A/N: First off. This is one of my most favorite chapter titles ever. I think it's really clever and hopefully after reading this you will find it clever too, hehe. SO now that I am done editing SIHE and all (that isn't to say that mistakes don't still exist--they are just all very minor now and not enough that I am going to meticulously weave through this story like a money picking through another monkey's hair) everything feels kind of sad. I miss it a lot. I hope you guys like reading these, though. It makes me so happy that you guys all come around to read these, seriously. Warms my heart like a warm chocolate chip cookie. Umm, I hope that you enjoy this one (IT'S A GOOD ONE) and I think from here on out you should see that SIHE picks up in terms of excitement and general fun. :) AS ALWAYS - I love to hear from you!!!
Georgiana and Avery were dancing.
Scarlett took a delicate sip of wine as she considered this, thinking silently of the difference it made to be a guest of a wedding instead of an active participant. When she had gotten married, she had not even taken into account the atmosphere or the food; she had only been cognizant of two people, one that she had to marry and one that she hated to disappoint. Instead of admiring the charm of the ceremony, she had been unhinged entirely by the presence of the ceremony itself, becoming closer to the mind-numbing beverages she had consumed rather than the man she was supposed to spend the rest of her life with.
Where had Theodore gone off to, anyway? Scarlett had hardly seen him since they had arrived in Dijon the day before; she had been determined to stay as far away from the bride and her brother as possible and had succeeded tremendously. She had only been in his presence during the ceremony, where she had been expected to sit with him, but without a word spoken between the two it was as if he had never been there.
Theodore's absence would have troubled Scarlett a little bit more had it not been for her informal escort. Regulus Black wasn't really a fan of weddings either, though as they stood together Scarlett was pleased to see that he seemed to be having a good time. It was true that the wedding had eased them both; since Scarlett had been suspicious of Regulus's curiosity in her, about his possibly dangerous quality of wanting to solve every mystery he encountered, it was a welcoming relief that the two now stood together talking about...
Well. What were they talking about?
"Nope," said Regulus smugly. "They always go for the crab, Scarlett. Someone would think you hadn't been to a wedding before."
Scarlett scoffed. "I'm positively shocked. Why wouldn't they go for the stuffed mushrooms? Is there a mystery behind this one, Regulus? Some sort of Pureblood stigma that I don't know about? Please enlighten me."
Regulus thought for a moment. "Nah," he said, after a pause. "I personally just think crab goes—"
"Goes?" Scarlett said, smiling. "Where's it going?"
Regulus rolled his eyes, returning the smile. "No, smartass. I mean, it goes. Mushroom would be too..."
"Too what?" Scarlett teased. "Too commonplace? I mean, we are at a wedding. Are you saying that the crab just 'goes' with the stick up everyone's arse?"
He laughed. "That was a really eloquent way of saying that," he complimented. "But no. I mean, like..." He took a sip of wine as he thought. "Well," he said finally, "mushroom is just kind of disgusting, wouldn't you think?"
"You ass," Scarlett responded, punching him lightly on the arm. "That's my grandparents' recipe. Passed down for generations."
"Really?" Regulus said; his tone, though good-humored, contained traces of worry, as if he had somehow offended her.
Scarlett shrugged in response. "Probably not," she said after a pause, shrugging, and Regulus let out a bark of laughter, unintentionally giving Scarlett chills as she remembered someone in particular who had the same laugh.
"You're wicked, you know that," Regulus said, and Scarlett smiled in response, saying nothing. The two stood quietly for a while, staring at the sunset, until Regulus took another sip of wine and faced her. "So..." he said, and he cleared his throat awkwardly as he tried to articulate what he wanted to say.
"You seem to be in a better mood tonight," he eventually said, turning away as soon as he'd said it. "Healthier, maybe."
Scarlett said nothing in response, mulling over his words, until Regulus interrupted the silence again, asking the question that had been hanging in the air ever since the two had first seen each other at the wedding.
"Are you feeling better?" Regulus asked, and he cleared his throat again. "From...before?"
Instantly they were both seized by the memory.
Scarlett remembered that she had been upset. Sobbing, even. Her eyes had been red and her body had been frail. But these things paled in comparison to what she remembered especially about that night: the ferocity of Voldemort's soul fighting against hers. The pain as her body had shook, trying to understand which impulse to trust, and the pain within her own soul as he weakened her.
She knew he was getting stronger every day. Unlike before, when she had been able to feel a sense of banishing him, of regaining self-control, she now felt him in every movement. He was a cancer that spread throughout her body; he was there as she took another sip of wine just as much as he was there while she slept.
This was troubling, to be sure, but it was unstoppable. She did not know what would eventually happen to her if he kept spreading through her body; she only felt strongly in her gut that she had a chance, that there was a purpose to keep fighting. Scarlett felt completely confident that there was something, something, that Rowena had foreseen in her that made the fight worthwhile.
What was more troubling than his possession was that she had no idea what he was planning next.
Since their time in the library, Voldemort had grown... mostly quiet. Unnervingly so. He seemed to realize that tricking her into doing his bidding wouldn't work anymore...
Which meant what next? What was his plan?
Scarlett didn't know, so it took her some time before she thought of the proper response to Regulus's question. "I'm feeling better," she mustered finally, "but I don't know if I am out of the woods yet, Regulus..."
She put a hand through her hair as Regulus said, "What do you mean by that, Scarlett?"
"Let's just say," Scarlett responded cautiously, "that... someone...knows. About what happened with Theodore and I."
Regulus blinked as he tried to fit what she was saying with his own assumptions. "Do you mean your family?" he questioned. "Do your parents know?"
"Someone knows," she said again, refusing to answer his question.
"Why can't you tell me, Scarlett?" Regulus said; the tone of their conversation was beginning to mirror the conversations that they had had before. "I want to help you. I really—"
"It's not about whether or not...it's just," she sighed, "It's not safe for you to know, Regulus. I can't ask you to take that type of risk for me. It would kill me if you got hurt."
You had better watch what you are saying, or I may have to hurt you again, wouldn't I?
Though she had heard the voice so many times before, though she had become accustomed to its presence, she could not help but grit her teeth.
Voldemort had made it very clear to Scarlett that he did not want anyone to know about her situation; supplemented with descriptions of what he would do to those she told, she felt that it was best that nobody know as well.
She just hated—loathed—that, in protecting her friends, she was playing right into his desires...falling just a little bit deeper into his influences every damned time...
"So," she said, and cleared her throat. "The crab. Is it worth trying, Regulus?"
Regulus sighed and turned away from her, towards the sunset. He waited before he spoke, and the words that were unsaid filled the area, ringing in Scarlett's ears as if someone had screamed them. After what felt like an eternity, he finally responded, nodding and beckoning her towards a table filled with hors d'oeuvres and beverages. "I guess we should find out, shouldn't we?"
"I know that you love a good mystery," Scarlett said wryly as she approached the table.
Regulus handed her another glass of wine, and as she distributed between the two of them a crab appetizer he said, "Let's make a toast. To... solving mysteries."
"To knowing which mysteries to solve," Scarlett clarified.
They clinked their glasses and she took a sip. "Here's a mystery for you to solve," she said as she put her glass down and took a bite of the crab. "How is it that I've only had two glasses—oh!"
"What?" Regulus said urgently. Scarlett put down the crab and closed her eyes as her stomach turned. "Scarlett, are you alright? I don't want you to faint— should I get somebody?"
Scarlett took a deep breath.
"Regulus, calm down," she said slowly, opening her eyes and looking at him; her voice was surprisingly calm despite the sudden sickness that had come over her. "I think I am just going to get some medicine from the washroom. I shouldn't be long. Don't worry about me."
He looked at her strangely. "Your eyes—" he began to say, but before he could finish his thought she wandered off, her footsteps a little too formal and her posture a little too austere.
She really didn't feel as bad as her reaction made her seem. She had been a little offset by a sharp, emanating wave of headache pain, and she had been unnerved by the turning of her stomach, but she felt fine now. Maybe a little dizzy...
Her vision was slightly blurry; how was she walking so straight? The faces of those that had attended Georgiana's wedding blended together in Scarlett's vision as she entered the house, headed towards the washroom. How was she able to maintain such a perfect posture?
And the dizziness didn't just affect what she saw; she could feel it in her mind. It was a lazy, gentle feeling, much like the feeling she got before she fell asleep...it was comforting and soothing to her, a feeling that eased her sore muscles... Merlin, was she tired... and not even that sick... she would be... fine...
She entered the washroom and locked the door in a sort of daze, although her movements were just as calculated as they had been before. Scarlett curled her fingers one at a time, her eyes fixated on the absolute and complete movement of each and every finger, and then rested her hands on either side of the sink.
And then she looked up. Her eyes were the brightest red she had ever seen.
That was when panic began to set in.
Her appearance didn't change in the slightest as the panic hit her. Even though Scarlett was jolted as her soul became aware of how trapped it was, and she was awakened from the daze she had so dumbly let herself fall into, her demeanor didn't change in the slightest.
"Let go of me," she wanted to say, but she found that she didn't have control of the muscles on her face anymore, watching herself smile in a disgusted and horrified way. She wanted to run, to run away from herself, but found that she didn't have control of her body. It was his.
"You are mine now," Scarlett's body said, even as Scarlett fought against it with every fiber of her soul.
"Don't be terrified," he made her say. Under his command her voice was too formal. It didn't sound like her and it wasn't her but even as Scarlett thought it Voldemort made her laugh. "We are going to find the choker tonight, Scarlett. I am sure that with some... persuasion...I have been waiting for this for weeks now, growing stronger, biding my time... oh?" Scarlett's body smiled while Scarlett's mind screamed. "Do you hate being trapped as much as I hated being trapped, Scarlett?"
With an unbelievable pull of strength, Scarlett managed to make her hands shake, but Voldemort looked at it with mere amusement. "Not tonight, Scarlett. Not tonight. I have dealt with you for far too long." Voldemort paused. "I think it is time that we go back to that godforsaken forest, don't you?"
Again, she fought him enough to make her body cough; within the cough there was a trace of the "NO" that she had wanted to say but couldn't. Voldemort took a deep, shuddering breath; as he did, another wave of dizziness overtook Scarlett, enough that she lost grasp of her hands so that they stopped shaking.
Voldemort took another deep breath; clearly his possession of her was much harder than it seemed. "That's better," he struggled to say. "Stop fighting. Yes, we will spend the night in the forest...we will have to go through Hogsmeade, of course...Get past the wards...You had better not cause a scene..." After a few more breaths, hands now grasping the sink so tight that they were becoming white, Voldemort recomposed and looked back up at the mirror. "Oh," he said. "One more thing."
Although Voldemort had looked smug before, now he looked concentrated. Scarlett fought with everything that she had, but, focused, Voldemort pushed aside all of her attempts to reassume her body.
There was silence for a few seconds; then, moving with complete precision, Voldemort made Scarlett's mouth open to say...
It was so low and quick that Scarlett couldn't immediately decipher what she was saying. She soon realized that whatever it was that Voldemort made her say was not in English; it sounded like she was egging something on, but she did not know what, exactly, she was saying—
A picture suddenly appeared in her mind, a response to whatever phrase she had said. It was faded but she could see that it was the outlook, with Tenereus and Rowena, talking—
"Good," Voldemort cut off, interrupting the steady stream of what Scarlett now recognized was Starlleyl. "Do you see that, Scarlett? That is how I am going to make history. If this all works as I wish for it to, you may be fortunate enough to have that choker around your neck by sunrise."
A pause. "You really must stop fighting, though," he insisted. "I can make this painful for you...for your family... for Regulus... Sirius... oh, and now we seem to have hit a nerve, haven't we?"
Tears were springing to Scarlett's eyes; they were the only sign that within her own body Scarlett was being tortured, scared of her own fate but scared to death of everyone else's. Of Sirius's. She couldn't let him get hurt, she couldn't let this happen, she had to keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting—
"Oh, stop," Voldemort cut off. "Doesn't that nauseate you? How love can make you feel?" He seemed as disgusted as he seemed fascinated. When Scarlett didn't answer, Voldemort laughed coldly. "Well, I have only one more night with you. I suppose I won't miss it. Are you ready to go, Scarlett? Are you ready to be a part of history?"
She continued fighting. Kept fighting for Sirius.
And although it took so much of her energy, although Voldemort was not impressed as he Apparated her towards Hogsmeade, she fought hard enough that the only thing left of the scene as she Apparated away was the sound of the resounding "NO" that she had finally been able to muster.