Severus was staring angrily at the house from the canopy of a shadowy tree, the light dappling his face in the mid afternoon sun rays.
“You really served the Dark Lord? Can I see it?” Jaselle leaned over Severus’s shoulder. “The Dark Mark.”
“No,” he growled lowly. “You are far too eager Jaselle, you should mind your manners; your father would be displeased.”
At that the girl receded under the tree as well. She spoke softly, “At least my source, though a little unpleasant, yielded better results. Results we can’t use, but better results none the less.”
“What do you mean ‘can’t use’?” Severus asked.
“I’m not going to Dade’s house! Are you mad?” Jaselle looked up to him. “My father would have my head for even saying it let alone considering actually doing it.”
“You will take me there,” Severus said.
“What?! No,” Jaselle said sternly. “I will do nothing of the sort. Dad hates Dade. And so do I, for that matter.”
“If he is the way to Madeline won’t you consider setting aside those unnecessarily harsh assessments of this man?”
“Unnecessarily harsh assessments…” Jaselle lingered on that for a moment. “Are you daft? Did you hear them in there? Dade Hanson was liked by the crazy girl that Aunt Mad was in her youth, grandmother adores him and my father, who likes you, can’t be in the same room as him. Aren’t those fair indicators that he’s not someone you want to associate with?”
Severus leaned over very close to Jaselle. He was almost barring his slightly yellowed teeth at her. “None of those things concern me. Take me there.”
Jaselle did her best not to look frightened, though she was not hiding her feelings well as she gulped. “All right, but like with the Wraiths, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
The wasn’t like any of the other houses they had been to, this house was a mansion from the outside: three stories, sitting on the beach, with a perfectly landscaped yard, and swaying palm trees leading up to a heavily windowed beige stucco residence. As they took the walkway leading up to the home (if it could be called that) Severus felt more uncomfortable than he had ascending the rickety stairs of Mistress Black Widow’s dingy house.
They didn’t have to ring the bell, a man appeared in the wavy glass of the front door before they’d gotten to the welcome mat.
“Hello Dade,” Jaselle said as mildly as she could when the door burst open.
Severus raised an eyebrow. Dade was not the man that he had expected. Though he had heard little of this man, he was far from what Severus had anticipated. He was tall, thick, robust, and jovial. He was wearing an Italian white suit, there was nothing that suggested magic user in his dress that smelled heavily of leathery aftershave. His flowery shirt beneath the white jacket was unbuttoned to the third one, revealing a tuft of salt and pepper chest hair that seemed to fit with the appearance of the house. Rather than some talented wizard Dade looked like a retired Mafioso taking up his remaining days on the beach. He must be in his mid forties, but it only made him more distinguished – and he wore it well.
“I was wondering when you would come, since Madeline spent a night here two days ago. After all this should be her house too. Come in, come in,” he threw and arm around her shoulder.
“Dade,” Jaselle said slipping out from underneath his arm. “This is Severus Snape. Uncle Sev, Dade Hanson.”
Dade’s eyes met Severus’s only briefly before he scanned Severus’s whole appearance. Instantly a wide smile appeared on his sun browned face and his hand shot out to Severus, “Excellent! It’s a pleasure Mr. Snape.”
Severus’s lip curled, and a natural sneer developed on his face, as he accepted the offered hand, “Likewise.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Dade said pulling the double doors open. “I hope not to be disappointed. From what I understand you are a…talented man.”
Severus raised an eyebrow and slipped into the bright house. He chose not to comment he just hummed in a non committal manner as he examined the walls, heavily accentuated in natural light. It was full to the brim with all sorts of strange objects.
Dade leaned over close to Severus and grinned proudly, “Admiring my Burners I see.”
Jaselle did her best not to grunt or grumble but she was certain something had escaped her as she turned away disgusted.
“Burners?” Severus queried.
The gregarious man leaned back and looked shocked, though it was clearly an act, “Pardon me? You are not familiar with Burners? Well,” he pointed to a small room to the left. “I had this house built for Madeline, after all I had anticipated…well never mind. I have 4, 819; only two are not mine. See,” he widened his eyes and leaned into one of the many glass cases displaying the mismatched objects and pointed.
Severus looked past irritated as he cast a scathing sneer on Dade but looked in the case none the less. Propped up against one another were two glittering golden rings.
“A gift to me, from her.”
Severus was staring at them, he could only guess what exactly they meant.
“Horcruxes?” Severus questions, “Elijah’s?”
“Heck no! Burners, once Horcruxes, now exercised of the evil and simply the burned object – hence Burners. I keep them all, all the ones I exercise. Trophies you see. When I hit 5,000 I’m retiring. But yes,” he was like a hyperactive child bouncing around from topic to topic, “they were the rings that Elijah poisoned and Madeline handled.”
Even at his distance Severus could see his reflection in the gold of the wedding rings. He and Madeline had never worn bands and a part of him wished they had now; but he didn’t linger on the thought – there was a reason they didn’t tell everyone and if he had worn a ring it would have violated their agreement about the arrangement around their marriage. Dade had been explaining about how he managed wrangling a werewolf to capture one of the Burners in a case off to the right. This room looked like a jewelry store what with all the cases separating life from the things protected behind the glass casing (and who knows what spells) and he couldn’t even fathom Madeline living in this environment.
He looked over to Dade, though the story he was telling was probably true, Severus couldn’t help but be reminded of Gilderoy Lockhart. He was absolutely disgusted with Dade. He had heard somewhere that Dade was a Hunter (it was clearly his profession from the macabre nature of the things he took to decorating his life with) which, at its very base, meant he was a trained Necromancer. He was the most boisterous Necromancer that Severus had ever seen – it was obnoxious.
“He’s the best Hunter in the world,” Jaselle leaned over and whispered to Severus. “And…he knows it.”
“As fascinating as your story is,” Severus raised his voice, cutting into the valiant tale, “what can you tell us about Madeline.”
“How do you mean?”
Severus felt his jaw go rigid, “I suppose where she is would be a start? You said she stayed here, where did she go next?”
“She left yesterday morning. I had no way of tracking Eileen as I could a Horcrux. Though it happens when people use living things for a Horcrux, it is uncommon. I could feel it and use magic to see where one would have traveled to, but a living thing with no darkness imbued in it? There’s no way to know where she is unless someone saw her being taken or someone confesses. I wish she were still here.”
“What?” Severus said.
“Because you’re here,” Dade said hoarsely. “She would have wanted to know. And she might not have been so crazy. You must really be somethin’.” Dade bit his lip.
Severus was almost appalled at Dade’s manner of speaking. He wanted to tell him to shut up and perhaps pass a good hex on the man who was verging on jealous of him. Severus wasn’t sure he had been envied, and if he had, it was never this obvious.
“Did you know that you’re her reason?”
“Her reason?” Severus was definitely annoyed now.
Dade swung the glass French doors open when he heard the knocking. “Madeline!” He beamed.
“Hello,” she managed, through tight lips.
“Come in, come in!” He waved her over. “I’ll get some wine.”
As he glided off toward the kitchen Madeline stood on the expensive Spanish tiled floor and looked back out the open door, across the wooden porch, that led to a beautiful pool, and then out to the white sand beach of the Atlantic. The waves were crashing heavily on the shore line, she smiled…there was once a time that she wanted nothing more than to live in this very spot; but that time was long gone. A frown tugged at the corners of her mouth, but she fought it back just as Dade returned with two long stemmed glasses and a carafe of wine.
“Crystal. I picked them up in India last time I was there. I hope you like it.”
“It’s lovely.” Madeline’s nimble fingers toyed with the base of the glass he’d handed to her.
“I know your taste for fineries. Does it please you?”
She thought to laugh, but battled that down as well. ‘Please me,’ she thought, ‘if only you knew what actually pleases me.’ “Yes,” she lied, but she did it well and he poured the wine with no further consequence.
Standing in the house that was designed and built for her she was lost for what to say. He thought items would make her happy and so had she. She drowned the thought in wine as she tipped the glass back and chugged nearly half of the dry Mascato. There they were all the things that made him content. She could see several glass cases, shielding bowling balls, gold chalices, pictures, and other oddities that were once prized possessions by evil wizards who thought these items worthy of holding soul fragments. An Egyptian necklace, a bowtie, and a bowl of marbles – it always fascinated Madeline just how many magic users thought marbles appropriate for Horcruxes.
“Beautiful aren’t the?” He breathed seductively on her neck as he leaned over her thin shoulders and tapped his wine glass to hers.
“Yes,” she lied again, a habit was found easy with him.
“Together we can fill this house with them, the whole house. It will be the best, most priceless collection on the continent; possibly even the world.”
“Your collection is already the most extensive and most priceless,” Madeline’s voice was emotionless and almost bored as she pointed this out.
“What troubles you Madeline?” He asked, hearing it this time.
She untied a small velvet bag from her pouch belt and dumped the contents onto the bar as she set her glass down: two golden rings; one large, one small. “I thought you could have them.”
Dade leaned over and eyed them suspiciously.
“I don’t care for them.”
“My parent’s,” Madeline said shortly. “Elijah.”
He was still leaning over them, inspecting their qualities. He glanced up at her and then back to the bands. He reached out a trembling hand and very softly ran his finger along the edge of them. “Magnificent,” he whispered. “My dear’s first hunt. Perfect.”
“I’m getting married,” Madeline said turning away from him.
He straightened and looked over to her with a confused expression, “Of course, next summer.”
“December,” she corrected.
“If that is your wish, so be it,” he went to her, but she stepped quickly out of his grasp.
“No Dade I’m marrying someone else in December.”
He stood stalk still for several seconds, just staring at her back. “But, the power we could have. The money we could make. We could be famous.”
“I have no doubt,” Madeline nodded.
“I’m going to teach in Elijah’s place.”
“Is that where you’ve been this summer?” He asked suddenly aware.
“Yes, I was taking classes across the world to be better educated in how to instruct my students beginning next week.”
“So what?” Dade said quickly. “Why not stay with me? You could still teach if that is your wish. This house is yours, I did it for you!” He huffed angrily then asked, “Do you love him?”
Madeline looked at the ground.
“You can’t, how long have you known this man?”
“I met him over the summer.” Madeline said.
“Do you love him?”
Madeline shook her head, “No.”
“Madeline,” Dade spoke more gently this time, “Do you love him?”
She pressed her shoulders down and looked out across the room full of Burners, “No.”
“Look at me!” He caught her around the shoulder and swung her to face him. “Tell me now! Tell me you don’t love him!”
Madeline looked helplessly up to him, her proud manner chased off, her bold unstoppable arrogance beaten back, “Yes Dade, I love him, with every ounce of my being. He is what I want, my match. I’m pained without him at this very moment; though I could never tell him so.”
“Damn it child! You don’t know what you speak of. Where’s that girl I know? The one who wants power and glory?! WHERE? WHERE!”
“Gone,” Madeline mouthed, “she’s dead, and now there’s me.” Madeline slammed her fists against one of the glass cases. “You know nothing of life Dade! Nothing! You pretend to live each day yet don’t come close to understand the essence of what makes life worth while. You live behind your ‘collection’ and things. The things are what you care for! Nothing more! And they make you look pretty, oh yes, they make you look bold and dashing – but what’s that? Who cares!” She pounded on the glass again. “I will not be one of your things, one of your trophies! I won’t. You can’t pet me, polish me and put me up on your mantle. I’m a person. I refuse to live like this, I want to feel purpose and he does that. He respects me. ME!” She poked her chest vigorously. “Who I am. Not some image of fame or power. I don’t need that…in fact, I don’t want that. I want to be a wife, a teacher, and a mother. No one of consequence. Just a woman, one of many in the crowd, just a Necromancer, nothing fancy.” She ran her arm along one of the shelves pushing the various Burners onto the floor carelessly, “These are what you care for, nothing else! When you learn to love, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. When you learn that there’s more than Horcruxes and the next chase. Elijah…he made me see. The fear in his eyes when I rained Burning Plague through his veins brought sense into my fat, thick little head. Then I met Severus, sweet Severus, who sees Madeline through the books, classes, and dark magic. He appreciates me – Madeline.”
“Your mother will never have this.”
“She’s going to have to, all of you are,” she said recomposing herself. “So start right here. Accept it however you must. Yes, Dade, I’m done lying to you – I love him, I really really do.”
“I think perhaps you should reassess your perspective,” Severus said. “She is clearly the one who is remarkable.”
“There is no question there,” Dade nodded, “however, she would not be her without you. Keep that in mind when you search for her.”
“Have you any idea where she might have been going next?” Severus chose to address a different topic.
“Yes, I think she might have been going to seek out Bastien Corbett…the Vampire Prince who gave her the un-healable neck wounds. I can tell you where to find him.”
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