I own nothing but Vita Deserto!
I was having a dream this morning and in it I was J.K. Rowling, but then my dog jumped on me and rest as they say…
Is nothing worth talking about as it involves a lot of dog-saliva on my face and my freezing cold ass and some f-words. I think my dog is Devil's enforcer.
So, regrettably I don't own anything. Does the dream count?
I yearn for you, but I can never have you…
It was snowing when he first saw her.
It was one of those meetings that one person remembers while the other doesn't. He was a recent escapee of Azkaban, and survival had brought him here in the village of Hogsmeade where snow fell like thick fluffy clouds and covered every ugly facet to make the scene postcard-perfect.
Antonin Dolohov, Death Eater extraordinaire, was walking the streets under the guise of a hopeless student who had been lousy lucked enough to bump into him earlier. It felt weird-walking while you were transfigured as a teen. To top it off, this Hogwarts student was a bloody Gryffindor. Oh! How his skin just itched to throw away every piece of maroon and gold, but survival came first.
He had no idea where this particular Gryffindor with gangly limbs and an under-confident gait had been headed to, but he was under no obligation to find out, was he?
He would head out to Rosmerta's; drink a couple of fire whiskeys. Then he would buy some supplies to last him while he laid low for a couple of days. It was entirely that bitch Bellatrix's fault. Had she not gone crazy and started torturing muggles, aurors wouldn't have shown up. Antonin cursed his luck for being in the wrong place at a wrong time.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn't pay any attention to where he was going until he bumped abruptly into another person. He fell on a soft body and internally cursed this boy's reflexes. Had he not been transfigured, he wouldn't have crashed headlong into this girl, and moreover, even if he had, he would have saved them both from the annoyance of falling.
'Neville, are you all right?' It was one of those voices, one of those once in a lifetime kind of voices that a person heard if they were lucky enough.
Antonin didn't think he'd ever been lucky enough.
He stared at her like a fool blinded by a goddess. She was but a girl of fifteen, not quite a woman yet, and still her beauty rendered him sightless.
He had never been blinded this way before in his life.
He was a Death Eater for Salazar's sake and a quite skilled one at that. Being fascinated with witches who were more than fifteen years his junior wasn't in his repertoire.
'Neville?' She sounded exasperated and that reminded him to tear his eyes off her face and look repentant, which he wasn't in the least.
She had gotten up. She was spelling her clothes dry and he was still sitting on the wet road as if he had found absolution. For what was she if not absolution?
He looked at her again.
She was picturesque. Wild brown hair, which had been barely tamed into a pony hung down her back. Few tendrils escaped and they hung in front of her face, and what a face it was. Pale, dotted with freckles near her nose-she was a vision. Her lips were pink and they looked so soft. Antonin had this strange urge to tug her down and plant his lips on hers.
Her intelligent dark chocolate eyes had flecks of gold in them.
Such intelligence was only manifested in purebloods. Was she a Nott, or Zabini? Parkinson or Greengrass?
'Neville? Are you coming?' Her hand was extended in his direction and her eyes held so much kindness. Antonin felt the jealousy poisoning his blood as he grabbed her hand to stand. Who was this Gryffindor for whom she held such tender emotions?
She muttered few quick spells and he felt himself getting comfortably dry and warm.
This witch had robbed him of his voice. Maybe, it was a good thing. For he was sure she would find out his deception if he opened his mouth.
'Hermione?' somebody hollered from behind.
In quiet moments that were to follow his meeting with Hermione Granger, he would always wonder why he had turned. If he had gone his own way after bumping into her, he could have always maintained this illusion that she was someone he could have in his life, but then he had turned, only to come face to face with Harry Potter.
'Neville? Aren't you coming to the meeting at Hogshead?' Potter asked.
He could do nothing but nod his head to signify his assent.
'Neville bumped into me while I was rushing to the meeting.' She smiled at Potter and Antonin felt like Avada-ing the boy.
They started walking ahead of him, another red-haired boy, probably a Weasley said something that made her mock punch the boy in the arm. There was an easy carmadire here, a friendship that probably stretched years.
Antonin didn't have friends like his witch Hermione had.
There were only associates and people who didn't believe in their cause of blood purity. There was nothing in between.
He didn't remember much while he followed the trio inside the dingy little pub, nor did he remember what had gone on in that meeting. He only remembered dark brown eyes filled with righteous fire, trying to convince people that they needed to learn Defense against the dark arts by themselves rather than depending on the ministry appointed teacher.
Oh, how it would grate on Umbridge's nerves, were she to know that these fifth years had already thought of a way to thwart her beloved Fudge's plans!
The end of the meeting came much too sooner than he wanted it to be. He signed the Gryffindor's name and was surprised to realize that he was impersonating Frank and Alice Longbottom's son-the same auror couple who had dared to stand against Bellatrix.
Antonin didn't want to leave his witch's company but from what he assumed, she wasn't much close to Neville to pay him much heed. She walked out of the door along with Potter and Weasley, never sparing him a second glance while his eyes were only on her.
He couldn't wait to return and find out who she was.
He was sure Hermione Granger was a witch fashioned only for him by the fates and he would burn anyone who dared to come between him and his salvation…
Antonin should've known that fates would never deign to smile at someone as degraded as him.
Hermione Granger was Harry Potter's mudblood friend.
From what he could learn from ramblings of Lucius-Mudblood Granger was too smart for her own good. She was the brains behind the golden trio and without her Potter and Weasley had no chance of survival, let alone success.
These small snippets filled his heart with pride on her capability, and at the same time, he had to be extremely vigilant regarding his mental shields. He didn't need anyone snooping in and finding about his fixation on the little witch.
The days passed in monotony.
Between the failed plans of the dark lord to extract the prophecy and couple of crucios thrown here and there for effect, there was nothing worth doing. He had decided to go back to his estate in the meantime.
He still attended the meetings as were required from him, but somewhere between the time when he had bumped into his witch and modifying the memory of the bumbling Gryffindor he'd been impersonating along with returning the poor boy's clothes, a small flicker of doubt had made its home inside his heart.
The small nagging voice that questioned the blood supremacy of dark lord was as tempting as the first serpent that had tempted Eve. He knew nothing good would ever come out of his fascination with the girl, but it was as if he couldn't stop himself from thinking about her.
Her tender, friendly smile filled his days and his much darker fantasies haunted his nights and stained his sheets.
She had become a potent drug, and it felt as if he was addicted with no possibility of a cure…
Dark Lord was not big on celebrating the holidays, and yet there was a meeting on Christmas Eve in the Malfoy manor. The usual talk of how purebloods were better than the half-bloods and mudbloods was rampant.
Were these idiots unaware that Dark Lord himself was a half-blood?
The highlight of the meeting had been the spectacle of Bellatrix salivating over Dark Lord with renewed gusto. He shuddered when the image of Bellatrix and Dark Lord came unbidden in his mind. There were few things that a man didn't need to see, and watching your snake faced boss relieving his baser urges with an evidently insane Bellatrix was one of them.
The meeting was followed by the dinner, and everyone around the table felt extremely relieved when dark lord excused himself along with his pet snake. Antonin was seated beside young Draco, and he thanked his stars for giving him such an excellent chance to catch up on what his witch was up to.
The young Malfoy didn't need much prodding to start on Hermione Granger.
'The uppity bitch would've been expelled, had it not have been for old Dumbles sacrificing himself for scarhead. After all the whole Dumbledore's army was her idea, wasn't it?' The sneer on the boy's face was loathsome as was the slight unhealthy crush he had on Antonin's witch.
Lucius should've taught occlumency to his spawn.
The detailed vivid fantasies young Draco had about Hermione Granger had just earned him an enemy and he didn't even know it yet.
He kept on babbling without noticing that the more he delved into some of the things he would do to Hermione Granger, more thunderous Antonin Dolohov's face became.
'I bet she is screwing both Potty and Weasel. Why else would anyone keep her around?'
Antonin's fingers were digging into his palm.
People left the table to wander around the Malfoy estate, and some of them even ventured outside to admire Lucius's albino peacocks. Finally, he was alone with young Draco.
Patience indeed yielded results.
'What were you saying about Hermione Granger, Draco?' His lips were pulled back in a snarl which showed his even white teeth.
Draco gulped. Some instinct had always kept him far away from Dolohov and today, right in this moment that instinct was screaming at him to get away. Antonin Dolohov was far more dangerous than his insane aunt Bellatrix.
That night, young Draco Malfoy experienced the worst pain he had ever experienced in his fifteen-year-old life. And in the morning no memories remained-only pain and it would continue to haunt him every time he would open his mouth to say anything about one Hermione Granger…
He had been painting in his studio when the dark mark burned.
Sighing, he dropped his paintbrush near the easel and quickly cast a Scourgify to clean his turpentine and paint-smeared hands.
When he apparated in the dining hall of Malfoy Manor, Death Eaters were already gathered around the table conversing in excited whispers. A hush fell as they watched him make his way towards them.
He cut quite an intimidating figure at six feet four, and a devastatingly good looking face. He looked like a prince and yet he was no savior. He was the devil or one of the devil's many minions to be precise. Among his fellow Death Eaters, he was known for his ruthless penchant for killing. He was a true master of dark arts, the only one after the Dark Lord himself.
Bellatrix had been taught the very advanced dark spells by their master himself whereas Dolohov had invented most of them. He had no equal in curse creation.
The arrival of their master silenced the few like Nott and Goyle who were still trying to figure out why they had all been summoned.
'Harry Potter is in the department of mysteries,' his master hissed, and that was all they needed to fall in regimented little groups.
When Antonin reached to where Lucius and Bellatrix had cornered Potter and his friends, his heart stopped for a moment to see his witch among them.
What was she doing here?
Throughout the time Lucius taunted Potter to hand over the prophecy, his eyes were only on Hermione. He could see the shift of her eyes and flare of her nostrils. She was moving slowly, almost like not moving at all.
She was up to something.
So, when the shout of Reducto came, he was prepared than most of his colleagues. He escaped the crashing glass almost unscathed.
He kept her in his sight. Her wild hair was a dead giveaway and he was thankful for that.
As the battle raged, he inconspicuously deflected numerous curses that had been headed her way. He knew what he was doing would earn him a killing curse from Dark Lord's wand if he were ever discovered, but the light of her personality; one that attracted Antonin like a moth gave him no choice.
These school children were indeed giving Malfoy and Co. a run for their money.
He finally cornered Potter, Longbottom, and his witch in a room off the time chamber. The idiot, Jugson was displaying his incapacity of thinking about an intelligent idea by leaving everything on him.
That small nagging voice in his heart that whispered about the legitimacy of their cause reared its head again.
Before he could formulate what he was to do in this situation, Potter had stunned Jugson leaving him no choice but to act.
Curse after curse from his wand, Potter deflected each one somehow. He was indeed gifted; a perfect rival for Dark Lord even if Dark Lord refrained from discussing the boy's extraordinary abilities.
The spell came not from Potter but from his witch effectively robbing him of his voice. He looked at her, and maybe his fury was displayed clearly on his face to see. She took a step back, her eyes wide with fear and yet there was still a courage there that Antonin couldn't understand.
It felt a bit like betrayal, forget the fact that she didn't even know who he was.
She had done everything for Potter. She had put herself in the harm's way for Potter. Draco's words resonated in his head, 'Potter cares for her, probably more than he cares about anyone else.'
Why did Potter care for her? Did she love Potter?
The serpent encircled his heart, squeezing slowly as jealousy raised its ugly head among all the emotions.
She would know who he was after he killed Potter, won't she?
Even without his voice, Antonin Dolohov was a force to be reckoned with.
His wand made a slashing motion in a quick moment and a purple flame erupted from his wand, aimed straight at Potter's heart. The speed with which he had cast the curse gave Potter no time to erect a shield.
In an unblinking moment, his witch pushed Potter aside, coming in the direct line of the curse. The purple flame passed through her chest, and she crumpled on the ground like a long forgotten ruin.
Nobody heard his silent scream. His mask had fallen off somewhere during the course of the battle, and if he touched his face, he would feel the wetness from tears.
What had he done?
'Petrificus Totalus,' Potter shouted.
Antonin's wand was downcast as the curse hit him. His eyes were at his witch's prone form as he fell. From a distance, he could only see as Potter carried Hermione's body out of the chamber…
When the effects of the curse wore off, he found himself lying on the floor of Department of Mysteries. The sound of battle was distant.
He didn't know what to do now.
He had killed his witch and for what?
A sudden moment of jealousy had tarnished the most precious thing life had made him experience. Why had he cast the "Vita Deserto"?
Had he cast it verbally, she would have died instantly, her body shriveling from the absence of vitae. Non-verbal casting had bought her couple more hours utmost, but she would die in the end.
Nobody had ever survived his Vita Deserto.
He had created the curse in his seventh year-something that he could add to his own dark arts arsenal. Even while following Dark Lord, Antonin had never depended solely on his master to learn the dark arts.
In the beginning, he had enjoyed the power that came with holding a life in the palm of your hand. He had relished in the tortured cries and begging faces. The pleas of mudbloods and muggles had been music for his ears.
He remembered the night he had murdered Gideon and Fabian Prewett.
It had been one of the most brutal killings of the wizarding world, and it had been the incident that had established the fact that even among death eaters, Antonin Dolohov was not someone to be messed with.
From the time he had been a child, Pyotr Dolohov had made sure through bribes and use of his fists that his only son and heir understood the fact that he was a pureblood and by extension better than everyone else.
The ideals of blood-purity had only been strengthened in Hogwarts where everyone in Slytherin had shared the same philosophy that was a driving force behind the pureblood families.
Purebloods were stronger, more intelligent and cunning than half-bloods and mudbloods.
So, why was a half-blood the evilest wizard to ever exist, and how had a mud-muggleborn taken a deadly curse meant for her friend for herself?
Weren't muggleborns supposed to be selfish, foolish and not worthy of magic?
So, how a half-blood and muggleborn had managed to make almost twenty purebloods dance to their tunes?
How was a pureblood better than his witch?
She was worth everyone who had come to the ministry of magic today on his master's order.
He knew what he had to do.
It was now or never. It was the time he took control of his life again. He cast a disillusionment charm on himself and exited the room…
Hogwarts hadn't changed much since the last time he had been here with the dark lord when dark lord had come to apply for the post of professor of Defense against the Dark Arts.
The wards of Hogwarts were indeed very powerful, but not strong enough to keep him out. They must have brought his witch here. By now, the curse would have affected almost all internal organs of her body, slowly consuming the vitae.
He hurried along the familiar corridors towards the hospital wing. The eerie twilight made the stones gleam as if numerous secrets swirled beneath their hard exterior.
The castle was strangely quiet as if it too mourned the almost death of his witch.
He slipped inside the hospital wing and followed the mediwitch to the farthest bed where curtains had been drawn for privacy.
He found McGonagall sitting on the bedside of Hermione, her old eyes wet with tears.
'I've done all I can, Minerva. If she fights the curse for another twenty-four hours, then she may have a small chance of survival.'
Hermione looked pale and waxy. He could see the life slowly deserting her.
What had he done?
The two women departed after some time leaving him alone with his witch. He moved to the vacated chair, his body trembling as he sat down.
'Hermione?' he whispered, realizing that he was speaking her name for the very first time, and she couldn't even hear him.
His trembling fingers touched her cheek. It was cold.
He had done this. Why had he done this?
He had never known a relationship like that of his witch and Potter. His life had been all about blood supremacy and following a snake-face bastard.
He sat in the corner near her bed for two days and a night under disillusionment charm. People came and went, Potter stayed behind till late nights, just gazing at Hermione's face.
Maybe Antonin had matured enough to understand what Potter felt for Hermione was far different from what he felt for his witch. There was love and devotion of a familial kind. Antonin hadn't understood her reason to throw herself in front of Potter in ministry because he had never witnessed something like this in his entire life. The purebloods he knew didn't care with such devotion, didn't love with such passion.
The day she opened her eyes and croaked Potter's name, he left hospital wing to make his way towards Headmaster's office…
Albus Dumbledore was surprised when he found Antonin Dolohov waiting for him in his office.
How had the Death Eater escaped ministry officials, and more importantly, what was he doing here?
Antonin Dolohov's face had never been this expressive and Dumbledore's wizened eyes tried to read the story it was telling. There was an underlying sadness in his eyes, not glee. There was a tentative hope, not happiness on the carnage and chaos he had tried to bring tonight.
'Antonin, it has been too long,' Dumbledore remarked casually.
The man didn't answer him. His eyes were trained on Dumbledore's face as if Albus alone could save the man.
'I want to defect,' he said.
Had he listened correctly? Albus Dumbledore couldn't believe his own ears. Why would a Death Eater like Dolohov want to change sides? He was a member of the inner circle, and Voldemort's inner circle held more staunch blood supporters than the man himself.
Dolohov was reputed to be an even bigger bigot than Bellatrix Lestrange.
Albus Dumbledore tried to gauge his reasons, and the sight probe of his leglimency was met with an impenetrable occlumency shield.
'I can assure you my intentions are more than honest, Albus, but don't treat me as one of your order members,' Dolohov snarled, his fists clenching tightly around his wand.
'One would wonder if it has something to do with someone, Antonin,' Dumbledore said gently, walking towards his chair. 'You'll have to forgive an old man for his rudeness, Antonin, but my knees are not what they used to be.'
At the end of the meeting, all Dumbledore could garner was that somehow Antonin Dolohov's bigotry had become a thing of past, and he wanted to help Order against Voldemort. The Death Eater had no request for political asylum or anything of such sort. In fact, he hadn't asked for anything which confounded Dumbledore. Even Severus Snape had a reason for choosing the light.
What was Dolohov's reason?
After playing tag with my dog, I'm reduced to being an inferi as I try to cook something for me to eat. Do review people, it may act as my ambrosia and nectar...