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Crossfire

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Crossfire: Chapter One

Thomas Nott

The first thing Thomas recalled about the clearing, the one thing that stuck out in his mind more than anything was how dark the sky was. It was almost as if the pinpricks of light that normally illuminated the sky or the moonbeams that shown down from the heavens couldn't reach him. Also there was that feeling in the air of that circle of ghastly figures. It was like heavy air before a lightening storm, electricity that vibrated in the very night, pressing in and choking him.

The second, oddly enough, were the Dark Lord's feet as they stepped over the fallen leaves and dying grass. Where as they encircled him clad in their flowing hand made cloaks, their faceless masks, assorted wands tucked within the folds of their expensive robes beneath, the Dark Lord stood in much simpler apparel. Not only had he decided against shoes that night, but he dressed himself in what appeared to be a simple, shapeless, black fabric. Thomas recalled the mystics of the old religions that were one with nature, both giving and taking from the source they respected so devoutly. It seemed hardly fitting that a man such as this would bring up such a thought but perhaps he did draw his power from such a source. Perhaps he just harnessed it and wielded it for much more dark and sinister purposes.

It was only the second time that skull and snake on Thomas' arm had burned and it sent the same shiver down his spine as it had the first time. Again, his father had been there to instruct him. Thomas had wondered if his father's heart still quickened when he was beckoned. He would think that he would be used to it but perhaps that quick mix of fear and excitement was something the Dark Lord had intended when he devised such a beckoning system. His father was one of Voldemort's earliest followers, a fact he was certainly proud of. So it was no surprise that he would gladly offer his only son into the services of his Lord even before that child had graduated from Hogwarts.

It wasn't that Thomas didn't agree with the ideals behind the Death Eaters. He was raised in the upper tier of pureblood society, which as a whole was overwhelmingly sympathetic to the mission of the Dark Lord. He would be lying if he said that he had a soft spot for muggle born witches and wizards and of course he held myself to a higher standard. Unlike his masked brethren, he wasn't so concerned about it at the time to have actively sought out membership within Voldemort's circle. He would have rather carried out his pureblooded male duties in an alternate way, perhaps simply marrying a respectable pureblooded young woman would have been enough. However he was smart enough not to put up much of a fuss when his father approached with the proposition. Would he have changed his decision to take the mark knowing how everything turned out? He wasn't sure.

At least being marked had come to pass during his summer holiday. He had some guidance readily available to him and he wasn't alone. Thomas had shared a ceremony with a small number of other young men who would be putting about the dungeons with him upon return to the castle. Lucius Malfoy and Walden MacNair being two of them. Their little seventh year Slytherin boys' dormitory would contain some rather intimidating young gentlemen that year. But right now, it was those two boys that he stood beside on that chilly August evening. They had a tendency to huddle together at such events. He would never admit it was because they may have all realized they were a bit over their heads and needed to draw some strength from their solidarity.

The Dark Lord had been huddled within the circle, surrounded by his closest and most loyal servants who had the good fortune of being counted as such, his inner circle at the time. Thomas knew his father stood with his master. He picked his profile out almost instantly. Beside the Dark Lord stood a much slighter figure he imagined was Bellatrix Black, no doubt with her fiance, Rodolphus. Though she was only three years Thomas' senior she had joined the ranks of the Dark Lord and rose to be one of Voldemort's most trusted servants and for good reason. She had the reputation for possessing a ferocity that overshadowed the oldest and most hardened Death Eaters. This coupled with her almost compulsive loyalty to the Dark Lord made her Voldemort's "pet," if he could have such things.

A hush fell over those assembled as their master turned to finally address their presence that night. Beside him Thomas saw Lucius straighten his back as Voldemort's eyes scanned over the three of them, lingering for a moment before he began to draw closer. In his hand he clutched a roll of parchment. Instantly Thomas felt a chill down his spine. His father had mentioned that parchment was the reason they had been called and from the tense whispers of those gathered he had come to understand that whatever had been written upon it had upset the Dark Lord immensely.

"I have gathered you here this evening to share an interesting piece of literature that has recently been brought to my attention. Some of you may have seen it, as I have been told it has made it's way into a number of establishments in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley today. I must say I find myself...disappointed that it was allowed to be seen by so many."

Thomas didn't have much time to contemplate that fact however, as Voldemort's great sweeping figure broke through the assembled and came to stand before him, staring down his nose as he noticeably tried not to cower. It was his eyes, his eyes, whose gaze seared through flesh and facade to come to rest on the very soul it was set upon. It seemed as if it was hours before the Dark Lord finally lifted his hand clutching the parchment, peering down at Thomas through the silence and thickness that had come to set around all gathered there that night. Thomas felt the sweat roll off his face and down his back in cool beads.

"Now child," the Dark Lord breathed as he beckoned him closer to him with the crook of a claw like finger. "Read it."

Thomas reached forward, willing his hand to stop the tremors that so visibly shook his whole arm as he reached forward and took the parchment that was offered, turning so that he could address the circle. He cleared his throat, and began.

"I clearly remember when I was a child my father used to tell me how special I was, that I was not like many other children. I'm sure that many parents tell their children the same thing, but there was always a very specific thing that made me special and that was my last name and my blood. Now I wish that it was for some other reason, perhaps because I smiled a lot, or I was a beautiful baby, or I displayed skill or intelligence at a young age, but even then it would have been attributed to my name and not to my own person.I grew up with magic, it was a part of me as well as it was all around me, and when I got my letter to attend Hogwarts it was already expected. I went with family and friends, people I had grown up with. My teachers knew of my family, and many thought that I was special as well. I didn't have to try particularly hard to fit in or to master simple spells. And that got me thinking...

What would happen if I found myself in the muggle world with no access to magic? I would have to try and adjust to the society and find a place within it all on my own. I would have to work harder than muggles who had woken up every day of their lives in the same place with the same people and had developed their skills from a young age. Even the simplest things would be a struggle at first; how to get from place to place, how to dress, what to do for recreation etc. No doubt muggles would see me as different and I would have to try twice as hard every day to do the things that were second nature to them, that they didn't even have to think about. I would like to think that I could persevere, but who knows.

The muggleborn students at Hogwarts must feel the same way, except there is a very large part of the equation that adds to their hardships and that would be the prejudice of pureblooded witches and wizards. The fact that in a few days I will be sitting side by side with a muggleborn in my classroom and have him or her perform just as well on a task as I can astounds me. For lack of words I respect them, because I will never know what they had to go through to do that. Where as I simply opened my book, practiced a bit, and applied knowledge I have had my whole life to the situation at hand, they may have had to tirelessly work to achieve the same result. And while they were working in the back of their mind they must know that they are believed to be inferior, that they are unworthy to sit in class with us, shouldn't be learning these things.

What astounds me further is that many of them wish to do things to better our world. They want to be healers, perhaps. They want to help us who do nothing but look down our noses. Why? Because of our names and our blood? Blood that we tell ourselves is pure, even though we know that somewhere along those generations there was someone who had "dirty blood" and that their blood still flows in our veins. We would rather blast it off of our family trees and put it out of of minds and go on pretending that we are better.

Now there are people close to me, closer than I would care to think of in fact, that are willing to kill and to die for the illusion of their blood. While they are committing violence against the muggleborns, they are simply trying to make a place in our world that they have fought for and earned, and perhaps even make it a little better. I myself will not stand for this. It is time that we stand up together and say enough to this fanaticism that threatens our society and our way of life. If you refused to be kept silent with fear, join me in condemning this madness."

Thomas lowered the parchment, risking a glance around the circle as if he could draw reactions from the expressionless masks that surrounded him. Perhaps it was a good thing he couldn't. What he could see was the reaction of his Lord. The ghost of a smile flicked across Voldemort's lips as he finished, his finger pressed to the side of his head as though he was deep in thought. Silence stretched on for an uncomfortable amount of time before Voldeomort decided to speak.

"An interesting perspective is it not?" he began, so quiet Thomas almost had to tilt his head closer to hear him. "What you have just heard is a call to your fellow pureblood witches and wizards to take a stand against you. You who put yourself in danger in order to protect your legacy and your way of life. You who fight against the onslaught of undeserving vermin who flood our society, stealing a power that they can not even hope to understand, who risk the exposure of our world and our abilities to filthy Muggles everywhere. This simply can not stand. We must find the author of this treachery and call them here answer for their misgivings."

He was yelling now, turning wildly on his heel to speak to everyone that was assembled, drawing roars of outrage from his children as he went. He was rousing their hatred, their fear, playing upon it and using it to bend them to his will. It was working. The Death Eaters were incensed. Surely they would expect this kind of talk from the Muggleborn families that were threatened, but not from one of their own.

"Now...can anyone tell me which of our begotten sons or daughters distributed this foulness?" He yanked the parchment out of Thomas' hand and tossed it in the air, instantly it erupted into an explosion of green flames before it's charred remains floated back down to rest upon the grass, much to the delight of his fellow Death Eaters.

"My Lord, if I may...," Bellatrix had stepped forward, her body sinking into an elaborate bow. Her head tilted upward as the Dark Lord approached her, staring through her ghastly mask as she waited to be addressed. When she received a nod of his head she straightened her back and continued, her voice full of contempt and barely contained rage as she spat out her words. "I have a suspicion that the author of that trash may very well be someone close to me. As unfortunate as it is, while I was listening I could only think that it sounds as if it came right from my younger sister's mouth. Andromeda has always entertained some...ill conceived notions about her blood and kept company with filth far below her own position. I do believe she may have finally turned her back on her own. If that is the case, my Lord, then she must be dealt with swiftly, before her poisonous ideas spread further and do our cause harm."

Thomas watched in stunned silence as Bellatrix offered her sister up as if she was some sacrifice to the will of her god, hoping it would please him. Not that he had harbored any sweet thoughts of Andromeda in his own mind at this point. It had nothing to due with her appearance either, it was well known that the three Black sisters were known for their endowments. If it weren't for Bellatrix's mental instability he would have certainly entertained some thoughts about her and if anything, the middle Black sister was a more approachable and less terrifying version of the elder. They shared the same tall, thin build, dark hair and patrician features however everything about Andromeda was softer. Wavy brown hair and wide brown doe-like eyes replaced Bella's jet black. She also lacked that air of entitlement that was not lost upon her sisters.

She was a year behind Thomas' seven at Hogwarts and he couldn't recall any conversation he had with the girl that extended beyond an exchange of pleasantries at a family party or a nod in the hallways of the dungeons. He was quite aware she did not share her sister's fervor for blood purity and openly spent time in the company of Mudbloods. She didn't seem to present much a threat to him, rather quiet and bookish, aloof from a majority of her Slytherin housemates who managed to keep their contempt for her actions and company to themselves for the most part if only due to her last name and a slight fear of her older sister.

Thomas was shaken from his thoughts when he was recognized once more by the Dark Lord, his hand coming to fall upon his shoulder. Thomas jumped, despite himself as Voldemort pulled him with him into the center of the circle and instantly he dropped to his knee to submit to his Lord's will, whatever it would be. Somewhere deep within himself Thomas felt something scream in protest, as if it knew that this was the starting point of a long road for him, one that would be lined with his blood and the blood of others. Something that would alter the rather carefree life he had enjoyed up until this point.

"I want you to do something for me, Thomas," Voldemort purred, his eyes on Thomas' father as if assigning this responsibility to him was somehow payment for the years of service his father had offered him. "You'll be going back to that castle very soon, yes? I want you to put yourself in this girl's way. I want her to trust you and I want you to tell me what she is planning to do, if it is just her distributing these riotous little documents or if there is some group under the protection of that old fool ready to emerge into this world and cause me problems. I want to know who she talks to. And if it comes to be that you think she can be even the tiniest annoyance to what we are accomplishing here, I want you to bring her to me. Can you do this?"

Thomas risked a glance up to look in the direction of where his father had stood and he could almost feel his gaze burning into him. Burning with pride and need. Proud that his son had been recognized by the man he pledged his life to and a need for Thomas to fulfill this task in order to keep them in his good graces. Thomas inhaled sharply, closing his eyes for a moment as the weight of what was asked of him fell on his shoulders. He could very well be responsible for the death of a young witch, one that had at least been his acquaintance since he was a child. Against his better judgement, he inclined his head respectfully.

"I would be honored to, My Lord."

And it was done.