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Chapter 38 : The Best Birthday Present
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Dumbledore was imposing and softly-threatening (like a velvet covered knife, hidden between layers of robes and magic), but she was certainly as far from 'threatening' as Dubhán had ever known anyone to be. Her eyes were quick and alert and gave him the impression that, if she so desired, she could look him in the eye and end up in his meadow. He tactfully did not look directly in her eyes and therefore could not have even told her what color eyes she had. He used the edge of her glasses as a marker; not allowing his gaze to slip onto the glass between the frames.
She had brown hair, skin that was wrinkled but not old, lips that neither smiled nor frowned but seemed stuck in a limbo between the two expressions, clear coated nails, and an expensive quick quill.
"Mr. Potter - did you hear my question?"
Her voice was calm and casual, but with an edge of knowingness that meant of course he had listened.
"Don't call me that," he said, rising his gaze to linger on the bottom edge of her glasses. "You can call me Devlin."
"Is there a reason you have a preference?" She asked, her lips flicking upwards into a smile for just a moment.
"That's what everyone calls me here," he answered, because he thought it was the least incriminating answer he could offer.
"I see. Do you go by something different, elsewhere?" Her quick quill made sporadic movements across her notebook's surface. She had probably charmed it to take shorthand.
"Yes, of course." He looked out the window, watching the waves in the distance.
"What do others call you?"
"My dad said you took an oath - that you won't be able to speak about what I tell you to anyone."
"That's true," she said, her lips flicking upwards again, settling into a reassuring smile. "Does that worry you? The idea of me telling someone what you say?"
"Of course. Is it a real oath or just a promise?"
She arched a brow.
"What would the difference in your mind be, Devlin?"
"It's not a difference in my mind. It's a difference. A real difference. One of them you end up breaking under torture - telling everything; the other you die even trying to mumble a word of what I said."
She leaned back in her chair. This time, there was an almost bemused smile caressing her lips.
"And do you think, Devlin, that your father and mother would hire someone who only made promises?"
"No, I don't, but I don't rely on my thoughts - I rely on the truth."
She nodded her head. Her quick quill zipped across the paper, breaking from it's shorthand. He wondered what word he had uttered to break it from the charm.
"Very well, Devlin. No, I have not made a simple promise. I have devoted my life to being the sort of person very powerful people can confide in. Therefore - I swear a true and binding oath of confidentiality. The only one that can break such confidence and allow me to speak to others about what you have said, is yourself."
"Good," he said, looked back from the window.
"Now," she said, "Do you go by a different name, elsewhere?" She interlaced her fingers, shifting them on her lap.
"What is your other name?" There is that smile-thoughtful-frown again.
"That's an interesting name," she said. "Is it a nickname?"
"Sort of." He drew on his pant leg with a finger. "It means 'little dark one', and when they don't call me Dubhán, they call me 'the little dark one'."
"So it is more like a nickname of a nickname?"
"I donno. I suppose. It started as a joke, because I was little and my hair was dark, then someone called me "Dubhán" and I really didn't know they were connected until someone else explained they meant the same thing."
"It is a name layered with all sorts of possibilities," she said. "It sounds a bit mysterious. Do you like people calling you Dubhán?"
"It's a name. Do you have to like a name?"
"I suppose liking it isn't necessary. But your name is Devlin Potter. Anything else is a nickname - and those you ought to have more control over."
"It seems foolish to argue about liking a name. It seems foolish to even be discussing liking a name."
"We can discuss something else, if you prefer. For instance, I hear you had a scare a couple days ago at home-"
"I wasn't scared," he said, even though it was a lie.
"You don't have to tell me if you were scared, Devlin."
His eyes snapped to her gaze. Voldemort's words whispered in his mind. She seemed baffled for a moment at his sudden attentiveness.
"We don't have to discuss if you were afraid, Devlin. We could just start by talking about what happened. As if you were telling me a story."
He balanced his head in one of his hands, his elbow digging into his knee, and sighed.
"What is that supposed to do?" He asked her. "What will describing what happened, do for me?"
"You told your dad that you have been having trouble, since your head injury, thinking straight. Have you ever lost something and, by retracing your steps, found it again? Describing events that are jumbled in your mind can often help to orient and organize them once more."
"I know what happened that night," he said, even though there were bits and pieces where his recollection was vague; it seemed terribly weak to admit such confusion about something that had just happened.
"Well, is there something else you would like to try and sort out, first?"
Immediately his mind jumped to Maria - the smudge on her face, the man's hands in her hair-
He stopped thinking about it just as quickly. He understood blood and wounds and screams; that he hadn't understood what had happened to Maria causioned him that perhaps he did not want to understand. Another part had labelled the vague, fuzzy, memory as something one just didn't discuss. It made his gut twist. Made his mind wander. Made him think of the cold cell, before they had dragged him in front of Voldemort.
He clenched his jaw. She looked at him and he knew that he had answered her question simply by denying her. He wiped his hands on his legs and tried to remember what Harry had said about her. He could tell her anything. She was supposed to be the one person that he could. Like talking to Zee, but she'd talk back. As safe as talking to Zee.
"It was better when they called me Dubhán," he said. He expected her to furrow her brow as her mind reached back for the reference, but she was more capable than her appearance earned her. "When they called me Dubhán, I could be what they wanted. Do things, say things, that my mum wouldn't let me. When I was still Devlin I used to throw up, thinking of her. I would do something and then I would see her in my head, telling me how disappointed she was that I wasn't strong enough to do the right thing. When I was Dubhán, she didn't haunt me, because she didn't know me."
Her gaze was solid and intelligent and there was a knowing that filled her posture. It both disturbed and comforted him.
"And when they call you Devlin, here?"
He looked at the sea and shrugged his shoulders.
"Sometimes I think I remember what he was like, but then the feeling slips through my fingers like the dry sand outside."
He wondered how terrible he must have looked tha night in the bathroom - how pathetic - for Harry to have called this lady to the cottage. It made his chest ache and his eyes feel cold, just imagining how he had looked. Broken. Torn. Worn. Weak. Lost. Confused. Unable. Worthless.
He bit the inside of his cheek.
"Harry wanted me to talk to you," he said, earnestly trying to find the words to express what was on his mind. "I think he wanted me to tell you something really important - something that would make me feel better - but I don't really think I know anything like that."
"People adapt to changes, Devlin. You were pulled from your home and pushed into a world you did not understand. Your mind, perhaps mostly without your true comprehension, adapted to ensure your survival. Your situation is anything but common, but your reaction is very typical."
He looked at her - or the bottom edge of her glasses, rather - somewhat startled. Typical. The word echoed in his mind, turned silently on his tongue, and buried itself in the folds of his furrowed brow. Typical.
He had never been called typical.
Nine year olds lie to their parents.
Your reaction is typical.
The word was ingrained in his mind, carved into the corner that everyone has for things they are not supposed to forget. Except, he was not supposed to be typical. Typical resided somewhere near it's cousin 'worthless', and he almost flinches internally as he thinks of that word.
"Did something I said bother you, Devlin?"
She looked quite concerned. It was a different concern than Harry or Alexandra (or even, Remus, Geoffrey, or Sirius) wear. It was more analytical, more aloof - as if one could be concerned for concerns sake.
"No," he said, looking at his hands. Perhaps here, it was right to be typical. Perhaps here everyone was supposed to be a little worthless. Sitting in a room alone with a Mind Healer made him all the more analytical of his situation and available moves.
"That's not the truth," she said, with that same professional smile on her face. It was almost caring, but in a distant sort of way.
"I'm not a normal boy," he said, quietly.
"What makes you think that?" Her words almost made it seems as if she couldn't quite see what he meant. "Have you spent time around other boys your age?"
"I know magic already."
"You are talented. Other boys your age, although not all of them, have particular talents too." Something on his face must have made her take pity, because she sighed and leaned forward. "You are undoubtably intelligent, Devlin and your experiences have irrefutably influenced the child you are, but they do not define you. There are children your age who live with troubling secrets, there are children your age who have no one to love them, there are children your age who are unique in their own way, just as you are unique in yours. Just because they may not have experienced the same things as you, does not mean they cannot understand some of what you are feeling."
He wanted to surge to his feet and scream at her, but he wasn't sure what words to use or which part of your lecture to tear apart. He sat very still and tried not to show how much he wanted to take action, because then she would wonder why he hadn't.
"No offense," he said, looking at his hands, "but when have you ever been kidnapped, Crucio'd, and still managed to not only to survive the wounds but to stay alive at their hands. When have you ever made that sort of change? What makes you strong enough to tell me I'm like some other boy?"
Her brow quirked.
He breathed - in and out, in and out.
"Yeah," he said, forcefully. Then a moment passed and he looked up, realization flooding him. "Harry didn't tell you?"
"Mr. Potter told me only that there was a traumatic incident at your house, that you hit your head, and that since your head injury you have had concern that you cannot 'think straight'. Your kidnapping itself was widely known."
He breathed again. Harry had told him she wouldn't know enough to judge him and that he had wanted him to open up her to her by himself. Somehow, some part of him hadn't believed Harry. Likely it was the same part that still doubted Harry's promise and reassurances from the night before.
"Oh," he felt empty and deflated. He twisted his hands, wishing the right words would materialize before him. The silence stretched around them, wrapping around his tight chest, settling on her quick quill and making it pause. "Harry calls him a monster. He doesn't really call Harry a monster, but he hates him as much as he loves himself. There's no one else that makes him so furious. No one else that makes him so...real."
Her face was no longer one of serene certainty - now she was trying to put his puzzle together, realizing all the gaps she had been missing.
"Yeah. When a boy my age said that at the Ministry ball, I said 'but I don't know who'. Voldemort."
She nodded. He realized her quill had not moved since he had expressed the unforgivable.
"I think this is the sort of case I'll keep only in my mind," she said, noticing his gaze. "I will burn those while Harry is here. I think he probably has wards up to protect you against any magic, at the moment." She was probably right, so he nodded.
His palms were sweaty, again. His mind moved sluggishly, spending a terribly long time wondering what she now thought of him.
"Now that we have discovered how little I know," she said delicately, "perhaps you would like to enlighten me with your story - in your own words."
He felt empty as she stood and he stood. Deflated and dulled as she opened the door and let him out in front of her. Not-quite-numb as they met Harry in the living room. Emma had been taken out to play in the sand.
He watched the furl of the burning paper. Harry had done the deed for them. His eyes were tired and anything but empty and he wondered how Harry fit so much feeling in himself when Dubhán had to try so hard to feel a single thing.
"Devlin - let me make sure Alexandra knows you are done. Then I'll floo Elise away, alright?"
He looked at her - at the glass of her glasses - as he put a name to her face. She smiled calmly at him as their gaze met. Her eyes were like the fallen foliage on a wooden clearing; brown earth mixing with new green life.
"It was nice speaking with you Devlin. Ask your father to contact me when you would like to continue our conversation - or start an entirely new one."
He nodded. She approached him, her brow quirking.
"Isolating facts can sometimes be a bit emptying as everything is grasped in more of a linear and distant way - as we come to terms with what we have felt and known. You'll feel better after some food and some sleep, dear."
There was a knowingness, a belief - as though she had seen the look his face was making many times before.
"That's typical, than?"
She smiled - soft and distant - and nodded.
"Yes, very typical."
Harry opened the front door, yelled out to Alexandra, and then motioned for him to join her.
Outside the sun was shining and Alexandra was using her wand to build a magnificent sand castle.
He turned ten on the hot golden sand, his hair wild in the wind, chasing after Zee. It was nothing like Emma's birthday, but he wasn't like Emma. He read books hidden in a hole he had dug while Alexandra and Emma baked him a cake and Harry went to work. Zee lay at the edge of his hole the entire time, nose pointing down at him, looking left out. Then the water began to fill his creation and he jumped with laughter to clamor out. The golden sand wasn't that much different from the golden grass, and Zee wasn't too different from his sharpness, racing away from him. For a moment he thought of Snape.
The cake was small and covered in chocolate frosting. Emma eyed it eagerly as he brushed the sand from between his toes on the front rug.
"You're tanning," Harry said, coming out from the hallway. He was dressed in muggle clothing - a button down slate blue shirt and heather grey trousers.
"Yeah," he said, looking at his arms. He hadn't had his hair trimmed in a long time - with Voldemort - and it now hung about his ears and over his eyes unless he swept it to the side. He looked more like Harry, this way. He ran a hand through his hair so he could look at Harry. "Did you finish with him?"
Dubhán quirked his eyebrows at him, delivering a charming smile to go along with the uncomfortable conversation.
"Sorry I'm a bit late," Harry said, reading all the wrong things into his comment, like usual. When he was fishing for information Harry always thought he was trying to make him feel bad for something. Dubhán, who had such a difficult time feeling anything at all, found it often near impossible to understand the motives behind Harry's ever-changing and expansive emotions.
He went to wash his hands, looking at Harry over his shoulders. Emma eyed their exchange, but he was almost certain he had never dropped enough information for her to understand.
"It's alright. I figured it would be a special day at work," he replied, trying to fish for information and set Harry's emotions at ease. Like usual, Dubhán did not understand enough, and Harry's swallow and paling face stood as proof that he had fumbled and missed his target. "Oh, never mind," he said, looking away. "I was just looking for an interesting conversation."
He'd never been so blunt as to his own motives with Harry; he tried to glance at him conspicuously to see whether the move had been an improvement or worsened the situation.
"I don't think that's something you should think about today," Alexandra murmured from the kitchen table, where she and Emma were decorating his cake with squiggles and the words "Happy Birthday Devlin". Her eyes were flat and directed at Harry, urging him to comply to her silent demand. It was times like this that he saw her as someone connected to Voldemort. As if the characteristics that made Voldemort so brilliant had been softened and made more mild. It was at times like this that he could breathe the best; pondering the otherwise impossible notion that he could emulate such mildness with his own likeness to the Dark Lord.
Still, he wasn't happy with her demand today. He was never really happy with someone else's desires unless they matched his own. His eyes flashed, but then he noticed that Emma had stopped drawing squiggles on the cake and was watching him with that closeness he had seen on her face at Sirius' house, and he fell still. She was not going to be like him and she did not need to hear about him being like that.
In someways he recognized that as much as he balked at being her 'Devy', he also clung to it as well.
"You're right," he said, but in his head he was saying you're not, you're not, you're not, and while there was a sheepish smile pulling the edges of his lips upward and gently curling at the corners of his eyes, there was a deepening sense of no, no, no in his head, tightening in his chest. "When do we get to eat cake?"
Harry was sprawled out on the sofa, half asleep, half awake - half on the sofa, half hanging off the edges. All he had to do was step into the room and the green eyes snapped open. He slept with his wand in his hand, and it seemed before he had even breathed, he managed to whisper 'lumos'. The tip of his wand burst to life, illuminating Dubhán in the hallway.
"Hey," Harry said, attempting to make the shift from warrior to just-Harry in a matter of seconds. "I thought you'd want to talk. Guess I fell asleep waiting."
"You'll tell me, then?"
Harry frowned, rubbing at his face as if he could rid himself of the sleepiness.
"You said we should be on the same page."
"It's your birthday, Devlin."
"Not anymore. It's past midnight. I waited. I'm ten now."
Harry rubbed at his face again.
"I had to work today, and that should be all you need to know."
"It isn't. What did he do?"
The expanse of the living room lay between them and somehow he could feel it like he could feel the gap inside him between Devlin and Dubhán.
"I love you Devlin. I love you too much to do this."
"No, you don't. If you loved me you'd understand how much I need to know."
"You want to know," Harry said softly, turning the phrase Dubhán so often used, around and using it as a weapon against him. Dubhán felt betrayal rise in his gut.
"No. It's not a want."
"I have to protect you Devlin."
He felt his magic pulsing, his head rushing, his chest churning. He took a step forward.
"Protect me from what? Protect me from blood and death and screams? I don't need you for that."
"What he did today - I don't want you to feel responsible."
Dubhán paused, the expanse between them smaller but still such a big chasm that he felt as thought it were ready to swallow him whole. He tipped his head. He wasn't huddled in a bathtub, clothes soaking. Harry wasn't sitting on a toilet he'd just been sick into. He felt as close to a monster as he had ever.
His own actions crawled into his head and tore him to bits. Images of things he had seen but not done haunted him, convolutions of feelings and disturbances that he did not yet comprehend. He looked at Harry he knew that the expanse he could feel between them was their differences. Harry felt bad for all sorts of things that didn't make Dubhán feel anything at all. The fact that the boy had been thrown near death outside Harry's house did not bother him as much as the fact that it had been a boy designed to make him remember the boy he had hurt. It had been the responsibility for his own actions with the little boy that had colored his feelings for the look-alike-boy.
Harry looked at him, his eyes intense with something Dubhán could not pinpoint, and Dubhán thought maybe just then, just for a second, he saw him for real.
"He sent Malfoy back, dead."
Dubhán felt something entirely different from responsibility. The muscles across his face pulled and shifted until his lips had been pulled upward by their corners. He rocked on his heels as laughter bubbled up from his loosening chest.
Harry looked at him.
"You can't expect me to be sad," he said, sobering for a moment to regard Harry's Killing Curse eyes. "You don't know half the bastard that he was to me. I think this is my favorite birthday present, ever."
"I'm not like you and you're not like me, and you didn't have to be so near him. He had control over me. Grandfather let him, even though I hated him and he knew it. Everyone knew it. Everyone knew how weak I had been to let him cut me."
Harry's eyes were shadowed, but not with the disappointment Dubhán had almost thought he'd see. Instead there was a stranger concoction in his eyes that Dubhán could not separate by individual components.
"I'm so sorry, Devlin."
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