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Chapter 5 : Secrets Surrounding Us
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Chapter 5 - Secrets Surrounding Us
In an almost deserted street, a woman crept. Silence being her only company, fear slipping through every pore. She would return empty handed; He would be displeased.
There was no higher honor than satisfying her Master, her Lord. But tonight she had nothing for him. She deserved to be punished, and silently begged he would do at least that. Only a few hours until they would meet, then she would know.
Her feet carried her along a previously invisible path, winding through vines and flowers to finally reach a large stone door. Knocking was not necessary, they would know.
Within seconds the door opened; a tiny body with oversized ears and an odd shaped head appeared.
“Miss Bellatrix. Dobby can take your coat, if Miss pleases.” He wasn’t answered, but the weight of a coat fell upon him. He rushed to the nearest wardrobe, hanging it quickly.
“Does Miss wish Dobby to take her to Master Malfoy?”
“Yes,” she hissed.
He began leading her towards one of the many studies that the Malfoy Manor housed. The rich, blood red rugs sunk under the weight of Bella’s heeled boots. Dobby's small hand reached up and turned a heavy brass knob, bowing deeply as she passed him.
“Master Malfoy, Miss Bellatrix-” he was cut off as she slammed the door on him.
She slithered to a silky, charcoal colored sofa and remained silent for a moment, as did the couple sitting across from her.
Her fidgeting eyes darted through the room and rested at three large candles that burned atop of the pure white mantle. Their flames danced through the darkened light, drawing shadows on the wall.
Her fear and shame grew heavier. Deep breaths came in thrashes that shook her pale, boney shoulders. Her fingers clenched around one another, twisting and pulling at themselves, trying to force her to remain calm and steady the anger that pulsed through her. Her slender face turned from the mantle to her sister and brother-in-law.
“Nothing you told me was helpful, Narcissa, nothing!” She spat the words at her as if they were poison, begging to infect.
“Bellatrix! Mind your tone while you are in my house!” The protective arm of Lucius shot around his wife’s shoulders.
“I will speak however I like!”
“We told you it would be an impossible task, Bella! It was only one year that I attended Hogwarts with him. Two that Narcissa did, and it was time enough to see where their loyalties would always lie. His parents were Auror’s! We gave you any information we could, but warned you against the possibility of success. The Dark Lord wants Potter, he didn’t say he needed him willingly.” Lucius's voice had a strained patience, but the uncertainty was evident.
“I need something to give to the Dark Lord! Something to please him!”
“We need to go.” Lucius bent down to kiss his wife. “I will see you soon, Cissy.” She gave him a small smile as the two Death Eaters left the room, closing the door firmly behind them.
He drew a thin, silver key from his pocket and placed it in a hole that was on the outside of the door, twisting the lock until the sound of the bolt clicking into place reverberated off of the walls of the corridor.
“She’s still adjusting. We agreed it’s best, this way her curiosity can’t get the best of her and have her trying to listen in.” Lucius mumbled.
Bellatrix didn’t reply, her thoughts too submerged in her own terror. Her Master was not a patient man, nor did he have reason to be. His orders had been clear, find something useful for Regelus to use and begin to persuade the few Hogwarts students that he’d set out to recruit. She had accomplished nothing. Would she endure a round of the Cruciatus Curse?
Only once had she been ordered to feel that pain, when she had failed to rid this world of her blood traitor sister. Her Lord had still been merciful, though. Subjecting her to mere moments of the burning, strangling hell brought on from the curse, then telling her she would get her chance one day to destroy Andromeda, to please him.
Would the curse be used against her tonight?
Her anxiety had reached its height as they walked into a dimly lit room. Five Death Eaters sat erect in plush chairs. Tension radiated throughout the table. Their masks had already been donned, the Dark Lord required it. However, due to Pure Bloods’ need to boast about their status, many were aware of the company they were in.
Lucius took a seat on the opposite side of the others. The five originals: Dolohov, Mulciber Sr., Nott, Avery Sr., and Rosier Sr., always arrived first, and together, so it was safe to assume that was who they currently sat amongst. Bella put herself at the chair closest to the one her Master would sit.
One by one the rest began to appear: sixteen Death Eaters. Words were not shared, not when they were all so close to being in the presence of Him.
Bellatrix felt the rise and fall of her own chest. The beat of her heart echoed in her ears, the way it sped up when her thoughts dwindled on her failure, until she was able to calm it down by sucking in slow gulps of air. The steady whistling of one of the death eaters filled her ears, that small noise grew louder and louder until it sounded like a train departing its tracks. Her black, pointed nails clenched into fists, the sharp bite of pain as they entered into her flesh helped her to remain calm.
She noticed Lucius wiping his hands over and over, his own nerves drawing a clammy sweat to the surface of his pale skin.
By the time midnight struck, He had arrived.
Voldemort sat seemingly calm as he tapped his skeleton fingers against the nearly black wood. The centerpiece of candles that rested on the table had the hollows of his skin more noticeable than ever. Their pronounced depth and the fierce structure of his face was nearly as terrifying as the soul inside the body.
After what seemed to be hours, he finally spoke.
“We are making progress. Our numbers grow, and they will continue to do so. Bellatrix, remove your mask.”
She did so, fingers shaking. “My Lord?” The silence remained. Voldemort’s eye assaulted hers, then moved down the table to another figure.
“Black. Remove your mask.” His hands were steady as they exposed his face.
“I understand you had company the other night. Tell me.”
“Friends of Sirius, my Lord,” Regulus answered, keeping his eyes focused on the scrutinizing ones that bore into him.
“Lily Evans and Remus Lupin,” he continued. “She is also quite close with James Potter.” The tapping fingers stilled.
“Rukin. Focus on her.” A murmur went through the table, they were unfamiliar with the one he addressed. A smile spread across the masked face.
“I have already started to, my lord. It took but the smallest amount of questions quickly learn of her attachment with Potter,” the deep voice boomed through the open room. Voldemort nodded.
Seconds passed, maybe minutes, no one was sure.
“You are all dismissed. Bellatrix, Black, stay.”
When the room was empty, Voldemort stood and began a slow pace behind the chairs. His calmness unnerved the two servants.
“You were given a mission, the two of you. And only the two of you. Explain why this was shared.” They exchanged looks. Bella spoke first, her voice giving way to the bone shaking dread that penetrated her.
“My Lord. I wanted to gain information, I wanted to please you. I thought that they could be useful.” The last word came out as barely a whisper.
“As did I, My lord. Severus Snape and the others brag about being loyal to you, about wishing to be marked. I thought it to be a good test.” Voldemort searched through him and found the truth in his words.
“Your mission is to be kept to yourselves. It is not your place to test. Stand.” Both servants did as they were told.
“Black. Your orders remain the same; observe and infiltrate if an opportunity arises. You are dismissed.” Regulus let out breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding. He bowed deeply, then turned and walked from the room.
“Bellatrix,” the word was said in a hiss. “You were told to gain information. You have given me nothing.”
She stayed petrified, unsure if he desired an explanation, but not wanting to risk angering him further.
His body moved directly behind hers, the words he whispered into her ear were said almost painfully slow. “Tell me, do you savor each moment you are summoned to me, Bellatrix? Do you delight in the knowledge of serving your Master?”
“Yes! More than anything, My Lord.” The shame overpowered the fear and forced her down to her knees, pleading for Him.
“I am beginning to regret my choice in servants, Bellatrix. Is that what you want? To be rid of my control?” He turned his back to her and distanced himself as he spoke.
“No! Never Master! I am yours to command. I will obey you at all costs! Please Master. Please let me prove myself to you!” Sobs rocked through her and came out in heaves as she placed her hands on the ground and let her head fall. The disgrace filled her soul and urged her to continue begging. “I will redeem myself, anything-”
He turned back to her.
“Remove your cloak, and expose your arm.” Her hand could barely grasp the black cuff to push it up and out of the way.
He drew his wand and allowed it to hover just above her Dark Mark.
“This is an honor that can easily be taken from you, Bellatrix.”
“No! No my Lord! Please, have mercy, my Lord!” Her legs turned to glass, threatening to shatter as the Dark Lord’s stare pierced into her.
His wand moved slowly up her arm, the tip pressed into the bare spot just above her Dark Mark. She shuddered as an intense heat began to build in the fragile layer of flesh covering her bone, growing hotter until she was forced to bite her lips, silencing a scream. He moved is wand farther down her arm, the heat leaving a burn as it passed.
Tears swelled behind her eyes; the pain radiating through her until he suddenly removed his wand. An angry red line remained.
“One strike. If two more are earned, You will no longer have the privilege of calling me your Master.”
“Yes, my Lord,” she said through tears.
With a loud pop, he was gone, and Bellatrix let her battered body fall to the floor.
“Thank you, Master. Thank You.” Her fingers traced the blackened lines of her Mark as softly as one would touch a lover. “I will never fail you again, never again, My Lord.”
Sirius’s long legs moved in a lazy motion, nearly a swagger, as he strutted through the castle. His mouth full of a pastry that he had grabbed before leaving the kitchens with arms stuffed high of snacks and treats to take up to Lily.
Poor thing probably never had a hangover in her life, he thought, thankful that the terrible one he typically got hadn’t affected him this morning.
“Oi! I can’t keep up,” came a squeaky voice from behind.
“Sorry mate. Just thinking about how crummy Lily probably feels. Do you reckon she is even awake yet?”
“It’s past 9:30, isn’t it? She’s always the first down to breakfast, so I doubt she sleeps in.”
“I also doubt she’s ever slammed down half a large flask of Firewhiskey, either,” Sirius said, trying to hold back a snicker.
“I suppose. Anyway, I’m going to go dump this off at the willow. James'll have to change anyway to get in, so he can grab it.” Peter pointed toward the sack hung over his shoulder. It was crammed to the seams with enough food and extra supplies to last them the night.
“Thanks, Peter. Hey, I know you’ve been stressed about your parents and stuff. Why don’t you send them an owl?” Sirius suggested, concern flooding his voice.
“No, no it’s okay. I got a letter from mum a few days ago, and they’re both... they’re getting by. I don’t want to ask too much, y’know what I mean?” Sirius nodded. Peter was taking his parents’ separation fairly hard, maybe the weekend ahead would help distract him.
“Okay, I’ll see you in a couple hours, don’t forget we’re playing Quidditch today.” They parted ways as Sirius continued his walk to the Heads’ Quarters.
“Sirius Black, I never cursed Snape’s broom, just took the credit for it, Chudley Cannons.” He walked in the room prepared to find Lily laying miserably on a the couch. Instead, he was faced with a very moody looking James Potter.
“Hey, mate. I brought our girl some snacks and Tingy the house elf’s special hangover remedy. She still sleeping?” James let out a pathetic sigh.
“It seems that Lily Evans does not get hangovers.” Sirius looked shocked at James’s revelation. He finished his last bite and moved to the cream couch, throwing his body beside James.
“What? After drinking enough to make any normal person sicker than a dog-”
“Don’t kid yourself, Sirius, no one can get sicker than you.”
“Very funny, Potter. Anyway, nothing? Not even a headache?”
“Correct. Not even a headache. I’m glad you're here, though. Did you get everyone back okay?”
“Yep, safe and sound all snug in their beds. Here you go, Tig, sniffs around my stuff a bit too much, you keep it.” Sirius reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of parchment, then tossed it to James.
“Ah, trusty old map,” James leaned forward to place it on the table in front of them. “I need to talk to you about some stuff Remus told me when we were getting Lily back.” He took a deep breath, then continued. “Lily and him ran into some Prospects last night. They had apparently snuck out of the castle and met Bellatrix in the forest. Remus already told McGonagall about it.”
“Charming woman, isn’t she?” Sirius said with a snort.
“I'm sure,” he held a hand up to stop Sirius from commenting, needing to continue. “Also, Regulus was with them.”
Sirius face grew somber. This wasn’t a revelation, but he needed to hear it. “What else?”
“What he said seemed to erase any doubt that he’d been marked. Along with that and what mum told me a few weeks before we went back to school… that she’d suspected as much, I don’t think there’s any denying it.” James said slowly.
“You’re sure?” Sirius tried to ignore the burning sensation in his heart, not wanting to care.
“Fairly certain. Mum and Dad stayed close with some of their Auror friends after they retired. Seems your mum let it slip to a few people, and it got back to them. They weren’t certain, of course, but after what Remus and Lily overheard last night…” They had both known where Regulus was headed, but it didn’t make it any easier. “I’m sorry mate, I know he’s a git and all, but he’s still your brother and-”
“No. You’re my brother.”
The absolute conviction of the words hung in the air. James gave himself a moment to feel the power of them, and then shot his mate a quick smile. “Who says I want to be brothers with such a prat?”
“After last night, no one but you can be considered the prat, Prongs. So where's Lily, anyway?”
James scowled. “She had plans to take a walk with the new Durmstrang transfer.”
“What? You just let her go? Why aren’t we following her?” It was James’s turn to look pained by Sirius’s words.
“Remus talked to me for a bit last night after Alice came and got Lily to bed. She had it rough yesterday. Something sparked some fairly intense memories of her mum and dad and from how Remus told it, she just broke apart after we left. Sitting on the floor sobbing. I just, I couldn’t start a fight with her this morning after knowing she’d felt so hurt last night, then running into the Prospects, then what happened with me…”
Sirius felt a new, ripe flash of pain sear through his heart. James had a right to know everything about Lily’s parents, everything about their death. He couldn’t carry it around any longer.
“James, I need to tell you something about the night Lily’s parents died. Before we came-”
A quick slam followed by a body racing through the portrait hole caused both friends look up.
“I just saw Remus, he was really out of sorts,” Peter said through heavy breaths. “I ran all the way up here, I tried to talk to him but he just walked off towards the forest.” His body fell into the opposite chair, showing its annoyance at being so abused with a nearly mile run first thing in the morning.
“Don’t worry, mate,” James said with a sigh. “You know how he can get before his furry time. I guess we should go find Professor McGonagall. She wanted to talk with Remus about last night. Us too, though i’m not sure why. But if Moony’s not feeling fit for company…”
“That means we’ll have to fetch Lily to have her fill Dumbledore in, right?” Sirius spoke, a sly smile playing on his lips.
“Wait, I thought she was here?” Peter asked.
“Nah, she took off this morning with that Durmstrang bloke.”
“If you two mates are through gossiping,” James interjected, “Sirius, you can go get Lily. I think she said they were going around the lake.”
“Why do I have to be the one to go?”
“Because me and Wormtail haven’t gotten our breakfast yet, and the jam all over your face is telling me that you have. Meet us at Dumbledore’s office after you find her.”
“Fine, I’ll go get the Princess, but you now she’ll give me hell for it. Uou two boys play nice.” Sirius stood up and threw the treats he had brought for Lily over to James, before slipped out the portrait hole, grateful for an escape.
He paused once he was a few feet down the corridor and let his body rest against the stone wall. Part of him wanted to turn back, to finish telling James what he had nearly said before Peter interrupted.
Now isn’t the right time, he reasoned with himself. He would tell him soon. He had to.
“So, you have always been vanting to play Quidditch, or is it a new idea?” His voice was relaxed as they strolled along the lake. Lily was almost glad she had agreed to spend time with Alrek, it was a bit awkward, yes, but he seemed genuinely pleased to have her company.
“Well, not so much. I used to be terrified of flying, but after I had a fight with one of my friends in fifth year, I let James teach me to take my mind off it.”
Lily remember how Sirius had wanted to kill Severus when they’d had that fight, and the only way she had gotten them to agree to let it go was by giving them a chance to teach her to ride around far too high up on a broom.
It was kind of amusing that so long ago Lily had used trying to fly as a bargaining tool, now James was dangling Quidditch in her face, knowing she would take the bait.
“I’m sorry, I got a bit side tracked, what was that?”
“I vas asking if you enjoy being Head Girl. You must be very smart to have earned that.” Lily blushed at the compliment.
“I don’t think it’s that, really.”
“And I have been hearing your skills as a vitch are quite remarkable, vould you want to show me anything?” The red in her cheeks darkened.
“Oh, no, I’m sure you have seen much better magic.”
“Durmstrang is a strict school, yes, but it does not help in making our talents any more defined. The spell I always was having the most trouble with is creating a Patronus.”
“It’s not too hard, honestly. Once you get it down, you can almost do it without thinking.”
“You are able to conjure a Patronus?” The amazement in his voice caused Lily’s shyness to kick in again, making her wish she would have kept her big mouth shut.
“Can you conjure one right now? I really vould love to see it!”
She sighed, unable to think of a good excuse to say no.
She raised her arm and let her mind conjure up memories of her and Alice's first time sneaking out of the castle. The spell was on the edge of her lips when a deep voice broke through her concentration.
She would recognize that tone anywhere, and made a mental note to thank him for the distraction.
“Come here, Evans,” he continued to shout as he moved forward. Lily glanced at Alrek, who looked rather irritated. She shot a small smile at him before turning to run to Sirius.
“Sirius! If James sent you here to spy on me-”
“Nope, I wanted to do that, but he wasn’t so keen on it. We need you to help us out, though.”
“With what?” she questioned. Sirius looked over her shoulder, aware that Durmstrang was within earshot.
“We are going to talk to our old friend about last night.”
“Our old...Oh!” Lily turned back to Alrek, moving a few steps closer to him. “I’m sorry, I really do need to go with him. I will see you soon, I’m sure!”
Sirius was already pulling her away before he had the chance to answer.
“Why didn’t you just say we had to see Professor Dumbledore?” Lily asked, once they were out of Alrek’s earshot.
Sirius ignored her question, his eyes stayed focused on the ground ahead of them.
“Lily,” he whispered her name, “I almost told James about, about the night with your parents.” Lily stayed silent, not sure how to respond.
“I’ll have to tell him soon. If you can forgive-”
“Sirius,” she interrupted, “there's nothing to forgive. We’ll tell him, when you’re ready we can do it together, okay?” He let out a long breath, relief crashed through him like the water of an opened dam.
Lily grabbed his hand and gave it a tight squeeze, forcing the words she couldn’t get out, into that small touch.
They walked in silence to the front doors. The autumn weather was hitting quickly, but the beauty of all the colours that fall cast upon the grounds made the chilly wind bearable. Lily couldn’t help but feel a small part of her heart ache; this would be her last autumn at Hogwarts. Her last chance to soak up the changing of leaves. The last time she would watch as her school slowly transformed into a winter wonderland.
James and Peter were already waiting patiently for the pair as they finally arrived at the Gargoyle.
“G’morning, Lily. Hope you’re feeling okay,” Peter greeted.
“Oh, you didn’t hear, Peter? Princess Lily is immune to the evil affects of alcohol.” Lily couldn’t help but laugh at the obvious bitterness in Sirius’s voice.
If they only knew, she thought, smiling at her own little secret. She'd been too stupid to stop herself from taking the firewhiskey last night, but she certainly didn't have to admit that every sound made her head pound like a drum, or that the light of the sun had made he want to curl into the darkest, smallest whole of Hogwarts. No, she would bite her tongue and pretend to be perfectly fine to keep those self satisfied, smug looks off their faces.
James cocked an eyebrow at her. “Care to share the joke with the rest of us?”
“Just happy to be in such great company, is all. Well, mostly, great company,” she retorted, sending him a pointed look as her eyes narrowed at the sight of the red swell on James's neck. “Now, shall we get this over with?”
The group nodded at her and turned make their way to the Headmaster.
“What do you make of this, Albus?” Minerva’s voice was strained. She had refrained from commenting much during the entire discussion, not wanting to give away the small prickles of worry that clouded her.
“Actually, Minerva," his voice was thoughtful as he popped a lemon drop into his mouth, "I’m still pondering on how Ms. Evans was able to persuade you to allow a party, knowing it was at Mr. Potter’s request, I’m sure.” Minerva smiled ever so slightly at Albus’s statement.
“You aren’t the only one who can bend the rules now and again. Some light hearted fun seemed to be in order for that lot… the summer wasn’t kind to them.”
“Ah, and yet, their friendships don't seem to have suffered. It’s a marvelous thing, you know, finding beauty where destruction has touched. Now, about the issue at hand,” he removed his half moon spectacles and let his fingers gently rub over his eyes. “I believe moving our meeting up to the weekend after next seems fitting. We’ll contact the rest of the Order this afternoon….Prospects. An interesting term. Rather creative, isn't it?" Albus chuckled to himself as he proceed to rub a few stray fingerprints from his glasses.
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