Chapter 18 : A Woman Left Lonely
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Fête (French) – party
Mes filles (French) – my girls
Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor Magie (Dutch) – Amsterdam School of Magic
Santé! (French) – Cheers!
Mes amies (French) – my female friends
Génial! (French) – Great/Excellent!
Idioot (Dutch) – idiot
Also, the character Lotte de Graaf is combined effort between me and PitchBlue. Chapter image by me :D
“A woman left lonely will soon grow tired of waiting. She'll do crazy things, yeah, on lonely occasions.” - Janis Joplin, 1971
Marianne Minot sighed deeply as she took a large sip from her crystal champagne flute and tried to ignore the intense boredom that was creeping into her already sour mood. She quickly tipped her head back, finished her drink, and set it on the elaborately decorated table next to her with a practiced scowl. Although she was part of the prominent European pureblood society, she detested the social events that went along with her status.
As the alcohol burned through her veins and made her feel slightly lightheaded, the Ravenclaw delicately wiped the side of her mouth and scanned the large crowd to find her childhood best friends, Valentine Courtenay and Lotte de Graaf. However, the task proved to be too difficult. Even though Marianne had sharp eyesight, the Valois Ball was the first major fête of the New Year and the last one before the Holidays ended, which meant that a large number of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang students were present and eager to network with the famous members of the European magical community. She quickly considered casting a tracking spell but thought against it.
Marianne sighed again and smoothed down her pleated black silk robes, desperately wishing that she could leave the Ball and go wander the streets of Paris one more time before she went back to Hogwarts. She longed to be on the Left Bank of the city, near the bohemian intellectuals and artists, but instead, her father forced her to stay on the Right Bank, with the stuffy sycophants and brown-nosers. Yet, as the song changed to a slow waltz, Marianne’s eyes dropped to the floor. As much as she wanted to leave, she knew her place.
“Champagne, Mademoiselle?” a uniformed butler asked as he held out a full tray of glasses.
“Please,” Marianne muttered softly as she reached out and plucked one from the silver serving dish. As the butler wandered off, she slowly took a sip and closed her eyes. For a brief moment, she felt composed and unruffled … but her serenity was shattered when a booming female voice called out to her.
“Miss Minot! How enchanting to see you!”
Marianne’s eyes flew open and saw the Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, Sabine Artro, gliding towards her with open arms. The Ravenclaw tried not to show her indifference as she accepted her embrace and gave her the customary kisses on the cheek. When they stepped back, Professor Artro gave an approving cluck as she evaluated Marianne’s appearance and the younger female assessed her teacher as well. Sabine’s signature flaming red hair was coiled and elegantly piled on the top of her head and her dark blue and gold robes showed off her small waist and large bosom. She looked absolutely glamorous and Marianne was not surprised when several of the male guests paused to look her up and down. The woman always attracted exuberant attention wherever she went.
“How is your evening, Professor?” Marianne asked, feigning interest in the pureblood’s social life.
“Oh, it’s been absolutely wonderful,” Sabine replied. Her devious grin turned into a slight frown as she put her hands on the eldest Minot’s shoulders. “But listen, I’m actually looking for Loki. Have you seen him?”
“Professor Stotch?” Marianne responded quizzically, referring to Hogwarts’ standing Herbology Professor. “No, I didn’t know he was here.” An awkward silence hung in the air, which gave the Ravenclaw an opportunity to read her Professor’s body language. The woman tried to appear unnerved but Marianne could see the insecurity in her stance. She was extremely perturbed. As the silence continued, Sabine sniffed haughtily, which only confirmed Marianne’s suspicions.
“MARIANNE!” Valentine Courtenay shrieked from across the room, immediately breaking the tension, and Marianne’s stony expression cracked with a satisfied smile. The copper haired veela latched onto her childhood friend with excitement and started to admire her expensive black robes as the rest of the guests in the room eyed them curiously.
“You have to let me borrow these,” Valentine grinned before pulling the Ravenclaw into a large hug.
“Please,” Marianne smirked softly after giving her two kisses on her cheek, “we both know you never wear black.”
“And besides,” Lotte de Graaf muttered as she appeared over Valentine’s shoulder, “you’re much too tall for Marianne’s clothes. And the top would barely fit -”
“Well maybe that’s a good thing!” Valentine exclaimed as she frowned and looked down at her chest. “Mes filles aren’t attracting any attention tonight.”
“What are you talking about?” Lotte said comically before pulling Marianne into a hug herself. “You were just talking to that dark haired fellow and he couldn’t stop staring down your oh so dazzling gold robes.”
“Ahem,” Professor Artro coughed, breaking the girls’ conversation. Marianne’s natural smile turned into a scowl when she remembered that the woman was still standing next to her. She excused herself from Lotte’s relaxed embrace and proverbially pulled her snobbish, pureblood mask over her face.
“Professor, I would like you to meet my two best friends in the entire world,” the Ravenclaw said haughtily and she slyly wrapped her arms around both their waists. “The illustrious Valentine Courtenay.” The Beauxbatons student smirked and jutted her chin, striking a pose. “And the intelligent Lotte de Graaf.” The Netherlands native looked down her slightly upward flicked nose and leaned towards Marianne in support.
“Ah, I ran into your Father earlier Miss de Graaf,” the Defense Against the Dark Arts preened. “He said you’ve just been accepted to the Graduate Potions Program at Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor Magie. I’m surprised. You must have a very powerful connection there. They don’t accept applicants before they take their NEWTs.” Marianne grinned, waiting for her dark blonde friend to pounce.
“You’re right, they don’t. In order to be accepted, I had to take my NEWTs during my Sixth Year. So I don’t have a powerful connection,” Lotte answered coldly. Her tone then turned sarcastic as she inspected her short red nails. “I happen to be a genius.”
“Sabine!” a voice shouted from across the room, saving the woman from responding, and Marianne recognized Professor Stotch as he weaved through the guests towards them. “There you are, I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“Don’t worry, Loki. It’s always impossible to find anyone at these functions,” the female Professor said with a seductive smile. “I was just talking with Miss Minot and her charming international friends here.” Loki’s dark brown eyes quickly darted from Marianne to Lotte and when he finally settled on Valentine, the Beauxbatons student pursed her lips and discretely stuck out her chest.
“Hello again,” she purred as she extended her fingers towards him. “I didn’t catch your name the first time. Loki, is it?” As the Herbology Professor aristocratically kissed the top of her hand, Marianne snuck a glance over at her other Professor. Sabine’s demeanor radiated with jealousy when she put two and two together and realized that Loki was the dark haired man the girls were talking about earlier.
“You must excuse us ladies,” she said rapidly as she pulled on Professor Stotch’s arm and started to lead him away from Valentine, “but we have some urgent business to attend to. Enjoy the rest of your evening!”
“That’s the third woman she’s pissed off tonight,” Lotte muttered playfully as the group of girls watched the woman drag her colleague across the room.
“I’m not surprised. She is a veela after all,” Marianne laughed as she flagged down a butler and her two friends grabbed champagne for themselves. For the first time that night, the pureblood beamed with completely happiness. She held up her flute for a toast. “Santé mes amies. I’m glad we can see each other one last time before we go back to our separate schools.”
“Santé!” they responded and the three girls clinked their glasses ceremoniously before taking sips. The live band started to play a foxtrot and immediately, an eager wizard popped out of nowhere and asked Valentine to dance. Once he passed her visual test, she smirked back at her friends before letting him escort her on the dance floor.
“You know,” Lotte drawled after taking another sip, “you looked like you really enjoyed pushing that woman’s buttons. When did you turn into such a snob?”
“Can’t a witch brag about her friends?” Marianne asked as she rolled her eyes.
“You’re evading the question,” the Dutch girl prodded. “And it’s not just tonight – I’ve noticed it in your letters and when you visited a week ago. We may live in two different countries but I can tell that you’re turning into a cold-hearted bitch. Why.” Her last sentence was not a question. It was a demand for an explanation.
Marianne gulped and turned away from her friend’s accusatory gaze, saying nothing. Her face turned to stone but she shivered beneath her façade.
“It’s because of that Lupin boy, isn’t it?”
“No!” Marianne snapped as she turned around, her lip curling upwards with a soft snarl. “It has nothing to do with him.”
“Thank you for still answering my question,” Lotte laughed smartly as she crossed her arms over her chest. “Now what did he do?”
Marianne slowly took another sip of champagne. Outside, her demeanor was steadfast and distant. Inside, her mind was whirling and screaming, unable to shoulder all the unbearable pain she felt. It begged her for release. Anything. Everything. Something to give her the will to carry on. And for one moment, she let her guard down and shot Lotte a fleeting sorrowful glance.
“He kissed me,” she said barely above a whisper.
“What?! Bravo, that’s fabulous news!” Lotte exclaimed as she put her hands on her shoulders. Her face barely contained her smile and several people looked over at them after her happy outburst. However, Marianne’s mask resumed its place and she quickly pushed her friend’s hands off her as she tried not make a scene.
“No,” she growled softly as her fists balled up by her sides, “it’s not. I don’t care what his bloody secret is, that boy -”
“Secret?” her companion interrupted as she raised a brow. Her happy smile turned into a confused frown.
“It. Doesn’t. Matter,” Marianne said through her teeth as her expression hardened. “He rejected me. And then he completely ignored for the rest of the term, even when I tried to confront him on several occasions. He took another girl – another Seventh Year Ravenclaw, mind you – to the Winter Ball and then he had the nerve to kiss me the same night? His secret is irrelevant – his conduct is inexcusable.”
A silence hung in the air as the two girls stared intensely at each other and Marianne finally sighed and pushed a couple of stray hairs behind her ear. When she caught her friend’s accusatory glare, she shrunk slightly.
“I know what you’re going to say - that I should at least hear him out. But no matter what his secret is, Lotte, how can I forgive him for his behavior? He swallowed me whole and then spit me back out. I can’t be treated that way.” As her friend opened her mouth to respond, Marianne’s cover promptly returned again and she held out her hand and shook her head. “I can’t talk about this anymore either. This discussion is over and shall never be brought up again. I need a cigarette.”
“Fine, go,” the Dutch pureblood muttered as she finally dropped her arms to her sides. “But I still think you’re being a complete idioot.”
“Duly noted,” Marianne sneered as she grandly pulled her thick black cloak out of her small bottomless evening bag. She hastily put it over her shoulders and then brushed by Lotte towards the grand open doors. The pureblood shivered when she stepped out into the cold night air and immediately pulled out her wand, cigarettes, and vintage black holder from her purse. She lit the tobacco as soon as she could, inhaled deeply, and looked out at the exquisite view of the French capital. Marianne didn’t shy away from the railing and watched the Muggles carelessly walk on the sidewalk below her; like most pureblood houses in the city, the Valois Mansion was protected by a Fidelius Charm.
“Well if it isn’t Miss Marianne Minot,” a voice drawled from across the balcony. Marianne turned sharply and saw Rabastan Lestrange emerge from the shadows. “I would have recognized that scowl anywhere.” She almost cursed in annoyance but as she took another drag from her cigarette, the pureblood’s cold hard façade grew stronger. It was the only way she knew how to deal with gits like Lestrange.
“Rabastan,” she said indifferently as she focused her attention elsewhere. He was intrigued by her never the less and slowly circled behind her as he sucked on the end of his own cigarette. Marianne continued to look out straight in front of her but out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rabastan slyly licking his lips. She remained steadfast as he obstructed her view and leaned against the railing.
“How many times have you been to the Valois Mansion, Miss Minot?” the Frenchman smirked.
“Countless,” she sneered as she blew smoke in his face.
“So you know the place very well, no?”
“Génial! I need you to give me directions.”
“Directions?” Marianne questioned as she took another drag. “To where?”
“It’s to – how do you say – a private party,” the Slytherin jeered as he mirrored her actions. “It’s in the Évreux Wing.”
“But those apartments are abandoned,” Marianne challenged. “Why are you going there?”
“My my, you ask a lot of questions, Marianne,” Rabastan jested with a slight laugh. “And I already told you. I’m going to a private party.” His emphasis on the exclusivity of the secret gathering gave her pause. It was almost as if he was taunting her with the information.
“Last one, I promise,” Marianne mocked before she took another drag from her cigarette. “Why should I help you?”
“If you give me the information I want,” he oozed dramatically as he threw a not so discreet glance at her cleavage, “I will leave you to your cigarette.”
“Go up the main staircase to the Fourth Floor, turn left at the second door, then right after the third window. In that hallway, you will find a secret staircase behind the Impressionist landscape painting,” she spit out as fast as she could. “Now leave.”
“As you wish, my lady,” Rabastan said with a deep, aristocratic bow. “But I suggest you explore this Mansion more often.”
“Excuse me?” Marianne sputtered.
“You must start on the Fifth Floor, not the Fourth, to get to the Évreux Wing.”
Rabastan threw her a quick wink and seconds later, vanished into a crowd of people with a swish of his cloak. Marianne threw a glance over her shoulder, making sure that Rabastan had kept his promise, and exhaled easily. However, she caught sight of the Frenchman’s smoldering cigarette as she continued to smoke her own and suspicious thoughts filled her head.
What was this private party? Who was there? What were they doing? And most importantly, why the hell did he ask her for directions when he already knew the way?
Marianne continued to stew as she looked out at the Paris skyline, for Rabastan’s taunt was only the tip of the iceberg. She sucked on the end of her cigarette holder as she finally started to process her earlier conversation with Lotte. But her rage and aching distress clouded her judgment and she began to mentally curse Remus Lupin as well. She decided then and there that she was tired of being pushed around by the opposite sex. She was going to take action. The pureblood took another angry drag of her cigarette as she felt her tough disguise fuse itself to her gentle soul.
A newfound anger pulsed through her antagonistic frame of mind. The Ravenclaw took Rabastan’s bait and allowed her devilish side to investigate his cryptic challenge. Instead of being rational and levelheaded, Marianne threw her cigarette to the ground, smashed it with her platform suede heels, and quickly made her way to the abandoned Évreux Wing. She had to know what was going on.
Once Marianne reached the apartments, she pulled the hood of her black cloak over her head to disguise herself. In the distance, she saw a flickering light near the deserted Ballroom at the end of the hall. After muttering a quick lighting spell, the Prefect crept down the hallway without making a noise. She slyly slipped between the two open doors but became very alarmed when she saw that the Ballroom was completely filled with people dressed exactly like her.
She had found the secret gathering but was not prepared for its purpose.
Her mask suddenly ceased to exist as evil began to radiate from every corner. Fear flooded her senses, washing away her confidence entirely. The room turned dark and cold and in response, Marianne’s heart began to race with insecurity. She forced a shaking hand into her pocket as she watched a dark cloud begin to form at the front of the crowd. When it reached a sizeable mass, the pureblood held back a fearful whimper as a cloaked figure fluidly emerged from behind it. When he fully materialized, the wizard sharply pulled back his hood and exhibited his face. His hand reached out and vainly smoothed his perfectly combed over dark hair. When he returned it to his side, his eyes matched his hard and sinister expression.
“Good evening, my faithful,” Lord Voldemort hissed.
“My Lord!” the crowd called out as they bowed in unison. Marianne, however, melted into the shadows when she realized she had blindly walked into a Death Eater meeting. How did she let herself get into this deep of trouble? How could she have been so stupid?
“I am pleased to see so many of you accepted my invitation,” Lord Voldemort sneered. “Our movement is indeed growing by the day.”
The middle-aged wizard held out his wand dramatically as he continued.
“Eight years ago, only a few pureblood families believed in the Cause. But our vision is a fundamental concept of life – it is blasphemy to deny the fact that Muggles are inferior to purebloods. And so, it is time to unite. Too many individuals have labored for the Mission, without knowing that they have brothers and sisters in arms. Therefore, I have called you here tonight to finally bundle together all the branches of my operation. Some of you have high positions in wizarding governments. Some of you wear the judicial robes. Others influence high society and several work in Europe’s biggest banking institutions. And a few of you are right under Albus Dumbledore’s nose, recruiting the next generation of combatants …”
Marianne’s pulse stopped abruptly. Terror clouded her intellect.
“Together, we have the passion, resources, and collective strength to prevail. So it is imperative that we put aside our cultural divisions and deliver a swift and simultaneous blow. Soon, we will show Europe – and the entire world – that purebloods are the superior race. And we will not be silenced!” Lord Voldemort’s voice boomed throughout the room and his mouth turned into a sharp smirk as he waved his arm to the side.
“It is now time to welcome another comrade to our movement.” Another cloaked figure appeared next to him and the leader quickly snatched the wizard’s arm and pulled up his sleeve. His forearm was bare but Marianne knew that was about to change when she saw Lord Voldemort thrust his wand to his skin.
“Do you pledge your service to me? Do you bestow your loyalty to the Mission? Do you accept this pact - this binding covenant - Rabastan Lestrange? Will you give your soul for the Cause?”
Anxiety, dread, panic, fright, and horror consumed her. Rabastan wanted her to be here – to witness him becoming a Death Eater. Before the Frenchman could give his answer, Marianne darted out the doors as scared tears prickled her eyes. She held a hand in front of her mouth to keep from crying out as she dashed down the hallway. The frightened girl promptly sprinted down the hidden staircase and threw herself into the nearest cupboard when she reached one of the main floors. After Marianne slammed the door shut and cast a Silencing Spell, she became one with the dark. Her extreme apprehension painfully left her body as she hysterically sobbed and banged her fists against the wood with guilt and shame.
Her pretentious demeanor was nowhere in sight.
Author’s Note: So no Remus in this one, but some background on Marianne and Voldy!! If things are a little confusing, that’s ok. As you can probably tell by now, individual plots tend to converge during group chapters ;)
I’ve already written Gemma’s chapter so it should be out just after this one validates! I can’t tell you if my updates will always be this speedy but I had some time on my hands. You should be able to read a new chapter every 1-2 weeks, I can promise you that!
And Sabine’s playby is Polly Walker, James Purefoy is Loki and Ralph Fiennes is Voldemort. Please review, I love hearing from everyone!!
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