Chapter 16 : The Complicated Decision of Mirabelle Rose
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Chapter 16- The Complicated Decision of Mirabelle Rose
It was surprisingly simple, once my decision was made, to pick myself up off the floor and wipe my tears away. Thankfully, the Malfoy Manor was teaming with magic so I could freely mend and clean my dress with a few quick spells (then tuck in and hide the spots that my magic didn’t quite fix) and make sure no one could tell I had been crying. I pinched my cheeks to give them some color because I was certain that I was pale as a sheet. Then, I squared my shoulders, took a very deep breath, and walked slowly back down to the ball.
I got some of my shaking under control by the time I reentered the ballroom, enough that my mother might not notice. However, inside I was a complete mess. A complete mess who was determined to hold it together until it was safe to fall apart again.
I was a good actress. I knew exactly how to control my facial expressions in a crisis. When you disagreed with everything your family stood for, you had to learn how to act. It felt like all of those years of pretending to be something I wasn’t and feel things that I didn’t were training me for this moment. All of it was practice leading up to this, the big game. The exam that I just had to pass.
So I floated back into the room as if nothing had happened, while inside I was still keening. Mourning for my schoolmate’s stolen future, stolen life. Mourning for all the things I was losing in the wake of her murder. I had never been friends with her, being two years her junior. In fact, the only interaction I had had with her was when she lashed out at me with the rest of the females who were infatuated by Sirius’s charms earlier this year. However, seeing her death had made my heart cringe in my chest, made me ache for her and anyone who knew and loved her.
Outwardly, I pretended everything was okay and quietly reclaimed my place next to my mother. She was listening to Mrs. Parkinson speak of some insipid gathering she was planning and only acknowledged me by slipping her arm through mine.
A knot appeared in my throat and I tried desperately to swallow it before anyone noticed.
Despite everything, I loved my mother. I didn’t agree with her on anything and she drove me absolutely insane but I still loved her. She was still my mother. I loved my father and my brothers too, despite the fact that they all actively pursued everything I hated. I loved my niece more than anything. My family was completely and totally mad but I couldn’t help it, I loved them. My heart broke just thinking about how much I still loved my flawed family. I forced myself to stop thinking about this. I forced myself to focus on the mundane chatter around me because I didn’t want to cry. Because if I cried now, I would fall apart completely and I couldn’t afford to do that just yet.
I pretended to listen attentively to Mrs. Parkinson who was now discussing her oldest son’s impending marriage in so much detail that even my mother looked bored. Then, I felt someone on my other side.
My mother’s grin gave him away. I looked to my left just as he placed a hand on my waist and my mother relinquished her hold on me. My stomach rolled but my smile widened. I held on to every ounce of my acting skills with tenacious fingers as Rabastan smiled back.
To his credit, the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. I noticed also that the hands that were now both on my waist were shaking ever so slightly. So, my boyfriend wasn’t as cold-blooded as I had concluded thirty-five minutes ago but it changed nothing. My boyfriend was still a murderer. I was still sickened by his touch, his very presence. I still couldn’t get Anya’s pleas out of my head; they played like a broken record. I was still acting with every bit of acting skill I could muster.
“Hey, baby,” Rabastan greeted me, his voice steady and confident as always. Well, apparently I wasn’t the only good actor.
“Hey,” I replied softly. He leaned in to kiss my lips and I reflexively moved. The very thought of his lips on mine making me inwardly shudder and not in a good way. He got my cheek instead and looked at me confused. “Not in front of my mom,” I told him, working for the playful, conspiratorial tone of a girl embarrassed by PDA.
My mom and Mrs. Parkinson and the other ladies around laughed and started talking about what a cute couple we were and how publicly affectionate they had been with their husbands at the start (gag me). But when I looked into Rabastan’s eyes, they were full of questions. I had never denied his kisses, never cared who saw, never stiffened when he touched me and he knew something was wrong.
Quickly, I looked away and pretended to listen to the older women gush about young love. Though my stomach heaved, I put my hands on his arms and drew them tighter around me. I felt some of the tension in his body release and tried not to let him feel the tension in mine. Boyfriend or not, I really didn’t want to arouse the suspicions of the bloke who had killed our schoolmate less than an hour ago.
Over the next half hour, I yawned excessively and let my face sort of drop in a tired way. And, even though I didn’t want him touching me, I leaned into Rabastan noticeably as a part of my act. I laid it on thick until my mother finally took notice.
“Are you tired, sweetheart?” she asked with heart-piercing concern in her tone and her face. The lines etched in her forehead were kind, her features lacked that sharp quality they’d had so much with me in the last few years. Instead, she was all soft and warm. The way a mother should be. The way I’d always wanted.
I yawned, ignoring the pang in my chest, and answered. “A bit”
“Well, you still look rather pale. Perhaps you should go home a little early and go to bed,” she said, feeling my forehead. “We’ll follow in an hour or two, I’m sure.”
I blinked. She’d said “you” should go home and “we’ll” follow in an hour or two, as in not now. She wanted me to go home alone, ahead of her, my father and big brother. There was no way I was getting that lucky. It couldn’t possibly be that easy.
For years, my mother had been a lioness, pouncing on every move I made- making sure I stayed on what she considered to be the “proper” course. She always had a need to control everything and everyone in our family, it was one of her qualities I couldn’t stand (mainly because it was usually directed at me). I had hardly been left alone during holidays (except when I snuck away with Sirius) since my first year. And even before that I had been careful watched and protected, as the baby and the only daughter. There was absolutely no way that it would be this easy to wriggle out of her grip. No way she was letting go, just like that.
My luck was just not that good. I was perpetually unfortunate. I had been the unlucky Ravenclaw in a family of Slytherins. I was the unfortunate girl who was mad for Sirius Black when he put me firmly in the friend zone. I was the one of the pair of us who had been left and had to scramble to adapt among the Purebloods. The whole school (save my friends and the Slytherins) thought that I was the one who had hurt Sirius. Most recently, I was unlucky enough to stumble upon my boyfriend murdering one of my schoolmates. My luck was pretty much non-existent. And yet…
“Go on, love,” she smiled encouragingly. “We’ll be home soon. You need your rest.”
I nearly went into shock on the spot. The endearment combined with how incredibly well my plan had worked was throwing me off. I had to regain my composure before they noticed.
I managed to disguise my deep calming breath as a disappointed sigh and replied, “I s’pose you’re right, mum.”
“Of course, dear.” Her smile got warmer as she leaned in and kissed my cheek. “There’s a fireplace in that room over there,” she pointed to the room adjoining the ballroom. “Just try not to get your dress dirty.”
“I will,” I murmured, leaning away from Rabastan and into my mother. “I love you, Mummy,” I told her, sounding like a small child. I couldn’t help it I had to say it. It was that best I could do under the circumstances.
“Mmm,” her eyes glowed with contented warmth as she hugged me. “I love you, too.”
I didn’t want to let go. These arms, though they rarely had encircled me in the last five years, felt safe in a way no other arms in the world could. This was the woman who had known me from the very first second I came into existence. The women who had carried me within her and nurtured me when I couldn’t take care of myself. She was the only mother I would ever have and I didn’t want to let go. I hated the thought of disappointing her. Despite everything, I hated the thought of leaving this golden sphere of love she clothed me in right now.
I doubted my mother would ever hate me or ever had. No matter what I did, I was almost certain in that moment, she would still love me. She would not show this love but it would always be there.
Of my father and brothers I was less sure. My father and I had lost our closeness, without a doubt. But I was still his little girl, wasn’t I? Would that keep him from truly hating me? Milo would most certainly hate me, with the same power that he loved me right now. His hate would be that much stronger because he’d loved me. It made it more personal that way. Oh, he’d say I was no one special to him anymore but deep down I would always be special- no matter if I was especially hated or especially beloved. Markus was the brother I was less sure would hate me. He may agree with Milo out loud or refuse to speak my name, but hate me in truth? I wasn’t sure. He had always been a good big brother. He’d defended his oddball baby sister. In my head, I compared my brother’s to Andromeda’s sisters. Milo was like Bellatrix, so firmly devoted to his beliefs that he would not hesitated to loathe any sibling who did not share them. Markus was like Narcissa, he would profess to feel the same passionate hate but would not really feel it. He would not call me his sister outside of his own home anymore but in his heart I always would be. He and his wife would be sad but I didn’t think they would really truly hate me. Even if they said that that was the case.
But how would they raise their daughter? Would she grow to hate me as vehemently as the rest of our family’s circle? Would she remember me as her loving aunt or would I just be a stranger? Would she grow to believe the things the rest of my family believed or would someone show her a different path? Who would she become without someone to slip suggestions of blood equality and peaceful Muggle coexistence in her ear? My heart ached just thinking about it.
I sighed longingly in my mother’s arms, wishing I didn’t have to let go. But I did.
After a long moment, we both pulled back and I memorized her face. Seeing some of myself staring back- the curve of my lips, the shape of my face, the color of my eyes. I memorized every line as she squeezed my hand and said.
“Get some rest. We’ll see you at home, sweet.”
I nodded but said nothing. I turned and began to walk away when a large hand closed around my wrist.
“I’ll walk you,” Rabastan murmured.
I suppressed a shiver and forced myself to act naturally. “To the fireplace?”
My grin was wide and tone teasing but I knew my eyes were cold. I also knew that he could still tell something was off. So, I didn’t tell him that I was perfectly capable to walk across the room by myself. I didn’t give him my independent woman lecture. I just wound my fingers through his to ease his mind and shook my head, forcing something near a giggle as if to say “silly boyfriend”. My mother and her friends all smiled affectionately, admiring what I’m sure they considered to be the epitome of a perfect pureblood young couple as we walked away hand in hand.
My hand tingled as we walked, like a thousand little bugs had crawled between us and were doing a little jig. I couldn’t wait to get to the fireplace so I could let go. We walked in silence but there was a palpable sort of tension. Could he feel it too or was that just my imagination running wild?
The room with the fireplace in it was a small, formal sitting room with red walls. By the looks of the pristine, antique furniture it was rarely used. The fireplace was large and ornate with gold serpents around the mantel.
I let go of Rabastan’s hand and gave him a hesitant, half-hearted peck on the cheek. I turned to grab some Floo Powder and make my get away but a large hand clasped around my wrist.
“Hey, wait.” Rabastan’s voice had a strange gentle quality to it. A gentle quality completely at odds with what I had seen him do an hour and a half ago. “Talk to me for a second.”
I looked him in the eyes apprehensively. “Okay, what do you want to talk about?”
“Are you sure you’re alright? You seem like...I dunno. Is something wrong?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” I lied. “Just tired. It’s been a long day. I think I really just need to go home and sleep for a while.”
He looked like he wanted to pry further. Like he wanted to say something else but instead he nodded. “Alright. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“’Course,” I avoided looking in his eyes. Giving him another peck, this time on the lips. Then I turned back towards the fireplace and climbed in before he could stop me again. I shouted for home and threw the powder down, not bothering to take a last look at my boyfriend.
I spun around ten times (I counted to keep from hyperventilating), then stopped, swaying on the spot in my own fireplace. I stepped out, taking a deep breath, and looked around the sitting room that no one was ever allowed to sit in. I contemplated sitting on one of the chairs but thought better of it. I continued slowly through the room and into the foyer.
I was happy that none of the house elves were around cleaning. They would just have tried to be overly helpful and that would only slow me down. I did not have time to convince them that I was not hungry nor did I need help undressing myself.
My heels clacked up the stairs, echoing forlornly in the empty house, as I went to my room. I walked past my parents’ room and both of the rooms my brothers had shut me out of when we were kids. Finally, I pushed open my own door with a groan.
My heart got stuck in my chest as I stood in the doorway. A knot clogged my throat as I looked at the visual representation of who I was. The undertone of the classic mahogany furniture my mother had picked to replace my wrought iron crib told the story of my upper crust, stiff, pureblood family. In stark contrast, my colorful bed sheets, silly pictures, Ravenclaw memorabilia, and dizzying array of books told the story of who I was and who I could be. The clothes in my closet clashed noticeably, a mix of casual jeans and band T-shirts (mostly stolen from Sirius), school uniforms, and ballgowns and day dresses from my mother. The mess I’d made on the dresser this morning conflicted with the meticulous care the house elves took of the rest of the room. So many contradictions, something had to give.
I blinked rapidly and stepped inside, closing the door before I let my tears spill over once again. With the tears came a fierce ache in my chest. I sank to the floor, curling in on myself as the pain rocked through me. I sat there shaking and crying harder than I did even after watching Rabastan kill my schoolmate. Harder than when Sirius left. Harder than I did after becoming a Ravenclaw and realizing I would forever be the outcast of my family. I cried with abandon, not caring about my makeup or my dress.
I would have probably stayed there all night if I had not had a very small window of opportunity to seize. I allowed myself a few moments and then inhaled deeply. I had to pull it together. Time was precious.
I stood shakily, holding onto the door for support. Then, I wiped my eyes covering my fingertips in my mascara, which had finally given into the influx of tears. I reached behind me to unzip my gown and stepped out of it unceremoniously.
In nothing but my most uncomfortable strapless bra and matching black underwear, I crossed the room to my closet. I began removing clothing in bulk, all the things that were mine. My school uniforms were all old so I didn’t bother with those, all of the ones that fit me were in my dorm room at school. I did not touch a single dress or gown, I would not need them anymore. I threw all of the clothes that I wanted into my trunk without stopping to fold them.
As I moved to my bookshelf I mentally blessed Nora for using it to practice her Undetectable Extension Charms. My books went in with ease and I knew that even if I picked my trunk up and carried it out of the house myself, I would not fully feel their weight. With my bookshelves empty of their knowledge and wisdom, I moved to the dresser.
I removed every picture and Ravenclaw emblem from it and from the walls. Then, I grabbed a few items I thought I might want tomorrow morning, wherever I was. Next, I kicked off my heels and climbed on top of my vanity.
Years ago, when I was just beginning to feel the pull of Sirius’s mischievous ways, I found a hidden compartment in my bedroom wall. I was thrilled beyond belief but had nothing to keep in it but childish things: candy stolen from my brothers, the diary I could never quite keep up on, the Muggle Walkman and tape Sirius had given me that I did not want my mother to find. And then I became a Ravenclaw and my fellow pureblood Ravenclaw, Andromeda, ran away and started a new life. Even at eleven I understood what that meant.
She had nothing: no money, no possessions, and no plan. Just Teddy.
I didn’t have a Teddy. I didn’t have that commitment from the person I loved. I didn’t have security in the knowledge that I was not alone. I had no Teddy but I had all of the other reasons. So, at twelve years old, when my parents started giving me galleons to buy school supplies I began my collection. Every knut, sickle, and galleon I could spare went into my money bag and my money bag went into this hidden compartment. Every birthday, Christmas, every babysitting job and start of the school year I added to my stash. When I learned how, I extended the bag just like Nora had extended my trunk so that it would not overflow.
Now, on the cusp of sixteen, I took my money from its hiding place and put it into the inside pocket of my trunk. When the last of my possessions was packed I secured my trunk and stood in my ransacked room. Though I had little time left, I went into my bathroom and washed the layer of makeup and tears from my face. With another deep breath, I removed my impractical undergarments and replaced them with practical ones. Over them, I donned jeans and a dark hooded sweatshirt. I pulled my hair back into a bun and put my trainers on.
Professor Flitwick’s words of wisdom were at the forefront of my mind as I entered my room once more. I shrunk my trunk with a wand flourish that would have made my head of house proud and put it in my pocket, praying that my Trace would still be befuddled by the abundance of magical activity in my parents’ manor at all times. Then, I put another hooded sweatshirt over that one, both for warmth and to make sure my trunk had no way of falling out of my pocket. Wary of my ever-dwindling time, I locked my door in an effort to delay my mother’s discovery of my absence.
I almost didn’t bother, but at the last second, I scribbled a note and left it on the bed.
In my note, I told them why I was leaving and what I’d seen tonight. I told them I knew they’d hate me but hoped they wouldn’t. That I would love them always despite the fact that I was their polar opposite and against everything they stood for. I couldn’t be the person they wanted me to be. I had to just be me.
I grabbed my broom and opened my bay window. Then I turned for one last look at my childhood bedroom. The knot in my throat tightened again and the tears threatened to escape once more. My heart shuddered with an ache again that threatened to overwhelm me. But I had to keep it together.
I could not afford to lose it again at this stage. I had to hold it together or this would never work.
So, I turned my back on the room that had been my sanctuary and my prison. I stepped out onto the roof that my mother had scolded me for climbing on when I was younger, afraid I’d break my neck, and inhaled the crisp night air. I put my both hoods up to protect me, at least for a few minutes, from the biting winter chill. My pulse pounded in my ears, drowning out the night sounds of owls hooting and crickets chirping. Then, as I exhaled, I kicked off and soared into the air. I soared into the black night, leaving my house, family and life behind forever. My choice had been made. I wasn’t on the fence. I wasn’t torn.
Pureblood no longer, I was now a bloodtraitor.
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