It was night back then too, or rather a spring evening, soon after dusk. I had recently completed my apprenticeship at Hogwarts and acquired the degree of Potion Master - or at least that education was the cover I had been maintaining to spy on Dumbledore for the Dark Lord. As a side effect, the training by unsuspecting Professor Kettleburn for his Potions prodigy and assistant had proven useful to create a few nasty poisons, and of course antidotes for my fellow Death Eaters. Lucius, however, found that I kept burying myself in study too much and missed out on what he called "real life", and it had been his idea to lure me out of my dungeons and have a "decent party". So he took me and a few other Death Eaters to a muggle settlement.
Of course it wasn't my first muggle raid. I had been taken along earlier whenever they had been short of manpower on the watchout for Aurors, or whenever one of my creations had needed to be tested on human guinea pigs. These latter kinds of visit had been less enjoyable, but I kept telling myself that they were only muggles after all, not even wizarding folk. They should have been thankful to be of service to scientific progress... shouldn't they? At times I had felt a pang of guilt at the look in their eyes, pleading for their lives - they had been Silenced and were thus unable to cry - , but it was easily suppressed. Lesser beings with unknown faces, I had never met them before and would never meet them again, and I had always avoided to connect any names or personal histories to them - they weren't supposed to have any. Besides my poisons normally took effect so swiftly that, compared to what some of my fellows had in store for muggles, they were almost merciful.
And in the beginning it had looked like just another one of those muggle raids. As usual I remained outside watching out for Aurors, circling the house with some of my fellow Death Eaters, while the others went right inside.
For a couple of minutes there were only a few muffled cries from inside, and a window was shattered by a mis-aimed blast of green light. Then Lucius came out and called out to us: "There are three more outside! Get them killed before the Aurors arrive!" After a quick exchange it was agreed that Mulciber, Wilkes and I were to handle the issue. We separated to search on different sides, and I approached the stairway to the coal cellar, wand at the ready. When I was halfway down the stairs the handle of the cellar door turned, and the door opened.
I guess I should have been prepared that someday it was bound to happen. But the truth is, I wasn't. The person in muggle clothes who came out with a bucket of coal bore a familiar face, smiling and streaked with dirt but recognizable nonetheless - a face I had seen before at Hogwarts. Winking at me during a Charms lesson... poring over a book of NEWT Potions, unaware of the strand of dark-blonde hair that had escaped from her ponytail... discussing Mandrakes with me, her eyes glowing with fascination... and that inexpressible look on her face when I kissed her behind the greenhouses. Florence, of all people.
Her smile died instantly at the sight of my Death-Eater garb and mask, and with surprising agility she had her wand out and aimed at me. Then her gaze fell on my outstretched wand hand, shot up to my face, and latched on my eyes behind the mask - and the shock of recognition lost her the advantage she had gained. "Severus?" she whispered in disbelief.
My own shock, however, had faded enough for me to regain at least part of my senses. "Stupefy!
" I shouted, my voice hoarser than I would have liked, and she froze against the wall, the bucket of coal scattering at her feet. Not that it made much of a difference, since she hadn't been moving anyway. Only then I remembered that she was actually muggle-born, or rather a half-blood with a muggle parent. Probably she was somehow related to the muggles above. Why had Lucius the darn git had to choose this house for his so-called party? My mind raced trying to find a way to get her out of here, or at least to hide her. But in spite of Lucius' orders, it never even crossed my mind to kill her.
Suddenly there were noises upstairs, and voices approaching. "Quick, we have no time to lose!" Mulciber's voice, still distant but coming closer, and I made up my mind. "Mobilicorpus!
" I hissed, and Florence rose from the ground, her dark eyes wide with horror. I opened the cellar door in a hurry, Floated her inside and tried to make out possible hiding-places in the darkness.
Just as I settled for a sheltered nook behind a huge container, she wriggled in the air and uttered muffled sounds - the Stunning spell was beginning to wear off. I quickly replaced it with another Stupefy
and an added Silencio
, Lighted my wand and and lifted my mask for her. "I don't mean you ill, Florence," I told her urgently, "but my comrades sure as hell do. They mustn't find you. Trust me just this one more time and play along, will you?"
She gazed at me, scepticism evident in each of her features. Understandable, for why would you trust a Death Eater armed with a wand when you're unable to escape? More so, why would you have trusted that same person earlier, after having been sent to overhear their conversation with Lucius about an ominous pureblood society and about having to drop the "little mudblood" in order to join? Back then she had refused to listen to me afterwards and ditched me instead, but I fervently hoped that this time she would believe the truth of my words.
She still looked wary, but eventually she closed her eyes deliberately and opened them again - the only equivalent to a nod she could manage. I let out a sigh of relief and set her down in the hidden corner. "The spells will soon wear off again, but don't get out here until all is quiet, or until the Aurors are here," I whispered, and she gave the same tense sign for a nod.
Pulling my mask back in place I strode around the container and towards the door, just as another cloaked and masked figure appeared in the doorframe. "Hurry up, you idiot! What are you still doing here, dawdling around?" I heard Wilkes' voice. "I'm searching for the escapees, you fool, what else?" I shot back. "Have you found any?"
"Two of them", he replied, "and you?" I shook my head. "Huge cellar, but there are only rats and spiders inside", I lied, sounding thoroughly disgusted. He grunted and waved me out. "One must still be around somewhere, but we don't have enough time to look for them. Let's go."
We ran upstairs, and indeed the first Aurors were arriving with a pop or a crack. The other Death Eaters were already heading towards the near forest - we seemed to be the last ones, and tried to catch up. One of them beckoned to us impatiently and, as an afterthought, sent a flash of blinding white light past us. "This should hold them up for a while", I heard Lucius' voice add in wicked glee.
I turned at the odd noise, and suddenly felt my mouth go dry. My eyes were fixed on the house under the hovering green skull-and-snake of the Morsmordre
mark - it was rapidly losing its house-like shape and collapsing in a cloud of rolling dust and thunder. Sweet Merlin, Florence...
Some of the Aurors had stopped too, horrified, while others running at us seemed to gain more speed, and one, the hatred on his face clearly visible, fired one of the recently allowed Unforgivables in our direction. I snapped out of my transfixed state and threw myself into a run, my cloak billowing wildly after me, and the sight of Wilkes falling in a flash of green light spurred me to an even higher speed.
Lucius was about the only one now who hadn't Disapparated yet, shooting Unforgivables at the Aurors in turn to cover my flight. When I finally reached the border of the forest we both Apparated away to Malfoy Manor, and Lucius slapped me on the back in laughter. "Now that has been a party indeed!" he said. "A nice fight with Aurors, there isn't much better than that. Too bad that there weren't any tasty muggle wenches, it's about time for you to learn how to have fun. Better luck next time, hm?" I just nodded numbly - for once I was grateful for the silvery mask covering my face. With another slap on my back I was dismissed, and Apparated back to the boundaries of the grounds of Hogwarts.