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Chapter 39 : A Bit of Backtracking
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He was not the type of person, presented with an opportunity to acquire information, to let it fall between his fingers. Malfoy swayed on his feet, despite Voldemort's charm to keep him upright. It was easier to look him in the eye, this way.
He plowed into the man's head again, searching brutally for any interactions with Dubhán. He saw flashes of him.
Laughing with Geoffrey.
Curling his fists as he fought down the desire to disobey an order from Malfoy.
Standing before himself, tiny and weary as Bellatrix cooed over him.
Bigger and stronger, staggering and attacking in a duel against Malfoy.
More brilliant and more cunning as he leaned against the entrance into one of the tents they had used for strategy planning and voiced something Malfoy had entirely missed. 'It's like chess,' he heard his voice say, floating and fuzzy through the off-color of the memory 'and you have to see it from where they see it too.'
Malfoy's nose was bleeding when he drew out of his mind, physically stepping towards him.
"You're hiding something," Voldemort said softly, reaching out a hand to grasp Malfoy's chin, his long nails digging into the soft tissue below his ears. The memories had been too short, too innocent, and too typical; things one might call up in a desperate attempt to hide something else. "What are you hiding from your Master, Draco?"
He made some noise - a combination of fear and denial. His throat protested the barest movement past it's strained muscles, and only a gurgle escaped.
"I'm going to ask you again. I will keep asking you, until you give me the right answer."
He pushed into his head without warning.
He is looking at an arm. There is a wound in the shape of a small mouth, just the thinest slice of skin away from breaking through. The eyes of the memory's owner rise, and Voldemort is presented with the image of the boy, huddled on cold packed dirt. He is wearing something Voldemort has never seen before but knows must have been what the child was wearing when Malfoy took him. They are in the cell where they keep prisoners, he realizes as Malfoy moves his head enough to see the bars that line one wall.
"You bit me," Malfoy says, and as his head focuses on the full picture, Voldemort is released from Malfoy's single perspective. He looks at Malfoy's face.
The boy doesn't speak. He doesn't defend himself. He doesn't rise to his feet and show his value.
He throws up on Malfoy's feet.
Malfoy's wand is out and aimed at the boy in seconds, and the boy is thrown against the bars with a resounding crack.
"Worthless little shit," he mumbles under his breath, approaching the boy. The boy is unconscious, but Malfoy wakes him harshly with a murmured spell. He comes into reality screaming and flailing and Voldemort realizes that Malfoy hadn't just woken the boy but cast a cutting spell on him. The boy looks terrorized, unable to comprehend the pain or know how to fix it.
He is screaming, and Voldemort feels an overwhelming sense of jealousy and possessiveness.
"No. No! Stop!" The boy is panting as Malfoy releases the spell, his head bent forward, his eyes on the ground. There is blood soaking through the childish shirt. He looks like just a child. Like any normal child Voldemort might let his Death Eaters have a bit of fun with.
"Are you crying?" Malfoy taunts. The tears flow silently, hitting the packed dirt like tiny raindrops. Voldemort crouches to the see the boys face, facinated by the weakness he had never been able to make the boy show. His face is scrunched up; eyes closed, bottom lip drawn into his mouth. His hands are digging into the packed dirt, his body shuttering, and he shakes his head in answer to Malfoy.
For a moment Voldemort's own mind is wandering, rushing and heaving, evoked by the similarities between the boys physical resemblance to himself. Small and fallen to the ground, vision full of grass, hands curled into the strands until they cut him with their paper-thin edges; boys above him, cruel and taunting.
"Aren't you going to tell me how you want your daddy?"
The boy shook his head. His eyes had opened and he was looking at the ground, eyes narrowed, but face still full of fear. Realization was creeping onto his features, and Voldemort could recall realizing the same thing: he is cruel and I am not strong enough to stop him yet.
The thought had always spurred him forward and he knows it spurred the child into proving himself for Voldemort. He had learned.
"Don't worry, I'll make you."
The boy was screaming again, body flailing and Voldemort felt that same sense of possessiveness as he always had. The boy was his. It should have been him who made him scream.
He withdrew from Malfoy's mind, blinded with rage.
Malfoy screamed. His body flailing. Another murmur and there is blood seeping through the back of his shirt. Voldemort lifts the spell and heals the wounds.
"Catch your breath, Malfoy. I will return momentarily with the knife."
The boy might have felt that Malfoy had scared him for life as weaker than he, but Voldemort felt that Malfoy had marked the boy as his. It was only after the deed was done that he recalled it was the boys birthday and how wonderful a gift Malfoy's dead body would make. He made sure to leave a message and wrap the gift accordingly.
He had thought the child outside his house had been the final one; thought it had been the end of Voldemort using bodies to deliver messages. He was wrong.
They had called him into work with a simple message: it has happened again.
With the others they had given him a description of the body, but standing over this one, he knew immediately why they hadn't offered him any information. The body, sprawled out as though it had simply been dropped, wasn't that of an Auror. The blond hair was dark with caked blood, the manicured fingernails broken with soft flesh beneath them. There was a bite mark on the left shoulder, clearly that of a werewolf. It's placement was so perfectly managed that Harry knew the wolf had been dosed with wolfbane and that he must have known his son.
He was dressed in a black cloak that had clearly been magicked and beneath the cloak he was naked.
Harry has seen many a corpse that did not even get the dignity of clothing, but this somehow felt different. Once upon a time this man had been a boy who had offered him his hand. They had been teenagers together, dressing in different Quidditch lockers. This had been his first enemy. It felt almost invasive to see him so revealed. Nevertheless, he did not protest as Arden peeled the robes back to reveal the full extent of the injuries.
There were gashes on his back.
"Healed quickly and without much care. One has to wonder why they bothered," Arden explained, motioning to the various marks. Beaten.
Harry thought of his son's back, and wondered the same thing.
"Then there is this thing. I'm wondering if it's supposed to be related to the Dark Mark..." Arden turned the body and suddenly Harry was starting at the mark that he had only glimpsed on his son's body. It began lower than Harry really wanted to look, and ended right above the bodies bellybutton. Harry thought of how close and almost intimate someone would have to be to carve that snake. He clenched his hands and felt sick; not because of what he could see now, but because of what he was imagining in his head.
When Devlin had told him about Malfoy torturing him, there had been things he hadn't said - places were he had shook his head, unable to express. Harry felt the bile crawling up his throat as Arden continued to detail the damage.
The damage this man had inflicted upon his son. The damage Voldemort had ignored. The damage Voldemort now threw in his face.
Harry's scar burned and his head pulsed, and he felt that sort of rage that made him something he did not want to be, creeping up upon him. He turned away and told Arden to close up the scene.
When he was younger, such emotional moments like this would have sent him into a rage or diving into a depression. He wasn't so Golden anymore that he couldn't see the darkness.
He rubbed at his head and headed over to speak with the Minister. It was better the man saw his face delivering this news rather than bland words on a report issued by one of his team. Harry needed to be there, so that he could make sure the Minister didn't draw Devlin into this mess.
Somehow, he had to make it home in time for Devlin's cake.
There was new paint in the hallway. Where Harry had blasted through the end of the hall, opening up their escape, was now a deck with nice chairs and a nice table, overlooking the side and back yard.
He stepped out onto the wooden planks and peered over the edge of the railing. His body had landed below.
"I thought it would be more haunting if it went back to normal," Harry said, coming up behind him. The glass door opened almost soundlessly, but there was a slight sweeping noise as it closed.
"I think you're right," he said, peering into the yard. Zee had been let out and he was now sniffing at the edges of his domain, his tail moving quickly behind his body.
Dubhán couldn't help feeling that everything was changing around him, from the paint on the wall to Harry's understanding of him.
He was dreaming. There was fire and chaos around him. The air was crisp with something foul. He was there, standing amongst the ruin, staring at him. Emma was beside him, limp against his side - injured, unconscious, stunned - he couldn't be sure.
Everything but him blurred in his vision as he raced towards her. The world seemed to expand; the harder he ran, the further away they became.
"Are you ready to play, now?" Voldemort asked him.
Devlin ran further and harder, and there was a scream shattering around him, and he knew it was his own. It was not like the scream Voldemort had always wanted to hear from him, because this was not a scream that ended things, but that began things.
He was almost there, almost there, almost-
"It's time to wake up, Devlin. We have to get ready for the party."
OoOoOoOoO PRESENTLY OoOoOoOoO
The ice was thawing on the grass, dripping from the leaves, and gurgling in the far-away creek that he could just barely hear. He felt like a stranger, even amongst so many people who professed to know him. Adults swarmed to greet him as they saw him, children lingered at the edge of his vision, hesitant and murmuring. Emma came to him, every once in a while, to tug him here or there, introduce him to a particular person, or simply cling to him briefly.
Harry's green eyes followed him and he could feel Alexandra's gaze pick him out at a moment's notice, her keen gaze assured without having to track his every movement.
"How are you doing, dear?" Molly Weasley asked, bending down to smile at him. Harry had brought him for a haircut the day before 'just so you can see people', and he looked at her gaze on him now, full of things he did not like, and wished he had a fringe still to break up the intensity of her pity.
"I'm fine, thank you."
He was one of the oldest here. The others, he had been told, were off at Hogwarts. He supposed that was one of the downsides of a winter birthday.
She smiled at him, soft and kind and warm; all the things he could not feel.
"Your father used to say that to me all the time," she said, bemused. "I never did quite believe him, either."
"I'm not my father," he returned, a little cooly. He did not appreciate being compared to anyone he shared blood with.
"Devlin!" He turned at the shout, too deep for be Emma, too high to be an adult's. It was Thomas, from the Ministry dance. He raced over to him, his thick locks of dirty blond hair bouncing with his vigor.
"Hello." He looked older than he had, when Devlin had last seen him. He supposed that meant, he too, looked older.
Molly Weasley has risen and retreated, and he reluctantly admitted, to himself, that he probably preferred her company over that of someone his own age.
"Hi! I didn't know you would be here. I mean - your dad is always at the dinner parties, but I didn't know you would come. Anyways, do you want to play something? The parent's usually bring some brooms and there are usually cards inside. Mr. Weasley has a garage full of Muggle things - he'd let us look if we asked."
"Come on, let's find Josephine and Fred - this is their Grandma's house and they know everything around here. Maria is probably hanging out with Josephine. I'd say look out for her red hair - but lots of people have red hair here!" He laughed at his own joke, grabbing hold of his hand and tugging him along.
Alexandra's gaze had caught his own, and it was only her eyes on him that kept him from pulling free of the boy's grasp and shouting at him - at least, that's what he told himself.
She was wearing a deep blue dress, simple but elegant, and her hair wasn't in a braid but flowing around her face like a tempered fire. She was talking to the girl he remembered from Emma's party - Josephine. When she saw him, she frowned a bit. Something so small shouldn't have made him feel like his world was crumbling, but he did, and he fell in stride with Thomas, weary of looking reluctant but afraid to reach her first.
"Maria!" Thomas shouted, easy and casual - as if talking to Maria wasn't a precarious affair. She turned her brilliant blue eyes onto Thomas and a smile curved her lips upward. He felt something clench in his chest that he hadn't known was there.
"Hello, Tommy," she said to Thomas, and Dubhán almost staggered in his momentary startle at the name. He did not like the name Tom, or Tommy, or even Thomas; did not enjoy the reminder of his deadliest mistake. Tom Riddle, his sharpness whispered, as he always did in times like this; forcing the name upon him so that he did not forget. Biggest mistake. Hardest punishment. The red-eyed man's greatest weakness.
"Hey - I was just telling Devlin about Mr. Weasley's muggle things. Wanna come with?"
Her eyes were on him now, and he felt weak and exposed in ways he hadn't ever before. He thought back to their last conversation and felt more than mortified.
"Only if Mr. Weasley says it's alright," she said softly. Josephine had a smirk playing out on her lip.
"He'll say yes to me," Josephine said, nodding confidently. "Let's go find Freddie and August."
"Don't get the twins!" Thomas said in a loud whisper after her form, as she weaved in between adults. "They can never stop bouncing into everything," he murmured afterwards, shaking his head.
Maria's eyes were still on him, their conversation was still fresh in his mind, and these two things, happening at once, made him wish that the place wasn't warded against Disapperation.
Josephine came back a while later with a red-haired brown-eyed boy and another boy, dusty brown hair, striking blue eyes, and pale skin.
"I'm Freddie," the red-headed boy said, stretching his hand out. "You must be Devlin."
"I'm August," the other boy said, reaching his own hand out. "My dad already told me who you are."
"Lots of dads here seem to know who I am," he said cautiously.
"There are a lot of Aurors here," August said, his tone almost conspiratorial. "We're just here to make things interesting."
He wasn't sure how any of this lot, beside Maria, made anything interesting, but he kept his tongue and hung onto August's words.
"Perhaps that means I am famous," he said instead, to ease the awkward silence. He was still learning how to deal with awkward silence. One simply didn't experience it when one was sure of their position, as he had been with Grandfather's men.
"Oh, you're famous," Freddie said, grinning. "You'll tell us about him then? Our dads said not to ask, but they're bloody boring."
"Freddie!" Josephine admonished, but she had been looking at him too.
"Yes, dear cousin?"
"You're not supposed to say that word."
"So go tell on me."
She shrugged, as if it were tempting but not quite tempting enough.
"He probably doesn't want to talk about it," Maria said, very, very softly.
"Nah - who wouldn't want to. You saw him and you lived. Like Harry! You gotta tell us." That was Freddie, his face alight with a variety of curiosity that Devlin knew could only live planted in soil rich with innocence.
"Freddie-" Maria admonished.
"Maria - he'll tell us if he doesn't want to talk. Just 'cause you never wanted to talk doesn't mean he won't. I mean - look, he's alright, isn't he? You and Josephine should go play with some dolls."
Her face went red at the casual dismissal, and there were tears clinging to the edges of her eyes. Indignation and terror all at once. He looked into her brilliant blue eyes and she looked into his green, and he could feel the memory wash over both of them.
The sound cracks between them, somehow as real as it is false - a true echo in their heads.
The world is fuzzy. There are glimpses of her blue summer dress as she struggles and begs. Her exact words, if they were ever really remembered, have been lost to time.
When he remembers this, when he thinks on her, he remembers most clearly her brilliant blue eyes, her disheveled braid, her tears, and her screams. She remembers him and he seems so very small in her memory; a mere child, surrounded by grown men.
"Aww man, you're not gonna cry, are you?" Freddie asked, and his words acted like some sort of harsh tug back into reality. He could see her brilliant blue eyes again. He felt as though he had run a mile. Her eyes were wide and intense and she shook with the terror of the memory.
Freddie's words finally settled into his brain, and he felt his face contorting with something he doesn't have a name for. It wasn't anger, because anger has always made him smarter rather than more rash and what he did next was certainly rash.
He lunged forward. Freddie was on the ground, beneath his hands. He pressed the boy into the wet sodden grass.
"You little shit head," he said through clenched, bared teeth, pressing harder on the boys chest. He could hear the other boy - August - shouting something, and Josephine cried out Fred's name.
He wanted to tell Freddie off some more - maybe wipe that significantly-less-alarmed-than-he-had-wanted expression from his face and replace it with a bit more fear, but Harry was pulling him off of Freddie before he could.
There is a blond, steel-blue-eyed man coming to grab Maria out from the fray. They look nothing alike, but somehow the finer details don't matter. Malfoy.
"Don't touch her! Don't touch her!"
Harry pulled him up onto his chest, an arm around his middle, and suddenly his other hand was covering his mouth, muffling the words. The man has heard though, and he looked up at him. There was a terror in Maria's eyes that he doesn't need to meet her gaze to understand.
"Stop talking," Harry said, firmly. "Take breath."
Harry pulled him further away from the fray. There was another man, helping Freddie to his feet. The blond man and this new red-headed man begin to talk fervently, and the red-headed man looked at Freddie as if he thought Freddie had started the altercation. Freddie's face was an odd mix of surprise and annoyance, but he didn't look any the worse for wear.
After a moment, after the memory of trying to claw his way out of Geoffrey's arms and rescue her before they hurt her, washed over him, he fell lax in Harry's grasp.
"That was one of the more foolish things I've ever seen you do," Harry whispered by his ear. Devlin felt his body give a shutter as he returned fully to reality. "Now we're going to need to explain this."
His head whipped around, his face surely ashen and near death. His heart pitter-pattered feebly in his chest as his neck swung his head back and forth. The world was full of muted colors and charmlessness. He could smell the creek, hear the gurgle of water, and he knew he was more sharpness than boy.
"David will ask Maria what that was all about, and it's not fair to make her lie for you again, Devlin. If you're going to be this foolish, than her dad has to know why. Look, she's crying now."
His gaze swung to find her. She was crying into the blond man's shirt. David and the other man were talking fervently, and it looked as though they thought Freddie had actually done something to Maria.
"He'll make me nothing. He will. He'll make me nothing. Nothing good. Nothing bad. Nothing at all."
"Anyone you see here - I would trust them with my life." He whispered. "Now here is what is going to happen. We're going to fix this. These are the kids you're going to be stuck with for seven years at Hogwarts. None of this is up for negotiation. You will apologize to Freddie - you know how to do that, right?" Devlin nodded. Nothing good. Nothing bad. Nothing at all. "I will ask to talk to David in a more private manner. You will tell him what is necessary for him to know."
Harry drug him back to the fray; if he were more boy than wolf, he would have fought against Harry.
"Sorry Fred, David - I just wanted to make sure Devlin had cooled off for a moment."
"Yeah, yeah - sure. What happened? Freddie won't tell me what he did. I'm sure he said something stupid."
"I ah - I think it was an honest misunderstanding, guys. Devlin - I think you better apologize to Freddie."
"Maria was only trying to tell you to shut up nicely. Sometime, I'll tell you all about the Dark Lord, and you'll wish I hadn't. I'm sorry I hurt you, when I should have just said something mean back at you."
Dubhán tried to keep calm by thinking of all the mean things he could have said, creating a list of mean spells and mean words and tracking which he knew more of.
"Erm...yeah, I'm sorry too, mate. No hard feelings. My big sister shoves harder than you."
Fred, the adult, hit Freddie upside the head gently and then told him to go play. Dubhán blinked at the left handed comment. He was pretty certain he hit harder than any sister.
"I'm real sorry he thought that was a cool topic, Devlin. I'll have some words with him, alright?"
Dubhán did not move. He did not want to participate.
"David - Devlin would really like the chance to apologize to you and Maria...more privately."
Maria clung tighter to her father's robes.
"It's alright, Harry. I think we're good." He leaned down to look at Maria. "Are you good, sweetheart?"
"Yes," she whispered, but her eyes were on Devlin, boring into his gaze with a fear that he knew was all for him.
Dubhán thought of her, frozen between those two tents.
"I'm not afraid, Maria," he said to her. He could feel David's frown on him. "Sometimes things seem more terrifying when they're just stuck in your head. Harry already knows and your dad should too."
Maria clung tighter, but his words had done what they needed to do, and that was why he found himself, after the party, seated in Harry's office with Maria and her father on the sofa and Harry and he occupying the other chairs.
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