Vivens cum Pericula
Chapter 1: Arrival
By Anne B. Walsh
Renuntio cognationes omnes quam habetur J.K. Rowlinga.
Lucius Malfoy stood alone in his study, a smile of pure pleasure gracing his lips as he looked out the windows at the long sweep of land which belonged to him, touched now by the red light of sunset. Life was a fine thing, indeed. His position in society was untouchable, thanks to his blood, his name, his wife, and his gold. Yet by night, and more and more by day, he could don his cloak and mask and enjoy his favorite sports. His lip curled as he thought of the disgusting things called Muggles — fit only to chatter among themselves and spawn more of their filthy breed.
But why should he soil such a fine evening with thoughts like this? Tomorrow would be an auspicious day — his son and heir, Draco, would celebrate his first completed year of life. The boy could already stand on his own, and was beginning to take a few steps, and to speak words, though Lucius could not say with any authority that he had ever seen or heard any of these phenomena himself. The house-elf tended the child, and reported on his doings.
Perhaps I should remedy that, Lucius thought idly. Dobby does his work well, but it might be well to have a human in charge of the nursery. One of proper blood, of course, and proper thinking. One whom I can trust to train my son and teach him well.
The peal of a bell rang out through the house. Lucius turned in surprise. A visitor, at this hour?
So it seemed. Within a few seconds, Dobby was at his side. "A lady is come, Master Lucius, and she is asking to speak with you. She is not giving a name, sir, nor a business."
"A young lady, Dobby, or old?"
"Young, sir, very young. Almost not a lady at all, sir."
Lucius ran over the list of Death Eaters in his mind and found very few young females on it. "Describe her."
"She is having brown eyes, sir, and brown hair, straight and short, cut to here." The elf indicated the level of his chin. "She is not a big lady, sir. And she is not someone Dobby knows."
That left out almost anyone she could have been — most of the Death Eaters, indeed, most of the purebloods of Britain had been guests at Malfoy Manor once or twice. But an unexpected guest had, at the very least, the virtue of novelty. And no Muggle could have found the Manor, nor would any Mudblood dare to sully it. Or, if they did...
A different smile curved Lucius’ face now. "Fetch wine, Dobby. And glasses for two."
Any Mudblood who entered his house must fend for herself.
She waited in the small, wood-paneled room, her eyes closed in an effort to compose herself. Her material possessions were few, all enclosed in the small bag which lay at her feet. Her non-material possessions were fewer even than these. A name, and a mission, that was all she had of herself now, beyond a few scraps of recent memory, and one unshakable conviction — that whatever had been done to her, it had been done with her full knowledge and consent, unforced in any way. She had chosen this, and she would see it through to the end.
The house-elf had reappeared with wine and glasses and assured her that his master would soon arrive. She was not worried. Part of the knowledge necessary for her mission, knowledge which perforce she owned, was a thorough understanding of Lucius Malfoy, and his wife Narcissa. The man had everything he wanted, therefore he was bored. She represented something unknown and interesting. He would not fail to appear.
And appear he did, within a few moments of her thought, bowing suavely as he entered the room. "My house is at your service, Miss..."
"Grant," she said. "Of the Australian Grants."
Malfoy bowed again, a shade less deeply. Australians by definition were troublemakers and malcontents, their magical counterparts no less than the Muggles. He felt free to consider her a social inferior. Good. "And what may the House of Malfoy provide for this most lovely scion of the House of Grant?"
"Employment," she said baldly, and saw his eyebrows rise a little at such plain speaking. He now thought of her as an untaught barbarian. Even better.
"Employment?" he repeated, coming across the room to a chair near her own and reaching for the wine bottle, pouring a glass for her before he filled his own.
"I understand that you have a son. A child of about a year. I know something of nursing children, and my present circumstances make it necessary for me to earn my living. I would be content with room, board, and a small allowance for clothing and other necessities."
A frown creased his brow, but no other sign of his thoughts appeared on his face. "Why come here?" he asked. "Why offer these services to me?"
"Because I would find great honor in properly instructing the next generation of the House of Malfoy. And because you are known, among other things, as a generous man."
The frown was replaced by a small smile. "I notice you do not name those other things."
She matched the smile. "I await your decision."
"Room, board, and twenty Galleons a month."
"You are even more generous than rumor painted you." She sketched a bow from her chair. "I accept."
"Dobby," Malfoy called aloud, and the house-elf appeared. "This is Miss Grant. She will be Draco’s nursemaid. Furnish rooms for her connected to the nursery, and show her to them when you are finished."
The elf looked worried. "Master Lucius, it is already late... Dobby will need time to prepare the rooms..."
She lifted a hand, drawing Lucius’ attention as well as the elf’s. "If I may?" she said delicately, knowing she had to tread very carefully here. Lucius’ temper was starting to rise, and she had no wish to be in its way. "I doubt Draco will be asleep yet. If I could spend some time with him, introduce myself to him, begin to learn about him, I would be out of everyone’s way while Dobby does his work."
Lucius smiled in an almost friendly manner. "Miss Grant, you will be a most valuable addition to this household. Dobby, show Miss Grant to the nursery. Good night."
"Good night, sir." She rose a moment after he did and lifted her bag to her shoulder.
He turned back in the doorway, startling her into a small jump as they came face to face. "I do not believe your other name was mentioned."
"It was not." She let her left hand tighten on a strap of her bag, where he would not see it. "It is... Pericula."
"Pericula," he repeated, musingly, then allowed his eyes to sweep over her. "It suits you."
She kept her gaze on the carpet at his feet. "You are too kind."
"Am I?" He sounded truly thoughtful. "I wonder."
And he was gone.
She released the breath she had not let him see her hold. That had been very close. The next few weeks could be risky for her. If she could just establish herself in the household, get him used to seeing her as Draco’s nurse and nothing more...
But first I have to be Draco’s nurse. And that involves winning over Draco.
She believed, she hoped, that would not be a difficult task. Within her bag she had certain items which would make it rather easier.
None of which, of course, she would ever have dared to show to Lucius Malfoy.
She had a suspicion that their two ideas of "properly instructing" the young boy would not match well at all.
Draco piled a block on top of another block and watched it fall over. It wasn’t very interesting, but there was nothing else to do. Food time was over. Sleeping time would come soon.
He hoped the bad and scary things that sometimes came with sleep would not come. Dobby came to him when he cried and made mouth noises at him, mouth noises that didn’t seem to mean much of anything. The tall man who called himself Father made mouth noises too, but they meant even less than Dobby’s.
The door opened. Draco looked around in surprise. Dobby didn’t use the door, he just popped in — only Father used the door —
But the person who entered the room behind Dobby was not Father, or even Mother, a person he had seen only rarely. She was a woman like Mother, but she was different. For one thing, her hair was dark.
Draco frowned. Was hair supposed to be that dark? All the hair he had ever seen had been light-colored. After a few moments, he decided he liked it.
The new woman set her bag on the floor and smiled at him. He smiled back. He liked her smile, too.
The woman made mouth noises to Dobby, who scurried back out the door and closed it. Draco watched her take a bottle out of her bag and open it. It wasn’t much like the bottles he drank from, when he still did — he was a big boy now, and almost never had a bottle anymore. This bottle didn’t have a nipple on it that you could suck on. Instead, its top was open. The woman put it to her lips and drank from it.
Dobby reappeared in the room in the way Draco was used to, holding one of the covered cups he usually drank from now. Draco started to get up to take it, but Dobby was holding it out to the woman, not to him... and she was accepting it! That wasn’t right! Draco shouted in outrage and clambered to his feet, determined to have what was his.
It would have helped if he’d been able to get more than three steps without falling on his face.
Or nearly on his face, as the woman dropped the cup to catch him. "Whoops," he heard her say. "But no harm done — there, back on your feet." She set him upright.
Draco pouted and strained for the cup, but the woman’s hands were still holding him up, and preventing him from reaching it.
"You want your drink? You can have it, but in a minute. I need to fix it up first. Dobby, can you get it for me, please?"
"Right away, Miss Grant."
The woman lifted Draco from his feet and set him down on his bottom. He screeched indignantly as she accepted the cup from Dobby — that was his! — and started to get up, but she was already moving. The top was off the cup, and some of whatever was in the bottle she’d drunk from was going in it — now the top was going back on —
And she was holding it out to him. "Here you are," she said with another smile. "All yours."
Draco snatched the cup from her, took a drink, and stopped in surprise. The milk tasted different than usual. Not a bad different, sweet and a little spicy, but it was different. He licked around his mouth thoughtfully and decided he liked it.
It didn’t take him long to drain the cup. But once he had, he felt funny. He hadn’t been sleepy before he’d had the drink, but now he was. He sat down where he was, yawning.
The woman took her wand from inside her robes and waved it around, and a pillow appeared on the ground. She lay down where she was, placing her head on the pillow, and reached out one arm to snag Draco. He fussed a little, but only for form’s sake. He didn’t really mind. In fact, it was nice, the way she was holding him now. Cuddled up against her. It felt warm, and comfortable, and safe...
I’m glad you like it.
His eyes opened wide in surprise. The woman was talking to him, she was using something that sounded a little like mouth noises, but it wasn’t, it couldn’t be, because he understood this! He knew what she meant, and he had no doubt that she did mean it. She was happy because he liked being near her.
Would she understand him too, if he tried to make the mouth noises? He could only make a few, and they weren’t the way they should be...
You don’t have to make them with your mouth. Make them in your head, like this.
Deep inside him, he felt her showing him the way it should go. Eyes closed, reach for this, and touch that, and think...
He felt her laugh, her chest vibrating his whole body. In case I was wondering if I’d done any permanent damage — oh, no, you’re still every inch you. Was there a different taste in your milk?
That was why. The words were simple, but the ideas behind them were not, the ideas that he could only vaguely grasp, but that was still more than he had ever been able to do before. The stuff in the bottle had been a potion, a magic liquid that would let them talk like this — but no, it wasn’t just the potion, it was something else...
Well, I’ll have to be careful with you, I can see! Yes, there is something else. I have magic that lets me walk in dreams. We are... not quite dreaming, but not quite awake. My magic and the potion together let us talk this way. Now, I have some things to show you. Would you like to see them?
I think they are. Would you?
Draco considered a moment. Yes.
Close your eyes, then.
Without fear, Draco did so.
Some time later, his eyes came open again, and he gave a deep sigh. His lack of fear had been totally justified — more, he now knew, deep within him, that he need never truly fear the woman who lay beside him. He might play at being afraid of her, or fear her anger if he transgressed, but he would not fear her as he did his father. For in her mind and her soul there was something he had never even heard of until today.
He had seen in her mind other children like himself, held in the arms of grownups who laughed and babbled nonsense at them, and bent to kiss them. He had never known why his father insisted that he put his lips against the man’s cheek. Now he knew.
He might have liked to see more of the children. He had known somewhere in his mind that there were other people in the world, other fathers and mothers and children, but he had never seen any before. He especially liked the look of a little girl with puffy, curly brown hair, brown like the woman’s was brown, but hers was flat and straight like Draco’s own...
There was something he needed to ask her, he decided, rolling over to look at her face. Hey.
Her eyes came open and focused on him. Hey yourself.
Draco, he said, hand on his chest. A moment of thought brought up an image of the house-elf. Dobby. Two other images, one very fuzzy indeed, the other fragmented and tainted with feelings Draco didn’t want to touch right now, not so soon after feeling something as wonderful as that love. Mother. Father.
Yes. The woman smiled. Clever Draco.
He smiled back, then reached out a hand and laid it on her chest. You?
The woman’s eyes closed for a moment, then opened again, brighter than they had been. Peri, she told him, then repeated it out loud. "Peri." You try it.
Peri, he said in mind noises.
Good. Now with your mouth.
Draco frowned. Why?
Because mouth noises are the way that all people talk to each other.
Not want talk to all people. Just you.
Peri’s eyes closed again, and she pulled him close in what he now knew was called a hug. Oh, Draco. I wish... but never mind. Try my name out loud.
He licked his lips. "Pe’i," he managed.
That will do fine for now. Peri let him go, but he didn’t move away. He liked being beside her. She was holding him the way he’d seen some of the other children in the pictures being held by the grownups... the grownups who loved them...
You love me?
Peri’s breath seemed to catch. Yes, she said quietly, after a moment. Yes, I love you.
Draco smiled. Good. Me too.
Dobby reappeared in the room with a bang. "Miss Grant’s rooms are all set up," he squeaked, and pointed toward a wall. Except — Draco sat up to look — except that there was a door in the wall now.
"Thank you, Dobby." Peri sat up. Draco, would you like to see my rooms?
Yes. Draco held still and let her scoop him up. With his mind touching hers, he was hearing and understanding things he normally wouldn’t, and curious about them. Why he not call you Peri?
Because Peri is my special name. Only people I love, and people who love me, call me Peri.
I have a special name too?
Well, you can if you want to. Peri settled him on her hip. Let’s see. A special name for Draco. What about... Ray? It’s right inside your name, D-ray-co, hear it?
Draco bounced on her hip, excited. Ray. Ray. Yes.
So that’s settled. I’m Peri, and you’re Ray. Peri planted her lips on his neck and kissed him, then blew through them, startling him at first, but then making him giggle, because it made a funny noise, and it tickled.
He liked Peri, and he liked love, and the new name was already beginning to settle into his mind. Ray. He was Ray. He would still answer when people called him Draco, but Ray was a more important person now, because it was Ray that Peri loved, and Ray who loved Peri.
Late that night, while Ray slept, Peri sat at the desk in her room and made a list of things she must do. On a certain night, travel through dreams to a man and a woman and convince them to be away from their house the next day. Before Halloween, obtain two drops of another man’s blood and one of the woman he loves. And after Halloween... wait and watch, and do what little things she could.
"Find ways to ease suffering without ending it altogether," the recalled voice advised. "If you are found out... there are some things even wizards and witches will not stand among them. An interloper from another world might well be one."
She knew she had once walked in another world than this, worn another face, called herself by another name. But she had given it all up for love of her family, for love of those who loved her. Her brother had been freed from the false accusations laid against him, freeing him and all their family to return to their home. Her husband had been soothed, his pain at losing her eased with a peace that assured him she was all right.
And in five obscure places, five small items had vanished in puffs of smoke or hisses of molten metal, and a dark forest glade had been cleansed of its unclean inhabitant as the fragment of a wizard’s soul was suddenly denied its earthly anchors. This she had done herself, with borrowed power, and been glad of it.
Moving forward through time, she had directed her husband’s eyes toward her brother’s young cousin, and gently smoothed away his fumbling worries that he was too old, or that something was wrong with him — for that, too, had been part of her life-price, that the bane of his existence had been taken from him. Seeing him happy, she moved forward only a little more in time, just enough to see the tangles of the four children she loved also resolved. Then she had turned her eyes away, resolved to watch no more but find other work for her hands, for what was done was done.
The work she had been offered was this. A different world than her own, but similar. Ten years she had lived earthly, and five or ten she had watched, had not yet passed here. There was room for one to step quietly, to change many things in the shadows, seeking... what? A return to her own, vanished world and life? The right folk existed, or would, but what of that? A power that had been hers was no longer, and that power had been crucial to their existence as one.
And yet there could still be a way. She closed her eyes and thought. Give one a stronghold, a place into which he can escape. Remind another two that they have still each other, and a third to consider. Perhaps a transfer, or a relocation, for another, or even both? Yes... that would work nicely.
She leaned down to her bag and found the bottle of potion within. Sitting on her bed, she sipped from it, feeling the familiar lethargy fill her as she swallowed. She had time to cork the bottle, set it on the nightstand, and lie down before the drowsiness overcame her.
Start their thoughts in that direction now. A change of scenery for their baby girl... then, when August comes, they will think it a sign, an omen that their home is not safe, that they must find a new place to live.
As for the others... perhaps the lady of the house would be the best to work on. The atmosphere where they live now is not healthy for her little darling. Just look how he’s wasting away. She allowed herself a wry smile. The child in question was most certainly not wasting away.
For a moment, she was tempted to interfere in the prescribed order of events. Why should people have to die, innocent suffering with guilty? Why should pain and suffering fall upon people when she could prevent them?
Because that is not why I am here. I left great powers behind me. My work now is in little things. And maybe, just maybe, I can make those little things add up to big things.
Pericula launched her soul into the night, dropping an insubstantial kiss on Ray’s brow as she passed. You, my love, will be the biggest thing I do here. May you grow as well as once you did.
So, you tell me. Too redundant, too much like what I’ve done before? Or would you like me to continue? Comments, suggestions, etc. gladly accepted!
"I disclaim all ideas which are owned by J.K. Rowling."