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On Crumbling Lives by cherry_pop94
Chapter 11 : Run
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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 Narcissa Malfoy walked down the Parisian streets with her head held high. She walked four paces behind the stout little man with the bouncing mustache. She watched him carefully, waiting for him to turn into some empty road to disapparate, waiting for her chance. He didn’t suspect the beautiful blonde woman walking behind him at all. Arnaut Romilly walked casually, looked down at his pocket watch and then turned the corner into a little alleyway. Arnaut began to turn on the spot, but just as he was mid-rotation, he saw Narcissa, her wand raised in his face. There was nothing he could do.

Narcissa looked back at the busy street she’d just left and disapparated, holding onto Arnaut’s inert body tightly. They arrived at a simple motel room. The room was dark with minimal furniture. Just one queen sized bed and garish wallpaper in mustard yellow and pale pink flowers. Narcissa heaved Arnaut’s heavy body onto the bed and tied him up with some rough rope. Arnaut, still unconscious, lay there was Narcissa stood in the shadows watching him.

“Lovely work, Cissy,” Bellatrix drawled, stepping through the small door into the room. She turned the lights on as she walked across the small room towards Arnaut. “Watch the door,” she commanded her younger sister.

Narcissa nodded and stood next to the window covered with green curtains. She peeked out into the sunshine filled streets, but no one came towards their little room. Bellatrix pulled a chair up to Arnaut’s bedside and straddled it backwards, leaning her hallowed cheek on the back of the chair and playing with her wand in front of it.

Arnaut’s eyes fluttered open quickly and he tried to reach up to rub them, but couldn’t because of the rope that tied them to his side. He squirmed in the spot and yelled out, but found his voice muted and his bound body tied to the bed posts. His eyes filled with horror as he spotted Bellatrix at his bedside, grinning at him the way a hunter smiles at her prey.

“Nice of you to wake up, Monsieur Romilly,” Bellatrix said softly. She reached her hand towards his round cheek and stroked it softly, tugging gently on his curvy mustache. Arnaut opened his mouth again to scream, but no noise came out.

“It’s no fun if he can’t scream,” Bellatrix pouted. She pointed her wand at the motel room door. “Muffiato,” she mumbled, then gave Arnaut back his voice. He screamed immediately, crying out for help, for someone to hear him, but of course, no one did. Narcissa flinched at their prisoner’s howl, but Bellatrix remained unaffected.

“I’ve done nothing!” Arnaut cried. “What do you want with me?”

“I think you know,” Bellatrix snarled. She grabbed his face tightly, gagging her with her tight grip on his jaw. He sputtered loudly and tried to squirm out of her reach, but to no avail. Bellatrix had a death grip on him and stared at him with a look that Arnaut swore could kill a man.

Of course, he recognized her face from the wanted posters that had made their way even to France a few years ago. She was the notorious Death Eater and she had surely discovered his secret. The safe house system would be weak if he died and she had to know that. How she had found him was still a mystery, Arnaut and the other secret keepers’ identity were expertly hidden so they still continue their day-to-day business in France.

And in fact, he had been right. Bellatrix did not know that Arnaut Romilly was secret keeper for five safe houses. She did not know that he was the secret keeper of the Greengrass house or that he had smuggled muggleborns out of the UK along with his potions shipments. What Bellatrix did know was that the map Henry Watherson had gotten to find the safe houses from the Potterwatch people was traced back to the shipping dock where Arnaut Romilly’s company docked. His and seven others, but Bellatrix wasn’t really one to care about the collateral damage of killing the wrong man. She’d kill all eight of them just to figure out which one was aligned with rebels in the UK.

“Mudblood safe house network,” Bellatrix growled at him. She leaned her face close up to his, still gagging him with her tight grip. She spat out the words, spraying her saliva into his face. “Do the words mean anything to you?”

Arnaut shook his head quickly. He knew this was the end for him, but if he could just get away from them for a moment to warn the houses… looking around the room though, Arnaut knew that he had been defeated. If he died, everyone who knew the secret would become the secret keeper. Any of the muggleborns who knew would be able to tell the secret to Bellatrix. Though Arnaut didn’t believe any of them would willingly tell a Death Eater, the risk was too great. The secret could not be tortured out or coerced out of someone with blackmail or veritaserum, it had to be completely willingly. He could take comfort in that, just as long as Bellatrix didn’t catch the person who had cast the charms, they were safe enough. As long as Bellatrix didn’t find Astoria, they were safe.

“Don’t lie to me,” Bellatrix hissed. She shut her eyes and concentrated on Arnaut’s shaking body. Once she opened them again, it was like she was in a trance. Her black eyes pierced through Arnaut’s gentle brown ones, deep into his mind. She assaulted his thoughts with a sharp stab, penetrating his mind. She tried to dig through his secrets, but she hit a wall that catapulted her out again as if pushed back with a powerful spell.

“Occlumency,” Bellatrix said, regaining her breath after the failed attempt at reading Arnaut’s mind. “Fine.”

She raised her wand and produced a small burst of red flame from the tip of her wand. The flame morphed into the shape of a slithering snake, crawling down the wand around Bellatrix’s arm, somehow not burning her. Arnaut stared at the demonic snake in horror, cringing back away from the madwoman sitting in front of him.

“Who cast the spell?” Bellatrix asked. “It wasn’t you, you’re the secret keeper.”

“I’m not a secret keeper for anything,” Arnaut said, his voice shaking just a little bit. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I think you do,” Bellatrix whispered. She pointed her wand sharply and the snake flew towards Arnaut’s leg, unbound by the ropes. It crawled up him slowly, turning his trousers into burning embers, black burns covering his legs. Arnaut screamed out, making Narcissa flinch again into the corner. Bellatrix, still unfazed, stared him in the eye with almost a bored expression.

“Who cast the Fidelius charm?” she asked again. “I don’t like to be kept waiting.”

“I’ll… never… tell you!” Arnaut cried out between his screams of excruciating pain as his flesh was charred off his body by Bellatrix’s ravenous fiery pet. “I won’t tell you!”

The smell of burnt human flesh filled the room, Narcissa turning green in the face from the nauseating scent. She’d never seen such a horrible scene before. Arnaut’s once thick leg had been reduced to black, charred almost to the bone, but still, he resisted. He didn’t tell Bellatrix anything. Narcissa almost wanted to scream at him, to tell him it was foolish to hold out, that he didn’t have to die, but she couldn’t. Instead, she turned her head away, still looking out the crack in the curtain for any approaching people.

“I shan’t ask nicely again,” Bellatrix snapped. She spoke in a haughty manner, as if speaking with a misbehaving child rather than the grown man she was torturing. She fiddled her wand in her left hand, twirling it between her fingers with surprising grace. “Who cast the charm?”

Arnaut shook his head and bit down hard on his lip as she tried to hold in his scream as she fiery snake slid up his body, burning the ropes first, then his clothes, and finally bare flesh. He was barely conscious from the smoke and pain of fiendfyre, his brain starting to feel fuzzy and damned by the cursed smoke fumes. Bellatrix seemed unaffected by the smoke in the room, though her younger sister looked as if she’d vomit any minute now.

“Have it your way then,” Bellatrix finally snarled. She shut her eyes once again and then stared deeply into Arnaut’s almost shut ones. Again, she pierced into his mind, penetrating his thoughts, only this time, she wasn’t met by resistance, instead she was met by a flood of thoughts as Arnaut passed out from the pain shooting through his whole body. Bellatrix saw it all; the muggleborns crawling through Arnaut’s cargo, the trips with them to the refugee status office, the tiny girl dancing around the cabins casting her spell.

A smile spread across Bellatrix’s face, as she replayed the Arnaut’s memory of when the Fidelius charm was first cast. The small, dark haired girl swelled with power as she recited the incantation five times over in five different locations. Always the same girl. She had a petite figure, black hair, black eyes. She was very young and very familiar.

When Bellatrix was back in her own mind, she turned around to Narcissa, a huge grin on her pale face. She walked towards her sister, a spring in her step that wasn’t there before. Completely, nonchalantly, Bellatrix aimed her wand at Arnaut, green light soaring towards his already unmoving body, killing him at last with the kind of casualness one reserved for summoning quills or cleaning spills.

“What is it?” Narcissa asked hurriedly, ignoring the newly murdered man on the bed. She stood and walked towards her sister, grabbing her arm. “What did you find out?”

“Two birds with one stone, my dear,” Bellatrix nearly sang out. “Two birds, one stone!”

~

The Greengrass family shared a small meal with their latest guests, the Croft family. There was the mother, Katherine – a carefully built woman with wiry brown hair and rail thin face – the father, Marcus – who somehow looked small and mousy beside his also small wife – and their two sons Rory and Sam – as different from their plain parents as humanly possible, with their healthy blond hair and green eyes. Katherine and Marcus Croft were both muggleborns and had escaped from the Ministry with their two children. They were simple people, having never been involved with the rebellion before, but they needed safety for their two children that they would never be able to have under the new regime.

Astoria recognized Sam Croft from her year in school. They were never friends, but she knew of him, though he didn’t recognize her. Sam had been popular at school, with lots of friends across all the houses, even though he was a Hufflepuff. He was handsome, with sandy blond hair and green eyes that glowed like emeralds, making all the girls fall for him. Even Cordelia Yaxley fancied Sam, though she never admitted it to anyone but Jenna on account of his blood status.

Of course, popular and handsome Sam had never noticed shy and quiet Astoria Greengrass. She had never spoken up in class and she never drew attention to herself outside it. Very few people outside of Slytherin house knew her name and certainly no one knew much about her, apart from Daphne and Johanna. When Sam arrived at the Greengrass safe house though, there was a quick flicker of recognition at her face. He hadn’t said anything though and neither had Astoria to him.

After the meal, the Croft family retreated upstairs to the bedroom they’d share for the night. Astoria returned to her and Daphne’s room as well, leaving her sister downstairs with her parents. She changed into her floral pajamas and washed up quickly. She put her long hair into two careful plaits, laid her head down, and shut her eyes. She thought about Sam and all the friends he’d had in school; the huge group of people who seemed to always follow him around, laughing and smiling with him. Astoria wondered if they knew where he was. If they knew that he was safe and going to France. Most likely, they didn’t, Astoria reasoned. She remembered seeing one of his close friends, Matthew Smattings, still at Hogwarts, going about his classes with a smaller group than he used to have, but a good size nonetheless.

Astoria wondered if they missed him and if anyone missed her. Certainly not Cordelia and Jenna, probably not Pansy either. She’d know that Daphne was a traitor and probably hated her best friend now. Johanna was long gone, so there was no one else that cared. Maybe Luna Lovegood missed her presence, but Astoria doubted it. They never were friends, they hadn’t even spoken before until that time in the dungeons. The only other person who Astoria could even fathom noticing her disappearance was Professor Flitwick. He likely knew about Daphne’s betrayal, perhaps he believed them dead, or knew they ran away. Astoria made a mental note to contact the little man if she ever got out of this.

Downstairs, Linus, Norella, and Daphne sat around the table in silence listening to the radio soft static buzz. There had been nothing on Potterwatch that day, strange, since they usually broadcasted every day. There hadn’t been any news from the other safe houses either, except to remind the Greengrasses that a muggleborn was coming in two days, the day after the Crofts were leaving. They, like Nava and Mahin, had to travel by foot because of eight-year-old Rory and 15-year-old Sam.

Despite the radio silence, the three Greengrasses still sat around the table waiting, like they did every night. An hour later, nothing came. There were still no messages, no sounds. Norella stood, she placed her mug in the sink and washed it quickly before turning back to Linus and Daphne.

“I’m going to bed now,” she said. “Are you-”

CRACK.

Norella was interrupted by the loud noise coming from the forest, the sound of apparition. Her head whipped around to the window where Linus and Daphne were already running. In the darkness, the three of them could see five figures coming towards the house, wands drawn, ready for a fight.

Daphne’s heart began to race when she recognized the dominating figure of Bellatrix Lestrange leading the group towards her house. Her nightmares were coming to life in front of her, the fear threatening to tear Daphne apart. She began to hyperventilate, leaning her hand against the windowsill as her Dark Mark began to burn again.

“Daphne!” Linus shouted at her. He grabbed her by both her shoulders and shook her limp figure. “Get a grip! Grab Astoria and run! Go!”

Daphne stared at her parents, wands already flying around the house casting protective enchantments to buy them some time as the Death Eaters were momentarily held off. She scrambled to the table for her own wand, fumbling slightly before grasping it in her hand. She stared back at her parents, the house shaking already as their charms began to wear off, but still, they cast more.

“Run Daphne!” Norella screamed. “TAKE ASTORIA AND RUN!”

With one glance back at her parents preparing to fight a battle they knew they’d lose, Daphne bolted up the stairs and grabbed the emergency pack sitting at the top. She flung the pack over her shoulder and began shouting down the corridor. The Croft family was up, running out of their room in their pajamas. They followed Daphne, but she didn’t even see them there as she plowed through and grabbed Astoria out of her bed.

“Come on!” Daphne cried. “We have to go!”

“What’s going on?” Astoria shrieked. She scrambled to grab her shoes and coat as Daphne shoved some things into the emergency pack, not even caring what she grabbed.

“We’re going,” Daphne said. “Come on.”

She grabbed Astoria’s hand and began to disapparate, but her sister pulled away. Her eyes were wide with fear and she heard the spells firing off downstairs. Out the door, Astoria saw Katherine pushing her sons into Astoria and Daphne’s room, firing spells off at the Death Eaters below, blocking them from coming up. Daphne’s mind flashed back to when she was at the other side of the attack, shivers running up her spine as the Dark Mark continued to burn up inside her. Her vision becoming blurred as Astoria’s hair changed from black and blonde, her world flickering between the present and the past months ago. She whipped around, not seeing Mulciber like she expected, but seeing young Rory and Sam instead, staring at her with fear in their eyes, but not fear of her, fear of what was just downstairs.

“We can’t leave them behind!” Astoria shrieked, snapping Daphne fully back into the present. Her sister’s hair turned from blonde to black again, her features morphing back into her own instead of Johanna’s.

Daphne stared at her Astoria, seeing her pleading eyes now instead of Johanna’s. She looked back at Rory and Sam, only children, desperately asking to be saved. She couldn’t do it again. She couldn’t leave people to die again, not after Astoria asked her to save them. Not after she’d already let two children go last time. Daphne couldn’t bear of the thought of Astoria looking at her with anger again. Not like the last time in forest when she’d called Daphne a monster. She couldn’t do that again, she couldn’t be a monster.

Daphne grabbed Astoria’s hand tightly, but then reached for Sam and Rory, all of them grabbing onto bits of her as she turned on the spot. Just as Daphne disappeared, Marcus and Katherine flung themselves towards her, disappearing as well as Death Eaters finally burst up the stairs, only to find it empty.

The Greengrass sisters and Croft family appeared in a clearing with tall trees growing all around it, blocking out the stars above with a thick canopy of leaves. Spring was unusually late that year, with the trees not yet sprouting despite it already being late March. Daphne stumbled to her feet, staring at the crowd of people around her, including three underage children she’d just apparated with.

“Astoria,” Daphne panted. She rested her hands against her knees and stared around them. “The Fidel-”

Astoria cut her off with a nod and raised her wand. She began chanting the long complicated spell Daphne remembered from all those months ago. The familiar silver swirled around the clearing, turning that one particular spot into somewhere undetectable, untraceable, even by the most powerful magic. The silver swirled all around and soon that familiar silver hurricane flew through the clearing, straight towards Daphne.

On impulse, she raised her hands, shielding herself from the oncoming magic, but it absorbed right into her, spending powerful magic running through her body. Daphne fell to her knees as she became secret keeper of the little clearing. Her body shook slightly, her eyes turning silver. Then, there was nothing again and the clearing no longer existed for anyone, except for Katherine, Marcus, Rory, Sam, Astoria, and Daphne.

“What about mum and dad?” Astoria asked quietly as Daphne picked herself up again. “We’ve got to go back for them.”

“Tori…” Daphne shook her head solemnly, unable to look her sister in the eye, for fear that Astoria would see the fear and sadness in them. A tear began to well up inside Daphne’s eyes, she shoved them away with a rough fist, then dropped the rucksack onto the frozen dirt. She pulled a tent out and flicked her wand at it. The tent pitched itself, a tiny little thing, with an orange patch on one side of it. The tent looked barely big enough for one person, let alone six.

“MUM AND DAD ARE STILL THERE!” Astoria cried. Tears flowed down her face uninhibited. She pulled at her hair as she raced towards Daphne and grabbed her hand, trying to will her sister into disapparating back to the house to rescue their parents. “WE HAVE TO SAVE THEM DAPHNE!”

Daphne shook her off roughly and turned around to her sister, tears spilling out of her own eyes, her face turning an unpleasant shade of red. The whole Croft family stared at the sisters, unsure of what to do. Katherine held Rory close to her with her other arm wrapped protectively around Sam, who was already much taller than his mother. Marcus stood by them all, watching the sisters cry.

“We can’t!” Daphne screamed back at Astoria. She collapsed onto her knees, her head falling into her lap as she howled loudly. “Don’t you get it Astoria? THEY’RE GONE. IT’S TOO LATE.”

“No,” Astoria whispered, shaking her head. Her bottom lip quivered as she brought her hand up to her mouth, biting her nails. She shook her head again and collapsed next to Daphne. She wrapped her arm around her sister and shook her with the feeble strength she could muster up. “They can’t be gone, Daph! They can’t be! We should have stayed! We could have fought them off!”

Daphne shook her head. She bit down on her lip hard until she could taste blood. Tucking her knees into her chest, Daphne looked back up at Astoria with a kind of broken defeat in her eyes. Astoria was reminded painfully of the last time they were hiding in the forest, she saw that same broken child right now as she had then. Daphne looked broken, feeble, fragile. Not like the warrior Astoria knew she was, but like a hurt child. A child who’d been left behind, hurt too many times.

“I saw her,” Daphne breathed out. She rocked slightly on the spot, staring straight past Astoria and at the dark woods that still frightened her, as if she expected the Dark Lord himself to jump out of the thicket. “Bellatrix Lestrange,” Daphne hurried through her name as if she was afraid of just saying it out loud. “I saw her! I saw her. I saw her, I saw her, I saw her…”




A/N: Woah, big plot stuff happening now! Daphne and Astoria back on the run, only for real this time and all alone in the world except for the Croft family who they barely even know. And Bellatrix is on the hunt... I'm sure she won't stop until Daphne and Astoria are dead. I really hope you liked this chapter, even though it was kind of sad, I wanted to really start showing just how broken Daphne is. I mean, she's been through a lot, she has the right to be messed up from it. And Linus and Norella! I loved them so very much, they were such sweet parents. Leave a review and let me know what you think!


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