Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Here is the update as promised. Now I'm off to do the pile of homework that is calling my name. Enjoy!
Chapter 40 – Double cross
Faye Belle looked up sharply from her marking and into the mirror in front of her. Her own face, frowning and worried, looked back at her; the room behind her was empty as far as she could tell, but she still couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching her.
She glanced down at the paper she was marking, telling herself to stop being paranoid, and then she saw it, out of the corner of her eye – a slight shimmering just beside the wardrobe. Praying silently that it wasn't a student, she whipped round and sent a stunning spell in the direction of the movement.
The spell rebounded and a woman materialised, laughing softly.
"Very good, Faye. I see she's taught you well."
Faye looked back at the dark haired woman, holding her head high and trying not to look as terrified as she felt.
"Trix? What are you doing in my room?"
The dark haired woman frowned, though Faye was sure it was Bellatrix. And Katherine did call her Trix, didn't she? Had she remembered that right? Yes, she knew he'd said that – she could remember his voice telling her so...
...be as scornful as possible and only call her Bella if you're being really impatient or in a bad mood, otherwise it's always Trix...
"Taught you very well," the woman murmured. "You've certainly got her attitude down to a tee at any rate." She smiled sourly, stepping closer and peering into her eyes. Faye was ready for this however and turned back to her marking with an elaborate sigh, trying to ignore all her instincts which were screaming that she shouldn't turn her back on this woman.
"What do you want, Trix? Some of us have work to do, you know."
...and don't hold her gaze for too long if you can help it, not at close quarters at any rate. She knows Katherine, and she'll be able to tell...
"Yes we do, don't we. Like you, Katherine, where are you supposed to be right now?"
Faye arched an eyebrow, feeling a prickle of fear but determined not to show it. She couldn't slip out of character, not now, not in front of Bellatrix Lestrange.
"Well according to my contract, I'm supposed to be right here, marking these essays for tomorrow, but clearly you know better, so do feel free to enlighten me. Where exactly am I supposed to be?"
"In the south of France," said Bellatrix smoothly, placing her hands either side of Faye's shoulders on the back of her chair. "With dear sweet Lucius."
Faye folded her arms and met Bellatrix's dark eyed gaze in the mirror.
"And you think I can't be in two places at once, right?"
"Even Katherine can't manage two countries at the same time," said Bellatrix, smiling cruelly.
"I am right here, you know."
"Oh of course you are," agreed Bellatrix soothingly, as though she were talking to a little girl rather than a grown women approaching forty. "But you're not Katherine, are you? You're Faye Belle. The little naïve cousin that she's been working so very hard to protect from the big bad nasty world. Only now she's gone and forgotten you." Bellatrix leaned in closer, her mouth hovering next to Faye's ear and it was all the blonde woman could do to fight the urge to run. "And maybe her well intentioned safeguards weren't quite as good as she thought. Or maybe she just doesn't care. What do you think?"
"Bella, I don't know what the hell you're going on about," scowled Faye, with an impatient sigh.
"No?" asked Bellatrix, thick lips curling into a cruel smile. "Well, we'll see if your Uncle has a better idea, shall we? Honestly Faye, nearly thirty nine years on this planet and you've never once paid him a visit." Faye tried in vain to pull away as Bellatrix caught her wrists and bound them firmly, the dark eyes gazing into her own filled with malice. "Shame on you."
Nicola turned at the shout, searching for it's source. A sandy haired man hurried up to catch up with her, light brown eyes lined with age and worry.
"Hello. Lupin, isn't it?"
He nodded briefly, eyes flickering over the passers by, and Nicola wondered who he was trying to avoid being seen by. Aurors or Death Eaters?
"Do you know where she is?" he asked, keeping his voice light, though his eyes betrayed his desperation. Nicola half considered feigning ignorance, but decided against it; it looked important.
"Gone away for a bit; I'm not sure when she'll be back."
"Gone?" He seemed genuinely startled, but recovered himself well. "Can you get a message to her?"
"Is it urgent?"
"And does it require her immediate attention?" she asked, thinking of what Severus had said the week before. Lupin frowned, as though wondering if they were talking about the same person.
"Faye needs her help," he said quietly. "She's missing."
Faye? Now where had she seen that name that before today? Oh yes, the Aurors report on missing persons.
"She's the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, isn't she?" she asked slowly, her dark eyes narrowing slightly. Why would Katherine want to help her? She'd never mentioned she was a friend. Or maybe Lupin liked her – but he was going out with that rainbow haired Auror, wasn't he? Andromeda Black's daughter...
"Yes," Lupin was nodding, giving her a guarded look. "Listen, could you just get a message to her, please. She'll want to know, believe me." He started to turn away, but she called out and he turned back, frowning. "What?"
"I can't – get a message to her, that is. Even if I knew where she was, which I don't, the last thing she needs right now is more stress."
"Why? What's happened?" he asked, a new emotion flickering in his eyes now: fear.
"I don't know exactly, but," she glanced around quickly and seeing that no one was paying them much attention, continued: "She was a bit messed up, is all. Not as bad as last time, but she only got like that because she didn't have a chance to get her head sorted again. That's why I can't contact her – she needs to recuperate. I won't be responsible for dragging her back here."
"She didn't tell you what happened?" Lupin looked really worried now, running a hand through his hair so that it stuck up at odd angles. "But if she doesn't talk to anyone-"
"Calm down, she'll be all right."
"Who's she with? Is she with anyone? Has she got someone to-?"
"I don't know - I didn't sort it out and from what I saw it didn't look like she wanted to talk to anyone," said Nicola coolly, surveying Lupin with a thoughtful air. He really must care about her – almost as much as Severus did, maybe more.
"She didn't want to last time either," muttered Lupin frowning deeply, but Nicola shook her head.
"Yes she did – every time she snapped at us, all those nights sitting staring at the fire , she wanted to say something – that's why she went and found you in the end, she needed to talk. This time she doesn't, I can't explain it, but she doesn't. She just needs time to get over whatever it was that drove her over the edge like that." Nicola smiled apprehensively, hoping she'd done a little to ease his mind, but from the look he was giving her, she wasn't sure the message had been driven home.
"How do you know she came to talk to me?" he asked, light brown eyes narrowed in suspicion. Nicola hesitated for a moment, then opted for the truth.
"Severus told me. He followed her that night she came to find you – thought she was going to do something stupid, I guess." She shrugged, considering him. "You're not going to tell her, are you? She doesn't know he overheard."
"I'm surprised she didn't catch him," said Lupin, still frowning, but looking a little less ruffled.
"Really?" asked Nicola, raising her eyebrows. "I'm not. She was rather out of it for most of that year. I asked her about it a couple of weeks ago – that year I mean – and she laughed and said she couldn't remember most of it. I told her some of the stuff she'd done and stared at me as though she thought I was making it up."
"She can't remember? Isn't that a bit odd?" asked Lupin, looking rather disconcerted, but Nicola only shrugged, grinning again.
"Not really. Like I said, she was rather messed up – didn't know who she was half the time and didn't care for the other half." She paused, face becoming serious again. "I suppose I should really thank you – for getting her back on track again. She might never have recovered if you hadn't been there for her – she wouldn't talk to us."
Lupin frowned, eyes searching hers, then said quietly:
"She hasn't told you either, has she?"
"Told me what?" asked Nicola, thrown by his question. What did he mean 'either'?
"Why she snapped out of it."
"She talked to yo-"
It was one simple word, but it stopped Nicola in her tracks. Why? Why had Katherine talked to him? If she'd been wanting to talk to him all year, what had made her do it that night? She'd coped on her own up till then, so what had made her break? And why on earth had none of them thought of, much less asked, that question before?
"I always wondered why she turned up," Lupin was saying quietly. "I mean, we talked about what had happened since Christmas, but she never said why she was there and I was too busy being glad that she was speaking to me again to ask, but I'd always assumed she'd argued with you lot, or something? Are you saying that didn't happen?"
"Us? Argue with her? The state she was in? I'd have sooner jumped off the top of the Astronomy Tower – the survival rate would have been pretty much the same," scoffed Nicola, shaking her head. "I mean, she turned up at about half six in a weird mood, but she did that a lot. Oh, and she gave Leon a filthy look when he tried to talk to her, I remember that, because Angela Freyer came over and asked me if they'd had a fight."
"Not that I knew of – I think I told her to go stuff herself, or words to that effect. She was just after Leon; most girls were. Couldn't stand the fact that he'd hooked up with a fifth year mudblood." Nicola noticed he frowned at her choice of words, but made no attempt to apologise; he may have been Katherine's oldest friend but that didn’t mean she had to be nice to him - she just had to not hurt him.
"She's not a muggleborn," he said softly, putting a slight stress on the last words. Nicola shrugged.
"Yeah well, we didn't know that then, did we? She didn't speak much about her family and all we knew was that she'd been raised by muggles. What were we supposed to think?" She was silent for a moment, then sighed. "Look, do you want me to get a few friends to ask around for Faye? I could-" But Lupin was shaking his head.
"Don't worry about it. I'll figure something out. In fact, best not mention it if you can avoid it – she probably wouldn't want it advertised. I'll see you around, all right? Thanks for your help." And then he was gone, slipping away into the mass of people crowding the busy London streets, leaving Nicola with the unsettled feeling that she'd missed something important.
Ten minutes later, she was back in the Ministry, using up the rest of her lunch break to sift through the latest files on the desk. She found the missing persons report under a pile of folders and flipped it open, dark eyes searching the details for some hint that would link Faye to Katherine in some way, but there was nothing obvious. And then she looked at the inside sleeve of the folder, at the close up photo tucked into the brown card and stared into a face that was so like Katherine's it was disturbing.
So at least that explained why Lupin had wanted to reach her so badly, and why he'd said to let it go; he'd realised Katherine hadn't told anyone she'd got a cousin. Nicola hesitated for a moment, scarlet nails tapping thoughtfully on the brown card of the folder, and then, reaching a decision, she snapped it closed and slipped it into her bag.
This was not Auror business. How on earth were they supposed to track her down with Aurors sniffing around the place ruining things? No, this was definitely a private matter.
She feigned a migraine and left Christina in charge of the desk, hoping as she headed home, that Severus would know what to do.
When Faye came to, she was sitting in a plush chair, hands tied to the armrests with a strong cord. The walls of the room around her were panelled with dark mahogany, giving the small space an oppressive feel, contributed to by the fact that there were no windows. A man with black hair and amber eyes was on a sofa opposite her, sitting so still she nearly missed him.
Her mind raced, going through the bank of photographs she'd memorised and tried not to panic when she couldn't think of his name. She could see the photo, see the smirk, hear a voice saying '…and this is my cousin...', but the actual name eluded her. What on earth was it?
"You're awake, I see," said the man softly. "So sorry – that was incredible rude of her, but that's Bella for you. You'll get used to her – if you live that long."
What was his name? It was on the tip of her tongue…
"You know, it's ok. You don't have to pretend anymore – she's got you. Katherine would never have allowed herself to be taken like that – she'd have hexed Bella into next week before she'd come within ten meters." The man smiled, amber eyes showing something like regret. "And she tends to kill people when she gets annoyed."
"Yeah, I do," said Faye, scowling. "So I suggest you start running, Ju. I'll give you a couple of minutes because you're Severus' cousin, but that's all. Then I'm coming after you – right after I've dealt with dear Trixibell."
Julian snorted with laughter, staring incredulously at her.
"What? You don't think it suits her? The way she trails round after Tom? I swear she's trying to- Well, that's not for young ears to hear, is it?"
"Kitten, I'm twenty nine."
"You're still ten years younger than I am, and don't you forget it," admonished Faye, wondering why on earth her cousin was nicknamed Kitten. She couldn't think of anyone less kitten like – a big cat, maybe, but not a kitten. Julian, gazed at her, amber eyes narrowed in thought; Faye decided she didn't like that look – it gave the impression that he was far too smart for his own good.
"Not going to chide me for calling you 'Kitten'?"
"I've given up," improvised Faye, scowling at him.
"You may as well give up the act too. I know you're not Katherine."
"She's in France and besides, you don't look like her."
"Looks can be deceiving."
"So she always says, but I can tell when it's her – doesn't matter what she looks like. When you spend enough time around someone, looks become immaterial." He stood up, brushing off his robes. "I'm sorry – I really am. I like Katherine, but she went away and I had to survive somehow – I'm only doing what she taught me to."
Faye just stared at him as he left, presumably off to fetch Bellatrix, and then bent her head and bit off the dark jade stone that was set into the silver ring on her right hand. She swallowed it, glancing worriedly at the door as she did so; she didn't know how long it would take for Julian to get back with Bellatrix. She only hoped the potion would work as well as Severus had said it would.
"So Katherine is a traitor? And you have proof of this?" Simon Carr looked from Bella's jubilant face to Julian's impassive expression. "Lloyd?"
"We've got her cousin sitting upstairs and she told the Dark Lord she'd killed her," said Julian with a slight shrug.
"You see?" Bella rushed in, face glowing. "She lied to our Master. Why would she do that if she had nothing to hide? And she still hasn't told anyone how she escaped from Azkaban." Carr nodded, face grave.
"I think you'd better show me this Faye, don't you?"
Julian hung back as Bellatrix led Simon to the room where Faye sat, trying to convince himself that he wasn't doing anything wrong. What he'd said was true – Katherine had abandoned him – she'd swanned off to Azkaban and left him to fend for himself. True, the war was ending, but he hadn't known that, and besides, he was barely fourteen and everyone was looking to him to keep up the family's good name. What had he been supposed to do? He'd known Katherine hated Bella, but they'd been at each others throats for so long that no one remembered why; in any case, Lia had needed looking after and Severus had been busy with his own work so when Bellatrix had offered to help him out, he'd accepted gladly. He'd thought Katherine wasn't coming back.
And now? Now he felt like he was betraying her.
Bellatrix wasn't helping matters, she kept referring to him as Ischariot or Brutus and calling him Judas instead of Julian. He supposed she was reveling in the fact that he was working for her – him, Katherine's protégé, under her control.
He supposed she hadn't quite worked out that even though he'd been young when Katherine had been arrested, he'd already learnt a lot from her; Katherine tended to teach the important things first.
He watched as Bella unlocked the door to the room Faye was in, exchanging a few words with Alexandra McKenzie who stood outside, making sure she couldn't escape, and listened to Katherine's words from their first lesson sounding clear in his head, remembering that amused look in her eyes when he'd asked exactly which side she was on because she kept saying things that he wasn't entirely sure a Death Eater as prestigious as her should be saying, and the slight quirk of one eyebrow as she'd answered him.
"Mine, of course. Never forget that, Julian. If you can't choose – make another option. Makes things a lot simpler."
And now here he was, letting Bellatrix destroy her reputation and pull her life apart and he was only just realising that even though he thought he'd been on his own side from day one, he'd never stood a chance - one look into those crazy blue eyes and he was on hers. He'd looked around – at Severus and Robert and Lia – and thought what fools they were for following her blindly, for believing in the myths she helped perpetuate, and all the time he'd half believed in her too.
He'd thought he was different – that she didn't own him the way she owned them. She'd never asked him to do anything for her – but now he realised she'd probably not asked the others to either. That was the thing about her – she didn't need to ask. When she was strong, she protected those she liked and when she fell apart, there was always someone there to pick her up.
If Bellatrix ever fell apart, people would just stand there and watch. Katherine would probably bring popcorn.
Before him, Bella pushed the door open triumphantly and stepped back so that Simon could see into the room. He drew nearer too, wondering if he was brave or stupid enough to try and redeem himself and get Faye out after all. He hadn't bound her hands with magic as he would have done for any other prisoner, but he hadn't dared let her go himself either; Bella would've strung him up for sure – she may not have been quite as inventive as Katherine but you didn't need an imagination to be cruel.
Bella's victorious smirk froze at the sound of Simon's voice and Julian's heart skipped a beat. It wasn't Katherine in the room, he knew that, but Faye wasn't a metamorphmagus, so he couldn’t see why Simon would think she was Katherine. He peered into the room as Bella dove in, marching up to where Katherine lounged against the fireplace, an amused look in her blue eyes.
"What have you done with her?" she demanded, grabbing a fistful of her robes. Katherine looked pointedly down at the fist and Bella released her, still seething. Katherine calmly smoothed out the robes and said softly:
"I presume you mean Faye?"
"You know I do, you-"
"I thought I explained all this, Bella – I'm pretending to be Faye. I-"
"You're in France!" growled Bella, fists clenched so tightly that her knuckles were white.
Katherine pulled at a fine gold chain hanging around her neck and dangled something in front of Bella.
"A Time Turner?" Bella asked, and Julian could tell she was shocked. So was he – this was a very smooth part Faye was playing and it didn't have Katherine's ring to it at all. This wasn't how she liked to play but it was how she acted – any minute now she was going to hint to Bella that she'd let herself be captured to wind her up which would Bella storm out of the room and forget to check it wasn't a trick. Whoever had told Faye what to do and say had taught her very well, and he was certain it hadn't been Katherine.
"How else d'you think I manage to be in two places at the same time?" Katherine grinned, blue eyes daring Bella to find fault with her explanation and that was when Julian realised who had taught her. There were only two people in the world who knew enough about Katherine to create a reasonable imitation of her in this sort of environment and one of them was him. The other was Severus.
As Faye continued her scripted taunting of Bella and Simon Carr walked off in disgust, Julian caught sight of his cousin, treading quietly up the stairs. Dark green eyes met amber ones and his cousin held back a smirk..
"Is Bella around? Lucius sent me a report he said she wanted- Oh dear, what are they arguing about now?" Severus asked, pretending to only just notice the two dark haired women inside the room.
"Severus!" It was Katherine who spoke, or rather Faye. "Dad doesn't need Bella, does he? I can kill her?"
Bella scowled at these words and, snarling something indecipherable at Katherine, flounced out of room, Alexandra McKenzie hurrying after her.
Julian looked at his elder cousin thoughtfully as he suggested that Katherine go back to school because she'd been missing for nearly a day. As Faye apparated Severus turned to him and arched an eyebrow.
"What is it, Julian? You're giving that look again." Julian smiled a little, shaking his head.
"What look, Severus?"
"That one. Seriously, Ju, you were bad before you met Katherine – now sometimes I think you're turning into her." Julian smirked as Severus tossed the report he'd brought onto a desk in the musty room. "How's Ophelia?"
"All right. Daniel's been signed up."
"Yes, I heard."
"I think Katherine's trying to get him killed."
"Kill him? For cheating on Ophelia?"
"What? You don't think she would?" asked Julian, raising an eyebrow dubiously. Severus sighed, and gave him a hard look.
"Julian, do you remember what your sister was like when she was young?"
"'Course I do."
"And what she's like now?"
"And you think Katherine's going to kill him for that?" He laughed, dark eyes completely black in the dim light. "Julian, she's not going to kill him, she's going to destroy him." He shook his head, standing, his face gravely serious. "You know, you ought to have a think about who's side you're on, Julian, because she's fond of you, but if you pull another stunt like this, she's going to start thinking you don't like her and then nothing I can do is going to save you. So think about it, all right? Before it's too late."
Look, Nys – no cliffie! Aren't you proud?
Feedback goes here.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: For the purposes of this story, the wizarding paper The Prophet only prints in black and white, not colour.
Chapter 41 – Branching out
Toby Holder awoke from dreams of dark confusion and lost memories to the sound of the alarm clock buzzing in his ear. He fumbled for the sleep button and pressed it down, lying motionless for a minute, hand still resting on the clock, mind battling desperately to hold onto that shadowed face that had haunted his dreams for as long as he could remember, but as always, the image slipped away, leaving behind only the memory of eyes the colour of sapphires.
He sighed, opening his own brown eyes and gazing tiredly up at the ceiling. He'd never mentioned the dreams to anyone; they were only dreams after all and he'd stopped having them years ago. It was only since the war had started up again that they'd come back.
He threw off the covers and stumbled along the hall to the bathroom, turning on the shower and standing under it for a few minutes to try and clear his head. He knew what the dreams were about, of course, even if he couldn't remember the exact details when he awoke, because he'd been told the story hundreds of times as he grew up.
He'd been only a few weeks old when the Death Eaters had come to his Aunt's house in a quiet part of Kent. The Aunt and her family had all been killed, and for a while everyone thought he was dead too, since he'd been staying there for the night, but then he'd turned up without so much as a scratch on him on the doorstep of an Auror.
Everyone had agreed it was mystery, but the general consensus seemed to be that it didn't pay to question good fortune so after a half-hearted investigation the matter was left alone. Toby himself would have been perfectly happy to let the matter go as well if only his nights were freed from these childhood nightmares. He wondered whether he should ask the Auror about it – the one who'd found him all those years ago. His mother had said there hadn't been a note but maybe he'd seen something, maybe he had a name to match the blue eyes. Surely it was worth a try? Anything for a decent nights sleep.
Harry sat in the front room of the Burrow, flicking through one of the spell books Hermione had found in Diagon Alley, half listening to the chaos going on around him. It was Halloween and someone had decided a party was just the thing to cheer everyone up a little so last minute decorations were being sorted out by anyone who had hands to spare.
Harry shifted in the large armchair and gave up pretending to read. He couldn't feel in less of a party mood; it had now been over two months since Bill and Fleur's wedding and he still hadn't visited Godric's Hollow or his parent's graves and now it was Halloween, the anniversary of their death and he was sitting here, alone. With no one watching him. Mrs Weasley and Fleur were busy cooking – he could hear them every now and then arguing over the best way to prepare this dish or other, and everyone else was in the garden, setting up for tonight.
He glanced around the room, and then at his watch. It was nearly half eleven – surely no one would miss him if he slipped out for a couple of hours? As long as he was back before the party...
Before he could change his mind he ran upstairs to get a jumper, grabbing the invisibility cloak from his trunk as an afterthought, then hurried outside, throwing the cloak around his shoulders. Ron & Hermione could contact him if they needed to – Robert Avery had told them how to make more of those secret note papers and Hermione had spent three days enchanting a new set of three – one for each of them so they could still contact each other if they ever got separated again like they had in the underground chamber.
At the gate of the Burrow he paused and looked back at the house, wondering if he should tell someone after all. But then they'd try to stop him or insist on coming with him and he didn't want that; they were his parents – he wanted to find them on his own, so drawing his wand from his pocket, he concentrated hard on where he wanted to go and disapparated.
Nymphadora Tonks hummed to herself as the lift hummed its way up from Level 2 to Level 1 and the automated voice announced that she'd reached the Minister's private level. She stepped out and hurried over to the front desk, grinning at the man standing there.
Adrian Jones looked up, surprise registering in his dark brown eyes.
"Tonks? I haven't seen you in ages – how are you?"
"Fine," shrugged Tonks, slapping a folder down on the polished counter and sliding it towards him. "Updates on the escapees," she added, seeing him look questioningly at the folder.
"Is there anything to update on?" he asked, arching an eyebrow as he stuck a post it on the folder and scribbled something on it, before slipping it into a chute behind the desk. Tonks grinned at him, thinking he hadn't changed much since they'd been at school although perhaps he was a little more mature, but then again weren't they all? The war was making everyone learn to grow up very fast and yet she got the feeling that he might still be up for pulling a few pranks every now and then.
"That's classified information, I'm afraid."
"Really? So it doesn't just contain a sheet of paper saying 'we still haven't caught them', then?" asked Adrian, brown eyes glinting with mischief. She was about to reply when the programmed voice sounded again from the lift and she turned to see Mad Eye stumping out, glowering at something.
"Where's Belmont?" he asked, fixing both blue eyes on Adrian. Adrian paused for a second, seemingly on the point of asking him something, then turned abruptly and consulted the chart behind the desk.
"Out on duty."
"Out?" Mad Eye's frowned deepened; he sounded worried. "Out where?"
"Only the Minister knows that," answered Adrian, looking apologetic.
"Well he was meant to check in this morning and he didn't," growled Mad Eye. "So I suggest you find out where he is."
Adrian looked uncertain for a moment then stepped out from behind the desk and headed into a corridor leading into the depths of the level. Tonks glanced at Moody anxiously.
"D'you think Belmont's double crossing us?"
"I doubt it, he's far too loyal to Scrimgeour," said Moody in a low voice. "But I prefer to have him where I can see him."
A moment later Adrian reappeared with a dark haired man beside him who Tonks recognised from school – he'd been in her year as well, a Hufflepuff by the name of Toby Holder.
"You're looking for Ryan Belmont?" asked Toby, looking at Mad Eye, who nodded.
"You know where he is, Holder?"
"The Minister sent him out to work on public relations." Mad Eye frowned.
"Does that mean what I think it does?"
"Well if you think it means that he's scouting out Potter again, then yes," answered Toby, running a tired hand through short brown hair.
"He'll never get to him," Tonks put in hotly, scowling, but Mad Eye was shaking his head. Scrimgeour was no fool – he knew he couldn't get to Harry at the Burrow, so he was sending envoys elsewhere.
"Where is Belmont now?"
"I can't tell you that," said Toby, sighing heavily. "I'm sorry, Mad Eye."
Tonks raised an eyebrow at the informal address, and then she remembered that Moody had known Toby's surname too.
"Actually," said Toby suddenly as Mad Eye drummed his fingers on the wooden desk. "There's something I've been meaning to ask you about. Could you spare ten minutes or so? I've got a break now."
Two blue eyes fixed on Toby's innocent features and a slow smile spread across Moody's face.
"Certainly. Why don't we step outside?"
Harry looked down at the white marble slabs in front of him, wondering vaguely if he should have brought flowers. There was an assortment of flowers laid on the tombstones now, and even to his inexpert eye they seemed rather strange. Didn't people usually bring bouquets to lay on graves? The nine flowers that lay here seemed to be totally independent of each other. He didn't have long to ponder this thought, however, because a slight cough behind him made him glance round and he saw a short man with reddish brown hair and thin wiry spectacles looking up at him.
"Yes?" There was no point in lying – he couldn't hide his scar, after all.
"My name's Francis Belmont, I'm from the Ministry-"
And that was as far as he got, because at that moment two things happened. The first was that two figures appeared at the gates of cemetery and, seeing him, started to make their way purposefully towards him. One of them, Harry saw, was Moody and with him a young man in his mid twenties that he didn't recognise.
The second thing that happened was a large black bird that swooped down from the sky and began attacking the Ministry official, clawing at his face and snapping it's sharp beak so fiercely that the man stumbled backwards, tripping over the marble headstones. Harry stepped back himself as Moody and his companion hurried over. As they approached the bird fluttered up to a tree and perched there, looking archly down at them, and Harry gazed at it, wondering if it was who it thought it was.
"Belmont," said the young man with Moody, reaching down to help the fallen man. "There's been a development on the Simmons case – Fredrick wondered if you could investigate."
"What now?" asked Belmont, struggling to his feet.
"Well obviously clean yourself up a bit first," replied the other man, gesturing to his scratched and bleeding face. "But yes, as soon as possible."
"Francis, we've been waiting months for-"
"All right, all right, I'm going," blustered Belmont, adjusting his glasses and looking wretchedly at Harry. Then, after a few moments hesitation, he pulled out his wand and disapparated, murmuring disconsolately under his breath.
The other man squinted up at the black bird in the sunlight, a mildly curious expression on his face.
"What is that – d'you know?" This question was addressed to Moody who grunted in the affirmative, electric blue eye spinning dizzyingly in it's socket.
"Egyptian eagle," he muttered, his normal eye swivelling to look at Harry. "You all right?"
"Fine," said Harry, glancing up at the bird again. Moody didn't ask what he was doing there alone, but Harry had the feeling this was only because he was preoccupied with something else, and sure enough a moment later he growled:
"All right, where are you?" The young man stopped his inspection of the eagle and glanced worriedly at him.
"What?" Moody ignored him, and gripped his wand.
"I know you're there, so you may as well-"
And then his eye stopped turning and focused on a point just behind and above Harry. Harry felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and turned around sharply to see a woman standing there, gazing at Moody with something like amusement in her blue eyes.
"Ambushing people in graveyards now, are we? Well I must say this is stooping rather low, even for the Ministry."
Harry stared at her, then up at the bird, still perched proudly on the thick branch high above. If the creature wasn't Katherine, why on earth had it attacked that man?
"What are you doing here, Riddle?" asked Moody, wand raised cautiously. Katherine's expression was all innocence.
"Paying my respects." She held up a single tulip, blue-purple petals folded together and smiled, eyes losing their playful air. "You going to arrest me, Alastor?"
"What do you think?"
"I think that'd be highly unfair," answered Katherine, laying the flower down amongst the others on the Potters' grave.
"Well for one thing, I'm unarmed."
"And for the other?" interjected the young man, pointing his wand at her chest.
"It's her birthday," supplied Moody, lowering his wand to Harry and the stranger's great surprise. "Why haven't you got your wand?"
"It's armistice day."
"What?" The man standing next to Moody stared at her in bewilderment.
"It means truce," said Katherine, looking at him for the first time, an insane little smile playing round her lips and at the sight of it, Harry grinned, thinking that this was the first time she'd looked normal since they'd destroyed the horcrux. The man just stared at her and she frowned slightly and turned her attention back to Moody who said:
"Armistice day isn't for another week."
"That's for a muggle war," said Katherine calmly. "This is for our war."
"Riddle, there's no such thing as Armistice day for our war," replied Moody in a weary voice. Katherine just shrugged.
"There is for us."
Harry glanced down at the flowers laid on his parents' grave and she smiled faintly at him. One flower from each person who respected this strange truce, he supposed, and it made him wonder who exactly they were. So far he counted ten different flowers including hers, and if they were all put on one grave, there couldn't be that many people involved.
Up in the tree, the Egyptian Eagle ruffled it's feathers and Harry saw Katherine glance up at it questioningly then look sharply at Moody's companion who was still staring at her with an unnerved expression on his face.
"What?" she asked slowly, narrowing her eyes and shifting uncertainly. The man didn't answer, looking as suspicious as Katherine did and Harry, not having the faintest idea what was going on looked at Moody and consequently saw what the other two missed; Moody was looking worried.
With a rush of wings, the eagle launched itself off the branch and swept down to Katherine's shoulder, looking haughtily at the stranger.
"It's yours?" asked the man, surprise overcoming whatever it was that had stilled his tongue before.
"It's a he," answered Katherine, as the bird tilted his head to one side, inspecting the man with one dark intelligent eye. "His name is Archimedes and yes, he's mine, what of it?"
"He attacked Belmont-" began the man, then stopped mid-sentence as he realised why. "That's cheating." Katherine grinned at him, hands shoved deep into her jeans pockets.
"You're not allowed to fight or whatever so you get your eagle to do it for you!" said the man, pointing an accusing finger at her.
"Three things," said Katherine mildly, blue eyes gazing at the man with something like cautious interest. "One – he did it of his own volition – it's not my fault he can read my feelings and tends to act on them; two – why are you standing here discussing ethics with a convicted murderer and Azkaban escapee when you're quite clearly from the Ministry and probably want me dead, and three – why are you looking so uncomfortable?" This last question was addressed to Moody who started, looking slightly guilty.
"You protected him," said the man quietly, gesturing towards Harry. "Why did you do that?" Katherine looked at him, a small frown creasing her forehead.
"I asked first."
"And I answered," said the man, brown eyes searching hers. "You're supposed to be a criminal but you drove Belmont away. I want to know why." Katherine narrowed her eyes and Harry could almost see the wheels turning in her head.
"You know, don't you? You know Belmont's a Death Eater."
"He's a what?" asked Harry, staring at her. Katherine glanced at him, looking mildly amused.
"Well if you insist on turning up unaccompanied to remote locations, you can hardly blame people for targeting you."
"But I was visiting my parents' graves," said Harry angrily and she nodded.
"Which is why Archimedes went for him. It's not very respectful."
"Oh come off it," said the man, shaking his head. "What's a bird going to do to an armed wizard?"
"I'd like to have seen him hex Potter with his eyes pecked out," answered Katherine shortly, scowling at him.
"He could have hexed the bird, then Potter," argued the man, apparently not prepared to concede his point.
"Wouldn't have done any good," put in Moody. "That bird can't die; it's life is tied to hers and as long as she lives, it won't fall."
"Is it like a phoenix?" asked Harry, casting a dubious eye over the bird.
"Not exactly; they don't rejuvenate themselves like phoenixes do," said Katherine quietly. "If you AK a phoenix, it'll die and come back as baby; AK an Egyptian eagle and it just absorbs the spell. You could drop a house on it and it'll get squashed but as soon as you lift the weight off it, it'll get up and fly around, good as new." She grinned at him. "Strange but true."
"Have you tried?" asked Harry, unable to think of anything else to say. Katherine gave him an odd look.
"Potter, that's just cruel."
"How can you call him cruel when you're a Death Eater," objected the man and Katherine looked at him, something like understanding in her bright eyes.
"Did we kill your family? Close friend? Relative?" She tilted her head slightly, surveying him. "Because you hate me, don't you? I mean really hate me and I don't even know you-"
Katherine stopped, immediately on guard and Harry thought that if she'd had her wand, it would have been in her hand in an instant. Then she looked from Moody to the man and back again, blue eyes narrowed warily.
"Should I?" she ventured at last, looking uncertainly at him. This was evidently the wrong thing to say because the man bristled, his scowl deepening and Harry saw Archimedes shift on Katherine shoulder restlessly. "What's your name?" she asked, reaching up a hand to settle the bird's uneasiness.
"Surname," she said, frowning and casting a quick glance at Moody who was looking decidedly unsettled.
"Holder," said Toby, folding his arms challengingly. Katherine was quiet for a moment, drumming her fingers idly on the side of her leg.
"Nope, never killed a Holder."
"You know the name of every person you've killed?"
"Why is that so very hard to believe?" asked Katherine archly, and Toby looked at Moody, who shrugged noncommittally.
"She probably does."
"And you think that makes killing them more honourable or something?" asked Toby, fingers flexing around his wand.
"There's nothing honourable about murder," said Katherine soberly and Toby paused in his seething to look at her. "It's not just that I'm a Death Eater, is it? You hate me, don't you, only you weren't looking at me like that five minutes ago. So tell me, what did I do to you, Toby Holder, because you'd been, what six or so, when I went to Azkaban?"
Toby muttered something through gritted teeth and though Harry didn't make out what it was, he saw Katherine's reaction.
"You don't know? You hate me and you don't know why?" asked Katherine incredulously, staring at him. Toby looked up, face flushed.
"You were at my Aunt's house the night she died."
"And I killed her?"
"I don't know, I was only a baby."
"And yet you know I was there," said Katherine slowly, appearing to consider this. After a moment she looked at Moody and gave him a bright smile. "Is he committed?"
"He's not mad, Katherine," said Moody gently, and Katherine threw him a look that displayed precisely what she thought of that sentiment and then Harry saw her hesitate and look suspiciously at Toby who stared back resolutely.
"How old are you?" she asked quietly, in a voice little more than a whisper and for some reason Harry thought he saw a trace of something akin to fear in her bright eyes. Toby shifted under her gaze and frowned, dark eyes flickering uncertainly.
Like the cliffie?
Make me happy and leave feedback. You never know, it might just persuade me to write the next chapter instead of revising for my exams...
Last edited by Purple Banana; June 16th, 2008 at 11:59 pm.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: In honour of Douglas Adams, you're going to get some answers in this chapter. (Big shiny Easter Egg for anyone who knows what I'm talking about...)
Chapter 42 – Eye of the storm
There was a long pause and then Katherine ran her hand through her hair and looked uncomfortably at Moody.
"What?" asked Toby, frowning at them. "What do you know?"
Katherine was silent, arms wrapped around her chest, face closed, so Toby turned to Moody, eyes searching his face.
"You're hiding something. You said you didn't know anything about that night – you said you didn't know who attacked them. Is that true?" he demanded, brown eyes earnest. Moody looked at Katherine, but getting no reaction, turned back to Toby.
"I never knew for sure," he said quietly. "And you'll just have to believe me when I say there are reasons I didn't tell the Ministry everything that happened-"
"That happened?" Toby was shocked now. "You know what hap-"
"Not at the house, no," broke in Moody. "I wasn't there – I was at home. I never knew who murdered your Aunt's family; the first time I knew that anything was amiss was when someone knocked on my door at eight in the evening and I opened the it and there you were. So you see, I told the truth – you were left on my doorstep; I just never told anyone that someone was holding you at the time."
"Someone..." Toby repeated faintly, then he looked sharply at Katherine who gazed back blandly. "You." Katherine smiled bitterly, a trace of sadness in her eyes.
"But-" began Toby, his scowl fading to a look of bewilderment. "Why? And why didn't you tell anyone?" he added, looking accusingly at Moody.
"As I said, I had my reasons," answered Moody gruffly, and Harry saw him shoot a quick glance at Katherine who looked away.
"But she was at the house," said Toby, angry now. "The Ministry could have hauled her in and-"
"No they couldn't." Toby stopped short at the interruption and Katherine smiled sourly. "I was a minor and they didn't have any proof I'd done anything wrong. Besides, Alastor did tell someone – he told Dumbledore." She gazed mildly at Moody, who was frowning. "You must have done, because he called me up to his office the next day and gave me one of those 'it's not too late' speeches. I just stared blankly at him till he let me go, if I remember correctly. Never did understand why he didn't just give up."
"He thought you could change," answered Moody. "You could have met him halfway."
"After what he did? No chance."
"He was only doing what he thought was best and you know that," growled Moody, as Harry stared at Katherine in bewilderment.
"And who gave him the right to decide what was best for me?" retorted Katherine, angry now. "He was the one who decided to keep quiet so I don't see why he had any right to interfere when everything went wrong."
"He was trying to help, Riddle."
"He was poking his nose around where it wasn't wanted," spat back Katherine, scowling.
"He was a good man," rumbled Moody, countenance just as dark as hers.
"I never said he wasn't," replied Katherine, blue eyes flashing. "But that doesn't mean I have to be nice about him."
"You didn't like Dumbledore?" asked Harry, staring at her uncertainly. She glanced at him and rolled her eyes.
"Oh come on, I've killed how many people and you're holding that against me?"
Harry just looked at her, realising for the first time exactly how little he knew about her; he knew she was useful to have around in a crisis, that Remus loved her like a sister and that she was extraordinarily clever, but he didn't know anything about her as a person. He'd put his life in her hands so many times already and yet he didn't think he could trust her at all. Unsummoned, Remus' words came back to him, sitting at a rough wooden table, about to look into Katherine's makeshift pensieve.
"Trust you? With my life, yes. With this, not exactly, no."
Was this the same thing? He could trust Katherine to protect him because she needed him alive and he could hope she told him what he needed to know, but any more than that was out of his control.
"Why did you never say anything?" he asked, glaring at her. Katherine raised an eyebrow appraisingly.
"You never asked and it wasn't important."
"No. He's dead, Potter. Why on earth should I bring it up?"
"He's only dead because Snape murdered him," shouted Harry, fists clenched. "I suppose you're best pals, aren't you? You just sit there discussing how the world's a better place without him." Katherine looked at him and Harry glowered back, too angry to be scared by the fury burning behind those sapphire eyes.
"Severus didn't murder Dumbledore."
Harry almost gaped at her.
"I saw him do it, Katherine."
"I didn't say he didn't kill him, I said it wasn't murder," said Katherine, voice remaining calm despite the hostility in her gaze. "They're not the same thing."
"Where's the difference?" asked Harry scornfully.
"It's not murder if they ask you to do it."
There was silence as three pairs of eyes stared at her, utterly stunned, then Moody said very quietly:
"He asked him," said Katherine softly, gaze never moving from Harry's.
"No," said Harry, shaking his head. "You're lying. He wouldn't do that – he wouldn't get himself killed, he wouldn't."
"No? Tell me Harry, if he was still alive, what would you be doing right now?"
"What's that got to do with anything?" asked Harry, staring at her.
"Everything. As long as he was alive, you were always going to be relying on him – he die, had to leave you on your own because it was the only way you were ever going to learn to look after yourself. Why d'you think he told you everything he knew before he died? You didn't think that was chance, did you?"
"He wouldn't," said Harry again, though there was a trace of doubt in his voice.
"He did," said Katherine shortly. "Denial won't change that."
"No, you're just making this up to spite him," said Harry angrily. "You hated him and you're just trying to-"
"To what? What possible reason could I have for lying?" asked Katherine archly. "It makes no difference to me what you think of him, but I won't have you blaming Severus for something he never wanted to do." Harry was about to shout something back at her when he realised exactly what it was she was saying and his eyes widened in horror.
"You've been talking to him, haven't you? You've been consorting with Snape this whole time."
"What I do in my own time is my business, Potter," replied Katherine, blue eyes hard, and Harry took this as an affirmative. "If you don't believe me about Dumbledore, that's your problem, but it's the truth." Harry just looked at her in disgust and shook his head.
"Katherine, what have you been up to?" asked Moody softly in the quiet that followed. "How is it that you two are so well acquainted?"
"That would be none of your business, Alastor," answered Katherine, smoothly, fixing him with a sweet smile and blazing eyes.
"Potter?" Moody tried, but Harry just shook his head, too angry to speak. Katherine glanced at him and then turned on her heel and walked away through the rows of gravestones. Moody watched her for a moment, then turned to Harry. "Come on, I'll take you back to the Burrow. Molly'll be tearing the place down trying to find you."
Harry half thought about objecting, about running after Katherine and demanding to know why she'd said those things but he suddenly felt tied and empty and found it was easier to just let Moody guide him out of the cemetery and back home.
Toby Holder watched them leave then looked back at the figure lounging against a tree on the other side of the graveyard, her black hair fluttering in the wind. He should go back to the Ministry, should just leave and go back to his job, but he couldn't. He had to know what had happened that night, had to know why she'd saved him. If he walked away now, he'd always regret it.
She didn't even look up as he approached, just stood there, gazing at the black marble headstone before her. He glanced at it and read the epitaph, embossed in glimmering silver letters:
Beloved friend and brother
Gone but not forgotten
"Friend of yours?" he asked, with more courage than he felt.
"Yeah," she murmured, sighing deeply. Then: "Moody's got his reasons, you know."
"So he said." She looked at him, blue eyes clearer than they'd ever been in his dreams and raised an eyebrow slightly.
"I was sixteen."
"When I found you – I was sixteen; he was trying to protect me - him and Dumbledore both." She sighed again, leaning heavily against the tree. "Only I didn't want their help. I thought I was grown up enough to manage on my own and I suppose I did, for the most part."
"But?" asked Toby, pulling his cloak a little tighter against the cold.
"How much do you know about me? I mean, you work at the Ministry and you obviously realised I was a Death Eater but then you suddenly decided you knew me, so what do you know?"
"You're Katherine Riddle," said Toby carefully. "You're forty years old and have escaped from just about every trap the Ministry's ever set for you, except for the ambush at Morgoth End. Your adoptive muggle parents were murdered when you were seventeen and after Hogwarts you worked at the Ministry as an Unspeakable for five years. No one knows when you joined, but you're a Death Eater and you were caught when you were twenty two and sent to Azkaban for a list of crimes so long we've got an entire cabinet devoted to you. Rumour has it that you're the stuff of legends among Death Eaters."
Katherine smiled, blue eyes dancing with amusement.
"For entirely the wrong reasons, I assure you."
"Why do you call Moody by his first name?" asked Toby, gazing at her with interest. He still wasn't sure what he thought of her, though he wasn't inclined to trust her an inch.
"We've known each other a long time," she answered. "Since I was...seven? Yes, I think that's right. I called him a transvestite and we've been enemies ever since." She laughed at his expression and grinned. "You think I'm joking, don't you?"
"I don't know what to think. What happened that night?" Katherine was silent for a moment, considering her answer, then she shrugged.
"I was part of a party of four sent to kill the family. Your Uncle had been speaking out against the Dark Lord and he wanted him silenced, only if you want to get your message across, it isn't enough to just kill them – you have to destroy them and to do that you murder those they love." She paused for a second and he frowned slightly, remembering that her own parents had been killed a year after she'd saved him; he wondered what she'd done.
"Anyway," she continued briskly. "We got to the house and Trix was doing her bit and then I used Legilimency on your Aunt – trying it out, because I'd only just learnt it – and all she was thinking about was you – praying that you'd keep quiet and we wouldn't bother to look upstairs. Well the others weren't paying much attention to me, I was the youngest out of the four of us and they all knew I was mental so it wasn't hard to slip out when they were discussing what to do. I found you asleep in a cot upstairs."
She looked at him, sapphire eyes sharp and bright. "You know, I nearly just killed you; the state I was in I probably wouldn't even have cared. You were just a baby – what did your life matter and why on earth should I risk mine to save you? And then you woke up and looked at me and smiled and I just couldn't do it. I'd been blocking everything out for months by that time, pretending I didn't care about anything, learning to tune out my emotions but you can't fight your nature like that without serious repercussions and I was driving myself crazy trying to cope.
"I'd been terrified for so long I'd forgotten what it was like to be safe and happy and then there's this tiny baby beaming up at me like I'm the best thing it's ever seen and all those walls I'd built up to try and protect myself with just fell apart; I wanted out. I always knew what I was doing was wrong – that was why I was so messed up and looking down at you in that cot, I just decided enough was enough so I picked you up and went downstairs and left. The others were in the lounge with the family and they hadn't missed me, so I just walked out the door and kept going."
"And ended up at Moody's house?" asked Toby, watching her closely as the breeze rustled though the leaves of the trees around them.
"I didn't know what I was doing – I can't remember most of that year I was so out of it all the time, but I knew where his house was and it was the only place I could go. I didn't want to take you to Dumbledore and I couldn't take you to the Ministry – there'd be too many questions, so I went to Alastor. When he answered the door I just held you out and he took you and then I turned and walked away, went back to school and waited for the others to come back."
"Other – only Wilkes was still at school then."
"Leon Wilkes? He was there?"
"Yes, and Bellatrix Lestrange," agreed Katherine soberly, blue eyes gazing coolly at him.
"That's three – who's the fourth?" asked Toby, gazing resolutely back.
"A man called Jason Brookes; he's been dead for over two decades."
Toby nodded; he'd heard of him – he'd died making an assassination attempt on Millicent Bagnold who'd been Minister of Magic at the time.
"He fell down a life shaft, didn't he?" Toby asked and Katherine arched an eyebrow.
"You've done your research."
"That attack destroyed my family," answered Toby, looking steadily at her. "The Aunt was my mother's sister and Mum fell apart when was killed. Dad says that if I hadn't been saved, she might have died of grief. Dad had to stop work to look after her and me, and now Mum's in Saint Mungo's and Dad's too old to get another job. I joined the Ministry to help fight Death Eaters, only Dad didn't want me to be an Auror in case I got killed and he was left alone, so I became an administrator. I work in the Minster's private office and I really should be calling the Aurors in on you right now. You're the epitome of everything I'm supposed to hate."
"And yet you're not," noted Katherine, tilting her head and looking curiously at him. "For which I suppose I should be grateful."
"You saved my life."
"You saved my sanity; I'd say that makes us even."
Toby frowned at her, wondering why he still couldn't decide what to make of her. She freely admitted that she was a Death Eater and that she'd nearly killed him without a second thought and yet...and yet she'd told him that. She was honest and fair and that didn't fit at all.
"Did you get into trouble?"
"When Wilkes came back. You said you just walked out and left them – did you get into trouble?" asked Toby, thinking, after all she'd said, that he should really be more afraid of her, even if she didn't have her wand.
"Not really; I'd wandered off before when I was supposed to be on a mission, so he was used to it - don't give me that look, I'm being serious. I told you, I was crazy, I didn't know where I was half the time. When Leon came back he asked me where I'd gone and I just glared at him and he went away. I think he'd learnt not to annoy me by then." She smiled, shrugging a little at his expression.
"Did Moody know you were a Death Eater before you turned up with me?"
"No – I think he suspected something – Dumbledore did at least and he was bound to have told him, but neither of them knew for sure."
"So you blew your cover in giving me in?" asked Toby, eyes studying her closely.
"It's not that big a deal," said Katherine easily, stretching in the sunlight. "I wasn't entirely grounded in reality at the time."
"And yet he protected you?"
"He was on good terms with my parents and like I said, he probably thought I could be reached. Well I could, only not by him or Dumbledore. I sorted myself out after that night and got back to a reasonable level of sanity. I stopped trying to block things out, accepted what had happened and moved on."
She smiled, but briefly and he knew he wasn't going to get anymore out of her. She'd probably only told him this much because she thought she owed him an explanation, and perhaps she just wanted to get it off her chest, but that was it. He didn't have any greater claim to know more about her and he found with an unsettled feeling that he was disappointed; he wanted to know more, wanted to find out what she like.
"Can I ask you something?" she said suddenly and he looked at her, surprised.
"Why, when you seem to know so much about me and who I was, did you not say immediately that I'd killed your Aunt?"
He looked at her curious expression and, feeling slightly embarrassed, said: "I'd only ever seen black and white photos of you, and then you looked at me, and...it was your eyes; I've never seen any others like them and I knew I remembered them from somewhere. I couldn't think of anywhere else I could have known them from."
"Fair enough," said Katherine, smiling faintly. "And now what are you going to do Toby Holder?"
"Well how do you know someone hasn't seen you with me? If you go back to the Ministry, you might be accused of consorting with Death Eaters, and even if that doesn't happen, how do you know I won't come after you?" she asked, and Toby couldn't tell whether or not she was joking.
"I can look after myself at work," he answered carefully. "And you won't come after me."
"Why not? I said we were even; I don't owe you anything." Toby looked at her, at those shrewd blue eyes and decided to take a chance.
"You do owe me," he said evenly. "You value your sanity more than my life, so the odds are still tipped in my favour. I saved your life – you just let me live. They're not the same thing."
Katherine gazed coolly at him for a moment, then laughed, sapphire eyes glinting with amusement. "And how do you suppose we remedy this imbalance? According to you, I am still in your debt."
"Just carry on as we did before," said Toby simply. "You let me live. Deal?"
Katherine looked at him, still seeming highly amused, then held out her hand for him to shake.
They shook hands and then Toby nodded to her and apparated back to the Ministry, hoping there wouldn't be too many awkward questions awaiting him. Katherine stood under the tree for a little while longer, smiling faintly to herself.
At length, Archimedes glided down from the branch he'd been sitting on to keep watch and squawked a greeting. She grinned and stroked his head gently.
"He's got some cheek, I'll give him that," she murmured. Archimedes made an affirmative sound and she sighed heavily, thinking back to what she'd said to Harry. That stuff about Dumbledore probably hadn't been the best thing to say; quite possibly it ranked up there on the list of the top ten absolute worst things to say, but there was no helping that now.
He was always going to hate Severus and she didn't blame him for that, but she'd had to at least try and make him see sense. Severus hadn't wanted Dumbledore dead, he owed him everything he had, but he'd asked and Severus couldn't have refused. Just like she couldn't have refused Regulus. They'd both done what they had to because there was no one else who could have done it. She knew full well that if it had been anyone else with Regulus when Bellatrix arrived that day he wouldn't have asked them; the others wouldn't have understood, would have looked for another way out when there wasn't one.
She looked resignedly at the black marble headstone that marked his grave and wished things could have been different. But they weren't and you had to play with the cards fate dealt you; she only hoped she lived long enough to keep Severus safe. If he ever met up with Harry again, one of them was going to get hurt, and if Harry killed Severus...
She shook her head, shivering in the brisk wind. She knew he could do it, despite what Severus thought; if Potter was given the opportunity, he would avenge Dumbledore. She couldn't let that happen; if Potter murdered Severus, she'd kill him, Prophecy be d@mned.
Before anyone asks why Lucius Malfoy doesn't appear to have been at Toby's Aunt's house, I would like to point out that Katherine, for all her claims to the contrary, does not always tell the truth. She is lying; I leave it up to you to muse on why.
Having said that, theories go here. Happy Easter!
Last edited by Purple Banana; April 6th, 2007 at 7:44 pm.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Sorry for the wait. This chapter does some much needed tidying up, so the plot should pick up again soon. Hope you like it.
Chapter 43 – Masquerade
Severus sat at Nicola's kitchen table, absently turning the small package before him over and over in careful fingers. It had been just over two weeks since he'd left Katherine in Lucius' care and apart from the short letter from his friend saying they'd both arrived safely, there'd been no word, and now it was Halloween and she still wasn't back...
Suddenly he glanced up, aware of someone's gaze on him, and met a pair of very familiar blue eyes looking back.
"Katherine," he whispered, the small parcel dropping unheeded from his hands. She smiled slightly and just stood there, leaning casually against the doorjamb, watching him with calm blue eyes. He realised he was staring and shook his head, embarrassed. "How long have you been there?"
"About a minute," she replied, detaching herself from the wall and moving to sit opposite him, an amused look on her face. She picked up one of the parcels that was sitting on the table and read the label.
"An owl dropped it off this morning," explained Severus, seeing her confused expression. He handed over his own small package with an attempt at a smile. "Happy birthday."
Katherine shot a suspicious look at him, then appeared to shake herself and smiled.
"Thanks." She paused, his gift lying forgotten for a moment in her hand and looked seriously at him. "For everything. I don't know what I'd do without you."
"Go insane?" asked Severus lightly, face studiously impassive. Katherine looked sharply at him, then grinned wickedly, looking more herself than she had done for ages.
"Right," she laughed, tearing the paper off his present and opening the velvet box it had concealed. Lying on the dark green cushion inside was a heavy silver bracelet, designed to look like a snake. She picked it up, gazing at the intricate patterns engraved on the delicate scales in awe.
"It's supposed to turn gold when there's someone untrustworthy about," said Severus, watching her closely. "I thought it might come in useful."
Katherine looked up at him, an odd expression on her face, but all she said was: "Thank you. I love it."
There was the click of heels in the hallway and Nicola walked in, carrying a large pile of folders which she nearly dropped at the sight of Katherine.
"You're back!" she exclaimed, hurriedly shoving the folders onto the kitchen counter and beaming at her friend. "How are you?"
"Much better," answered Katherine, slipping the bracelet onto her arm and grinning at her. "Aren't you supposed to be at work?"
"Lunch break," replied Nicola, grabbing a bottle of tonic water from the fridge and coming to sit down beside her. "Happy birthday, by the way. Cass is hosting a Halloween party tonight – we weren't sure if you were going to be back, but since you are-"
"Nicola, I can't go to a party full of Ministry officials," said Katherine, giving her a look that was torn between amusement and exasperation.
"It's masquerade ball," said Severus quietly, and when she looked at him, she saw he was grinning. "See, we thought if you were back, you might need cheering up a bit and since there's nothing you like better than winding the Aurors up..."
"You thought you'd arrange a party where I could walk around right under their noses without anyone being any the wiser?" finished Katherine, arching an eyebrow.
"Precisely," said Nicola happily, grinning and peering at the carefully wrapped parcel on the table. "Who's that from?"
Katherine glanced at the parcel and seemed to hesitate for a second, a slight frown creasing her forehead.
"Ophelia probably," said Severus, studying the note attached to it. "Looks like her handwriting."
"By which you mean it looks female," said Nicola, laughing despite her scorn. Severus shrugged, half smiling, and looked at Katherine who was watching him, eyes narrowed slightly.
"I think I know my own cousin's handwriting by now, Nicola," said Severus, pushing himself up from the table to put the kettle on.
"Yes," murmured Katherine, gazing pensively down at the parcel before her. "You'd think you would."
"So, are you coming tonight?" asked Nicola, after a short pause. Katherine glanced up, jolted out of her musings.
"Tonight? Oh, the party." She appeared to think about it for a second, then shrugged, a lazy smile curving her lips. "Sure. Why the hell not?"
Harry didn't look up as the door opened a few inches and Lupin's head appeared round it.
"What's the armistice?" he asked, staring down at the photograph before him. He heard Lupin sigh and come further into the room.
"Our year lost a lot of people in the last war; we thought we should mark it." Harry looked up at him, green eyes blazing.
"Yes," said Lupin quietly, looking calmly back at him. "They lost friends as well – some of them lost themselves."
"Like Katherine?" Lupin's eyes narrowed slightly, but he shook his head.
"You have to know yourself to lose yourself, Harry. Katherine's never stopped long enough to do that."
"She's mental," muttered Harry, scowling and flipping a page in the photo album Hagrid had given him. He wondered absently how Hagrid was getting on; maybe he should pay him a visit.
"Moody told me what she said about Snape," said Lupin gently and Harry looked up at him again.
"Do you believe her?"
"I don't know. I can't see why she'd lie, but-" Lupin shrugged, seeming a little lost.
"But what?" asked Harry, frowning. What was making Lupin doubt someone he usually had so much faith in?
"She might have her own agenda," said Lupin noncommittally, brown eyes not quite avoiding but still not meeting Harry's.
"She's a Slytherin, Harry," Lupin sighed, running a distracted hand through his hair. "She's bound to try and protect her old friends."
"Friends?" Harry was incredulous. "She was friends with Snape?"
"Oh yes," said Lupin in a weary voice. "That was one of the main reasons James didn't trust her."
"He was right," said Harry firmly, scowling at this new revelation.
"You think so? She never betrayed Sirius, Harry, never betrayed any of us, against all expectations I might add. I think even Dumbledore was surprised at that."
"Maybe she did it to spite him," muttered Harry, still glowering.
"Maybe," smiled Lupin. "I certainly wouldn't put it past her; they never did get along."
"Because she blamed him," answered Lupin softly, gazing inscrutably at Harry.
"That's her business." Harry scowled at him, shutting the photo album and sitting up, assessing the information.
"Was she justified?"
"In blaming him? Maybe, maybe not. Only she can be the true judge of that – it was her life his decisions affected, but I know one thing for sure: she'll never quite forgive him."
"Tarnishing his memory is a pretty good way to get revenge," said Harry sourly. "Now that he's not around to defend himself."
"Katherine never wanted Dumbledore harmed, Harry," said Lupin firmly. "She would have fought to protect him if it came down to it, despite what she may have thought of him."
"How do you know?" asked Harry, crossing his arms and glaring at Lupin. "She's probably glad he's dead – probably laughs about it with Snape-"
"No," cut in Lupin, frowning deeply. "She may have disliked him, hated him even, but she did not want him dead. She wouldn't harm the man who gave me an education, a job, when no one else would. Dumbledore helped Sirius after Azkaban and he was as determined to bring down Voldemort as she is. They were on the same side, they just didn't agree how to fight."
"Then why is she friends with Severus?" asked Harry quietly, voice full of anger. "If she didn't want Dumbledore dead, why is she friends with his murderer? Snape tried to get all of you expelled when you were at school, he lost you your job and he taunted Sirius all the time at Grimmauld Place. She can't forgive Dumbledore whatever he did, but she can forgive Snape all that? Why?"
Lupin heaved a heavy sigh and shook his head, as though he couldn't quite fathom it himself.
"Because she's Katherine."
"Katherine?" The voice was soft and slightly nervous. Katherine didn't move but glanced nonchalantly into the darkness among the trees. The lights streaming out of the large windows of the Avery's mansion cast long shadows across the grounds and in the midst of these she made out the figure of a man.
"Good evening Julian."
"Not at the Halloween feast?" he asked, moving towards her with a lazy half smirk on his face.
"Is that a problem?"
"Of course not." Julian smiled, though there was something Katherine didn't like in his eyes. "I'm sorry for the other week."
Katherine looked at him for a moment, face carefully blank. What on earth was he going on about? To buy some time, she arched an eyebrow and half smiled at him, getting the unnerving feeling that he was trying to trip her up.
"Really? I didn't think you did apologies."
"Well I think I owe you one. I should have helped her."
Katherine frowned, eyes boring into his. Helped her? Helped who? The only female friends she had were safe, they were all here- Realisation trickled like an ice cube down her spine and she stared at her old protegee.
Faye. She'd been away for over two weeks and not once had she thought of her cousin, convinced that her threats would be enough to keep her out of harms way, but of course threats only worked on rational people and she was dealing with Bellatrix Lestrange, an insane woman who not only hated her but wasn't scared of her either.
"What's she done with her?" she asked, wishing she had her wand with her. D@mn Armistice day, Bella was going to pay for this.
"Faye's fine, Katherine. She's at Hogwarts. Managed to trick everyone into thinking she was you." Julian smiled weakly at her incredulous look. He paused for a moment, looking uneasy. "You know, don't you?"
"About Bella?" asked Katherine, a touch of distaste in her voice. "Yes."
"Sorry." Katherine laughed, smiling sourly.
"I never trusted you further than I could throw you, Ju, you know that. Still, if you were going to play traitor you could have done much better than her. Carr would have taken you on, I'm sure. He never has liked me all that much."
"Never liked me, either," said Julian softly, a sigh in his voice. "Probably because I was trained by you."
"Well if Bella can overlook that rather major flaw, I'm sure Simon could rise above it," shrugged Katherine, leaning against the rough bark of a tree and looking sideways at him. "I suppose that was why she took you in? To spite me?"
"Did it work?"
Julian frowned, confused. "Shouldn't I be the one asking that?"
"Do you like Bella?" asked Katherine, tilting her head to study him. Julian stared at her, one half of her face illuminated by the warm lights from the house, the other thrown into shadow.
"Do you respect her?"
"Then it didn't work," shrugged Katherine, moving again so that her face was obscured by shadow. "You may not like me, Ju, but I know you respect me. I'd only be hurt if you were actually loyal to her, but you're not. You're not loyal to anyone."
"Neither are you."
"You haven't told Severus you have a cousin," said Julian, folding his arms challengingly. "If you had, you would have known what I was talking about earlier, because he would have filled you in. The fact that he didn't means he doesn't want you to know he knows."
Katherine frowned for a moment, trying to work out exactly what he'd said, then she stared at him, Severus' behaviour that morning suddenly making sense. He'd known the package was from Faye, and he'd covered for her in front of Nicola.
"Severus knows about Faye?"
"Someone gave her Polyjuice and told her all that stuff about you," said Julian easily, gazing at her. "And he spoke to Faye after she'd taken the Polyjuice, and I know he could tell it wasn't you. He knows you better than anyone else in the world, even better than Moody and he's studied your case profile thousands of times. So you're not loyal to Severus, and if you're not true to him, I hardly think you'd be loyal to anyone else."
Katherine just looked at him, eyes inscrutable in the darkness. "My what?"
"Case profile. They've got people at the Ministry who try and figure out how criminals think-"
"People have been trying to figure out how I think?"
"Yes," nodded Julian, trying not to smile at her perplexed expression.
"What have they come up with?"
"About thirty pages of highly sophisticated nonsense. I think they're mostly of the opinion that you're totally devoid of morals, disturbingly intelligent and absolutely crazy."
"That's not true," said Katherine hotly, scowling at him. "I am not totally devoid of morals."
"Your record suggests otherwise."
"You shouldn't judge a person by the worst thing they've ever done," said Katherine darkly, as a shadow fell across the grass.
"Julian? Are you down here?"
A man with blond hair and dark brown eyes peered into the gloom and Julian stepped forward.
"I'm here, Philip."
The other man grinned, shaking his head in bemusement.
"Schofield said he thought he'd seen you head down here, but I thought he must have imagined it. What on earth are you up to?"
"Just getting some fresh air," answered Julian amicably, walking towards his friend. "Did you want something?"
"Ophelia was looking for you," said Philip, falling into step as they made their way up the slope back towards the house. He treated Julian to a politely puzzled look. "She wanted to know if you'd found her cat."
Julian shook his head, a pensive look in his eyes. "Not yet."
"So she did have one? Only I mentioned it to Dan and he looked at me like I was mental."
"Oh, it exists," assured Julian, amber eyes glimmering in the cold night air. "It's just d@mn hard to track down."
"So Daniel's just being his usual dopey self, then," said Philip, sighing theatrically. Julian smiled faintly as Philip continued talking about someone at the party and concentrated on resisting the urge to turn around and look back towards the dark trees. Katherine wouldn't be there; here one minute, gone the next, that was Katherine all over. He almost felt sorry for Moody; if her own side could never find her, what chance did an Auror have?
"I was wondering when you'd turn up," sighed Remus, wiping his hands on a towel and turning round to face his old friend. "How did you get through the wards?"
"Wards?" Katherine looked almost surprised. "There are wards?" Remus gave her an appraising look and she shrugged. "Does it matter? I'm not doing any harm."
"Apart from corrupting Harry, you mean."
"I am not corrupting Harry," objected Katherine, hoisting herself up to sit on the table and glancing around the cluttered kitchen. "What are you doing, anyway?"
"Washing up." Katherine arched an eyebrow and Remus got the nasty feeling she was suppressing a smile.
"Rem, it's barely eleven. The dishes can probably wait till tomorrow. I bet everyone else still outside having fun, aren't they?"
"What if they are?" asked Remus, frowning deeply.
"Shouldn't you be out there too? With your girlfriend?"
"Tonks is on duty; the Minister's called in most of the Aurors in case your lot make an attack." He sighed, running a weary hand over his face. "Are they going to?"
"Don't know. I only got back today," answered Katherine, casting a glance towards the back door of the Burrow. "Is Alastor on duty?"
"Yes." Remus paused, looking properly at his friend for the first time. "Why did you go away? Nicola said something happened."
"You talked to Nic?"
"I was trying to find you."
"Because of Faye?" Katherine asked, an odd expression on her face.
"You heard, then?"
"Yes. Is she ok?"
"Physically? Yeah, she's fine."
"And mentally?" asked Katherine, looking apprehensive. Remus gazed at her for a moment, then shrugged.
"She's all right, I think. Just a bit shaken. I don't think it had sunk in that you were really-"
"Evil?" she suggested, only half smiling. Remus scowled at her.
"A Death Eater," he said firmly. "Do you really think I would still be your friend if I thought you were evil?"
"I think you're afraid to lose the last tie to the old you. I'm not a nice person, Remus."
"Is that why you told Harry that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him?" asked Remus coldly, gazing at her.
"You think I was lying?"
"I think you were angry that he was insulting Snape. I think you want people to think he's not that bad so you can justify liking him," said Remus, a definite frown on his face now.
"I don't need to justify myself to anyone," said Katherine sharply. "And I'm not making excuses for Severus - I was telling the truth."
"Dumbledore did everything for Severus. Why would he betray him?"
"If Snape liked him so much, he couldn't have killed him. Not with Avada Kedavra."
"How do you know? You've never used it, you don't know what you have to do to use it. Ask Alastor – ask him if he could kill without hate. See what he says."
"I don't need to; if you love someone you can't kill them," shot back Remus, scowling at her. "You know that as well as I do."
"I killed Regulus."
"What does that have to do an-?" Remus stopped as his mind processed her words. "Regulus? Sirius' brother?" He stared at her incredulously. "You killed Sirius' brother?" Katherine held his gaze, tears welling up in her dark eyes.
"It was me or Bella. Just like on that tower it was Severus or Draco. Dumbledore would never have wanted Draco to become a murderer – if he'd done that, he'd have been lost. Right now he can still be reached."
"But Snape didn't have to-" said Remus weakly, still reeling from her revelation.
"He made an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa to help Draco - he had to make it to keep his cover. Severus never wanted any of this," said Katherine softly. "None of us wanted any of this." She looked at him, gaze calm despite her wet lashes. "You think I'm a bad person now, don't you?"
"I don't know what to think," answered Remus quietly, not meeting her gaze.
"Shattering your illusions," said Katherine softly.
Remus looked at her, sitting so nonchalantly on a table in a house that wasn't hers and gazing so serenely back at him, perfectly at ease in an unfamiliar and potentially hostile environment, and realised for the first time that she'd changed. This wasn't the Katherine he'd run around his garden with, wasn't the Katherine that had sneaked around Hogwarts at night just so they could talk in private, wasn't even the Katherine that had been engaged to one of his best friends. This was a post-Azkaban, post-death Katherine and he wasn't sure he liked her. He wasn't even sure he wanted find out.
Out in the garden, a firework exploded. He jumped and glanced out of the window to see the air filled with red and gold sparks. The colours of Gryffindor.
Could Gryffindors really be friends with Slytherins? He turned back to Katherine only to see that she'd disappeared; the kitchen was empty and he was alone. He glanced at the washing up, at the piles of dirty plates still sitting patiently on the counter then shook his head and headed towards the door to the garden. Right now the last thing he wanted was to be alone with his thoughts.
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Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Apologies for the wait. Enjoy this chapter, it will be the last one for a while...
Chapter 44 – Exposed
Severus sat in a dark green armchair, looking through the collection of photographs Ophelia had taken at the Avery's Halloween Ball last month. They were all arranged with infinite care in a leather bound album, with the names of each person written in neat copperplate beneath the photos. Severus glanced up at his cousin, her dark eyes fixed so intently on the musical score before her, and made a mental note to ensure he came round more often. She obviously had far too much time on her hands.
Ophelia didn't turn round, but she must have felt his eyes on her, because she pointed the bow of her violin at him and said firmly: "Stop it. I'm trying to work out how this goes and I can't concentrate if you keep psychoanalysing me."
Severus smiled slightly as she played a few tentative notes on the violin.
"Sorry. What's the piece?"
"It's the theme to some muggle film," answered Ophelia, tucking a strand of black hair behind her ear. "She did say which one, but I can't remember the name. Something German, I think."
"She?" questioned Severus, frowning deeply. Who had been giving his cousin muggle sheet music?
Ophelia did look at him this time, a bemused smile curling her lips.
"Kitten," she said lightly. "You see, Severus, you're not the only one who thinks I need an occupation to stop me doing something stupid." Severus ignored this accusation, more concerned with the mysterious woman.
"Katherine," replied Ophelia, grinning now. "We nicknamed her that. She hates it."
Severus sighed, shaking his head. Ophelia & Julian were probably the only people in the world who could call Voldemort's daughter that to her face and get away with it. Julian because she was the one who'd taught him to annoy people, and Ophelia because she was rather fond of her. He was reasonably sure that if he ever called Katherine by that name he'd be on the receiving end of one of her nastier hexes before he'd even finished speaking.
He looked down at the photographs again as Ophelia started playing, and saw one of him, Nicola and Katherine. Underneath it in careful black ink was written:
Eric Ravel, Nicola Meliflua, Anna Thornton
He smiled faintly; it had been Nicola's idea that he go as the Phantom of the Opera so that he wouldn't have to use Polyjuice, and Katherine's that he call himself Eric; he still couldn't quite believe that no one had picked up on the reference.
His gaze moved to Katherine, or Anna, as she had been that night. Same black hair, but grey eyes instead of blue and more delicate, almost elfin features. She was dressed entirely in black, and you might have thought she hadn't bothered dressing up unless you were in on the joke; he remembered being a little bemused himself when she'd come downstairs with Nicola. She was going as the personification of Wrath, she'd told him, and Nicola was dressed as Lust. Apparently it was in honour of a drawing Regulus had done years ago, or something. Personally he was of the opinion that it was just an excuse for Nicola to wear one of her more dubious dresses in public.
"Severus?" He looked up to see Ophelia studying him with a pensive expression on her face.
"Is she really trying to kill Daniel?"
"Katherine?" he asked, and she nodded. He shrugged. "Probably. Why?"
"Oh, nothing, it's just...well, it seemed a bit... It's just not how she usually behaves, is it?" said Ophelia, dark eyebrows creased in thought. "If she wanted to kill him, she would have done it, wouldn't she. I think she's just trying to make him miserable. Or make me happy. Something." She looked up, meeting his gaze. "Has she ever said anything to you about it?"
"Not exactly," began Severus, but then there was the sound of footsteps in the hall outside and with a quick look of apology at his cousin, he disapparated. Ophelia sighed and looked resignedly at the door as it swung open and Daniel entered.
"Who were you talking to?" he asked, frowning deeply and casting a suspicious glance around the room.
"No one," replied Ophelia, gazing calmly at him, taking in the dark circles under his eyes and his tense stance. No, Katherine wasn't trying to kill him – she just wanted everyone to think she was. Rumour had an invariable way of getting back to the person in question, and Ophelia wondered how long Daniel would last after someone told him that Voldemort's daughter had it in for him.
"I heard a man's voice," said Daniel stubbornly, giving her a dark look.
"Funny that, it must be going around."
"Philip told Julian that his brother heard a woman's voice coming from your office the other night. You know, when you were working late on those figures," she added helpfully, at Daniel's confused stare.
"What woman? His brother's probably making it up," shrugged Daniel, throwing his cloak over the back of a chair and peering at the open photo album on the table.
"You're calling your boss a liar?" asked Ophelia, a polite frown marring her brow.
"What?" asked Daniel sharply, looking up.
"Philip Avery's brother - Robert Avery," prompted Ophelia her tone light, though there was a hint of steel in her eyes. "He is your boss, isn't he?"
"Avery's an idiot – everyone knows that," said Daniel, trying to be dismissive, but Ophelia caught the anxious note in his voice.
"Right," she nodded, turning back to her music as Daniel went to the door. "Only I don't see why that means he can't hear, Danny." Daniel paused, on the point of leaving and met her softly accusingly gaze with uneasy eyes. "Still, anyone can be mistaken, right?" she said quietly, looking away.
"Right," murmured Daniel, hesitating for a second before exiting the room. Ophelia stood motionless for a moment, then tried to focus on the musical score, but the notes kept blurring on the page. Swallowing hard, she set the violin down on the table and sank into a chair, thinking of Katherine's half smile when she'd handed over the score.
"It's the theme from Schlindler's list; you know the story? One man's actions making all the difference in the world..."
Yes, Severus was wrong. Katherine wasn't trying to kill Daniel, she was trying to get her to leave him.
"What on earth are you doing?"
Katherine looked up from the floor of the lounge, a newspaper clipping held in one hand whilst the other paused, frozen in the act of reaching for a folder that lay haphazardly on the coffee table.
"Nothing?" she tried, looking innocently up at him through clear blue eyes. Severus stared at her for a moment, then shook his head despairingly.
"Want a cup of tea?" he asked, deciding, wisely, not to ask why Nicola's usually pristine lounge looked like a paper recycling truck had dumped it's contents on the floor.
"No, I'm all right, thanks," said Katherine, grabbing the folder and placing the discoloured slip of paper into it before locating the biro and scribbling something on a notepad.
"Uh huh," she murmured, picking up another article and scanning it with a frown.
"Everything ok?" he asked, when she bit her lip, gazing meditatively into middle distance.
"Hmm? Oh yeah, it's just-" She paused, her bright gaze flicking up to him, one hand reaching absently up to run through her loose hair.
"What?" he questioned, shifting under her suddenly calculating look.
"Nothing," she said shortly, turning back to her mysterious task and screwing up the clipping, tossing it brusquely into the waste paper basket. Severus raised an eyebrow at her odd behaviour, but resolved to leave it be; she was obviously busy with something and he knew from experience that she did not take well to being interrupted.
He headed for the kitchen as she reached for another scrap of paper and consequently failed to see stop searching through the fragments of paper, sit back on her heels and throw a long, dubious look at the bin that held the discarded cutting, face dark with speculation and suspicion. A minute later, she cleared up the various newspaper articles, went quietly upstairs and packed her bags.
It was only when Nicola called her down to dinner four hours later that they noticed she'd gone. Severus stared at the empty room in shock, looking for something, anything that might tell him where she'd gone, or why.
"Did you two have a fight?" asked Nicola softly, gazing concernedly at Severus' pale face. He shook his head mutely, at a loss as to what to say. "Have you seen her today?" tried Nicola. Severus cleared his throat uncomfortably and nodded vaguely.
"She was in the lounge when I came in – sorting through old papers or something, I don't know-" He paused, a horrifying notion interrupting his thoughts and stilling his tongue. She'd been looking at old newspaper cuttings and then she'd picked one up and given that look.
He tore his gaze away from the empty room and hurried downstairs, grabbing the bin from the lounge and rummaging through it to find the balled up scrap of paper.
"Severus, what are you doing?" Nicola had followed him and was now staring at him with a look that clearly displayed her confusion. Severus stared down at the crumpled article about ghoul attacks in the north of Wales and said nothing. Was he wrong? He glanced at the date in the corner of the paper and then down at the picture of Milly Cobbins that took up most of the page and remembered that the side Katherine had read did not have a photo on it. Slowly, he turned the cutting over and saw the headline of the story. Half of it was missing, but he already knew what it said, remembered reading it with a certain amount of pleasure only a few years ago. Exposed: Dumbledore Employs Werewolf
"She found out," he said quietly, gazing at the yellowed passage of writing as though it was his own death warrant.
"Found out?" asked Nicola, stepping closer and glancing down at the article in his hand. "Oh." She hesitated, as though unsure what to say. "I'm sorry."
"Why? You weren't the one that cost her best friend his job," muttered Severus, scrunching the paper up in his fist.
"No, it's fine. This is good. Now I know who comes first." Nicola frowned, giving him an anxious look.
"What?" Severus glanced at her, dark eyes as cold and deep as a black hole.
"Well if she's always going to choose him over me, it's best I find out now, isn't it. Her loyalties lie with Lupin first, us second."
"That's not true," interjected Nicola, but Severus only smiled sourly.
"Isn't it?" he asked, a hint of dark irony in his voice. "You know, that's how good she is - we always think she's on our side, no matter how many times she leaves us to help them. What's it going to take to get us to realise she only really cares about one person?"
"She cares about you," said Nicola firmly, meeting his gaze resolutely. Severus shrugged, dropping the crumpled scrap of paper into the bin.
Remus kicked the front door shut and flicked on the light switch, tossing the keys onto the side table as he did so. He was about to head straight to his bedroom when something stopped him. There was someone else in his flat.
He stood where he was for a moment; going into the main room would leave him open to attack, a dark silhouette against a light background, but if he left, they might follow him and then-
A shape moved in the darkness he could see through the half open door. One movement, but it was enough; he'd recognise that fluid motion anywhere.
He pushed open the door and turned the light on. Katherine was sitting on his dilapidated sofa, knees drawn up to her chest and looking so lost and vulnerable that he forgot to shout at her for scaring the hell out of him.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked softly, her quiet gaze moving to his face.
"Tell you what?" he asked, marvelling at how young she managed to make herself look; sometimes he found it hard to believe she was the same age as him.
"You say you hate him but you didn't tell me," said Katherine quietly, ignoring his question. "Why would you do that? You must have known I'd be mad at him if I found out – why not just tell me, Rem? If you wanted me to hate him, why not say?"
"Katherine, I don't know-"
"Severus got you sacked."
Remus paused, surveying her with serene brown eyes.
"You didn't know?" he questioned mildly. Indignation flared in her blue eyes and she sat up, scowling at him.
"Of course I didn't know. Do you think I would've defend him if I'd known he'd done that?" she demanded hotly.
"Well, yes, to be quite honest," answered Remus, sitting down in the chair opposite her and running a weary hand over his face. "You love him, Katherine. I know that and you know that – you can forgive him anything."
"Not that," said Katherine softly, shaking her head. "He lost you the only job you'd had in goodness knows how long, all over a schoolboy grudge."
"He was angry, Katherine."
"That's no excuse."
"No? We all do stupid things when we're angry. More to the point, Sirius had just made a miraculous escape from a Kiss and seeing him again had probably brought up all those memories of you and – What? What's that look for?"
"Sirius was going to get the Kiss?" asked Katherine, a touch of horror in her voice. "Severus wanted Sirius to get the Kiss?"
"He thought he deserved it," shrugged Remus bitterly. "Everyone thought he was guilty."
"Severus knows me – he would have known Sirius couldn't have been a Death Eater," said Katherine earnestly. "We only fell out because he joined up – Severus would have known I'd have broken up with Sirius if he even showed an interest in becoming a Death Eater."
"Maybe he thought you loved him so much you wouldn't care," suggested Remus, gazing back at her. Katherine gave him a half smile, though there was no humour in it, only a sour bitterness.
"Is that what you thought? That I'd corrupted him?" Remus said nothing, but Katherine hadn't really expected an answer anyway. She sighed, tucking a loose section of hair back behind her ear. "It was because I loved Severus that I cut him off. I couldn't bear to watch Tom destroy him. I wouldn't have let Tom go near Sirius for the world."
"You didn't mind destroying him, though?" asked Remus with a deliberately light air. "Because you did, you know. He fell apart when you were arrested. Of course he pulled himself together eventually because he had to – we were in the middle of a war – but you hurt him, Katherine. Sometimes I wonder if you realise the impact you have on people. You've only known Harry a couple of months and now he's cut up because he thinks you've betrayed him somehow. People aren't pawns in some huge game for you to play with, they have feelings. Do you even care?"
Katherine frowned slightly, concentrating intently on her hands.
"Do you?" she asked quietly, glancing up at him.
"Do I what?"
"Care about people."
"Of course I do," Remus replied, giving her a perplexed look.
"Everyone?" she questioned, holding his gaze with a faint smile.
Katherine nodded, as though he'd proved some theory of hers.
"Right, well I don't – not about most people. I only care about some. The list probably totals under twenty in all." She smiled at him, and there was a trace of Slytherin in it. "And if that makes me a bad person then so be it, but I will say this – I would do anything for the people on that list. Anything at all. Can you say that for the vast majority of the people you care about?"
Remus just looked at her, brown eyes studying his oldest friend.
"When did you change?"
The intent look on Katherine's face faded, replaced by an expression somewhere between shame and hurt.
"No-" Remus made to stand, to stop her leaving, but it was too late. She'd disappeared.
He sighed, closing his eyes and shaking his head slightly.
"That wasn't what I meant."
So? Did you like? Are you suitable confused? Pay a visit to the feedback thread, located here, and let me know. Also see the feedback thread for a quick note regarding the updating of this story.
Last edited by Purple Banana; May 22nd, 2007 at 10:52 am.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Hello again. Exams are over, I'm exhausted but happy and as a celebration I've written a brand new chapter for you all. Hope you like it and expect lots more updates from now on.
Oh, and just in case it's not clear, it is now December meaning about a month has passed since the last chapter.
Chapter 45 – A question of loyalty
"I just don't trust her, Jamie," said Alexandra McKenzie, digging in her bag for the keys to their flat. "First she hates us, now you two are hanging out all the time. She's up to something."
James sighed and leant against the wall as his sister finally located the keys and opened the door; he was getting tired of this argument. He stared out at the heavy downpour of rain from the shelter of the porch and frowned in irritation; so much for snow at Christmas time.
"I told you, Allie, she fell out with her friends. I got talking to her and we got along, that's all there is to it." Alex scoffed and stepped inside, peeling off her sodden cloak. James followed, heading into the bathroom to find a towel to dry his hair. From the hall, Alex called:
"She's using you."
James shook his head, peering at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Alex was just being paranoid, all that time she was spending with Bellatrix was rubbing off on her.
"I'm not paranoid," said Alex sharply, sticking her head around the door and gazing at him with large brown eyes. "She's trouble. I bet she hasn't even told you why she fell out with them, has she?"
"I never asked," said James defensively, ruffling his now only slightly damp hair.
"She wouldn't tell you even you did," said Alex, calmly drying her own thick red hair with her wand. "She's using you but you can't see through the big blue eyes and the pretty face. I bet she hasn't even really argued at all. She's just trying to work her way back to the top."
James snorted with laughter. "Through us? Oh come on, Allie, we're not even in the outer inner circle."
James fixed his sister with a weary look. "Allie, Katherine Riddle would sooner stick pins in her eyes than talk to Bella. She's not after her help."
"Leave it," snapped James, scowling now. "There is no ulterior motive, ok? She's just angry with her friends and needs someone else to talk to."
"And that just happens to be you," said Alex, one eyebrow arched incredulously. James shrugged, stepping past her and grabbing a dry shirt from his bedroom.
"I was the only one who noticed."
Cassandra Avery looked worriedly at the dark haired woman sitting in the chair before her.
"I'm really sorry," she said again, wishing she could help. "None of us know where she is."
"No idea at all?" asked Ophelia, dark eyes pleading. "What about Severus? He must know."
Cassandra hesitated, but after all, she'd already admitted to meeting with Katherine since her escape, and Ophelia was Severus' cousin – she wouldn't be working for the Ministry, would she.
"I think it's mainly Severus she's trying to avoid," she sighed. "I'm sorry."
"So she's vanished again? Just like that?" asked Ophelia, mood turning to anger now. "Over a silly little argument."
Cassandra sighed and shrugged helplessly. "It was important to her."
"But hasn't anyone tried apologising?" asked Ophelia desperately. "If they did-"
"It wouldn't make any difference," said Cassandra gently. "Robert managed to speak to her but she didn't want to hear it. The problem is that she does understand why we did it, she's just angry."
Ophelia looked despondently into the cup of coffee before her and saw her own rippled reflection staring back at her. It wasn't fair – just when she needed Katherine the most, she'd disappeared and now-
"Mummy?" A small blonde girl was standing nervously in the kitchen doorway.
"Yes, sweetheart?" asked Cassandra, smiling at her daughter.
"I can't find Hector."
Cassandra caught Ophelia's confused expression and smiled a little. "It's her teddy," she explained, then to her daughter, she added: "Have you looked under the bed?"
Katy nodded, green eyes threatening tears. "Boreas can't find him either."
Cassandra frowned now; Boreas was their House Elf and if he couldn't find Hector, then he really was lost. She held out her arms and Katy scrambled up onto her lap, snuggling into the embrace.
"Don't worry, we'll find him. I'm sure he's around somewhere."
The sound of the front door slamming announced the arrival of Robert and a few seconds later he appeared, tugging off his tie and cloak, and grimacing.
"Are you all right?" asked Cassandra, frowning at her husband who made a non committal sound, tossing his discarded clothing onto a chair and rubbing his left arm in a suspiciously familiar way. He hesitated at the sight of Ophelia, and Cassandra hurriedly filled him in. "She's trying to find Katherine."
"Why?" asked Robert, looking oddly at her.
"I need to talk to her."
"And you asked here because...?" Ophelia gazed coolly at him with dark green eyes reminiscent of her cousin.
"Because she came to your Halloween party. I know you're friends."
"Not anymore," said Robert shortly, wincing absently and clutching at his arm. "What do you want to tell her?"
"To find me," said Ophelia quietly, eyes drifting to the hand wrapped around his left arm. "Because I don't think I can do this without her."
For a moment, something like sour amusement flashed across Robert's face. "Yes, she tends to have that effect on people." He looked over at Cassandra and caught sight of his tearful daughter for the first time. "What-?"
"She's lost Hector," said Cassandra quietly as Katy gazed solemnly up at him.
"The teddy?" asked Robert, gritting his teeth against the pain in his arm. "Have you looked-" He broke off, closing his eyes.
"Go, Robert. We'll be all right," said Cassandra firmly. Robert opened one eye to look at her, then nodded abruptly and strode out of the room. "It gets worse the longer you leave it," said Cassandra in a mild voice, though Ophelia could tell she was upset. Cassandra turned to face her as Katy shifted on her lap. "He missed one once, on our honeymoon. Nearly ended up in hospital but he wouldn't leave."
"Must be nice," said Ophelia softly. "To have someone who loves you that much."
Cassandra smiled, though her eyes seemed a little overly bright. "It would be, if it was just us."
Ophelia was silent for a moment, then stood up. "I should go. I hope you find Hector."
Katy smiled at her, as her mother hugged her tightly, and as Ophelia left the house, she wasn't sure which was worse: to have a husband you hated, or to have one you loved and have to watch him being torn apart.
James McKenzie pushed open the door of the Horned Bull and headed for the booth at the back.
"You missed another meeting."
Absent blue eyes strayed up to his face and a pair of shoulders shrugged vaguely.
"How many have you had?" asked James with a frown, sliding into the seat opposite her.
James looked at her incredulously. "Two drinks? Do you seriously expect me to believe-"
"Two bottles." The trace of a grin flickered across her face. "What did I miss? In the meeting, I mean."
James looked at her for a moment, then shook his head despairingly. "Stay there, I'll be back in a minute, all right?"
She shrugged and watched him leave with apathetic interest, then stretched and said in a tired voice:
"I thought I told you to leave me alone." She turned and stared accusingly at the empty space next to her as Robert Avery materialised, shrugging off the disillusionment charm.
"Ophelia wants to see you."
Katherine studied him for a moment, then looked back at the empty glass in her hand, frowning.
"Didn't he notice you following him?" she asked, a meditative expression on her face. Robert cast an unimpressed glance over at the bar, where James was deep in conversation with the barman, and shook his head.
"I don't see why you're hanging around with him."
"He doesn't lie to me," said Katherine sharply, shooting him an angry look.
"Neither did I," protested Robert. "Technically," he added, seeing Katherine's expression.
"Lying by omission is still lying, Avery."
"Right, and we're the only ones who you're ever mad at," Robert scowled, noting the use of his surname. Katherine glanced at him for a moment, then smiled sourly.
"What? You think I'm not mad at Remus?"
"You are?" questioned Robert, looking dubious.
"'Course I bloody am," said Katherine, sighing heavily. "But he didn't lie."
"You just said lying by omi-" began Robert, but she shook her head.
"He thought I knew," she said quietly, scowling darkly.
"Then why-" Robert started, but stopped as he realised what she meant. "Oh."
"Yeah," murmured Katherine, tapping her fingers absently on the side of her glass. "Still not entirely sure who I should be more hacked off at. People who lie, or people who think I'd be fine with the fact that the man who supposedly likes me got my oldest friend sacked and his condition plastered across the national newspapers."
"The second one," said Robert firmly, eyeing James who was making his way back over to them. "You do the first all the time."
"No I don't."
Robert grinned. "Point made."
Katherine frowned as he disapparated and a moment later James appeared and placed a large goblet in front of her.
"Drink this. It'll sober you up."
"Maybe I don't want to be sober," contested Katherine. James frowned and pushed ruby red hair out of his eyes.
"You need to sort yourself out, Katherine. What did they do to make you like this?"
Katherine gazed at him suspiciously, cerulean eyes narrowed. "Why?"
"I don't want to make the same mistake," James shrugged, and she laughed darkly.
"I wouldn't worry on that account, Jamie. You couldn't."
"Because what they did involves a breach of trust and I don't trust you," answered Katherine, smiling lazily at him.
"You don't? Why not?"
"'Cause I've known you for about a month," said Katherine simply. "Give it another year or two and I might think about it."
James frowned at her, leaning back in his seat and looking disgruntled.
"Have I done anything to make you distrust me? I haven't been anything but nice to you."
"Right," said Katherine quietly, clear blue eyes watching him closely. "And that is precisely what makes me think you're up to something. No one's nice for nothing, and you were a Slytherin, Jamie. More than that, you hang around with Bellatrix and your sister keeps trying to get me into trouble."
"I'm not like Allie," said James softly.
"No? You thought I was lying about having killed Faye."
"I didn't know you then; things are different now."
Katherine looked at him for a moment, then picked up the goblet and downed it.
"Better?" he asked, smiling slightly; she pulled a face.
"Sobers you up, though."
"Hmm, I think I'll take the hangover next time," muttered Katherine, frowning as Robert's message finally struck home. "I should go home."
"I'll come with you."
"No, it's all right. Really, Jamie, I can manage." She smiled tiredly. "But thanks for the offer."
James sighed as he watched her leave and sunk down in his seat. Maybe Allie was right – it was only a matter of time before she forgave her friends, and when she did, where would that leave him?
It was a House Elf that opened the door. Katherine stared at it for a moment, trying to remember how you were supposed to address them, then recalling that people didn't usually trouble over the treatment of Elves.
"Is Ophelia in?"
"Mistress?" asked the Elf, seeming a little confused; evidently Ophelia didn't get many visitors.
"Yeah," said Katherine. "She wanted to see me."
"She is not taking visitors," squeaked the Elf uncertainly.
"But she wanted to see me," said Katherine quietly.
"She is unwell," replied the Elf. "Cubby is very sorry and hopes you would come back tomorrow."
Katherine stared at the Elf for a moment, then smiled brightly and nodded, before stepping past him and calling Ophelia's name loudly. Cubby the Elf squealed with indignation but a moment later Ophelia appeared at the top of the stairs, dark eyes gazing at her in astonishment.
"You came," she said softly as the Elf scuttled round Katherine's feet, protesting at her behaviour.
"It sounded important."
Ophelia studied her for a moment, then came down the stairs and shut the door which still stood ajar.
"Cubby go away," she snapped, and the Elf stared up at her for a moment, visibly struggling with inner conflict then hurried off, muttering disconsolately. Ophelia exhaled, then looked at Katherine.
"Daniel's away on a business trip," she said quietly, a pensive expression on her face. "You know, people have told me to leave him before, but that's all they do – tell me. It isn't much help." She paused, noting the impassive expression on the older woman's face, then added softly: "I'm really hoping you're different."
Blue eyes studied her for a moment, then Katherine grinned wickedly and pulled a bunch of keys out of her pocket. "I'm different."
Hector the teddy bear was not having a good day.
First he'd been snatched from his favourite spot on the bed by that dopey looking elf, then he'd been shoved into a dirty sack and squashed under a host of other items. He'd spent the best part of three hours being impaled by a hairbrush and now that he'd finally been rescued from the darkness of the sack, he was in the hands of an unfamiliar thin looking woman with grey eyes and mousy brown hair.
This was almost certainly not good.
"You're sure this is hers?" the woman asked, looking over him at the figure who'd been carrying the sack.
"Positive. Everything's from her room and we don't make mistakes."
The woman smiled grimly.
Hector didn't like the smile.
It frightened him, even more than the monster under the bed and the creatures that hid in the shadows. Katy's Mummy and Daddy made those things go away, but they weren't here now and this monster was real and bad and it scared him.
The woman produced a small bag that clinked metallically and gave it to the dark figure.
"Thank you for your assistance."
The figure bowed and departed, and the woman put Hector on a shelf and sorted through the remaining contents of the sack, the dark smile never leaving her face, while Hector stared glassily at the photographs covering the wall opposite his perch.
The photos showed a man, sometimes young, sometimes old, expression always different, but unquestionably the same man and Hector wondered, as the woman sat at the table and worked, why she was so interested in Katy's Daddy.
Feedback makes me very happy and can be posted here.
Last edited by Purple Banana; June 25th, 2007 at 11:29 am.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Sorry it's a day later than promised but I've given you a cliffie to make up for it.
Chapter 46 – The pirate and the princess
Julian Lloyd sat in the small lounge and sipped at the cup of tea his sister had made for him. The change in her was remarkable, and it had only been, what, a week since she'd left Daniel.
"Where's Katherine?" he asked as she set a pack of biscuits on the coffee table and took one.
"Shopping," answered Ophelia, munching on the biscuit. "We were running low on essentials."
"Like alcohol?" Julian asked, and Ophelia stared at him.
"I didn't mean you," said Julian quickly, seeing the hurt look in her dark eyes. "James McKenzie said that Katherine's been drowning her sorrows lately."
Ophelia frowned, seemingly bemused. "Katherine's not unhappy, she's just mad at Severus and the others."
"So she hasn't been drinking?"
"Well, she's had a few," said Ophelia, shrugging. "But not an excessive amount."
"She's missed meetings as well," said Julian, a frown creasing his forehead in concern. "That's not like her."
At that moment a key turned in the lock and a few seconds later Katherine herself appeared in the doorway, shopping bags in her hand. She grinned when she saw Julian.
"I saw Daniel the other day," she informed him happily, shifting the heavy bags in her grip. "He had a wonderfully dark black eye. Now how do you suppose that happened?"
Julian looked at her, trying to detect any trace of the depression or secrecy in her gaze that James had reported, but found none; she looked content, cheerful even. He sighed and shrugged.
"Must have walked into someone's fist," he answered lazily. Katherine laughed, blue eyes glinting wickedly.
"Judging from the colour of that bruise I'd say he must have run," she said, smirking and wandering across the hall into the kitchen. "I'm proud," she called back. "You finally took some of my advice, Ju."
"Advice?" asked Ophelia, looking confused.
"There's no spell to block punches," supplied Julian, as the sound of Katherine putting the shopping away came from the kitchen. "Magic might do more damage, but physical violence has the element of surprise."
"And it's much more satisfying," added Katherine, sticking her head around the door. She grinned again and looked at Ophelia. "Will you be all right tomorrow night? I promised to visit a friend."
"Yeah, I'm staying at his," nodded Ophelia, gesturing towards her brother. "You've got to spend Christmas with the family, right?"
"Right," agreed Katherine, then looked sharply at Julian and said in a bemused voice: "If you stare at me any harder I think I may spontaneously combust. What's wrong?"
"You've missed the last three meetings," said Julian, frowning at her.
"And?" questioned Katherine, tilting her head slightly to one side and gazing mildly at him. Julian arched an eyebrow.
"And? And you don't see a problem with that?"
Katherine grinned. "I sorted it with Dad; told him I couldn't go 'cause it might blow my cover at the school. He agreed because he needs me up there – got something planned, I think. I'm meeting up with him once a week instead."
Julian stared at her, the truth of the matter starting to dawn on him. "And that whole thing about falling out with your mates?" he asked slowly.
"Oh that happened," said Katherine brightly. "And don't get me wrong, I'm mad as hell with them, but seriously, they were only doing it because they want me to get together with your cousin. 'Cept Remus – he was just being Remus and I can hardly blame him for that, can I?"
"So you're just putting this on for James, aren't you?" said Julian with a weary sigh. Katherine chuckled, smiling happily.
"Knew there was a reason I liked you."
"But why? Why James? I mean he's-"
"In league with Bella? I know, but if I get him to like me-"
"I don't think you'll have much of a problem there," muttered Julian, and Katherine gave him a sharp look but continued regardless.
"-if I get him to like me, then maybe he'll persuade his sister to stop trying to kill me."
Julian sighed wearily. "And when he finds out you're stringing him along?"
"I'm doing no such thing," said Katherine airily.
"So he knows about you and Severus?" asked Julian, dark eyebrows raised.
"There is no me and Severus," said Katherine coolly, narrowing her own blue eyes. "So there's nothing to tell him, is there?"
Julian caught the edge to her voice and wisely decided to shut up.
"Good," smiled Katherine. "Now I'll just go and pack for tomorrow."
"Where are you going?" asked Julian as she turned to leave. Katherine shrugged.
"I told you, I'm staying-"
"With a friend?" he questioned lightly. "So you have at least one you're not currently arguing with?"
Katherine smiled faintly and tossed her black hair over her shoulder.
"Like Lia said, you've got to spend Christmas with the family."
Ophelia smirked as Katherine treated them both to a cheeky grin and disappeared into her bedroom. She looked at her brother who was frowning in thought and rolled her eyes.
"Oh leave her alone, Ju. It's Christmas and she's perfectly capable of taking care of herself," she chided, helping herself to another biscuit. For some reason this made Julian smile wryly and nod.
"No doubt that's exactly what she plans to do," he murmured, shaking his head slightly. Then he smiled. "Anyway, about Christmas dinner tomorrow, Tanya wanted to know if you'd prefer chicken or turkey..."
Faye Belle looked up at the sound behind her and grinned.
"I thought you weren't coming." She turned in time to see the frown on her cousin's face and shrugged. "You're half an hour late, Katherine."
"I got held up," said Katherine carelessly. "Minor emergency at the flat – Lia couldn't find her toothbrush."
"She's a friend," explained Katherine, dropping her bag on a chair and pulling a silver wrapped box out of her pocket. "Merry Christmas," she grinned, tossing it at Faye, who caught it deftly.
"Thanks, yours is over there," she added, tearing off the paper and opening the leather box underneath. "Oh it's beautiful," she breathed, picking up the light silver chain and examining the ebony stone hanging from it.
"Isn't it just?" grinned Katherine, opening her own present with one eye on Faye. "The gem's only black when there're Death Eaters around, though; it's green otherwise."
Faye cast an appraising look at her cousin. "Is there an ulterior motive to all your actions?" she asked with a slight smile.
"Usually," agreed Katherine, turning over the photo frame she was now holding and gazing at the picture beneath the glass. Smiling up at her was a woman with jet black hair and deep sapphire blue eyes. Had it not been for the short hair and slight difference in face shape, she could have been looking at a younger version of herself. It was her mother, and in her arms she was holding-
"I found it when I was sorting through Papa's old things," said Faye softly. "Aunt Cady left most of her things behind when she ran off to find you and he kept some of it."
"She looks happy," said Katherine quietly, watching as her newborn self wriggled in her mother's arms.
"She loved you," said Faye simply, studying her carefully. Katherine half smiled, noting the use of past tense.
"Perhaps she still does," she said quietly. "I guess we'll never know." She looked up at Faye and smiled softly. "Thank you."
Faye smiled back, but still said gently: "We could look, you know - after the war. Someone might know-"
"Kelly knew," said Katherine with a sigh. "He was the only one that did, and he died in September."
"Wouldn't hurt to try after Voldemort's gone though, would it?" persisted Faye. Katherine smiled oddly and meet her anxious gaze.
"I suppose not. You should try."
"We should try," corrected Faye, but Katherine only smiled and looked out of the window over the snow covered grounds.
"Has Remus told you about the Gelu Tree?" asked Katherine after a moments pause.
"The what?" asked Faye, deciding to let the fact that her cousin was purposefully changing the subject slide.
"It's a tree that only flowers when it snows," answered Katherine absently, then looked quickly at Faye, one eyebrow raised challengingly. "Fancy a walk in the grounds?"
The Gelu Tree turned out to be in a clearing on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest and Faye glanced nervously around at the surrounding tree trunks as Katherine gazed up at the violet tinged petals.
"You all right?" asked Katherine after a while, frowning curiously at her cousin. "You seem a bit...jumpy."
"Just don't want to meet any centaurs, that's all," said Faye, pulling her cloak a little more firmly about her shoulders. "They don't take too kindly to humans wandering about in their forest."
"Their forest?" questioned Katherine, looking highly dubious. "Since when was it their forest? The school was here first."
"Good luck trying to argue that at spear point," said Faye with a slight grin. "Anyway, I thought you said no politics today, huh?"
"And no interruptions," agreed Katherine, shaking her head. "Sorry."
"Not your fault," shrugged Faye lightly. "Both of them are getting increasingly hard to avoid these days."
In the following moment of quiet, they heard a bell chiming from somewhere within the castle, and Katherine grinned.
"Dinner time. D@mn, I miss Hogwarts food."
"I told the House Elves to bring it to my room," smiled Faye, as they set off back up the slope towards the distant castle, Katherine fading from sight as soon as they were beyond the trees. Faye glanced at the ground and was impressed to see her cousin wasn't making any footprints either.
"Routine concealment charm," said the familiar disembodied voice. "Ask Remus about it – the Marauders used to use it all the time."
"You didn't?" questioned Faye sceptically, and she could almost hear the lazy smile as her cousin answered.
"We were better at not being noticed; I'm just not taking any chances today."
They managed to get through Christmas dinner without any mention of politics or, unusually, any interruptions at all, but it was in the middle of a game of poker that Katherine suddenly frowned and pushed her pirate hat up out of her eyes.
"Did you hear something?" she asked quietly, staring into middle distance. Faye, sporting a silver tiara studded with glass jewels, shook her head.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, throwing a few of the wrapped chocolate mints they were using as betting chips onto the pile between them.
"I'm not sure," said Katherine, the frown not leaving her forehead. She pulled an aging piece of paper out of her pocket and looked at it pensively. Faye could just make out an emblem of roses penned in black ink before Katherine pocketed it again, the uneasy expression on her face remaining. She glanced up at Faye again, biting her lip, an apologetic look in her eyes. "I...am really sorry about this..."
"What? Is it a meeting?" asked Faye, starting to worry herself.
"No..." said Katherine slowly. "It's...I just have to check something. I'll be back as soon as I can, I promise." She stood up, tossing her cards lightly onto the table, face down. "Sorry," she said again, and disappeared.
Faye frowned at the place where her cousin had been and sighed. She wouldn't have left unless it was important, she knew, but still...
Absently she took a mint from the small pile and unwrapped it, popping it in her mouth before casting an idle glance at the discarded cards. It wouldn't hurt take a peek, would it?
A royal flush, a running royal flush at that. Her frown deepened and she reached for the wine bottle that sat on the table; better make that very important - it would have to be, to pass up a hand like that...
Robert Avery stared at his House Elf in bewilderment.
"Gone? What do you mean gone?"
"She's not in her bed-"
"Boreas, she's five years old. Exactly how far can she go?" asked Robert, rubbing his face tiredly. It had been a long day, entertaining three sets of siblings and their families and he was worn out.
In front of him, the Elf shook it's head violently and something in his nervous fidgeting finally got through to the part of Robert's brain that was always alert.
"She's not in the house," squealed the Elf, hopping from one foot to the other in agitation. "She's not anywhere."
Anxiety started to curdle in pit of Robert's stomach as he glanced over at his wife, dozing fitfully in the armchair near the fire, and then back at the wretched Elf. This was completely ridiculous – how could Katy be missing? They'd been in all day – Cassandra had only put her to bed an hour ago and no one else had been in the house.
He got abruptly to his feet and headed up the stairs to his young daughter's room, but even before he pushed the partially opened door back, he knew it was empty.
No answer. Fighting down the panic that was starting to rise in his chest he called again.
"Katy, this isn't the time to play hide and seek. Katy?"
There was a nervous whimper by his feet; Boreas had followed him up. Robert scanned the room feverishly and then he saw it, lying carelessly on the floor by the bed – Katy's teddy.
He darted over to it, snatching it up and realising too late his mistake as he felt the horribly familiar tug somewhere behind his navel. He barely had time to register the frightened squeal of the House Elf before the walls of the bedroom spun away, replaced a few moments later by a small, cold room with a single wooden door.
He stood frozen for a moment, trying to take stock of his surroundings, but there wasn't much to see so he tried the door. It swung open easily, revealing a larger room, with dark red walls and coarse wooden floorboards. There were no windows but light came from a glowing tube on the ceiling, illuminating a small figure crouched in the far corner.
"Katy," he breathed and started towards her, but before he'd gone more than a few paces the door clicked shut behind him. It wasn't a loud sound, but it nevertheless demanded attention. He paused and turned, but there was no one there.
Frowning, he reached for his wand and found it gone.
"Lost something, have we, Mr Avery?" asked a soft voice, but when Robert whirled around there was no one there.
"Who was that?" he asked sharply, but there was no reply. No voice and no wand. He was starting to think he was going mad. Trying to stay calm, he stepped towards his daughter. "Katy?"
The small blonde head lifted a little and looked at him with tearful green eyes. Robert smiled and reached out, but as soon as he moved forwards Katy started screaming and an amused voice by his ear murmured.
"I'd step back if I were you, Mr Avery."
Robert did so hurriedly and Katy fell quiet, tears streaming down her cheeks, small face confused and scared.
"Well done, Mr Avery," said the same voice and Robert didn't like the tone of it.
"What did you do to her?" he asked, voice trembling with fear and anger.
"Little thing called Cruciatus, Mr Avery," was the reply, in an almost sing song voice. "I understand your type use it all the time, Mr Avery. Don't give it if you can't take it, Mr Avery."
Robert scowled; whoever this was, they'd obviously done their homework. Everything about this situation was familiar – this was exactly how he'd used to carry out missions. Use a secluded area, take their wand, irritate them and hurt someone they loved... The invisibility trick was a new aspect though; even Katherine had never been that dishonourable unless it was necessary.
"If you're going to kill me," he said softly. "The least you could do is show me your face."
"Kill you, Mr Avery," laughed the voice, and he thought he felt the air move next to him. "Oh we're not going to kill you, Mr Avery. This isn't about killing you, Mr Avery."
Robert looked fearfully over at his daughter who was staring up at him with wide, frightened eyes.
"So what is it about?" he asked, though he thought he already knew. It didn't matter he just needed more time, he needed...
The voice chuckled darkly as he closed his eyes and screamed a name inside his head...
"Revenge, Mr Avery." A woman materialised before him, mousy brown hair pulled back into a messy bun, grey eyes gleaming madly. "What else?"
Feedback is very much appreciated and goes here. Oh, and one last reminder, when CoS goes offline on July 7th, you can find this story here.
Last edited by Purple Banana; June 17th, 2008 at 12:16 am.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: At last! The forum is back. Here's the next chapter to celebrate.
Chapter 47 – The importance of family
The small whimper broke into Robert's thoughts and he tore his gaze away from the strange woman and tried to reach his daughter again, but barely a second later Katy started screaming again, curled up a tight ball and the woman tutted.
"I told you, Mr Avery, you're not to go near her." She gazed at him with those small grey eyes and smiled as he stumbled backwards, but Katy kept screaming.
"Leave her alone," he yelled, but the woman shook her head.
"You've got to be taught a lesson, Mr Avery. We'll leave her be when you've learnt it and not a moment sooner."
"You'll kill her!" shouted Robert, grabbing the woman by her shoulders and shaking her.
"Oh I don't think so," said the woman calmly, delicately removing his hands. "We don't want her dead, Mr Avery. We just want her to know what kind of man her daddy is, Mr Avery. We want her to know that all this pain is your fault, Mr Avery. Tell her that, and we'll stop, Mr Avery."
Robert stared at her as his daughter sobbed in the corner. "You're insane," he whispered, but the woman's eyes were hard.
"Tell her, Mr Avery."
"Stop and I will – she's not going to be able to listen to anything like this," said Robert determinedly. The woman surveyed him for a moment, then gave the barest of nods. Robert looked at Katy; she was still hunched over, but the curse had been lifted. "Why are you doing this?" he asked, staring helplessly at the woman.
"Do you want us to start again, Mr Avery? Tell her-"
"You said you wanted revenge – revenge for what? What did I do to you?" asked Robert, thinking quickly. "Did I hurt some mudblood relative? You should be grateful."
The woman's face contorted with rage and Robert smiled inwardly; Katherine would have hit him round the head for that last comment, but he needed to keep her talking. If she was angry, she might forget about Katy...
"Grateful?" the woman hissed, pushing her face up close to his. "Grateful?"
"If they were anything like you, I've done the world a favour," he said softly, searching the woman's features for anything vaguely recognisable. As far as he could remember, he'd never seen her before in his life. "That's what we do – rid the world of all the filth and scum-"
"She was eight years old," snarled the woman. "Eight years old and you killed her – used dark curses on her so she bled to death. Didn't even have the decency to make it quick." The woman glowered up at him, eyes burning with hatred. "And you have the nerve to call other people scum."
Severus Snape froze at the voice; it wasn't so much the name as the way it was called. Carefully he put down the jar of lace wings he'd been about to open and trod softly out of the room to the staircase. A shape was silhouetted against the rippled glass beside the door.
The knock came again, hard enough to break the door down.
This time the voice was more like a sob. Making up his mind, he went down the stairs and opened the front door. Cassandra was standing there, long blonde hair falling wildly over her shoulders, face chalky white.
"They've gone," she said, swallowing hard. "Robert and Katy – you've got to help me, I...I don't know what to do."
And then she was sobbing and it was all Severus could do to usher her inside and shut the door.
"What do you mean they're gone?" he asked, as Cassandra leant against the wall, shaking. "They were taken?"
"I don't know," said Cassandra quietly, wiping furiously at her eyes and trying to breath properly. "Boreas said...said Katy went missing and then...there was a portkey – her teddy – and Robert vanished too. I don't know where he went. Please, Severus, you've got to..." She trailed off, speech failing her and shook her head.
"Nicola's not home," said Severus quietly. "She went to an office party or something. Go into the sitting room, I'll get her back." But Cassandra didn't move.
"What's she going to do?" she asked hopelessly. "I only came round here because there was nowhere else to go. I don't think this is an Auror matter, Severus. Aurors don't kidnap children."
"Well it's not a Death Eater matter," said Severus firmly. "I'd have heard." He paused. "Did you say there was a portkey?"
Cassandra nodded, tears rolling silently down her cheeks. "Hector."
"What?" Severus was confused.
"The teddy," said Cassandra. "He's called Hector; he was the portkey."
Severus hesitated for a moment, then disappeared into a side room and a few seconds later Cassandra heard the rush of flames. It was a couple of minutes before Severus reappeared, dusting soot off his hands.
"What did you do?" asked Cassandra, voice sounding small in the large hallway.
"Called my cousin – he works for Robert. He said he'd try to find a location for the portkey."
"And if it's unplottable?" asked Cassandra, gazing at him with mascara streaked eyes.
"We'll deal with that if it comes to it," said Severus firmly, summoning a bottle from his room. "Come on, I'll make you a drink."
"Alcoholic?" asked Cassandra as she followed him into the kitchen and sank into a chair.
"One of your special potions?" Cassandra laughed hollowly. "It's been a long time since I had one of those."
"They're not just for curing hangovers," said Severus dryly as he set a mug in front of her. She looked at it unenthusiastically.
"Smells awful," she muttered, pushing her hair out of her eyes and picking up the cup gingerly.
"If you want something that looks nice you're welcome to try one of those abysmal concoctions they print in Witch Weekly, however, if you require something that actually works, I suggest you drink this," said Severus brusquely, waving his wand so that something silvery shot out of it and darted away.
"What was that?" frowned Cassandra, pausing with the mug halfway to her lips.
"Patronus," answered Severus, eyeing the mug. "I thought Nicola ought to know what's going on."
"So she can keep an eye on me?"
Cassandra sighed, looking dully at the murky surface of the potion in her mug. "You won't find her," she said softly. "And even if you did, she wouldn't come."
Severus stared at her for a long moment; they weren't talking about Nicola any more.
Cassandra gave a slight shrug and sipped at the drink. "Have to find her first."
"No need," said Severus softly. "I already know where she is."
That got Cassandra's attention; she stared at him, shock in her clear green eyes.
"But I thought-"
"Julian told me," said Severus shortly. "She's visiting...a friend."
Cassandra's eyebrows creased into a frown at the slight pause, but at that moment there was the noise of the front door opening and Nicola's anxious voice.
"You're wrong, you know," said Severus softly, as Nicola burst into the kitchen. "She's incapable of giving up on anything. Especially us."
Grey eyes gazed into brown and Muriel smiled. She'd been waiting twenty three years and six months for this.
"Not going to deny it?" she asked softly, as the man before her swallowed.
"Let Katy go."
"But you haven't told her what a nasty man her father is yet," said Muriel pleasantly, stepping back and observing him. Avery's gaze flickered to the small girl in the corner and she saw a pained expression cross his face.
"Why do you want to hurt her? None of this is her fault."
Muriel sighed theatrically. "I think you know why we have to do this, Mr Avery." She looked at him, leaning back against the wall now as though his legs wouldn't support him. "It isn't enough to hurt you, Mr Avery. Physical pain is nothing compared to that feeling of helplessness you're experiencing now."
Avery looked up at her and she smiled with satisfaction at the defeat she saw there.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked weakly.
"You're just going to keep me here?" asked Avery angrily, glaring at her.
"Not forever, Mr Avery," she answered calmly. "Just for as long as it takes."
Avery scowled at her and looked away. She smiled again and turned to look at the child.
"She can't see me, you know," she said lightly. She heard Avery move and laughed a little. "She can only see you."
When she turned back to look at him, the light brown eyes were full of fury.
"Oh yes," she whispered, dark delight dancing in her eyes. "She probably doesn't understand why her daddy's hurting her. Maybe you should explain."
Avery looked away again, and she scowled this time.
"I'm losing patience with you, Mr Avery."
Muriel rolled her eyes. "And the rest of it. Katherine, I'm an evil man and-"
"Take Katy and run!"
Muriel stared at him, completely thrown by this outburst and then she realised he wasn't avoiding her gaze, he was looking at someone else. She whipped around and met the sapphire blue gaze of a stranger.
"What-?" she began, but the woman was already diving for the blonde haired girl and even though Muriel screamed at her hidden accomplices to stop her, the two of them were gone before the first stunner was fired.
Behind her, Avery laughed, his voice shaking with relief. Fuming she spun back, pointing her wand at his heart, but he only grinned, holding up his hands.
"Do what you like." The smile twisted into an expression of disgust. "I probably deserve it."
Muriel scowled down at the blond man before her, seething with rage. How dare he be so docile, so calm? Where was the fight she'd expected? The anger? The hurt? He wasn't supposed to give in this easily; how was she meant to break his spirit if he refused to show any.
Behind her, she heard Aubern and Reynolds shake off their concealment charms and saw Avery's dull gaze flicker over them as Reynolds cleared his throat.
"How do you know Katherine Riddle?" he asked, pale features drawn together in an expression that was half curious, half anxious. Muriel turned slightly, her grey eyes narrowed in a frown.
"What?" she asked. She'd only caught a glimpse of the woman before she'd disappeared, but surely it couldn't have been...
Reynolds gestured to the corner that had previously occupied the child, his hazel eyes fixed on Avery.
"That woman was Katherine Riddle. She's been in the papers with the rest of them. You know, she's mates with Antonin Dolohov and Bellatrix Lestrange and-" He stopped, looking sharply at Avery. "What's so funny?"
Avery, who was biting his lip on a laugh, shook his head. Aubern and Reynolds exchanged puzzled looks, but Muriel, delighted at the sudden show of emotion, raised her wand, a smile curling round her lips. Avery looked up at her, his grin fading, attention focused on the wand tip.
"I would say that you're going to regret your little friend's intervention," she said softly, meeting his gaze with hard grey eyes. "But I doubt you'll live that long."
Nicola trudged up the beaten path, pulling her cloak around her to keep warm. She'd forgotten how cold it could be up here; in the distance, she could see the castle, a black silhouette against the night sky. Snow crunched beneath her feet as she reached the castle gates and swore softly. They were locked. Now what was she supposed to do?
She shivered and looked about her, wondering if there was another way in; Sirius Black had certainly found one. Hadn't Severus found him? Maybe if she went back now, she could ask-
A hastily stifled whimper made her turn around and squint into the darkness.
A figure moved in the shadows and dark eyes gleamed in the starlight.
Katherine frowned, gazing at her uncertainly.
"Nicola? What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you – Julian told Severus you were up here," said Nicola, taking a step towards her. Katherine eyed her cautiously and took a step back, the small bundle in her arms moving. "Katherine? What's wrong?"
The bundle moved and another face peeked out at her, green eyes round with fear.
"Katy?" asked Nicola, breath catching. "You found her?"
Katherine nodded, eyes narrowed.
"Where's Robert?" said Nicola suddenly, looking around, as though expecting him to appear at any second.
"Still there," said Katherine softly, as Katy struggled, reaching out her hands for Nicola. "Who was the fourth boy you went out with in sixth year?"
Nicola stared at her. "What?" She laughed slightly, but Katherine's expression didn't change so she shrugged and answered: "Shaun Marriott. Technically - it was only one date."
Katherine gazed at her for a moment, cool eyes blank, then grinned. "You liar." Nicola frowned, confused, as Katherine held out the small girl. "Take her to F- to Professor Belle, will you? I think she needs checking over and I have to go find Robert; he didn't seem to be putting up much of a fight."
Nicola pulled her cloak around Katy as the small girl clung to her and stared at her old friend.
"What do you mean I'm a liar?" she asked, sounding a little affronted. Katherine smiled slightly, drawing her wand and meeting her gaze.
"If you didn't give a toss about him as you claimed at the time, why'd you remember his name?" she asked softly, a hint of mischief in her eyes.
"It was only one date, Katherine," frowned Nicola.
Nicola half scowled at her, but decided there wasn't time to waste on petty arguments.
"Is Faye a Healer, then?"
Katherine nodded, then froze, staring at her in shock. "How-?"
"Doesn't matter," said Nicola, shaking her head. "Can you trust her? I mean, your family isn't usually very reliable-"
"You can trust her," cut in Katherine, though Nicola could tell she was still trying to work out how she knew about Faye. "Just...don't tell her anything, all right?"
"Anything she asks," shrugged Katherine, running a nervous hand through her hair. "You work at the Ministry, Nic, you should be good at dodging questions."
"Thanks for that, Katherine," said Nicola, arching an eyebrow to indicate her lack of amusement. "Now could you be helpful for once and tell me how on earth I'm supposed to get into the school?"
Katherine gazed at her for a moment, then waved her wand languidly. Something silver flew from the tip and bounded away up the slope towards the castle.
"Faye'll come and get you," she said calmly, as Nicola stared after the shape.
"What was-?" she began, turning back, but stopped, finding she was speaking to thin air. "Oh honestly." She sighed, breath clouding in the frosty air. Katy shifted in her arms and she looked down at her, the small head of blonde hair buried in her robes. Katherine had said she might need looking over, that someone might have harmed her...
And if Katy had been hurt, what was happening to Robert? She frowned, something Katherine had said ringing the set of metaphorical alarm bells in her head. He didn't seem to be putting up much of a fight... A fight against what? Or who?
The hurried patter of footsteps on snow reached her ears and she turned, trying to discern the figure in the darkness; then a cloud moved and the light of an almost perfectly full moon illuminated a woman, blonde hair spilling out from under the hood of her cloak.
Nicola stepped forward so that the woman could see her clearly.
"So you're another of the friends I'm not supposed to meet, huh?" asked Faye, pulling the gate open a little so that Nicola could slip through.
"Another?" asked Nicola, her eyebrows raised. "She's let you meet others?"
"Not exactly," frowned Faye, locking the gate and casting a worried glance up at the castle; there didn't seem to be anyone watching them, but it was so hard to tell. "I've...crossed paths with Snape and...Avery, was it? Yes, blond man, didn't seem to like me very much."
"He doesn't like anyone very much," said Nicola as they crept back up to the school. "Except family." Katy was quiet in her arms, small hands clutching tightly at her robes, eyes gazing around at the unfamiliar sights. "It's ok, sweetheart. Aunty Nicola's here," she said softly, as Katy buried her face in her shoulder again.
"Katherine said you might need to look at her," said Nicola as they reached the huge oak doors of the castle and slipped inside. Faye glanced at the small girl and the expression on her face made Nicola feel she was missing something.
"We'll take her to my room. She can stay here tonight – there's no where safer than Hogwarts at the moment."
"Ok," agreed Nicola softly as they climbed the first flight of stairs. There was silence for a moment then Nicola stopped and considered Faye critically. "Look, did she tell you something? Do you know what happened?"
"No," said Faye, frowning. "Come on, we might be seen-"
"No I'm not."
"You are," said Nicola firmly. "I've spent my entire life with Slytherins and a good few years around your cousin - I can tell when people aren't telling the truth. What did she say might have happened?"
Faye sighed heavily and her gaze fell on the small girl in her arms.
"Honestly? You really don't want to know."
"Tough *******, isn't he?" Aubern lowered his wand and looked at Muriel.
"Why have you stopped?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. Aubern glanced at Avery, slumped on the floor with his head lolling on his chest, and pushed rusty brown hair out of his eyes.
"He's unconscious, Mur."
Muriel gazed at him, a sour expression on her face, then shrugged and crouched down in front of Avery, lifting his head with one hand and speaking softly.
"Wake up, Robert."
One brown eye flickered open and focused dimly on her thin face.
"Have you had enough?" she asked, as he tried to pull away. "Answer me, Mr Avery."
Avery yanked his head back, out of her hands and gazed insolently at her.
"Oh we're going to play that game, are we?" Muriel asked, sighing deeply. "Well I can keep this up for a very long time, believe me. I wonder how long you'll last." She smiled as Avery looked away, and grabbed his chin again. "Look at me when I'm speaking to you."
Avery glared at her and muttered something under his breath.
"Language, Mr Avery. I'm sure your wife wouldn't like to hear you saying things like that." At the mention of Cassandra, Avery's eyes widened slightly and Muriel grinned; so his daughter wasn't his only weakness. "Who's going to rescue you now, Mr Avery? Where's the infamous Miss Riddle now you need her?"
Avery gazed unblinkingly at her, brown eyes cold with hate and when he spoke it was barely more than a whisper.
"Right behind you."
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Re: Fallen Angel
Chapter 48 – Change
Avery gazed at his captor, watching as her expression turned from puzzlement to disbelief. Then, very slowly, she turned her head, looking up at the figure behind her.
Katherine smiled, blue eyes dark, and held up a wand.
Muriel's hand flew to her pocket, a look of horror crossing her face, and then her gaze fell on bodies of Aubern and Reynolds, lying slumped on the floor; she hadn't even heard them fall.
"Give that back," Muriel said very softly, eyes fixed on her wand. Katherine's smile grew a little.
Muriel was silent, lips pursed, as Katherine twirled the wand deftly between her fingers.
"How did you get in here?" she asked after a long pause. Katherine's eyes glimmered and she tucked the stolen wand in the back of her jeans.
"There were wards," said Muriel darkly. Katherine shrugged, looking over her head at Avery, who was sitting with his arms resting on his knees, watching her.
"They weren't very good."
"Aurors would have had trouble breaking them," growled Muriel, not caring that she was unarmed and vulnerable; this woman was just standing there, making a mockery of everything she'd worked so hard for and it was getting on her nerves.
Katherine's blue gaze flickered back to her and one eyebrow raised very slightly.
"I'm not an Auror." She gave Muriel a quick smile and then dropped to a crouch, so that she was level with her. "What have you done to Robert?"
Muriel stared at her, waiting for her emotions to settle so she could work out how she was feeling. She should be angry or scared, but right now she was just confused; there was something very disconcerting about those benign blue eyes.
"I don't know what you mean," she said, holding her head a little higher and trying to stare her down.
"Oh I think you do," said Katherine softly, in the same calm voice. "Because if he was the normal Robert Avery we all know and love, he'd be trying to strangle you right about now, and, as you have probably noticed, he's not, so tell me what you did." The vehemence of the last few words made Muriel shrink back a little, and the fire that suddenly erupted in the other woman's eyes acutely raised her awareness of just how bad her position was, and then...images were flooding to front of her mind, the night she first saw Avery, the night he killed her sister, Rebecca, lying there on the floor, with dark figures standing over her, white masks hiding everything but their eyes...their eyes.
She pulled back, stumbling over and breaking eye contact. Katherine frowned, but she'd already learnt everything she wanted to know; Legilimency really could be very useful. She glanced over at Avery, who was now staring desolately at the floor.
"You were there too," whispered Muriel, fumbling for her wand before she remembered Katherine had it. "You just stood there, you're as bad as him," she shrieked, pointing a wild finger at Avery, who didn't move.
"Worse, actually," said Katherine musingly, gazing pensively at Avery. She looked sideways at Muriel and gave her a crooked smile. "Don't you read the papers?"
"I'll kill you both," hissed Muriel, positively seething now. Katherine just looked at her, a faintly amused expression on her face and murmured something that Muriel didn't catch. Before her, Avery raised his head a little and threw Katherine an odd look, but she only grinned and waved a careless hand at Muriel, who fell to the floor, unconscious.
"What did you mean by not yet?" asked Robert, his face screwed up in bewilderment.
"You said 'not yet'," prompted Robert, leaning his head back against the wall and looking at her with puzzled brown eyes.
"Did I?" asked Katherine mildly, and Robert knew she wasn't going to tell him anything else. He sighed and looked at Muriel's prone form.
"Not going to kill her?" he asked, raising his eyebrows slightly.
"You didn't," said Katherine evenly, holding out his wand which she'd retrieved from one of the men currently out cold on the floor. Robert took it, gazing at it as though it wasn't quite there.
"Didn't seem right," he muttered. There was silence for a moment, then he looked up, shaking his head. "How's Katy?"
"Fine. She's safe. I'm more worried about you, to be honest," said Katherine, sitting down next to him and regarding the fallen Muriel with a critical eye. "You do know she's mental, don't you? She's got a wall covered with pictures of you out there," she added, jerking her thumb towards an apparently solid wall.
"This is a house," said Katherine looking round the room. "Her house, I guess. Tracked your signature here, but couldn't find you, so I looked for any concealment charms and hey presto, there you are, yelling at me to grab your kid and run."
"And you did," said Robert, giving her a curious look. "You didn't try and get me out."
"I would have if you'd asked," said Katherine, returning his look. "But you were rather emphatic."
"You still didn't question me, though," said Robert, studying her carefully.
"Is that a bad thing?" asked Katherine, not quite getting his point. He didn't seem upset, just...curious - like he'd completed a routine experiment and found a result that he hadn't expected.
"No, just...interesting." He frowned, looking back down at his wand. "You really would do anything for us, wouldn't you? I mean, you genuinely would; even if it wasn't what you'd choose to do."
Katherine was giving him a very strange look now, bewildered and... Was he imagining it or was there a flicker of fear in those blue eyes?
"You're not supposed to be talking to me," he suddenly remembered, frowning. "Let alone acting the hero, or is that heroine? Why did you come?"
"Because you asked," said Katherine simply, twirling her own dark wand between her fingers now. "Yelled, really. Positively demanded, in fact. Loudly." She gave him a small grin, catching the wand in her hand. "And I promised to come if you needed me."
"Even though you're mad at us?" he asked, smiling slightly himself. Katherine's lips twitched, as though she'd been about to smile, but she looked away.
"Even though I'm mad at you," she repeated, gazing idly at the ceiling; Robert frowned, studying her profile.
"Yes?" She looked sideways at him, eyebrows raised questioningly.
"You are mad at us, aren't you?"
"Except you're not, are you?" said Robert carefully, as she gazed at him with innocent blue eyes.
"No." She grinned, as Robert shook his head despairingly.
"Were you ever?"
"Oh yeah," said Katherine fervently, turning her head to look at him properly. "For about half an hour. It's not my fault if you all fall for the same trick twice."
"That trick being splitting up our friendships so we don't get each other hurt?" asked Robert with a sigh. "Except that's not really working, is it?" He gestured round the room at the bodies lying in small heaps on the floor. Katherine shrugged, looking shrewdly at him.
"Oh I don't know. I'm not hurt, and you appear to have all your vital organs in tact. Neither of us are any worse off than the aftermath of the average meeting. Not physically, anyway." She left the unspoken words hanging in the air and Robert looked over at Muriel again, her mousy brown hair falling over her face.
"I'm fine," he said quietly and Katherine gave a soft, humourless, laugh.
"No you're not. I'm practically an expert on not being fine, Rob and you are most definitely not fine."
Robert shrugged, frowning dismally into middle distance.
"It wasn't your fault," said Katherine gently. "I remember that mission, Rob. The kid ran in front of your hex, you didn't mean to hit her."
"She was eight."
"She was an idiot."
"How do you know?" asked Robert harshly, turning angrily on her. "She never got to grow up because of me."
"She ran in front of a Death Eater's wand," said Katherine sharply, matching his furious gaze. "Somehow that doesn't scream 'genius', to me."
"She was trying to protect her mother," retorted Robert, irritation rising in his voice. How could she be so cool about this?
"If she was smart, she would have worked out that there was nothing she could do."
"If we were smart, we wouldn't be trying to bring down the Dark Lord. Sometimes people do stupid things because they have to," responded Robert, almost shouting now.
"Right, and does torturing a five year old come under the heading of things people need to do?" asked Katherine, arching an eyebrow. Robert stared at her, almost completely lost, before he realised she was talking about Katy.
"What's that got to do with anything?" he asked quietly, confused.
"That woman is insane," said Katherine softly, gesturing to Muriel. "She saw her older sister die when she was, what, about four? That kind of thing doesn't beget normal, well balanced adults. You're only feeling guilty because she's made you think it was your fault, that you purposefully intended to kill her sister, because that's what she believes, but that's not what happened."
"What difference does it make whether I intended to or not?" shouted Robert, breathing hard. "I still did it." He looked at her, eyes overly bright. "We put it behind us and pretend it never happened because we need to function, but we never think there are going to be consequences, that people actually get hurt. She's right, Katherine, we're not nice people."
Katherine threw him a contemptuous look and shook her head wearily.
"Of course we're not nice, Rob, we've killed people, we're Death Eaters."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"No," said Katherine sharply, glaring at the floor. "Not right now. Like you said, we can't afford to."
"But we should-" started Robert, but Katherine cut across him, blue eyes blazing.
"No we shouldn't. You want to end up wasting away your life in Azkaban, wallowing in your own guilt?"
"Better to end up like you, is it?" asked Robert, looking coldly at her. "Suppressing everything until you go mental?" Katherine was silent for a long moment, and Robert rather got the impression that she was trying to calm down before she said anything she'd regret.
"Go home, Robert," she said at last. "Talk to your wife. Do whatever you need to do to get rid of the guilt and move on, because we've got a job to do and we can't do that if you're moping."
"I'm not moping," growled Robert, glaring at her. "I can't just stop feeling guilty – it's not that simple."
"It wasn't your fault-"
"Maybe not that time," said Robert quickly, shaking his head. "What about all the other times?"
Katherine frowned, looking a little irritated.
"You're a nasty person, Rob, deal with it. The rest of us have."
"I can change," said Robert softly, pushing light blond hair out of his eyes. Katherine sighed heavily, running a weary hand over her face.
"Go home, Robert."
He looked sideways at her, frowning slightly. "You don't think I can?"
She turned her head and looked at him, giving a half shrug. "Maybe you can, but it's not easy to start over, take it from me."
"Yeah, but you went from good to bad – you had all that guilt to deal with," argued Robert.
"And you think it'll be easier to go the other way?" asked Katherine, eyebrows raised. "You've got a whole load of guilt over stuff you've done. On top of that, no one will trust you and you won't get any thanks."
She shook her head and leant against the wall, eyes closed. Robert watched her for a moment, wondering if she was thinking about Sirius and his friends. It was incredible she'd stayed with him as long as she had actually, because there'd been opposition from just about every side, but then...what choice had she had? In the end, she'd had no where else to go.
"I will change," he said, and there was determination in his voice.
"You want to change, you go and show your wife you're still alive," said Katherine, eyes still closed. "She's probably going frantic."
A stab of guilt hit him at the mention of Cassandra. He was going to have to explain about Muriel and what had happened to Katy...
He felt Katherine's eyes on him and looked up.
"Nowhere to run," she said softly, and he wondered if she'd been reading his mind. "Facing the unknown's got to be better than speculating about it. Go home - I'll clear things up here."
Slowly he nodded, and she gave him a half smile and indicated a blank patch of wall.
"There's a concealed door there; stairs are on your left. I think we're somewhere in Norfolk, but you can apparate outside the house, anyway."
"Right," he mumbled, getting to his feet and making for the door, looking back when she called him.
"Forgot this," she said, holding up a tattered brown bear. "Don't seem to be any charms still on it," she added, tossing it at him. He caught it, the fur disconcertingly soft beneath his fingers; some time in the past couple of hours, he'd forgotten that small fluffy things existed.
He cast another glance at Katherine, who was gazing thoughtfully at the fallen bodies on the floor, and frowned slightly. He'd been so sure he'd got her worked out, but now...there was a whole five years of her life that he'd had no part of and another fifteen that she'd spent in Azkaban, not mention a good couple of years traipsing around the country hunting horcruxes. That was a lot of time to be out of touch and yet she hadn't seemed any different when she'd come back - same old Katherine, flirting with death, winding up Lestrange...
Yet now, looking at her properly, he didn't see the Katherine that he'd known at Hogwarts. There was something different, something he couldn't quite place-
"Robert Avery, if you don't go home this minute, I shall personally see to it that your entire office knows about that night out in Edinburgh in sixth year."
Robert held up his hands defensively, smiling faintly. "I'm going, I'm going. You sure you're all right here?"
Katherine looked up at him, a sly grin on her face. "Don't you trust me?"
"'Course I do-"
Robert hesitated for a second more, then shrugged his shoulders and left, resolutely ignoring the whispers at the back of his head that were reminding him it was Katherine who had once told him never to trust anyone.
It was dark in the kitchen when Severus heard the door open softly. He looked up at the figure, black eyes glimmering in the dim moonlight seeping in through the window and said nothing. She stared back, then shut the door quietly and came to sit opposite him at the table.
"Wondered if you were going to show up," he said in a low voice, turning the lukewarm cup of tea round in his hands.
"Did Robert get back all right?" she asked, conjuring up a candle out of nowhere and setting it on the table. He blinked in the sudden glow of light and nodded.
"Had an almighty row with Cassandra. He's on the sofa, and she's with Katy. Nicola wouldn't let them go home tonight, just in case."
"How is Katy?"
"Fine, I think. She's still at Hogwarts," said Severus slowly, watching at her. "With your cousin." Blue eyes held his gaze and he gave her a thoughtful look. "You already knew, didn't you."
"That you know about Faye? Yeah." Katherine smiled slightly, a spark of mischief in her eyes. "Your cousin told me."
"Julian? How does he know?"
"He worked it out when Trix kidnapped her," shrugged Katherine, gaze shifting to the candle, which was starting to drip wax on the glossy surface of Nicola's kitchen table. "Also worked out you helped her." She looked back at him, eyes studying him critically. "Which is giving me no end of headache."
"What?" He wasn't quite sure what he'd expected her to say, but it wasn't that.
"You helped her," said Katherine softly, resting her arm on the table and propping up her chin, blue eyes gazing soulfully at him. "All the things you could have done, and you helped her. You're a complicated man, Severus Snape."
Severus just stared at her, wondering fleetingly if she'd been drinking.
"I am?" was all he could manage in the end. She smiled, leaning back again and stretching.
"Yes you are. Think I've got you sussed and you go and act completely out of character and I have to revise all my opinions of you. Still, not a complete revision, hmm? Still acting like a child, aren't you?" Her eyes had lost their playful air now, and her expression was far from happy.
"That would be what I was referring to, yes," said Katherine, though her voice wasn't as cold as he'd expected. "Petty school boy grudges should be left in the past where they belong, Severus."
"He would have lost the job anyway," said Severus, setting his mug down the table and holding her gaze. "Haven't you heard? The position's cursed; no one lasts more than a year."
"Don't be ridiculous," said Katherine, sighing. "You're just avoiding the point."
"I'm not being ridiculous," said Severus, scowling. "Your father cursed it when Dumbledore refused him the job."
"Dad applied for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post?" asked Katherine, both eyebrows raised. "Are you kidding?"
"Dumbledore told me," said Severus softly. "I wanted to take it, but he wouldn't let me."
"Wanted you where he could see you?" questioned Katherine, a slight smile on her face.
"Perhaps," replied Severus, shrugging as though this was of no importance, but Katherine's sudden frown made him hesitate. "What?"
"But he did."
"What?" Severus was confused now.
"He let you take it – I heard Draco talking about how you'd been teaching DADA last year-" She stopped, something like realisation crossing her face. "Oh."
"Oh?" Severus studied her in the light from the candle, mind racing. She couldn't possibly know- He stopped, almost chastising himself.
Once. She'd only ever brought up the subject of Dumbledore once. Well twice, actually, but the second time had only been to make a point about something else, not to make him feel guilty.
"How long have you known?" he asked, surprised to find his voice so quiet.
"A while," said Katherine, giving him a small smile. "I mean, even you're not that ungrateful, and there was the Unbreakable Vow and that stuff you said about-" She stopped, eyeing him dubiously. "You know about the horcruxes, don't you?"
"Right, well if Dumbledore told you about them you must have been close, and I know you, maybe not as well as I thought, but I do, and you couldn't betray someone who had that much faith in you." She poked the candle with her finger, letting a dribble of wax collect in a droplet on her nail. "You don't let a lot of people near you, so those you do, you're loyal to. Same as me." She looked up at him, flicking the wax off her finger and smiling gently. "And Dumbledore wouldn't have given you a job he knew was cursed if he'd expected you to hang around past the end of the year."
"You're not angry?" he asked, not sure whether he was curious or just shocked.
"You did what you had to," said Katherine quietly, and though her eyes were focused on him, he got the impression she was thinking about something else. "I can understand that. In a perfect world it wouldn't have come to that, but it did, and there's nothing else you could have done."
Out in the hall, the clock chimed twelve, and the stillness that had encompassed the room was shattered.
"So that was Christmas," said Katherine, a crooked smile on her face. "Started out normal, winds up back here, with the world all out of shape. Some holiday."
"Sorry. You were meant to be spending it with Faye, weren't you," said Severus, looking solemnly at her. Katherine waved a hand carelessly.
"It's fine. I wanted to spend it with family." She grinned and he saw some of the old spark come back. "Reckon I did that. Raving psychopaths excepted, of course. Funny, I don't even know her name."
"Muriel," supplied Severus, thinking back to what Robert had said when he'd stumbled in. "Muriel Schaft. Robert said you dealt with her."
"Yeah, I did," said Katherine quietly, smiling faintly. "She's not going to bothering anyone any time soon."
Severus smiled, feeling that the world was settling back into it's usual tract once more.
"D'you think Cassandra's going to forgive him?" he asked, referring to Robert. Katherine leant back in her chair, stifling a yawn.
"'Course she will – she loves him. That's what you do. Might take a while, that's all." She smiled and shook out her long hair, running a hand through it to loosen it, so that it fell about her shoulders, gleaming ebony in the candle light. "Happy Christmas, Severus."
Severus smiled, raising his now cold cup of tea in a mock toast. "Happy Christmas, Katherine."
Re: Fallen Angel
Chapter 49 – The midnight raid
"How well do you know Professor McGonagall?"
Severus looked up to find bright blue eyes studying him with an expression somewhere between irritation and determined curiosity.
"Professor?" he questioned mildly, one thin eyebrow raised in amusement. Katherine sank into the seat opposite him and shrugged.
"She's always going to be Professor to me, Sev."
Severus half thought of making a biting reply but decided against it - she'd called him Sev, for the first time in he didn't know how long, and he wasn't going to jinx her good mood. He settled instead for a cautious reply to her question.
"Reasonably well. Why?"
Katherine rested her elbows on the table and propped up her chin on one hand. "Where does she go when she's not at Hogwarts?"
"Why on earth would you want to know that?" asked Severus, frowning deeply. He couldn't see any reason for Katherine needing to reach McGonagall unless-
"I just want to talk to her," replied Katherine, but her open expression was making him suspicious. She must have noticed this, because she rolled her eyes and leant back in her chair, treating him to a disparaging look.
"Don't you trust me?"
"I think you'd do a lot to keep your cover," he said carefully, studying her with narrowed eyes. He knew he hadn't a hope of using Legilimency on her, but there was more than one way of reading people.
"As would you," she retorted, a wicked grin spreading across her face, and the jolt in his stomach surprised him; he hadn't realised just how much he'd missed that smile.
"Only what I have to," he said softly, considering her with a thoughtful air. Did he trust her? Yes, but that didn't mean he automatically forgot what she was capable of. He trusted her to look after herself and possibly a few others, and he wasn't entirely sure Minerva McGonagall was important enough to register on Katherine's radar.
Those vivid blue eyes were still settled on him, and he suddenly came to a decision. Only time would tell whether it was the right one. "She goes to the Three Broomsticks some evenings," he said quietly, and before he'd finished speaking he could see the wheels beginning to turn in her head, formulating a plan. In the slight pause, he frowned, a thought occurring to him.
"Hmm?" She wasn't looking at him, just worrying her lip slightly, lost in thought.
"Why are you asking me this? Surely you could just go to Faye? She'd have the most up to date information – she could probably arrange a meeting if you really wanted." He watched as a vaguely guilty look flickered across her face and she glanced up at him, grimacing.
"Yeah, well, that might be a bit difficult given present circumstances."
"You haven't fallen out, have you?" he asked, the frown that wrinkled his forehead borne more out of a slight sense of exasperation than concern for the blonde witch. "I've met her, Katherine, and I don't think she can cope with the way your mind works."
Katherine shot him with a wry smile, half abashed, half wicked.
"No, we haven't fallen out," she said, shaking her head and waving a careless hand to dismiss such notions. "And I really don't get why everyone thinks she's such an angel. The fact that I'm a notorious criminal does not automatically make her a saint."
"She's better behaved than you," shot back Severus, but Katherine only laughed. "Oh? I didn't pounce on her oldest friend the moment her back was turned."
It took Severus a moment to work out exactly what she meant by this remark, but when he realised he arched his eyebrows in surprise.
Katherine nodded, a cheeky grin on her face. "Just after the first war ended – I'd warned her not to come back while Tom was still around, but he'd gone by then and I suppose she wanted to find out exactly what had happened to me." She sighed, fingers wrapped around the pendant on her necklace. "I don't think it lasted very long – she had a job to get back to and, well, you know Remus – tends to push people away if they get too close. Tonks seems to be managing quite well, though, to give her credit. Interesting woman, Tonks."
"You've met her?" Severus couldn't keep the incredulity out of his voice; he would have paid a fair amount of money to have seen Tonks' reaction to Lupin's oldest friend.
"A few times," nodded Katherine, running a distracted hand through gleaming ebony hair. "Got the impression she doesn't like me very much. Then again, not many people like me very much." She smiled ruefully, hands dropping into her lap as she sunk a little in her chair. "They just don't take the time to get to know me."
"I think the problem lies in the fact that they do know you, Katherine," remarked Severus, with a vaguely amused air. "The entire wizarding world knows who you are."
"They know what I've done," said Katherine, shaking her head and gazing absently at her nails. "That's not a reflection of who I am."
"No, I don't suppose it is." The sincerity in his voice made Katherine look up, blue eyes slightly stunned, momentarily caught off guard. He smiled a little, green eyes dark in the lamplight. "Your actions never seem to bear any relation to your thoughts. Sometimes I think you don't know what the hell you're doing."
"Making it up as I go along," she said quietly, giving him a small smile. "You need to think fast to stay alive."
"The Dark Lord hasn't got any plans concerning Hogwarts," said Severus quickly, curiosity and anxiety getting the better of him. "What do you want with McGonagall?"
"You really think so?" Katherine was watching him with open interest, but her question confused him.
"That Tom doesn't have any plans for the school?" she prompted, tilting her head a little, that small, sad smile tugging at her lips again.
"Not immediate ones," said Severus, though he knew full well what she was getting at. The time was going to come when the Dark Lord would take a real interest in Hogwarts and when he did they'd both be called upon to help him. The only thing keeping him away at present was the illusion that Katherine was teaching there, supposedly screening potential Death Eaters and spreading his message. "You didn't answer my question. What's McGonagall got to do with anything?"
Katherine sighed heavily, gazing up at the ceiling and said bitterly: "I mentioned that New Year is Tom's birthday and now Trix wants to get him a present."
"What?" Severus stared at her in horror as she brought her gaze down and shrugged tiredly.
"I know, I've told her it won't work, but will she listen-"
"What does Hogwarts have to do with the Prophecy?" asked Severus, interrupting her before she could start on Bella's many infuriating qualities. Katherine blinked in surprise, then said:
"Trelawney?" he repeated, staring blankly at her. "What does Bella want with her?"
"She made the Prophecy," answered Katherine, casting her eyes heavenwards once more. "Trix thinks this means she'll know it. I tried telling her she won't remember it, but since when has she listened to me?"
"Are you sure she won't know it?" asked Severus, the impact of what she was saying kicking in. If the Dark Lord got hold of the Prophecy the chances of Potter defeating him fell somewhat.
"Severus, no Seer ever remembers their prophecies," replied Katherine with a heavy sigh, shaking her head despairingly.
"But if they're alone, how are they recorded?" asked Severus, utterly bewildered. Katherine fought the urge to roll her eyes and settled for a wry smile instead.
"They're not – the Ministry only have records of the prophecies that were made in someone else's presence. If no one heard, we don't know about them." She grinned sympathetically at the disconcerted look on his face. "It's not a big deal. There's too many prophecies gracing the shelves at the DoM as it is, if you ask me. Best to leave them well alone – no one wants their life ruled by Fate."
Something in her voice made him frown, but he couldn't quite work out what it was. Was that slight note of dejection stemming from knowledge of the Prophecy or from something else entirely? After all, she knew as well as him that it came down to Potter or the Dark Lord, and, for all his failings, Tom Riddle was still her father. And Katherine Riddle still cared.
"You're going to warn McGonagall, aren't you?" he asked, gazing at her with a renewed sense of curiosity. "About the attack. That's why you want to find her."
"Wouldn't hurt to keep the kids safe, would it?" responded Katherine, and Severus caught the defensive tone of her voice. "If Trix gets Trelawney she can't complain. It's not as though we've got orders to kill anyone, and if she doesn't come across any students she can't be tempted."
"You're going to let her get Trelawney?" questioned Severus, doubt lacing his words. Despite her reputation, Katherine didn't tend to hurt people if she could avoid it. Well, she didn't tend to hurt people if they didn't deserve it, at least.
"Trelawney is McGonagall's problem," said Katherine levelly. "Even if Trix gets her, she won't learn anything."
"In other words, you're not going to risk your neck for some woman you've never met."
"Got a problem with that?"
"No," replied Severus calmly. "But I really do think you ought to make it up with Lupin."
"Remus? You think I should talk to Remus? You think I should talk to Remus?" She stared at him, suddenly suspicious. "Who are you and what in Salazar's name have you done with Severus Snape?"
"Don't be flippant-" he began, eyebrows creasing into a frown.
"I wasn't," she interrupted darkly. "You loathe Remus. Why would you want me to make it up with him? How did you even know we'd fallen out?"
"Robert mentioned it," shrugged Severus. "And I don't loathe Lupin-"
"Yes you do – you think he tried to kill you."
"No, Black tried to kill me."
Katherine's eyes narrowed, and Severus got the distinct impression that she was trying to decide whether to smirk or not.
"Don't tell me you've stopped blaming Rem?" she asked at last, a different emotion flickering in her sapphire coloured eyes and it took him a moment to recognise it for it was. Pride. She was proud of him.
This thought was the only thing that kept him from sneering and saying instead:
"Like you said, the past should be left where it belongs. There are more important things to think about right now." Their gazes locked and she smiled gently, a hint of sadness in her dark blue eyes.
"Yes, I rather think there are."
Minerva McGonagall walked the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and wondered for the hundredth time why she was doing this. Death Eaters as a rule couldn't be trusted and yet here she was, proving to Katherine Riddle of all people, that she did just that. She stopped outside the wooden door, knocked once and waited, her former pupil's words echoing in her head.
"Get Faye out of the way, I don't want her being spotted or getting hurt. I don't care how you do it, just get her out of the castle, that's all I'm asking..."
All she was asking. The temporary absence of her younger cousin in exchange for information about a planned attack on the castle. She'd been suspicious, of course, but Katherine had looked so genuine and she couldn't for the life of her come up with a plausible reason for her to lie.
"Oh hello. Everything all right?" Faye was standing in front of her, blonde hair tied up in a loose bun. McGonagall nodded, taking a steadying breath and gripping her wand more tightly in her pocket.
"Everything's fine. And I'm really sorry about this..."
Katherine stood in the headmistress' office and stared at the slumbering portrait before her. She highly doubted he was really asleep, but didn't care. It wasn't as though she wanted to hear anything he had to say, anyway. Except...
"Why did you have to ask him?" The sleeping eyes remained closed, but she was sure he'd heard. "It's not as though people don't hate him enough already. Or was that why?" More silence. "I really don't like you, you know."
The faint sound of footsteps reached her ears, getting louder by the second and then the door swung open and she heard a hastily stifled gasp of surprise.
"I did what you asked," said McGonagall, entering the room and shutting the door carefully behind her. "She's...safe."
Katherine turned her head to look curiously at her old teacher and a slow grin crept across her face.
"Was that a threat?"
McGonagall held her head a little higher and walked over to her desk, though Katherine noticed she didn't sit down; she didn't want to lose the mental advantage of her height.
"It is...a precaution," she said calmly, eyeing her former pupil distrustfully. Katherine grinned and looked back at Dumbledore's portrait.
"Never trust a Slytherin."
"Something like that, yes."
"He wouldn't have done that," said Katherine quietly, though there was still a smile on her face. "Then again, I may not have warned him." She glanced at McGonagall, expression serious once more. "Don't worry. If Faye's safe, I'll keep my part of the bargain. Good luck." She turned to leave, but cast one last look back, eyeing a spot just behind McGonagall. "You too, Shacklebolt."
There was a slight pause after the door closed behind her, and then the tall black Auror removed his concealment charm and exchanged a bemused look with McGonagall.
"How did she know you were there?" asked Minerva, staring after her.
"Well Alastor always does say she's good," murmured Kingsley, looking thoughtful. "Good enough to get into this office without opening the door."
"You didn't see how she got in?"
"No," replied Kingsley, frowning deeply. "One minute I'm alone and next she's standing in the middle of the office."
"But she didn't see you?" asked McGonagall, peering out of the window towards the school gates. Katherine had said she was going to open them to let the Death Eaters in; she just hoped the Order was ready.
"I don't think so - she didn't seem to, at least. Started speaking to Dumbledore," said Kingsley, joining her at the window.
"What did she say?"
"Not much." He paused, dark eyes catching sight of something that might have been a shadow rippling across the grounds below. "Maybe she did know I was there - she asked about someone but didn't say his name."
The shadow reached the gates and a minute later they swung open. McGonagall raised her eyebrows, sucking in a breath.
"She wasn't joking, was she? She really can get them in without setting off any of the wards."
"And yet she told us she was going to," said Kingsley, pulling out his wand and heading for the door, McGonagall close on his heels. "Remind me again - exactly who's side is she on?"
"It's a bloody ambush, Riddle!" Bellatrix sent another killing curse at her attacker who dropped to the floor to avoid it. Next to her, Katherine was duelling with a dark haired wizard who bore the badge of an Auror on his robes.
"And I suppose that's my fault, is it?" yelled Katherine, dodging a Stunner and cursing the culprit so badly he flew a couple of feet into the air before landing in a heap on the grass.
"You must have let something slip-"
"Oh yeah, right." Katherine's usually calm voice was full of sarcasm. "'Cause that's the kind of thing you just happen to mention in conversation. Could you pass the salt, Filius, and by the way, we're planning an attack on the school tonight-" She broke off as a scalding hex hummed past her ear and threw a Stunner at Bella's opponent who crumpled like a paper doll. "We're outnumbered, Trix. We should leave."
"Not without the Seer," hissed Bella, flinging a curse at an approaching Auror and glaring at the younger woman in the starlight. Katherine glowered right back, but sighed.
"Fine, you go find her. I'll lead the retreat – they'll think we've gone, so you can slip into the castle and get her unnoticed. Sound good?"
Bella was about to answer when there was a scream, and they turned in time to see a black hooded figure fall to the floor.
"Fine," snapped Bella, casting a Disillusionment charm on herself. "But you better not be up to anything."
"That hurt, Trix," said Katherine, casting a reproachful look at the patch of shimmering air where the elder woman had stood a moment before. "As if I'd ever double cross you."
She just heard Bella's scornful laugh above the noise of the fight, and then she was gone, running up the slope towards the castle. Katherine eyed the castle doors for a moment, then turned her attention back to the battle. At least one of them was dead already; it was time to move before they lost any more.
Feedback is always appreciated. I'm going to France on Sunday, so there won't be any more updates for a week.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: As I'm back from France, here's an brand new chapter. Enjoy.
Chapter 50 – Tartarus super gelavit
The voice made Remus' flesh crawl, but he turned around all the same, wand at the ready. He'd been searching for Faye amongst the fighters, but he couldn't find her anywhere; maybe Katherine had found her already - presuming Katherine was here. He chided himself mentally – of course she was here, she usually turned up wherever there was trouble and there was certainly trouble now, unfolding right in front of him.
He narrowed his eyes at the figure that stood before him now, the glow from the castle lighting his scarred face clearly. He'd clearly dispensed with the customary hood already – had probably felt it got in the way. What was the point in being feared if you didn't let people know it was you behind the mask?
"Good evening Fenrir."
"I heard you got yourself a girlfriend, Lupin."
Remus' muscles tensed at the mention of Tonks; she was out there somewhere, among the duellers...
"You stay away from her," he warned, sending a curse at Fenrir which he parried easily.
"Or what? What's the tame 'wolf gonna do to me, huh?" His lips curved in a snarl and he leapt forward, but before he could reach Remus, a stream of silver light knocked him back, howling, onto the grass. Remus turned his head in time to see a masked figure disappear among the other fighters, black hair falling loose under their hood. He frowned, but next moment someone was knocking him to the floor as a jet of green flew over his head.
"What are you doing, Remus? You can't just stand around in the middle of a battlefield!" Remus drew breath again as his assailant rolled off him and he saw the familiar bubble gum pink locks of Tonks.
"Sorry, got a bit distracted," he muttered, as someone nearby screamed. He sat up, deflecting a stray curse and looking around to try and see who it was.
"One of theirs," said Tonks, pointing, and Remus felt his breath catch in his throat as he caught sight of the body. It was female. Not Katherine, please not-
The shout kick started his heart again; he knew that voice. Sure enough, among the sudden flurry of movement he caught sight of his old friend, dressed in jeans and a black jumper, trying to restrain a red haired man who was twisting furiously in her grip.
"He killed her, he killed Allie! I'm going to murder him!"
In the struggle, the man's mask slipped and Remus realised with a start that he recognised him. It was James McKenzie. He'd changed, to be sure, but the ruby red hair and fierce brown eyes were unmistakable as the Slytherin boy who'd been in his year at school.
"James-" Katherine was still trying to hold him back with the help of another figure, but James wrenched himself free and Remus saw her stagger backwards and trip, landing on the ground with a thud as James made for his sister's killer.
"They're withdrawing." Tonks' voice made him tear his gaze away from Katherine and look around. She was right – most of the Death Eaters were fleeing, running for the main gates and vanishing into the darkness. "Why are they leaving?"
Remus was half way through a shrug when he stopped, looking back at Katherine, now getting to her feet, nursing a bruised elbow. She didn't see him - she was looking up at the castle, a pensive expression on her face...
"It's a decoy," he said suddenly, grabbing Tonks' wrist. "Is anyone patrolling the castle?"
"A couple of people, but most wanted to help here," replied Tonks, her dark eyes widening in horror. "But surely the Death Eaters wouldn't leave if they wanted to-?"
"Maybe it's not the castle they're after," cut in Remus, looking worried. "Maybe it's something inside." He glanced back at Katherine and their eyes met for a second. She shot him a small smile then turned on her heel and ran into the safety of the trees where the Aurors' curses couldn't find her. "How did McGonagall know there was going to be an attack tonight?"
"She said Dumbledore's portrait mentioned it was You-Know-Who's birthday and he might try something," said Tonks, standing up and brushing herself off.
"I wouldn't think Voldemort is the type to celebrate birthdays," said Remus, trying to ignore the nagging feeling that something was wrong. "Or the type to leave it to his Death Eaters to take Hogwarts without him."
"We better check the castle," said Tonks, already turning to look for helpers.
"Yes-" Remus stopped, looking back at the place Katherine had disappeared. The trees. She'd gone into the Forest. The Forest – where even Hagrid didn't dare go anymore...
"Remus?" Tonks' shout followed him as he headed for the trees but he didn't stop. Skilled Katherine may be, but there was only so much one wand could do against an entire herd of angry centaurs...
"That's not very friendly."
"It's not meant to be, human."
Katherine eyed the spear pointed at her neck warily.
"I thought you were meant to be noble," she said, meeting the gaze of the chestnut coloured centaur at the other end of the offending weapon. "Fair fighting and all that."
"And you are meant to respect our laws, human, yet here you are, trespassing," replied the centaur, jabbing his spear slightly so that Katherine took a step back.
"This is Hogwarts land, not yours," retorted Katherine, scowling at him. "Honestly, I never thought centaurs of all species would be cowards."
"Well you're outnumbering me by about twenty to one," she pointed out, gesturing at the figures grouped around her. "And from what I hear, you're also refusing to fight in the war."
"It is not our war." The centaur's voice was low and there was a barely concealed tremor of anger running through it.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"You think the Dark Lord's going to stop at muggles?" she asked, blue eyes gazing mockingly at him. "It'll be unworthy magical creatures next – the goblins and the elves. How long before it's you? You should read Niemöller's poem. Very appropriate, I'd say."
"We do not take advice from wizards."
"He wasn't a wizard – he was a muggle."
"That is hardly better."
"Alioth!" The hail made the centaur raise his gaze and look behind Katherine. "We found another one."
A man was thrust into the circle of centaurs, the force of the shove making him stumble and fall to his knees on the soft undergrowth. Katherine stared at him in surprise, barely noticing the renewed movement among the centaurs.
"Remus? What are you doing here?"
"Trying to stop you getting into trouble," replied Remus, accepting the offer of her hand in getting to his feet. "I see that I failed."
"Yeah well, you know me," said Katherine softly, smiling wanly.
"Yes," said Remus, with a slight smile of his own, because even though they were lost in the middle of the Forbidden Forest surrounded by angry centaurs, they were together and the smile on her face told him that nothing had changed between them. "I do."
"I'm sorry." Remus blinked, staring at her.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have run out on you – I was just hurt and angry and I didn't give you a chance to-"
"You're saying sorry?" The incredulity in his voice made Katherine grin.
"Is that so very odd?"
"Yes," said Remus firmly, gazing at her. "You never admit you're wrong. Ever."
"Admit? Are you implying that usually I am wrong and just don't-"
"You will cease talking." The deep voice made both of them look around and gaze at the speaker. It was a big, black centaur with wild hair and muscles that gleamed in the starlight. "We meet again, Miss Riddle."
Remus glanced uncertainly at Katherine who was frowning at the centaur, trying to put a name to the face.
"You know each other?" asked Remus quietly as the black centaur stepped forward, spear held upright in his hand.
"Sort of," muttered Katherine, eyeing the spear with not undue uneasiness. Still, at least he wasn't pointing it at them. Yet.
"What are you doing in our Forest?"
Katherine was about to reply with a caustic remark on the dubious ownership of said forest, but Remus caught her expression and gave her a pointed nudge, shaking his head very slightly. Katherine sighed and looked back at Bane, shrugging off her irritation.
"Running away from Aurors, if you must know. 'Least I was - Remus was trying to stop me."
"Running from the Aurors or entering the Forest?" questioned Bane, turning his dark gaze on Remus.
"The latter, I hope."
"What does it matter why she is here?" asked a fawn coloured centaur, stamping his hooves restlessly. "She is still here."
"She does not live at the castle," said Bane in a quiet voice that nevertheless carried in the still clearing. "She may not have been aware of the new...agreement."
"Agreement? Is that what you're calling it?" asked Katherine, as beside her Remus rolled his eyes and gave her a pleading look.
"Katherine, are you determined to get us killed?"
The centaurs, however, were not taking much notice of them; they appeared to be having some sort of hushed argument.
"D'you think we could run for it?" asked Katherine, trying to make out what they were saying.
"No." Remus' voice was tired and she looked around in time to see him drag a weary hand over his face.
"Sorry," she said again, grimacing.
"That's the fourth time you've said that," remarked Remus, giving her a hopeless look. "Stop it. You're making me nervous."
"Because I'm apologising?"
"Yes - you don't usually do it."
"Just another thing that's different about me, huh?" Her voice was light, but the expression that accompanied it was serious. "What did you mean, Remus? When you said I'd changed?"
"Oh I don't know, just that-"
Remus' reply was cut off as a spear was launched at them and Katherine shoved him aside before dropping to the floor herself. The spear flew over her head and stuck fast in a tree, but she barely noticed. Next to her, Remus was sitting up, eyes drawn as hers were to the fight being played out before them.
"They're trespassing, Bane. You cannot exonerate them on a mere technicality!"
"We banned humans, Alioth - she's not-" snarled Bane, but the other centaur cut across him.
"You are merely making excuses for a friend."
"Centaurs are not friends with witches," hissed Bane, jabbing his spear forward threateningly. Alioth, Katherine noted, had no weapon. She glanced behind her at the spear still quivering in the tree; maybe it hadn't been meant for them, after all. "But you must not harm her."
Alioth glared at him, fists clenching and unclenching, clearly seething but unable to do anything without a weapon. "And does this protective streak extend to the man?"
"Remus isn't human," said Katherine loudly, and Remus stared at her in bewilderment. "He's not," repeated Katherine, as all eyes turned on her. "He's a werewolf. You look up the charter at the Ministry - werewolves are not humans, they're magical beasts. Dangerous magical beasts."
"Only at full moon," growled Alioth, eyeing Remus with distaste.
"All of the time, actually," retorted Remus mildly, gazing up at the centaur. He had no idea if this was going to work, but it had to be worth a try. "The new legislation is very explicit on that point."
"What do we care for wizard laws?"
"We're not talking about wizard laws, we're talking about your honour," snapped Katherine, blue eyes blazing. "You never warned werewolves against coming here – let Remus go."
Bane shot her a dark look, warning her against speaking further but Katherine only glared at him, folding her arms defiantly. Bane turned back to Alioth, saying something urgent in a low voice. Remus sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly and wondering why it was that whenever Katherine appeared he seemed to end up nearly dying.
"Don't worry. We'll be fine." He looked up to see Katherine smiling softly at him. "If they try anything I'll fight them off."
"Yeah. I'm just trying out that whole peaceful negotiation thing you always go on about."
Remus treated her a dubious look, not entirely sure that arguing with and antagonising your captor came under the heading of peaceful negotiation, but let it slide. This was Katherine after all, and this was about as peaceful as she ever got.
"You will never come here again." The deep voice brought Remus out of his thoughts and looking up he saw Bane standing over them, gazing down at Katherine with an odd expression on his face.
"Probably not, considering the welcome we got," muttered Katherine, pulling herself to her feet. Even standing she had to tilt her head back slightly to look into Bane's eyes.
"It was not a request," said the centaur in a flat voice. "Leave."
Katherine glanced down at Remus, one eyebrow raised questioningly. In answer he lifted a hand and she took it, pulling him up. If it had just been her, Remus thought she might have argued but as it was she just smiled wanly and looked back at Bane.
"Which way to the castle?"
Bane pointed. "That way. Keep Orion behind you."
"And don't look back?"
Remus caught the challenging note in his friend's voice and tugged at her arm. "Come on."
Katherine resisted for a second, then let him pull her away. The circle of centaurs parted to let them through, and they didn't speak again until they were a long way from the accusing stares and spear points. It was only then that Remus dared to ask the question that had been niggling him for a while.
"What did he mean?"
Katherine looked up, Remus' hushed voice jolting her out of her reverie.
"Who?" Her blue eyes were dark in the soft starlight filtering in though the trees but she seemed genuine enough in her question; she really didn't know what he was referring to.
"Bane – when he was arguing with that other centaur, Alioth, or whatever his name was, he said you weren't..." Remus trailed off under her watchful stare. "What did he mean?"
"He didn't mean anything. Like Alioth said, he was just making excuses – he used to live in that forest behind our houses and we're on friendly-ish terms," she replied, but Remus was shaking his head. He stopped walking, finding her gaze in the semi-darkness.
"When a centaur says you're not human-"
"That wasn't what he said."
"As good as."
Katherine pursed her lips, looking very much as though she did not want to be having this conversation. "Centaurs can make things up, Remus-"
"He wasn't lying," Remus cut across her protest and studied her with shrewd brown eyes. "He was being serious. Do you know what he meant?" Before she could reply he held up a hand to stem any quick responses. "I'm not going to pretend I can tell when you're lying anymore, so I'm just going to ask you to be honest and trust that you'll tell me the truth. Do you have even the slightest idea as to what he was going on about?"
The shadows cast by the trees made it hard to see the expression on his friend's face, and when she spoke he thought it sounded a little forced.
"I'm as human as you are, Rem, and that means you, not Moony. Everyone knows centaurs talk rubbish."
Remus had half a mind to point out that everyone knew werewolves were liars, too, and that didn't make it true, but he stopped himself. She hadn't answered his question which meant that she very probably did know what Bane had been talking about, and further more, that if he pushed the matter she would lie.
Even so, as they made their quiet way back through the Forest to the distant castle, he couldn't help wondering what it all meant. Casting a sideways glance at the serene, resolute woman beside him, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was human. She was Katherine, the girl he'd grown up with and shared secrets with, Katherine, who'd fallen for one of his best mates and made him a better person for it, Katherine who was loyal and clever and stubborn as hell and who still, after all these years, had the capability to surprise him...
She was a human as they came and yet...Bane hadn't been lying. Was Katherine? Or was he just making something out of nothing as she seemed to think. But then...
'That wasn't what he said...'
How did she know that wasn't what Bane was going to say? Unless she knew he was talking about something else...?
If Katherine noticed his eyes on her, she didn't show it. She was treading softly through the trees with the unconscious skill of one who learnt long ago how to move in silence, her wand ready in her hand, all senses on high alert for any sign of an attack.
She glanced up, partly to check they were still on track, partly so she wouldn't have to look at Remus, but what she saw made her draw her breath in sharply.
"What?" Remus followed her gaze and saw, high above the canopy of trees, something red glowing in the sky. "Is that-? Katherine?"
But Katherine was already away, long legs striding over the uneven ground and Remus had to run full pelt to catch up with her, suddenly realising why she'd chosen to wear trousers rather than robes tonight – they were much easier to run in and had the added advantage that they didn't keep getting caught on brambles and stray tree branches.
As they ran the trees began to thin out and then they were suddenly in the open air, and he could see people dotted around the grounds in the eerie red light shed by the symbol in the sky. In front of him, Katherine had stopped, though she didn't seem to be at all out of breath; she was scanning the grounds and when her gaze turned on the yellow glow spilling out from the open front doors of the castle, she seemed to find what she was looking for.
Almost bent double with exhaustion, Remus squinted in the direction of the castle and saw a small group of people struggling with someone who was shouting something he was too far away to make out.
"Katherine, what-?" he began, but she wasn't listening. A few seconds later she was bounding up the grounds again, but instead of two legs, she now had four.
Remus barely had time to tear his eyes away from the large black animal heading towards the group before something warm and very solid flung its arms around his neck.
"Hello Tonks," he said softly as she drew back, staring up at him with relief and anger competing for precedence in her dark eyes.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" she demanded, poking him forcefully in the chest as his eyes found the group by the castle again. The black panther had reached them and, judging from the startled yells that carried back to him on the still night air, had overpowered them. It wasn't their fault really – nothing on the Auror training course could quite prepare you for being attacked by an 82lb panther in the middle of Scotland.
"What's going on?" he asked softly, as there was a flash of orange sparks and a triumphant laugh that didn't sound at all like his old friend.
"We caught my dear Auntie Bellatrix," answered Tonks, stepping back and looking around. She'd obviously heard the laugh too, and he saw her eyes widen at the sight of the scattered Aurors. "No..." She breathed the word in horror as two shapes broke away from the group of Aurors and started heading for the still open gates. "No, she can't-" She made to run after them but Remus darted in front of her, catching her wrist in his hand.
"Don't Tonks. She'll kill you if you get in her way," he said firmly, not entirely sure himself that he only meant Bellatrix.
"But we can't just let her get away," exclaimed Tonks, trying to pull out of his grip.
"I'm not letting you get yourself killed."
"Remus, I'm at risk every day. Why is this any diff-?" She stopped, gaze snapping back to the retreating figures. "It's her, isn't it? The other one? It's Katherine?"
"Yes," said Remus softly, releasing Tonks at last and dragging a troubled hand through his hair.
"She's helping Bella escape? When Bella killed Sirius?" demanded Tonks, looking outraged. Remus shrugged helplessly, not understanding it himself. Katherine hated Bella, loathed her, even. So why on earth had she aided her escape?
"Maybe she wants to kill her on her own terms," he said morosely. "I don't know. I try not understand how her head works." He looked up at the sky to avoid Tonks gaze and found himself staring at the red glow that still hung sinisterly in the sky. He heard Tonks sigh softly and a moment later, she leant against him, resting her head on his shoulder. He slipped an arm around her waist and looked down at her; she too, had been inspecting the sign in the sky.
"What is it?" she asked, face screwed up in dislike.
"I don't know," said Remus softly. "But it's not nice, is it?"
Tonks' dark eyes moved to study his face. "You feel it too?"
"It's like the Dark Mark," he said, glancing back up at it. "There's something just not right about it, some aura... She never did tell me what it meant."
Tonks moved in his arms and he felt her inquiring gaze searching his upturned face.
"You've seen it before?" she asked and he nodded, sighing tiredly.
"Years ago. It was scrawled in the corner of a few textbooks Katherine leant me and she had it drawn on her hand a couple of times – oh it's not like the Dark Mark," he said hastily, catching Tonks' expression. "She just drew it in pen."
"Like a symbol or something?" asked Tonks, and he shrugged.
"I suppose so, but it's not anything known. I took Ancient Runes at school and I've never seen anything like it. I think she invented it."
"Then it might not mean anything," pointed out Tonks, but Remus only smiled wryly.
"If Katherine does something, it rarely means nothing." He traced the symbol in the sky with his finger. "I've always thought it looked a bit like a pair of eyes with a cross through them."
Tonks looked dubiously at the sign. "Looks like a half peeled banana to me." Remus stared at her for a second, then started to laugh. "What? It looks more like a banana than a pair of eyes," said Tonks, sounding a little put out.
"You're looking at it upside down," said Remus, still grinning and gesturing at the sign. "From where Bellatrix cast it, it's the right way up."
A burst of light shot up from the ground near the castle doors, and the red glow vanished, leaving the night sky clear once more.
"I'd better go report in," said Tonks softly, giving him a quick hug.
"I'll see you later, then."
"You bet you will – and then you're going to tell me everything that happened after you suddenly went mental and decided to voluntarily run into the Forest," grinned Tonks, kissing him on the cheek and heading off to join the rest of the Aurors. Remus sighed; he'd been half hoping she'd forgotten about that.
The open gates of the school drew his attention once more and he thought of Katherine, fleeing the grounds with Bellatrix in tow. Why had she done it? Just another question to add to the ever lengthening list he was compiling. One day he was going to shut her in a room, force feed her verita serum and get some answers. He sighed again, running a scarred hand through his greying hair once more. One day.
"I suppose I should say thanks."
"I wouldn't bother. Did you find Trelawney?"
"No – a portrait spotted me halfway up the stairs; some stubby knight with a fat pony. Made so much noise the Aurors came looking." There was a pause, then Bella looked carefully at her old acquaintance. "They were waiting for us."
"They were ready for us," corrected Katherine, frowning a little. "There's a difference."
"Why would they be waiting unless someone told them we were coming?"
"Maybe Dumbledore said it was the Dark Lord's birthday."
"Dumbledore's dead, Katherine."
"He was a headmaster of Hogwarts," said Katherine, with deliberate slowness. "He's got a portrait." She leant against the wall of alley they'd apparated into and rubbed a tired hand over her face. "Still, it could be worse."
"How, exactly?" asked Bellatrix, arching her eyebrows in disdain. "We don't have the Prophecy, security at the castle will, in all likelihood, increase tenfold now we've made an attack and Alexandra McKenzie is dead, so do please enlighten me as to how it could be worse."
"You could be dead," pointed out Katherine, a dark look in eyes that were hard to make out in the shadows. "Or caught. Or we could have captured Trelawney, hauled her off to our lord and master and discovered that she couldn't tell us anything anyway." The bitter anger in her voice was unmistakable now. "It was a stupid idea."
"And how else are we supposed to find the Prophecy?" hissed Bella, glaring at her.
"There are plenty of ways of finding it," said Katherine levelly. "Of course we wouldn't be having this problem if the Dark Lord had just gone into the DoM and taken it himself in the first place. But no, that would have been sensible-"
"You dare to insult him-"
"I've been insulting him for years, Trix, and put that away," she added, gesturing to the wand Bella was pointing at her heart. "I just saved your skin."
"Only because you had to," scowled Bella, but she lowered her wand with a slight reluctance.
"And don't you forget it," snarled back Katherine. "Maybe next time I won't be so honourable."
"You've got no choice," said Bella, a smirk that bordered on smug planted on her face.
"No?" The innocuous note of the question and the very slight raise of the eyebrows made Bella hesitate, but only for a second.
"You're honour bound, Riddle. We all are."
"Ah yes," said Katherine softly, and Bella was suddenly anxious for light. She couldn't see much of her companion's face in the darkness of the alley and it was making her nervous. "'Til death do our bonds sever. Tell me, Trix. Did any of us die recently?"
"That was a trick, Riddle. You were only pretending," said Bella, though a trace of uncertainty lingered in her voice.
"Damn good trick," murmured Katherine, her gleaming eyes the only part of her that Bella could make out clearly. "Fooled a lot of people, didn't it? Most of the world, in fact. You know, some people might take that as a sign that it actually happened, but that would just be ridiculous, right? I mean, it's practically impossible." She grinned, white teeth just visible in the gloom. "Practically."
The two woman watched each other in silence for a long moment, Bellatrix disturbed but trying not to show it, Katherine gazing serenely at her, blue eyes seeming almost black in the murky alley.
Then the younger woman grinned again, looking up at stars shining in the cloudless sky.
"Hey look, you can actually see Canis Major for once. Wonder if he can see us."
Bellatrix narrowed her eyes but said nothing, and Katherine glanced back at her again with a smile that didn't reach her eyes.
"Happy new year, Trix." She pulled out her wand and twirled it deftly between her fingers, eyes glinting darkly.
"Oh yes, it's been fantastic start to the year, hasn't it?" said Bella sarcastically, scowling at her, but Katherine only grinned.
"Well you know what they say, Trix - start as you mean to go on."
Feedback be the food of updates, and there's a cookie for anyone who works out what this chapter title means. (And extra chocolate chips if anyone can tell me if the verbs in the right tense, 'cause I kinda guessed that bit... )
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Right, I think it's time for Harry again, since this is a HP fanfic and he's been noticeably absent for a good six chapters or so.
I like this chapter.
Chapter 51 – Calvaria House
Harry walked quietly along the wooden paneled corridor, careful to keep the cloak in place. Ron and Hermione were keeping watch outside - Hermione just outside the main gates and Ron hidden in the shadows by the door, concealed with a Disillusionment charm.
They'd found this place a few weeks ago and if their source was right, it was a notorious Death Eater hide out. The snake head on the knocker certainly added to the veracity of the information, as did the name: Calvaria House. According to Hermione, Calvaria meant skull, and since Hermione was rarely wrong, he was inclined to believe her. In truth, he didn't really believe Voldemort kept Nagini here, but it was now the beginning of February and a place to start looking was the most important thing right now.
He turned a corner and saw light spilling out from a doorway; there was someone here. Cautiously, very conscious of the fact that the cloak didn't quite reach to the floor, he crept forwards and peered into the room.
It was painted a pale sky blue, contrasting violently with the dark mahogany of the corridors and the light came from a mass of twisting silvery threads that hung in the air over a desk. They seemed familiar somehow, but he couldn't quite place why. He was not allowed to dwell on this thought for long, however, because there was a movement behind the desk and he found a pair of eyes, that he had absolutely no problem remembering, watching him.
"Whoever you are, if you don't show yourself within the next three seconds you'll be spending the next year in Saint Mungos," said the figure, fingers curling around her wand. Harry abruptly pulled off the cloak and Katherine's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question," retorted Harry, stepping into the room and frowning at her. Katherine looked at him for a moment, leaning back in her chair, and a vaguely amused expression crossed her face.
"Yes," she said slowly, slightly narrowed eyes glinting sardonically. "A Death Eater hanging around in a Death Eater hide out. I can see where you're having problems with that one."
Harry glared at her, but she only grinned.
"I was thinking, if you must know," she sighed, and when Harry gave her a confused look she gestured to the twining threads of silver before her.
"They're memories?" asked Harry, realising. "But they're not in a pensieve."
"They are, actually," said Katherine nonchalantly. She smiled faintly and waved a hand around at the room. "This whole room is a pensieve. Little experiment of mine – working in the DoM gets you thinking about things like that. Works surprisingly well."
"The DoM?" asked Harry blankly, looking dubiously at the walls. Could you really turn a room into a pensieve? What about the symbols she'd said you needed… "That how you knew how to make a pensieve?" he said suddenly, looking directly at her. "Back at that house? You said you knew the spells and stuff? Because you'd already made this?"
"Very good," grinned Katherine, giving him an approving look. "You're getting better at this. And the DoM is the Department of Mysteries." Her smile turned a little wistful and she gazed at the churning mass of silver. "The great mysteries of life."
"What?" Katherine looked up, arching an eyebrow.
"You never wondered where it got its name?" She rolled her eyes, and Harry was suddenly realised that this was a new side to her he was seeing. Not talking-to-Remus Katherine or hunting-horcruxes Katherine – this was Katherine in her own environment, talking about her old job, in complete safety. This was probably as close to the real Katherine as he was ever going to get and right now she was watching him with a shrewd expression on her face. "What are you staring at?"
"Nothing," he said quickly. "What were you saying about the name?"
She looked at him for a few more seconds in meditative silence and he knew she was trying to work out what he'd been thinking, but then she shrugged, shoulders relaxing once more.
"Department of Mysteries – there's the basic ones like life, death, time and space. Then there's prophecy, but of course you knew about that one all ready, love and hate. Entire wings dedicated to the human brain and thought processes." She leant further back in her chair, now considering the ceiling with an apparent air of thoughtfulness. "The supernatural and the mundane – now that's an interesting department – load of whackjobs those guys, I swear, and there's someone coming up the stairs so I'd best put that cloak back on if I were you." Her gaze flicked back to him as he stared at her and she raised one eyebrow questioningly. "Well? I wasn't joking."
Harry hurriedly pulled the cloak over him as footsteps sounded in the corridor outside, and retreated to the corner of the room. A moment later a man with thick curly hair and a fair amount of stubble strode into the room, wand outstretched.
Harry saw Katherine glance up, looking for all the world as if she'd only just noticed the man's arrival.
"Mulciber? Can I help you?"
"Riddle?" The man lowered his wand, though his face still held a suspicious look. "I didn't know you were here."
Katherine's innocuous smile put Harry on edge and it wasn't even directed at him.
"Why on earth would you suppose you'd know I was here, Jack?"
Mulciber wisely decided not to try and answer this question and went on the defensive instead.
"Thought there was an intruder, that's all. Can't have just anyone lurking around, can we?"
"No," said Katherine calmly, turning her attention away from her companion and back to the memories still drifting in front of her. "Well if I see any intruders, Jack, I shall be sure to inform you, though I very much doubt there can be any, given the protection that's been set up. Even Snape can't break a Fidelus charm and he can do just about anything, so what chance do outsiders have?"
"Snape already knows about this place," said Jack, frowning a little. Katherine sighed very quietly and let her gaze find his.
"I was merely illustrating a point. No outsiders can get in, Jack. They do not have the means or expertise."
"That why you're here?" asked Jack, leaning against the door jamb and eyeing the silvery memories with unguarded interest.
"The idea was to get a bit of peace and quiet, yes," said Katherine in a level voice, though Harry could hear the meaning behind it. Either Jack Mulciber could not, or he chose to ignore it.
"Heard what you and Snape did."
Katherine's gaze sharpened considerably at this new topic and Harry wondered if it was because she knew he was there.
"Alex?" she asked quietly, and Jack nodded. "How is James?"
"Better now he's got some closure, I reckon. Carr's on the warpath, though – hell bent on giving you two an earful. Thinks you should've waited for instructions or something."
"Not broken into the Ministry and nicked a body out of their morgue, then?" supplied Katherine, a faint smile playing across her lips. "Too risky, perhaps."
"Just a bit."
"We didn't get caught."
"You could have done."
"And then what? Azkaban? I broke out before, Jack, I could do it again," said Katherine easily, shrugging.
"The Aurors have instructions to kill you two on sight," said Jack, a touch of something like admiration in his voice. "After the Dark Lord, you're public enemies two and three."
"Oh I don't know – Bella would be most put out if she wasn't ranked higher than me."
"She hasn't led the Aurors on quite as merry a dance as you have," said Jack, with a slight grin. "I reckon they'd much prefer to bring you down. 'Specially that grey haired loon."
"If you're referring to Alastor, he isn't quite as mental as everyone makes out. After all, it's not paranoia if everyone really is out to get you." She smiled, and poked the writhing memories with her wand. Abruptly the silver cleared, forming what looked like a roughly circular window in the air.
Harry stared into it and saw a room and a man that he'd seen so many times before: it was Dumbledore's office and sitting behind a desk was Dumbledore himself, though with less grey hair than he'd had when Harry had known him. He was saying something, but there was no sound – either Katherine had silenced it, or you could only hear when you were inside the actual memory.
As Harry watched, Dumbledore stopped speaking and a girl stood up, a girl with long black hair and a fringe that fell into bright blue eyes: it was Katherine, though she looked younger than Harry had ever seen her. She must have been sitting in one of the chairs before his desk, which Harry had failed to notice, being far too intent on his old headmaster to pay attention, and from the looks of things she was far from happy. Even without the sound, he could tell what she'd just said.
By the door, Jack Mulciber laughed, bringing Harry sharply back to the present.
"That's a rather colourful vocabulary you have, Riddle," he said, grinning at Katherine. "How old were you?"
"Sixteen," answered Katherine, a wry smile on her face. The teenage Katherine in the memory had just stormed out of the office and Harry as watched the scene flickered black for a moment before fading to silver. Mulciber, however, hadn't noticed; he was still smirking at Katherine, saying something malicious about Dumbledore.
Harry stared at Katherine as she exchanged a few final words with Mulciber and he left. Only when he heard the front door close downstairs did Harry remove the cloak; Katherine was staring idly at the silver surface before her and didn't make any move to restart their conversation.
"You modified that," said Harry, after he'd stood in silence for a good two minutes. Blue eyes fixed on his face and Katherine smiled lazily, though there was an air of melancholy about it.
"What makes you think that?"
"I've seen one before," said Harry, thinking back to Slughorn's incomplete account of his conversation with a young Tom Riddle. "That flicker of black at the end – you hid something."
Katherine sighed again, rubbing her jaw thoughtfully and gazing back at the silver threads. "That would be the part where Remus runs after me."
"Remus?" asked Harry, confused. He hadn't seen Remus in the office, but then…there had been two chairs in front of the desk. Had there been someone in the other one?
"Jack's not the sharpest knife in the rack," said Katherine softly, prodding the memories again. "He doesn't see things he doesn't expect to be there." The memories shifted again and Harry saw the office once more, with Dumbledore behind the desk, only this time he could hear what he was saying.
"…has he asked you to join anything?"
The sixteen year old Katherine slumped in a chair in front of him was frowning, blue eyes narrowed dubiously and looking very much as though she didn't want to be there. Then Harry heard Remus' voice, sounding younger than it did now, but recognisable nevertheless.
"Tell him, Kat."
But Katherine didn't appear to share her friend's opinion; she was watching her headmaster with a look of growing suspicion and dislike and Harry heard her say quietly:
"You already knew."
In the chair beside her, Remus leant forward, and Harry saw his sandy blond hair fall into his eyes as he frowned at her, but Katherine had eyes only for Dumbledore.
"You knew and you didn't tell me?"
"I confess I had my suspicions, but I couldn't be sure-"
"Like hell, you couldn't."
The teenage Katherine had got to her feet and this time there was absolutely no mistaking what she called Dumbledore and Harry heard Remus' sharp intake of breath as his friend almost fled the office, wrenching the door open so hard, Harry was surprised it wasn't pulled off the hinges.
This time there was no flash of blackness and Harry was allowed to see what happened next, to hear Remus' hasty apology to Dumbledore and see him run from the room and down the spiral stairs, to catch up with his friend in the corridor below.
"What did you do that for? Come back, he can still help-"
"You heard him, Remus."
Even from where Harry was standing, he could see the fury and hurt on the young Katherine's face.
"He knew about Tom – he's probably known for ages."
"So? So why didn't he tell me?"
"Would you have wanted to know?"
"I'd have preferred it to come from him – least then I might have been prepared when Tom finally did show up."
"What difference would it have made?"
"What difference? Maybe the difference between me being a stupid naïve little girl and a stupid but informed, little girl. Maybe the difference between having a normal life and having this bloody thing tattooed on my arm."
She was pulling up her sleeve now, and Harry saw the black skull and snake emblazoned there, saw Remus' uncomfortable wince and Katherine's sulky glare.
"Come back upstairs, Kat, we can still sort this out-"
"No we can't. It's too late, Rem."
"It's not – he can help. He got me into Hogwarts, he can-"
"He can't work miracles, Remus. He's not that good."
Harry saw a look of disgust cross her face and she tossed long black hair over her shoulder, looking Remus straight in the eye.
"I wouldn't go back in there if you gave me all the gold in Gringotts and believe me, that's a lot of gold if Dad's vault is anything to go by."
"You don't need his money-"
"No, I don't. And I don't want it either, but you know what I want even less? To be lectured by that old fool up there."
"He's not a fool-"
"I don't care, Remus! You're welcome to think of him as the greatest man that ever lived, but I'm not going anywhere near him!"
"You'd rather be around your loving father then?"
"At least he doesn't lie to me."
"No, he just makes you join his stupid cult and-"
"He didn't make me, I chose to."
"You don't know what you're doing at the moment, Kat. You're not being rational."
"You'd rather I was like your idol? He's rational, isn't he? Messing about with people's lives like this is some giant chess game and if you can only control their moves, you can win-"
Katherine stopped abruptly, and a moment later Harry realised why. Dumbledore was standing behind Remus at the foot of the stairs. The three of them stood motionless for a moment, the hatred on Katherine's face very nearly palpable, and then she was gone, striding away down the corridor and this time Remus wasn't running after her.
Harry stared silently as the memory faded back to silver again and then looked at Katherine. She wasn't watching him, just gazing absently at the wand she still held in her hands.
"So that's why you don't like Dumbledore," said Harry eventually, when his voice had finally returned to him. "Because he didn't tell you Voldemort was your father?"
"Pretty much." Katherine glanced up at him, a vaguely sardonic look on her face. "Seems a little childish when it's put like that, but yeah. I blamed him for everything that went wrong."
"Blamed?" questioned Harry, noting the use of the past tense.
"Well, blame, I suppose," shrugged Katherine tiredly. "Still think he should have told me, but, well, maybe I've just stopped caring. No point dwelling on the past, is there? This is my life, and I'm stuck with it. Maybe things would have been different, maybe I'd have been killed as soon as Tom found me if I'd been told who he really was, who knows? My life's not so bad – I'm still here, and so are a lot of people I care about. Things could be worse."
Harry couldn't think of anything to say to that, so he settled for another question instead.
"Why did you show it to Mulciber?"
Katherine smiled slightly, gazing at the ceiling again. "Because he's friendly with Bella – and when I say friendly, I mean that he'll happily pass on any information that comes across his path if it gets him in her good books – and if he thought I was hiding something, you can be sure as hell Trix'd be down here in a flash, demanding to know what I was up to." She flashed him a grin. "I thought we could rather do without that complication."
"And then you showed me because…?"
"You'd have asked," she shrugged.
"There's more than one memory there," said Harry, a thoughtful look on his face. Katherine narrowed her eyes slightly, watching him.
"Why'd you show that one?"
"It was the least incriminating," said Katherine, though she was still studying him carefully. "Everyone knows I didn't like Dumbledore and all Jack saw was me yelling at him; it wouldn't occur to someone like Jack to ask what it was about – he probably thinks I did it on a regular basis."
Katherine gave him a stern look. "It wouldn't occur to him to ask that, either." There was a pause in which Harry continued to gaze questioningly at her, then she rolled her eyes. "Only when he started on about Tom again, and I didn't really yell, I was just…" She hesitated, searching for the right word. "Impolite. What are you doing here, anyway? I meant what I said about the Fidelus charm – you've got an inside man, haven't you?"
"Even if we had, I wouldn't tell you," said Harry firmly, but Katherine smirked knowingly.
"No need, I can guess, but let's not mention names – it only complicates things."
"Yes, like Snape."
Katherine looked mildly confused, though Harry was pretty sure it wasn't sincere. "Severus complicates things? Well that's true, I suppose, but only if you spend a lot of time around him."
"That wasn't what I meant," said Harry firmly and Katherine smiled sourly. "Mulciber mentioned him – what was he talking about? You and Snape stole a body?"
Katherine was quiet for a moment, considering, then she sighed heavily and shrugged. "Oh, what the hell – it'll be in the papers anyway, unless the Ministry hush it up. They were holding the body of Alexandra McKenzie. They've had it at least a month now, and James was in a right state – she was his twin sister, see, and she deserved a proper burial, so we decided to do something about it."
"So you broke into the Ministry and stole it back? You and Snape?"
"Me and Severus, yes. Couldn't very well ask Avery or someone, could I? He works at the Ministry – don't want him losing his job, and I'm supposed to be feuding with him at any rate."
"Feuding?" Katherine waved a hand carelessly.
"Long story – trust me, you don't want to know. Oh hell, he's not back again is he?" Harry frowned at this remark, but then realised he too could hear footsteps echoing up from somewhere in the house.
"Bellatrix?" he asked quietly, but Katherine shook her head.
"No, believe me, if it was Bella, you wouldn't hear her coming. Sounds like a couple of people, actually…"
And then Harry realised. "Ron and Hermione – I've been gone ages, they're probably wondering where I got to."
"So they decided to come looking?" asked Katherine, giving him a vaguely amused look. "Oh that is so very…Gryffindor. If they were Slytherins, they'd have done the sensible thing and run off while they had the chance."
"You didn't leave Alexandra McKenzie," said Harry quietly, and Katherine gave him a long look.
"It just is."
Harry heard the stairs creak as someone climbed them, and heard the telltale muffled whispers that indicated people trying not to be heard.
"Tacipede is a good charm for silencing footsteps," said Katherine after a pause, still watching him with a shrewd expression on her face, sapphire eyes boring into his. "You and your friends better head home – Jack'll be back in a minute."
"He's the…caretaker, shall we say, of this house. If someone without a Mark crosses the threshold he knows about it."
"But if I set it off, why'd he think you were the only one here?"
Katherine smiled darkly. "Because you don't question me if you want to continue life with all your limbs in tact. Besides, I'm notorious for using unconventional methods of entry and he probably thought I'd done something that interfered with the wards. Now go on, off with you - it's not here, trust me."
Harry looked sharply at her, but she'd turned back her memories and he knew he shouldn't really be surprised that she'd guessed the reason for his presence. He was about to leave when she spoke again, in an almost offhand sort of voice:
"You might want to look up the works of JH Raine." Harry glanced back to meet the familiar sapphire gaze. "Just an idea," said Katherine softly, smiling faintly. "And Raine's got an 'e' on the end."
"Thanks," he said quietly, giving her a careful look.
"Don't mention it. Oh and tell your friend to make sure he knows what he's doing. Treachery isn't exactly the wisest career path."
"Snape chose it," said Harry, scowling at little. Katherine smiled faintly, an amused gleam in her eyes.
"Yes, he did, but he can stick with his decisions." Harry frowned at her, but she only grinned and waved a hand at him. "Go on – I'll deal with Jack."
Harry lingered in the doorway for a moment longer, then left to find his friends. If Mulciber really was coming back they didn't have much time, and Nagini wasn't here – he trusted Katherine on that, at least - he just wasn't sure if he should believe anything else she said.
Feedback is always welcome.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: An update was requested, and since I got quite a bit of feedback for the last chapter, here's a new post (with a tiny bit of Regulus, since I miss writing him...)
This chapter owes it's inspiration to the Deathly Hallows. I know I said I wasn't altering anything in the story, and rest assured all major plot lines are still unchanged, but this is really just filler and probably would have happened anyway, though at a different time. If you haven't read book seven yet, it doesn't actually give anything anyway, and the event in question occurs in chapter one, but I thought I'd put in a warning just in case.
There aren't any other foreseeable Deathly Hallows adjustments, though I think the people who killed characters I liked may meet rather messy ends in the final battle...
Chapter 52 – Thanks for the memories
"So, how long have you guys been…?" The smaller boy's voice trails off, dark brown eyes flickering nervously between them, ice pack held firmly in place on his left arm.
"Couple of months," shrugs the blond boy, cool brown eyes showing no emotion. Regulus nods and looks at her next, a kind of desperation his in expression, like if only he can keep talking, keep things normal, he can pretend his world hadn't just veered drastically off course. She considers his question, frowning a little because she's genuinely not quite sure.
"Since January or thereabouts," she says at last, smiling with a vaguely apologetic air. "It's a bit of a blur."
Regulus nods again, swallowing hard. "Does it stop-?"
"Hurting? After a bit, yeah," she assures, reaching for his arm and pulling the ice off it. "Let me see."
Regulus lets her examine his arm, trying not to look at the black tattoo that's emblazoned across it, but when she trails a finger across it, he suddenly pulls away, clutching at his stomach.
"I think I'm going to-"
The blond boy pulls a face as their younger companion makes a dash for the bathroom.
"Bit of a lightweight, isn't he?" he remarks, as the sound of retching reaches their ears. His expression is hard to make out in the dying flames of the fire, but the tone of his voice betrays his amusement. The common room's empty apart from them – everyone else went to bed hours ago, but they stayed awake to wait for the newest recruit's return.
"Give him a break - you didn't take it all that well if I remember correctly," she says calmly, giving him a slightly reproving look. "Right little wimp, weren't you?"
"I was not," he scowls, and she grins.
"Yeah you were. Robert Avery, smart aleck pureblood snob reduced to swooning by a bit of pain." She smiles slyly, meeting his gaze in the dim glow of the fire. "Remember what you said when I found you? 'You're not what I expected'?"
"Well you weren't," says Robert, shrugging carelessly. "How was I to know the quiet little muggleborn was a vicious miscreant? Talk about misleading first impressions." He sighs, giving her a rueful smile. "Quite the angelic demon, aren't you?"
She smiles, hearing the door of the boy's bathroom open again. "Quite."
Regulus rejoins them, black hair only serving to highlight the paleness of his face.
"All right?" she asks, watching him grip the back of the nearest chair and gaze fixedly into the fire.
"Really?" It's Robert who asks this time, and she smiles faintly, because at least he's cutting the kid some slack now.
Regulus frowns a little, tilting his head to one side, though his gaze doesn't leave the fire.
"No, not really. Don't feel sick anymore, though." He looks at them, attempting a grin, though his heart doesn't really seem to be in it. "Still, no doubt Mother and Father will be pleased."
She exchanges a look with Robert, suppressing a grin. Ever since Malfoy mentioned Regulus Black was going to join, they've been arguing over his motive. Robert had bet her a galleon that Black was joining for the sake of the Cause, whereas she'd been adamant it was purely out of duty to his family's name.
"Bet they'll be over the moon," Robert murmurs, a glimmer of sour amusement in his eyes because he knows she's not going to let him forget he lost the bet and is determined to try and bring her good mood down. "Don't reckon your parents were too thrilled, though, Kat."
She matches the sardonic gleam in his eyes and smiles with a deceptive sweetness that she knows he'll be able to see through. "Oh I don't know. Depends which set you're referring to."
Regulus frowns a little, not following their conservation. "Katherine?"
Now it's her turn to frown. That's not Regulus' voice.
"Katherine? Oi, wake up sleepy head."
Wake up? But she's already awake. Or maybe she dozed off in the common room – it is rather late after all. She blinks, rubbing her eyes as the room starts to blur at the edges-
"Kit, it's for you."
Katherine stared uncomprehendingly into dark green eyes for a second, then her mind readjusted itself. She wasn't at Hogwarts, she was in London, at home, and, from the dull ache in her back, had probably spent the night on the sofa.
She suppressed a sigh, pushing away the feeling of disappointment that threatened to fill her. She missed Hogwarts, missed Regulus – proof, if she'd needed any, that first impression were indeed deceiving. Who could have guessed that that scared fourteen year old boy would one day break through Lord Voldemort's enchantments and steal one of his most prized possessions?
Still, no use dwelling on the past – she and Robert had finished what he could not, and Potter would doubtless do the rest. He'd certainly lived up to his reputation thus far-
She suddenly realised that Ophelia's amused look was rapidly changing to worry, so she sat up, taking the white envelope from her hand and smiling apologetically.
"Sorry," she mumbled, running a hand through messy hair. "Not quite awake, yet. What am I doing on the sofa?"
"Don't know – we came home at about four this morning. I suppose you couldn't find the bed." Ophelia grinned, the expression making her look positively impish. "Remember much?"
Katherine thought about it, the memories coming back with some difficulty. Yesterday had been Valentine's Day and Nicola had come round, and then…
"There was alcohol."
"There was indeed," smiled Ophelia, with a mildly mournful expression, and Katherine remembered her resolution to stick to soft drinks all night. "Still, being sober has its advantages. Don't know where Nicola disappeared to."
"She'll be all right," said Katherine, smiling, a wicked glint in her eye. "She has a habit of leaving a string of broken hearts behind her."
"Never found anyone worth sticking around for?" asked Ophelia, sitting herself down in an armchair and grinning too. Katherine shrugged, slitting open the envelope and pulling out the card.
"Don't think she ever stuck around long enough to find out." She chuckled as she flipped the card open and scanned the contents.
"What is it?" asked Ophelia curiously.
"Late Valentine," said Katherine happily, tossing it over to her.
"'Dear R, as if I could,'" she read, then looked up at Katherine, utterly bewildered. "As he could what? Love you?"
Katherine laughed at that, shaking her head and reclining on the sofa once more. "No, nothing like that." She grinned as Ophelia eyed the card dubiously before setting it down on the table. "I sent him forget-me-nots," added Katherine, by way of explanation, gazing at the ceiling, an amused smile still playing round her lips.
Ophelia frowned, dark eyes searching Katherine's face. "Who's Alastor?"
"Hmm? Oh, he doesn't really use that name, does he? What's his nickname? Oh yes, Mad Eye. Mad Eye Moody."
There was a long pause, then Ophelia said slowly:
"You sent Mad Eye Moody flowers?"
"Well I don't think he's got any love interests," said Katherine, keeping her voice deliberately casual. "I thought he might be feeling a little left out."
"So you sent him flowers?" Ophelia's voice heightened in incredulity. Katherine raised her head, looking serenely at the younger woman.
"What's wrong with that?"
"Aside from the fact that he's an Auror? The Auror in charge of the search for you, no less."
Katherine waved a hand carelessly. "Alastor's all right."
Ophelia stared at her, clearly thinking she'd finally lost what few marbles she had left, but Katherine only smiled, shutting her eyes once more. She heard Ophelia sigh and get up, and a minute later there was the sound of water being poured into the kettle.
"Speaking of Aurors," called Ophelia's voice from the kitchen. "I saw Mary in Diagon Alley this morning-"
Katherine opened her eyes, glancing at the clock on the wall; it was two in the afternoon. That might explain the brightness of the sunlight streaming in through the windows – she'd put it down to the after effects of excessive alcohol consumption.
"-and she said one of them got married yesterday."
Katherine peered over the top of the sofa, a bemused expression on her face. "Well that's nice, isn't it?" Something about the younger woman's voice wasn't quite right – like there was something odd about the news. Ophelia glanced around, eyebrows raised slightly.
"To a werewolf."
"What?" Katherine sat up properly this time, looking slightly alarmed.
"I know," said Ophelia, taking a couple of mugs out of the cupboard. "Complete spur of the moment thing, apparently. Weird, isn't it?" She looked back at Katherine, her grin freezing at the sight of the empty room. "Kat?"
Tonks almost dropped the box of papers she was carrying at the abrupt appearance of the wanted criminal in the corridor of Auror HQ.
"Wha-?" she began, but Katherine wasn't in the mood for questions.
"I want a word with you."
"No time like the present." Tonks thought about arguing, but Katherine grabbed her arm and pulled her into the nearest office, taking the decision firmly out of her hands. "You married Remus."
"You heard," murmured Tonks, setting the box down on a table and looking up at Katherine.
"Oh yeah," agreed Katherine, a slightly manic gleam in her eyes. "Everyone's heard, Tonks."
"And you've got a problem with it?" challenged Tonks, lifting her head a little higher and meeting her gaze.
"Me? 'Course not – you love him, he loves you, you make a lovely couple, no, I haven't got a problem with you getting married as such, but this is Remus Lupin we're dealing with here. He doesn't do spur of the moment things like that."
"What's your point?"
"My point? Only that he's probably sitting at home right now regretting doing something so rash," said Katherine, and there was a slight weariness to her voice now. "Go home, Tonks. Before he runs."
"He wouldn't leav-"
"He would." The conviction in her voice was only strengthened by the serious look in her blue eyes. "Trust me, I know Remus. He'll convince himself he's made a mistake – oh not you, just tying you down, he loves you." She smiled, and there was something like sympathy or understanding in her eyes. "He really does. Never seen him so smitten."
Tonks paused, considering Katherine for a long moment, but there was nothing in her expression that caused her to suppose she was up to anything. Eventually she swallowed and asked:
"But I can't leave work-"
"I'll distract them," said Katherine calmly.
"But you'll get caught," said Tonks seriously. "I can't-"
But Katherine was already holding up a hand to stem any excuses. "I went to school with the Marauders – hell, I was engaged to one; I think I picked up a thing or two about making a rapid exit from crime scenes."
"This isn't Hogwarts," pointed out Tonks, but Katherine only grinned.
"You ever tried escaping McGonagall? I'd take the entire Auror department over her." She smiled ruefully and pushed herself away from the door she'd been leaning against. She reached for the handle, then paused, looking back. "Oh, and I almost forgot - congratulations."
She treated Tonks to a brilliant smile before ducking out of the room and heading in the direction of the center of Auror operations. Tonks stood alone in the room for a few seconds, then, as yells started up and the sound of running feet reached her ears, she pulled out her wand and Disapparated.
Remus slid a glass across the table, not bothering to look up.
"I was wondering when you were going to show your face."
"Still here, then?" Katherine picked up the glass, sniffing the golden liquid within cautiously.
"Yes," said Remus, and she heard the irritation in his voice but chose to ignore it.
"Good. Congratulations, Rem. You're officially normal."
Remus looked up at her this time, scowling. "You told Tonks I'd run away."
Katherine considered him, glass halfway to her lips. "So you didn't have your bag half packed when she came home?"
"But you were regretting it." She frowned, tapping one finger distractedly on the side of her glass. "You still are." The frown deepened and she put the glass back on the table, sighing softly. "I take it back – you're not normal."
"'Course I'm not – I'm a werewolf-"
"And she doesn't care. Honestly, Rem, I thought you'd have been happy about that."
"I am, but I can't ask her to throw her life away for-"
"Love? Why not? There are worse things to throw your life away for."
"You never wanted Sirius to do it," shot back Remus, his expression dark. Katherine's eyes narrowed and he smiled sourly. "Hit a nerve?"
"I didn't love Sirius like you love Tonks," said Katherine quietly, not quite meeting his gaze.
"No, you love Snape. Always have done, always will and yet you stayed with Sirius all that time-"
"This isn't about me and Sirius, Remus."
"Isn't it? Or do you just not want it to be?" Katherine sighed, running a hand through her hair and looking down at him with a slightly pained expression on her face.
"You're drunk, Remus."
"No, I'm angry," snapped Remus, glaring at her. "You're supposed to be my friend and-"
"Sirius would be doing exactly the same," cut in Katherine, resting her hands on the table and meeting his gaze with fierce blue eyes.
"You're not Sirius," snarled Remus, rising from his seat and glowering at her. There was a pause while their gazes locked, faces only inches apart, and then Katherine said very quietly: "Oh."
She ran a hand over her face and moved back, leaning against the kitchen counter. "This isn't just about Tonks, is it? This is about Bella. I let her go and you're mad-"
"She killed Sirius."
"Yes, she did. Finished him off, at least. I think he was probably dead long before she killed him," she replied, sighing deeply. "Dumbledore should have known better than to keep him cooped up in that house-" She broke off, shaking her head. "But this isn't about Dumbledore – you want to know why I let her go?"
"Helped her escape, Katherine. You could have just let the Aurors take her-"
"No, I couldn't," interrupted Katherine, closing her eyes. "She used the sign – I had to help. Duty bound, Remus. You know about duty, don't you? Very Gryffindor concept, that."
"And you're a Slytherin. Ever heard of treachery?" She opened her eyes again, meeting his accusing glare.
"Of course I have, but the sign was designed by Slytherins, Remus. We don't tend to rely on purity of character – there's a curse attached. Fail to help when asked and something very nasty happens to you."
"What?" asked Remus, curious despite his anger.
"Don't know – it's different for different people. Plays on your worst fears, see? My idea, that." She smiled sourly and met Remus' gaze once more. "So you'll forgive me if I wanted you and Faye in tact. Or maybe you won't, but I won't apologise."
Remus studied her for a moment, face still hard. "Why did you make a pact with Bellatrix Lestrange?"
"Desperate times call for desperate measures," shrugged Katherine, a sour expression on her face. "It's not much fun being hunted by Aurors, you know. Makes you feel better if someone's got your back. No one else was going to look out for us, so we decided to look out for ourselves. Take care of your own and all that."
"But Bellatrix Lestrange?" persisted Remus, sinking back down into his chair. "Why her, Kat?"
"Not just her," said Katherine, shaking her head. "There's a few of us." A small, bitter, smile tugged at her lips. "The old crowd. Me, Lucius, Bella, Rabastan, Leon-"
"Didn't you kill him?" frowned Remus, brown eyes suspicious.
"The protection only works against outsiders," said Katherine, the smile turning a little savage. "You can't use it to stop another member hurting you, or to ask for help against said member. 'Course, other members can help so long as you don't ask them, but like I said, Slytherins don't tend to do that."
"So you could have killed Bella after you rescued her?" asked Remus, raising an eyebrow.
"If I had a death wish," said Katherine, an edge to her voice now. "I can't kill her with Tom watching me all the time. If I start acting up he's going to realise something's up. I seriously think it's only because of Severus that I'm still around."
"What?" This time Remus' voice was free of anger, the question generated purely from shock. Katherine pulled a face, as though she'd said more than she'd intended to.
"He's got a lot of sway with Tom and he's been protecting me. Think Tom's probably worked out he likes me, but-" She shrugged, bright eyes unusually dull. "Well, he doesn't know the feeling's mutual. So you see, as long as he stays thinking that, Severus has a chance. If we ever got together Tom would kill us both – I'm already a loose cannon, and if he thought Severus could be persuaded to cross him, he wouldn't risk keeping him close. He'd think it a shame, but he can find other followers. Tom doesn't leave things to chance – he went after Potter when he was a baby. If you nip things in the bud, there's no danger of them coming back to bite you." She appeared to consider this for a second, then shrugged and amended: "Most of the time."
Remus was quiet for a little while, then said softly: "You remember when you first came back? You said you'd worked out why he found you."
Hard blue eyes considered him for a moment, then Katherine gave a half hearted shrug. "He thought I'd kill him."
"It's what he did – his father abandoned him, so he went after him. Guess he thought Dumbledore might turn me against him, so he decided to get in there first. Kind of worked, I suppose. Liked our dear headmaster less than I liked him, at least."
"But how did he know it was you? I mean, you look like your mum, but that doesn't mean he was the father..." Remus stopped, taking in the curious expression on his friend's face.
"Exactly what are you insinuating about my mother, Remus?" asked Katherine, arching an eyebrow and doing her best to bite down the grin that was tugging at her lips.
"Nothing," said Remus quickly, a scarlet blush creeping over his cheeks. Katherine laughed, waving a careless hand to show she wasn't angry.
"The age was about right and besides, I had this." She held up her right hand and Remus saw the sapphire studded ring on her finger. "He gave it to her, so he must have recognised it."
"And you worked all this out in Azkaban?"
"I had a lot of time to think," said Katherine calmly, though something about the way she said it made Remus think there was something she wasn't saying there. He sighed, running a hand through his hair and catching sight of the gold ring now on his own left hand.
"Is there any point staying mad at you?" he asked, gazing at the wedding band with a slight frown.
"Maybe. Real question: is there any point making up? I'm only going to do something else to make you mad at me in the future. Just depends which takes the most effort."
"Staying mad, definitely."
"Then call a truce? I won't ask about Tonks and you don't ask about Severus," suggested Katherine, taking the seat opposite him and smiling wryly.
"No," said Remus carefully, glancing up at her. "That won't work. How about I won't ask about Severus and you…oh, I don't know, kill Umbridge or something."
"Umbridge?" Katherine frowned a little, trying to remember where she'd heard that name before. "Who's she?"
"The devil's advocate," muttered Remus sourly, leaning back in his chair.
"No, that's my job, Rem," contradicted Katherine, smirking. "Nic mentioned her ages ago, something about- about you. Said she was giving you problems or something."
"I was joking, Kat. Don't kill her," said Remus, shaking his head. "It'll only make things worse."
"Can I hex her?" Remus stifled a laugh. "What?" asked Katherine, looking puzzled.
"Nothing, you just sounded a bit like Sirius, that's all." Katherine grinned, a trace of melancholy in her eyes and Remus smiled. "I know – how's this? I won't mention Severus and you don't mention Dumbledore. Deal?"
Katherine was quiet for a few seconds, considering him. "You want me to ask about Tonks?"
"You said it wouldn't work – me not asking about her, and since I'm perfectly capable of ignoring her existence, I'm forced to suppose that the person it wouldn't work for is you."
"Yeah, well," Remus shrugged, eyes fixed on the glass of whiskey in front of him, looking a little sheepish. "I may have bent the truth a little."
"Like maybe I'd actually finished packing when she came round," he admitted, sighing heavily and glancing up at her. She smiled ruefully and reached for her own glass.
"I guess it's a deal, then."
"With no curse attached?" asked Remus lightly, earning himself an unimpressed glare.
"No curse attached. I think after forty odd years I might be able to trust you." She grinned and raised the whiskey in a toast. "To…not giving up. On anything. Or anyone."
"To not giving up," echoed Remus, gripping his own glass in his hand and grinning back at her. "And to old friends - the best kind there is."
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Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: This chapter ended up so long I had to split it in two, so sorry for the cliffie - it wasn't intentional for once. Enjoy!
Chapter 53 – The beginning of the end, Part 1
Robert Avery sat in the Drawing Room, supposedly working on a report concerning the increasing number of Floo blockages, but in reality watching his daughter Katy playing. She was currently studiously engaged in throwing tea parties for all her many toys, and this was the seventh room she'd commandeered for the task. Apparently each group of toys required a different ambience for their tea.
Robert gradually became aware of another presence in the room and looked up to find Cassandra watching him from the doorway. She smiled, and walked round to the back of his chair, slipping her arms around his neck and kissing him softly on the cheek.
"You don't have to worry about her," she murmured gently, resting her chin on his shoulder, her own gaze also wandering over to their young daughter, who was now pouring imaginary cups of tea out to the various assortment of dolls and teddies grouped on a small blanket. "She's young – she's forgotten all about it."
"We can't be sure of that," muttered Robert, pulling away slightly on the pretense of reviewing his report. Cassandra, however, wasn't having any of it. She stepped round to his side and knelt down so that their faces were level, then took his chin in her hand, forcing him to look at her.
"Yes we can – she stopped having nightmares weeks ago."
"She's stopped playing with Hector, too," said Robert dully, thinking of the forlorn looking teddy that lay abandoned in the corner of his daughter's room.
"Maybe that's for the best," said Cassandra, stroking the side of his face tenderly. "She's safe, Rob. We've made sure of that – Katherine dealt with that woman, didn't she? And what with all the wards you lot have put up, this place is probably harder to break into than Gringotts."
"I know," sighed Robert. "It's just...I don't know."
"Still having nightmares?" asked Cassandra quietly, oak leaf green eyes glimmering with concern. "I woke up in the night and you weren't there."
Robert shrugged, looking slightly uncomfortable.
"Went to check on her, that's all." He smiled sheepishly, then turned at the insistent tugging on his robes. Katy was standing there, one hand clutching a fistful of his dark robes, the other holding out a toy cup. "For me?" he asked, and Katy nodded, proffering the empty cup again. He took it, pretending to drink and Katy clambered up into his lap, snuggling into his chest and beaming up at her mother.
Cassandra smiled as Robert hugged his daughter, ten looked up, a movement by the door catching her eye. Boreas, their house elf, stood there, hopping nervously from one foot to the other, obviously wanting to speak, but unwilling to interrupt.
"What is it?" she asked, making Robert stop casting bright shapes in the air with his wand and glance up too, much to Katy's disappointment.
"Master's drawer is glowing," piped up the small elf, and Cassandra gave Robert an odd look.
"And why, exactly, is it doing that?" she questioned, and though her eyebrows were raised disapprovingly, there was a trace of a smile on her face.
"I don't-" began Robert, but then he stopped, a thought occurring to him. He lifted Katy off his lap and handed her to Cassandra before striding out of the room to his office. He stepped over the tea party that had been carefully set up in the middle of the floor and went to his desk where one of the drawers was indeed glowing, or at least, something inside it was. Golden light shone out from the gap between the wood and when he unlocked it and pulled it open, he found the source: Regulus' arcanus membrana, though of course this was his own copy and he'd certainly never be hearing from Regulus again.
He picked up the parchment, unfolding it to see the heading of black roses and beneath them a message, written in a hand as unfamiliar to him as the roses were familiar.
Katherine turned the page of the book she was reading, frowning a little. On the desk beside her sat an untidy pile of parchment, each sheet covered with her own fluid script. After a moment she set the book aside and added another note to the uppermost sheet.
A cautious knock on the door caught her attention and she called: "Come in" without looking up.
"Oh sorry, are you busy?" asked Ophelia, poking her head around the door and looking apologetic.
"Just doing a bit of research," said Katherine easily, finishing writing and laying down her quill. "D'you need something?"
"No, I just thought I'd let you know I'm going out tonight," replied Ophelia, and though she kept her tone casual, she couldn't stop the faint blush that tinged her cheeks.
"Oh yeah?" Katherine's voice was light and innocent, but that only made Ophelia grow redder, and Katherine grinned. "What's his name?"
"Christopher," mumbled Ophelia, cursing her pale complexion; she was in her late twenties and here she was, blushing like a school girl.
"Not anyone I know, then," said Katherine, casting an amused eye over the younger woman. "Is he nice? He'd better be, you know, unless he wants me, Ju and Severus after him." She frowned at the sudden guilty look that flickered across Ophelia's face. "Sorry, did I say something wrong?"
"No," said Ophelia quickly, biting her lip all the same. "It's just Julian."
"What about him?"
"Christopher is sort of...his best mate."
"Oh." Katherine paused, trying to think of something else to say, but a sudden thought stopped this. "Hang on, Christopher? In Julian's year? You don't mean Chris Avery, do you?"
Ophelia's scarlet blush was all the answer she needed. "You're going on a date with Rob's little brother? I thought he was married."
"No, that's Philip," said Ophelia, combing a hand through her short black hair. "Chris is his twin. And besides, technically I'm still married – Daniel won't divorce – says I'd try and take the house."
"It's your house," pointed out Katherine, leaning back in her seat. "From what I got out of Severus, your family has the money and Daniel's has the prestige."
Ophelia smiled grimly, leaning against the door jamb. "The perfect match."
"Chris not care you're married?" asked Katherine, raising one eyebrow questioningly.
"No. He's a lawyer – said he'd send some people round to Dan's," said Ophelia, dark eyes gleaming, and Katherine grinned again.
"Sounds like a nice guy."
"You don't know him, then?"
"No, not really – never met Robert's family. Only time I can recall actually seeing Chris was over twenty years ago, when he was saying goodbye to Rob at Kings Cross Station, and he must've been about seven, then." She smiled, meeting Ophelia's interest gaze. "He likes chocolate, I do know that."
Ophelia laughed, grinning. "I'll remember that." She hesitated, looking past Katherine at something on the desk. "Um, is it meant to be doing that?"
"Anything wrong?" asked Cassandra. Robert glanced around and saw her standing in the doorway, brow creased in concern.
"I have to go out for a while," he said, looking back at the parchment. 'Help'. That was all – not 'help, I am at this place and here's a map of how to get there', not even 'help, this is Harry'. Robert squinted again at the writing and decided against that – he didn't think Harry's writing would be that messy, and since it wasn't feminine, it was probably Ron – but whether he was alone or not was a different matter.
"Knock knock," said a soft voice, and Robert heard Cassandra gasp. He rolled his eyes and stuffed the parchment in his pocket, summoning his cloak from the hall.
"You know where they are?" he asked, turning to see Katherine lounging against the wall of the study, getting a very disapproving look from Cassandra.
"There are such things as front doors, Katherine," she said reproachfully, arching her eyebrows.
"You really want people knowing I'm visiting?" asked Katherine, grinning at her old friend. "Anyway, I'm not stopping – just come to borrow your husband for a bit." She turned her attention back to Robert, a grim look replacing the humour. "And yeah, I know where they are. His signature's rather distinctive."
"Not hard to track, then?"
"Not very, no." She smiled as he pulled on his cloak and kissed Cassandra on the cheek.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," he said softly, and though she nodded, he could see the worry in her green eyes.
"You bring him back in one piece, you hear me?" she said firmly, pointing a finger at Katherine, who grinned.
"How big d'you want the piece?"
"I'll be fine," said Robert quickly, taking his wife's hand. She stopped glaring at Katherine and looked up at him instead.
"You'd better be." He smiled wryly and kissed her again.
"Promise." He glanced back at Katherine, who was checking her watch. "Come on, then."
They didn't speak again till they were outside, surrounded by the trees in the vast garden behind the house. "So, where are they?"
Katherine smiled sourly, pulling out her wand to disapparate. "Sunshine Palace."
Lucius Malfoy stood before the two teenagers, grey eyes narrowed distrustfully.
"I will ask you one more time, Potter. What were you doing here?"
Harry said nothing, only looked firmly at the floor, avoiding eye contact. Lucius sighed impatiently, and cast a glance over the mudblood seated on the chair next to him.
"Where's your other friend? The Weasley boy?"
"He isn't with us," said Harry, anger and frustration evident in his voice. "It's just me and Hermione."
"Oh? One to sneak around, the other as a lookout?" asked Lucius, arching his eyebrows.
"That's right," said Harry firmly, risking a quick glance up at his captor. Lucius' long blonde hair was shining in the torchlight and his hard grey eyes were dark with suspicion.
"So if I were to check how many people entered this house," he said silkily, leaning forward a little to get a better look at his prisoners. "I'd find that there have only been three in the past day, would I? You, the mudblood and myself?"
"Yes," said Harry, though Lucius heard the slight hesitation in his voice.
"Better make that five," said a soft voice from the doorway, and Lucius whirled around to see an unpleasantly familiar women grinning at him. "Hello Lucius. What brings you here?"
"Five?" asked Lucius, ignoring her question. A movement behind Katherine caught his attention and a blond man stepped out of the shadows, light brown eyes glimmering in the torchlight. "Avery?" Lucius frowned, looking back at Katherine, a feeling of unease beginning to creep over him. "What's going on?" he asked slowly, instinctively taking a small step backward, fingers curling tightly around his wand.
Katherine smiled, blue eyes gleaming, but this only served to fuel the knot of worry that was growing in his stomach.
"Nothing's going on, Lucius. We just wanted a word with Potter."
"How'd you know he was here?" questioned Lucius, gazing flickered between the two newcomers. "And who's we? Since when were you two friends?" he demanded, gesturing to Avery.
Avery glanced at Katherine, appearing to consider the question. "How old were we, Kat? Fifteen? Sixteen?"
"Sixteen," said Katherine firmly. "End of fifth year - you got me through my Ancient Runes revision and I swore eternal friendship."
"Ah yes," nodded Robert, smirking. "And then you had the cheek to get more marks than me on the exam."
"Well I am brilliant." She grinned, then switched her gaze to Harry. "You all right?"
"Fine," muttered Harry, a vaguely accusing look in his emerald eyes. She glanced at Lucius, who was staring at her in something like horror, and shrugged.
"Sorry, Potter, I didn't think anyone would be here. Why are you here?" she added, frowning at Lucius who seemed to be struggling to find his tongue. "I didn't think this place was very...you. Bit too dark, even for a Malfoy. Houses the ugly side of the dark arts, as it were."
"Your side, you mean?" asked Lucius sourly; even in this light his pale face looked whiter than usual.
"That's low, Lucius," said Katherine, sounding a little reproving.
"You think a normal person comes up with Inopia?" scowled Lucius, but there was a trace of fear in his grey eyes.
"No, I think someone who's father shut them up in a room with a boggart and no wand comes up with Inopia," said Katherine calmly, raising her eyebrows slightly. "If I'm unbalanced it's only because Tom made me that way."
"So now you're in league with Potter? To get back at him?" spat Lucius, and Harry saw the hand that held his wand trembling. Katherine looked pensively at Robert, eyebrows drawn together in a thoughtful frown.
"Are we in league with Potter, d'you think?"
"No," said Robert, an equally meditative look on his own face. "I don't think so. If anything, he's probably in league with us, but I don't think any of us will want that recorded in the history books."
"No," agreed Katherine, grinning again now. "It'd do irreparable damage to all of our reputations. Can't have people thinking we might be nice, can we?"
"Stop mucking around," hissed Lucius, glaring at them. "You're putting a noose round all our necks."
Katherine's grin faded, blue eyes suddenly focusing on Lucius, expression serious. "Actually, I think you're already wearing yours; your son's made sure of that."
"What?" For the first time, there was a flash of real fear and confusion on Lucius' thin face. "What's Draco got to do with anything?"
"He's been helping Potter," said Katherine calmly, looking over at Harry, still tied to a chair. "Isn't that right, Harry?" Harry frowned at her for a moment, trying for the second time to learn how she'd found out, then nodded.
"You're lying," said Lucius quickly, his voice barely above a whisper. "Draco would never..." He stopped, seemingly unable to go on though whether it was through doubt or fear Harry couldn't tell.
"How'd you think they got in here?" asked Katherine, watching Lucius closely with keen blue eyes.
"You helped them," muttered Lucius, shrugging his shoulders. "You're mental, Riddle, you always were - even more so of late."
"You think I'd risk that? Being caught aiding Potter into one of the most covert hideouts we have?" asked Katherine, treating Lucius to a quizzical look. "Tom'd have my head if I was found out."
"And yet here you are," said Lucius, a sarcastic note creeping into his voice. "Talking to Potter like an old friend in front of me and not even making an effort to pretend otherwise. Are you going to kill me now or when my back is turned?"
"I wasn't planning on killing anyone, Lucius. You don't have to die unless you want to." She paused, frowning a little. "Do you?"
"No of course I don't," snapped Lucius, glaring at her. "But unless you are also planning on handing Potter over to the Dark Lord right now, I think I may have to ask you to. If he were to discover I knew of your alliance - and it does seem to be that, Riddle, despite your protests - and didn't tell him, I very much doubt that my life would be worth living." He smiled sourly, and there was no humour in it. "And you would disappear off the face of the earth, no doubt, and never be troubled again."
"There is another option," said Katherine calmly, holding his gaze.
"And what would that be?"
"We kill Tom."
There was a long pause in which Lucius stared at her, presumably trying to work out whether she was joking or not. Eventually he managed:
"You're crazy, Riddle."
"Why are you so nervous, then?" she asked, hand straying to the snake pendant around her neck. "If you don't think I'm serious-"
"Oh I think you're serious," cut in Lucius, with a hollow laugh. "You're just crazy." He looked at her, grey eyes lifeless. "You can't kill the Dark Lord, Katherine. Not with a couple of teenagers and a half wit Ministry worker."
To Lucius' surprise, Avery chuckled at this, a dangerous smile curling his lips and suddenly he recalled a conversation he'd overheard his mother having years ago with Esmerelda Avery, about her eldest son's disappointing NEWT results. 'Nearly all Outstandings in his OWLs and now this...' He shut his eyes, bowing his head in defeat.
"You're faking, aren't you?" he asked in a very quiet voice, and Avery laughed again.
"Very good, Lucius," said Robert darkly. "Only took you two decades."
"And you," said Lucius, looking up and eyeing Katherine with dislike. "You persuaded the Dark Lord not to take on any more Averys – said being lumbered with one was bad enough."
"Did you?" asked Robert, looking at his old friend in surprise. "I didn't know that."
"Well you'd already lost Louise," shrugged Katherine, turning back to Harry and Hermione who were sitting silently on their chairs, watching them. "Didn't think you'd want your brothers killed too. You untied yet?" This last question was directed at Harry, who scowled, but nodded.
"Look up the works of JH Raine?" he quoted, rubbing his wrists and glaring at her.
"I told you – I didn't know he was going to be here," she protested, gesturing at Lucius. "Thought the place would be empty. Anyway, did you find it?" Harry looked pointedly at Lucius, but Katherine only waved a hand carelessly. "He won't tell – you heard him, he wants to live."
"He will tell," said Lucius sharply, folding his arms and looking firmly at Katherine. "So don't say anything else."
Katherine frowned, considering him for a moment, then turned back to Harry. "He won't tell – he's just trying to stop us implicating him further."
"Look, Katherine, you're insane," said Lucius smoothly, stepping closer to her and getting eye contact. "And Avery's an idiot – probably just following you because he's easily led, or else he's trying to stop you doing something stupid-"
"I know the whole Prophecy." Lucius stopped dead at that, eyes widening in shock, and Katherine grinned, patting him sympathetically on the shoulder. "There, unless you run off to Tom right this minute, you're now guilty as hell for concealing information, so you can shut up and listen."
"You can't kill him, Katherine."
"No, but Harry can."
Lucius looked over at Harry again, his scepticism clear on his face, but he didn't comment – instead he asked: "How did you get untied?"
"The Weasley boy," said another voice, and Ron appeared suddenly, pulling off the invisibility cloak. Lucius gave him a contemptuous glance then looked at Harry.
"You have certainly been spending time around Katherine – she lies, too."
"I do not," objected Katherine, folding her arms defiantly. "Not to you, anyway. Not that I remember."
"So you're not helping Potter?" questioned Lucius, one eyebrow raised.
"That wasn't lying," said Katherine carefully, narrowing her bright eyes. "I never explicitly said I wasn't."
"You never explicitly say anything, Katherine, because you're absolutely mental, as I said before."
"We're going to kill the Dark Lord, Lucius," said Katherine softly, voice deadly serious. "We know how to and we have the means and you're going to let these three walk out of here unharmed and you're not going to say anything to anyone, because if you do, I'll kill Draco. That explicit enough for you?"
Lucius looked at her for a long moment, then said quietly: "You wouldn't kill a eighteen year old in cold blood."
Feedback is appreciated muchly.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: And now we finally get to the event that some of you have been asking about for ages and hopefully you'll realise why I waited this long now. Suitably intrigued? Then read on...
Chapter 53 – The beginning of the end, Part 2
"Katherine, unless you're intending to murder the Dark Lord very soon, there will most likely be another meeting between now and then," said Lucius, and it seemed to Harry that there was a touch of desperation in his voice. "And since I cannot hide my emotions nearly so well as our dear friend Severus - and considering, after all these years, the Dark Lord still has no idea as to the full extent of his feelings towards you, I must suppose he can hide them very well – he will know that something is amiss."
Katherine held his gaze for a moment, then looked over at Harry. "How long d'you reckon you need to prepare? A day? A week?"
Harry glanced at Lucius, but the damage had already been done there – he either told or he didn't, and letting him know the date could hardly make things any worse.
"About a week, I suppose," he said, thinking about it. "Maybe a bit longer."
"Think you can hold out for that long?" questioned Katherine, half grinning at Lucius. "Or do I need to kill you?"
"Are you serious about this?" asked Lucius, grey eyes searching hers earnestly.
"Then I'll leave and we'll say no more about it."
"Wise decision," said Robert, smiling grimly. Lucius raised his eyebrows, looking morose.
"I doubt that, Avery, but it is, of course, the only one that gives me a fighting chance. And you," he added, turning to Katherine. "Are worse than your father."
With that he left, striding out of the room and into the maze of corridors beyond.
"Charming man, I've always thought," said Katherine, watching him go with a vaguely amused look on her face.
"You're really letting him go?" asked Robert, staring at her.
"Lucius may be many things, Rob, but he's still human and he loves his son, however much he may pretend otherwise," said Katherine, looking mildly at him. "Besides, I owe him. Twice."
"For what?" asked Robert, frowning at her; he'd never heard Katherine and Lucius do anything but argue.
"Stuff," said Katherine shortly, and the tone of her voice carried its own warnings against pressing further. "You never answered my question, Harry. Did you find it?"
"Taking into account the fact that you never actually told us what to look for," said Harry, folding his arms and frowning at her from his position on the chair. "And sent us into a booby trapped house which, incidentally, has a very misleading name, and then took your bloody time coming to help us, it's a wonder we're still here at all. And what did Malfoy mean about Snape's feelings towards you?"
Robert glanced at Katherine, biting down a smirk and she glared at him, daring him to make a remark, but he only smiled and became suddenly fascinated by the ceiling. Katherine sighed, slumping against the dark mahogany panels that lined the walls with her left hand curled around her necklace, and met Harry's irked gaze.
"First off, I presumed that as soon you couldn't find any books by JH Raine, you'd go to Draco in case he was author of some dark magic tome. Did you?"
"Yeah," admitted Harry, grudgingly.
"And he said?"
"That JH Raine was an architect and that he built a place called Sunshine Palace, which is now used by Death Eaters," said Harry, glancing at Ron and Hermione, in case he'd missed anything, but they only nodded their agreement.
"And you didn't expect to find booby traps in a place used by Death Eaters?" questioned Katherine, arching an incredulous eyebrow.
"Not ones that try and decapitate you the moment you walk in the door, no," said Harry irritably, glowering at her. "If it wasn't for Hermione, Ron'd probably be joining the Headless Hunt right about now."
"Very good thing you've got Hermione then, isn't it?" said Katherine calmly, and hurriedly continued before Harry could cut in: "As for the name – Raine was a vampire."
"And?" asked Harry, totally nonplussed.
"Sunshine is deadly to vampires," said Hermione quietly, looking to Katherine for confirmation. "Worst way to die for them."
"Right," agreed Katherine. "If he'd been human, he'd probably have named it Poison Palace or something similar, and coated the walls with arsenic."
"What?" This last comment drew blank stares from the trio.
"The walls are made of wood," supplied Robert, tapping the polished panels with his knuckles. "Also deadly to vampires."
"So this entire house is a death trap?" asked Ron, giving Katherine an unimpressed stare. "You sent us into a death trap?"
"For vampires, not for humans."
"But a death trap nevertheless."
"You want to kill Nagini, you need to track her down, something you can only reliably do with an object from this house," said Katherine serenely, looking at Harry. "Something else I was banking on Draco mentioning to you."
"The Obsidian Stone?" asked Harry, reaching into his jeans pocket and pulling it out; Katherine grinned.
"So he did tell you about it."
"It was the only thing he did know was in the place," said Harry, examining the stone. "Said it could charm snakes. Said he'd overheard you talking about it to some other Death Eater a few weeks ago." He scowled at her. "You could have just told us what we had to do."
"Where's the adventure in that?" asked Katherine, blue eyes glimmering with amusement once more. "Far better to use your brain and work things out for yourself."
"Well what are we supposed to do with it," asked Hermione, arching her eyebrows. "What use is charming a snake we can't find?"
"Draco only said it could charm snakes because that's what he heard me tell McKenzie," said Katherine, shaking her head. "That's not what it is really."
"Well what is it, then?" questioned Ron, peering over Harry's shoulder at the smooth, fist sized black stone.
"It's a summoning stone," said Robert, though his gaze rested on Katherine, not the object in Harry's hand. "You can use it to call Nagini – the Dark Lord created it a few months after he came back to power. Just an experiment, I think, and the snake was his test subject."
"Experimenting for what?" frowned Hermione, as Katherine glanced at Robert.
"Calling us, I suppose," said Robert, still giving Katherine a shrewd look. "In case he ever only wanted a certain person to come to him, or maybe he was just trying to see if you were still alive, Kat."
"He doesn't have anything of mine to put into a stone," said Katherine darkly. "You'd need blood or something."
"Maybe, but that's not the point, Katherine. Only the Dark Lord can use that stone – it's not of any use to us," said Robert, frowning at her.
"So this has been for nothing?" asked Ron, staring at Katherine incredulously.
"No - we don't need Tom to make it work, we've got Harry," said Katherine, tearing her gaze away from Robert and speaking quickly. "When we went after Hufflepuff's cup, you said you had a link with Voldemort, created the night he tried to kill you, and then that night in the graveyard he took your blood. That means when he made the Obsidian Stone, he made it work for both of you. You can use it because it'll recognise your blood and magical signature Tom left on you the night he failed to murder you as a baby."
There was silence for a few seconds, while everyone took this in, then Robert said in a quiet voice: "Katherine?"
"That's the second time you've come out with something you couldn't possibly have known."
"What?" She frowned, staring at him in bewilderment.
"You weren't at the graveyard," said Robert firmly. "I know – I was there. First you mention the ghosts, now you know about the blood, which I'm presuming did happen, because Harry here hasn't denied it, but which I never saw. That happened before any Death Eaters arrived, so how the hell do you know about it?"
"That's not important," said Katherine, tugging at her necklace absentmindedly, and grimacing.
"Are you all right?" asked Hermione quietly, giving her slightly worried look.
"Fine," murmured Katherine, shaking her head. "Azkaban shadow, that's all."
"Azkaban what?" asked Harry, staring at her.
"The Dementors affect you if you stay there too long," said Ron, much to his friend's surprise. "Dad said the place gets into your head. Probably part of the reason why Sirius was a bit off sometimes, too."
"That, and being cooped up in a house he hated," muttered Katherine, rubbing her eyes tiredly. "Equivalent of locking me up in here." She grimaced again, casting a bitter look around the room.
"You've stayed here?" asked Robert, arching an eyebrow.
"Not out of choice," said Katherine gloomily, eyeing the painting that hung over the fireplace with distaste, and for a moment she looked as though she was going to say more, but then she shook her head. "You should go home, Harry. Alert the Order and sort things out. A week from now, what's that? Next Tuesday?"
"Better make it Thursday – gives us a little more time," said Harry, rolling the stone over in his fingers. "D'you know how to use this?"
"Just hold it and call Nagini. You speak parseltongue, right?"
"Yeah. So I just call her?"
"Yes, and when she arrives, kill her. Don't suppose you've got a sword or something, have you? Only I have a feeling she might be impervious to spells."
"I don't own one, but I've got a good idea where to find one," said Harry, smiling grimly.
"As long as it's a decent one."
"Oh it is," said Harry firmly, standing up.
"Right, well if that's all, I suggest we leave," said Katherine, eyes lingering once more on the painting that hung innocuously over the fire. Curious, Harry glanced over at it, but couldn't see what was drawing her attention – the canvas was mostly black, with a few patches of dull reds and whites - not a proper picture at all.
"It's what you see when you close your eyes," Katherine said in a soft voice, and he turned back to see her watching him. Robert, Hermione and Ron were already by the door, waiting for them. "Nothing but darkness and after images."
"Why paint that?" asked Harry, frowning sceptically, not moving from his spot on the floor, and Katherine smiled faintly.
"Because no one would want to see what made you close your eyes," she said quietly, casting a dark look at the painting. "Come on, this is not a place you want to be in longer than you can help it."
"Is that why you wanted us to get the stone?" asked Harry as they left, keeping his voice low so that only she could hear. "You didn't want to come back here?"
"It's not my favourite place, if that's what you mean," said Katherine, and though her tone was careless, he noticed that she too kept her voice quiet. "Besides, I admit I was a little curious as to whether you could do it or not."
"We would have been fine if Malfoy hadn't turned up," said Harry. "He was looking through the bookcases and caught sight of us in the corridor; Ron just had time to hide under the cloak so he could send a message to you before he came out. Are you sure we can trust him? I mean, you told him you knew the Prophecy. Why'd you do that?"
"To make sure he didn't go running to Tom," replied Katherine, smiling a little at his perplexed expression. "Trust me, it'll work."
"Because Severus is Lucius' oldest friend." She glanced at him, then sighed. "Oh fine. We've only got a week to live so I may as well tell you. If Lucius went to Tom to tell him about this, there's a very good chance that Tom would use Legilimency on him to get the full story. With me so far?"
"Yeah," said Harry, though he wasn't quite so sure of where this was going.
"Up until I told him about the Prophecy, he was right – he could have persuaded Tom I was mad or something, and I would've been punished, but I'd live."
"But if Voldemort found out that you've known the Prophecy this whole time he'd kill you?" finished Harry, looking questioningly at her.
"To say the least," agreed Katherine, glancing ahead at Robert who kept looking back at her, a concerned expression on his face.
"But that doesn't explain why he won't tell," pointed out Harry, frowning at her.
"He won't tell, because if he got me killed, Severus would kill him," said Katherine, running a hand through her glossy black hair.
"Because you're friends with Snape?"
"Yes," said Katherine slowly, not quite meeting his gaze and as Harry looked at her, he was suddenly reminded of the way Lupin had looked when Harry had asked why Katherine had forgiven Snape for murdering Dumbledore; it was exactly the same look that Katherine now wore, a look that he was learning meant: 'there is more to this than I am willing to divulge'.
Malfoy had said that Snape had feelings for her, and if, as Katherine thought, those feelings meant that he'd kill his oldest friend if he put her in harms way, Harry was inclined to think that they were a little stronger than simple friendship. And Lupin knew, of course, that was why he understood that Katherine wouldn't care that Snape had killed Dumbledore, and why, when Harry had asked about her and Sirius, he'd hesitated for a moment before saying that she'd loved him.
"Did you love Sirius?" he asked suddenly, unable to stop himself, and Katherine looked at him in surprise.
"Of course I did."
Katherine eyed him for a moment, then shrugged. "Yes, really. Just not as much as he loved me."
They'd reached the front door now, and Harry was glad to feel the sunlight on his face once more, even if it was fading as night approached. He looked back up at the stone walls, noticing something that he'd failed to realise when they were inside.
"It's got windows," he said blankly, and Ron laughed.
"Is that a problem?"
"There weren't any inside," said Hermione softly, nodding at Harry. "I thought that."
"Just illusions," said Katherine, shrugging when they looked at her. "Not that hard to do."
"But why bother?" asked Ron, peering into the closest one.
"Would you go into a house with no windows and one door?" asked Katherine, arching an eyebrow. "Can't even Floo out 'cause it's not connected to the network." She shook her head, turning away from the building. "I'm going home – no, scratch that, I'm going to the pub. Let me know when you've sorted things out – we can think of a plan to bring Tom to us."
"What?" asked Harry, glancing at her with a frown.
"In case you hadn't noticed, your side isn't exactly winning this war at present – Tom's forces are better equipped and have no scruples in killing anyone who gets in their way. If we're making a last stand, we're choosing the place. Might give us a bit of an edge, or at the very least stop innocent people getting hurt." She sighed, running a distracted hand through her hair again. "And you, Rob, get back to Cass. I promised you'd be back safe."
Robert gave her a mock salute and disapparated. Next to Harry, Ron and Hermione pulled out their wands to do the same, but Harry glanced at Katherine, who was walking away and said quickly: "You two go ahead, I'll catch you up."
"Why? What are you doing?" asked Hermione, looking worriedly at him.
"Just go – I'll be fine," assured Harry, running after Katherine. "Hey, wait."
Katherine glanced back at him, raising her eyebrows slightly. "What is it?"
"Did you mean it?"
"That we've only got a week to live?" asked Harry, hearing faint pops behind him as Ron and Hermione departed. Something like pity flickered in Katherine's eyes and she shook her head.
"Just Azkaban talking. Ignore me."
"But we could, couldn't we?"
"Yeah. Could also get hit by a bus as you cross the street - doesn't mean you will."
"Challenging Voldemort probably has lower odds, though," said Harry, surprised to find his voice calm. "I mean, that's what the Prophecy says, isn't it? 'Neither can live while the other survives'?" To his bemusement, Katherine smiled at this.
"What? And you think that means you have to die with him or something?"
"Well doesn't it?" he questioned, looking seriously at her.
"Harry, when was the last time you just...relaxed. Did nothing? Had a water fight? Hung out with your friends, and no, researching ways to bring down the Dark Lord does not count as 'hanging out'," she added with a smile, sitting down on the low wall that ran around the dark building.
"What's that got to do with anything?" asked Harry, frowning at her in bewilderment.
"Because that's life, Harry," she said with a slightly rueful sigh. "You haven't had a normal life – first your family's forced into hiding, then you're orphaned and stuck with magic hating relatives for ten years, before you eventually go to Hogwarts and meet with Tom again. Fighting basilisks and evil megalomaniacs is not a life – you aren't free to enjoy being alive while Voldemort lives, and he can't breathe freely until you're destroyed. That's what the Prophecy means."
"So I've got a chance?"
"'Course you have. Got a very good track record, too," grinned Katherine, though Harry thought there was something a little dispirited about it. "Fought him off a few times now, haven't you?"
"And you? Have you got a chance?" he asked, studying her closely.
"There's always a chance," she shrugged, gaze wandering past him to the setting sun.
"But somehow I just don't think Tom go down without taking me with him," she shrugged, voice curiously serene despite her dismal words. "Still, I have a week to tie up some loose ends and be with my friends. That's a lot more than most people get, and there are worse things than dying - Azkaban, for one."
"And you already died once." She grinned, blue eyes brightening for a moment.
"That I did."
They stood in companionable silence for a while, then Harry said: "Wait here."
"Just wait here – I'll be back in a minute."
Katherine watched him disapparate with a bemused smile, and reached into her pocket for the sheet of paper she knew was glowing. Unfolding it, she saw Robert's neat handwriting, asking if she was alright. She grabbed a stone from the ground by her feet and transfigured it into a pen to write a short reply, assuring him that she was, then pocketed the paper again, eyes drawn once more to the imposing building before her.
Harry had been right when he'd guessed she hadn't wanted to enter it again; there were too many bad memories in there, ghosts from her past that she'd rather forget about. Still, with any luck, in a weeks time she'd get some peace at last; all she had to do was stay alive till then.
A faint pop reached her ears and Harry stood before her once more, something white held tightly in his hand.
"I suppose I should have given this to you months ago, but-" He shrugged, holding it out to her, green eyes not exactly defiant, but not quite apologetic either. Curious, she took the object, staring at it blankly.
"It's a napkin, Harry." She looked up at him, a mystified expression on her face. "What exactly am I meant to do with it?"
"Turn it over," was all the response she got, and, feeling a little silly, she did. There was an address written on the other side in bold black biro, but that wasn't what made her heart skip a beat and the breath catch in her throat. That handwriting, she knew that handwriting...
"Where did you get this?" she asked, voice barely above a whisper.
"A man gave it to me in Diagon Alley last August," said Harry, and when she looked up, his green eyes were as hard as diamonds. "We think his name was Hunt."
"Kel," said Katherine faintly, swallowing the lump in her throat, because it couldn't be, it just couldn't be what she thought it was - that was too much to ask.
"He told me to give it to a woman called Riddle," said Harry, still watching her closely. "Said to tell her she was right and that he was sorry."
"I was right?" repeated Katherine shakily, and it might have been his imagination, but he thought he could see the beginnings of tears in her blue eyes. "That's what he said?"
"Yeah," nodded Harry. "Does it mean anything to you?"
"That all he said?"
"Yes – someone killed him right afterwards," said Harry, as she folded the napkin up again, an odd look on her face. "You ok?"
She glanced up, and Harry saw she was grinning. "You've been hiding this since we met?"
Harry shrugged, wondering why he wasn't surprised that she found it funny – if he'd thought about it seriously, he'd have expected her to be angry, but somehow this reaction didn't shock him at all.
"Guess you could call it...insurance," he said carefully, and her grin widened. "In case you were lying when you said we could trust you."
"Smart boy," she laughed. "But you could hardly be sure that this would mean anything to me."
"A man died giving it to me," he pointed out reasonably. "That does seem to indicate some importance."
"Only to me," said Katherine softly, then frowned. "Well, that's not quite true, I suppose. Tom would probably kill to get his hands on it, too."
"What is it?"
"It's an address."
"Yes, I know that," sighed Harry, rolling his eyes.
"Yes, you do," she said, a pensive look on her face. "And you're a nice person, Harry, so I'm...marginally sorry for this." Harry was about to ask her what she was on about, but too late he saw her make a complicated movement with her wand.
"What did you do?" he asked, checking himself for any signs of damage, though there didn't seem to be any.
"Just wiped the address out of your memory," said Katherine calmly, pocketing the napkin carefully. "Don't you recognise a Fidelus charm when you see one?"
"What? You mean that address-"
"You've been a secret keeper for the best part of eight months," grinned Katherine. "Passed on to you when Kel died, and I can't have you letting Tom find it out through that d*mned connection of yours."
"Would he want to?" asked Harry, looking surprised and Katherine smiled grimly.
"Oh yes, he's wanted to find her for years."
"Well, if it's who I think it is," she said slowly, a slightly apprehensive look on her face. "Someone who's supposed to be dead."
"Like you?" asked Harry with a grin, and Katherine laughed, blue eyes glinting brightly in the dying rays of sunlight.
"Yeah," she said softly, an odd look on her face. "Someone like me."
Re: Fallen Angel
A/n: See feedback thread for a note regarding the updating of this story.
Chapter 54 – Loose ends
Neville Longbottom frowned at the small sound outside the curtains and glanced nervously at his watch. He'd sneaked out of school earlier that night, with no real idea why, just knowing that he didn't want to spend another evening sitting in the common room with the rest of his classmates, listening anxiously to the radio for any news on Voldemort.
He'd ended up in London, and after that it had only seemed natural to go to Saint Mungos. Visiting hours were long since over, but he'd managed to sneak into the ward without being seen, and since the curtains were nearly always drawn around his parents' beds, there wasn't much risk of anyone discovering him unless they actually came right into the ward. Which someone had.
Quietly, trying to make as little noise as possible, he crept over to the curtains and peered out. There was a figure standing by one of the beds which held long term patients, but whoever it was wasn't a nurse; even in this dim light he could see the person wasn't wearing the distinctive robes of a Healer. He drew back slightly as the figure moved, appearing to consider the sleeping woman in the bed, then stifled a gasp as one hand knocked back the hood of the travelling cloak and he saw who it was.
Black hair hung loose around her shoulders, contrasting sharply with her pale face and even from this angle he recognised her as the woman in the papers. He swallowed hard, wondering what to do. Did he stay put and pray she didn't detect him, or did he make a break for it and try and warn someone?
Then she pulled a wand out of her pocket, frowning down at the sleeping woman before her and he made his decision. Wrapping his fingers around his own wand he paused one second longer, then burst out of the curtains, running full pelt towards the ward doors, not even trying to stun the figure because he knew she'd dodge in time.
He saw her head jerk up, eyes widen in shock, and then he was feet from the door, reaching out to push it open, fingers brushing the wood-
Something hard hit him in the back, knocking him flying and slamming his head into the door as he fell. He tried to move, to throw a curse back behind him, but he'd fallen on top of his wand arm and whatever it was that had hit him was now on his back, pinning him to the floor.
By his ear, something growled, and tiny pinpricks of pain dug into his shoulders. Ok, not human, definitely some sort of animal. Some sort of animal with claws – very sharp claws.
He looked sideways, back down the length of the ward, expecting at any moment to see a pair of feet walk into his line of vision and a cold face stare down at him, but nothing happened. Above him, the creature had stopped growling, and by the slight shift in it's weight, he guessed it was sitting up, maybe listening for the sounds of approaching Healers.
After about a minute, however, the pressure on his back was lifted, and he could move again. He lay where he was for a moment, trying to work out what was going on, then, very slowly, he sat up. Turn around, urged the small voice in his head, as he checked his wand to made sure it hadn't been damaged in the fall. Just turn around. Refusing to look at the danger won't make it go away.
He closed his eyes, trying to stop his hand trembling, and then turned.
Katherine Riddle was sitting cross legged before him, resting her back against the foot of a bed. The photographs in the Daily Prophet really didn't do her justice, he thought obscurely, but then, how could they? Pictures showed an image, and this woman had her own atmosphere.
Deep blue eyes gazed at him, half shadowed in the low light, and Neville got the distinctly uneasy feeling that she was seeing right through him, learning everything about him from that one piercing look.
And then she grinned, and the air of foreboding mystery was destroyed.
"Sorry about that," she said lightly, tilting her head back so that it rested on the bar that ran across the bottom of the bed. "You're not hurt, are you?"
Neville stared at her in bewilderment, unable to manage anything apart from a blank: "No."
"Well that's alright then," she smiled, blue eyes never leaving his face. It was quite unnerving, really, the way she gave you her complete attention. "You remind me of someone. What's your name?"
"Neville," he answered truthfully, too stunned to attempt a lie.
"Surname," she said, giving him an amused look.
"Longbottom? You don't look much like- oh, but he married Alice, didn't he? So you're Frank and Alice's son." She seemed to be talking more to herself than to him, so he didn't respond, but then she frowned, as a thought occurred to her. "Where are your parents? I mean, they're Aurors, aren't they? Frank was there when I got arrested, but I haven't seen him since, well, since then, actually."
Neville's stare was incredulous this time. "You don't know?"
"Know what?" she asked, a worried frown creasing her forehead.
"They're-" He stopped, not able or willing to get to the words out, and shrugged. "They're over there," he said quietly, gesturing a hand to the closed curtains at the end of the ward.
Riddle's frown increased, her intense gaze moving to the curtains and Neville could almost see the wheels turning in her head as she worked it out.
"What happened?" she asked eventually, voice surprisingly gentle, and it was this that made Neville answer.
"They were tortured by Death Eaters," he said hollowly, watching closely to see her reaction.
"Bella." It wasn't a question, more like a sigh. "I'm sorry. She's a bit...mental." Neville saw her grimace at her choice of words and look back at him, a look in her eyes that he might have regarded as contrite if it had been anyone else. "Sorry."
"Why? You didn't do it," he said, surprised at his own daring.
"Didn't kill Bella either, though, did I?" she replied, scowling. "And it's not like I've never had an opportunity. Still, I think it's about time we had it out – it's either me or her, and I'm damned if it's going to be me."
"You want to kill Bellatrix Lestrange?" asked Neville, unable to disguise his astonishment.
"More than I want to destroy Tom." She grinned savagely, hauling herself to her feet. "And luckily for me, Bella's a damn sight easier to kill."
"A very nasty man," she said, casting another look at the drawn curtains. "He was a damn good Auror, your father. Good friend, too."
"Friend?" asked Neville, gaping at her and she glanced round, catching his expression and laughing.
"Oh not mine," she said quickly, grinning. "Just...in general. Very good Gryffindor, Frank."
"You were in his year at school," said Neville quietly, gazing up at her, and she looked surprised.
"Yeah I was. Who told you that?"
"My grandmother," answered Neville. "Said there was a rumour you were going out with Sirius Black, too."
"All the things I've done and that still attracts interest," sighed Katherine, looking skywards. "Haven't the faintest idea why." She shrugged and moved back to the bed she'd been standing by earlier.
"Is it true?" Katherine turned her head, cocking one eyebrow at him.
"What's it to you?"
"Nothing, I just- He fought for us, that's all," said Neville in a small voice, watching her guardedly.
"Fought for you?" Katherine's eyebrows were drawn together in a frown now, blue eyes curious. "What do you mean 'fought'?"
"Yes I know th-" She stopped, blinking. "I know that. How do you know that?"
"I saw him," said Neville, shifting uncomfortably under her intense stare.
"You were there?" she asked, sounding a little stunned. "In the Department of Mysteries?"
Neville nodded, and she gazed at him for a long moment before turning away and saying no more. After standing where he was for a good few minutes, he worked up the nerve to walk to the end of the bed she was standing over. The name of the patient was written on the small square of white card on the wall over the bed, but it was hard to make out in this light; he thought it might start with H.
"Do you know her?" he asked, and she glanced up, examining him for a moment before replying.
"You on a mission?" he asked quickly, before his temporary courage deserted him.
"It's a crusade," she grinned, looking so mischievous for a moment that he had to repress a smile himself. "I'm not going to hurt her."
"Going to heal her?" asked Neville sceptically, and she shrugged.
"Going to try."
Neville stared at her for a moment before deciding she was serious. He looked back at the woman, pale and small under the white sheets and shook his head.
"But she's been in here for years," he said, and it was true. He'd passed her bed hundreds of times when he'd come to visit his parents, though he'd never really paid her much heed; sometimes there were a couple of men with her too – her husband and son he thought he'd heard the healers say. "She's been here longer than-" he hesitated for a second, then ploughed on "-longer than my parents. There's never been any response from her."
"Yes, well, the Healers have regulations to adhere to, don't they?" said Katherine softly, regarding the woman with a thoughtful air. "Not allowed to be very...experimental."
"I won't let you hurt her," said Neville firmly, surprised once more at his own daring, but determined to carry through with his vow nevertheless.
"I told you – I'm not going to," said Katherine gently, turning her head to look at him with those impossibly blue eyes. "If you had the choice, would you want your parents back?"
"What?" he asked, stunned.
"There's nothing anyone can do for them," he said uncertainly, eyes darting towards the drawn curtains. Katherine's eyes rested on the curtains too, and sighed unhappily.
"No, but there is something I can do for her," she said, gesturing at the sleeping woman before her. "And there are people who want her back, one of whom I am indebted to, so don't you think I rather owe it to said person to at least try? Or do I just leave her like this for the rest of her life and let everyone else get on with living theirs?" The eyebrow was raised again, sapphire eyes boring into him, and Neville swallowed, very much hoping he wasn't going to regret this...
"Do you really think he can do it?" asked Tonks, leaning against the wall of the lift and peering meditatively at the memos fluttering above her head. "I mean Dumbledore-"
"Shh," said Kingsley sharply as the lift stopped and a cool female voice announced: 'Level 6, Department of Magical Transportation, incorporating the Floo Network Authority, Broom Regulatory Control, Portkey Office and Apparation Test Center'
"It's totally out of the question!" The yell came from a man standing at the end of the corridor and was directed at the blond man now stepping into the lift.
"You've got thirty days to sign, Mr Corbelle," replied the man cheerfully, giving the other man a little wave as the door slid shut once more. "Honestly, people these days," he said softly, grinning to himself.
"Filed another lawsuit?" asked Kingsley, eyeing the newcomer with a guarded expression.
"Divorce case," replied the man, giving him a bright smile. "Best thing is my brother's his boss so he's got to be nice to me." The smile faded a little and light brown eyes considered Kingsley wryly. "But then of course you probably know all about my brother."
"We keep tabs on a lot of people, Avery," answered Kingsley tactfully and the other man grinned ruefully.
"I bet you do." There was a pause as the lift creaked it's way up to Level 2, then the man said softly: "He's not a bad person."
"Not many of them are."
"Got any tabs on me?"
"You can hardly suppose we'd tell you if we did, Christopher," sighed Kingsley as the lift shuddered to a stop and the voice proclaimed: 'Level 2, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters and Wizengamot Administrations Services'
"Worth a try," shrugged Christopher, stepping out of the lift and grinning at the two Aurors before heading off to his own department. Tonks exchanged a look with Kingsley, who rolled his eyes heavenward.
"Oh he's not a DE – his brothers on the other hand..." He lifted one shoulder and let it fall as they reached their cubicles. "We know Robert is, and Philip's certainly eager enough."
"Guess we'll find out in a week," said Tonks softly, careful to keep her voice low. Kingsley nodded, dark eyes casting a look around the office.
"Better start preparing," he muttered, pretending to examine a new notice on security measures pinned to the wall, and Tonks grinned.
"Understood," she beamed, turning on her heel and heading towards her own cubicle. Harry had tracked her down that morning at Remus' flat, and told her of his plans, asking for help recruiting trustworthy Aurors and other Order members, all of which she had subsequently relayed to Kingsley. She dropped her bag on the floor by her feet and slumped into her chair, glancing at the pile of paperwork that was mounting up on the desk.
His plan was good, she had to admit.
Provided it worked.
She sighed, gaze moving to the picture of Remus and her stuck to the cubicle wall. Oh yes, Harry's plan was good, but it rather relied on a certain person proving trustworthy. She pulled the picture off the wall and looked sternly at her husband, who grinned up at her.
"You better be right about her."
As the Healer led the way up to the fourth floor of Saint Mungos, Toby cast a nervous glance at his father who was striding along beside him, walking cane tapping on the marble floor, a carefully impassive look on his lined face.
The Healers had sent an urgent owl to his father that morning, but it hadn't said much other than that there had been a change in his wife's condition and would he to come to Saint Mungos as soon as possible with his son. This was the reason they were both now trailing after the sharp looking Healer that had greeted them in the entrance hall, wondering what was awaiting them in the ward above.
"Isn't it this way?" asked Toby, when they reached the fourth floor and the Healer strode purposefully towards a corridor on the left. The Healer paused, glancing back, and shook her head.
"We had to move her – she was making such a fuss."
"A fuss?" asked Toby's father blankly, more wrinkles appearing on his forehead as he frowned. "Elspeth was making a fuss?"
The Healer nodded, and motioned towards a door a little way down the corridor. "She's just in here."
Toby exchanged a bewildered look with his father, whose grey eyes looked pained, and willed his feet to move the few steps towards the closed door. He put his hand on the door knob and the Healer gave him an encouraging nod.
Fingers trembling, Toby pushed open the door and peered in. It was a small room with pale pink walls lit by lamps, the only source of light; he supposed windows weren't a good idea on a level where most of the occupants were insane.
He took all of this in within a few seconds and spent the next minute just staring at the hunched figure that sat on the lone bed, long unkempt hair masking her face. The attempt at a greeting died in his throat, one hand gripping the door jamb for support, as the woman on the bed rocked slowly back and forth, breathing shakily.
"Go on – she's been asking for you," said the Healer softly, and he looked at her, a lost expression on his face.
"Asking for me?"
"She wanted to know where Toby was," replied the Healer, smiling sympathetically. "Her son. That is you, isn't it?"
Toby looked back at his mother, unable to move; even if she had finally come out of her twenty four year stupor, he could hardly suppose she would recognise him. Sure he'd visited her, but she'd never really looked at him, and he'd never been entirely convinced that she'd ever heard anything he said.
He tore his gaze away from her and looked down the corridor at his father who hadn't moved since the Healer had announced the move; he looked terrified.
"Dad?" he asked, not sure he could do this on his own.
"Toby?" The shrill voice brought his attention sharply back to the woman in the room. She'd stopped rocking and was looking up at him, face wide eyed and tearstained. "Toby?"
Toby stared at her, into eyes that were the same dark brown as his, and felt something inside him give way as she scrambled off the bed and flung her arms around him, sobbing. She recognised him. How on earth did she recognise him?
Behind him, he heard the hurried thump of a cane as his father stumbled forward, grey eyes staring in hopeless disbelief at his wife, hanging from the neck of his son.
"Elspeth?" he breathed, as Toby put a shoulder under his mother's arms to support her weak legs.
"Harry," she whispered, gazing at him through her tears and reaching out a thin arm to touch his face. "You've gotten old." She smiled feebly, allowing Toby to maneuver her back onto the bed. "So have I. And look at you," she continued, gripping Toby's arm with a strength that belied her frail frame. "All grown up."
Toby looked towards the doorway where the Healer still stood, waiting to see if she would be needed. She caught Toby's eye and gave him a small smile.
"I'll be in the office at the end of the corridor," she said with a nod, and Toby turned back to his mother. There were plenty of things he wanted to ask the Healer, but they could wait until later – everything could wait until later – he wasn't going anywhere, not while the mother who'd been lost to him for years was gazing up at him and really seeing him, for the first time in his life.
"Toby," she murmured again, brown eyes brimming with tears. "My Toby."
Toby swallowed hard, blinking back tears of his own, while his father gripped the end of the bed and stared in shocked disbelief at his wife.
Things are never perfect, of course.
When Toby got home that night there was a Howler from his boss demanding to know why he hadn't turned up to work and Adrian, his flatmate, was cooking up something dubious in the kitchen.
Adrian stuck his head into the hall as the dying strains of the Howler faded and grinned.
"Where you been?"
"Saint Mungos," answered Toby faintly, tossing his cloak over a chair.
"Oh," frowned Adrian, giving him a searching look. "You all right?"
"I'm fine," said Toby, waving a careless hand. "Wasn't for me."
"Your mum?" asked Adrian, looking sympathetic. He and Adrian had become friends in their fourth year at Hogwarts, and he'd found out about his mother a few years later.
"She's fine," said Toby, sinking into a chair at the kitchen table, still trying to make sense of it all.
"So why'd you go?" questioned Adrian, stirring what Toby guessed was meant to be curry in the pot on the stove.
"Because she's fine," said Toby, and Adrian glanced around at him, a puzzled look on his face. "She's fine. She's better. She knows who I am."
"What?" Adrian's tone was shocked, and he stared at his friend with wide brown eyes, hand frozen in the act of lifting the wooden spoon to taste the curry. "She's-?"
"Conscious," nodded Toby. "Bit hazy, and the Healers say it'll be weeks before she's properly rehabilitated, maybe months before she can be left on her own, but-" He trailed off, shrugging. "She's...there. Not just a shell."
"Are you ok?" asked Adrian, turning the heat down and taking the seat opposite him. Toby grinned faintly at him; Adrian might play the fool a lot, but he was surprisingly perceptive sometimes.
"Still in shock?"
"I just don't think I understand," said Toby slowly. "Or maybe I do, but that would just be-"
"Just be what?"
"Completely ridiculous," said Toby softly. "I mean, she knew who I was but she didn't know Dad had aged... But then of course, she's never seen Dad..."
"Er, she did marry him, Toby," said Adrian, treating him to a peculiar look and laughing nervously.
"What?" asked Toby, snapping out of his musings. "Oh. Yes. She did."
"Want some curry?" asked Adrian, gesturing towards the pungent smell on the stove and Toby shrugged.
"Sure, why not? The Healers could probably get me a bed next to Mum."
Adrian grinned, letting the slight on his culinary skills slide and pushing himself out of his seat to get two plates out of the cupboard, as Toby slipped off into thoughts occupied by sapphire blue eyes and a wicked smile.
' You won't come after me.'
'Why not? I said we were even; I don't owe you anything.'
'You do owe me. You value your sanity more than my life, so the odds are still tipped in my favour. I saved your life – you just let me live. They're not the same thing.'
'And how do you suppose we remedy this imbalance? According to you, I am still in your debt...'
She wouldn't have.
Feedback makes me very happy.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: First off - sorry for the wait. I fully intended to post this chapter sooner, but I'm hopelessly disorganised and didn't get around to it.
Secondly - just a reminder that this story is being put on hold as of the end of this chapter. It's a good place to halt, and rest assured, the story will be finished. Just not for a while.
Finally, and most importantly, I'd like to say thank you to Slythy & Nys who beta-ed this chapter for me. It is greatly appreciated.
And now, on with the story, and what has got to be my favourite chapter to date. It's been a long time coming...
For Slythy & Remquo
who spotted this long before I did
Chapter 55 – Devilish Streak
Severus Snape peered at the black text of the book he was reading and scowled. The tome claimed to give a detailed account of the various effects of Murgrass on the human body, and so far it was doing a worse job than most of his fifth years had managed.
He sank back into the dark leather of the seat and looked up at the ornate ceiling. He'd taken refuge here after Nicola had brought a very enthusiastic companion home after work, and had planned to catch up on some reading. He sighed, tossing the book on the table and gazing idly at the dusty gold leaf above him.
Anything to distract him from the fact that Katherine had been missing for a week now, and no one had seen hide nor hair of her. Robert was getting jumpy, and Severus got the impression that something big was going to happen soon; Katherine hadn't told him how many horcruxes they'd managed to destroy yet. One? Two? Six?
A soft tap on the door made him leap to his feet, wand in hand.
"Who's there?" he demanded, dark eyes suspicious. He'd chosen this hideout because it was rarely used anymore and very few people knew about it; just his luck that someone had decided to investigate it tonight.
The door was pushed open and lamplight fell on glossy dark hair and a surprisingly tanned face.
"Katherine?" asked Severus, lowering his wand to stare at her. She was leaning against the door jamb, wearing a white shirt, faded jeans and a very familiar grin. "Where the hell have you been?" he demanded, trying to glare at her, and failing miserably under the blue eyed gaze.
"Australia," she answered, and he heard the faint twang of an accent as her grin widened, blue eyes positively impish.
"Robert's been going frantic."
"I know - I went to see him an hour ago. He's fine now."
"You disappear to another continent for a week, then you get back and go and see Robert," sighed Severus, sinking back into his chair. "Should I be offended?"
"I had to see him about something," she said calmly, still eyeing him with that strange look in her eyes. "I knew it wouldn't take long, and I wasn't intending on leaving once I got here, so..." She shrugged, as though that explained everything, and smiled again. "Did he tell you?"
"Robert? He hasn't said anything. Why? What's going on?"
"War's ending tomorrow," said Katherine, and Severus suddenly understood his friend's panic.
"He didn't seriously think you'd run off, did he?" he asked incredulously, smirking.
"Think he thought Tom had found out, actually," answered Katherine, smiling faintly.
"He'll find out tomorrow," said Severus quietly, gazing at her with intent dark eyes.
"Yes," she agreed, meeting his gaze and Severus had the sudden urge to say something stupid like: 'Don't fight' or 'Run now, while you've got the chance'. It wouldn't do any good, he knew, but it didn't stop him wanting to, didn't stop him hoping she'd listen, didn't stop him wishing that what she said next wasn't true. "My last night."
"And you're here," said Severus, finding it suddenly difficult to look her in the eye.
"Everyone always says you should spend your last hours with the people you love," Katherine said softly, and Severus' gaze snapped back to hers. "You may notice I'm not with Remus."
Severus stared at her, outright shock on his face, and something in that sentence clicked into place. "You've been talking to Nicola."
"She did mention something, yes," said Katherine, a slight grin on her face. "And you were right; when it comes down to it, I really do only care about one person."
"You do?" asked Severus faintly, wondering where his ability to form coherent sentences had wandered off to.
"I do," agreed Katherine, blue eyes gleaming playfully. "And it's not Sirius Black."
"No. He was lovely and everything, but..." She shrugged, the movement making her dark hair shimmer in the low light. "It's not him. And it's not Remus Lupin, either, so you were wrong there."
"Leon Wilkes?" tried Severus, raising his eyebrows in mock seriousness and Katherine laughed darkly.
"Ah, sweet Leo. Best mistake I ever made." She smiled, detaching herself from the door frame and coming to sit on the table before him. "But somehow I think the fact that I murdered him kinda crosses him off the list too."
"So that was deliberate," smiled Severus, leaning forward a little in his chair. "I did wonder."
"'Course it was," grinned Katherine, sapphire eyes glittering. "He was nasty to me. I could hardly let him get away with it, could I?"
"I suppose not. You never could let things be," said Severus, swallowing hard and thinking absently that he couldn't tear his gaze away from those mesmerizing sapphire eyes, even if he'd wanted to.
"Never give up," said Katherine softly. "My new motto."
"What happened to 'we who are about to die don't want to'?" asked Severus, arching an eyebrow and trying to regain some of his self control.
"Tied up all my loose ends," answered Katherine, bending forward, a wicked grin on her face. "Save for one."
Severus stared at her, into eyes the colour of sapphires, and over the thumping of his own heartbeat he heard himself whisper three words he'd never thought he would say to anyone.
"I love you."
Katherine's eyes glimmered with amusement, lips quirking into a delighted grin, their faces inches apart.
"Damn right you do," she whispered softly, and kissed him.
Severus opened his eyes and stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling as the events of the previous night came back to him. He frowned and sat up, looking around the room. Had that really happened or was it just his over reactive imagination?
Severus stopped, shaking his head. Since when had he had an over reactive imagination?
The door swung open and Katherine appeared, wearing the white shirt she’d had on yesterday and twirling the serpent necklace he’d given her in their seventh year around in her fingers.
“’Morning,” he said quietly, and she glanced over at him and grinned.
“I am. What happened to wanting to be around me?”
“I needed the toilet,” answered Katherine with an impish grin, climbing on top of the bed and kissing him. “And I am quite capable of making that trip unaccompanied.”
“How long do we have?” asked Severus, thinking of the plan she’d told him late last night. She sighed, lying down next to him and resting her head on his chest.
“Four or five hours. Told Potter to yell when he requires our presence.”
“Went to see him, too, did you?” asked Severus, smirking as she rolled over and gazed up at him, a supremely innocent expression on her face.
“Save the best till last,” she assured him, reaching out a hand to ruffle his hair. “I think I like it short, you know. It’s even relatively clean,” she added, a mischievous grin curling her lips.
“I washed it yesterday,” said Severus, giving her a mock glare. “I do wash it, you know, despite what certain-”
Katherine put a finger over his lips and grinned. “No dwelling on the past,” she chided, blue eyes glimmering wickedly. Severus pulled her finger away and frowned, rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand.
“Does that include telling me what in the world you were up to in Australia?”
“Hunting,” replied Katherine cryptically, leaning back into the pillow and grinning up at the ceiling.
“Arcadia- Your mother?” asked Severus, sitting up and staring at her. “I thought you said she was dead?”
“Tom said she was dead,” answered Katherine, shifting to get comfortable and then looking up at him with clear sapphire eyes. “Kelly said she was dead too, but they were both lying, and Kel owned up in the end.” She smirked, biting her lip. “You’re not allowed to hate Potter anymore.”
“Because he’s going to end the war?”
“No, because he told me where Cady was.”
“My mother - short for Arcadia.” She frowned, twisting the necklace around her fingers once more. “Don’t think I’m quite ready to call her Mum. Won’t ever be ready now.”
Severus couldn’t think of anything to say to this; denial of the fact would sound insincere, and accepting their fate would ruin the few hours they had left, so he remained quiet for a while, enjoying the peace of the early morning and Katherine’s presence beside him.
“What's she like?” he asked eventually, twirling a lock of her soft black hair around his finger. Katherine smiled, her expression a little wistful.
Severus smiled, because she wasn’t being flippant or brusque, she was being honest; to Katherine, her mother being nothing like her father was the best thing about her.
“Potter told you where she was?”
“Kel left the address with him. I guess he figured we were bound to run into each other sooner or later,” answered Katherine, shrugging.
“And you waited till now to check it out?”
“I didn’t get the address till last week,” said Katherine, grinning at him. “You really think I’ve got enough self control to stop myself searching for her if I’d had the address earlier?”
“Kelly Hunt died last August, Katherine.”
“Which just goes to show that Potter is smarter than you lot and has actually listened when I’ve told him not to trust me,” said Katherine blithely, and Severus scoffed.
“Potter is not smart, Katherine.”
“He’s not James, either.”
Severus glanced at her, saw the very slight look of reproach in her dark eyes and chose to ignore it, opting to change the subject instead.
“How did you find her?”
“Unintentionally,” frowned Katherine, but there was a wry smile on her lips and Severus put an arm around her and pulled her close, breathing in her musky scent.
Jericho, Australia - Eight days previously
Callum Jones turned the page of the newspaper and sighed. More bad news from England; it never seemed to stop nowadays, and he was willing to bet things were much worse than The Prophet was permitted to print. He glanced up at the clock on the wall and flicked his wand at the kettle, which obediently started to boil.
It was just as he turned back to the open paper that the clock flashed green. He froze, staring at the emerald glow for a few horrified seconds, then leapt out of his chair so fast that it tipped over and hit the stone tiled floor with a crash.
There was no answer.
No sound at all.
Heart in his throat, he made for the stairs, and that was when he caught sight of the note stuck innocently to the mirror.
Gone to visit Maddie. Back in ten minutes.
He snatched it up, crumpling it in his fist as he headed for the front door and hesitating for a second before deciding that keeping his wand out was a necessary risk. He had to find his son, had to warn his wife, had to get away.
He hauled open the front door and looked out, coming face to face with a pair of very familiar sapphire eyes and an equally unfamiliar woman, who seemed just as surprised to see him as he was to see her. She stared at him for a long moment, the blue eyes he knew so well wide in something like fear, and then footsteps sounded across the street, and Callum saw his son walking towards them, hands in his pocket, rusty brown hair falling into his eyes.
The woman looked around too as Jude cross the road and glanced at her, seeming a little confused.
“G’day,” he said uncertainly. “Can we hel-” He stopped, brushing the hair out of his bright blue eyes and staring at the stranger with unabashed shock. “Who the hell are you?”
He looked at his father, eyebrows raised in inquiry and Callum had just opened his mouth to say something when the woman bolted, taking off down the street as fast as she could.
“Wait!” yelled Callum, and glanced at Jude who was eyeing the wand in his hand tentatively.
“Uh Dad, what are you doing? You know we’re not supposed to use magic in front of muggles.”
“She wasn’t a muggle,” muttered Callum, casting an eye around the street restlessly. “Look - go inside and lock yourself in your room and for heavens sake keep your wand on you.”
“Just do it,” demanded Callum, starting off in the direction the woman had run. “Now, Jude.”
Callum left his son’s protests behind and caught up with the woman a few yards along the next street. She hadn’t gone far, despite her desperate flight, and was leaning against the side wall of a house, eyes closed, face turned upwards, basking in the heat of the morning sun.
“What happened to Hunt?” he asked quietly, coming to stand in front of her. One brilliant blue eye opened and gazed at him with a guarded look before she answered.
“He was murdered.” The other eye opened, and she considered him critically. “How did you know I was there?”
“Who said I did?”
“You usually leave your house armed?” she questioned, arching an eyebrow in an expression so reminiscent of his wife it made him smile.
“Hunt installed an alarm; lets us know if there are Death Eaters about. The darker the hue, the more there are,” said Callum carefully, eyeing the wand held casually in her hand nervously. If he let her get away, Cady would never forgive him. “Come back to the house.”
“What?” She seemed genuinely surprised, and he thought that if she hadn’t already had her back against a wall, she would have backed away.
“The house,” repeated Callum, grey eyes calm. “Come back.”
The woman tilted her head to one side, eyeing him with not undue scepticism. “Let me get this straight: you’ve just established I’m a Death Eater, and now you’re inviting me back to your house. Is it just me, or is your logic a little bit faulty there?”
Footsteps clattered round the corner, and turning Callum saw his wife, her short hair falling about a face that was so like the one before him it was disturbing.
“Jude said-” she began, then her eyes fell on the woman and the breath caught in her throat as she stared.
“Mum, what’s going on?” demanded Jude, appearing by her side, the sunshine highlighting the reddish tint to his hair. He followed her stunned gaze, finding the mysterious woman once more, and frowned uneasily. “Mum?”
Callum looked from his son to the woman who bore such a striking resemblance to his wife, and saw with a flicker of unease that her eyes had narrowed, some emotion he couldn’t quite make out hidden in their depths. What if she wasn’t who he thought she was? Or what if she was and it didn’t mean anything to her?
And then her gaze slid from Cady to Jude and she smiled sourly. “Not so very unlike your brother after all,” she murmured, eyes on Cady again. Callum saw his wife raise her eyebrows at this, moving forward slightly.
“You’ve met Thomas?” she asked, and Callum heard the fear in her voice. “Look, whatever he said, it wasn’t true.”
“That wasn’t what I was referring to,” said the woman quietly, blue eyes settling on Jude, who was studying her from a distance, looking severely uncomfortable. Cady frowned, fine eyebrows drawing together in confusion.
“Faye?” she asked slowly, sapphire eyes dark with thought, and Katherine smiled bitterly.
“Secrets and lies,” she muttered, though Callum noticed that she didn’t look away; he didn’t think she could. “Should have expected as much.”
“No, it’s not like that,” said Cady quickly, taking a few more steps towards her, hands reached out in supplication. “I thought you were dead – the papers said you died, Kelly said you’d died. I’m not ashamed, I would have told him, but-”
“You’re still a Slytherin.”
Cady blanched, lowering her hands, and gazing at her with an expression that tried and failed to hide her hurt. “So are you.”
“I’m not trying to pretend I’m not.”
Cady was quite for a moment, then asked softly: “What’s Tom told you about me?”
“That you were dead,” said Katherine quietly. “That was pretty much it. Your brother, on the other hand, was only too happy to fill me in.”
“I told you, don’t believe anything Thomas said,” said Cady fiercely. “He is-“
“He’s dead.” There was a slight pause before Katherine added with a slight reluctance: “Natural causes.”
“How do you know?” asked Cady warily, and Katherine smiled grimly.
“Faye told me.”
“You know Faye?” Cady’s voice was laden with breathless hope and Katherine nodded. “Is she-?”
“Dead. Like you said,” replied Katherine, averting her gaze from Cady’s face and looking at the ground.
“No you’re not,” whispered Cady, but the flicker in her eyes belied her anxiety. “You’re not.”
“I will be.”
“No,” said Cady, scowling now. “No, I won’t let him take you away from me again. I’ll hide you, I can help-”
“Oh yeah,” Katherine muttered, looking back up at her and smiling mirthlessly. “You’re good at helping out Death Eaters, aren’t you?”
“Who?” asked Cady carefully, a genuinely puzzled look on her face as she tried to work out what she meant. This did not appear to be the right question, because Katherine arched an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed.
“There’s a list to choose from?” she asked, but shook her head before Cady could say anything more. “I was referring to Murphy.”
“Theo? Wait, you mean that stuff in Bulgaria? I couldn’t help that – he would have told Tom I was still alive if I hadn’t helped him – would have used the information to bargain his way out of Azkaban.” Cady looked hard at her, at the daughter she’d thought she’d lost long ago and willed her to believe her story, unable to do anything more than hope that she would.
“Why were you there at all?” asked Katherine, shifting uncomfortably, as though she half wanted to believe her but couldn’t.
“There were a couple of students transferring from Durmstrang and I had to sort out the paperwork,” said Cady, shrugging helplessly. “Look, I know it sounds-”
“The students. What were their names?” demanded Katherine, no longer lounging against the wall, but upright and alert.
“I…can’t remember exactly, it was ages ago. Something Scottish, I think. McDonald? McKegan?” Her expression cleared, and she shook her head. “No, McKenzie, that was it. They were twins.”
“Alex and Jamie?” Katherine asked, eyes eager.
“You know them?” asked Cady in surprise, and Katherine nodded, wrapping her arms around herself, self-conscious once more. Cady vaguely noticed Callum move towards Jude, and say something quietly to him, but the majority of her attention was fixed on the woman before her, who was still gazing at her with that peculiar expression on her face, and Cady suddenly realised what it was. Fear.
For all her bravado and accusations, Katherine was absolutely terrified.
Now that Cady stopped to think about it, so was she.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, eyes suddenly filling with tears that she couldn’t hold back, because even though the fierce sapphire eyes watching her were identical to her own, she could see traces of Tom in the fine cheekbones and pale complexion. How much more had she inherited from her father? How much nonsense had he managed to fill her head with over the past forty years?
“I should have been there,” said Cady hoarsely, swallowing hard. “I should have protected you, I should have…” She trailed off, speech failing her and shrugged helplessly. “I thought I was acting for the best.”
Katherine studied her with intent blue eyes, eyebrows drawn together in a frown that didn’t seem angry but more…curious?
“But you did,” she said at last, tilting her head slightly to one side, the frown remaining on her face.
“I know,” agreed Cady quietly, wondering if she would ever be forgiven for abandoning her daughter, but Katherine was shaking her head, a slightly impatient look on her face.
“No, I mean you did what was best.” She smiled faintly at Cady’s confused expression and gave a one shouldered shrug. “Letting me go gave me sixteen years of a normal happy life. That’s the best gift anyone’s ever given me.”
“You’re serious?” asked Cady, staring at her, and Katherine grinned a little.
“You’re not angry?”
“Angry? At leaving me with two of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met? ‘Course I’m not; that’d be stupid.”
“But then why-” Cady began, and hesitated, thinking. She’d been about to ask why she’d run off if she wasn’t angry, but given what she knew of her errant daughter from Kelly’s letters, that perhaps wasn’t the best idea. Would she admit to being scared in front of three people who were essentially complete strangers to her? “Why are you here?” she asked quietly, trying a different approach.
Blue eyes considered her for a long moment, then Katherine ran a hand through her hair and shrugged helplessly. “I wanted to see if you were still around.”
“So you take off before you find out?” asked Cady, raising an eyebrow, and receiving a scowl for it.
“I didn’t have to meet you to know you were alive,” said Katherine archly. “Your son’s not very good at Occlumency.”
“Is my daughter?” Cady didn’t know what prompted her to say it, and apparently neither did Katherine, because she looked slightly taken aback. There, you’ve done it, you’ve said the dreaded D word. It’s up to her now.
“She’s very good at lots of things,” murmured Katherine eventually, holding her gaze with wary eyes. “Staying alive, mostly.”
“But not family reunions?” asked Cady, keeping her tone light with a fair amount of effort, and Katherine smiled sourly, tilting her head forward slightly so that her eyes fell into shadow.
“The last two didn’t go so well.”
Cady winced; she’d walked right into that one. She could only imagine what Katherine’s first meeting with her father had been like, and she knew her brother too well to suppose that any encounter with him would have been much better.
“I’m not like Tom,” she said gently, gazing earnestly at Katherine. “I wasn’t into all that stuff he came out with, and I certainly didn’t agree with some of his methods, but I didn’t realise just how serious he was about it until it was too late.”
“Sounds familiar,” muttered Katherine, looking down with a bitter smile, twisting the silver band on her finger absently. “Can’t see past the charm.”
A gleam of blue caught Cady’s eye and she glanced at the ring on her daughter’s finger, at the glittering sapphires studded around it.
“You kept it,” she said softly, and Katherine looked up, momentarily startled.
“My ring.” Cady stared at her, into eyes that were both familiar and alien at the same time and felt her own eyes begin to fill. “My Kate.”
“Kate?” Katherine’s gaze was questioning, but not annoyed.
“Sorry, everyone calls you Katherine, don’t they?”
“Usually, or Kat for short,” said Katherine quietly, smiling a little. “Kitten if you have death wish.”
Cady laughed, and Katherine grinned too, surprising Cady with the difference it made to her face; suddenly she didn’t look so very like Cady anymore, and the traces of Tom vanished completely, drowned out by the impish gleam in her eyes and a broad smile that had never graced his face, and through the mists of time Kelly’s smooth voice piped up in the back of her mind, laced with humour as he answered her demand to tell her more about her absent daughter.
‘She’s very like you, and she’s very like Tom, which makes her, of course, completely unlike anyone else I’ve ever met…’
Looking at her daughter now, standing before her in the sunshine, she finally got what he’d meant.
“So what should I call you?” she asked quietly, and Katherine’s fiendish grin faded as she thought about it.
“Kate’s fine,” she said after a while, and smiled a little in response to Cady’s beaming face.
“Kate it is, then,” agreed Cady, holding out her hand once more, and this time, Katherine took it.
“So?” asked Severus, as Katherine stopped talking, gazing into middle distance with a melancholy air. She shrugged, twining a strand of hair round her finger.
“So I stayed. We talked. It was good.”
“Why did you run?”
“Scared,” murmured Katherine, burying her face in his chest. “I only meant to check - to see if she was still alive, and all of a sudden there’s this kid looking up at me with her eyes - my eyes - and…I panicked. She obviously was still there, had a family, a son, and then her husband came out and I bolted because I didn’t want to meet her.”
“But you’re happy you have,” pointed out Severus, and Katherine shrugged, raising her head to gaze at him.
“I guess so. I didn’t want to meet her because if I did, I thought maybe I wouldn't want to come back," she admitted quietly. "Or maybe she wouldn't live up to my expectations, or I wouldn't live up to hers, but it was...strange. A little awkward, but, ok, you know?" She gave him a half grin and settled back beside him. "And I've got a little brother. Half brother, admittedly, but a blood relation all the same."
"How did he take the news?"
"That his big sister's the spawn of Satan?"
"Among other things," agreed Severus, grinning at her, and she laughed.
"Pretty well, actually. I think he thinks it's quite cool to be related to a convicted criminal."
"Definitely your brother, then," said Severus firmly, and received a sharp poke for his troubles. He grabbed her hands to prevent further injury and propped himself up on one elbow, looking seriously at her. "Would you really have stayed there? If she'd asked you to?"
"She did ask," said Katherine quietly, chewing her lip distractedly.
"But you came back anyway?"
"Because of Potter's plan?" he asked, and she smiled, and shook her head.
"No, he could have coped without me if he'd had to."
"So why, then?"
"Because she was so happy," said Katherine, leaning back into her pillow and gazing up at the ceiling above them. "She really loves Callum, and he loves her - I mean, she was straight up with him about Tom and everything before they got involved, and...he didn't care. He loved her just as she was. And, well, I got to thinking that...I've been an idiot." She gave him a rueful smile, tracing a finger across his jaw line and sighing softly. "'Cause I've had the chance for that kind of relationship for the past twenty years and I've never done a thing about it, because there was always some sort of excuse - I didn't want you getting hurt, I didn't want to ruin our friendship - and then there was Sirius, who I never intended to fall for, but..." She trailed off, shrugging helplessly. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" he asked, gazing at her, surprised to find that the mention of Black wasn't conjuring up the usual feeling of anger and bitter resentment.
"Hurting you. You see, I thought I was keeping you safe, that maybe things turned out for the best, but..."
"But?" prompted Severus, raising an eyebrow as she gazed into middle distance, a pensive expression on her face.
"But I still loved you. And I would have dropped him in an instant if you'd ever told me that you loved me too. 'Course, that may not have lasted very long, 'cause Remus would have murdered me, but...well, you would have been worth it." She smiled wryly, kissing him softly, and adding: "You are worth it. You're what I came back for, and I don't care what happens later, because I got to tell you that, and right now I’m the happiest I've ever been in my entire life. I love you, Severus Snape.”
Severus smiled, pressing his lips to hers once more, and reminding himself this was real. Two decades of forlorn hope, of watching from the sidelines while someone else held her or the newspaper headlines delighted in her misfortunes. Two decades of anger and loneliness culminating in this moment, a few stolen hours while their borrowed time ticked away.
It wasn’t fair, but he’d never thought life was, so he didn’t dwell on it.
“I love you, Katherine,” he whispered, not feeling stupid or soppy at all. It was a fact and there wasn’t anything he could do about it, and that wasn’t through lack of trying.
“Past death, till the end of days,” cited Katherine, smiling faintly at his bemused look. “It was a line in some ancient Prophecy,” she explained, settling down next to him. “Only it was talking about loathing. ‘And yea they shall despise one another forevermore, through earth and water, wind and flame, past death, till the end of days’.”
She grinned. “I may have embellished on the ‘yea’ bit.”
“Who was it referring to?”
“No idea. Could apply to just about anyone.”
“Sounds a bit like you and Evan,” remarked Severus, face carefully placid, and Katherine hit him round the head.
“Ha ha,” she said dryly, but she was grinning all the same, and a voice from so long ago sounded in Severus’ head - Katherine’s, yelling at him for not telling her he was signing up, saying caustically that at least Black made her laugh. He looked down at her, at the brilliant eyes that gazed up into his dark ones, and smiled.
She’d never said Black made her happy.
Feedback, congratulations and general abuse goes here.
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Yes, it has been an appallingly long time since I last posted. No, I cannot unfortunately promise that it won’t happen again. Yes, I will shut up so you can get on with reading the chapter, but I have to first say an enormous thank you to Slythy who beta-ed this chapter, and to you all for bearing with me for so long.
Chapter 56 – Famous last stands
Cold scarlet eyes thinned to slits as they focused on the cloaked figure in the centre of the circle. The late afternoon sunshine cast the face behind the low hood into shadow, but he didn’t need a face to know who it was; there was only one person in the world with enough audacity to pull a stunt like this, and he should have disposed of her years ago.
“You called?” he asked icily, impatience hissing in his voice.
One hand rose to pull the hood back and the golden light of the falling sun illuminated Katherine’s grinning features.
“I brought you a friend,” said Katherine mildly, and though her tone was pleasant enough, there was a dangerous gleam lurking in the depths of her eyes.
“A friend?” asked Voldemort softly, his own blood red eyes watching his errant daughter cautiously. Yes, he should have had her killed before now - she was far too loose a cannon to be trusted. “And where exactly would this supposed friend be?”
Katherine smiled, and lowered her gaze, fingers clenching into a fist, and for a moment Voldemort thought she was steeling herself for a fight, but her curious actions were explained a second later as a silvery material appeared in her hand. It was an invisibility cloak, and beneath it…
Voldemort looked back up at his daughter, meeting the challenge in her gaze and smiling cruelly: maybe it hadn’t been such a big mistake to keep her alive, after all.
“A friend?” he asked again, though there was amusement in his high voice now. On the grassy ground at his feet, the black haired boy struggled with the bonds that held him, trying to yell through the thick wad of cloth that gagged him.
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord,” said Katherine quietly, her soft words carrying easily on the still evening air. “But not his daughter, it seems.” She gave him a bright little smile as he frowned, and continued smoothly: “I caught him trying to break into Anguis House.”
“And he’s still breathing?” questioned Voldemort, though the flicker of suspicion that lingered somewhere deep inside him was being rapidly drowned out by excitement. After all this time, all the failed plans, he had Potter in front of him, and not only that, the boy was completely helpless.
“You wanted him alive.” Katherine’s answer to what he had meant as a throw away comment broke into his thoughts and he looked up to see her sapphire eyes strangely dark. “I can’t kill him anyway.”
“No?” asked Voldemort, a slight frown marring his brow; there was something unnerving about the surety in that statement.
“No, just like I can’t kill you, and that’s hardly through lack of trying.”
Usually Voldemort might have let a remark such as this go unheeded; what was a little insolence when she could pull off feats such as the capture of Harry Potter, something none of his disciples since Crouch had come even close to? But this time Katherine wasn’t smiling, and there wasn’t even a trace of humour in those dark eyes. It was then that he realised exactly what that strange emotion in his daughter’s features was: hatred. Pure, unadulterated malice, all of it directed at him.
Which made the fact that she’d brought him Potter somewhat odd.
His gaze flickered uncertainly to the bound teenager, but he seemed secure enough, and it there was no doubt it was him.
“What’s going on?” he asked levelly, as the tiny flame of doubt grew and flickered anew.
“Nothing’s going on,” said Katherine, smiling serenely. “Just fulfilling the Prophecy. It’s about time someone did something about it, don’t you think? I mean, it’s been seventeen years, and it’s still hanging over us.”
“Fulfilling the Prophecy?” repeated Voldemort, an unfamiliar sensation curdling somewhere in the deep recesses of what remained of his soul. Fear.
“Yeah, the Prophecy,” agreed Katherine brightly. “You know the one. ‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…’” She trailed off, a real grin curling her lips now, the antipathy in her eyes making it far more disconcerting than a mere smile had any right to be. “That Prophecy.”
“You’re fulfilling it?” asked Voldemort coldly, snake like eyes narrowing even further. “A Prophecy that no living man has ever heard in full?”
Katherine smiled, head tilted very slightly to one side. “Ah, but I’m not a man, am I, father?”
“Don’t play games with me, Katherine,” warned Voldemort, raising his wand and pointing it straight at her heart, but she only laughed.
“Am I irritating you?” she questioned, grinning delightedly. “I must be irritating you. You only use my name like that when you’re annoyed.”
Voldemort shot a curse at her, which she ducked, giving him a reproachful look.
“No need to resort to violence. And you’re wrong, by the way – Potter’s already heard the Prophecy from our dearly departed headmaster, so really you’re the only one who’s still in the dark.”
“You got it out of him?” asked Voldemort, red eyes gleaming with anticipation, and Katherine laughed, shaking her head.
“Out of Potter?” She grinned, tilting her head to one side again and surveying him with something akin to amusement. “Now why on earth would I need to do that?”
Voldemort stared at her, at her belligerent expression and sour smile, and the truth dawned on him like poison spreading through his veins. “You already knew.” The words were barely above a whisper, but Katherine heard, a low chuckle resounding in her throat.
“Don’t feel bad, dad. I mean, I didn’t know about it for a whole two days after it was made. It’s really not your fault it’s now two decades later and you still don’t see how stupid you’ve been.” She hesitated, chewing her lip and looking thoughtful. “Oh no, wait, that’s wrong, isn’t it? It is your fault. Fools rush in, and all that.”
“What are you talking about?” hissed Voldemort, forgetting all about Potter for the present, his entire being focused solely on the grinning witch before him.
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches,” said Katherine slowly, a dark light dancing in eyes that would forever remind him of her insipid mother. “Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…” She paused, listening to the hush of a clearing full of people holding their breath, then continued deliberately: “…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have the power the Dark Lord knows not-” Katherine raised her voice to be heard over the sudden rush of murmurings and gasps that erupted at her words, her gaze never once leaving the pair of scarlet eyes before her. “-and either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.”
Over the shouts and yells from the surrounding ring of Death Eaters, Voldemort heard her voice again, low but unmistakable.
“Never bothered to ask where I worked, did you, Tom? Shame. It might have saved you.”
“Saved me?” he asked blankly, as wands appeared in hands all around, directed straight at Katherine, waiting only for the word of command.
“Didn’t I mention?” asked Katherine, face set in an expression of wide eyed innocence. “Potter brought some friends too.” She smiled again, gesturing around the circle with a careless hand.
“Potter is friends with Death Eaters?” Voldemort asked, seething with rage, but not too incensed to ignore the nonchalant stance of his only child.
“Potter is friends with the people surrounding them,” answered a different voice, and Voldemort looked down sharply to meet the gaze of a pair of fierce bottle green eyes glaring up at him. So much for being tied up.
“Traitor!” The scream came from one of the hooded figures, and a jet of green light flew from the tip of a wand, directed straight at Katherine, who didn’t quite raise her own wand in time, and actually looked rather bemused when the curse bounced harmlessly away, unable to penetrate the barrier generated by the seven separate shield charms cast to protect her.
“Apparently I’m not the only one with friends,” murmured Harry, sparing her half a smile, his own wand directed at Voldemort.
“Not the only one with a score to settle, either,” Katherine replied, a truly evil grin curling her lips as she turned towards her would-be murderer. “I’m going to enjoy this.”
Next to him, Remus could hear Tonks’ gasp of surprise as Katherine started spouting out the forgotten Prophecy, and her grip on his hand increased. He squeezed back in what he hoped was a reassuring manner and concentrated on listening to what was going on in the circle.
He’d been impressed with Harry’s choice of battleground – the site of the last Quidditch World Cup. The stadium had of course been removed years ago but it had left behind a large clearing surrounded by trees which made the perfect cover for the ambush they were about to stage. Added to this, the Aurors had set up anti-muggle and anti-disapparating wards for a square mile above the forest, and Katherine was currently maintaining a concealment charm that hid the hundreds of Aurors, Order members and newly recruited fighters from prying eyes.
Just then, Katherine’s voice broke into his thoughts once more and he snapped back to attention.
“Didn’t I mention?” she was asking, in a voice too full of innocence to be remotely believable. “Potter brought some friends too.”
Tonks gave his hand one last squeeze and then Katherine dropped the concealment charm and the white masked figures in the circle saw them for the first time. There was a long moment in which everyone stood immobile, as though uncertain of exactly what to do, and then he heard a voice he recognised all to well yell: “Traitor!” and saw the dreaded killing curse streaking towards Katherine, who couldn’t possibly dodge in time-
-but then it bounced away, deflected by the barrage of protective spells that intercepted it, and he smiled a little. Katherine may not have been one of Voldemort’s inner circle anymore, but she clearly wasn’t without friends. Every single one of those spells had been fired to save her and every one had come from a black robed figure.
Remus saw Katherine turn and look at the woman who was even now raising her wand for another curse and saw her smile; a wide, vicious grin that made her look both more evil and more mischievous than he’d ever seen her before.
And then for a fraction of a second those vivid blue eyes slid sideways and found his, and he looked back grimly, knowing exactly what she thinking.
This one’s for Sirius.
Amidst the confusion of the battle, Robert Avery sought out his old friend, ducking curses and lending an occasional hand to those he saw fit. It wasn’t hard to track Katherine down; the furious stream of insults from Bellatrix was clearly audible, even above the noise of the battle.
“-at least I don’t try and hit on a certain Dark Lord every time my husband’s out of the way.”
“You haven’t got a husband, Riddle!”
“And whose fault is that?”
Robert dodged the nasty stinging hex that flew over Katherine’s right shoulder and watched in satisfaction as his friend’s own curse found its target rather better. Bellatrix screamed in fury as the skin on her left arm erupted in scales, and threw a dozen more angry hexes at Katherine which missed, felling two Aurors and an unwary Death Eater in the process.
“Now, now, Trixibell,” chided Katherine in a sing song voice, conjuring up a shield charm and shaking her head in mock disappointment. “That wasn’t very nice, was it? I could have been seriously hurt.” She smiled sweetly at Bella as the two circled each other with practiced ease.
“You will be,” snarled Bellatrix, her wild black hair tumbling over her bony shoulders, dark eyes shining with malice. “I’ll make you pay, traitor.”
“Traitor?” Katherine’s voice was all innocence, and Robert grinned, casually cursing an approaching Auror and inwardly marvelling at the excellent job Katherine was doing of winding Bella up, but then, he supposed, she had had years to perfect the art. “You’re the one that just killed Jugson.” Katherine nudged the fallen Death Eater with her foot, the white mask he still wore askew on a face which was contorted with agony.
“Well I’m not the only one who’s hit a fellow acquaintance whilst aiming for another, am I, Riddle? Or perhaps I am?” Bellatrix flung another curse at Katherine which she only just ducked in time, and laughed cruelly. “Tell me, Riddle, how many partners did you end up murdering in the end? Thirteen, wasn’t it? But oh no, of course I’m forgetting my dear cousin – that makes in fourteen, doesn’t it?”
Robert saw Katherine’s expression change from mocking insolence to pure anger in an instant, and she was already lunging for Bella before he’d even started to wonder why Bella would accuse Katherine of killing Sirius.
Severus sent another Death Eater sprawling to the floor and looked around for Katherine, dark eyes darting through the mass of people. He knew she was sure she was going to get killed but he was damned if he was going to just stand by and let her die. He caught the hysterical laugh of Bellatrix and turned towards the sound, but paid for the lapse in his concentration when a scorching hex caught him in the shoulder. He directed his wand in the direction of the attacker but hesitated as he recognised the faintly scarred face and light brown eyes.
Remus’ face settled into a expression of extreme dislike, and Severus noticed with slight apprehension that he showed no sign of lowering his wand. Over to his right, he heard Bellatrix laugh once more, mad delight in her voice, and made up his mind in an instant.
He threw one of the less malevolent hexes he knew at Remus, who did, after all, experience far greater pain on a monthly basis, and headed in Bella’s direction. A few dodged curses later, he found her, lying on the ground with an insanely happy expression on her gaunt face; a rather curious sight, seeing as Katherine was leaning over her, ebony wand resting against her throat.
“Never told them, did you?” Bella was saying in a gleeful voice, choking as Katherine pressed her wand harder into her windpipe. “Been blaming me, haven’t you, Junior.”
Severus’ dark brows drew together, wondering what on earth was going on, and then he caught sight of Robert, mask abandoned, standing nearby.
“You killed him,” said Robert quietly, and Katherine’s head whipped round, wide eyes alighting on her friend. “You killed him,” repeated Robert louder, and Severus saw his hand trembling with barely suppressed rage.
“Rob-” began Katherine, a pleading note in her voice, but Robert had disappeared into the crowd of battling figures and before she could do anything more, Bella had shoved her away, taking advantage of her distraction to reverse their fortunes.
“It’s over, Junior,” she smirked, pointing her wand at Katherine, who made no move to protect herself, just remained where she’d fallen, half sitting, half lying on the muddy ground, head hanging down so that her dark hair hid her face. “I win.”
Bella raised her wand with a flourish and crumpled under the impact of Severus’ Crucio, falling to the floor in a writhing heap, but Severus didn’t stop to watch, he simply grabbed Katherine’s unresisting hand and dragged her forcibly towards the trees.
In amongst the dark branches and soft undergrowth, Severus stopped, letting Katherine sink gently to the floor, back resting against the base of a thick oak tree. Severus stared at her, the feeling of helplessness that had overcome him when he’d found her curled up on Nicola’s bathroom floor flooding through his veins and paralysing him-
And then a tear glistened on Katherine’s cheek in the dim light and he dropped to his knees, raising her chin with a gentle hand and gazing into the blue eyes he loved so much.
“Why was Robert shouting at you?” he asked quietly, as tears leaked unheeded from unseeing eyes. “Katherine, answer me. Who did you kill?”
Katherine’s lips moved, but no sound came out, and when he tried again she just turned her head away, refusing to meet his gaze.
“He hates me.” The words were barely audible, but Severus had been listening hard.
“Robert?” A barely imperceptible nod confirmed his guess. “Why? What did you do?” Slowly, very slowly, Katherine’s glistening eyes swivelled to find his and the torment he saw within them made his heart constrict with terror. “Katherine?” he asked again, the hand gripping her shoulder tightening unconsciously. “Talk to me, Kat.”
“I killed him,” she said in a hollow voice, wide eyes focused on him as if he was the only thing in the world. “He’ll never forgive me. He asked, but he’ll never understand. No one ever understands. He thinks I’m like Evan. I’m not like Evan – I didn’t want to, but he asked, and I had to – I had to-” Katherine’s eyes snapped closed, body giving an involuntary shudder as the tears flowed once more from under the tightly shut lids. “I’m not like Evan,” she said again, swallowing hard and shaking her head sharply. “I’m not.”
“You’re nothing like Evan,” said Severus softly, stroking her hair gently as his mind raced, desperately trying to ignore the only reasonable solution to the current mystery, searching for something, someone, else she could be talking about.
But he couldn’t.
It was Regulus. Regulus Black, the only one of their group who’d remained friends with Katherine after they’d left school, the only one who’d seen through her attempt to keep them safe, the only one who’d died.
Severus leant forward, resting his forehead against hers and shutting his eyes tightly as Katherine trembled, her hidden grief pouring out after so many years, and wondered how he could have missed it.
It seemed so obvious in hindsight – the way she’d forgiven him so readily for Dumbledore’s death could only have stemmed from knowing first hand what it was like to be in that position, and thinking back he realised that any mention of the youngest Black had always made her withdraw with that faintly empty look in her eyes. If he’d noticed at the time, he’d always put it down to grief for the loss of a friend, but now he knew that that grief had come coupled with guilt.
He wanted to say: ‘You could have told me, I would have understood’ but he knew it wouldn’t help, and that she couldn’t have. She’d been too scared to admit the truth, perhaps even to herself, and since she couldn’t change what had happened, she’d just let it lie, let Bella take the blame. What was it she’d said to him the night he found out she knew about Dumbledore?
“In a perfect world it wouldn't have come to that, but it did, and there's nothing else you could have done.”
He wondered how many times she’d lain awake in Azkaban telling herself that, trying to believe it, even though the words sounded more and more hollow every time, how many times she’d shut her eyes to block out memories that wouldn’t let go, how many times she’d compared herself to Evan, murdering his girlfriend to save his own skin…
Well he could dispel that belief, at least.
He pulled back, hands cupping either side of her face and gazing at her with dark eyes.
“You’re not Evan Rosier, Katherine. Look at me, Kat, you’re not like him.”
Katherine’s red rimmed eyes stared into his, and he forced his face to remain neutral, not to let on how much she was scaring him, and then Katherine’s expression shifted as the panic gave way to despair, and eyes that had been so overly bright moments ago were suddenly dead and void.
“Then why does he keep haunting me?” It wasn’t the words that scared him so much as the completely empty tone of her voice, and something must have shown in his own face because Katherine’s crumpled and she choked back a sob. “He won’t leave me alone, Sev.”
“I know,” said Severus quietly, pulling her unresisting frame towards him and holding her tight against his chest. Katherine made a small noise as though to disagree but Severus only buried his face in her shoulder and asked quietly: “Do you think I never regret what happened with Albus?”
He felt the breath catch in her throat and pulled back slightly so that he could see her face. Her eyes were still brimming with tears but he could see a glimmer of her old stubbornness in their depths.
“There was nothing else you could have done.”
“I know. Do you really think you had any other option, either?”
The gleam of life faded at his words, and it hit him suddenly just how young she looked, like a lost little child. Eyes that usually seemed old before their time were open wide and anxious, their hue an impossibly bright blue, heightened by her tears, and framed by lashes that glistened with moisture in the dim light.
“I should have tried…” she murmured, turning her face away as a lone tear spilled down cheeks that were already streaked with red tracts.
“If you’d had months, years, even, to think of another way for him, you’d still have reached the same conclusion, Katherine,” said Severus, cupping her chin in long fingers and turning her to face him once more. “There was no other way.”
“How do you know? You don’t know anything about what happened,” protested Katherine, but her voice was weak and Severus knew she was praying he had a good argument.
“I know you,” said Severus, and though his voice was quiet, it was firm. “And if you haven’t come up with an alternative after torturing yourself like this for all these years, then there can’t have been another option.”
Katherine was silent for a long time, staring vacantly at the ground, and though Severus knew it couldn’t have been more than half a minute, it felt like hours. At last, however, he heard her murmur something and she looked up, meeting his gaze with a tremulous expression on her face.
“He was my friend.”
“A little brother, even.”
“And I killed him.”
She was quiet for another moment, then shook her head despairingly. “How can you kill someone you love?”
Severus smiled sadly, catching her hand in his and locking fingers tightly. “By loving them enough to respect their wishes over your own.”
Katherine closed her eyes and Severus saw her eyelids trembling as she fought back tears, and then she let out a slow breath and opened her eyes again.
“I miss him.”
“Truth be told, so do I,” admitted Severus, smiling wryly and giving her hand a small squeeze. “But you did what you had to, and he’s at rest now. We got left behind, and we’ve got to keep fighting. I’m not letting you join him just yet, however determined you are to get killed.”
“I don’t want to die.” Katherine’s fingers tightened on his and she took a few shallow breaths. “I don’t. Not now, not when I’ve just found you, but I will and it’s not fair.”
The tears were streaming down her face again, but Severus could see the fierce spirit burning once more in her eyes, and she held her head up, almost glaring at him.
“Do you believe in destiny?”
The question threw him so much he just stared blankly at her for a few seconds, wondering what she was trying to get at.
“Like soul mates?” he ventured, thinking of Nicola’s declaration that he and Katherine were born to be together.
“Like destiny,” said Katherine, shaking her head. “Fate, determinism, predestination. Destiny.”
“Do I believe the future is set in stone, you mean?” asked Severus, frowning a little, worried by the look on her face. He remembered that expression of old; she’d worn it a lot back at school, invariably when she was just about to do something extremely unwise. To be fair, most of the time she’d managed to pull whatever it was off, but when she hadn’t…
“I’ll die anyway if I don’t try.” Katherine’s soft voice interrupted his thoughts and he started, meeting her gentle gaze and wondering how she always knew exactly what he was thinking. She smiled faintly, placing one warm hand against his cheek, the other still locked securely in his own. “All or nothing, Sev. That’s what we’re fighting for.”
“All or nothing,” repeated Severus, leaning forward so that he could feel her breath against his lips.
“All for them, and nothing for us.”
Severus pulled away, dark eyes narrowing in confusion at her words, but Katherine only gave him a crooked smile, hand dropping from his face and lying idle in her lap.
“I don’t follow you,” he said hesitantly and she tilted her head to one side, surveying him with what might have been faint amusement.
“Oh I think you do, you just don’t want to admit it. ‘Cause it’s been like a dream, these past few months, hasn’t it? A bit like the old days: fighting and joking, escaping death by a hair’s breadth, and we’ve all gone along with it, even Rob, but really we all know how this is going to end. We’re Slytherins, Sev, we don’t get sunsets and kisses, we get what we deserve, and can you honestly say you think that’s anything other than Azkaban?”
Severus stared at her, sitting back on the damp carpet of dry leaves and trying to ignore the ring of truth that resounded from her words. Katherine saw his expression and grinned again, resting her head against the tree trunk behind her and gazing up into the dark canopy that blotted out the night sky.
“I can’t go back there, Sev. I can’t escape again.” She looked back, blue eyes desolate and fearful. “If I go back I’ll die in there, and to be honest I’m running out of lives. Down to my last three.”
“Your last what?” Severus gave her a peculiar look, wondering for the hundredth time how crazy she really was.
“Lives.” Katherine chuckled dryly, then heaved a sigh and shrugged. “Bad joke. Sorry. It’s all Sirius’ fault.”
“What’s Black got to do with it?” asked Severus, scowling deeply now; Sirius Black may have been dead and gone, but he still didn’t like the idea of Katherine sharing private jokes with him. Katherine waved a hand vaguely, as though dismissing the matter as trivial and said:
“He said all cat’s have nine lives. Ever since then, Remus has been keeping track of all the times I practically get myself killed. I’m on life number six at present, though I’m sure Bella’s eager to advance that.”
“And you’re just going to sit back and let her?” asked Severus, raising his eyebrows and keeping his expression carefully impassive. Katherine looked up at him sharply, blue eyes highly offended, then she caught the amusement lurking in his dark eyes and laughed, lips curling into a vicious grin.
“Let Bella do me in? Please, Sev, I said she wanted to, I never said I’d let her.”
Severus returned her grin, pushing back the small voice at the back of his mind that was trying to tell him something. It could wait – Katherine was all that was important now.
“Ready to go back out there?” he asked, offering a hand to help her up. Katherine nodded, then seemed to hesitate. “What is it?”
“Robert – I’ve got to find him – explain-”
“I’ll do it,” cut in Severus quickly.
“You think he’ll listen?”
“I don’t know, but I do think he won’t attack me on sight,” said Severus softly, pulling Katherine to her feet. “Come on. I believe you’ve an arch nemesis to bring down.”
Katherine laughed softly, rubbing away the last of the salty tears that still clung to her eyelashes, then stood still for a moment, anxious gaze meeting his in the diminishing light, her hand clasping his arm.
“You will find him, won’t you, Severus? You’ll make him understand? I can’t leave it like this between us – I can’t have him hate me.”
“I said I’d find him, didn’t I?” said Severus, gently pulling her hand off his arm and weaving his fingers with hers reassuringly. “Leave it to me.” He attempted a smile, though there was no concealing the concern in his eyes and then, with a final brief kiss, he turned away and headed back to the battle.
Katherine stood alone in the darkness for a long minute, fingers hovering just over her lips, where Severus’ last kiss still lingered and then she dropped her hand to her side and turned her head to the right, a grim expression on her face.
“All right, you can come out now.”
A shadow stirred behind a slender beech tree and the figure of a man in black robes stepped cautiously forward, dry twigs crackling beneath his feet. A light brown wand twitched nervously in the man’s right hand, which was held uncertainly before him like a charm to ward off evil.
Katherine’s lips curled into a half smile as she watched him, her body gradually relaxing and settling back into it’s usual, self assured stance.
“I must admit this is a bit of a surprise,” she said quietly, a slight frown marring the smile. “Does Daddy know you’re here?”
The man scowled, his wand hand steadying as he drew closer.
“You seem to be the one with all the answers, Katherine,” he said darkly, stopping a few metres away from her. “Maybe you can tell me.”
Ah yes, the cliffie. Chocolate milk and cookies for the first person to review.
Ice cream and sprinkles for anyone who can guess who the mysterious man is…
Hope you liked it. New chapter will be up as soon as I can write it…
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Guess what I did today... I wrote you all a new chapter. Originially intended to have more stuff in it, but it's the normal length, and I reckon the other events will be more than sufficient for a chapter on their own.
So yeah, deepest, sincerest, grovelling-at-you-feet apologies for the abysmally long wait I've put you through. I'm been having a lot of problems lately, but suddenly got inspiration today in the form of Fall Out Boy's album Infinity on high, so you really have them to thank for this post.
And now, because I'm sure most of you have skipped this anyway to get to the story, read and enjoy.
Chapter 57 – Dead Weight
Dark sapphire eyes studied him steadily for a long moment, and then Katherine’s lips curled into a wicked grin and she laughed aloud. Toby stared at her, the lightening speed of her change of mood startling him, but not enough to make him lower his wand.
“Maybe I can.” She spoke lightly, but the intensity of her gaze banished any thoughts he might have had that she was being flippant. He was quiet, waiting for her to go on, to reel out some careless theory off the top of her head that would turn out to be completely accurate, but she just stood there, watching him in easy silence.
“Well,” he asked, gesturing with his free hand for her to speak, but she only shook her head and Toby smiled grimly. “Not going to guess? But then, you don’t know a lot about my father, do you? Don’t even know what he looks like.” He left the statement hanging in the air between them, but Katherine only smiled faintly, tilted her head to one side and asked quietly:
“How’s your mother?”
Toby, a terse retort half way to his lips, faltered, and Katherine’s gaze dropped to the wand held loosely in her hands, the ghost of a smile still visible on her lips.
“You’re a smart kid, Toby. Smart man, I should say.” She raised her head, and the gaze that met his was no longer austere or mocking, but calm with maybe just a hint of regret. “Look at you – all grown up and fighting for the greater good, ready to die for the semblance of freedom you’ve been accustomed to…” She trailed off, and now Toby was sure he could see sorrow in those impossibly blue eyes. “He let you go. Your father, I mean,” she added, at Toby’s lost look. “You told me he didn’t want you becoming an Auror in case you got killed, but now he’s got his wife back-”
She stopped, fine black eyebrows drawing together in a sceptical frown. “No, that’s not right. He’s your father, he wouldn’t change his mind; getting his wife back doesn’t make you superfluous, not to him. In fact, now that you’re a family again, he’d probably want you extra safe to preserve that security.” She sighed, giving Toby what he felt was an unnecessarily disappointed look, the kind that used to grace Professor Flitwick’s face whenever he’d failed to hand in homework. “Your father knows you’re here, doesn’t he, Toby, but he’s not happy about it. You wanted to be here, you bloody idiot.”
“Idiot?” Toby gaped at her, unable to believe what he was hearing. “I’m not the one going on about deserving Azkaban and then not wanting to go there and being destined to die and stuff!”
Katherine frowned again, folding her arms in a self conscious manner. “Exactly how long were you spying on me?”
“I wasn’t spying,” objected Toby hotly. “I just saw you and Snape go in here and…well, I, I don’t know, I just wanted to know what was going on.”
“And you don’t think listening in on people’s private conversations counts as spying? Did your mother never teach you any manners?”
Toby gaped at the sheer nerve of the grinning woman before him, but that only made Katherine laugh, blue eyes sparkling with mirth.
“That’s not funny,” he said softly, frowning at her, his own dark eyes studying her face quietly. Katherine shrugged, lifting her head and gazing up through the leaves above them at the darkening sky.
“Slytherin, remember. I don’t have to be nice.” She glanced back down, eyes focusing sharply on his. “Not to you. We’re quits now, understand? You got your mother back, and after this battle, when Tom falls and the world is put to rights again, you can be a lovely little happy family, ok?”
“And if the Dark Lord wins?” asked Toby, refusing to back down, even in the face of the ice in her voice.
“He won’t. Potter will bring him down.”
“You really think so? He’s just a kid.”
Katherine shrugged again, blue eyes clear. “I trust him.”
“And that’s supposed to be enough for me?” asked Toby sceptically, scowling at her.
”You think I care if you believe he’ll win?” asked Katherine, something like an incredulous grin gracing her face. “Why on earth should I give a damn what you believe? Won’t stop the outcome, will it?” She laughed, tilting her head to examine him with a piercing gaze. “No Toby, the only thing I care about is that you get through this battle alive. I’ve put too much work into restoring your family to let you tear it apart again.”
“You can’t stop me fighting,” said Toby quickly, thrusting his wand forward threateningly, despite knowing that if Katherine had decided to remove him from the battle, there was probably very little he could do stop her. True enough, the look of scornful amusement Katherine cast at his outstretched arm told him that she’d had exactly the same thought, but to his surprise she made no move to do anything of the sort.
Instead, she raised two fingers to her lips and whistled, the sound sharp and clear in the stillness of the clearing. Toby stared her in mounting confusion as her upturned eyes scanned the heavens for he knew not what.
“What are you doing?” he asked, wondering vaguely if she’d finally gone completely insane.
“Shh,” Katherine chided him, waving a hand to indicate that he should keep quiet, and then raising the other arm skywards. Toby opened his mouth to object, to ask that she at least explain what she was doing, and then he heard the rush of wings and a dark shape dropped out of the sky, swooping to land gently on Katherine’s outstretched hand.
Katherine grinned at him as the bird settled on it’s perch, and turned a beady black eye on him.
“That’s your familiar,” said Toby carefully, remembering the day in the graveyard when the bird had attacked Belmont.
“Familiar?” asked Katherine, smiling slightly, as though amused at the thought. “Yes, I suppose he is. He’s mine, anyway.” She stroked the bird’s proud head with long, elegant fingers, her expression turning a little rueful. “How good’s your memory, Toby Holder?”
“Ok, I guess. Why?”
“Well I was just thinking…do you remember what Alastor said in the graveyard? About Archimedes?”
“Archimedes?” Toby asked with a frown, before recalling that that was the bird’s name. Archimedes cocked his head at him, surveying him with an unsettlingly intelligent eye, and Toby racked his brains for Moody’s long ago remark. “He said…he said it’s life was tied to yours, didn’t he?” Toby volunteered at last and Katherine grinned, obviously pleased.
“He did indeed. That’s why they’re dying out, you know. Their owners won’t let them go, so when their life runs out, the birds die too. They’re basically parasites, really – they live off your energy. That’s why they work so hard to keep you safe – not for any foolish concept of loyalty - they just don’t want to die.” She smiled, stroking the bird’s soft black feathers and her eyes slid over to Toby, a curious glimmer lurking within them. “Archimedes has saved my life a hundred times over. I owe him.”
“Yeah?” asked Toby, not at all sure where she was going with this. Katherine smiled again and jerked her arm so that Archimedes, who’d been perched quietly on her hand, was suddenly airborne. Glossy black wings beat against the chill night air as the bird swooped forward, landing clumsily on the arm that Toby had automatically stretched out to receive him.
Toby stared blankly into the jet black eyes of the bird and then looked up at Katherine, who had bent to pick up a single feather from the ground. She rolled the quill between her fingers, twirling the shaft so that the feather flickered between black and a muted dark green.
“That’s from him, isn’t it?” said Toby slowly, peering closer at Archimedes’ sleek feathers and noticing the greenish tint on the underside of his vast wings.
“They adapt to their owners,” said Katherine softly, grinning again and tucking the feather behind her ear so that it stuck up like a plume. “So you needn’t worry about anyone recognising him – give him a couple of weeks, he’ll look completely different.”
“He will?” asked Toby blankly, trying to organise his tumbled thoughts into some sort of order. “Wait, you’re giving him to me?”
Katherine’s grin faded a little, and something in her face softened. “I told you – I owe that bird. As long as you pass them on before you die, they can survive. If you don’t want him, give him to someone else, but just keep him for now, yeah? He’ll protect you tonight, which is more than I can do.”
“But…what about you? You need him more than I do – you’ve got more people trying to kill you,” pointed out Toby, glancing at Archimedes, still perched calmly on his arm.
“Maybe,” agreed Katherine, drawing her wand from her jeans and wrapping her fingers around it. “But you have more to live for.” She looked up at him, the blue eyes he’d seen in his dreams for so many years gleaming in the dim light, and smiled gently. “Good luck, Toby Holder. Have a good life.”
“Good luck,” whispered Toby, as she turned on her heel, darting into the trees and back to the battle. Toby stood alone for a moment, then raised his arm, so that he was face to beak with Archimedes. “Just you and me then,” he said, feeling a little silly, because he was, after all, talking to a bird that couldn’t possibly understand a word he was saying. Archimedes blinked at him in reply, and Toby saw with a jolt that the beady black eyes were now a brilliant sapphire blue.
Toby frowned a little, then smiled wryly and turned his head in the direction of the battle field. The muted sounds of fighting were filtering through the trees, followed occasionally by flashes of stray spells. He took a breath, then tightened his grip on his wand and headed towards the fight, Archimedes launching himself from Toby’s arm and gliding silently above him.
Remus shot one of the nastier hexes that James and Sirius had found on a midnight escapade to the Restricted Section at his opponent, and ducked behind a felled tree to catch his breath. He’d lost sight of Tonks a while ago, but she knew how to look after herself – she was an Auror after all. Still, the thought of her lingered at the front of his mind and he hoped fervently that her innate clumsiness wasn’t making it’s presence known. He could not afford to lose her, not now, not ever.
A branch next to his right ear caught fire as his adversary’s curse missed him by mere centimetres, and he leapt out from his hiding place before he had a chance to lose his nerve. The hood had fallen back from the Death Eater’s head and spiky black hair stuck up in all directions, glistening with sweat above the white mask concealed his features.
Remus bit down a retort and cursed the man instead. The Death Eater howled as his right hand began to swell to twice it’s normal size, and he nearly dropped his wand which looked suddenly dwarfed inside the huge fingers.
Remus took used the lapse in concentration to hurl a temporary blindness spell at him, but it rebounded against a hastily cast shield charm and he had to drop flat on the floor to avoid it. He rolled over, wand in hand, but the Death Eater was already advancing, dark eyes glittering behind the mask as he raised his wand for the final blow-
-and a flash of orange light hit him squarely in chest and he halted, apparently frozen for a second, before falling forward onto Remus’ outstretched legs.
Remus yelled at the impact, for the man was far heavier and harder than he had any reasonable right to be, and shoved the dead weight from his body.
“Sorry about that,” murmured a soft voice in his ear. “Didn’t realise he’d fall forward.”
Remus scowled, hitching up his robes to examine his legs, but there didn’t seem to be any lasting damage, save for a red patch of skin which was rapidly darkening to a purple bruise. “What did you hit him with?” he asked Katherine, as she rolled the motionless body over onto his back and tugged off the mask.
When she didn’t answer, Remus glanced up and wished he hadn’t. The pale face beneath the mask was contorted in agony, brown eyes a mixture of pain and fury.
“Hmm?” Katherine tore her gaze from the man and looked at him expectantly.
“That’s…Dolohov, isn’t it?” he asked suddenly, and Katherine nodded, casting a disgusted look at the man before her.
“Stupid man,” she muttered, and Remus frowned until he realised she was talking to Dolohov. Remus stared at the two of them, not knowing what to say. Antonin Dolohov had been sent to Azkaban after the first war, he’d killed Gideon and Fabian Prewett, and Katherine was calling him stupid? Evil, murderous and twisted, yes, but stupid?
“You just had to go and attack him, didn’t you?” continued Katherine, and Remus saw Dolohov’s eyes slide towards him, and then, more importantly, saw his left hand creep slowly towards his fallen wand.
“Katherine!” Remus warned, and Katherine’s head snapped round in time to see Dolohov’s hand close around the wand.
Then, to Remus’ surprise, she sighed and shook her head.
“Idiot,” she said wearily, and lashed out with one foot. The heel of her boot caught Dolohov under the chin and his head snapped backwards with a dark crack, then lolled to the side at an unnatural angle. “You all right?”
Remus blinked, dragging his gaze from the body of Dolohov and looking up at his old friend.
“Fine,” he said bleakly. “Were you two…? You were in Azkaban together, weren’t you?”
“He wasn’t too bad,” shrugged Katherine, holding out a hand to haul him to his feet. “He could hold a conversation at least, which is more than you can say for some of them.”
“Katherine, he tortured hundreds of people!”
Katherine smiled darkly, an odd expression on her face. “So have I.”
Remus opened his mouth to object, but closed it again. He wouldn’t win the argument – he never did. Katherine laughed, and turned to go, but Remus caught her arm, remembering something.
“Did you read the paper this morning?”
It might have been his imagination, but he thought Katherine looked a little awkward for a second before shaking her head slowly.
“No, I was…otherwise occupied this morning,” she said delicately, and Remus nodded in understanding.
“Preparations for tonight, right,” he agreed, barely noticing the slight raise of Katherine’s eyebrow in his determination to get to the point. “Well if you had read it, you’d find that Dolores Umbridge has been found.”
“Who?” asked Katherine, and if it weren’t for the wholly honest incomprehension in her eyes, Remus might have believed she wasn’t acting.
“Dolores Umbridge, Katherine – don’t give me that look, you know full well who she is. She went missing a week ago, and she turned up in Saint Mungo’s last night.”
“And I care about this why?” asked Katherine, with an impatient sigh.
“She’s been bitten,” said Remus darkly, brown eyes narrowed. Katherine frowned a little.
“Bitten bitten?” she asked slowly. “As in by a werewolf, bitten?”
Katherine continued to stare at him for a moment, then burst into laughter. “Seriously? Excellent.”
“Katherine!” shouted Remus. “It’s not a laughing matter. Do you know what they do to werewolves who bite people?”
“They lock them up in Azkaban and throw away the key,” answered Katherine brightly. Remus gaped at her, shocked at her reaction; he knew there was a side to her that she was careful not to show him and that he in turn rarely acknowledged, but he hadn’t thought her capable of this.
“I can’t believe you set this up,” he said quietly, the bitterness and shame in his voice stilling Katherine’s laughter.
“I didn’t mean for him to bite her,” she said, grimacing a little. “But it’s not like he doesn’t deserve Azkaban, anyway.”
“And you thought you’d be the judge of that, did you?” asked Remus with such force that Katherine took a step back, before laughing again.
“Rem, it was Fenrir Greyback. It didn’t exactly take a genius to figure it out.”
“Fenrir…?” asked Remus, stunned, and Katherine smiled a little.
“You didn’t think I’d force some poor, struggling beggar to attack her, did you? Fenrir’s such a loose cannon nowadays, all you have to do is point and aim.”
“And you didn’t think he’d bite her,” asked Remus, in the tone of one questioning someone’s sanity.
“Remus, it’s Fenrir. I thought he’d rip her to shreds. Clearly I was wrong.” She frowned, looking like someone who was annoyed it had rained when the forecast had predicted sunshine, then grinned. “Oh well, better this way, I think. It’s a bit like divine intervention, isn’t it?”
Remus managed to keep his jaw from dropping by using all his self control, then shook his head despairingly. “Katherine, do you have even the slightest concept of what divine intervention is, because I’m fairly sure it doesn’t involve intentionally setting a maniacal werewolf on someone.”
“Oh come on, you can’t tell me you didn’t grin when you read the news – before you decided I had to be behind it and started feeling guilty, of course.”
“That’s not the po-” Remus broke off, because Katherine was grinning like the Cheshire Cat, and like said feline, was probably about to dash off before he could finish his argument. “You’re impossible,” he muttered instead, and Katherine’s smile softened.
“I know.” For a moment, they just stood facing each other, two quiescent figures on the fringes of the most ferocious battle Remus had ever seen, then a limp body was blasted past them, and the stillness was broken. Katherine smiled wryly, fingers twirling her wand, anxious to be amidst the fight once more. “I’m glad you found Tonks, Rem. She’ll look after you.”
Remus found himself halfway through a nod when he realised what was bothering him about this exchange; it sounded far too much like a goodbye for his liking. She’ll look after you…because very soon I won’t be able to.
“I’ve got to go, Rem - Bella’s still out there somewhere. How am I going to face Sirius if I don’t get revenge?”
“Katherine, you’re not going to-”
“Love you, Remus,” said Katherine quickly, darting forward and placing a chaste kiss on his forehead. “Good luck.”
And then she’d disappeared, dodging past Kingsley as he duelled with Amycus Carrow. Remus stared after her, one hand touching his forehead where she’d kissed him.
“Love you, Katherine.”
More soon. Probably. Possibly. I'll try.
You know what will encourage me?
(Oh, and a sneak peek at the next chapter for anyone who can guess what spell Katherine used on Dolohov. Hint - it's somewhere in this story. )
Last edited by Purple Banana; July 23rd, 2008 at 7:56 pm. Reason: New feedback page linky :)
Re: Fallen Angel
A/N: Ok, new chapter. Sorry for the wait. It's worth it, I promise.
Chapter 58 – Collateral damage
“She murdered our mate, let someone else take the blame for it and then lied about it, and you want me to forgive just because she’s a bit upset?”
Severus sighed, deflecting a stray curse and tugging Robert around to face him once more.
“It’s not a simple as that, and you know it.”
“Wrong,” countered Robert, wrenching his arm free and glaring at Severus with furious brown eyes. “It is as simple as that but you let that woman get away with anything. You don’t understand - you didn’t know Reg like we did. The three of us swore to protect each other.”
Severus broke in at this, refusing to let his old friend finish. “But that’s what she was trying to do, don’t you see? Regulus asked her to do it, he wanted-”
“Don’t you dare say he wanted to die,” yelled Robert, wheeling around and thrusting his wand in Severus’ face.
“I wasn’t going to,” sighed Severus, with an exasperated look. He shook his head, casting around for a better way to phrase his words. “Look, if you knew the Dark Lord was after you, who would you rather he sent after you? Bella or Kat?”
Robert glowered at him silently, clearly trying to think of way to answer that didn’t make it seem as though he had a point, and failing; they both knew he’d never choose Bella. Indeed, if Severus had to die, he’d go without a fuss if the last thing he ever saw was Katherine’s face.
“Would you have done it?” Robert’s quiet question threw Severus for a moment, and then he shook his head slowly.
“I don’t know – maybe not, but that’s not really the point, is it? He didn’t ask me, he asked her, and like you said, they were good friends – how could she refuse his last request?”
Robert let out a frustrated breath, half turning to blast an unwary figure twenty feet into a tree.
“She should have told us,” he growled stubbornly, unwilling to give in. Severus shrugged again, catching a glimpse of violet hair amongst the throng of fighters, where Tonks was duelling heatedly with Rudolphus Lestrange. It was hard to tell from his position who had the upper hand, but it looked as though it might have been Lestrange. Severus looked back at Robert’s strained expression and saw some of his own anguish reflected in the fierce brown eyes.
“Come on Rob,” he tried, a trace of weariness in his voice now. “You know what she’s like. She was afraid of our reactions – she didn’t want to lose us again.”
Robert laughed harshly, brushing sweat streaked blond hair off his forehead with the back of his hand. “Oh no, heaven forbid she drive us away unintentionally. That would be bad, wouldn’t it? It’s only ok if she means to do it, because then it’s in our best interests. Katherine doesn’t need us, Sev, she needs a psychiatrist.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Severus quietly, trying to ignore the ring of truth in Robert’s words. Robert wasn’t fooled so easily, though, and a sour grin formed on his lips.
“You know I’m right, Sev. She was pretty mental when we were at school, but that’s nothing compared to her behaviour over the past year. Nicola said Katherine didn’t know if Lupin was still alive when she first turned up again – that she’d been to afraid to check. That sound like the Kat you know? And she’s been caught lying, for Merlin’s sake - tell me when that’s happened before.”
Severus had to admit that he couldn’t – twisting the truth was the one thing Katherine had always been good at no matter what. She’d been letting things slip lately – leaving Faye unprepared for Death Eater confrontations and then that time when he’d found her in Nicola’s bathroom, her head in a complete mess…
“She’s doing so much, she’s practically splitting at the seams,” continued Robert, pulling Severus to the fringes of the battle and gazing at him earnestly. “Trying to maintain her cover, help Potter, protect us… It’s no wonder she keep getting her stories mixed up – she can’t remember which line she told which person. Why she can’t just tell us the truth for once I don’t know.”
“She has told us the truth,” objected Severus, frowning at Robert, who raised his eyebrows sceptically.
“You think? She told you how she managed to be clinically dead for sixteen years and recover, yet? How she got out of Azkaban? How she knew what went on the night the Dark Lord rose again? Where the hell she’s been for the past week?”
“Not the first three,” admitted Severus grudgingly. Robert’s light brows furrowed at this answer.
“She told you where she went?”
“Yes, but that’s her business. She’ll tell you if she wants to.” Robert looked for a moment as though he was going to argue, but then he shrugged.
“Fine, but my point stands. She’s been keeping things from us and she doesn’t seem to care that it’s obvious. She never used to be this careless, and there was more at stake back then – more of us were still around for a start. I know Azkaban is meant to mess with your head, but Katherine’s stronger than that.”
“You think?” asked Severus softly, peering out from the trees they were sheltering behind with an unfocused look in his dark eyes.
“Think what?” asked Robert, confused by Severus’ sudden change of mood.
“Do you really think Katherine’s strong?”
“Well…yeah. She’s the best fighter I’ve ever seen.” Robert paused, watching Severus’ profile closely. “Why? Don’t you?”
Severus turned away from the battle to look at him, a wry smile on his thin lips.
“Not on her own. You saw what happened to her in our fifth year; she only got out of it when she started talking to us again. She works so hard to protect us because we’re the ones who keep her sane. Without us, what does she have to live for?”
“She doesn’t think like that,” objected Robert, a deep frown marring his brow. “She doesn’t see things like that. If she did, she wouldn’t have been able to kill Regulus – she’d be destroying her own reason for being here.”
Severus shook his head. “Don’t try to apply logic to Katherine, Rob. Regulus asked her for a favour, and she granted it. She’ll do anything for us, no matter how much it hurts her. You should have realised that by now.”
“Katherine Riddle will do anything that will annoy Bella or the Dark Lord, Severus. Everything else is merely a way of passing the time.”
Severus and Robert turned abruptly at the voice, wands at the ready, but relaxed as the newly risen moon illuminated familiar pale blond hair; it was Lucius.
“Having trouble?” asked Robert mockingly, running his eyes over Lucius’ torn and bloody robes.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” muttered Lucius, glaring at him and leaning against the trunk of a tree for support.
“Who was it?” asked Severus, and Lucius’ scowl deepened.
“Those bloody ginger freaks. Frances and Gordon Weasel or whatever they’re called. What are you two up to, anyway?” he questioned, grey eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I thought this battle was what you wanted, wasn’t it, Avery? Shouldn’t you be out there fighting alongside your mental partner?”
“Have you seen her?” put in Severus quickly. Had Katherine rejoined the fight or was she still in the forest somewhere?
“Last I saw she was duelling Dawlish. Well, I say duelling, perhaps the more apt term would be annihilating,” said Lucius with a careless shrug of his shoulders. “Why?”
“I was just wondering if she’d caught up with Bella yet, that’s all,” said Severus, casting a glance back at the battle. Lucius smiled grimly, following his gaze.
“Ah yes, I don’t want to miss that confrontation. Those two have been fighting for the Dark Lord’s attention ever since they met.”
Robert and Severus stared at him incredulously, and Robert said slowly: “That’s not why they fight. Bellatrix killed Sirius Black – that’s why Katherine’s after her.”
“And before that?” asked Lucius, arching an eyebrow.
“They fought over Leon,” supplied Severus with a frown. “Katherine told me Bella liked him.”
Lucius smiled with a patronising air and shook his head. “Wilkes was never more than an idle fantasy to Bella. The only person she cares for is the Dark Lord.”
“But they got along fine before the whole Wilkes thing,” objected Robert. “I remember – I was there. They were practically best friends.”
“Only because the Dark Lord was interested in Katherine,” said Lucius with a patient sigh. “Bella saw his attention waver so she attached herself to his daughter to stay in the limelight. Of course, then Katherine started going off the rails, so Bella had to back off for fear of being tarred with the same brush. Don’t you get it, they’re jealous of each other: Bella envies Katherine’s blood tie to the Dark Lord, and Katherine hates the fact that Bella is his favourite.”
“That’s crazy,” said Robert quietly. “Katherine doesn’t even like the Dark Lord.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” asked Lucius, raising one eyebrow. “He’s her father – she wants to come first.”
“If she wanted to impress him, she’d tell him how she broke out of Azkaban single handed,” pointed out Robert.
“She hasn’t told anyone that, which probably means she’s up to something.” Lucius paused, apparently entranced by a burn mark on the sapling opposite him, then added: “Or maybe that’s just the norm for her. She likes to have an air of mystery, doesn’t she?” He looked up, grey eyes focusing suddenly on Severus. “That reminds me, did you notice she tracked down your necklace?”
“My necklace?” asked Severus blankly, wondering where on earth Lucius had got the idea that he owned jewellery.
“Oh you know the one,” said Lucius, waving a hand dismissively. “The one you spent practically all your savings on. The snake one – you bought it as a Christmas present or something.”
“Oh,” said Severus, catching Lucius’ meaning. “I guess she must have raided the lockers where her stuff was kept.”
“No, that’s my point,” said Lucius, shaking his head. “It wasn’t in the lockers – her stuff was sold on after she died. She must have spent a long time trying to track it down.”
“So?” asked Severus, nonplussed.
“I think,” said Robert softly, with a slightly preoccupied look on his face. “That Lucius is trying to point out that Katherine is in love with you.”
“Oh,” said Severus quickly, thankful that it was dark and they couldn’t see the blush that crept onto his pale face. “Right.”
“But he’s not quite right,” continued Robert, the distracted expression remaining on his thin face. “Because that necklace wasn’t in her locker when she died, it was at Godric’s Hollow.”
There was a long pause, then Severus ventured slowly: “Would you mind repeating that last bit, Rob?”
Robert snapped out of his reverie and looked sharply at Severus. “Lupin identified it when he visited the Potter’s house. It came into my department to be checked for transport spells – the Aurors thought Black brought it with him to the house as a momento of her.”
“But the Aurors didn’t know they were together,” said Severus, not seeing where Robert was going. “And he wasn’t even there that night.”
Robert rolled his eyes, shaking his head fiercely. “Lupin told them about their involvement – he must have believed that himself, that Katherine had persuaded Black to join forces with the Dark Lord. And he was there the night they died – it’s on record, he arrived shortly after they died, gave Rubeus Hagrid his motorbike - that’s why I never thought anymore of it. I knew he wouldn’t have been there with the Dark Lord, but he could have dropped it later on.”
“Robert, is there a point to this?” asked Severus impatiently; he was anxious to get back to the battle, back to Katherine.
“Don’t you see it?” asked Robert, eyes alight with something between triumph and fear. “Everyone thought Black dropped the necklace, because there was no other reason for it to be there, but there is another reason, another person who could have taken it to Godric’s Hollow that night.”
“But no one else was there,” said Lucius, staring at Robert as though he’d lost his mind. “Unless you’re referring to that giant oaf Hagrid.”
Severus barely heard Lucius’ remark – he was staring at Robert too, but not with disbelief.
“That’s not possible,” he said quietly, the horror on his face seeping into his words. “There’s no way no one would have noticed. I mean, something that powerful, it’d…” His voice trailed off as he saw the answer in his friend’s eyes.
“I told you she’d changed.”
Katherine ducked behind a statue that had presumably been a person an hour ago and found herself face to face with a teenage girl with flaming red hair and dark brown eyes. They stared at each other for a moment, then the statue they’d been taking refuge behind exploded under the force of a well placed Reducto and they tumbled to the ground.
Katherine pulled herself upright and shot a particularly nasty curse at the culprit, before reaching a hand down to the young girl. The girl scowled at her, and scooted backwards, wand thrust out before her. Katherine suppressed a smile and shrugged her shoulders, looking around for her next opponent.
“Ginny, no!” The familiar voice made Katherine turn back around, and realise with a start that the girl had her wand drawn back, ready to throw a hex. “Ginny!” yelled the voice again, and Ron emerged from the crowd, slinging an arm around the girl’s waist and pulling her backwards. “What do you think you’re doing?” he all but yelled in her ear, blue eyes wide with shock.
“What do you think I’m doing?” retorted the younger girl, Ginny apparently, looking up at him with an expression of utter contempt. Katherine didn’t bother to hide her laughter this time, and Ginny’s head whipped around to glare at her with fierce brown eyes.
“I take it you two are related?” asked Katherine softly, noting the shared red hair and freckles.
“She’s my little sister,” said Ron, watching her with wary eyes.
“Only by one year,” objected Ginny, wriggling free of her brother’s grip and glaring at Katherine.
“Feisty little thing, aren’t you?” grinned Katherine, eyes gleaming with amusement. “I’d stay away from Fenrir, if I were you. You seem just his type.”
“Is he here?” asked Ron, casting an eye around the clearing.
“Somewhere,” nodded Katherine. “Haven’t crossed paths with him yet. Actually rather hoping I don’t. He’s not the nicest person to meet in a battle; tends to go for the throat, apparently.”
Ginny snarled, and Katherine looked at her in surprise, then noticed the dark look on Ron’s face too.
“What?” she asked cautiously. “You haven’t met him before, have you?”
“He attacked our eldest brother,” said Ron quietly, taking Ginny’s arm again. “Didn’t quite manage to bite him, though.”
“Oh,” said Katherine, frowning a little. Then: “Eldest brother? You’ve got more than one?”
“We’ve got five,” answered Ron, giving Katherine an odd look. “Why?”
“They all got red hair?” asked Katherine, eyes focused on something over to his left. Ron nodded, and Katherine treated him to a half smile. “I shan’t go killing any red haired people then. Excuse me.”
“Where are you going?” asked Ron, before he could stop himself, and to his surprise Katherine paused to answer him.
“I owe someone a favour. Not gonna get another chance to pay them back, am I?” She grinned at his confused expression and darted off into the throng of people. Ron frowned; it was probably crazy, but he was getting the distinct impression that Katherine was rather enjoying herself. No, that was mad – no one enjoyed fighting for their lives…
“What was all that about?” demanded Ginny, breaking into his thoughts as she stared up at him with a disbelieving expression on her face. “Do you know her?”
Draco Malfoy stumbled over a fallen body and lashed out wildly with his arm when someone caught his collar and brought him up short.
“Where you off to?” asked a feminine voice and he twisted around to see a pair of bright blue eyes examining him closely. Draco said nothing; he wasn’t about to explain to Katherine Riddle of all people that he was making an escape from his crazed uncle. From what he’d heard of her distaste for his mother and father, she’d probably hand him over with a smile on her face.
Draco tried to pull away from her grasp, but as he turned Rudolphus Lestrange emerged from the crowd, his face contorted with anger. He caught sight of Draco a second later, and was about to launch himself at his nephew when he saw the hand gripping his collar. A flash of confusion sped across his face as his gaze travelled up the arm and realised who it belonged to.
“Hello Roddy,” grinned Katherine, tugging Draco back a fraction, so he was further from his uncle. “Where’s Trix?”
“Hand the boy over, Riddle,” growled Rudolphus, brandishing his wand threateningly.
“Why?” asked Katherine, pulling Draco a little closer and looping the arm that held him around his neck for a better grip. If Draco tried to make his escape now, he was in serious danger of being strangled.
“I hardly think that’s any of your business, Riddle,” sneered Rudolphus, hard eyes narrowed in dislike. “Hand him over or face the consequences.”
Draco couldn’t see Katherine’s expression, but from the look on his uncle’s face, she probably wasn’t quaking in her boots. Cool breath tickled his cheek as Katherine leant down a little to speak softly in his ear, just loud enough for his uncle, who was only a few feet away, to hear.
“Did you know your Uncle Roddy used to wear women’s dresses?”
Draco didn’t move a muscle, keeping his expression carefully blank as his uncle’s face bypassed scarlet and headed straight for purple.
“It’s true,” continued Katherine, either not noticing his uncle’s reaction, or choosing to ignore it. “Your Aunty Bella used to use him as a kind of human Barbie doll.”
Rudolphus raised a hand that was shaking with fury and directed his wand at Katherine’s head.
“Going to kill me, Roddy?” asked Katherine quietly, straightening up and shifting her grip on Draco so that he had to move sideways, out of the path of his uncle’s wand.
“Go to hell, Riddle.”
Katherine laughed hollowly, a grim sound that made Draco’s uneasiness increase triple fold.
“Already there, Roddy.” There was a flash of green light that made Draco close his eyes, and then the arm around his shoulder loosened and fell away. Draco stood where he was for a second, hardly daring to open his eyes, and then he heard a spell go rushing past him and decided his survival odds would probably increase if he was able to see what was going on.
The first thing he saw upon opening his eyes was his uncle’s prone body lying face down on the grass just in front of him. He jumped back, catching his foot on a rock and for the second time in as many minutes found himself being saved from falling by a strong hand on his collar.
“Clumsy, aren’t you?” asked Katherine Riddle, giving him a bemused look. He stared at her, eyes wide; how she been that fast? His uncle had already had his wand drawn, and yet he was the one on the ground.
“How did you do that?” he managed to get out, forgetting to be scared of her for a moment. “Your wand was still in your pocket!”
Katherine’s momentary frown smoothed out and she smiled a little. “I didn’t live this long without learning a few things, kid. One of them being that you make damn sure you’re quicker at duelling than your opponent before you stand around making small talk.”
Draco stared into eyes as blue as sapphires and wondered if his father was right, and the real reason Katherine had lived this long was that she simply didn’t consider the possibility that she could die. She certainly didn’t act like any of the other Death Eaters he’d come into contact with so far.
“Come on,” she said, tugging on his collar and heading for the trees. Draco followed – it wasn’t as though he had any choice in the matter, and he wasn’t keen to stay in the middle of the battle in any case. “Get your wand out, kid,” muttered Katherine as they passed a young woman with violet hair was fighting a masked figure. Draco fumbled for his wand obediently as Katherine shot a quick Stunner at the woman’s opponent.
Draco hesitated as the figure fell, but stumbled as Katherine kept going. She glanced back at him, a questioning look on her face and he looked down, concentrating on where he was putting his feet.
“What’s your father told you about me?” asked Katherine, coming to a halt amidst a cluster of dark trunks and letting go of his collar at last. The moonlight filtering through the canopy of leaves above them illuminated Katherine’s face, and Draco was surprised to see it looked almost amused.
“Not much,” muttered Draco, adjusting his grip on his wand. “He doesn’t like talking about you.”
“Well someone’s told you something,” observed Katherine, frowning a little. “Else I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be terrified of me.”
Draco opened his mouth to protest that he wasn’t afraid of her, and then shut it again. It was a lie, and she wouldn’t believe him anyway.
“Bella’s mentioned you a few times,” he mumbled, thinking of the night he’d gone with his Aunt to the Ministry of Magic to try and find information on Katherine. What would she do to him if she found out he’d helped his Aunt uncover her cousin’s identity?
Draco’s grey eyes widened in shock at Katherine’s voice and his heart sank as he realised she’d been using Legilimency on him.
“I’m filed under Belle?” asked Katherine again, looking confused. “And Julian…huh. Guess he likes me more than he lets on.”
“You didn’t notice?” asked Katherine, arching an eyebrow and grinning. “He took my file while Bella was searching the R’s. So much for not being loyal.” She frowned a little, considering then added: “Or maybe he just didn’t want Severus killing him. Probably more likely.”
Draco said nothing; he didn’t dare. From what he’d managed to pick up about Katherine, she was supposed to be a ruthless murderer who’d double cross you in a heartbeat, not someone who saved your life and then started making polite conversation.
A shadow moved amongst the trees and Katherine caught his wrist and pulled him towards her, wand arm outstretched. She didn’t shout out ‘who’s there’ or try and attack the newcomer, or do any of the things he was sure the rest of his family would have done, she just stood very still and waited.
The figure stopped a couple of meters away and a familiar voice called out: “Let him go.”
Katherine squinted through the darkness and asked slowly: “Narcissa?”
Draco watched as his mother walked into a patch of moonlight, and saw to his surprise that his father was there too, one hand placed on his wife’s shoulder, though to restrain or comfort, Draco couldn’t tell.
“Please, Katherine,” said Narcissa, eyes locked onto Katherine’s. “You can fight us if you want, but let Draco go.”
Draco felt the grip on his wrist tighten and risked a glance up at Katherine’s face, but found no clues there – she was just watching his parents with a carefully blank expression.
“Katherine-” began Lucius, but was interrupted by Katherine’s sudden input.
“Why do you think I would harm your son?”
“Aside from the fact that you’re holding him hostage?” asked Narcissa, a shrill note of distress in her voice.
“Am I?” asked Katherine calmly, assuming an expression of polite interest.
“You threatened to kill him before!” shrieked Narcissa, pointing her wand accusingly at Katherine. Draco stiffened at this news, not daring now to turn and see what Katherine’s reaction was.
“I did,” she said softly, and Draco saw his father swallow uncomfortably and assumed she had switched her gaze to him. “But Lucius upheld his part of the bargain. I’ve got no reason to harm Draco.”
“Then let him go,” said Lucius, eyes the same dark grey as Draco’s flickering momentarily to glance down at his son. There was a short pause, then Lucius did something that Draco had never seen him do before: he threw down his wand.
It landed with a soft patter on the dry carpet of leaves and rolled to a halt midway between the two parties. A moment later, after a hesitant glance at her husband, Narcissa followed suit.
“There – we’re unarmed. Do what you like, Katherine, just let Draco go,” said Lucius, proud head dipped, aristocratic voice quiet. “Please.”
Draco felt his wrist being pulled back and he stepped backwards unsteadily, feeling warm breath whisper past his cheek as Katherine spoke softly in his ear.
“See that Draco? Mummy and Daddy love you. Did you know that?”
Draco turned his head slightly to meet Katherine’s suddenly animated gaze as it dawned on him what she’d just done. A quick flick of her wand brought both his parents’ wands flying into her hand, and she pressed them into his palm with a grin.
“You’re crazy,” said Draco quietly, unable to drag his eyes away from hers.
“I know,” she agreed, straightening up. “Go on – go hug your mum while you still can.”
Draco stood staring at her for a few more seconds, then turned and walked unsteadily over to his waiting parents, whereupon his mother threw her arms around him and squeezed him so tight he could scarcely breathe.
“Quits now, okay?” he heard Katherine say, and he pulled away from his mother, looking curiously back at the black haired woman.
“You were in my debt?” asked Lucius, raising light eyebrows in a good imitation of nonchalance that nevertheless didn’t fool Draco.
“You saved my skin once before, Lucius,” said Katherine evenly. “Now I’ve saved your son. Life for a life – we’re quits.”
Lucius frowned, as though he didn’t quite understand. “I’ve never saved your life, Katherine.”
Katherine smiled a little, as though he’d told a joke. “Never said it was my life you saved.” She turned to leave, then paused and spun around again, looking more focused than she had before. “That reminds me, there’s a guy around here somewhere, mid-twenties, brown hair, got a bird following him around – the feathered kind, not a woman – you hurt him, or allow him to come to harm when you could have stopped it, and I really will kill Draco.”
There was silence for a few seconds, and then Lucius asked quietly: “Mid-twenties?”
Katherine grinned widely, black hair gleaming in the dim light. “Life for a life. You protect mine, I’ll protect yours.”
She turned again, but this time it was Lucius who called out to stop her. “Severus and Avery were looking for you.”
Katherine glanced back at him, frowning. “Why?”
“I don’t exactly know – they weren’t making much sense. Something about Black and the Dark Lord?”
It might have been Draco’s imagination, but he thought Katherine’s face darkened at this, and she turned away.
“Oh. I know what that’s about.”
“They seemed quite anxious to see you.”
Katherine shrugged, staring out through the trees to the ongoing battle. “It can wait. Got one more score to settle first.” She did look back then, a grim smile on her face as she found Narcissa’s gaze. “I hope you said goodbye to your sister.”
Bellatrix threw a nasty scalding at Kingsley Shacklebolt and darted through the crowd of fighters to avoid any potential repercussions. She paused to draw breath before seeking out her next opponent and jumped as a voice whispered in her ear:
She whirled around and came face to face with the very person she’d spent the last hour searching for.
“Hello Trix,” grinned Katherine, eyes shining with a mad sort of delight. “Sorry for doing a disappearing act on you earlier – had a few things to sort out.”
“I’ll sort you out,” growled Bella, brandishing her wand and scowling at her opponent. Katherine’s grin widened and she stepped backwards, spreading her arms and giving her a mock bow.
“Give it your best shot, Trixibell. Oh, by the way, did I mention I just murdered your husband…?”
Severus pushed his way through the throng of people, Robert a little way behind him. Severus was vaguely aware that Robert was deflecting a lot of curses that were thrown their way, but he wasn’t paying enough to attention to consider helping. All he was concentrating on was finding Katherine before something happened to her.
He knew she was a good fighter, but Robert was right – she was cracking up – had been for the past year. He’d just never realised why until now.
“Sev!” He turned at Robert’s harsh tones, frowning. “This way.”
Severus retraced his steps and followed Robert, who was pushing his way to the front of a small crowd. Severus stopped just beside him and peered out into the ring formed by groups onlookers. Katherine and Bellatrix were dueling so heatedly that the air was a haze of bright lights and the grass beneath their feet was scorched with burn marks from stray curses.
“What do we do?” asked Robert softly, and Severus didn’t need to look at him to know he was watching Katherine’s every move, as was he. “We can’t exactly interrupt them.”
“No,” agreed Severus, wondering if he could protect Katherine by sheer will power. Maybe if he tried to kill Bella…
“Don’t. They keep moving – you’re just as likely to hit Katherine as Bella,” said Robert, placing a restraining hand on the arm Severus hadn’t realised he’d raised.
“We’ve got to do something,” said Severus, wrenching his gaze away from Katherine with a tremendous effort and focusing on Robert, trying to blot out the image of Katherine’s lifeless body that was invading his mind. “We’ve got to…” He trailed off as the cold hit him, and he realised why his thoughts had suddenly taken such a dark turn.
Unwillingly he raised his eyes to the sky and saw the stars blinking out as what looked like hundreds of Dementors swooped down on the battlefield. Everything seemed muted, as though he was hearing it through a thick pane of glass, so it took so time for Robert’s yell to get through to him. He turned his attention from the swarming Dementors to the duel going on before him, and his heart stopped beating.
Katherine had stopped dead, eyes wide as she surveyed the ranks of Dementors, wand held loosely at her side. Bella, too, had faltered, her dark eyes feverish, breath coming in quick, shallow gasps.
Severus stood where he was, unable to move. No matter how bad the Dementors’ effect was on him, it must be a hundred times worse for those who had spent so many years in Azkaban, living with that feeling of despair every day.
Come on, Katherine. You spent less time in there than her – focus. Even as he thought it, though, he knew it was no use. Katherine might have been around the Dementors less, but she had more to fear than Bella did, especially now.
Then, despite the sinking feeling in his chest, Katherine did move – her pale face turned and her eyes locked onto Robert’s. Her lips moved, trying to form words, but no sound came out and she looked away, closing her eyes.
Severus made to start forward, without any clear idea in his mind as to what he was going to do. He only knew that he needed to be near her, needed to hold her and make that tormented look in her eyes go away…
And then there was a flash of green light, and a soft gasp, and silence.
He stopped, feet frozen to the ground as the world ground to a halt and he stared in utter disbelief at the black haired figure on the ground.
And then someone laughed, a high, maniacal sound, and the silence was shattered.
The world started spinning again, so fast that he couldn’t see straight and fell to his knees beside the body, Bellatrix’s insane laughter ringing in his ears.
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