Author's Notes: Thanks to all the usual suspects (libertine, kissaki, krissy, lunarennui, Miss Breed, Rube, and to Audrey, without whom this ending would not exist. Thanks to and to all reviewers, who's comments are cherished.
Chapter Fifteen - A House Divided
By Ivy Blossom
Inside you now's another,
thrashing like a fish,
for its inch already.
You are standing on wet sand, looking into the water. It is cool and blue and big. It smells like crayfish and mud. Your mother and father are lying on towels in the sun, their calves are sandy and their shoulders are turning pink. The water rolls up toward you and washes over your feet, and you look down at them. They look very white in the water, very small. When the water pulls back out, gurgling and pulling pebbles and shells and bits of wood with it, you find your toes are half buried in thick, wet, smooth sand. It is very pretty and even. You pull your feet out and walk toward the receding wave, squeezing out water from the sand with each step, leaving small footprints behind you.
"I am going to walk to China," you say to no one in particular. You follow the wave, which rushes back around you knees. Before long the water has reached your stomach, and you pat at it with the palms of your hands. After the coolness wears off, being in water feels like being in the air, neither cool nor warm. You look behind you and see your father shifting on his towel. The next wave brings you into the water chest deep. You come to believe that you can pull the water apart, that you can make a path all the way to China if you just press hard enough against it. If you press hard enough, you will become a fish, and you will swim all the way to China.
When the undertow takes you under, it doesn't occur to you to take a breath. You believe that you can breathe underwater, that you are a mermaid, that when your head touches the sand your legs will fuse together and become a tail. You believe you are a dolphin, transfigured into a girl because your dolphin parents are king and queen of the ocean and you were stolen by a mad wizard. But under the water your lungs scream to breathe, and water does not relieve the pressure. Your head breaks the surface, but your mouth is too full of water to scream. Back under again, you try to cough the water out, but it will not move. You can see, through straining eyes, that your father is running toward you. He runs in slow motion, water splashing around him. For a moment you see the beach again, you see your mother's mouth shaped like an O. You realize that you are dying, but you are not afraid. Your father will not let you die. Fathers don't let their daughters die.
You are face down, your eyes open, seeing nothing but brownish water. You can't even see your feet anymore. The water is full of sand, like dust dancing in a beam of light. Water, air, fish, mermaids, girls. You forget the difference. You wonder what is taking your father so long to pull you out of the water, to hold you in his arms, your wet face against his neck. Your chest is aching. When your eyes see the sunlight again, you see your father's back. He is walking back to the beach slowly, leisurely, the same way he had walked along the wet sand with your hand in his that morning. His arms are moving lazily from side to side. You can't breathe, you can't stand up. And your father is leaving you here. You feel disappointed. You feel yourself loose consciousness as your body is pushed by the waves toward the shore.
You should have known better than to try to walk to China. I should have tried to fly.
You have just punched a boy in the face. He has fallen down in front of you, blood pouring from his nose. He looks up at you, angry and afraid. Your fist feels sore, but in a way you like. It feels as though you pushed your hand into the earth and pulled out something alive, something full of electricity, slipping and snapping. You rarely feel so powerful. You have never felt any kind of power outside of your own strange lucid dreams on a standard-issue cot shoved against a wall. It feels very good. You find that you almost need to shut your eyes, the pleasure of it is so overwhelming.
You glower at the boy. He has been taunting you for weeks now, because your clothes are so funny. You are an orphan, and the state of your clothing is not your fault. You are not some kind of Charles Dickens character, but people seem to forget this. They tease you as if you made a choice to be hopeless and alone in the world. You kick at the dirt under your feet like a horse preparing to bolt. This boy has just uttered nasty words about your mother, whom you have never known. He has made comments about your father that were just as shameful in recent days, but this crack about your mother pushed you over the edge.
The boy is trying to stand now. His legs are wobbly and his hands are shaking. He moves to hit you back, but your fist him reaches him first, this time in the eye. He falls again. Someone has run to find a teacher. The boy pulls himself again, feeling oddly bolder, though his eye is swelling shut and his nose is still bleeding across his mouth and dripping off his chin.
"You filthy son of a bitch." He spits blood on you as he speaks, his voice angry and full of tears. "You disgusting, smelly, scrawny piece of" You are so angry, your hands balled into stinging fists, you are willing him to shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up. You twist your lips, your eyes trained on this bleeding, horrid boy with a blackening eye.
You hate him. You hate him and you hate the life that has allowed you to be such an easy target for him and people like him. You hate him for the looks that adults give you, for the times you have sat alone and ignored, for the number of times you had wished to be just a normal boy like everyone else.
Suddenly you realize that your enemy and target has stopped speaking because he has no choice. His tongue is swelling, he has to open his mouth now just to keep from biting it through. He tries to scream, you can see his terror rising in his eyes, but he can't make a sound.
As a last bit of vengeance, you push him back to the ground roughly and walk away, hearing him choking. You feel your power diminishing with each step. While feeling his bones crack under your fist you had forgotten that you have no real escape.
In a few hours you will still be hunched over on your cot, crying into old, smelly, cast-off foam pillow, just as you always do. You haven't moved very far from the scene of your crime when you are apprehended. Your teacher grabs you by the scruff, spins you around, and forces your chin up. He eyes you with a severe look.
"You know I'm going to have to call the Dursleys."
You nod, and he releases your chin. It was worth it.
You watch the house elves finish tidying up the drawing room, dragging the rug back over the trapdoor. You feel glad that Lucius is putting away some of the uglier remnants of his Dark Arts lessons; they do nothing for the décor and are frankly dangerous. Several of them smell quite nasty as well, like old blood. A couple of them make strange sounds, guttural hisses and gulps, and twitch when you pass them. You will not miss them, hidden under the trapdoor, covered by a very elegant and classic Oriental rug.
Though the nasty things are under the floor now, you smell something. Singed lamb, feathers? You walk into the hallway, trying to work out where the smell is coming from. It smells like something dying, something burning. You round a corner and see smoke coming from under a door on your right. It is acrid, thick and gritty, not like Lucius' nasty cigarettes. It smells like burning hair, like flesh. You hear screaming sounds, high-pitched, wailing, inhuman, and quiet, almost delicate, like light, screaming opera, all dissonance and throaty buzzing.
When you open the door, you see five cats with their tails on fire. In the middle of the room, you see your son, holding a burning stick.
You stare out the window. You think you are probably in shock. The door has slammed and you are alone. You have not been alone in a very, very long time. You don't need to turn around to see that you are standing in an empty room, with a now half-empty closet. Half of the shoes that used to sit beside the front door are gone.
You don't want to think about it. But you can't help seeing what is now missing, what will continue to be missing. You cannot feel your arms and legs, but you can feel the pulse of fear that washes over them. Your heart has burst and broken. It is raining outside, as it usually is. You want to beat your hands through the glass, throw your body through it and reach for that retreating figure walking down the drive and into the street, not looking backward, not wiping away any tears, not feeling any regret, remorse, indecision. You watch the figure until the rain, getting steadily heavier, blurs the scene beyond recognition.
This is what happens when your name is famous. You gain the love and trust of people you don't know, and lose those whose love you need. Whose love you need so much you think you might die without it. You look down at your hands and see that you are not dead. Not yet. You feel empty and full all at once. You wish you could cry but you can't. And the retreating figure is gone, and will not return.
You turn and survey the mess around you. You close your eyes and survey the mess inside yourself. You have made so many mistakes. Mistakes that you would repeat in a flash of a memory spell. It must not be. You pull out your wand and hold it against your temple. These memories are not useful. You will remove them. You will not remember dates, places, names. You will not remember being comforted, loved, cold nights kept warm, skin under the palms of your hands. You wince. You will only remember missing those things, for this fleeting moment, perhaps. You whisper all the right words, and your pain disappears. You shudder. There is an empty space in your brain, but the rest of you moves to fill it in. You feel strong.
You hate this part. Class has ended. The lunch bell has rung, and you walk with your class toward the lunchroom. You clutch at your paper bag (containing the rinds of a loaf of bread and bologna, and an apple, which your horrid cousin refuses to eat), hoping to settle outside in the corridor instead of having to walk into that noisy, smelly lunchroom again. You dodge into the bathroom, and then sneak back out when everyone has already sat down inside. You find a small space between some stacks of chairs outside the doors of the lunchroom, and wedge yourself between them.
You made a friend, once. Her name was Rosie and she was plump, with braces on her teeth and had stringy braids. She didn't care what Dudley told everyone (that you had lice, that you hate bathing, that you pick your nose and eat it). She was a devout Christian, and she sometimes spent these sweaty lunch times with you, reading her little pink bible, when boys would throw tuna fish sandwiches at you, slices of pickle, balled-up egg salad, and tease you about having a girlfriend. You told her that your parents died in a car crash. She told you that they were in heaven now, looking down at you. She said that they had tea with Jesus in the afternoons, and that they sang a lot. "Heaven is very pretty," she said. "Everyone there is nice." A few months ago she moved away. You can't remember where.
You wonder about this now. You look up at the white industrial ceiling, white fading into beige, with brown water stains seeping across it. You wonder if your parents can see you through it, through the little chinks and cracks. You wonder if they're happy, seeing you sit there, couching between stacks of chairs. You wonder when Jesus will call them for tea, and whether they will see you then as well, between bites of biscuit and sips of Earl Grey. Rosie once told you about praying, but you don't remember the formula. You hear the boys laughing loudly in the lunchroom, and you press your back harder into the wall, and try to pray. Dear Jesus, please say hello to my mum and dad for me. I miss them a whole lot, even though I don't remember them. Do they remember me? Thanks very much, Harry. You wonder if Jesus will pass the message along. Maybe Jesus thinks you pick your nose and eat it too. But it's actually Dudley who does that.
The house is filled with people. They are your husband's friends; they mill around, debating, laughing, eating. As usual, you are a perfect hostess. Your son is home for the holidays, but you have just lost track of him. The last time you noticed, he was standing just behind the crowded main dining table, a glass in his hand, leaning against the wall. He looks older, somehow, poised. He is in his third year at Hogwarts now, and is already showing signs of becoming a man. You noticed over the holiday that his voice had begun to change. You feel sad about this. With every step he takes toward his adulthood, he drifts a little farther from you. He becomes more and more like his father, you think to yourself sadly. But you look over now, past the pair of rather dirty-looking men sitting on your off-white divan, and see that he is gone, and that his glass is broken on the floor.
The holidays are always so much trouble when Draco is home and the Death Eaters visit; there was always blood on Draco's sheets afterward. He had managed to ruin four sets of new sheets this way. You find this annoying not because of the expense, but the principle of it. You love linens and satins and cottons and silks, the texture of them, running your hands over them. Knowing that under the corners, under the pretty quilts and elegant tablecloths, everything is just as fine, and sometimes more so. You feel the same sense of peace sending your son off to school with underwear that cost more than all the robes on every single Hogwarts' back put together. You don't know if he is in a position yet to be willingly exposing this elegance to anyone, but it doesn't matter. The glory of his meticulous appearance rests on a sound foundation of pride, money, and grace. It would not do to lie, to be beautiful publicly and rotting underneath. No, your child is lathered in beauty as we as being beautiful himself.
You have seen a few ripped and blooded undergarments in his room during the holidays as well as fatally stained sheets, after these little ritual get-togethers. The burly, power-starved men who are attracted to an organization like the Death Eaters also have a tendency to lust after pretty little boys whose fathers are more powerful than they are themselves, pretty little boys who aren't strong enough to fight them off. You used to witness these trysts on occasion, unseen and determinedly uninvolved. You have seen your son hauled up behind trees, in the closet behind the reception hall, once in the small rear stairwell. You have watched him cry in their hands, sob like an infant and curl up, helpless. It disappointed you each time. He should know better, he had not yet learned, you thought. In the last two years, since he started attending Hogwarts, you haven't seen any more of these encounters. But you know that they have not stopped. They have only become more discreet, as the tortured sheets and underthings that litter Draco's bedroom in the aftermath continue to plague you. You have begun to insist that the house elves use only old sheets on Draco's bed on nights when the Death Eaters gather at the manor.
You walk into the kitchen, and hear a clatter and bang from the rear servant's dining room, which is divided from the larger kitchen by a thick red curtain. You creep toward it, finding a seam, and peer around it. Keeping yourself well-hidden, you see what you expect to see; Draco, wrapped in the awkward embrace with a bulky man in his late forties, and a great terracotta bowl capsized and broken on the floor. Your child is lying on the table, his legs forced apart, pants torn. He has already been cut along his thighs from this indelicate man's greedy fingernails. Draco bites his lip until it bleeds. The man is mauling Draco's neck, pinning his arms against the table. You hear a voice from the corridor, faint, but recognizably Lucius. He has said something about the east porch. You note that Draco has heard this as well, and his posture suddenly changes.
"Hmm," Draco purrs, pressing his groin into the man's abdomen, making him gasp. He hauls up the man's chin and kisses him, his blood leaving traces of blood on the man's face. You watch as this slim, light figure forces a man of nearly fifty to stand as he pulls himself up slowly and seductively, running a hand down his own chest. "Do you want this?" he motions, unbuttoning his own pants. The man stares at him, shocked and blinking. Draco smiles seductively, unzipping his pants, exposing his young flesh. The man's eyes trail down from Draco's wanton smile and he nods, his tongue moving back and forth over his lower lip.
Draco smiles, and takes the man's hand, pulling it gently toward his groin, nestling it between layers of material already ripped away. The man groans and kneels, one hand inside Draco's pants, the other hauling him closer, his legs now dangling over the edge of the table. You hear voices coming from the other side of the dining room, from behind the door that leads to a small corridor between the east porch and the reception room. You note that the man hunched over Draco, his face pressed into the boy's groin, has heard nothing, perhaps because Draco has masked the sound with his own moaning, little humming, groaning sounds from the back of his throat, punctuated with words like 'please' 'oh', and 'yes', growing louder as the voices in the corridor approached. He lies back down on the table, arms splayed out, his ankles banging against the legs of the table with the motion of the man's body. You watch as Draco casts a quick spell, binding down his ankles and wrists, a motion that makes the man tremble. The man is grasping desperately at Draco, pulling harshly at his pants to get greater access to this pale and bleeding body.
Just at that moment, you hear footsteps and genial laughter near the door. And at the same time, Draco begins to scream. "Get off me! Help, father, help! No! No!" He bursts into tears, blood still dribbling down his chin, looking every inch of his thirteen years. You take a careful step back as you watch the door open, slamming against the wall with a crash. and see Lucius staring at the Death Eater, whose bloodied face snapped up from Draco's crotch moments too late. You smile, and walk away. Lucius will probably kill the man. He does have a terrible temper, and he is so easy to manipulate.
Sometimes, in the afternoons between class and dinner, you come out here to the edge of the forest and talk to the snakes. Your friends don't want to talk to you, and you're lonely. Hogwarts is a very cold place if your friends pretend you're not there. At night in the dorms you keep the curtains pulled tight around your bed so that you don't have to look at their disapproving faces. You think that perhaps they hate you right now. And you had such high hopes for this place. So much better than the horrible muggle world you were living in just a short year ago. When you got here, you thought you had some hope. But now, well. Deserted. Perhaps they'll come around, perhaps they won't.
They don't like that you can talk to snakes.
But you don't entirely understand it. You thought it was only muggles who were afraid of what they don't understand, and parseltongue, while an unusual gift, is not really that complicated. When I look at a snake, I can speak to it. What's the big deal?
The snakes in the Forbidden Forest have all kinds of interesting things to say. At first they were wary of him, confused as to why he could speak to them, and then as to why he would want to. You speak to them at length about human conceptions of snakes, about the Garden of Eden and the punishment of slithering. About the medical profession, about Slytherin house's crest, medusa, the basilisk. You hear about how snakes believe that humans are really just mutilated snakes, their bodied sliced by the gods and forced to move about with the perpetual wound. Humans had been a strange subset of snake, ones who refused to avert their eyes when the bodies of the gods undulated grandly before them. "I will not," the human-snakes said. "I will not serve, I will not yield." The slicing of the human-snakes had taken fifteen days (the number fifteen being sacred to snakes), and the sound of their crying could still be heard to this day, mocked in the voices of seagulls who live off their folly. The snakes believed that each step humans take is awkward, ugly, and painful, and that this is why humans move so slowly, make so much noise. "We can feel you from more than twenty slithers away, you know, just breathing," they tell you. "The Gods made you this way to be a reminder to us."
You nod. You find it interesting, and it distracts you from the fact that the entire school hates you.
There is a man dead at your feet. Your hands feel cold and stiff, though you know the spell you cast has nothing to do with that. You feel as though it did anyway, as if the spell had been a silvery fish in your belly, called up through the rumble in your chest as you spoke those famous, forbidden words, and pressed free, its tail slapping behind it against your wrists, those electric scales brushing your palms and leaving a lasting imprint of tingling silvery stiffness. You feel a surge of deadly power in your body, burning lines up your arms, legs, torso toward your heart. With such simple words you can cause a man to die, so easily, so quickly. You have never wondered why such spells were outlawed, but feeling them for the first time, the rush of heady glory and righteousness that fills you, you understand how dangerous it is.
You try not to dwell on the events that lead to this death. The man sprawled at your feet was not unknown to you, and you would have preferred to sway him to your side rather than kill him. But in the end you were left with little choice; he knew too much, and there is too much at stake. You wonder for a moment about his family, for you are fairly sure he has one. You shake your head. His robes are covering his face, so you are spared seeing his final look of surprise. Part of you longs to see it, but you will not give in to that sort of weakness. You have far, far more work to do, and this one, clean and noiseless death would not be the last.
You know that your wand remembers every spell it has cast, as though the phoenix tail feather inside is dipped in ink and scratching the words you whisper against the warm wood. Along with the Windgardium Leviosas and Alohamoras is now added this horrible, terrible and beautiful spell: Adeva Kadavera. You look down at the man again for a moment, and then walk away.
You look down at the strained face against the pillow. His face is sallow, his hair has fallen out in patches. He is rarely conscious anymore, but you can still communicate with him when you touch him. His mind is always busy, it is always thinking about one person; Harry Potter. That name races around inside that tortured head day and night. He argues with it, caresses it, longs for it, despises it. You find his struggles interesting but only partially comprehensible.
His mother is worried, and you can sense it. She does not trust him anymore. He has been touched, he cannot be trusted, his will is no longer pure. She is right.
He is so easy to sway. A few words is all he needs as an excuse to get what he wants. And what does he want? He wants everything. Money, power, respect, the love and admiration of his parents, of the men who fucked him senseless in his youth, the ones who taught him to be a slut to survive. He wants them to suffer and to see him dazzling in his glory. He wants apologies, which he then wants to reject. He wants random women (and men) to fall in love with him so that he can have his choice among them when he gets bored. He wants to feel someone's (anyone's) submission under his hands. He wants his own minions, his own manor, his own son. He wants to be a world-famous seeker, with a room full of trophies. He wants Harry Potter. He wants him willing or unwilling, and has entertained fantasies about both. Desire like this makes him an easy tool, but an uneasy ally.
Yes, his mother is right. He cannot be trusted. But he can be used.
"Draco," Harry gasped. He could see the smoky, greenish ball that was Voldemort forming in front of Narcissa. The polyjuice potion had worn off, and Draco seemed very small in his clothing, which draped over him. He was trembling with concentration. Harry found that he was also looking up into Draco face, feeling the pride that Narcissa felt in her son. Yes, darling. I knew you would come back to help me, love. My little princeling. I knew you were not lost. He could also feel Voldemort's sane and angry mind thrashing painfully in his brain. I need .I need .to breathe. I need .his bodiless mind searched for fingers and found none. He willed himself to take form.
The flood of memories washed over Harry and he had trouble remembering who he was. When he looked at Draco now he saw everything; his childhood, his defiance, felt loving arms around his neck. He felt Voldemort's distrust and longing.
Yes. He felt Voldemort reaching out to touch Draco, to possess him, to steal his body and drive him mad.
"Draco!" Harry spluttered. Narcissa's reached up to her neck and pulled the charm from her throat. She whispered a single, incomprehensible word over it and threw it to the floor, where it shattered into dust. And suddenly two things happened in quick succession. A patch of air along the floor shone and shook, glowed purlish, and turned into the body of Voldemort, white as chalk, his head lolling to one side. Harry's eyes widened. As the shock of seeing Voldemort starting to set in, the door of Narcissa's room flew open and banged against the wall. Standing in the doorway was a small child, a girl, screaming silently. She had a large, bulky bandage over her eyes. Harry stared at her and realized who she was. Marjorie Bloom.
Narcissa sat up now, pulling her hand out of her pocket and rubbing a bit of parchment rhythmically, almost cradling the grey-green ball of smoke with her free arm. As her fingers worked over the paper, she glanced around at Voldemort, at Marjorie, at Harry, and again at Draco. She smiled. "Draco, love," she said. Draco's eyes were still shut tight, he was whispering madly, furrowing his brow. "Help me, free me, my darling. I know who you are. This boy doesn't. Did you seduce him too? Good boy. That's my good boy. I knew I could count on you. Now, help me, darling. I need you. And he will not forget, you know, he will not forget your service, princeling. And nor will I." She reached out her hand. "Give me the charm."
Draco did not hesitate. He opened his eyes and handed her the amber sphere. She smiled.
Return to Archive | next | previous