…terrible things to his body to gain power. He mutilated and deformed himself, has aged himself more then thirty years beyond his actual age. It is only a matter of time before his abused body fails. And death has always been his greatest fear . . . but, to supplant a soul . . . I never imagined he would have the means to do such a thing. There are easier ways. Why like this?”
Severus smirked wryly. “It has a sense of poetry, doesn’t it? Draco Malfoy is everything Tom Riddle isn’t. Draco Malfoy is everything Tom Riddle wishes to be: young, pure-blooded, rich, powerful, popular, influential.”
“It is worse than that, Severus. As he is now, the Dark Lord cannot travel in public, can barely stand the light of day, but Draco Malfoy is untainted. Imagine what Riddle could do in a brand new body. No one would suspect who he truly was, he would be able to move about unchecked in society, in the Ministry. He would use the Malfoy name and wealth to take the Wizarding world by storm overnight.”
Severus followed his train of thought. “So he teaches the Death Eaters to fear and respect the boy now because someday he will turn his leadership over to ‘Draco’ and when the time comes the Death Eaters must be too terrified of the boy to revolt against him.”
“It is rather brilliant,” The Headmaster murmured. “Who else knows about this?”
“If anyone beyond the Lestranges knows, they are keeping it very quiet. Draco most certainly does not know. Lucius has suspicions but he obviously does not know the full extent of the plan. He would never stand for it.”
Dumbledore looked surprised. “Do you believe Lucius would attempt to protect his son? If Lucius rebelled, Voldemort would lose a great deal of money and influence.”
Severus laughed bitterly. “Lucius? Protect Draco? Do not misunderstand me, Headmaster. I am merely uncertain as to which of them Draco is in more danger from. Lucius is an extremely jealous man. He fears Draco will one day overthrow him. He has systematically blocked Draco from any and all Death Eater activities because of this fear, and he says nothing except how useless and inept his son is. If Lucius finds out how the Dark Lord means to use his son, I fear he may just decide to break his toys before anyone else can play with them. He will kill Draco himself.”
Deep beneath a rather fine mansion where a certain Dark Lord was even now practicing his favorite curses on some unfortunate subordinates, there was a nearly pitch black room, a ladies washroom that had, over the past year, been turned into an impromptu darkroom.
The man inside moved about the room with the blind ease that came from longtime use and the knowledge of precisely where everything inside sat. He hummed to himself patiently as he slipped the seemingly blank eight-by-ten sheet of glossy paper into the shallow tray of developer and gently let the liquids slosh back and forth. The only light came from a small glowing red sphere that hovered in the air above his shoulder and, brightening or winking out at the appropriate times.
Serge Lestrange was the only son of a man who had too many brothers and a father without enough fortune to make all of them very rich. They say the blood-madness, the madness that comes from breeding too closely within a family, ran strong in that family but Serge’s uncle Marrik was stone cold sane when he murdered two of his brothers in an attempt to increase his own inheritance. It didn’t help him much in the end because he died five years later of a Muggle disease while on tour of South America. Two more Uncles died fighting against Voldemort in the first war. That left only Uncle Piotr and Serge’s father. Uncle Piotr still lived in the family home and worked as an ambassador with an emphasis on boundaries and real estate. Serge’s father had left when Serge was sixteen to roam endlessly and become Euro-trash. Serge liked to think he was still alive out there somewhere.
Serge was born and raised in Switzerland at the family estate with a horde of cousins and Aunts running around and the constant chaos an extended family often entails. Everyone knew by the time Serge was five that there was something wrong with him, they even knew it was the blood-madness. They knew from history and experience that he would be unpredictable and perhaps dangerous when he grew older and there was talk of putting him down. But Uncle Marrik wasn’t around to do the dirty work and as long as it wasn’t their problem no one else saw why they should have to do it. So Serge continued to be pampered and spoiled within his tide of relatives, and for the most part, he was a calm and happy child.
And when he wasn’t a calm and happy child, the family stayed the hell out of his way.
With a low laugh, the man carefully charmed the paper out of the developer, letting the sheet hang in the air and drain for a moment, eyes averted because he didn’t want to see his lovely photo yet, before sliding it into the tray of stop bath.
Serge transferred to Hogwarts at the beginning of his sixth school year after his father left and his mother went to stay with some relatives of her own for awhile. He was pleased when the Sorting Hat put him in Hufflepuff, his mother had been a Hufflepuff. He did not enjoy school though. He had attended Durmstrang all his life because his father had always said Hogwarts was full of Muggles and Muggle-lovers.
Muggles were dirty, everyone knew that. They contaminated Wizard society like the rats he’d seen in the back alleyways on the poor side of town. He’d once seen pictures of his Uncle Marrik’s ravaged body after he’d died of his Muggle disease. He knew perfectly well what association with Muggles did to a person. Now he was surrounded by them. He couldn’t get away from them.
He went about his days at Hogwarts in constant paranoia of accidentally touching a Muggle-born. He washed his hands between every class, at meals he would never eat anything after a Muggle-born had touched the dish or the spoon, and he made sure no one in his dorm touched anything that belonged to him.
There was this one boy, Christopher Conrad, a Mudblood who didn’t even try to pretend he was a normal wizard with a broomstick and a pocket full of Bertie Bott’s. Instead he yapped on about “television” and “baseball cards” and Serge could only stare at his face, pockmarked with acne, and the silver fillings gleaming unnaturally in his teeth.
Serge was terrified of Chris, hated him like no one else, watched him whenever he was in the room like the Muggle-born was a rabid dog that would attack any second. He wondered what kinds of diseases Chris carried. He wondered what would happen if his own pale, naked skin ever touched anything Chris had contaminated. He wondered what the contamination looked like as it crawled over Chris’ body. If only he could see the filth, so he could avoid it.
And then, after awhile, if he stared hard enough, something in his vision changed.
He could see it.
He could see the filth like an aura around the other boy. He remembered the first time it happened, how horrified he was, how it seemed to stain everything around the boy, smeared across his bed and his clothes and his books. Soon Serge could see it everywhere, not just on Chris but on every Mudblood in the school, on everything they touched! But Chris was the worst of all, on Chris he could almost see it seeping from the boy’s pores. He could even smell it, smell the muddy blood.
The man gave a delicate shiver. From the stop bath the glossy paper went into the fixer and then the wash. The finished photo was carefully pinned up to dry alongside several others. He still didn’t look at them as he went back to the enlarger to do another print. He could do it all without looking, without touching if he wanted. But he liked the rhythm of the work and he enjoyed being able to say that he did his prints by hand.
In triumph, young Serge tried to expose Chris’ secret. He told everyone about the disgusting taint. But no one would listen. He didn’t understand what he was going on. Why couldn’t anyone else see it? Why didn’t anyone else understand? He was alone. He was all alone, surrounded by them, and now they knew that he knew, and they glared at him in hate.
He might have done something horribly drastic then, but she came to him. Naoko Black. There had been Queens before in Slytherin, but they called her a Goddess. She understood him, this Goddess. She saved him.
“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered to him through long silvery hair, her lips brushing his cheek. She glowed. She glowed with purity. She was like an angel, so slender and tall and willowy she might have seemed frail but for the dark, vibrant violet of her eyes. “They can’t hurt you. The pollution can’t touch you unless you let it in. Don’t be afraid.”
She took him to her Master, and the Master, in Serge’s vision, burned like a glorious torch. The Master told him everything, explained that there were many people who saw what he saw, felt what he felt, but they were afraid to say anything because of the tainted-ones and those who loved the tainted-ones. But the Master wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t afraid and he knew how to destroy the filth.
He showed Serge how to do it. They brought Chris to him, showed him how to cut the flesh and let all that horrible muddy blood come pouring out. And as he stared in awe and glorious euphoria at Chris’ torn body, he saw the taint begin to fade with every stroke of the blade, with every scream. Until it vanished completely. He blinked his eyes again and again but it was really gone.
He couldn’t believe it.
They had done it!
They had destroyed the taint! They had saved Chris!
Naoko stood before him smiling secretly, pretty school girl in her pretty cotton sundress drenched in blood. Behind her the Master held out his hand in invitation. Serge had never been so happy in his life. He fell before the Dark Lord and wept with joy, pledging his life, his soul, his love, to them both. He loved them both. The shining bloody angel and her beautiful Master. They gave him purpose. He suddenly knew why he’d been born.
To destroy the taint. To save the world.
The memory was bitter sweet.
Several of the prints across the room were dry now and Serge collected them into a small stack that he clutched to his chest so he wouldn’t see them as he carried them to the next room. His favorite room.
It was a small square room, given to him by his Master, bare except for a small tattered mattress on the floor in one corner and newspapers clippings, chopped negatives and other things blanketed over the carpet. A couple of tall candles lent light to the room, showed what covered the walls like sheets and sheets of wallpaper.
It was a montage, a collage of photographs, papering nearly every inch of bare wall. All of them he had taken and developed himself.
All of them were of Draco Malfoy.
Draco at home. Draco at school. Draco playing Quidditch. Draco out with his friends. Draco sleeping. Draco doing homework. Draco sitting quietly before the fireplace. Large, small, close ups, distance views. Some of them he had developed in black and white, but most were in color. Sometimes he used a special fixer solution to develop still photos and others he liked to watch move. There was a whole section of the wall devoted to Draco as an infant and young toddler, the photos going yellow with age around the edges and there was no doubt that, had he not been placed in Azkaban, Serge’s collection would have spanned Draco’s entire life.
Serge finally pulled his new photos away from his chest and shuffled through them, eyeing the wall with artistic discretion as he decided just where to place each one to best suit his vision.
It had been planned from the boy’s birth. The Malfoy family being the richest, purest, most honorable of bloodlines. Serge had known from the first time he laid eyes on the fair-haired infant that the Dark Lord would choose him.
Draco Malfoy was perhaps the most beautiful human being to ever exist. He showed his perfection in everything he did, it was in his intelligence and every movement and even his anger. In Serge’s vision, he shown like the sun, just like his Master, and so it was befitting that Draco and the Dark Lord should become one. The Dark Lord’s perfect soul and Draco’s perfect body and the combining, compounding, of their magical abilities to create the most perfect human being that ever lived.
And the most powerful wizard that would ever walk the earth.
Serge couldn’t wait. He was determined that he and Naoko would be there to guide and protect their new young Lord. Little Lord Draco would be their son. Serge already felt a great love for Draco and hated Luicus for having fathered him and yet never fathering him. Had Draco been his, he would have raised him much better. Draco should have been his!
Draco would be his.
He raised one of the portraits of Draco to his lips and pressed loving kisses to it before carefully centering it on the wall and fastening it in place. Perfect.
He shuffled through his photographs again and paused on the last two with a small smile of delight. He’d forgotten he had these in there. These two photos were not of Draco. They were not even pictures he had taken himself. They were reprints of photographs he had searched long and hard for this past month to add into his new collection.
The back right corner of the room was the only place not dedicated to Draco. Though in a way he supposed it was. He knelt down in front of the small alter he had placed there and the photographs, only a dozen currently, that were pasted onto the wall, or propped loosely against the wood of the alter.
It had started out as a hatred. He had wanted a picture just so he could hate it. Then he’d wanted another picture and another. He had to have more. He had to hate her. Hate, hate, hate her. The nasty creature that was alone with his Draco. Every morning and night he wished for her death, her sudden, immediate and painful death. He became more and more hysterical with every day that passed.
And then he stumbled upon one of his old negatives. A newspaper clipping from the Quidditch World Cup just before Draco’s fourth year. The photo showed Draco and that Mudblood standing almost beside each other. And something about it was repulsively fascinating. He’d studied it for hours.
He’d searched madly through is collection and then through other sources until he found another photo. A yearbook photo of Draco and the Crabbe boy in fifth year and that Mudblood passing by.
The fascination had grown into fixation.
He took a huge risk and ransacked Draco’s room until he found what he knew he’d find. Buried in a trunk with a pile of papers and socks and broken gadgets and forgotten Quidditch magazines was a photograph of her. Old and wrinkled and creased down the center from where it had been folded but it was there.
He had wept and laughed for joy, finally understanding what it was he was seeing.
His fears were for nothing. Draco’s light was too bright for the Mudblood to tarnish. In fact, when she was around him, her taint diminished and she started to glow. He finally understood and he began wishing and hoping excitedly that she would return alive with Draco.
Because it was clear now that she was meant for Draco. It was so obvious now.
She was his first kill.
Still alive and breathing and ready and ripe for her destiny. She was Draco’s beautiful and special one. The first one he would save. The one that would make him into a man.
Serge found that he loved her.
And he wanted to be there. He wanted to be there when Draco made his first kill. He wanted to show Draco, as Naoko had shown him, how to cut her open, how to let her blood come splashing out, how lovely she was on the inside, how to destroy her awful taint and set her free. He wanted to taste her bloody lips before she died and tell her how beautiful she was. He wanted to kiss Draco while the boy was saturated with her blood, hold him while he shook from the gloriousness of what he’d done.
Serge kissed the photographs of Hermione Granger with sweet relish and set both down against her small shrine.
The little red orb that had followed him from the darkroom let out a sharp ringing sound and flashed once. Serge glanced at it and held up his hand. The orb extinguished its light and flew into his grasp. He pocketed it and rose to his feet.
Lucius had apparently returned from Hogwarts. There would be no more time for his private hobbies this night.
Malfoy had suddenly vanished two days ago, much to Serge’s rage and frustration. He’d searched like mad for the missing man but had finally been reduced to settling back to wait for his return. He’d overheard some of what had happened when Severus Snape had arrived at the mansion with an ill Lucius and his own private talk with Snape had been fruitful. But now he needed to speak with Lucius and then Snape again and see just how he could play the two against each other.
He knew quite well that neither one of them would tell him everything that had happened, but he was determined to find out as much as he could.
He had purposely let slip his Lord’s plans for Draco to the traitor Snape, who obviously thought he’d done so without thinking. Snape never had understood that he was mad, not stupid. Now that Lucius was suspicious it was within the Dark Lord’s best interest to slay anyone who might give up the secret. Hopefully once word got back that Snape knew, the traitor would be destroyed like he deserved. He couldn’t understand why his Master insisted on keeping the bastard around in the first place.
Malfoy Mansion was dark and quiet when Serge floo’d back. He wasn’t sure where Lucius might be hiding, and started automatically for the bedroom, hoping to catch him before he retired. Halfway there he ran into Lucius’ two Egyptian silver jackals, Anubis and Set. The two were big, sleek animals with muscles knotted under short, wiry silver fur, gracefully long necks, pointed noses and sharp pointed ears. The jackals bared their teeth at him soundlessly, stalk still as they waited for him to either provoke them or retreat.
He turned to leave.
If Anubis and Set were guarding the bedroom that meant Narcissa was there and Lucius wasn’t. The two jackals were always set to guard Narcissa in Lucius’ absence. Lucius didn’t seem to trust Serge and Naoko alone with his wife.
He was right not to. Serge couldn’t stand that vapid bitch Narcissa.
Serge eventually located Lucius in a room he’d never seen before behind Lucius’ study. Serge paused in the doorway, realizing with dark delight that Lucius had opened a hidden doorway but left the study door unlocked on accident. Whatever he was doing inside had to be very secret.
Lucius knelt before a low table, a set of small wooden bowls filled with herbs and liquids and different ingredients scattered over the table. In the center was a small golden pedestal that must have cost a bleeding fortune, inscribed with runes. Hovering over the pedestal was a clear, multi-faceted crystal that was glowing steadily from the inside.
Serge went still in horror.
He recognized this spell. It must have been how Lucius was tracking Draco but it was more than that. Much more. The crystal was a literal representation of Draco’s life force. As long as the crystal glowed, the caster knew that Draco was still alive.
And if the caster wanted--if he were very wicked--he could crush that life force, smash it into a million pieces.
Before Serge’s stunned eyes, Lucius reached for the crystal.
“NO!” He was across the room and snatching Lucius’ wrist back, tearing his hand away. Lucius froze in surprise, eyes flashing with rage. Serge kept his grip on the other man. “Do not touch him, Lucius. Don’t ever touch him!”
Lucius rose to his feet, to his full considerable height, and flung his arm back, knocking Serge away from him hard. Serge smashed into the wall and hunched over as several picture frames, a shelf and a decorative blade came tumbling down, crashing to the floor at his feet.
Lucius looked fit to tear his throat out. “Get out.”
“If you harm Draco, the Dark Lord will know it!” Serge screamed at him. “You may be his second but you haven’t seen the things I have seen. You will live through what he does to you but you’ll wish you could die!”
“If it is anything like what I’m about to do to you, then it must be terrible indeed,” Lucius said softly, hungrily, ready to fight, ready to kill.
“You’ve been warned!” Serge cried, slinking backwards, stabbing a finger accusingly at the other man. “Harm Draco and you will suffer. I’ll make sure your little wife knows what you did, too. Then I’ll kill the bitch.”
Lucius’ wand was out. “Avada Kedavra.”
Serge almost didn’t make it out. He slammed the door, backing away as it rattled with the force of the spell.
He had to warn his Lord immediately.
Next time: Hogsmeade weekend. Narcissa Malfoy meets Harry Potter. Ron Weasley kisses the wrong girl. Idane Cinder won’t take no for an answer. And Serge Lestrange makes a new friend and it’s not a sock puppet.
A/N: Plot plot plot with more plot on the way. bk points out that ‘Morag’ is a girl’s name. But since my Blaise is a girl I think my universe needs another boy to even it out—otherwise it might implode.
Troll Hounds are a shout out to Anita Blake.
"MF KB" is a shout out to "The Last Man on Earth" by AureliaFlint
Optional Amendment Scene: in response to reviewers annoying fixation on body hair. . . .
Amendment Scene:
Young Hermione sits at the edge of a stream, shoes off, basking in the weak sunlight of early afternoon. Draco finds her there.
Draco: “Hey animal-lover.”
Hermione: “Don’t call me that.”
He squats down next to her, watching her kick her legs in the stream, “How come you're not all fuzzy?”
Hermione looks at him sideways, sensing insult is imminent: “I beg your pardon?”
Draco cracks a grin, “You should be all wolf-girl yourself by now. I mean, we’ve gone au natural for a month now. . . .”
Hermone looks pissed and replies . . ..
“My appearance now is what we Muggles call ‘residual self image’. It is the mental projection of my digital self.”
“Uh…I’d like to take this opportunity to say ‘what the fuck’?
“There is no spoon.”
“Stop it, you’re freaking me out!”
“Goodbye, Mr. Anderson. . . .”
“Hey! What are you doing?! Wait! ACK!”
“Its all a matter of will power. Harry once told me that he kept his hair shaggy by wishing it. Well it works on leg hair too. There was no way in hell I was going to walk around with hairy legs”
“You mean if I wish hard enough I can have the goatee I’ve always wanted?”
“Shut up.”
--Still kind of farfetched:
“You know that sap I used to seal your wounds, I cut up one of your robes and waxed with it.”
“WHAT?! That was my last one! What the fuck am I supposed to wear now?”
“HA! Naked Jungle-boy.”
“I use WixinWax-cream from Beryl’s Beautyshop. It’s like Nair on steroids. You should know, Pansy uses it.” she lifts one leg to show him and smirks, “No hair for at least six months or your money back.” Smacks his hand, “ Keep your paws to yourself.”
“Leeeegs . . . Heh.”
--And we have a winner:
“I’ve had laser-treatment you bastard. I’m as smooth as butta.”
Ignoring the fact that that isn’t even a word she replies,“My mom and dad are dentists and…”
“Dent-tists…” He repeats with an adorably blank yet incredibly ponderous look on his face.
“Yes, do you know what a dentist does?”
“Uh, they . . . fix dents?”
Long stare, “Very good Draco, yes they fix dents. All kinds of dents, they’re masters at it.”
He smiles, all proud of himself.
“Anyway, in the same building complex there’s a laser hair removal place. The woman who runs the whole place is my mum’s best friend so I get free treatments of just about anything I want.”
He’s hanging on every word, “ Wow, that’s amazing . . . all that and they still can’t fix the hair on your head?”
“Boot to the head!”
End scene--
Moral: Hermione has had laser hair-removal treatment. In this she has proven that Muggles are indeed superior to Wizards. Therefore strike all thoughts of body hair from your minds, you fiends, and instead focus on the fact that she hasn’t brushed her teeth in a month.
Fic Recs:
"Backwards Compatible" by Ruskbyte
"Realizations" by Wishweaver
"Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing....rat?" by Maya (link for this one)
w w w . lasairandmaya . com /DMTABR01 . h t m l
Chapter 19: Hunter Gets Captured by the Game

Let's start out by starting over
What did I expect
You're no good at lying and I'm no good at comebacks
But you're so untouchable
And I'm so terrible at this
I'm terrible at this you know

Don't hold this against me
I've already said I'm sorry

Excerpts from Matchbook Romance—Lovers and Liars


Harry’s school books lay sprawled across his lap. Charms scrolls piled up in a haphazard pyramid on his left thigh and Hermione’s History of Magic text, with ripped spine and a hundred tiny multicolored bookmarks, was flat open near his socked feet while he scribbled furiously at one of his Potions essays, trying to bluff his way through an explanation of how rutaberber pod oil reacted with animal fat.

Under normal circumstances, it was difficult to keep up with N.E.W.T. level work. Under current circumstances, it was almost impossible. Harry was far behind, with little time and even less motivation to finish his work. He cracked a cherry cough drop between his teeth and sucked the gooey insides.

The Hospital wing was warm and sunny and silent. Harry had no idea where Pomfrey was and didn’t dwell on it, choosing instead to enjoy the rare moment of peace that being the only current patient won him. He had been forced to spend the day abed, both Pomfrey and the Headmaster wanting to be sure that his heart was strong and healthy, and that there would be no more attacks on his mind. He hadn’t objected too much, wanting to appear as docile and meek as possible in front of Dumbledore.

It was a wasted effort. The good boy image wasn’t flying.

“Harry!” The fierce whisper snapped his head up, and he cracked the cough drop again and beckoned Ron inside, shoving his Potions work away messily.

Ron hazarded another glance around for Pomfrey before sneaking in. Harry’s smile dimmed slightly when Ginny and Luna followed. Under normal circumstances Neville would have been with them as well.

Ron had been down to see him earlier with Seamus but Harry hadn’t seen Ginny and Luna since the day before. Gryffindor Tower had been in an uproar after Harry’s attack, and it had only gotten worse when some of the Sixth Years decided that the Slytherins were behind it. Ron found the dubious honor of restoring order falling squarely and unexpectedly on his shoulders. Only the larger half of their schoolmates hadn’t taken the change in power gracefully.

They’d refused to listen to him, the Sixth Years getting halfway through tactical plans for a counter attack when Ron completely lost his temper.

“I mean really lost his temper,” Seamus had whispered to Harry gleefully. “I have never seen a Weasley that pissed off before. We were all ready to duck and cover, ya know. It shut everyone up though.”

Harry was sorry he’d missed it.

“How are you, Harry?” Luna asked solemnly, sitting at the edge of the bed and patting his leg. “I heard you were attacked by a Dormiriad.”

Ginny pulled up a chair on Harry’s other side. Harry and Ron exchanged glances, and Ron seemed to be biting his lip on an exasperated groan.

“A what?” Harry asked, amused and waiting for Luna’s improbable response.

“A Dormiriad, a dream-beast that eats life force in order to manifest itself in the physical world. They’re very dangerous. But it’s your own fault for dreaming him up. Don’t do it again.”

“Er, I’ll try not to.” He grinned and offered her a chocolate frog. She took it primly.

Ron caught his attention. “Are you okay, mate?”

“I seem to be fine.” He bent his arms back behind his head and stretched.

“You had us completely freaked, Harry.” Ginny shook her head. “I thought you might be having another vision.” Harry shifted uncomfortably, knowing everyone was thinking of Mr. Weasley and his brush with Nagini two years ago.

“Did Ron explain to you what I saw?” he asked to break the uncomfortable silence.

Ginny and Luna nodded.

“I don’t understand how it happened.” Ginny said. “If it had been Voldemort, that’s one thing. But even Voldemort can’t influence you the way he used to, let alone hurt you through your dreams. So how did Malfoy do it?”

She had a point. In Sixth Year, Voldemort had taken to Occluding against Harry. Unfortunately, in doing so, he’d inadvertently taught Harry a few useful tricks. Occluding or not, they were still linked, and energy, like anything else in nature, flows automatically from areas of high concentration to low concentration in an effort to balance out. In some ways, Harry was like a black hole for anything Voldemort didn’t keep tightly locked within his mind.

The Dark Lord had an awful shock the day he attempted to open the link between him and Harry again and ran head-long into a steel wall that wouldn’t budge.

Harry hadn’t even known he was doing it.

“Maybe it was Malfoy and Voldemort working together.” Ron suggested, plucking up a package of Every Flavour Beans from Harry’s pile of sweets without asking and earning a scowl from Harry. Ron looked completely unrepentant as he tore the bag open. “Maybe Malfoy’s finally gone and taken the Mark.”

Harry shook his head slowly, “My scar didn’t hurt.” He touched his forehead lightly. “I couldn’t feel Voldemort’s presence anywhere.”

“A new trick of his then.” Ron popped a red bean into his mouth and shuddered visibly but kept chewing.

“There was something else there.” Harry admitted thoughtfully. “But it wasn’t Voldemort. I really don’t think Voldemort was involved.”

“Then how did Malfoy get into your mind?” Countered Ron.

“Dumbledore suggested that Malfoy used my link to Hermione to get to me.”

Ron looked skeptical.

“It doesn’t have to be connected to Voldemort,” Ginny told them. “I wouldn’t put it past Malfoy to be using some really nasty family specialty magic. It’s not that farfetched. The Malfoy line is old and there used to be a lot more branches and every one of them was just as nasty as our current one. Draco Malfoy is the last of the line and all the secrets of every branch family are his now. It’s likely he has an entire arsenal of one-of-a-kind relics that do worse then kill.”

“Well thank you, Ginny, that makes everyone feel a whole hell of a lot better.” Harry muttered, flopping back against his pillow.

Ron frowned. “Giving Malfoy a lot of credit there, aren’t you?”

“Lucius is every bit as dangerous as Voldemort,” Ginny snapped. “More so because there’s nothing stopping him from walking into Hogwarts in broad daylight. Don’t try to tell me that he couldn’t pull this off.”

Ron glowered but didn’t deny the point.

“Tell us about your dream, Harry.” Luna said suddenly. “Ronald said you saw strange creatures.”

Harry wasn’t surprised that that part interested Luna. He relayed his dream again and afterwards the four of them sat in silence.

“You didn’t see Hermione at all, did you? Only Malfoy?” Ginny asked.

“Only Malfoy,” he agreed. “But I wanted to ask you and Ron if maybe you’ve seen Hermione at all in your dreams lately. I’ve been seeing her a lot, and Dumbledore suggested that she might be trying to contact us.”

Ginny frowned. “That doesn’t make sense. Dream magic is really uncontrollable and wherever Hermione is, I doubt she has access to the proper scrying equipment.”

“It makes perfect sense,” Luna disagreed serenely. “If Hermione has been subjected to high levels of wild magic, her soul would be unfettered. Whoosh!” She made a swooping motion with her hands like a bird flying. The headless chocolate frog in her hands kicked its feet pathetically.

The other three stared at her. Luna nibbled on her frog.

“I don’t usually remember my dreams.” Ron scratched at his jaw.

“I might have dreamed about her once or twice but considering the circumstances I think that’s normal.” Ginny shrugged.

“Well from now on we need to keep track of our dreams. Maybe we can use Dream Catchers or Dream Diaries. Try to remember anything she tells you or if you recognize your surroundings.” He paused, eyes narrowing in memory. “Or if you see trees. I’ve seen a lot of trees. Like a forest. . . .”

“Heads up!” a voice from the hallway yelled. Harry thought it might be Dean.

Ginny stiffened. “Someone’s coming! Ron, quick!”

Ron leaned closer to Harry and pulled a brown folder tied with a thin black cord from his robes. “Malfoy senior was here again this morning with some Ministry officials,” he whispered in disgust. “He left really angry. Dumbledore gave him and Snape this folder. We managed to make a copy of Snape’s while he was out of his office, but we don’t understand what they were talking about. I’ll tell you about it when I can.” He handed the folder to Harry who quickly flipped it open and froze, frowning at the first page.

He browsed through the first couple of sheets, staring, and then slapped the folder closed and stuffed it into one of his books as the door opened and Dumbledore entered. Snape swept in behind him like a vampire stalking a particularly wily target.

“Good evening, Miss Lovegood, Mr. Weasley, Miss Weasley.” Dumbledore smiled warmly at the four of them. Luna smiled happily, waving. Ginny murmured a greeting and nodded stiffly at Snape who only sneered.

Dumbledore beamed. “Ah! Harry, doing better I hope?”

“Yes sir.” He tried not to sound suspicious.

“Excellent. Poppy assures me that you will be released first thing tomorrow morning as long as you continue to improve. Now, Miss Lovegood, Miss Weasley, if I could speak to Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley in private, please. Why don’t you two nip down to dinner.”

Ginny opened her mouth looking as if she were about to argue but a glance at Harry and she knew he would simply tell her everything that was discussed anyway. The girls nodded, said their goodbyes and hurried out.

Snape followed them closely and took up position by the door, leaning back with his arms folded, glaring at Harry and looking aggravated at having to be there.

Dumbledore stole Ginny’s chair across from Ron. Ron offered the Headmaster a bean but he declined with a smile and wave of his hand. “I had promised to speak to you concerning Miss Granger,” he explained.

Harry stiffened and tried not to look too eager. Ron practically leapt out of his chair. “Where is she?” he burst out.

Harry cringed and asked more carefully. “Have you any ideas, sir?”

Dumbledore stroked his beard, looking into the distance. “This is rather difficult to explain. Lucius had a very difficult time with the concept. I feel that, you, Harry, will have a rather better understanding.” He paused to gather his thoughts. “Do you remember, my boy, back before you received your Hogwarts letter, what it was like to be a Muggle, believing that there was no such thing as magic, that your world had been explored and mapped? That there were no secret places left?”

Harry nodded slowly.

“And then you became a Wizard and suddenly places, people, and concepts you never imagined were possible opened to you?”

“Yes sir.”

“And you look back on your Muggle brethren and see them walk, completely unknowing, past the Leaky Cauldron, never imagining that it is there, that you are there. They would think you mad if you ever tried to explain our world to them. A world coexisting alongside theirs, in some places even mingling with theirs, but never seen, never touched. They don’t see it and therefore, to them, it is not real.”

Harry wet his lips as a sinking feeling started in his stomach.

“Now imagine you’re a wizard.” He paused to share the joke. Harry smiled weakly. “And in your own way you are just as blind as the Muggles, even more so because you have pulled the wool over the eyes of the entire Muggle world. They can’t see what you can. You are confident in your superiority . . . believing that your world has been explored and mapped, that if you cannot see it, it doesn’t exist, that there are no secret places left in the world.”

Harry shut his eyes, understanding.

“Wizards may think they have conquered this world but they have only just begun scratching the surface of its secrets.” Dumbledore continued gently. “There are places in our world that were never meant for us, magic we are as blind to as the Muggles are to us. These places are a part of our natural world but we have very little understanding of them.”

“And . . . Hermione is in one of these places.” Harry finished.

Dumbledore nodded gravely. “Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy are like Muggles that have somehow stumbled through the gates into Diagon Alley. They have no understanding of how they got there or how to get out. They do not understand the world around them. We, on the other side, have no idea how to get ourselves in, or them out.”

“W-what are you saying?” Ron stuttered, face having gone from white to mottled red from holding in his temper. “You’re saying she’s gone? That’s it? We can’t help her?”

“My dear boy, I cannot think of a single person who is willing to give up searching for them,” Dumbledore assured him. “It will simply take time and uncommon resources. We are dealing with something we do not fully understand, something dangerous and unpredictable. Fortunately, we do have a starting point.”

“But what happened?” Harry asked fiercely. “Why would Malfoy take her there if he couldn’t get out again? Did his plan backfire? If that’s the case then Lucius should know something. Malfoy couldn’t have done it alone and Lucius wouldn’t have let his son take her there if he didn’t think he could get his son out.”

“He probably planned to ditch her there, and something went wrong,” Ron said darkly.

“It is possible, Harry, that Draco Malfoy is innocent of wrong doing. . . .” Dumbledore started patiently but Harry wasn’t hearing any of it.

“You said it’s like Hermione wandered into Diagon Alley. Diagon Alley is protected by gates so Muggles don’t end up there normally, right?”

“Correct.” Dumbledore conceded.

Harry continued brutally. “Then someone who knows how to open those gates had to deliberately send her there, or take some sort of premeditated action that resulted in Hermione being lost there. And since Hermione hadn’t informed me about planning any summer trips to the Twilight Zone, it must have been Malfoy who planned it.”

“I don’t like your tone, Potter,” Snape interrupted angrily, unfolding his arms and taking a step towards the bed. Harry kept his eyes on the Headmaster, willing him to understand.

“I know you want someone to blame very badly, Harry. . . .”

“Deny it,” Harry countered coldly. “Deny that all evidence suggests Malfoy took her.”

“That is ENOUGH, Potter! Perhaps the Headmaster lets you get away with disrespecting your betters but you will not do so while I am present.” Snape’s yellow teeth were bared and Ron was eyeing the Potion’s Professor as if wondering if he would have to intervene, but Harry ignored them both.

“That’s enough, Severus.” Dumbledore murmured. He looked at Harry sadly for a long moment, and Harry felt a swell of bitter triumph.

“What about my dreams?” Harry continued. “How did Malfoy attack me?” A horrid thought struck him as he remembered drooling, vacant-eyed animals and he grimaced. “Oh hell, were those . . . those things I saw real?”

“It is impossible to tell at this point how much was your own dream and how much was . . . something else.”

“Something else?” Ron asked.

Dumbledore seemed suddenly much older and much fiercer as he stared off into the distance over Harry’s shoulder. “There is something in there with them. And it does not want to let them go.”

The words struck something deep in Harry’s subconscious and sent a cold jolt straight to his stomach. He took a deep breath, replaying once more the slowly fogging memories of his dream.

Something there. . . .

Throat suddenly too dry, Harry rasped. “What is it?”

Dumbledore folded his hands in his lap. “We’re not entirely sure. We only know the stories and legends surrounding it. Some people think it is the beast of Mummelsee, an evil creature at the bottom of lake Mummelsee. The Muggles say that it used to steal women and take them into the lake. The Wizard version of this tale says it was young men who were taken. It names the creature the Devourer.”

“But what about Malfoy’s plans for Hermione? H-how do we know some old folk story has anything to do with any of this?” Harry stammered.

“Because, Harry, I knew the last boy that was taken.” He reached out and slipped the stolen folder from Harry’s book.

Snape made an incoherent sound of rage when he realized what it was Dumbledore held. He looked like he was bursting at the seems to shout or take points but Dumbledore remained calm and he wouldn’t go against the Headmaster.

The Headmaster flipped through the folder pensively. “It was fifty years ago. A handsome Irish fellow who had just graduated Hogwarts. We never found even a trace of him.”

Dumbledore closed the folder and set it in Harry’s lap.

“Harry?” Ron asked quietly as Dumbledore rose stiffly as if his joints ached. He did not look at Harry.

“Mr. Weasley, why don’t you accompany us to dinner. Harry, I’ll see you at breakfast.”

“Yes, Headmaster.” Harry whispered.

I met a God, and It ate me. . . .

He waved distractedly at Ron and sat back slowly against his pillows to mull over what he had learned. He had been given the bare minimum of information, he knew, and only because what he had learned would dishearten him in his search. Knowing what he knew now, the next logical course of action would be to spend the next month locked in the library where Dumbledore could easily monitor him, and they both knew it. He had no idea where to begin searching for this ‘place not meant for Wizards’.

Ironically it occurred to him that Hermione would know.

He rubbed at his scar feeling a slight throb that could have been a tension headache. Though whether it was his or Voldemort’s was impossible to tell.

“Mr. Potter.” The icy voice made him jump, his strained heart giving a slightly painful squeeze. Snape had yet to leave the room. Harry felt a chill and cursed himself for not being aware of his surroundings. Snape hesitated in the doorway looking at Harry with repugnance, obviously disgusted with himself for having chosen to speak to the Gryffindor boy.

“Y-yes, Professor?” He cleared his throat, surprised to see the Potions Master’s troubled expression.

“Knowing the foolish tendencies of Gryffindor and your own particularly loathsome gift for tottering headlong into trouble, I feel compelled, for the sake of those children idiotic enough to follow you, to warn you before you go traipsing off into your next disastrous undertaking that there are three students the Dark Lord inquires after on a regular basis. That is yourself, Mr. Malfoy, and one, Ginevra Weasley.”

Harry floundered in his blankets in sitting upright, only managing to upset his Charms scrolls. He grabbed at them instinctively. “Ginny?” he whispered in shock, crushing the scrolls in his fists. “Why?”

“That, Mr. Potter, is anyone’s guess. Though I believe the Dark Lord has neither forgiven, nor forgotten the events of Miss Weasley’s first year.”

And with that, Snape swept out of the room, robes billowing out behind him.

Harry sat there, baffled, until he decoded the thinly veiled message behind the words. Snape was warning him that if he and Ron took off and left Ginny alone at school, she was in danger. And, likewise, if they took her with them on any expeditions, she was in even more danger. This was Snape’s way of trapping him into staying put.

But how much truth was there behind the words? What could Voldemort possibly want with Ginny? And why now?

He stacked his crumpled scrolls back up and picked up Ron’s folder. It wasn’t a particularly thick folder, but the papers inside seemed progressively older as he flipped through. There were nine separate reports inside, all of similar nature, all crisp and official looking. He skimmed the first couple of pages, obviously copies of old copies with a fresh Ministry Seal stamped over the aged one. He went back to the first page and began to read.

It was a missing persons report. In the top left corner was a photo magically glued onto the parchment.

The young man in the photo had wispy black hair, skin almost too fair and dusted with freckles, and haughty green eyes. He peered at Harry slyly for a moment before turning up his nose, which was dusted with un-Malfoyish freckles, and throwing his shoulders back proudly, making his cape flare in an attempt to look even more regal. Harry’s eyes narrowed as they darted between the familiar crest on the boy’s breast and the name printed below the picture.

“Alekodius Malfoy. 1947.”


It was morning already.

Hermione lay sprawled on her back, staring at the gradually lightening sky, ignoring the smooth river rocks digging into her spine. She watched her breath puff out in a white fog and wondered where the night had gone.

She couldn’t stop shaking.

The last several hours had passed in a blur of sound and color. She wasn’t sure if she had slept or not. She didn’t remember sleeping but she did feel oddly relaxed anyway and seemed to be getting more alert.

She raised her hands and watched them tremble, not from cold or fear, but adrenalin and power. The magical high from the binding spell she and Malfoy had cast had left them both breathless and wild and not a little stupid. She was still warm and giddy, like she had swallowed something fizzy, and some of it still tingled on her tongue and bubbled in her stomach. The effects wouldn’t fade fully for another few hours.

She was thinking more clearly now and wished she wasn’t. She was absolutely mortified by the way her and Malfoy had laughed and carried on last night. She couldn’t remember what they said to each other, only that it had all seemed indescribably funny at the time and neither one of them could stop laughing. She faintly remembered twirling around and around in a circle until she was so dizzy that she fell over, and at one point, they had been in the river together. Malfoy and ground up some of the softer colored rocks into paste and painted himself. Hermione distinctly remembered the words ‘Sexual Chocolate’ smeared across his stomach between bandages. She had laughed until her sides ached.

Malfoy lay still and silent somewhere across from her. She wasn’t sure if he was sleeping and didn’t really care.

She wasn’t ready to face him yet. Because now she had no idea how she was supposed to treat him. Once upon a time it would have been easy to forget past grudges and treat him like a . . . a respected acquaintance. Maybe. Right now she wasn’t sure she could even manage to treat him like a human being let alone a friend. There was no telling how he would treat her either. They had a deal now, but if he acted nice, she thought she might start screaming and not stop.

She slipped into fitful slumber as the sun rose but woke only a few hours later to rustling sounds. Malfoy was in the exact same position she’d left him in, propped up on a large rock next to the smoldering fire. His cheeks were unnaturally flushed.

“About time you woke up,” he croaked painfully, and some of the tension inside her relaxed, relieved by his sour tone. They weren’t going to pretend to be friends after all.

Malfoy pawed clumsily through their things but gave up in frustration moments later. Instead of helping, she stretched her stiff limbs and cracked her neck before rolling onto her tummy to watch. Her nose was runny.

“Is there anything to eat?” he rasped. “Or drink?” The first sounded skeptical, the last hopeful.

She watched his shaking hands with detached curiosity. “The river’s right there. Go get a drink,” she challenged.

He glared at her with real hate. It made her smile. He started to push himself up very slowly and stiffly. She watched uncaringly as he fought to keep his face a blank mask. She could see the exhaustion in his limbs, the stiffness and pain in the clench of his jaw, the tight lines of stabbing agony around his eyes. Some of the leaves she’d sealed to his wounds were brown-tinged with dried blood. Some were wet with fresh red.

“Sit down, Malfoy.” She said quietly.

He went still and they glared at each other. It was a testament to his weakness that he looked away first, and at this point, she wasn’t above silently gloating. She stumbled to her feet, ignoring the momentary vertigo and the rolling ache in her belly in favor of grabbing the small cauldron from their little silk bag and filling it with icy water from the stream. She set it beside him and ignored the hungry way he scooped up handfuls of water and brought them carefully to parched lips.

He was ill.

She knew it without having to examine him further and almost didn’t examine him further. In the end, she accepted darkly that it was something she would have to deal with as per their promise. She touched his forehead, and he growled but didn’t jerk away. He was clammy and a little warm.

It wasn’t a good sign. He was obviously in pain, and it was more than stiff muscles. He seemed to be barely able to move.

She wet her lips. “Let me look at your wounds.”

He nodded, concentrating on slow sips of cool water. The leaf-bandages were pretty much ruined, probably from their stupidity the night before. She peeled back one on his arm and he hissed and cringed as the sap took baby-fine hair with it. Waxing Draco Malfoy. She squashed the insane urge to giggle. He kept his eyes averted. The jagged bite on his arm was wet and weepy, the edges an angry, boiled red. Her frown deepened.

The wounds were showing all the beginning signs of infection, but his behavior was already that of moderate to heavy infection. She wet her lips again, trying not to show any fear on her face, and wondered wildly what to do. Infection was usually dangerous. Infection under these conditions was worse than deadly.

And he wouldn’t understand.

Infection was almost unheard of in the Magical world. Even Muggles didn’t fully comprehend the danger anymore. Had he received these wounds at Hogwarts, Pomfrey would have fixed him up in a few short minutes. Magic infections were worse than regular ones but she’d still bet that Malfoy hadn’t had an infection in his entire life.

She’d have to treat him the Muggle way, but she had no means with which to disinfect his wounds, and they had no antibiotics here. Her understanding of the plants in this area was minimal, her medical training was rudimentary. But if Malfoy wasn’t treated and properly he would get worse. It was possible that he would grow feverish with blood poisoning and die.

“What’s wrong?” Malfoy’s voice snapped her back to reality, and she realized he was staring at her.

“We need to get you cleaned up,” she said as quietly as before and saw confusion flicker behind his dull, glassy eyes. “Eat first. You’ll need your strength.”

They ate a meager meal in silence, and Hermione determinedly spent a few minutes hunting the immediate area for food. She found a nest of small, unidentifiable crayfish-type animals under a rocky crevice in the stream and took a chance on boiling and eating them, hoping they weren’t toxic. She didn’t even feel bad afterwards as she peeled the shells off and munched on the small bits of meat.

After breakfast, she boiled a new pot of water and cut a few more swaths of cloth from their rapidly depleting supply of clothes. They’d have nothing left if this kept up. The dagger vibrated like a tuning fork in her grasp. It had been acting weird all morning and she found that holding it for more than a few minutes brought sweat dripping down her face. She had to put it away repeatedly and sit down to catch her breath.

“What’s happening?” Malfoy asked. He tried to touch the knife, and she slapped his hand away.

“I’m not sure,” she panted. “Something’s different. Just holding it is tiring me out.”

He thought about this. “It’s probably reacting to last night.”

She blushed because the thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. “The spell?”

He gave her a long-suffering look. “It got two big doses of foreign power last night. Once when I nailed that Raziel bitch. Did you see I didn’t get weak afterwards? Usually when I strike with the knife, the power flows out like it’s being sucked from my body but this time I connected with his body, the knife sucked inward. It sucked all his power out. He could barely stand after.”

“And then the second time was the spell.” She realized and traced the hilt with her fingertips. “So what’s happening? If it’s fed then it shouldn’t bother us, right?”

“We feed it and it only gets hungrier.” Malfoy shook his head grimly, poking the fire with a stick. “You knew this would happen, remember? We use it until we can’t anymore.”

She nodded distractedly and put it out of her mind for later. Malfoy watched her add some herbs to her boiling concoction, and she found herself automatically going into lecture mode, explaining the cleansing properties of the plants she added, though her voice was stilted and unsure.

“Potions.” Malfoy had a glazed look in his eyes as he helped her sprinkle in the herbs. “What I wouldn’t give for some nasty-ass potions right now.”

“I think I could kiss Snape if only he were here right now,” Hermione found herself muttering.

Malfoy’s eyebrow shot up in a familiar mocking manner, but he quickly shut his mouth and looked away, curbing whatever drawling comment he’d been about to make. “I’d slip him tongue,” he said lightly instead, and she frowned at him, the tension in the air thickening.

She almost added, ‘I’ll tell him you said so’ but was afraid to break the peace by starting an argument.

Cleaning Malfoy’s wounds had taken longer then expected, and she had to cringe at the sloppy slap-on job she’d done the night before. She’d done it spitefully, vindictively, because he’d been watching her.

Malfoy yelped and cursed as she wiped the wounds with steaming cloths. She allowed the cuts to dry then carefully sealed them again with new sap and leaves. Some of the wounds were worse than others and she suppressed twinges of worry when she cleared away pus-yellow fluid from his back wounds.

It was still a bad patch-up job. Boiling water didn’t guarantee complete sterilization. The sap wasn’t sterile, and the leaves were worse. She was going to have to figure something better out.

They broke camp a little before noon and tried to get moving. They had no official plan or destination anymore but neither was willing to examine that too closely. It didn’t matter in the end anyway because Malfoy didn’t make it very far. He was simply in too much pain to go anywhere. They returned to camp again not long after leaving, Malfoy shaking, eyes wet with tears of pain, though none fell.

She tried as hard as she could not to find satisfaction in his weakness.

When she did anyway, she left, unable to look at him anymore. She searched for supplies, leaving Malfoy to rest. He still thought his muscles were just stiff, and she didn’t correct him. Disgruntled, she realized she was going to have to provide for both of them, and her half-baked plans to make him teach her how to hunt were ruined. He’d only been able to hunt because he was an animagus.

She spent the afternoon trying to think of ways to catch game, but after her first and only attempt, ending when she swung the knife at a rabbit from a distance and cut the animal cleanly in half, made the guts explode out, the animal flipping in the air with its entrails raining down like hot meat pie and nearly causing her to be sick everywhere, she gave up.

She found nothing to help Malfoy.

The next morning Malfoy was worse. He alternated between fever and chills, and it hurt him so much to move that he choked on small whimpers and screams when she bathed his wounds. The ragged tears in his skin bled pus, the skin fire-engine red and lines of red and black beginning to spider out from them. Nothing she did seemed to help.

Desperate, she left him with food and water and went out again to search for supplies.

The wolves came the moment she was alone.

A red-eyed, black-furred wolf burst out from the underbrush and into her path like a bolt of darkness. Hermione was moving before her brain fully comprehended the situation. Wrenching around to face the threat, she drew the knife and scrambled back a few feet, wondering wildly if this was a real wolf or one of Raziel’s pack. Two more wolves, one gold and one reddish-brown, came at her from the sides, and she fled back the way she came. The black wolf tried to cut her off but she swung the knife at him, feeling an icy, painful jolt up her arm as she did so. The wolf leapt st… Продолжение »
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