Chapter 24 : Draco and his House Elves
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It was deathly quiet in their quarters except for an old Cromwellian clock ticking. Seven wax candles of varying colors and heights were lit on a low night stand next to a full length mirror.
Draco knew they would stop the clock, snuff out the candles, and cover the mirror at her final breath, as was customary for their age-old culture. They were waiting for her to die.
“You cannot die, Trinket. I promised your cousin Starlet that you would visit and go stay with her for awhile at Hogwarts.”
He wasn’t sure if this news would help her, but it was the truth. Maybe it would give her something to live for, enough to keep her alive.
Just then, he recalled how much the house elf loved to decorate the manor, especially at Christmas. “She’ll tend to you so that you can get better so that you can decorate Hogwarts castle for every holiday and special event they have there. They are going to need you now.”
“Decorating Hogwarts Castle, sir?” she asked him with curiosity and hopeful intrigue, as if it would be something to look forward to doing someday. Maybe.
He actually couldn’t promise that there would be festivities at Hogwarts. Not now. There were so many things uncertain. So he replied the only way that he could. “If the past is any indication, then certainly, yes.”
“Oh, Trinket would love to decorate a real living magical castle. A dream it is… and to see Cousin Starlet once more.” She managed a smile that crept across her face at the possibilities and the fond memories of the elfish duo and all the mischief they caused as little youngsters.
Draco could see the elf pink up as some color came back to her face. He was glad to see it and hoped the elf lived to see her castle dreams come true.
“Starlet graciously helped me this very night. I asked how I could repay her kindness and her only wish was to see you. I made a promise that I would send you to visit. It’s time to go now.”
Draco stood then with an idea that could very well get him into a lot of trouble with his parents, but he didn’t particularly care too much about their opinion on the matter. It would look like a bit of revenge, but that would be a convenient advantage that would hide his real reason. For he was about to give them all orders… sending all of the elves away from the dangers and nightmares lurking at Malfoy Manor.
“Barley, Britt,” he addressed the elves tending to Trinket. “You two are to take Trinket to Hogwarts and live there with her and do whatever tasks Starlet needs you to do. If she has nothing for you to do, then you are to tend the gardens. And if that doesn’t keep you busy, then take your time and slowly wash every stone block holding up Hogwarts Castle. Do you understand?”
All seven sets of eyes were on him as they realized what their Master Draco was doing.
He was saving them.
He picked up on their staring. It was a moment of silence.
“Hurry up and say your goodbyes if you need to. But you three need to go now,” he ordered a little more forcefully. “Save Trinket.”
“Yes, Master Draco,” Britt replied finally, blinking away large watery eyes.
Barley couldn’t speak. He nodded his head solemnly, worried for Trinket and for what was going to happen to Master Draco for sending them away.
Draco wasn’t sure what to do with Judd at first, but then someone he hadn’t seen in awhile came to mind; someone he still considered part of his family, even if she was technically disowned. She could probably use the help.
“Judd, you’ve been with the Malfoy family the longest of any elf. You know my Aunt Andromeda well enough. You are to go to her home, tell her that Draco Malfoy has ordered you to stay and assist her until I collect you at a later time. Do you understand?”
The elf bowed his understanding, but remained silent as he pondered what Draco was doing.
“Tauller,” Draco acknowledged the eldest of his house elves, the one that made the jewelry out of Narcissa’s scraps at Christmas. “I’m sending you back to your old Master, the jeweler, temporarily. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to see you working your jewelry magic once more.”
“I know he will take you in and you’ll love the work. Go. Work for him, Tauller. And don’t you stop making jewelry until I summon you. I’ll owl him first chance I get so that he understands my expectations. I’ll pay him to keep you well fed. Here,” he said handing the elf every last bill and coin in his pockets. “Give him this now and tell him there will be more from time to time.”
The old elf stared at the heavy wad of money in his hands in awe. He blinked and remained silent for a long moment. The elf had his opinions of Wizard-kind gathered over years of experience, changing ownership every so many years. He came to the Malfoys when his last master lost him to Lucius in a game of Wizard’s poker. But this exchange was different. This young Wizard was temporarily giving him back to the Master that taught him his best skills… work that he loved. And he was doing it so that he wouldn’t have to live in darkness… or die in it.
“Trying to save us all, sir,” the old elf could barely believe it. "Tis the kindest thing Tauller has ever witnessed from a Wizard, sir. Amazing, it is,” he commented, tightening his grip on the money.
Just then, Monty appeared again, finished with his task of retrieving alcohol for the growing party. He now watched Draco with much dislike and distrust.
“Goodbye, Master Draco. You’ve been so good… to Trinket.” She smiled bittersweetly, bidding her farewell.
“Goodbye, friend. Get better.”
Her little face lit up at being called ‘friend,’ causing a happy tear to flow down her cheek. And soon after, the three disapparated to Hogwarts, fully intending to follow his orders or die trying.
“Get out of here, you old elf. That’s an order,” he kindly patted Tauller on the back, just seconds before the elf Disapparated to go find a particular Wizard jeweler living in the oldest parts of Westminster.
“Tell her… I wish her well, Judd.” Draco eyed cryptically to the elf going to his Aunt Andromeda.
Judd recognized the young Malfoy’s cunning. For Draco had made sure that Monty had not heard where any of the elves were going. He purposefully made it so that Monty would not be able to tell Lucius of their locations.
Judd never had been an elf of many words. It was a rare occasion that he spoke his mind. Draco expected the elf to bow respectfully and leave. He did not expect his mouth to open as if he wanted to say something, but was holding back, waiting for permission.
“You have permission to speak.”
“Judd believes Master Draco to be… the greatest Malfoy that has ever lived, sir.”
Draco knew the elf had served the Malfoys for several generations, but wasn’t sure what to think about that sentiment. Surely that couldn’t be true, could it?
“Goodbye, Juddy,” Draco replied, using the name he had called him when he as a child.
Not looking at Draco in the eye, the elf gave a half-smile at the name, then Apparated away to begin his new task.
That left only two elves remaining…. Skippen and Monty. Monty was the elf that Draco was forced to punish years ago. He was also the house elf most loyal to Lucius.
“Monty?” Draco addressed, knowing full well the elf wouldn’t leave the Manor, but he made the one-word offer regardless.
“Monty only serves Master Lucius and will not leave. Master will not like what you’ve done here tonight. No. No. No. He will be most upset at what you’ve done.”
“Would you rather I let them all die like the first three?” Draco snapped.
Monty said nothing. He only snapped his fingers and disappeared, most likely straight to Lucius.
The noise in the Manor was getting rather loud with Death Eaters drunk on the spilled blood of their enemy… on their way to being drunk with Fire Whiskey and wine. Draco wanted to leave to some place safer before Lucius began barking orders at house elves who would not answer.
“Orchard. Let’s go.” He wasted no more time in Apparating to his favorite place on the grounds; the apple orchard.
As soon as they landed at the stone and iron features of the main orchard entrance, Draco lit four torch lamps with his wand.
“Where do you want to go? To Hogwarts? With Tauller or Judd? You can go anywhere in the world. Do you want me to free you? You can go be with Dobby… wherever that is,” he asked as they began walking and lighting more torch lamps on the path.
“Skippen stays with Master Draco.”
“You may be killed.”
“They will make you clean up blood and bury dead bodies and such.”
Draco noticed the elf had stopped walking behind him. He turned to see him close his eyes and nod his understanding. It was more of a look of defeat and a sad memory that told Draco that he already had to bury the dead, most likely the three elves killed for not obeying Voldemort’s commands.
“I’m truly sorry about the three… which is why I’m not sorry for ordering the others to leave.”
Draco’s mind went to a dark place then; thinking of death and how easily people died… enemies and followers alike. A familiar dread crept into his chest, imagining what it had been like for the elves these past six months.
“I’m not sure,” he paused, taking a breath. “I’m not sure my family will survive this war, Skippen. Should Mother and Father not survive; will you help me bury them in the family cemetery on the northern end of the property? They would want to be buried there.”
“Of course, Master.”
“And Skippen, should something happen to me, I don’t want to be buried there. I want to be buried in the apple orchard, high on the hill that overlooks the grounds. Bury me under my favorite tree. You know the one? The one I fell out of when I was a child?”
The elf nodded. He knew the one.
“Do it magically if you must. Even if you need to make it look like I’m buried in the family plot.” Draco looked down at his elf, who had become visibly upset. “That is not an order. It would be… a final request.”
Skippen was now silently crying because of the sad words his master was saying.
“What about you? Do you have a favorite spot?” Draco asked sincerely.
“Must not talk of such things, Master.” Skippen bowed his head and covered his eyes with his oversized hands and long fingers, now sobbing. “It’s too sad.”
“I’m just trying to be prepared is all. Tell me now and we won’t ever speak of it again.”
The elf could only think of one spot, only one place that he would want as his final resting place.
“The high edge of the brook where it meets the meadow, sir,” he managed to say through a sob. “Where the Tiger Lilies and Narcissa flowers grow all summer.”
It was a beautiful spot. The wildflowers grew in a vast sea of orange and white running alongside the brook.
The elf tried to hold in his sobs, but he let out a sound that was much like a wolf pup crying out a long and drawn out song.
“Okay, okay,” Draco assured his elf. “We won’t speak of it again.”
After a long moment, the elf wiped his long nose with his shirt and finally spoke.
“Give Skippen something to do, Master.” The elf needed to be occupied with work to feel like he was helping his master. “Skippen needs a job.”
“Guard the perimeter of the orchard. I intend to spend the night out here. I will not celebrate the death of Albus Dumbledore.”
It was Draco’s turn to bow his head in sad memory… or was it shame?
“Yes, Master. Skippen will stay and guard.”
“I might be in my Animagus state. So don’t be alarmed if you should see me.”
“Yes, Master. And Judd was right… being the greatest.”
Draco peered down at the elf and frowned.
“I’ve done terrible things. Things that you do not know about.”
“But you’ve done much good in secret. Dobby told Skippen of his orders, sir. ‘Must save Harry Potter.’"
Furious that the elf knew of it, his teeth clenched.
“Don’t you ever utter those four words again,” Draco warned lowly. “Do you know the danger of merely speaking of it? It would be good of you to keep it to yourself or you’ll be burying me by sunup.”
“Yes, Master. Skippen is most sorry and will never mention it again.”
Draco took his leave then… walking the path that took him deeper into the orchard, the one place in the world that he knew better than any other. He could walk it blindfolded and tell exactly where he was by the sounds of the trees, the trickling of the brook, and by the rolling hills of it. Tree after tree, growing in near perfectly straight rows, he loved it. It was his own private park, complete with several cobblestone paths and an occasional fountain or statue placed here or there. It was beautiful no matter the time of year.
And right now, it was an escape from the world. Finally, he could be alone and try to sort through all that had happened.
Knowing his blond head made him vulnerable, he took a few running steps and with a leap, transformed into a creature of beauty, strength, and stealth.
Passing the reflecting pool, he recalled the last time he was there. For it was here that after Occlumency lessons from his Aunt Bellatrix to assist with his dark task, he would come here to learn the grandest of transformation skills by none other than Wormtail.
He thought it a shame that he was the only available teacher of such difficult magic, but Draco was determined and patient during his lessons and did exactly what the rat was saying and demonstrating.
He remembered walking to the reflecting pool with thrill and curiosity at what he had become… the feeling of pride that swelled within at succeeding. But it was short-lived as he looked into the watery reflection only to see a Black Panther with his gray eyes.
No! No! He growled a hollow rattle deep within his chest. Father will be most disappointed, he thought of his form. Too closely related to a lion… like a Gryffindor.
He had lifted a large midnight black paw to see razor-sharp claws, but only felt ashamed of his transformation and quickly followed Wormtail’s instructions to return to his human form.
“You will tell no one of our lessons or what I have become… especially not Father… or you will meet a bloody end,” he warned with venom.
Wormtail promised silence to the young, powerful Wizard not understanding his demeanor. The transformation had been the most magnificent he’d ever witnessed. But he took heed of the threat, eyes wide and unblinking.
Besides the rat, Skippen was the only other being that knew of it and he wanted to keep it that way. Well, those two and now a third, Hermione. She knew.
Once he got to his destination, he took a flying leap and sunk his claws deep into the bark, pulling himself up the tree. His wounds from Sectumsempra caused tolerable pain, but it took his breath a bit. He continued his climb and perched himself high above the grounds and took his favorite spot with a full view of Malfoy Manor.
Draco looked upon his ancestral home now lit up like a party. He watched as streams of black smoke descended upon the place, signaling the arrival of more followers of the Dark Lord.
He stiffened once more, muscles tight, high on the thick limb, watching the invasion of his home thinking of the sick reason for their celebration.
His not being punished didn’t sit well. Voldemort was unpredictable, yes, but not merciful. He enjoyed head games and Draco didn’t trust it, feeling as though he hadn’t heard the last of not completing his task.
The memories of the night tore through him as he saw the Headmaster.
Dumbledore attempting to talk him out of it. His face as he was struck down. The horror of it. His part in it.
His stomach threatened to convulse once more and he began shaking uncontrollably.
Snape did it. Not him. Snape. But that was no consolation. It was supposed to be him. Either way, someone was still dead and he did nothing to stop it. He knew this night was coming. He was an accessory to murder. It was his fault.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
The darkness consumed him; Dread, Shame, Disgrace. His soul felt as black as his thick coat.
He had to get out of this mindset. Escape somehow...
Just the thought of her name brought a calmness to him like nothing else.
By the end of the wretched day, Draco had loved her and lost her in the very same hour.
And with the help of a Hogwarts house elf named Starlet, he visited her room to deliver a message, hoping she would understand. He left it in a place hidden from site, but where he knew she would find it.
He stood by Hermione's bedside while she slept like the angel she was… a sleeping beauty… a princess who had fallen for the wrong wretched prince.
He watched her chest rise and fall peacefully underneath a faded and threadbare Hogwarts standard-issue bed covering that disgusted him. Surely her parents had money for better. But of course, Hermione wasn’t the kind to complain about using a sub-standard school blanket, which is precisely the reason why she deserved better. He shook his head at the thought. It upset him immensely.
“I would’ve given you the FINEST…” he told her in his head as his fist came to his mouth. He dare not make a sound. “If you only could’ve been MINE.”
He was glad of this last moment with her. It was peaceful. She wasn’t looking at him with hatred and hurt.
With one hand covering his broken heart that would always be hers, he mouthed one last farewell with a new fear. Fear that Hermione would follow Potter into battle against Death Eaters that would lead straight to her death.
“Be safe, Love. Be safe... and live.”
He looked down at Starlet and took her hand, signaling that he was ready for the elf to Apparate him away to confront his dark destiny.
He meant what he said about loving her until the day he died. He had no regrets in saying it and was happy to know that it was the last thing she heard him say. For the love he had for her would be a constant presence that would always be with him, an unfulfilled wanting that would never fully go away… living deep within until the day he would take his last breath.
Draco closed his eyes and could feel the way her hands were on him, loving him, wanting him. And when he opened them, he felt privileged suddenly. Not the kind of privilege that one would think he would ever feel. It was the privilege in knowing that he was truly loved by someone at least for a few moments.
He was humbled by the thought. For they truly had loved each other… at least right up until he had revealed the truth of what he really was. There would be none like her, he knew. No one that he would ever feel so strongly about ever again in all his life.
It was no wonder that in a futuristic dream, he was incapable of loving someone else. His feelings just ran too deep, untouchable.
Draco couldn’t believe that what truly began as a dream about hurting Hermione and their unborn son could actually come to this. Such feelings of love and pure joy at being with her could turn into equally opposite feelings of such utter brokenness and pain. Such disaster. For he had fallen in love with the Forbidden, who couldn’t ever possibly return that love.
Draco had hoped that regardless of the dire circumstance that would keep them apart, that at least he could go on knowing that he had her love, if nothing else. But that wasn’t reality.
Wasn’t love supposed to live and breathe despite being oceans or worlds apart? Wasn’t love supposed to transcend everything, even when all else was lost?
But no. It didn’t work like Draco wanted it to. It didn’t work like that at all, he thought. He knew now that it didn’t. Because when he point-blank asked her, “Could you love a Death Eater?” she said, “No!”
He recalled her face as love and trust disintegrated to lifeless ash before his very eyes, burning to nothing.
Her rejection had struck directly at his heart, relentlessly squeezing and torturing him to near death, but there would be no such mercy.
She hurt him more than all the women of his past combined. He would take their hurt tenfold over the pain he felt from her.
It hurt far worse than anything his father ever did or said to him.
Worse than the pain of Cruciatus.
Worse than the pain of Sectumsempra.
The person he loved most in the world; the person that understood him more than any other couldn’t love him.
And why would she?
Draco felt a surge of power through him. It built and built into an eruption that he could not contain. He could no longer hold in his feelings, letting out a low moaning rattle deep within his chest that built into a fierce roar of grief and sadness at so much raw emotional pain. His claws sunk deep into the tree limb as again and again he roared and cried his utter frustration, his powerlessness, his hatred of the world… pouring his heart out until he collapsed, utterly spent until he could cry no more.
The sound of it echoed through the trees in the orchard and made Skippen shake a bit with fear. He knew his master was in pain and anguish at all that had happened and he would do as his master ordered to the best of his magical ability. He would stand guard and die for his beloved master, if need be.
Draco opened serious, brooding, angry eyes at his Malfoy Manor now filled and crawling with Death Eaters.
“Love,” Draco thought as his heart succumbed to an icy winter storm, “delicate and vicious.”
“Do you have a favorite spot?” Oh, so sad, speaking of where they want to be buried. Sorry if this chapter seemed rambling as Draco is really hurting right now and does not trust a ‘merciful’ Dark Lord.
Up next, Hermione gets his message and it is nothing that anyone will expect.
Love to all and thank you so much for your Reviews!
Much Love Always,
Update: 63,000 Reads! *gasps* And 293 have Favorited! Like Draco, I am deeply humbled and feel privileged. Thank you from my heart!
Also, "Follow Me Down" has been written for the House Cup 2013.- about a canon character who travels back home to retrieve the ashes of her beloved. Check it out if interested. Go Slytherin House!
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