Chapter Twelve :: Chaos Ensues
Lunch was a remarkably quiet affair. My Lord, Lucius, Narcissa, Skycloud and a few of the other inner minions had sequestered themselves at the high table, and were bickering rather violently above bowls of French onion soup. Severus and I had taken the easy route, and chose leisurely seats about halfway across the room from whence we could view the battle in peace. A few of the others were scattered about the hall: on the far end, Terry Boot's mothers and Mrs. Parkinson were munching on sandwiches and comparing their manicures; Crabbe and Goyle were enjoying a game of Exploding Snap that would probably end very messily just few meters away.
I watched the main table in idle interested, picking the choice greens out of my salad in a lazy fashion. Severus buttered a piece of bread and proceeded to nibble on it, following my gaze.
"What do you suppose they're going on about?" I murmured as Narcissa made a disgusted face and spat some heated rebuttal at my father.
"The Revel," Severus said with a sigh.
"They're having one?" I said, eyebrows arched in surprise. "Here?"
"We're having one," Severus corrected. "You're old enough to be invited now. And yes, here. I'm sure my Lord wants the American natives to join in the festivities." His lip twitched slightly at the statement.
"Who's the sacrifice?" I asked, quaffing some cranberry juice.
"Probably just some random Muggle," Severus said. "I hope it's not a child this time. I hate the little bastards, but I hate killing them even more. It's like…stepping on kittens, or something."
I frowned slightly. "Speaking of which, have you seen my cat around?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "He's probably somewhere in my room, tearing holes in my dress robes and otherwise making my life miserable." He smirked ever-so-slightly. "A Malfoy boy, through and through."
I made a slight noise of derision, and changed the subject. "So where do we go to now?" I asked.
"With Marian?" Severus said, lowering his voice. "You know, I seriously doubt we should talk about this here."
"Au contraire." I continued to pick through my salad. "If we start holding dozens of secret counsels, everyone will know we're up to something. At the moment, we're safely hidden in plain sight—fuck, is that an olive?"
Severus leaned over. "Yes, it is," he said, and ate it.
"Vile," I said, shuddering.
"You're a hopeless Philistine," Severus purred, and went back to his bread and butter.
"About Marian," I said pointedly.
"Ah, yes." Severus stared into his drink for a moment. "Well, we've bought ourselves five days of rock-solid unconsciousness on her part, and we have two in which to get her good and dead. I think we'll be fine."
I glared at him. "I'm sorry, the Draught only works for five days!? "
"No," Severus said testily, "It works indefinitely without the antidote. I, the Exalted and Underpaid Potionsmaster of the Entourage, will obviously be called upon to prepare said antidote, but I can draw said preparation out for a maximum of five days."
"Okay, reasonable enough. But why only two days for the kill?"
"We're leaving Hawaii in two days. I don’t know where we'll be going next, but chances are we'll be separated. I'm of a mind to finish this before any extra unwanted variables are added to the picture."
"Hm," I said indecisively. I found another olive fragment in my decimated salad and flicked it at him. "So how do we want to kill her? Mutilation? Defenestration?"
The eyebrows went up again. "We want to take all the blood out of her body? I'm sorry, I don't think Professor Flitwick's taught me that spell yet."
"We're not going to do it magically," Severus said with a derisive sneer. "That's positively asking for it. I bet the whole lot of us are going to have to cast Priori Incantatem within the hour of her death."
"So…you're suggesting gigantic evil leeches? Or perhaps the canned vampire I keep handy in my back pocket?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "Just stop it. You're awful." A sigh. "I want to use a very textbook approach. It's rather plebian, but then again, we're not in this for the kicks. We're just going to slit her throat."
I blanched visibly. "I'm not doing it!" I snapped, rather horrified. "I mean, I'll stand look-out, but I am absolutely not going to—oh gods, Severus, that's the most disgusting Mudblooded thing I've ever heard—"
"Get a grip," Severus growled. "It's our best option. I'll do the dirty work again if you really can't take it, but I'll still need your help."
I shoved my salad remnants away from me. "Fine, fine—but there will be flowers. Expensive flowers!"
Severus never got to reply.
The doors to the hall banged open, and there stood a disheveled Delilah Crumley, panting and trembling.
"My Lord!" she cried. "I believe—I have found—" she stopped, desperately trying to articulate.
Voldemort got instantly to his feet, sensing the gravity. "What is it, Delilah?" he said, his voice like a knife through the air.
"Madame Lestrange, my Lord—she's—she's dead!"
My stomach clenched together, but Severus's heavy hand on my wrist gave me the courage to contain myself. Stay calm. Look shocked
Lord Voldemort's red eyes were glowing like coals. Had I a whit less self control, I would have leapt screaming into Severus's arms right then. "Take me to her!" he snarled, and in an instant, the whole room had mobilized. Most everyone had Disapparated or dashed out the door, either to Marian's room or to inform the others. I instinctively leaned a little closer to Sev, and with a 'pop' we were standing a few doors away from the scene of the crime, already part of a crowd.
I struggled forward, Severus in tow.
Stay calm. Act normal. You're a Malfoy, and you're curious. That's all.
We reached the door just as the Dark Lord made his proclamation.
"She isn't dead," Voldemort said, his voice quavering with barely-masked rage. "She is, however, under the influence of the Draught of the Living Death." He whirled towards us, and my heart all but stopped. "Severus!"
"My Lord?" He was cool as ice.
"I want you to start working on the antidote! Immediately!"
Severus nodded curtly. "Yes, my Lord." With a glance in my direction that clearly said, You're on your own, he Disapparated.
I kicked my acting up a notch, looking angelically perturbed as I stared through the door with wide eyes. Marian's body was lying there like a crumpled candy wrapper on the floor, just as we'd left her. Delilah Crumley quickly remedied this situation by Levitating her onto the bed. Pity. Like parts of a living machine, different Death Eaters started to tear through Marian's personal effects, looking for clues like hounds on the scent of a fox.
We're fine, I reassured myself. All the bases are covered. There's nothing that can lead this back to us.
A man whose name I did not know upended the trash can. He kicked our burnt towel out of the way and carefully sifted through the smaller remnants with an expert's eye.
Everything is great. Everything is under control.
Lord Voldemort was pacing back and forth, giving orders right and left. He was lost in a myriad of possible leads, all of which I knew could take him nowhere.
We're fine. We're absolutely fine.
Standing in the center of room, my father was an island of quiet contemplation.
He turned and saw me looking at him. Feeling quite jovial, I flashed him a smile.
He did not return the gesture.
My father caught my eyes and held them in a gaze of pure, icy accusation. In an instant, my head felt light and my stomach felt like lead. He knew. Oh god, he knew. He didn't speak, or move to bring me to Lord Voldemort's attention, or even take a step towards me…but he knew.
We are so completely fucked.
Like a maimed animal, I stumbled off through the crowd of spectators, my distress going utterly unnoticed in the general tumult of the hall.