Georgiana and Theodore were alone in the common room once more.
They were not sitting together on the couch as they once did. Theodore was lounging, stretching across the black leather surface of the couch, while Georgiana sat at a nearby desk, her hands grasping a piece of parchment as if to write a note but seeming unable to do so.
The night had been uneventful. Georgiana and Theodore had eaten with Bellatrix and Narcissa, although all they really had to talk about anymore, with the end of the year so close, was the future they would have as Death Eaters. Schoolwork had become insignificant. Even romance had become insignificant; Georgiana scarcely talked about Avery and everyone knew never to bring romance up with Theodore around. As if their lives were a funnel, they were finally approaching the point where the only thing that would linger —not emotion or memory, not love or hate—was the society that they had spent their whole lives preparing for.
None of them could muster up the excitement they had at the beginning of the year. It was impossible to. Each one had matured, and as they grew up they came to comprehend how it was impossible to have anything else when they had to devote everything to him. Bellatrix and Narcissa had lost their innocence as they wondered how many people they would kill on their first mission. Georgiana had lost her positivity in the process of marrying Avery. Theodore's heart had been broken and stepped on, from Scarlett and Ambrose and then Scarlett again, and as a result there was nothing left of it.
No matter what each of them had lost, the Dark Mark remained.
Theodore pulled up the sleeve of his robe to look at it. It was placed right by his wrist, and surrounded by pale skin it seemed to shine in the scarce light of the Slytherin common room. It stained the skin black; although the darkness was confined in the shape of a skull, Theodore could still feel it coursing through the rest of his body.
The Dark Mark was on one part of him, yet it was all of him; it was who he was.
Suddenly, the Dark Mark pulsated, burning his skin. Theodore sat up, curious, and looked at Georgiana, who had placed the piece of parchment paper down and was also looking at her wrist.
"Did you feel that?" he asked, his voice hoarse and low as he grazed a finger over the tattoo curiously.
Georgiana furrowed her eyebrows, concerned. "Yes," she said, but before she could say anything else the sound of thunder rumbled through the common room. "And that—"
"There's a storm," Theodore observed. "I think it's only just started."
Georgiana looked towards the only window in the Slytherin common room; the dungeons where they lived were so deep below the surface that the only view the window provided was one of the lake water outside. From it, Georgiana could not tell that there was a storm.
Even still, another wave of thunder boomed, and Georgiana shivered. "As long as we're safe here," she said.
She took one last look at her Dark Mark before shrouding it with her sleeve.
Regulus and Scarlett stumbled into Rowena Ravenclaw's outlook.
The wind was furious, whipping violently across their bodies, and it whistled in their ears. Scarlett's body was shivering uncontrollably as the rain hit her, incessant, while Regulus tried to focus on the sky in hopes that the storm would clear soon.
Both fought the elements as they had journeyed there, but more than anything they fought their own impulses. Regulus was staggering as he tried to resist the enchantment that Voldemort had not yet lifted, and was failing.
Scarlett was trying to keep herself under control.
She could feel herself bubbling, coming dangerously close to the surface, as she thought of Regulus. She wanted to help him so badly that it hurt, but she knew that she could not use her strength too early. She could not. She hated and feared that Regulus was in the outlook with her; he had not been a part of her plan. The point of her plan was to keep everyone safe and sound.
She didn't know how safe Regulus would be, there with her.
Voldemort had made threats to her life before. Voldemort had made threats to his life before. Given the circumstances—the weather, Voldemort's impatience—she hoped Regulus would be safe from him. That his threats were empty.
She would do anything for that to be so.
As they stumbled into Rowena Ravenclaw's outlook, as Scarlett discerned through the rainstorm the multicolored tree that held the hidden and desired choker, she had only one thought in her head.
Keep him safe.
Sirius and Lily were with Dumbledore when the lightning struck for the first time.
It did not hit the school; it appeared, far in the distance, seconds after a boom of thunder had interrupted Lily's hurried explanation to the headmaster of what had happened that night. Still in his pajamas, it was impressive that Dumbledore kept his composure, but as lightning struck and illuminated the night sky Sirius could see in the lines of his aged face the same panic Sirius had felt. The same panic Sirius was feeling.
While Lily spoke with tears in her eyes, Sirius was silent. He couldn't concentrate enough to formulate the right words to say to Dumbledore. Lily was explaining the situation perfectly, and his own concerns wouldn't do anything to help the situation.
So Sirius remained silent.
His mind was not on the headmaster's office anyway. Although he caught Dumbledore's eye a handful of times, he was much more likely to be looking out the window towards the storm. He could see faintly the swaying of the trees in the Forbidden Forest; he couldn't help but wonder if Scarlett was down there now, or if Regulus had found her.
He also couldn't shake that feeling that he should have been there. He would have risked being in the storm, would have risked dying, just to be with her.
Sirius fought through his frustrations and blinked as he returned himself to his reality. "Oh, dear," Dumbledore was saying, his voice withered. "Thank you, Miss Evans... Mister Black... for telling me about this. I will alert the teachers to begin looking for her... and Mister Regulus Black, as well?"
"Yes," Lily said, shuddering as she looked out the window at the wild storm. "Regulus was going to try to get her but we don't know if he did. He could be out there with her..."
They all looked at the window for a split second, watching the trees lean in the wind as if on the verge of falling over.
Turning his eyes away from the window, Dumbledore spoke. "Very well. We will look for them immediately and bring them to safety as soon as possible."
Sirius met Dumbledore's gaze as he said those words, and as he did so all of his other thoughts were replaced with one thought, a mantra and a prayer:
Keep her safe.
Voldemort was laughing and that sound was worse than the wind.
The storm was intensifying and the wind sounded like a banshee, but it was Voldemort that made Scarlett truly afraid. His laughter, derisive and cruel, rung in her ears. She couldn't control it. She couldn't stop him from laughing.
He had stopped in the middle of the outlook and Scarlett couldn't control that, either. Why had he stopped? Scarlett could see the tree, blowing in the wind but not significantly, and she could see the leaf that she knew had a part of Voldemort's beloved choker. She could see it—barely but she could see it. Her death lay in that jewel, but Regulus's death didn't have to.
She didn't know how she would be able to do what she had planned but she knew that she had to. She had to stop Voldemort; she had planned to stop Voldemort all along. Yet she also knew that there was Regulus and she didn't know how to save him, but she couldn't let him lose his life for her. She couldn't do it, she couldn't do it—
It was her thoughts, rapid and clashing and fervent and desperate, that Voldemort was laughing at. He was ridiculing her because those well-laid plans that she had spent so long thinking of, every single detail, every possible solution, did not involve Regulus.
But she had to save him, she had to, this was not his fault—
"Was not his fault!" Voldemort yelled, triumphantly, into the wind. "Of course it was his fault, you ignorant girl, look at him!"
It killed Scarlett to look at Regulus. He was still under the Imperius Curse, and although all Voldemort had commanded him was to not leave the outlook he hadn't moved since they arrived. He was breathing heavily, standing tall in spite of the winds, but his eyes were down. He wouldn't meet her eyes because they weren't hers to meet.
He looked tired, and in his fatigue he looked resigned for what would happen next. She had always feared Regulus's involvement in her mystery and here it was, the grand revelation but no fanfare. All there was for him was the screaming wind, the freezing rain, and that horrible, bone-chilling laughter.
And, although he looked resigned, she knew that he had to be feeling what she was feeling: the creeping panic. Voldemort was turning his back on the relic he had wanted so terribly; he was prolonging his patience just to look at Regulus, just to laugh at him.
It made her sick. She was afraid that he wouldn't stop at laughter.
"The man of mystery," Voldemort sneered, looking at Regulus with delight. "You don't seem too happy to get what you've wanted, do you, boy? Do you see what happens when you meddle?"
Regulus said nothing.
"If you try to run, I will kill you," Voldemort vowed, and flicked the wand to lift the curse. "I could keep you under the curse forever. I have more ability than any wizard before me...Don't ever doubt that I could. But I want to see your true fear, Regulus. Raw. Look at me. I want to relish this."
He looked up and Scarlett wanted to cry. There were no words to describe that look that was in his eyes. It was the look of a man who'd lived five times longer than Regulus, a look that held enough pain for a hundred years. A pain tinged with that same resignation she had seen in his demeanor.
Regulus looked as if he thought he was going to die.
She needed to let him know, somehow, that he would be safe, but she needed to know that he would be safe, too.
Keep him safe, she thought, again and again. Keep him safe, keep him safe—
Voldemort smiled at Regulus. Scarlett cringed at the idea of smiling at those eyes, the idea that anyone could look at Regulus and not feel pity or mercy—keep him safe, keep him safe—
"Do you have anything to say?" Voldemort said, evenly. "Anything in your defense, perhaps?" He looked up and his smile curled as he said, "Or perhaps something about the weather?"
Regulus swallowed audibly, his eyes wide. "I said I would keep her safe," he said. She could barely hear him because of the storm, but his tone was just as expressive as his eyes.
Don't keep me safe, save yourself—
Voldemort laughed again; Regulus winced as if the sound gave him pain.
"How it would kill you to know," Voldemort mocked, "how she has been under my control. Do you want to know how safe you have kept her? Would you?"
Regulus took a deep breath but did not say anything, did not move a muscle.
"I have kept her up for nights," Voldemort gloated, taking a step towards Regulus. "I was responsible for the husband's tortures. For the blood traitor's suffering. It was all me. And as they suffered, she suffered too. And I laughed then, as I do now. I forced her to kill...I made her mine, made her pliable...Do you know, Regulus, that your friend wanted to kill? All of it was my doing. She would have done anything that I told her to do. If I had known...that you would step in and interfere as you have...that you would disgrace your household...disgrace the noble and mighty House of Slytherin...I might have made her kill you then."
Voldemort laughed as Scarlett nervously saw something new enter Regulus's eyes.
"I have all of the power," Voldemort said. "I control her body...as I control her mind...she is all mine, Regulus.
"So I ask you," he said, and he took another step towards Regulus, "did you keep her safe?"
It happened so fast that Scarlett, who had been watching Regulus keenly, still did not register what had occurred until it was too late. She had seen that look in his eyes change from one of resignation to one of hate, one of rage, and as she had hoped that Regulus would trouble himself over his safety rather than hers, she was not prepared for what he did next.
He lunged at Voldemort, his hands reaching for the wand, but Voldemort moved too quickly for Scarlett's comprehension as well. He yelled as he saw Regulus, and, flicking the wand powerfully, said something over the wind that caused Regulus to fall, mid-lunge, onto the rocky ground below.
"Crucio!" Voldemort screeched, again and again, as Regulus contorted in pain and screamed in agony. The sounds intertwined with the howl of the wind and left Scarlett thoughtless.
Her heart thumped quicker and quicker while she watched him be tortured. It was something out of her worst nightmares, yet the dream had become her reality. It was all real, his suffering was real, and it was right in front of her but she couldn't stop it. She had to resist how badly she wanted to regain her body, to stop Regulus from feeling pain...Stay strong, stay strong—I will keep you safe somehow, please, please, stay strong, run as soon as he goes for the choker, Regulus...
And then Voldemort began to laugh again as Regulus writhed like an ant under a magnifying glass. His body hit violently on the rocky ground, and his drenched robes began to tear, cutting his flesh.
Regulus... Regulus Regulus Regulus—
Voldemort flicked the wand again to lift the curse and looked, curiously, at what he had done.
Regulus groaned, his breaths shallow. "What do you think about that?" Voldemort said; his voice was calm but chilled more than the rain. "Do you have anything more that you would like to say?"
Regulus didn't respond, struggling to maintain his breath. His eyes were closed.
Voldemort scowled. "Answer me."
But it was unlike when he'd been under the Imperius Curse—nothing could make Regulus respond—and he couldn't, his body worn. All he could do was struggle to breathe. Try to survive.
"Answer me," Voldemort said again but Regulus did not and Voldemort raised the wand and looked down at the figure below him with scorn and began to yell, "Avada—"
And then Scarlett moved with such swiftness that Voldemort was caught off guard. With ferocity, she assumed her own body, and with all of the strength she had, all of the strength she had been saving for months, she took the wand between her hands and broke it cleanly in two.
It was an old trick that she used before when Voldemort threatened to kill Sirius, but as Scarlett looked down at the split wand, the wind screaming, the weight of what she had done fell onto her. To save Regulus's life, she had sacrificed all of the energy that she'd had. She had sacrificed the choker for Regulus.
But she couldn't have let him die. Keep him safe, she'd thought to herself. And she had.
The pain immediately followed, swelling from her insides. In her mind Voldemort yelled in fury; the wind could not contain the noise. She fell to her knees, her head on the cool ground, as he made every cell on her body feel as if it were on fire.
He assumed her body but she was the one that felt the torture. Her body burned, emanating from her Dark Mark, and she couldn't scream from within the confines of her mind. She remained on the earth, immobile, while her insides cried for reprieve, for relief, for the sweet taste of death—
And then she heard the sound.
It was not as loud as the storm, which was now dying, had been; it was not loud at all. But she still heard it faintly. It was a rustle, a small whisper of a noise...the sound of something falling.
Voldemort heard the sound too, and the pain stopped as he turned her head. Throughout the storm, the tree had been slightly swaying, but now that the wind had slowed, the tree had too, causing the choker to drop to the ground below.
She could see it easily from where she was. It was magnificent and glorious and it was easy to see why Voldemort had coveted it so. The jewel was oval in shape and shimmery scarlet in color; framing the gem was a gold lining, which became the braided gold chain that had so closely resembled the branches of the tree.
He stood and walked her towards the artifact; her vision was dizzy and sound came to her slower and slower. Her world was swaying, back and forth, like the tree had been, as he knelt down and felt the choker's chain, fingers delicately handling each indentation of the braid. "That's it, isn't it?" he said, the voice quiet.
The rain began to stop as Voldemort took either side of the chain in each hand. With deliberation, as if unable to believe he'd done it all, he raised the chain towards Scarlett Devous's pale neck.
She tried to fight but she was starting to see dots in her vision. Sound rushed to her ears like the sound of waves lapping a shore.
"Goodbye, Scarlett," he said and the sound blurred with the drizzle of the rain, the slowing of the wind, as he clasped either side of the choker's chain around her neck.
Instantaneously she felt a rush of warmth in her body come towards the choker and she lost her consciousness and then didn't feel anything.
The rain stopped. The sun began to rise over the two.
And all was safe.
All was sound.
A/N: I wanted to post this after the chapter because I didn't want to detract from the chapter at all. Um, so you just read the big climax of this story. I think it is the hardest I have ever worked on a chapter and I really hoped you enjoyed it....ten more chapters to go you guys. Thank you for everything you've done and continue to do <3