Fic Title: The Lesser Evil (Part 1)
Characters: Snape, Livia Perkins(OC), Constantine Perkins (OC), Draco Malfoy
Word Count: 1517
Blimey, my muse just won't shut up once she gets going. I present the first part of Livia Perkins' second story...
White mist swirled and twisted, its edges razor-sharp against the ruby-red beneath. The heady scent of lamia venom made her pleasantly dizzy.
“You think a Pacifus Draught is going to make this all better? How dare you!”
“How… dare I?” Professor Snape responded, in a voice that could have flash-frozen the school lake.
“Whatever you’ve been doing, it looks like you could’ve got her killed! Or – or worse!”
Livia half-closed her eyes. Blurred, the patterns of white mist and red liquid were reminiscent of blood on a plaster wall.
“Your sister no longer needs you to look after her.”
“It looks like she needs someone as long as you’re around!”
Except arterial gush doesn’t swirl…
“I will not be dissuaded from properly equipping her to fight the Dark Lord.”
“Fight him? She’s seventeen!”
“The Dark Lord is hardly known for caring what age his victims are, especially those unfortunate enough to be from families full of…” Snape enunciated carefully, “…Muggle-loving blood traitors.”
Livia banged the goblet down, the untouched potion leaping out across Snape’s desk in a hot red spray. “Constantine!”
Her brother froze mid-way through lunging at the smirking Potions Master.
“Outside,” she snapped, “now. And you,” she continued as Snape took a breath, “stop provoking him this instant.” Momentarily uncertain which man to glare at, she settled for Snape, who in his current state of mind was the one she judged most likely to re-start the argument.
He looked down his nose at her, absently rubbing at a spot where the potion had splashed onto his black silk glove. When he opened his mouth, she just knew there was something really bad coming and hurriedly returned her attention to Constantine, shoving him hard in the chest. “Out! Out-out-out-out-out!”
If Snape actually delivered his planned rejoinder, it was drowned. Livia hustled her brother into the hallway, and found herself quite unable to resist slamming the door behind her as hard as she could.
It’s been a very long day, she thought wearily.
“Bastard!” Constantine fulminated, struggling half-heartedly as he was towed away. “Sneaking, slimy, smug…”
“Slytherin?” she slipped in dryly when he finally took a breath.
“Liv, I know he’s your Head of House, but there was no need for that.”
She steered him into a convenient side passage and lowered her voice. “Actually, he needed it very much. He’s probably furious that I intervened just when you were giving him an excuse to blast you across the room.”
Constantine frowned. Three years older, he was physically almost her double; they had the same high cheekbones, close-set brown eyes and the same black hair, though unlike her he kept his short.
“Someone hurt him, didn’t they? And now the git’s spreading the misery to make himself feel better,” he whispered.
“What do you expect him to do, cry on your shoulder? That man wouldn’t recognise compassion if it bit him, and it’s not his fault.”
He eyed her shrewdly. Although a poor practical wizard, he was very bright; he said (and she believed him) that the Hat had seriously considered putting him in Ravenclaw before deciding that his loyalty outshone his intelligence. Livia realised that if she didn’t want the whole family to know exactly what she and Snape were doing, she needed to watch her step.
“What’s this?” an all-too-familiar voice sneered. “You’re out after curfew, Perkins. And your brother shouldn’t be here at all.”
Normally she just ducked her head and took whatever abuse he cared to hand out; he couldn’t disguise a flicker of astonishment when she tossed her hair back and looked him in the eye. “I’m a little short on patience tonight, Malfoy; so unless you want Professor Snape to find out what really happened to that Ki-Rin Essence he thought Potter stole, I suggest you piss off immediately.”
It was hard to tell which of her verbal slaps shocked him more. But even together they weren’t nearly enough to demolish Malfoy arrogance, and the smirk swiftly reasserted itself. “My word against yours, Perkins.”
“Try me.” She turned her back with finality, watching Constantine’s face for any sign of Malfoy going for his wand. But the younger man started walking away. “I warn you,” she called after him, “he’s in a really foul mood tonight.”
“So much the better!” he shot back.
Constantine was staring at her, apparently waging some internal struggle between pride and anger.
“Well,” he said at last, “now that you’re coherent again, would you please tell me how the hell you came to be covered in blood on my doorstep in the middle of the night, and why you insisted on Floo powdering to Snape’s office rather than… any one of several dozen better places.”
“Ah – no. I can’t.”
“Look, I know I’ve been wound firmly around your little finger since you were six, but there are limits. Now whose blood was it?”
She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to think about it. She leaned forward and rested her head on his shoulder, but stiffened and stepped back when he tried to embrace her. “Con, I’m sorry.” His eyes betrayed his hurt, but he seemed to sense there was more coming and waited while she gathered her thoughts. “I’m sorry I worried you. I’m sorry I got you into a fight with Professor Snape. I’m sorry I’m keeping secrets from you. Most of all I’m – I’m sorry we were born into a world that had You-Know-Who in it. But there’s no help for that. All we can do is our best.”
“And we will -,” he began; but she shook her head.
“Wrong ‘we’. Don’t you understand, Con? I am that rarest of creatures – a Slytherin who wasn’t fed hatred for Muggles and mudbloods with my first glass of pumpkin juice. I’m uniquely qualified to fight, but… I’ll have to go to some very dark places. Places where you couldn’t follow even if I wanted you to.” She put her fingers on his lips as he started to protest. “And even if I live, I… don’t think you’ll get your little sister back. But what’s our alternative? Where will the Perkins family be if he wins? First against the wall, right next to the Weasleys, that’s where!”
He stared at her, in shock. “What is that man doing to you?”
“What’s necessary. And damn him for it, and damn me for allowing it, and damn You-Know-Who the worst for turning the world into a bloody chess-game where we can’t win without sacrifices.”
“This isn’t chess!” he yelled. “And you’re not some pawn, you’re flesh and blood!”
“And so is everyone else!” she whispered vehemently. “That creature is going to leave shattered lives behind, win or lose, and I’ll be one of them rather than see our whole family go down! And that’s my decision to make!”
“And your family doesn’t get a say,” he said softly.
She folded her arms. “Sure, Con. Let’s get the whole clan together and discuss it over the dinner table. Let’s have a few dozen people who can get me horribly murdered instead of just – a few. Keeping secrets from the Daily Prophet isn’t the same as keeping them from You-Know-Who. Not by a long chalk.”
“Just Mum and Dad. They should know.”
“Same difference. You’re the one who says this isn’t a game, but it seems I’m the one who’s taking it seriously.”
He stared at her with a familiar mix of hurt and bafflement. She’d first seen the look more than six years ago, when with trembling hands she’d replaced the Sorting Hat on its stool and taken the long walk to the Slytherin table. It had appeared with increasing frequency since then, as Constantine struggled with the knowledge that his sister was driven by something he didn’t comprehend; as the once-unbreakable bond between them became steadily more tenuous.
Finish it, a part of her mind demanded harshly. It spoke with Snape’s voice.
“Go home, Con. Go home, don’t breathe a word to anyone and stay just the way you are. That’s the only way you can help me now.”
His hands twitched convulsively, as if he was caught between hugging and slapping her; his face told her he knew she would permit neither. Finally, with a strangled noise, he fled.
Happy now? she asked her mental image of Snape bitterly.
I think not, it replied. Livia would have to see the real thing next day, and she shuddered at the thought of what would happen then.
But for now, genuine and imaginary Snapes could both be damned – she needed to sleep.
When she reached the Slytherin common room, it was empty but for Malfoy, who was staring blankly into the fire, his face white as a sheet. At the sight of him she burst into shrieks of laughter and raced up to the seventh-year dormitory, where she jumped onto her bed and muffled herself in a pillow.
She couldn’t have said how long it was before laughter gave way to wracking sobs, nor how long those went on before exhaustion finally caught up with her.