Disclaimers and thanks: I don't own any of J.K.R.'s wonderful material, only Blinky and some other Minor characters are my own.
I thank my wonderful betareader Persephone-chan for doing a lovely job as usual. MariaElena deserves many thanks as well, for betaing the initial draft.
Many thanks and hugs, to my Muses who implant ideas in my mind that then grew into wonderful plots! My oneechan Neera, my conscience Renovatio Ventitre and indirectly my Liebchen, all of them have helped me through Dark Times, and as such deserve all of my love. . Twilight Lady deserves an award for putting up with me while I wrote this... I can get rather freaky at times. grins
I thank all of you who have read this, and especially those who have reviewed.
Author's Note: I suppose I should apologize for not following the HBP cannon, and have Draco becoming a Death Eater only now, for that I am sorry. I hope it does not come in the way of your enjoyment.
Alea Iacta Est.
It's been a week. One week since she disappeared. But that doesn't mean a thing right? She's still alive somewhere. She has to be alive! … Sure, because Muggleborns are not prime targets (!)
Oh God, it's all my fault. I should have told her to stay behind; I never should have let her come! She's probably dead. And if she isn't… God…knowing what they could be doing to her, she may be better off dead…
Oh God, it's all my fault. I should have told her to stay behind; I never should have let her come! She's probably dead. And if she isn't… God…knowing what they could be doing to her, she may be better off dead…
His emerald eyes flickered around the room, taking in the pale faces of the Grangers, who had been staying at the Burrow ever since they had arrived there a week before. He leaned his head against the cool glass window; beside him, on a small wooden stool far too small for his lanky figure, sat Ron staring into the fireplace, as if expecting her face to spring out of the flames.
It's all my fault…just look at him, they'd just started to reveal their feelings to each other…he has hardly said a word since it happened…I've as good as killed her... I've killed one of my best friends…all my fault…just mine…anyone who I care for, anyone who cares for me will die. How long before it happens to someone else?
His musings were interrupted as a knock resounded on the back door. Mrs. Weasley bustled to the door, drawing her wand as she went. Moments later a large crowd had entered the seemingly small living room and were talking one over the other, in urgent and ever louder voices.
"What's happened?" demanded Harry, as he and Ron got closer. But amidst all the arguments, no one heard him. It was only when he tapped Tonks' shoulder and gave her a pointed look, that he actually got any explanation.
"Harry, it's terrible! They've done it! They've killed Scrimgeour!"
"He was found dead this morning in the Muggle Prime Minister's office. Dark mark in the sky and all," she said hurriedly, "The Muggle Minister is dead as well."
"But, what was Scrimgeour doing in the muggle's office? And wasn't he supposed to have aurors protecting him?" asked George
"What about the muggle? Wasn't he supposed to have protection as well?" his twin added.
"But what was Scrimgeour doing in the muggle's office?" George repeated.
Kingsley sighed. "Apparently our Minister meets the new muggle on the first day he is elected in his office, to explain about our world and everything."
"So why was no one there, to protect them?" Ginny piped in.
"We didn't know. It's some tradition only the Minister of Magic knows about. We only found out after tracking down Fudge, who was hiding in a small town in Brazil," the tired auror replied.
"But, Kingsley," started Tonks, "How did they find out about it then?"
"That's the problem! We don't know."
"Fudge wouldn't have told them, would he?" asked George.
"No, he can't be that thick," said Fred.
"Be serious, Fred!" Mrs. Weasley shrieked.
"So now what happens?" Harry's voice brought them back to the situation at hand.
"Well we will be electing a new Minister. The problem is the muggles."
"Yeah, two Prime Ministers dead in a week. That must really reduce the threat of political ambition."
"No, he's right, Molly. It will be mayhem," Kingsley interrupted, turning his head to look at the very confused Grangers. "Everyone, especially the muggles who don't know what's happening, will be panicking by now. This is exactly what You-Know-Who wants: terror."
There was another knock at the door. Tonks went to go and ask the visitor a question before seeing who it was. Mere seconds later, a very distressed Mad Eye Moody came limping in the room.
"Well? What are you all standing there for?! Is this a picnic?!" he growled. "Do we already know who's the most likely to be Minister?"
"The Head of the department of Magical Law Enforcement, Pius Thicknesse."
"If you know it why are you all still here?!" he bellowed, "I want to know everything about him: Every friend, acquaintance, family member he may possess! I want him tailed night and day! I want to know what he does every single second, anyone he talks to! What are you waiting for? Move!"
"Why are you tailing your own Minister?" Mr. Granger asked, reminding them of their presence.
"Because he may be involved with you-know-who, and if he isn't it would be so easy to just cast an Imperius curse on him," Mrs. Weasley tried to explain, "Erm, that will make anyone do the bidding of whoever cast the curse."
"So, basically you are fighting a war against someone who could be anyone," he stated simply.
"Well, I suppose you could put it that way," Tonks conceded, before seeing Moody's glare and hurriedly going to disapparate.
Everyone was leaving, but Harry saw Ron beckoning Kingsley to one side and decided to join them.
"Kingsley," the redhead started in a very quiet voice "I know you've got other things to think about now…but…I was wondering if you had any news…any at all?" he finished pleadingly.
The black wizard looked around uncomfortably before sighing and placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Ron…Harry. I didn't want to be the one to say this, but it's been a week. If they had wanted to blackmail us into handing over Harry, we'd have received word by now. And after this amount of time…if she's dead it would have come as a blessing. We can at least hope to find the body. I'm sorry," he said softly as he left them.
Harry had known; he had known there had been no hope from the start. He looked at his friend whose face was so pale even his lips had lost colour, as he kept muttering again and again "No, she can't be dead. She can't be. She can't be." As if with this mantra he could make something happen.
Taking a deep breath Harry walked slowly out of the room, climbing the many flights of stairs till he reached Ron's room. Looking around the room he packed what few possessions he had in his bag.
If I leave now then no one else will be involved. I won't have to see anyone else die because of me…
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" he heard behind him. Turning he saw Ron, whose face was quickly regaining colour as his eyes flashed with rage.
"You were going to go, weren't you? Just leave without saying a thing. How could you?!"
"It's better this way," Harry said quietly.
"Better this way?! What, to run away like a coward?!"
"Dumbledore asked me to do this not you. You shouldn't be involved. You should never have been involved!"
He soon found his face connected with Ron's fist, and the force of the blow had thrown him to the floor.
"It's too late now, you git! I am involved! Of course you just want to run away from everyone, don't you?! You want to be a bloody martyr! Take everything on your shoulders as usual, 'cos you're the famous Harry Potter! The chosen one!" he spat.
"Yeah, that's right. I'm the chosen one. So just leave me alone!" he answered bitterly.
If he hates me, he'll just let me go.
"You bastard! How could you?!" he yelled as he punched him again and again. "How could you leave me now?! Now that she's gone, how could you leave me alone?! I hate you! I hate you!"
"Ron!" Fred cried as he ran into the room with his twin, having heard the commotion. They quickly took hold of their brother's arms before he could whale on Harry much more.
His fury spent, he looked down at his bruised friend, and fell down to the floor.
"Harry…" he said pleadingly, "Harry, don't leave me. Don't leave me now. Please…don't leave me." His voice broke with the strength of his sobbing.
Hermione realized that the moment she exited the threshold of her room, she would become even more ensnared within the Household that had claimed her. But, one step after another, she found herself pacing through the long corridors, amidst the hisses and murmurings of the portraits. She couldn't quite explain why she had left her sanctuary, for that is what her room had become, despite it being the setting for the barbaric experience that had initiated her into the Household. Nevertheless, she continued her wandering, searching for a way to shut out her mind, hoping to understand why she felt an ever-growing emptiness bearing down on her.
Her thoughts drifted to her latest encounter with her captor: to that almost surreal moment in a garden far too beautiful to be described, where she had undeniably given him yet another shard of her soul. She couldn't explain to herself why she had done it. It had seemed so artificial, as if such a thing could not happen in reality, but she knew better than to put all her hope in it being a simple dream. She had seen the damning marks on her body and was still able to taste the sweet strawberries in her mouth. Even worse, his voice continued to resound in her head, tempting her to abandon herself in the pleasure of his touch, still burning against her skin. She was tempted to imagine she had once again ingested something laced with a potion, but quickly stopped herself: this was nothing like last time. She remembered everything perfectly, especially her surrender.
She was brought out of her reverie by a crashing sound. Her eyes took in the corridor she was in, but she could not recognize her location. The noise sounded out again. This time she distinctly heard a plaintive voice just up ahead. She stood rooted to the spot, heart beating madly in her chest, trying to decide whether she should run or hide. Once more, the voice called out from the semidarkness before her; she could also hear the sound of approaching footsteps clicking on the marble floor. A panting figure appeared, hardly recognizable as he staggered, leaning on the wall, face shielded by a curtain of platinum hair. Suddenly he clutched his arm and stumbled down to his knees.
Before she knew what was doing she found herself slowly approaching him and calling out softly "Malfoy?"
He turned his head, quick as a flash, to glare at her in horror.
"What's wrong with you?!" she asked, alarmed.
"Nothing's wrong with me, Mudblood! Now leave me alone!" he spat, as he brought himself unsteadily to his feet.
"Are you in pain or something?" she asked getting nearer.
"I said leave me the fuck alone!" he shouted, before grasping his left arm in pain, grimacing as he tried to keep silent.
She was close enough to see his face in the light of the oil lamps: a thin sheen of perspiration glistened on his forehead, his eyes were bloodshot but most distressing of all were the faint traces of tears on his cheeks.
"What has happened to you?" she said, silently wondering why she was so concerned.
"Are you deaf or something?!" he yelled as he took her by the shoulder and pinned her on the wall. "I said nothing is wrong! I told you to leave me alone! Will you fucking listen to me?! Go and offer your services to father instead of pissing me off!"
"Why you ungrateful git! I try to treat you like a human being, as you are obviously in pain, and this is what I get for my concern!" She screamed back loosing her temper.
"I don't need a whore's concern!"
"I am not a whore!" she shrieked pushing him back. "You evil arrogant bastard! Do you have any idea what I've been going through?! I've been kidnapped! I've been raped! I'm treated like dirt! A mere object with no mind! You think I want that?! Just an empty vessel! No opinion! No soul!" she screamed at him with all the rage of her tattered dignity, as though flinging her suffering back at him somehow helped to repair it, accentuating each assertion by pushing him harder and harder, tears starting to fall from her eyes.
"Save yourself the act, Granger," he hissed catching hold of her wrists. "I don't need you crying all over me."
"Let go of me!" She was quite shocked though, when his grip on her lessened, but the explanation came quickly when he cried out in pain again and fell to the floor.
"What…what is the matter with you?"
"It's nothing," he answered, closing his eyes.
"It's your arm isn't it?" she asked, stooping closer to reaching out and touch him.
"Don't touch me with your filthy hands!" he roared, slapping her hand away.
She looked down at him, while nursing her hand, a mixture of wrath and concern on her face. "Fine. See what I care. Merlin knows why I tried anyway!" she spat before turning her back on him and striding away.
"That's right, why don't you go and-" She stopped, her back still turned, waiting for him to finish his venomous insult so she could see whether it was worthy of a retort. Instead she heard a dull thud. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw him sprawled face first on the floor, a small pool of blood forming near his mouth.
"Oh Merlin!" she exclaimed running back and practically throwing herself to her knees beside him. With huge effort she managed to turn him over and was shocked by what she saw: His skin was even paler than usual and was taking on an almost yellow tinge; blood was trickling from his lip which he seemed to have bit to prevent himself from screaming.
"Shit, shit, shit!" She swore as she observed his irregular breathing. "Malfoy... Malfoy, can you hear me?"
He groaned slightly in response.
"Malfoy, I'll go and get help. Alright?" she said trying not to let her voice turn hysterical "You stay here…just don't worry."
"Y-you just try…I'll kill…you…" he rasped, opening his eyes to glare at her.
"You need help! Merlin, look at yourself! I'll call for Blinky."
"No…j-just leave it…I don't need help…"
"You have to be joking, right? You're practically dying!"
"No, I'm alright. If I could only sit up, I could breathe easier…What the Hell do you think you're doing? Get your filthy hands off me!" he shouted when he felt her tugging at him from behind. Next thing he knew, she had half dragged-half lifted him, allowing him to rest his back against the wall.
"Just to clue you in, when someone helps you, normally you thank them!" she snapped, sitting on the floor nearby catching her breath.
He considered her for a moment "Why are you helping me, Mudblood?"
She decided to ignore his question and ask one of her own, "What's wrong with you anyway? You're seriously ill yet you don't want me to call anyone. Why? Can you really be that dense?"
"How many times must I tell you before you get it?! I'm fine. It's just …er…a reaction."
"My, and what will the next symptom be? An extra head? Do you think I'm dumb?"
"I know for certain you're deaf! Just shut up for once will you?!"
She glanced down at the arm he kept clutching. If he was bit or stung by something poisonous, then he could have this sort of reaction. But this is Malfoy we're talking about: he raised the fires of Hell when he was merely scratched by a Hippogriff; yet he refuses to call for help when the danger is real? It just doesn't sound right. Well…maybe he doesn't want them to know…or…maybe they know already…but what could possibly- Wait…his left arm…
"I thought I told you to shut it," he said tersely, closing his eyes again.
"You've taken the Dark Mark, haven't you?" His eyes snapped open, as he glared at her in disbelief, before letting out a low chuckle.
"You just had to put two and two together, didn't you? Yes, I've taken the Mark. Yes, I'm a Death Eater." He pulled his sleeve up to show her the pulsing tattoo under his skin. "You see this? It's reacting to my body, because I wasn't sure about it. So clever isn't it?" He continued smiling although she could hear a touch of disdain in his voice. "It's forming a bond with my body, but as I wasn't completely willing or certain, it will feed off me in the mean time. A form of punishment. You must admit the Dark Lord has style," he ended sarcastically
Most of the information was filtered away as it usually was, but one thing stuck out to her… "You weren't sure?"
"No, Granger. I don't think I've ever been sure. I'd decided to do it before, but something inconvenient happened, let's say I chickened out." He sighed, looking down at the grotesque mark. "I kept postponing things, until time ran out. Between being slaughtered and this…well, you can see for yourself." He looked up briefly to gauge her reaction and immediately his expression darkened.
"What? Are you terrified out of your skin, now you know what I am? Do I disgust you?" he sneered at her shocked face.
"No, you don't scare or disgust me," she replied softly. "If anything, I pity you and I think I understand why you did it…"
"Oh, spare me Granger. I only did it to save my skin! There's nothing to understand!"
"No, Malfoy. I think your motives were quite different."
"Care to illuminate me? What were my real motives for wanting to keep alive?"
"You wanted to earn your father's approval."
He could only gawk at her, as he was stunned into silence.
"All those insults, all those times you mistreated me or others: it was just to try and get your father's attention and his approval. Am I not right?"
"Once again, Mudblood-Know-It-All-Granger hits the mark. I would bow, but you must realise I'm not in the condition to do so."
She half smiled at him. It was so strange to be able to talk to him on practically "cordial" terms after all they had been through during their childhood.
"Even though he may not show it, he must care for you, Malfoy. You're his son after all!"
"We're not like the Weasleys, Granger," he scoffed. "We're not all blessed with so called 'Family Love'."
"Even so, I mean he must have at least once showed some form of affection."
He pondered for a while before a touch of rosy colour lit up his cheeks. "You know…" He started awkwardly "When he got out of prison…and he found out that I'd…you know, what I'd tried to do to save him and mother…he smiled at me. It was such a strange thing. I've seen him smile before, but it was just…well, different."
"See." She gave him a reassuring smile.
"Why are you being like this, Mudblood? You should despise me. Instead you're being all nice. It's rather… freakish."
"I don't know why really… I suppose I must have changed more than I imagined…"
He opened his mouth to say something, when a rich voice called out his name.
The two youths turned around to see Snape strolling down the corridor. "And Miss Granger," he acknowledged. "What are you two doing here?"
"I…er…" She was trying to think of something to say. She knew that the moment she said what had really transpired, the strange calm and understanding that had formed between herself and her childhood nemesis, would dissolve completely.
"It's nothing, Professor," Draco intervened, "Would you mind walking with me to my rooms?" he asked, getting up and walking surprisingly well towards the dark wizard.
"Yes, I see no reason not to. Good evening, Miss Granger," he said before walking away. Malfoy stopped just before passing the still sitting witch, and whispered ever so quietly, so the retreating man could not possibly hear him, "Thanks, Granger."
Taking another sip of sherry, he turned his head to look at the unconscious woman tied to a large armchair in the middle of the room. Inhaling deeply from his cigarette, he blew out the smoke, forming a silver ring that slowly floated to the ceiling before dissolving into the air. He put the now empty glass down on the mantelpiece, over a smouldering grate.
A soft moan brought his attention back to the woman, who seemed to be regaining consciousness; smirking he threw the cigarette into the fire and started moving closer to his captive.
Her black eyes opened, tentatively at first, and groaning she raised her head. But it wasn't until she tried to touch her temples with her fingers, that she noticed she was bound. Straining against the ropes, she screamed with anger when she saw they would not budge. Her eyes flashed around the semidarkness, trying to make out where she was with the light of the fireplace and the few scattered candles.
"Looks like you've finally woke up. You certainly took your time," he drawled, walking behind her.
"You," she hissed turning her head as far as she could against her bonds, trying to see him. "Untie me. Now!"
"Bella, Bella," he admonished. "You've never really learned to ask for anything nicely."
"Rabastan! You untie me this instant or I'll make you beg on the floor like the snivelling worm you are!" she screamed as soon as he came into her line of vision, a chair levitating in front of him.
"That is precisely what I'm talking about." He smiled calmly as he deposited the chair opposite her. "You can hardly think I feel very inclined to setting you free now that you've practically admitted you will hurt me," he said, taking a seat.
Her face contorted into an ugly expression that one might find on Fenrir Greyback in the heat of battle, before she closed her eyes and let out a slow breath. Her hands, previously balled into fists, relaxed and clung to the arms of her chair. "Rabastan," she said quietly, before opening her eyes "Tell me, was it you or Rodolphus who stunned me?"
"I'm afraid, as much as I would have liked to have done it myself, it was your dear husband," he replied.
Her mouth twitched before she forced a smile. "Would you mind untying me, Rabastan?"
"I don't think I can do that. You see, my brother gave me clear instructions to keep an eye on you while he was out. And even if that weren't the case, I have no qualms whatsoever in leaving you as you are."
"Why you arrogant bastard! Wait till I get my hands on you!" she screeched, all pretences of calm having evaporated.
"And what makes you think, Bella, that I would let you do anything to me?"
"Ha!" She let out a high maniacal laugh "You think you can beat me. You! You who were nothing more than a trembling mess after just one year in Azkaban."
"I was different then," he said calmly, obviously assured in this fact.
"Some things never change, Rabastan." She cooed. "I could hear everything from my cell; I could hear your screams at night when you begged for it all to end. And I remember one night, you even tried to end yourself, didn't you?" She smiled sweetly as her voice became even more gleeful. "How fortunate you were, for that warden to stop you from swallowing your own tongue."
His smile never leaving his lips he stood up and walked over to her. Bending down slightly he slapped her face with such strength her head snapped back. "What does not kill you can only make you stronger, dearest Bella," he whispered softly.
Her eyes turned to him, wide with shock, a small trail of blood trickling from her lip. "You dared slap me? Me?!" She asked and despite her effort to remain imperious, he detected a tinge of wounded pride in her voice and it made his heart skip a beat with vindictive pleasure.
"Yes, I did," he replied
"You puffed up excuse of a pureblood! If I hadn't been tied up you would be grovelling at my feet!" she roared.
"Do you wish to put me to the test?" he enquired in a deathly whisper as he finally stopped smiling. His dark eyes seemed to loose all feeling while he continued to stare into hers, drawing her further into their abyss.
"I…" The words died in her throat, and she averted her gaze.
"I see. Now if you can hold your tongue long enough, I have a proposition that you may be quite interested in."
"Is that so? What makes you think I'll be so interested in your little scheme?" She asked snidely, still not looking at him.
"I want you to consider every word I am about to say, and weigh each one before you answer." He lit another cigarette, taking a puff before continuing, "Your skills are obvious: you have a repertoire of curses that many envy, and a natural fierceness that makes you a very deadly opponent. But two things you lack, Bella, are intelligence and restraint."
She opened her mouth to protest but he cut her down, "You are a natural fighter, but you are far too impulsive. And where your unpredictability is a large asset in battle, in any other occasion it only brings problems. Let us take your previous encounter with Lucius and his Mudblood pet as an example. Had you kept calm, you could have used that information against him and have your long-wished-for revenge. As it is now, he can take every precaution to be ready for any future attack. Even if you were to tell the Dark Lord, by now he will have put that calculating mind of his to good use, and come up with a very plausible explanation to save his own skin and that of his little whore."
Her hands were trembling with fury as she shrieked, "What would you have had me do? Just walk away?!"
"That is precisely what you should have done. No confrontation. No nothing. While your torturing the girl may have been entertaining, in the long run it hasn't been to your advantage."
"And how does any of this relate to that proposition of yours? Apart from listing my faults, you haven't told me anything of substantial use. What can you possibly give me that I could want?!"
Crouching low, he placed his hands on the arms of the chair and leaned near to her face. "I can give you Lucius," he whispered softly in her ear.
He was sure her heart had stopped still in her chest, before starting to beat rapidly.
"You could give me…Lucius?" she repeated, slowly turning her head to meet his eyes.
"Indeed, Bella. I can help you find a way to have your revenge. I can advise you so nothing would stand in your way."
"How? Rabastan, tell me how!" she demanded eagerly.
"You have not accepted my offer yet," he smirked.
"Why, what do you want in exchange?"
"I want you, Bella."
"Me?! What could you want me for?!"
"Don't misunderstand me. I'm not enamoured with you, or anything of the sort. I want to prove to my caring brother that I can take anything that is his," he declared standing up.
"I am not his!"
"Of course not, Bella. It is common knowledge no love is lost between you and Rodolphus. It was a marriage of interest between two pureblood families. I also know, that if there is one man you have ever loved in your life, it is the Dark Lord."
"So then why-"
"All the same, you are his wife. Even if there are no feelings between the two of you, it's the principle that counts."
"But why…why do you want to prove…"
He chuckled darkly. "You met our parents, Bella. He was the favourite son. Even if I wasn't his inferior, all of my achievements were dismissed since he'd already accomplished everything. He got the inheritance, the manor, and the wife. You will have noticed, even through your blinding fanaticism, that he feels nothing. I want to make him, despite the consequences, feel something for once. Be it anger or humiliation, I don't care."
He sighed when she didn't reply, "Come on, Bella. You must want to see him lose control for once. Aren't you the slightest bit curious?"
"But what makes you think I would be the key to his loss of control?"
"Simple: principle and honour," he replied putting out his cigarette.
"Playing with Rodolphus may be the last thing you do."
"That being the case, don't you think it would be a very fun way to die?" He smirked.
"You certainly have changed, Rabastan," she said softly.
"Azkaban changes people, whether they want it or not," he retorted coldly.
"I must be the exception." She stated proudly.
"No, Bella. You are the perfect example: whereas before you were simply sadistic, now you're just plain demented. Your body has now become the exact reflection of what is inside."
"Shut up!" she snapped.
"As you wish, my dear. All in all it is simple: I help you so you can get to Lucius; you give yourself to me so I can get to Rodolphus. Do we have a deal?"
She considered him for a while. "What assurance do I have that you could help me?"
"How else, other than by subtle manipulation, do you think I have been left alone with you when a House Elf could have fulfilled the same purpose?"
She opened her mouth and shut it again various times, before asking him one last question, "Will Lucius suffer?"
"Trust me, Bella. Physical pain is only one form of suffering. When the time comes, he will be so helpless that you will be able to play with him till your heart's content."
Smiling evilly she spoke a single word: "Deal."
Barely an hour after he had retired to his study, after having left Hermione in her room, his trail of thoughts was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Yes?" he called out, a note of annoyance in his voice, eyes not leaving the parchment on which he was jotting down names and dates.
The door opened to reveal a quivering bandaged elf, "Blinky excuses itself M-master," it squeaked "But Master has g-guest to see him."
"What are you waiting for then? See them in," he said, placing his quill down.
An impeccably dressed man walked in, dark eyes flicking lazily around the room, before settling on the blonde wizard.
"Good day, Lucius. I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Not at all, Rodolphus. Please take a seat," he replied, motioning to the chair opposite him before opening a draw in his desk and placing the parchment inside. Pausing a second he then summoned the crystal ashtray for his friend.
"Thank you," he said, while extracting a cigar from his silver case. After inhaling, he started to talk, making the smoke come out in obnoxiously distracting spurts. "You know, Lucius, this room is almost identical to when I was here last, sixteen years ago if I am not mistaken. Just slightly prior to the Dark Lord's downfall, you held dinner parties to celebrate the almost certain victorious outcome of the war. Soon after that you were still holding dinner parties, while I…I was slowly rotting away in Azkaban." He took in more of the smoke, this time blowing it all out in one blow, and smiled though the gesture did not reach his eyes that remained almost glacial.
"Yes, I believe you are quite correct." The other stated simply. "And to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"
"If you ask me a question like that, Lucius, then I am forced to think your intelligence is quite overrated," he replied mockingly.
"Ah, of course, and where are your delightful wife and brother, may I ask?"
"Bellatrix has been persuaded to stay at home. Rabastan is just keeping an eye on her."
"I see. Well, have you come for an apology for what I did? Or maybe I should thank you for helping me keep this incident private?"
"You should know perfectly well I expect neither."
"Then I must confess I'm rather perplexed as to why you are here."
"Why do you think I helped you?"
"To be truthful, Rodolphus, I doubt it was from the goodness of your heart."
"Indeed." He paused to let out another cloud of smoke. "You must realise that assisting you in such a fashion is not putting me in an ideal position: Bellatrix is livid, and my very life is in danger; were this ever to reach the ears of our Master…"
"I was quite aware of that, but still I can't understand why you stopped her from revealing what had happened during Draco's initiation."
"It just seemed the thing to do at the time, and I must admit it was rather fortunate I did so."
"And why is that?"
"Because now you have a debt to pay." His mouth twisted in a cruel smile as he put out the cigar in the ashtray.
"Ah, I see. And what do you want in exchange? How much to buy your cooperation?" he enquired in a bored voice as he reached for the drawer to his left where he kept his chequebook.
"You insult me, Lucius. How can you possibly think I want gold for my silence? The LeStranges have a family fortune that could almost rival your own."
"Then what is it you want? Please enlighten me."
"Tell me, Lucius. What is the most valuable thing you possess?"
"I beg your pardon? What do you mean? I have many artefacts of undoubted-"
He laughed. "I don't mean your most priceless possession."
"Then perhaps you could be more clear, Rodolphus," he replied, eyes narrowing with his rising temper.
"It is really simple, Lucius. I want to know what you cherish most, and then I want the pleasure of taking it away from you." His black eyes glinted with malice through the wisps of grey smoke that still lingered in the room. "I may not be as outspoken as Bellatrix, but you cannot possibly believe I do not resent spending so many years of suffering in prison, while you were freed with the galleons used to line so many officials' pockets.
"What could the arrogant pureblood Lucius Malfoy value among all else?" he continued, more to himself than to the man opposite him, whose face was contorting with rage. "His fortune? His luxurious Manor? His son? No: those are all trivial. I would have said it was yourself you valued most, but I was recently proven wrong on that count. You see, you put your life and position in jeopardy for someone that you should regard as nothing more than filth under your boots. Though I'm more than a little intrigued as to how you two became involved, I shall not press the matter more than necessary. However, I would advise you to give in to this request unless you want me to unleash my demented wife: You give me the girl, and I'll say we're even."
"The girl?" he repeated incredulously. "You are delirious, Rodolphus. Why should she mean anything to me?"
"Do not lie, Lucius. If she meant nothing to you, you would have sat back and enjoyed the show when Bella tortured her," he retorted. "So what is she, then? Your whore, possibly? Or maybe she is passing you information on the Order. There is also the possibility, though I find it highly improbable, that it is youwho have been passing information to the other side-"
"She is a pastime! Nothing more," he snapped.
"Is that so? Well then, all the more reason for you to give her to me. She can be my pastime too."
"I have not yet finished with her," he hissed.
"What a pity. I wonder if I am cruel enough to spoil your fun." He sighed. "I know: I'll leave her here for a while longer. Let's say two months? Consider it my apology for Bella's mishandling. Am I not kind to let you enjoy her some more?"
He merely laughed at the murderous glare the blond sent him.
"I could of course forgo my offer and go directly to the Dark Lord. It is entirely your choice."
Letting out a deep breath he answered slowly, "Very well. Two months."
"Excellent. I knew we could reach an understanding. And needless to say if you go back on your word, I shall make certain you pay dearly."
"It goes without saying," he said coldly.
"Well then, I will not impose upon your hospitality any longer," he said standing up and walking to the door. "Enjoy your Mudblood whore as much as you can."
Lucius remained staring at the door long after it had shut. Getting out of his chair, he strode over to his drink cabinet where he proceeded to pour a generous amount of Firewhiskey. He raised the amber liquid to his lips before suddenly throwing the still full glass into the fireplace. Chaos erupted from the explosion of flames and shattered glass, allowing him to fill his lungs with the fermented air and give in to a scream of rage.
Author's Note: Regarding the choice of title I thought it was appropriate: translated it would be "The Dice is Cast" I had been venturing for something on the lines of poker, when you show your hand of cards, but it just didn't sound right. Well, there's so much going on at the moment, Very sorry you had to wait so long. Any comments, criticism etc would be very welcome.With Love,