Chapter 61: Cutting Words

My birthday had actually been one of the best I'd ever had, even though we hadn't done anything spectacular. Severus had baked me a cake, chocolate of course, and the bastard put pink candles on it. "To match your toothbrush," he had explained when I raised an eyebrow at him.

He knew I hated pink, and so I knew he was mocking me.

Severus bought me art supplies which I found odd. I did like to draw, but it wasn't something I was passionate about--I mean, I didn't go around proclaiming to be an amazing artist, although I was pretty good at it. Nowhere good as he was, but still, not too shabby, if I did say so myself. But he knew I liked to draw because I always doodled on the back of my notes, plus my very first present I gave to him was a picture of him that I drew. It was odd to think he bought me something that wasn't cliché or obvious--and judging by how many supplies there were in the packet, it hadn't been cheap. It wasn't just pencils, but paint supplies, pastels, charcoal, and a drawing pad with a lot of paper in it. Muggle paper.

Gabriel bought me (with Severus' money) a stuffed Ariel doll. As far as Disney princesses went, I'd always been fond of Ariel. She had red hair, like me. Sort of a silly reason to favour a cartoon character, but I never really saw a lot of glorified gingers. So yeah, I did tend to like her a bit more than the others.

So it wasn't anything really elaborate or glamorous, but it was one of the best I'd ever had. Last year had been pretty much a piece of crap, not surprisingly. It would have been great (that was when I'd got Prince) if not for the fact I had killed my own mother.

"Did you know that this birthday was your special birthday?" Gabriel stated as if it were a well-known fact.

"Special birthday? Aren't all birthdays special?"

"I would like to hear you say that again when you turn thirty," Severus remarked with a smirk directed at me.

"Well, you turned seventeen, and it is the seventeenth . . ." Gabriel said. "When I turn twenty-eight, it will be my special birthday. That means something really epic is going to happen today. That's what my mummy always told me. It was my mummy's sixteenth birthday when she found out she was pregnant with me, and that was her special birthday. Although I guess that's when she found out, not when she actually had sex."

Severus and I glanced at each other. It often made me uncomfortable when Gabriel spoke of those things. For some reason seven seemed far too young to be talking about sex. It wasn't wrong or anything, but his mother had been so young when she had him that Severus and I felt she had wanted a friend instead of a child, and often let him get away with whatever he wanted .hence the reason he said curse words a bit more than any seven-year-old should.

"Well, it's certainly been a lot better than last year," I pointed out with a shrug.

And then it hit me. Today was the anniversary of my mother's death. Today was the first year I hadn't gotten robes for my birthday. I always got robes--really expensive ones too. I had always thought robes as a stupid gift, but now I suddenly wished someone had bought them for me.

For some stupid reason it made my eyes burn. I suddenly thought about her headstone, one that I had never visited, one that plainly stated her birth and death date underneath "Emily Sandra Kensith" and was right beside "David Evans" which I found strange for some reason. She had never loved my father, and I had never even known he had a headstone. It was unnerving to think about how I could have so easily been named Danielle Lily Evans and were it not for my mother's abhorrence of Lily, I would have been. Hell, I hadn't even known that my father's last name wasn't Kensith until I was told that.

Severus was looking at me strangely and I blinked a few times, expecting tears but none came.

But, as troubling and horrible as it was, a few seconds later I was over it. The sadness disappeared as quickly as it had come, and it had been very mild indeed. She hadn't exactly been the greatest mother (although she wasn't the worst, either, I suppose) and she had welcomed it. Had been proud to die by my hands, actually, if I remember correctly. And I was pretty cure I did remember correctly--after all, it wasn't like I had repressed the memory and it wasn't exactly easy to forget killing my own mother.

"Are you all right?" Severus asked carefully, reaching forward and holding my hand.

"I'm fine . . . oddly enough."

"When do you start school?" Gabriel asked without any preamble.

I looked at him and furrowed my eyebrows. "Um, the second, but I have to leave the first. Why?"

"'Cause that's when I start! We're like twins now, huh?"

I raised my eyebrow. "Right."

Severus sighed and let go of my hand. We were all sitting on the table, which had some dirty plates on it since we had just had cake. "Speaking of school, Gabriel," Severus began a bit coolly, "I will be expecting an effort from you this year. I won't be hearing any more of you leaving during recess and not returning, do you understand?"

"What? You know about that?" Gabriel asked.

"Your teachers are well-adept at writing notes."

"But I'm not even going to go to a muggle school forever 'cause I'm a half-blood so there's no reason, duh," he said, folding his arms and glaring at Severus.

"I attended a muggle primary school, and so shall you. I don't expect perfect grades, however I do expect your best and I highly doubt your best earns grades pitifully low."

"Maybe I'm just stupid with muggle stuff. Maybe I do earn grades that are 'pitifully low,'" he mocked, his voice deepening, sounding similar to Severus.

Severus raised an eyebrow at him and his lips thinned. Apaprently he wasn't' amused by Gabriel mocking him. "I suppose if you turned in yoru homework I would be able to assess whether or not you actually that thick, but alas, you do not, so I will have to assume you have an IQ above seventy-five."

"Well maybe I don't! Maybe maths sucks! Maybe I can't read very good!" Gabriel suddenly shouted.

All right, so maybe Severus could be rude, but Gabriel had been avoiding his work at school and it was a lecture Gabriel did sort of deserve. But I hadn't expected him to suddenly shout like that.

Severus seemed a bit shocked as well. "Gabriel, your teachers informed us that you weren't even trying. You're not stupid," he pointed out, sounding a bit confused.

"You don't even know what it's like! You get to shoot spells at people and-and make stuff float and turn into dogs and stuff and have cool little silver animals and I can only do magic when I hate people! And you don't even know me at all! I didn't even go to this stupid school until I moved here and you didn't know what I was like at my old school you don't know my grades then do you?" he shouted, jumping off of his chair and pointing a finger at Severus.

Severus and I looked at each other.

"You don't even know 'cause you're actually smart and stuff! Maybe if you had to do maths and got laughed at 'cause you did the problem wrong you wouldn't want to go to school either!" he screamed and the house shook a little, but not very much.

"Gabriel, if you were having problems, you should have come to me," Severus stated confidently.

"Yeah, I would've helped, too," I said, feeling a little bad. I honestly hadn't thought Gabriel would have problems in school. He had proved to me several times he was intelligent--I had seen him manipulate Draco Malfoy for God's sake and he seemed to understand people very well. He understood things far beyond his years. But I suppose that really didn't have anything to do with books and texts.

"Oh, right, yeah, 'cause I'd want you to help me; you're as thick as I am!"

"Now that was uncalled for," I said, glaring at him.

He walked over to my chair and narrowed his eyes, his blue irises darkening and plates rattling on the table. "Come on, Dani, we all know the only reason you're passing is 'cause you're a teacher-snogging slag."

I smacked him.

As soon as the smack filled the air my hands flew back and covered my mouth. He was staring at me, his eyes wide with shock. His cheeks had a white mark on it the shape of my palm that was quickly fading. His eyes started watering, but the plates stopped rattling on the table.

Oh my God.

I stood up out of the chair and walked past him, hurrying down the hallway. I shut the bedroom door behind me and lied down on the bed.

My hand was stinging, but not nearly as much as my eyes were. I kept replaying the moment over in my head. Maybe after all the killing and torturing I'd done, I had become a bad person. All right, so perhaps what Gabriel had said was cruel, but . . . But I had never smacked him before, or spanked him, or really . . . I'd never even raised my voice at him, either.

I had never had a problem with the idea of disciplining children. I'd never thought ill of my mother for spanking me when I did something bad. I'd been smacked a few times, too. I'd been screamed at, grounded, and once, my mother even threw a shoe at me and called me a bitch. I can't even remember what for, but I remember I had deserved it. I think I might have called her the C word.

I had assumed that one day, when I had children, that they wouldn't be perfect, and I might have to discipline them. But I hadn't expected it to feel so horrible. I hadn't expected to feel nauseous right after, or a burning sense of shame. My face was burning and my eyes were tearing up, water streaming down my face.

I heard Severus yelling something in the back of my mind and Gabriel shouting back. I easily could have heard them, but I was too lost in my own thoughts to focus on their words.

The door opened and I looked up to see Severus walking in, closing the door behind him. I said nothing and looked away from him, feeling guilty just looking at him. He was probably going to lecture me.

I was torn between feeling horrible about what I had done and thinking that I hadn't' really done anything bad. He had said something uncalled, something that wasn't true at all. I was going to have to punish him some day and it was ridiculous to freak out every single time. But what if it was wrong? What if I should have allowed it?

I was confused and angry and sad and ashamed al lat the same time. I wanted to puke but I didn't have to. I wanted to cry but all I did was sniffle and have slight tears run down my face. I wanted to run over to Gabriel and hug him and apologize and tell him he didn't do anything wrong, but at the same time I wanted to give him a lecture. I felt like the worst person on the planet--the worst person to have ever been born. But at the same time, I felt like I hadn't done anything wrong and that the little brat had deserved it.

I felt the mattress shift with the added weight of Severus sitting behind me. "What he said was uncalled for," he told me quietly.

I realized I was still covering my mouth with my hands, and I removed it to speak. "But was smacking him necessary?"

"Danielle." I turned on my back to look up at him. He was staring down at me seriously, his lanky black hair falling in front of his eyes. "He's fine. You didn't even leave a mark."

"But I could have."

"Danielle, listen to me. Children are not angels. They need discipline. Are you opposed to that?"

"Well, no--"

"Then stop it."

I stared him. "Excuse me?"

"Whether you like to think of it or not, Danielle, we are his guardians and he is, by law, our child. We are not here to be his friends. We are here to raise him. My father, who is a disgusting, vile bastard not fitting to walk the earth, was abusive. You are not."


"Do you think that I have given you an unfair advantage over the other Slytherins in your class because I am your boyfriend? Because I can assure that I have not. I treat you as I would any other student whilst in class and grading your assignments. Gabriel was lashing out. He said something uncalled for and untrue."

I nodded, although I didn't really feel much better.

"Today is your birthday, and you have not killed any family members, and so I suggest you stop wallowing and get of the room and enjoy yourself." With that, he stood up off of the bed and left the room, shutting the door behind him with a click.

I stared at the ceiling, stunned. I had been expecting comfort; not that. Then again, dating Severus, I should have realized he was going to tell it to my face how he saw it. It made sense, I guess. His father had been abusive towards him and his mother, and to see me freak out over something that small probably annoyed him, like when people sobbed hysterically over something small how it annoyed others who had legitimate pain. Well, and Severus really had been more irritable than usual lately, ever since Prfoessor Dumbledore had been injured.

Still, it didn't make me feel any better.

I wiped my tears away from my cheeks and stood up off of the bed shakily.

I left the room and went down the hallway. I could hear somebody putting dishes in the sink and I walked into the kitchen to see Gabriel, with Severus folding his arms. "Apologize," he ordered.

"Sorry," I muttered, looking downwards and shuffling a bit.

"Not you," Severus spat.

I glanced at him, then looked at Gabriel, who was walking towards me. He put my Ariel doll into my hands and looked at the ground. "I'm saying for calling you a slag."

I nodded, focusing on my doll instead of him. I went to apologize for smacking him, but then I realized that that would probably send a mixed signal. I wondered if my mum had felt this horrible every time she punished me, and I suddenly felt even guiltier for all of the troublesome things I'd put her through and all of the times I really had been out of line.

Suddenly I felt him hugging me tightly around my waist. "I'm sorry, it's just . . . It's just I was afraid if you guys knew I was stupid then you wouldn't want me anymore," he sobbed into my stomach.

I wrapped my arms around him and patted his back. "God, we would never do that, not just 'cause you were stupid." I winced. "Not that you are, I'm sure you're just having a hard time, is all. I mean, maths really does suck. And--and reading is difficult, too, I guess, I mean it's been so long since I learned how I forgot how hard it used to be . . ."

I patted his back and he pulled away form him, wiping his eyes. Well, this fight had certainly been quick. I'd had fights that had lasted hours before--even weeks. It sort of made the whole thing seem silly. It had gone by in a flash, had gone by so fast I was still trying to collect my thoughts about it.

"I love you," he said, his bottom lip quivering.

I smiled at him, feeling pride swell within me. "I love you too. And I would never send you away."

He smiled and I looked back at Severus, knowing I was grinning like an idiot. Severus raised an eyebrow at me, smiled, then looked down at the floor as if trying to hide his amusement.

Gabriel saw me looking at Severus, and he turned around. Then, as if he was afraid Severus felt left out, he said quickly; "Don't worry, Dad--I love you too!"

"Yes, well, I--"

He stopped talking.

My heart skipped a beat.

Severus looked at me and his black eyes glimmered slightly. His eyes locked on mine. He looked strange. I wish I could tell what it was he was feeling, but he was so hard to read.

Just as his mouth started lifting in a smile, we heard a few insistent knocks on the door. Nobody ever visited Spinner's End--ever--except Death Eaters. Severus' eyes focused on Gabriel, and I immediately knew what I had to do.

I grabbed his wrist and led him to his room. Gabriel opened his mouth to protest, but I held him against my chest, one arm wrapped around his abdomen and holding his arm still, and my free hand clamped over his mouth. "Shh," I ordered.

I felt his mouth clamp shut against my palm and I opened his bedroom door, closing it just as quietly.

I went into his closet and we both sat in it, shutting the door. I reached into my robes and pulled out my wand. "Lumos," I whispered, and the light reverberated off of the walls.

I could hear voices, but I couldn't hear the words. I knew it was Bellatrix and Narcissa, but I didn't have a single idea as to why they'd be here. Gabriel must've known it was Bellatrix as well, because all of the things in his closet started shaking, and I could hear his breath quickening.

I pulled his back against my chest, holding him against me. His tiny hands went to my arms and held tightly, his nails digging into my skin.

How could things change so quickly? It started as a birthday celebration, then it went into an argument, and now this? Why? Why couldn't anything in my stupid life ever be constant? I blamed the Dark Lord. It felt good to blame someone, and especially him. It didn't make any sense why it would be his fault that Gabriel had said what he had, or that things moved from one emotion to the next so damn quickly it made my head spin, but I didn't care.

It was his fault I was even born. He was the one who wanted to be connected to the Potters. They denied him three times. He must have wanted them badly if he'd given them the chance to deny him more than once. He was the one who told my mum to marry Lily's uncle. He was the one who made her kill my dad. It was his fault my mum was dead--after all, she was so obsessed with impressing him she'd gone happily, hadn't she? I was a Death Eater because of her. Even if I wasn't really a Death Eater and I had never been one, by all appearances that's what I was. I had been branded by him.

And because of him, Bellatrix was here, and I was hiding in a closet with a seven-year-old boy while his closet rumbled and he cried. Because I could feel hot tears dripping off of his face and landing on my hand. I could feel it running along my skin. If I thought my day was bad, poor Gabriel's must be worse. Not only had he been smacked, but the girl who had tortured him for hours on end was in the same house as he was, talking to Severus about something.

If today was my special birthday, then I really wasn't looking forward to any of my others.

I really wanted to sit with Draco. Really, I did. Draco was my best friend. And I couldn't even blame it on Pansy this time. Pansy was a whiny bitch, yeah, but she tolerated me because she knew Draco liked me. She would be civil when eh was around, and we could have small conversations without getting into arguments. Sure, we both said some cruel, unkind things to one another, small, biting comments, snide ones, but that was it.

It was Astoria. Astoria bloody Greengrass.

Obviously I couldn't show up to Hogwarts with Severus. Dumbledore was currently the only person on the staff who knew about our relationship, and as far as anyone else was concerned, I occasionally babysat his "half-brother." I could have Apparated into Hogsmeade and walked up, but then I'd actually have to "know" the security codes in order to get into the school.

After the Dark Lord's presence had been made known, the Ministry had been sending out pamphlets about security. Pamphlets that were supposed to help. Which I guess was nice that they would try, but really, I wasn't stupid or naïve--it was pretty much doing nothing. However, Hogwarts had decided to up the security. A lot. There were Aurors always on the premises, and Order members as well. And nobody could get in or out, not without knowing how to get past hundreds of wards. All right, so I was an Order member, but it wasn't exactly something we wanted the world to know. So even if I did know how to bypass all the wards (which I did) I "technically" didn't. And using that to my advantage might be a little suspicious, and so I had to sit here, like a lump, on the Hogwarts Express.

And I couldn't even sit with Draco.

Because of Astoria.

Gabriel had started school today, but instead of going home to Spinner's End every day and staying there, with us to watch him, Severus said he had to use the Floo and go to Severus' quarters. Severus had been acting strange for awhile, and he said that, due to something Dumbledore asked him, he wasn't allowed to leave the school. He had to stay on Hogwarts grounds at all times. It made sense, of course, with the Dark Lord's public appearance, it wasn't safe to have teachers leaving daily.

I hadn't had anything to do, because Severus had to leave early in the morning to get ready, and so I'd shown up at King's Cross earlier than necessary. Astoria had been there, and just to keep up appearances, I'd started talking with her. Daphne was there, standing between her parents, and seeing as we were supposed to be friends, I had to act like stepping beside her and having a conversation with her was perfectly natural, although we'd probably talked maybe four times in the history of our lives.

When Draco had shown up, naturally with his arm draped around Pansy and her cuddling into his chest, and he came over to talk with us. Draco was a bit popular suddenly--more-so than he had been. Which, really, wasn't necessary since he was the Slytherin poster boy. Blaise, who had only ever hung around Draco simply because it was expected of them to be friendly, was acting like he was his best friend now, laughing politely at anything remotely funny. He was even being nice to Pansy, which was creepy seeing as he never had a good word to say about her. Blaise was the friend that said snide comments towards Draco, so snide that Draco had to pretend he didn't understand and say something just as snide back. Insults hidden with casual and friendly tones. Now, Blaise wasn't being polite.

I guess maybe I was partly to blame. I wouldn't consider myself shy, but I didn't really like being around a crowd of people, all of them talking. I was all right one-on-one, or when the group was small, but when we were all supposed to be talking and getting along . . . It never worked out. So maybe I had been getting a little snippy. Maybe I'd been a little irritating. And maybe Astoria thought she was doing me a favour.

But all it did was annoy me.

Draco and her just cannot be around each other longer than five minutes. It's impossible.

Somehow, they'd gotten into an argument. Don't ask me how, because it was beyond me. Things were going just fine, I was a little bored and antsy to get on with my day, but everything was fine. Next second, they were bickering like an old married couple. Or at least, that was the phrase people always used. I had never seen any married couple, with the exception of Lucius and Narcissa and they didn't really bicker all that often.

Of course, after a few insults were tossed around, Pansy had to come to her boyfriend's rescue. Draco didn't need any help with cutting people down and making them feel like dirt on the bottom of his shoe, but he liked the attention--he liked knowing she would, and so he smirked an let her start an argument with Astoria. Which, of course, meant I had to stick up for Astoria (since we were supposed to be friends) and the next thing I knew, we were all arguing, and because I wasn't in the mood to deal with Pansy and because Astoria didn't have any friends (gee, I wonder why) I was stuck sitting with Astoria in a compartment, just the two of us.

"You don't seem very happy," Astoria pointed out quietly.

I scoffed. "Gee, ya think?"

"Don't tell me you wanted to sit with Draco. I'll never understand what you see in him."

"He's my best friend. That's what I see in him."

"You know, for a long time I thought you two were . . . You know, having an affair or something. That you had a crush on him."

There was a sharp pain in my chest. She hadn't been the only one. It hurt that Severus had thought there was more to our friendship, and it hurt even more to know that he'd been right. I could have loved Draco. Once. But . . . Well, that was over now. Draco had loved me, but . . . Well, thank God that drama was over. We were just friends now, and it was stupid of me to think that we had never been anything more than that.

"Yeah, well . . . there was a time things were complicated, but I refused to see it." Why did I tell her that? "But, I mean, we never really had an affair. We got drunk and stuff happened, but nothing . . . I mean, it wasn't' anything. Just . . . you know, touching. But we were, like, good and sloshed."

"Oh. Was he any good?"

I winced. Ew. "Um . . . Well, at the time he was. I was drunk. He knew what he was doing, and I'd never been . . . touched before."

"Oh. Look, I'm sorry. I know you wanted to sit with him. He just . . . God, you don't know what it's like! Just being near him makes me wanna . . . I don't know, tear his head off. He just gets under my skin, you know?"

I chuckled as the train started up, the floor rumbling beneath my feet. "It's what he likes to do, Astoria. He likes getting under people's skin. He always knows what to say. He likes to pick on you 'cause you rise to the occasion--and no offence, Astoria, but you can't tell me you don't like it, too. Goading people. You've started it more than enough times."

"Yeah, well . . . maybe." She shifted in her seat, then her eyes met mine. "How do you do it? Be friends with him, I mean."

"Um . . . I guess I just understand that's how he is. I mean, whether he hates you or likes you, he's going to give you crap. It's just . . . The moments when he's not around others, I guess. When he's . . . himself. I don't know. It's a bit like a game, really. I grew up with him. He's practically my brother. So I guess it's easier if you think about it as bickering . . . um, I don't know."

Astoria looked me over, and I noticed a small frown on her face. "I kinda get that. You know, saying mean things to someone you like, but in a nice way. It's invective irony." She shifted in her seat. "It makes sense that you guys are friends though. You're both kinda spoiled and, you know, full of yourself."

That stung. "What? I'm not spoiled! And I'm definitely not full of myself!"

She laughed. "Oh, come on, Danielle. You used to act like you were God's gift. I'd heard about all those fits you used to throw in class. You were such an attention seeker. And come on, everyone knows that you two have been friends since you were in nappies, but you thought you were above hanging out with a Malfoy. Draco had to manipulate you into admitting you knew each other at school."

"I was not and attention seeker!" I snapped.

"Admit it, Danielle. You act like your shit doesn't stink sometimes. I used to hate you, you know. You acted like you were bloody royalty. Whatever Snape's done to smack some sense into you, you better thank him for me."

I scoffed and folded my arms across my chest, looking out of the window and at the blurring colours that zoomed past. If I had been Draco, I would have known just what to say to bug her. I would have been able to snap back with something witty about why she doesn't have friends.

But instead, I just folded my arms and stared out the window.

God, I wish I was sitting with Draco.

A/N--And it came to pass that Ashes Falling updated her fanfic. Yes, I know I've been gone for awhile. And no, I don't really have any excuses except for Real Life. I want you all to know that I am not abandoning ANY of my stories. Sometimes it just takes me awhile to get into the swing of things.

A few important things have happened.

23 July--my twentieth birthday (DanRad and Charisma Carpenter share my birthday. Tight.)

17 August--Danielle's birthday, but more importantly, my best friend's birthday. The two of them, sharing a birthday--is it coincidence? No. I wouldn't forget Dani's birthday if she shared it with someone I knew. Are they similar in personality? Meh, sometimes. I like my best friend more than I like Dani. To be honest, I originally based Dani on this obnoxious bitch in my French class, and as I'm sure you've all notice,d she has matured since then. Dani, not the bitch.

18/19 September--one of those dates belong to Hermione. Happy birthday! The 18th was one of my friend's birthday as well.

I've started a Buffy fic I'm quite proud of, and as I'm sure some of you are aware, I have other HP fics I also work on. If any of you read my other stories, please note that I am starting on those again. Sorry for the long wait.

Don't be shy! Please review.