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December was a terrible month, Addy lamented decidedly, as she was yet again stood in front of the mirror frowning. She would have thought it would get easier, but it was worse. Much worse. She had been eating more due to the stress of it all and between that and the vast quantities of fire whiskey and elixir she was consuming she had put on weight. Avery had acknowledged her ‘curves’ and Jacqueline had looked at her pointedly as she ate chips and said, ‘are you sure you want to eat that?’ and now she was feeling fat for the first time in her life. She was sure she was getting a complex of some sort. Just one more thing to doubt herself on. She stared at the various scars that now marred her skin ruefully. They were quite ugly, really. She’d have to do something about that. She didn’t think she could get rid of them, so she’d have to cover them up probably. How steamed would her father be if she got some sort of Gryffindor insignia tattooed across her skin? It was certainly an idea even if it was a bit passive aggressive.

 

Addy was still trying to decide what dress robes to wear, red or green.  She wanted to wear her red dress robes. They were beautiful in her opinion. A beautiful scarlet. But could she get away with it? It might be frowned upon as rebellious. The green dress robes were fine really. They were of an evergreen velvet, which was quite fun to run your hand over. Addy didn’t want to have anyone’s hand run over her. She sighed. When had things gotten so stupidly complicated? Why did she even care? This was ridiculous. They were dress robes. She would just wear the red. She pulled the robes on, smoothing the floaty fabric out, it falling to her mid-thigh. Then she put on her black, t-strap wedges and nodded at her reflection. Right. She could do this. She downed an entire vial of elixir before she turned to leave the dormitory.

 

‘I like your freckle.’

 

That boy announced his presence by poking oddly at Addy’s shoulder and she started violently.

 

‘Bloody hell!’ she exclaimed, clutching at her chest. ‘Where did you even come from Barabus?’

 

‘Bertram,’ he frowned.

 

‘Right. Sorry,’ she grimaced, wondering if he would notice if she just took off running. Why must he be so weird? And that was coming from her. ‘Any roads, I should be going…’

 

‘Ok…’ he said slowly. ‘Take care, Addy.’ Addy nodded, giving him an awkward wave as they parted ways at the entrance to the Slytherin common.

 

‘What are you wearing?’ Avery said as she sat next to him.

 

‘Dress robes…’

 

‘They’re so…’

 

‘Lovely? Beautiful?’

 

‘Red,’ he finally managed. Addy frowned. ‘It’s almost indecent.’

 

‘They’re festive,’ Addy scoffed.

 

Avery hummed, looking her over. She had sat quietly again, listening to idle chatter, but not hearing any corkers. Seriously though, it’d be more surprising if any of that lot weren’t planning to be Death Eaters.

 

Addy tried to sneak out a bit early as she’d grown bored, only to have Avery send Mildred Goyle after her. ‘Really Mildred, I don’t need an escort. I know the way just fine on my own.’

 

‘Graham told me to walk you.’

 

‘And I’m telling you not to bother.’

 

‘I don’t really answer to you, Nott.’

 

‘Don’t start thinking you’re better than me just because you’re to marry Dolores’s brother. Being a Bulstrode won’t make you look less like your brother.’

 

Mildred scoffed. ‘Excuse me!’

 

‘Alright, you’re excused,’ Addy simpered as she heard the dulcet tones of Mrs. Norris. Mildred jerked around at the sound and Addy took the opportunity to dive behind a tapestry. She listened attentively, stifling her sniggers when she heard Mildred getting reprimanded by Filch, served her right, before she quietly ascended the stairs.

 

Next day was the second quidditch match of the season, the first for Gryffindor, and they were set to play Slytherin. Addy had left the change rooms after James had made his speech and Regulus had caught her eye as he emerged from theirs.

 

‘Don’t think I’m going easy on you,’ Addy said, glaring mockingly back at Regulus.

 

‘You really should throw the match in the name of your societal duty.’

 

‘Oh, bugger that, you miserable sod.’

 

Regulus grinned. ‘Don’t you dare go soft on me. I’ve looked forward to this for ages,’ he said quietly.

 

Addy grinned back. ‘Yeah, well you can also look forward to having your ass handed to you.’

 

‘You’re planning to handle my ass? How scandalous.’

 

‘Dara!’ Addy turned around, biting her lip when she found a scowling Sirius. How much of that little exchange had he witnessed? Enough, according to his irritable expression. ‘Let’s go!’ He jerked his head towards the pitch and Addy nodded back at him. He turned away quickly, missing the hurt look that flashed across her features.

 

‘See you,’ she said over her shoulder.

 

Regulus waved back at her with a small frown. He didn’t know why Sirius would have had a problem. They were just talking.

 

Sirius walked onto the pitch, taking up a spot next to James, his scowl still firmly in place. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Addy talking to Regulus. Although honestly, he didn’t. It was more that she was smiling at him. She hadn’t smiled at him for quite a while now and he wanted to be the one to always make her smile. Her smile still didn’t reach her eyes though, so he took a small consolation in the promise of bringing that light back to her. Oh, bloody hell, when did he become such a twat? She’d broken him. He was a Marauder for Merlin’s sake! He felt the sudden need to belch or scratch himself and regain his manliness or sanity or something... Ah well, he’d just have to settle for kicking some Slytherin arse at quidditch. That thought brought a grin to his face as he took to the air.

 

‘Told you,’ Addy said triumphantly as she landed.

 

‘Really? Because it seems more like you’ve just had your ass handed to you,’ Regulus said wryly, landing beside her as she mopped at her steadily bleeding nose from where the bludger had connected with her face.

 

‘I still beat you,’ she said thickly, waving the snitch between her thumb and forefinger in front of him, letting its wings flutter towards his face. ‘And that means I handed your ass to you.’

 

‘I’m not sure that’s how it works,’ he shook his head mockingly.

 

‘Well you don’t have to be sure, because it is.’

 

‘Come on Dara, let’s get you to Madam Pomfrey,’ Sirius said as he took her hand.

 

‘But Sirius, what about my broom?’

 

‘Here, I’ll take this, so you don’t have to worry about it,’ James said, appearing suddenly and snatching the snitch from her hand.

 

‘Damnit Potter!’ James had just laughed and ran off towards the change rooms. Addy sighed, pulling her hand from Sirius’s reluctantly, and stooped to pick up her broom while glancing around. ‘Really, Sirius I can manage.’

 

Sirius frowned but nodded back at her before turning towards the change rooms himself. He hated watching her do this to herself. He really missed her. The real Dara, not this skittish, timid version of her. And why had it taken him so long to admit to himself that he did, in fact, fancy her? Godric only knew. ‘Cheer up mate, we just kicked Slytherins’ arse!’ James shouted as Sirius entered the Gryffindor change room, still frowning.

 

Sirius shook his head, offering James a rather unconvincing smile. ‘Yeah. Sure Prongs.’

 

‘C’mon mate. She’ll come round, you’ll see.’

 

‘I’m not so sure…’ he shook his head again. ‘What am I to do Prongs? What can I do?’ he said despairingly.

 

‘Just be there I ‘spect. Be there for her,’ James said encouragingly. ‘Now enough of this. No more moping about. Let’s celebrate this astute victory over our enemies.’

 

Sirius snorted quietly. ‘Yeah, alright.’

 

Addy was going spare. She wasn’t allowed to associate with her friends. Or maybe they weren’t her friends? Maybe it was too much to hope for that they thought as much of her. Either way she couldn’t really talk to them. And now one of the two people she was allowed to associate with that she could actually stand to be around was going to make Sirius cross with her? She just didn’t have the energy to deal with that. It was like that instant feeling of deflation. Literally. She had been trying so hard to just…keep her wits about her. But she supposed that was too much to ask for. She was feeling numb again. She wasn’t sure which was better between the numbness or the crippling despair. Probably the numbness, right? Addy wasn’t so sure. At least with the despair she felt something. At least then she knew she was alive.

 

Now Addy was trying not to chunder into her suitcase as she prepared to see her family for the first time since she could remember and then there was this meeting she was to attend. Addy didn’t think she could handle it. She was losing her marbles. She knew she must look pathetic if James had offered to give her snitch back after a few weeks’ time. ‘No, you keep it,’ she had said distractedly. ‘It won’t do me any good now…’

 

‘Ad, you don’t have to go,’ Marlene said pleadingly.

 

‘I do actually,’ Addy said, unpacking the set of red dress robes she’d just put in.

 

‘But…is it safe?’ Lily said worriedly.

 

Addy chewed her lip, looking up at them. ‘I… have to go,’ she said again.

 

‘That wasn’t an answer,’ said Marlene irritably.

 

‘It was though,’ said Mary thoughtfully. ‘It was an answer in no answer.’

 

‘Damnit Mary, stop talking in riddles!’ Marlene shook her head.

 

‘It was a no. It’s not safe. But she still thinks she has to go.’

 

‘Merlin’s dirty left sock, Addy,’ Marlene said in exasperation.

 

‘But not the right one?’

 

Marlene growled.

 

Addy sighed. ‘Look. I’ve been informed I am to attend. It’s… it would be worse for me if I didn’t,’ she said carefully.

 

‘You’re still not saying it’s safe,’ Lily said.

 

‘Safer,’ said Mary.

 

‘Look, if things get to be… I don’t know, too much. You can always come to mine,’ Lily said softly.

 

Addy looked at her sadly. She would never do that to her. ‘Thanks,’ she said, giving Lily a small smile. She put the red dress robes back in her suitcase.

 

 

 

Addy dutifully went home for Christmas Holiday, stoically sitting through the motions at dinners, Christmas, and the Society Gathering. She had sat in her room getting ready for the gathering for nearly an hour debating whether to wear the red dress robes or the green. In the end she decided it wasn’t worth the bother, and pulled on the evergreen, velvet, floor length, robes. She had pinned her hair up in a loose chignon and she had drank a considerable amount of elixir that night just to make it through without getting sick on Avery when he inevitably copped a feel. He claimed he was just appreciating the exquisite material. It all seemed like some never-ending test. What kind of prize did she get for holding her tongue while they discussed the filth of society and how best to get rid of them? She’d yet to see. Later in the holiday, when the meeting was held, at Nott Manor, Addy’s father took the opportunity to inform her of the punishment she could anticipate should she choose to join ‘the wrong side’ in the impending war and fail to fulfill her ‘destiny.’ Addy swore sometimes they could be so incredibly cliché she felt as though it were merely a story. She’d spent over four hours in her room preparing herself, which mainly consisted of drinking elixir and breathing. Breathing deeply. In. Out. In. Out. She spent most of the night with her gaze directed at the floor, except when Regulus had turned up with Bellatrix and her husband. She had sighed sadly upon seeing him. Oh, Regulus no… and he had given her a look filled with so many emotions; he obviously didn’t want her to think less of him and was feeling rather regretful at the look of disappointment on her face, but his excitement and hope in the situation were winning out, and Addy knew it was a lost cause.

 

Everyone that considered themselves a Death Eater or wanted to become one was there. Addy wondered why in the name of Merlin’s wand, she had to be there at all. And apparently, she wasn’t the only one. ‘And why are you here, Miss Nott?’ he had asked, in that strangely projecting quiet voice that sent instant shivers down your spine. Addy had been hoping to make it through the night unnoticed by just staring down at the table. Obviously, that was too much to hope for. Addy struggled to breathe, and she wondered whether her heart was beating so rapidly it was beyond measure or if it had stopped altogether as her ears began to ring. Did she tell the truth? Well yes, obviously, he would know if she were lying, but how much should she divulge? Addy swallowed thickly and chanced a glance up at his pale face.

 

‘I, erm…’ she stuttered and glanced at her father. ‘He said he would kill me,’ she blurted quietly. He had stared at her, unblinking for some time, before a think lipped smile spread across his face. Merlin but that’s unnerving, Addy thought as she suppressed a shiver.

 

‘I appreciate your honesty,’ he had said, and Addy breathed a small sigh of relief. ‘You do not wish to serve me, as the rest of your family?’

 

‘I, uh… I’m just not much of a fighter,’ she mumbled out.

 

‘Oh? And what are you then, Adhara?’ Bloody hell, if she hadn’t hated her name already…

 

Addy zoned out for long enough that her father had elbowed her sharply in the side. ‘I. I don’t know. I wanted to be a healer.’

 

He had smiled again. ‘Ah, quite the noble pursuit. But you can be a healer and serve me. We will encounter many obstacles on the rise to the top, no doubt, and require medical attention. Your services would be a welcome addition to our cause.’

 

What did she even say to that? Addy had settled for nodding dumbly. It was quite a lot to think on. She could still be a healer! But would she be able to take care of anyone else if she worked at Mungos? Would they even let her work, or would they make her go through training only to stay home then to get married and make babies and only take care of him and his Death Eaters if the need arose?

 

When it had finally finished Addy had bolted back to her room, her hands shaking violently, and her peripheral vision blurred. She most definitely couldn’t breathe. Where had all the air gone? Her arms had gone all tingly and she couldn’t feel her hands. Her legs were like jelly and her knees gave out. The ringing in her ears was deafening and she could feel her rapid pulse in the back of her eyes. Was her room always so hot? She locked herself in the bathroom and curled into a ball on the cool tile floor, trying to focus on the air entering and leaving her body. She couldn’t focus on anything else. After all it’s the most essential to life. Or is that your heart beating? No Addy, focus! Her eyes were wide as she stared at the black marble. In. Out. In. Out. Smell the roses. Blow out the candles. After what seemed like a century, Addy was finally able to calm herself down enough to fall asleep, right there on the bathroom floor.

 

 

 

When they returned to Hogwarts, Addy resumed her tired routine. There was another gathering the first Friday back and while she still loathed most of the Slytherins, she also still didn’t mind quiet Regulus and suddenly appreciated Carina’s indifference.

 

 ‘So, do you still think he only cares about himself?’ Regulus had asked as he sat next to her. She happened to be sitting alone at the time as Avery had gone to discuss some matter or other with Mulciber and Rosier and she honestly couldn’t be bothered to follow him. She’d seen him enough to last a lifetime as of late and she still felt as though she were recovering.

 

‘Er, well…’ she didn’t quite know what to think. His words had been encouraging, to be sure, and she guessed she should be jumping at the chance to pursue her dream… but something didn’t add up. Once again it just didn’t sit right with her. She had a feeling it wouldn’t really be her dream anymore given the circumstances. She imagined herself to still be just a pawn in this little game they were playing, and she was never that good at chess. ‘I don’t know, Regulus. I honestly don’t know what to think.’

 

‘But he was really encouraging. You can follow your dream and still be of use. You should be pleased.’

 

‘Yeah, that’s true…’ she’d said warily. Still. She’d be ‘of use’ by supporting a cause that she didn’t agree with. How far into this rouse was she supposed to be going again? Maybe she’d lost the plot along the way and was somewhere beyond it, floating around in the atmosphere like the star she was named for inadvertently.

 

On her birthday, Addy received the same not of vague congratulations and tidings on her birthday as she had the last few years. She was sort of hoping Sirius might wish her a happy birthday, but he barely even looked at her all day and when he did it was with an expression she had took to mean he was cross with her. She really wasn’t sure what she had done to him to warrant that, but she shook the thought from her head, trying not to dwell on it. She didn’t have the energy to think on anything else depressing. So, Addy opted to actually use some of that money she was allotted on a gift for herself that year, rather than just hoard the money away like she usually did and snuck out of the castle after the last class that day. As she was coming back into the castle late that night, she heard a strangled cry coming from the direction of the dungeons, and hesitated briefly, before she went to investigate. What she saw was beyond anything she had imagined finding at Hogwarts and had her gasping in shock. ‘NO!’ she shrieked, quickly brandishing her wand. ‘Expelliarmus! Stop it! Stop! Holy, Merlin, Circe, and Morgana! Oh, Godric! Get away from her! Get out of here! Oh, no, no, no,’ Addy rushed to the side of the girl laying on the floor, as the two Slytherins glared at her darkly before they scurried away, realizing belatedly it was Darcy. ‘Finite incantatem. Oh, bloody hell,’ she mumbled, conjuring a stretcher and lifting her onto it with her wand. ‘It’ll be alright,’ she said to the girl who was panting, looking at her with half lidded eyes. ‘Madam Pomfrey will fix you right up.’ She pulled her into the infirmary as quickly as she could manage, hastily explaining what she had found to the frantic matron. ‘It was… she had… someone cursed her… they… seem to have… made her… cut herself,’ she said, her voice strained as she tried not to look at the blood.

 

‘And you just found her like this? You didn’t see who it was that did this? Madam Pomfrey asked. Addy stared back at her blankly as she struggled with the decision of whether she should share that information.

 

‘Well, she’s quite lucky you came across her Miss Nott. She’ll be fine, now,’ Madam Pomfrey said as she healed the girl’s abdomen easily. ‘She’ll just need a day or two to recover from the curse and take some blood replenishing potion.’

 

Addy nodded wobblily, blinking hard against the tears that threatened to form. She had thought she was out of the woods for viewing something of that caliber in coming back to Hogwarts. Merlin, was she wrong. ‘Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.’ The matron nodded back at her as the Headmaster entered the infirmary. One look at him and Addy was singing like a yellow snidget. ‘It was Mulciber. And Snape was there. Though I don’t know if he did anything more than watch. And laugh. Mulciber had the imperius on her. He was making her… cut herself,’ Addy said quietly. Dumbledore nodded gravely and thanked her before he dismissed her. She turned to leave only to be stopped by a hand that had reached out to grab her wrist.

 

‘Thank you,’ Darcy croaked out, to which Addy poked her tongue into her cheek and nodded curtly.

 

In all honesty Sirius was having a lot of trouble watching Addy spiral. He’d grown to really care for her and he often felt this ache in his chest when he saw her now, which would undoubtedly knit his eyebrows together. He had been planning to wish her many happy returns, though she hadn’t been in the common room at midnight and when she finally had returned that night it was with her arms crossed tightly over her chest and a troubled frown. She had rushed straight through and up the stairs without stopping to talk or even look at anyone, and then there was that idea scarpered.

 

 

 

Roughly a week later, Addy awoke to find a contemptuous note referencing her failures, penned by her father no less. He had never been bothered to write her a letter before. The note was attached to a rather ominous looking box, and when she opened it, a blood curdling scream filled the dorm. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Addy realized it was hers.

 

Lily, Marlene, and Mary were started from their sleep abruptly then, as the chilling scream filled the room. It was loud enough to wake the dead. Lily fumbled with her wand under her pillow, hearing stirring around her, and lit the lamps at the same time Marlene muttered ‘lumos.’ Addy was still screaming, her eyes glazed over in fear; she looked detached, unhinged. ‘What’s going on?’ Marlene yelled, covering her ears.

 

‘What’s wrong with her?’ Mary said.

 

Addy scrambled away from the box that sat before her on the bed; as her legs kicked out wildly, her foot connected with the box, sending it flying, and a severed head rolled out of it and landed with a dull thud on the floor. Lily’s eyes went wide as Marlene uttered ‘Oh, Merlin,’ and Mary turned to chunder on the floor. ‘Marlene, get McGonagall!’ Lily shouted.

 

Marlene tore from the room quickly, and Lily attempted to approach Addy to comfort or quiet her, but to no avail. Faster than she would have thought possible, Marlene returned with McGonagall in tow, both of them panting slightly. McGonagall crossed to Addy quickly, waving her wand and apparently nonverbally casting a spell, as Addy suddenly slumped forward onto her bed, silent. ‘I cast a mild sleeping charm on her. That should give enough time to get her to Madam Pomfrey for a calming draught,’ McGonagall said. Lily nodded dumbly and glanced over to see Mary crying silently, and Marlene’s concerned scowl. ‘What happened?’

 

Lily shrugged, looking back to McGonagall.

 

‘She woke us up screaming like that,’ Marlene said.

 

‘She’s been… out of sorts all term,’ Mary added.

 

‘She seems to have gotten a rather unfortunate package,’ Lily said, pointing toward the head.

 

McGonagall nodded, her face set in a deep frown. ‘Yes, well, I’ll get her to the infirmary.’ She waved her wand again, returning the head to its box then conjured a stretched and lifted Addy onto it before leaving the room quietly with both.

 

After a few moments, Lily looked down at Addy’s bed, finding a small note, and hesitating only briefly, picked it up to find a rather nastily admonishing threat. ‘You’ve been educated and trained to know what’s expected and acceptable behavior and what can and will happen if you fail to adhere, yet by all accounts my resources have informed me of your ludicrous behavior. Your deplorable actions have been noted and you may expect them to be properly dealt with. Consider this your last warning…’ Lily trailed off, swallowing thickly.

 

Mary shook her head, still crying. ‘That’s horrible.’

 

‘That’ll be her father,’ Marlene said darkly.

 

‘We should show this to McGonagall,’ Lily said.

 

Marlene nodded. ‘And Dumbledore.’

 

Mary frowned and cleaned up the puddle of sick. They dressed quickly then left the dorm, heading toward the Great Hall, wondering where they would find either, or both, Professors. They were joined by the boys in the common room, Sirius leading the group. ‘What was all that screaming this morning? Lucy said it was from the sixths room,’ he glanced around them. ‘Where’s Dara?’

 

‘It was her screaming,’ Mary said quietly.

 

‘What?’

 

‘Why?’ James asked, frowning.

 

‘Her father sent her a head,’ Marlene muttered, causing the boys to start.

 

‘That’s not even funny,’ Sirius said.

 

‘I’m not even joking. Do I look like I’m having a laugh?’ Marlene said crossly.

 

Sirius’s face scrunched like he was fighting an internal war, trying not to shout at Marlene. ‘What happened then?’

 

Lily bit her lip and handed him the note from Addy’s father. As he read it his face scrunched further. ‘Shite,’ James muttered, reading over Sirius’s shoulder. Sirius stared at the note a bit longer before he shoved it roughly back into Lily’s hands and stalked off in the other direction. James frowned after him.

 

‘Should we…?’ Remus said.

 

Lily suddenly noticed he was looking rather unwell.

 

‘No,’ James shook his head. ‘He’ll want to be alone I ‘spect.’

 

They continued toward the Great Hall, and Lily found McGonagall was sat at the head table, though Dumbledore was not present. She approached McGonagall then and when she looked up at Lily, she handed her the note. ‘Professor, I er, found this after you’d left the room. It must’ve been attached to the, uh… package.’

 

McGonagall’s frown returned as she read the note. ‘Thank you, Miss Evans. I will see to it Professor Dumbledore sees this. He’s up with her now,’ she added at Lily’s curious look.

 

Lily nodded dumbly. ‘Thank you, Professor.’

 

 

 

When Addy woke again, she was in the infirmary, with Professor Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey standing over her, the latter shoving a cup into her hands stating firmly that she was to ‘drink up;’ a calming draught no doubt. With trembling hands Addy downed it in one, no fuss. ‘Miss Nott,’ Professor Dumbledore began.

 

‘I’m fine, really.’

 

Dumbledore continued as if she hadn’t spoken. ‘That was not, in fact a disembodied head you received this morning,’ he said, sitting in the chair at her bedside as Madam Pomfrey bustled out of the enclosed area. ‘It was merely a transfigured turnip,’ he went on.

 

‘Well that’s a relief,’ Addy deadpanned.

 

Dumbledore smiled slightly. ‘Was this because of your intervention last week?’

 

‘So, I assume,’ Addy shrugged. ‘At least that was the impression I got from the note.’

 

Dumbledore hummed. ‘Can you tell me the likeness of this transformed root?’

 

Addy nearly laughed at his candor. ‘The muggle boy I befriended when I was eight,’ she said to the ceiling. ‘The one he made me watch him…’

 

‘Yes, yes, you’ve told me about that.’

 

‘And the first time he’d…’ she cleared her throat, ‘punished me… like that.’ After a long silence Addy looked back at Dumbledore to find him watching her thoughtfully.

 

‘How are you coping, Miss Nott?’ he said, looking at her over his spectacles.

 

‘I’m… ok.’

 

‘Are you quite certain of that?’

 

Addy shrugged. She wasn’t certain of anything anymore. ‘It’s not as if it matters. I’m already in this. I can’t get out now. Even if I wanted to, you know what he would do to me.’

 

Dumbledore frowned. ‘Perhaps I was a bit hasty to ask this of you.’

 

She shook her head. ‘I’d be in this regardless. With my father do you honestly think I’d have a choice? You knew him when he went here. Hasn’t he always been an evil bastard? Following Tom around like a mindless dog?’

 

Dumbledore gave her a small smile. ‘Does he know you know that name?’

 

Addy smiled herself. ‘Probably not. It was written on the back of an old photo in my father’s study.’

 

‘I would assume he does not. He guards that information quite closely.’

 

‘Hmm.’

 

‘Miss Nott, I believe you are aware of this fact, but I must implore you to be more careful. Stepping in the way you did, it was quite reckless. Though honestly, I am impressed. It was rather noble.’

 

Addy snorted. ‘Sure. Thanks, Professor.’

 

After the professor left Addy fell into a fitful dose, waking a few hours later to the sounds of shuffling and a low conversation somewhere across the infirmary. Once she heard Madam Pomfrey’s footsteps retreat, Addy waited a few moments, then filled with a burning curiosity, she left her bed for the other side of the room and peeked around the other set of privacy curtains; there she saw Remus, just settling into his pillows, and once Addy grabbed a bit of chocolate from the table next to her bed, she approached his and sat on the edge. ‘Hey Remus,’ she said quietly.

 

His eyes snapped open and he looked up quickly. ‘Addy, hey…’ he started to sit up, but Addy put a hand to his arm, stopping him.

 

‘Don’t sit up on my account. I just wanted to see if you wanted some of this chocolate Lily brought me.’

 

Remus gave her a small smile. ‘That’s nice of you.’

 

Addy shrugged, breaking a piece off of the Honeyduke’s bar and handing it to him. ‘I try.’

 

He looked at her curiously. ‘How are you?’

 

She looked down at her hands. ‘I’m ok.’

 

‘Sounded like you had a rather… interesting morning.’

 

‘Heard that, did you?’ she said, feeling her face heat up.

 

‘Hard not to,’ he said dryly.

 

Addy looked back up at him and shrugged again. ‘I’m used to it.’ His brow knitted. ‘How are you then?’

 

Remus shrugged. ‘I’m ok. I’m used to it.’

 

Addy smiled sadly at him. ‘Well, I don’t want to keep you. I’ll let you get some rest.’

 

He held up the remaining chocolate in his hand. ‘Cheers. Thanks Addy.’

 

Addy nodded. ‘No problem, mate.’

 

 

 

Addy’s little trip to the hospital wing had allowed her to miss the next gathering, in February, so it was with trepidation that she turned up in March. She’d reverted to spending a majority of her time in the common room, as most of her Slytherin acquaintances had gone cold on her. It seemed as though things were almost back to the way they had been before… she wasn’t even sure she should go at all, but as she hadn’t been told otherwise, she slowly made her way through the halls, stealing herself when she came to the entrance to the common room.

 

‘I didn’t think you would come,’ Avery said, as she took a seat next to him on the couch.

 

Addy shrugged, chewing her lip apprehensively. ‘Should I not have?’

 

Avery looked at her coolly. ‘I’m sure your father will deal with your little slip up.’

 

‘He already has,’ she said quietly.

 

Avery shook his head. ‘I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation.’

 

Addy swallowed thickly. ‘It was just a reaction. An instinct.’

 

‘You forget yourself, Adhara. You should have kept quiet. You’re good at that at least.’

 

‘I couldn’t just leave her there like that…’ she shook her head.

 

‘I thought you didn’t even like that girl anymore. Didn’t she wrong you?’

 

‘That doesn’t mean I want her to be tortured,’ Addy said slowly.

 

Avery shook his head. ‘Even if you won’t join us, you need to learn to stand aside.’

 

‘You’re definitely joining then?’

 

Avery frowned at her. ‘You’ve known as much. With my father…’

 

‘Why does that mean you have to join? Your father isn’t enough? My fathers the same way and you don’t see me going around burning people.’

 

‘You could have joined him too. The Dark Lord needs all the followers he can get.’

 

‘No, I couldn’t.’

 

‘Well, it’s different for you. You’re a girl. You’re not expected to join his ranks, but you could still be useful to the cause by becoming a healer. And even if you don’t want to do that all you have to do is have children.’

 

Addy frowned. Even if this was all just a rouse in the end, it was hard for her not to gag at the thought of having children with that lummox. ‘Bellatrix joined…’she mused, trying to think of something else. Anything else.

 

‘True. But she’s a masochist, she wanted to join, she wasn’t expected to. You. You’ve always been soft.’

 

‘You used to think that was a good thing.’

 

‘It can be,’ Avery said, tilting his head to the side. ‘When it comes to children.’ Addy frowned. There’s that idea scarpered. ‘I’ll just have to keep those things away from you. You won’t have to worry about it once we’re married.’

 

‘What is she doing here?’ Addy looked up to see Mulciber scowling darkly at her.

 

She swallowed, trying to keep her composure. ‘I could ask the same about you,’ she replied coolly.

 

‘I belong here more than you.’

 

‘Really? I don’t remember seeing Mulciber on the list of the Sacred Twenty-Eight…’

 

‘I support the Dark Lords cause. You just get in the way.’

 

‘I thought the Dark Lords cause was for gaining power and evading death, not torturing muggleborns?’

 

‘Adhara,’ Avery chastised.

 

‘You would do well to remember your place, Nott,’ Mulciber snarled.

 

‘Everyone keeps saying that,’ Addy mumbled quietly. ‘How is this even my place? It certainly doesn’t feel like my place,’ she muttered as if to herself.

 

Avery scowled. ‘Perhaps you should just go. Things should calm down by next month.’

 

‘Fine,’ Addy said, standing up. ‘I’ll see you later,’ she swallowed. ‘Graham.’

 

‘You really shouldn’t bother,’ Mulciber called, following her out of their common room. ‘No one besides Avery ever wanted you around. And even he doesn’t really like you, he just wants your pure blood and your pretty little face to make the next generation of the Dark Lords followers.’

 

Addy shook her head and turned to face him as they reached the entrance hall. ‘He’s said plenty of times that he wants me.’

 

Mulciber grinned maliciously. ‘He wants your body. He could do without you as a person and you know it. The rest of us only go along with it on your father’s word, but after your little slip up, even daddy’s not willing to protect you,’ he said, drawing his wand as he ambled closer. ‘In fact. I’ve been instructed to carry out punishment if you make any more mistakes. But I think you could do with a little reminder now.’ Addy only had enough time to shove his hand away as a curse shot from the end of his wand. He pinned her against the wall and Addy struggled to hold Mulciber’s hand away from herself as another curse shot from the end of his wand.

 

 A low groan and a shuddering breath came from across the hall, and Addy finally managed to shove Mulciber away and draw her own wand in his brief moment of distraction. ‘I think it best you leave now,’ Addy panted out.

 

‘I don’t take orders from you, Nott.’

 

‘You really want to stick around while I summon a prefect? Or better yet, a professor?’

 

Mulciber snarled. ‘This isn’t over.’ Addy narrowed her eyes at him, her wand poised at his chest, until he turned and stalked away, when she let her arm fall to her side and she took a deep, steadying breath. She was finally able to focus her attention across the hall and when she did, she was stifling a gasp and blinking hard, trying to decide if what she was seeing was real, before she rushed over to Mary, who was crumpled against the wall.

 

‘Mary?’ Her eyes were half lidded and leaking tears, her expression strained, and she was clutching her abdomen.

 

‘He… he…’ Mary trailed off, looking as though she might pass out. She was already extremely pale.

 

‘Mary!’ Addy took a deep breath, trying to quell the wave of panic that was threatening to overwhelm her. She pulled at Mary’s fingers and she cooperated easily, revealing a gaping hole in her robes and uniform, both singed, the edges of her robes still smoking slightly, and a deep, black burn mark across her abdomen. ‘Shite… shite…’ Addy muttered, swallowing thickly. ‘Oh, I am way too high for this… ok Mary,’ she said, as calmly as she could muster. ‘We’re going to get you to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey will fix you right up. She helped me, she can definitely help you.’ Addy stooped, pulling Mary’s arm around her shoulders as she put hers around her waist, and stood up slowly, holding up most of Mary’s weight herself. ‘Alright Mary, here we go… stairs aren’t too far away… not too many stairs to get to the fourth floor…’ Addy continued to mutter bits of encouragement, mostly to herself as she was sure Mary was barely conscious, up to the second landing, where they had to stop when the staircase shifted. The movement caused Addy to teeter under Mary’s weight, and they swayed into the banister where Addy inevitably squished into her. Mary groaned in pain and Addy sucked in sharply through her teeth. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry Mary! Don’t worry, we’re halfway there.’ The staircase shifted back to where they could continue, but Addy froze at the movement she saw on the stairs behind them. Oh, please don’t let it be any Slytherins… Addy thought to herself. But she breathed a sigh of relief as they drew nearer, and she recognized their faces.

 

‘Oi, Nott. Where’ve you been in that?’ James called, laughing easily. Addy noticed fleetingly they were carrying crisps and biscuits.

 

‘Help. Please,’ Addy said, desperately trying to keep it together. She owed that much to Mary. James suddenly seemed to take in the way Addy was clutching at the increasingly limp form of Mary in her arms and paled. Sirius’s eyes went wide, and they both dropped their packages at the same time and rushed forward, taking Mary between them, her arms thrown over their shoulders.

 

‘What happened?’ Sirius asked, as they started up the stairs again. Addy shook her head, though they couldn’t see as she was behind them.

 

‘It was supposed to be me…’ Addy said, her voice trembling. ‘It was meant for me…’

 

They had just cleared the stairs and entered the corridor to the hospital wing, when James stumbled, and Sirius stopped. Mary seemed to have gone limp. ‘Blimey, I think she’s fainted,’ James said, glancing back at Addy.

 

‘I’ll go get Pomfrey,’ Addy said, stumbling around them and breaking into a run. She threw the doors open and entered quickly, glancing around wildly. ‘Madam Pomfrey! Madam Pomfrey! Help! We need help!’

 

Madam Pomfrey’s frantic face poked around a drawn curtain at the back of the room. ‘Yes, what is it dear?’ she asked, as she crossed the room toward her.

 

‘It’s Mary. Mary Macdonald. Someone’s hexed or or cursed her... and. And she fainted out in the…’ Addy trailed off as the infirmary doors were opened again and James held them open as Sirius carried the limp form of Mary in in his arms.

 

‘Oh, Merlin’s beard! Over here with her Black,’ Madam Pomfrey ushered him over to a bed where he laid Mary down and she began working immediately, furiously muttering spell after spell. She instructed Addy to get the paste she had previously used on her arm from a cabinet while asking James to fetch McGonagall. Sirius stood awkwardly on the other side of the bed, staring down at Mary with a look of worry.

 

 After she handed off the tub of salve, Addy took to pacing at the end of the room. She wasn’t sure if she could handle this. She couldn’t breathe, and she could feel her heart beating rapidly in her chest. She shook her hands out, feeling them go tingly.

 

Sirius turned and watched as Addy lost her hands in her hair, gripping it tightly, as she began breathing rapidly.

 

James returned with McGonagall, who conferred with Madam Pomfrey about Mary before she turned to see Addy quite out of sorts and approached her. ‘Miss Nott, I realize the situation is stressful, but I need you to calm down, so you can tell me what happened.’

 

Why does everyone have to tell me to calm down?  ‘Oh, I need to calm down? I need to calm down!’ Addy chuckled maniacally. ‘It’s that simple. Why didn’t I think of that? Just calm down!’

 

‘Miss Nott!’ McGonagall said tersely, gripping Addy’s shoulders and shaking her slightly.

 

‘It’s my fault,’ Addy croaked. James and Sirius shared a look. ‘It was meant for me. It was supposed to be me.’

 

‘Alright, Miss Nott, why don’t you come sit down over here? You can take a calming draught and tell me more about it.’

 

‘I’m fine!’ Addy said angrily, though the stern look McGonagall gave her sobered her quickly. ‘I don’t need a calming draught. I’m fine,’ she said in a measured tone.

 

 McGonagall looked her over skeptically. ‘Well you appear to have been hit there on your arm, so even if you don’t need a calming draught you need that looked at.’

 

Addy shook her head. ‘It’s nothing. I’ve dealt with worse. Just...Pomfrey should concentrate on Mary.’

 

McGonagall took Addy by the opposite arm and led her to an unoccupied bed, gently pushing her to sit down. ‘She will concentrate on Mary. And then she will attend to you,’ she said firmly.  Addy nodded distractedly. ‘Now. What exactly happened? Why are you under the impression it is your fault?’

 

‘I’m not under the impression, it is my fault! Mulciber said it’s his job to punish me now. It was meant for me.’

 

‘I fail to see how that makes it your fault. You were not the one with the wand? You were not performing that curse upon Mary?’ Addy lowered her gaze and shook her head. ‘Well then I shall have to conclude that it is in fact not your fault.’

 

Addy swallowed thickly before looking back up at McGonagall. ‘Thank you, professor,’ she said quietly, just as Madam Pomfrey came over with the salve, smearing it across her shoulder unceremoniously. ‘Will Mary be alright?’ Addy asked quickly.

 

‘She’ll need a day or two to recover, but she’ll be alright. She mostly needs rest though, so out you go.’

 

Addy came around the curtains and nearly walked right into Sirius, who was stood in the aisle with James. Shite. She frowned and skirted around them, exiting the infirmary. ‘What were you being punished for?’ James asked.

 

Addy shook her head. ‘Don’t worry about it.’

 

Sirius scoffed, and she stopped, turning to look at him. ‘It’s a little late for that,’he said.

 

Addy poked her tongue into her cheek, trying to keep calm. Well, as calm as she could be at that point. ‘Please, don’t get yourselves involved in this?’ Sirius frowned while James scowled, crossing his arms across his chest, neither deigning to reply. Addy sighed and shook her head. ‘I’m going to bed,’ she said, turning to continue towards the portrait hole. She made her way through the common room and up the stairs quickly, breathing deeply and trying to calm herself, though as soon as she stepped into the dorm, her façade was shattered when Marlene spoke. ‘Where were you Addy? Looks like you’ve been to another party.’

 

Lily looked over. ‘Did you see Mary by any chance? She was going… Addy what is it?’

 

At the mention of Mary, Addy had slid down the door to the floor, crying into her hands. She suddenly felt the air around her thicken as Lily and Marlene came to her side. ‘Ad, what’s happened?’ Marlene’s voice asked from her left. Addy shook her head, unable to speak just yet.

 

‘Is it something to do with Mary?’ asked Lily to her right. She rubbed Addy’s back in what Addy assumed was supposed to be a soothing manner.

 

 Addy nodded. ‘She’s in hospital,’ she choked out finally. ‘It was meant for me…’ she hiccupped uncomfortably. ‘It should have been me. Mulciber cursed her. He was aiming for me, but he missed. It was really bad,’ she said, looking up from her hands then, her face still tear stained but her sobbing subdued.

 

Lily looked especially pale while Marlene scowled darkly. ‘Can we see her?’ Lily said quietly.

Addy shook her head. ‘She wasn’t awake yet. Madam Pomfrey said she needs her rest so no visitors. Maybe in the morning?’ They nodded vaguely, staring off into space, Marlene most probably already plotting revenge. They went to their beds, still talking quietly of Mary, while Addy went into the bathroom, deciding she needed a shower. This was all too much. She sat herself on the bottom of the tub and let the warm water wash over her. Maybe she needed a calming draught she thought idly, as she began to sob again. Everything was adding up, and something inside of her seemed to have broken then.

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