Chapter 36 : A Far Away Place
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He stared at him, facinated. This was the Harry that Grandfather knew. This Harry; full of direction and courage and stubbornness.This was the Harry that Voldemort shared a prophesy with. This was the Harry that his grandfather was afraid of. He frowned at his own thought pattern and scratched out the misspoken thought as if it were lines in an essay. It wasn't that grandfather feared Harry, because grandfather did not fear anyone - it was that he thought there was a possibility Harry could kill him. Harry was his Death, and Voldemort Harry's Death and he thought they each could play the part magnificently.
He wondered whose Death he was, in the scheme of things.
Dubhán was startled when Potter sent one of the arriving healers to him, and tried to verbally dismiss the lady.
"I'm not hurt," he said firmly. Harry had wrapped him in a blanket (insisted it was protocol and he shouldn't take it off), and sat him at the sidelines. Three Auror's stood beside him, and they had promised his father that they would not even let him stand up.
The healer laughed kindly, as if she were bemused.
"I'm sure," she said, her voice like the rustle of wind through grass. "But how can we know, until we clean up all the blood?"
She smiled again, more calmly, and nodded.
She lifted his arm first, and he was startled to see the cuts across his skin. Probably from running. His wolf felt less than him. She cleaned and healed the superficial cuts.
"Now, this is going to hurt a bit more, alright?"
He frowned, and she reached forward. Her hand snaked around his head to feel at the back of his skull, and he reared to his feet.
"Don't touch me!" He roared, the first words on his tongue. He reached his own hand to his head. His hair was wet and slick and when he drew his fingers back, there was blood. He could smell it in the air now, clearly his own scent. Distantly he remembered all the stunners that had made their aim although failed to actually stun him. Just moving, he could feel the bruises across his side suddenly and all over his back. The blanket had fallen and he looked down at his body to see that his shirt was seared and ripped.
The lady could see the snake, and the Auror's behind him could surely see patches of the scars across his back. Without a word, the lady levitated the blanket back onto his shoulders.
"It's alright. These men are your dads best guys - they aren't going to say anything. Right boys?"
"Yes, ma'm," they all said in unison. The healer smiled calmly.
"And I am a Healer and the only people I talk about your care with are your parents. I assume they already know."
He nodded and she nodded.
"Then lets have a look at that head of yours, alright? The bruises I can check in the house later with your father. The head I need to see now."
He nodded and she snaked her hand around his skull again.
Don't think. Don't feel. Don't move. Don't scream.
The sharpness circled him in his head.
"You're doing a great job. So, how old are you?"
"Nine. Almost ten."
"How long until you're ten? My five year old claims she is 'almost six', although that is nine months away."
"I donno. A couple weeks."
"How exciting. What do you want for your birthday?"
"To get stronger."
She smiled. The Auror's laughed.
"Stronger than my dad. Stronger than the Dark Lord. Stronger than Dumbledore. I want to be the strongest."
"That's quite a goal. Why such big plans?"
"Because I want to make all the rules."
"Oooh, a little politician, hmm?"
Her wand touched his scalp and he could feel the pulse of her magic checking his skull.
"You hit your head pretty hard," she told him.
"No, something hit me pretty hard," he clarified.
"Ever broken a bone before?" She asked.
"Yes. My arm."
"Well then, you're going to know just a little bit about how fun this is going to be, honey. Thankfully, you're a powerful little boy, and your magic kept you safe. That, however, won't last."
She looked up from her crouch at the Auror's.
"Go get Mr. Potter for me. He will want to accompany us to St. Mungo's, I'm sure."
He turned his gaze from the Healer to stare at the retreating figure of the Auror as he approached Harry. The moment the Auror's mouth opened, the Harry-warrior was gone, and the the Harry that Voldemort would never know was there again, sprinting toward him.
Something foreign but cousin to pleasure raced through his aching head as he realized he was the only one alive who knew Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort intimately.
"What's wrong?" The healer asked suddenly, as a small whistle rang out. He looked at her, perplexed. "You either just had a fright - which seems rational, or you are very very happy..."
"I just realized I'm a little stronger than I thought, is all," he said softly.
Harry reached him. Hands on him. Eyes on the Healer, asking what was so serious. Harry pulled him against himself and they were gone.
St. Mungo's smelled like nothing he had ever smelled before, mainly because it smelled like nothing at all. The people's scents overwhelmed him. There was a stretcher waiting for him and they laid him down despite his protest.
Harry's hand was still on his hand, and Dubhán could feel the magic seeping through Harry's hand - ready at a seconds notice of danger to rip through St. Mungo's wards and take him away.
Dubhán felt like he was going to vomit the longer they worked on his head.
There was a Healer looming in front of him, now.
"I'm going to make sure there wasn't any damage, alright lad?"
He stared at him, not stupid enough to make the movement of a nod.
He expected a spell. A bit of pain.
Instead he could feel the cool fog of someone trying to enter his mind. It was a gentle, unfocused sort of push - like someone knocking on a door but not really wanting to come in.
Somehow, he knew he shouldn't show this person his meadow. The only one to have seen it was Snape. Instead he thought of the ocean. Thought of the waves, rolling and rushing forward, slamming onto the dampening sand. He thought of leaving footprints in the sand. Thought of lifting a seashell and using his magic to hurl it out into the vast nothingness of the water. He carefully cropped Voldemort out of the picture. Carefully avoided those moments when he had looked toward the heavy cliff in front of them. Kept the idea that there was a purpose to him being there from his thoughts.
The healer pulled out, frowning.
"Do you want something to help you sleep?" He asked. Dubhán wished he didn't feel so ill, because he would have studied the man's face more carefully and been able to retract whether the man knew he had purposefully kept him from entering his mind.
"No," he said, clenching his teeth. "I'll take care of that."
The Healer who was taking care of his head frowned with perplexity. Perhaps they thought he was talking rubbish.
The nothingness was creeping in at the corners of his vision, except it didn't feel exactly as...foul..as the nothingness usually lurking there and he let himself slide into it. He awoke into the field, his sharpness prowling around his body.
"Awake now, hmm?" It asked, the snout making movements Dubhán knew was impossible. He reached forward and it came toward him. His hand curled into the soft-wiry fur.
"No. I'm unconscious," he said, laughing at the joke. The sharpness snarled - not harshly - but almost as a disapproving sound, as his hand moved through his fur and found it's way to his ear.
"You're awake here!" the sharpness said, it's head lowering between it's shoulder blades to stare at him intently.
"Yes, that's true enough."
The sharpness huffed.
When he awoke next it was in a large bed. Under the covers he was wearing nothing but a pair of long, tight, underwear that look suspiciously new. There were bandages in places and he could feel the thick bruise salve they were covering. The rudimentary snake scar stared at him upside down.
There were no bandages on his head, but that simply made sense; wizards did not need bandages except to hold salve against the skin. They had healed whatever surface damage had been done to his head, but bruises would take longer.
Alexandra was asleep in a large chair he suspected was conjured. There was a book on her lap, but the spine wasn't visible, and she was too far away from him to be able to read upside down or at all.
Wherever he was, it was hushed. All the lights were on in the room - as if someone had had the foresight to make sure he would be easily visible incase of some further problem. He turned his neck further against his pillow and could see that it was pitch dark outside. Zee, who he hadn't even realized was there as he was laying against the side of the bed, quite hidden from his compromised line of vision, shifted at his movement. The dog had a bad habit of yawning when he was just woken and the action always ended with a high, quick: hueeh.
It woke Alexandra up. The book fell to the ground. She stared at him for a moment, as if not quite realizing he was actually awake.
"How are you feeling?" She asked, rubbing at her face. Exhaustion had written itself on her face plainly and with a bold stroke. To be honest he couldn't quite recall ever seeing her without some level of exhaustion.
"Do you ever sleep properly?" He asked instead, choosing to disregard and avoid her question. She laughed a bit - soft and hushed.
"No, not really. I haven't since I was a girl."
She smiled with the sort of bemusement adults do when they must make a conscious effort to understand how a child cannot understand something. Not everyone smiled that way, of course, but Dubhán had seen it enough times to recognize.
"There is always something more pressing to do, I suppose."
"That's what he says about food, and sleep, and stupid conversations."
"I have to be honest," she said, rubbing at her face again, "I can't really imagine any conversation he would find interesting. Nor can I really imagine him eating, or sleeping."
"That's alright. He doesn't find much of any conversation to be interesting. He eats whatever they make and put in front of him."
"He doesn't have a favorite food?"
With Harry he could never have this casual conversation. Voldemort and Harry Potter were simply not supposed to mix in any benign way - ever. But it was through Alexandra that he was Voldemort's and that made it all seem at least plausible. Maybe there was still calming draughts in his blood.
He shrugged. Alexandra smiled.
He shifted against the pillow to stare at the ceiling.
"How did you meet, anyways?"
He could almost sense her frown.
And now she sighed in that sort of content way that Dubhán had only known Bellatrix to do when Voldemort paid her a compliment.
"When I graduated school I moved back to England - where my mum was - but more importantly where the war was. I wanted to help. I was excellent at wards and came highly recommended. I meant to be hired by the Ministry, but they weren't interested in untested warders or breakers. Then Dumbledore contacted me, and it was through him that I met Harry."
"You were young," he said, almost delicately. "In the middle of a war."
"Yes. I suppose people do things they might not normally, when they think they are going to die."
He thought of himself, and found that to be pretty accurate. The associated images, which usually kept themselves buried flashed through his mind: the knife, the healer, Voldemort looming over him, the boy in the corner, screaming, Maria, the blond boy, the cliff-
"Where are we?" He asked, trying to disrupt the reel of memories behind his eyes.
"A cottage," Alexandra said. "I'm afraid that's all I can say."
The smile on her face let him know that was true; it was under some kind of secrecy charm of which he was not privy. He nodded.
"I'm practically naked, you know," he said, awkwardly. "I have to use the loo."
"I can get you some clothes," she said and rose to pull a pair of pants and a pull loose button down shirt out of a bag. The pants were baggy and had no zip or button at the waist, and the shirt was loose and casual. Both fit over his bandages nicely, and he was able to get dressed mostly under the blankets.
"I'll show you which way," she said, rising again.
"You could just tell me," he said, but then he put weight on his body and his head wooshed unpleasantly.
"I think I'll show you," she said, smiling.
The moon streamed in through a window at the end of the hallway and out of it he could see crisp blue waves crashing onto white creamy sand.
The loo was two doors down from his and thankfully Alexandra didn't find it necessary to help him there.
When he was done he ran the hot water out of the tap long enough that humid steam rose into the air and fogged up the perfectly muggle mirror hung above the sink. His face looked relatively untouched, but his shoulder cap was covered in a bandage and was tender to the touch. The back of his skull pulsed as if in remembrance.
"You are such a fool," he said to himself, looking in the mirror.
He glared, trying to bury the onslaught of anxiety beneath the tricky-control of anger and self-loathing.
The word seemed reverberate in his head ominously.
Foolish, to rescue the girl. Foolish to try to escape. Foolish to put the picture in Geoffrey's pocket. Foolish to-
He glared harder, trying to shove the memories associated with that word back. The muggle mirror fractured like a spiderweb, the lines near invisible except for the fact that they disrupted the reflected image.
He swallowed and turned away, retreating to the hallway.
When he got back to the room, Alexandra was gone. He sank onto the bed, climbed beneath the sheets, and clung to his whirling head.
A glinting knife. On his knees. The healer. Voldemort looming above him-
He stood up and staggered out of the room. The hallway opened into a living room, and he found Harry sitting on the sofa there, a magical cold pack on his own tender shoulder.
"Hey," he said, softly. "Alex said you just woke up. She just went to grab you some soup."
"Where are we?"
"A cottage by the sea," Harry said, and he knew it was all they were going to tell him.
He glanced at the windows facing what he thought was the front door. The sea shone in the moonlight.
"I don't think you've ever been to the beach-"
"Yes, I have," he said.
Cool sand beneath his feet. Crisp waves. Hurling seashells into the vast blue nothingness of the ocean. A giant imposing cliff.
"He brought me once."
"Oh." Harry seemed almost disappointed. "Ever been swimming?"
"Maybe we'll be here long enough to try!"
He shrugged and settled himself down beside Harry on the sofa.
"Did they catch him?" He asked, rubbing at his head and trying to dispel the thoughts he normally kept well under wraps.
"No," Harry said; although Draco had gone unnamed, it was clear to Dubhán that Harry knew. He removed the cold pack. "I hope you're right."
The words were quiet. Like the smile, they were just for him. He smirked and settled his head against the sofa.
"I bet all the books I have," he said - a phrase he hadn't said in so long. His room with Grandfather swam before his eyes.
"Is that quite a lot?" Harry asked. He was smiling; the smile that was only for Dubhán.
"Yes. Two of my walls. He buys me books whenever he comes back from trips. Sometimes he brings me children's books, but not often. My favorite are the really old ones, full of smells of places I've never been."
Harry frowned thoughtfully, his green eyes hooded and a look of deep consideration tempering the smile that was just for Dubhán.
"Were they books you asked for?"
Dubhán smiled as he thought of them all - of the way he used to be able to lose himself in the books. It was a defense Harry's house had stripped him of and he felt it's tug now.
"No. The first time it was because I had asked for something to do. He asked Geoffrey if I had behaved while he was gone and he gave me a book when Geoffrey had said yes. It was full of pictures of animals - with information about them. The animals were sketched and it was on the thick heavy paper that meant it was old. He said it was valuable and if I was good to it, he would get me more."
"There are some books here, if you like. In the study down the hall."
He shook his head.
"It's alright. My head kinda hurts anyways."
"Can I go for a walk?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll come with you."
The word hurled itself from him; even Bellatrix was regarding him with terror. Normally such things would please him. Normally he would pause to observe the way his flock of half-witted followers trembled before him. Presently, he did not, however.
He was thinking of the boy.
"He ran away, My Lord," Malfoy said, shaking from the remaining tendrils of Crucio still lingering in his body.
He stepped closer to Malfoy, his nostrils flaring, feeling the sort of all-consuming rage he had not felt since he was a boy.
"Look at me," he said, voice silky and dangerous. Malfoy knew better than to disobey, and his silver eyes lifted. His lip was bruised from where he had caught it between his teeth in the throws of his convulsion.
He did not need words or a wand to enter into the man's eyes. Normally this was one particular area that he attempted to control himself, because one minuet wrong move and Legimency could make a perfectly capable man perfectly useless. Malfoy, however, had not recently proven any such usefulness.
He was in the field behind the house, Death Eater's surrounding him. He turned so that his regard was pointed in the same direction.
Dubhán had grown. He could tell, even from this far away. The boy appeared winded and there was that carefully controlled terror on his face that had always pressed Voldemort to be intrigued.
Potter was beside him, pulling the boy along at a desperate pace, Dubhán's spindly legs staggering to keep up. Voldemort scowled. The boy did not need to run. The closer he came, the clearer the poor shape of the boy became. He felt a strike of possessiveness overcome him.
Then they saw the Death Eaters and his Dubhán's face changed immediately; more guarded, less terrified. Voldemort smirked. He knew then that, whether or not Potter had been able to put things in Dubhán's head or not, the boy's loyalty had not been completely broken.
He shifted, as if he might have wanted to break away from Potter and come to the Death Eaters. His eyes searching the crowd frantically for something that Voldemort could not decipher.
"Your Grandfather misses you, little dark one," Malfoy said into the night, his voice crisp. "Don't be foolish. Step away from Potter and I'll whisk you away before we beat him to an inch of his death."
But Dubhán was anything but foolish, and the mere accusation made the boy scowl deeply.
"I do not appreciate your tone," Dubhán was saying, his voice and face emotionless and dangerous. "Ask me again. On your knees. Leave off all the unnecessary rubbish. I don't care what you do with Potter but you certainly won't deny me the right to watch."
Voldemort stepped closer in the memory, tilting his head with curiosity. Bellatrix voiced his own thoughts, although her narration was fractured and less than eloquent, as always.
And then he heard it, what he had so patiently been waiting to hear.
"I am only his."
A shout. A declaration. Even with Potter still holding him hostage, he was loyal to Voldemort.
Malfoy looked beyond the boy. Voldemort could see it as well; Aurors breaking through the wards. Their wandlight illuminated their white robes in the distance.
"Get him," Malfoy shouted.
Immediately the Death Eaters swarmed around him and past him, rushing for the boy. Potter's grasp was relentless and he saw the boy tug and say something to Potter. Then he was gone - on the ground as that little wolf.
He pulled out of Malfoy's mind, puzzling through the memory.
When had the eagerness fled from the boys eyes?
Malfoy was gasping for air on the floor. Blood poured from his nose.
"Why did you fail?" Voldemort whispered, leaning over the pathetic wizard.
"My Lord - the boy - he ran." His words came between gasps and his silver eyes were unfocused and frantic.
"Yes - I saw. Why did he run?"
"Perhaps, My Lord - perhaps Potter has swayed his loyalty."
"No," Voldemort whispered, circling Malfoy. Bellatrix frowned off to the side. "Whichever idiot tells me why Dubhán ran, first, will go unharmed."
There was a shift. Of course they were all as terrified not to answer as to risk giving the wrong answer.
"My Lord," one of them finally said, pushing through the crowd to kneel before him. It was a werewolf.
"Tell me," Voldemort purred. His wand was already aimed.
"Dubhán hates Malfoy, My Lord. Perhaps it was less that he no longer is loyal to you, as that he does not trust Malfoy."
Malfoy glared at the Death Eater out of the corner of his eyes.
"And why do you suggest this?"
"My Lord - please forgive me for making comparisons, but the child - he is a bit like you. Malfoy scarred him for life - eternally marking him as being weaker than Malfoy - and perhaps he was seeking revenge tonight. Malfoy was hit with Crucio while in battle with Potter. It was brief and unskilled..."
Voldemort felt the corners of his lips pull upward.
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