The Sugar Quill
Author: Robin (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Promises Defended  Chapter: Chapter 1: Faded Into Shadows
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Promises Remembered

Promises Defended

 

 

 

 

Chapter One: Faded Into Shadows

 

Street after street.

House after house.

Burning.  Maiming.  Cursing.  Slaying.

Sport, they called it.  Justice, they claimed.  Darkness reigned.  Masked figures danced through the streets at will, driving those they did not kill towards the town’s center.  The dead bodies were left to rot.  They did not matter.

“Pathetic, really,” she commented from his left.

Lucius smiled.  He’d have known her anywhere even if she had not spoken—the way she moved, the set of her shoulders, and the simple flick of a wrist to indicate the cowards and fools whom their compatriots drove forward gave her away every time—and he did not have to turn to face her.  She knew he was smiling.  Narcissa always did.

“Yes,” he agreed.  “They are.”

A child lagged behind the pack, looking nervously over her shoulder as if she thought one of the trailing Death Eaters might curse her.  Lucius smiled to himself once again, and resisted the urge to laugh. Might.  Oh, if only the brat knew. 

Muddy brown hair was caked to the Mudblood’s forehead—how appropriate!—and she stumbled over a dead body because she was too busy looking back to notice what lay ahead.  Doing so made her drop her stuffed toy, and she yelped in surprise. 

“Hurry up!” her mother snapped as the girl tried to pick it up.  The blonde witch dragged the girl along by her wrist, and Narcissa slid closer to Lucius.  She glanced up at him, and he saw perfect teeth glitter in a smile behind her mask.

Together, they wandered behind the hapless cluster of Hogsmeade residents, who Flint and Dolohov were busy driving forward at a reckless pace.  Dolohov laughed as he hexed the stragglers.  The Malfoys simply waited.

And then it happened.  The little muddy haired brat jerked free of her mother and bolted for the teddy bear (Muggle, no doubt).  She slipped in a puddle of blood, but picked herself up and kept going, seemingly unaware of the eyes upon her.

“Do you want to, or shall I?” Narcissa asked.

Lucius offered her a half bow, no mean feat when walking.  “A gentleman would never stand in the way of a lady’s sport.”

She chuckled.  “Thank you, love.”

Out came the wand, a beautiful affair of oak and unicorn hair.  Exactly eleven inches long, and quite flexible.  She handled it as expertly as ever, bringing her hand up with a kind of grace that had always made Bellatrix go green with envy.  Then again, Bellatrix had always been consumed by power.

“Crucio.”  She did not need to shout.

The child screeched with pain and collapsed just inches shy of her teddy bear.  Immediately, the mother turned back, screaming her daughter’s name and rushing towards her side—but Lucius was there, and his hand landed hard on her bony shoulder.  The touch was meant to hurt, but he doubted she noticed. 

The brat kept screaming.

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you,” he drawled.

She fought his inflexible hold and babbled something incoherent ending with “…my daughter!”

Lucius laughed and let her wrench free.

“Crucio!”

--------------

She stood by his side, occupying the place of honor at his right hand, and watched them squirm.  Perhaps a hundred cowards filled the space between Honeydukes and the Hog’s Head, whimpering and milling around as much as they dared—which was not much.  They spoke in whispers, staring at the Death Eaters, at the bodies of their loved ones, at the burnt-out shell of the post office, whose workers had declared that they would rather die than surrender…and who had been quickly obliged.  Their ashes peppered the ground quite nicely.

She watched him, though the residents of Diagon Alley dared not.  She watched his every move: graceful and measured, confident and powerful.  And so patient.  He waited.

The screams in the distance were like music to her ears, and she smiled when he turned to her, bowing her head in respect.

“Bring me the children, Bella.”

“Yes, Master.”

Quickly, she gestured to Rodolphus and the Jugsons, and they approached eagerly.  Rodolphus, of course, grinned at her, but Bellatrix had a job to do.  “The children,” she snapped, stepping into the crowd.  “Now.”

They did not bother asking.  They did not waste time upon kindness or polite words.  Hands reached out and dragged children away from parents, sisters away from brothers.  They purposefully separated family members, pulling the children off to the side and leaving them in Martha Blackwood’s care—after all, the sadistic healer seemed to like children in her own special way.  Bellatrix giggled as the other woman shot her a glare, then smiled sweetly.

“Chain them,” she ordered pleasantly.  Some foolish mother screamed.

Movement at her back, then a thump, followed by a muffled yelp.  Bellatrix spun, wand at the ready, only to see Snape standing not ten feet behind her, with one victim at his feet and his wand screwed tightly against the neck of another.  She could sense his cold smile behind the mask.

“Crucio.”  The whispered curse made the man scream like a possessed animal, and Snape let him collapse, whimpering on the ground.  He lay there twitching as Snape stepped over him, hardly sparing a glance at the crying children.

“Do please silence them,” Snape said irritably.  “Their mewing is growing tiresome.”

Bellatrix giggled.  “Rodolphus, if you please.”

“Gladly.”  He almost bounced in glee.  Verberovox!”   

Crack.

The children screamed and clumped together; those hit by the energy whip yowled in pain and tried to escape, but Martha had done her work as efficiently as usual, and they were trapped.  The noise, of course, did not lessen, but it did grow much more musical.  Crack.  Screeches.  Crack.  Crying.  Crack.  Some girl started begging, only to be caught full in the face by Rodolphus’ whip.  He had excellent aim.

Of course, the parents rushed forward, praying that they could take the Death Eaters by surprise.  Instead, they encountered a rather irate Severus Snape, and he threw the first wave back on his own before the other Death Eaters even got a chance to join in.

--------------

The smell of burnt flesh was nauseating.  He couldn’t bear to look behind him—not at the children—so he looked ahead, hardly liking that view better.  He’d used an Incinerator to drive the first group back, and had thrown rather more power into it than he would have chosen to—but there was no choice.  Not here.

And perhaps, nevermore.

The crowd was growing as the stragglers were driven in.  Lucius and Narcissa trailed the last group, strolling side by side as if they were out for a romantic walk on the beach.  Yet the crowd shrank as many parents tried desperately—mindlessly—to reach their children.  Some stood frozen, staring and terrified, as their children were tortured.  Severus did not dare look back.  He could still hear.

Crack!

Children screaming in pain. 

Crack!

Parents shouting their loved ones’ names, pushing over dead and dying bodies only to become dead and dying themselves.  Don’t they know it’s useless? He wanted to scream.

Crack!

Rodolphus laughing.

“Imperio!”  His own voice, targeting a young witch who he thought taught at Hogsmeade’s small primary school.  A moment of focus sent her wheeling upon the others in the crowd, forcing them back and away from death.  It was a more bloodless way to push them back, though he knew she certainly wouldn’t thank him for it.  And then Lucas Whitby came sailing out of the crowd at Snape with murder in his eyes.

Incendio!”  He’d been a Death Eater too long when his first instinct was to kill, and Snape felt a twinge of regret.  Whitby never even collapsed; he simply combusted.  A moment later, the fireball was gone, and young Kevin Whitby—due to start at Hogwarts in less than two years—was screaming for his father.

Bellatrix laughed and cursed the boy.

The crowd kept coming.

--------------

They stopped ten minutes later, fools that they were, as Bellatrix and the others dragged the children away.  Battered and bleeding, the living clumped up behind the wall of the dead, weeping as the last of the children disappeared.  Snape just stood and watched them, glad that no one could see how pale his face was beneath his mask.

Six of the children would never leave; Rodolphus had been a bit overenthusiastic, and their bodies lay amid the blood left behind by the others.  One mourning father attempted to approach his dead daughter’s side, but was immediately stopped by Narcissa Malfoy’s bone breaker.  He collapsed to the ground with a broken back as the Death Eaters laughed.  He squirmed for several moments, then went still, defeated.

So did the crowd.  They whimpered and stared, trying to shrink back.  Didn’t they realize that there was nowhere to hide?

Lucius approached the Dark Lord, bowing gracefully.  “They are all here, My Lord.”

More whimpers from the crowd, but Voldemort ignored them.  Slowly, his head turned and his red eyes focused on Lucius.  Snape’s old friend shivered.  “Are they?”

“Here or dead, Master.” 

The laughter started quietly, and then grew as the Dark Lord began to smile.  “And so they are,” he said dangerously.  Suddenly, he twisted to stare at the crowd, his voice dropping to whisper.  “Except one.  There is one missing.”

The front ranks of the crowd tried to push back, but those behind them would not give way.  Someone cried out when shoved, and one of the young wizards in the forefront of the group collapsed.  And Voldemort laughed louder.

“Where is your hero now?” he demanded.

Even Snape shivered.  Someone screamed.

“Well?”

Honeydukes and the Hog’s Head exploded, and the crowd wailed as they were pelted by fire and debris, trying to move even closer together.  Smoke filled the air, but Voldemort laughed.

“Will no one fight me?”

“No…no…nonononono…” Terrified whispers emerged from the mass of humanity, making no sense except for that one word.  Fools.  Snape felt sick. 

“No…never…no…”

They were still mumbling, praying that they might deflect his wrath.  Except the Dark Lord was not angered, and that frightened Severus more than any fury might have—because the anger boiled beneath the surface, waiting.  He swallowed just as Voldemort shrugged.

“Very well.  Kill them.”

Screams.

More screams.

Living nightmare.

 

 


---------------


 

 

The Other Author’s Note: Thanks to everyone who has been with me since the start, and to all of you who have joined along the way.  I do hope you’ve liked this chapter, and stay tuned for Chapter Two: All Hope Fades in the next few days.  Please let me know what you think!

 

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