Chapter 28: Foresight and Hindsight (Arc 7)
Warning for great evil, creepy images, and raunchy jokes and innuendo. Thank you.
The days have come, so long foretold,
When settled is the fight of old;
In half a year, or less, you'll see
Defeat or glorious victory.
Though mourn you have and mourn you will,
Hold tight to good instead of ill,
For Champions, Heirs, and Consorts all
Shall gather ere the darkness fall.
A long-awaited night of pain
Brings dreadful loss, yet also gain;
Despite the words, the theft, the flight,
A secret hope hides in the light.
Through months of heat, fight brave and bold,
But some things, do not seek to hold;
There is no shame in planned retreat,
To twine and trap your foeman's feet.
The castle's yours, no matter who
May seek to lord it over you,
So let them think they've conquered, yet
Await the night your path was set,
O Man Who'd Win: when you shall hear
Your strangest gift with friendly ear,
Go unto those whose Oath you swore
And bargain well to win the war.
As part of this, two Heirs must choose:
Their powers, or their cause, to lose?
One, as his forebear, wields a blade;
The raven shall the other aid.
If all is done as all should be,
Your loved ones' faces you shall see;
The blood of wolves will change the game,
As will the things that night does name;
The queens shall ride the lion bold;
Glad hope, bright peace, you shall behold;
And black to red and red to brown
Shall surely bring the darkness down.
"Well, that didn't take long," commented Remus, reading through Danger's eyes. "Though it certainly is long. One of the longest you've had, I think."
"There's going to be a lot happening in the next six months." Danger set the scroll down on the green bedcovers. "As if there hasn't already been."
Remus laid his hand over hers, the shared sorrow/fear for their missing cub reverberating across their bond. He'll be protected, he reminded her silently. They told you so specifically.
Yes, but they never said protected from what. Or how it would be done. Danger's frustration, tinged with her annoyed understanding of the rules by which the Guardians had to work, hummed in the back of Remus's mind. Though for some of it, I'd bet I could make a decent guess. His mother wanted him to grow up free of the Death Eater philosophies, of everything they stand for.
"Which he did," said Remus lightly. "Courtesy of the Pack."
"Yes, but now he's been pulled right back into the middle of it all. And yes, I know he went willingly, protecting Harry and Hermione and their mysterious mission—about which I am getting more information from Albus, given the restrictions he's got us under, if the Death Eaters ever get at us, keeping secrets will be the least of our worries—but that still puts our Fox front and center of what his mother literally died to get him away from. Don't you think—"
"As a rule, no, I don't." Remus winked at his wife. "It's why I keep you around."
Danger groaned under her breath. "Walked into that one."
"But to answer what you really were asking, yes. I do think his mother's love, her sacrifice, may help to shield Fox from some of his blood father's worst excesses." Remus sighed. "Until it's no longer needed. And isn't that a cheerful subject. Would you mind if I changed it?"
"Please." Danger let the scroll roll back into its small coil. "What do you want to talk about? The wedding?" She smiled, her eyes glistening slightly. "They did a beautiful job with it, really they did. Though there's still a good bit of my brain insisting Harry can't possibly be old enough to get married. Wasn't it yesterday we were stealing him out of that godforsaken cupboard?"
"Try more than fifteen years ago." Remus shut his eyes momentarily to remember that night, the rush of gleeful anticipation as Danger slipped into number four, Privet Drive, then the shock, the horror and fury, which had flooded through her and shattered several streetlights as she saw how the Dursleys had neglected the little boy she'd minded alongside her own baby sister, and learned very quickly to love. "And by himself he's not old enough, nor is Ginny, but with parental consent, marriageable age drops to fifteen for wizards and—get ready for this one—twelve for witches."
"Twelve? You can't be—" Danger caught herself just in time. "No, of course you can't. You're Remus. Sirius is…" She frowned. "You know, that's a good question. Where did he and Letha get to? Down at the reception?"
"Very possibly. Which, in a roundabout sort of way, brings us to what I did want to pick your brain about." Remus shaped the air with his hands as he spoke. "The reception is in Sanctuary. Sanctuary was the idea of one Amanda Smythe. Whom, we have now learned, was actually Amanda Slytherin, granddaughter of Salazar, using the body of a girl who was born a Muggle."
Movement on the wall of the green bedroom caught Remus's eye. Alexander Slytherin had stepped into his portrait frame and was leaning on the back of his green leather chair, listening.
"It strikes me as just a touch too coincidental that the name of that little girl should be Amanda," Remus went on, splitting his words between his wife and the portrait-figure of Salazar Slytherin's "unfaithful" son. "Since she did exist independently of Amanda Slytherin until the swimming pool incident when she was about three. And also the resemblance—it was only surface, I grant you, similar coloring and build, but still, it was there. And that she should have a younger brother named Matt, which Amanda Slytherin also had—"
"That one's not my fault," Alex put in, bringing Danger's head whipping around to focus on him. "Larger forces came into play at that point. As for the coloring, and the name…" He shrugged. "I wanted my little girl to have the best possible chance of winning, if she was going to have one at all. So I tweaked a couple babies' appearances, and sent their parents suggestions about what they should name them. Beat me with a stick. I had nothing to do with the damn swimming pool—I mean, yes, I saw it coming, but I sure as hell didn't cause it. I tried to stop it. And in two out of three cases, it worked. The parents checked the latches and gates leading to the pool, kept a closer eye on their daughters, and those two little girls survived. But the third one…"
"I'd suppose it would be like having a child who needed an organ transplant," said Danger when Alex had been silent for several seconds. "Wanting, so very much, for the one you love to have her opportunity, but hating with all your heart what else that has to mean."
"That's not a bad analogy." Alex sat down, tracing one of the seams on his chair with a finger. "And now you know why I was able to borrow Ezra Smythe's body last summer, to come talk to you, Danger."
"Because Amanda was already in place as his daughter, so you could slide in on that similarity, as long as you kept it brief." Remus nodded. "It all comes back to those relationships, doesn't it? Father, mother, son, and daughter. Like that little prophecy you were able to give us over Christmas."
"That's exactly what it comes back to. What it's been circling around for a thousand years or so." Alex spun his fingers around each other. "And then you add in brother, sister, cousin, friend, to bring the darkness to an end…" He laughed once. "Listen to me. I've been doing doggerel rhyme for so long it happens without my even thinking of it anymore."
"Doggerel it may be, but I like darkness coming to an end. Especially when you give us a nice clear timetable like this one." Danger unrolled the scroll a short way and tapped a finger on the first few lines of the prophecy. "Six months, hmm?"
"Thereabouts. Look a little further down, at the bit addressed to Harry, if you want a more exact date." Alex fidgeted for a moment, then glanced left, right, left quickly before leaning forward. "I won't be able to talk to you very much until after it's over," he said softly. "But I just wanted to…God, apologize is the wrong word, but it's all I can think of. About that damn vision of Luna's, and everything going on around it. It was necessary, it had to happen—it's going to have at least three major impacts on getting the war over with sooner and cleaner, and that's just off the top of my head—but that doesn't make it fair to you, to any of you." He grimaced. "Though if life was fair, I'd be out of a job, wouldn't I?"
"Wouldn't we all," Remus returned.
"You said a mouthful." Alex glanced to one side again and jumped to his feet. "I have to go. Best to everyone, and keep your eyes open. Sometimes the biggest threats are the ones you never imagined—"
His grass-green robes whisked out of one side of the frame.
Danger blew out her breath. "And how," she demanded rhetorically, "are we supposed to keep our eyes open for what we can't imagine?"
"Broaden our imaginations, perhaps." Remus rolled the scroll back up and tucked it into a pocket. "But for right now, why don't we go down to Sanctuary for a little while. Be with our Pack, those of them who're here, and send as much love and comfort as we can to the one who isn't…"
A pair of wizards walked through the corridors of a dusty, ill-kept manor house, the elder leaning occasionally on a black-and-silver cane, the younger with his hands tucked into the pockets of his Hogwarts robes. An observer, had there been one, could have been forgiven for taking a second, or even a third, look, for the only visible difference between the two was twenty-five years of age and such cosmetic differences as clothing choice and length of hair—the elder wore his silver-blond mane long and sweeping, while the younger's sleek cap lay closely clipped against his skull.
"You, my son," said Lucius Malfoy, breaking the silence, "have a very great deal to answer for."
Draco considered possible responses to this, including two or three which would have had his mothers Scourgify-ing his mouth out. In the end, the most politic reply seemed simply, "Oh?"
"Oh, he says." Lucius glared at him. "Let us start at the very beginning."
"A very good place to start," Draco murmured, unable to stop himself. A soft noise from the direction of his feet made him look down, but the corridor was dim enough that he couldn't tell if the slight distortion he thought he could see near his ankles was really there or just a trick of his eyes.
"Yes, isn't it?" agreed Lucius, oblivious to the quotation. "It began, as you well know, more than twelve years ago in this very house, when I was arrested." The word came out in a low, breathy snarl. "Our family name dragged through the dirt, held up to public ridicule, shame and derision—my wand snapped in half like that of a common criminal—"
"Because it was?" Draco cut in smoothly. "Because it'd been used to cast all three Unforgivables, along with plenty of other Dark spells?"
"Against animals, nothing more." Lucius drew himself up to his full height, which would have been more impressive if he weren't slightly shorter than his son. "And if our government had enough spine to call a wand a wand, as they once did, protection for those who enjoy such sports would be enshrined in law as it ought to be—"
"You know, I've heard about this attitude of yours all my life, but it's fascinating to finally see it up close." Draco settled his shoulders into a pose of comfortable relaxation. "You really believe this shite, right down to Muggles being animals. Oh, sure, they walk upright and speak in simple sentences and use a few basic tools, but they don't have magic, and that's your make-or-break, isn't it? That's what you use to decide who's human and who's not." He smirked once. "Do you know who you're named after, Father? Do you know who was the first man to bear the name Lucius Malfoy—and why?"
"Of course." Lucius looked down his nose at Draco, as best as he could manage this feat. "I am named after the founder of our line, an innocent man who came under attack from vicious enemies, determined to make a murder out of his cousin's accidental death, which happened to benefit him. He took the ridiculous nickname with which those same enemies tried to smear him and made it his own, a badge of honor, and thus we carry it proudly to this day."
"You carry it," Draco corrected. "It's nothing to do with me anymore. And you've got your facts a trifle backwards, Father. Your namesake was every inch a murderer—granted, he had some help from a nasty little curse, but I have it on good authority that Lucius Beauvoi, as he was originally named, definitely killed his cousin William. And William, I might add, was an Heir of Slytherin in his own right. Cadet branch, but that doesn't change the blood."
Lucius raised one pale eyebrow. "I see your Pack has taught you to aim your flights of fantasy high."
"Hey, anything worth doing." Draco shrugged. "But I doubt it really bothers you too much, being descended from a killer, I mean. Given the amount of blood on your hands. Even if you don't count Muggles, which I know you don't, we could bring up, oh, my mother."
"You dare—" Lucius spluttered for an instant. "You dare blame me for her death! If she had never been exposed to such filthy, unnatural ideas—"
"As those of the people you kidnapped out of their home and dragged back here, and waited impatiently for them to wake up so you could gloat over the various unpleasant fates you'd planned for them and their children?" Draco faced his father fully, gray eyes locked with gray. "The same children you yourself dumped on my bed, and told me the boy was going to be my brother from now on." He grinned briefly. "One thing out of that whole mess you got right. In any case, if you hadn't brought them here, Mother would never have seen the difference in the way we acted. Never wanted me to be more like them." His grin broadened. "Never taken advantage of you being knocked cold by a pair of preschoolers—"
He'd been expecting the slap for a while, and turned his head as it landed, robbing it of some of its energy. It still stung, but he'd had worse playing Quidditch. "Truth hurts, doesn't it, Father?" he said, leaning back on one heel, scuffing the toe of his other shoe into the dusty carpet. "So here's another one you'll like even less. Lucius Beauvoi, later called Mal Foi, 'bad faith', for that same murder you claim he never committed? He was a Muggleborn." He smirked at the open-mouthed look of utter shock on Lucius's features. "Came from a family where the other two branches had turned magical long ago, but somehow his never caught up until then."
Lucius shook his head, recovering. "I see that we have a great deal more work to do than I thought," he said. "Which, until this moment, I had not believed possible. To think that you, my son, could have been brought so tragically low—you ought to have been preparing for your gala seventeenth birthday by now, training to prove yourself worthy to bear the Malfoy wand. Eighteen inches of elm with a dragon heartstring core, passed down through the generations without fail…"
"Whoa, hold up a second." Draco blinked several times, trying to envision this. "Did you say eighteen inches? As in, a foot and a half?"
"That is another way to say eighteen inches," Lucius agreed, looking sidelong at Draco. "Why?"
"And it's passed down in the family. Father to son, no doubt."
"If it were not, it could hardly be the Malfoy wand." Lucius scowled. "Or perhaps I should say, it could not have been. If it still existed, in any form other than that of useless splinters of wood."
"Useless splinters. Right." Draco tucked his hands back into his pockets, weaving his fingers through the item found in one of them. "Tell me, Father, are you familiar with the term 'compensation'?"
It was Lucius's turn to blink. "In the context of providing fair value for an item destroyed? I hardly think you could give me anything which would make up for the loss of so much history and magic as that wand represented—though if you cared to sign the papers which would allow me access to our family monies again, that might begin to do the trick."
"Not likely, and what makes you think I've got any authority over Moony's vault anyway?" Draco shook his head. "No, I'm talking about something else. It's a Muggle concept, granted, but a useful one." He allowed a small portion of his high glee to surface. "Has to do with men who're, shall we say, deficient in a certain area. They tend to want to own large and glamorous things. Especially ones with a particular shape." He made a demonstrative gesture. "And if that deficiency's inherited, it'd certainly explain the long line of only children back up the Malfoy family tree. Add on it's an heirloom, so you don't get it until your daddy says you do…" He wiggled his eyebrows. "Explains a lot, doesn't it?"
A muffled snort exploded near Draco's left foot, as Lucius turned a surprisingly fetching shade of fuchsia, sliding quickly down into a crimson similar to the background of the House patch over Draco's heart. Draco stayed poised on the balls of his feet, ready to dodge should it be necessary.
"You do realize," said Lucius with careful precision after several seconds, "that by perpetrating these ridiculous slanders against the House of Malfoy, you are also insulting yourself?"
"Man just can't get a clue," Draco remarked to the patch of air on his left. "Been what, almost thirteen years now, and he's still hanging onto the past?" He lifted his head again and sent Lucius an insouciant smile. "Just to refresh your memory, Father, my surname's Black nowadays. And the House of Black has plenty of problems of its own, but satisfying women generally isn't one of them. I mean, Sirius snagged himself a Healer, who was also his Beating partner at Hogwarts. That says to me she's a strong, physical woman with a full and complete knowledge of the workings of a healthy human male. You really think she'd settle for anything less than the best?"
"How can I know what a Mudblood would or would not do?" Lucius pretended to examine his fingernails. "Any wizard would surely be an improvement on what she had grown up to expect."
"Any wizard," Draco repeated thoughtfully. "So I suppose it's just a coincidence Aletha started sharing a bedroom with her husband on a regular basis in September of '82, and Meghan was born in June of '83. Whereas you and Mother had to try for, what, four years before I came along."
Lucius opened his mouth, but Draco wasn't finished. "And then there's my namesake. Regulus. Fathered a son, a wizard son, on his Muggle girlfriend—and just how often do you figure he managed to slip past his mother's surveillance and go see her? And no, I'm not making this up," he added as Lucius's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "I remember perfectly well the lineage spells came back positive, even if I can't give you a name for him."
"Can't, or won't?" inquired Lucius, stroking a finger along the carvings on the head of his cane. "If you were sufficiently persuaded—"
Draco surprised himself with a laugh. "Merlin's blood, you really do think I'm an idiot, don't you? I said 'can't' and I meant 'can't'. Why would you think I'd let myself be captured with a head full of secrets?" He smiled as Lucius stared at him. "Oh, hadn't you worked that part out yet? The reason I was standing there in plain sight in Hogsmeade, all ready to duel with you, and the reason, apart from this—" He swiped a finger across his left arm. "—why I haven't tried to run away from you?"
"I see that it was not any desire to make amends for your past sins, as I admit I had hoped was possible." Lucius crossed his arms. "Very well, then, Draco, what was it?"
"You really don't remember, do you?" Draco twisted knitted fabric between his fingers. "After the last time we met in person, when you told me you'd take me back someday. I laid it out for you then and there, the only thing I'd ever consider worth my life and my freedom. The only possible explanation for why we're standing here now. Coming to you at all?"
"It begins to," said Lucius coolly. "You said to me that night that you would return to me only if you knew, without a doubt, that doing so would bring benefits to someone you loved. I fail to see how—"
"What didn't you do, because you were busy with me?" Draco interrupted, letting his smirk grow in time with the dawning comprehension and horror on Lucius's face as he spoke. "Where didn't you go, who didn't you look for? That's why I'm here, Father. Because while I was standing in front of that shop, getting all your attention, my brother and my twin sister were sneaking out the back and making a run for it."
"You dare to call that little Mudblood such a thing," hissed Lucius. "She is nothing to you—"
"She's exactly what you made her, and well you know it!" Draco's fists clenched at his sides as his temper strained against its boundaries. "That's your entire problem, isn't it? You do these things, these vicious, stupid things, and then you're surprised when they come back and bite you on the arse. We could even trace it all the way back to before your precious Master ever fell. If we wanted to."
"Do enlighten me," drawled Lucius. "What have you decided to blame upon me now?"
"Only what you did." Draco exhaled a long breath, assembling his ragged remnants of calm, drawing them together with the aid of the story he was about to relate, a long-time staple of den nights. "17 August, 1981. You and a bunch of your cronies went out to Surrey to get your sick little kicks playing with Muggles. I'll never know how you picked the ones you did, you probably don't remember it yourself, but you ended up on a street called Privet Drive, at number seventeen. A man and a woman were home, a married couple. You tortured them, probably one at a time so they could hear each other scream. And then you killed the man, and Igor Karkaroff killed the woman, and you left them dead in their living room and buggered out. Am I right?"
"You could be." Lucius's eyes were far away, as though he were sorting through his memories. "We entertained ourselves thus a great many times. Was something significant about this particular day?"
"I don't know what would give you that idea," Draco returned in a conscious imitation of his father's bored tone. "Those were only Dr. David and Dr. Rose Granger. Danger and Hermione's parents." He dropped the manner, lifting his chin. "And finding them dead was what woke up Danger's magic. What started her dreaming the truth about Padfoot and Wormtail. What got her to volunteer to mind Harry alongside Neenie, and talk to Moony when she met him in the park. And from there…" He spun his fingers through the air. "Ripples, Father. Spreading out and changing everything they touch. You killed a Muggle when I was about a year old. Three years later, his daughter helped to take me away from you. And twelve-odd years past that…"
"You have returned to me." Lucius was beginning to smile. "Unwillingly, yes, and with your own interests in mind, but still you have returned. And I have taken precautions to ensure you will not stray again, at least not bodily. So my challenge now is how best to reclaim my son for his proper place in life. How best to bring him into line with my own beliefs and cause." His smile was full and gloating now, and Draco had to press his hands hard against his legs to keep them from trembling. "I had thought about tried and true methods such as deprivation and reward, but you are far too stubborn for that to work as quickly as I would like, and besides, we are not Muggles. We are wizards. What good is magic if it is not used?"
Musingly, he drew his wand from the head of his cane and regarded it, swirling his wrist once to light a flame at the wand's tip while he continued to speak. "So my Master has helped me to develop a variant on the spell I embedded in the glass globe I once sent you. I am sure you recall it." Shooting a glance at Draco, he chuckled briefly at the flash of fear Draco hadn't quite been able to conceal. "Yes, I can see you do. But instead of working slowly to turn your inclinations towards me and mine, this spell shall simply—" He blew sharply across the tip of his wand, and the flame flared and went out. "Extinguish all other loyalties in you. You shall love and revere me, my son, and through me, my Master. And together, we will be truly great."
"How exactly are you planning on getting me to do that?" Draco found new strength in the firmness of his voice, the steadiness of his hands as he clasped them together behind his back. "Wipe my mind clean and reanimate me like some living Inferius? That's the only way I could possibly imagine you could do what you keep threatening, get me to infiltrate the Pack and the Order for you, even let you into Hogwarts. When you've got the experiences of my entire lifetime working against you—"
Lucius chuckled again, more deeply. "Working for me," he corrected, wagging a finger at Draco. "Once my Master and I are finished with you. Our work, you see, my dear son, revolves around a very specific spell indeed, for which the incantation begins: Oblivians torquere…"
He awakened slowly, bracing himself for a bellow or a box on the ear, confused when nothing of the sort happened. Surely it must be far past the time when he was normally bullied out of sleep to get the morning chores underway!
And… Keeping his eyes shut, he felt cautiously around himself. I'm lying in a bed. A real bed, with pillows and everything. When was the last time that happened?
The answer to that, of course, was never, unless he counted the naps he'd once been able to steal while upstairs supposedly cleaning the bedrooms of his "betters".
Or unless I go back. A long time back. Back to before I was even four years old.
Well-worn bitterness filled his mouth, his throat, his belly. He'd always known the forces of chaos and anarchy hated his family for their undying loyalty to the proper order of things, but had he been an unbiased observer, he might have thought it beneath even them to time their attack to correspond with a child's birthday.
Only I'm not unbiased, and I know it's not beneath them. Because they did it, and they caught us off guard, celebrating. Almost thirteen years of practice kept his fury purely internal, but it was no less potent for that. And we paid for it, all of us—my mother, my father, and I, each in our different ways—with our lives…
He'd sometimes wished, through the intervening years, that his mother had been just a fraction of a degree less eloquent, that she had not persuaded the interlopers to kill her rather than her child. In his heart, he knew she had hoped his father would escape the attackers, that there might still be a chance for some fragment of their family. But his father had instead been ambushed by six of the enemy's best fighters, and had still managed to account for four of them before he was treacherously struck down from behind by one of those remaining.
And they let us see each other, just once, to make sure we both knew there was no hope left. To watch his face as I struggled against their arms and screamed for him to help me, and have an excuse to beat him senseless again when he tried to reach me, and laugh themselves sick over our pain while they dragged him off to rot in a prison built from his worst nightmares and chained me into slavery with my own blood.
He hadn't understood at first what it meant that a bleeding cut on his hand had been pressed to that of a fat-faced, repulsive little girl while a sly-eyed woman and a bestial man chanted strange words over them. But when the ritual was finished, and the girl ordered him to kneel down and fasten up her shoes—
I did it without even thinking about it, without having a chance to ask why, and when I tried to stop myself, I couldn't.
That was when I started to realize what my new life was going to be.
The months and years since were an endless blur in his memories, filled with exhaustion from doing work beyond his strength, with learning to compensate for the moods of his little mistress, with ducking the bullying of her arrogant boy cousin and his spoiled baby sister and the adults of the household, all of whom seemed to take a positive pleasure in making his life miserable. Though he'd always suspected he ought to have magic of his own, it made no difference to him, as it, like the rest of him, was under the control of his mistress at all times.
I have no idea why I didn't break a long time ago. Certainly they tried hard enough to break me. Maybe it was just that I didn't know I should…
His only way to track time had been the changing of the seasons beyond the kitchen window and how much of the thin pallet in an out-of-the-way corner he took up when he collapsed onto it to sleep, but he thought he'd been about eleven when he'd first found a reason to hope.
In a dream one wintry night, he'd seen his father again.
We didn't have time to say very much before their magic recognized what was happening and separated us, but it was real, we both knew it was. I was able to tell him about my life, where I was and who I was with, and to let him know I hadn't given up. And in return, he made me a promise. No matter how long it took, he would come back for me.
Two years later, that promise suddenly became a true possibility.
He hadn't been meant to know about his father's escape from prison, but he'd learned over the years how to glean bits of knowledge from his mistress, especially when she was distraught over something. If he hadn't found out about it then, though, the three tries his father had made at rescuing him through the year probably would have given him an inkling.
You'd think, since I'm their enemy, they'd be glad to get rid of me, but no, they hate my family so much that they'll go to any lengths to keep us from being happy. Or maybe they just like having a human house-elf to do their chores, and give their little princess her extra magic, to make sure she's always the teachers' pet…
His father's first stab at reclaiming him, a kidnap attempt on the atrociously stuck-up youngest child of his captors' family with the intent of exchanging the two of them, had never gone anywhere, probably because his father had been forced to let an incompetent underling handle it. The second, smuggling an artifact charmed to free him past the family's guard by using the name of a trusted friend of theirs, had almost worked, but his mistress had spotted the charms at the last second and broken through them, dashing his hopes to pieces as she reestablished her control over him ruthlessly. But the third—
The third was so close. So close. He took us both, snatched us from under their very noses, and he'd found the right method to reverse the link between us, to give me the power for once. He could still recall the blazing triumph he'd felt when he awakened to discover in whose hands he was, the whimpering terror he'd been able to sense from his mistress as she shrank away from his father like a frightened animal. I would have had it all back, everything she stole from me and more, and I could have chosen whether I would rather keep her as my slave or simply rip away her magic and break the bond between us forever.
But then Father had to leave us alone for a few minutes, to finish one last piece of work, and everything went wrong…
He still didn't know what the spell was called that his mistress had worked as soon as she was sure his father was out of reach. He only knew that it was illegal, that it ought to have been beyond her capabilities for years yet, and that it had felt to him as though she had wrenched both his arms out of their sockets and smashed him face-first into a wall, all at once.
I tried to fight her, but I blacked out from the pain before I could get anywhere. And by the time I woke up, it was over.
Rousing from a dazed slumber to his mistress's simpering giggle, his exhaustion so profound he could barely open his eyes, and watching her studious examination of her fingernails as she explained what had happened while he had lain unconscious from the pain she'd inflicted on him, might well, he thought, rank as the worst memory of his life.
Because she used me. She used the magic she drained from me to break my father's wards, to call to her own people for rescue, and to keep Father from ever knowing that anything was wrong. So when her parents came to fetch us back, they caught him off-guard, unprepared. Even then, he might still have been able to get away if he'd been willing to abandon me.
I wish he had.
But his father, whether from gallantry or desperation, had fought to the last ditch for himself and his son, until his enemies grew weary of the battle and unleashed one of their most terrible weapons, the sort they claimed to use only in the direst of necessity. Even now, his fists clenched and a snarl trembled in his throat as he heard in memory the studied whine of his mistress's voice explaining gleefully what was going to happen to his father.
They cursed him to become a monster. An animal, but an animal which can sometimes remember that it was once human. But when the fit comes on it, when the time is right—or rather when the time is wrong—it loses all humanity in the beast. Its only purpose in life is hatred, and it tries to kill anything it can find. Even itself.
Or its own child.
The next year's worth of memories were lost to him in a spiral of black despair, punctuated here and there by pinpoints of light as whispers about the state of affairs in the greater world made their way limpingly into his limited purview. He'd always known that his father had not been the foremost advocate of order in their world—that there had been another and a greater whom his parents, and all who thought like them, called master—but he had been under the impression that this master, this great one, was dead.
How wrong I was. How wrong we all were.
The news of the great one's return had gone through his captors' household like a thunderbolt. There was a connection, he knew vaguely, between his father's master and his mistress's self-absorbed boy cousin, but it didn't affect him personally.
Except that it added to the internal chaos of the household, and meant I could slip through the cracks more easily. Break myself out of my little pity party, keep learning, keep training. Because if anyone could lighten my father's curse or even lift it altogether, make it possible for us to be reunited at last, it would be his master, the one he served so faithfully and so long. I wanted to be ready, to be a credit to my name and my family, in case we got that second chance.
And I didn't want to be used against my father and his cause. Not ever again.
But it had been nearly two years since his father's master had risen, a year and a half since the great one had rescued his faithful from their unjust imprisonment, and not even a hint had come his way that his father remembered him. He tried his best to keep his spirits up, to continue his secret studies and hold himself in readiness, but after so long, was there really any reason left to hope? Perhaps his father had died, and the news had been suppressed for reasons of morale; perhaps the curse had taken firmer hold than anyone knew, and although his father's body lived on, the human mind within it had been destroyed; perhaps…
He rolled onto his side with a sigh, trying to dismiss the possibilities which plagued him.
As he rested his weight on it, his left arm stabbed with pain.
His eyes flew open in shock.
A design in black and deepest green covered the inside of his left forearm, where the night before had shown him nothing but smooth, pale skin. A human skull dropped its jaw wide to allow a thick-bodied serpent to emerge, winding its sinuous way about the skull's contours.
Breathless excitement rose in him as he stared at the marking on his arm. He had never seen such a mark before, but he had heard of it, heard it described, heard the punishments to be meted out to anyone found bearing it. There was no way any member of his captors' household would have allowed their servant boy to wear their enemies' proudest decoration. Yet here it was, emblazoned on his flesh.
But that must mean—
Pushing himself upright in the bed, he looked around, the tide of incredulous joy in his chest rising higher every second. The room around him was no tiny, squalid kitchen but a comfortable, gracious bedchamber lined in carved wooden paneling, a stone-framed fireplace set into the wall to his right and a balcony visible through a glass door ahead of him.
The kind of room you give a good friend of the family, or an honored guest. Or—
He hardly dared to think the final "or", but certain deeply buried memories were starting to float to the surface of his mind, and he trembled as they lined up with what he could see from his current vantage point. The wooden planks of the floor ran horizontal to his line of sight, and would be perfectly smooth underfoot but only slippery when one wanted them to be; the balcony looked out over a lush green lawn, sloping down to a grove of trees surrounding a gurgling stream; the corner of the room across from the fireplace held a small table, with three chairs set invitingly around it, and a bookshelf, empty just now but easy enough to fill with anything he wanted—
If I'm right. If I'm not just making things up because it's what I want so much. How can I test it?
Another memory surfaced. If his impossible idea were in fact the truth, one of the panels in the wall beside the fireplace ought to be a hidden door, which would lead to a full washroom. Breathing deeply to try to contain himself, he slid out of the bed, padded across the floor, and laid his hand on the spot he could vaguely recall stretching upward to reach when he'd been very small—
The panel slid back with the speed and silence of magic, and he caught sight of his familiar pale, pointed features in the mirror which hung over the sink thus revealed. He looked happy, happier than he'd ever seen himself before—small wonder, if what he was now suspecting were true—but a ghostly second image of himself hovered over his shoulder, aged and careworn—
"My son." The voice was hoarse, but nonetheless familiar. "At last."
He spun, only to be embraced in a man's strong arms, and his vision blurred with unashamed tears, for the eyes so like his own were also welling up.
"You are mine now," his father murmured to him, holding him close. "No one will ever part us again."
After almost thirteen years, Draco Malfoy had finally come home.
Creepy enough for ya?
Thank you to everyone who is still reading the DV. It is getting finished, but please remember: it takes me, on average, ten to twelve hours to complete a DV chapter. It takes you only one minute to pay me back with a review. Thank you.
Also, the more sales of originals I get, the happier I am. Like my short story collection Cat Tales, which contains stories from almost every universe in which I currently write—there's a prequel to A Widow in Waiting, a brief glimpse into the future of the Homecoming crowd, some of the backstory behind "Glorious Song of Old" from Sing We Now of Christmas, and even a sneak peek into the lives of the Legendbreakers Pack and Pride from "He Nearly Killed the Cat"! Available in e-book from Amazon and Smashwords, from other major retailers within the month, and in paper form from CreateSpace and Etsy. End of shameless plug.
Thank you again for reading! More Surpassing Danger as soon as I can manage it!
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