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Chapter 3 : Pureblood Predicament
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They wouldn't stop talking about it.
It was awful. Completely wretched. Utterly mad.
My insides twisted. I hadn't eaten since I'd recieved the news.
How could I? It was unbearable. Agonizing to know that I wouldn't be seeing Sirius for the rest of my holidays. That he'd been wiped off his family tree after he'd run off to James Potter's house. That I was on my own from now on when life got complicated in the purebloods' little circle. That he'd left me without a life preserver in this hurricane.
I'd been forbidden to associate with such a blood-traitor.
When we were little, our parent were thrilled at the match (though they were surprised it was Sirius and I rather than Regulus-who's my age), imagining us getting married and having perfect, gorgeous, pureblood babies together. Then, after he became a Gryffindor, my parents were wary but not entirely against the friendship (they still imagined the two of us with those perfect babies- blaming the Sorting Hat, saying it was senile). But now, he was a blood-traitor, a disgrace.
And I- despite my school house- was the Echols baby. I was the charming little girl, no matter what house I was in, I was still precious. And therefore, I would never be allowed to be friends with someone they considered to be scum. Not even at school.
I'd be under the watchful eyes of fellow pureblood children. One wrong move and I'd be chucked out too.
Like Andromeda when she was seen kissing Ted Tonks in Hogmeade the weekend before the Holiday ball nearly five years ago. I would be burned off of my family tree and disowned by the maniacs (also known as my relatives) that-despite their convulted values- I loved (a little). Cut off like a bad branch. The Purebloods would no longer acknowledge me to be a powerful Echols witch. They would no longer see me as the sparkling baby girl of one of the most influential pureblood families in the world. I'd be a filthy parasite in their eyes.
And that was even if I managed to get away. Which I was sure I wouldn't, in which case I'd be killed.
I hated him for doing this to me. I really did.
I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to be seen with Kathlena and Lanora anymore. And that terrified me. The Prewetts had never gone along with the pureblood mania (making them possible bloodtraitors as well)- despite their wealth and pure magical blood- and Nora was a half-blood.
What would I do if they forbid me to associate with them too? I wouldn't be able to bear that. I was already dying inside over having to sever ties with the love of my life, I couldn't lose Nora and Kat too. And my only other option was to defy my family and risk my life. Lose everything else that much sooner. Then what would I do. I wasn't even sevnteen yet!
How dare he put me in such a position? Didn't he think about my sake at all? No. Of course not. Because Sirius is a selfish arsehole.
He'd been planning it the whole time, I'd realized a few days after the atrocity occured. That's why he wanted to spend the day with me. He knew it would be his last chance to do so. How could I have been so incredibly thick?
..."People do crazy things on full moons"...
The words echoed in my head incessantly. Like a broken record that I couldn't figure out how to shut off. They haunted me, inflicting an angonizing pain on my heart.
How could he do this to me? Everyone knew we were closer than close. More protective of eachother than siblings, tighter than friends and strangely connected somehow. We were almost unhealthily close to eachother, it was common knowledge. Hell, they'd been betting that we'd get married since I was five (though, I'd only harbored that hope myself for a few short months)!
My life, my very existance, was in danger. One wrong move and it could end within seconds. I was under heavy suspision and watched constanly. The hawks never let up. I swear they even checked up on me the other night to make sure I was still in my bed like a good pureblood daughter. Creepy, yeah?
But I couldn't get away from the suspision, nor could I escape the gossip. It was driving me mad but I had no where to go. I couldn't let my tears fall in my house and I refused to revisit our spot, where I'd normally go. So I bottled up all of my emotions and went flying on my broom as much as humanly possible. That, or I'd wander the streets aimlessly until dinner time.
The only thoughts I allowed myself to have about Sirius were those of resent and disgust. Any thought I had of him was full of venom. It was the only kind I could handle without throwing up.
Not because I agreed with all of the pureblood nonsense, but because it was the easiest way to cope with it all. If I was seething, the pain dimmed to a dull ache in the center of my chest where my heart had been. It was empty now and I was resolutely pissed.
Why shouldn't I be? He'd had no consideration for the danger he was putting me in. Especially in times like these. Had he even cared? Appearantly not.
I hadn't bothered to open any of his letters. Instead, when I recieved one, I immediately burned it. Especially if I was in the presence of my family (who all thoroughly approved of this action).
He would get the hint that I abhorred him for putting me through this eventually. If not by the unanswered letters, then when we went to Hogwarts and I pretended he wasn't there.
It would kill me. I knew this already. To cut him off completely would be purposely ripping my own heart out and stomping on it then chucking it off the Astronomy Tower. I didn't care that he was a blood-traitor, I loved him still- astonishingly enough.
But he made me even more vulnerable. I'd already been like a sitting target- being pretty, proper and pureblood. I was already struggling with the fact that I was prime Death Eater material. And he'd only made it worse by his stunt. They'd want to snatch me up quickly now. Immerse me in darkness before I could do anything that would damage my prospects. And I felt incredibly helpless. Weak, even.
He knew that my worst fear was vulnerability. Yet he'd chosen to defy the purebloods and escape, leaving me to rot in their wake. He had to have known how his rash action would effect me. In this war there were two choices and his disownment would force me to make the choice that much faster. I hated him for it.
Hated him and loved him.
What a predicament.
I whipped around to see a stunning blonde standing casually in my doorway. She had her golden tresses up in a strategically pinned pile on top of her head, I spotted jewels of some sort placed among the shiny blonde curls. Her eyes matched the off the shoulder ice blue gown that hugged her elegant form perfectly and flared out around her knees. Diamond earrings sparkled on her ears and a thin silver chain was draped gracefully around her neck, holding yet another diamond in place near her exposed collar bone.
My cousin Rosalie flashed me a grin before crossing the large room.
I returned my blank eyes to the mirror with a dull, "Hi, Rose."
"That bad, huh?" She asked as she began rummaging through my jewelry.
"You're grieving, love. It's obvious."
I didn't ask what she was talking about. I didn't want to know. I had a hunch already and it required venturing onto dangerous territory. I was not prepared for that. I hadn't uttered the name in two months, I wasn't about to now. I had to keep myself calm through what promised to be a tormenting affair.
The Malfoys' were holding a grand engagement ball for their son, Lucius and his bride-to-be, Narcissa Black. Yeah, Sirius's cousin Cissy. Meaning that all of Sirius's many insane relatives would be in attendance except, of course, Sirius himself.
I would have to channel all of my strength into this night if I wanted to survive it. I knew it would be agony, but it wasn't an agony I could escape. I knew that this event was vital.
For the Blacks and for me.
The Blacks had suffered yet another lose. Been dished out yet another disgrace. First the kind, caring, soft Andromeda and now the beloved, dazzeling, incredible Sirius. Their powerful family was suffering, they needed some sort of triumph, And Cissy's marriage to a Malfoy was just the ticket.
But for me, there was also a pressing need to show them that I wasn't going astray, according to my parents. I had to sparkle and charm them all, like always. Pretend that nothing had changed in the slightest. I was positive that the gossip had included me- having just spent the entire day with him before he did the unthinkable. And there was also another similarity I was sure had occured to them as well. Andromeda hadn't been a Slytherin, nor had Sirius. I was the only non-Slytherin left in their little circle. They were breathlessly waiting to see if it was merely a non-Slytherin-Black thing or just a non-Slytherin thing period. And I was the deciding factor.
Too bad none of us knew how it would end.
I stared unseeingly at my reflection, ignoring my older cousin's gaze. Rosalie was a Slytherin, a year ahead of Sirius. She was the epitomy of perfect in all of their eyes. Well-bred, gorgeous, pureblood, powerful, charistmatic and impossibly clever.
This had never been an issue for me, until now.
"Hm?" I pretended I was studying the rose red gown my mother had bought for me yesterday. It was strapless with a large skirt that had several petticoats underneath and a tight, corset bodice that was embroidered into a flower pattern with tiny rubies. I was sure that deep breathing was going to be a trip with this thing on.
"Don't try to hide it, babe." She told me, "We were all fooled. You're allowed to be upset. He abandoned you more than anyone after all."
I didn't respond. What could I say?
In so many ways she was right. But she had no idea how deep it went, no clue of the conflict I was facing. The battle that was raging inside of me was a mystery to my dear cousin.
All she knew was that I'd lost my best friend. That he had left me to be with mudbloods and blood-traitors and filth.
She didn't know that it had triggered an agonizing internal debate. That everything within me longed to do the same but didn't know how. That the only reason I was still here with them was because I didn't trust myself to escape without getting killed in the process.
She came behind me and tipped my head forward gently so she could get to my neck without corrupting the fancy bun at the base of my head. It was made of sleek curls just as hers was, but I'd left a few stray tendrils to frame my face. My cousin draped the choaker onto my neck then fastened it securely. It wrapped around my neck and continued into a triangle (sort of) shape of diamonds that dangled nicely there. Somehow it managed to make my neck look longer.
"There." She smiled softly at me. The sympathy still lingered in her eyes. "You're absolutely gorgeous."
I didn't say anything but rather, averted my eyes.
She turned me around and tilted my chin up to look at her. "You're an Echols, remember? You look down to no one. And you will get through this." She assured me, "You'll dazzle everyone like always and show them how strong you are."
I sighed heavily.
If she only knew.
"I always knew he was scum."
"You did not," Clarissa Rosier scoffed at her elder brother, "You thought the hat was off it's rocker as well."
"We all did." The Zambini boy interjected.
I sat quietly, not trusting myself to join in this particular conversation. I knew they were waiting for me to make a comment but I refused to bite the bait. It was none of their business anyway.
Ophelia Flint and Marinda Macnair both nodded in agreement. They'd adored Sirius. Always fawning and cooing over him. It always disgusted me. Now what disgusted me was that their affections were flipped so easily.
Avery Rosier shrugged at his sister. "Never liked the bloke."
Clarissa scoffed, flipping her white blond hair over her shoulder and puckering her lips. She was uncommonly pretty, a year younger than me and quite out spoken. I knew how it annoyed her when her brother pretended to have more knowledge than he actually posessed.
"Bravery." Theo Nott sneered draping his arm around Clarissa. He was in my year and I'd never been particularly fond of the sandy blond. "I can't believe everyone believes that rubbish about Gryffindors. They're all such bloody cowards."
"Yeah, because you'd be able to risk getting killed for what you believe."
I whipped around to see who'd mirrored my thoughts exactly. My wide eyes locked with Rabastan Lestrange's smoldering gold ones. He showed no sign of stress or defiance, his stance was calm and casual. As if he'd merely commented on the weather.
Sirius's cousin's little brother-in-law came to stand next to me casually. And to my utter shock, he winked from the eye that the couldn't see. "I wouldn't doubt his bravery. Defying the Dark Lord is no small act. His motives and priorities, granted, are astonishingly warped and he is a fool. But I would not doubt that he has nerve."
Clarissa and Ophelia hissed. But Marinda, her sister Teirsa, Makenna Dolhov and Adara Yaxley just gave him looks of shock and reproach.
"Careful, 'Bastan." Avery cautioned, "Wouldn't want someone to think you sympathize with the git."
We all heard the real warning. 'Wouldn't want people to think you're a blood traitor too." I waited for Rabastan to blow up in his face.
But he surprised me again by shrugging coldly, "Let those mindless and insipid enough to gossip about such rubbish say what they like. I know where my loyalties lie. As does the Dark Lord. I have nothing to fear." He drawled indifferently, reminding Avery not-so-subtly that last month he'd been branded with the Mark. It was a black skull and snake on his arm -currently hidden under his long sleeve and draped casuallly around my shoulder (I surpressed a shudder at the thought)- that symbolized his ranking in the Dark Lord's inner circle.
It made him excessively powerful and respected around this lot. He was young, thriving, handsome and well-spoken. The best of the best -just like his brother before him. He couldn't be touched.
Avery didn't like the reminder, I assumed. If the look of pure, burning jealousy in his eyes was any indication.
I felt like smirking but didn't. Why was he so hungry for that life? Such a terrible fate and he was jealous of it. This baffled me. But I pretended I was of the same oppinion. I wasn't about to let on that the idea of obeying and calling someone master made my blood boil and the idea of killing anyone- Muggle or not- made me want to throw up. It wasn't safe, especially not now.
"Regardless," I chimed in cooly. They all looked to my blank face eagerly- it was the moment they'd all been waiting for. "I dont' think this is a wise place for such a discussion. It is Cissy's party after all."
And with that, I tactfully brought the unbearable conversation to a close.
"Oh hey, Cissy." I said wearily, as I entered the powder room in an attempt to escape the gossiping purebloods, only to find the guest of honor hiding in there already.
Sirius's cousin smiled weakly. She was an absurdly beautiful blond with pale skin and vibrant blue eyes. But as they locked with mine I spotted something in place of the usual sparkle.
Immediately, I knew what it was. Because I'd seen in magnified a thousand times in my own eyes over the past two months. Pain.
This made my insides twist uncomfortably. After Sirius and Andromeda, Narcissa was my favorite in our family's circle of friends. She'd never been openly hostile in any way towards her sister, though she no longer acknowledged Andy as her sister anymore. And she'd been more than supportive and comforting when I'd been sorted into Ravenclaw.
I went to her at times when Andromeda had disappeared (off with Ted, I'd later discover) and I had a problem. She'd dry my tears and murmur words of reassurance to me. I always loved Cissy.
And, though her views on Muggles and such were the same as everyone else in our circle, I believed she truly did have a soft spot, unlike the rest of them. I knew Cissy was different. She was kinder and less drawn to slaughtering Mudbloods than the rest of them. She wasn't entirely pure of there convulted view of life but - with a little work- I believed she could get there.
Though, I knew she'd never run off as her sister did. She admired Andromeda's nerve but she didn't have the courage herself. Cissy liked stability and the pureblood life as well as Lucius Malfoy gave her that. She wasn't going to throw it away, no matter how much it beat her concience to a pulp.
"Hey, Bells." She greeted me softly. "How're ya' holdin' up?"
Immediately, I knew what she meant. And I knew I wasn't keen on getting into that topic again.
I sighed wearily and stood at the mirror, pretending to study my reflection as Narcissa sat on the small red sofa to my right. "I'm fine, Ciss." I lied, "How are you?"
She smiled at my obvious aversion to the implied topic. "Exhausted."
She grimaced, "Among other things."
But before we dove into that most uncomfortable topic, the door swung open and a tall, raven haired young woman stepped into the powder room with us.
"There you are!" she exclaimed when she saw Narcissa. "Everyone is looking for you, Cissy. Why are you hiding out in here?"
Bellatrix Lestrange was Narcissa and Andromeda's eldest sister and by far the most frightening of the bunch. She was elegant, graceful and married to Roldophus Lestrange, Rabastan's older brother. She was also quite intense and had a fiery temper. And, though she'd always been more than pleasant to me personally, I couldn't help but be secretly terrified of her.
"Oh hello, Mira." She flashed me a stunning grin. "How are you, sweets?"
Have I mentioned that she's an expert at pretending blood traitors in the family never existed to begin with? She doesn't show an ounce of remorse for disowned family members, she simply forgets they were ever born.
A strange thing, I'd always thought. I couldn't imagine forgetting Andromeda and Sirius- not even for a second. They were both so vibrant and colorful. How could anyone pretend they didn't exist?
"I'm fine, Bella." I lie, it was blasphemy in it's blackest, most hideous form. I was no where near fine. How could I be without Sirius at my side making these gatherings bearable?
Narcissa shot me a knowing look. She could tell I was in agony. But she didn't know the half of it.
And I wasn't about to reveal my inner turmoil to her. She was not fond of rebellion and I was sure she'd react badly if I told her I was considering it. She might even go to my parents.
And then I'd surely be cut off the family tree. Avada Kedavra-ed before I could even realize what was happening.
I wasn't ready to accept that fate yet, so I kept my mouth shut.
"There you are, Mirabelle!"
I turned around to see Rabastan coming towards me with a wide grin on his handsome face. His black hair wasn't slicked back like so many of the mummy's boys in attendance but spiked up in a unique way. His golden eyes glittered mischieviously at me as he handed me a drink.
"Thanks." I mumbled puzzled. What was with him tonight?
"Your very welcome," he winked, flashing another sparkling grin at me. "Where have you been hiding all night, love?" He asked me, something suggestive lingered under the surface of his innocent tone and a tingle ran down my spine as he wrapped an arm around my small waist. "I've been looking everywhere for you."
I cocked my head to the side and let a small, confused smile twitch my lips upward. The voice that came out of my mouth shocked me. It was mine, but it was tinted a flirtacious tone I'd rarely ever used. "Oh, really? And why is that?" I tilted my chin up and gave him a challenging smirk.
He beamed and then released my waist, taking my hand instead. I recieved another shock- like I'd been hit by lightening- when he pressed his lips to it. Then, still bowing, he murmured, "Would you honor my with a dance, gorgeous?"
I felt the impact of this sentence reveal itself on my face. I jumped a little, eyes wide and jaw unhinging.
He chuckled at my expression and there was an odd glimmer in his eyes that I'd never seen there before. I couldn't identify the emotion. Did they look hopeful or was it just my imagination?
"Please, Mirabelle?" He prompted. His tone was definitely hopeful. How odd.
My insides twisted painfully, remembering who I always danced with at these affairs. I rarely said yes to anyone else but Sirius. What was the point?
But I heard myself accept without thinking about it, felt him lead me to the dance floor numbly. He smiled broadly the music began and he started twirlign me aroung the floor. And I think I felt myself smile back.
Guilt wrenched my insides and the fault line in my empty heart shuddered hostily. My brain was shouting furiously, insulting my loyalty and decision making processes. But defiance flared in my stomach.
Sirius had left me to rot, he obviously didn't care about me at all. Why shouldn't I dance with Rabastan? It wasn't like Sirius and I had ever been an item anyway. I'd just been the quirky girl next door that he hung out with when there was nothing more interesting to distract him. I was easily disgarded, utterly forgettable. So why couldn't I do everything in my power to forget him just as easily? Why couldn't I seek some sort of happiness and balance in this new solitary existance I would have from this holiday on? It was only fair.
So, when Rabastan pulled me closer, I didn't object. Instead, I laid my head on his chest contentedly.
I would try to forget Sirius just like Bellatrix. I would try my very hardest to pretend he never existed.
I spotted my delighted parents, watching me dance with eager eyes filled with a different, more forceful kind of hope in them.
They adored Rabastan. Everyone in this circle did. He was the perfect pureblood young man. Wealthy, loyal, gorgeous and charming. He was going into his seventh year and he was already expected to do great things. I knew that they were thrilled he was showing interest in me. After all their fears about Sirius and I, nothing could please them more than to have me in the company of such a well-bred young wizard.
I held back an eye roll. There they went again. I could tell by their expressions that they were imagining me married with beautiful, pureblood babies giggling happily as they ran through the big Lestrange manor. They were so obvious.
"I can't believe I'm actually dancing with you." Rabastan mused in my ear.
My eyebrows furrowed as a pang of insecurity shot through me. Did he believe the rumors? Was he against Ravenclaws? Did he think I was bound to become a blood traitor as well?
"What do you mean?" I risked a glance at his handsome face.
He smiled and shook his head, "I've been wanting to make a move for ages."
I gaped at him, unable to conceal my utter astonishment. "Really?" I gasped.
He nodded, laughing at my expression. "Truly."
My eyebrows pulled together again and my head cocked to the side as we contiued whirling gracefully around the floor. "Well what stopped you?"
He smiled without mirth this time. "A certain Gryffindor constantly attatched to you hip. Not that I really blame him. Even a blood traitor can recognize a precious gem when it's right there, I suppose. But I could never be sure if the two of you were a couple or not, until now obviously." He smiled at me while my insides twisted painfully.
"Sirius and I were never like that." I mumbled, my cheeks betrayed me- burning crimson as I said it aloud. The pieces of my shattered heart rippled in agony.
"Idiot. What bloke would be mad enough not to want you?"
My heart gave a feeble thud and I smiled half-heartedly. I didn't know quite how to answer that.
"Anyway, with him acting like your bodygaurd I wasn't sure how to get near you." He smiled crookedly down at me and I felt my skin tingle. He was very handsome. Not as gorgeous as Sirius but definitely gorgeous.
"I guess you won't have to worry about that anymore, will you?" I attempted to joke lightly. Pain shuddered within me at the words. How horrible.
He grinned, "No. I guess I won't."
(Okay, so I'm not sure how I feel about this chapter but it was entirely nessecary so there it is. So please review and telll me what you think. This story depends on your feedback. The more you review the faster I update!
xo RED ox )
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