Author: "lj user="kcstories">
Word Count: 4,517
Summary: A new, unexpected friendship sends Alice down a path she never would have walked alone.
Warnings: Liberties were taken with canon characters (Alice is a Hufflepuff, for instance) and timelines. Some dark-ish subject matter. Betrayal. Not a happy, fluffy tale. Also, second person narrative if you feel that requires a warning.
Disclaimer: Characters are the property of JK Rowling, et al. This was written for fun, not for profit.
Author's Notes: The prompt for this pairing was "Dark fic that takes place while they are still in school." I hope this is along the lines of what you had in mind, chimbomba. <3
She’s watching you again, across the room, demonstratively and ever-determined to capture your attention.
She never has to try extremely hard to get noticed. With her wild black hair and those dark, piercing eyes, she’s impossible to miss. She’s rather stunning, too, you think, in that unusual, angular way of hers, with that pale chiselled face and those long, lean limbs, and she carries herself with a grace and elegance you can only dream of.
And you do dream, with unsettling regularity lately, be it day or night.
Bellatrix Black fascinates you, has a conscious hold on you, but you can’t possibly fathom what a beautiful, rich girl like her could possibly want with a clumsy nonentity like you. You hope this isn’t some sort of cruel trick; you don’t think you could bear that.
But in either case, she does want something; that much is certain. You can tell. And you have this niggling feeling of excitement combined with something akin to apprehension that whatever it is, you’ll find out very soon.
‘Very soon’ turns out to be the next day.
You’re on your way back from Potions, all by yourself, trying desperately not to trip over your own feet and drop all your books and make a silly spectacle of yourself as you’re prone to do when you’re rushed and distracted, and you’re always so distracted these days.
Eyes, dark as night, haunt you when you try to sleep, and a sharp, pointy face with a smile that might as well be a sneer fills your restless dreams.
If this is a crush, you think you’re beginning to understand from where the word originates. A part of you feels shattered, like you’re not quite yourself anymore, not since you first noticed her noticing you.
“Hello there, little Alice,” a voice behind you says, sharp and authoritative, with an underlying layer of mystery that gives you goose bumps. You’d never be brave enough to break a single school rule, and yet you’ve developed an odd craving for danger. Some days, your mind seems almost like a stranger’s lately.
You turn around, already aware of who it is.
“Why on earth do you insist on carrying all those things yourself?” Bellatrix asks, twirling her wand like a worthless twig between her fingers.
Confused, you blink. “Who else would do it?” you manage in a small voice.
“Oh dear.” She rolls her eyes. “You’re supposed to be a witch, remember?” With a flick of her wand, your books levitate next to you, conveniently at shoulder height. “Learn to improvise. It’ll make your life much easier.”
“Right,” you mutter, eyeing the floating pile suspiciously. You half-expect her to send it crashing to the floor, not to tease you, but simply to demonstrate how easily she can.
“Don’t worry, little Alice,” she tells you. “Your books are quite safe; as are you, for that matter. I merely wanted to ask you a teensy little favour.” Her smile reminds you of a hungry predator, but then it usually does, and the realisation doesn’t frighten you in the slightest.
“Oh?” you say. “What is it?”
“Could I perhaps borrow your notes?” she asks casually while she examines a long, pointy fingernail. You’re certain she’d paint it blood red, like one of those Muggle film stars, if that were allowed around here.
“Notes?” you parrot.
“Hm. Your Divination notes,” she says. “That class always puts me half to sleep. I can’t stay focused long enough to write anything down. Besides, the very concept of what they teach us there is such an insult, too, don’t you agree?”
You give her a blank look, not a clue as to what she means. Your grand plan of not making a fool of yourself today has failed abysmally.
“I refuse to believe in a fixed destiny,” she states plainly. “I believe we choose our own path. If our entire future is already set in stone, then what’s the point of living at all? That’d make us all puppets.” Her eyes flash dangerously and she crosses her arms, as if daring anyone to challenge her. “Whatever happens, I will never be anybody’s puppet.”
“I see,” you mutter, because what is the correct response to something like that anyway?
She waves a dismissive hand. “Besides, I have more important matters to focus on than daft visions and soggy weeds at the bottom of teacups, too, you know.”
“Really?” you reply, out of politeness more than genuine interest. You decide you might as well grasp this opportunity to try to talk to her. Who knows if you’ll ever get another?
She looks around, clearly making certain no one else is around to watch or eavesdrop. “Yes. I’m having a little gathering later tonight, with some… likeminded associates of mine.”
You frown at ‘associates’. She always sounds so grown-up and sophisticated, like she knows everything. Maybe she does. How would you know any different? You’ve lead a pretty sheltered life thus far, even the other Hufflepuffs seem to think so.
“Would you like to join us?” she asks.
“Join you?” Your heart is hammering, and again you don’t know what to say.
“Yes. You’re pretty smart, despite appearances, and you’re a pureblood, too, are you not?”
“I… Yes,” you reply, “but what does my parentage have to do with….”
She doesn’t let you finish. She makes that dismissive gesture again and with a sinister smile, says, “Excellent. Meet me at nine by the North Gate, and do be punctual.”
You nod. “All right.” You’re not entirely certain why you agree. You’re being reckless in many ways. Your mother wouldn’t approve. You don’t even know who these so-called associates are, for starters. But the thing is, Bellatrix has you enthralled. You yearn to know more about her, and you long to be her friend. She doesn’t seem to have any friends, not as far as you’ve noticed; at least that’s one thing the two of you do have in common.
If you’re entirely honest with yourself, there are other things you long to be to her, too, beyond a mere friend, but those aren’t things you wish to think about, much less speak of, and perhaps you’re only star-struck. In your seventeen years, you never met anyone like her before.
“So,” she says, breaking the silence, “the notes, if you please?”
“Yes. Yes, of course.”
You reach into your satchel and hand her a small roll of parchment. She copies its contents during Transfiguration and on her way out of the classroom, she drops the roll onto your desk, never saying a word.
You follow them deep into the foggy woods and down a dark, muddy tunnel. Aside from you and Bellatrix, there are five other people present, and the longer you spend in their unsettlingly silent company, the more your anxiety gets the upper hand.
Why did you ever agree to come here? Does gaining her approval really mean that much to you?
Goodness, you barely even know the girl!
Regardless, it’s too late to change your mind now. You have to see this through until the end, whatever happens next.
It mightn’t even be anything bad, you feebly attempt to reassure yourself. Perhaps you’re only on your way to a secret party. Bellatrix seems the sort of person who’d sneak out to go dancing until dawn, and you wouldn’t be surprised to learn of some hush-hush location nearby where she can do just that.
You’ve been walking for almost an hour when you reach the end of the tunnel and find yourself standing in front of a door. One of the other people—you think you recognise him as a fifth-year Slytherin, but it’s impossible to tell for certain in the half-light—knocks three times. The look on his face is one of fearful determination.
You hold your breath. This clearly isn’t a recreational outing.
She insists on escorting you back to the Hufflepuff section. Part of you wishes she wouldn’t, because you still don’t know what to make of tonight’s events and her presence stops you from assessing the whole thing rationally. If you didn’t know any better, you’d believe she has you under some kind of spell.
Still, this… Lord they speak of, he sounds dangerous—twisted—and you’ve heard of people like him before. Your parents once mentioned acquaintances with similar beliefs; in veiled terms, however, and they didn’t disclose any specific names.
Now, you may not be terribly knowledgeable when it comes to political matters, but one thing you do know with absolute certainty…
This isn’t about personal protection or keeping the wizarding community safe.
This is about mindless violence and bloody war.
Yet the nearer you get to your Common Room, the better her company makes you feel. Something about her is reassuring—soothing—even if the opinions she revealed tonight are quite the opposite; but then, they’re just opinions, and quite harmless without actions to support them. Doesn’t your mother always say teenage rebellion is something one generally outgrows? Will that apply to Bellatrix and her ‘associates’ too? You wish you knew, but you have no idea what makes these people tick.
Bellatrix stops you in a corridor, two corners away from your destination. “We’ll say our goodbyes here,” she says. “We don’t want anyone to catch us.”
All you can think is that a long walk never seemed so short before. You don’t want her to leave yet. You wonder if anything has changed tonight. Do you have a friend now? Or won’t she even speak to you anymore tomorrow?
Lost in a maelstrom of thoughts, you don’t notice how close she’s standing until suddenly, unexpectedly, she kisses you on the lips. It’s your first kiss, and not at all what you thought. You haven’t a clue what’s expected of you, but you go along with it, hoping she won’t notice your inexperience, or worse, mock you for it, in your face or behind your back. It occurs to you that the kiss tastes bitter, like dark chocolate and those strange syrupy drinks they served at that gathering, but you suppose it’s fitting.
Before you can find the words to ask about her reasons for the kiss, she is already walking away, striding determinedly back to the Slytherin part of the castle.
She doesn’t look over her shoulder, nor do you expect her to.
At breakfast, she ignores you in favour of conversing with a brown-haired, big-nosed boy you also saw at last night’s gathering. He wasn’t a part of your group, however, so you wonder what his role is, and who his other ‘associates’ might be.
Despite your continued and almost desperate attempts at reassuring yourself, you can’t shake the feeling that something… odd is going on here, something huge and potentially life-changing, and Bellatrix is smack in the middle of it, willingly.
And thus, by association, so are you.
You only have one class that morning, Herbology.
You hurry there after breakfast and throughout the lesson, remain standing at the back of the greenhouse while you take notes. Normally, this is your favourite subject, and you’re always extremely eager to participate; you raise your hand at every opportunity you get.
Today, you can’t be bothered.
Your mind keeps drifting to last night, and you can’t decide whether to be relieved or disappointed that Bellatrix deems this class to be beneath her.
“It’s about boring old plants, and most of them are only known for their healing purposes,” she once said to a Housemate, loudly, so the entire Hall would hear. “If the fuddy-duddies in charge ever decide to add poisons, or even Venus Flytraps, to the curriculum, you know where to find me.”
You sigh, shake your head, and tell yourself to focus. Last night was a mistake, and that’s that.
Two hours later, she joins you in the library. Without a word, she takes the chair across from you and lays a thick book on the table. It lands with a hollow thud.
You look up, astonished.
All she gives you in response is a small smile.
You smile back tentatively and when you realise she didn’t come here to talk—that would have been difficult, anyway, considering where you are—you try to concentrate once again on your research for that awful Potions assignment you’ve been lumbered with.
She reads while you study, and at the back of your mind, you can’t help but wonder whether she’s supposed to have access to that book; it looks ancient, mysterious and forbidden.
When the bell rings for lunch and the other students—only a handful of them, not many people come here at this time of day—leave, she places her left hand on your arm.
“You’d look much better with your hair up,” she tells you, while sifting her right hand through your long mousey curls. “It’d be far more suited to the shape of your face.” She nods once, as if to emphasise her words. “Would you like me to fix that for you?”
You shrug. “All right.” It’s only hair, and you’ve never paid much attention to it before, so you gather it doesn’t matter.
Over the course of the following days, things change.
Despite your lingering apprehension—you just can’t shake the foul aftertaste of that wretched meeting, you find yourself spending more and more time with Bellatrix.
She has fixed your hair—or rather, shown you how to wear it differently; it now takes you ages to get ready every morning—and she usually sits next to you in the classes you share. A large chunk of your free time, you spend together in the library, or sitting in the courtyard or out by the lake, talking about everything and nothing in particular.
Sometimes she kisses you again, too, and you’re getting much better at it, even if you do say so yourself, but it doesn’t happen terribly often, because under no circumstances does she want anyone else to know about that aspect of your friendship.
“This should remain our little secret, Alice,” she says. “Certain people wouldn’t approve, and besides, it’s nobody’s business to start with. It’s something between you and me.”
Bellatrix is convinced that people in general, particularly those with no worthwhile lives of their own, have nothing better to do than to try to meddle in the affairs of others.
“It’s because they’re such dullards, you see. They hate what they cannot have, and they covet what they’re too cowardly to attempt, so they gawk and gossip to make up for their own shortcomings. They’re best left out of this. They’d only make some silly fuss. It’d be ever so trite.”
The more you think about those claims, the more you have to admit she may have a point.
Some of your Housemates have been giving you strange looks lately, ever since you’ve befriended Bellatrix, in fact. Moreover, a few Gryffindors in your year now make a point of avoiding you, like you’ve caught the plague, or worse.
Of course, none of them was ever your friend to begin with, so it’s no great loss.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, Professor Sprout accosts you in the corridor. “Is everything all right, Alice?” she asks. You strongly suspect her presence here isn’t as coincidental as it may look.
“Fine, Professor,” you reply politely.
“I noticed you haven’t been very vocal in my class lately. Is there something the matter?”
You shake your head. “No, not at all. I’ve just been feeling… a little overwhelmed and distracted, what with the upcoming N.E.W.T.s and everything. I do apologise if I’ve seemed… disinterested.”
It’s funny how easily the lies slip past your lips. If she were here, Bellatrix would certainly approve.
“I see,” Sprout says and then continues, hesitation plain in her tone, as though she knows she’s venturing onto thin ice, “You also seem to have made a new friend… Miss Black?”
You nod slowly and meet her questioning gaze head-on. You never would have been so brazen a few weeks ago, but oddly, your newfound friendship makes you feel bolder and more confident than you’ve ever felt in your entire life.
“Well,” she says and gives a pacifying smile. “That’s nice for you, dear. Still, if you ever need to talk, about your N.E.W.T.s or indeed anything at all, my door is always open.”
“Thank you,” you reply, your expression blank and your tone betraying no emotion.
“Right, then.” Sprout nods. “I’d best let you get on with it. You don’t want to be late for your next class.”
“No. Thank you, Professor.”
While you watch her scurry away, you wonder why everyone appears to be paying so much attention to you lately. No one ever cared before.
A niggling feeling in your gut tells you they have good reason to be worried.
You ignore it, for now.
A week later, at an undetermined number of minutes before the clock will strike midnight, you’re sitting next to Bellatrix on the floor of a starlit room in the Astronomy Tower.
She is gushing about him, her Lord. She’s been doing that a lot these past few days, and you have to admit, it’s beginning to grate. You’re not jealous, exactly, but you do feel neglected, overlooked, and you start to wonder… Is she tired of you already?
“I’ll bet he’s really very handsome underneath that mask,” she says, “charismatic,” and sneers in a manner that verges on smug. Most other girls would probably giggle after a statement like that—the girls in your dorm do, at any rate, whenever they’re discussing boys; usually Quidditch players who, according to one of Bellatrix’ many theories, only cultivate big muscles because their puny brains are a lost cause—but Bellatrix isn’t like most other girls. She doesn’t giggle, and she rarely laughs, unless it’s maliciously, at the expense of others.
“Do you think you’ll ever get to see him?” you ask, forcing a bright smile even as your stomach clenches.
“Well.” She looks thoughtful. “I don’t know. They never tell beforehand when he’ll be there; safety reasons, you understand. They probably don’t mention it afterwards, either.” Her eyes widen. “Perhaps I’ve already seen him. Perhaps you did, too, when I took you to that gathering. Wouldn’t that be funny; we were both in the same room as The Dark Lord, and we never even knew it?” She sighs dreamily. “I do hope someone will introduce me to him one day. He’s our salvation, you know. He’ll make everything better.”
“Yes,” you reply, out of habit, and wrap your cloak more tightly around your shoulders. It feels like the temperature in the room just dropped considerably.
The following morning, Bellatrix doesn’t show up for breakfast. You’re neither surprised nor concerned, however. She has skipped meals before. She claims mealtimes create the best opportunity for exploring the castle and undertaking things that are best carried out without possible witnesses.
”You’d be amazed at how conveniently deserted this place is when everyone’s busy stuffing their faces.”
You don’t know what secret mission—the term almost makes you smile—she is on today, but no doubt you’ll find out soon enough. She likes to brag about her ventures. Whatever they are this time, you fervently hope her precious Lord isn’t involved.
You finish your eggs and bacon, quickly down another glass of pumpkin juice, get up from your chair and head for the door.
You’ll be a little too early for Potions, but Slughorn won’t mind. It might even earn you some Housepoints if he’s in a particularly generous mood.
You’re four steps into the corridor, when a hesitant male voice calls out behind you. “Alice?”
You turn around. A boy you recognise as Frank… something-or-other is standing there.
“Yes?” you say, belatedly realising you sound a bitter snippier than you’d like; Bellatrix must be rubbing off on you.
He takes a deep breath. “T-This is none of my business, I suppose, but the Black girl, she…”
“Yes?” This time, your sharp tone is a hundred percent intentional.
He presses on, regardless. “She’s bad news. Y-You should be careful in your dealings with her,” he finishes and looks at you in manner that can only be described as pleading; you almost feel sorry for the poor bugger.
“You’re absolutely right,” you say, slowly, and then add, wiping the careful smile off his face before it gets the chance to come to full fruition, “It is absolutely none of your business.”
You turn on your heel and leave him standing there, staring after you with his mouth open wide, while you stride out of sight, straight to the Potions classroom.
That evening, you’re out after curfew again and you hope that wherever Bellatrix is taking you this time, won’t involve a ‘gathering’.
You still haven’t figured out how you might successfully avoid attending another one of those meetings—honestly, just the one was more than enough—but if worst comes to worst, you reckon you could always feign a headache or tummy trouble or something similar. Telling her the truth certainly isn’t an option. You wouldn’t want to offend her; she’s the only true friend you’ve ever had.
You descend the fifth flight of stairs and are suddenly overcome with a strange, nauseating sense of foreboding that makes you shudder. You’ve never liked the dungeons, or even the concept of dungeons. You thrive on sunshine and daylight and fresh air.
“Watch your step,” she says, grabbing your arm as she all but shoves you into a corridor. She sounds excited and, as usual, is completely oblivious to your ever-growing discomfort. “Here we are. Hogwarts’ best kept secret, all ours now.”
You’re standing in front of wide wooden doors that look like they haven’t been opened in decades.
She grins at you. “I overheard something interesting yesterday, and I more or less put two and two together. That’ll show those idiots who keep insisting that girls are useless. I’m quite certain His Lordship doesn’t feel that way, or we wouldn’t even be allowed to attend the gatherings, would we? No doubt he appreciates a woman’s cunning at least as much as a man’s.”
You nod, and then ask, ever-quick to steer the topic of conversation far away from Him, “So, um, what is it you wanted to show me?”
“Right.” She releases your arm and whips out her wand. “Behind these doors lurks a source of true power. Listen very carefully and don’t breathe a word.”
She points her wand and mutters something you don’t quite catch. It’s a Dark spell, though; you’d bet good money on that.
The doors fly open, and your initial impression is that the room behind them is empty, save for that unsavoury smell that seeps out and permeates your nostrils even at a few feet away. You swallow hard.
Bellatrix whispers something else, and then you hear it… A distinct hissing sound and the rustling noise of something moving, something big and…. dangerous?
Your blood runs cold.
”She’s bad news.”; the words keep racing through your mind. He was right. They all were, and you’ve been…incredibly stupid and naïve. “Even for a Hufflepuff,” a self-deprecating voice in your head says.
Next to you, Bellatrix is laughing, her face a picture of glee and satisfaction. “True power, Alice,” she says. “Just imagine what we could do with such a fantastic beast obeying our every command.”
Reluctantly, you risk taking another glance into the dark room. Your eyes widen when you notice it clearly, a large, pointy fang glistening in the reflection of the torches lining the corridor walls.
You do the only thing you can do, the one thing that comes naturally; you scream, the shrill sound reverberating all around you.
Bellatrix’ euphoric laughter rings in your ears as you turn around and start to run.
You keep running, as fast as you can, up many stairs and through countless spindly corridors. More than once, you almost stumble. You were always so clumsy on your feet.
You were also wrong, wretchedly wrong about this, about her.
You don’t stop running until you’ve reached Professor’s Sprout’s quarters.
You lift a heavy, trembling hand and loudly knock; three times.
You don’t want to go through with this, but you have no choice. At heart, you’re still a good girl.
At the break of dawn, the castle is abuzz with rumours, some of them more over the top than others.
Six men from the Ministry arrive, all black robes and glum expressions when they step out of their large carriage.
They can detect no traces of the creature you described; they refer to it as ‘The Basilisk’ and inform you it has killed before. They seal the doors to that dark room regardless, claiming that the past must never repeat itself.
A surprisingly unsuspecting Bellatrix is lifted from her bed and taken in for questioning. She has some explaining to do, they tell her, and she’s in a lot of trouble; the authorities take every disturbance, no matter how minor, very seriously these days.
Even though you’re convinced you did the right thing—let’s face it; there was nothing else you could do—you’re also overcome with an almost paralysing sense of regret. In spite of it all, you still like Bellatrix, care about her, and you’ll miss her terribly, too, or at the very least, you’ll miss the idea of her, the person you thought she was.
You watch through one of the first-floor windows as two men lead her to the carriage.
She insists she didn’t do anything wrong, and claims that, surely, she can’t be held responsible for Hogwarts’ abysmal lack of safety precautions.
“If the castle is indeed so heavily warded, one of the safest places in Britain, supposedly, then shouldn’t you be trying to track down the incompetent fool who allowed that beast to live? Assuming there even exists such a beast in the first place. Little Alice has been known to have a vivid and slightly overactive imagination; to compensate for the other shortcomings in her mind, I shouldn’t be surprised.”
You hear those parting words clearly, as does everyone else watching. They cut through you like a dagger and you expect they’ll haunt you for a long time to come.
You take a deep, steadying breath, close your eyes and count to five. When you open them again, you’re shocked to find her looking straight at you, shooting you a dark glare, the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It’s an unspoken threat that’s equally a promise.
”This is not over.“
A chill runs up and down your spine. You watch in silence, your heart racing as the carriage drives out of sight, taking her to Merlin knows where for heaven knows how long.
You don’t know when you’ll see her again, but you already know, with absolute certainty that it will be a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’ and that your next meeting will be anything but pleasant.