DISCLAIMER: I, sadly, do not own ANYTHING Harry Potter affiliated. They all belong to J.K. Rowling, the immortal genius, whom we all worship & glorify! I wish I owned Snape – I could have lots of fun then – but… alas. I DO however own Lexie, Sophie, Gabby, Natasha, Dru and CARRIE, hah! Not that anyone would really want to steal them, but, there, I've covered my behind! This disclaimer stands throughout the story… I hate having to copy & paste it into every chapter – so, don't forget between now & the time you (and I) finish this story!
ATTENTION ATTENTION! - Acting in response to a reviewer who's suggested I renumber my chapters - I've removed EVERY SINGLE chapter, then renamed them in WORD, then uploaded them again onto then RE-ADDED them to the story! whew - more work than I thought it would be - but... I think they'll make more sense now! SO - just go by what chapter you were on when you actually went INTO the document - not the label on the drop-down menu. I've removed all of the Authors Notes - so they'll be incorporated into the chapters from now on! Anyway, hope this makes everything MUCH clearer for everyone! AND... here's my plea for reviews - PLEASE REVIEW!
1 MORE THING... MY PITTSBURGH STEELERS WON THE SUPERBOWL! THE ONLY THING SWEETER THAN GETTING A RING FOR "THE BUS" WAS MY BOYFRIEND, HINES WARD Swoons, WINNING THE MVP AWARD! WAY TO GO BABY! - WE JUST GOT THAT 1 FOR THE THUMB! WAY TO GO BOYS! WE LOVE OUR BLACK & GOLD!
I don't give a damn what you do with it! Give it to a monastery, drop it on someone's doorstep, throw it in a dumpster for all I care! Just get rid of it." Shouted a deep male voice.
"She's not an it… she's a child. Our child. And she has a name…" argued a softer voice that was shaking as though near tears.
The heavy boots were pacing back and forth were muffled by the dust coating the hardwood floor stopped suddenly. "Now you've gone and named it? You're growing attached." The man shook his head in disgust. His once healthy dark mane, now, neglected, greasy and damaged hung as dirty curtains around his face. The smile lines etched into his face were matched only by the deep crease between his eyebrows. A man changed by circumstance indeed.
"We've talked about this." He finished.
There was a pause in which the silence hung as heavy as a London fog.
"I just don't understand why we have to abandon her so soon… or at all for that matter." The pale woman finally said. Her appearance, like the man's had deteriorated. She held herself gracefully and had the aura of one who was once beautiful. She had deep brown hair and dark eyes which were bloodshot and fatigued.
"I told you Murial." He said in an exasperated voice. "I am a marked man. It's only a matter of time before they'll find me… and kill me. And I highly doubt they'll hesitate to kill you as well."
There was the sound of a wooden chair scraping across the floor; being pushed back from the table. "Who are they? I'm tired of running and hiding from these nameless, faceless people. I've never run from anything in my life, much less anything that I've never seen."
His ice blue eyes flashed sharply at her. "I understand that you're only a Muggle and you can't possibly begin to imagine the evil of which I speak… but believe me… you never want to see them. They are people who have no mercy. They have no understanding of the value of human life. The blood they spill by murdering both of us will be no more than a drop in the bucket to them. These people are less than human. Begging for mercy will do you no good against them… it'll only entertain them. That's why we must leave. As soon as possible. We can't take her with us." He gestured to the cradle on the floor next to the modest table in the dingy, poorly lit kitchen. "She'll only slow our progress."
A set of fragile hands slammed down on the table. "You act like you don't care about her at all! Could you really just leave her here to die?" the woman shouted back.
The man ran his bony white hands through his dark hair in frustration. "If you love her… you will find somewhere for her to go. Soon. Or she'll die alongside us." Strong as nails on the outside, yet, he had a softer side. In another lifetime, he may have enjoyed the prospect of being a father. But it was not meant to be in this life. They had created a child that they would never know. Unfortunately, he alone could fathom the certain death that awaited them; being hunted by the Death Eaters.
They stared down at the infant girl in the cradle, sleeping soundly, their hearts both silently breaking at the thought of their baby girl who would grow up as an orphan… never knowing her parents.
"A Youthful Mistake"
It was ten minutes until eleven and the steady, all-day rain had just stopped. Fog was setting in, winding it's way through the streets like a great, wispy, transparent serpent. The stately, black, wrought iron lampposts that lined the cobblestone street were emitting a smoky, soft, yellow glow. The clouds gave way for a time and the nearly full moon bathed the street in ghastly pale illumination. Thus was a typical night in London.
Alexandra shivered as she stood by the full length window in her sheik London flat, gazing down at the street below, going over in her mind what must be done this evening. She bit her thumbnail contemplatively, crossed her other arm across her midriff and rested her elbow on her forearm.
"Are you sure you're up for this tonight?" asked her roommate and lifelong friend, Gabby, who was standing behind her. Her voice held concern coupled with skepticism as she stood with her arms folded in a motherly way. Gabby was 25, two years older than Lexie. They had significant differences in appearance, but they could've passed as sisterse. Gabby's medium brown hair was cut to her chin and parted down the middle. Her dark eyes were just as sharp as Lexie's were and they were nearly the same height, right around 5'5".
Lexie turned to face her, but was cut off before she could answer.
"She doesn't have a choice." Said a crisp, stern voice.
"What do you mean she 'doesn't have a choice'? She's doing you a favor." Gabby argued quickly.
Sophie Storms, Lexie's boss took a combative step forward and furrowed her eyebrows, "She's doing her job." Sophie was a very talented Auror and office CEO. Below the current Head Auror, Sophie was second in command. She had a certain aura about her that gave people the opinion that she was not one to be dealt with lightly. She had wise looking hazel eyes that were lined with make-up expertly. Her hair was dirty blonde hair was always cut short, in the latest, most fashionable cut. And speaking of fashion – Sophie Storms was always dressed to a T. The trendiest clothes, most expensive robes and the best shoes that Muggles had to offer, Manolo Blahniks.
"Ha! Some job." Gabby said smartly. "It almost got her killed last week."
"She knew when she signed up for this mission that there would be some risk of personal injury involved." Sophie said, her hands snapping reflexively to her hips.
"She only signed up for this joke of a mission because no one else would take it!" Gabby said, her voice softening as her annoyance with the older woman increased.
"But she did sign up for it." Sophie pointed out, her voice growing unlike Gabby's.
Gabby opened her mouth to argue back in defense of her best friend's safety but this time it was Lexie's turn to jump in.
"It's OK Gabby… I'm alright."
Both women turned their attention to Lexie, who had been silent until now.
"Really, I'm OK. I can go tonight." She said seriously.
"You're sure?" Gabby asked, raising a scrutinizing eyebrow.
Lexie swallowed. "I'm sure."
"You'd tell us if you weren't?" Sophie asked strictly, making it more of a statement than a question.
Lexie bit her lip and smiled a little.
"Of course you wouldn't." Sophie said, somewhat exasperated, but amused all the same.
"I'll be fine." Lexie said reassuringly. "I've done this a million times. It's always the same. It's always quiet. No big deal."
With that she pulled her shiny black traveling cloak off of the back of the chair next to her and slung it over her shoulders; not without a bit of difficulty. She fastened the silver, serpent shaped clasp at the neck and pulled her long dark curls out and let them fall gracefully over her shoulders.
"I'll be back soon." She said, looking between the two. And with that, she slipped quietly out the door and into the night.
It was even colder than it looked outside, she thought as she hit the cobblestone street. She paused to look up to the second story window of her flat that she'd just been looking out moments ago. Sophie and Gabby stood side-by-side in the window and each gave a small wave. Lexie nodded and set off down the street at a brisk pace.
She'd dressed warmly, as it had been raining all day. She dawned a pair of jeans, a black, long sleeved shirt and a pair of boots. The boots fell almost silently as she hurried along in the dark. Her long black traveling cloak flowed out behind her, swished noiselessly.
The street was deathly quiet, unusual for a Saturday night in London, she thought as she took an alleyway that lead to a little known entrance that led to Knockturn Alley.
Her shoulder gave a particularly painful jab and it sent her mind unavoidably back to the night, just a week ago when she'd sustained her first injury since she'd been working for the ministry. It had been a silly thing really. She'd made a youthful mistake and let her mind wander while on the job and she had paid for it dearly. For though St. Mungo's mediwizards were able to mend her dislocated shoulder in a heartbeat, the pain remained behind; physical and mental.
Lexie had only been hired at the Ministry a year and a half ago, and it had taken her the first full year to convince Ms. Storms that she was ready to go out into the field. Her job had been a bit of a joke up until six months ago; sitting at a desk, running errands and answering owls for Scrimgorn. She never saw any action as an Auror, even though she was well trained and ready to be in the field. Things continued on this way for twelve long months.
It wasn't until then that Lexie got her first assignment.
Ms. Storms had called Lexie into her office and asked her, in a kindly voice, to take a seat. They sat opposite each other, the desk separating the two as Sophie explained what Lexie would be doing. She spoke of a man who was a suspected Death Eater, one of Voldemort's most loyal servants. This man was, during Voldemort's reign of terror an admitted Death Eater, who had then supposedly "reformed". Suspicions ran high when it came to this man, but he had been vouched for by Dumbledore, so thereafter, few questions were asked, as Dumbledore appeared to have full confidence in him. The bond of trust between the headmaster and this man was so great that Dumbledore even offered him a position as a professor at his school, giving him a second chance in life; to reform.
The Ministry had let this pass only because Dumbledore seemed so completely confident in this man's reform. The man in questions was said to have turned spy and reported invaluable information to Dumbledore about the Death Eater's plans
This man, her usual mark, was often on Lexie's mind and tonight was no exception. She knew she had to force her mind to stay on task this evening. One week ago she'd let it wander and look what the consequences had been… she was still paying for that mistake.
As she set off for her current mission, her mind wandered back to a week ago.
Wrapping her traveling cloak closely around her, Lexie had made her way to Knockturn Alley, one of her least favorite places to frequent... especially at night... especially now. Thunder rumbled low in the distance. The air was becoming quite cold, despite the fact that it was July. It was evident that a storm was fast approaching as the wind whipped up suddenly, swirling her cloak around. She put her hood up, kept her head down and marched along, trying to be unnoticed. Rain began pelting down in large, sharp droplets. The rain turned to a torrential downpour. Sheets of water were blowing across the dark cobblestone street and into her face. Lexie squinted her eyes in an attempt to maintain her vision, to no avail. She blinked the water out of her eyes and began scanning the street for her target. It was known that he frequented a pub, deep in Knockturn Alley to tend to some of his shadier business.
Lexie had a hard time imagining that the Dark Lord would find this oaf of a man competent enough to tend to business. She would've thought him to simply be a crony; known for his brawn, but certainly not his brains. Stepping off the main road, she slipped into another alley to wait and shield herself from the rain. As it turns out, probably not the wisest choice for a hiding place. This alley, darker and more ominous than Knockturn itself, was a dead end and contained nothing more than an overflowing dumpster and a few rats. No matter. It was a temporary hiding place and it would do, for the time being.
She pressed herself against the wall and watched for signs of life on the deserted street. "The guy would be crazy to come out to the bar on a night like tonight...Unless he really is up to something…" Lexie thought to herself wryly. She dwelled on the obscurity of her mission for some time; thinking cynically that it was a bloody waste of time. "Why, after the attack on Jessica, would they waste a good Auror on tailing some oaf while he sits in a bar and drinks himself stupider than he already is? Aren't there more important things to be getting on with?" she wondered, jamming her freezing hands deeper into her pockets.
She pulled her cloak tight around her. Though she was out of the direct weather that was pummeling the street next to her, she was still was catching the occasional gust of frigid wind and water sweeping in, pelting her in the face and drenching her with what felt like buckets of ice water.
Just then she spotted him, clambering down the street bent double against the wind. Lexie watched him silently from the shadows, her eyes sharp and suspicious.
He entered the tavern without incident and she crept out of the alleyway to get a glimpse in the window. Just as she'd suspected, he was sitting, sulkingly, elbows and arms resting heavily on the bar, his hands wrapped loosely around a brown beer bottle. No one else was around him, in fact, the tavern looked all but empty, save the mark and the bartender.
As she peered in the window, her mind drifted back to her original mission; the one which had secured her position within the Ministry as an Auror. The job she'd been given had been assigned to her strictly as a temp job. However, a certain mission had come along which none of the other Aurors seemed to want to take. This particular mission was rather monotonous; probably why none of the others wanted it. It entailed following a certain, suspected Death Eater to make sure that he wasn't up to no good. At the time, Lexie had wondered why the Ministry would go to so much trouble to tail a guy who they weren't even sure actually was a Death Eater. As it turned out, this particular man was in a position that posed a significant threat to the community, should he actually happen to be a Death Eater. And that's why it was of such dire importance to find the answer.
But, as mentioned, it certainly wasn't a glamorous mission; as Aurors are typically known for. Lexie had gotten the job, simply because everyone else flat out refused to do it. The details of her job were relatively simple; anytime he left his residence, she was to follow him. She was to observe him from a distance and never make contact of any sort. The mission had turned out to be even easier than expected. Her mark rarely left his residence and when he did, he followed a static routine. When he left, he made his way, silently into Knockturn, took up a seat in the shadows at the pub, had a glass of scotch, observed the clientele, then left… rarely saying a word to anyone.
He was certainly an interesting character. The longer Lexie followed him, the more he intrigued her, from the way he never altered his routine, to the way he kept himself. His appearance seemed to scream, "Hey, look at me!" and "Pay no attention…" both at the same time. He was a tall man, over six feet tall and always dressed in all black. She imagined that his frame wasn't puny underneath all of his elaborate robes, which billowed and flowed out behind him as he swished gracefully along the streets; though, she was never sure why she spent her time speculating this… His gate was swift and purposeful; all business. He kept his shiny black hair in chin-length curtains that framed his thin, stern face and gave him a sinister appearance. But it was his eyes that captivated her the most; black and endless, sharp and accusing. The sort of eyes that could make a person forget what they were saying, or that they'd been saying anything at all. If anything could compare with the mystique of his eyes, it was his voice. Of the few times she'd heard him speak, she knew that he as an intellectual. He spoke in a deep, baritone voice with all the consistency of sheer silk, which, more than once sent chills down Lexie's spine and left the hairs on the back of her neck prickling for hours at a time. He used an educated, extensive vocabulary and it was obvious that he chose his words very carefully. Everything about him commanded respect… and Death Eater or no… he, unknowingly, had hers.
Suddenly and without warning, her current mark's beady gray eyes darted to the dingy window, which she was peering in through and narrowed, as though squinting to bring something into perspective more clearly.
Lexie dropped to the ground and quickly crawled back into the cover of the alley next to the pub, hoping that she had enough time to escape before he came bursting out the door. She did, but barely. She scrambled around the dumpster and sat with her back against the cold stone wall, trying to catch her breath, which was coming in shaky gasps. "A fine mess you've gotten yourself into Alexandra." she thought to herself as she tried, to steady her breathing and thereby remain quiet but it wasn't easy. As she leaned against the wall, rain streaming down her face, being as small and unnoticeable as possible, she heard the door of the pub bang open. Next was heavy footfalls splashing through puddles on the rain covered street, then nothing but the splatter of rain against brick. He'd stopped moving. He was looking for her. Lexie closed her eyes and prayed that he wouldn't find her.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she heard him grumble in frustration and he turned to walk away. She breathed a sigh of relief and gave him a few moments to set off down the street before cautiously getting to her feet. She inched over to the edge of the building and peered around to her right when crack! she felt an incredible blow to the back of her head; a white light flashed in front of her eyes and she crumbled to the ground where a piece of brick clattered next to her. Her face smacked hard off the cobble stones causing her vision to blur. She sputtered to draw breath but was face down in a puddle of rainwater. The next thing she knew, the Death Eater was standing over her. He leaned down and hissed in her ear, "Why are you following me Auror?" Despite blurred vision, she could see that he was missing a couple of teeth. The rainwater was rolling effortlessly off of his shaved bald head. He grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked her neck backward off the ground.
"I'm not..." Lexie croaked, choking on the water she'd inhaled from the puddle.
He laughed a low booming, evil laugh. "Forgive me if I think you're lying." He said and grabbed her right wrist and wretched it backward. After holding it in somewhat of a half-Nelson, he asked, "Who are you witch? ... and why are you following me? It would be wise to answer" he said, pulling her shoulder closer and closer to dislocation.
Lexie ground her teeth together and winced as she felt the joint threatening to disconnect. "Fuck you." she said defiantly, refusing to blow what cover she had left.
He laughed again and with a jerk of his arm, pulled her shoulder from it's socket. She couldn't bite back the shriek as the pain ripped through her as excruciating as if he'd ripped her arm completely off. Before she had a split second to recover, he'd buried her face in the puddle again. Her nose burnt painfully as she instinctively inhaled a lung full of water through her nose. When he finally yanked her face out of the water, still holding her by the hair, she choked, sputtered and coughed, trying to rid her lungs of the water. "Alright… we'll do it the hard way then." He pulled her roughly to her feet and struck her across her right cheek with a closed fist. She tumbled sideways into the nearby dumpster, crushing her shoulder painfully beneath her weight. She slid to the ground once more. Upon looking up, she saw that he was advancing on her with a malicious grin on his face and flexing his fingers.
Lexie suddenly had no idea where her wand was. She frantically searched around in her pockets with her one good arm, but couldn't find it. "That'll teach me for being disorganized and never keeping it in one place... should've listened to mother." she thought, kicking herself in the ass. There was only one choice and she wasn't sure it would work, considering the state of her shoulder. She raised it, as best she could and flicked her hands at the Death Eater, concentrating hard on freezing him as he reached for her. Lexie shut her eyes as her hands performed the all too familiar gesture. It was only after another moment did she dare open them. It had worked. The Death Eater was frozen, mid-reach and she was spared, at least for the moment. She scrambled off the ground, only to slip and fall back to it, once again coming down hard on her shoulder which was now positively screaming with pain, so much in fact that her vision came in and out of focus. However, She'd recognized that feeling underneath her foot, that rolling sensation and she knew that what she had slipped on had been her wand. Her hand felt frantically around in the dark alley as it continued to steadily pour down rain, until it clasped, trembling, around the small wooden wand. She glanced over her shoulder to see the Death Eater beginning to move in a warped, slow-motion-like way; he was fighting through the freeze. Lexie staggered to her feet and down the road, looking occasionally over her shoulder for the Death Eater, knowing not where she was going until she emerged, miraculously in Diagon Alley.
She cradled her right elbow in her left hand, a make-shift sling and bit back the tears. She was out of breath, bleeding severely from her forehead, where she hit the pavement, her cheek, where the Death Eater had struck her, the base of her head where he'd initially knocked her down and nursing a seriously dislocated shoulder. She stood against the wall of the apothecary, panting uncontrollably, tears streaming freely from her eyes.
"McNair..." Lexie thought, scolding herself. "A big stupid guy like that should've been a breeze to fight off. Not that you should've had to..." the narrative in her head continued. "If you would've kept your cover and just tailed him like you were supposed to instead of lingering in that window, thinking about that other guy, you wouldn't be in this state. Now you've alerted him to the fact that he's being followed, injured yourself and let him escape. Way to go genius." Lexie thought to herself, shaking her head and squinting her eyes closed, in pain and disgust.
Just then she heard the swish of a cloak, somewhere to her left. Her head snapped away from her shoulder where it had been lulling into a quasi-euphoric state, probably due to the pain.
Lexie fumbled to grasp her wand again, looking around frantically for where the sound had come from. But she could see nothing. If McNair was back, she could do little now to defend herself. No sooner than did she risk a glimpse around the corner did a hand fall on her good shoulder. Lexie gasped and flinched at the contact. She whirled around and was relieved to see her fellow Auror, Jessica McGrady. She breathed out a long sigh. "You scared me Jess." She said honestly, still cradling her elbow in her other hand.
Jessica smiled weakly, "Obviously. You jumped about a foot in the air when I tapped you. You're injured," she assessed, surveying Lexie's lame shoulder, "What happened?" she asked, speaking softly as her emerald green cloak flapped gently in the night breeze. Jess was the youngest Auror at the Ministry and stumbling across her had been one of the luckiest things the Ministry had ever occurred. Young, but talented and powerful, Jessica also had a good education, wit and resourcefulness – all the things that make a good Auror. She attended Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry by day and moonlighted as an Auror at night. How the girl managed to go to school all day and hold down a fulltime job at night, Lexie would never know.
Jess listened politely as Lexie recounted her story. Jessica's fair face was contorted in a pensive expression when Lexie wrapped it up. "McNair…" she said thoughtfully, tapping her chin with her long black wand. "Don't you usually shadow Snape?" she asked, still frowning slightly.
"Yeah… but he never left tonight and Tonks is off sick." Lexie told her.
"Hm… well, we'd best get you over to St. Mungo's, it looks like your shoulder's badly dislocated. And you've have some serious cuts… and probably a concussion…" she trailed off, leaning around the back of Lexie's head and noticing that her dark hair was soaked in blood as well as rainwater.
Jessica took her arm, grasped it firmly in her hands and apparated.