For those who are interested in the progress of the re-translation of the early chapters: number five has just been updated.
Chapter beta: Dani
Chapter translator: Aivy
I had visited the great Hall of Barons. The hall was centrally located on the first floor, Lucius' and Narcissa's wings were situated to the left and right.
The hall was enormous; if I had found the ballroom large before it shrank to a relatively normal size in comparison. It was impressive, built in the medieval, Gothic style from smooth, light beige sandstone, which were left plain and unadorned. At each end of the long wall to the right were two huge stone fireplaces into both of which a full-grown ox would easily fit.
Between them were some large, allegorical tapestries. The floor was covered with dark, brushed wooden planks and the ceiling was also made of dark wooden beams and struts, and despite the insane height, the dark ceiling felt very oppressive.
The high, pointed, narrow windows seemed to fit more into a cathedral than into a manor house and let in very little light, giving the hall a distinctly dramatic, somber touch. The flair of past times wafted through the hall, which must have stood on the ground floor of the house once upon a time and then been magically moved to the first floor when it had to make room for the ballroom - I couldn't explain it any other way - but this made it all the more impressive.
I had discussed with the house elves how I wanted it to happen: there were to be man-high, green-veined black marble columns everywhere with large bronze bowls on top in which a crackling fire burned that would spread a diffuse, greenish light.
The canapés and drinks would be served by no less than ten elves, and I integrated a spell that never let the glasses get empty, so the elves would have to hand out a glass to each guest only once and otherwise just have to provide the food.
As Severus had confided to me, the Dark Lord would not appreciate sitting at a table, so this had occurred to me. It would be funny to see the elves scurrying among the probably frighteningly lost looking seventeen people, not counting the lord, as the room could easily hold one hundred and fifty people without any feeling of confinement.
We would look very out of place. During the whole planning process, I experienced a feeling of ridiculousness.
In the centre of the room, opposite the two fireplaces at the window front, I would build the throne for the Dark Lord on a slightly elevated platform. It did not look particularly comfortable.
It was made of dark, almost black wood with a pointed, triangular-shaped backrest and enclosing armrests, very plain, with only minimal decoration on the outside. It reminded me of King Edward's Chair. Only the legs on which the clunky throne chair ended were elaborately designed and showed intricately carved, detailed silvery snakes. I would place a dark green velvet cushion with silver embroidery on the smooth seat.
All in all, I wouldn't want to sit on that thing, though who was I to form an opinion about it?
I was slightly despairing about the infinite depths of the hall and in order to make it seem not as spacious as it appeared now, I had fallen for the absurd idea of putting up small, young silver willows and distributing them generously.
The expanding, low-hanging, silvery-white narrow lance-shaped leaves of this hybrid type of weeping willow shimmered and glistened and were thus noticeable even from afar. Since I assumed that flowers would not have pleased the Dark Lord, they would lighten the mood, the bright little trees in their green pots, in the very gloomy atmosphere that would prevail here, since at the time when the celebration began it would be about 10 p.m., thus ruling out any light shining through the already narrow windows.
Was my enthusiasm noticeable?
Yes? No? Anyway, it had to be done and pragmatically as I was, I did my best.
I thought it was a success!
I wondered how my work would be received. The hall now looked like a forest. A window and a little tree alternated on the left side, only interrupted by the throne, which was flanked by two willows on each side.
From the reaction of the house elves I had learned that nothing like that had ever been seen before, and that was good, wasn't it?
There were no other chairs or seating accommodations. Nobody sat in the presence of the Dark Lord, so I could make do without them and the room didn't become fuller because of that.
Oh well, I was curious.
I had a harp set up in the hidden gallery, which should start playing magically after Draco's initiation had taken place.
In my opinion, there was nothing more to do and I knew Lucius hadn't even bothered to look at what I was doing. Either I should be offended at the disregard, or delighted at the vote of confidence in my abilities. Well, I was undecided on that...
Severus, astonishingly, had also been extremely restrained. I had only seen him at two dinners since our meeting in the library, during which time he had seemed very stressed and distracted.
Draco had offered his assistance, but I had seen in the depths of his eyes that he did not like to think about what was to come. Hey, I understood that and I could sympathise with that from the bottom of my heart, so I hadn't burdened him with my preparations. I was also much too stubborn to change anything about my ideas now, so I took a deep breath and got to it.
Everything was ready. I had transformed the hall into a dark, mysterious and mystical forest.
Draco was ready too. He stood before me, his white-blond hair shining brightly, because the rest of his appearance was rather dark. He wore a noble attire: well-fitting, tight trousers, in black of course, a black short-sleeved shirt and above it a black, long, straight-cut jacket, like a frock coat. It was very simple, but appropriate for his initiation.
He, Lucius and Severus would now receive the guests until the Dark Lord arrived shortly before ten o'clock and I was to wait here. Yes, sure! was all I could think of. I'd die of nervousness. Most of all, I wanted to see how Draco would react when he was marked.
I kissed Draco, and he kissed me. We both tried masterfully to pretend that what was to come didn't bother us that much or even disturbed us and so our kiss was passionate, but there was also a hint of unexpressed despair in it, the despair we had forbidden ourselves to voice during the last few days.
When Draco broke free with force and, accompanied by a sigh, kissed me on the forehead and left, I closed my eyes and prayed for patience. It felt very strange.
I had not gotten ready yet. While I had gone into the bath with Draco, I was not properly dressed. I took great care with my appearance, put on makeup, starting with a glittering eye shadow in silver, outlined my eyes with black kohl, enhancing them very much. They stuck out from my face like big headlights.
Then I mascaraed my eyelashes in black and applied a blood-red lipstick to my lips as a crowning touch. I put my hair in big waves and brushed it out of my face, but left it hanging free. My appearance now resembled that of Snow White, for my skin was pale with tension.
It had taken me a long time before I knew what I wanted to wear. Then I had decided on an elegant black, floor-length velvet dress. This figure-hugging, tight dress was quite simple. The rectangular neckline, which tapered slightly into a v-shape and showed my décolleté, was bordered with broad, silver, rectangular ornaments which continued across the chest, along the belly to the floor, and edged the hem.
Above the belly, the dress was gathered together by means of a long ribbon, which was threaded crosswise into small loops, so that it had a well-defined waist and emphasized my curves very nicely. The wide trumpet sleeves were also adorned by the same silver ornamental border at the level of the elbows and thus divided into two parts.
A wide hood sprang from the neckline, the front edge framed by the same silver border as the neckline, making everything look very coherent.
I pulled the black velvet hood over my head, so that it covered half of my head, but still showed part of my hair, leaving my face free.
The outfit was completed by black high heeled velvet pumps. So I looked at myself in front of the mirror and found myself appropriately dressed for the occasion. I was ready to go into battle to save my life and probably also Draco's, as I had to admit.
Today I finally had the opportunity to show off Draco's Christmas present for the first time and so I opened the light green velvet jewelry box.
I brushed my fingertips over the beautiful and precious present again and then fastened the filigree white-gold chain around my neck. The large, square emerald, which was enclosed by four diamonds at the corners, rested prominently on my bust. To finish, I put the matching ring on my right index finger. The ring was also made of white gold and in the middle of it was also a large square emerald. Both gemstones had the Malfoy 'M' magically projected into it and it shimmered like a watermark through the intense, dark green of the gemstone.
I was finished, looking all around elegant and beautiful. My men would not have to be ashamed of me and the jewelry emphasised my affiliation to the family.
My goddess, I was restless.
I knew I could not stand to wait here and I had no intention of doing so, for I was always well prepared. It was not surprising then that thanks to the construction plans I had studied when I first arrived here, I knew where a secret passageway was hidden from where one could observe what was happening in the hall.
First of all, I wouldn't want to miss how Draco was initiated and secondly, I wanted to form an opinion about how it was done.
Lucius and Severus wanted to fetch me only after the first guests had left; this was what we had agreed upon, above all so that not everyone would see me, especially not the Lestranges.
My hiding place was in the wall with the fireplaces behind which was a secret passage and in some places you could peer into the hall. There was also a secret door, which was invisible because it was integrated into the stones. It was in the middle, on the left side of one of the fireplaces. The door could be opened by operating a hidden mechanism attached to the fireplace. I had found it thanks to the plan and my skill. All I had to do was go through Draco's secret door in his dressing room and then take another turn and I would face everything and see it live.
I hurried towards the door and the passage remained dark; it wasn't as if I hadn't practiced the last few days. I left nothing to chance. As soon as I arrived, I opened the small hatch, which revealed two tiny peepholes, and thanks to a non-verbal spell I cast, I could see much more than if I had pressed myself against the wall.
It was shortly before ten. Everyone had gathered, they were all there, gossiping and whispering happily as if they were at a Ministry reception and not at a black revel.
The hall shone in an eerie, unearthly greenish shimmering mystical light. Only the candles on the large chandelier hanging from the ceiling cast a normal white light which was reflected by the silvery leaves of the willow trees, making them shimmer brightly, but a dark haze hung over everything and created a gloomy atmosphere.
I knew Severus and Lucius had been regularly asked by the Dark Lord what to expect, who to expect, who the great unknown was, and had shown his amusement when his two best men played coy.
I believe by now he had great expectations.
Lucius and Severus were standing together and talking. Draco was next to them and the three wizards dominated the hall with their imperious appearance. Severus was clad in black as always with a white plastron and Lucius in dark blue and silver, classy and very handsome.
I spotted Bellatrix Lestrange standing to the side of a silver willow just tearing off some hanging leaves.
She had her waist-length curly mane of hair teased high and wildly, loosely pinned up on the top of her head. A floor-length black skirt fell heavily down her narrow figure, thanks to the velvet, and was tightly cut and caressed her gait. Over it she wore a beautiful, figure-hugging, very refined gothic-style corsage, which was fitted with a striking middle section, which tapered over the belly and was edged with a grey border. Her upper body and her chest were wonderfully shown to advantage in this fashion. The long sleeves started as light puffed sleeves at the shoulders and then became very tight, clinging to her arms. At the bottom the sleeves were tapered so that they could be attached to her middle finger with a loop. The tapered top did not quite merge with the skirt, and so part of her white, pale skin was visible on the right and left.
She looked good, even though she pulled a face as if she was sick. All the other ladies wore similarly medieval dresses as I did. The gentlemen were dressed up in fancy suits and even the parents of Crabbe and Goyle didn't look so stupid, just bulky and stout, but not intellectually challenged. It was an illustrious, distinguished company that had a good time in the relatively gloomy room.
I flinched as the double doors opened with a bang and a few seconds later, striving for a dramatic pause, a tall, towering, dark figure silently glided into the hall, wearing a black, long, flowing, silky wizard's robe.
All conversations fell silent immediately and suddenly all the ladies sank into a deep, reverent curtsey and the gentlemen quickly bowed humbly and extremely low; it was as if they were trying to touch the ground with their noses.
Only my three men remained calm, laid their hands on their hearts and only slightly bent their upper bodies respectfully, but they didn't drop to the ground like everyone else. Even the Lestrange had done a floor-deep curtsey and lowered her head. It was exciting to see how everyone groveled in front of him. At the same time, one could feel the power and presence of the Dark Lord; the magic seemed to reside powerfully in every one of his pores.
In his back, in the diffuse light, I could make out a chubby little man with light, reddish-grey hair, dressed in a dark grey suit, who crept in insecurely in a crouched position and immediately positioned himself off the wall, close to the fireplace.
Wormtail. I recognized him immediately and I would have loved to wring his neck in a seething rage. This cowardly, treacherous rat, I thought contemptuously, hopefully I will give him the heart attack of his life with my appearance today.
The Dark Lord silently walked past the cordon of bowing wizards and curtsying witches, ignoring them, which had Bellatrix flushing with anger and clenching her hands in fists as he glided past her without noticing her.
What amazed me was that as he walked towards Lucius and Severus. Approaching them, he now raised his hollow, inhuman voice that echoed strangely in the spacious hall:
"Lucius, excited? Your son and heir has the honour today to be inducted as the second youngest Death Eater ever!"
The wizard who had been spoken to straightened up at what I thought were unusually friendly words and gave the Dark Lord a cynical smile. It shocked me that these two looked at each other as if it were an internal joke that they shared.
The others did not notice anything of the exchange, as they were not yet looking up. Only Severus and Draco had bowed their heads only slightly, minimally, when I looked at the others, who almost sank into the ground.
"As always, My Lord, we are aware of the honour you bestow upon my family," Lucius smarmed pompously. Bellatrix grimaced bitterly; the two seemed to love each other.
"Well, Severus, did you help make this place look so mystical?" he now allowed the Number Two to raise his head by addressing him and stepped high-handedly towards his throne, climbed the small pedestal and his long robe slid across the floor.
"My Lord, no," Severus grumbled ill-tempered as usual and the Dark Lord only nodded benevolently. He was probably used to that from Severus!
It said a lot about Severus' position that he could afford to answer like that.
I bit my lips to stop any sound when I imagined it was always like this. The picture was glorious: Lucius buttering him up and Severus standing there, grumbling, blocking out Lucius' chatter... Hilarious!
The Dark Lord now turned to his audience and thus to me. He pulled back his hood, which had covered his head until now, and revealed his frightening appearance, which sought to make me hiss.
I had known he was not beautiful and he looked like a... Well, just like that, it was unreal to see him now. So white that Draco looked tanned next to him, so waxy pale, the bare skull, the snake-like face with the flat, slit nose, the narrow lips and the reptilian-like, red glowing eyes...
He was simply indescribable and abysmally ugly. Nothing against the young, handsome, black-haired man I had seen in the archives in the newspaper articles when he became Hogwarts' head boy in his seventh year. Even then, he was no longer innocent, I knew, but handsome. What death didn't do to anyone, I thought somehow with gallows humour.
"Draco, nervous?" he almost hissed as he slowly sat down and Draco straightened his head.
"Yes, My Lord, I am nervous, but also impatient to serve you," Draco’s answer came in a controlled manner and the Dark Lord's resulting laughter sent shivers down my spine.
"You are your father's son! ... Rise," he now turned despotically, coldly to his other subordinates, who now rose from their deep bows and finally looked at him with shining eyes.
His indifferent gaze wandered over his Inner Circle and although it was difficult to judge from a distance, he seemed to show more respect for my men than for the rest of those present. If you saw how they were submissively currying favour, I would also look around with contempt.
"Let us begin," the Dark Lord commanded coldly.
Now a choreography was set in motion and so the other Death Eaters joined together in a semicircle in front of the throne, each in his designated place. The wives lined up in a semicircle behind them at a greater distance. Everything waited in suspense.
"Draco, kneel down," HE demanded and Draco complied immediately, but had opened his jacket beforehand and Severus, who completed the semicircle next to the Dark Lord on the left side, took it off him before Draco obediently but also very self-confidently went down on one knee and showed the Dark Lord his bare, flawless left forearm.
"Will you serve me?" whispered the older wizard in a haunting voice.
"Will you be faithful to me?" he whispered with pursed lips.
"Will you be loyal to me?" the next question came briskly and there was a flash of red in his eyes.
Shivers ran down my spine as Draco answered so earnestly and solemnly. When I heard that, I was amazed. He didn't make Draco swear? Was it the status of the Malfoys that they stood by themselves to the Dark Lord and it was only lip service what they offered the Lord?
Yes, perhaps. The Dark Lord himself knew that with the way they appeared and what they portrayed and represented, they had to distance themselves from him often enough to get the best out of the situation.
Now I saw Lucius draw a smoke-grey, plain athame and offer it over the back of his arm to the Dark Lord with the handle first, as he led the semicircle on the right side.
The Lord reached for it, rose and walked towards Draco who was kneeling in front of the platform. In front of him, he pricked his finger without any visible emotion, handed the ritual dagger back to Lucius and now grabbed Draco's forearm with his long, delicate fingers.
He let a single drop of his blood fall on the pale skin, then he healed the wound silently. He had really managed to give only a single drop. Wow, amazing! I exhaled tensely. The light in the hall and the partially medieval robes made this ceremony seem very unreal and mystical.
There was a dead silence in the hall. Not a sound could be heard when the red glowing eyes of the Dark Lord suddenly flashed upwards, lifting from Draco's arm, which they had previously fixed and looking at the wall opposite him, towards me . My breath stopped in shock.
I felt as if he could see me through the stone. The seconds of fear elapsed like hours before my anxious expression, but then he calmly averted his hypnotic gaze. Whew... I figured I got lucky.
Now he pulled out his wand and held it against Draco's skin as he applied the Protean Charm non-verbally and a light green beam shot out of his wand and carved into Draco's skin.
The skull with the snake was created before our eyes, the Dark Mark. Everyone watched the solemn, eerie events closely. Draco held his arm rigidly outstretched and did not move a muscle, but his tense posture told me that it hurt. This was not surprising; the mark Draco had burned into my flesh had been like a tattoo, only more painful!
Had I been exposed, I dared to ask myself fearfully. Leaving would not be a solution either, because for me there was no escape, only a sooner or later. I had no doubt that I would have to face my fate.
When it was over and the Dark Lord stepped back and Draco rose carefully, the Lord raised his arms.
"Welcome to the Inner Circle, the elite of my followers. From today, you will be the deputy of your father and Severus! I hope you're aware of the honour," it came seriously but also very coldly from the Dark Lord, whereupon Draco arrogantly lifted his head in the air.
"My Lord, I will not disappoint you," he replied pompously, bending his upper body again for a short bow. HE sat down again on my pillow, which made him sit softly on his bottom in the hard wooden chair. If I hadn't done that, he would still be feeling his lean bones tomorrow, I thought spitefully.
The others began to clap and the two semicircles dissolved to greet Draco and congratulate him, if only half as honestly as shown, for Bellatrix’ facial expression looked as if she had taken a bite of something unpalatable when she offered Draco her congratulations.
A tingling in my neck made me aware that I was being watched and my gaze twitched towards the Dark Lord, who again fixed the wall, the secret door and me behind it rigidly, and then I knew my cover had been blown... A miracle? My luck?
Probably true, but there's no changing it. At least I'd seen how Draco had handled himself.
The Dark Lord was good. Very good.
I could really see in those inhuman eyes how he was getting impatient; in a moment he would order Lucius to pull me out of hiding. Is that what I wanted?
No, I wanted to walk upright to HIM, not be dragged there and so I acted instinctively and quickly, pulled the hood deeper into my face, took another deep breath, listened into me and tried to strengthen my mental shields, straightened my whole body and forbade any sign of weakness, operated the handle of the door, which now swung back silently and opened.
At that moment several things happened simultaneously: the Dark Lord had opened his mouth and bent towards Lucius to give him the command and I stepped out now. Everything froze immediately when I, a dark but festively dressed woman, stepped out of the gloomy secret passage.
I noticed how Draco, Severus, and Lucius showed their astonishment only by raising their eyebrows; to me it was apparent that they weren't happy that I had come already, hadn't waited until we were alone with the Dark Lord, I could see it in their eyes, but they didn't do anything, they were in complete control. The others just looked at me openly horrified and astonished, even if they did not see my face now, since I kept my head slightly lowered.
"Is here someone brave?" the Dark Lord suddenly enquired and he sounded amused to my astonishment, since he must have realized that I had noticed that he had seen me and decided to face him voluntarily. "So you are the surprise that the three have been keeping from me for such a long time?" His eyes flitted over my body which showed to advantage in the exquisite velvet robe, seeming to soak up every little detail.
Not letting myself be stopped, I continued to walk towards the throne in moderate, slow, deliberate steps, holding myself very straight. I breathed calmly and tried not to let my heartbeat become too hectic. I bet that he would have noticed immediately if I had tried to hide a racing beat. My long dress played around my feet and I knew that my emerald, shimmering on my bare skin, gave a good view of the Malfoys' coat of arms.
Then Bellatrix Lestrange shrieked when she saw the jewellery around my neck.
"Cissy's murderer? I'll kill her!" She was about to pounce on me when Severus, Lucius and Draco formed a closed, insurmountable wall in my back faster than you could blink, and Bella crashed into them. Already she was rid of her wand and my men had not even spoken a word yet. She shrieked madly. "Out of my way, you sneaky traitors! Why is she wearing jewellery with your crest? You're protecting the murderer of my sister! I will ask the Lord, my Lord, for her death," she now spat angrily.
Trusting that the three of them were protecting my back, I had not even turned towards the commotion, instead walking forward steadily. They wouldn't interfere unless things got completely out of hand; until then I had a free hand.
I had not let the Dark Lord out of my sight. He sat relatively calmly in his throne, but I wasn't fooled by that; for sure he could shoot out of it in seconds and attack, like a snake lying coiled up, only to burst forth and bite at lightning speed.
I saw how he took it that his three deputies protected me from Bellatrix in this way, but did not come between me and him, even though it had not escaped his notice that it did not suit them that I had already joined the group.
At the same time, it seemed to annoy him that she behaved like that, which made me feel slightly insecure. He looked so alien and dangerous that I wondered how Bellatrix could behave this way around him. It must be the inherent insanity that blinded her to the danger the Dark Lord posed.
"Bellatrix, if you don't stop shrieking immediately and don't rein in your irritating voice, YOU will be the only one who breathes her life out on the spot," it hissed so dangerously softly from HIS narrow lipped mouth that my hairs stood up all over my body.
Then I heard something hit the ground, but even now I did not turn around.
"My Lord, forgive me, but... I... I... I beg... you," she wailed and HE waved his pale hand brusquely through the air.
"Be silent," was all he ordered tyrannically and the other people I passed by looked at the scenery slightly anxiously and fearfully but did not dare to move.
It seemed to me that the Lord had cast a Silencing Spell on Bellatrix with the sweep of his hand. A reasonable measure, I conceded to him; the witch did have an annoying voice.
Now I had made it, had reached him with my slow steps - it felt like walking to the scaffold. At the same place where Draco had received his mark, I stood and waited silently yet confidently for his orders in front of the platform, while he measured me with his head tilted.
"Who are you? Show me your face," he commanded surprisingly softly. He did not sound crazy when he spoke to me, rather normal, which surprised me and so I swallowed a very big lump, but followed the order immediately. I did not assume that he had a lot of patience.
I lifted my hands and pushed my hood back halfway, though I didn't take it off completely, and closed my eyes briefly, praying for control, when I lifted my head jerkily and looked into the greedy, glittering eyes of the Dark Lord, which stared back at me in a piercing red.
If he was surprised or even knew who I was, he was a master at not showing it. He didn't show anything, and he did for a long time.
He knew how to manipulate people, knew that the long, immobile inaction was more terrible for the person before him than if he said anything, but I had prepared myself for it and so I stoically withstood his gaze.
To my astonishment, he tried it differently than Dumbledore. He hadn't attempted to penetrate my mind yet, but I was sure he would ambush me with his snake tactics eventually.
When he began to speak, all the others still couldn't see who was standing before their lord, since I had turned my back on them.
"Amazing, amazing, you always manage to amaze me! Which is gratifying, since only a few manage to do so! Amazing! To which of you I owe this," a pale, extremely long, bony finger pointed at me. I heard a figure coming out of the row from behind and slowly stepping beside me, but I didn't dare to turn my head.
"My Lord," I heard Draco's voice next to me as he stepped imperiously beside me.
"What did you do to get her here today?" he hissed with interest, but also threateningly.
"I have branded her with the sign of our family according to an ancient ritual. She is now a member of the Malfoy family," Draco said very monotonously, yet still showing the pride he felt that I belonged.
"Is this so?... WHERE?" the Dark Lord greedily asked.
"Here," Draco dared to move and he put his hand possessively on my belly where the sign was and I heard some women releasing a harsh breath; they seemed to know the ritual.
"How you managed to pull that off with the Mudblood would interest me," the Dark Lord answered my unvoiced question whether he knew who I was. He did, it seemed, but as often as my photo appeared next to Harry's face in the Daily Prophet, it would have been quite startling if he hadn't known that I was the Muggle-born friend of Harry Potter.
When the word was spoken, a veritable storm broke out in the hall and I could almost feel Severus and Lucius casting a spell on Bellatrix to keep her quiet and her husband was now chastising her to stop her embarrassing behaviour. The Dark Lord didn't let the uproar in my back affect him, just kept putting his head from one side to the other.
"A Mudblood, as a member of the Malfoy family," he seemed downright speechless when suddenly a malignant glint appeared in his eyes. "You killed Narcissa Malfoy?" I could hear the doubt lurking in his voice. Me, the Gryffindor Mudblood and best friend of Harry Potter? Impossible, wasn't it?
I noticed Draco wanting to answer in my place and took another step, sinking into a well-behaved, deep curtsey that made the Dark Lord raise a non-existent brow.
"Yes, My Lord," I now breathed hoarsely yet firmly.
"How dare you address me, you lowly mudblood?" he hissed very icily at my insolence and I felt it more than I saw Draco freeze beside me.
I didn't answer. Everything I did now would probably be wrong and so I just lowered my head and remained in the uncomfortable, devout posture and, oh wonder, nothing happened at first, just silence and stillness. Astonishing that our observers did not make a sound either.
"What's your name?"
Ah, he didn't seem to know. He probably hadn't cared what Harry's friends were called before, so I raised my head again, but remained curtseying as I dared to answer submissively:
The excited whispering that now flared up was all the louder after the previous eerie dead silence.
"Best friend of the Boy-Who-Won't-Die, Harry Potter," the Dark Lord now spat maliciously.
Again, I said nothing and could only feel my legs trembling beneath me in my submissive posture, although I tried not to wobble.
"How can I believe that? Gryffindors don't kill people," he hissed very angrily and waved Draco harshly backwards, a command which the young wizard followed only reluctantly, but he did and left my side. "Answer," the Dark Lord flared up and I swallowed.
"Yes, I did, but I had permission," I replied very calmly.
"Did you, really? ... Lucius, you're always good for a surprise," he showed a gruesome smile and then hissed impatiently, "How? Don't let me drag every piece of information out of you, Mudblood!"
"As you wish. Venom... Scorpion venom!"
"Interesting. Why?" he asked further.
"It was unlikely there was an antidote for that, that's the only reason," I replied coldly.
"Devious, but why should I believe you?" Contemptuous doubt was audible in his voice.
"Because it was not the first time," I lured him and felt relatively little fear. It was easy to talk to the man. I tried to slow myself down and not to overestimate myself.
Still, I was trapped in a curtsy before him.
"The first one was - But why should I tell you?" I dared and I saw the Dark Lord's eyes narrow in anger and so I quickly continued talking. "Why don't you watch it?" I touched my forehead in a submissive gesture, offered Him to enter my mind - which, I heard, caused many to take a breath and the Dark Lord also tilted his head again.
"Stand up and look at me," he ordered then, which I did immediately, as gallantly as possible, even though I could feel my legs tingle because they had fallen asleep.
"My Lord...?" a firm, confident voice sounded.
"Hush now, Lucius," the Dark Lord hissed imperiously and I hoped my men would listen. I held my gaze up to the Dark Lord, looked into those deep, dark, red eyes, reminiscent of blood-red rubies, and silently prayed that I might be able to guide and convince him.
Then I felt him and it was incredible how he penetrated my mind... My hands involuntarily clenched into fists, I gasped for breath. My fingernails clawed painfully into the palms of my hands as I felt him gently slithering into my mind like a snake, and after a quick glance at my childhood and my parents, who didn't interest him, I quickly threw the episode with Bole and Derrick at his feet.
I saw nothing more and heard nothing more of my surroundings. The hall was, as it seemed to me, miles away. My blood rushed loudly in my ears as I lowered my walls very much, trying to protect only the one, well hidden, box surrounded by thick walls, which contained the most precious secrets of my life.
Then he went on. I gave him Umbridge in the forest, which seemed to fascinate him, as I had also shown him Harry in the forest, then I gave him Jugson in the Ministry. Meanwhile, there was sweat on my upper lip and on my forehead as I tried to keep control of my mind.
I breathed heavily, feeling the piercing needles that painfully poked into my brain. Then it went on. I showed what I had done with the other Death Eaters, how I had taken them out, but also how I had helped Lucius secretly so that he could escape.
Finally, I showed him Narcissa's deeds and my permission from Lucius, Severus, and Draco to take down Narcissa and how I had poisoned her and the fight in Knockturn Alley. I did not sell my fighting prowess short.
Then I felt his desire to satisfy his curiosity, the memory of my branding with the mark that adorned me and so I gave in, showed him the scene he wanted, let him see the intimate moment between Draco and me when we slept together and he marked me.
I was ashamed, but I also knew that I had to show it to HIM.
When I could hardly stand the pain in my skull anymore, because everything inside me was pounding, it stopped abruptly and I groaned sufferingly, because I saw how he measured me coldly.
"You did that?" he hissed angrily.
What could I answer?
"A Mudblood, and I'm surrounded by such incompetent idiots that a little girl manages to beat them," it came softly threatening from him.
Meanwhile, I bit my lips bloody in order not to make a sound, for the magic around the Dark Lord had become menacingly thick.
"But if they are so weak, they don't deserve anything else," he shrugged contemptuously, indifferently.
What a man of consequence, I thought with pure irony.
"But Draco, I'm disappointed in you. Why are you going to bed with a Mudblood?" he now breathed lasciviously.
"My Lord, she has much to offer," my boyfriend replied. It really didn't sound very nice, more like I was cattle and that didn't suit me at all. The Dark Lord noticed me gritting my teeth tightly to avoid protesting.
"I suppose Lucius and Severus think so, too...?" it sounded very cynical, the way he put it.
I didn't know what was going on in my back, didn't dare turn around. It would be a bad idea to turn my back on HIM, the Dark Lord.
"What can you offer... Us? Me? A Mudblood?" the Dark Lord gloated and I got goosebumps. If this kept up, I wouldn't be able to avoid taking the last resort.
"She could bring you Potter," someone said, I believe it was Nott, and the Lord's snake-eyes shot to him and took aim at him. At once, I shook my head, which immediately brought me the Dark Lord's full and undivided attention.
"I don't need a mudblood to get to POTTER," he hissed so icily and viciously that I swallowed hard. "You dare refuse," he now turned to me.
"No, but that's impossible, I cannot give Harry to anyone. I made an Unbreakable Vow long ago not to do this ... I-" I did not get any further when I abruptly cried out, for now he brutally invaded my mind. The pain that shot through my head was all-encompassing and enormous, I thought the top of my head would fly away. I could only whimper.
Bracing myself desperately against this merciless bombardment, my small, solid wall, it held, albeit close, but it held. Then I felt warm blood running from my nose as I concentrated so hard that I thought my skull would burst.
I now rammed my nails so firmly into the flesh of my palms that I could feel the sticky wetness here too. The pain that was throbbing in my temples was indescribably intense.
Voluntarily, I showed him the scene I had invented, how Dumbledore gave us the idea and we performed the ritual in our youthful exuberance and I swore not to turn Harry over to anyone, NEVER and never to betray him.
I now heard him call out in anger from afar:
"Then you are worthless!"