It is impossible to go through life without trust: That is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself.
It was happening. They had gotten to her first.
Because of me. Because of the mask I had to wear.
I watched, completely ignored by The Youth as Victoire was carried away by a figure that might have been Teddy.
She would've lasted longer, I was sure, if her wand was working right.
I closed my eyes and slid down against the wall. Fourteen-or Andrew, Teddy's latest personal assistant looked at me incredulously. “What's got you all upset? I hear that the young lady Victoire Weasley punishes her assistants twice a day, at least. Even if they've acted perfectly.”
I bit my tongue. I couldn't hold it against him. He was young. He didn't know. He didn't have a clue that we were being listened to. He had no idea.
He, like all the other members of the society, believed that Victoire was notorious for punishing anyone below her that so much as glanced in her direction. The lie protected her.
It was a lie that Teddy, Ben and I had been feeding for the last three years. We needed Victoire to be viewed as a cold-blooded, brainwashed schemer. It was the only way that she would be trusted.
“I adore Victoire Weasley. All young ladies should pray to the Dark Lord for a chance to be half as noble as she is.” I made sure my voice held a good combination of deference and humility.
He just stared at me and I prayed that he wouldn't say anything stupid. One life was not as important as the entire resistance. I would report him because I knew that they could already hear every word we said and it would give me the status of mole.
Every hallway in Hogwarts was charmed so that our conversations could be heard by the professors.
Luckily, it was considered normal for people to locate and disable listening charms placed on clothing and in private rooms. Nobody realized that the government was the spy. Petty school enemies weren't what caused the fifty-percent survival rate of Hogwarts students.
Victoire was one of the few that realized what kind of life she was living.
Andrew shook his head at me, but had the sense to remain silent. It was really too bad that he had been assigned to Teddy.
Because of his complex role, Teddy had trust issues. Besides that, he went through assistants like napkins. He didn't trust them since they were too easily corrupted so he had them sent off to work in the kitchens, or doing laundry or some other medial chore after a few weeks of following him around.
The young ones were always a problem. Assistants had a much lower survival rate than the purebloods because they were disposable, but also because they were put into jobs that required...discretion at ages where discretion wasn't even a part of their vocabulary.
Once I was sure that Andrew was done talking, I stood and started walking to Teddy's dorm. It was near Victoire's and it was far more secure.
As I walked, I kept my head down, as was proper here, and thought over the last forty-eight hours.
I remembered last night.
It had been late, but that made it the perfect time to do my 'chores'. An assistant walking the halls alone when there were people about was never a good thing.
Assistants could be ordered about by just about anyone who was a third year or higher and not in Hufflepuff.
I had always scoffed at the way they categorized the houses. Slytherin was the highest in prestige because Voldemort himself had been in that house. Gryffindor was second because all the propaganda that was shoved down the pureblood's throats said that Gryffindor house had betrayed the Order and helped the Dark Lord win the battle of Hogwarts. Lies.
Ravenclaw only beat Huflepuff because they had a more valuable quality-knowledge.
But in any case, I chose to do my Order work at night under the ruse of doing Victoire's laundry. As I passed the seventh suit of armour I pretended to drop the rather large basket and stooped down. After checking that nobody was near, I put a piece of paper with only five words in the statues helmet.
Too late by tomorrow afternoon.
There were thousands of suits of armour in Hogwarts. Nobody would bother looking in this particular one. And even if they did, they wouldn't understand the message that Teddy had passed me earlier today. He really did try to do most of the work himself, but he had a cover to keep and in reality, he was more important to The Order than me.
Since converting Victoire was our main objective, Ben would know what it meant. He would be called to help initiate her, of course, but not in enough time to pass the information to Dad and the rest of The Order. So in the morning he would walk by the statue and check for mail.
Hopefully he would have time to go to the current hideout and tell them.
It always came down to hope. Nothing was ever definite. Nothing.
As I picked up the last of the laundry and started toward the laundry rooms, I heard footsteps and my heart dropped into my stomach.
This could not be good. There were no witnesses. I would be at the mercy of whoever this was. Unable to use my wand, hidden in my clothes, because it would ruin my cover.
There was nowhere to hide and I cursed the fact that this was virtually the only hallway on this floor without some trick door or passage to stow away in.
The thought of a 'secret' passage was rather laughable at this point. All of the passages from my fathers days were common knowledge and while I was sure that there were thousands that we didn't know about, I knew that there was a reason they hadn't been found.
The footsteps were louder now.
There was only one thing to do.
I picked up the basket and started walking, praying that it would turn out to be Teddy, Victiore, Ben or another 'muggle'.
It wasn't my lucky day.
Scorpius Malfoy. I knew it was him without looking at his face. After looking at the ground for so long, the way people walked and the makes of their shoes became more recognizable than their faces.
He was always around Victoire and I and I was rather certain that he had a crush on her. Why did it have to be tonight of all nights that we just happened to run into each other?
I would have to obey any order he gave me. The society was like a military, or at least that was what Hermione said. He outranked me. The end.
I concentrated on keeping my breathing even as we passed each other in the hall. I could tell by the way he walked that this was no coincidence.
He stopped in front of me and I stopped immediately, not moving.
He broke the silence, “Twenty-Six, take Victoire Weasley's laundry to the elves and see that it is brought back to her room clean by morning.”
A short, black-haired boy started forward immediately, “Yes, sir.”
I handed the basket off without comment and waited.
“Seven. I am going to give you this fake wand. It is a perfect replica of the wand of Victoire Weasley. You are going to take her real wand to me and put the fake one in it's place.”
I tasted bile. Initiation.
“Yes. Sir.” I whispered, holding my hand out for the fake wand, wondering how I could warn Victoire. It was surely charmed with listening spells.
He noticed the separation in my words, but he didn't comment as he placed the fake in my hand.
I stood there, loathing him, waiting for a dismissal. He was silent for an irregular amount of time and I chanced a glance at his face, he looked...conflicted.
I gulped when my eyes met his and I put my head back down, waiting for punishment or worse.
That was the first rule I had learned in this world. Never, ever look anyone in the eye.
Instead, he cleared his throat. “Leave, now. And...be careful.”
I clenched my jaw in shock and turned around, heading back toward the dorms.
Be careful. What did that mean? It certainly didn't mean what the dictionary said it did. That was all I knew.
Victoire was a light sleeper, but she also trusted me. So when she went to her closet that morning, leaving her wand on her pillow, I quickly switched it.
I never would have done it, but they would have known. I would've warned her, but they would've heard.
It wasn't fair. Why couldn't we win just once?
I pulled myself back to the present when I arrived at Teddy's door.
Back in the old days, the sleeping arrangements had been...different. Now, everyone had their own rooms. It was safer that way. It kept people isolated. It prevented bonding. It rejected the very thought of trust. How could you learn not to trust anyone when you were expected to sleep in a room with armed strangers every night?
Sickened as I was, I opened the door. It was charmed so that Ben, Victoire and I could enter without the key.
Ben had argued about Victoire being on that particular list, but Teddy's feelings weren't up to rational argument-or any other kind of argument, for that matter.
I crossed immediately to the window, grabbed a broom and prayed that Teddy could keep them from hurting Victoire too badly.
I wrenched the window open and prepared for the short journey by broom and the apparation afterward.
Why was nothing ever certain?
* * *
“Victoire Weasley?” A female voice asked from far off.
I shook my head, “Go away Seven. It isn't time to get up yet.”
There were muted chuckles.
“I am not your little helper. Wake up now.” The voice was male this time.
I forced my eyes open and blinked rapidly. This was not my bedroom.
I was in a dark, damp room that I assumed was part of the dungeon. The walls were a bleak shade of grey...and I was surrounded by people in masks and jet black robes. The uni-house uniforms of The Youth
The last half hour before I was knocked out became clear in my head and I fought off a groan.
“Come on Victoire Weasley. You've been asleep all day. Time to get up.” The voice actually sounded kind.
Confused, I sat up and a hand shot out to steady me as I stood.
“What is going on here?” I asked shakily, unable to put up a facade of strength.
“You've been chosen.” The first female told me, cocking her masked face to the side.
“I'm aware.” I told her dryly. “But why aren't you torturing me or something? Isn't this supposed to be the initiation?”
More chuckles. Then I heard Teddy's voice, “Victoire, that's all a lie. All of it. The truth is...we don't support the Dark Lord. We think that you can help us. The Youth has a plan to overthrow the ministry and we need you. Can we count you in?”
I blinked. Always, I had suspected that Teddy didn't support The Dark Lord. But it wasn't something that anyone could say out loud. I looked around in a stupor, waiting for Death Eaters to swoop down in all directions and kill us all.
Teddy continued, “If you...can't agree to this, I understand. We'll put a memory charm on you and we can all pretend that it never happened.”
I turned back to him, needing to understand, “Does Severus Snape know of this?”
The group as a whole shook their heads.
Something was wrong with this. It was too...easy.
They had to be lying. I remembered Teddy's words. He said that it was a test. All a test.
So that meant they were lying, right?
But what if they weren't?
I had two options right now. I could say yes, or no. It boiled down to whether I wanted The Dark Lord to be in control of the government.
But what else was there? The ministry before The Dark Lord had been poisonous. Corrupt. Evil.
Were they going to try and create a new system?
I buried my head in my hands and thought of Seven.
Seven had been the one to make me realize that my world wasn't as perfect as I thought. How could it be when a muggle could use magic?
Muggles weren't magical. Only purebloods had magic. Everyone else was a mudblood. They didn't have magic.
Our lives were built on that reasoning. But Seven could do magic. I had seen it.
I couldn't live a lie anymore. I didn't want The Dark Lord.
But was this true, or a test?
Gulping, I looked up with a plan.
I would tell them that I would help them, then I would go straight to the office of Severus Snape and tell him everything.
If they were lying, I would pass what was obviously a test. If they were telling the truth, I was dooming what was probably the only hope for change. But if they weren't lying, if it wasn't a test...they would make me swear vows of secrecy, right?
“I will help you.” I whispered, clenching my fists involuntarily.
“Good.” Teddy said before the other boy interrupted him.
“You need to know. Only half of us are rebels. And...Benjamin Nott suspects that we aren't entirely loyal. You cannot tell anyone outside of this room. Understand?”
I nodded. Was that all? “What do you need me to do?”
The masked boy stared at me for a moment. “We'll get to that later. For now, go back to your room and pretend that you've just been through an ordeal.”
I nodded again and walked out slowly. If they weren't lying, I rationalized, then they were far to stupid to be useful against The Dark Lord anyway.
I took a few steps down the hall and the door opened behind me.
I whirled around to find Teddy looming over me with a small, worried smile, holding his mask in his left hand.
I stared at him for a moment before walking on. This wasn't fair! I wanted so badly to talk to him, to ask him whether they were really big morons or if they were only slight morons and testing me. Either way, they were pathetic.
“You aren't going to your dorm, are you?” He asked carefully as he caught up to me. It almost sounded like a suggestion.
I stopped and stared at him, a painful feeling twisted through my stomach.
“I want to be able to trust you Teddy. And I do. But not...enough.” I hugged my arms around my stomach, holding myself together. I couldn't truly trust anyone. It wasn't fair. I needed someone. Just...someone who I could trust without reservation.
Teddy didn't want me dead. And we were close friends. But I needed more. I needed trust.
An agonized look crossed his face before he schooled it and looked around hatefully at the enchanted hallways.
“You can Victoire. I would do-...Please...just know that you can trust me with anything. Anything.” He clenched his teeth shut and offered me his hand.
Feeling near tears, I took it and we walked to his dorm.
“I'll see you at dinner, Teddy.” I whispered almost formally.
He smiled, “Yes, you will. And don't worry. You'll pass.”
Not past tense. That was a clue. I wasn't done yet. So I was right to tell Benjamin Nott?
“Sneaky, Teddy.” I whispered almost imperceptibly.
He just smirked, like he always did and whispered back, “You've no idea.”
He shut the door, still smiling and I walked to the next one down and knocked.
It opened immediately. He was expecting someone.
“Yes?” His tone was pleased.
I looked up at Benjamin Nott's chin.
It all came down to trust now.
Teddy had laid a trail for me to follow. If he was with me, then he was just telling me that it was a test. He was helping me cheat. Even if it did suggest that he thought I was against The Dark Lord. If he was against me, it meant that he was spying on the idiots in the little 'resistance' and he was trying to keep me on his side of it.
Either way, he was helping at his own expense.
Time to roll the dice. “The portion of The Youth that initiated me are rebels. They asked me to join their movement. Teddy Lupin is with them...but I think he's spying on them. He's the most loyal wizard I've met.”
Benjamin Nott chuckled, “Quite worked up about it aren't you? Why are you telling me?”
“I was told that you suspected them. Now you have a witness.” I answered quietly.
Benjamin nodded. “Good job Victoire Weasley. You did the right thing. You're officially a member of The Youth.”
I made my face look shocked, “Wait...what? What about the rebels?”
He snickered, “There are no rebels. It was all a test.”
They were really huge morons. Every single one of them. I would pass through this group with ease.
“Oh.” I said, sounding dazed.
He just laughed again. “There'll be a ceremony on Saturday. But as of now, you are a sister.”
Footsteps. “Congratulations.” His voice sounded...bitter?
It was Teddy again.
I raised an eyebrow at him as he handed me a wand.
“You switched my wand?” I asked delicately.
He grimaced and I suddenly remembered that I was ignoring Benjamin Nott and panicked. Then I remembered that we were the same rank now.
I let out a breath.
“Relax Victoire.” Teddy advised.
I gave him a short lived glare and pulled the fake wand out of my robes. It was a perfect replica.
“Goodnight you two. I have...homework.” Nott announced abruptly shutting his door.
I looked up at Teddy in confusion, but he shrugged.
“So...why did you switch these?” I asked tiredly.
“Well for most people the replica's don't work like they're supposed to. The group was...impressed at you're dueling skills. A few insisted that the wands weren't switched at all.” He had that faraway look that he got sometimes.
I raised my eyebrow again, he was always making my fighting abillity out to be better than it was, “That's odd, because it worked perfectly. Maybe the person who got the wand made a mistake? And...why do you always try to make me sound like a good fighter?”
Teddy smirked that smirk that screamed 'I know something you don't', “I don't make mistakes, love. And...maybe I want people to think that you'd win any duel. So they won't try to fight with you or hurt you.”
So maybe he made sure the wand worked on purpose? Or maybe I was very talented. Both?
Part of my brain was analyzing, the other half had butterflies because of the word 'love' and because he was trying to protect me.
“What time is it?” I asked as a distraction.
“Just after midnight. We had you asleep for a long time...can I ask you something?” His voice became oddly intense.
“Yes?” I asked, tightening my grip on my real wand.
“How...how hard were you thinking about...the bad acting and how hard about...” He looked around at the hallway hatefully again.
I stared at him. He wasn't asking what I thought he was, was he?
“Teddy?” I whispered, needing him to explain. I needed a place where we couldn't be heard.
He looked at me for a long moment. “Come with me?”
It seemed like a loaded question for some reason, but I nodded. For some reason it felt like the initiation wasn't over. Or like it had just begun.
I wanted this. I wanted to trust him.
I wanted life to be fair.
I tucked my wand away and told myself to stop dreaming about the impossible.
Trust needed to stay in Fairy Tales where it belonged.
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