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Chapter 22 : Of the Lord's Anger and A Discussion Between Cat and Mouse
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I have a rather large announcement. As most of you know, Arabesque is coming to a close. In fact, we are three chapters away from the end of the story. Although this is a sad event, it is also a joyous one for my next big adventure is about to begin - and this one is massive! Through this story I have met so many new people, authors and reviewers alike, and grown very fond of you all. It is because of your support that I have not only been able to finish this story, but write something of the nature of the piece that is about to be revealed and even (yes, it is true) have the strength and confidence to work on an original manuscript for publication.
As many of you are aware, my next project was so massive I took on a co-author. You may know her, HPFF’s Dobby Awards 2007 Winner of Best New Author; MajiKat. Together MajiKat and I have been working diligently on The Forsaken Ones and it is set to be released on February 2, 2008. Because of the sheer enormity of this story it has its own website. (Please believe me when I say this piece is enormous - I don’t use the word lightly.) MajiKat and I truly, honestly, and very deeply, appreciate and love all of our readers so we hope more than anything to be able to share this piece with you as we believe it is not only a great adventure, but a vehicle for a profound statement. Please visit either of our personal sites to find more information on how to find the world of The Forsaken Ones and where you can read it and be involved in all of its surrounding entities.
And please enjoy this next chapter of Arabesque and know that though I have gotten behind on responding to my reviews - I always take the time to read each and every one of them and respond to them all.
“There is nothing so trying as the time after the passing of a loved one.” It wasn’t a chaplain, a minister, or a priest that presided over this ceremony. It was a death eater in a black robe, face hidden by a dark hood. The field was abandoned other than the circle of mourners around his mother, who was laid out on a dark slab of obsidian in the center of the crowd. Everyone was wearing black.
Draco stood stiffly at his mother’s head. The way the wind blew through the space, gently tugging at the edges of his hood and the hemline of his robe, was soft like a kiss. Next to him, bent over in age, was his mother’s father - her own mother had passed on before Draco’s birth and Draco suspected there was extra motive behind his Grandfather’s presence as this was only the fourth time in his existence he had ever seen the man.
Directly across from Draco, at his mother’s feet, was his father. The hood did not hide the sneer his father wore, nor the careless expression in his eyes. Gustave peeked from behind Lucius and caught Draco’s eye, smiling and waving at him. Draco felt sick. His hand curled tightly into a fist, the black ribbon from his mother’s room sliding between his fingers and rippling in the breeze.
“As we mourn the death of Narcissa Malfoy and make thanks for her life, we also remember times when it was hard for us to understand, to forgive, and to be forgiven. Heal our memories of hurt and failure and bring us to forgiveness and life,” the man leading the ceremony was saying.
Draco felt a bubble of hysteria pop in his throat. Forgiveness? Forgiveness? What was this thing he spoke of? Was it tangible? Was it something he had even ever known?
“You who brought us to birth and in whose arms we die, in our grief and shock contain and comfort us; embrace us with your love, give us hope in our confusion and grace to let go into new life.”
He held a sudden epiphany; Hermione had never let go. Draco felt as if ice was slowly spreading through his fingers and up his arms. That was why she couldn’t dance; she had never let go. She was holding on to the sorrow and the guilt and the confusion from everything that had happened to her. He looked up to the grey sky, flakes of snow falling softy on his face and melting away with the warmth of his body. If she was to embrace the grief - to use it - she could do it. She could dance again, unrestricted by the ropes she was binding herself with.
“You who hear the cries of our grief, for you know the anguish of our hearts. It is beyond our understanding and more than we can bear. Accept our prayer that as Narcissa has been released from this world's cruelty so may she be received into your safe hands and secure love. We pray that justice may be done and that we may treasure the memory of her life more than the manner of her death.”
The manner of her death. It was as if the man, whose voice he could not recognize behind the black depths of his hood, was mocking him. The manner of her death. It was as if he was casting judgment on a woman he couldn’t possibly know. Draco wanted to open his mouth and scream it across the length of his mother’s body. She had killed herself but it wasn’t her fault. She had done the deed but the blame should be laid at her husband’s feet. Just as he now stood at hers.
“In the face of death we discover how many things are still undone, how much might have been done otherwise. Redeem our failure. Bind up the wounds of past mistakes. Transform our guilt to active love and by your forgiveness make us whole.” The man lowered his hands and walked towards the body, wand held aloft. Narcissa’s long blonde hair had come undone in the wind and was now freely flying about, gently tickling across Draco’s skin every few seconds.
“Incendio,” the man said in a gravelly tone and fire shot from the end of his wand. The slab of obsidian was suddenly completely aglow. Draco was forced to raise his eyes from the fire that lapped over his mother’s skin and through the flames he finally caught his father’s attention. Lucius raised his chin higher. Never, he seemed to say. Never shall she escape. Never has she held power over her own self. Never. Not even in death.
“And now to you who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to you who be power and authority, for ever and ever, we release our child into your hands.”
Never has she been free.
“Miss Isabella Izani?” the healer came into the room silently. She hadn’t even heard the door shut behind them. Her eyesight had faded so greatly that all she could make out was the blazing insignia of a crossed bone and wand on the healer’s chest. “I want to speak with you for a moment. Do you think you are up for that?”
It didn’t matter if she was or not, she didn’t have the strength to open her mouth to say yes or no. The healer pulled a chair up to the side of the bed. “When you were first admitted,” he said softly. “You told us what happened - everything you did - that day. You said you had tended to one of the students in Hogwarts who died that day.”
The healer paused, but she said nothing.
“I need you to tell me once again what it was you did, everything you did, said, or touched, while helping the school healer tend to the boy.” After a moment of silence the healer urged once more, “Please, Isabella, this is very important.”
Isabella felt as if she was fighting through a thick fog. She realized she was fighting for clarity when perhaps clarity was not to be found. She would have to speak without seeing who she spoke to. She would have to speak without being able to hear the words. Breathe underwater and trust air would come. “He was-” she struggled. “He was shaking. On bed. Shaking and yellow.”
The healer nodded. “Yes, Isabella.”
“He was bleeding. Eyes. Mouth. Ears. Coughing and bleeding.” Isabella took a deep breath, her whole body straining with the effort. Something warm was tickling her chin and crawling down her neck. “I was holding a goblet. It had potion. He thrashed. I dropped. Goblet shattered. I tried to pick it up. Clumsy. Finger sliced.” Isabella’s eyes closed as she felt a horrid sensation wriggle through her abdomen and across her chest. “I ignored blood first. I reached for him. He-” Isabella was shaking, her arms rigid at her sides. She dimly registered the scraping of the metal chair the healer had been sitting in against the floor. “He bit me.”
Isabella’s body was disconnected from her mind. She was shaking, she was sure, but she didn’t know why. Words stopped coming. People were rushing into the room. Things were slipping away. Things were black.
“Did she say anything useful?”
The healer hung his head. “She was bitten. We didn’t catch that before. It wasn’t a blood transference it was saliva - a different fluid. She was infected earlier in the timeline than the Edgecomb girl that died this morning. It must be in the transference. A blood transference kills faster than any of the other fluid transfers.”
The healer he spoke to nodded her head. “I’ll call the Headmaster.”
Lucius turned around abruptly at the voice. He was unable to stop the feeling of many things slithering over his back as the unnatural way the speaker hissed their words slid into his consciousness.
“Lucius,” they spoke as someone who knew their words were always listened to; soft and slow and deliberate. “I am disappointed in you.”
Those words… Lucius was prostrate on the ground seconds after they had left his mouth. “Master,” he breathed, his face touching the earth.
“Lucius Malfoy, my wayward pet.” Voldemort was standing close enough that his hemline touched Lucius’s face as it was manipulated back and forth in the wind. “I have heard many displeasing things as of late.”
“Never, My Lord,” Lucius groveled. “Never have I done anything to cause you displeasure.”
“I assure you that that is a statement of untruth,” Voldemort’s voice dropped. “Sit up,” he commanded.
Lucius pushed his body upright to find that the red snake eyes were holding his own captive. He was afraid. “I have heard that you are taking action without my permission.”
“If I do anything to displease My Lord it should be known that my action is only ever to serve My Lord further.”
“You must understand, Lucius,” Voldemort hissed. “How difficult it is for me to take this answer when your actions are so dangerous to my own person!”
At the panicked manner in which Voldemort’s voice raised Lucius froze in horror. Voldemort strode towards him, grasping the front of his mourning robes and hauling him off the ground. “How dare you take action without my permission. How dare you, you insolent filth,” Voldemort, in a show of strength no normal human being could exhibit, flung Lucius across the ground. “You dare defy me? You dare raise a man from the dead to engineer a virus that could kill me?”
“My Lord,” Lucius stuttered, his hands up in defense. “My Lord, I never-”
“Do not lie to me, Lucius Malfoy,” the Dark Lord boomed. “Gustave Franklin III. The seventeenth century dark wizard who developed the very basis of my practices. The wizard - the first - to understand the importance of blood. You. Brought. Him. Back.”
“I did not-”
“DO NOT DARE DEFY ME, LUCIUS MALFOY!” The Dark Lord had drawn his wand. He closed his eyes, sheer slips of lids closing over the dilated, angry pupils. He spoke again, his voice that quiet, restrained tone it usually was. “Gustave was burned at the stake over two centuries ago, Lucius Malfoy. Now tell me, how is it that such a man came to be standing next to you at your wife’s funeral services?” A smile tugged at his lipless mouth and he added as an after thought, “My condolences.”
“I have heard of the horrible course of events recently occurring at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I hear the school has been placed in a state of lockdown - they are not allowing anyone in or out of the building. There has been two deaths in the school and three in the group that they sent out to that hospital. Do you know what the odd thing about all these deaths is, Lucius Malfoy?”
Lucius did not attempt to respond this time.
“They are all muggle borns, Lucius. Do you understand what I am saying? All the children dying are muggle borns.”
Lucius raised his head to meet his Master’s eyes.
“This virus you have created kills off muggle borns.”
Lucius, suddenly realizing what it was his Master was saying, looked to the ground in defeat.
In a mockery of camaraderie the Dark Lord sat on a stump he summoned forth from the earth, gazing at where his servant groveled on the ground before him with hate filled eyes. “Educate me, Lucius,” he commanded. “Tel me how this virus works.”
It took a few tries for words to fall from Lucius’s lips. “It-” he stuttered. “It is based on the principle of magic concentration in the blood. It leeches on to the non-magic part of the blood and feeds off the magic. A muggle could catch it, as well as a pureblood, but neither will feel the effects because they do not have both parts of the whole. The virus’s killing power comes from the way that it eats away at the magic in the blood. It uses the non-magic aspect as a tether and the magic as food. It eats away at the infected from the inside of the body and works its way out.”
The Dark Lord was silent for a moment. “And tell me, Lucius, can it be cured?”
Lucius was silent for a moment as he weighed his words carefully. When he did respond, the air became heavy with the answer. Draco, from where he stood hidden behind a tree off in the distance, just close enough to make out the conversation being held, felt the wind knocked from his chest.
Before he had even had a chance to regain his lost breath he had turned on his heel and was running. Running back to Hogwarts. Running back to her.
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