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Chapter 3: Quiet Places
Esme stared down at the blueprint in front of her, satisfaction glowing bright in her chest. It was done. It was finally done; the house, their house, the home she'd been pining for, was finally done.
Setting her technical pen aside, she leaned back in her chair, admiring the fine black lines she'd just finished drawing. It was going to be a beautiful home; she could almost imagine it, with it's wide open spaces, floor to ceiling windows, and spacious bedrooms that would give all her children a place to be themselves. It would be a safe haven that they could be a family, a real family, in.
Smiling at the thought, she pushed away from the desk, leaving her draft to dry while she went in search of her husband and chosen mate. Perhaps he would know a place, a perfect place, that they could build their future home.
The blood in his mouth tasted of salt and rust. The bitter essence of love and disappointment. Of pain and fear.
Severus Snape jerked awake, the tender vestiges of his dream clinging to his skin and clouding his mind. "Lily," he gasped, gazing about the room wildly, half-expecting to see the witch there, within arms reach. Her green eyes warm and comforting. Her smile alive and promising. Her...
She wasn't there. Of course, she wasn't there. How could she be?
Lifting a shaking hand, he pressed his fingers to his eyelids, ignoring the moisture that had gathered beneath them. "You're a fool, Severus Snape," he muttered, chest aching sharply. "A stupid bloody fool."
Barty Crouch Jr. stared at the spread before him, tongue flicking out the side of his mouth in glee. Chicken and ham sandwiches, jacket potatoes, green veg, custard tarts and a glass of Amber Shine to wash it all down with; he was in heaven. Pure and utter heaven.
Disregarding manners, he dug into his meal like a man half starved, fighting back the moans of pleasure that wanted to escape. He hadn't eaten this good in...years. Not since before Azkaban, anyway, and he was going to enjoy every bloody second of it, especially now that he knew he no longer had to live on the raggedy edge of wizarding society; hiding in shadows and living the life of a street urchin.
He was free now; away from the hold of his treacherous father and the blasted Ministry the man held so dear. He could finally (finally) enjoy the fruits of his labor from all those years ago, when he'd snatched a baby, the baby, from the tender mercies of his care givers and fled. He hadn't known then what he would do with the boy, the mere child who had killed his master, but it had come to him in time, washing away the fog that had swirled in his mind.
He would use the boy as leverage. Offer him up as a sacrifice, a powerful temptation, to a race that his lord had once spoken of in hissing thirst. He'd wanted them on his side in the war, before everything had gone to ruin and waste and...
"Can I get you anything else, sir?"
Twisting sharply, Barty glared at the filthy muggle who'd spoken, wand hand twitching. He wanted to kill her; torture her until she bled all over the polished floor. He wanted to make her dance until her feet were raw and bloody. He wanted to teach her a lesson.
But he couldn't. Not here. Not now.
"Leave," he ordered, watching in satisfaction as she blanched and turned, leaving him to his meal and his solitude. He spelled the door shut behind her, grinning nastily when it nearly slammed closed on her hand. Filthy disgusting things, muggles.
Turning back to his sandwich, he bit into it viciously, the swell of pride and satisfaction burning in his veins. To think that just a few years ago he'd been rotting in stagnation and now he was here, eating food that wasn't half-spoiled and being waited on hand and foot by a muggle who feared him. It was heady and delicious, and not even Bellatrix Lestrange had managed that.
The Dark Lord would be pleased. The Dark Lord...
Barty shivered in pleasure, tongue flicking out. He could feel his master out there, sometimes. Watching and waiting, biding his time until he could rise again and make the world tremble under his rule.
Turning over his arm, sandwich falling forgotten to the floor, he traced the faded lines of his dark mark lovingly. The ink was growing darker. He was sure of it.
Grinning widely, he closed his eyes, allowing himself just a moment to imagine how pleased his lord would be with him and all he had done in his absence. After all, he was the reason the vampires were on their side. The right side.
The letter came in a flurry of wings, a large brown barn owl circling around his head once, twice, three times before settling on his bedpost. Harry blinked, green eyes widening when he realized it was the same owl from yesterday. The one that had carried a letter, the same letter, it seemed, that it now held out to him, beak snapping irritably when he didn't immediately take it.
"I'm sorry," he said, eyes drinking in the cream colored parchment and its purple wax seal. The wax was in the shape of a coat of arms; a lion, an eagle, a badger, and a snake surrounding the letter H. He wanted to grab it, snatch it from the owl and hide it away. "But I've been forbidden to take that. Not unless someone sees it first."
"Which is why I'm here," a voice said from behind him. The eleven year old flinched, head immediately bowing as Jane's brother, Alec, strode into the room, red eyes flicking to and away from him dismissively. "Go back to your studies, Harold."
"Do not test me," Alec warned, hands a blur of motions as he untied the letter from the owl's leg and turned back to the door. His crimson eyes pinned Harry with a stare. "Remember, tomorrow you will continue your training with me."
Back stiffening, Harry turned back to his studies, hand unconsciously rubbing at the thin white line of scar tissue that adorned his left wrist.
General Notes: I know that plenty of you have questions as to what Harry's training is, where Dumbledore is, and etc. but I can assure you that those issues (and more) will be addressed in later chapters. One thing I wanted to address before all that, however, is the time line. In order for this to work, I've had to toy with what happens when; rearranging birthdates (in canon, Harry was born in 1980, while Bella was born in 1987; that wouldn't have worked for the purpose of this story), and important events (Barty!). I'm leaving certain things, like exact dates, purposely ambiguous so no one gets bogged down with particulars. Just know that Bella and Harry are closer in age here than in canon.
Notes on Barty Jr: In Potter Canon, Barty Jr escapes from AP only to spend over 10 years Imperiused in his father's house. That is not the case here.