Chapter One: No Ram for Isaac
Hunger twisted a knife in Draco’s stomach as he paced back and forth across the thick floral rug. It was a beautiful room with ornate cherry furniture, and hardwood floors. Rich tapestries hung from the walls and the high four-poster was covered in burgundy silk sheets. Draco figured he would be quite comfortable, if the door had not been locked.
It had been twenty-one hours since he’d arrived at the old Riddle mansion. Twenty-six hours since he’d had anything to eat or drink. Sixteen hours since he’d seen another human being. Unless, of course, you counted him.
“Draco, why don’t you sit? I can see you don’t have much energy left.” The old man smiled gently through his thick silver beard, his eyes twinkling behind his thin spectacles.
God, how Draco hated that smile. It ripped through his insides in guilty pangs, far worse than any he’d felt over the past year. He’d let himself be led astray, and his sins were now irreversible. He turned to the old man and shook his head.
“Come now, lad. Please, rest.”
“I didn’t kill you.” Draco refused to look up.
“I’m sorry, my boy, but I must insist. You did.” Albus Dumbledore was indeed a dead man. Draco had seen his body laid out at the base of the North Tower, broken and bleeding.
“No!” Draco stopped pacing, turning to shout at the man. “It was Snape. Snape’s curse. Not mine!”
“Even so, it was your intent. Your planning made it possible.” The Dumbledore-phantom moved to sit on the bed and patted the sheets at his side. “But it’s all over now, so come and have a rest.” Dumbledore had repeated his alternating accusation and invitation mantra continuously over the past sixteen hours. Ever since Snape had been summoned to the Dark Lord’s side.
“Why are you doing this?” Draco mumbled hopelessly, burying his face in his hands. “Why won’t you just leave me be?”
“I’m watching you.”
“But… Why don’t you hate me?” Draco’s agony was turning to anger as he lifted his head to glare at the old man. “If I am responsible for your death, why the kindness? What exactly do you want from me?”
Dumbledore just chuckled. “I’m not angry, because I’m not like you.” The old man began to hum. He smiled, admiring the room’s wealthy décor, his attention fully taken from the boy in front of him.
“Well?” Draco demanded, “What am I supposed to do?”
Dumbledore continued to hum, his tune wandering in inconclusive phrases.
The old man’s eyes never even settled on Draco’s face.
Draco growled, stomping back and forth across the small floor. “Are you here just to torture me? You can’t be watching me. I can’t do anything. I can’t get out!” The man’s unresponsiveness was kindling for his rage. “Tell me what I’m supposed to do! If you won’t talk to me, than why are you here? Leave me alone! Go! Get out! STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME FEEL GUILTY!” Draco was screaming at the top of his lungs, unable to hear the door open behind him.
Pansy Parkinson stood with the door ajar, listening to her friend berate thin air. She held a wooden tray with hot soup, bread and a glass of pumpkin juice: an all too late dinner for the mansion’s restless prisoner. The Dark Lord had yet to decide Draco’s fate, so Lucius had taken it upon himself to make sure his son was at least fed. Now, standing in the hall with food in hand, on the senior Malfoy’s orders, Pansy shivered with cold realization. Draco Malfoy was decidedly mad.
x x x x x x x x x x x x x
It had been one week since Draco arrived at the Dark Lord’s headquarters. Three times every day, Pansy had dutifully brought him a meal and led him out to use the toilet. She’d never seen such bizarre behavior in a person. She’d open the door to find him yelling in the direction of the bed, curled up asleep on the floor in the corner behind the wardrobe, or staring vacantly into space.
“Draco,” she called softly as she opened his door for breakfast on the seventh day. “I’ve brought you some porridge.” She looked down at the floor to find him flat on his back, staring at the ceiling. He seemed to startle from some reverie and sat up, smiling at her.
“Thank you, Pansy.” He reached out and took the bowl from her hands, his cold fingers brushing against hers, sending a shiver up her spine.
“Draco, if you wanted to lie down, why didn’t you lie on the bed?” She’d never seen him once approach the big piece of furniture that took up most of the room and her curiosity had been nagging at her for most of the week.
Draco stared at her as if she were a complete idiot. “Because he’s there, and I don’t want to be anywhere near him.” It was amazing how someone sprawled on the floor with dirty clothes and tangled hair could look so condescending. His demeaning gaze made Pansy quite uncomfortable, so she decided to let his strange declaration stand unchallenged.
“I’ll be back in a little while to take you to the toilets,” she mumbled, backing out of the room. As she closed the door behind her, she made up her mind. Draco’s behavior was beyond abnormal. He couldn’t be left in that room to his own devices. He needed help.
It was just past nine, so Pansy figured the Dark Lord would most likely be down in the parlor, conferring with his most trusted followers. If she were lucky, Lucius would be there as well.
She walked quietly down the narrow back stair and into the kitchen. Several house-elves dropped their cooking and turned to bow, a silent request for orders. Waving a hand dismissively, she continued past them into the dining room. Before the curtained glass doors on the other side of the room she paused and listened.
No voices were coming from inside the parlor. Cautiously, she pulled the curtain aside and peered through the glass panel. There, the Dark Lord stood, alone, gazing out a large bay window. The morning sunlight poured through the window only to vanish in a cloud of darkness that emanated around black robed figure before her. The ghastly man looked so out of place in his light blue chintz surroundings. Pansy would have found it funny if fear hadn’t caused her knees to start trembling and her jaw to lock up.
Deciding this would be the best chance she’d get, Pansy dropped the fabric of the curtain and knocked twice on the wooden frame of the double doors.
“Enter,” the Dark Lords deep, intimidating voice sounded from inside the parlor.
Pansy pulled the door open and, taking a step forward, immediately fell to her knees. “My Lord,” she mumbled into the carpet.
“Stand up, child.” The Dark Lord’s voice was almost a purr. It made Pansy’s stomach turn and she fought to keep down her lunch.
Pansy stood, keeping her head bowed.
“Was there something you wished to tell me?” He took a step forward and pressed his long white fingers under her chin, forcing her to look into his eyes.
“I-it’s about Draco, my Lord.” Pansy stammered. “I t-think he’s gone m-mad!”
The Dark Lord stared into her eyes for a moment longer. She could feel him probing through her thought, calling up images of Draco’s strange behavior.
“I see,” he murmured, withdrawing from her mind. “You aren’t to return to his room, Pansy. He will be leaving here shortly and I won’t have his departure compromised.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“And you will not speak of this conversation, or of Draco’s condition to anyone else.” He dropped his hand from her face, sliding his skeletal fingers back into the billowing sleeves of his black robe. “Especially Lucius.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Pansy quickly dropped to the floor once more before scrambling from the room as fast as she could. She wasn’t sure what she’d done was right. She apparated from the Riddle Mansion back into her own home. Whatever the Dark Lord planned, she was certain it wouldn’t be good for Draco.
When Pansy had left, Lord Voldemort paced back and forth in the parlor. Yes, that would have to be it. He hadn’t known what to do with the Malfoy boy, but this new information made everything seem quite clear. The boy was perfectly capable of killing. He’d been trained rigorously in the dark arts throughout his childhood and had great natural magical potential. No, what kept him from executing his Lord’s most hated rival was his own weak conscience, a setback that, given the boy’s condition, would be easily remedied.
Smiling at his own cunning, the Dark Lord drew his wand and conjured an image. It grew more radiant and beautiful with each tweak of the Dark Lord’s wand as he shaped his creation to perfection. His final adjustment made, he extended his consciousness into the image before him, possessing the form that was about to become Draco Malfoy’s newest hallucination.
x x x x x x x x x x x x x
It was still two days before his seventeenth birthday, but Harry Potter was already packed. As soon as the clock stuck midnight on July thirty-first, he would be out the front door of the suburban hell his aunt and uncle called a home on his way to London. Today, however, was only July twenty-eighth, and the clock had just struck ten, signaling the beginning of an awkward nightly ritual.
Vernon Dursley hulking form slouched on the living room sofa, his hand reached out to click through channels until he reached the nightly news. His shriveled wife, Petunia, perched silently beside him, glaring at her nephew. Harry himself ignored the not so subtle hints telling him leave, and continued to lean casually in the doorframe, green eyes fixed on the TV.
He couldn’t help himself. Every night was a new unexplainable atrocity: buildings collapsing, mass murders, fires bursting from nothing to consume cities. The list of disasters never seemed to end. Harry knew all too well who caused these horrors and stood, transfixed, every night to hear of his enemy’s conquests.
Tonight’s report began in the same pattern as any other with the station’s attempt-at-intense jingle. But it wasn’t to be any normal night for Harry. The first story was a neighborhood fire in Kent that killed seven. Several similar disastrous occurrences followed. It wasn’t until about half past the hour that Harry received a real shock.
“In London tonight, doctors at St. Thomas’ Hospital are looking for the identity of a John Doe. The young man was found badly injured outside Westminster Cathedral early this morning. Police have not released many details, but one officer reported that a cryptic message was left beside his body reading, ‘There is not ram for Isaac.’” The anchorman’s voice raised almost as if he found the message amusing. Harry felt his stomach turn over. “If you have any information about this young man or know his identity, please contact the number on your screen.”
A picture of the victim popped up onto the screen and Harry gasped. Dashing into the kitchen, he grabbed the cordless phone from the wall and ran back into the living room. Punching in numbers as fast as he could, he held the phone to his ear, waiting for the hotline to pick up.
“Yes,” Harry snapped into the phone, answering the hotline worker’s inane question, “I know who he is. His name is Draco Malfoy, and if you had any brains you’d get his picture off the air before someone tries to finish the job.”
The woman on the other end of the line paused, taken aback for a moment. “Sir,” she said, regaining her composure, “Can you be considered responsible for Mister Malfoy?”
“Excuse me?” Harry asked, confused by the question.
“Are you a relative of Mister Malfoy that can be considered responsible for him upon his release from the hospital?”
Harry was silent for a moment. If that ‘cryptic message’ was any indication, he’d been left to die by his own father, and would likely not survive for very long if left in the care of death eaters. Making up his mind, Harry answered, “Yes. I am.”
Hanging up the phone, Harry turned to walk up the stairs. Petunia was glaring at him almost jealously. It was a good thing he was already packed. He dragged his trunk down the stairs and out to the curb. Hold out his wand hand, he was careful to jump back as the Knight Bus came tearing down the street, stopping in front of him.
“’Arry Potter!” Stanley, the pimpled conductor, called as he hopped off the bus to drag Harry’s trunk on board.
“Hi Stanley.” Harry groaned boredly.
“Now where’re you off to tonight? Not runnin’ away from anyone, eh?”
“No. Not this time.” Harry climbed onto the bus. He had to laugh at Stanley’s antics, no matter how annoying he was. “I’m heading to London. St. Thomas’ Hospital.”
“A Muggle hospital, eh? You always were an odd one, ‘Arry.”