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Chapter 21 : After
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This is the penultimate chapter! Ah! (FYI: There are a couple of flashbacks indicated in italics.)
TRISTAN’s parents were there when he finally woke up, and no one knew what to say.
The enchanted ‘Fuck Slytherin’ pin that Laurel had given him for his birthday, the one that he had carefully affixed to his blazer front before setting out to the lake the previous day, had been damaged by the water. It now simply read, ‘Fuck.’
Mary’s eyes kept closing as she rocked ever so gently in her seat, in what Tristan suspected was the memory of some Catholic prayer from her childhood. Tristan was relieved that she wasn’t visibly devastated. Rather than falling apart, she sat beside him, mercifully solid.
Tristan hadn’t planned on there being an after. It was humiliating, and terrifying, and he felt like a stranger.
“Did I ever tell you of my uncle Frank?” was the first thing anyone said.
“No?” Tristan tried to reply, but he only managed to grunt. His voice had grown croaky from lack of use.
Tristan had heard mention before of his father’s ‘Uncle Frank, what had some trouble with the law,’ but nothing specific. And he had no idea how it could possibly be important now.
“Uncle Frank was me dad’s elder brother. Looked after the family when granddad died, raised dad himself.”
Tristan tried to lose himself in the view from the hospital wing and float away from the story, but the angle between his pillow and the window was too acute.
“He was drafted to fight the Germans when he was still young, and fell injured. His leg I think." Eddie said. "He’d grown up farming, so he took employment at the big house in the village. Then, when he was twenty-six, he murdered them. The whole family.”
There was a heavy silence while Tristan and his father held each other’s gaze.
“Do you know why I’m telling you this?” his father asked.
“N-no.” Tristan’s voice cracked.
“Me dad swore to his death that old Frank never did it. But he’s guilty. That’s my uncle--my blood--and he killed a family. This is the man what raised my father, and he’s a murderer,” Eddie looked intensely into his son’s eyes. “You can’t choose your blood, son. And you can’t go thinking what you’re family’s done’s got fuck all to do with you.”
Tristan turned his father’s words over in his head.
“You’re granddad were a good man, and he was raised by a killer,” Eddie said, firm. “Least you had me n’ your mum.”
After Madame Pomfrey gently suggested that it might be time for bed, Tristan’s parents reluctantly set off back to the village where they’d arranged a room at the Three Broomsticks. That night, another patient arrived in the hospital wing.
Tristan awoke to the sounds of little Harry Potter, filthy and unconscious, being carried into the ward by Dumbledore himself. Tristan tried to check his watch while the matron fussed over the first year celebrity, but it too had broken from the lake water.
Before too long, Professor McGonagall arrived in the hospital wing and Tristan feigned sleep, trying to hear the murmurs from beside Harry’s bed. What Tristan did manage to catch, he had a difficult time understanding:
“I am no fool, Albus” McGonagall whispered, conjuring her most terrifying severity. “You primed the boy to go down there. You devised the entire charade with him in mind.”
“Yes, Minerva,” said Dumbledore mildly. “And he performed magnificently.”
“Why would you do such a thing?” she demanded, aghast. “He’s only a child.”
“Harry Potter will need to do a great many things,” Dumbledore mused. “I thought it best that he try his hand under my supervision.”
“May I remind you,” McGonagall seethed. “It is our responsibility to look after the students of this school. Not to use them as mercenaries.”
“In this case,” Dumbledore sighed. “We do not have that luxury.”
“Machiavellian,” McGonagall shot back. “That’s what you are. I hope you realize that.”
There were many more whispers and comings and goings before the various Hogwarts faculty finally vacated the Hospital Wing--or appeared to. One thing was certain: someone had died. A teacher. Tristan suspected that he had a good idea who it was.
“Everyone has gone,” came the headmaster’s voice suddenly from the other end of the silent ward. “If you have been feigning sleep, as I presume you have, simply say nothing.”
Tristan turned the command over in his head, and confused by how to respond, indeed said nothing. Dumbledore made quick and quiet work crossing the Hospital Wing, and settled into one of the chairs beside Tristan.
“Good evening Mr. Bryce,” Dumbledore said, blue eyes glittering in the half-light. “Or I suppose I should say, good morning.”
“Was it Snape?” Tristan asked. “Who died?”
“Professor Snape,” Dumbledore corrected gently. “And no, I am happy to say that Professor Snape is quite well. Although, I suspect I may know why you thought of him.”
“So you think he’s alright?” Tristan asked, remembering a particular tattoo he'd seen just before Christman. “You think he’s trustworthy, and all that?”
“I dare say I do,” Dumbledore replied. “I would go so far as to say that Professor Snape is among the most deserving of my trust.”
“But he was…”
“Yes,” Dumbledore agreed. “And he has done everything in his power to right his wrongs, and commit himself to good. Just as, if not more, fervently than the greatest witches and wizards.”
“You really think that someone can make up for that?” Tristan asked. “Being a Death Eater?”
“I believe that the capacity for good exists in everyone, given the opportunity and the time.”
The gossip of Tristan’s ‘accident’ might have spread throughout the school, but was instantly eclipsed by fantastic stories about three first year Gryffindors. The following morning, Harry Potter’s bed was engulfed by the whole of the Gryffindor team as well as a handful of first years. Madame Pomfrey drew a curtain to give Tristan and his guests some privacy as the swarm on the other side of the hospital wing swelled in numbers and volume.
“What’s that all about?” Emily asked, referring to melee.
“That one,” Tristan pointed out the youngest Weasley. “Played some chess. And that one,” he indicated to a manic little witch with a lot of hair, “did something clever with potions. The rest has a lot to do with some special rock.”
The pertinent details were still murky for the school at large.
“I heard something about you-know-who,” Isobel added, looking concerned. “But it’s all rumors.”
“Yeah I bet if young Potter got a headache the school would assume it was the Dark Lord behind it,” Laurel scoffed.
Tristan was discharged from the Hospital Wing that afternoon, and was glad to get away from the raucous Potter Party. The school still had no reason to suspect that Tristan’s ‘accident’ was anything but accidental, and had failed to inform his parents of his release. Tristan took advantage of what would probably be his only unsupervised hour for some time. It felt odd—making his way through the castle wearing his muggle clothes. He only had the one shoe.
After five years at Hogwarts, Tristan felt like he was seeing it for the first time. Or rather, that the castle was finally seeing him.
Out of habit, Tristan headed to Cadogan’s Corridor, and found his friends were all there. Stunned by his casual arrival, and wary about how to greet him, Tristan felt compelled to steer towards a more neutral subject.
“So I think I’ve got the whole story,” Tristan said, taking a seat on the flagstone.
All things considered, he was glad for the fuss over Harry Potter—it gave them something to talk about aside from what Tristan had done.
“It’s mad. You-know-who was after the Philosopher’s Stone, trying for immortality and all that. Turns out, he isn’t dead after all—or he wasn’t. Those first-years got it in their heads someone meant to steal the stone, and went through a lot of bollocks to stop it, because telling a teacher was clearly out of the question. Then a special mirror told Harry how to get the stone, and he killed Quirrel, because his hands are magic,” Tristan lit a fag. “Oh yeah, and Squirrel had you-know-who living on the back of his head the whole time. So that’s a thing.”
To Tristan’s surprise, Emily and Laurel both directed their attention to Isobel, looking scared. Isobel blanched, her expression twisted into an alarming combination of revulsion and terror.
“You-know-who was on the back of Quirrel’s head?” Isobel asked.
“Yeah, under the turban,” said Tristan, beginning to grin at the absurdity of it all.
“Oh no,” Isobel whispered, clapping her hands over her mouth. “Oh nonono.”
For a moment, Tristan was sure that Isobel would vomit. She heaved a few times and shook violently while Emily and Laurel took her either side. Tristan was bewildered.
“Quirrel assaulted Isobel,” Laurel explained in a whisper.
“He what?” cried Tristan.
“I was almost snogged by Voldemort, is what happened!” Isobel wailed, and for complicated reasons, the four of them laughed.
It was the kind of laugh that comes out of fear; when something dark and polluted gets thrust under a bright light, and no one can help but find it funny.
“I’m so sorry Isobel,” Tristan said, reaching to put a comforting hand on her knee after the group had settled themselves. “I really am, that… shit.”
“Urgh,” she groaned, twisting her shoulders. “It’s just... I feel so contaminated.”
Emily and Laurel launched into assurances that it wasn’t Isobel’s fault, but she wasn’t hearing it. Tristan understood. It might not be reasonable, but he knew what it was like to feel polluted after being touched by something evil.
“I met him,” Tristan said evenly, his knuckles growing white.
“Who?” asked Laurel.
“Voldemort,” he said.
Everyone looked stunned, but no one flinched. They were marching over the shards of the shattered taboo, and where they were headed was darker and more terrifying than any made-up name. It was a leap into the unknown. This, Tristan realized, is what The Truth feels like.
“My birth parents, before I was adopted,” Tristan said. “They were Death Eaters. Bad ones. I got taken away when I was six. My family and their friends tortured a pair of aurors so bad that it damaged their minds permanently.”
“You know Bellatrix Lestrange?” Isobel spluttered, terrified.
Yes, Tristan would never forget ‘Auntie Bella.’
“I’m Rabastan Lestrange,” Tristan said with a wry smile. “Junior.”
ISOBEL tried to absorb what Tristan—Rabastan—had just said. She’d grown up with these names and these stories, and all the while, Tristan had lived them. She looked over at Emily and Laurel, but neither seemed quite as affected as Isobel felt.
“You knew?” she cried, and the two girls looked away evasively.
“You did?” Tristan turned to Laurel in shock.
“I figured it out ages ago. The night I gave you that potion. Snape had these, like, family photos of you,” she explained, embarrassed.
“And you didn’t… mind?” Tristan was dumbfounded, looking at each of his friends’ faces in turn.
“Course not!” Laurel replied. “I mean, I felt sorry about it...”
“It’s terrible, Tristan,” Isobel agreed. “But you’re still, well, you.”
Tristan met Isobel’s eyes, as if willing himself to believe what she was saying. She scooted across the floor and wrapped her arms around him.
“We love you, Tristan,” she said, squeezing him tightly. “I don’t care if you were born Tristan, or Rabastan, or Cockface Pimpletits.”
Tristan hugged Isobel tighter, and did something she’d never seen him do before: he cried. Just a little. She only knew he did for the way he shook, and the proximity of his face to hers. It was over in seconds. Tristan broke from the embrace, and Isobel took a look at her friend, seeing him for the first time.
Rabastan Lestrange, she thought, still processing the enormity of what she had learned. She would never tell him so, but Isobel couldn’t help but feel awe at how well the name suited him—how infinitely more appropriate for his manner and appearance than ‘Tristan Bryce.’ Some missing piece of her friend had finally shoved itself into place, and Isobel felt like she’d always been aware of its absence. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, the space this secret now occupied had nagged at her. Even if she hadn’t consciously realized it, there had always been something about him that had put Isobel on edge; some enigma that had inspired mistrust and animosity in her. Magpie like, she'd collected his flaws; turning each on over like it might give her some answer. In his being whole, Isobel felt greater love toward him than she ever had before.
“Can I ask,” came Laurel in a small voice. “How did you meet him?”
“He was around all the time, really,” Tristan remembered. “The house was a sort of a… a Death Eater headquarters. But I remember one time, on my birthday...”
The three witches watched, rapt, and Tristan recalled. As he did, he fiddled with a loose thread on the cuff of his trousers, forcibly reminding Isobel of the photo she’d seen of him as a child at his house.
“I was five—now I think on it, it must have been just hours before he went after the Potters. I remember he came to me, and he conjured this snake,” Tristan closed his eyes against the memory. “It was like, a gift, or something.”
Isobel was still as stone, listening.
“What was he like?” Emily asked, eyes wide, absently rocking back and forth.
“Scary,” Tristan said, opening his eyes to her.
“Blimey,” said Laurel.
The following afternoon, Tristan was in Hogsmeade with his parents and Laurel had guidance with Professor Sprout, so Isobel went off in search of Emily. The air was warm, almost oppressively so, and Isobel felt the mild discomfort of her makeup melting as she meandered across the grounds. But the day was beautiful. The sky was impossibly blue and vast, highlighting the immense scale of the Scottish countryside where sat Hogwarts, shrouded in its many enchantments. Little insects swarmed above the grass, invisible until the sun hit them. They glittered like motes of dust, recognizable as life only by their erratic movements. Emily came into focus, standing at the edge of the lake, and Isobel picked up speed toward her. Emily was crying, pressing her trembling mouth closed against her tears, and gazing absorbed into the depths of the water.
“Oh Emily,” Isobel said, taking her friend up in her arms.
“We could have lost him,” Emily sobbed.
“I’m so glad we didn’t,” Isobel whispered, and the two rocked from side to side for a while. Isobel couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by a sense of personal responsibility. It was she who had grown cross with Tristan, and exiled him to a haunted solitude in the first place. She wondered how she would have survived her grief and guilt, nearly unbearable as it already was, had he succeeded. What would they do now, Isobel wondered, now this concern had entered their lives? Surely Isobel would be wracked with anxiety every evening when Tristan retired, on his own, back to the Slytherin dormitories. There were many ways a fragile body might break, and each of them were playing out in Isobel's mind.
The two witches turned their attention again, as if it were inevitable, to the lake.
Light danced, refracted, along its rippling surface as beautiful as anything. Isobel felt irrationally sympathetic for the great, quiet span of water stretching out in front of her. It hadn’t chosen to be weaponized, and had even gone so far as to spit Tristan back out again. Then, for a swift and shocking moment, Isobel’s mind plunged beneath its surface, imagining the lake’s seemingly infinite, teeming depths. Vertigo suddenly overcame her, and Isobel felt as though she were standing at the edge of some massive height (which, she determined, she was—if one considered the distance to the lake’s bottom). She unconsciously took a step back.
“Tell me,” Emily said, wiping her eyes. “Do you love him?”
“Of course I do, I’m sorry I’ve been so terrible about him, I really am—”
“No, I mean,” Emily sniffed. “It’s just you were always so strange about me and him, I just wondered…”
Isobel fought every urge to be defensive, and searched the most secret corners of herself for the right answer:
“I suppose I was jealous,” she concluded. “Not because I like him like that, just because of how much he liked you. I suppose I wished someone would feel that way about me.”
“I’m sure plenty of blokes feel that way about you,” came Emily’s congested, but assured, reply.
“They don’t, I don’t know anyone who does, and” Isobel cast about for what she meant to say. “It was about you as well. It’s just, you’re so kind, and so gentle, and so lovely, and I’m so severe, and harsh. I’ve always been so jealous of you.”
Isobel’s self-consciousness was interrupted by Emily’s surprised laugh.
“Of me?” she asked, incredulous. “Tell me, honestly, would you rather be cute, or beautiful?”
Isobel was taken aback, the suggestion seemed ridiculous to her. It was one thing to be told she was beautiful, which Isobel rejected as generally exaggerated. It was quite another for Emily, of all people, to introduce an inversion to Isobel’s familiar jealousy.
“I’m cute, but I’m not beautiful,” Emily went on. “You are. And you’re passionate. It’s daft to be jealous of me. I’m just some naive country girl, and a slag to boot.”
Isobel countered with a swift and sudden outpouring of her every insecurity, and recounted her many tortured years of coveting everything from Emily’s looks to her demeanor. Emily laughed and rolled her eyes while Isobel ranted, both flattered and firmly contrary.
“No, no, no,” Emily insisted, giggling. Their battle of ‘you’re prettier than I am’ / 'no you’re prettier than I am’ eventually became quite silly to both girls. “You’ve got it wrong. You’re much more what blokes want in a girl.”
Isobel’s palms shot to her temples and she found herself unable to hold her uncertainties at bay any longer. It hadn’t been the point, not exactly, but when it came to Isobel, it was always the point. Hidden just at the periphery of her consciousness. Did Isobel really want blokes?
While she'd felt dizzy and proud after shagging Lucas, her her giddiness had faded with time leaving only confused memories of the actual functions. It was your first time, she told herself. It’s never good the first time.
She could appreciate it when a wizard was attractive or charming, but... Of course I find girls prettier; girls try harder and care about what they look like. That doesn't make me gay.
But then there was Emily's skin. Her hair. It always looked so soft. Isobel could imagine running a hand over her smooth surfaces, and that thought pulled at something deep inside herself.
Despite her protests, something was beginning to find focus. A question she'd always been to afraid to ask.
Isobel looked again at the lake, as if it might offer some answer, but saw only a calm surface shimmering over the promise of a violent unknown.
TRISTAN gazed out at the fierce sunset, fractured by the diamond paned window in the rented room above the Three Broomsticks. He found himself missing the dusk in winter, when the clouds softened the sky, rendering blurring sweeps of champagne and periwinkle. The early summer’s horizon in Hogsmeade was as bloody as carnage.
Tristan wasn’t sure how he ought to behave after jumping into the lake, and after being dragged out, and after his parents had had to be summoned. His mother was glancing over a curt little story in The Daily Prophet about the mysterious death of the Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Very few details had made their way to the press, but it was enough to reopen the annual speculation that the position was cursed. Quirrel had been only the most recent in a long line of accidents, scandals, and deaths stretching back over thirty years.
Mary looked up from the paper and offered her son a gentle smile. They had been taking it in turns, she and Eddie, to stay with Tristan during the day. It made him feel terrible that his parents should miss so much work on his behalf. At this rate, they’d burn through every vacation day they’d set aside for a holiday abroad. On a more selfish note, Tristan couldn’t help but resent having to be watched. The shame and guilt for what he’d done were the only things that filled the emptiness that having tried and failed had left.
What’s more, Tristan would be, for the third time in his life, sent to a psychologist once a week, and his parents had already signed him up for guidance next term at Hogwarts. It was a difficult business, finding a wizarding therapist. The field of psychology had been developed by muggles, and very few witches and wizards entered the trade. A muggle therapist was, of course, out of the question. Any talk of Witch-Nazi Parents or the stresses of Magic School would certainly confuse his diagnosis.
“I got an owl from Professor Burbage today,” came Mary’s voice, interrupting her son’s miserable train of thought. “She’s sent her relief that you’re alright, as well as her confidence that you passed your Muggle Studies exam.”
Tristan felt himself released from an anxiety that had gripped him since he'd woken up in the hospital wing. If he cocked up all his O.W.L.s and couldn’t return to Hogwarts, he’d wondered what he would have left.
“Snape—Professor Snape,” Mary corrected herself. “Wrote as well. He’s accepted you as an N.E.W.T. student, preemptive of your exam results.”
Mary shifted uncomfortably, but tried to keep her voice regular.
“He’s sent something else as well,” she added, dislodging an envelope. “Photographs.”
Tristan hesitantly took the stack of pictures and turned them over. The first was of Belvina—his birth mother—very young, and holding a bundle of infant Tristan, who had still been Rabastan then. For the second time in over a decade, Tristan felt his eyes sting as he looked at her, beaming up at him, photographically immortal.
“Quite a few recognizable names—more than any year before,” mused Snape. “Longbottom. For instance.”
Rabastan felt his stomach drop, his eyes focused on the tea rapidly growing cold in his hands.
"I think I would like to show you something," Snape said delicately, before lifting the hem of his robes sleeve. "As you may now realize, I was in the acquaintance of your parents."
A skull, a snake, seared into the Potions Master's flesh. More faded than the image Rabastan remembered, but familiar still. The way it almost seemed to move, to writhe, if you didn't look directly at it. Most nights, Rabastan woke up cold from nightmares of that tattoo blossoming on his own forarm.
“Just because your parents swore allegiance to the wrong side, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be curious about your family,” Snape offerred. “You are just as much an orphan as those war children from more glamorous families.”
“She’s definitely dead?” Rabastan asked. He couldn’t help it.
“I’m afraid so. She dueled with an incredibly accomplished auror. Belvina didn’t stand a chance,” Snape sounded sympathetic. “She did, however, manage to take one of his eyes before she went.”
Rabastan wasn’t sure how that was supposed to make him feel. Surely he couldn’t remember his mother, she’d died when he was still so little. But he remembered remembering her.
He could remember loving her, and feeling loved in return. He could remember the sun, and the feeling of it, even though he’d spent every day after she died locked up in that dank room in that dark mansion. Rabastan wondered how a woman so evil could have made him felt so loved...
"Believing that child-rearing was the sole dominion of women, after your mother's death, your primary care fell to your aunt," Snape added tensely. "A most unfortunate turn of events."
“I want,” Tristan cleared his throat. “I think I want to go see him.”
Silence fell in the room over the Three Broomsticks. The offer had been left uncomfortably open ever since Tristan had first been adopted. Never before had Tristan had any interest in taking it up.
“When?” Mary asked, holding back her surprise, alongside a million unspoken protests.
“Now,” Tristan replied, afraid of losing his nerve.
Tristan let go of his side of the portkey—a wishbone—after he felt his feet hit solid, barren ground. The sudden assault of screaming wind and frozen air was a shock after the golden warmth of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The auror surveyed Tristan, as if worried he might faint or be sick.
Tristan hadn’t been able to set out straight away, of course. Mary had booked them beds on the next Knight Bus to London, and spent the rest of the evening calling in every Ministry favor she had in order to expedite the process. It had been difficult securing Eddie, a muggle, access into the Ministry. And Tristan’s file was confidential, so they dealt only with aurors of the highest security clearance. It was late the following afternoon when he finally found himself approaching the fortress on the island in the North Sea.
Tristan didn’t think his auror liked him very much—not after seeing his file. The tall wizard was brisk, but he was also professional. The auror set the pace, and the two marched together into the dense fog.
With every step, dread and hopelessness set into Tristan’s bones. He'd already lost most of his nerve, and soon he wanted nothing more than to turn back. The despair grew overwhelming, and Tristan began to feel just as he’d done perched on the cliff-face above Black Lake. He was certain his agony couldn’t grow any worse when…
“Tell me where he is, Longbottom!” his aunt’s voice rings, shrill, from somewhere deep inside the manor in Tristan’s mind.
“Dead!” the woman cries.
“Do not lie to me!” Bellatrix shrieks. “Crucio!”
Tristan stumbled, and the palms of his hands hit the rocky ground, hard. The auror stooped beside him, genuine concern on his face, but it was too late...
Rabastan’s cousin is crying.
“Hush now, Draco,” Aunt Cissa says, scooping her baby son up from his cot and sweeping from the room.
Rabastan doesn't want her to go; he likes when Auntie Cissa and his tiny cousin are at the Manor. Rabastan begins to cry. He tries not to, he knows what will happen if he does, but thinking about it only makes him wail louder.
“Bella, don’t!” Auntie Cissa yells from somewhere in the Manor.
“That child has no respect,” Aunt Bella screeches back.
The door bursts open.
“He’s only a child,” Cissa pleads.
“Crucio!” Aunt Bella shouts...
Eventually it stops. Bella goes back down the hall and the screams start up again. She isn't even asking questions anymore--she's just angry. She tortures, and tortures, and tortures. The silence that follows is worse.
The auror shook Tristan.
“I’m sorry,” he said, producing a bar of chocolate before summoning a lynx patronus. “I didn’t realize you’d be affected so soon.”
Tristan’s right knee was bleeding freely where it had met a jagged rock. Mr. Shacklebolt drew out his wand to heal the wound but Tristan stopped him. The pain was far from excruciating, but it wasn’t a good feeling, so the Dementors couldn’t take it away. It tethered Tristan to his own body and reality, ensuring he wouldn’t slip back into his own memories again.
At Mr. Shacklebolt’s insistence, Tristan nibbled a few bites of chocolate before trying to stand up and walk again. Soon, they were back on their way to the fearsome prison.
Two aurors with shining patronuses guarded Azkaban’s steel doors alongside half a dozen Dementors.
“Kingsley,” nodded a tough looking wizard with wiry gray hair.
“Dawlish,” replied Mr. Shacklebolt.
“Prisoner number?” inquired Dawlish. Mr. Shacklebolt listed off a sequence of runes and numerals, and the other two aurors traded dark looks.
“Lestrange?” confirmed the second auror, eyes flitting briefly to Tristan.
“Yes,” replied Mr. Shacklebolt, his voice firm.
“Williamson can take you,” said Dawlish, his professionalism restored.
Williamson led Tristan and Mr. Shacklebolt to a side room where he performed a number of security screenings. The pony-tailed auror gave Tristan a sidelong glance while he waved his wand over him, and Tristan saw Mr. Shacklebolt’s jaw tense. Once cleared, Tristan followed the two aurors and their patronuses deeper into the fortress, regretting his decision worse with every step.
The corridor was beset with torches, but their light didn't seem enough to cut through the gloom. Distant wails of prisoners echoed through the halls, and the walls themselves gave off ebbing waves of cold and curses.
“I can take him from here,” Mr. Shacklebolt commanded after Williamson unlocked the corridor to the maximum-security wing.
There were no windows. At the end of the corridor were three doors, each guarded by a robed Dementor. The door to his left read Lestrange, Rodolphus. To his right, Lestrange, Rabastan Senior. And directly in front of him: Lastrange, Bellatrix.
Tristan stared, unblinking. Ice water took the place of blood. Gut dropped, heart froze, breath caught in lungs.
“You have only been cleared to visit one inmate,” Mr. Shacklebolt told Tristan, his voice even.
“What? No!” came Tristan’s strangled whisper. He felt like he’d been slapped.
“She can’t hear us, can she?” Tristan lowered his voice.
Mr. Shacklebolt’s carefully collected features softened. “No, I’m sure she can’t.”
The auror unlocked the door to Tristan’s right, and Tristan waited to follow behind. They stood still for a moment.
“Whenever you are ready,” urged Mr. Shacklebolt, impassive once more.
“What?” gulped Tristan. “Aren’t you coming?”
“I thought you might like privacy with your father,” replied Mr. Shacklebolt, chilly. Tristan stammered, pleading, running his fingers through his hair. The auror surveyed Tristan with curiosity. “As you wish.”
There was another damp stone corridor leading to Rabastan Lestrange Senior’s cell. A wooden chair had been arranged in front of the bars, and behind them Tristan saw, for the first time in a decade, his father. He looked clean under his decrepit prisoner’s robes, sitting upright on the edge of his miserable bed, hands folded delicately in his lap.
Tristan wondered if he’d been scrubbed and shaved in advance of his visit.
“Rabastan,” the Death Eater croaked.
Tristan shrunk back as his father swept to standing and approached the bars, dragging chains along the floor behind him. His wrists wore heavy manacles.
“Do you fear me, son?” the man demanded. He was about the same age as Eddie, but prematurely aged from Azkaban. His face was still proud, but his once shrewd eyes gleamed with the ferocity of a broken mind.
“Tell me what became of you.”
“I was adopted,” Tristan managed to say, incapable of resisting the madman’s command. Rabastan Senior was no stranger, only estranged, and very much the same as Tristan remembered. If more unhinged.
“By whom?” Rabastan Senior demanded, his eyes narrow and cold.
“Mary and Eddie Bryce,” Tristan’s throat was very dry.
“Bryce, Bryce,” the man tried to place the name—forcibly reminding Tristan of the Slytherin prefect.
“You went to school with her,” Tristan added, vying for confidence. “Mary MacDonald, she was called then.”
Rabastan Senior’s face darkened, his hands leapt to grasp the bars and Tristan recoiled another few paces. Tristan had completely forgotten that Mr. Shacklebolt was only a few steps behind him.
“MacDonald? The mudblood!” He spat. “No son of mine—”
“Why?” Tristan shouted over his father. “Why didn’t you ever stop Bellatrix?”
The prisoner faltered, his wild eyes casting about his cell.
“The Dark Lord had greater tasks for me,” Rabastan replied. “Than your upkeep.” But Tristan spied a look of remorse flicker across the madman’s face.
There would be no answers here. Tristan didn't know what he'd been looking for, what clue into himself he had hoped to find. This place, this person; they held no meaning. Rabastan Senior was no more than a footnote. Tristan's past, but not his future. It did not do to dwell.
Without a word, Tristan turned, and strode back out of the cell.
“Rabastan!” the man shouted after Tristan. “Rabastan come back here,” but Tristan didn’t didn't break his stride. The madman’s shouts became screams. The echoed cries and rattling of bars faded into the distance as Tristan marched away.
“That man isn’t my father,” Tristan answered the decade old question that had lurked silently, never being asked. Mr. Shacklebolt looked for a moment like he might say something, but didn’t.
The portkey yanked Tristan from the island in the North Sea, and he saw the auror office at the Ministry shimmer into existence in front of his eyes. It was sweltering in contrast with the biting winds and terrible fog at the prison. Tristan’s parents, pale and anxious, swarmed their son just as soon as he materialized. Mr. Shacklebolt collapsed into a chair while the family was distracted.
Soon the auror was pressing a mug of hot chocolate into Tristan’s hands.
“Your son was very brave today,” he said. The adults in the room remained mercifully quiet while Tristan sipped.
His first six years, he’d spent, as Rabastan Lestrange, confined in that terrible manor. Longer than he’d lived with the Bryce’s after being adopted and before going to Hogwarts. Too many times over the last decade, Tristan would repeat his new name in front of his reflection—Tristan Bryce, Tristan Bryce, Tristan Bryce—until the words sounded like nonsense. They’d never seemed to fit. Tristan had felt cold terror at the thought of uttering Rabastan Lestrange, the way muggle children feared their own compulsion to say Bloody Mary. He’d worried that if he said it, it might come true.
In his darkest, most painful moments, Tristan didn’t feel like the Bryce’s were his real parents. That he could never live up to the challenge of being their son. He’d always believed that he was destined to become like that madman in a cage.
The hot chocolate was taking effect, and a brilliant light of defiance flared inside Tristan Rabastan Bryce. He may have lived longer in the decrepit Lestrange Manor, but he’d lived better in the warm Bryce home in muggle London. Anonymous hours of confined solitude couldn’t compare to Eddie teaching him to read, or Mary fussing over skinned knees.
At this, Tristan glanced down to his right knee—his trousers were still torn from falling outside Azkaban, but the skin underneath was now healed. Tristan didn’t know when Mary had done it.
For the second time in over ten years, and the second time that week, Tristan cried. And for the first time in his young life, Tristan cried because he was happy.
1. "It did not do to dwell" is roughly adapted from the Dumbledore quote, "It does not do to dwell in dreams, and forget to live," from PS.
2. "My name is Tristan, and I am alive," is the final lyric from Patrick Wolf's "Tristan."
3. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Dawlish, and Williamson are all canon. Eddie's "Uncle Frank" is, of course, the muggle that Voldemort killed in GoF, who was wrongly accused of murdering the Riddles. So, Eddie was actually wrong about being related to a murderer--but it doesn't matter. Stories have meaning; they are important whether or not they are true.
A/N: So, was anyone surprised to find out Tristan's story? Did all of you totally guess ages ago? This is basically the end, the next chapter is closer to an epilogue, and I hope you think it ties up the story nicely.
Thoughts? Reactions? Feelings? Please let me know!
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