Chapter 5 : The Man at the Table
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You must always be aware, Grandfather had often said. Did you see everything? Tsk - you only think you have, look again.
It was an ordinary room, he thought. He couldn’t be sure, of course, because he hadn’t been many other places but the camp. It was smaller than Malfoy’s sitting room, more put together than Bella’s house and...well that was all he had to compare it to, except for his sitting room. It was far brighter than his sitting room, even with it being pitch black outside.
He tried the windows first - and they opened. His heart hammered against his chest and he almost threw his body forward, out of the window and into the small garden below, but then he paused.
Ward’s are tricky things, hmm? Little boys hardly ever notice them. It makes them a good tool for me, yes?
He clenched his jaw at the mere memory of the slip up. He almost always noticed them, even then, but he had forgotten once.
And almost again, he thought, as he put his palm against the seemingly open space. He let his magic flow into his hand and inched forward until he felt a small jolt. Yes, there were wards. New wards - meant to keep him in. He could feel the magic jittering around, new placed, as it went about settling down. It’s owner was still actively thinking about the magic - still influencing it beyond it’s purpose. He’d never sneak past these wards - whoever had put them there was watching them far too closely.
Human’s make mistakes. It is their greatest weakness. Never assume they have thought of everything like you have.
So he tried the other window, but it was the same. Still, they might have forgotten something. There were two doors out of the room - the one which the lady had stood at and another one, further into the room. He peeked out the one from which the lady and man had left, but he could see light that way, which probably meant they were there. He headed silently towards the other door.
The dog was following him, the soft clip of it’s nails against the floor aggravating him. He was trying not to be noticed, after all. It was no use trying to lose the animal though - he could feel it’s attachment to him. So he simply sent a wandless silencing charm towards it’s feet. Silencing charms were another thing he had mastered in his time with Grandfather. He hated noise. The dog paused for a moment but then continued to follow him, through the small door. He was surprised it opened at all and he felt a surge of hope in his chest - perhaps they had forgotten something.
With his renewed thoughts, he crept into the small windowless hallway. There was a door, but it didn’t open, so he continued past. Another door, another lock. But these were old magic and it wasn’t directed simply athim. Perhaps these were rooms they simply wanted to keep private.
He’d come back to them, if he couldn’t find anything else. Chances were they would think him incapable of breaking through the locking charms and wouldn’t have bothered to ward the windows in there. Still, he’d try everything else first, because the locking charms might signal an alarm.
The hallway came to an abrupt stop with one door ahead of him and one door to the side. He turned to the door at the end of the hall. Locked. His hand fell onto the knob of the second door and he paused in surprise when it opened.
It led into the well-lit hallway, except this time he had a clear view of the whole stretch. There were stairs to his right and three doors ahead of him. One of them had to lead back into the living room, which meant another probably led into the kitchen and the other into the library. He frowned at the certainty of his thoughts - at his memories.
He inched forward, for there was one more door. The front door. Taunting in its obviousness, tempting for the same reason. He crept past the kitchen where he could hear water boiling, past the library, past the living room he had started in...his hand was on the front door now.
He reached for the knob.
Human’s always forget things, especially those things right in front of them. You have to be smarter than them.
The knob turned. He felt his chest heaving as his heart slammed and his magic buzzed.
“Please don’t do that,” a voice said softly. He spun around, magic lashing out around him like a storm, ready to defend. It was the man, standing at the top of the stairs, leaning against the railing that stood beside them. He had been watching him.
He reached behind him, to open the door, not daring to look away from the man.
“Don’t do it,” the man said again. “You really don’t want too.”
“I do!” He said, his voice louder than he had intended. There was a scuffling sound in the kitchen.
“Please don’t yell,” the man said, his brow furrowing.
“Don’t yell?” He repeated, incredulously. “Is that what you’re bloody worried about? Yelling? What about me hurting you?”
“I’m not worried about that,” the man said. The lady was standing in the kitchen doorway now, looking nervously between them. “But I did just manage to get Emma back asleep.”
He felt the memories bombard him and he had to shove them aside forcefully in his mind. Still, the blue eyes and fine baby red hair lingered.
The lady apparently didn’t trust him as much as the man, because her wand was out already and a spell whizzed past him while he was watching the man.
The door locked beneath his fingers.
“He wouldn’t have done it, Alex,” the man said, softly. Stupid man.
“He found the wards on the windows, he would have found them on the door, as well.”
“And set the alarm off! Try getting Emma back to sleep after that!”
So the man hadn’t been stupid, he’d been trying to save him the trouble. He stared at the man hard for another moment. Mind games. He knew them. He’d gotten quite good at them, over the years. Yet he was only so very polished with his grandfather and these people didn’t act at all like him. He remembered how hard it had been to learn just what to say, just how to act, in order not to be punished.
“Alex, you’re worrying him,” the man said, as if he actually believed his words.
She spared him a quick glance.
“No I’m not,” she said after a moment. “He’s survived Voldemort - we’re of little worry to him.”
A compliment, how unusual.
“He’s heard the name before, Harry. He’s not four anymore.”
Devlin stilled, trying to see their goal. Were they lulling him into a sense of false security? Grandfather had once tried to do such a thing, but it had taken so long that he had finally admitted to him that he simply didn’t have the desire or patience to set him at ease. Perhaps they did, though.
“Devlin,” the man began, coming down the stairs, “are you hungry? You haven’t had anything to eat all day, or drink.”
He was, certainly. Very much so, but he made his body remain unresponding and willed his stomach not to betray him.
“Not for anything you would give me,” he said caustically. The man seemed taken aback, the lady looked as if she’d expected no less.
“Then I think you should go to bed. The healer said you would need your rest and you won’t get that right here,” she said simply and she began to approach him. He growled at her. She’d already taken one of his wands and he sensed that if he took out his back-up one, she’d take that too. He recoiled from her hand on his shoulder, shrugging away.
“Don’t touch me! I didn’t say you could!”
The man frowned, but she simply pursed her lips.
She looked like Grandfather when she did that.
He felt fear flinch in his stomach as he remembered who he was dealing with and why she had been able to take his wand. This was the woman that was more Voldemort’s than even he was.
“Then follow me on your own.” It was a demand. He knew all about them. If he didn’t, she’d threaten him, and if he didn’t, then she’d follow through on whatever the threat had been and in the end he’d still end up doing whatever she wanted, just not by choice. He followed her.
She led him up the stairs and down a hallway and to a wooden door. She opened the door for him, motioning him in. It was painted in blue, the small bed covered in a bluish-green comforter, flying brooms and snitches racing across the walls and sheet. There were toys everywhere.
“We’ll see you in the morning,” she said, and began to close the door. Then she paused, her lips twitching. “If you need something, we’re across the hallway and two doors down.”
The man was fidgeting behind her and when she closed the door he heard him say ‘don’t you think that was a little abrupt, Alex?’. She was replying, but he wasn’t paying attention.
He remembered this room.
Please Daddy, I’m stuck.
He shrunk against the door, leaning there.
It will be alright, Devlin.
He could feel his heart hammering in his chest. He bolted for the window across the room, but it was locked. He leaned against the cool surface of the glass.
Tsk, tsk...it’s going to be alright? What’s the boy going to think when he’s screaming later?
The moon was a sliver of a thing through his window, but he already knew that from the ache still left in his joints from the transformation two days ago. He clawed at the smooth surface, trying to pry it open. It stayed firmly shut.
There is more than one way to torture someone, child.
That’s what they were doing. They were torturing him. He hated that it was working.
His body shook, as if the room were too chilled, and his throat suddenly felt impossibly dry. His chest rose and fell evenly, but he had long ago learned not to give the other werewolves such an obvious clue about his emotions.
He slid against the wall beneath the window, trying to reign in the thoughts that were racing through his mind. He was just tall enough to peer out the window while sitting on his knees.
He was facinated by the stars. The moon haunted him, an hourglass counting down to pain. He remembered the first time after being well again, that he had seen the moon with Grandfather. Half of him had expected it to have vanished, he supposed. Other things certainly had and he was no longer that boy, yet he was, because there had been the moon and it had counted down and the same transformation had over taken him.
You can see the moon everywhere, Geoffrey had told him calmly when he had voiced the notion months later.
He had hated that; hated that it was the same but everything else was different. Then he had grown older and when he looked up into the night sky, the whole picture had captured his attention. The moon was the largest and brightest thing there, but there was also the smaller stars, and just like the moon the stars stayed the same too. Small things about him, besides being a werewolf, had stayed the same as well. If they hadn’t been there to begin with, he wouldn’t have survived.
You can do this, he told himself, staring at the stars.
He rose to his feet and wandered around the room. He fiddled with the waxy colored sticks on the desk that drew with the same onto paper. He flipped through the brightly illustrated books that couldn’t hold his attention. He threw the soft toys off the bed and tried to lay down. He studied the pictures on the wall.
He tried and failed to distract himself until, hours later, when the moon was beginning to fade and the sun was beginning to rise, he heard the sound of a door opening and closing in the hallway. Footsteps.
He pressed himself against the wall as the footsteps came closer and closer.
What are you doing cowering down there, child? Stand up straight - you face people straight backed and proud!
The words resounded in his mind and he lifted himself up, but couldn’t bring himself to move forward.
Closer and closer.
His hand inched towards his wand. The footsteps came to a pause outside of the door. He swallowed, picturing the hand on the knob, waiting for it to open and the real game to begin.
Perhaps this time, when we play, you will scream for me.
But he wouldn’t.
He tried to convince himself that he would be able to stare into their faces and be as stubborn as he had with Grandfather. I won’t scream, he told himself - and he believed it, but he wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t cry.
Their was someone shifting outside his doorway and then...footsteps. Moving past the door. A moment later another door opened and closed and he could hear the sound of water running. Someone was using the loo.
As if to jab the point home, his throat constricted and his stomach churned. Surely water from the tap would be safe? He knew of no spell that was able to dispense poison only to one individual.
He waited for the footsteps to recede back up the hallway again and for the door to open and close. Then he crept toward this door, tentatively placing his hand on the knob. It was cool beneath his hot sweaty palm. He grasped it firmly, turned it, and gave a gentle tug.
The hallway was empty, except for the curled up form of the dog, laying across from this door. It’s amber eyes opened at the sound of the door and it peered at him intently as it rose to it’s feet.
He wasn’t foolish - he might be a werewolf but right now he was in a human body which offered little protection from those sharp teeth. So, it was with some anxiety that he watched the dog approach him. The fact that it hadn’t been aggressive earlier was of little reassurance to him - right now he was going against it’s owners desires - leaving this room without their accompaniment.
He could close the door before it got to him, but to do that he would need to close the door quickly and they would surely hear that. Instead he stayed very still, eying the beast as it approached. It was larger than most dogs (although he was no expert) and it looked considerably wolfish.
When it was at the doorway it didn’t snap, snarl, or sniff - it simply pushed past him into the room. He turned to watch as it sauntered over to the bed, leapt up, and laid down - as if it were it’s bed and it’s room.
“I think that is where I am supposed to sleep,” he whispered, so that no one would hear. “Isn’t yours meant to be on the floor?”
In fact, there was a rather large blue pillow on the floor in the far corner...he pointed to it to emphasize his point.
It eyed him with curiosity, arching one of it’s eyebrows and cocking an ear.
“Stupid mutt,” he said, turning around. He was terribly thirsty. He heard the beast huff behind him, but he was already in the hallway, closing the door quietly. He didn’t want the animal escaping and alerting the man and lady. He counted his steps, taking into consideration that it had sounded like an adult’s footsteps which meant that one of their steps was probably equal to two of his own.
When he looked up he was only a couple steps in front of a door. It opened soundlessly and gave way to just what he had expected. Despite himself, he smiled. There was a stool tucked between the toilet and sink, decorated in pinks - but he didn’t need any stool. He turned the tap on and began to shovel the cool liquid into his mouth. It ran down his chin and onto the front of his robes, but he didn’t care - it felt wonderful as it traveled down his throat. His stomach stopped churning for a moment.
When he could drink no more and had taken the opportunity to use the loo, he wandered back into the hallway. His hand was on the knob, but he paused, shuffling his feet.
He really didn’t want to be trapped in there all day. The hall was empty, the house hushed, and he wondered if they would really notice if he wasn’t were they told him to be, as long as he didn’t attempt to escape. They hadn’t come when he had used the loo...
He took a step away from the door and down the hall, towards the staircase. The house was hushed here too, a smattering of magical lights leaving it well-enough lit to see his way down the stairs easily.
He continued forward, taking each step on his tip-toe, expertly silent. Grandfather hated noise, but especially while he was sleeping.
The kitchen was just ahead and he wondered brilliantly if they would know if he used his wand - if he could, then he might be able to eat. He tip toed into the room, his fingers brushing by the concealed pocket on his leg seam, when he came to an abrupt halt.
The man was sitting at the table, twirling a clear glass of amber liquid in front of him. He wrinkled his nose as the smell of the alcohol came to him, backing up silently.
“Hello, Dubhàn,” the man said softly, without turning around. “What’s a boy your age doing waking up at this hour?”
He has had enough alcohol that his body seems relaxed, but not enough to affect his speech.
“I wasn’t in a state from which one would wake up,” he replied, just as quietly. Somehow the man didn’t seem as intimidating, sitting here before the sun had fully risen, drinking. He laughed lightly at Dubhàn’s words.
“Yeah, me neither. Why were you up?”
He thought the answer was plainly clear, but he begrudged the man the thoughtlessness this once, because he hadn’t yet met a drunk man who could think quite right. That was probably why Grandfather refused to touch the substance.
“I was waiting for you to come to me,” he said, stepping into the room a bit. The man’s wand was laid out on the table...
He looked up into his eyes sharply, disconcerted.
“I’m sorry,” he said, serious and almost-sober looking. “If I thought you wanted me to come to you, Devlin...I would have.”
The reply threw him for a moment, because of course he hadn’t wanted them to come to him. It had been the anticipation of torture that had kept him up. He blinked.
“Aren’t you going try and get me to talk?” He asked, taking another two steps closer to the man and his wand.
“My Grandfather and his men.”
His brilliant green eyes narrowed as he attempted to sort out Dubhàn’s meaning, probably failing miserably.
“I don’t really care about them,” he said finally, surprising Dubhàn again. He hadn’t expected the man to actually understand. Perhaps he wasn’t quite as inebriated as he had first suspected. He was giving him an appraising regard, twirling the amber liquid again.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Your mum is still asleep,” he said, changing the subject. Dubhàn opened his mouth to argue, but then shut it again. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand who they were or who he was, but rather that he knew it wouldn’t matter. When they understood, they would feel differently. They were light wizard’s and he was dark. “Are you hungry? I could make you something.”
“No,” he said. “I’m not stupid.” He did not want to die so quietly. If they were going to hurt him it would be with his wand in his hand, cursing them as well.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” the man said, raising to his feet and dumping the amber liquid down the drain. He turned around at the sink to regard him intently again. “Please let me make something for you to eat, Dubhàn. You can watch me - every movement.”
The wand was still at the table, lying innocently on the wooden surface. Dubhàn looked at the man and tried hard not to look back at the wand.
“You eat it too,” he said, trying to sound stubborn. “I pick which part you eat.”
Dubhàn inched towards the table, settling himself in a seat and watching the man. After a few moments, he laid his hand on the table top and a few moments after that, he inched his hand forward, closer to the wand. The man was almost done making the sandwich. He cut it in two and was just about to turn around - Dubhàn grabbed the wand.
The man froze mid-turn, regarding him.
“Don’t, Devlin,” he said, sadness etching his face. “Don’t try to hurt me.”
“Let me go,” he said smoothly, flicking the wand a bit to press his point.
“I won’t do that. You are safe here.”
“I was safe there, as well.”
“By Merlin I hope you are just arguing with me and you are still capable of seeing the difference,” he said softly. “Now stop aiming that wand at me.”
Stop aiming that wand at me.
It wasn’t what any respectable wizard would have said if someone was pointing their own wand at them. At every other instance, Potter has proven to be at least a knowledgable, intelligent, respectable wizard.
“We keep it around to do household things,” he continued softly. “Alexandra thinks it’s safer because she’s horrible at leaving her’s on the table while she cooks. It is charmed only to do a handful of spells.”
His hand curled around the wooden stick, knuckles white. It was useless, but the weight of it in his grasp was a tiny shred of comfort. He kept it aimed at the man.
“Maybe you’re lying,” he said slowly, his fingernails digging into the palm of his hand.
“I’m not,” he said slowly, inching closer to the table. Those green eyes, impossibly bright, were peering at him without fear. Dubhàn threw the wand back onto the table. He might have tried a spell, but if it hadn’t worked, the man would have been angry and Dubhàn wouldn’t have been in a good position to protect himself.
“This isn’t were I belong,” he said lowly, as the man put the sandwich in front of him.
“It must feel so strange,” the man said, coming to sit across from him. He looked like he was about to say more, but interrupted himself to ask which part Dubhàn wanted him to eat. Dubhàn told him to eat half of each piece and the man laughed softly and told him he was certainly clever. The sun was rising, alighting the kitchen in warm pink hues. The man had almost finished the first half of one half. He passed it over to Dubhàn, who took it slowly, eying him with an intensity that could only mean he was watching to see if he was effected at all by some poison.
“He never told me, you know,” he said softly, lamely, to the child. “Voldemort that is. I’ve dueled him since...” he let his voice trail off - somehow it felt impossibly painful to say ‘your kidnapping’ or ‘your death’, in front of the child. Alexandra was better at these things and she was right - he still saw him as the little boy he clearly wasn’t anymore. Don’t belittle his importance to Voldemort Harry, Alexandra had urged him yesterday. Harry hadn’t truly understood her logic, only that it had had something to do with how she felt Voldemort would have made Harry out to be (horrible, Harry was sure), how Voldemort had probably led the boy to think of him as better than them, and that Alexandra had pointed out that Devlin looked just like Tom Riddle. Imagine what he would have said about that, she had pleaded and Harry had tried, but he had never been very good at that type of thing and he felt he had failed miserably at her request. Still, he would do as she had asked, because Alexandra was one thousand times better at understanding other’s emotions and thought patterns than he could ever fathom being.
“You must be important to him,” he said and the words left him with a bad aftertaste. The boy was looking at him sharply urging him to continue. “Voldemort...he likes to taunt me about stuff and...for him not to taunt me about you...” Harry was stuck by the fact that he actually felt betrayed by his enemy. Somehow Harry had always counted on Voldemort to make him hurt in any way he could, yet he hadn’t. It made Harry furious, not just at Voldemort, but at himself. It was yet another clue he should have seen - if Devlin had truly been dead, Voldemort would have used every opportunity to taunt him with the fact.
There was the tiniest line beginning between the child’s brows. Harry thought he might actually say something, but then a slight noise upstairs made them both still. The sun was more than halfway risen. There was the sound of water running through the pipes and then little feet racing down the upstairs hallway.
“Daddy?” That was Emma. She had probably seen his coat still hanging by his door (it was far easier to remember it there if he was called in the middle of the night). Normally he would be at work and Emma would be going to school, but they were too afraid to send her there today, incase Voldemort decided to get revenge by kidnapping her.
“Down here, sweety,” he called, not moving. Devlin arched his brow as if to tease him about the nickname. It probably wasn’t something he heard very often. Harry tried not to think about what things he did hear.
His heart pounded nervously as he heard her climbing down the stairs, he swallowed hard at the slight rustle as her foot twisted and she turned, but even when he knew she was standing in the doorway, looking at them, he kept his eyes on Devlin, unafraid. He needed the boy to see he believed in him. That he was loved. That they did not want to hurt him.
“Daddy?” He turned to her now. She was still dressed in her pajama’s, her hair in a loose disheveled braid, and her front tooth wiggled as she spoke. They had spoken to her briefly about the boy yesterday, but Harry knew she hadn’t really understood. How could she, when he was almost positive she didn’t remember him at all, except for the memories Alex and he had kept in her head, or perhaps simply put there. He was the brother everyone knew she had once had. The unknown boy in the pictures of her as a baby. The boy whose name still made her mum and dad cry. Someone whose presents sat unopened under the tree year after year. He was a stranger to her. He might well have been an invisible friend, and indeed, there had been once upon a time that Emma had thought that was the case.
“Emma, this is Devlin,” he said, motioning to Devlin and smiling at her reassuringly. She lingered at the door, her bare feet dancing lightly in uncertainty. Finally she stepped lightly into the room and over to him. She hid half behind him while she contemplated climbing into his lap and for a moment Harry couldn’t help but recall the small boy hiding behind the monster.
“Daddy, why are you here and how come Mama isn’t cooking breakfast? I’m gonna be late for school.” Her body was pressed against his side and her hands were wrapped around his arm.
“We’re all staying home today,” he said, trying to inject excitement into his voice. “To have a family day!”
“Quinn is bringing in his bunny today, Daddy.”
“Oh...perhaps we can ask to see it this weekend?”
She looked at him oddly, as if he simply weren’t getting her point. But Harry understood her perfectly well, he simply preferred her not to know that - because if she did, he would have to explain to her why they weren’t allowing her to go to school.
“I want to go to school, Daddy,” she said, with a bit of stubbornness leaking into her voice. She eyed Devlin nervously and Harry understood, no matter how painful it was for him to understand - Emma wanted everything to be as it should be, at least from her perspective. “Daddy?”
But how did he tell her that it might be weeks before they felt she could go back to school? How did he explain to her without her linking it to Devlin’s appearance? How did he protect any desire she had to get to know him? And furthermore, how did he make sure Devlin didn’t feel he had messed something up by returning?
He swallowed, trying to find the words.
“Emma...” Devlin’s eyes were on him, boring into his soul. “Mum and I want you home for a little, so we can all get to know Devlin better, alright?”
Emma crumpled her brow, considering his words. It wasn’t what she wanted and Harry knew there was as much a chance that she would agree as that she would begin to cry. Devlin began to laugh. Harry turned to him, questioning. Emma hid another bit of herself behind him.
“What’s so funny?” He asked, trying to sound intrigued and not disturbed.
“You. I guess you always try to make things sound better than they are.” There was a caustic edge to his voice that seemed to carry more hatred than anything the boy had said to him so far. Harry leaned back, more hurt than he should have been by the words. It was true about him around his children, after all.
“I don’t understand,” he said softly. Emma clung to him.
“Tsk, tsk, of course not,” he said, but then his eyes abruptly shadowed and he fell silent, his laughter vanishing from the air.
“Why aren’t you happy?” Emma asked, innocently, from behind him. He sucked in a breath, afraid of Devlin’s answer.
He looked at her, or at what little of her he could see from behind Harry.
“I want to go home,” he said softly. “Would you be happy, if someone took you away from home?”
She shook her head sharply, digging her hands into the back of Harry’s shirt fabric.
“But...Uncle Sirius said you were coming home...”
“No,” he said and the clipped tone was back. As if the other had merely been a tactic that he realized wasn’t going to get him anywhere. Harry knew it had to be so, because Voldemort might have honed Devlin’s ability to employ false emotions to his voice, but he had been capable even as a small boy. It pained Harry to see him using his finesse this way, though. He remembered a time when the boy had used it to wrap everyone around his fingers, or get Sirius out of a bad prank. “My home is somewhere else.”
Emma shifted behind him.
“Are you gonna help him get home, Daddy?” She asked, as if something had suddenly made sense to her. It broke Harry’s heart. Suddenly he wished selfishly that he hadn’t turned Alexandra’s alarm off, because she was so much better at these things, especially explaining things to Emma.
“No, sweetie...I’ll explain it later, alright?” She nodded and he silently thanked Merlin that she wasn’t in one of her ‘why?’ moods.
“Will you reach the cereal for me, Daddy?” She asked softly, pointing to the cupboard.
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