think of reading this. Betrayal, theft, torture, and death follow.
I used myself, let nothing use me.
Adrienne Rich, “Necessities of Life”
Her colleague’s rigid sense of order made him predictable: a weakness she planned to exploit, as she had already exploited his vanity and lust. Working with him on those joint projects enabled her to predict what she could find and where she should look. Of course his wards would be nasty, but they would be no match for her.
She glanced at the wizard slumped unconscious at his work table. The wand which he’d tried to draw—good for him, actually, though far too late—had rolled a few inches from his fingers. It trailed through his spilled wine. Her full lips curved at the sight—what presumption, believing she would come here to socialize with him! But he did good work when he kept his place. If he dared to try to proclaim her theft, he’d be mocked relentlessly for having been so gullible—and the Dark Lord would still give her the credit for her cleverness tonight.
It took three variations of Revelo to make visible his strongbox; it took six tries to open it. She did like a challenge; she felt almost friendly towards the insensible wizard, though not as friendly as he had clearly hoped she’d feel.
One of his wards required one to have a Dark Mark to unlock it; another, daringly, required elements of a Patronus charm. Oh, his mind was devious! She looked forward to seeing what work he’d so hidden.
Whenever he tidied away their mutual work in progress, he put the most finished work at the top for ease of access. Having watched him slot ingredients and implements meticulously back in place, she was sure this reflected his general habit. This meant—her dimples deepened—if she got only one thing tonight, she’d get his best.
She bent over the box, careful not to touch the parchment. Her eyes lit with enthusiasm—this would be useful in combat indeed, if the Dark Lord approved this use of the Mark. The weaker Death Eaters would love it. She sneered a little at the mangled Latin of the incantation: “mortrettio”, indeed. The diagrams of the wand movements, though, were exquisitely drawn. When she was sure she had the spell memorized, she carefully levitated it out to see the next parchment.
She blinked and swayed. She looked down at the box—she’d gotten it open, good, but one of his hexes must have affected her slightly. She leaned forward and examined the topmost parchment, careful not to touch it. The spell was complete, or near as good as; she raised her eyebrows as she visualized its effects. Only the more powerful Death Eaters would be able to utilize it, but, oh yes, the Dark Lord would like to add this vicious tidbit to their arsenal. She’d bring it to Him tonight.
She carefully levitated the parchment aside; yes, the next spell down was much farther from a final form. Interestingly malevolent—it would be a race between them, then, who could complete and present it first. She glanced at her unconscious rival and smiled.
Below were random notes. They might be worth perusing in depth, but she heard the wizard stir and mutter something unintelligible. She turned her head and looked at him reflectively. Breaking through his wards had taken longer than she’d anticipated; it might be nearly time for the potion to wear off. She didn’t think she wanted to be here when he woke. A duel with him might well prove enlivening, but it would require more energy than she had planned to waste on this evening. She cast a condescending glance at the younger man as she pulled her cloak over her silk robes. She’d better make sure she recast the wards on his hovel when she left; if anyone came in after her and harmed him, the Dark Lord would be annoyed. He had made it clear that he had plans involving this one.
When she jousted with wizards, what she loved best was to beat each at his own game. The good-looking she entranced with glamours and allures, the magically powerful she outdid in spellcasting, the looming hulks found themselves unpleasantly surprised by her physical quickness and agility…. This one had always boasted most of his cleverness. She was laughing as she warded his home behind her.
She demonstrated the new spell triumphantly. It was currently incurable: fatal, but fairly slowly so with the best mediwizardry, thus tying up enemy resources in futile care. Yet the curse instantly incapacitated the victim—what could be better?
What could be better, seriously, would be if it were easier to cast. The best of the Death Eaters were strong enough to use it, but many of the Lord’s followers would not be able to manage.
However, an idea about that problem had taken hold somewhere in her mind, if she could only bring it into focus.
The Dark Lord turned to her rival after her triumph and said softly, “Have you anything equally interesting for us tonight, my little Snake?”
Her rival was kept (by the Dark Lord’s will and, apparently, by his own preference) in the shadows. He only attended full gatherings, and he always kept fully masked and hooded. Only those few who, like her, had reason to work directly with him knew his identity. But they all knew the slight figure as the demonstrator of some spectacular new curses.
She smiled at him through her own mask. He would show them nothing tonight. His figure had been rigid throughout her demonstration and the Dark Lord’s words—she imagined that she could taste the boy’s fury and humiliation. She licked her lips, awaiting his answer.
Her rival bowed his head and said, “My lord, I have nothing—quite prepared— to demonstrate this time. Perhaps the next, if it pleases you?”
She had to give the boy this: his tone was quite even. She raised her chin to him in an ironic salute.
Her theft seemed to have put her rival off his stride; she watched, gloating, as his next demonstration failed. She recognized the idea from his notes; an intriguing attempt to turn the enemy’s ill-wishes against them, but he hadn’t quite pulled it off in practice. It was over-elaborate; he had to hold the focus of the spell for too long before it took effect. Even the immobilized prisoner had had too much time to struggle; the spell would clearly be worse than useless in a raid.
Her obeisance to the Dark Lord was especially graceful this time. She looked aside at the slight figure as she rose to demonstrate her own newest: his second work-in-progress and she’d completed the spell first. There had been a tricky adjustment in the wand grip; had he failed to correct for that, or had he simply given up the race?
She really wished that they could have been unmasked: she wanted to see his face, and she wanted to give him the benefit of her smile.
Meanwhile that vague idea was blossoming into a new spell of her own. The Dark Mark itself held power; if the Dark Lord would consent to let His followers tap it briefly in combat… A sharp slash of the wand, a pulling—this spell would be mostly in the movements. If it worked, a Death Eater could pull extra power through his Mark, limited only by his native ability to absorb it. It would allow weaker wizards to cast spells normally past their strength; it would allow stronger ones, like her, to magnify their power dramatically, if briefly. How she could use it in a duel! One casting would amplify the wizard’s power for ten to fifteen minutes; many raids only lasted so long. Providing, of course, that the Dark Lord consented to this use of the Mark…. She needed to refine it fully before presenting it to Him. Best of all, it could be cast by anyone with a Mark on anyone with a Mark. So if a raid leader were burdened with incompetents on his team—as her brother complained happened more often than not—he could use this spell to bring them power enough to be useful.
Ah. Her rival was back in top form. His demonstration was unimpressive enough: the spell seemed simply to affect the victim like a short-duration Cruciatus. Her rival’s eyes glittered in triumph through his mask, however, as he turned the prisoner over with his foot, flaunting her limpness. “My Lord,” he said smoothly. “May I be allowed to explain this spell’s advantages?”
The Dark Lord lazily moved a hand in assent.
The voice was smug now. “The one great disadvantage of the Unforgiveables is that, as one of my colleagues is fond of saying,” he bowed here towards Bellatrix’s unmistakable figure, “‘You have to really mean them.’ This spell, while obviously less forceful than the true Cruciatus, can be cast with much less effort. It should be easily within the capabilities of even our newest or least powerful compatriots. Moreover, for use in combat it offers an advantage: the, ah, recipient, is automatically paralyzed for up to an hour, whereas a strong-willed wizard can often shake off the effects of the Cruciatus with more alacrity than is convenient.”
The clever bastard! She wished she had gotten this one, too. He cast a glance at her as he retired back to his shadows; she was sure he was smirking behind his mask.
He wasn’t smirking when their spy’s report came in from the Ministry. The Aurors’ interrogation of the captured Death Eaters had determined that the lightest of Protegos successfully bounced his new spell—and that it also rebounded on the caster if it chanced to cross with a stunner. Moody had apparently waxed quite humorous on the subject of over half a dozen Death Eaters disabled by their own spells.
He dropped to his knees before the Dark Lord, his face fixed and white. “My Lord, I cannot atone for my carelessness.”
“No. You can’t. Crucio!”
He writhed on the floor.
She smiled at the Dark Lord appealingly; He nodded permission and she cast. The Dark Lord spoke over the screams, “However well you serve me in other tasks, carelessness like this is never permissible, my little Snake.”
When they stopped, he gasped harshly for a few moments. Then he laboriously turned on his face, got his knees under him, and grovelled before their Lord. “My Lord, I cannot atone, but I can serve you by analyzing the problem. My error has uncovered a more fundamental one, an error in our testing procedures. Our reliance on using unarmed prisoners for testing is what allowed my inexcusable carelessness to have such serious effects. My Lord—perhaps our test protocols should more closely simulate combat.”
The Dark Lord regarded him coldly. “Perhaps. I expect such—error—to be corrected.”
His gaze turned to her for a moment. Unjust! Her spells had never failed.
“Masks again, both of you. This is hardly the end of your punishment, little Snake.”
His hands shook as he fumbled at his mask. She finally was ordered to help him; she caressed his throat with a thumb as she adjusted his hood. The boy flinched.
Once they were anonymous, he called the rest in. “Amuse yourselves as you will: this man’s error has resulted in the capture of seven of our comrades. However, it is my will that he remain both alive and unmarked. Ah—unmarked, that is, by Monday. You,” he designated one—Lucius, by his bearing, “shall ensure that this is so. The rest of you, enjoy.”
It was a little disappointing that her rival wasn’t to be killed, but she recalled a Daily Prophet article about Hogwarts staff changes and understood. His primary use to the Dark Lord was no longer his creativity. If he happened to survive his task there, well, no doubt she’d eventually have another chance at him.
The last several raids had failed disastrously, but it was not the raid-leaders gathered here for judgment. They were in Azkaban.
There were only three of them in the room: the other Death Eaters waited beyond for punishment. There was no doubt, none at all, that punishment would be forthcoming.
Her rival, that boy, had removed his mask in this privacy; he regarded her with impassive black eyes.
Her Lord spoke softly. “The importance of testing in realistic combat conditions had been previously stressed, my dear. Which must surely include, for us, the casting of Morsmordre? Over two dozen Death Eaters captured in the last four raids; it would have been worse, had my little Snake here not warned against using any of the newer spells until we had analyzed the problem. All of the teams in question had used your newest, my dear, and ran into trouble near the end of the raid. How do you explain this failure?”
Her Lord smiled at her, and her bowels turned to liquid. In His shadow her rival’s eyes glinted.
Her Mortractus pulled power through the Dark Mark. More precisely, her spell drew power to the Dark Mark, to be used by its bearer. The spell automatically limited the pull to what the Mark’s bearer could absorb and use.
But Morsmordre created the Dark Mark as a beacon in the sky: there was no fleshly bearer to use the power—or to limit the pull by the flesh’s ability to absorb it. Power would be drawn to the beacon and dissipate in the air.
The Mortractus would therefore draw more. The spell would start pulling power through--from--any of the Mark’s wizardly bearers who were close enough.
Her spell, her clever new spell, had drained two dozen Death Eaters to unconsciousness and left them like trash for the Aurors to pick up.
“My Lord…,” she stammered wildly. There was no possible excuse. The dark boy stepped out from His shadow, smiling at her comprehension. He donned his mask gracefully as the Dark Lord summoned the others.
The Dark Lord instructed that his followers should use only her own inventions on her.
It was Snape’s stolen spell to liquefy the viscera that finally killed her.
She had tried, at the end, to explain that it was his.