Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or anything else that may be referenced in this chapter.

A/N: Colossal thank yous to you all for reading, reviewing, following and favouring; and as always, I hope you all enjoy this chapter! :)

Twitter: Prof_McGonagal

Chapter 18

"I'm sorry Severus," she said quietly; though her words echoed around the silent room. "I'm just- I'm trying to be able to live with myself."

Severus said nothing; nor did he look up. Swallowing a lump in her throat, Rose turned the door handle and left the office, feeling very small, guilty and conflicted indeed.

Rose's stomach churned sickeningly as she walked away from the Headmaster's office. She hardly noticed the route she was taking; she just allowed her feet to carry her back in the direction of the common room as she lost herself in her thoughts, her mind racing and her stomach churning all the more with every thought that entered her mind. Rose exhaled; pushing her glasses up her nose, running her hand through her hair and biting her lip; doing everything she could think of to calm down and think... Rose took a second deep breath and, as she exhaled, decided to try something new. She gritted her teeth and pushed down her emotions, telling herself it was just for a moment, while she faced facts- facts that, truth be told, she would rather pretend didn't exist. It would, she thought, be a hell of a lot easier to flounce about playing cat and mouse with her safety and thinking that was cunning- as Severus had put it so very derisively- if they didn't.

But the facts remained that, first and foremost: Severus had a point. More than one point, in fact. She had thought that Severus and her friends would be safe if she left without telling them anything, then they wouldn't know anything when they were inevitably questioned but she had never thought that they would be tortured or killed- which was, upon reflection, stupidly naïve… So she had to stay.

Secondly, she needed to talk to Blaise. Severus had a point in saying that if they got caught sneaking around it may suggest that she had a perchance for concealment as Severus put it. She needed to talk to Blaise; she needed to tell him everything, and they needed to decide what they were going to do with regards to their relationship…

There were, she thought, three choices. The first, they could continue to sneak around, though that was rather pointless now that Severus knew about them; the second, they could go stop hiding their relationship and go back to normal; and the third, they could actually break up.

Rose bit her lip, unable to stop herself from flinching at the thought, despite her resolve to be temporarily emotionless. It was rather silly, she thought distantly, being so caught up in her relationship when there was a war going on, when there was so much at stake, but she couldn't help it. They'd had their ups and downs, but Blaise had always been there for her; he always made her feel safe; made her laugh; made her feel beautiful; and she loved him. She was in love with him and she missed him like mad and she felt sicker than ever at the thought of not being with him.

Sighing, Rose ran a hand through her hair and forced herself to continue along her trail of thought.

…Thirdly, she had to tell her friends about her Dark Mark. If she was going to stay at Hogwarts, it was only fair that they knew; and what's more she wanted to tell them, it was just a matter of getting the right words out in the right place at the right time… and having the nerve to do it.

"Spero," Rose somehow dragged the password up from the depths of her subconscious as she reached the entrance to the common room. How she remembered it or what it meant she didn't know, but Rose found she didn't much care as the door to the common room opened and she entered; crossing the room and climbing the stairs to her dormitory.

The other girls in her dormitory were still sound asleep when she entered the room, which was hardly surprising given the lateness of the hour. As quickly and quietly as she could, Rose pulled back the curtain around her bed, picked up her copy of the Maurauder's Map and the note she had attached to it and slipped them both into the drawer beside her bed. Shrugging her still disillusionment-charmed rucksack off of her shoulder, Rose slipped it under her bed, deciding to deal with it all later. Straightening up, Rose set her wand on her bedside table and crept to her trunk to change into her pyjamas. Miss Marple's luminous china blue eyes appeared in the top corner of Rose's bed beside her pillow, blinking sleepily as the girl crept back to the side of the bed, pulled the corner of the bedclothes back-

And paused. Rose stared down at her mattress, covered as it was by a plain white bed sheet. She had slept in this same bed, on this same mattress ever since her first year at Hogwarts. It was perfectly comfortable, she knew, but somehow she suddenly couldn't stomach the notion of sleeping in the dormitory, at least for what remained of that night. She had more thinking to do and suddenly she felt as though the dormitory was stuffy and confined; as though in order to think she needed to have the option to move without disturbing any of her dorm mates.

Picking up her wand from where she had placed it on her bedside time table, Rose turned on her heel and padded from the dormitory, slipping back down the stairs to the common room. Once there, Rose flicked her wand at the low fire in the grate, making it spark up slightly, and slumped cross-legged, down into her usual spot on the sofa.

"Meow," Miss Marple mewed sleepily, jumping up into Rose's lap and curling up into a ball. Rose started slightly, not having realised her cat had followed her down the stairs.

"Hey," she murmured, running her hand down Miss Marple's back. "Sorry for disturbing you so much tonight; you didn't have to follow me down here."

Miss Marple nuzzled down further into Rose's lap, her eyes dropping closed. Rose sighed, closing her eyes too, starting to think about how she was going to tell her friends everything without being reduced to a blubbering mess…

One way or another, she promised herself, everything would be out in the open in twenty-four hours.

POUND-POUND-POUND-POUND!

Rose awoke with a start, wincing as her neck ached in protest at her lifting her head from where it had fallen onto her shoulder. Pushing her glasses up her nose, Rose looked around her for the source of the noise, blinking sleepily. The Black Lake was slamming against the windows of the common room so loudly that the sound echoed around the common room several times over; clearly, it was raining heavily outside. Rose ran her hand through her hair, scratching Miss Marple behind the ears with her free hand as the cat jumped to her feet and stretched.

"Morning- I think- yeah," Rose nodded, glancing down at her watch and seeing it was a quarter to six. "Sleep okay?"

Miss Marple mewed softly, turning her head and licking Rose's wrist.

"I'll take that as a yes," Rose smiled. "But now we have to get up- or at least, I do."

Nudging Miss Marple over, Rose got to her feet and stretched, too, stifling a yawn. She didn't know exactly when she had fallen asleep, but she knew it was now morning and she had had some sleep. Crossing the common room, Rose opened the door to the girl's dormitory, steeping to one side to allow Miss Marple to run ahead of her as she made her way back to her dormitory to get ready for the day.

The other girls in her dormitory were stirring when she emerged from the bathroom. Pansy was the last to use the bathroom, emerging from within bright eyed and cheerful.

"Good morning," she beamed around the dormitory.

"Morning," Millicent smiled back, finishing tying her shoelaces.

"Morning." Rose smiled back from behind her hair as she wrenched her comb through it as best she could.

Daphne and Tracey smiled back at Pansy, too, as they shouldered their bags, from what little Rose could see through her hair as she combed it, but when Rose managed to force her hair into the closest thing to tidy she could manage she saw that Pansy was looking after Daphne and Tracey as they left the dormitory, frowning faintly.

"That was weird." She remarked, picking up her own bag.

"What?" Millicent replied as she and Rose did the same and the three girls

"Daphne and Tracey- when they smiled at me just now, their smiles were sort of strained… like there's something wrong- and they scurried out of here really quickly." Pansy gestured ahead of them on the stairs; Daphne and Tracey were indeed nowhere to be seen.

"Well, the world's hardly normal at the moment is it? What with there being a war going on." Millicent pointed out; a frown flittering across her face as looked from Pansy to Rose. "…Are you alright, Rose? You look a bit pale."

"Paler than usual you mean?" Pansy snickered, her amusement fading as she, too, looked at Rose. "Actually you do look paler. You alright?"

Rose hesitated, her breath catching in her throat willing herself to catch and keep hold of her nerve. Now was as good a time as ever. "I-"

"Oh thank Merlin!" Rose broke off abruptly, losing her nerve as Theo burst out of the doors to the boys' dormitory, beaming at Pansy as he wrapped his arm around her waist. "I had a truly terrible nightmare last night."

"Oh yeah?" Pansy smiled at him as Draco, Crabbe, Goyle and Blaise followed Theo out of the boys' dormitory.

"Yeah," Theo nodded as he and Pansy lead the way from the common room. "You were being held hostage by a Hungarian Horntail, who was threatening to drown you in treacle tart unless I smashed up my chess set."

"Really?" Pansy raised an eyebrow. "I take it you smashed up your chess set."

"Of course." Theo leant over and kissed her. "But the mental anguish of losing my chess set, Pans, you have no idea…"

Rose fell into a pace a step behind Blaise as the Slytherins made their way through the dungeons; they were at the very back of the group, but Rose gave up on catching Blaise's eye, as clearly he was genuinely upset with her; instead she settled for talking.

"I really need to talk to you." She said softly looking up at him.

Blaise glanced over his shoulder at her, raising his eyebrow. "Really?" he muttered coolly. "You've got a funny way of showing it."

"I'm really sorry Blaise," Rose sped up slightly, falling into step beside him. "You have every right to be angry with me, I get it, I stood you up; but I am really, really sorry sorry; and I have to talk to you- to explain. It's really, really i-important." Rose tried to stop her voice from trembling as she spoke, but failed miserably.

Blaise stopped walking, catching her left hand in his as he turned to face her, his cool expression falling, replaced with worry as he led Rose to the right side of the corridor, which lead to another dungeon passage, in which there was a door to a larger broom closet, which he opened quietly. Ahead of them, the others kept walking, rounding the corner ahead of them; noticing nothing as they sniggered at Theo's theatrics and Blaise and Rose slipped into the broom closet; Rose closing the door behind her. Blaise found the light switch and flicked it up, looking down at Rose as light filled the closet. "Are you okay?" he asked, his eyes searching her face.

Rose shook her head, ducking her head as tears curled in the corners of her eyes. Blaise's hand felt warm and safe around hers, as did his forearm as it brushed against hers… brushed against her Dark Mark. Rose swallowed thickly, tears rolling down her cheek as she wondered if Blaise would still want to hold her hand if he knew about the Mark. He loved her, she knew, but all the same…

Blaise stared down at Rose, his brow creasing in confusion. They had agreed to keep their relationship secret, yes, and he was rather hurt and annoyed with her at her standing him up, yes; but something was wrong with Rose and he loved her, so he was going to talk to her and hold her hand wherever they were until she was better, and to hell with whoever heard them talking, opened the door and saw, especially when he saw her head drop and tears roll down her pale cheeks.

"Hey, don't cry," he lifted her chin with his free hand, wiping away her tears with his thumb. Rose met his gaze, her eyes wide and nervous behind her slightly tear smeared glasses. "What's going on?" Blaise asked. "Rosie, you're scaring me a bit."

Rose exhaled rather shakily, willing herself to speak. "I- I'm a Death Eater."

Blaise froze, his hand falling from her chin and his eyes widening. "W-what?"

Rose exhaled a second time, her heart sinking rapidly. "…The day after I went back to Spinner's End, Draco came round to see me," she began, meeting Blaise's gaze rather apprehensively. "We went for a walk and he explained his side of what happened last year. W-when I got home from talking to Draco, the Dark Lord was in my living room. He- he checked that Harry and I were, you know, not on good terms, then he started talking about how the Wizarding World is at war and how he thinks it's time for me to pick a side- he said he'd be a fool not to have Harry Potter's twin sister, who-who he utterly despises, who murdered his godfather, his dead father's best friend, on his side. And that I gave him his biggest weapon- though he didn't say what it was- and- and how else could he repay me for that but with what he was 'the highest honour that can be afforded to any person'- I was so scared, I had no choice but to agree."

Rose dropped her gaze to her left forearm, feeling tears prickle in the corners of her eyes as she slipped her hand from Blaise's, pulled back the sleeves of her robes; unravelled her bandage and turned her inner forearm outwards. It was the first time she had ever seen her Dark Mark and it seemed to leer up at her and Blaise, cutting through the paler-than-usual skin of her arm; a vivid, angry red.

Tears fell from Rose's eyes at the sight, but she kept her gaze fixed upon it, for she knew as much as she hated it, it was her reality now, and for fear of seeing horror and repulse in Blaise's expression. Wiping away a tear trickling down the side of her nose, Rose forced herself to continue.

"Draco already knows- he was at m-my joining ceremony; and he agreed not to say anything until I was ready. I-I was going to tell you, and the others- even if Pansy, Theo, Crabbe and Goyle didn't already know thanks to their fathers, which I don't think they do- but I just didn't know how, it's not the sort of thing you can just bring up in conversation, and you went to Italy and I couldn't just write to you about it, and I was- and still am- a-ashamed." Rose paused and wiped her eyes, her jaw trembling too much to speak. "…But then I had a conversation with Pansy and Theo on the train. It was harmless, but it made me think that there was no way I could tell any of you; and that I had to leave Hogwarts. I know that you're all already in danger from being close to Draco and, in Pansy, Theo, Crabbe and Goyle's cases their fathers, but my having the Dark Mark puts you all in all the more danger- the Dark Lord uses people his followers are close to to ensure he gets his own way, and- and I would never, ever forgive myself if any of you got hurt because of me. So I thought that the best thing for me to do would be to leave Hogwarts: at a time where no one would see me, and leave no explanation- that way, if you were questioned about my whereabouts, no one would know anything, even about my having the Dark Mark- except for Draco, but he was there when it happened- and therefore, no one would get hurt because of me, and there would be no chance of anyone getting hurt because of me; because I wouldn't be around to be manipulated. That was w-what I was doing, last night when I stood you up. But then Severus found me outside- and he made me realise that I can't leave because the Dark Lord would torture you all to get back at me; he would hunt me down and torture and kill me… and Severus also found out about us- that we're hiding and stuff- I had the note you gave me in my pocket, and he saw it and summoned it- I tried to catch it but I couldn't in time. He said it was stupid to hide because the Carrows are here to spy for the Dark Lord and if they found out I was hiding my relationship they would tell the Dark Lord to discredit me and Severus and that would bring you to the Dark Lord's attention, and it would suggest to the Dark Lord that I keep secrets which might lead him to looking into the true state of my nature with Harry- or think that I'm untrustworthy or both. But, you know, I'm a death eater now and really and truly that's just a whole lot mess and danger that no one needs so I- I understand if you want to actually end things this time- if you just want to be friends or whatever. It's probably the right thing to do." With an enormous effort, Rose forced herself to look up at Blaise. He was staring at her forearm, at her Dark Mark, frozen. Rose said nothing, thinking that he would need time to process everything she had just told him.

Blaise felt as though his head was going to explode. Rose- his Rose was a Death Eater- she had the Dark Mark- she was in more danger than ever before; and he was putting himself in danger by going out with her publicly, that fact was inescapable, and it worried him greatly; and she was right, really, ending things and being friends was the probably the smartest and safest thing to do… But he loved her. He was inescapably deeply in love with her and he wanted to be with her and the fact that she now bore a Dark Mark didn't change that, or her as a person…

"...Merlin, Rose…" Blaise ran a hand through his hair, looking up from the Dark Mark on her forearm to her face. She was looking at him even more anxiously than before, her face paler than usual; her top teeth embedded into her bottom lip; her eyes wide behind her glasses; her thick, wild hair starting to fall over her face as always. "…I get you were- are- ashamed and know this isn't the sort of thing you can just put in a letter, but I wish you'd told me before tonight- I would've come back to England if you just said you needed to talk; but it doesn't matter now. What matters now is that this- your Dark Mark, you being a Death Eater doesn't change anything. You're still the same person and I still love you- I love you so much and I want to be with you," "But honestly I'm also scared. I don't want you to get hurt or be in any more danger and I don't want to get hurt or be in any more danger myself and the smart thing to do is to be friends, but I love you."

A lump filled Rose's throat at his words; fresh tears curling yet again in the corners of her eyes. "I love you, too; so much." She replied softly, wiping the tears away behind her glasses. "So, what do you want to do?"

"What are you two doing- oh my Merlin, Rose- you- your arm." Pansy gasped. Rose and Blaise turned, Rose's heart sinking slightly. Pansy, Millicent, Theo, Crabbe, Goyle and Draco stood before the now open door of the broom closet, the light from within which now streaming out into the corridor. Pansy, Millicent, Theo, Crabbe and Goyle were staring at Rose's Dark Mark in shock. Draco, on the contrary, was frowning at Rose.

"I thought we agreed you were going to tell me when you were ready to tell everyone," he said, "and why the hell are you in here with him?" he nodded towards Blaise, a slightly hostile edge to his tone.

"What do you mean by that?" Blaise asked defensively. Draco glared at him.

"Wait a minute," Millicent turned to Draco, cutting him off before he could reply to Blaise. "You knew about this?" she demanded, gesturing towards Rose's Dark Mark. "When did this happen, exactly?"

BANG!

The Slytherins jumped as a great noise of explosion sounded from the direction of the Entrance Hall above their heads, followed almost instantly by a loud, undoubtedly magically amplified shriek from a voice Rose vaguely recognised from the previous night as that of Alecto Carrow:

"ALL STUDENTS TO THE ENTRANCE HALL NOW!"

A/N: Please review! :)