It was dusk when the train pulled into Hogsmeade village. The shops were closed up tight and only two people, aside from Madeline and Sereth, climbed off the car.
“Dark times mum,” A pruned old man said to her.
“Yes, dark times, indeed,” she murmured as she pulled her hood up around her head and watched to make sure her son followed her lead. He did and then reached up and took her hand.
The man bowed his head and scurried off in another direction, presumably toward the Hog’s Head. Madeline smirked, watching him disappear in the distance. She suspected the Hog’s Head would be closed, but she couldn’t be sure. It mattered little to her; Hogwarts was quite a distance and she knew they’d have to walk it.
An unnaturally cold fog had settled all around the area. It was chilly as the night wind picked up. They started the long walk to the castle.
Sereth was dragging his feet by the time they could see the gates of the closed school. He had been a little trooper, fighting his sleepiness the whole way without complaint. Madeline, on the other hand, was certain her feet were swollen and her face was aching from the chill. Tobias had split her face wide open where his hand came across her cheekbone. She didn’t have time to find a magical healer, she had sworn and wished Brent were nearby, he could clean that little cut up with no trouble at all. However, as it stood, she had no friends here to fix the constantly bleeding laceration and had to make due with a little Muggle practitioner in the city outside of Severus’s hometown. He had administered no pain medication as he explained that he was giving her seventeen stitches. Sereth had also suffered a nasty broken arm, that was set in a series of bandages and plaster the doctor who had stitched Madeline’s face called, ‘a cast’. He had a huge deep purple welt that had also grown to the size of an egg on the side of his head.
Though the school was closed the gates were wide open. The entire grounds were laid out before them. Not a single window was illuminated in the pitch black night. However a pearly white tomb was almost glowing in the scarce moonlight. A lump developed in Madeline’s throat, but you could never tell from her outward appearance. She guided Sereth toward the stone casket.
They stood for several moments before the new home of Albus Dumbledore’s body. Sereth was starting to sway with tire so Madeline took him several feet away and laid him in the grass, placing her traveling cloak over him as a makeshift blanket.
She floated back over to Dumbledore. She circled the tomb, before finally reaching out and placing her hands on it, “My God! What’s happened? It can’t be true, it can’t,” she was almost begging now, in the solitude of her own thoughts. She could almost hear his voice:
“Magnificent, isn’t it?”
“You’re young, you have time...”
He had trusted her husband and, as it looked from here, Severus had betrayed the only man who gave him complete faith. He trusted Severus enough to disclose the location of the Order to her.
The thought to commune with him through magic crossed her mind, but left quickly – speaking with the dead could be dangerous. She would not betray his memory by violating his rest. He would not have wanted that. His dancing eyes were playing over and over in her mind. He had been one of the few who had known her well enough to trust her. Many were hesitant, from the moment they learned of her trade, Minerva McGonagall was one of those skeptics, but not Albus Dumbledore; he had a special way of appraising the person and nothing more.
She had seen their interactions, she knew what Dumbledore had meant to Severus, it just didn’t make sense…
“Are you certain there is no one you wish to invite?”
Severus was looking rather disgruntled, but that was nothing uncommon. He didn’t respond.
Madeline waited. When the silence dragged on for several minutes she said, “It is unlikely that they will attend. It’s so far, however you might be more comfortable knowing people if they see fit to attend.”
“Comfort is not my concern,” he said, standing and stalking across his office. He often swooped around letting his robes billow behind him when stalking, she noticed, an act that gave him a bat-like appearance. She held back a shutter, it was amazing how vampire in nature it was. “My goal for that day is already outlined,” he said turning back and extending his hand to her.
She placed the quill and parchment to the side and went to him, giving her hand to him. He pulled her nearer, “My intention is to make a promise.”
“As is mine,” she watched him trace the lines of her face with his eyes. If he could look gentle, he did in that brief moment while memorizing her features. “It was kind of you to agree to allow this event at my home. The least we could do is invite some of your friends.” She said quietly.
He turned from her, standing rigidly with his hands pressed behind his back, “As I fear a soon rising of the Dark Lord I wouldn’t have it any other way. It would be unsafe for you, should it be known among my peers that I have been wed. And should the Dark Lord ever find the truth…well I wouldn’t even want to linger on the thought. Therefore the only option for your desired full festive event is to have it across the sea. My mother will be there, and I would like to extend an invitation to Albus Dumbledore.”
“You must remember Severus, this is none of my doing, my family wouldn’t allow it without a ‘full festive event’.” Madeline reminded him.
“Indeed,” he snapped crisply.
“I shall speak to Dumbledore myself then.”
The time passed quickly, and before Severus knew it December was upon him. He had arrived two weeks before the wedding and felt as if he had seen Madeline less than ever in those two weeks. It was a whirlwind event which led to him standing in a corridor that led into a receiving hall where he would promise his life to someone else. It would be a lie to say he wasn’t afraid.
He glanced through a long window where he could see hundreds of people waiting for him. They didn’t seem anxious, rather they seemed calm among their private conversations. Then, at a table near the front his eye caught a long silver beard and tall pointed hat of deep violet. Dumbledore had come. He was merrily chatting with a group of equally ancient wizards who seemed pleased to have him. A smug smile befell the Potions Master.
Snape turned to see a handsome man, with long black hair and Madeline’s same sharp, pointed features headed his way.
He extended his hand, “I’m sorry this is the first chance we’ve had to meet. I am Isaac Alcott. Madeline is my sister.”
Severus accepted the outstretched hand. If nothing else was obvious about the man, it was that he was the brother of his bride-to-be. Severus smoothed his fine black dress robes.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. She speaks of you often,” Isaac brushed a piece of dust from his sleeve as he glanced at Severus. “Assure me that you will take good care of her. You must understand she is one of the most prized things in my life.”
“You have my word,” Severus said icily.
“Good,” Isaac sniffed haughtily. “I have a few select friends in your country. Have you heard of Lucius Malfoy?”
“I am familiar with him, yes.” Severus thinned his lips. Isaac was appraising him and he didn’t like it.
“Excellent!” Isaac beamed arrogantly, “He is a dear friend of mine. I often visit him and his family when traveling overseas. My daughter is of the same age as their son, Draco. They have proven to be fine playmates. You should have seen him to this event, I’m certain Lucius would have found the time to attend.”
“No, I would prefer no mention be made of this to Lucius.”
Isaac snorted, puffing his chest up.
“Madeline and I have decided not to inform my community of this.”
Bewilderment passed over Isaac’s face that turned to slight anger “Are you ashamed of my sister?”
“Certainly not,” Severus narrowed his eyes. “My intention is protection. Should the Dark Lord know of this Madeline could be in sever danger. When the war is finally settled things will be different.”
“I see,” Isaac frowned. Severus could see the similarities that would make Lucius and Isaac close friends. “I will ask my family to respect your wishes; as such, I will also do as you ask.” Isaac extracted a golden pocket watch, “8:05, hmmm…it is very unlike Madeline to be late.”
Just then the door behind them burst open and a familiar face, matted with sweaty hair and dirt, appeared. “Excuse me,” she said scooping up a handful of dirtied dress robes and making a dash for the door. It was the easily excitable Pyromancer who had attended the summer seminars with Madeline.
“Kantela,” Isaac began, but she swooped past him so quickly that he didn’t have time to get anything more out. She pushed the doors to the receiving hall open and scurried between the tables.
It was only a matter of seconds before the receiving doors opened again and a graying man who looked quite tired was frowning unhappily in a disheveled mess. He stopped in front of Severus and Isaac but faced Kantela. “The cemetery?! Why in Merlin’s name would the vampires choose a showdown with Madeline in a graveyard?”
“I don’t think they chose the location,” Kantela was breathing heavily as two other familiar faces appeared. Dumbledore and Carlyn slipped unnoticed from the idle chatter going just beyond the doors.
“Had to have a night wedding!” The graying man threw his hands in the air. “Good heavens, who chose the location?”
“A group of kids from the local public high school,” Kantela gulped, “Some stupid pseudo séance non sense, sir.”
“They never do it right. It’ll be a feast for those vampires. Is she alone?”
“Brent was there.”
“Between the two of them they should be able to handle it.”
Kantela lowered her eyes, “Zachariah Skinner, the vampire prince, was said to be there.”
There was a sudden still in the hall. Finally the little man blew up, “Well, what are we waiting for?! We had better hurry!”
“Come Severus,” Dumbledore said in a calm tone, placing a hand on his shoulder. “There is no need to worry just yet.”
They arrived by means of apparation to an old cemetery canopied by sprawling trees where gentle moonlight would have been lovely sprinkling onto the thick green grass if it weren’t for the chaos happening all around. The little man, who Severus learned was the principle of the Academy of Alchemy, Dr. Jasper Dunlap, had taken Dumbledore in the apparation, and Isaac had offered the same service to Severus since they weren’t familiar with the area.
Dunlap held up a hand, signaling they wait a moment. Heeding the man, they were left to watch. A group of lively youngsters were just beginning to scatter, accompanied by their shouts of horror as many pale, pointed teeth monsters swooped after them. The vampire clan was infinitely faster than the humans, scooping them up with ease. Suddenly a fine twinkling dust settled over the ground, followed almost instantly by a few eerie words coming from somewhere in the middle of the dust cloud, caused the grass all around them begin to churn. From all of the crypts below, marked by headstones, skeletons were clawing their way to life.
A glimpse of Madeline could be seen among them, her pearly white gown almost aglow in the pale moonlight. She threw her hands up and hissed a brief series of commands in an unrecognizable language as the frantic rattling of bones rang out and an entire skeleton army was born. She hissed a few more words and the skeletons clamored around to what appeared to be her directions.
“No!” Dumbledore said suddenly, clutching Severus’s wrist as he made to go in the direction of Madeline. “She understands what she’s doing. If you disturb or distract her she will loose focus and concentration and it may be her undoing.”
Severus did not argue as he looked back across the field of devastation where Madeline was extracting a silvery wand from her sleeve. She dropped next to a fallen boy who was covered in slipper red blood. She touched his face, spoke to him too softly to hear and bowed her head before raising her wand. A bright white light shot from the tip of her wand and the boy’s body jerked to life. He climbed clumsily to his feet, standing on crooked legs, complete with a vacant expression. She gave him a pointed direction and he stumbled off toward a group of vampires. She hurried to another fallen body and began to repeat the process, but this time she looked up frantically. The group across the cemetery heard her shout, “Brent! Hurry, this one’s alive!”
Severus made to go in again. “What are we waiting for?” He growled, “I thought we came to offer assistance.”
Dunlap nodded, “We need the advantage. They haven’t noticed our presence as of yet.” He scanned the cemetery again, “I have not yet seen the prince. The crowd must thin out before we will have the advantage.”
“Madeline and Brent could be dead by then,” Severus snarled.
“Yes, a risk they are willing to take. We all are; if it is what must be done.”
Severus opened his mouth to rebuttal, however Dumbledore interjected, “Severus…in time. Be patient.”
Brent came skidding to a halt near her where she stood quickly surveying the damage. Skeletons were being shattered into hundreds of pieces, vampires were being clawed to ribbons by razor-like bone phalanges, and a few zombies had been awoken to pry the attention of the vampires away from the fleeing high school students. It was clear that she wasn’t interested in fighting a war here, she just wanted to cause enough of a distraction for the kids to escape, and hopefully Brent and her as well.
It wasn’t exactly what Severus had in mind when he considered a wedding. As he watched Madeline, in her now filthy wedding dress, shout commands to her skeletal troops he was mesmerized. He had seen their match, recognized their similarities, understood that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone, was attracted to her, and could see himself living with her. She was just cleaver enough to have his attention, but he had not loved her. However, in that moment, he found what he loved and it truly lived in her. She was bold and could wield the dark arts like no one he’d seen in a very long time. Like she had come to love him for his mannerism and coy arrogance, he fell for her in an instant – she was what he wanted in a life partner. She seemed perfect, her pretty honey colored face angrily shouting at the skeletons. She was what his mother had not been, strong, he loved that.
It was clear the cost of controlling fifty or so skeletons was wearing on her as she began to pant heavily but continued screaming orders. Many vampires lay in heaps on the ground alongside piles of bone pieces, and suddenly it seemed from nowhere, a shadow swooped into the center of the group. A demanding presence appeared in heavy fine leathers, porcelain white skin, long silky raven hair, and perfect pointed canine teeth he accentuated purposely when he smiled at them, “Madeline Alcott, finally we meet.”
“No!” Carlyn broke the group and bolted for the vampire. She drew her wand and pointed it promptly at Madeline. Shock came over Madeline as stared awkwardly at the soft spoken illusionist.
“Carlyn!” Dunlap shouted, but it was too late. Restraints had shot from her wand that enveloped Madeline clasping her arms and legs together. In response the skeletal army collapsed into little piles where they had all been standing.
Carlyn dropped to one knee at the vampire’s feet, “Prince Zachariah, I have for you the mage who has been destroying your family.”
“I can see that.” He said oily.
“Carlyn, I’d hate to think you had anything to do with this,” Madeline growled.
“Oh precious,” the vampire prince came to her brushing her hair from her shoulder, “please sit.”
“You will sit,” He said pushing her to the ground.
“You can push all you want, I will never yield to you. I’m not afraid to die.”
Dunlap had advanced the group forward some, now knowing that their presence was made aware. Dumbledore took an additional step forward but the prince spoke first. His voice was smooth and articulate with a crispness that was almost irritating. “Finder’s keepers I always say,” he slithered around behind Madeline who was kneeling grudgingly on the upturned soil. “She is lovely, isn’t she?” He ran a hand across her neck. Madeline went sort of rigid and Severus balled his fists. The prince pointed a long nailed finger at Severus, “You must be the Brit. We’ve heard so much about you, courtesy of Carlyn.” His tone was a little too pleasant as he went on, “Forgive me. Madeline and I have a long running history…” he bent over her and peered at her face, “of trying to kill one another.” He laughed nastily as he quickly ran that long jagged nail across the exposed fleshy part of her neck. A thin line of crimson instantly bubbled up and he collected up the blood with his pinky. After sucking the sticky liquid from it he smiled, “Yes, quite tasty. I think I’ll keep her.” He smiled down to her, “I’m going to enjoy you.”
“Not now,” Dumbledore warned Severus as he stiffened again. Severus was almost shaking from holding back. He couldn’t let the vampire kill her, not now, now that he wanted her, now that he needed her.
Madeline didn’t respond as the vampire gave another gruesome chuckle. The chuckle turned into a cackle, and the cackle turned into a choke. A creepy smile crept onto Madeline’s face.
“Now!” Kantela barked. A ring of fire encircled Carlyn, who shrieked despite her soft voice. Dumbledore had extracted his wand and was pointing it at Madeline, whose restraints promptly evaporated. Dumbledore went to her and helped Madeline to her feet. She turned on the vampire who was now clutching his throat, gasping. Her smile remained as she reached up and bloodied her own finger then wiped it across his cheek, “We’re alchemists, my blood was poisoned today – especially for you by Kantela. If you take me down, you better believe you’re going with me.”
He was able to get one last look at Madeline before he became a horrible sight of festering bubbles that eventually caused him to burst into sudden flames leaving only a pile of dust on the ground.
“Thank you headmaster,” Madeline said to Dumbledore. “I believe if I had been tied much longer I would have lost my fingers.”
“It was quite tight,” Dumbledore nodded. “Now, I believe we have a very important event to get to.” His twinkling eyes were smiling at her.
“Absolutely,” Madeline said turning from the old headmaster to Severus. “Please consider forgiving me for my poor appearance on such an important day.”
“Appearance is not my concern,” he smirked, “my intention is to make a promise.”
“As is mine,” she went to him, taking his extended hand.
“Now, I believe we have a very important event to get to…”
Madeline felt her face burn in pain. A tear had slipped down her cheek and entered the fresh wound on her face. She swore under her breath as she wiped the tear’s trail away. Taking a deep breath she shook the horrible image of Severus murdering Dumbledore from her mind.
“There must be an explanation,” she reminded herself sternly.
“Who’s ‘ere?” A nighttime lantern was bobbing in the distance, several inches over her head. She recognized the rough voice immediately and responded promptly as not to get herself unnecessarily killed.
“Hagrid, its Madeline Alcott.”
A/N: Thank you for reading. I really appreciate it.
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