Harry woke up in the middle of the night, his heart pounding, as it always did every time he dreamt of something pertaining to Lord Voldemort. He rubbed his eyes and grabbed his glasses. Glancing at Ron, he saw the redhead still asleep, snoring. He stood up from his bed and walked for the Common Room, the torches subdued at this time of the night. He looked at the clock indicating it was past one in the morning. Someone else was in the Gryffindor Common Room. Harry smiled.
Ginny smiled back. “What are you doing here?”
“I should be asking you the same question,” Harry said, taking a seat next to her. Ginny curled up beside Harry and they both stared at the flames in front of them.
“Did you have a bad dream?” Ginny asked.
“It’s always a bad dream,” Harry said. “Except I heard a woman’s voice this time, humming…”
“No…it was the first time I heard that. I’ve never heard that song she’d been humming. I heard hissing, I saw a tiny snake, curling over a book…there were hands over it, younger than Voldemort’s.”
“You didn’t think it could be your hands?”
“I- contemplated that. But it can’t be…unless- oh, I don’t know.”
“Really Harry. Get some sleep, will you?”
“I can sleep right here,” he joked.
“As if Ron’s going to allow it… sleeping beside me,” she grinned.
“Well, it’s not sleeping with you per se but it’s still a good alternative to guys snoring.”
Ginny laughed aloud and then put her mouth over her palm to stifle the laughter. Harry sniggered and playfully threw a pillow over her head. All was well for them, so far.
While Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley were joking, Draco was up to a more serious task. He had spoken quickly to his Aunt Bellatrix who had posed as a distant cousin of his mother’s from France, sporting blonde hair like Draco’s. She had come to pay her respects to the last Malfoy alive, as she announced in a wailing voice that his father had been feared dead, which was a lie of course.
Speaking in rapid French and charming (actually charming) a few of the seedy looking people inside the pub of Hog’s Head earlier that day, she led him to a private drinking chamber, ordering a glass of wine for each of them. The owner of the inn narrowed his eyes upon seeing Draco drink wine just right before lunch, but quietly left them to speak in personal.
“Tante,” he began in French, addressing his aunt as he took a seat.
“How are we doing?” Bellatrix asked in French still.
“I’ve been working on it. It’s proving difficult.”
“Je vous demande pardon. Still are?” she said, pacing around the room and drinking the wine set before her quickly.
“Ca n’est pas assez!” she said, her tone rising this time. Of course his hard work and sleepless nights weren’t enough. He had less than a week, for Merlin’s bloody sake! She paced around again, rubbing her hands together vigorously, her hood over her shoulders, showing her coiffed hair and carefully done make-up. How she looked like his dead grandmother and how different she looked from the murderess she truly was!
“Have you figured anything out?” she asked.
“I’ve figured out I’m looking for a chest and not another armoire. I’ve figured there’s a need for a key. That key I have yet to find. The book of runes I’ve read explained a few things, but it’s…the text moves around too much. We need to find something circular, I think it’ll open the chest I still have to find, there’s something about that key that-“
“Repetez ca mais plus lentement,” she hissed.
“Key. Chest, book. Need one key for both rune symbols.”
Bellatrix’s eyes widened. “This is old magic I’ve never heard of. I’m sure the Master knows…” she muttered in French still.
“Are we still doing this in Hogwarts? The students and faculty…” Draco trailed off, rolling his eyes nonchalantly.
Bellatrix raised a brow. “Ca n’a rien a faire avec nous.”
Draco shrugged and looked at his aunt’s finger tapping against her arm. “I’m doing all I can.”
“Neveu, vous voila averti,” she said in a low and nearly husky tone, bending over to pat Draco’s jaw harshly. “Don’t ever make the mistake of failing this time. Our lives are in your hands, especially the Master’s.”
Their conversation continued until it was nearly time for Draco’s next class. By the time he stepped out of the private room, no one was in the pub except the owner who smiled at the tip the grand French aunt of the blonde boy left him. Draco nodded while his aunt arranged her bonnet properly once more and then disappeared with a tiny pop just beside the post for Hog’s Head. He left the pub feeling nauseated. By the time his next exam, Divination came, all he could see were horrific omens.
But right now, right now was what mattered. He was standing once more in front of the debris inside the abandoned room, like had had done every night for nearly the past month. After an hour of flicking his wand back and forth, Draco felt reality sink in. There was no way he was going to pull through this alive; he wouldn’t be able to save his family and…god, Hermione! He stood up, pounded a fist against the wall, the pressure mounting in his mind.
“Come on!” he grit his teeth, banging his head once on the stone wall, just to feel a bit of pain, the slightest compared to what the Dark Master would do to all of them. “Come on!”
He struck the wall again, consecutively, all the while feeling his eyes burn from the tears that were forming and the sting blossoming in his hand. He rested his head and one palm on the cold stone partition and looked at the ground when he saw Hermione’s gift hang from his neck. Somehow, it had gotten loose from his vest and shirt. He always kept it away from prying eyes. But now, it glittered in the faint light from his wand and it spun around back and forth like a pendulum. Draco looked at it closer, as if waiting for it to stop.
It was round and small enough…he bolted upright and took off the pendant and chain off his neck. With his wand emitting brighter light, he looked closer at the pendant. His eyes narrowed as he studied the makings of the gift. There was the green gemstone, some sort of far more sparkly emerald that he had kept staring at when Hermione had given it to him last Christmas.
Set in silver, the green gemstone seemed to be forged to the base, not just by smelting, but by…some strange charm. It was evident that it had gone through near destruction for the base had noticeable chips. He had only noticed now the markings on the silver base surrounding it, and the faint outline of a serpent or a dragon, almost like an ordinary squiggly line running across the gemstone. He took out his notebook to write down the markings written on the silver base when he suddenly felt a strong pull.
The pendant vigorously swung forward and back, as if it wanted him to find something. Dowsing…almost like that…he had never tried that method before. Weren’t you supposed to do that with crystals? He could feel the pendant swinging into one direction as he stood still. It was moving to the left. Left, left, left…he took a tentative step forward and followed the pull. With his wand, he flicked the assorted rubbish cluttered all over to make room for what he had been searching. Dust rose in the air, the light from his wand emitting a hazy white this time.
He stopped and grabbed the book he had stolen from the library. Holding the pendant in his hand, he began to gently place the pendant onto the centre of the book, but before he could completely attach it, he stopped abruptly. He took a seat on a broken down chair and clasped his hands in front of him, staring at the pendant on top of the book.
What the bloody hell was going on? This was a gift… Certainly, Hermione knew nothing of this! How was she to know about their plan? It wasn’t even a concrete plan; he had to find out things for himself, without his obsessive aunt’s help, without his mother’s reassurance, without his father’s constant berating. He was alone in this and yet…the gift Hermione had given him- it seemed like it was the key. He couldn’t just use the gift so affectionately given for something of ill-omened use. This was Hermione’s gift, Hermione searched for this. Was it fate that led Hermione find a key to Harry Potter’s downfall? He had been tasked only after the key had been given away, as a Christmas present. What did this mean? Hermione couldn’t be instrumental to her own closest friend’s demise. Somehow he didn’t want it, yet he did at the same time, to put an end to this. He suddenly felt Harry could pull through anything. Draco took a deep breath. Was he confused? He was rooting for Harry to suddenly get out of this alive, even if he did find out what was inside the chest. He was a son first, he reminded himself. Parents, no matter how detached, were irreplaceable. But the pendant reminded him otherwise. This was Hermione, too. And her as disposable was a far off notion.
He suddenly felt he couldn’t press on with it. This can’t be happening, he thought, not when I’m this close. He had all three objects near him now. But to place the pendant on the book would mean betrayal to Hermione, the betrayal part he couldn’t explain yet. It’s not like Hermione did this on purpose to test him, right? Deep down, he knew Hermione had no inkling of the pendant’s worth. Where the bloody hell did she get this?! He shook his head, not knowing what to do next. Scenes of his talk with his aunt surfaced; reminding him to never fail…he recalled the tear stained face of his mother…Hermione’s eyes, asking for some reassurance that they would pull through…his father’s last words before he disappeared…
There was only one way out of this and that was to do what he had been asked to do, before he fell in ghastly, terrible love with some dark haired Gryffindor lass. Love was terrible now, for it came with a price. He could scarcely imagine the horrors that might happen if the Wizarding world were to know he had been seeing and sneaking around with the ‘Granger’ girl. She was the only happiness he had, after all. She was that single ray of light let in a cavern full of shadows and misery. And without meaning to, Draco felt his lips tremble, the faintest sight of anguish one could see in his frame.
Reaching for the pendant, he placed it back on the chain and continued searching for the chest. Again, the pendant swung to and fro for the first minute and then started to gravitate for the left. There was a sudden magnetic pull as Draco flicked his wand, taking useless filth out of the way. Dust collided with rotten furniture and cobwebs, some failing all over his robes and face. Coughing and sputtering, Draco continued in near frenzy. His heart was pounding again, desperate to find this one object to bind them all in a single enchantment. He could feel blood rushing quicker into his veins, his breathing went shallow. It was here, he felt it.
The pendant stopped moving over a heap of old carpets smack dab in the centre of the room. Draco flung the carpets off and he bent down on the cold floor, his hand precariously reaching for a thin rectangular coffer, fashioned out of ordinary looking wood, supported by wrought pewter handles on the sides. It was old and seemed like a wand box, by the looks of it and Draco was afraid it just might crumble at the slightest touch. He then smiled scornfully, of course this was of old magic and it certainly wouldn’t disintegrate now, would it? Holding it with two hands now (shaky still) Draco placed it on top of a grimy circular desk beside the book. The chest suddenly rattled, making Draco take a step back out of surprise. There were no windows inside that room that were open, but the room suddenly grew colder, Draco could feel frost was about to form on the floor. He looked around wildly, wondering if he had done something wrong. Then across the room, he saw someone standing. Draco’s eyes widened, his sockets bulged in shock.
“Who are you?” he asked in a commanding voice.
From across, the pale woman standing pointed at something. Draco eyed it, his wand ready for a duel. She was pointing to the pendant, there was no mistaking it. This was a ghost, wasn’t it? Draco stared, digesting the newcomer. He hadn’t seen this ghost yet in all his years in Hogwarts. He grabbed the pendant on the table, placing it on his palm.
“Who are you?” he asked again, this time in a kinder voice.
The ghost said nothing, but looked on sadly at the pendant Draco held in his hand.
“Do you want this?” he asked.
The woman said nothing but shook her head once and Draco narrowed his eyes. There was something terribly familiar about her. The way she moved, perhaps? Or her manner of dressing….something that reminded him of old family portraits…the realization struck him.
‘Areatha?” he whispered.
She gazed at Draco and then at the pendant again. Then she spun around and faded into thin air.
“Wait!” Draco called out.
What the hell was going on? Why did she suddenly come out of nowhere? Did this mean something to her? Perhaps, she owned it? His heart pounding once more, he looked at the pendant on his palm and tried to read the inscription. The handwriting was so tiny that he near went cross-eyed trying to decipher it. He had copied the runes and had only realized what it meant after the third word.
Sanguine fluid to enter the threshold of shadow and light
It needed blood sacrifice…Draco concluded. But which one was shadow and which one was light? Did Areatha make this? But it was in ancient runes, far older than Areatha’s time…He stared at the objects, trying to absorb the turn of events. Did his ancestor suddenly appear to warn him? She had some connection to this, he thought. He looked at the box, with little serpents engraved at the base. This was certainly from Slytherin’s line, the fascination for serpents. So how could it be of light? Even his pendant had faint markings of a serpent.
Draco finally decided to put the pendant on the book and just as it clicked to secure the pendant, there was a blinding flash of light that engulfed the room, escaping through the cracks of the doors and windows- as if the sun glowed in that room alone for a second. Draco was on the floor, squinting when he realized the room was dim once more. He stood up, not bothering to dust himself off. Suddenly, he could read the runes. Suddenly the book made sense.
Racing through the pages, he learned that the chest was where Salazar Slytherin had placed his wand and that it had been passed down from one generation to the next for safe keeping. The box had no known significance, except for one descendant, who around six hundred years ago had foreseen its use as a sacred vessel for one heirloom, a stolen part of the Elder Wand.
Of course, the wand functioned properly without the missing part, the one that encased the wooden handle, fashioned from Death’s hands and appearing in the form of frayed leather with gold stitching. But it still had miraculous powers, powers that could be abused if it fell in the wrong hands. To encase one’s wand with this would mimic some of the Elder Wand’s duties to some extent, but if it came in contact with the Elder Wand, the Elder Wand would prove to still have the same amount of indestructible power. What mattered was to have this on a wand other than the Elder Wand to harness its true powers, since the leather casing would still bend to the will of the Elder Wand in the end. The illustration, clearer now, showed how the ritual to bind the wand to the leather handle worked. Should he use his wand for this? Or wait for his aunt to wield its destructive powers? The chest had gone missing a hundred years later, warring tribes, both descendants of Slytherin blamed each other for stealing the chest. How it got in this room, Draco didn’t know. Perhaps…Areatha had her hand in this?
He shook his head determined to open the chest. Holding onto the ornament with his fingers, he turned the pendant clockwise three times to remove it. The book’s contents faded and the runes jumbled up once more.
Grabbing a letter opener from his pocket, he deftly sliced through his left palm and allowed his blood to drip all over the pendant. The pendant glowed in a strange, nearly green hue and smoke rose up in the air as if it burned. He quickly placed the pendant on the chest’s centre lock and heard clicking and tinkering inside. The chest opened by itself, revealing a simple looking elongated pouch with a gap large enough to insert any standard wand size into it. He had a sudden migraine; the enormity of it all bagged him down.
What the hell was this for? The Master only wanted the Elder Wand...why would he want something useless to the Elder Wand? Then it hit him. The Master needed two wands to be sure he could kill Harry Potter. Of course, it could mimic the Elder Wand and he could have total command over everyone else with the two most powerful wands in existence. Did he know about this back then? It was a legend, perhaps, the faintest of legends that the Dark Lord actually betted on… and it worked! Draco reeled on the floor, his eyes wide with shock again.
He had done it, he had done his part and yet he felt no pride, only a lingering worry. It was no wonder that the Dark Lord hadn’t told anyone the specifics of the plan! He didn’t know much about it after all. It was a wild card bet. He looked at his sore and bleeding palm and looked back at the open chest on the table. But the thought of Hermione hurt him most of all.
a/n: getting more complicated, getting more action in the future! ^_^ please don't forget to review.
btw french translations (I'm not a fluent speaker, I just wanted to learn years back, so apologies if the translations are not the exact ones, saying these aloud is even harder. lol):
Tante - aunt
Je vous demande pardon- I beg your pardon
Ca n’est pas assez-That is not enough
Repetez ca mais plus lentement- Repeat that but more slowly this time
Ca n’a rien a faire avec nous- It has nothing to do with us
Neveu, vous voila averti- I'm warning you, my nephew