As Dumbledore finished speaking, I closed my eyes, too exhausted and emotionally confused to concentrate. It was hopeless- I was now forever tied to the Death Eaters. This mark wouldn't come off unless I joined them; something I would never do. Would Bellatrix hunt me down? Would she find my parents- just clueless Muggles and kill them? What if the hunt for me led the Death Eaters to Harry, Ron or Hermione? Slowly, tears made their way out from behind my lashes and streaked down my face as I pictured everyone I cared about affected by this stupid mark. "Give us a moment," I heard Dumbledore say, and footsteps left, and I assumed that he made my friends leave, along with Snape.
"Sarah, we need to talk about this mark." Dumbledore said softly, but it was strangely comforting. With a shudder, I looked at him, trying to find myself again. Ever since the mark was on my skin I felt- disconnected, like I was feeling two different emotions at once. The world had gotten darker, and it was hard to see light or goodness in anything. "I am concerned about how this mark will affect you, and how it connects you to Bellatrix Lestrange." He continued carefully. "It worries me that there is a possibility that it will affect you differently from day to day."
"You mean…with how Bellatrix is feeling? Like her moods?" I asked in a whisper, and Dumbledore's face darkened, but he nodded, confirming my worst fear, that I hadn't been imagining feeling two different emotions at once, both of them fighting for control. That combined with being her sometimes was too much. I felt my face twist again, despite Dumbledore's positive affect on the mark. I hid my face from Dumbledore with a shaking hand, wishing bitterly that I was stronger. But that emotion was tiny compared to my despair. How would I keep myself, how would I go on with half of me swallowed up by Bellatrix Lestrange?
"I need you to stay strong, Sarah. You saw how Harry let his scar affect him too much last night, and it nearly got you all killed." Dumbledore said with a bit of harshness, and my hand dropped fast.
"None of this was his fault," I said strongly, pushing myself up to glare at Dumbledore. "Don't you dare blame him." Anger that was thankfully my own surged through me, making some of the other emotion (fear) back off. I couldn't believe that Dumbledore would blame Harry for an honest mistake about an issue that was bigger than all of us.
"Sarah don't you see? If this mark starts to affect you like his scar does, I need you to come and tell me. It is extraordinarily dark magic, regardless of whose fault it was." Dumbledore continued, and we looked at each other a moment and I suddenly was filled with dislike for him. Harry had made a mistake, and I chose to go after him. It was my decision alone that made me go and face the Death Eaters again.
"And what about Professor Snape?" I asked, crossing my arms. "He's a Death Eater." As I said it, the mark twanged, as if it knew that I was discussing the horrible people that gave it to me. I still couldn't believe that Snape was a Death Eater. Somehow, it didn't suit him.
"Former Death Eater," Dumbledore corrected quickly. "Severus turned into a spy for the Ministry before Voldemort fell. He's been cleared by the Ministry. I trust him with my life." Dumbledore said firmly, and I looked down, uncrossing my arms to wrap a hand around my left wrist with a frown. I still didn't like the idea of Snape being a former Death Eater. Every time I was near him it felt like I was being burned, and I knew that I would never trust Snape again. "Sarah, he and I would both appreciate it if you kept this fact a secret. It's not your information to share." He said, and I nodded absently after a second. Even if I hated Snape's guts (even more now that I knew who he had been) I couldn't blab about it. It would be like what he did in our third year- telling everyone Lupin was a werewolf because he hated him. I looked back up to find Dumbledore smiling dolefully. I couldn't smile back, something was bugging me. Now that my life had changed in such a bad way, I didn't want to endanger the people I cared about.
"Professor? I don't think I should be around Harry anymore." I confessed quickly, and he raised his eyebrows. "This mark- if they really do try to recruit me- and if I'm with Harry- they'd find him. I can't let that happen." I said, glancing at Harry. He was sitting between Hermione and Ron, rolling the prophecy around in his palm with a frown. He'd already been through enough; I couldn't risk putting him and my friends in danger, especially now that Voldemort would get stronger before he got weaker.
"Sarah, I actually request that you stay with Harry, Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley, no matter what it takes." Dumbledore pressed, surprising me. "Your mark will warn you always if a dark presence, especially Death Eaters, is near. For their protection, and yours, I want you to remain with them at all times possible." I looked at him, and he patted my arm with a gentle smile. I felt as if he knew something about the future and that was why he wanted me to stay by my friends' sides. It irked me. "Now, I encourage you to rest. Don't hesitate to contact me or even Professor Snape if the mark burns or does strange things." He inclined his head to me slightly, then strode over to Harry, had a word with him, and they left together. Harry glanced at me before they left, and I gave him a tiny smile, but it wasn't wholehearted. I still didn't feel that it was safe for me to continue being friends with him- regardless of what Dumbledore wished for me to do. I also didn't feel like I would ever go to Snape with a problem about the mark.
"It's about time I got to tend to my patients." Madam Pompfrey's grumbling cut into my day dream. She waved her wand and the bandages around my right hand vanished. The skin was no longer red and irritated, but dark red scars, still in my flawless cursive spelled out: I must not tell lies. Madam Pompfrey clucked her tongue, waving her wand again. This time, a light bandage appeared around my left wrist, hiding the mark from view, and for that I was grateful. She also healed some of the larger cuts on my face from the night's 'adventures'. "Now, try to sleep." She ordered, drawing the curtains around my bed and leaving. For awhile, I only lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling, occasionally wincing when the mark prickled. But eventually I fell asleep…
"My Lord, please, I beg you. I was deceived, tricked."
"You cannot convince me with lies to save yourself, Bellatrix."
"My Lord, there was a girl with Potter who knew how to duel. She and I dueled until I saw Dumbledore had arrived. Her blood is obviously pure if she could even have a mock duel with me."
"Ah…I see the truth now, plucked from your unprotected head, Bellatrix. You marked her…interesting…"
When I woke up later, the curtains were pulled away. I could hear Ron laughing down the ward, and the voices of some of his family, and, once and awhile, Hermione. With a sigh, I sat up, picking up my glasses and getting out of bed. I silently slipped out of the Hospital Wing and walked to Gryffindor Tower. Then I took a much needed shower, washing off the sweat and dirt from my duel. Madam Pompfrey had done a fantastic job patching me up, but I still had a few shallow cuts and plenty of bruises. As the water pounded down, I glared at the tile wall in front of me. I didn't at all regret going after Harry, not in the slightest. But I couldn't help but feel angry, betrayed and hurt. Undermining those three feelings was one that wasn't my own-fear. Bellatrix was afraid, she had made a very grave mistake, assuming that I had the prophecy. But she was relieved now; she wasn't going to be punished again, now that Voldemort knew the truth-
I slammed my fist against the shower wall, bowing my head. Water ran off my nose as I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling my back trembling with a sudden chill, despite the hot water. I wasn't afraid- but Bellatrix was terrified yet. I stayed in the shower until the water started to get cold, until I was forced to get out. When I wiped the steam from the mirror to braid my hair, I froze. I was white, despite the hot shower, and my face looked drawn. I looked at myself carefully for a long time as I braided and re-braided my hair, but I didn't change. Trying to get a hold of myself, I got some fresh clothes, and re-wrapped the bandage Madam Pompfrey had given me, hiding the mark. To me, it seemed to stand out on my wrist- totally conspicuous, but it was better than nothing. Then I walked back to the Hospital Wing and was immediately rebuked by Madam Pompfrey, who seized my forearm as soon as I walked in the door. "Why would you just leave without telling anyone where you went? You foolish girl. Sit." She demanded, pushing and pulling me to a bed, then plopping me down and waving her wand frantically, checking for what seemed like every injury and disease on the planet. "Fine. Well." She huffed after a few minutes, obviously displeased that she couldn't find something wrong with me. "Your friends are over there," she pointed down the ward, then stalked to her office.
I got up and walked over. Neville wasn't in sight, but Hermione, Ginny and Luna were talking quietly. Hermione looked up to see me and almost squealed. "Sarah!" She motioned me over frantically, and she hugged me tight. "I was so scared for you- you were shaking so violently, and-"
"Hermione, I'm fine now. Honestly." I said forcefully, conjuring a stool and sitting next to her. She frowned at both of my hands, one with the deep ugly scars on display, the other marked with a Dark symbol that I couldn't get rid of. "How are you, Hermione? I didn't see what happened to you in the Department of Mysteries." I changed the subject, not having to fake concern.
"Dolohov got me with a strange Dark spell- I have to take all sorts of potions at certain times. But I'll be just fine." She assured me with a smile, and then started talking animatedly about O.W.L.S, and about how she was worried about History of Magic and all her other classes. At first, I felt vindictive pleasure for having blasted Dolohov with a Stunner earlier, but then I was easily sucked into the conversation about O.W.L.S.'- being worried as well, and I felt a pang of relief later; my mind wasn't dwelling on the mark. Then Ron woke up with a snort, making us all laugh, and him blush as red as his hair.
"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty." I said, and only Hermione got it and started giggling. Being raised by Muggles did have some advantages.
"Sarah! How are you? What's happening? Is everything ok?" Ron's mind suddenly shot into hyperdrive when he fully woke up a few seconds later.
"They couldn't remove it, but I'll be fine." I tried to sound reassuring, and changed the topic swiftly. "Are you ok? The brain was strangling you and you were already hexed to boot." I said, remembering with a slight shudder how I had to blow up the brain to keep it from killing Ron.
"Me? I'm great." Ron said, rolling up the sleeves of his Hospital Wing pajamas so I could see the faint lines from the brain's tentacles. "Madam Pompfrey fixed me easy. It's Hermione who will be here for awhile. But what's this I've heard about you dueling with Bellatrix Lestrange?" Ron asked, changing the topic on me, making me frown.
"Um-" I started, but, thankfully, Harry came into the Hospital Wing with a very dark expression, saving me from answering. "Are you ok?" I asked Harry at the same time as Hermione.
"I'll tell you later," Harry muttered, sitting at the end of Ron's bed, still clearly troubled. "Hey, are you feeling alright?" He jumped a second later, looking at me with concern.
"Spectacular." I said it with a smile, but he still looked worried, and his gaze traveled down to my left wrist.
"Oh, I have to go," Luna said dreamily, randomly standing up. "I just saw an Ixonia go by- they are tiny little creatures that eat your earwax." She walked unsteadily away, as if following something through the air. I tried not to laugh, grinning as I watched her go. Despite how crazy things got Luna would always be Luna.
"That totally reminds me- in a weird way- Sarah, Dumbledore asked me to get all of your mail from Umbridge's office. I'll be right back." Ginny said, leaping up. "Sorry!" She called behind her, running down after Luna.
"It's alright!" I called after her, then yelped as Harry leaned over and grabbed my left hand as the door swung shut behind Ginny. "Hey-" I started then swore, pulling out of his grasp and shaking out my hand in midair- my reaction to being burned. As soon as Harry touched my skin it seared. "I'm fine," I said, sharper than I intended as I saw my friends shocked gazes. "It's nothing. You want to see it? Here." I undid the bandage and almost ripped it off, suddenly pissed. I thrust my exposed wrist in Harry's direction and he looked at it then quickly looked away. Seconds later, it was like I got a slap to the face, making me realize just how harsh I had been. I blinked several times, feeling my jaw drop in shock. It wasn't me that had been angry, it was Bellatrix. She was still angry that I had fooled her. "Merlin, shit, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it." I ranted, now feeling absolutely terrible and incredibly guilty. In the back of my mind, I wondered if it would be easy for me to turn into something like her.
"What happened? Why?" Hermione whispered, and I felt myself burn with shame. "You've never acted like that- not ever."
"It's the mark. Dumbledore was afraid that it would react to Bellatrix's mood. I guess he was right." I said softly, picking up the bandage off the floor and re-wrapping it. "Harry, don't you dare apologize." I said firmly as he opened his mouth. "Remember- I chose to come after you- to join the fight again. That was my decision."
"But if we weren't even there, this would have never happened. Not to Hermione, not to Ron- nobody would have been injured. When I thought Bellatrix had killed you- I couldn't handle it." Harry ranted. We locked eyes a minute.
"Harry- everyone makes mistakes. You're only human. Now, what's done is done. We got the prophecy, nobody died. You should be proud of what we did." I said cheerfully, but noticed Harry flinch when I mentioned the prophecy, and I suddenly remembered how troubled he had looked when he came in.
"What did the prophecy say?" Hermione asked, reading Harry like an open book.
"It was about Voldemort…and me. It said that 'neither could live while the other survives.'" Harry said, sounding pained. He glared determinedly out a window, avoiding all of our gazes.
"Wait, one of you has to snuff the other in the end?" Ron asked, sounding horrified, and Harry nodded slowly, looking miserable. We fell into silence. My heart went out to Harry- learning at fifteen that you alone had to kill the Darkest wizard of all time who had murdered your parents couldn't be easy. And what could you say to someone who had that burden to bear?
"Sarah! Here. Sorry," Ginny made us all jump as she dashed back in, handing me a huge stack of letters, panting.
"Thanks, Ginny." I said, making myself sound composed, even though I was quaking on the inside.
"See you guys later then," Ginny called happily, walking back out of the wing. The door slammed behind her and echoed loudly as no one spoke. Trying to distract us, I took a letter off the stack, tearing it open and scanning it and instantly scowling.
Are you alright? We haven't heard from you in almost two months. Your father and I are starting to become very worried about you. You know that we don't get any wizarding newspapers, God forbid, but are you alright? I have no idea if your kind of people are more civilized, and I've been worried that some sort of uprising or something has been going on. You are making me very anxious, and you know what that does to my nerves-
I didn't even bother to finish reading the letter. I crumpled it into a ball with a sigh. Not much had changed with my parents. Figures.
For the remainder of our days at Hogwarts, I found myself becoming increasingly asocial. I just felt- out of place. Nothing seemed right anymore. The dreams and reactions I were having scared me- and Hermione. She frequently shared how I would act during the night with Ron and Harry when I wouldn't, dragging them into it too. When the day came to leave Hogwarts, I was slightly grateful. Maybe, if I left the wizarding world behind, I might just leave behind my troubles as well.
There you have it! Part I of Sarah Wimkil's story. She's been marked by Bellatrix Lestrange, the most vicious and sadistic Death Eater of them all. What will happen to her over the summer, happen to her in her sixth year at Hogwarts? You can find out if you stay tuned for Part II- Marked. Don't be afraid to leave me a review, ok? I love hearing from you!