The Sugar Quill
Author: paperchain  Story: Precious Things  Chapter: Precious Things
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Precious Things

Dorcas, panting, wriggled to her knees, and spat some blood onto the moonlit dirt. Her head was low as she crouched on all fours, hands braced and digging into the grass, arms shaking. “Crucio,” said a man again, lazily.

Agony took her, hollowed her out, and she was screaming. Flipped onto her back, Dorcas’s spine arched, she couldn’t take it… and the pain stopped. Breath rushed into her lungs, and she rolled onto her side, heaving breaths in, sobbing with the after-effects. Someone was speaking to her, but it was the sound of her blood in her ears that occupied the most of her attention. Her heart stumbled, skipped a beat, and Dorcas squeezed her eyes shut. “Oh God, let it stop,” her lips formed, but her voice had been screamed away to nothing. An owl shrieked somewhere off in the trees.

“Get up,” ordered a different man, voice breathy. The excitable one. Dorcas’s tongue felt heavy and thick in her mouth, and then she curled around her stomach and heaved onto the grass. She swiped at her mouth with a shaking hand, and then spat on the ground. Swallowing painfully, the acid bile was like glass in her throat. “Get up,” said the man again. Dorcas raised her throbbing head and looked at the white-masked figures through bloodshot eyes. A muttered spell, and Dorcas was hoisted up into the air by her ankles.

Dorcas walked her hands up her own legs, gripping her ankles grimly and keeping her head the right way up. The chain of her necklace dug into her throat; her muscles screamed in protest, but Dorcas hung on. This would end; this had to end. They would get bored, please. They had to realise she didn’t know...

Footsteps, crunching over the dry earth towards her. A soft voice, comforting, soothing. “You’re only making this harder for yourself, Meadowes. Let’s try this again, shall we? What do you know about a prophesy?”

Dorcas, hanging upside down, arms shaking, closed her eyes. They had tried to break her with pain, and now with kindness. I cannot break, I mustn’t. “It’s my birthday in a month, you know.” Her voice was a dry rasp, automatic, her mind wandering. “I’ll be twenty-one.”

“The prophesy, Meadowes,” the same voice, only steel was hidden beneath the silk and gloss, now.

“Cassandra was a famous Seer,” mumbled Dorcas, absently. “Lots of prophesies: no one believed her. Apollo was in there somewhere. Didn’t he curse her?”

She heard mutters from the six Death Eaters present, along the lines of Amycus being a little too enthusiastic with the ‘crucio’. They thought she was crazy. Maybe she was, a little. The pain was eating her alive, like a tiger, like a snake. If they thought she was crazy, would they stop? What prophesy? Dorcas wondered.

A thump as she fell to the ground; a sharp cry as her ankle crumpled beneath her. Dorcas lay on her side, curled into a ball. Someone kicked her in the back, but Dorcas rolled with it, limply- like a corpse.

Pain raked her again, and she screamed, feet drumming on the earth. It filled her until she thought she would burst from it, flesh torn from bone, and her hands and feet and head were drumming on the earth, and--- Oh God… “Enough!” commanded a man in cold, high, tones.

She slumped to the ground, pain leaving her gradually, tremors shaking her limbs from time to time, spasms locking her toes in painfully tight curls. Footsteps: the slight crunch of dead leaves, the slither of a cloak. Dorcas cracked her eyes open and peered upwards.

The Dark Lord leaned down. “Shall I tell you a secret, little Meadowes?”

Dorcas did not meet his eyes. She thought of friends, sweet Caradoc, and Gideon and Fabian. She thought about dying –release- and the brief golden moments at school. She clenched her eyes shut, heartbeat slow and shallow-fluttery in her throat.

His pale, long fingered hand caught her chin. “I cannot die,” he whispered.

Dorcas opened her eyes, jerking her head out of his grip, falling back on to the ground. She sprawled on her back, and said nothing, choking in breaths against the phantom pain clenching at her muscles. The air chilled the sweat on her skin.

“Silly girl. Did you think that you would make a difference? Everything that you have done, everything that you have sacrificed, has been in vain. You cannot harm me.” His mouth slit in a parody of a smile. “You and all the rest of the old fool’s rag-tag army cannot harm me.”

With a shock, Dorcas felt him sifting through the very edges of her mind, and she clamped down, focused on the pain. She was exhausted, empty. The pain was all that was left. If he couldn’t die, what could she do? What could anyone do? All that you can, girl. All that you can.

Dorcas pushed herself up on her elbows, head tipped to the side, icy certainty stilling her judderings. “Give me my wand,” she said, voice tight. “Give me back my wand and we’ll see. We’ll see.”

Implacable red eyes gazed down at her, quite without emotion. There was some quiet, menacing laughter from the Death Eaters around the clearing. A tall, masked figure stepped forward. “My Lord,” he said softly, a faint note of a query, or perhaps warning, in his voice. Dorcas thought she recognized that voice, but her head was buzzing, she could barely think.

Dorcas did not look away from a point just to the left of Voldemort’s eyes.

The Dark Lord appeared to be smiling. “Stand,” he said quietly.

Dorcas tried to climb to her feet, mind in fragments of ice, trying to buy herself time. “Stand!” he hissed, and Dorcas found herself jerked to her feet by invisible ropes, like a puppet. She staggered, and then caught her balance, swaying dizzily. She put a hand up to her face and it came away bloody.

The tall Death Eater who had just spoken to his Lord stepped forward and thrust her wand at her. Dorcas took it fastidiously from his hand, numbly. He had long, stained fingers, and they shook very slightly as she scrutinised the smooth mask, trying to see his eyes through the slits. She wondered if she had known him once.

Her own fingers were icy, but her hands were steady enough as she gripped her wand with the both of them. No more pain. No more.

Dorcas was shaking, but it was deep inside, so it didn’t show too badly. She stood balanced mostly on one leg, and she knew that she was going to die. It was like the knowledge of her own breathing- distant- and only obvious when she thought directly about it.

She faced the Dark Lord, wand out. The moment stretched, Dorcas’s eyes wide, wide, wide. The masks and robes in a magpie blur, her breath wrenching in her gullet like a rope. She smelt her own sour sweat, in the dark with pinpoints of lit wands shining like stars. A rake of his mind against her mind, but Dorcas remembered firelight, and wine, and flushed faces and smiles, remembered dark eyes and precious things; a kiss, the photograph that was pinned to her wall at home that would fade with age and sun in that empty room. Sorrow needled her in her stuttering heart, dull- unrelenting, as she thought of dust gathering where once she had lived, been loved.

Lord Voldemort recoiled from her memories, but now his wand lowered to point at her heart. Dorcas’s arms stretched towards him, wand tip quivering. “Bow,” said the Dark Lord, mockingly. Dorcas inclined her head, dizzy and aching; opposite her Lord Voldemort did the same.

She considered an Unforgivable- just for a second, and then she remembered a kind old man with steel in his eyes, and that there were things worse than death. She screamed, “Protego!” hoarsely as Voldemort snapped his wand out at her, but there was no jet of green light.

Dorcas was sent staggering backwards from his unspoken curse instead; there was a terrible pain in her wand arm- agony tearing her open from her elbow up. She kept her balance, just barely, crouching on one knee, cradling her right arm. It hung at a distorted angle, her wand dangling from suddenly nerveless fingers. Her Shield spell had stopped the worst of it, but her wand arm was still broken.

She laughed because this was never meant to be a fair fight, and tugged the wand into her left hand. Grim now, getting to her feet and, this time, there was no counter curse- not for the jet of green light that shot from her enemy’s wand, nor for the rushing that filled her ears. No time, no time, laughter gone, goodbye, love; one last breath and

she died with her wand in her hand.

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