Chapter 38: Know Thyself (Arc 7)
No tissues really needed. Prepare to bite nails, though.
Draco stared open-mouthed at Professor Dumbledore, completely lost for words. What the older wizard had said was ridiculous, impossible, the stupidest thing he'd ever heard.
How can there be no such person as Draco Malfoy? I'm Draco Malfoy, and I know I exist! He's losing his mind, or the Pack got to him and Confunded him, or—
Or he's telling you the truth. Fox's voice echoed sadly inside his head, sounding, Draco realized with a shiver, almost precisely like his own clear tenor. His eyes refocused on Dumbledore's blue ones, calm and sad behind their half-moon lenses, without his intending them to do any such thing. Sir, Fox went on, now addressing Dumbledore, is there any way you could—
A quick jumble of images followed, incomprehensible to Draco, but Dumbledore nodded when the flurry subsided and turned his head to look at a spot a few feet from both him and Draco, the third corner of an equal-sided triangle. His fingers moved, sketching runes on the air, Draco realized, but he'd Disarmed Dumbledore himself, there should have been nothing magical the old man was able to do—
The light of the candles in their wall sconces began, impossibly, to shimmer and waver on the spot where Dumbledore had concentrated his attention, as though fog or heat were warping the air out of shape. Draco clenched his teeth as an upheaval went through his mind, something moving behind his eyes where no motion should be—
With a soundless explosion, a third person stood in the corridor between Dumbledore and Draco, his face and body formed from rippling candlelight. He was exactly Draco's height and could easily have been the same age, and his features, though lacking any color except that of the candle flames, would have caused anyone with working eyes to declare him some relation to both the Granger-Lupin family and to Draco himself. In his hand he held a wand, lines of force issuing from its tip and tangling around Draco's own wand arm, binding it in place.
"Thank you, sir," said Fox, bowing in Dumbledore's direction. "This should make things a little easier." He grimaced as he looked back towards Draco. "Not much, but then, nothing would."
"Agreed." Dumbledore leaned against the windowsill beside him, breathing deeply. "So, then, Draco. Ask whatever you wish, of either of us. If we can answer it, we will."
"Why should I?" Draco fought against his panic, reminded himself sharply that he'd known everything might not go perfectly, that he had to stay calm, keep thinking, not let unexpected problems trip him up. "You're liars, both of you, you lie as easily as you breathe, why should I ask you anything and expect you to tell me the truth?"
"When have I ever lied to you?" countered Fox. "Give me one example."
"One—" Draco nearly choked on the bald-faced nature of this. "You said you were a relation of mine!"
"And how am I not?" Fox grinned briefly. "You're Lucius Malfoy's son. So am I. By blood, at any rate, I don't care to acknowledge the relationship beyond that. You're Narcissa Black's son. So am I." His eyes warmed. "That one, I'm proud of."
"Oh, you're proud all right." Draco hunched his shoulders, glaring. "So proud that you go around making up to the people who killed her."
"Consider the source, Draco," said Dumbledore in a tone of mild reproof, cutting off Fox's more heated denial before it could go beyond a wordless growl. "Your father has told you that the Pack was responsible for the death of your mother. Do you have any other source for this claim?"
"Why should I?" Draco drew himself up, insulted. "My father would never lie to me!"
"No, he just ignores you unless he's got a use for you, hurts you when you didn't even know you were doing wrong, and throws you into dangerous situations without proper preparation," Fox countered. "Obviously a model daddy."
"And your family's so much better?" Draco snapped back.
"You saw them." Fox kept his eyes on Draco, his expression a paradox, soothing and challenging all at once. "You tell me."
Draco shifted back and forth on his feet, scowling. He knew what he ought to say, what he wanted to say, but somehow the words wouldn't form themselves on his tongue. Every time he tried, he kept remembering the strange pride he'd felt when Meghan cuddled trustingly against his side or Harry laughed at a joke he (or rather Fox) had cracked, the little bursts of warmth through his veins at the attention the adults had paid him, the ruffling of his hair, the humming of a song, the touch of fingers to cheek, even a simple smile. His father had embraced him on the day he'd first come home, and smiled on him when he did something well, but other than that—
"No," he said, shaking his head convulsively. "I'm not letting you do this to me. You're lying, you're both lying—you're all lying, you knew I'd be here tonight, you set this all up to try to trick me into coming back, into giving myself up again—"
"So the whole world's lying, except your daddy?" Fox scuffed one insubstantial foot against the stones of the floor. "Quite a bunch, we are. Amazing how we all got our stories straight without really needing to try, though."
Dumbledore gave him a quelling look, and Fox shut his mouth. "Tell me this, Draco," said the Headmaster, turning his attention back to the other real person present. "Clearly you know my reputation. Would I befriend people capable of such acts as you have claimed the Pack committed?"
"If you never knew about them, you might." Draco nodded, on firmer ground here. "And the Pack's smart. Smart enough to keep me locked up inside the house doing chores, never let me get out or talk to anybody who might help me, never let me learn anything, especially not magic—"
"How much is two and two?" Dumbledore interrupted calmly.
Draco rolled his eyes. "Four, but that's not—"
"Spell wand for me," the Headmaster overran his protest.
"W-A-N-D—all right, so I learned some things, but—"
"Name the guardian of the Gryffindor common room."
"The Fat Lady." Draco froze at the sound of the words emerging from his mouth. "But that doesn't count, the Pack are all Gryffindors—"
"What is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?" Dumbledore continued inexorably.
"There is none, they're the same thing, but—"
"And the incantation for a Patronus Charm?"
"Expecto patronum." Draco felt his arm contract as his wand tried to rise into a movement he had surely never learned on his own. Dumbledore nodded to Fox, and the lines of force surrounding Draco's wand disappeared. For an instant Draco considered going for the Killing Curse instead, but Fox had already proved he could stop him, and besides, he'd been curious about a Patronus for a long time, what it might be or look like—
"Expecto patronum," he repeated, bringing his wand up through what his muscles insisted was the proper motion to accompany the words.
A fine, silvery mist sprayed from the end of his wand, then dissipated.
"Care for some help with that?" Fox asked. "No tricks." His eyes, the intense blue of a candle's center, lingered on Draco's. "I promise."
Draco glared for form's sake, but he had to admit Fox had a point. The other boy's promises meant something, or always had in the past.
Though now that I know he's part of the Pack, how can I be sure they didn't send him to live in my head and try to lure me back to them? That would be just like them—
But there his mind stalled, for the stories and images of the Pack lingering in his head, the ones he'd awakened in his own bed at Malfoy Manor remembering and dreamed about in terror every night until Fox had come to chase away his nightmares, were in every way the opposite of what he'd experienced for himself a few minutes before.
And Fox never hurt me. He's been angry with me a few times, and he's stopping me from doing what I want right now, but he's never hurt me, and he's never lied to me.
"All right," he said, lowering his wand. "What do you want to do?"
"Here, let me…" Fox came towards him, his movements half an ordinary walk, half a ghost's gliding step. "Merlin's boots, this feels weird. Okay, I'm going to come around behind you, just like—yes, that's it, and now—"
Draco swallowed as Fox's wand arm, outlined in shimmering fire, sank into his, overlapping it precisely, sending waves of hot and cold through his nerves. "On three," Fox said quietly, his voice echoing both inside and outside Draco's head. "And remember to think of something happy. One—two—three—"
The memory of the tune Aletha Black had hummed in the kitchens coincided within Draco's mind with his recollection of Fox singing the same song to him, after telling him a story about warriors and how they'd fought evil together. His arm and Fox's rose in unison, and two voices shouted the same words.
The mist this time was much thicker, but seemed unsure what shape it should take, roiling and twisting within itself. Draco glared at it, lowering his wand. Stop playing around, he thought towards it irritably. Turn into what protects me, and do it right now!
With a final writhe, the mist split into two, one piece larger than the other. Both pieces coalesced with a rush into four-legged, point-eared creatures, each bounding towards Draco. The larger, clearly a wolf, passed him by to twine around the legs of Fox, who'd stepped back towards his original place. The smaller skidded to a halt at Draco's own feet and sat down, looking up at him with a panting, open-mouthed grin.
Draco stared down at it, feeling himself start to shake. Its ears were oversized, its paws likewise, its coat thicker than any he'd ever seen, but unmistakably his Patronus had taken on the form of—
"No," he whispered, snapping his wrist. The silvery fox managed to look hurt and disappointed in the last instant before it vanished. "No—that's not true, my father protects me—"
"Bang-up job he's doing, sending you off to become a murderer before you're even of age." Fox stroked the head of his wolf one final time, then swirled his wand around her, dissipating her into thin air. "And just in case you were wondering, my nickname? It's from this." Releasing his wand, which disappeared up his sleeve, he leaned forward to fall onto all fours, shrinking and twisting as he went, until the fiery twin of the Patronus Draco had just dismissed stood before him on the floorstones, his brushy tail waving idly back and forth behind him.
"Stop it!" Draco shouted, clenching his fists and restraining himself at the last second from stamping his foot. "Stop it, you're confusing me, it isn't fair—"
Dumbledore made an urgent motion in Fox's direction, and began to move his hands in patterns which tantalized Draco's eyes, containing seeds of meaning which fluttered frustratingly away from his understanding. Something about appearance, Draco thought, and surely that had been a reference to him? Fox, resuming his human form, replied in the same manner, a considering look beginning to creep over his face as his fingers shaped out no, small, protect, help—
"I said stop!" Now Draco did stamp his foot, not once but twice, despite the shock of pain that ran up his leg at both impacts. "Stop talking in front of me like you think I don't understand you! I'm not four years old!"
Fox swung around to meet his eyes. "Are you sure about that?" he inquired.
"Just because you like to make me that way in those dreams—" Draco began hotly.
"Whoa, back up the broom." Fox held out a hand. "I never made you anything. That first night we met, when I told you 'Cinderella' because you were scared of the storm? You were dreaming that before I ever got there, Draco, and you were four years old in the dream. I didn't change a thing."
"But…" Draco looked down at himself, confusion growing by the second. "I'm not."
"If I may?" said Dumbledore before Fox could speak. "Draco, you enjoy stories, it seems."
Draco shrugged. "They're all right."
"Will you listen to one now, and tell me if it makes sense?" Dumbledore's eyes were steady on his. "It may answer some of the questions we all share, and untangle us from this particular coil without undue harm to any."
After piecing this together, Draco nodded hesitantly. Surely listening couldn't do him any harm, and it might even distract Fox for long enough that he could get his shot off and run for it. His father and the others must be here by now, must be spreading out through Hogwarts and placing their Portkey targets, if he could only finish his own part of the mission, this night could still be a success—
"Once upon a time," Dumbledore began, "there was a young man who at the age of four underwent an immense and stunning change in his life. Now although this change was for the better, it was still a great shock, and it had effects upon him. At a level too deep for conscious thought, a piece of his personality, of his very soul, split off from the rest."
"Souls can split?" Draco asked in surprise. "I didn't know that."
"Many people do not," said Dumbledore gravely. "But as I was saying. A piece of this young man's soul split away from the rest—not half, nor even a quarter, but a much smaller piece than that. And the split-off portion of his soul, frightened of the new parts of his life, fled away into the recesses of his mind, where it walled itself off and remained in hiding, in a sort of limbo. It did not grow older with the rest of him, nor indeed was it aware of the passing of time, for it had created a tiny world about itself where nothing ever changed. So far, does my story ring true?"
"I guess." Draco considered the thought of a little world all his own, one where he was in total control and no one could come in unless he allowed them, and found it far more appealing than he'd thought he would. It would be like the dreams Fox makes for me, where we're the only two people in the world and that's all we need, where we can do whatever we want and no one hurts us or bothers us or makes us do things we don't want to…
"But one day, great changes again befell this young man." Dumbledore glanced over at Fox, who acknowledged this with one lifted shoulder. "An unscrupulous man took him prisoner, and planned to force him to betray and hurt those he had learned to love. And to that end, this man wanted to torment his prisoner's mind and force him to believe untruths, to twist his memories until they appeared to be the opposite of what they truly were. To make him distrust everyone who had ever loved him, and love the man who wanted only to use him."
"That's bad." Draco considered the scenario for another moment. "That's really bad. Because then even if his family did come to rescue him, he wouldn't let them, because he'd think they were just trying to hurt him again."
"So he would." Dumbledore nodded. "But our unscrupulous villain had not accounted for one invisible player in the game. The young man's mother, who had loved him very dearly, dearly enough to make a great sacrifice for him."
"She died." Fox's hand rose to his chest, but dropped again before making contact. "She wrote a letter to her sister, explaining what she'd done and why, and then she took poison and she died. Not because she was afraid to face the consequences of what she'd done, but so that no one could ever say to her son, look, we rescued your mother from what was happening to her, you owe us."
"That's…wow." Still listening, Draco sat down on the floor, leaning an elbow against one crossed knee. "She was really brave."
"She was also clever." Dumbledore smiled. "Such a death left the protection of her great love to linger about her son, magically. And when our villain tried to twist the young man's mind, to make him believe lies in place of truth, his mother's love shielded him long enough that he could escape the spells, dive into the depths of his mind and create for himself a protected place. But in so doing—most inadvertently, I would assume—" He looked over at Fox, who seemed caught between anger and embarrassment.
"What?" Draco sat up straighter. "Did he find that other piece of him, the little one, the one who didn't grow up?"
"Yeah." Fox seemed fascinated by the tiles beside his feet. "Yeah, that's who he found. And who the spells found, half a second after him. He didn't even have a chance to really understand what he was seeing before the spells took effect—it was only afterwards that he realized what had happened, and he did his best to make it right, as much as he could."
"So…" Tracing patterns on the irregular stones of the wall, Draco tried to put the story together. "The grown-up mind ran away from the lie spells, but the little kid mind got caught by them, and started believing the lies?"
"More than that." Fox looked up, his face still caught in that strange expression which left Draco unsure if his relation were about to shout at him or beg his pardon. "The bigger kid, the one who'd grown up like he should have, he actually took over the little kid's place inside his mind, the little world he'd built to keep everything else out. Only he opened up a few channels to the surface, so he could see and hear what was going on. And what he saw and heard…" He winced. "His memories were still there, inside the mind," he said after a moment. "The imprints of them, the knowledge. So the spells could take those and twist them all around, make the bad things good and the good things bad, and give them to the little kid like true memories."
"Because he was hidden away inside his mind all those years, and never grew up like he should have, so he wouldn't have proper memories to get in the way." Draco rubbed a hand along his arm, trying to get the hairs on it to lie down again. "That's awful. Not the story, I mean, it's good for being a story, but if it was real, it'd be awful…"
The silence thickened around him until he looked up. "What?" he said defensively. "Wouldn't it be?"
Fox muttered something that sounded rather like "Clueless", then knelt down, bringing himself to Draco's level. "Yes," he said evenly. "It would be pretty awful if it were real." His eyes hardened. "Which it is."
"It is?" Draco started to get to his feet. "Why are you still standing around here, then? Why don't you go and help—"
He froze halfway upright as the implications finally sank in.
He means—they're talking about—
"No," he said, coming to his feet in a smooth rush. Across from him, Fox did the same, his movements like looking in a mirror. "No, you're wrong, that's not how it is—that can't be what's happening here, don't you think I'd know if—"
"You were really four years old, using someone else's body, and working with an implanted, completely backwards set of memories?" Fox shrugged. "Stranger things have happened. Granted, I can't think of any at the moment, but they have to have. Somewhere."
"Consider the facts, Draco," said Dumbledore softly. "Lucius Malfoy may take pride in you, but it is the pride of a man for a prized possession, not a beloved son. He desires your success not on your own behalf, not because it will make you happier and stronger and more free, but because it will bring glory and power and riches to him and to his name, and win him the approval of his Master. And in return for the affection you so strongly desire from him, he demands that you commit a terrible act, and tear apart your own soul in so doing."
"Stop it." Draco shook his head, backing away a step or two, feeling the battle begin within him, a harsh and impersonal force impelling him forward to complete the task he'd been given, his own fears and wishes crying out for him to run, run away, find a safe place, somewhere to hide from this nightmare—
"Whereas Fox, and his Pack through him, have been nothing but kind to you," Dumbledore went on, smiling at the other boy, who flushed, if a figure made of fire could be said to do such a thing. "He soothed your fears, helped you through your difficulties, freely gave you the love for which your father wants you to pay so high a price. And the only return he has ever asked is that you not use his body as the instrument of murder. Whom, on this evidence, would you say you ought to trust more?"
"I said stop!" Draco dug his hands into his hair, breathing hard and fast, fighting to get one clear thought through the clamoring voices in his head, the feeling that he was being pulled apart, torn to pieces, as he'd been torn once before, if the story was true—
But it's not true. He latched onto this as to a lifeline. It can't be. I have the scar on my face from where the Pack put me under Hermione's blood-magic, they can't explain that one away—I'm a pureblood wizard, my own magic ought to have healed up anything that small a long time ago unless there were some other power preventing it—there it is, there's the proof, they're liars and my father's telling the truth, I knew it, I knew it—
Fox groaned. "Lost him again," he said, his fiery wand coming into his hand with a shower of sparks. "Sorry, sir, I really thought we had it that time."
"Do not apologize for what is not your fault." Dumbledore's breathing was somewhat ragged, but his eyes, as he lifted his head to meet Draco's gaze, were clear. "I had not wanted to do this," he said. "But I fear it is now the only way. Forgive me, if you are able."
Draco opened his mouth to ask what he should be forgiving—
And then he was somewhere else, he was someone else—but no, he was still himself, his body felt as familiar as ever, even if his wrists were itching awfully, his chest felt oddly constricted, and his mouth tasted like someone had dared him to eat a handful of Bertie Bott's in which blood and dirty sock had figured prominently. It was only his mind that had changed, it was filled with clarity, decisiveness, the ability to shunt aside fear and think, none of which belonged to him, but all of which he could easily have believed did belong to Fox—
"Thank you again, my lord, for the help you have given me with this." The voice echoing through the darkness around him was his father's, a smooth veneer over roughness, but filled with a gloating glee Draco had seldom heard except when Lucius was exulting over the downfall of some enemy. "I could never have done it correctly without you."
"Why should I refuse my help in restoring to you what is yours, when you plan to place it immediately into my service?" replied the silken tones of Lord Voldemort, high and cool with the hint of hissing laughter which always seemed to be there. "Are the preparations finished?"
"Almost, my lord. One more spell to complete."
Draco started to sit up from where he was lying, to turn his head and look at his father, to ask what spells were being done, what his father planned to give the Dark Lord now, as was surely the right and proper thing to do—
Don't bother, Fox's voice whispered inside his ears. You can't do any of that. You're tied up, blindfolded, gagged. Or I was, when it happened to me.
What? No! Panicked, Draco tried to struggle against the bonds he could now feel with pitiless clarity, but his body seemed paralyzed, refusing to obey his frantic commands. No, I won't let you tell me lies like this—I won't let you make me think this happened—it didn't, do you understand me, it wasn't like this! Let me go, let me go, let me GO—
With a strangled yell, he tore himself free of the memory, the lie, and bolted away down the passage, no longer caring that he hadn't completed what he'd been sent to do, wanting only to get away, get away, find somewhere safe, somewhere that the terrible fear could never come, never follow him—
Believe it or not, that's all I want too, murmured Fox's voice, though the fiery figure was no longer anywhere to be seen. I don't hate you, Draco. I want to help you.
Shut up, Draco returned bitterly, shoving aside a tapestry and dodging into the secret passage behind it. Why should I listen to you? What have you ever done for me besides try to confuse me, mess around with my head, shatter everything I wanted to believe in?
Oh, I don't know, Fox drawled in a surprisingly good imitation of Lucius in an expansive mood. Got you in here in the first place, perhaps, when by yourself you'd have been caught in that first little trap Harry laid for you, to say nothing of all the others? Spent time with you and coached you in magic, when your dear daddy never seemed to think it was worthwhile to do that for you, just flung books at you and expected you to figure it out on your own? Which, by the by, you weren't able to do because you're a pureblood and a Malfoy. You were tapping into my memories of six years' worth of classes and practice. So you're welcome for that as well.
"Yes, well, if you'd never existed, I would have been the one taking those classes," Draco snarled aloud as he climbed out of the other end of the passage. Distant shouts seemed to indicate that something else was happening at Hogwarts tonight, but he wasn't interested in that. "And I would have been able to do what my father wanted from me. So you're not welcome for that."
You really are a piece of work, aren't you. Fox's tone somehow included the body language which would have gone with it had they still been face to face, slowly shaking head, folded arms, incredulous laugh, and all. How do you know this night wouldn't have ended up exactly the same, or only a tiny bit different, even if there'd never been a Pack at all?
Draco was preparing a furious salvo in response to this when he turned a corner and stopped dead.
He was no longer alone.
"Hello, Draco," said a girl's quiet voice, and Hermione Granger-Lupin stepped forward into the light, her hands hanging loose at her waist, open and empty. "I've been waiting for you."
Well, well, Fox murmured, freezing Draco's feet in place momentarily, overriding his first urge to turn and run the other way. What do we have here? I believe it's known as a tiebreaker.
What are you talking about? Draco yanked at Fox's control, but it refused to let him go. She's going to grab me, put me back under her filthy magic, if you actually cared about me you'd help me get away from her—
But what if she's not? Fox seemed to be taking care to make his voice slow, soothing, and against his will Draco found a little of his terror subsiding. Certainly Hermione hadn't moved since taking those few steps into the light. She was simply standing, watching him, with no wand in her hand, no vial of potion, nothing that could threaten him…
She doesn't need things to threaten me, he thought furiously towards Fox. You know she doesn't! All she needs is to be herself, to have my blood running in her veins and hers in mine, and she can steal my magic, control me, force me to do whatever she wants—
Who told you that, Draco? Fox interrupted, his tone turning a little sharper, more impatient. Your father, wasn't it? And I think we should already have established that he's about the biggest liar since someone told Merlin there was no such thing as magic!
The bond between you isn't one of control, Fox overrode Draco's automatic objection. It could have been, it was meant to be in the beginning, but it was set up the other way around. You were meant to be able to control her, to steal her magic. And that's because the Pack never put that bond on the two of you. Your father did.
"He—no!" The words ripped out of Draco without his conscious consent. "He'd never—not my blood—"
He did. Trust me on this one. Fox chuckled, a bit sourly. I was there, after all. But whether or not you believe me, this is the answer you've been looking for. The way we can know, know for sure, which of us is right. Which of us is real.
"How?" Draco cast a suspicious glance at Hermione, still watching him quietly, her feet planted shoulder-width apart.
Touch her. Just a little touch, your hand on hers. See what's in her mind, what she's thinking right now. And no, I'm not trying to get rid of you, Fox snapped as Draco's thoughts went momentarily incoherent. If you're right, if what you believe is true, if she tries to snatch you and control you and turn you into a slave, then you have my word that I will stop her, Draco. I don't want you to get hurt, not by anyone, do you understand me? So if Neenie tries to hurt you, I'll stop her. Whatever it takes. Are you hearing me?
"Yes." The word came out in a breathy whisper, as Draco clenched and unclenched his fists, trying to keep his terror from taking him over again. "But she will, I know she will—"
And then you'll have my help to save you from her, and get you away from here, back to your dad. But if she doesn't. Fox's voice took on a still more measured tone. If she isn't interested in enslaving you. If instead she's happy to see you, she wants to hug you, she says she's been worried sick about you. What would that mean?
"It would mean…that you're right." Slowly, Draco nodded. "That the Pack's good, and that you want to help me." He took a long breath, nerving himself up for the words. "Okay. I'll try it. But I'm not taking any chances. I want my wand out." A little smirk got through to his face, though the expression felt weaker than usual. "Just in case."
That seems fair, Fox agreed. Move slow, make it nice and obvious what you're doing.
"Got it." Draco reached into his pocket for his wand, withdrawing it slowly, between two fingers. Hermione tensed, but did not draw her own in response, instead beginning to smile, and for one instant Draco allowed himself to believe that possibly things weren't so bad after all, that maybe there could still be a happy ending, like in his favorite stories—
"Expelliarmus!" a boy shouted hoarsely from behind him.
The spell hit the center of Draco's back, tearing the wand from his hand, shoving him forward in a stumbling run. Hermione lunged and caught him just as he lost his balance, dropping to the ground with him in a controlled fall, her hand clasped around his.
Draco, thank God you're all right, her voice babbled in his mental ears. Are you hurt? What's happened? I've been so worried—
Neenie! Fox answered her, his tone sharp, urgent. Neenie, don't say anything else, there's something—oh, God, look out!
With no more warning than that, Draco felt his father's spell tighten around him again, shrinking down to fit perfectly against his skin, binding him as Fox had been bound before—
It's true, everything Fox said, it's all true—I'm not really me at all, he ought to be me, I'm just a fragment, a memory, I'm nothing, and he's going to have everything, everything I ever wanted, unless I do something about it—
He stood face to face with a perfect copy of himself, pale and pointed features distorted in fury, white-blond hair disordered from the passage here, silver eyes narrowed to take stock of his opponent, on the featureless gray plain where Fox had sometimes brought him in dreams.
"I don't want to be nothing," he said quietly. "I won't be nothing."
"You've never been nothing to me," Fox returned. "Draco, this isn't you, this is that magic I told you about once, the magic that could hurt you, make you do things—come on, fight against it, don't let it do this to you—"
"But what if I want to?" Draco felt his breath coming faster. "What if I want to let it do this? What if I want to destroy you, and turn you into nothing instead of me?"
"God, listen to yourself!" Fox shook his head. "That isn't you talking, that's Lucius! This is what he set up in case you started to see the truth, to make sure you never got free of him, not even inside your own head—"
"You lied to me!" Draco shouted. "You said you wouldn't, but you did! You kept me looking one way, talking all about trusting you and believing your bloody Pack would never hurt me, just so I'd never turn around and notice Harry Potter sneaking up behind me to Disarm me—"
Fox groaned. "So he overreacted a little—give the man a break! He'd only just got there, he saw you facing his sister with a wand in your hand, he did what he's been trained to do—"
Draco grinned, feeling the expression stretch his face, wide and mad. "So will I," he said, and lunged.
The frightened crying in the back of his mind grew fainter by the second as he grappled across the ground with Fox, the exultation of battle singing through him. He would defeat his enemy here, and then he would return to his body and destroy the enemies awaiting him there, and after that he would go forth and fulfill what he'd been expected to do from the beginning, for nothing would be present to stop him, not ever again…
"What the hell?" Harry quickly shoved Draco's wand inside his robes and sprinted forward to pull his brother's limp form off Hermione. "Neenie, what just happened?"
"I don't know!" Hermione was still clutching Draco's hand, her eyes half-shut as she concentrated. "I heard him, Harry, I heard Fox, he was there, but he told me to look out, and then—" She snapped the fingers of her free hand. "He was gone. Just gone, like that. Pulled inward, along with whoever else was there with him, another him, almost…"
Harry swore under his breath and dropped down beside them. "Can we go after him?" he asked.
"It'll be dangerous," Hermione warned. "And not just to our bodies. Our minds, Harry, and our souls." She looked down at her twin's face. "But…he would for us."
"Yes, he would." Harry pulled off his cloak and wadded it up for a pillow. "But that doesn't mean we have to be stupid about it. We're going into enemy-held territory; it may be Fox's head, but it's been Draco Malfoy's mind, for the past month at least. And if Lucius was paranoid enough to put some kind of dead-man spell on him like this, just in case Fox ever recovered somehow—"
"Then he'll probably know it's been triggered," Hermione finished. "Which means we'll have to hurry."
"Not only that, but assume anything we say, unless we get to a safe spot—wherever Fox has been hiding, maybe, or back out of there to our bodies—assume Lucius can hear us." Harry laid his hand atop Hermione's and Draco's, roping them together loosely with a few coils from his wand. "Pride-sign should be okay as long as we don't use too much of it, though. He wouldn't have been interested in that."
"No, he wouldn't." Hermione swallowed, easing herself down to lie flat beside Draco. "All right. Are you ready?"
"Hold on." Harry mentally began the words that triggered his 'walking' state. "Go," he said as he slipped into the edges of sleep—he was drifting, floating, sinking through a sea of silver glass—
And then he was standing on an endless gray plain, Hermione's hand still entwined in his. In front of them, two identical young men were embroiled in a furious fight, rolling over and over in their mock-loving clutch, white-blond hair and pointed features appearing and disappearing as they grappled for place—
Both heads turned to face the incomers. One face lit up with hope, the other with dismay.
"Harry! Neenie!" one Draco gasped out, freeing his hand to reach towards them. "Help me!"
The other Draco growled and cuffed his opponent across the ear. "Get out of here!" he shouted towards them. "This isn't your fight!"
Hermione glanced at Harry. Got it? her fingers asked.
Got it, Harry signed back.
Without another word, they flung themselves at the battling pair.
And that is where I shall leave it, O readers, with three questions for you:
1: Which Draco is which?
2: How do you know?
And 3: Will Harry and Hermione get it right?
More as soon as I can get it finished!
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