A/N: Hey, fanfiction! I started this story in 2011, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately and decided to go back to it. Here's a revamped Chapter 1! I hope you like it :) As always, please rate and review!
Some notes about world: The present action of the story begins at the end of HP and the Order of the Phoenix, but everything is pretty much the same as the books/movies except for the fact that I aged down Voldemort, Bellatrix, et al so that they could be at school the same time as the Marauders Everything else is the same-Voldy is just younger. The plot focuses more on the Slytherins than the Marauders, so it's just important to know that in the "past" action of the story, Voldy has just graduated and begun recruiting followers, and Bellatrix Black, Rodolphus Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy are seventh years. Umbridge and Regulas Black are sixth years and the Marauders (James, Sirius, Remus, Peter) as well as Lily Evans are all fifth years. So Snape being a little older than they are is another difference but a choice I made for this story that I don't think changes things too much :P I know they all wouldn't have been at school together, but I'm curious as to what would have happened if they were.
Chapter 1: Unbreakable
***She was nearly alone in the Slytherin Common Room at this late hour, save for Severus, who was sitting cross-legged across from the dying fire and whose cloaked shoulder she was leaning back against. Bella was writing a letter to Tom in an armchair on the other side of the room, but she and Sev were otherwise alone.
"I'm worried, Sev," she whispered, only loud enough so that he could hear, not that Bellatrix would have been paying much attention anyway.
"About what?" he muttered.
"What's going to happen when you leave Hogwarts and you can be with Lily."She twisted one of her long brown curls around her index finger like she always did when she felt uncomfortable. Sev looked back at her with dim, haunted eyes, not like someone who loved her might look at her.
"I'm not going to be with Lily, you know that. Not unless she starts to see James for who he really is-an arrogant, self-centered…" She couldn't bare to hear him anymore.
"That's not what you're supposed to stay!" she interrupted him with a pained shriek that caused Bellatrix to stand up from her chair. He was supposed to say that none of that mattered anymore. That he cared about her for who she was, not because he coudn't be with Lily.
"You're hurting her again aren't you?" Bella snapped, quick-tempered as ever and storming across the Common Room at once with one-hand snatching her wand out from her robes.
"Everything's fine, Bella, really…" the pale brown-haired girl murmured from her place beside Severus on the green ornamental carpet.
"No it's not, look he's made you cry again…"
"I've never felt connected to anyone like I do for you!" She didn't care about Bellatrix right now. This was between she and Severus and only them. "If you really feel for Lily what you say-"
"Stop it! How dare you dismiss my feelings for Lily! I told you-I care about you and nothing's going to change after this year. But don't talk about Lily. You said yourself it isn't about her."
The girl with the brown curly hair was silent, but Bellatrix was not satisfied.
"If you really promise that you're going to stay friends with her and care for her, will you swear it? Will you make the Unbreakable Vow?" She blinked her heavily lidded eyes excitedly.
"What's that, Bella?"
"The Unbreakable Vow? Goodness, you can be so naive. It's a promise. But if you break it, you die."***
When she awoke, she didn't know where she was. She blinked her nut brown eyes a few times as the Hogwarts Hospital Wing came sharply into focus. She was lying in a small bed wrapped tightly in white linen sheets. There was a curtain drawn around her bed but she could just see out a bit on the left side-out at the row of beds set evenly apart against a backdrop of pristine white tile.
She tried to sit up, but a stabbing pain in her head forced her to lie back down. Her long curly hair, normally kept neatly back in a bun, was down and had fallen around her, just past her chest. Further observation drew her to note that her right wrist was wrapped in gauze that a bit of blood had seeped through and there was a long sweeping cut down her right arm, but where did all this come from? Had she been in a fight? Would she need a new Educational Degree not to attack the High Inquisitor? She'd have Argus post it immediately. Stupid snivelling man that he was. She sat up a bit straighter in her bed, propping herself up on the few soft white pillows. She heard voices coming from down the Wing...none other than the Potter boy and his wicked little friends...but why were they here? Had they attacked her and she fought back? Madam Pomfrey rushed by just then and Dolores Umbridge called out to her hesitantly.
"Yes, Madam Pomfrey, I was wondering if you could tell me just what happened to me. I'm afraid I have no recollection," she explained, but Madam Pomfrey merely scoffed and turned away. She turned over in her bed and felt her dream from a far earlier time coursing through her and she longed to return to that time, when Hogwarts was her home and she still had a chance at companionship. Now it was her turn to scoff. She couldn't go soft.
"Shoulda seen Umbridge's face when those centaurs stampeded her…!" Laughter. More laughter that sounded like Granger.
"I mean, it's not like she didn't deserve it!"
"Watch it, she can hear you!" Weasley.
"I don't care! Dumbledore's back and she's got no power anymore!" Granger.
She'd had enough of listening to any of this. It couldn't be true. It just couldn't. Cornelius would have come to her or wrote or...well, it just wasn't true. She slipped out of the white linens and into her pink flats at the foot of the bed. She was a bit dizzy, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. Keeping one hand against the wall to steady herself, Dolores Umbridge made her way out of the Hospital Wing and down the staircase to her third floor office. Everywhere she turned, people continued to laugh at her. How dare they...
"Get out why don't you! No one wants you here!" Parvati Patil hissed with a smirk.
"Miss Patil! I am High Inquisitor of this school and how dare you disrespect me! It's not too late...the feast has not happened yet. 50 points from Gryffindor!" she spat. But the Gryffindor girl merely laughed.
"You have no power here anymore. Or haven't you heard? Dumbledore is headmaster again and Fudge resigned after he admitted that You-Know-Who is back after all! Harry was telling the truth!" Patil exclaimed cheerfully and tossed Umbridge a copy of the Daily Prophet. She looked down at the headlines and...the silly girl was right! But Cornelius...would have told her if he was to resign? Wouldn't he have? She flipped anxiously to the article of his resignation stated to be on the third page, but it was only really a short blurb in a sea of stories about Harry Potter being the Chosen One.
"Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge has decided to resign from his post and spend time with his long-time girlfriend...Rita Skeeter!"
She cast the paper away and hurried down the Grand Staircase, not caring who saw her, not caring how loudly her footsteps clattered against the stone. She could barely see...couldn't breathe, and certainly wasn't about to believe it. He'd promised her right when he had his way with her on his desk in his office at the Ministry. She'd felt cheap, but he'd assured her that there was nothing cheap about her-You're beautiful, Dolores. You've always been beautiful. And I love you...his words sounded twisted to her memory now. Twisted, phony, contrived. She ran into her office and slammed the door so hard that one of the glass kitten plates fell to the ground and smashed. They really were vile little things, so she didn't particularly care. She grabbed the jar of Floo Powder off her fireplace mantle. She'd go and see him. She had to. That was when her eyes landed on the little folded piece of paper on her desk beside a floral chintz tea set he'd gotten her for her birthday a few years back.
She set down the jar of Floo powder and unfolded the paper carefully, somehow knowing.
I'm sure you've seen this morning's prophet. Rita's pregnant. I'm sorry, it's over.
Her hands shook as she read it. He'd gotten that slimeball reporter pregnant...while he was telling her, Umbridge, that he planned to make her his wife. No. She crumpled up the letter and threw it into the barren firepit. Then, she reached for her wand in its usual place in the pocket of her hideous fuchsia robes so that she could cast the largest flames she could muster into that firepit and burn his words to all they were worth...but her wand was not there. It had been her wand since her first year at Hogwarts. The only thing she'd had left of that other life. 8 inches, birchwood with a dragon heartstring core. Now there was nothing.
In her blind fury, she picked up a ginger ceramic kitten off her desk and hurled it at the wall. Then a cat plate. Then a pink vase. The dresses, the bows, the kittens...she'd done all of that for him. She had become this...personless person...for him.
"I don't even like pink!" she spat to no one in particular and cleared her desk in one fluid swipe Then she tore the damn bow right out of her hair, knelt knelt down in the broken glass covering the carpet and broke down. She trusted him. He'd said he loved her. He saved her that one fateful night...and since then, she lived for him, through him. Now what did she have? She'd given everything up to do what he wanted and sacrificed friendships, respect, honor, and her old self. She had nothing. Was nothing.
She didn't even hear him come in until he cleared his throat. She looked up through her tears and was suddenly ashamed, for standing above her crumpled, ragged form was Albus Dumbledore. She had treated him like dirt on her scumbag boyfriend's orders, and now he stood quite nobly before her.
"I would have thought you'd be long gone by now, Dolores," he said sharply. Then, she didn't know what came over her. Without thinking, she grabbed the purple hem of his robes as tears continued to stream down her face.
"Please let me stay another year," she pleaded desperately. Without Cornelius's protection...she couldn't trust that no one would give her up. In that case, he would find her. There was only one place she was safe: Hogwarts.
"I thought you did not wish to stay," Dumbledore reminded her skeptically, looking at her the way he had a habit of looking at people he didn't completely trust: over the top of his half-moon spectacles.
"I've had a change of heart. Please. What about "Help will always be available at Hogwarts to those who need it, like you always tell the students!" she protested. Like he'd told her...when she herself was a student. Not that he'd remember. Nobody remembered Dolores Umbridge being at Hogwarts...probably because she never was.
"Very well. You do acknowledge that I am again acting Headmaster? And that your previous practices will not be tolerable," he said gravely and Dolores Umbridge nodded anxiously, surprised at how quickly he seemed to have forgiven her. Some considered his hesitency to hold a grudge a fatal flaw in Dumbledore. While others considered it one of his greatest strengths. "Different arrangements have already been made for the Defense Against the Dark Arts post next year," he continued. "However, our Astronomy teacher, Professor Sinistra, is to be married at the end of the summer and will be taking leave of Hogwarts to start her family. Would you be open to that position?" Dumbledore offered.
"Yes and thank you, headmaster!" she exclaimed and with that, leapt up and shook his hand vigorously. He continued to look suspicious of her motivations, but she couldn't blame him. "I'd like to turn over a new leaf with the new year," she said, trying her best at a smile. Dumbledore cast her a quizzical look on his way out, but did not question her further. But at least, she could take comfort in the fact that his decision to keep her on staff probably meant that he would be willing to keep her safe. For now.
Dolores Umbridge cast another pebble into the lake from where she sat safely in the shade of a large beech tree. Stupid Fudge. Stupid Skeeter. What terrified her though, was that it would only be a matter of time before Cornelius got himself drunk and spilled the beans about her to his mistress...and if she knew, the world would know, and -he- would know. As if on cue, her left forearm burned and she collapsed against the tree and pulled up the sleeve of her itchy pink cardigan. The Mark was as dark as it had been in years. She stared at the snake emerging from the skull and wondered if she closed her eyes, could she will it away?
"It hurts, doesn't it?" She jumped and pulled her sleeve back down quickly before turning around. Severus Snape stood before her.
"I didn't even hear you approach," she snapped and he sat down on the other side of the tree.
"It would seem that even you have something to hide, Dolores...perhaps more than any of us," he growled and looked out over the lake somewhat somberly.
"Don't call me that!" she hissed before she could stop herself.
"Don't you remember me at all?" The days and nights they'd spent together. Six years of friendship and arguments and love and pain and all that their teenage years had afforded them before the war ruined everything...hadn't any of that left enough of an impression on him that he'd recognize her beneath any disguise Cornelius Fudge designed.
She must have gotten Severus's attention, because he'd turned towards her and was eying her with an expression of both confusion and disgust simultaneously.
"Do you remember Charnette Lestrange? She was a Slytherin a year behind you when you were at Hogwarts." It had been so long since she'd even heard that name, let alone formed it with her own lips. Snape drew back instantly as if she'd spit on him.
"Rodolphus's younger sister, yes, I remember...but what would you know of Charnette Lestrange?"
"What would you?" she hissed. If he only knew her as Rodolphus's younger sister, then he didn't know Charnette at all.
"She passed away in a fire started by the Dark Lord during the war sixteen years ago...I haven't heard her name spoken since."
"Well that makes two of us, then. But what if Charnette Lestrange didn't die? What if she were here at Hogwarts?"
"I think I would know."
"Bloody hell, you're thick." She sighed and slid a brown contact lens out of her right eye, revealing that it was a soft, forest green contrasting sharply with her left eye, which was naturally brown and not covered by a contact.
They were both silent for a long time after that. Severus looked out over the smooth surface of the Black Lake, closing his eyes occasionally and then reopening them, seemingly smothering in his own thoughts. She waited for him to speak first, thinking he should be the one to break the gnawing silence
"Why did you hide? More importantly, why did you hide from me?" he asked finally.
"You-Know-Who was after me, how was I supposed to know which side you eventually decided you were on? I wasn't about to take the risk."
"Where did you go?" She looked uncomfortably down at her hands while simultaneously twirling a curl around her right index finger, unsure of how much she wanted to tell him and how much she wished he'd intuit on his own.
"After I graduated from Hogwarts, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up becoming a bartender for a pub in Knockturn Alley. Each night, I had quite a few drinks myself. One night, I came home drunk and nearly splinched myself in the process. Well, Rodolphus and his friends-you know, the old crowd-Bella, Lucius, Tom, of course...were all there and...I blacked out. When I woke up, I had the Dark Mark on my arm and had pledged myself one of his followers. This was all right around when he was really gaining power..."she explained, phrasing her words carefully, knowing that Severus, too, had fallen into step with the old crowd. He pledged himself, too, only he wasn't drunk when he did it.
"Well, you certainly don't need to justify any of that to me-drunk or not," he said, seeming to read her thoughts.
"It was fun at first, but then I wanted out. So did Regulas Black. So we tried to get away, but Tom (though he was You-Know-Who by that time) found Regulus and ordered him killed even though we used to all be friends," she paused then to see if he was even still listening. He was hanging on to every word.
"That was really the last straw for me, you know? Seeing how expendable we all were to him and how much he'd changed since school. It was like I woke up after a long sleep and saw all the horrible things he wanted to do for what they really were. Bella was still in love with Tom, but he'd...moved beyond love, as it were...so she married my brother Rodolphus. Of course my parents thought it was wonderful. My parents wanted to get as close to their beloved Dark Lord as they could...It was all a big mess, really. I wanted to get far away from all them," she said feeling more and more like Charnette by the minute, but also more Lestrange...a fact which repulsed her entirely. Her father was a part of an ancient pureblood wizarding family, one of the sacred 28, something he was determined to protect and defend. Her mother, who was if possible more pathetic than her father, was herself a halfblood. Though she'd shed her parentage in favor of her husband's fanatical muggle-hating, and it was this hypocritical cause that she'd died for in the War.
"So you ran away and you've been hiding from the Dark Lord ever since?" Severus prodded, interrupting her thoughts. She swallowed harshly. If only it had been that easy. If only it could be that easy.
"No. I was sitting in the kitchen of an old friend, Mariya, my year from Ravenclaw the night that fire happened that supposedly killed me. She told me she might know how to remove the Dark Mark. Bloody hell...That was the worst night of my life. That was the night Charnette really did die, in a way. One minute, Mariya and I were in the kitchen talking and the next, the house was on fire and we were screaming. Suddenly, there was a...great explosion and the pain was agonizing."
Charnette looked up when she heard the kitchen window shatter into the sink. Mariya jumped back and dropped the glass of wine she was holding. Red spattered up against the indigo dress she was wearing staining it in black streaks The window next to the stool Charnette was sitting on at the counter exploded and she dove down as tiny pieces of glass gathered in her hair.
"Let's get out of here! NOW!" Mariya shouted and Charnette crawled across the floor to reach her.
From upstairs came the sound of something shattering.
"I can't! It's not working! I can't apparate!"
"Me neither! Someone's charmed the house!"
"I've got Floo powder on the mantle! let's get to the fireplace!"
Charnette followed Mariya across the kitchen tile and in the direction of the living room, careful to not let her hands fall over any glass.
"Do you smell that?"
"Doesn't it smell like something's burning?" ***
"The next I remember, I was in the arms of Cornelius Fudge (except I didn't know who he was) and he was telling me I was going to be alright. The house burned down beneath the Dark Mark high in the sky and the paper printed that Mariya and I had both died in the fire, but that our bodies had burned beyond the point of recovery."
"So you took a new identity so the Dark Lord would think you had died in that fire?"
"You sound like you're judging me. I know I sound like a coward...but what would you have done? He would have come after me anywhere I went...even if I ran forever I wouldn't have been safe. Fudge worked for the Ministry at that point, but he wasn't Minister. He had connections, though. He tended me himself until I healed...but You-Know-Who believed Charnette Lestrange to be dead. Cornelius used his connections to create the identity of Dolores Umbridge and suddenly, I worked at the Ministry in Cornelius's division. I wore pink and bows, loved kittens and adorable things, and was a disciplined, order-keeping, stuffy bitch. I was the opposite of fun, wild, party-girl, rebel Charnette. No one suspected a thing. And nobody except for Cornelius knew the truth...until you, until today." She felt raw. Exposed. Open. Like Severus could stare right through her with those shiny black eyes of his and know everything...whether she chose to tell him or not. But he said nothing, as if expecting her to go on.
"The problem is," she continued. "Cornelius is with that Skeeter woman and it's only a matter of time before he lets it slip about me. She'd have a field day with that one, but then he'd know I lived and come after me. I thought Charnette was truly gone, but it seems not," she said bitterly. Still Severus Snape said nothing for a long time. "Severus?" she tapped his shoulder hesitantly.
"So I presume you're going to try to remain at Hogwarts under Dumbledore's protection," he murmured.
"You're looking at Professor Umbridge, now the Hogwarts Astronomy teacher," she replied, for she was going to hide in the protection of Dolores Umbridge for as long as she could. More so than Dumbledore, more so than Hogwarts, Dolores Umbridge had proved better at keeping her safe than anyone or anything these past sixteen years.
"I suppose I'll see you in the fall then, Dolores," Snape said rather shortly as he suddenly got to his feet. Probably because he thought she was a coward after all, which, she was. So she couldn't even fault him.
"I hate that name. Makes me sound like a right stuffy old bit," she muttered under her breath not necessarily to him. She was thinking aloud now.
"Well...I suppose we could call you Dolly, or-"
"No. Not Dolly," she broke in. Severus didn't need to know about her further involvement with Cornelius. It wasn't relevant...besides, he probably already knew.
"How about Doe?" he suggested and she was caught a bit off guard-this was the longest conversation they'd had all year and he was really offering her a pet name? She was reminded then of the Severus she'd once known, all those years ago in the Slytherin Common Room.
"Sounds good to me...Doe...it's different, I like it," she replied.
~And if I said I didn't plan for it to turn out this way I'd be lying...
Because I was born to be the other woman.
Who belonged to no one, who belonged to everyone.
Who had nothing, who wanted everything~