The Sugar Quill
Author: JK Ashavah (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Phoenix and The Serpent  Chapter: Chapter Two: The Deception
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Author's Note: Here's Part Two, at last. I'm very sorry about the wait. Please enjoy. :-) Major thanks, as always, go to Elanor Gamgee for being a wonderful beta reader.

 

Part Two: The Deception

Their meeting over, the members of the Order of the Phoenix began to slowly dissipate, each going to their own homes or workplaces, or, like me, to a mission. Mine was not, however, one like any of theirs.

I arose from my spot on the floor, throwing an envious glance around the room. Lupin looked as though he wanted to speak with me, but I ignored him and strode to the door. As I reached for the handle, I felt a gentle hand on my arm.

I turned, reluctantly, and found myself facing the Head of the Aurors' Office. I smiled politely and raised an eyebrow at him. He returned the smile, though in a kinder way, and spoke softly.

"Be careful. Your job is getting more dangerous."

I watched him, eyebrow still elevated. He met my emotionless expression with one of concern.

"I am well aware of the dangers of the role I have undertaken," I replied icily.

"I know what you know. Just watch out. Watch Lucius especially."

I nodded my thanks and turned in a swirl of robes, striding irritably out of the door and down the staircase. That he could presume ... But he did have the right, of course.

They've all done their best to be accepting, to take me in. Dumbledore accepted me so easily. Everyone wants to feel sorry for a poor Slytherin who doesn't want to be evil. Everyone, that is, except the Death Eaters.

They make special provisions, turning me into some sort of charity case, good only for pity. Dumbledore has had the Head of Aurors pull rank to prevent me being arrested, and if I ever am, I am to be released without charges. How nice. So there's one less group of people fighting to have my skin. Not that I am safe, by any means. No-one knows they're not supposed to arrest me, and young Aurors in the heat of battle ...

I pulled my hood close around my face and strode through the corridors, cloak billowing behind me. I rounded a corner and found myself staring straight at Harry Potter, at Hogwarts for his holidays.

The sight startled me, and I paused for a moment. Here was the boy who was the objective of Lord Voldemort's ambitions, the goal of the Death Eaters' plans. And he stood laughing in a corridor, with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger on either side of him. Did he have no concept of the danger was in, of the trouble he had caused for me and the others in the Order of the Phoenix?

No, of course not. Oh, he knew, of course, that Voldemort was after him, but he had, and still has, simply no notion of the amount of trouble Dumbledore - in fact, almost the entire Ministry as well - go to in order to preserve his life. He is important, somehow, otherwise Voldemort would not have wanted him to start with.

Now, Voldemort is driven by a rage and lust for revenge. No one has ever managed to survive a direct attack by him before, and now Potter has done it several times. That in itself is a bad prospect for his survival.

The dedication of the Phoenixes and the leadership of Dumbledore could still win, of course. That is what we fight for.

I paused, staring at Potter, until he turned to me. I don't know if he recognised me. Our eyes met for a brief moment, then I pushed past him and strode away, telling myself angrily that the very last thing I needed was to allow Potter to distract me, when so many things did already, and a moment's lapse in concentration at the wrong moment could easily mean death.

I returned to Hogsmeade, knowing with a sick certainty what I needed to do next. It was one of the things I feared worst - facing Lucius Malfoy. Because he sponsored me, he seemed to think it was his duty to ensure that I performed my Death Eater duties properly.

So he watched me carefully whenever I was near. He thinks he knows me, and that has always been to his advantage. He could use our past links to summon me to Malfoy Manor, where he would observe me, talk with me, take me on missions.

Lucius is not only dangerous because he is Lord Voldemort's right hand man. He is dangerous in his own right - cruel, cunning, and scheming. He can administer a terrible torture without any apparent emotion, and shows no remorse. That is the sort of man who is particularly perilous to be associated with, and when he is under the leadership of an evil such as Lord Voldemort ....

I shuddered. I would rather do almost anything than go to Malfoy Manor, but I knew that not doing so would make Lucius suspicious. Doing that was one of the few things I would go to Malfoy Manor rather than do.

I Disapparated, reappearing just outside the grounds to the manor. The cold, oppressive gates loomed in front of me, manned of course. I inclined my head coldly to the gatekeeper, who wordlessly swung the massive ironwork inwards. I strode through the opening and hurried towards the house.

Malfoy Manor came slowly into view, as impressive yet threatening as the gates. The house was built centuries ago, and has been the ancestral home of the Malfoys ever since. Filled with secret passages and chambers, it is the perfect place for the practitioning of the Dark Arts; if you are sensitive to Dark magic, either through practising it or learning to recognise it, you can feel the evil aura of the place. It is magnificent, with intricate and expensive architecture, yet could never be called beautiful.

Even to those who are insensitive to such things, it still radiates a sort of negative feeling. It is difficult to define, or so I have been told by members of the Order of the Phoenix who have had occasion to approach the manor on a mission. I doubt even a Muggle could pass the place without being affected.

Yet the Ministry have never been able to notice that the place is obviously a home of Dark magic. Possibly that is because of the intangible nature of the evil on the unaware, or perhaps they choose to be blind, in order to remain in Lucius' favour.

He has an amazing power to make people become blind or deaf to little details like that. Probably because the only other option is often to be dead.

Lucius had been waiting for me, it was obvious. As soon as I had been shown in, he appeared silently in the room, a cold smile fixed upon his face. He greeted me with a cordial nod, which I returned, watching him carefully. With a wave of his hand he dismissed the servant who had brought me there, who bowed low and vanished through a door, out into the hallway.

"So," Lucius said slowly. "You have come." His tone indicated that I was late, and that he had, as I had feared, expected me immediately after the Death Eater meeting. That nasty smile still played across his lips. The most disconcerting thing about it was the fact that it never looked genuine; I had yet to see it reach those stony grey eyes.

"I had other business to attend to," I replied curtly, yet with a respectful inclination of the head. "I had business for our lord." I endeavoured to look contritely down at the floor, hands folded dutifully.

"Indeed." It was a statement, yet the hint of questioning in Lucius' tone was a warning to me.

"Following the movements of the Order of the Phoenix, sir."

"Ah, yes. You have always been very useful. Do you have any news of interest?" The smile flickered across his lips again. I was in dangerous territory.

"No. I believe they know that our lord is planning something, but what, they have no notion."

"Ah." The smile did not falter. This cold, formal interrogation was one of the reasons I despised going to Malfoy Manor, and despised Lucius himself.

I could tell he was thinking of something else, and the idea filled me with a sense of trepidation. He was going to test my loyalty. I had him almost convinced, but one final test ... I shuddered inwardly, and had to fight to prevent my unease showing.

"Tell me, you didn't happen to find out if Black and Lupin are returning to Oxford, did you?" There was a malicious sense of satisfaction behind Lucius' gaze as he studied me. I made sure not to falter, and standing at dutiful attention, replied quickly yet firmly.

"No. I do not know if they were doing anything."

"Shall we pay them a visit?" Lucius asked quietly. I watched the evil smile that was fixed upon his face, and heard the venom in his voice. He intended to kill them, or at the very least, take them to Lord Voldemort, if he found them at home.

Was there any way to warn them? No, it was impossible. I had no plausible excuse for slipping out of Lucius' sight for even a moment, and I could not contact them from within Malfoy Manor. Lucius was sure to have some way of tracking communications made from within his domain.

"Shall we?" he repeated, and the tone of his voice told me it would be death to refuse.

"We shall," I said softly, fighting to keep my voice from shaking. There was nothing I could do, except wait in agonising fear to see if they were at home.

* * *

We silently approached the old house in Oxford where Remus Lupin lived. There was no sign of habitation. No smoke rose from the chimney, no curtain twitched. Everything was still.

Lucius slunk up to the door, then opened it with a silent charm. I watched with trepidation as he entered, then a movement in my peripheral vision made me turn my head.

The black dog was watching me. I felt its cold, pale gaze upon my own, then looked back to the house. The dog seemed to understand my unspoken question, and shook its head. I sighed in relief, then shooed it away, raising my wand, in case Lucius was watching.

It got the message and hurried out of my sight, leaving me to follow Lucius. I knew it couldn't have gone far, and I was secretly glad, for fear of what I could be forced to do.

The inside of the house was dark. It was plain from a few minutes' looking, even without having been told, that no-one was at home. I made my way to the study, remembering how to get there from the few times I had been in the house. I knew that would be where I would find Lucius.

"Anything?" he asked me sharply as I entered. He was bent over Lupin's desk, going through the papers there with a malicious glint in his eye.

"Nothing. There's no-one here."

"Very well." Lucius straightened up, and the expression on his face made me catch my breath. I cursed myself silently, but he didn't seem to have noticed. Something had possessed him with rage, he would stop at nothing to bring Black and Lupin down. "Burn it."

I stared at him for a moment, knowing I had heard correctly, yet unable to quite believe it.

"Burn it?"

"Yes. Immediately."

I raised my wand hesitantly, wondering if perhaps I should question him as to whether he was following Lord Voldemort's wishes. The look on his face convinced me not to, however, and I waited for him to brush past me, then, silently thankful for the fact that Black in his Animagus form was lurking nearby, raised my wand.

"Incendio!"

I turned and followed Lucius from the house as the flames erupted behind me.

* * *

Lucius was clearly enraged that he had been unable to kill Lupin or Black. His pace was quick and sharp, and he strode into Malfoy Manor with a scowl on his face. I hovered uncertainly behind him, watching him carefully, to ensure I did not enrage him.

He swept away to his chambers, and I remained downstairs, unsure of exactly what to do. Eventually Narcissa appeared, greeting me graciously. I inclined my head politely to her, and she smiled. Hers was a far more genuine expression than her husband's, but I still did not feel at ease.

"Will you stay for dinner?" she asked in a regal tone, the generous hostess in every way.

"I wouldn't wish to intrude," I muttered, hoping fervently for an excuse to slip away.

"Oh, do stay."

I resigned myself to following her wishes, and we discussed insignificant matters for a few minutes, before she invited me to sit by the fire in a luxurious upstairs lounge room. I accepted, and Narcissa eventually departed, leaving me alone by the fire.

Lucius' study was easily accessible from the room. This would be the perfect opportunity to slip in and glean some valuable information. Lucius had retired to his chambers, and there had not been any sign of him reappearing. Survival and spying instincts raged within me for a moment, battling ferociously. The spying instincts proved victorious, and I silently slipped into the study.

I had been in there only a precious handful of times before, and always under Lucius' stony gaze. I knew that here, given only time, I could find the information the Order of the Phoenix would need to convict him, and maybe understand Lord Voldemort's plans.

I slipped past the elaborate wooden desk that was a central feature, and surveyed the bookshelves closely. I knew what I was looking for - his journal. He kept records of Dark activities written down somewhere, I knew it, and if I could just find it, we would have him.

"So," a cold voice whispered from behind me.

In that instant, I felt a paralysing, sickening fear sweep across my entire body, rooting me to the spot. I couldn't move; the ice running through my veins ensured it.

I slowly forced myself to face the voice, ordering each muscle to move in turn, until I stood, trembling, facing the doorway, where Lucius stood, fury written on every feature.

* * *

 

To be continued...

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