Disclaimer: Neither the Harry Potter world or this story belong to me, they belong to J. K. Rowling and Parvati-Blossom. I am just a humble translator who wants to share an amazing plot with the English-speaking community.
Warning: This story contains strong language. Torture is a common practice in the Dark Side, please keep that in mind.
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope this chapter works as a nice present. Please let me know what you think! I love reading reviews!
Oh, and next chapter requires a little bit of extra work, so it might not be done in three weeks, instead of the usual two. I assure you the extra week will be worth the wait!
October 11th, 2004
Silence full of disdain ruled the town. The few lamps on the main streets stingily lit up the scenery, revealing a simple and typical muggle town with a small population of impure blooded wizards in it. Ignoring the indifferent eyes observing them and expecting the right moment, most inhabitants were on their way to their beds to rest from a long day of work. Others remained awake, watching television or any of those odd activities with which muggles entertained themselves.
The group of death eaters waited for the command of their leader behind the buildings, hidden by charms or by the vast vegetation in the area, which at that time did not provide peace or beauty. The thirst for blood could be felt in the air, just like the desire of showing themselves worthy and valuable to the Cause. Filldeserp smiled to the anxiety of his subordinates.
"Capture everyone who is worthy pf being presented before Count Phinehas and his. The rest… eliminate them," he ordered with extreme coldness to the leaders of the different attack groups.
"Cleanly?" Avery questioned with incredulity.
"It is up to the executioner, as long as they remember not to favor one individual more than others," Filldeserp answered, whose eyes seemed to have darkened to an absolute black.
The leaders quickly shared the orders with the rest of the death eaters who got ready to act, having established in advance the diverse offensive lines moments before in the Fortress. The screams of panic and pain did not take long being heard throughout the town. The night was dyed red while the stars seemed to grieve for every life being executed. That did not stop the Dark Order, who advanced house by house, judging their victims and establishing their penalty, a power often given only to the Judges…. but that the death eaters would show they had taken.
Now they ruled.
"It's incredible how the newbies are enamored with the power of the Lord," Bellatrix muttered, leaning over one of the street lights and observing the scene with disinterest.
"Just the newbies?" Filldeserp argued. "And here I thought you liked this kind of attacks…"
"There's no challenge here. Just a few useless mudbloods and muggles who don't understand what's happening, and unless they have at hand one of those metal toys that make them feel all-powerful, they won't give us much resistance… I don't think count Phinehas will like such feast."
"It's only the appetizer, Bella." Voldemort's heir smiled. "The main course will be much better…"
"I see." A twisted grin took place on the pale features of the death eater when she saw the torture one of the death eaters was enacting over a pregnant woman, who was struggling and screaming for help in frantic dismay not too far from them. "That brings memories."
"What do you mean?" Filldeserp asked, frowning to her comment.
"You used to live in an area like this before you joined the Lord, didn't you?" Her tone indicated it was not a question. "It must have been a terrible experience… having to spend time with such rats…" Bellatrix focused her black eyes on his. "You must be thankful that the Lord saved you from continuing on such conditions…"
"I am surprised by your kindness today, Bella. You are usually not this understanding with me. Much less with my roots," Filldeserp replied, emphasizing his sarcasm on the last words. "I hope you have not forgotten my hierarchical position above you… Who among the two of us possesses the favor of the Lord?" He waited to see the anger return to the death eater's eyes before continuing. "That is what I thought. I hope in the future you are more conscious, Bella. I appreciate your worry, but I will not allow you to speak about me so casually. After all, you do not want to end up as the cherry on the Count's dessert, do you?"
"I still don't understand how the Lord could forgive your actions… how he could grant you, who took him down in the first place, more power and protection than us, who have lived for him, who willingly embraced Azkaban for Him; we honor each one of our vows… while you have not even had a hint of our honor, or have given him or sacrificed a tenth of what we have given him… and even so, he rewards you more, and cares more about you…"
"You should not measure loyalty and honor based on the sacrifices you have done… and instead should look more into your efficiency as a force to the Cause. Besides attacking the Ministry like a Gryffindor, going mad in a dirty cell in which you could not do much for the Lord, what have you done in the last twenty-five years, Lestrange? You do not even know what you fight for, you have destroyed all the beauty you might have had as a woman, you have lost your sanity, and with it your magical ability and strategic capacity… Be thankful the Lord has not disposed of you, and that he still gives you opportunities to be useful to him, the grace of his mercy… I assure you I would not have it."
"And that is why you will never be our Lord," Bellatrix spat. "You will never be more than a weapon used to destabilize the balance and then to put aside... nobody will follow you. You will only bring shame to our Cause. The impurity of your blood, the weakness of your kind, attests to it."
"I will make sure to give the Lord your information, Bellatrix," Filldeserp muttered turning around to observe the death eaters and their victims. "I am sure he will find interesting your blasphemy to his decisions."
He stopped the conversation there, even when Bellatrix seemed ready to continue angering him. He preferred to fulfill his role and make sure death eaters were acting with discernment.
Most muggles who would be taken as prisoners were lying on the street, immobilized or just unconscious. Everything pointed to a job well done; the desperation in their eyes, their convulsions, their begging, and mainly, their hatred. He chuckled when a teenager tried to escape from the hold of a death eater, who was stopping him after seeing the corpse of his mother on the pavement, surrounded by a large amount of blood, and only got a cruciatus as a price.
The pregnant woman whose torture he had observed during his conversation with Lestrange had been dismembered, her parts spread at the front of her house. She had stopped fighting the moment the death eater stabbed her belly.
For a moment he stopped, disturbed, when Hermione's voice took life inside his head, almost like a conscience. "What did the baby do not to deserve being born?" Nothing, he would answer. It had done nothing. But the guilty did not always pay the debt. Sometimes innocents paid with their blood the price of justice, better known as revenge.
Allowing himself one moment of grief, he walked to the woman's head, far from her body, and leaned, looking at her empty eyes, and closed her eyelids.
"May the Judges be merciful with your soul," he whispered, and that was the only gesture he gave to his victims.
After all, he was Voldemort's heir.
"My Lord," Goldstein greeted him with a slight bow.
"What do you have to report, Anthony?" He said standing up and taking a prideful stance.
"Seventy-six muggles have been captured, my Lord. The five mudbloods, after being offered the mercy of our Lord, refused to cooperate, two of them claiming ties with the Order of the Phoenix, and were eliminated. We estimate that about fifty muggles more have been tortured and killed. We only need to finish the town… and about a dozen more muggles. Perhaps we can add more to the banquet."
"Very well, Anthony. Proceed. It is probable that the Order of the Phoenix and the Ministry will not take long getting here, so do not get distracted." The death eater bowed again and disappeared as fast as he had arrived.
He once again walked toward the prisoners, where the teenager was still fighting. It was incredible the noise a single person could do against the at least five others surrounding him. He had received several cruciatus and other curses of similar pain, and he still kept trying. His objective was unknown; probably null. But the sting of his hatred, of his pain, gave him remarkable adrenaline, even when he was a muggle and could not do more than kick and bite.
He felt himself reflected in the boy's desperation. It reminded him of all the suffering, all the sorrow, all the hatred he felt after Sirius' death. He had thought revenge would not fill the void his godfather had left inside of him, but that it would at least lesser the pain. He had been partially right. It had helped him bury the memory of Sirius, bury everything he had been, all those values and ideologies he had fought and immeasurably suffered for; and find comfort and shelter in the Dark Arts… The emptiness inside of him had grown and nothing would heal his wound, but at least it was what he had chosen. He had fed of hatred to survive.
"Harrod, what is the problem?" He asked one of the death eaters who attempted to capture the boy. When they noticed his presence, the rest of the group went pale and they hurried to fake more confidence and power over the boy than what they really had.
"They child refuses to cooperate, sir." Filldeserp raised an eyebrow.
"What did you expect?" He looked at the boy, who now had his brown eyes set on him and remained static, just like the useless death eaters. "I do not think you will be so cooperative when the Lord decides to torture you for your ineptitude."
"Please, my Lord, you must understand…!"
"I must understand that five of my men could not win against a muggle boy?"
"So you're the leader," the boy muttered with impudence. He then spat at Filldeserp's feet. "Fuck you."
"Insolent! How dare you speak like that to Lord Filldeserp! You should be on your knees, begging for your miserable existence…!" One of the death eaters yelled. The boy did not pay attention and continued staring at such Lord.
"What did we do to deserve this? We're not in politics, or in any ideological or religious movement… we're not military… we're just workers…"
"Wrong place, wrong time," Filldeserp said with apathy. "Perhaps you might want to call it luck… or fate. Either way, you have been worthy of being chosen as our present to a count, who enjoys drinking mortal blood. Why should we deny him our kindness?" He gave him a wicked smile. "Send my greetings to Acheron." And with a snap of his fingers, the boy fell unconscious on the ground.
He preferred not to see the faces of the death eaters, so he turned to admire the destruction of the town, primarily the houses being incinerated. Inside of him, his element wanted to manifest and embrace the flames, make them grow and dance, but he held the temptation. It was not worth the effort or waste of energy. After his refusal, he felt as if his magic was pouting at him. He laughed to the mental image.
"The Order of the Phoenix is coming, my Lord," Goldstein notified him. "Should we prepare to welcome them?"
"Leave them. They will only find ruins." He smiled, allowing the smell of blood and ashes to overwhelm him. "Let us withdraw."
Hatred to survive.
Fortress of the Dark Order
October 15th, 2004
He entered Lord Voldemort's study impassively. He did the typical bow almost mechanically and waited near the door, now closed, setting his emerald eyes on Voldemort's. They remained silent for a few minutes, only staring at each other, until Voldemort stood up and walked toward his heir with a newspaper held tightly by his right hand.
"I hope you have a good explanation for this," he said, making his threat obvious.
He gave him the newspaper, which Filldeserp took not showing any emotion. Silence grew deeper over them while he read and it continued after he was done, because his heir did not raise his eyes from the article, or tried to satisfy his expectations.
"Death eater attack stopped."
"Two of the death eaters that managed to escape gave their reports as well. Even if the Prophet has managed to turn the counterattack into a highly heroic event, the basic information is true. And the death eaters say they saw the medallion. You know very well only she can wear it, and only our death eaters can see it… at least, according to your report after her departure. I am sure that not even Dumbledore could break the charms and deceive us."
Filldeserp remained quiet despite knowing that would anger Voldemort more. He could not take his eyes off the article. He did not want to admit the veracity of the facts. Even when he had let her go, he knew there was a possibility their future encounter would be in separate sides on the battlefield, although he never thought it would happen. Every fiber in his body had believed that in no way the plan would backfire on him. In no way the weapon he had built for a month could be used against him…
The problem lied in that she was no longer only a weapon.
"Then, you will have proof of my chosen loyalty before November."
"Can you explain it, Filldeserp? After all… this was your idea. From the beginning I told you not to trust, not to give her another option… you assured me this would only make her more loyal to our Cause… I refused to believe you handled this decision with you judgment clouded. Explain to me… is this another strategy of yours to make the Order believe Granger has returned to them? Or have you failed me?"
"The focus of the attack took place in a town outside of Derbys, where it is said the objective was to kidnap a member of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
Even when his face showed nothing, he felt suffocated inside. The pain, the disappointment, the betrayal… the betrayal. Hermione's audacity… He had been right. Granger was the best auror among all the members of the Order of the Phoenix. She deceived even Filldeserp. She had grasped him with her claws and had destroyed all schemes. Something, deep inside of him, broke and he identified that feeling with the one he had faced years before.
"Hermione Granger has rejoined the efforts of the Ministry after being prisoner for a month in the Headquarters of the Dark Order, and another month recovering at the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix."
He had allowed himself that weakness; he had allowed himself to trust her, to care about her… he had allowed her to bring back those memories which made him feel so much shame, hatred, pain. She had turned the unchangeable, powerful, and perfect heir of Voldemort into a weak and miserable man. Just by been herself. No poison, no weapon, no army could have destroyed his shield… except for her. A mudblood.
"Her return was crucial as Co-Head of the Auror Department to revive the hope during the defense of the town."
"I have failed you, my Lord," he whispered, although his mind was far from reality.
And not only that, but she had forced him to go against his own Lord… against the one he considered a father, against the one who had saved him and given him the possibility of being.
Two hands were placed on his shoulders and he raised his gaze, finding Voldemort's eyes. Even when such fiasco insured a long torture, those red eyes were not showing that.
"Most death eaters present were annihilated, in a number close to twenty-five. Another three were arrested and are waiting for trial by the Wizengamot. Only a few managed to escape."
"I warned you, Harry. I warned you not to let her go… that sooner or later she would use it to her advantage. From the beginning I did. Even when we were only setting the foundations for the plan, remember what I told you?" His tone was soft, almost like a parent scolding his child after taking a treat from a stranger. "I told you the success of the plan lied on your ability to handle her, and you not falling as well on the deceit. You swore me you would not. Later, you swore me you were not. And here is the proof you swore to me in vain… excellent masks, excellent self-control… but your magic reveals what you really feel…"
Fire surrounded them, sparking and showing his anger, his sorrow, his suffering. It was of an intense red color, sometimes of a soft orange. It had surrounded the stone walls, all the furniture in the elegant study. It was not burning; it was only showing its desire to destroy everything, its longing to be consumed.
Finally, the fire focused on the newspaper Filldeserp had forgotten in his hands. It burned it and turned it to ashes with such anger that for a moment Voldemort was ready to take a step back.
It was then when those green eyes were set again on reality with an unnatural glow. They also seemed to be consumed in the fire Filldeserp was.
"I've failed you, father… but you were the one who taught me that emotions as strong as anger… love, can be turned into energy. And this time I promise not to break my vow… I will use this hatred, this pain, to fix my mistake, and to repay it. Granger will not live long enough to regret what she has done… She will be too busy screaming and begging…"
Voldemort smiled pleased.
Hatred to survive.
Fortress of the Dark Order
October 16th, 2004
His hands were shaking frantically while he wrote the instructions and details for the next attack on a general report. He stopped for a moment to examine for the tenth time the map of the town and sighed in frustration, letting the quill fall on his desk.
Something was escaping from his hands. He was not seeing something, and a small detail like that could lead him to another failure, which he was trying to avoid at all cost. He covered his face with his hands in an unsuccessful attempt to calm down. In his mind, the image of the newspaper and its dancing headline were constantly remarked with sneer. At the same time, that image was confused with many other of what had made the months of August and September.
And he had believed himself Slytherin enough to not be affected…
Absorbed by anger, he slammed the surface of his desks with his fist and stood up. He could not allow himself such lack of control and indiscipline. He could not allow such a trivial event, so unsubstantial, to affect him. Granger was nothing special; she did not have to be anything special.
Even when only a few weeks before he had admitted she was…
He took a deep breath and focused on the silence in the Fortress, opening his Occlumency shields. He stopped his feelings from flowing through his mind and transformed them in energy directed to his element, which in the last two days had illogically intensified. Soon, his thoughts were blank and ready to focus on more productive tasks than thinking about Granger and the diverse ways in which he would torture her.
Although, obviously, the girl would not give up. Of course not… and she had taken advantage of his lowered shields to access the link of communication through the Medallion… how stupid she was for trying to form an attachment when he had sworn he would never consider her again.
He began the process of strengthening his shields and expelling her from his mind.
"Filldeserp, wait! What's going on? Why have you not…?"
"As if you did not know already, disgusting mudblood."
"What are you saying? I thought… you more than anyone… would understand…"
"Understand what? You have chosen your side. There is nothing more to discuss."
His mind echoed. Suddenly, silence was no longer a welcomed situation.
When he opened his eyes he gave a bitter smile to the situation he saw. Everything around him was enraptured by fire, which colors evolved from red to yellow. If he had not been so distracted by his hatred he would have stopped to admire the freedom and power that those great flames showed, those unmistakable signs of destruction.
His own being was so disengaged that he could not distinguish between the mental and real planes. Both shifted and, uncontrollably, consumed him.
A soft though cold pair of hands caressed his face. He sighed to the familiar touch and leaned forward, attempting to satisfy that hatred. A pair of known lips responded with the same passion, and guided him until they focused everything on that gesture. He lost track of the path those hands led on his head and back, and did not care to hold back his, pushing his way.
From afar he could hear a yelp full of pain; however, he was too busy on that neck, loving that skin that he was trying to tear with his own teeth. He tasted the sweet blood and stained with it her lips, at the same time drowning her screams.
"Burns, doesn't it?" He whispered while he slid his finger around her chest. Painful moans accompanied his path, but despite that, the shaking body he had immobilized under his touch had no intention to step away from his burning touch.
She also wanted it, just like years before… Their bodies were synchronized, letting that lust, which had never been anything more, to rule them; nevertheless… their magic rejected each other, and renounced the intimacy.
The fire turned real, and the water replied, never in harmony, always challenging.
Sapphire eyes that fulminated him…
And the screams resounded, and the schemes were destroyed, together with that ideal desire that would never be fulfilled.
Only because they were condemned to never be together.
Fortress of the Dark Order
October 25th, 2004
"What is your report about the attack to Somerset, Filldeserp?" Voldemort questioned him impatiently; his inquiring eyes analyzing every expression of his heir.
Keeping the tradition of all those years, the weeks before the inauguration of the Congress were a nightmare in the more literal sense. The meetings among the Inner Circle were reduced to only the two leaders of the Dark Order given the severity of the event. The important tasks, though not essential, were delegated to the Inner Circle and successively to other ranks, and an individual did not end up learning much about the Congress, thus, limiting the possibilities of espionage and leak of substantial information.
However, that year was the most complex as the Congress would take place in the Fortress itself, while in previous occasions it had been held in other important locations that the Dark Order had in its power, as it had been in 2002 in the land of Count Phinehas in Germany.
To such condition, the death eaters were constantly moving around the Fortress, organizing and setting up the activities under the supervising and threatening eyes of their Lords. Even if the Congress was an excellent opportunity to find and reaffirm allies, to strengthen political power over certain regions, and to make sure nobody had forgotten their duty to the Dark; Voldemort hated the waste of time that such preparations caused. If he had more efficient followers, he would not regret it so much, but that was not the case.
It was never the case.
"Absolute success, my Lord. We have eliminated the muggle governor, even when the Order of the Phoenix itself arrived to protect him under the orders of the Ministry. We also destroyed the town, and kidnapped the number of muggles, mudbloods, and half-bloods required."
"Did you manage to reduce the numbers of the Order of the Phoenix?"
"Several were wounded, but they carried automatic portkeys…" Voldemort let out a tired sigh.
"I hope you remember how essential it is right now to reduce the Order, Filldeserp. Otherwise, the attack to Gringotts will prove a suicidal mission… That nevertheless, needs to happen, and I do not want to risk more numbers than we have lost on other movements…"
"I remember, my Lord," Filldeserp muttered, his eyes wandering for a moment.
"Perfect. Let us advance over…"
After a soft knock on the door, Alice entered, after giving the expected bow. She remained a few seconds longer than usual with her head down, but both Lords assumed it as an apology gesture because of the unwanted interruption. She then took a couple of steps forward, with her eyes set on Voldemort.
"The Lukyan have arrived, my Lord. I thought it would be convenient to grant them a middle rank guest room. Have I acted correctly?"
"Yes, excellent, Alice." After a moment of thoughtful consideration, Voldemort nodded and returned his gaze toward Filldeserp, who raised an eyebrow to the indirect order those scarlet eyes gave him. "I am sure you will not be bothered if I ask you to greet them, will you, Filldeserp? Little Sheila will be very happy to see you…"
"Of course, my Lord."
"Come back when you are free. There are still things to oversee."
Filldeserp nodded again and did the traditional bow before leaving Voldemort's study with Alice, who walked the opposite direction once they were in the hallway. Again, he excused her behavior to stress and the possible tasks she had under her. Lately, all death eaters were showing such distraction.
Resigned to his mission, he walked through the Fortress until he reached one of the top levels, granted for that limited time to the guests. He asked one of the death eaters in charge of organizing the section for the location of the Lukyans and finally reached his destination.
He asked for permission to enter, and once inside the common room that communicated the two bedrooms granted to the Lukyans he was welcomed by Dymtrus, a burly man of blond hair and grey eyes. However, Dymtrus importance was not in his physical characteristics, not even in his Ukrainian nationality, a country that usually adopted neutrality, but in his lineage and immovable loyalty. As a descendant of one of the most prestigious pureblood families, and with the record of most elementals in Europe, he had great power over the Ukrainian government, in such way he had triumphed in convincing it to sign an alliance with the Dark Order, which would take place during the Congress.
His wife, Maryska, came from an old pureblood family, although it was out of favor because of the alarming and unusual number of squibs it had produced in the last generation. Her older sisters, Nyura and Ionna, had two and four children respectively, and only one of them had been considered magical enough to attend Durmstrang. Her younger brother, Hadeon, had recently married and his wife was pregnant. Nevertheless, the forecast was discouraging.
However, despite the negative assumptions of the Ukrainian magical community, Dymtrus' lineage had prevailed over Maryska's in Sheila, the only child of the marriage. It was rumored that, during her first five years of life, the young Lukyan had been kept in seclusion to insure her magic and adaptability, as nobody in Ukrania had seen her until a few months before. Nobody had even known about her existence until then.
Filldeserp, nevertheless, knew the truth, and it was far from such rumors.
"Lord Filldeserp, allow me to thank you again for your hospitality, especially for agreeing to the presence of Maryska and Sheila, who longed to visit you," Dymtrus said with broken, but understandable English.
"You know well, Dymtrus, that it is a pleasure, especially considering the wonderful news you bring us. In the same way, I wanted to observe Sheila's progress and help her training, if I can be of use during these months you will be with us."
"Lord Filldeserp," Maryska greeted him with careful reverence after she appeared through one of the doors. The Lord walked toward the woman and, with a dashing smile, grabbed her left hand and kissed her palm with softness, fulfilling one of the basic protocols within Ukrainian nobility. "Always so kind."
"I could not do less." He gave Dymtrus a cold smile and continued, "I trust the journey was free of problems."
"Of course," Maryska gave him a warm smile. "We took advantage of the opportunity to stop by some cities Sheila had not seen before. She was particularly fond of Paris."
"We probably have to stop there during our return," Dymtrus said in resignation. "The things one does for their daughters…"
The girl casually entered the room at that moment, with that distinctive childish look full of curiosity. Her green eyes glowed when she saw Filldeserp and in a few steps she reduced the distance between them, although she stopped a few feet away, not sure whether to be closer. Filldeserp smiled to her shyness and he bent down to be at her level.
The little girl blushed and played with the fabric of her silver dress, lowering her gaze. After taking a deep breath and raising her eyes again a couple of times, she finally took the courage to speak.
"Hello, sir… Fill… Fillde… sir…" She returned her gaze to the floor, ashamed. Filldeserp smiled internally, although Maryska hurried to intervene.
"Excuse her, my Lord… She still can't…"
"I completely understand, Maryska, there is no need to apologize." This time he made his smile be obvious. He turned toward the girl again. "Tell me, Sheila, how are your studies? Are you working hard?"
"Well… well…" Sheila stammered, "I can make things fly… and go big… and then small again…" She said, trying to explain herself and making gestures with her hands at the same time. "And… and… when it's dark and I'm scared… well… I make the lights turn on… and my dad is helping me turn them on alone… and…. and… that's it, sir."
Filldeserp blinked, surprised by the girl's progress. Even when her magic had an affinity for those kinds of manifestation, levitation was a very complex subject and not many grown wizards were able to deeply handle it. Even if magical children, especially those with elemental gifts, exhibited magic that went beyond the limits imposed on adults, and only during intense emotions… Sheila had advanced more than he expected, even with the support and instruction of her family.
Some of his surprise and satisfaction must have shown on his face by Dymtrus' smile full of pride.
"My little girl has worked hard these months," he announced while he took his daughter in his arms. "She is following the example of her parents, aren't you, my little girl?" He playfully grabbed one of her cheeks and pulled, causing a moan of annoyance. "She also wants to be useful to Lord Filldeserp in the future, and be the warrior who will lead his troops to victory."
"I would prefer if the young lady insured her political movements among the elementals, darling," Maryska pointed out.
"And elemental limited only to politics? Never! No Lukyan will hide on a secondary role when they could be the lead. Much less my little Sheila. Isn't that right, dear?"
Sheila observed her father and then her mother, not understanding their discussion and fearful to choose something that would upset one of them. At last, she turned her eyes to Filldeserp, who smiled amused to the girl's dilemma and extended his right hand, where he invoked a blue flame. Immediately, Sheila forgot her hesitation and focused her attention on the magic, her eyes glowing with excitement.
"Will I… will I do that… sir?"
"No, but you can call for light."
"Light?" The girl questioned him with curiosity.
"Yes," Filldeserp smiled. "But you have to work hard."
"I will!" Sheila promised with enthusiasm. She then held onto Dymtrus more tightly. "You'll help me, dad?"
"Of course, princess."
"I won't be able to stop her being a warrior, will I?" Maryska sighed in resignation. Filldeserp chuckled.
"An elemental that only dedicates to politics is wasted power, Maryska. If you fear for her, provide her with the resources so your apprehensions never become a reality," he said grabbing her hand. "I am sorry I have to force you to do this…"
"Don't be sorry, Lord Filldeserp!" Dymtrus interrupted, flustered. "With everything you have done for us! Lukyans honor their word; our vow will not be in vain. We will be useful to you in whatever we can. Even if it means sacrificing our princess…" He smiled to the girl, whose confusion was clear. "We will do it without objection and with dignity. Our Sheila will be by your side, as one of your main generals, and will fulfill our ambitions and lead our values; she will defend our ideologies… she will be the Light of the Dark."
Dymtrus face showed unshakable determination that illuminated Maryska's face and amazed Sheila, even when the girl could not understand that those words spoke of a dark but illustrious future; not understanding that she would be a weapon, trained to their will, and part of a new generation of wizards who would change the magical community.
And she would not care. She would do it with the will of the Lukyan family guiding her, even if she faltered; her green eyes already glowed with the same loyalty shining in Dymtrus deep grey eyes, and she still had years of training and effort. But she would succeed and reach the position of honor and hierarchy her father expected of her.
She would do it for the persevering and conquering spirit inside of her.
Filldeserp mentally laughed to the irony, with Dymtrus words resounding in his head.
"She is following the example of her parents, aren't you, my little girl?"
The Light of the Dark, nothing could describe her better.
Fortress of the Dark Order
October 31st, 2004
He observed the entire Parlor, decorated in those colors that clearly represented the Dark Order. The place looked spectacular. An orchestra, with diverse instruments, because of the early time, was playing a soft melody on the opposite corner. The Parlor was just filling up, and there were still hundreds of allies missing, whom Filldeserp was in charge of welcoming.
For a second he directed his upset gaze toward Voldemort, who was talking with one of the members of the Inner Circle on one of the higher levels, and was rewarded with a delighted smile that did not help his mood. He usually found politics entertaining, especially when he was competing against some of the greater personalities in the Communities; but to be a pawn… Of course, Voldemort would argue he should be honored of being the host, but Filldeserp would easily give it up during this particular occasion.
Especially because he would rather focus on one victim, and not having to divide his attention on hundreds, thus, he turning into the victim, especially of those who wished to brainwash him and distance him from Voldemort's influence; or of neutrals, who attentively observed him trying to find something to exploit. He would prefer a thousand times to encounter Dumbledore and his entire Order of the Phoenix and allies, with just his magic as weapon.
"Good evening, Lord Filldeserp," solemnly greeted him a voice behind him.
He turned quickly and found himself face to face with the Count Phinehas, whose bleak eyes observed him carefully. A vampiric smile appeared on the face of the count, showing his long fangs, too white for Filldeserp's taste.
"Incredible reflexes; enviable for some fresh vampires, or even old."
"Your praises exalt me, Count Phinehas," Filldeserp muttered, used to such introduction. "I trust that the Darkness protected you on your journey."
"And the stars guided me to where I would find virtuous friends, even in their mortality."
Filldeserp frowned. That was not the typical reply to his greeting. Most dark creatures would thank him and double the desire of protection, and then they would expose some curiosity or would walk away from him, directing themselves to other guests with whom they would exchange similar greetings. Count Phinehas had skipped such step and had led him to a field that required his attention. It was a grateful gesture, especially because it was one of Filldeserp's specialties and stopped trivialities, but it also complicated his duties as host.
It posed a conflict. Who had more importance at that moment: Count Phinehas or the rest of his skillful and possible allies?
"Should I assume the stars signaled me to contribute to your grace?"
"Do not allow yourself a moment of doubt, Lord Filldeserp. Your presence is welcomed among mine, and approved by the stars, sheltered in the darkness that you and I love and pursue.
Considering the delicate state of the alliance between the Henkel Clan and the Dark Order, his words were too presumptuous and started raised alarms in Filldeserp's mind. Even when Filldeserp had only spoken of his relationship with Voldemort's heir, he had now included his clan. A detail he had no doubt remembered, but left aside on purpose, was including Filldeserp's clan during his speech.
That implied a lost alliance between the clans, but that he could perhaps partially recover… even if it was individually and required more sacrifices.
"I am rejoiced by your approval and by the kindness your clan has toward my humble person. I wish I could extend the same kindness from mine to yours, guided by the same stars that intertwine our fates."
"I appreciate the thought, but I deeply regret having to reject it, even under the disapproval of Darkness itself, which only aspires to have its children together. I am afflicted to say it, but yours have only brought misery to mine. However, even in my sorrow, I am rejoiced to know that a devout alliance between us is still possible. The stars have guided me here with the knowledge that none of the misfortunes that fell over mine were approved by you, and as such, you are the only mortal amongst yours that still deserves my consideration and respect. Even admiration, because your essence shows the strength of your will, even in front of those who have ambitioned to diminish it."
Filldeserp felt his mistrust travel through his blood when Phinehas gaze was obviously directed toward Voldemort, who was now taking over his duties as host. It symbolized a direct insult, as it had been directed to the one who had sheltered him in the darkness; and it had been done during a dark dance, which aggravated the intention, something Phinehas clearly knew. The only situation in which it could be interpreted differently was in front of a descendent of a lineage cursed because of its wrong choices, but that possibly, with skillful moves, the young man had reestablished to its glory, enduring their disapproval and chastisement.
The count had left to his choice and interpretation if it was a compliment or an insult. Filldeserp, trying to hide his anger, measured the advantages and disadvantages of the offer, clenching his teeth.
"I would never abandon my own, if what you are truly insinuating is a move from my part. If, instead, our alliance will mean to ignore the revenge your people longs over mine…"
"Even with the possibility of immortality you would not abandon them?"
"Immortality will not give me what I want; I do not require any of its gifts. And even if that was the case, mine need me, and I would be smirched if I abandoned them during this moment of change. Do not dare to misinterpret me, Count Phinehas; they are not the ones holding me, but my loyalty toward them, and my own duty and will to protect them and guide them to glory, with the same strong will you just praised."
Phinehas remained silent while they walked shoulder to shoulder across the main gallery. When he finally decided his answer, his eyes showed such boldness and eagerness that made Filldeserp close his eyes to prepare himself for the stinging words he would undoubtedly hear.
He would have to inform Voldemort of another failure, and to set in motion the alliance with the Kunz clan to insure their rise to power to restore the loss ally.
"I will be honest with you, Lord Filldeserp, because you have shown once more that your skills place you as my equal, even in your youth and inexperience. Lord Voldemort has nothing to offer me to catch my attention or to seduce my people…" His dark eyes shined with a maniacal spark, and a dangerous smile appeared on his face, especially when Filldeserp's shoulders showed the assumed defeat. "Except for you."
Voldemort's heir stopped abruptly, speechless to the direction their dance had taken. When he was about to reply, Phinehas right hand squeezed his left shoulder with a strength only a vampire or werewolf could manifest, keeping him silent.
"Has Phinehas chosen an heir? His time as count will soon come to an end… even if he is a vampire, he has reigned for long enough and his people will demand a new generation…"
His own words during that meeting of the Inner Circle, from before Hermione's rescue, reached him at that moment, and suddenly Voldemort's expression at that time took meaning. His own expression at that moment was probably the same.
"Since Lord Voldemort introduced you to me for the first time, five years ago, I knew you were an essential ingredient of the potion that would lead him to victory… and I could understand why." The count smiled at him with greed. "The darkness that embraced your soul, combined with the fire in your magic… any dark creature would be immediately attracted to you and to everything you proposed. Even with my experience, I could not resist the attraction. I instinctively knew you were the mortal I had been waiting for centuries… the only mortal worthy enough to fill my place and keep the Henkel family at its height…"
Against any sense of survival, Filldeserp continued static on his place, while Phinehas slowly reduced the steps separating them. If he fell back, he would show his weakness to having been intimidated, and Phineas could play with him, and even lead him to his objective. He kept his strong gaze on the vampire's eyes, challenging his powers of hypnotism with his Occlumency shields. He could almost feel the air condensing around them to the tension of their strength.
"Count Phinehas," a greeting interrupted them, from a voice Filldeserp knew well, and was thankful for the opportunity. "I trust the Darkness protected and guided you in your journey to our home, without detours or disturbances, and that the stars approved the gestures of my heir toward you." With a knowing smile, Voldemort set his left hand on Filldeserp's shoulder, reinforcing his words, and casually leaving his right hand empty, which was slyly placed near his wand.
"Of course, Lord Voldemort," Phinehas replied with his tone far from friendly, losing all formality in an open attack against the kindness of his host. As an answer, the Dark Lord raised an inquiring eyebrow, but nodded in the end.
"I am sorry to deprive you from my heir's presence, but I require his assistance. I am sure you will have the opportunity to continue your conversation later on." Voldemort had the delicacy to sound ashamed, although his sarcasm was obvious.
"Do not worry, Lord Voldemort. I will be able to find someone else to entertain myself with until Lord Filldeserp is free from his commitments." And without saying more, he turned and disappeared amongst the crowd, not even caring to make a respectful bow.
Voldemort observed his departure with a smirk, causing Filldeserp to show his exasperation.
"You know he only gave in right now because he planned it that way, do you not?" Filldeserp said and Voldemort chuckled.
"Obviously. However, I also have something planned," Voldemort announced. "I just wanted to confirm my suspicions." His eyes shined in anger. "You are my heir, and nobody else's." Filldeserp raised both of his eyebrows used to Voldemort's possessiveness, but not to a public declaration.
"You almost make me feel like an object." Filldeserp smiled at him. As an answer, he received an intense look. "I know you do not think of me that way, but either way… the decision will still be mine, will it not?" Voldemort's frown provoked an empty laugh from him. He turned to walk away and continue his duties in the inauguration ball of the Congress. "I would never renounce Slytherin's or your legacy, father."
And he left.
"Do you really thing nobody will recognize me?" Whispered a woman of silver hair and amber eyes, her arm intertwined with the death eater's.
"Of course not," he showed her a sarcastic smile. "You are insulting my skills as an Unspeakable. Nobody will recognize the glamour, I assure you. Well, except Filldeserp." The death eater chuckled as if the exception amused him.
"Shouldn't you report to Voldemort soon?"
"Tsk. It's Dark Lord. As my cousin, you can't go around challenging his hegemony. But yes, I have to approach him, and so do you, obviously."
"Do I have to?" The girl asked, playing with one of her elaborated curls and begging with her eyes for the death eater to give her a negative reply.
"Would you prefer being left alone in the middle of a room where you don't know anyone? With vampires, werewolves, and Merlin knows what other horrifying creatures? What can the Dark Lord do that he hasn't done before? Sooner or later you have to face him. Although I would be more afraid of Filldeserp. I've been told that lately he has been quite… upset."
The woman glared at him, although she stopped once the death eater began walking in his Lord's direction, with long steps that made it difficult for her in her long gown and shoes she was not used to wearing.
"Ugh. Remind me to never be your dance partner again," she muttered with irritation.
"I don't think we'll have the chance," the man answered with a serene expression, although the girl could read his amusement.
"Good evening, Austen," a familiar woman greeted him, stopping in front of them.
The blond death eater clearly wanted to catch everyone's attention with her low-cleavage red dress. And her smile only increased the clarity of her intentions.
"How have you been, Alice?" Austen smiled with charm.
"Very well, thank you," Alice said with a melodic voice. "I do not recognize your partner," she said, although her disinterest in her identity was obvious.
"Let me introduce you to Iris, one of the cousins I've told you about…" Iris gave Alice a forced smile out of courtesy. "Iris, this is Alice, one of the most loyal followers of our Lord."
"Iris… the flower of eloquence," the death eater said in a tone that changed from praise to indifference. "A pleasure, I must say."
"Thank you," Iris muttered. The death eater nodded and after exchanging a few more words with Cailean, she walked away.
"What a nasty woman," Iris muttered. Cailean, amused, raised an eyebrow.
"You, women, always say that about every person of your own sex. Actually, if it were in your hands, there would only be one woman. The problem lies, obviously, which one amongst the billions of you."
"You say that because you enjoy watching her. However, you know well she is a creature who has no respect, not to herself, and not toward those who have to bear her; and let us not talk about her… whims."
"I assure you we don't complain." Cailean smiled, visibly enjoying throwing her off pace. "Lord Filldeserp in particular."
"What do you mean?" Iris questioned, her expression focusing on the new subject.
"It is of common knowledge among the death eaters that Alice enjoys the favor of Filldeserp." Cailean gave her a meaningful look and lowered his voice. "Although it has decreased during the last year. Before, there were even rumors of an apparent engagement…"
"Nonsense. Filldeserp would never reduce himself to something like that…"
"And how would yow know, miss?" A voice behind the couple asked, startling them.
Voldemort had been rigorously observing the different personalities in the Parlor. Some of his most loyal death eaters had been entrusted with the task of cooperating with him, and he could presume having everything under control, except for Count Phinehas, but he was willing to accept such singularity.
The orchestra had begun playing its most energetic songs some time before, and several couples were dancing on a section of the room. Others were still enjoying the delicious banquet at their respective tables, and some were strolling through the allowed sections of the Fortress. It was a night of formalities and informalities, although there was a clear promise: no magic or strength could be used offensively. No attack should be initiated. It was a night of peace, as odd as that sounded in the mind of a Dark Lord.
Ironically, it was also the date to commemorate the end of his First Ascension. On an unconscious gesture, his red eyes set of Filldeserp. Twenty-three years. A smirk crossed his face when thinking that in that night years before, he had been cursing that Halloween; and in the present, it was a day he celebrated. Even if the Judges allowed him to go back to the past, he would make the same mistake, because the result had been worth it in the long term.
He was distracted from his thoughts when something crude caught his attention. A couple was on their way toward him, apparently in the middle of a discussion, when they were intercepted by Alice. He did not know why the scene attracted him, but knowing the importance of following his intuition, he covertly made his way toward them.
"It is of common knowledge among the death eaters that Alice enjoys the favor of Filldeserp. Although it has decreased during the last year. Before, there were even rumors of an apparent engagement…" He heard Austen whisper.
"Nonsense. Filldeserp would never reduce himself to something like that…" The girl replied, with such certainty that made Voldemort suspicious.
"And how would yow know, miss?" He asked, enjoying the way he terrified them, and not able to hold back a smirk.
Austen immediately kneeled and lowered his head, but the girl, who he knew he had never seen before even if she seemed extremely familiar, remained standing. He frowned. He had promised himself he would not torture any of his guests that evening unless they did something atrocious, but that woman was proving a real temptation…
Cailean grabbed the woman's arm and practically pulled her to the floor, causing her to let out an alarmed gasp. But, remembering where she was, she seemed to hold back a comment and lowered her head in submission.
"You have not satisfied my curiosity," Voldemort pointed out. He noticed her lower lip trembling, although she was working hard to hide it by biting it. "Who are you?"
"She is my cousin Iris, my Lord…"
"Cailean, I did not ask you," the Dark Lord interrupted him. "Be thankful I am extremely merciful today or you would be severely punished for your insolence." He turned his accusing gaze to Iris. "Could you answer where your assumptions come from, Iris?"
"I just… I could never imagine Lord Filldeserp with such scum, my Lord, because of all his greatness… which my cousin has kindly told me about…"
He could sense the lie by using superficial Legilimency. Sometimes he wondered whether it was a popular assumption to believe he had risen to the category of a Dark Lord by simply snapping his fingers. Of course he could tell when someone was trying to deceive him. He was a master of the art after all.
"My lord… I…" the woman stuttered.
"Do you not think you are exaggerating, Tom?" Filldeserp said, appearing from among the tables, with elegant and slow steps. He stood at his right side and observed the couple with curiosity, raising his eyebrows with pride. "Austen." His tone turned cold when he mentioned his name.
"My Lord," the death eater replied, lowering his head even more, almost touching the ground.
"Stand up," Filldeserp ordered as his face had lost all trace of joy in a moment. Once they obeyed, he observed the woman of silver hair. "You say you are Austen's cousin…?"
"Yes, my Lord," she whispered almost soundlessly. "Iris Austen."
Filldeserp nodded and, as was usual, he took her left hand and leaned to kiss it, but stopped an inch away from her skin. His eyes grew wider and his hand held Iris' with more strength, causing her to moan in pain. Almost with ferocity, he raised his eyes and set them on her ambers, abruptly attacking the mind of the woman with Legilimency. He could not access her mind, but he would recognize those shields anywhere…
He called his element to the surface, without externally manifesting it, and his fire solidified his suspicions.
A Wind Elemental.
'Iris' took a step back to the intensity of those eyes and to the bitter smile in Filldeserp's previously relaxed face. However, her hand was still been held and she could not go far, even if she had tried to escape. She had expected every kind of welcome, especially the odd attitude Voldemort's heir had adopted toward her during the last month, but…
The slap caught her by surprise.
"Have you come to mock me?" Filldeserp hissed still with his hand held high. "Or why are you here?"
"I was definitely hoping for a different kind of welcome," she muttered, holding his gaze and not taking a step back.
Filldeserp threatened her with another slap, but Voldemort's hand stopped his movement halfway. His heir turned to see him, with an almost betrayed look, but the seriousness in his Lord's face calmed him.
"Control yourself, unless you want to cause a scene," he whispered. Filldeserp nodded, although it was obvious by the ferocity of his expression how much he wanted to do or say if he were not in public. "Could you explain how young Iris has offended you?"
"She is no Iris, my Lord," Filldeserp hissed, not turning his eyes away from the girl's face, who could tell Voldemort's heir wanted to stab her. Or perhaps some other torture, just as painful. "In front of you there is no one else but Hermione Granger… as odd as that statement is, considering she is delivering herself to her executioners… why make it easy for us, Granger?"
"How easily you forget your promises and teachings, Filldeserp. You, who taught me the arts of the mind and of war, who places survival above everything, who swore me I could only be a neutral or an enemy outside of the Fortress… I've come to ask for an alliance, and I only receive chagrin."
"Do not be so pretentious, mudblood," Filldeserp interrupted her. "Your alliance is not welcome. Not when you truly embrace the Light."
"And what have I done to make you believe that? I assured you an answer before November… and as far as I know, it is still October," she said in a deadly tone, also absorbed in the moment. "You were the one who taught me to insure our objectives… what did you expect me to do in front of an Order of the Phoenix who constantly grew more suspicious of my intentions? If I didn't show them I could recover and rejoin them soon… I assure you it was not easy to adopt a role of… almost a spy! Especially for and in the name of a man like you, who only sees what he wants, who cares about nothing… How could I know you would care? You said it yourself, that outside of the Fortress you would be Filldeserp!" She yelled, almost screaming in frustration.
Hermione took a deep breath and for a few seconds, she observed the confused expression of the dark wizard. Part of his anger and indignation remained there, but above all, she loved that he was not indifferent anymore. She loved the fire in his eyes, which only showed she had made him feel again, that he was truly human… and that she was not indifferent to him.
She did not bother observing Voldemort, or even cared to take a glance at Austen. All her focus was on Filldeserp.
She had spent a month not seeing him. Sometimes she wished time had gone faster; although others she wished it stopped, just to be one more second away from him. Those were two contradicting stances toward the same person; however, there he was, in front of her, looking her in the eyes. Perhaps he was not the right person to be loyal too; perhaps he was not the right person to fall in love with; perhaps he was not even worthy of being called human because of all the daily monstrosities he enacted. But there she was, loving and hating him with the same fervor, and only wishing her internal fight to end… And to stop having to question whether what she was doing was right or wrong anymore.
Because such distinctions possibly did not exist. At least they did not exist when she was only trying to erase the betrayed look in Filldeserp's eyes, when she only wanted to bury all the pain and anger burning inside of him…
"I had my place clear almost since my conversation with Dumbledore…" She whispered after funneling her anger, choosing a more peaceful method. "Actually, it did not take long before I spoke with Cailean and arranged everything for this day… I swear that my participation in the defense of the towns had no other intention but to keep my cover… and perhaps to settle my debt with my failure as an auror…"
"Then… you are willing to swear loyalty to the Dark, even when that means going against your own beliefs, your own thoughts?" Voldemort questioned. "This is not a game, Granger. You will not have a possibility of redemption anymore… from any side. None will extend you a hand if you betray. This is a war."
"The Darkness will hardly accept me," Hermione said with the semblance of a smile. "However, I am willing to swear loyalty to Lord Filldeserp's cause… to do everything I can to push it forward, with my Light Magic…"
"You are possibly the first witch in the history of our community whose magic is tied to the light and chooses to use it for dark purposes…" Voldemort muttered. However, his smile showed his satisfaction.
"She is only the first," Filldeserp said, sharing his Lord's smile. He then turned his eyes to Hermione, who had already taken the appropriate stance for an alliance ritual and was ready to say the first words of the ceremony. "Stop, Hermione. This is not the time or the place… or the way," he then smiled to the confused expression of the girl.
"I thought this was a date symbolic enough…"
"No, not enough," he shook his head with haughtiness. He immediately rephrased when he noticed her cheeks blushing. "Nevertheless, you could not have known. Our alliance will not flourish from the defeat of a Dark Lord, or with all the spirits that surround this date… as such, Halloween is not the day you were looking for."
"And the way?" Hermione asked.
"I have a more traditional and honest way, which considers our differences, unlike most vows."
That mysterious smile would haunt her for the rest of her life. But she could diminish her worries, especially because seconds later he gave her a look that guaranteed the discussion was not over, and that there were still many things to be said.
But she could not diminish her worry.
In simple and definite words, besides been muggle, she felt like a frog out of water.
Cailean had been right: it was definitely a strategic mistake, if not suicidal, to stay in the center of the parlor without company, mainly because of the special conditions that connected her to the Cause. She was not like any of them, she could not even compare to the neutrals, who merely analyzed everything from a superior and disaggregated perspective. Every face was unfamiliar; every ceremonial word whispered in the corner sounded like a foreign language… everything in general: the music, the gestures…
It definitely was not her natural environment. She could remember the international conferences organized by the Order of the Phoenix in which she also felt tense, but it had been a different kind of tension. She was used to deal with honesty and direct expressions of those who were connected with the Light; the complete opposite of the Dark, whose hits were more uncertain, discreet and concealed; and where double meaning was frequent and caused her a headache.
However, she would force herself to understand, to comprehend, that small world. She would work hard so she did not have to remain hidden in a corner for fear of being greeted by someone and not providing the correct response. She would work hard to accompany Filldeserp in his political maneuvers and to be able to be by his side with honor. And also, because she was curious.
She had not been a natural in the Light either. Being muggleborn, when she faced her first day at Hogwarts, she felt as out of place. She had encouraged herself knowing it was not the case, to accept who she was and force everyone to accept her as well; because she had the same right as them to be there, studying and growing her magic. It was the same with the Dark, even if she would never be as loyal and kind as she had been with the Light…
After all, whether it was Light or Dark, it was Magic. From an abstract and supreme point of view, they were not different, they were essentially the same; two sides of the same coin, two paths with the same beginning and end.
Hermione smiled and her almond eyes sparked to the challenge. Nothing excited her more. She was a Gryffindor after all, even when it seemed as if she had left a part of her at Headquarters, where everything could have been different…
"I am sorry the evening is not as enjoyable for you as it if for the rest of my guests."
She turned around and found Filldeserp sitting elegantly next to her, with his curious gaze on her. She had been so absorbed she had not noticed his presence. She turned her eyes back to the dancing floor, where she had enjoyed some time dancing with Austen, until the death eater had found more interesting affairs than dancing with her.
It was true that the guests were enjoying the evening. The atmosphere was relaxed and full of satisfaction, although she could not classify it as cheerful. Every wizard, witch, and creature present had the same thing in common: the dark magic; a cause. And everyone, without exception, rejoiced in their brotherhood.
Her smile took a bitter tone.
"I would prefer it if you were not so formal with me," Hermione muttered, although she was able to notice a small smile on Filldeserp.
"Trust me, it is hard to escape formality on a night like this. But I'll try." There was a moment of silence in which both of them avoided looking at each other. "What have I offered you that the Light cannot give you?" He asked suddenly on an almost soundless whisper.
Hermione was glad for the question, though it made her feel uncomfortable; nevertheless, hidden between those words that sounded so nice was the knowledge that Filldeserp would have understood if she had chosen to remain with the Order. As such, it was not her fake decision what had made him so angry and disappointed, but something deeper and more complex. The question was whether she had understood.
They sounded like the doubts of a shy and trembling boy who could not see his worth, and who saw the world too large to play being the great hero. As if he doubted of his own skills. As if he was not Filldeserp, the man who conquered armies and women with his charm and power; who aurors and civilians whispered was more terrifying than Lord Voldemort. The mental image almost caused her to laugh, until she reprimanded herself and realized it would not be the right answer considering the mask that covered Filldeserp's face.
"The Light offered me everything I could ever wish… a life, a meaning for it, friends, the knowledge of doing what is right; even a project with which I could feel fully realized. However, my decision did not lie in offers, or future promises… not even on an ethic that could justify my actions. It was not even revenge for all the suffering caused by their deceit. I doubt I could give a name to my reason… it is just the feeling of… doing my part, being someone who not anyone can be, of perhaps making a difference, and my work help something important, more than just putting a face to a cause. There will always be the possibility I made the wrong choice, that this is not the best path for me to carry out my mission… but even if everything I accomplish is destroyed, even before the great risk I'm taking… I know this is my place, and I somehow know that despite everything, despite all the damage, this is the right choice, because I have chosen it. I know this is where I want to be, where I need to be. I could not explain it any other way…" A sad smile appeared on her face. "Call me selfish, I am, but I don't regret anything I said the last time we saw each other…"
Her speech concluded with a nostalgic tone, wishing her look to be shared so she could observe Harry's feelings in his eyes, and not through his unalterable expression. She would have been satisfied by that.
They remained like that for a few minutes; she, impatiently waiting for his answer, feeling the grief in her chest in every beat of her heart; he, with his attention on the celebration, giving the impression of not having listened to Hermione's words.
She lowered her gaze to her lap.
"May I have this dance, miss?"
She blinked and stared at him, at first believing he was mocking her, treating her like a stranger. She then caught his playful smile; his eyes seemed ignited by an internal fire, and not completely because of his magic. He took her hand and calmly led her, measuring his steps, to the dance floor, and her feelings answered before her thoughts.
Perhaps it was the fact it was the first time she danced with him. Perhaps it was because all her worries left her, in a puzzling way. Perhaps it was because she knew she was the first woman with whom Filldeserp danced that night. Perhaps it was her romantic notions. But she did not care about the incredulous stares from the public; she did not care she had abandoned the Light; she did not care she was dancing with the man the world feared or worshiped. For her, he was just Harry.
Not her friend. Not her enemy. Not her lover. Not an apostate. Not her confident. Not a stranger. Not an ally.
Not Filldeserp. Not Voldemort's heir. Not Dumbledore's previous golden boy. Not even a man…
Just Harry. And that affirmation answered all her questions.
And before her eyes was the reality that Harry was with her…
She leaned on his shoulder while they danced to the soft pace of the music and closed her eyes, impregnating herself of his scent and on the million sensations on her body. She felt a light pain on her face, caused by the widest smile she ever had, and she also felt the tears leaving her eyes. More than anything, she appreciated the hand that with delicacy caressed her cheek and cleaned her tears.
The melody of the instruments of the orchestra danced in her mind and fused until it became an insubstantial whisper of which she was barely conscious. Her heart began beating faster when she felt the slow breath over her neck, and she shivered when the sound of his breathing reached her ear.
However, the odyssey was not over. All her emotions collapsed on an irrational waterfall of colors when a pair of lips interlocked with hers, caressing her like a breeze, and guided her to a place that traveled between heaven, earth, and hell.
A place called the River Styx.
November 1st, 2004
She had tried to get rid of the naïve smile she had on her face; however, it was still there, as the only legacy the night had allowed her to keep, besides her memories.
It almost seemed like a dream. After dancing several songs, which history Harry had made sure to share, they had walked around the Fortress, sometimes running into people daring enough to get close and disturb them. She enjoyed observing Filldeserps's short conversations with them, but she rejoiced more in the conversations they developed following them. That way, she had learned some details on the diplomatic traditions of the Dark, and about some characters. There were creatures present in that Congress whom she would have preferred not to meet, and other that awoke her curiosity, just like dark wizards from other cultures, with models of magical ethic extremely diverse.
Many had asked for her name as she still had her glamour and nobody could recognize her. By Harry's request, she had kept the name of Iris Austen. She had earned more curious stares as the name was of a pureblood family of low prestige in Scotland. There was a moment when she wondered why Cailean was not bothered by a mudblood carrying his name…
"I live to serve."
She guessed he did not care about a night of disgrace in front of the prospect of many years of distinction, which he would possibly acquire if he continued pleasing the desires and demands of his Lords.
Another peaceful moment of the beginning of the Congress was her second meeting with Voldemort, this time under better circumstances than as earlier that evening. As it was expected, the Dark Lord had addressed her with indifference and apathy, although there were moments when she could notice him slightly pleased during their conversation.
They had not discussed the future in depth; the time would come for that. Nevertheless, she had expressed her desire to return to her apartment that night to recover some of her possessions. Filldeserp had immediately rejected the idea, pointing out the danger of it as it was possible the Order had noticed her absence.
However, Hermione had planned her outing thoroughly. She had ensured that at least once a week she went out to different places during her free time since she had requested her transfer from Headquarters after her reintegration to the Ministry, time which had been constantly reduced since the Order and the Ministry had ensured her health and loyalty. She had chosen places that would not raise suspicion, spaces where her presence would be understandable: from libraries to theatres, and even visited old friends or wandered for a while around a square or public place, like a bar.
The Order did not have a reason to believe that night would be different, especially when Neville had seen the ticket she had purchased for a tragicomedy at the Apollo theatre. She tended to spend a long time out during those occasions. The Order had begun believing that her stay at the Fortress had made her appreciate the small things in life, and that was why she was working so hard to enjoy them, even the romantic aspect.
In a way, it was true. Although not in the way they would wish.
As such, Voldemort had agreed to allow her two hours to return to the magical world and then to immediately return to the Fortress, as they had many things left to discuss. Filldeserp had agreed as well, not before reminding her the function of the Medallion and that her role within the Dark Order was not of espionage, and as such, she should not risk herself over information.
If anyone had asked Hermione why she thought Filldeserp had hesitated in letting her go, she would have dared to say it was because of worry and fear, the great insecurity that could be occasionally seen in his eyes, even when he had hidden it behind a practical plan.
And that was the reason of her smile.
After arriving outside of her apartment, now wearing elegant muggle clothing after changing her outfit at the Fortress, she searched for her key in her purse and entered it in the lock. She did not know why she hesitated turning it. He instinct was telling her something was wrong, but there was no apparent reason for it. She was been paranoid… besides, she was very tired and her senses must be dull. Her feet hurt from walking and dancing, and her heart was beating fast despite how at peace she felt.
She had to make her excursion as short as possible. She needed to rest or she would start believing there were traces of magic on her lock.
She turned the key and, when she opened the door, her paranoia was confirmed. The lock had been forced with magic…
Hermione was aimed by five wands, all definitely ready to attack. She recognized three of them as aurors of the Ministry that had been under her command the day before, and the other two were members of the Order; Lucas de Santos and Francisco Garcia.
There was no reason to panic, she deduced. Perhaps someone had checked the Apollo theatre and had not found her there, raising the alarm in both organizations. She had a secondary plan for that situation, and someone could testify on her behalf, in case they did not trust her.
Perhaps they believed she was a death eater under Hermione's appearance, who, if they had been forced to guess the situation, had been kidnapped again by the Dark Order. It could be another normal and possible situation…
"Miss Granger, you are under arrest. Please put down every object, especially your wand, and turn it in without resistance," De Santos declared.
She had definitely not believed those would be the first words she would hear, but she could adapt to them. They could not arrest her. They had no reason to do so.
"Allow me to inquire on the crimes you believe me guilty of, auror De Santos, before I surrender my wand," she said as calmly as she could.
"Treason. Cooperation with known criminals and of high risk. Information leakage… and I assure you these aren't charges brought up lightly," De Santos answered with a dry tone. "I would recommend you to simply obey, Miss Granger. Any word you say could be used against you."
Was it worth it to risk her wand for an alibi she had no use for anymore? The next day, whether by her disappearance or because of this, the Magical Community would know Hermione Granger did not belong to them anymore.
While she slowly extended her hand with her wand to give it to De Santos, her almond eyes set on the Spanish, with the other, and in an abrupt movement, she held onto the Medallion on her neck, sending a clear message that she hoped Filldeserp would attend to despite his mental shields.
"I am under arrest. I hope this is considered an 'emergency' under your priorities."
If she had not been on such a critical situation, she would have laughed to the irony of how her world had turned and how her game had been rigged. But at that moment, she was too busy putting her right hand away from De Santos' reach and holding it as if it were a knife, its blade now threatening those who had previously been her allies.
There were things that went beyond Good or Evil… and one of those was love, and everything done for it. It did not justify it or explain it, but it gave it a reason to be.
A will to exist.