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Chapter 37 : Prisoner
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Horace Slughorn was a man of obvious pleasures. He enjoyed crystallized pineapple, a fine champagne, and the constant company of those he believed would someday run the world. I didn’t know how a man of no special wealth or status had developed such an affinity for the well connected, but somehow, he had. I stirred my Elixer for Euphoria—it was a sparkling sunshine yellow, just as it should be. Slughorn beamed as he walked by, and I gave him my most brilliant smile.
Tom caught my eye and nodded. He always warned me to keep in Slughorn’s good graces…I never understood why. The man seemed quite useless.
Before cleaning up my workstation, I scooped up a vial of my potion. It really was quite pretty, and who knew when I’d need some euphoria these days.
“We need to work on Katarina tonight,” Tom said to me as we left class. “I don’t have time for anymore of this nonsense.”
It had been three days since I kidnapped Grindelwald’s closest confidant, and we had gotten exactly zero useful pieces of information out of her. Tom, in a moment of characteristic brilliance, had decided we’d keep our hostage locked up in the chamber—she could scream all she wanted; no one would ever hear her. No one would accidentally find her. No one would have any idea.
No one did, but being found out wasn’t the problem at hand. The problem was that Katarina was stubborn and strong and absolutely infuriated. She refused, point blank, to divulge any of Grindelwald’s plans, his location, or anything else of substance.
We had obviously wanted to use Veritaserum, but Slughorn’s private stock was out, and it took weeks to brew. We didn’t have weeks, according to Tom. So we had to do things the old fashioned way, and the old fashioned way wasn’t pretty.
I had the pleasure of watching Tom shout at, threaten and torture our guest, becoming increasingly enraged when his efforts spawned only spite from Katarina. She spat at him once, earning a bout of the Cruciatus Curse that made me wince. He hit her with it multiple times in a day. Once, he changed his approach and tried slashing her sides with a nasty silver spell, only to have her laugh as the blood ran down her sides and splashed onto the marble beneath her feet.
I couldn’t help but admire her. I knew she was an impediment to everything we were aiming for, and she was angering the man I loved. But still, I could only hope I would have her resolve and her spirit if I were ever to be so thoroughly tortured. It was with very mixed feelings that I stood by and watched Tom hurt her so badly she could barely breathe when he was finished.
Later that night, I followed him through the dark halls to see our prisoner once again. I wasn’t sure why he always demanded that I come with him. Was it because he wanted me to see what he could do? Was it because he thought I would be useful? Perhaps he thought I’d be struck with a sudden feeling of womanly brilliance, and appeal to a common feminine sensibility in Katarina? I had no idea, and he said nothing on the subject. So I only followed him and watched.
She sat on the marble near Salazar’s feet, hands shackled above her head like a common thief. She was still in the evening gown she wore the night I took her, but it was hardly recognizable now. It was dirty from the journey here, the sides were slashed, and blood had stained almost all of the midnight blue silk.
When she looked up, there was a flinty determination in her eyes—she knew what was coming, and she was ready. Suddenly, I wished I were elsewhere.
“Evening, Katarina,” Tom said pleasantly, a misleading beginning to the night I knew would end in his rage.
“Still at it, you little prat?”
“That’s no way to begin a conversation,” Tom chided, twirling his wand. He looked so beautiful, black robes and hair startlingly dark against the marble of the chamber and the white of his skin. It was shocking the things he could do with that wand, the pain he could cause while he looked like such an angel.
“There’s no conversation to be had,” Katarina said, glaring at him from between two lank pieces of dark hair. “So if you’d like to torture me, or better, kill me, I recommend you do so with haste.”
“I don’t intend to do either of those things,” Tom said.
This was an update. I frowned at him, as confused as Katarina must have been.
Tom smiled at our hostage. “I don’t, but my Anna does.”
My heart dropped. I managed to keep from making any noise, but I couldn’t help the sickening tightness that took my insides.
“I don’t believe she does,” Katarina said, taking in my tenseness.
“She does anything I’d like her to,” Tom said, somewhat offhandedly. The comment simultaneously elated and irritated me.
He turned to me. “You know what to do.”
I tried to think of an excuse, of any possible reason I could give him not to do this. Half of me didn’t even know why I was so reluctant to hurt the woman in front of me, but this didn’t stop the pit of dread in my stomach. I pulled my wand from my robes. Katarina was used to this, I told myself. And if I didn’t do it, Tom would. I took a few steps forward.
“Good,” Tom said. “I trust you ladies will have a nice chat while I’m gone.”
“Anna, I expect good news when you return,” Tom continued, as if that was that and merely replacing his torturing wand with mine could solve all of our issues.
“Of course,” I said mechanically, my first instinct to agree with him.
And hearing this, he nodded, and with a sweep of his black robes he was gone.
It was silent for moment, but for the sound of rushing water.
“Get on with it then,” Katarina said, looking bored.
I raised my wand. Tom had told me to get something out of her, and I would. I couldn’t fail him.
But nothing happened. I didn’t say a word. And I knew that I couldn’t…I had never been particularly gifted with the Cruciatus Curse—the only time I had successfully cast it was when I wanted to cause pain more than anything else in the world.
I didn’t want to hurt Katarina, and I knew it.
With a sigh, I lowered my wand. I expected her mocking, but it still stung when it came.
“Look at you, too soft to torture your prisoner,” the woman in front of me sneered, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder. “And I had thought you’d be eager. Looks like I overestimated you.”
“You know he won’t let you go,” I said dully. “He’s going to keep hurting you until you give him what he wants. You may as well tell him now and get it over with.”
“You know as well as I do that isn’t going to happen.”
Her accent was thick, and it always took me a few seconds to understand exactly what she was saying. But her words were clearer than ever.
“I don’t know what you think you’re accomplishing by staying quiet,” I snapped, suddenly annoyed. “Tom will just torture you until Grindelwald comes to try and rescue you. He isn’t stupid, he’ll know it’s us that’s taken you.”
For a moment, Katarina only stared. Then she burst into laughter. Peels and peels of laughter tore through the air, echoing off the walls of the chamber and surrounding me in her mirth.
“What?” I finally asked, irritated.
My question only made her laugh harder. She would have doubled over if it weren’t for the shackles holding her wrists above her head. I stood and watched her, trying to keep my temper. But every time she seemed close to stopping, she would take one look at me and start again.
The flash of purple light struck her on the side of her face. The laughter stopped.
I watched with a mixture of satisfaction and uneasiness as she gasped in surprise, blood dripping down her face, down her neck, soaking into the fabric of her gown.
“Care to share what’s so amusing?” I asked, my voice quiet, only barely discernable above the rushing of the fountains.
Katarina raised her gaze to me—she was a rather gruesome sight, blood from the gash on her cheekbone running down half her face, even into her mouth. She spit some onto the marble floor.
“Oh, my dear,” she said finally. “I forget, sometimes, how naive I must have been at your age.”
I bristled, but kept from lashing out again. My curiosity had won out over my anger. “What?”
Katarina only stared at me. Her face, though bloody and twisted in a sneer, caught a split second of something else. Something that looked suspiciously like pity.
“Are you and your friend seriously believing that Gellert will come swooping in here to save me?”
I didn’t know what to say. It would have been preferable, of course, for Katarina to break and spill every last one of Grindelwald’s plans. We could head him off and take him by surprise, finally execute what we’ve been attempting for years. But yes, if we gave it long enough, we had been expecting Grindelwald to stage some sort of rescue. She was his best lieutenant, his second in command, his lover, for Merlin’s sake.
How could he not?
Katarina saw my face and laughed again. She must have seen my wand hand twitch, because she subdued herself rather quickly.
“I regret to inform you, dear, that Gellert will not be showing up here,” Katarina said.
“What are you talking about? He’s just arrogant enough to believe he could break into Hogwarts.”
“Oh, no, no, no….” Katarina studied me, disbelieving. “Oh Anne Harley, you stupid little girl.”
I raised my wand, but did nothing. Katarina stared wearily at it until I lowered it reluctantly.
“Gellert will not be coming to Hogwarts, or anywhere else that doesn’t directly benefit his plans. He will be taking no detours. Nothing will distract him.”
“But nothing,” Katarina snapped. “Did you really think he would sacrifice his well being, all of his goals, for me? You must have nothing in that pretty head of yours. I expected better.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say. She was telling me Grindelwald didn’t care enough to rescue her? That he couldn’t be bothered with saving his closest confidant?
“But I thought he—”
“Loved me?” Katarina cackled again, a dark, mirthless sound. “Such pretty thoughts. Wouldn’t that be perfect? The handsome Gellert Grindelwald, hopelessly besotted?”
She seemed rather out of breath now, drained from her laughing. She giggled like a madwoman, hands limply hanging above her head, chest rising and falling with the effort of propelling her amusement.
“Such a nice idea. Wouldn’t it have been just splendid if he had fallen in love with me? So romantic.”
I could do nothing but watch her. She slowly fell from laughter into an odd sort of heaving. If I didn’t know better, I would have said she was trying not to cry.
But she couldn’t cry, not the woman who had stood up to Tom without so much as a flinch. Not the woman who had murdered countless people alongside the greatest dark wizard that ever lived.
But when she looked up, I saw that I was right. I suddenly remembered the first time I had seen her, in that photograph on the ground at the Hogsmeade hideout. I remembered thinking she was beautiful, and dark and mysterious. I had been envious of her.
There was nothing about her to envy now: she was bloody and nowhere near beautiful, but gaunt and rather pale. Tears spilled down her face, making pink streaks in the blood that covered one side of her face.
“Gellert never loved me, you stupid, stupid girl,” she breathed. “Never in a million years could he have loved me. And if that’s what you thought, then you deserve every failure that comes to you.”
I was gripping my wand so tightly my knuckles were white. I forced myself to relax my fingers.
Katarina hiccupped, laughing again through her tears. “Would you like to know something, you little bitch? I hope you and that boy are different.”
Half of me wanted to slash the other side of her face for speaking to me like that, but I couldn’t help the dreadful curiosity welling up inside me, dying to know what she meant.
“I hope he cares. I hope he loves you and you won’t be left hanging in a dungeon wishing he did. I hope that if you died, it would matter to him.”
I heard my own intake of breath rather than felt it.
“But do you know what I think, Anne Harley? I don’t think he is any different.”
“Stop,” I choked, finally finding my voice. “Just shut up.”
She had no idea what she was talking about. I didn’t need to stand here and listen to her sob about her pathetic relationship with Grindelwald. It was hardly my problem if he didn’t care enough to rescue her. She should have made herself more valuable, that’s all.
Katarina laughed again. “You wish I were wrong. You wish I was, and I do too. But I don’t think I am. And do you know why, my dear?”
I closed my eyes, wondering why I hadn’t hit her with a Cruciatus yet.
“Because I look into that boy’s eyes and I see something I’ve been seeing for years. He has the same look about him Gellert has had for years. That same madness. He will never have enough, he will never stop, and he will never be satisfied. There is nothing in the world that can stop men like ours, and we’re the lucky women who get to watch them destroy everything in their path.”
I realized then that I had let her win, that there were tears on my face as well. I hated her, everything about her. Everything she was saying to try and make her own situation seem relevant.
It wasn’t. We were nothing alike. Tom and Grindelwald weren’t the same. They couldn’t be.
Katarina watched me, no more laughter in her eyes. No more sneer, no more anger. She only looked tired, and older than she had only a few days ago.
“But still, I hope for you,” she sighed. “I still hope to god you will do better than I did. I hope you will be smart enough not to fall in love with him.”
I wiped the wetness from my face defiantly, glaring at her. She chuckled once more.
“But I know when hoping is futile. God bless you, Miss Anne Harley. You will need it.”
I dreaded returning to Tom without any information. Would he torture me like Katarina? Would he force-feed me more of that potion? I shuddered at the thought. But it would have taken every fiber of a resolve I did not possess to hurt Katarina after all that she said to me. What kind of monster would I be to torture a woman after she had already been hurt for days and abandoned by the man she loved?
The kind of monster that was useful to Tom.
But there was no point in trying. I knew I was incapable of the Cruciatus Curse unless it was all I desired in the world. And it was not.
It was on the way to our dungeon annex that I came up with a plan—a weak one that would probably still earn only disapproval from Tom, but a plan all the same.
“Well?” Tom asked, as I entered, no build up whatsoever.
“Well,” I repeated, carefully taking a seat beside him, near the fire. “I’ve had an idea.”
Tom shot me a look. “Unless this idea involves giving me every detail of Grindelwald’s military plan, I am loath to hear it.”
“I understand,” I said levelly. “But I think we’ve been going about dealing with Katarina in the wrong way.”
It was a mark of how much Tom trusted me, I believe, that he didn’t immediately lash out. If anyone else had criticized him in any way, their blood would have hit the floor before they knew what they had done wrong.
But as it was, his eyes only flashed in that dangerous way I came to associate with his holding his temper. “And what is it you propose we do differently, Annamaria?”
“The second you left, Katarina…changed,” I settled on. “She was more open with me. Seemed to want to talk. I think she has some misguided notion that my being a girl makes us somehow connected.”
Tom studied me. “Go on.”
“I think she has been trained to withstand torture. She is prepared for it, and has grown to expect it. She will not break from physical harm.”
“But you believe a more…psychological approach will yield the result we desire?”
I swallowed. “I think so.”
I didn’t want Tom to see how much our prisoner had affected me, how I closed my eyes and saw her sneer, heard her saying Tom could never love me. I shook the thoughts away and focused on the beautiful boy in front of me, the reason for all of it.
“I suspected she might be difficult,” Tom admitted, loosening his tie. I’m quite sure he was unaware of my gaze settling on his perfect white collarbone. “And we have been getting nowhere.”
“Exactly. So I figured, why ruin it? If she trusts me or, or, feels some solidarity with me, why destroy that by torturing her? I may as well play the good guy and see if I can get anything out of her that way.”
Tom was quiet for a bit, sliding his tie off and running a hand through his hair. The crackle of the fire was the only sound for a while.
Then he snorted. “And is that what you are, my Anna? The good guy?”
I felt my lips curve into a smile at the idea. “I could be, if you’d like.”
“I believe I would,” Tom decided. “Let’s see how good you can be. Sympathize. Bond with her. Show her you know what she’s going through.”
I nodded. “I can do that.”
“Then destroy her.”
“I can do that even better.”
A/N Again, as usual, sorry for the wait. And I'm sorry it's short, but adding anything seemed unnatural. I've got loads more ready to go though, so it shouldn't be long! I love you all for sticking with me, so be sure to review and let me know how you feel about all of it :)
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