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12 January 2008 @ 10:31 am
Jan. 4-8  
Not enough words, and I started late. I've also written some original stuff - will post that later.


Jan. 4

He awoke to the sounds of war all around him. The ground was cold, and his clothes had soaked through, caked with a mess of mud and grass. Curses and hexes flashed myriad colors across the night sky, the tortured air screaming in their wake, and the air was filled with shouts. It was mostly incantations and cussing; most of the wounded would have lost their power of speech, and there wouldn't be many wounded anyway -- this was magical warfare, after all.

The Apparition spell had leeched all the power out of him, and he couldn’t move. Even breathing seemed to take an obscene amount of effort, as though he was trying to breathe in heavy fog. An errant spell hit the ground next to him, sending up a spatter of mud and rocks, and all he could do was close his eyes. He was aware of the stinging flecks hitting his face before unconsciousness reclaimed him.

*
He remembered.

Draco had thought that he remembered fear when he realized that he could be the next victim of the Dark Lord’s whim. Draco had thought that he remembered fear when he realized that he was the next victim of the Dark Lord’s whim. But he had been wrong.

His body lay barely breathing on a battlefield, and in his dreams, Draco remembered.

Fear was the expectation that if this went wrong his world would collapse. It was hope turned inside out – no use hoping for success – fear of the consequences should he fail was all that drove him. Fear was the cold blade, not against his neck, but over his head, threatening to strip away everything except his life, that he might suffer longer.

He’d felt it all those years ago, when he’d been sixteen, standing at the top of a tower and facing one of the most powerful wizards of the era. And he’d felt it again, nearly a year and a half later, when he’d finally been granted the honor of receiving the Mark from the Dark Lord himself. Courage was such a dirty word, but he’d always managed to overcome his fear, or at least learned to use it, and Draco knew that he was not a coward.

But war – war was all about fear, and he had not spent very long at war, even though nearly all the battles of the Second Rising had been fought out of Malfoy Manor where Draco had been confined by his parents. His mother had warded him into the unoccupied areas of the Manor and until her death, the wards had protected him from the reality of battle. Draco remembered the walls of his room closing in around him, how the wards got smaller and smaller after Narcissa died, until he spent his days huddled on his bed, hoping, praying that the spell would run out of power before he was crushed. He’d spent most of the war living with hope, not fear.

But he did get to experience war, in the end – not that it was really a privilege.

*

A few days after his arrival, Malfoy passed out unexpectedly, in the middle of one of Mad-Eye’s spontaneous interrogations. Remembering the dementors in third year, Harry – rather nobly – resolved not to tease him very much about it; they were beyond that school rivalry now, though it had taken Malfoy two years under Voldemort’s rule to see the error of his bigoted ways.

Later, Harry felt a complete tit when it turned out that Malfoy’s fainting spell had had nothing to do with either fear or weakness.

Moody’s voice sawed through the silence. “Listen boy, this is important! Tell us where the wards are laid around Malfoy Manor.”

The three of them were there, because Moody had wanted to give Harry a demonstration of a questioning done by a professional. The room was perhaps too dimly lit for this to be a very effective demonstration, but it was always dim in Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.

The whirling blue of Mad-Eye’s magical optic was inches from Malfoy’s cheek, and Harry almost felt sorry for him. Moody had his large, scarred hands on Malfoy’s shoulders, holding him firmly in the chair, and he was shouting in his face; Harry watched the blond head turn aside with an expression of profound revulsion as Moody sprayed flecks of spit with each zealous question.

“It’s your own house, how can you not know how it is guarded? You must know something more about the protections.”

Harry winced at the implied insult, but Malfoy – surprisingly – refused to be baited. He just shook his head in denial.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” was all he would say, though Moody shook him as though the answers could be shaken out of him like the last coins from a piggy bank.

“I don’t know,” Malfoy replied levelly every time Moody repeated his question, “I can’t tell you what I don’t know, you git.” (That didn’t count as rising to the bait. Harry had noticed that Malfoy would call anybody a git after having exchanged more than five sentences with them,)

“Don’t lie to me!” Moody roared, and he shook Malfoy so hard that Harry began to wonder if he should step in until Moody got control of himself. A large gob of spit hit Malfoy’s cheek with a wet thwack. Something – emotion or pride – flashed in Malfoy’s grey eyes at that, and Harry braced himself for an outburst of magic or temper.

It didn’t come. When Malfoy spoke again, his voice was level and cold, as haughty as Harry had ever heard it, and he was reminded suddenly of why he had never liked him in school.

“I never lie when lives I care about are on the line, Auror Moody,” he drew out the title like it was some terrible insult or a farce. “ I may not have much of what you like to call ‘honor’, but if I wanted the Dark Lord – oh, do excuse my language – You-Know-Who to win this war, I would hardy have come here.”

Malfoy’s face was hard and closed. His expression was one of utter, perfect hatred that had – in their school days – been reserved for Harry, only now it was directed at Moody. But the glared that had always made Harry see red passed right thorough the old Auror, and Moody leaned in to ask another question.

“Tell me, Mr. Malfoy, why is it that you have no idea what wards and spells protect your own estate?” his voice was dangerous and soft, confident that this was one question that Malfoy did not want to answer.

He shifted uneasily in the hard wooden chair staring at the floor, and Harry tried to decide whether the shadow that flitted across his face was shame or irritation. He opened his mouth and shut it. Twice.

“Bladewards, well crafted enough that the ones that are meant to kill will kill instantly, and the ones that are meant to take prisoners will give a much slower death,” his voice was hardly above a whisper, but the room was small, and even from where he stood next to the door, Harry heard him clearly. “Fire traps triggered by human contact, insidious poisons that barely have to touch you to seal your fate.” Malfoy raised his gaze from the grubby ground to look right at Moody, all fear apparently forgotten. Harry noticed that Malfoy hadn’t exactly answered the question – but perhaps that had been the idea, since he had given them answers to a different question.

Moody just smiled a wolfish smile. “D’you think I’m frightened, boy? I’ve heard far worse threats – some of them were even what you might call threatening.” He leaned so close to Malfoy’s ear that the blond hair stirred when he spoke. “Where are they? Tell us where they are and how to disarm them, or you really won’t like what I turn you into this time.”

It was hard to tell in the dodgy light, but Harry was pretty sure that Malfoy’s pale face got even paler at Moody’s threat. He certainly fidgeted. For a long moment of hesitation, the only sound was that of Malfoy’s foot tapping out some secret plea on the floorboards.

“I don’t know where the wards will be, bec- ,” and that was where the explanation stopped because at that moment, Malfoy slumped and fainted, right in the middle of a word.

*

The wolf did not exactly enjoy the taste of human flesh, but he had been starved, and a successful hunt was always sweet in his mouth. Wet rending sounds sliced the chill woodland air as he tore strips of skin and muscle from the prey’s limbs, devouring them hungrily. But though the wolf was voracious, he stayed clear of the best parts – the hot, tender entrails – his King would demand his portion, and if that portion happened to be in another’s belly.... It was a messy way to die.

Under the silver light shed by the full moon, the rapidly pooling blood seemed black. The wolf was too hungry to notice. The long black sleeves were no match for sharp teeth, and the tearing of fabric joined the other macabre noises.

Bones crunched between his teeth as he whined in happiness. It was such a pleasure to eat, to feel the warmth of the meat in one’s mouth, and to taste the rich tang of blood on one’s tongue.

He ate, and he ate, until his body no longer felt like a particularly lively skeleton. He finished polishing the last bone and sat on his haunches, eyeing his King’s portion. But it would be more than is life was worth. And he turned his muzzle to the heavens and howled down the bloated moon, calling to his cousins.

Cousins they were, not siblings – cousins that he wouldn’t associate with, if it wouldn’t have cost him his life. They appeared out of the nighttime mists, ragged and mangy, but all stronger than he, for none of them had been forced to go the entire week without food. And the King led them.

The King walked forward to inspect his tribute, and accepted it graciously, which is to say, with a minimum of growling and snapping. His strong jaws broke open the ribcage, and the rest of the pack barked and leapt about in excitement at each gunshot-like crack of breaking bone. In minutes, the rest of the meat disappeared into the grasping black maw.

When he was finished, the King threw back his head and gave a most impressive howl, much louder and more carrying than the wolf that had actually made the kill. Soon, the other wolves were joining in, their voices twining into a wild, supremely territorial medley. And then they were off, running behind their King, in neat formation.

The part of Remus Lupin that remembered how to be human gritted his teeth, and fell in behind the King. Behind the hunting pack, the bones of one Rudolphous Lestrange gleamed gently in the moonlight.