Author: Caitrin Torres
Fandom: Harry Potter
Summary: Millicent's only met her cousin Alice once.
After class, the Slytherin common room buzzed with chatter about the new Defense professor. "Did you see the way Weasley panicked?" Theo said, snickering. "I've seen first years less afraid of a spider. First year girls."
"I don't know how we couldn't have seen," Daphne muttered. "I had my hand up, but did Moody call on anyone other than the Gryffindors? No."
"Swot," Pansy said, and she smirked when Daphne stuck out her tongue in response. "He's Dumbledore's man. Of course he didn't call on you. I wrote my father, and he says that Moody used to be an Auror and that we'd all be better off steering clear of him. We're probably lucky he didn't save the spider and experiment on one of us."
Some people looked dubious at the annoucement; others looked worried. Millicent didn't say anything -- she rarely did -- but her ears pricked up at the mention of Aurors. Their first Defense lesson had been horrible enough as it was, and the very thought of having to sit through an entire year under an Auror's gaze gave her shivers.
Even when she was only little, Millicent knew the importance of family. Family was more than just having a mum and dad and brother. It was having a history -- or a lack of history, depending which family you were a part of. History was important. Without a history, you weren't anything.
Millie's mum had made a good choice when she decided to marry into the Bulstrode family. "The last scion of the Bulstrodes, Mil," she'd say as she stroked Millie's hair. "A woman simply doesn't turn down an offer like that, no matter what. You'll understand when you're older."
When she was old enough to ask what a scion was, Millie's mum taught her about the family tree. The Bulstrodes went back centuries. She could rattle off her parents' names, and her grandparents', all the way back to her five-times-great grandparents' names where things got a bit murky. She was proud of herself for learning it so well. It was an impressive achievement for a girl her age -- one that her father liked to trot out when his friends came to visit -- so it was a terrible shock when she learned that the family tree she'd so caraefully learned was wrong.
When she was nine years old, she went with her parents to King's Cross to pick up her brother when he came home from Hogwarts for Christmas. She'd been running ahead in front of her parents and taking in the sights when she spotted a man in tatty, Muggle clothes playing carols on his guitar. He wasn't half bad, Millicent thought, and when he finished his song she tossed a coin into the tin at his feet just like some of the other people who'd stopped to listen. That, of course, was when her father caught up with her. As he dragged her off towards the platform, she protested that her mother had said that giving charity was honorable, and that anyone dressed like that clearly needed it, and that she hadn't done anything wrong.
Her protests didn't help, not that protesting ever helped much when it came to her father. The very next day, her father took her into London again, this time to St. Mungo's for what he called an "object lesson". She didn't pay much attention when he spoke with the mediwitch at the door to the ward. His explanation was full of "very busy man" and "poor, dear cousin" and "speak to someone in charge, shall we" and other fatherly, grown-up sorts of things that didn't concern her, and finally they were allowed to enter. A healer led them down the corridor and around a corner to an impossibly dreary room where two people sat.
"Millicent," her father said, "this is my cousin Alice and her no-good husband."
A cousin? That couldn't be right. She was quite certain that her father had no immediate family apart from her own family and her Gran. Regardless, her mother had spent a great deal of time teaching her how to properly greet her betters, so Millicent curtsied and said, "Pleased to meet you, Cousin."
Neither the woman nor the man reacted, which struck her as terribly rude. Then the woman -- her cousin -- turned their way and seemed to look right through her, and Millicent realized that she was in hospital because she wasn't quite right in the head. She took a step backwards into her father's legs, but he stopped her from going any further with firm hands on her shoulders. "Take a good look before you leave, girl," he said. "You wouldn't want to have to come back here, would you?"
She shook her head, eyes wide. Her father snorted. "Thought not. Wait over there." She stood with her back pressed up against the doorframe while her father turned his attention to the woman and her husband and spoke in a low, harsh whisper. Millicent couldn't hear what he said to them. He looked angry.
It felt like hours before he let them be, but the clock perched high on the wall said it had only been a few minutes. When he was finished, he ushered her out of the room and towards the exit. Millicent followed along quietly, but as they approached the Apparition point, she put aside the strangeness of the situation enough to be able to ask the questions that were clamoring for her attention.
"You have a cousin, Father? Why didn't I know about her? Does Mummy know about her?"
Her father grabbed her by the shoulder again and herded her into a quiet alcove. "Alice is a family secret. Your mother knows, but she's not to be talked about. Do you understand?"
She didn't, not really. Her confusion must have shown on her face, because her father softened his tone and explained without her having to ask. "It would make people uncomfortable to know about her, don't you think?"
It probably would, at that. It was a bit scary just thinking about what she'd seen, and there were all sorts of things that one didn't speak about in polite company.
Millicent nodded her understanding, but she had another question. "But what happened to her? Were they hurt?"
"Cruciatus," her father said. "The torture hex. Hold it on someone long enough, and they break."
Her eyes grew wide. "Someone broke them?" She'd broken her arm once by falling from her broom, and she'd broken her dolls a time or two, but to break a whole person... "Why?"
Her father's voice had been so cold, and years later that was what Millicent remembered most vividly. "They were Aurors and they loved Muggles more than Wizards. Do you understand, Millicent? This is what comes from thinking that we are no better than them. They had a little boy just about your age, and when he was just a baby, they let this happen. I know you'll make better choices, won't you?"
She nodded firmly until her father smiled and patted her on the head. "Good girl," he said. "You always are."
Later she asked her brother if he knew who'd broken their cousin. "I reckon it was another Auror," he said, swinging his leg as he sat on the edge of his bed. "I mean, Aurors are supposed to uphold the law and all, so if they were doing something wrong the Aurors would want to punish them for it, wouldn't they?"
Millicent wasn't quite sure that she belived him -- Aurors were supposed to be good people, not scary ones -- but all the same she stayed away from the man with the guitar when they brought her brother back to King's Cross when term started up again... just in case.
Millicent let her housemates' conversation wash over her as the memory flashed through her mind. Her father's voice, her cousin's dead eyes, her brother's warnings... and the little boy her father had mentioned. It would have been nice to have had a cousin growing up. Babies were bigger and stronger than spiders, but they were so much smaller than adults, and suddenly she wondered just what had happened to him. Surely the Aurors hadn't tortured a baby....
She shivered and tried to dismiss the thought before the image really sank in.
"Mil?" Daphne said. She always had been more likely than the rest of them to notice when Millicent was brooding. "Everything all right?"
"I'm fine," Millicent said. "It's not as though Moody had his wand pointed at me, is it? I just don't fancy the idea of spending a year with that eye staring at me. It's creepy enough to have an Auror here without having to look at that, yeah?"
Her housemates made general noises of agreement, and the topic changed to what else the eye might be capable of. "Reckon he can see your knickers, girls?" Theo asked with an exaggerated leer, and Pansy smacked him with her book, laughing all the while. Millicent giggled along with the rest of them, and gradually the tension left over from class melted away. They'd probably be fine. After all, love him or hate him, everyone knew that Dumbledore wouldn't let anything really awful happen at Hogwarts. Right?