Slowly she rubbed the piece of parchment between her fingers, feeling the rough surface with wonder. The fact that she was a witch and that an entirely different world existed - a world built on magic - still shocked her, despite the month she had to grasp this wild revelation. Firmly believing the letter from Hogwarts and the owl messenger were tricks, it took a large, hairy man who appeared in the fireplace to convince her the letter told the truth.
A packed trunk stood by the foot of the bed, ready and waiting for tommorow's trip. Hagrid had helped her buy the school supplies, all used except for the wand, and gave her a letter on plain white paper, lying that Mahogany had been accepted to a prestigious boarding school in France. The letter was intended for the orphanage, but she had neglected to let them read it. Instead, she lay on the bed and stared at it, contemplating how she might escape the confines of her room and get to King's Cross.
She felt no attachment to the orphanage, the nuns that took care of her, or the other charges. In reality, she did not feel attached to anything except her own appendages. Most of the orphans fixated on their loneliness and dreamed of the day when their mother, still a lovely young woman, and her charming husband would take them away from this big bad place. Mahogany did not wish to find the parents that abandoned her, naked, in a trunk on the church steps in the middle of December. She merely wished to be left alone.
Reaching out, she ran her fingers along the initials engraved in the wood of the trunk. The nuns had named her, using the letters on her only possession. The name, Mahogany Kipling meant nothing at all. Wistfully, she recalled a childhood fantasy, where she had imagined her real name was Isabella. No one else knew of the name, and somehow the secret made her feel safe.
Rolling off the bed, she dropped the fake letter onto her bedside table for the nuns and threw open the first-floor window to the sweet aroma of the garden outside. Taking great care to move as silently as possible, she pushed her trunk into the flowerbed. Finally she grabbed her coat off a chair, turned off the tiny lamp and shoved the Hogwarts note into her pocket. Without another glance at her quarters, she stepped out off the window and into the night.
This was compromise. The fake letter gave the nuns a weak explanation, and if they needed more, there was an address where they could contact the "school". It also quelled the small voice in the back of her mind, warning her against any rash actions. Doubt did not last long. What Mahogany needed most was freedom.
The translucent pink potion sizzled and smoked as it hit the smarting scratch on Mahogany's arm. Wincing, she coughed and considered finding her arm a nicotine patch. Placing the bottle back on the shelf, she slid silently back into the meeting room.
Moody and Snape spoke rapidly in hushed tones in the corner, as Harry and Hermione did the same at the worn table. Lounging against the wall, Mahogany watched and waited. She had already told her tale to the Order, and been properly admonished for her reckless behaviour. Disinterested in a code of conduct, Mahogany had pressed for some explanation of the prophecy, but the main focus was Sibyll Trelawney's midnight jaunt to an abandoned shop in Hogsmeade. Snape and Harry had returned to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, only to meet, fight a manical pair of Death Eaters and snap at each other childishly.
She was being ignored no longer. Harry and Hermione were looking up at her suspiciously, as if she was about to throw herself across the table and slit their throats with her fingernails. "What?" Mahogany asked curtly, raising an eyebrow.
"It's extraordinary that you happened to come along at just the right time." Hermione pronounced coolly, her intent quite clear to Mahogany. The other girl thought she was a Death Eater.
"You think I tortured Trelawney? Did someone slip something into your tea?"
"I'd say it's quite a coincidence that you stormed off in a huff to Hogsmeade at the same moment Trelawney was kidnapped and interrogated there, and very suspicious that you escaped two Death Eaters without a scratch!"
Mahogany rolled her eyes at the younger woman. This was simply ridiculous. Hermione's logic was so marvelously flawed, it was laughable. Throwing her head back, Mahogany chortled carelessly, full of bitter mirth. "You insult my intelligence. Why the hell would I run back here to tell you every single detail?"
Without waiting for a reply, she strode into the kitchen. Seconds later, she returned and thrust a bottle up in the air. The clear Veritaserum glittered innocently in the dim light. Cocking her head, Mahogany lowered it to her lips. "I could just throw this back and you'd have your answer, Hermione."
"Put that down." At the sound of Snape's hard voice, the air seemed to grow chilly and the firelight flickered wildly. Shadows danced over their livid faces, not caring that they had frozen. Finally, Mahogany set the Veritaserum down on the table.
Moody was the first to speak. "Jumping to wild conclusions like that can get you killed, Hermione, as can insane cavorting about in the middle of the night. Go to bed, all of you." Clearly annoyed, he hobbled out of the room, the sound of his peg leg hitting the floor growing dimmer with each step. The others dispersed after him, leaving Mahogany alone to hang her head and smile softly to herself.
The Veritaserum still rested in front of her. Picking it up, she rubbed the smooth glass surface with her finger, leaving a wide smudge. Turning back towards the kitchen, she stopped short at the sight in front of her.
At the far end of the room, back turned towards her, sat Snape. The sleeve of his black robe was rolled up to his shoulder, exposing a shockingly pale, muscled arm. The skin on his shoulder was marred by a deep, wide wound that bled sluggishly onto his robes. Wondering why no one had noticed he was hurt before, Mahogany came to quick realization. Snape had repaired his robes to conceal the damage and maintain some petty sliver of pride.
As she took another step forward, he jerked his sleeve down and snapped at the intruder. "Get out of here."
She ignored the order, choosing to walk to him and set the Veritaserum roughly on the shelf in it's place. He jerked his head up, his black eyes boring a hole straight through her mind. For a second, they stared at each other, before she roughly grabbed his arm and thrust up the sleeve of his robe. Snape flinched.
"Idiot." Mahogany hissed, observing the injury more closely. Without reason, she took the potion she used earlier down from the shelf and dabbed some of it onto a clean cloth. Steadily, she kneeled and began to repair Snape's shoulder with surprising tenderness. Sheer exhaustion had softened her for the time being, breaking down her reserved demeanor.
In the heavy silence, she found herself drawn to the Dark Mark on Snape's forearm. The mark of their enemy hypnotized her, pulling her in with haunting promises of freedom. The faint, black serpent seemed to sway on his skin. Without a second thought, she dropped her head down and covered it with her mouth, kising it as if she were drawing poison from a wound.
A searing pain shot through her lips, and Snape grabbed her by the shoulders and tossed her against the opposing wall. As Mahogany crumbled and lay there, the spell broke. Through bleary eyes, she saw a flash of the jet black mark on Snape's arm before he swept from the room. It seemed like she stayed on the floor for years, eyes closed and a blank expression on her face.
With a sudden start, she got to her feet and moved into the hall, pausing in front of a large mirror. Never fond of mirrors, she could not stand her own image. However, Mahogany now stared intently at her own visage, taken aback at how foreign it seemed. The dark, auburn hair that curled slightly and fell past her shoulders, hollow brown eyes, pale skin, pointed features - it did not belong to her, it did not fit some bizarre vision she had in her head.
The pain in her lips was ebbing away, but it stung sharply when she grabbed her lower lip and pulled it down. Two tiny, bloody holes marked her flesh.
"Sirius, I don't mean to treat you like a child, but you're smarter than that."
Mahogany whirled away from her reflection, bewildered by the sound of Remus Lupin's voice creeping through the house.