Desiree Warbeck stopped abruptly as she made to turn a corner, escaping the kitchens. She was trying to get to the Hufflepuff common room without being detected, but it seemed that the Carrows had just as much of a hankering for midnight snacks as she did. She’d only just made it out of the kitchens with the help of the house elves, but Alecto had alluded to her brother Amycus being on his way down as she demanded the house elves make something for them to eat. Apparently, they’d worked up an appetite.
Desiree had been baking, as she was wont to do when she was stressed. This had been the most stressed she’d ever been at Hogwarts and it was only three weeks into her seventh year. The Carrows were awful and Snape, of course, was doing nothing to stop them from reigning terror on all the non-Slytherin houses.
She quickly darted around the corner, somehow just now realizing how far Hufflepuff was from the kitchens. She usually didn’t dare stay out until after curfew, but she’d gotten distracted while baking a three-tiered cake. She gotten into such a daze, icing it green and yellow, and she was going to practice magicking letters on the top when Carrow had come in screaming about food, startling the house elves, who were dozing in their back chambers. Two came out to help Alecto and distract her while another, Misty, helped her out of a side exit she’d never known about. It dropped her off farther than usual, making Des realize just how big the kitchens and the house elf quarters truly were.
But now she didn’t know these corridors and had to keep alert for Amycus; she kept thinking she was hearing his footsteps around every corner. And indeed, as she made another turn, she saw him sauntering down a far corridor — he couldn’t see her where he was — whistling and waving his wand at an object that glinted softly in the candlelight and bounced in the air with every swish. A knife. He was magically juggling a knife. And Desiree could tell it had recently been used. Her stomach turned at the sight of the stained blade and she felt against the wall, trying to softly tip toe away. Her hands came across a doorknob and when she tried it, it quietly (thank, Merlin!) swung open. She slipped behind the door and it snicked shut. She rested her head, dizzy and faintly sweating, against the door.
“Turn around.” The voice was meant to be threatening, but it sounded out of breath. Des could feel the tip of a wand poking through the thick hair at her neck.
“Can’t if your wand gets stuck in my hair,” Desiree said. She intended to sound brave, but her shaking voice matched the out of breath one she’d just heard.
“Desiree?” The voice came out clearer, and its owner, so familiar even after months apart, withdrew his wand.
Desiree almost didn’t want to turn around. But she did, still unable to see Blaise’s brown face in the dark of what she could tell, from the smell, was a cleaning cupboard.
“Blaise,” she whispered back, her heart thumping in her chest from the adrenaline of almost getting caught — and his nearness. They hadn’t spoken since a letter early in the summer after Dumbledore’s funeral. Things went left very quickly and they both had to play their parts to protect themselves and their families. They’d made a mutual, though unspoken, decision to not speak this year, Blaise dropping out of the BSU entirely due to the new scrutiny from Snape and the Carrows.
Frustrated at not being able to see him, she pulled her own wand from her dressing gown and started a soft “Lum—” but Blaise hushed her.
“They might be able to see the light beneath the door.” Instead, he muttered a spell and a small golden orb rose from his wand tip and rose up, just in front of his face, right above her head. It gave off just enough light so she could see his face, but not so much that she could see his feet. She nearly sputtered as her eyes roved back up to his face — but for his own dressing gown, he was shirtless. She was not prepared to deal with all these feelings at once. She closed her eyes, trying to center herself. When she opened them again, she noticed that his breathing was still shallow and he was leaning against some shelves, his own eyes closed.
“Are you okay?” she asked with concern. She wanted to reach out for his hand, remembering how he’d held hers at the end of last year, when she was freaking out about singing at Dumbledore’s funeral. Of course, that had been his fault to begin with, but him holding her hand had made it all a bit better. She figured they could both use that about now. But when she looked for his hand in the dim outer edge of their light bubble, one was still clutching his wand, the other balled tightly in a fist. He didn’t speak for a moment. Desiree saw this thick swallow from the movement of his Adam’s apple.
“I can’t do this with you, Desiree,” he whispered, pained. He shook his head, his eyes still closed.
“What…what are you talking about?” Outside, she could hear the distant, but oh-too-close, raucous shouting of the Carrow siblings in or near the kitchens. It was too soon for either of them to leave back to their respective corners. Desiree felt three weeks, maybe even three months, worth of exhaustion come down on her as she waited for Blaise to pick a reply. She slid down the length of the door to the floor. Blaise, at the sound of her sliding and landing, opened his eyes and followed suit. The light floated down with him, still remaining high enough as to not reveal their location to anyone passing by.
Blaise sat with his knees to his chest and wrapped his long arms around them. Across from him, cross-legged, Desiree mourned the lack of sight she had to his pecs. Blaise dipped his head against his knees and sighed deeply.
“They tortured Alex today.”
At that, Desiree’s slowing heartbeat sped up once again, at the thought of their friend, President of the BSU with Blaise and Dean gone, being tortured by the Carrows. The siblings had taken to setting detentions nearly every day and they were becoming more and more violent, and more and more exhibitionist in nature. Desiree heard that they’d taken to allowing Slytherin students to watch and were joking about letting them join in on the “fun.” And the offenses were getting more and more undeserving.
“What…what did he do?” she asked, trying to resist the prickle of tears that were forming in the corner of her eye.
“Barely anything. Ravenclaws and that acerbic wit of theirs. Got mad about the BSU ban and said something. I don’t know what. I was dragged up there by Nott and the rest after they’d already…started. Once I got in there, I couldn’t leave.” Blaise was speaking to his knees still, his voice becoming more and more strained.
“What did they do to him?” Desiree almost didn’t want to know, but she remembered Carrow’s knife and the nausea from earlier returned.
“They carved ‘Muggle-lover’ into his chest,” he paused when Desiree gasped, putting her hand to her mouth. “It’s not permanent, and it healed right away. But…It hurt.”
Silence sat in the room with them, contrasting Amycus loudly and condescendingly praising a house elf for the “best treacle tart I’ve ever eaten from a non-human!” in the far corridor.
“I think he’s fine. He gave me the coldest look I’d ever seen as he was pushed out the room,” he said with a scoff, “But no lasting damage. This time. I…wasn’t quick enough to school my emotions and Crabbe said something, but I honestly didn’t even hear what. I just knew from his tone I wasn’t quick enough, so I got outta there. Came down here.”
Des could tell he was no longer shaking, but his voice was still tight in his throat and he also sounded exhausted. Desiree knew it was tough here being a pure blood who was considered a “traitor” — and who Snape and the Carrows were trying to make see “sense” — but she didn’t know how hard it was for Blaise, a pure blood who was both sympathetic to Half-bloods and Muggle-borns and also Black. (It was a sympathy she’d instilled in him the best she could, with the help of the BSU. But she refused to give into the feelings of regret knocking on the door of her mind at the sight of his discomfort.)
She bet Parkinson had told Nott to go get him. Parkinson was always eyeing Blaise, especially since her break up with the missing Malfoy. She liked to make weird comments about his race and “turning” him from the “dark side.” She then laughed her shrill laughter, because of how funny it was that she was on what was considered the dark side. And Blaise’s mother was dating Theodesius McNair, Walden McNair’s brother. The McNairs came from a long line of executioners, magical butchers, and other relatives associated with the Dark Arts. Nicola could take care of herself, Desiree knew from Blaise’s stories, but with things this tense, Blaise was balancing his true feelings and playing a part that would keep his only true family safe. It didn’t help that Nicola’s last two husbands did business with the Malfoys and Lestranges. It was a wonder men continued to be put under her spell…
Desiree shook herself from her wandering thoughts. It had eased the immediate fear she’d felt for Alex. She’d have to check in on him tomorrow, perhaps at breakfast.
“I’m tired, Des,” said Blaise softly.
She sighed sadly as her pitiful answer. She knew there wasn’t much they could really do. Resist in small ways. Don’t give in. As a Hufflepuff, Desire knew where her strengths in resistance lie. Encourage her friends. But she wasn’t sure Blaise knew the same. Rather than spiral about his split — well, more fractured — personality, Desiree thought about how she could embolden him.
“I made you a cake,” she said, with a new lightness to her voice. This is what made Blaise look up from his slumped position.
“What?” His gaze was strong, they were eye to eye after not having been for months, and it made her neck hot. She glanced up at the soft light bubble above them. It was just soft enough where she could look into it and see the swirling light waves without hurting her eyes.
“I didn’t realize it until just now, but I made you a cake. It’s why I’m out here, running from the Carrows. I was in the kitchen, making this decadent three-tiered cake. Oh you should have seen it, Blaise. I did chocolate on the inside, but dyed it black. Then yellow and green icing. Like a canary and a mint. Then I magicked some silver leaves. I was about to write something on it when I got interrupted. I hadn’t been sure what I was going to write — you know how I get in my baking stupors — but now I remember.”
When she paused and looked back at him, his expression had softened to a light smile and a twinkle in his eye. The light glinted off his baby browns and Desiree thought it might be working, even if she hadn’t been sure of what she could say to make it work. She was still trying to get used to the idea that with Blaise, it was just her.
“I was going to write ‘Happy Birthday Blaise.’”
“My birthday was two weeks ago.”
“And clearly my baking brain felt guilty about missing it.”
They both smiled. The sound of the Carrows headed slightly closer, then farther away, up the stairs toward the entrance hall and whatever quarters were forced to endure their madness.
Desiree knew it was time to go, but wanted to sit here just a moment longer. It seemed Blaise did too because he moved ever so slow as he extended his long legs and stretched his back. His dressing gown slid off his shoulder and Desiree found herself unable to blink. Or breathe. He rose to his feet and adjusted his robe, holding out a hand to help her up. The light rose with them and Desiree followed it with her eyes.
“You gotta show me how you did that.”
“I promise I’ll teach it to you someday.” Desiree realized he was still holding her hand. “This never happened, right?” He looked sadly around the small room and squeezed the three fingers he was still holding, before letting them go.
“Yeah, I know,” she said just as gloomily. Her hands felt cold. He then extinguished the light, leaving them in pitch blackness.
Desiree wrapped her dressing gown tighter around herself, before holding her wand aloft and peeking out the door. Blaise held it open for her and let her go first. She tiptoed down the hallway, but not before looking back at Blaise, his face once again stony, but more resolute. She wondered if she’d ever get to see him smile again.