Chapter Fourteen: In which Bellatrix Lestrange gets her birthday wish

Montague waved his wand in the air, and a bouquet of flowers, all deep red, appeared. He handed them to Katie with a flourish.

"What are you doing, Montague?" she asked, surprised.

"Practicing," Montague said, and he made the flowers burst into flame.

Katie yelped and dropped them on the floor.

Montague laughed, and cast Aguimenti on the flowers, putting out the fire.

"What is wrong with you?" demanded Katie.

"I'm practicing," Montague repeated, unrepentant.

Katie stared at the Slytherin boy as he waved his wand around the room, constructing and demolishing random objects in turn. Ollivander had finally finished his new wand, and he was intent on playing with it as much as possible. Boys.

"I thought we were going to a party," Katie ventured after a few minutes of watching Montague conjure a Gryffindor flag and destroy it repeatedly in a myriad of creative ways.

"Oh yeah," Montague said, sounding slightly disappointed. "Pick out some dress robes for me, won't you Katie?"

Katie. There it was again. He had almost completely stopped calling her Bell since their…since their…Katie swallowed. Just say it, she told herself sternly, since you snogged each other and Montague felt you up. Since you discovered how much Montague would really like to fuck you.

He had taken her request to stop calling her Bell very seriously, apparently. She wasn't sure what this meant, but she had some ideas. Katie stood up and walked over to Montague's closet, picking through the disgustingly expensive dress robes inside.

"What sort of party is it?" she asked, flicking through silks and wools and cottons.

"A birthday party for a lunatic," Montague said shortly, "Bellatrix."

Katie schooled her expression, trying not to look shocked at the fact that Aidan had called a fellow Death Eater a lunatic.

"How fancy?" Katie asked, lingering on a dark green robe that would look amazing on Oliver.

"I dunno Bell, just give me something you think I would look hot in," Montague said negligently, blasting the Gryffindor flag again.

"So, anything then," Katie muttered under her breath, annoyed that Montague was being so difficult.

"What was that?" Montague suddenly asked, and she could tell, from the hairs that had risen on the back of her neck, that Montague was staring at her, motionless.

Katie froze. She looked at the green robes again, gathering courage when she thought of Oliver. They would compliment his eyes perfectly.

She spun around, looking at Montague, who was looking at her almost…hopefully?

"I said you'd look hot in anything," Katie heard herself saying boldly, confidently, "but you should wear these," and she held out the dark green robe.

Montague stared at her, and a rogue rose fell out of his wand, an echo from his earlier spell, and fell limply to the floor. Katie hoped this wasn't a metaphor for something.

"Are you messing with me again Bell?" he said finally. "Trying to keep yourself alive, and all that rubbish?"

"I'm just telling you the truth," Katie said, shrugging.

Montague smiled, slowly. The expression on his face made Katie feel strange. She looked away from him quickly, and when she forced herself to look back, Montague had moved closer to her, his smile widening. It was sexy, Katie realized suddenly, that was what she was feeling. Montague was giving her a very sexy look. This made her feel stranger.

"Finally admitting it, Katie?" he said, moving closer to her, and tugging the robes out of her hands.

She shrugged again, going for unimpressed. "Not as good looking as me, though," she said a bit cheekily, trying to defuse the sudden tension.

"Isn't that true," Montague said, his eyes darting down to her lips.

"What am I going to be wearing?" Katie asked, trying to keep up her friendly demeanor. It was hard, when she kept thinking of all the terrible things Montague had probably done, all the people he had killed.

"Nothing would be best," Montague murmured, leaning closer to her, his eyes starting to close slightly.

Katie couldn't help it, and a slightly horrified gasp escaped her against her will. He was about to kiss her again.

Montague's gaze snapped back to her face, and too late, he caught the true meaning of her gasp. His expression grew cold.

"But of course, I'm sure you won't want that attention from Flint," he said, stepping back and stripping off his robes, his tone hard.

Katie cursed herself for being weak. She had played Montague so perfectly, so expertly, just like she had promised herself she would do. She had decided after her failure before with Montague that she would have to pull it together, separate her feelings from her behavior, and let Montague think he was seducing her. Let him think she loved him. And then he would help her escape. That was Hermione and Katie's plan, and Katie was too weak to pull the trigger when she needed to.

"Here," Montague said, throwing a set of women's dress robes at her.

Katie looked at them, noticing the classic, if not conservative, cut of the cream colored robes.

"These aren't too frumpy for you?" she asked dubiously, trying to backtrack to the point where Montague was gagging for it.

"Katie," Montague said, stripping off his undergarments after purposely getting her attention by saying her name, "you would look hot in anything."

Katie bit the inside of her cheek, forcing herself not to look away, or look scared. He was obviously testing her. He was obviously very, very fond of his naked body, and of using it against her. It probably amused him to watch her blush and squirm. She had never seen a boy naked, not since she was old enough to notice such things. She wasn't counting the other day when she had seen Montague for a microsecond. Katie felt…strange again, as the seconds ticked by.

Montague raised an eyebrow at her. She knew he had been expecting her to give herself whiplash again, not stare him down. Although she was prudently keeping her eyes waist level and higher.

"You going to change, Katie?" he asked, the little sexy smile of earlier coming back.

Katie was still avoiding looking at Montague's…well anyway, looking below his waist, but what was above…that…was distracting her enough. The bastard could have been a male model, if he wasn't a wizard and evil, at that.

"Are you?" she asked, her mouth dry. "Or are you just going to wave your junk around all day?"

A short, genuine burst of laughter came from Montague, who looked surprised.

"Not that you'd know Katie," he said, laughing a little more, "you're avoiding looking at my junk like it's covered in bubotuber pus."

"Maybe it is," she shot back.

Montague pulled on his new set of dress robes, still chuckling. He stopped immediately when Katie stripped off her own clothes unceremoniously, leaving her tacky underwear on.

Katie's heart was hammering out of her chest, she was so nervous and uncomfortable, and desperately trying to prove that she wasn't. She didn't know what she was doing. She didn't know boys well. She didn't know Slytherin boys well. She didn't understand bigots who hated her heritage at all. But she thought, maybe, as Montague swallowed hard, his eyes roaming quickly all over her, that she might be learning.

"Wait, Katie, wait," he said as she reached for her new robes as slowly as she could force herself. (Which was not very slow at all.)

"What?" she said, pausing with the silky robes held half in front of her.

"I gave you like a five minute look, you've got to give me more than ten seconds."

Katie blushed all the way to her hairline, brilliant pink. She hesitated a minute, then dropped her arms, and her robes, from blocking Montague's view of her in her underwear.

He whistled, low. "I'm re-thinking the wisdom of having no girls on the Slytherin Quidditch team," he said, attempting to sound breezy, but failing.

"You should have," Katie said, "maybe then you might have beaten us."

Montague snorted. "You had Potter. The only way we would've won is if we'd broken his arms."

"He beat you with a broken arm," Katie pointed out, unable to resist.

"Point taken," Montague said, his voice sounded odd as he kept looking over her.

"Are you almost done, Montague?" Katie asked. "I'm getting cold."

"I could tell," he said, voice strangled.

Katie made an ugly squawking noise and held the robes up again.

"I have two issues here, Katie," Montague said, still staring at her and looking half drugged with…arousal? Katie blushed harder. "One, you keep calling me Montague even though you insist I call you Katie. Two, I believe I was naked. You're not naked. That's hardly fair, is it?"

"I didn't look," Katie reminded him quickly.

"Yeah, but whose fault is that?" Montague said.

"But you'd look," Katie pointed out.

"That's the whole point," Montague said, biting his lower lip unconsciously as he kept looking at her, his gaze searing into her skin.

"But then that wouldn't be fair," Katie pointed out reasonably.

"Just..just for a few seconds, Katie," Montague said, and Katie was shocked to hear that he sounded a little…desperate. A little..unhinged. She felt a strange mix of triumph and shock. She had no idea that she had this effect on men, particularly on Slytherin Muggle-born haters. But it sounded like she had been tormenting Montague all these long weeks. All that looking…very little touching. She couldn't believe it was this easy to bend Montague to her will. Katie couldn't wait to tell Hermione about this. But should she comply…?

"One second," Montague said, basically begging. "Just a quick—"

Katie grabbed her bra strap, unsure of what to do, and Montague actually made a noise. Good lord, he was desperate. Katie pulled it off her shoulder a little, Montague quickly wetting his lips, his mouth opening slightly.

A knock banged on the door.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Montague snarled, sounding so angry Katie felt a stab of fear.

You can't control him, idiot, she chastised herself. He's a killer.

Montague walked rapidly toward the door, his hand grabbing the doorknob and starting to turn it. He paused and looked over his shoulder at her.

"Merlin Bell, pull it together. Get your clothes on."

Katie glared at him and yanked on the robe.

Another impatient knock sounded from the door.

"What," Montague snapped, yanking open the door violently. "Oh," he said, his voice changing, "hello Theo. Granger, what have you done to your hair? It doesn't look like a natural disaster anymore."

Katie's heart leapt. Nott was standing there, in the plainest dress robes she had ever seen. His messy hair was in his eyes, his gangly form looking awkward, like it usually did. Hermione was standing next to him, her hair sleek and straight, wearing a red dress. A red Muggle dress. A hot red Muggle dress. Katie gave an involuntary, appreciate noise. She had no idea Hermione could look so…good.

"Damn," Montague said, looking over Hermione, "I've got to agree with my Mudblood," he said, his tone shocked, "looking good, Granger."

Nott laughed. "It only takes a few hours," he said, somewhat meanly, "but I asked her to try her best."

Montague laughed meanly as well. Katie's brow furrowed. Montague was acting very different than he had a few moments ago. And Hermione had just rolled her eyes like she'd seen her do a million times to Ron and Harry. It had been…almost an indulgent eye roll. Katie knew Nott couldn't be that bad. She had heard what he'd done. It had been Nott that had saved them from pain that day with Flint. Nott, not Montague. Katie's brain whirled. Was…was there something going on with Montague and Nott that she hadn't realized before? Were they…

"Yours looks good too," Nott said, eyeing Katie like she was a piece of meat. "Kind of virginal, though."

"Not anymore," Montague lied, sounding smug.

Katie was more confused than ever. She felt like she was in a middle of a play with three other actors, and only she had forgotten her lines.

"Anyway," Nott said, sounding bored, still leaning against the open door, "let's get this over with. I have better things to do with her later," he said, jerking his head at Hermione.

Montague laughed again. "I bet you do," he said, eyeing Hermione like he had just eyed Katie a few moments ago.

She felt a burst of anger at herself for being so stupid to take his looks at her as flattery. He was evil. He was a teenage boy. He was a Slytherin. He was repulsive. She couldn't forget any of those things. She only had to remember how to use those things to her advantage.

Katie deliberately walked over to Montague, grabbing his arm. He turned and looked her, surprised and a little pleased.

"Well Theo, it seems like my Mudblood is excited to go and rub Flint's face in it," Montague said, moving towards the door.

Nott's mouth quirked a little, his eyes dark. "And mine is dying to see Malfoy," he deadpanned.

Hermione snorted, and Katie was impressed, but surprised, to see Nott smile at her a little. He put his arm around her, very awkwardly, as if he had never touched a girl at all and expected Hermione to punch him for trying. Apparently, Hermione had done more damage manipulating her jailer than Katie had.

Nott and Hermione left the room, Katie and Montague trailing behind. Montague grabbed her around her waist as well, pulling her close. He bent over until his lips touched her ear.

"Still trying to stay alive, Katie?" he whispered so quietly she could barely understand him. Katie nodded. "Then remember to do whatever I say tonight," he said, tightening his arm around her. She nodded again. "Anything," he stressed again, "that I say. Or do. You follow."

"I've got it, Montague," she said, annoyed.

"I've got it, Aidan," he corrected her.

"I've got it, Aidan," she parroted, only the barest hint of sarcasm on the last word.

"Good," he said, and moved his lips from her ear to her cheek, with a fleeting kiss, "that's my little Gryffindor."

When she was sure he wasn't looking, Katie made a face.

Theo sat awkwardly on a leather couch, in a dark corner of the room, his cup of firewhiskey barely touched. Granger sat next to him, her legs and arms crossed, looking at the floor as if she were cowed and beaten. Montague sat on the other side of them, his firewhiskey incredibly touched, Bell lounging even more awkwardly than Theo in his lap. Salazar, he hated pure-blood parties. All those smug rich people smugly smugging at each other about how wealthy and powerful they were…

"Oh yes, the newest robes, the latest design all the way from Paris…" Lucius Malfoy smirked at Crabbe senior as he fondled his robes.

"Well, if the Mudbloods and blood traitors expect us to use their silly little fellytones and firelegs, we can't be expected to…" Dolohov sneered at Mulcibur.

"My wife has always understood her place is being second to me…" Rookwood said smugly to Rabastan Lestrange.

"The Dark Lord is generous with his wisdom," a stooping wizard with a thin voice said to Wormtongue.

Theo shrank into the couch more and took a large swig of firewhisky. That last voice had been his father, Thaddeus.

He fucking hated parties. Briefly, he wondered if Gryffindor parties were more fun.

"Boys," Pansy said as a greeting, her makeup and robes flawless and overdone, as usual, "enjoying yourselves?" Dukes and Goldstein nervously trailed her, plates of food and drink in their shaking hands.

"Completely," Theo said sourly, taking another large swig of his firewhiskey. He was preparing himself for Pansy's bullshit.

"I'm having a great time," he heard Aidan lie, "no Flint, no Malfoy junior, and tons of alcohol." He ran his left hand through Bell's hair, his other squeezing her waist. "Not to mention, I've got the hottest Mudblood here."

"Certainly hotter than the chipmunk," Pansy said, her malevolent gaze boring into Granger.

Theo took another swig of firewhiskey.

Granger kept her gaze prudently down.

"Oh I dunno," Aidan said, slightly drunk and unwilling to pass up an attempt to taunt Pansy, "I think Theo's been enjoying her arse quite a bit."

Theo downed the rest of his drink in one swig. "Let's get drunk Mudblood," he said to Hermione, dragging her to her feet and ignoring the pissing contest going on between Pansy and Aidan.

"Yes master," she said demurely, still looking down at the floor as Theo pulled her to the beverage area.

Theo had just started pouring two insanely large mugs of firewhiskey, waving off the nervous and subservient house elves hovering nearby when he heard someone call his name. Theo clenched his jaw.

"Father," he said deferentially, as he turned around.

Thaddeus Nott, elderly, stooped, unimpressive, stood behind him and Granger, an expectant look on his face.

Granger looked quickly at his father as well, before her gaze dropped rapidly to the floor. Theo felt a strange sense of embarrassment that Granger would see his shabby, weak father. This was the man who'd convinced Theo to join the Death Eaters. This was the person who had ruined his life. And it was an old man, half-hunched and half dead, a source of mirth to all of the inner circle of Death Eaters. He felt disgusted with himself.

"So this is the Mudblood then," Thaddeus said, his expression shrewd. "I hope you're not becoming too attached, Theodore. She's quite lovely."

"Only after a bottle of Sleekeazy's and three hours of hard labor," Theo heard himself say, a sweat breaking out along his collar of the heavy wool robes he was wearing. Oh sure, now his father had chosen to finally pay attention to his only child.

"Quite lovely," Thaddeus repeated, his eyes narrowing at Hermione. "Just remember what filth she is, Theodore. A girl like this can trick you."

"Of course I remember father," Theo said, keeping his tone as calm and respectful as he always had when speaking to Thaddeus.

"Do you, son?" Thaddeus said, stepping closer, the loud noises around them blocking out their conversation from others. "Because I might remember a different boy than the one you are right now. One that's more like your mother."

Theo's mouth twisted. His mother had died from giving birth to him. He had never known her, but he had heard how…different she was from his father. How much her thoughts diverted.

"I'm nothing like that blood traitor," he forced himself to say.

"I should hope so, my son," Thaddeus said, his voice low, "for your sake." And he walked away from them, back over to Wormtongue.

Theo let out a shaky breath, then grabbed his mug of firewhiskey, taking two large gulps. His throat burned and he coughed loudly.

"Her-Hermione?" he heard whispered tentatively from behind the table of drinks.

"Fuck, what now?" he said loudly, the firewhiskey affecting him.

It was Tracey Davis, covered in bruises and cuts. She was huddled in a little ball on the floor, her arms around her legs, looking so beaten that Theo barely recognized her. Immediately, he felt a surge of remorse. He could've saved her. She had wanted him to. And now look at her. Fuck, what had Snape been doing to her?

Hermione looked stricken. "Hi Tracey," she said softly, "are you okay?"

"Do I look okay?" Tracey said sarcastically.

"No, you look awful," Hermione said, looking upset. "What's—"

"Shut up, both of you," Theo hissed.

"Fuck off Nott," Tracey spat, "you can't do anything to me."

"I can't do anything for you either," he heard himself saying meaningfully. "C'mon Granger, get your booze and let's go." He started dragging Hermione away.

He was so intent on getting away before someone noticed how chummy the two girls were that he missed Granger turning back to Tracey and slipping her a note.

Tracey waited a moment, to make sure no one was observing her, and unfurled the tiny, sweaty note that Hermione must have been hiding in her bra.

All it said was; I've got a plan.

Tracey's eyes gleamed.

Katie sat on Montague's lap as he got increasingly drunk and belligerent. His grip on her was slackening as he became more inebriated.

"Fuck you, Warrington," he slurred when the former Quidditch player slouched up. "Stop staring at her tits."

"I'll stare wherever I like, Montague," he said coldly.

In the background, they could hear Bellatrix Lestrange throwing her cake at a house elf in a rage.

"It's hazelnut, not macademia nut, moron!"

"You and Flint, you're so goddamn desperate," Montague said blurrily, "so desperate! Look at you, you're practically drooling."

"I think you're the one that's about to start drooling," Warrington sneered, indicting Montague's drunken state. "You should have probably stayed sober for when Flint inevitably attacks you when he sees this," he gestured at Katie's spot on Montague's lap.

"Where is the big ogre?" Montague said, slurping more firewhiskey.

"Dunno," Warrington said, eyeing Katie in a way that made her skin crawl. She felt herself shrink further into Montague. This whole excursion was reminding her of how much worse she could have it right now. "I haven't seen Draco either."

"Who gives a flying fuck about Draaaco?" Montague drawled, his impression of Malfoy Sr. surprisingly on point. "I asked you where Flint is."

"I told you I don't know," Warrington said, his eyes fixated on Katie's legs, where her robes had ridden up a little. "Look, Montague, just give me a few hours with her," he said suddenly, "I'll owe you. I'll help you out with Flint."

"Ha!" Montague snorted, "Like I need help with Flint," he slurred, heavier still. He took another swig of firewhiskey, while Katie's heart hammered. Please, she begged internally, please don't agree, Montague.

"C'mon, Montague," Warrington wheedled, "just a few hours. One hour. One hour. I'll return her undamaged."

Katie sucked in a shuddering breath, she couldn't help it. She knew Montague heard it, because he gripped her tightly again.

"Whaddya say, Katie?" he said asked her, turning his head to look her in the eye. She smelt the firewhiskey pouring off of him. "Want a turn with this sloth bastard?"

"No," she said quickly, grabbing onto Montague's arm with a death grip.

"See?" Montague said, raising his eyebrows at Warrington. "She likes it with me, not you Warrington."

"Yes," Katie agreed quicker still, "yes I like it with you, Aidan."

Montague broke out into a goofy grin at her use of his first name.

"Seeeee Warrrrington?" he said, taunting, drunk. "She likes me. She likes me a lot."

"A lot," Katie agreed eagerly, her heart pounding out of her chest. She chanced a look at Warrington, then wished she hadn't.

"You've got it coming, you smug asshole," Warrington said, quiet. So quiet no one else could hear over the sounds of Bellatrix torturing the house elf while the Death Eaters cheered in the background. He was much smarter than Flint. "You've had it coming for a long time."

"I'm terrified," Montague said, yawning.

"You think you're so fucking special," Warrington said, his voice rising a little, "so fucking rich and popular and hot—"

"That's cause he is hot," Katie said, loyal. Loyal and manipulative. "Unlike you."

"Montague, you shut your Mudblood whore's mouth," Warrington hissed, his eyes dark and frightening.

"Okay daaarling," Montague said to her with an eyeroll, "you heard Lord Warrington. He wants me to make you stop talking." He reached up, turning Katie's face to his, and kissed her out of nowhere.

Katie had a moment of horrified hesitation, before she remembered Montague's previous warning, and her vow to herself. She snapped her eyes shut and kissed Montague back, ignoring all of her Gryffindor sensibilities that were screaming at her. She heard Warrington give a loud noise of disbelief.

It was their first lengthy kiss, as the previous tear streaked kiss had been very brief, and very sweet. This kiss was most assuredly not sweet, in the slightest. Montague's tongue was in her mouth, his hands yanking her closer, his hips shifting against her. Katie kissed him back fiercely, even though she was unsure what she was doing, horrified at what she was doing, and repulsed by Warrington continuing to watch them. Montague moaned quietly against her mouth as he shifted again, pressing her against the couch, his body half on top of her now. She could tell, even with him drunk, even with him knowing why she was doing it, that she had surprised him by kissing him back. Katie blessed the fact that they were in the least occupied section of the room, and presumably only Warrington was a witness to this show. Katie reached up, running her hand through Montague's hair, the other tugging at the front of his robes.

"Salazar," she heard Warrington breathe from in front of them.

Montague either ignored him or didn't hear him, and kissed her more fervently. Katie supposed it was weeks of backed up sexual tension on his behalf. Or maybe, she thought with a shock, longer than that. Maybe he had wanted her longer than that.

Montague gave another gasping moan against her, his hands starting to travel up her legs, under her robes.

"Fuck," she heard Warrington moan, a little louder.

Katie realized with a thrill of horror that Warrington was getting off on watching them. Her skin broke out in gooseflesh, her mouth stilling.

"What?" Montague said, pulling back from her, his gaze clouded with lust. "What, Katie?" He answered his own question when Warrington gave a noise of disappointment. "Fuck, Warrington," Montague said, disgusted, "you're pathetic. Get out of here and go jerk off in your room."

Katie gave a nervous laugh, her teeth chattering. Montague was still on top of her, his hand under her robe, on her upper thigh. She avoided looking at Warrington, using all her strength not to, but she could hear him breathing heavily anyway.

"You could at least let me watch," he said, begging again, "if you're going to be so fucking stingy, Montague. I'll go back with you to your room, if you want."

"Bloody hell!" Montague said, disgusted, and threw a pillow from the couch at Warrington's head. "Buzz off! Go wank it to your old pictures of the Gryffindor Quidditch team."

Warrington glared at Montague for a moment, but finally slouched off.

Katie gave another desperate, nervous laugh. Montague looked at her again. "Where were we?" he slurred, still tipsy.

Katie hesitantly leaned forward, grabbing him by his robes, pulling him down on her again. They began kissing again, Katie more into it than before, now that she knew no one was watching. Montague broke their kiss, his mouth moving to her ear, her neck, her upper chest, her—


Katie's eyes flew open, another gasp leaving her mouth. It was, of course, Marcus Flint.

Montague groaned loudly against her collarbone.

"Is everyone," he slurred, "is everyone determined to cock block me tonight? Can't a boy snog a hot Gryffindor girl in peace? Is that too much to ask?"

Katie started to shake. She was breaking out in the 'Flint sweat.'

"Get off of her," Flint snarled, "I'm giving you three seconds, and then I'm killing you, Montague."

Montague raised his head from Katie's chest, looking at Flint, caught the deadly serious look on Flint's face, and started to move.

"No," Katie hissed at him, grabbing his robes again, "don't you dare, Montague."

"See?" Montague said drunkenly to Flint, "I told you she's gagging for it."

"Yeah," Katie said desperately, "yeah I love it, Flint. Leave us alone so we can fuck."

Montague gave a low noise, and suddenly Katie realized that what was pressing against her inner thigh wasn't his wand. She resisted the urge to nervous laugh again. Or to cry again.

"Yeah," Montague said, his voice low, his eyes dark as he stared at Katie, at her swollen lips, "leave us alone, Flint. We're busy."

"Yes Marcus," Pansy Parkinson said, unexpectedly wandering over and involving herself. "Leave them alone. Have fun with your Mudblood," and she gestured at Megan Jones, who was staring at Katie and Montague with a dead look on her face. She grabbed Flint's arm, digging her nails into the flesh, reminding him of their plan, and the room full of witnesses. No one noticed the absence of Veronique.

Flint took a deep breath, controlling his rage and shocking them all.

"Don't worry, Katie," he said to her gently, "I know he's making you. He's using things on you. I'll save you from him."

"Save me from what, Flint?" Katie asked, her vision starting to go in her panic. She gripped Montague tighter. "I like it."

"She loves it," Montague corrected, laughing. Only Katie could tell that his laughter was colored with drunken disbelief, as if everything was a dream he was having.

"I love it," Katie confirmed, lying through her teeth, but thinking that she would always, always prefer Montague to Flint.

Flint stared at her for a moment longer, as Katie clung, terrified, to Montague as if he was the only thing protecting her (which, he was) and Montague kept his hands entangled in the object of Flint's obsession. He surprisingly, turned away without a word, and Katie saw a glint in his eyes, his face screwed up as if he were…fighting tears? No, she thought shocked, it wasn't possible.

"Where'd Theo get to with the beaver?" Pansy asked, her eyes scanning the nearby area after Flint had wandered off.

"Pansy," Montague said, buzzed, "please feel free to fuck off. We're busy."

"Gladly," Pansy sneered, "I didn't feel like vomiting tonight," she said, with a pointed look at Katie, and at Montague's hands on Katie.

"Whaddya say, Katie?" Montague asked her blearily. "Ready to leave this shitfest?"

"More than ready," she muttered, pushing Montague off.

"Good," Montague slurred, and he stumbled out of the room, his arm around Katie. Before she could stop him, he apparated them to the hallway outside of their room.

"Dammit Montague," she said, angry and nauseous, "you're too drunk to do that. You could have splinched us."

"Aidan," he reminded her as he un-warded the door and stumbled them inside.

"Aidan," Katie parroted, rubbing her arms, suddenly more terrified than she had been all night. She was about to lose her virginity to a drunken Death Eater. She hoped he wouldn't vomit on her. She hoped it wouldn't hurt. She hoped she wouldn't cry. She hoped—

A loud snore broke her reverie. Montague had passed out in his bed, his head lolling unattractively, his mouth open.

"Oh, thank god," Katie murmured. She quietly changed clothes, into the baggiest clothes she could find, and crawled timidly into the bed with Montague, gingerly laying down as far away from him as she could without falling off the bed. Her sense of relief was so overwhelming she felt herself shaking slightly.

Katie thought that as bad as the night had been, it could've gone far, far worse.

Theo was skulking in a dim corner with Granger. There was no other word for it. He had grabbed her and their mugs of firewhiskey and made like a Slytherin and hid as far away from the other occupants of the party as possible. He clearly couldn't count on Montague to hold it together and help him tonight, and he wanted to remain as far away from the action as possible. So Theo had hid, with Granger, for the past hour, both of them silent, as if that would keep the Death Eaters from noticing them, both of them steadily drinking.

"Where is…he?" Granger asked him after an interminable period of time, her voice such a quiet whisper Theo had to get within an inch of her to hear what she had said.

"I think he's above this sort of thing," Theo whispered back. "And anyway, there are enough people here to report what…what happened."

Granger gave him a long look, and Theo was suddenly, forcefully aware of how close they were in a tiny, dark section of the room. And Granger did look...surprisingly good tonight in that…skimpy Muggle costume. And her hair…he tentatively reached out and touched it. It was shiny, and silky, completely different from her usual bushy mess.

"You look…nice," he said, awkwardly. He cringed at how bad he was at this sort of thing.

"Thanks," Granger said after a beat. She looked at him, and Theo was irresistibly reminded of their few snogging sessions, where he had rapidly improved his skills, under her bossy tutelage. Snogging, and little else. He felt like he'd hate himself forever if he did any more than that. He already felt a mixture of queasy and excited when he thought about what they had done already. He wondered, suddenly, as Granger stared at him with her large brown eyes, if she had ever snogged Potter. Or Weasley. She seemed to know what she was doing…who had it been with?

Theo licked his lips. His eyes darted to Granger's face. He felt like he barely knew her, but she...she got him. She got that he wasn't all evil, like he assumed she would think. She knew he had better things in him. It made him want to do more, to do better, to prove himself to her. He swallowed, and looked away from her. It was embarrassing, and confusing that he felt this way. He was supposed to hate her. He was supposed to think she was dirty, inferior. But instead, he thought she was kind. She was clever. He wanted to kiss her, desperately, right at this very moment. Theo looked at Granger again. She stepped closer to him, encouraging him. His pulse hammered in his throat, and he leaned forward-

"Where's the Mudblood Granger?" Bellatrix shrieked so loudly that everyone could hear her over all of the partygoers.

Theo and Hermione froze, Theo's hand on her shoulder where he had just placed it.

"We need to leave," Theo whispered, his eyes darting around, panic freezing his blood in his veins. "We need to leave now."

"How?" Granger asked him, and he finally saw her genuinely, completely terrified.

They were still unnoticed in this dark corner. Theo darted his eyes around, and saw an escape to their left. A hallway. Thank Salazar. They could inch their way there, and flee to his room and—

"She's over there, with Theo!" Pansy yelled triumphantly, and everyone followed her pointed finger to where they stood.

Theo couldn't even look at her. He couldn't give her a single word of encouragement. Everyone was looking at them. He stepped slowly, out of the alcove with Granger, and took another gulp of firewhiskey.

"Ah, there's Potter's bitch!" Bellatrix yelled, laughing, drunk on attention and alcohol. "Bring her here, Theodore, bring her here! No one's even seen her tonight."

Theo tried to think of an escape, but couldn't. He knew he had no choice. He didn't see Aidan anywhere. The only friendly faces were captive Mudbloods. He steered Granger ahead of him, his hand on her shoulder, his index finger touching her collar, reminding everyone that they couldn't touch her. It didn't stop the crowd from hurling insults and threats at her as they walked by, and other…creative…comments about her current appearance.

He had never felt so helpless in his entire life, not even when the Dark Lord had been penetrating his brain. Not even when he'd taken the dark mark.

"I'd like my birthday present now, Theodore," Bellatrix said when they finally reached her, and Theo, if he was being honest, was completely unsurprised. He knew exactly what was going to happen as soon as Bellatrix had shouted for Hermione. We'll take it up with the Dark Lord, dearest, rang through his head, and he almost screamed.

After a pause that bordered on oddly long, Theo licked his dry lips. "What…what would you like, Mrs. Lestrange?" he asked finally, feeling numb. He was past terror.

"Give me permission to play with the Mudblood for awhile," she said, eyeing Hermione eagerly.

Theo, from where he was gripping Granger's shoulder, could feel her trembling. I'm sorry, he tried to telepathically communicate to her. I'm so, so sorry. But I'm not a Gryffindor. I'm not Potter. There's nothing I can do.

Still, he hesitated. He chanced a look around. There were the Lestranges, all three of them. All of the inner circle, who looked eager at this turn of events. Malfoys senior and junior. Junior, he was to realize later, looked uncomfortable. But that was later, after the screams had stopped ringing in his ears, that he had recognized the look on Draco's face. Wormtongue looked down at the ground. His father was giving him the look he gave him before…punishing him, after his grades fell. Pansy was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. The other young recruits, excited and leaning forward. Snape, silent, masked, hooded, his eyes glittering next to a wide-eyed Tracey Davis. The Mudbloods, looking sympathetic, or numb, or dead inside. And, worst of all, he saw the Dark Lord, who must have snuck into the party when he wasn't paying attention. His snake-ish face was staring at Theo as well.

"Five minutes," he heard himself say, a smirk appearing on his face, "and only you. Nothing that will cause irreversible damage. Dark Lord's orders," he shrugged at this last part.

"Five minutes," Bellatrix repeated, her eyes gleaming. She reached out, gripping Granger. Apparently, his verbal permission was all it took.

I'm sorry, he thought again, his expression empty, as Bellatrix drew her wand. Granger trembled, but he could see that she was trying to remain strong as the other Death Eaters jeered at her, yelling suggestions to Bellatrix.

I'm so, so, sorry, he thought again, despairing. He had never felt more like a monster in his entire life.

"Go with a classic, Bella," Rodolphus rasped.

Bellatrix smiled, slowly, tapping her wand against Hermione's collar. "Yes," she said slowly, "I think I'll go with…Crucio!"

Granger fell instantly, her dress riding up high, her screams echoing in the chamber.

Theo felt like he was made of ice. He forced himself to watch what he had done to Hermione. He had done this. He was sure Potter would have never let this happen. He was sure Hermione would never forgive him. She would never think of him as heroic, or brave, or good. She would know, now, that he was weak. A monster.

Bellatrix lifted the curse temporarily, as the other Death Eaters laughed, uproariously. She cast it again, Granger screaming again, writhing on the floor.

Theo stared at her as she suffered. She would never, never, never forgive him. She would never think of him the way he had started to think of her. She would hate him to the day he died.

He watched stoically, trying his best to look bored, until the endless five minutes were up, and Bellatrix was forced to stop by the spell by Granger's collar. She was blasted when she tried to cast the curse past the five minute mark, and fell a few feet away.

The other Death Eaters were laughing and clapping, except for Draco, who was staring down at Granger, his brow furrowed. Theo stared at her as well. He felt dead inside.

"Thanks for the birthday present, Theodore," Bellatrix said, "it was just what I wanted."

Hogwarts Castle


Harry Potter awoke yelling, Ron Weasley shaking him violently. He vomited over the edge of his bed.

"Get McGonagall! Get Dumbledore!" Ron yelled at their roommates. "Hurry up!" He turned to Harry, who was shaking violently. "What is it Harry?" he asked urgently. "What did you see? Was it…V-V-You-Know-Who?"

Harry retched over the bed again, shaking harder. "Hermione," he gasped, "Hermione."

Ron turned white. "Hermione?" he said, his voice hushed. "Could you see where she was? What's happening to her?"
The door burst open, and Dumbledore and McGonagall hurried in the room after Seamus and Neville. Dean handed Harry a glass of water.

"What is it, Potter?" McGonagall asked, worried. "What did you see this time?"

"Hermione," Ron said, frantic, "he said he saw Hermione."

Harry vomited up was what left in his stomach. "Bellatrix," he said weakly, "Bellatrix was torturing her. The Cruciatus Curse."

McGonagall gasped, and Ron gave a wild cry. Dean dropped the pitcher of water, and it rolled around, soaking the floor.

"But…how?" McGonagall asked. "Albus," she said turning to the silent Dumbledore, "Albus, I thought that the other Death Eaters couldn't touch her. Only Theodore."

"That's true, Minerva," Dumbledore said, his eyebrows contracted, "I'm not sure how—"

"Nott let her do it," Harry spat out, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, "he let her do it as a birthday present."

Ron swore, loudly, colorfully.

"Oh my god," Seamus said quietly.

Neville gave a little sob.

"Are you sure, Harry?" McGonagall asked him, her voice hushed. "Are you sure he let her—"

"Yeah I'm sure, I saw the whole thing!" Harry yelled. "He just let her, and he was smirking, and watching the whole time, he gave Bellatrix five minutes, and he just watched Hermione roll around screaming and didn't react at all."

"Fucking bastard," Ron said, his voice shaking.

Surprisingly, McGonagall and Dumbledore overlooked him swearing in front of them.

"Is she okay, thought?" Dean asked. "Is Hermione okay?"

"She's alive," Harry said heavily, "Nott said something about no permanent damage, that it was the Dark Lord's orders. I think that Voldemort is keeping her alive."

"Bait," Neville said quietly.

"Well that's…that's good at least," Ron said, his hands shaking as he held his head in them.

"Yeah, Voldemort's keeping Hermione alive," Harry said, his voice strengthening, "but we're not keeping Nott alive when we find him. He's going to pay for this."

"Mr. Potter," McGonagall began, shocked.

"There's no fucking way he's getting to live," Ron agreed.

"Mr. Weasley!" McGonagall began again.

Harry looked at Ron, and saw the same murderous look in his best friend's eye that was in his own.

"No way," Harry agreed, signing Theodore Nott's death warrant.