abyss @ tda

As much as she knew that the notion was ridiculous, Lily couldn’t help but think that it was all her fault. She took deep, shaky breaths to try to calm herself down, though it wasn’t very effective. By the time that she had arrived back home to see Dorcas’s also pale face and also shaky breaths, she was just bordering on the hysterical.

“What happened? Tell me everything,” was all that she managed, before she collapsed on the couch.

Dorcas began to explain how she had gone over to visit Marlene the other day only to realize that the flat was empty. As in, that no one was home: she hadn’t found out that the flat really was empty until later. At first, she hadn’t thought too much of it, since it could have just been that Marlene and Snape had gone out, but then, as she was leaving, she overheard one of the neighbors mention that the two tenants of the flat that Snape and Marlene lived in had done a disappearing act.

(“Probably eloped to Gretna Green or summat,” rolled the eyes of the gossipy, middle-aged lady. “Kids these days.”)

“But I knew that something was up, because that’s not Marlene’s style,” Dorcas continued, frowning.

“Yeah, if she were to elope, it’d be to a tropical island,” Lily agreed. They had shared a rare, teary smile, but it disappeared once again as the reality of the situation sunk in.

And so, feeling marginally more relieved at having someone else to confide her worries in, but only marginally since one of her best friends was still in grave danger and there wasn’t really anything that she could do about it, Dorcas went on with the explanation. She’d gone home suspicious, though she figured that Marlene would owl her with a justification for whatever it was that had happened, and then everything would be cleared up. But the letter from Marlene never came. She got a frantic note from Marlene’s parents instead, wondering if she knew who in Merlin’s name this Severus Snape character was, and why he was demanding several hundred thousand galleons’ ransom for their daughter.

“I didn’t know that Snape was this kind of a person,” Dorcas finished, her eyes worried. This made Lily start to burst into tears, and the blonde looked over to her, alarmed. “It’s not your fault,” she attempted to soothe, though she was not sure how effective it was. “No one knew. We couldn’t have predicted this. I mean, you were right all along in warning her about him, and she should have listened to you, but we couldn’t have predicted this.”

“But I did know!” Lily wailed, miserably, and suddenly she was full of self-blame and reproach again. “I knew what kind of a person he was. Not at the start, of course, but I found out a few months ago, during my trip to visit Tuney.” At Dorcas’s confused look, she added, “It’s a long story, and I’ll tell you all of it, I swear. I just, I didn’t bother to tell you before, and I’m so sorry. I didn’t think it was that important. And I told parts of it to Marlene, but she wasn’t even listening.”

After all, she had thought that Snape had been a thing of the past. When Marlene told her that she had started to date the bloke she had tried to warn her, but Marlene, at the time, had not been one to listen to reason. Severus Snape might have been a slimy git, but he was good at the act of persuasion. Lily had easily believed the lies that he had fed her, too. And there was no doubt now that he had lied to Marlene in order to try to take advantage of her fortune, one that he was not yet aware did not actually exist.

And so everything started to pour out: what she had found out at Rosings, James’s letter (though she kept the parts about Remus being a werewolf vague, merely alluding to the fact that he had an important secret), even how her trip with Frank and Alice had eventually panned out. Everything. When she was done, she nervously threaded her fingers together, waiting for Dorcas’s reaction.

The blonde wasn’t happy, but at least she wasn’t absolutely furious. “Merlin, Lily. Promise you’ll never keep anything that major from me again.” Her voice cracked. “From us again-- if there even is going to be an us anymore.”

Lily nodded slowly, and there was a moment of silence, as they thought of Marlene.

And finally Lily spoke again, determination acting as the heat, hardening her face into steel. “There will be. We’ll find her. We’ll get her back.” She frowned. “We’ll just-- we’ll just come up with the money on our own, somehow.”

Dorcas looked doubtful. “Several hundred thousand galleons’ worth, in two days?” she asked.

“Maybe Gringotts will be willing to lend some of that,” she frowned, knowing that it was improbable, but not impossible. “And-- I don’t really like this idea but if push comes to shove, we could owl some of our friends to chip in, telling that we’ll pay them back later somehow.” She sighed. “One thing is for certain: we can’t let Snape find out that we really don’t have the money that he’s demanding. We’ll have to make her parents understand that.”

“I know.” Dorcas’s voice was hard, too. Strangled, partially, as it held back tears. “The money is the only thing that’s keeping her alive.”

I love you.

He had said it to her, and she’d said it back, and what good had that amounted to? Now, she was tied to a chair in the middle of a dark, empty warehouse, throat parched. Her eyes, though, were (thankfully) dry as well.

“It’s actually kind of creepy, you know, you hovering in the corner like that.” He’d bound her legs-- a leglocker charm-- and had tied her wrists behind her back, but for some reason, he hadn’t put a restraint on her mouth. She could make out his silhouette even in the dim lighting. How could she not? It was a figure she’d grown used to, for all the wrong reasons.

“No one will hear you if you scream. I already charmed the walls,” Snape simply said, as if he were reading your mind. He smirked: she couldn’t make out the features, but she could hear it in his voice. “Creepy is kind of the point, is it not?”

“Charming,” she quipped, sarcastically. Pun intended. Merlin, she was about to die and here she was, cracking puns as if her life depended on it. (Well. Was that insensitive? She was brilliant at that.) “I didn’t know you were one for cliches.”

“I find that cliches don’t have to be so terribly contrite, if they are executed with perfection.” He was gloating, now. “And how’s this for a non-cliche: maybe I’d ditched the gag just in case I got bored and would want to kiss you. We’re still in a relationship, aren’t we, love?”

“You’re disgusting,” she spat.

“And you’re pathetic,” he countered back easily. His voice was cold. “At least now I don’t have to pretend that I stand you anymore.”

So it really had all been a lie to him. There had been some part of her, some stupid, stupid part, that had clung onto the hope that he’d really been in love with her, or had at least felt something for her, but was just temporarily out of his mind due to delusions of grandeur. But that was far from it; it’d been his plan all along to deceive her. It had hurt more than she would have liked to admit, because Marlene McKinnon had fancied herself in love with Severus Snape.

I love you, he had said.

But he had not been the only one to say those words to her.

Someone else had said it, once. And that person had meant it.

That was her last thought as he shot a stunning spell at her and she drifted back into unconsciousness.

They had owled everyone they could think of, Lily and Dorcas. The two worked day in and night out, contacting people to see if they could chip in, exchanging owls with officials from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to see if they had been able to locate Marlene.

They had to be covert about it, though, since Snape had bitterly warned Marlene’s parents from contacting the MLE or else they could say their final farewells to their daughter. He hadn’t said anything about Lily and Dorcas, though. So there was the loophole, and for now, he didn’t seem to be monitoring their actions. Not that anyone had seen Snape or knew where he was; their only source of information was from the letters he had sent to Marlene’s parents. It had been two days already: her parents had stalled and said that they needed to slowly transfer the money out of Gringotts, so that it would not be suspicious, and that gave them time to-- do what? Well, apparently sit around and try to contact the MLE and fundraise, Lily thought wryly.

(Maybe it was a stroke of luck, but they thankfully had yet to accidentally stumble across one of their past/present love interests.)

It was the only stroke of luck, though, as they kept getting negatives from the Ministry. “We’re trying all that we can,” the secretary had told them in a letter, though how genuine that was the two could not tell. Maybe to them, Marlene was just another statistic, just another name on paper. And that was hardly comforting, but that was all they could get.

They didn’t lose hope, though. They couldn’t. Hope was a special, special thing, a light in the middle of the dark, and it was the only thing propelling them forward. They had to believe that things would get better, that they would be able to help Marlene, because the alternative was too frightening to even think about.

Lily had been right, Marlene realized.

She’d been right about Snape all along, and instead of listening to her friend of eleven years like any normal person would have done, she’d chosen the boy. She had been a girl who feared settling down, who did not care for infidelity, who trusted her friends beyond everything because they had stuck by her when no one else had, and yet she’d thrown away almost all of her ideals and ran off with someone she’d thought was meant to be her Prince Charming.

Fat load of good it had done her.

She wished that she could see Lily again, so that she could apologize. She wished that she could collapse into Dorcas’s reassuring arms, or have a cup of her mother’s tea, or have her dad ruffle her hair as he reassured her that everything would be all right.

But that was impossible.

She’d probably never see any of them again. Sure, Snape had no intention of killing her now-- though, it seemed, he was not against hitting her with hexes if she spoke out of line, which she often did: the scratches and bruises littered across her body were proof-- but once he realized that there really was no hope of the ransom money coming into his hands, he probably wouldn’t be against it, if only out of spite for wasting his time.

He’d ditch her body somewhere and probably have no remorse for it at all, the git.

She realized, though, that the feelings that most dominated were anger and regret, not sadness. She’d realized, deep down, that she’d known all along. She’d known that sometimes, his words were insincere, that sometimes, his eyes were open when they’d kiss, that sometimes, she’d feel like she cared for him more than he had for her. But she’d ignored it, because she wanted to be in love. She wanted to believe herself capable of it. The last time she had been confronted with it she had been too scared, scared of the unknown, scared of getting hurt, scared of something she wasn’t quite sure that she believed in.

She wanted to prove that she was above that now. That she was just like everyone else, everyone who believed.

Marlene McKinnon thought herself to be broken, and she’d thought love, long lauded as the most powerful thing in the world, would be able to cure it. She had thrown herself into love with the desperate fervor of a nonbeliever who was worshipping a god that she hoped would absolve her of all her previous sins. If she just believed in love -- if she just believed that she was in it -- everything would be okay.

It was stupid, looking back, but love made you do stupid things.

Really, really stupid things.

She was ashamed of how she had acted, but there was nothing that she could do about it now, was there?

Yet she knew that she couldn’t afford to think like that. She wouldn’t allow herself to give up.

If there was anything that Marlene was good at, it was not doing as she was told. The current situation -- her tied up, weakened from the minimal food she was being fed, with her wand abandoned halfway across the room, rolled over from when she had tried to put up a fight -- told her that things were hopeless. She refused to accept that.

Anger beat determinedly in her chest in the place where her broken heart was supposed to be as she tried to think of a plan for escape.

“Where’s James?” Petrova simpered to Dorea Potter, as the elderly witch opened the door. She only barely cracked it open, not inviting the other witch in.

“Not here at the moment, love,” the woman responded, not as warmly as she should have. “He and Sirius nipped over to Remus’s for a bit.”

“But I was just at Remus’s,” the Animagi protested. “No one was home.”

“Hm, that’s strange.” But there was something in the other witch’s tone that suggested that she didn’t find that very strange at all.

The ropes around her hands were magically untied so that she could eat the disgusting looking soup that he had provided her. (“Try anything cute and I won’t hesitate to use this,” he had said as he brandished his wand threateningly, and she thought sadly of hers lying across the room.)

“Well, you didn’t have to be so extravagant,” she said sarcastically.

“I’m a poor man,” he smirked. “For now, anyway.”

And forever, she thought in her brain, but did not say anything. Instead, she demanded, “How long are you going to keep me in here for?”

“For however long it’s necessary,” he smirked. “It’s not up to me, of course. It’s up to your parents.” His eyes then narrowed at her. “Your parents are not being quite cooperative, Marlene, for parents who are supposed to be extremely loaded and who supposedly care for their daughter very much.”

He was trying to hit a nerve, to wear her down, but it did not work. In the past few days, she had been defiant-- but that resolve was slowly crumbling, too. She tried not to let it show, though. “Maybe you should let me go, and I can access the money in their vault for you.”

“Ha. Nice try, McKinnon, but I’m not an idiot.”

“Says you,” she retorted hoarsely. That earned her a stinging hex to the cheek, but she only cracked a smile. “Oh, go ahead and do that, if it makes you feel powerful, Snape. But just so you know, you disgust me.”

“That’s not what you said last week,” he smirked, bringing back the exchange of I love you’s.

She faltered, but only just barely. “You’re not the only one who knows how to lie.”

In her dreams, there was Sirius Black. She wasn’t sure why, seeing as she hadn’t thought about the bloke in months. Perhaps her weakening resolve was trying to go back to where it all first went wrong. Regardless, he was suddenly there when she closed her eyes, invading her subconscious. Snape was wearing her down; she was getting weaker and weaker, drifting out of subconscious, and he was getting crueler and crueler with every day that the demand for money was not met.

In her dreams, Sirius Black was there to save her.

At the beginning, when she had had more strength, he would burst into the room and untie her bindings and toss her her wand, and together, they’d take down Severus Snape once and for all.

When she got weaker, in her dreams he would just tell her to run.

“Run, Marly,” he would say, urgency in his eyes. He’d burst into the room, a powerful spell knocking Snape backwards, wand ready for when the former Slytherin recovered from the shock. He’d throw a glance over his shoulder at her, those elegant locks of his now tangled and frantic. “Run, Marly,” he’d repeat.

“But I can’t, Sirius,” she would call out frantically, indicating her bonds. “I’m stuck.”

But he wouldn’t listen to her. “Run far far away, Marlene, before it’s too late.”

Someone was shaking her, but she was drifting in and out of consciousness now. The words just kept repeating in her head: Run, Marly. Run, run, run.

But how could she run with her legs bound?

There was a commotion at the door. Or maybe she had just imagined it. She wasn’t sure if this was the dream or reality; she’d been here for so long now that the both of them seemed to merge together.

“McKinnon, snap out of it and run!” That was James Potter’s voice, too. Strange; he’d never shown up in her dreams before. “Remus is outside waiting for you: Sirius and I will deal with Snape.”

He might as well have spoken in another language, because she couldn’t really process it. All she knew was that today, her recurring dream had a plot twist. All she knew was one word; run. Run, run, run. Her legs were no longer bound. Run, run, run.

So she did.

At midnight, there was a knock on the door. Dorcas and Lily, who had both fallen asleep on the couch, surrounded by half-empty cups of tea and and useless letters and clinging hopelessness, were jolted awake.

“D’you think it’s the McKinnons?” Dorcas asked Lily, her voice hoarse. Marlene’s parents, tired of waiting fretfully alone, had said that they’d be coming up to London to wait with Lily and Dorcas. But they weren’t due to arrive until tomorrow in the afternoon.

“In the middle of the night?” Lily asked. Dorcas shrugged. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.” She leapt up and walked over to the door, opening it with apprehension.

As it turned out, it was a McKinnon, but not any of the ones they had been thinking about.

It was Marlene.

Battered and bruised, but otherwise okay, and very much alive.

A/N: Wow, we're only two chapters + an epilogue until the end, can you believe it? So close I can almost taste it. :') Thank you to everyone who has stuck around for this long, and especially thank you to the lovelies who leave such kind reviews. c: They make my day.

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