms on the students’ doors in the Slytherin dungeons as she completely lost control of her anger. “How could you not tell me! You knew how I felt about him - you knew how much I liked him - and you didn’t think to tell me that he only had eyes for that… that…” she struggled briefly to find a word fitting enough to describe Bellatrix. “Harpy! You made me look like a complete fool! You made me feel a complete fool! Do you have any idea how much seeing… th-them hurt me? Do you have any idea what it’s like to find out about something like that and then find out that your brother, your own brother, knew but didn‘t say anything to you? Merlin’s beard, the only way this could possibly be worse is if the whole school probably knew before me! No! Don’t say anything! Just don’t try and make this better, or whatever else you think you can do! You have no idea what this is like so just don’t try!”

When she finished, she was short of breath again, standing with her feet planted wide, she had no doubt that her eyes were wide, her nostrils flared and her previously blotchy face now a bright red. She didn’t care - it was all worth it, completely worth it, to see the look on Malcolm’s face at that moment. Or rather, the lack of an expression. He was staring at her, looking faintly surprised, but was otherwise blank of any emotion at all. During the course of her rant, he had taken two steps backwards and was now standing almost against the opposite wall.

“Malea,” he murmured eventually, once she had sat back down on her bed, refusing to look at either him or Medora and instead boring a hole into the wall to his left with her eyes. She imagined that her siblings were exchanging exasperated looks behind her back, both of them unsure of what to do now. She had never blown up like this before - well, not quite like this and her temper had never been aimed at Malcolm on the occasions when it had happened. “Malea, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise… I didn’t realise that anything would happen. I knew he liked her - Merlin, we all did - but I never suspected that something would happen between them. We all thought she didn’t like him. They never got on particularly well before. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to make you worry unnecessarily. After all, it might have come to nothing.”

His explanation made sense, Malea admitted reluctantly to herself. She felt her rage dying down a little - but only a little. It didn’t subside fully yet, and she didn’t think it would go away completely for a while yet, but it was certainly an improvement on the towering anger she’d felt previously.

“I’m sorry,” she said after a while, in which she stared at the wall, her glare lessening, and Malcolm and Medora watched her closely, as though expecting her to explode again at any minute. “I shouldn’t have reacted like that. It was improper of me.”

“It’s alright,” Medora replied quickly, before Malcolm could say anything. Opposite, she could see her brother frowning slightly, but he didn’t contradict Medora. “He should have said something to you. Nevertheless, what’s done is done - there’s nothing anyone can do about it now.”

“Does,” Malea addressed Malcolm, turning her head to look at him. “Does he know?” the stress she placed on ‘he’ indicated who she was talking about without her having to say his name. She didn’t want to - not yet, at any rate. Not this soon after she’d seen him and her together. “About me liking him?”

Malcolm hesitated; beside her, she could see Medora narrowing her eyes at him. She felt her breath stop, drawing up short. He couldn’t possibly know, could he? He’d barely looked at her when she’d stumbled across him in the corridor - surely that wasn’t the action of someone who knew she liked them, regardless of whether or not they liked her back?

“Does he know?” Medora pressed, as Malea felt herself pale.

“I don’t think he does,” Malcolm said eventually. “I didn’t tell him, at any rate.”

“Truthfully?” Medora continued, looking so much like a younger version of her mother it was slightly disturbing.

“Of course! I would never betray any of you like that!” Malcolm snapped back. “What do you take me for? An idiot?”

“At times, yes,” Medora muttered irritably.

Before they could start arguing over Malcolm’s intelligence, Malea interrupted, saying loudly, “Thank you, Malcolm. I didn’t think you would; I wanted to check.” The lie was easy enough to say - she hadn’t been sure if he would or not. Who knew what boys talked about when they’re alone together? He could have mentioned it accidentally, without meaning to, or he might have thought nothing of telling one of his friends that his little sister had a crush on them. She couldn’t and wouldn’t let him know that, though - he would never take it well. He’d think that she didn’t trust him to keep her secrets from his friends.

The three of them sat there for a couple of moments longer, in companionable silence, before Malcolm broke it.

“I should get going,” he muttered. “My friends - they’ll be looking for me. If I’m gone too long - and Rod,” he paused, giving Malea a quick glance before continuing. “Rod should be back any minute. He said he had something to tell us.”

“Three guesses what his big news is,” Medora rolled her eyes, and Malcolm just ignored her as he swept out of the room, shutting the door behind him.

Silence barely got the chance to sit down, before she was thrown off her seat roughly, this time by Medora.

“Are you alright?” she asked hesitantly. “I mean, I should probably go too - I have homework to do and Amaya and I were thinking about looking at the magazine she got the other day…” she trailed off somewhat awkwardly, and Malea just shook her head, flapping her hand in the general direction of the door in a gesture that meant ‘it’s alright, you can go’. Medora seemed to be able to translate her waving, because she stood up and vanished out of the door before Malea had time to even think about changing her mind, let alone say anything to stop her.

She supposed she should have expected this, Malea thought bitterly. Of course they were going to vanish and leave her alone as soon as they’d made sure that she was alright, as soon as her tears were dry and her anger abated. It was always the same - why had she thought, even for a moment, that because she was truly, genuinely upset this time they might hang around for a second longer than they had to? Foolish, she told herself, foolish.

Pulling herself together (she ignored the fact that if they hadn’t left her alone she wouldn’t have yet had the opportunity to do this), she made sure her eyes were dry and went into her bathroom to wash her face, scrubbing frantically at her cheeks to get rid of the lines staining her skin. Malea took a deep breath after drying her face, feeling a little better. Not much, but a bit - and that was better than nothing.

Leaving the bathroom, she looked around her room. She didn’t want to stay cooped up in here for the entire evening, so she decided, much against her better judgement, to go to the Library. At least, Malea mused, she would have some comfort in the knowledge that Rodolphus Lestrange would never be caught dead in the school Library, even if the school were burning down around his ears and it was the only safe place.

She swung her bag over her shoulder, having checked that her diary was placed inside it, and left her room silently, closing the door behind her with a soft click.

Rounding the corner, she spotted Andromeda Black coming towards her. When she saw Malea, her face took on a faintly guilty expression; Malea’s stomach twisted uncomfortably. As they approached each other, she opened her mouth slightly, as though to say something, before giving her head a slight shake and striding past, brushing Malea lightly, her eyes sliding over her to the empty corridor behind her.

She allowed her mind to linger on that strange encounter, combining it with Andromeda’s other recent behaviour towards her - the small smiles she’d given her whenever she saw her in class, in the corridors or in the Great Hall and the one time she’d offered to help her with her Transfiguration work in class when Professor McGonagall said she needed assistance. Something was up. It hadn’t really crossed her mind before, but now she actually thought about it, it seemed to make more and more sense.

The walk to the common room had seemed uncommonly short, Malea decided, as she entered the room. It was warmer than it had been previously, almost twice as full, with people occupying every possible space to sit - even the floor. In the grate, the flames flickered a bright lime green, making those sitting nearest to it look sickly.

A burst of laughter caught her attention - and the attention of many of those around her as well - and she looked over. Her brother and his friends were sitting in their usual chairs, with one addition. Bellatrix Black was there with them, Rodolphus’ arms around her waist as she sat on his lap. Forcing down a lump in her throat, Malea tore her gaze away before they - or rather, Bellatrix - could notice she was there, and headed for the common room exit.

Luckily, no one stopped her from getting out. She was quite sure that no one had even noticed that she had come out of her room, let alone that she had just left the common room.

Less than ten minutes later, Malea was sitting in the Library, at the only spare table left - one right at the back, in the old and dusty romance literature section. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out her diary, a quill and some ink.

After one last quick check to make sure that no one was around to see what she was writing, she unscrewed the bottle of ‘black pearl’ ink, dipped her quill in and, flipping through to the next blank page, put nib to parchment.

7th November, 1968.

Today was awful…


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