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Chapter 1: Prologue and Chapter One
Disclaimer: No ownie. Wah.
Author’s Note: So I hate long author’s notes when I read myself, but this needs to be said. This is not a feel-good story. Lots of gore, blood, death, some sex. Takes place before Lines of the Blood, my other, currently-on-hiatus story; and before Come Forth the Soldiers.
Thanks for reading, and reviews do make my day. See. I am not above begging. Bleh.
Last Time South
By Old News
Some men are born under a lucky star.
Luck is always with them, from the women they attract to the good fortune Fate seems to bestow upon them. Opportunities fight amongst themselves to lie in these men’s paths, and happy moments jockey for position. Memories are always good, strong, heady stuff; the nightmares and fears and petty jealousies of normal men do not bother the lucky ones.
Childhood is a fancy, pretty, lacy time, full of pretty girls in dresses and the best primary schools and good grades and loving parents always ready to give a kind word and a hug, or a kiss. There is never any mention of bad, of a taint in the family, of relatives too different to speak of in polite conversation. There are never any murmurs of suspicion, or rumors based on half-spoken half-truths.
The teenage years are happy, and consist of good friends and good times. Of course those lucky ones will have perfect relationships that end in friendships and never tears, and friends never betray them, and there is never a mention of enemies or opponents. Parents never push them beyond what they are capable of, never tell them what a disappointment the family has suffered at their hands.
And the adult years are content and complete, with a good job and a steady, happy relationship waiting for a wedding and children. There is never a dissatisfaction, a deep, bone-chilling dread, a wait to see what is waiting around the next corner, what will happen in a years’ time.
Some men are born under a lucky star, and never have troubles, or wars, or families that are twisted and full of secrets, lies, and murders.
Draco Malfoy was not such a man.
Disappointment was a bitter taste in his mouth, the new knowledge of the once-idolized group his father was a part of a sick, twisting shame in his belly. What had he ever seen in them?
And why had he let himself be pulled along, willing and even eager, like a fatted calf to the kitchen, a newly-freed man to the promised land that wasn’t promised or sanctified at all? How foolish he had been, how naïve, to believe their stories, to trust their lies, to listen to their fanciful boasts. We are the Chosen, the Elite; we alone are destined to rule. Our blood is pure, our cause right, and our hearts strong. We are the rightful rulers of our world.
These were the words his father had drilled into his head since he was a young boy, the very food he supped daily, the air he breathed in every second. He had been reared to believe he was born to the best, conceived by the right, and ruled by the mighty.
And then he attended a meeting and saw the drudgery, the stupidity, the common filth that was the guerilla force for his Dark Lord, and was shocked. Where were the elite, the just, the powerful? When he asked, he was told they were the only ones who received the Dark Mark; the filth that had been there that night were only foot soldiers, not to be confused with the high-ranking men and women that populated the Dark Lord’s prestigious inner circle. Not to worry: the next meeting of the kiss would include him, and he would see what it was really like to be a soldier, a tool, of their magnificent Lord.
That was just as big a disappointment. MacNair, Lestrange, Doyle, Crabbe, Avery… . These were the esteemed, the righteous, the just. These imbeciles were the flesh and blood of the cause, the great minds behind the Dark Lord’s return. Pettigrew, the simpering, cowering fool, was a plaything, a toy of the Lord. A scapegoat, a frightened coward. The only person of any pedigree was his father.
And when the Dark Mark was seared into his flesh, burning, burning, horrifying pain, he knew he would never be the same.
He expected to be included in the inner circle because of his father and his innate knowledge of the cause, his loyalty to his Master. But he was placed with the drudges, the common, the regular filth that got off on fear and terror.
His first raid, he killed and terrorized like he was expected to; he felt nothing except a mild shock that this was what most soldiers did. The thinking, the planning, the scheming… those things were left up to a cell leader, who was under the command of one of the Elite, who were commanded by the Dark Lord. Most never saw, spoke to, or listened to the Master who commanded their every move, their every breath.
And his first capture, he was sickened by the light in the men’s eyes as they broke young girls, old women, old men, women in their prime, children… These men were excited by their victim’s screams, their struggles, their begging and their eventual fade into nothing as their bodies were used beyond endurance, as their minds were assaulted beyond thought, as their spirits were beaten, raped, tortured out of them.
He listened to them talk at night, heard their stories of Muggle filth, of dirty-blooded wizarding families. Of Harry Potter. He was struck by their ignorance, their complete and total lack of knowledge about which they were speaking. Many of them had never seen a Muggle, never ridden a Muggle subway, never read Muggle literature. Many of them had dirty blood in their own families, as their grandmothers and sometimes even direct parents were Muggles, Mudbloods or of lineages descended from a mix. Many of them only read the Daily Prophet for information on Harry Potter.
Over the weeks, the months, he came to realize that the righteous, the just, the elite, were only common people with little money, no education, and no class whatsoever. He began to pay attention when they tortured Muggles and unlucky magic folk; he saw in their eyes the glee of a malicious child who kicked a puppy for the fun of it, the fun of watching his power directly influence someone else. Many of them had never held any power; none were in the Ministry, none were in business, and none were party to high-class life and culture. They liked the power they had, as Death Eaters, to kill, to maim, to change someone’s life forever. It was an aphrodisiac to them.
When he was asked, for the first time, to participate in the entertainment, he declined with a strange taste in his mouth. It was not until later, as he listened to the men use her, as he heard the screams, that he realized something: Muggles and wizarding folk sounded the same, bled the same, and were afraid of the same things. Women were no different without magic rather than with it; men would still fight for their families, their women, or simply give up when it all became too much. Mothers would still die with no remorse to save their children; children still clutched their parents’ hands, cried and screamed for their mothers when pain was inflicted.
Blood was no bluer if magic coursed through it, and the mind was no weaker or stronger because of it.
He was frightened, when he realized this. Questions began to plague him, haunt him; shame threatened to choke him at moments he couldn’t afford a distraction; and fear was his constant companion at night.
When he flinched from a kill during a key battle, and the Auror almost killed him, he knew that he would no longer be able to kill without thought, terrorize people with no purpose.
And until he found that purpose, he could not fight.
So he left, late one night, with nothing but his trousers, dragonhide boots, and shirt and coat. He had no idea where he would go; he couldn’t return to the Manor, or Hogwarts, or even go to Diagon Alley to rent a flat for a while. That would be too easily traced. He wandered for a while, with no idea which direction he was headed in, and no idea how to catch and eat food from forests and Muggle roadsides, or even which plants were edible and which were deadly.
Nearly a month later he found himself just outside the small village of Little Whinging, staring blankly at the sign. He knew enough of geography and topography to understand he was nearly a hundred miles south of where he had been, and to understand that London was nearly a hundred miles east. Until then, he decided, he would find a place to eat, to sleep, and to bathe. Baths in polluted rivers weren’t the same as baths with scented soaps and shampoo in a tub as big as a small pool.
He noticed the market in the center of the town, presumably down the main street, and began the trek down the hillside to the village square. Along the way he kept his eyes on the ground for any small sliver of currency; he hadn’t eaten in almost two days, and the small nuts and berries he had scrounged were hardly enough to count as a meal. His mouth began to water as forbidden thoughts of ham and black currant jelly and tea with lemon and the tiny, delectable pieces of Brazilian chocolate his mother smuggled into the house and into Hogwarts mail.
Nearly a pound of change was pocketed, and he eyed hungrily the fruits and vegetables in the stands. He smelled the ripe scent of livestock, heard the clucking of chickens and the yips of dogs, the slow plodding movements of sheep. The square was noisy, as are market days, and as he passed the booths that sold haunches of meat, freshly baked biscuits and loaves of bread, his eyes wandered continually from right to left, onto shelves packed with produce and even some filled with hard candy.
He passed vendor after vendor and bought nothing. The sounds, the smells, the sights were all taken in almost mechanically; he had seen market days when he had ventured with his father to the small village on Malfoy land; his father never bought any of it, deeming it beneath such prestigious blood to buy anything of common value or make. Draco simply was not accustomed to buying from a market, and so he did not.
When he found himself facing the end of the street he almost turned back, so strong was the craving, the need, for substance. His stomach was clawing itself in hunger, his mouth parched, his tongue dry and his lips cracked. But he barely slowed his walk, did not turn around, and so passed, however uneventfully, the small village of Little Whinging.
So it was that Ginny Weasley saw him, skinny, starved and gaunt, when he arrived at the doorstep of the Burrow.
She simply stared, for a minute, at the ragged stranger the boy had become; she took in the filthy torn clothing, the lank dirty hair, the unkempt look of the boy, and the almost-feral gleam in his silver eyes. And without a word, she stepped sideways and invited him into her house.
Draco sat in the bath, hot water surrounding his battered, frail body, his head resting on the edge of the claw-footed tub in the cramped room the Weasley’s called their bath. He was too numb mentally to contemplate the differences in his lavish, sprawling mansion, and this… rather not sprawling, nowhere in the general vicinity of lavish, shack of a house that nine plus people lived in almost year round now. Or think about his plush, thick, warm towels on warming racks (magically spelled, of course) and the obvious lack thereof in this room. He sank lower into the water, submerging himself, and simply stayed there, holding his breath, for as long as he could manage.
It was a complete and total shock to him when a relatively cold hand grabbed his shoulder under the water and shook him, dragging him to the surface. He sputtered about in the cold air, his skin breaking out in gooseflesh, his eyes hurting at the sudden change in temperature. His lungs burned as they inhaled quite frigid air, and he choked on water he had inhaled, glaring – when he finally could – at the rude culprit.
Wordlessly the redhead girl handed him a bar of grainy soap and a bottle of shampoo that looked well enough, and smelled okay. She left without a word and closed the door gently, Draco staring after her, unaware of his nudity beneath the clear waters. When he finally roused enough to clean himself, his hands shook as they lathered the soap and washed his body, as they spread the shampoo into his thick, fine hair. He rinsed it away and stood, reaching for a towel that lay across the room – a whole half meter away, he thought disgustedly – on the counter.
Stepping out of the tub, drying himself, and standing just in front of a mirror that gave a small disgust sound, he refused to look at himself for fear of what he would see. He looked about for clothing, a pair of trousers or pants at least, but found none. Draco secured his towel firmly about his hips and went in search of suitable attire.
He took a step into the hall and almost ran into Ginny headfirst. Or chest first, as she came to exactly the middle of his sternum. He frowned down at her and was disappointed when she didn’t blink, but instead motioned him to follow her into a room at the end of the hall. From the disturbing amount of Chudley Cannon memorabilia he judged it to be Weasel’s room, but found he could not muster the mental strength to comment or sneer, at the very least.
“You’d best get some rest,” said Ginny, unfalteringly not looking his way. “My parents will be home in a few days, with my brothers and probably Harry and Hermione, and you’ll want to be gone when they return.”
“Thank you.” His voice was rusty and hoarse from disuse, but the accent, the familiar drawl, were still apparent. Ginny supposed drily that some things were constant in life.
Without a word he removed his towel – and Ginny was sure to look away and not sneak a peek, thank you – and crawled into bed, where he looked pale and scrawny against the orange covers. Ron was so big now, she thought, that even though Draco was almost the same height, he was scrawny in comparison to her athletic brother. When he pulled the quilt to his chin and turned his back to her, obviously dismissing her (as if she were a house elf, she thought furiously), she spun and closed the door behind her, though she was kind enough not to slam it. Small mercies were okay to grant, if used sparingly.
Hermione Granger was eating her last meal of the day – beans and toast, again, perversely – when Ginny’s head popped up in her small fire.
“I didn’t know you could do that.”
“Put yourself in fires that aren’t registered, let alone constant.”
“Oh. Well, we’re not really supposed to, but Fred and George used to do it when one of them would run away to terrorize Mum. So I learned from them.”
“Those two are, yes.”
Hermione studied Ginny. Through the flames and the smoldering coals, she thought she could make out worry lines on Ginny’s face, and a slight drawn-look to her eyebrows.
“Is anything the matter, Gin?”
Even through the fire, Hermione could tell that Ginny shuffled her knees nervously about on the floor. “Well?”
“Draco Malfoy came to the door today.”
It took a moment for the words to process in Hermione’s brain, but she thought she kept herself calm for her best friend to mention that the murderous son of a murderous man had appeared at the Burrow that afternoon. “Oh.”
“I know, I know. I should have turned him away but - ”
“Ginny Weasley," Hermione began furiously, "you did NOT let him, of course you did NOT let him in - ”
“ – he looked so pitiful and skinny and dirty and miserable that I couldn’t let him stand there. It was freezing outside, Hermione.”
“I don’t care if it was like the Great Hall during the Yule Ball outside, he’s not safe, Ginny!”
“Oh, Miss Be-Good-to-Everyone is judging a person?”
“Draco is not a person, he’s a snake!”
“Yes, he has one – along with a skull – on his hip bone.”
“What?! He has the Dark Mark?! When -- Where did you say it was?”
Ginny said nothing but looked away contritely.
“YOU SAW HIM NAKED?! WHY?! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?! RON AND HARRY AND I ARE COMING HOME RIGHT NOW, WE’RE APPARATING RIGHT NOW, I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU LET HIM IN GINEVERA ELIZABETH MARY WEASLEY - ”
“Hermione, shut up. You’ll wake him. He’s sleeping. And I don’t want Ron, or Harry, or anybody to know. He’ll be gone by the time you come home Sunday.”
Hermioned was quite flabbergasted, and sat with her mouth opening and closing furiously, looking for all the world like a fish out of water.
“Don’t come home. He’ll be gone, and with any luck he’ll be out of our lives for good, by Sunday. I won’t get myself killed, Hermione. Trust me and let me do this.”
With that her face disappeared, and Hermione was left stunned sitting by her small fire, her beans and toast left unfinished and growing cold, still trying to understand Ginny’s words.
Draco had heard Hermione’s outburst; indeed had heard the whole conversation, though Ginny had been trying to keep it quiet.
He considered Ginny’s words, wondered at her trust in him, in herself, and marveled at the way she had effectively silenced the Mouth of Hogwarts in less than a breath. She truly possessed a skill.
Although he was exhausted, mind and body, and the bed was comfortable compared to the ground, and his body ached for sleep, he stayed awake long after he heard Ginny get into bed down the hall. Near sunrise he finally drifted into a light doze, and dreamed of green light, wispy black smoke and the staring eyes of the woman he had not tortured but had murdered nonetheless.
A/N: So not so much dialogue in this chapter, but will be more in later chapters. ‘Ciao.