1) Hermione is tagged in this because even though she's not in this first chapter, she will be making frequent appearances in this fic, and the plot does kind of hinge on her involvement in the story. So, please do not feel mislead by her inclusion in the character tags simply because you won't see her just yet (this also goes for her and Antonin being tagged as a pairing, trust me, that'll sort itself out in the telling of the story). I would've loved to tag all five of the key characters, but as you all know, FFN's limit is 4.
2) This is a reposted fic. I tried to stop it from happening, but a recent swarm of OC fics in DEE revived this story from The Dead Plunnie File. You lot responsible for this mess know who you are.
3) Orias Mulciber is my personal take on the canon character of Mulciber. Corvus Selwyn is one of my two personal takes on the canon character of Selwyn (the other being Augustin Selwyn). Both characters appear in a number of my other DE-centric fics. Katerina Dolohov is a fully original character, created solely for this fic.
Bella Thorne as Katerina Dolohov (for aesthetic purposes, just imagine her about 4 inches/a little over 10cm shorter 😉); Idris Elba as Kingsley Shacklebolt; Michiel Huisman as Antonin Dolohov; Brock O'Hurn as Orias Mulciber; Sebastian Stan as Corvus Selwyn
Pray for revenge, and God will turn a deaf ear. ~Russian Proverb
Of all the things Antonin Dolohov had ever said to him, Kingsley Shacklebolt found himself surprised that there'd been no mention of old proverbs about being wary of Russian redheads and their tempers. He'd never actually considered the matter until now, as he watched the fiery, diminutive witch withdrawing her paperwork from her bag in swift, angry motions and setting the scrolls before him atop his desk.
"Miss Dolohov," he said with a pained expression as he shuffled the documents to one side for the liaison from the Department of International Magical Cooperation to peruse. "You seem rather . . . irate. May I ask why that is?"
Katerina tried not to scowl. He sounded like he was trying to be kind, but then, that was the problem—he only sounded kind. She could tell from the weight of his gaze and the furrowing of his brow that he'd already done much the same as everyone else.
He'd lumped her in with those who committed crimes the likes for which her uncle had been jailed. Not that she could disagree with his sentencing, but she was certainly no criminal.
She let out a shaky breath and shook her head, grounding herself. Her brown eyes moved in a series of slow, measured blinks as she held his gaze.
When she finally opened her mouth to speak, her accent barely colored her words—that was good, the angrier she got the thicker her accent became, making it more difficult to hide her emotions. "I hardly think it's common procedure for the Minister of Magic to oversee a simple matter of turning over property. Therefore, I can only suspect that this unusual circumstance is due to my family name."
Exhaling heavily through his nostrils, Kingsley's expression softened as he nodded. "Unfortunately, Miss Dolohov, you would be correct. It may seem unfair, however, given your uncle's lengthy and storied record, we have little choice but to regard one such as yourself with caution."
"Minister Shacklebolt," she said with a smile, albeit as she spoke through lightly clenched teeth, "I do understand. And I would like you to understand that were he not my only living relative, I would not be here concerning myself with this, at all. Now, if we can please finish with this? I imagine the time since his original sentence has not been kind to the estate, and I'd like to assess the damage . . . before my hair starts turning grey."
The liaison went wide-eyed at the other witch's snippy tone, but the Minister only frowned thoughtfully. If she didn't know any better, she'd think he found her glibness amusing.
Returning her attention to the documents, the DIoMC liaison's mouth fell open. "Oh, Minister? There seems to be a small problem."
Katerina's brows shot up. She was unaware of any issues. If they were just trying to make things complicated for her . . . . Well, there wasn't much she could actually do, but she'd give them an earful, dammit!
Kingsley gestured the liaison toward him, and she scurried closer, holding the scroll open in front of him. Taking it from her hands, he looked it over before nodding. "I see. That's not really a problem, I just don't imagine she'll be pleased about it."
"Don't imagine I'll be pleased about what?"
His brows drew together as he glanced up at her. "There is a stipulation in these documents that before you are permitted to access the property, you must visit your uncle."
She pursed her lips, her head shaking. That sounded . . . bizarre, at best. "Is . . . ? Is that sort of request actually legal? The man's a war criminal!"
"Actually, yes, and it's not entirely uncommon, either. As you know, many pure-blood families have a reputation for being paranoid," he explained with a wince, making her wonder if the Shacklebolts were one such family. "If there are any safeguards on the property, your uncle would know what they are. If there are such precautions in place, and you do not learn from him what they are, letting you go to your family's estate could be . . . unwise, at best."
Well, that level of secrecy—the sort that would require subtle blood magic, so that information could only be passed among those with shared blood—and, yes, paranoia, certainly did sound part-and-parcel with the older family lines.
But she didn't like the sound of this one little bit.
Sitting back, she let out a sigh and shook her head, once more. "So, I have to go to Azkaban?"
"I will personally arrange an escort who will be with you at all times for your safety."
Katerina offered a small, tight-lipped grin of gratitude. Really, she knew perfectly well it had little to do with her safety, and everything to do with sending someone to overhear what her uncle told her and report back anything that sounded even marginally suspicious.
But she only nodded, aware she had little choice in the matter. "That would be appreciated, thank you."
She folded her hands in her lap as she waited for said arrangements to be made. Did they really think she bought any of their surface niceties?
Just barely did she refrain from rolling her eyes. Perhaps the British were a more trusting people.
She was led through ugly, cracked and dripping dark-grey walls and along windowless passages that likely had not seen the light of day since the building had been constructed. Azkaban's reputation did it no justice . . . . Certainly, she imagined it had been far bleaker when the Dementors had still roamed here, but the awful stories of this place did not paint an honest picture of precisely how dismal the prison truly was.
As her escort guided her past rows of cells, Katerina kept her attention averted from the inmates. Yet, she could feel their gazes on her as she walked by.
Despite the icy shiver of trepidation winding about in the pit of her stomach, she held her head high and continued at a steady pace. Though, really, it was all she could do not to bolt forward and hide in the wizard's shadow.
"Just a bit further," he said over his shoulder, as though sensing her tension.
She nodded, aware he hadn't needed to speak just then, and that—unlike the false pleasantries of her visit with the Minister—was kindness. "Thank you, Mr. . . . I'm sorry, what was it, again?"
Katerina furrowed her brow, no wonder she'd had trouble. What an unusual name. "Mr. Longbottom."
They continued on in silence, though it wasn't actually silent. The sounds of rustling and shifting, of the prisoners talking to themselves or arguing with each other through the bars, were unsettling and ever-present.
It seemed there was not a single heartbeat in which there wasn't some noise crowding the air here.
Another flight of stairs, another corridor. Just when it seemed she could take no more of the constant barrage of little sounds, the wizard before her drew to a stop. She halted immediately in response.
When she looked up, he'd turned on his heel to face her. "He's there," he said with a jut of his chin toward a cell just a few paces away. "I'm giving you five minutes to speak with him. If you feel uncomfortable, or anything at all that you don't like happens, don't hesitate to step away and let me handle the matter from there."
Katerina nodded. Again with the kindness. She did not know why he didn't treat her like the others had, but she wasn't in a position to question the circumstance, either.
Turning toward the cell, she walked across the uneven stone floor on quiet, careful footfalls. As she neared the sad little cage, she could see him. Seated against the far wall, only the thinnest slice of light from the outside washed in from a high and impossibly narrow window, his posture was hunched, and he looked as though he'd perhaps fallen asleep sitting up.
She'd not seen him in many, many years—not since she was a small child—and she wondered if he'd even remember her. Certainly, the slumped and ragged figure did not call to mind the man she'd met when she was a little girl.
Though she considered reverting to her native tongue, she just as quickly dismissed the notion. Even in his kindness, Mr. Longbottom might think even a single word that he could not understand suspicious.
"Uncle?" she said through the bars, her voice shaky.
Antonin's dark head came up at the word, but he only stared for a strained moment before climbing to his feet. "No . . . . Katerina? Is—is that you?"
The witch nodded.
"Something's happened, hasn't it?" He took a few steps closer, but did not make the effort to draw any nearer to her, seeming only to try and get a better look at her.
She shrugged, trying not to care about her words as she said, "You must not have heard. My father died."
Antonin's expression darkened into something so lethal Katerina jumped a little at the sight of it. He did draw nearer, then, but he peered past her, locking his eyes on her escort. "Really? My own brother died and no one thought I, at least, deserved to know?"
Mr. Longbottom frowned, none of that kindness he'd shown her present in him just now as he addressed her uncle. "Seems what you deserve is a matter of some debate, Dolohov."
Though he bared his teeth in a snarl at the younger wizard, Antonin quickly got his temper under control, aware he was frightening his niece. Drawing a breath and letting it out slow, he said, "I don't understand, why are you here? How—how did he—?"
Katerina sniffled, unable to help it, despite the brave façade she was trying to keep in place. "He got sick. I was still in school, and I couldn't—I couldn't be with him, so everything we had went to his care, to people to look after him."
Antonin's dark eyes widened. "Everything?"
She nodded. "The British estate is all I have left. That's why I'm here, the Minister said . . . he said I needed to talk to you before I could be allowed into our property."
Her uncle nodded back. "Of course he did." Wrapping his hands around the bars, Antonin lowered his head a moment. "Iosif," he said, his deep voice hitching a little as he spoke his brother's name.
Katerina only watched him, uncertain if there was even anything to say. No matter what she'd thought of him, she'd not realized he hadn't known about her father's passing. Perhaps she should've guessed. There was no unseeing the despair in the Dark wizard's eyes.
Pulling back the sleeve of his tatty prison robes, he glanced at his fading Dark Mark; she wasn't quiet certain if he'd wanted her to see that twisted piece of body art, or not. "Family comes in many forms, I suppose." Shaking his head, he lowered the cloth back into place and returned his attention to her.
She had no time to make sense of his cryptic statement before he was speaking, again.
"What you need to know about the house . . . this won't make sense until you get there, but it won't hurt you. What's there will guard you, if you guard it."
Her brow furrowed, but just as she thought to ask, she noticed the gleam in her uncle's eyes. It was the same look her father used to give her when he would whisper something meant for her ears, alone. Pressing her lips shut, she caught the minimal movement of the gesture as he tugged at the sleeve covering his accursed tattoo.
She had no idea what it meant, only that she'd been correct in thinking his brandishing of the Mark a moment ago had been deliberate, and that it had to do with whatever awaited her in Dolohov Estate. "Mr. Longbottom, I believe I'm done here."
As her escort stepped forward to guide her away, Antonin gripped his fingers around the bars, once more.
"Katerina, you'll—you'll come visit some other time, won't you?"
She met his gaze, again. There was something so desperate in his expression that it made her feel conflicted. She hadn't wanted to sympathize with him, but she supposed . . . just as with their British estate, her uncle was all she had left.
Forcing a watery grin, she nodded. "If they'll allow me to, I'll try."
He smiled, though it was a weak, pathetic expression. After a moment of looking thoughtful, he said, "One more thing?"
Mr. Longbottom rolled his eyes. "Make it quick, Dolohov."
The Dark wizard frowned, before clearly deciding to ignore the young man. "I'd like you to deliver a message to Hermione Granger for me."
She recognized the name, and knew, perfectly well, that the attempts he'd made on Hermione Granger's life were just a few of the many reasons he was behind those bars.
Exchanging a wary glance with Mr. Longbottom, it was only when he nodded that she returned her attention to her uncle. "What is it?"
With a sad, quiet chuckle, and a look as though he didn't quite believe the words falling from his own lips, he said, "Tell her I'm sorry."
"I haven't met her, yet, but somehow I don't think she'll believe you."
Antonin nodded. "I know, but I need to say it, all the same."
Her escort tugged gently at her elbow, then. "C'mon, Miss Dolohov. Time is up."
Stepping back from the bars, she allowed herself one last glance at her uncle before she was led away.
Antonin tipped his head to one side, watching her depart. It was only after she and her bothersome guardian were far out of eye-line that he grinned. She'd believed him. Moreover, he caught from the corner of his eye that Longbottom believed him.
He'd not particularly enjoyed misleading his niece about so much—family was still of the utmost importance to him, after all—but it was the only way to get her to believe he was contrite. He'd known the state of their family's finances was bleak, just as he'd known Iosif had been sick. His death was deeply saddening, but inevitable; Katerina's arrival on British soil equally so.
Though, he supposed he was contrite.
He did want to apologize to Hermione Granger . . . for allowing her life to slip through his fingers.
Yes, she should've insisted on an escort to see her to her new home, she thought as she approached the gateway to the old estate grounds and pushed the rickety, wrought iron open. "Well, aren't you a magnificent mess?" she asked the visibly old and deteriorating, if impressive, edifice as she crossed the grounds toward that porch, with its wide, flat steps that preceded the entryway.
Just as well. She wanted to think that their lack of insistence on sending someone with her was a sign that they might trust her a little bit, now—or, at least distrusted her less than they had that morning.
Katerina unlocked the doors, ignoring the groaning and creaking of the hinges as she pushed them open. She had much to do, she wouldn't focus on the cosmetic things, like noisy front doors, just now.
With a sigh and a shake of her head, she stepped inside. She could probably sell anything not absolutely essential to pay for necessary renovations . . . and pesky necessities like food, as she imagined her family name might be a stumbling block toward finding a steady job, here.
Yet, as she closed the doors behind her and turned to cross the foyer, she was shocked at how . . . how decent the place looked. Not spectacular, there was still obvious weathering, damage, and general disrepair, but it looked . . . kept, tidy.
Anxiety rippled through her and she drew her wand. Something was not right, here.
She proceeded through the main floor on cautious, measured footsteps, peering into each room as she crept past. Nothing. Nothing. Yet, she could not shake the sensation.
Her imagination was causing her senses to run away with her, she thought, because it seemed she smelled coffee?
She continued on through a lavish, but long-unused dining room. The thing which unsettled her most was that there didn't seem to be much dust on anything.
As she slipped into the kitchen, she saw food cooking on the stove, smelled the fresh brewed coffee, stronger—closer—than before. Yet, still she saw no one.
A creak in the floorboards to the side of her sent Katerina spinning on her heel, her wand out, ready to strike. A pair of unfamiliar wizards stared back at her, their own wands trained on her.
She took them in one at a time—any other occasion, she was certain she'd be struck by how pretty they each were in their own way. The impossibly tall one, first, with his long tumble of dark-blond hair; he looked like something straight out of a Viking tale, or as though he wouldn't be out of place hiking through the snowy drifts of Siberia. His companion, not nearly as massive, though he still towered over her, with her meager stature, was dark-haired, his blue eyes narrowed menacingly and his full mouth set in a grim, determined line.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" she demanded, aware of how thick her accent tumbled out with the mix of trepidation and blind anger running through her.
At the inflection in her speech, the wizards exchanged a glance. "Dolohov?"
Katerina's gaze darted from one man to the other, again, before she returned her attention to the pair as a single unit. Forcing a gulp down her throat, she nodded. "Yes?"
Both wizards lowered their wands, their movements slow and wary. "We've been expecting you," the dark-haired one said.
The Viking shrugged as he nodded. "Well, sort of."
"Expecting me?" she said, the thickness of her accent subsiding as she calmed, but only by increments. "Who are you?"
The blond spoke while his companion went about pouring himself a cup of coffee, as though the environment was suddenly relaxed and friendly. "Orias Mulciber," he said, pointing to himself before he gestured to the coffee-drinker, "Corvus Selwyn."
"Okay, fine. Now what are you doing here?" She had yet to lower her wand.
"Your uncle told us if we managed to evade capture, to lay low here."
Her brow furrowed, but before she could ask, each man rolled back his sleeve, revealing their Dark Marks. Family comes in many forms, I suppose. Katerina's wand arm fell to her side, the movement numb.
"Katerina, right?" the dark-haired one—Corvus—asked.
"We'll guard you," he started.
His companion, Orias, finished, "If you guard us."
This was the secret hiding in her family's estate? She felt her face fall, felt her shoulders droop, every motion a foreign sensation over which she seemed to have no control.
Katerina lifted her gaze, meeting Orias' eyes first, then Corvus'. Orias seemed to be awaiting her reaction, but Corvus only offered a lopsided grin as he asked, "Hungry?"