Amaryllis was lost in darkness for awhile.
It was the smell that awoke her. Iron, rock, and salt filled her nose. Her eyes fluttered open. The light was a tinge of her favorite shade of blue. The air was muggy.
She was in a cave. And she could hear waves. The ocean! She had never been to the ocean, but she knew instinctually what it was. The sound of waves softly echoed through the dark walls as she sat up and took in her surroundings.
A large ledge jutted far out above her. An adult would have had to crouch, but Amaryllis could stand easily. She got to her feet and took in a breath. Underneath her was a dirty thick checkered quilt and to her right were stones placed in a circle with charred wood in the middle. A stack of dry wood, tinder and starter stone lay next to it.
She heard dripping water echoing off cold walls, which seemed to be coming from a larger area of the cave around the corner. The sound of dripping made Amaryllis notice her mouth was very dry. She got up and walked towards the source in search of water.
Coming out from under the overhang, she gasped, “What on earth is that?” The large domed ceiling of the cave was filled with stars! Could it be she was actually outside?
But the sound of the dripping faded all questions from her mind. She wandered over to a steady flow of water running down the cave wall and stuck her lips to the wet stone, quenching her thirst. As the water caressed her throat, her stomach tightened painfully. She caved over her stomach and moaned, feeling like her insides were a washcloth being twisted, squeezing everything out. Going back to the spot she awoke, she searched around for a source of food. With a shock, she realized her mother was not here - nor was her brother. The last thing she remembered was that flash of green light - the same flash of green that had made her dad stiff when he had fallen in the hallway. Then that creature had grabbed her ankle and she couldn’t move her body.
She remembered everything then. The man with blood in his eyes suddenly consumed her vision. Overwhelmed by the memory of horrible pain, Amaryllis let out a small choking sob. She squatted down and held out her shaking left forearm. There was a scar. It was hard to see in the light, but somehow it felt old. Like it had been there for as long as she could remember.
She sank to the cave floor and curled into a ball, hugging her knees as her mind filled with anguish, feeling it consume her from the inside out. She pinched her eyes shut and opened her mouth as if to scream, but no sound came from her clenching lungs and shaking body. It was the first time she had ever felt despair. The light from the stars in the cave flickered and dimmed. The air grew heavy, clenching like a fist around the girl with hair that gradated from black roots to silvery white ends. The ringing grew louder in her ears and the taste in her mouth grew bitter. She no longer cared about food. All that consumed her was that man. The man who had attacked her family. The man who had hurt her.
Amaryllis was unaware of how much time passed while she mourned, but eventually her small body turned grief into exhaustion and the air in the cave returned to normal. The stars regained their light. She curled up under the heavy quilt and fell into a dreamless sleep.
Amaryllis is awakened by a loud snap, then begins to hear scratching against rocks. As she rolls over, sparks fly near the ground around her head and for just a moment, she is captivated by the light they emit. But then she sees the silhouette of a hunched over creature with one drooping ear and immediately, flight fills her bones. She sits up like a scared rabbit, ready to flee. But then, the creature speaks:
“You’ve awoken.” The creature’s voice was stern and raspy. It didn’t echo, but Amaryllis could easily hear it in the quietness of the damp cave.
“You must eat,” it said, “I will prepare food.”
Amaryllis looked the creature up and down. It was wearing a smooth black shall (inheritance of the second Head Elf descendant) and under it a stained black vest with only one large button (inheritance of the third Head Elf descendant). He also had a piece of green fabric around his neck resembling a gentleman’s tie (inheritance of the first Head Elf descendant) that lay loosely on a light blue shirt (his own inheritance from Lord Voldemort). After this long hard glance Amaryllis was sure - he was a house-elf. She remembered one always being around when she was very little, before she moved in with Mama and Papa. But the difference - this elf was mean. He was the elf who had grabbed her - the one with strange powers - and she knew it.
The elf turned to the basket on its right and Amaryllis shied away from him. He ignored her, pulling out a codfish to roast over the fire. Amaryllis perked up at the cod and her mouth salivated. He then brought out a loaf of bread placing it within reach, ‘eat this for now’ he muttered to her. Finally he pulled out the bottle of wine, ‘to calm his nerves,’ he muttered to himself. The elf uncorked the bottle with practiced ease and with long bony fingers tightly gripping the neck, he tilted his head back and took a long, satisfying swig. The fire covered the area with warmth and after eating some bread, Amaryllis relaxed a little. She looked around, getting her bearings now that there was light. A pool of water covered almost half of the space. Water also ran down the side wall into it, which was where she had quenched her thirst earlier. She reasoned that the elf didn’t seem to want to hurt her, so she dared ask him a question:
“Where am I?”
Elf sighed but didn’t look up from stoking the flames. He had been given his orders and now was burdened with caring for the child as well as searching for his Master for further instruction on the mission. There was no obligation to answer the girl, but if she were to fall into poor health, he would be responsible and that would be completely unbearable. He decided to keep his answers brief and to the point.
“In a cave by the ocean,” he replied.
“I knew that…” the girl whispered proudly. She paused, “What happened to Mama?”
At this, the house-elf just shook his head. That question was too complicated to answer to a four-year-old. But, deep down Amaryllis remembered the green flash and in the silence that followed her question, she began to understand she wasn’t going to see her mom anymore.
“Master will be back soon,” he said crassly to the girl, “Until then, you must eat what I prepare. Now, take this to fill with water.”
He tossed a large water bottle in her direction and it rolled across the cave floor to her knees. She hesitated.
“What is your name?” She asked.
The house-elf lifted his gaze from the fish he was stoking over the fire and made eye-contact with her for the first time. It was very odd being asked that question. He couldn’t remember the last time he thought of his name.
“Just call me Elf,” he finally said.
“Well, Elf. Thank you for feeding me.” She picked up the water bottle from the cave floor.
Elf shrugged and took another swig of wine. Amaryllis stared at him for a moment more before walking back towards the running water she had found earlier. As she rounded the corner, she looked up and gazed dreamily at the stars on the ceiling. What a weird cave, she thought, Are those stars magic? Unscrewing the cap to the water bottle she pushed it up against the rock wall, letting the cold water drip down into the container. She drank two full bottles before returning to the fire.
A cooked codfish sitting on a china plate beside a fork and knife were waiting for her. The porcelain seemed so out of place in the dank, dark cave that she giggled. Elf raised a very hairy eyebrow at her.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “it’s just strange eating like this. Am I in a dream?” She asked.
Elf shrugged again. He wasn’t very talkative, she noticed, but since he still didn’t appear to want to harm her, she decided to ask more questions.
“So… are you here to take care of me?”
“Yes. I will be your caretaker until Master returns,” he answered.
“You’re a house-elf, aren’t you.” She said matter of factly.
“There’s more of you at Hogwarts, aren’t there?”
“Yes,” he answered quieter.
“Are you from there, too?”
“That’s none of your beeswax!” He snapped at her, “and if you keep asking questions I will shock you as I did before!” Amaryllis felt her heart go hard at the way he yelled so suddenly, but because of the look on his face, she wasn’t that phased by his outburst. She frowned and focused on pulling bones out of her fish. Her chin scrunched in stubbornness at the silence. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore.
“Fineeee,” she moaned, “then will you at LEAST tell me why I’m here?”
“I said, NO… MORE… QUESTIONS!” Elf stood up, all 3 feet of him, but his shadow against the back of the cave wall was menacing. Amaryllis had never interacted with an angry house-elf and she wasn’t so sure she wanted to. But she had to know something about what was going on - she just had to!
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” She felt hot tears creeping out her eyeballs. “I just don’t know what’s happening!”
Elf sighed, took another swig from the bottle and sat back down. This was going to be harder than he thought. He had never truly worked with young children and had never felt this kind of obligation from his responsibilities at Hogwarts. This was work, mind you, but priority was finding Master. Lord Voldemort would take over raising this child, as was the plan, but his Master had disappeared without a word.
Amaryllis cried softly while she ate her fish. Her mother and father weren’t coming. She had no idea what happened to her baby brother and Elf was being mean again. He wasn’t going to answer any more questions.
At the end of their meal, Elf turned to the tear-stricken little witch and waved at the wicker basket.
“I know nothing of children, but I brought you some things to keep you occupied. You’ll find them in there.” Amaryllis eyed the house-elf curiously and reached into the basket, pulling out Harry’s toy broomstick. She was speechless.
Elf stood up and, swaying a bit, patted dust off his shall. He placed the now empty wine bottle back in the basket.
“I’m leaving now. I will bring more food. Please wash your dish.”
“No, please, wait! —“
Elf was suddenly gone. Amaryllis was completely alone again in the cave full of stars. Her brother’s toy broomstick she had once been so jealous of not receiving for her birthday, now lay in her clenched fists. A tear fell from her cheek. She would have traded the broom in a second to get her brother back.