Chapter 14 : Welcome to the Jungle
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Welcome to the Jungle
Draco pulled himself up onto the low moss covered wall were he would be concealed behind the dense bushes. He reached his small hands into the pockets of his robe and pulled out a half dozen nicely rounded cones he had collected from a nearby Scots Pine. He pulled a catapult from another pocket and loaded a cone in the leather, pulling back to test the springy resistance.
Easing along the wall he spied his quarry, a small elf, busying itself pulling weeds in the garden around a small fountain. His tongue perched at one side of his mouth and one eye closed he extended his right arm and pulled back the cord taking careful aim. He released the cord and the cone shot forward arching cleanly through the air to strike the elf on the head just behind the right ear. There was an audible “smack” and loud squeaking proclamation of pain from the injured elf. It turned and searched the ground till it found the offending cone and picking it up, cast its bulbous eyes through the surrounding garden while placing the cone in the rubbish bag with all the weeds. Rubbing the red mark on its head the elf turned and began tentatively pulling weeds again.
Draco, giggling, loaded another cone and lined up another shot. He released and the second cone arched through the air smacking the elf hard, right on the center top of its head. “Ouch!” the elf called angrily. The elf turned and examined the garden looking carefully at the spot where Draco lay hidden. There was a tense moment while Draco held back his delighted laughter so as not to be discovered, and the little elf slowly turned back to his work. Draco loaded yet another cone and again lined up a shot. He let it fly, and as he did the elf turned on its spot its hand poised ready to snap its fingers in some sort of defense. As it searched the air for the cone its eyes landed on Draco and it dropped its hand, allowing the third cone to strike it hard on the forehead. Draco laughed out loud. The elf grumbling beneath its breath picked up the cone and tossed it dejectedly into the rubbish bag.
“Draco,” his mother called. “Yes Mother,” Draco responded disappointedly. “Come down from there, Draco. You should not be climbing around on the garden walls,” Narcissa called concernedly. Draco clamored down from the low stone wall and walked to where his mother was standing, several feet away on the garden path.
Narcissa looked him up and down, reaching to straighten his collar and brush some moss from the shoulder of his robe. She spied the catapult hastily shoved in his pocket and cocking an eyebrow, frowned at him. “What have you been up to Darling? Harassing poor Dobby again I suppose?” Narcissa questioned. “Oh no Mother, no such thing,” he lied coolly.
“Come with me, Dear.” She extended her hand and he grasped her slender fingers with his small hand as she led him down the garden path, away from the wall. They walked in silence for a few minutes until they came to a small stone bench. They could see the back of the house, and his father’s prized peacocks pecking and preening on the manicured lawn.
Narcissa bent and picked him up setting him on the bench. Draco’s feet dangled and she bent down to tighten the laces of his shoes. She looked him in the eyes and he could see her sad gaze. “You lie as easily as your father, Draco.” She stated matter-of-factly. “I wish you would stop, and I wish you would stop being so mean to Dobby,” she said.
“Aw mother,” Draco complained, fidgeting a little at her attentions. “He’s just a house-elf and not a very good one at that according to father,” he said in his own defense. Narcissa sat on the bench next to him taking his hand in hers. “Only seven years old and already so like your father,” she paused. “I suppose it is only to be expected,” she said with a sigh. “Still, you could be such a good boy, if you would only try,” she exhaled. She turned to him, and she looked quite serious now. “I know your father is the world to you right now, as any father ought to be to his son at your age. But, I really don’t want you following in his footsteps your whole life,” she said.
Draco was confused. “Mother,” he paused, not sure how to phrase his thoughts. “I want to grow up to be like father,” he said finally. Narcissa turned her face from her son. “One day, perhaps after you’ve started at Hogwarts, hopefully your eyes will be opened and you will see the truth of things,” she paused again and Draco thought he heard a crack in her voice, as though she might be crying.
“What’s wrong, Mother?” He said finally, still confused. “Nothing, dear,” she patted his leg affectionately. “I just have such high hopes for you,” she said, turning to face him again, a smile across her lips that Draco knew, even at this young age, was a mask she wore designed to make her world more comfortable. “At least,” she sniffed once, dabbing at her face with a handkerchief she’d produced from within her robes. “At least, we no longer live under threat of he-who-must-not-be-named,” she said finally as she began to stand.
“What are you saying mother?” Draco started angrily; he pushed himself from the bench and turned on his mother. “Father says we would all be better off if he-who-must-not-be-named was still with us. Father says he will return one day.” Narcissa looked at her son with utter disappointment. “Father says it is all the fault of that stupid ‘boy who lived’!” Draco shouted, his tiny hands balled into frustrated fists. There was a long pause as Draco stood silent, angry and confused by the obvious difference in his parent’s opinions.
“Well,” Narcissa said finally. “I think that Potter boy performed us a service, even if your father thinks differently. One day, I hope you will see.” She turned and walked toward the house.
Draco stamped a foot angrily. “Potter!” he yelled with distain. “I hate Harry Potter!” He screamed after his Mother. She turned. “One day, I hope you will see things differently,” she said back loud enough that he could barely hear.
Draco kicked the ground as he watched his mother disappear into the house. He stood then in silence, angry that his mother should say such things in apparent defiance of his father. He was certain that his father would be right.
As he stood there, seething in confusion over conflicted feelings for his parents, the sky rapidly began to darken. He felt a few drops of rain pelt his robes. Suddenly the world around him began to blur and fade, like rain washing away a chalk drawing.
Draco woke with a start. Large droplets of water were seeping through the thatched roof above him, splashing on him where he lay.
The last vestiges of his dream faded fast, as he shifted on his mat to avoid the falling water. He felt like he had barely slept, but there was light beyond the overcast sky so he knew it was morning, or at least very soon would be.
Draco sat up and drew his knees to his chest. He rubbed at his face knowing that he would be just making it dirty with his muddy hands, but he no longer cared. For a moment he contemplated his dream. It was more than a dream, it was a memory. He had been having such dreams every night, dreams of his mother. She was gone now.
It had happened the night of the celebration. Chunt’ea had come to collect him at the healer’s hut. Together they had made their way to the main path where the procession of men and boys were arriving with various animals.
The younger boys excitement was infectious and Draco had found himself following as together they clamored around the edges of the gathering crowd like children searching out the best spot to watch a parade.
Chunt’ea had slipped into the crowd and disappeared, leaving Draco on the outer edge, watching. Woman and children were waving excitedly to specific men and boys. There were happy reunions all around him as families found one another. He began to feel a bit uneasy and for a moment thought he might just return to his hut.
Draco felt a soft hand on his shoulder. The slight touch was startling and he swung around to discover Titchi behind him. His instinct was to go for his wand, except that he had none. She was breathtaking, in her celebration garments, her piece costume was beaded in a multitude of color, rich and bright against her warm brown skin and her hair was pulled back, adorned with beads and feathers.
Titchi’s expression was serious and if she noticed his momentary apprehension she gave no indication. “Dracho,” Titchi said seriously, “it is your mother, you must go to her.” “I was just there,” Draco replied, not wanting to understand.
Titchi reached out and grabbed his arm leading him urgently back toward the healer’s hut. She stopped a few paces from the stairs as the leather drape was swung aside and two figures appeared from within.
One was Mistress Puntáne; the other was a man Draco had not yet met. He was a small man, not possibly any taller than Titchi and yet he stood with such conviction and authority that clearly he was a man of some importance.
The man wore a simple leather loin cloth similar to the one Titchi had made for Draco. Around his waist as a belt from which Draco could see hung small pouches, a small axe and a large knife in a leather scabbard. His skin was dark and hard looking like Mistress Puntáne’s. His black hair was cut short over both ears, but long on the top and in back, pulled and tied with a leather strap. There were shells and feathers woven into it in back. Across his chest were numerous strings of carved bone, wood, claws, teeth and other ornamental objects. He had a short leather cape over his shoulders and on his back a bow, quiver and some sort of travel sack. He also carried a staff very much like Mistress Puntáne’s.
“Father,” Titchi said, as she bowed her head respectfully. Draco took his cue from Titchi and lowered his head as well. This then was the Shaman, Draco thought, for a moment hope sprang in his chest. Perhaps he had been able to do something more for his mother.
“This is the boy?” the Shaman said as he came down the steps. Clearly no answer was needed, or expected. For a moment Draco wondered how it was he had understood the man’s words, but the thought was fleeting.
The Shaman stepped toward Draco and walked slowly around him. After what seemed minutes of silence the shaman placed his hand under Draco’s chin and raised his head. Their eyes met and Draco felt the man’s black eyes boring into him. Draco knew what this was, and he didn’t fight it. There was no pain as there had been with Voldemort. In fact the experience was almost soothing. After a minute it was done.
The Shaman reached into one of the pouches at his side and drew out a small flat stone, pulling up Draco’s hand and placing it in his palm. The stone was small and smooth and unremarkable, such a stone could be found anywhere in the river.
“Take him to his mother.” The shaman commanded, and began to walk away. He paused for only a moment in his departure to turn and command his daughter to follow. Titchi hesitated for only a moment and then turned to follow. Mistress Puntáne held open the leather drape to her hut and motioned Draco inside. Once he was inside, she left quickly.
The hut was as it had been the short half-hour before when Draco was there previously, nothing seemed to have changed.
Draco made his way to the back where his mother lay and took up his seat once more on the familiar stool. He was confused, there did not seem to be any change in her condition. She lay there, neatly dressed in a simple woven white night robe, her brilliantly blonde hair straight, pulled forward over her shoulders and chest nearly down to her hips trailing along her thin body.
She was so beautiful he thought she looked quite peaceful. He took her hand in his and spoke quietly. “Mother?” he began, “Are you going to wake up now?” He pleaded.
For long minutes there was silence as Draco sat there holding his mother’s hand. Then he noticed that her breathing seemed to be shallower.
“Mother,” he cried, “you cannot leave me mother.” He came off the stool and collapsed on the floor at her bedside, still clutching her hand in his, he pressed his face against her arm and wept.
The small stone fell from his unused hand, forgotten.
For a long time he laid there, sadness overwhelming him, he could sense her slipping away. The flood gates broke and he cried profusely occasionally pleading, “No, mother... No you cannot leave me,” he did not know how long he cried; until there were simply no more tears.
Draco raised his head and looked up at her. She still looked perfectly peaceful, though she was barely breathing now, her chest hardly raising at all in slow shallow breaths.
Draco rose on his knees rubbing at his wet face with his forearm. “Don’t leave me mother,” he said with a hint of anger in his voice. “Wake up,” he commanded, “Wake up!” He reached over her and grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking her. “Wake up!” he yelled. Nothing changed. He shook her again, pulling her up, her hair splaying about. “Mother!” he screamed pleadingly. She collapsed back into the pillow, no change.
Draco, now sitting on the bed, leaning over her, his arms at each shoulder, stared at his silent mother for long moments. Suddenly he pulled her up in to his arms embracing her desperately. He cried out, a frustrated, wordless, garbled scream. He held her there for a long minute rocking back and forth. Then he gently laid her back down, straightening her hair as best he could.
Draco stood looking down at her. The gently flickering candle light around her made her glow beautifully, she seemed very peaceful, and he resigned himself to the idea that she was not waking up. His heart ached painfully in his chest like a large stone had been placed there. He turned; squaring his shoulders, and quietly said “Goodbye Mother.”
Draco began to walk toward the hut entrance but his movements were slow and unsteady. He felt as though the air was thick and fluid, it resisted him like water, as though he was walking against the current in the river. He paused at the doorway, he was tempted to look back, but he wasn’t sure he could face such a loss as he knew was coming, he wanted to sleep. He did not want to be left alone. He wanted the world to simply go away.
Then, very suddenly he remembered the stone the Shaman had given him. Why? He realized he must have dropped it and he turned, searching the floor. He saw it then at his mother’s bedside. He moved toward it quickly and picked it up.
In his palm the stone was warm and he thought it was beginning to glow. As he stared at it, it did begin to glow, a slight purple illumination from within. He held it between his thumb and forefinger examining it, as it became brighter.
Unsure of exactly why, he stepped to his mother and dropped the small stone in her right hand, it glowed steadily. He clasped his hand over hers and squeezed gently. There was a pulse of deep purple light and the world disappeared around him.
Draco found himself standing in a purple mist, dressed now in his Hogwart’s robes. He moved and the mist swirled around him. He stepped forward; there was a light ahead of him, he moved toward it. With each step the deep purple mist faded around him. He could see a figure ahead, it was his mother. He ran to her calling “Mother... Mother!” She turned, smiling. There was nothing but grey fog all around her; she stood still, dressed in black robes, her hair draping her.
As he approached she raised a hand to stop him. He stopped a few paces from her, “Mother?” he said questioningly. She lowered her hand to her side. “It is time for me to go Draco.” She said quietly. “Yes Mother, I understand,” he replied. “I am afraid, son” she said. “No mother, what have you to be afraid of? I will be fine,” he said reassuringly. “No, Draco, darling, I know that, you have it in you to be wonderful, I have always known that,” she said with conviction. “It is this that scares me.” She held her left hand forward, pulling the sleeve of her robe to reveal the dark mark.
Draco stared at it, the black mark on his mother’s arm was moving, the snake coiling and repeatedly slithering through the mouth of the skull. Draco took a step forward. But his mother raised her right hand for him to stop. She bent over apparently in pain. The mark seemed to slither from her arm like a thing alive and it rose in billows of black smoke into the air above her, growing larger.
The floating mark solidified in the fog, its darkness pushing back the surrounding light. Narcissa drew her wand from her robes and cast a spell at it, a bright flash of orange light that splashed over it. It pulsed and protested, shaking off the spell and then the skull seemed to roar at her. It was an unearthly noise, unlike anything that Draco had ever heard. The snake sprang forward, solid and black and struck Narcissa, its fangs gashing through her shoulder. She collapsed as the snake recoiled. She dropped her wand as she fell and it clattered to Draco’s feet. She lay there, a pool of red growing around her.
The snake recoiled, poised to attack again. Draco picked up his mother’s wand pointing it at the snake and skull and the spell that issued forth surprised him with its bright ferocity as it slammed into the snake knocking it back. He stepped forward over his collapsed mother, screaming at the thing in the air, “You cannot have her! You’ll never have her!” The snake sprang forward as Draco cast a shield charm and its fangs shattered against it inches from his head. It recoiled and Draco screamed “Confringo,” blasting the snake apart. Another appeared from the mouth of the skull springing at him. He twisted as its fangs tore through his robe at his shoulder ripping the fabric away from his back. If he was hurt, he didn’t feel it, and didn’t care.
Draco began casting every spell he knew, blasting away at the whole apparition as the snake lunged and sprang at him. He was unrelenting as again and again he obliterated the tendrilling phantasm causing the skull to crack. He was bleeding and battered from the onslaught, but he stood his ground.
After what seemed long minutes of heated battle, the mark began to waver, its darkness retreating and its solidity fading. In one final thrust Draco yelled “Reducto.” And the mark shattered, collapsed in on itself and was gone.
Breathing heavily Draco dropped his mother’s wand, and it simply ceased to be before reaching the ground. He looked beneath him and his mother was gone.
“I am here Draco,” came Narcissa’s voice clear and strong. Draco turned and there was his mother standing before him whole and beautiful in pure white robes, awash in light.
“Have I saved you Mother?” Draco asked. “You surely have, my son,” she smiled. “Then, will you wake up now?” he pleaded. Narcissa’s face saddened and she stepped forward, embracing him. Draco hugged her tight. “No, Draco... You have saved me from a death worse than death. Saved me so that I can begin a new journey... a wonderful journey.” She pulled herself from his embrace and held his hands, smiling again. “We both have new journeys before us. You have saved me, now it is time for you to save yourself,” she said. “I don’t understand Mother,” Draco replied. “Cast off all that you know and become the man I know you can be, my son,” she said.
Narcissa’s hands slipped from Draco’s and she seemed to be drifting slowly away from him. “Mother!” he screamed. “Be brave, Draco, It is there within you. It has always been there within you.” Her voice was trailing away and he couldn’t see her any longer. “I love you my son. I have always loved you.” She was gone.
The world snapped back around him. He was there, in the healers hut, and she was gone. Her lifeless body lay before him.
Draco released her hand, taking up the small stone, now cool and unexceptional. He stood, glancing only for a moment at his mother’s silent form, before turning. He straightened himself and walked slowly toward the hut entrance. He paused at the leather drape. “I love you Mother,” Draco whispered. He drew back the drape, stepped out onto the small landing, sat sternly on the steps, and waited.
Severus Snape relaxed confidently in his chair on the patio adjacent to the office of Henri Royer Deforest, Mayor of the town of Beaujardin, in Southern France.
It was a warm evening but Severus still wore his customary black robes. He sipped the wine his host had offered him as he watched the man pacing back and forth uneasily.
Henri Deforest was a short stout man with rather spindly legs. He had a round face, with small brown eyes and a round bulbous nose. His dark hair was slicked close on his head and he had the wisp of a dark moustache cropped tight to his broad upper lip. There were obvious signs of perspiration showing through his salmon colored silk shirt, which he had matched with a pale teal vest and cream colored linen trousers. Henri’s obvious nervousness might have been simply because they were waiting for a couple of very prominent people to arrive, or it might just have been that the man sitting on his veranda was a known Death Eater, and wanted for the murder of Albus Dumbledore. Either or both reasons were plenty to be nervous about and Snape really didn’t care one way or the other.
The others who had been invited to the hastily arranged meeting were Hercule Lefurgey, the French Minister of Magic, and Madame Olympe Maxime, Headmistress of the Academie de Beauxbatons de Magie. It was so far unclear if either would be arriving, though both were late.
From his seat on the patio Snape could see a large portion of the town of Beaujardin. It was a quaint village, like most places throughout Europe which were exclusively wizarding communities; it seemed completely out of time with the modern muggle world.
The town was set on the slope of a hill leading down into the wizard known vallée de chevaux de val (valley of the flying horses) so named because of the breeding of Abraxan horses carried out within the grounds of Beauxbatons palace. The palace itself could also be seen in the distance, perched at the edge of the village, its spires glittering in the waning sunlight.
Snape nonchalantly fingered the exterior of his left robe pocket checking that it’s contents was securely in place in case it was needed.
The sun was setting fast and a series of lanterns flashed to life around the white stone patio, as the valley fell into deep purple shadow from the surrounding hills, beneath a still light sky.
There was a noise in the adjacent office and the door sprang open as a steward stepped neatly through and crisply announced the arrival of “The Honorable Minister, Hercule Lefurgey, and Madame Olympe Maxime, Headmistress of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic,” (translated from the French).
A tall thin man stepped onto the patio. He was nearly bald with evenly set grey eyes, a pointed nose and a narrow severe chin. He was dressed in semi-formal charcoal robes. Behind him, stooping to get through the doorway was the imposing figure of Madame Maxime, dressed in cream colored robes. Behind her was the Minister’s security detail; two average looking wizards wearing deep green cloaks.
Without noticing Snape, the Minister greeted Henri Deforest, who stepped forward to shake the man’s hand. Madame Maxime however, noticed Snape immediately and she glowered at him.
“What iz zee meaning of zis?” Madame Maxime proclaimed loudly. “What iz zis man doing ere?” All attention immediately focused on Snape, who stood slowly from his chair. He finished the last sip of his wine and set the glass on the adjacent table.
“Thank you for coming Minister,” Snape acknowledged the man with a very slight nod of his head as he spoke. “And, Madame Maxime, it is my pleasure to meet you once again,” he bowed very slightly, though there was little sincerity in his tone.
“Ee must be arrested at once, for ze murder of Albus Dumbledore,” Madame Maxime spat out angrily.
At that the two security Wizards drew their wands and leveled them at Snape. The Minister waved them off calmly and seemed to be visually taking stock of Snape. After a few moments he spoke. “You are Severus Snape, of Hogwarts School; the man accused of killing Albus Dumbledore?” “I am,” Snape answered calmly.
“And, are you responsible for this death?” The Minister questioned further. Snape hesitated; he had not been quite prepared for the question so directly. After a moment Snape replied, “I am.” There was a hint of something in his voice that the astute Minister was finding difficult to identify. “And, you are in service of the terrible Wizard whose name we do not speak?” Again Snape hesitated, “Yes,” he finally replied darkly. “Regrettable,” was the Minister’s cool response.
There were a few tense moments as Snape sized up the obviously confident Minister, and the security wizards at his command.
“I have a message for you from Lord Voldemort,” Snape said coolly. “Go on,” the Minister said after a moment. “My Lord demands that all wizards of less than pure blood be immediately dismissed from public service throughout France. He insists that the village of Beaujardin, be restored to a pure-blood wizard community, as it was intended. That all muggle-born wizards submit to registration.”
“Ridiculous!” Henri cut in angrily. The Minister raised his hand calmly to silence the Mayor.
“Further,” Snape continued, “He demands that the student body of Beauxbatons Academy be restricted to full blood wizards only, and that the half-giant, Madame Maxime along with all mixed-blood wizards throughout France be immediately incarcerated.”
“Zees ez an outrage!” Madame Maxime burst out angrily. “I’ave been Headmistress of Beauxbatons for fifteen years. I am guilty of no crime!”
“Minister, you cannot abide zis absurdité,” Henri protested. Again the Minister raised his hand for silence. He stared at Snape giving no hint of reaction, Snape met his gaze evenly.
“Is that all?” The Minister asked. “You and the Ministry are to swear allegiance to the Dark Lord,” Snape replied flatly.
“And none of this is negotiable I surmise?” The Minister questioned. “None,” Snape answered.
The tension was palpable as everyone awaited the Minister’s reply. The two security wizards were fingering their wands; Henri Deforest was ranting beneath his breath and had resumed his nervous pacing. Madame Maxime, seething with obvious anger stood motionless watching the Minister closely. Hercule Lefurgey cleared his throat lightly. “Arrest this man,” he said.
In the split seconds hesitation it took for the security wizards to comprehend the order, Snape was able to draw his wand and cast a shield charm, so that their initial binding spells bounced away ineffectually.
Madame Maxime in her anger cast a much more destructive curse, but it too failed to breach Snape’s shield.
Henri Deforest leaped behind the cover of a large potted plant were he attempted to draw his wand, but dropped it and in that moment the Minister, according to established protocol, apparated to a safe location.
Snape easily deflected the next spells cast by his three opponents, and was able to cast a bombardment curse that crumbled the wall behind the security wizards bringing it down upon them with a sickening thud.
An arc of fire exploded from Madame Maxime’s wand and twisted toward Snape, he was able to meet it with a blast of frigid water from his own wand and the two forces struggled together between them. For a moment there was a seeming stalemate, but Snape pushed harder and the fire dissipated leaving Madame Maxime drenched in a deluge of icy water.
Madame Maxime next caused a table and chairs to leap at Snape violently, but he was able to duck out of the way deflecting the heavy table back at her. In her anger she raised her arms and smashed the table to the ground.
There were a series of popping sounds as more security apparated around him, leveling their wands.
Snape thrust his left hand into his robe, and disappeared.
Severus Snape reappeared a moment later in the woods across the valley, his prepared portkey having worked perfectly. Around him from the concealment of the trees appeared a dozen hooded Death-Eaters. Beyond them Snape knew was an army awaiting his command.
The sun had set and the woods were growing dark. Bellatrix Lestrange pulled the hood off of her head stepping forward. “What is the answer, Snape?” She hissed her voice laced with jealousy.
Snape nodded. Bellatrix turned and rushed toward a low wall that marked the edge of the grounds of Beauxbatons. She raised her wand high into the air and cast the dark mark. It hung there sickly green in the dusk, moving high above the palace.
Bellatrix’s eyes shone with excitement as she screamed “Attack!” and thrust her arm forward casting the first of many ward-breaking curses. From the surrounding forest Voldemort’s army of followers surged forward toward the palace.
Snape stood there watching as the hordes moved around him, his face unreadable.
Draco trudged down the path toward his day’s task. He was barely awake and his stomach complained of hunger. He was filthy from head to toe and he could hardly think straight. He missed England. He hadn’t before while he was in the village, but they had been caring for him like a guest, tending his wounds.
Now, he was away from the village, out in the hills at the base of the mountains with only the men and boys. Here he was being treated, in his mind, like nothing more than a slave.
Everything here was a struggle. Everything was hard, and Draco had never liked hard; actually, Draco had never known hard.
He arrived at his work site. It was a hole, no; it was pit, four meters long and two meters wide and so far, as deep as his shoulders. He did not know what it was for, or how deep it would eventually be. He just knew that the Shaman was telling him to keep digging, and nothing Draco had done had gotten him any more explanation.
Draco shook himself to try to clear his head. He looked down into the pit. The heavy morning rain had turned the bottom into mud, and as with every morning there were fallen leaves and debris strewn throughout. He knew there would also be lots of small creatures there as well, frogs and salamanders particularly seemed to like the pit bottom and he would have to shoo them away.
Draco rubbed at his stomach, breakfast had been only a small portion of cooked plantain and a few bits of sweet fruit, hardly enough that he knew he had even eaten. He retrieved the steel spade that he had left leaning against a tree, walked to the edge of the pit and jumped in.
Immediately there was a flurry of movement as, as he had suspected, small creatures darted from the cover of leaves and fled from him. He scraped at the leaves, gathering them together, causing more creatures to flee. He picked up as much as he could and tossed it out of the pit. He casually brushed away several centipedes and other insects from his arms onto the grassy pit edge.
This was not the first hole he had dug since his arrival here, but it was certainly the largest. He remembered the first time he had cleared away debris with is bare arms and how he had panicked and jumped with fear and disgust at the insects. The Shaman had laughed at him, causing him to feel very foolish. Now, three weeks later it was just a matter of course and he didn’t fear the insects. In fact, he couldn’t recall ever being bitten by an insect in all the time he had been in the jungle.
On several occasions now he had taken time to examine the small creatures. Many were rather large by English standards, and he had found them quite fascinating. Somehow there had been a small paradigm shift and these creatures he had once ignorantly feared, were now simply a part of his daily life, he didn’t even think of them as a nuisance anymore. If they were in his way, he simply brushed them away gently and went on with what he was doing.
Draco cleared away the rest of the debris and began to scoop at the mud, shoveling it and throwing it out of the pit. His arms ached, but he persisted. At least, he found himself thinking, his hands had callused over and he was no longer suffering blisters.
The Shaman had brought him out to the men’s camp the day after the village celebration. It had taken all day to make the walk. There had been no explanations, and very little conversation, in fact much of the day Draco had been lost in thoughts of his mother as he walked along trying to keep pace a few meters behind the Shaman.
During the night of celebration Draco had been with his mother as she had passed away. Later, Mistress Puntáne had returned and discovered him on the steps of her hut.
Several men had come, along with the Shaman, and bore Narcissa’s body away to the central fire pit where a pyre had been hastily constructed. Much of the tribe gathered solemnly as Narcissa’s body was laid gently atop the pyre.
The Shaman had made some sort of speech, which Draco had not understood and barely listened to.
Titchi, had apparently wanted to comfort Draco, but when she placed her hand on his shoulder Draco had shrugged it off, and stood there stoically.
When the Shaman was done speaking he approached Draco with a torch. Before accepting the flames Draco had handed him the small stone, met his gaze and said simply “Thank you.” The Shaman had dropped the stone into one of his pouches and lead Draco toward the pyre. He stepped up close to the body and pulled back the left sleeve of Narcissa’s robe exposing her forearm. He smiled slightly at Draco revealing that not a trace of the dark mark remained there.
When Draco gave no reaction the Shaman frowned concernedly. He motioned for Draco to light the pyre, and Draco did so, thrusting the flames into several places around the base. Draco handed the torch back to the Shaman and returned to his spot where he stood stiff and motionless as he watched the flames grow, and consume his mother’s lifeless form.
The tribe began to sing, a low mournful song that grew with the increase of the flames into a joyous crescendo. A happy delivery, Draco thought briefly, from one life to the next.
He had stood there, while the tribe slowly dissipated, watching the flames burn. What seemed hours later the Shaman, and Titchi stepped in front of him. The Shaman spoke “Dracho, you are alone now. What do you intend to do?” After a long moment Draco met the Shaman’s gaze.
“May I remain here?” Draco asked. The Shaman made no expression. “If you remain, you must become a part of the people. That will not be easy.” The Shaman said. Draco did not respond. “We will begin in the morning,” the Shaman said finally. He nodded at his daughter and turned, walking away silently.
Titchi took Draco’s hand and gently lead him away to his hut. At the steps she paused, turning to face him. “Dracho,” She said her voice full of concern. “I am glad that you wish to remain here.” Draco simply nodded. “You must now become a man,” she stated emphatically. Draco met her caring gaze. “But, I am a man, he protested. I am seventeen; I have already come of age.” She giggled a little at his insistent tone. “Then, maybe, becoming a man among the Spirit People will be easy, for you. I do hope so,” she said smiling. “Now, sleep Dracho. My father will collect you very early.” Titchi smiled broadly as she turned and left.
Draco climbed the steps and crossed to the woven mat which passed for his bed. He removed his decorative clothing and laid it on a low table. He lay down barely able to process what had happened during the day. He shut his eyes and fell quickly into a deep restless sleep.
The Shaman had woken him before dawn, handing him a small leather bag and saying simply, “follow me.” Draco rubbed the sleep from his eyes, hoisted his tired body from the mat and followed.
They walked at a pace that Draco found difficult. They moved along easily on a well worn road, passing through thick jungle, occasionally crossing shallow rivers. After what seemed hours of walking Draco asked “where are we going?” The Shaman did not stop or turn, but simply replied “I am taking you to where we keep our herds, there you will begin to understand how to become one of the Spirit People... or you will not. That will be up to you Dracho.”
Draco was silent again for a long while. He noticed himself falling behind the Shaman and he was forced to jog to catch up. He was getting more and more tired. He asked if they could slow down and the Shaman replied, “Even the youngest of our children can make this walk; our boys can run the entire way and make the trip in a few short hours. A boy of your age should be able to make that run.” The Shaman did not slow down.
Draco struggled to keep up getting more and more frustrated. During the hottest part of the day, when Draco was painfully thirsty and very hungry, the Shaman disappeared around a turn and Draco lost sight of him. As he came around the turn himself he saw that the road headed steeply down hill and wound quickly out of sight. He couldn’t see the Shaman anywhere. He called out, but there was no reply. He started to jog to try to catch up, but with each turn in the road there was no sight of the Shaman.
Draco started to run, his legs aching. As he neared the bottom of the hill he entered a very dark part of the jungle the tall trees and thick cover blotting out the sunlight. He came around a turn and just ahead of him he could see a river cutting through the jungle and there on a rock at the side of the path sat the Shaman.
Draco came up to the Shaman, out of breath and upset. He bent over, panting, his hands at his knees. Before he could say anything, the Shaman spoke. “You are slow Dracho, and you still have far to go.” Draco’s instinct was to reply with an acerbic remark, but his breath was still caught in his chest. “Sit, rest, eat,” the Shaman said in a surprisingly kindly voice. “There is food in your bag, you may drink from the river, perhaps even let the cool water ease your legs. I must leave the path for time, I will return shortly.” The Shaman stood tapped his staff to the ground and was gone.
Draco said “thank you” very sarcastically. He sat where the Shaman had been sitting and swung the leather bag from his shoulder. In it were a few slips of dried meat, some nuts, dried berries and half a dozen oranges. Draco pulled out an orange and bit into it hungrily through the flesh. After devouring it he ate the meat and a handful of nuts and berries. After resting a few minutes he stood and walked into the river up to his waist and scooped up handfuls of the cool water to drink.
The Shaman appeared on the opposite shore. “Dracho, we have a long way yet to go,” he beckoned with a wave of his arm. “I want to rest a bit longer.” Draco replied curtly. There was a long moment of silence. Draco had the strong sense that the Shaman was not to be crossed, but he thought it reasonable to rest a while longer. “As you wish,” said the Shaman, “But I will not wait for you. Come when you wish, stay on the road and you will be fine. But I warn you; even the road can be hazardous in the dark.” With that the Shaman turned and strode away.
Draco walked quickly to the shore of the river and retrieved the leather bag, slinging it over his shoulder as he rushed back through the water and up the embankment to try to catch the Shaman. He ran along the road until his lungs burned, but there was no sign of the Shaman, and apparently no chance of catching him up.
Draco found a large stone at the side of the road, and sat there, pulling out another orange to eat. He swore to himself loudly. He did not want to be out in the jungle alone.
After finishing his orange and one more, he set out walking, now at an easy pace, following the road. The walking might have been pleasant, as it was beautiful, but Draco began to wonder what dangers might lurk with every unfamiliar sound he heard. He wished he at least had his wand.
Draco walked along easily for what seemed several hours. He had fallen into a sort of daze as he walked, his mind going over and over the events that had brought him here. He recalled himself at Hogwarts over the past several years, he would have been practically running the school he thought, if it hadn’t been for the presence of Harry Potter, who hogged all the fame and glory for himself. He imagined that he would have been Head Boy in the fall if not for Harry Potter. He recalled his life at home in England with his parents in their grand Manor home, with servants and all the luxuries, even if he had to endure a life always under his father’s thumb, it was a comfortable life.
The past year ran through his mind, and all he had done at the command of the Dark Lord, and his thoughts grew dark, everything had begun to go wrong in that year, and he had to admit that his life had become very uncomfortable while trying to gain the Dark Lord’s favor. Then he recalled the torture at the Dark Lords hands, the fear, the agony, and the humiliation. The scars on his back began to itch and burn at the thought. He understood now that this was not a man, a creature, to be followed. He tried to force the feelings and images from his head but they persisted, as he recalled the effects of the Cruciatus curse, and the whipping. He started to run along the road as though he could out run the thoughts in his head, and the burning in his scars.
Draco felt his head begin to throb and he stopped, screaming aloud, trying to blot out the memories. He bent over and vomited.
Was this really all that he had become, an unhappy fool, the pawn of his father and the Dark Lord, the mean spirited, spoiled boy of his upbringing? He fell to his knees. He shut his eyes and tried to make it all go away.
Draco felt a few drops of cool rain strike his back, and an image began to form in his mind; an image he had not expected, but welcomed, an image of Titchi, first leading him from the water on the day he awoke among the Spirit People, then of her face above his as he lay in the healer’s mud bath.
Rain began to fall hard around him and it eased the pain in his back. In moments he was completely drenched. He forced himself to his feet and resumed walking. At first walking in the rain was pleasant but after a while it slowly began to turn in to one more ordeal. He trudged on through the rain, hoping that he would soon arrive at his destination.
It took a few more hours of walking before he arrived at the encampment, the last of which was in darkness; an altogether frightening experience, after the Shaman’s warning.
Finally he spotted a fire ahead through the rain and he dragged his feet forward until he could see the Shaman, and several other men and boys around a large fire, beneath a thatch roofed shelter.
Once Draco arrived at the encampment the Shaman offered him a small meal wrapped in a banana leaf and a wooden cup of water, which Draco accepted. He was then directed to a small lean-to a short distance from the central camp. Draco nodded and went there directly.
Draco was wet, and angry and thoroughly exhausted, but he suspected that complaining would not get him anywhere so he climbed under the protection from the rain, ate his meal quickly, and collapsed on the grass mat. Almost immediately he was asleep.
The next morning the Shaman shook him awake early. Draco rubbed his eyes and stretched. The Shaman handed him the leather bag, which had obviously been refilled and once again simply said “follow me.”
They walked a short distance to where there were four sticks pressed into the ground. The sticks formed a rectangle about three meters long by one meter wide. The Shaman picked up a stick from the ground and shaking his staff at it transformed it into a shovel. He handed it to Draco, saying, “We need a hole.”
Draco tired still from the long walk the day before and a restless night’s sleep on a grass mat just starred at the Shaman as though he didn’t understand. “It needs to be as deep as your shoulders,” the Shaman said. “Why can’t you just do it by magic?” Draco asked. The Shaman laughed, and then he spoke, “Magic is not always the right way Dracho.” He began to walk away, “dig, Dracho, dig.” Draco could hear him still laughing lightly as he went.
Draco pushed the shovel blade into the ground half-heartedly. After a while he had managed to break through the whole surface defining the space and started digging more easily into the compacted ground. As he worked he complained to himself growing more and more upset. He found the work pointless and demeaning. He wished he had his wand and could just do it with magic but he assumed it was a test of some kind so he persisted.
That first hole had taken Draco fully three days to complete. The Shaman had checked on him a few times each day, saying very little, but was obviously unhappy at the pace of the work. By the end of the first day Draco’s hands were blistered and he complained, but nothing had been said accept to continue his digging.
Draco continued to grow more and more upset, but his outbursts were patiently ignored. He received only small amounts of food each day, and he continued to have no interaction with anyone but the Shaman.
Once the hole was completed, he was taken to a new location and asked to dig another the very next day. After his third hole he was asked to clear stones from a field and put them in a pile. This task had taken up almost two weeks. He hated it, and he hated the Shaman more and more with each new task; a fact that the Shaman didn’t seem to mind in the slightest.
Once Draco had had a huge outburst during which he had attempted to break the shovel over a rather large stone in the field, and used some particularly foul language. The Shaman had simply magically dowsed him with cold water, told him he was still a child, instructed him to look at the work with pride and left laughing.
It had been like that for three weeks now. Draco had quit complaining, as it achieved nothing. He still slept and ate away from the others. He was constantly exhausted, but at least the actual physical labor had become easier, he was able to accomplish more in less time as his strength improved, but he felt very alone.
Draco didn’t see that he was receiving any training and this angered him. He was plagued by nightly dreams that replayed events of his life, and he didn’t like these memories. Or maybe it was that when he looked at his memories with detachment, he didn’t like the image of himself that he saw. He wanted to quit, but quitting didn’t seem to be an option. So now, he was digging yet another hole; this, the largest one yet.
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Hermione’s Happy Place
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