Categories > Books > Harry Potter > After the Fall

The Lull

by AuraSage 0 reviews

Draco discovers how boring reliving the past can be to read, while Ginny finds out that "love eternal" doesn't mix with "untimely death."

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Romance - Characters: Draco, Ginny, Voldemort - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2006-07-04 - Updated: 2006-07-05 - 4179 words

After the Fall, Chapter the Second

Ginny knew running wasn't the greatest idea. The raw cold of the nowhere passages was murdering her lungs, and the aura of the place hung like a bad moon on her breath. But the sooner she found whatever had bitten him-the sooner it lay prostrate and dead before her--the more time Draco would have to pull through. Yes, it was time to a take a leaf from his book. The only way Draco would accept his rescue, she reasoned wryly, was if it was carried out in the boldest, most derring way.

She half-expected the beast to lurk behind each corner, to lie in wait atop every flight of stairs, to actively pursue her and challenge her as well. The possibility that she would see neither Draco nor his captor again was buried methodically under countless layers of psychic gravesoil, its tombstone reduced to a fine powder with several swings of her mental shovel.

Still, her pace slowed. Rather, it was being slowed. Something nipped at her heel, but when she turned it had receded. Sensing the danger, she took to running harder and faster than ever.

If she encountered a guard, she would kill it. If she faced an obstacle, she would destroy it. Ginny was glad she'd had it all figured out.

She decided to veer left at a fork in the passage, then right, then left. Her directions were random but her movements were fluid. She had no idea where she was going, but the beast couldn't be too far now. It was always just a few feet and several seconds away from the righteous sting of her magic.

She leapt down a hallway, around the bend, over a staircase, past a flurry of empty doors and...

The tunnel she'd traveled down so assuredly zoomed to a dead end.

No time to dawdle. There was still that left fork, after all.

Her inner chaos, however, could not sustain itself, especially in such oppressive calm. Doubts sprang like pests, she misstepped, and soon she was lost

The last time she brought up the subject, Harry had told her not to worry, that he would set things straight. So long as everyone invested in him, so long as he saw a better future for all those involved, so long as she wasn't afraid to be near him, he thought he just might be able to win this thing.

Harry would then smile his Harry smile, and, seeing she was still a bit uneasy, offer to massage her back. It was marvelous recourse every time. Even though he had multiple crosses to bear, his frame of reference was skewed in terms of others. But the question refused to stay dead, nagging constantly when everything else was quiet. What would happen if they lost?

...Could their world survive?

Yes. Of this Ginny was certain. Wizardkind would persist. The natural order always restored itself.

Would they survive?

As she had once overheard Dumbledore tell the Order at Sirius's house, probably not.

The actual question, she realized, was much more selfish. What would her life be like? Would she take up her broom and flee, or would she have courage enough to remain? Would she be stuck picking up the pieces, or would she herself be swept along with them?

A dismal wind kicked up, and a candle in a nearby bracket snuffed. Her focus was lost. Her legs gave way. She clutched her heart. They had finally caught up with her, and were pleased to find an opening.

She blinked dully. They weren't... real...were they? At the very least, they didn't look real. They shone clearer, whiter, more illusory, as if the Dark Lord was crafting a purer breed: strange new Dementors issued vaporously from every crevice, reaching for her with gaunt, cadaverous claws.

"Expecto patronum," she cried. Her wand emitted a little puff of nothing, belying the fury through which her heart was screaming to be heard.

"Meriras " She pressed her hands to the earth, and the floor underneath her deformed into whatever shape she wished. A thin barrier-prism buffered her from the specters outside, affording her time to gather her thoughts.

She tried the incantation from inside the temporary refuge of her stone prison. "Expecto... expecto patronum " The image of a snake coiled around her first-year body, spitting contempt in her eye. A man with a diary laughed imperiously in the background. There was no hope. All was depressed. All was murmurs. All was chill. "Expecto patronum Expecto patronum..."

Suddenly, it hit her upside the head like a sack of bricks. It wasn't fear or despair, no, nothing like that. It was the most primal and obvious emotion. It was love.

It mattered not how many times the words were spoken, only the intent behind them.


"Expecto Patrono..."

Remember Who dwells in your heart? What would happen to him if you died? He lends you constant support, even when you can't see him. Do it for him

"EXPECTO PATRONUM " Ginny's wand gleamed red-hot and, with the sound of a sizzling fuse, shattered into tremendous light; the prism vanished instantly underneath the sheer weight of her magic. A veritable throng of shining Indian mongooses lay at her command, snapping at the Dementors as if they would have liked nothing more than to immediately rip out their throats. That it was the first documented instance of multiple Patroni would have interested Ginny, but happier visions of Draco distracted her. Laughing at one of his own quips, chatting her up at Headquarters, playing practical jokes on her; that one time she'd caught him penning answers to a test in her Witch Weekly...

More Dementors swirled into the fray, the flames of nearby candle-brackets extinguishing in their vortex.

Her sentinels bristled boastfully. She was ready. Bring 'em on


It was his ninth birthday.

"Excellent," he drawled. A particularly unwelcome memory had unfolded. "I get to relive one of my most cherished childhood experiences."

He had spent that night like he was expected to any other--shut off in his room, absently flipping the pages of the tome he'd been assigned to read with something less than rapture for his studies. His father was away on business as always, and he really didn't care what his mother was doing downstairs-probably painting, or some such rubbish. Was today, the anniversary of his arrival into their world, so easily ignored? Young Draco's eyes roved over the text, lost in thought. He was starting to nod off when the sonorous tone of the doorknell rang.

"It's deja vu all over again," he sighed, but the words manifested into strange symbols and abstract images, drifting lazily in the void before getting caught in the rushing river of ideas and memories whooshing past.

Draco nearly shut the book into his own face in surprise. He scanned his watch nervously.
"It's almost ten past eleven... who would come to call at such an hour? Unless... "

"...Unless father's home " he mocked acrimoniously. To think he'd been so excited at the prospect, he reflected bitterly, when in the past Lucius had given him every reason not to be.
Lucius strode into his mansion almost territorially, and, handing his cloak to the doorman without so much as a glance, cast his cane unceremoniously on the floor."Narcissa "

Hiding in plain sight behind the banister of the staircase was Draco, who spied his mother jump from her seat in fright. Narcissa's reading glasses were askew, and she clamored to remove them before rushing to embrace her husband.

It was a strange sensation, being in two places at once. Draco observed the memory externally from the void, and was quite surprised to find that he was also right next to his younger counterpart.

"L-Lucius, I wasn't expecting you back so soon, I would've--"

"...Given me a proper welcome?" he almost laughed.

"Yes, of course," she broke away. "Welcome back, Lucius. As always, the delight of your arrival deserves a satisfactory response. Was your trip to your liking?"

"Good " he applauded, never sad to hear the lines he'd made her rehearse."Vienna was resplendent, Narcissa, I've never set my eyes on such a beautiful summer bloom. Pity you couldn't come. I always learn something new on these excursions. They're all wonderful people. Now have them fix dinner."

"Dinner? Lucius, It's nearly midnight...why are you here?"

"I could hardly miss my only son's ninth birthday," he told her sternly.

An audible gasp emanated from Draco's spot on the stairs.
"Ah, there's the boy now " exalted Lucius genially, flashing him a warm smile from behind impassive eyes. Draco didn't know whether it compelled him to run right down the steps because he felt had to or because he genuinely wanted to embrace him.

His father had been a very strange man... a human paradox: loving to a fault, yet endlessly demeaning to all who drew close; truly devoted to the Dark Lord, yet unwilling to admit his allegiance or even to invoke his name. He defied expectation at every turn. His future was at once a glorious fruition of all his dreams and a pointless venture in absurdity.

"Maybe that's why he was so fucked up." Draco marveled at how swiftly clarity came when Death was pushing you towards it.

Lucius knelt and looked his son in the eye, presenting him with an ornate ochre chalice.
"I didn't forget, son. I couldn't forget. Nine years is an important milestone," he smiled.
As his father bore down on him, young Draco held his ground, fixated on the cup. He was dumbfounded. This was supposed to be his "milestone" gift? It was hideous. The goblet was tinged an unappealing orange, and the twin snakes that coiled around its haft looked rather more like agitated monitor lizards with flared, angry faces than the elegant tribute to Salazar Slytherin they were supposed to be. How could Father think he'd enjoy such a gross--

The boy suddenly recoiled. Draco's hands traveled up to his jaw, and Lucius whipped his glove back on in a cold fury, having cracked him hard on the cheek.

"Show your gratitude " he seethed. "Splay yourself on the floor and beg to be given the chance to redeem yourself "

"Lucius, don't be a lunatic, he's only--"

"I... I'm sorry, father " he said, silencing her. Father had peered into his mind Just like that

"Narcissa, have them fix some dinner," he repeated, strangely placated.

"All... alright."

"Draco, go back to your room. You will be called when dinner is ready. We shall try this again "

An unanticipated flash under Draco's red-speckled bandage momentarily diverted his attention. He shed it, tossing it from his shoulder, and used one arm to lift the other so he could examine it. A dewy line of light was starting to drip up his elbow, retracing the scar that led to his heart. Strange... whoever heard of a dead man contracting new symptoms?

Not that he felt dead, or even close to it for that matter. He felt light and floaty. Maybe even healthy. Whether it was elation or mere levitation he was experiencing, however, he would never discover.

"This line... it's... a timer. " His scar, he realized, now served as a sinister sort of counter, ticking off the time Draco had left.

Meh. Death was disappointingly lame. Might as well get it over with.

Lucius resumed his seat at the head of the table, the chalice newly filled with what the boy could clearly discern was wine.
"With this draught, cleanse yourself of tonight's iniquity." Lucius himself took a smooth, silent sip before serving it to his son.

"Don't you think he's rather young to be having Vienna's finest?" whispered Narcissa, brows furrowed. It was all she could do to keep the rage from her words."You know full well he's not allowed to--"
"Drink To a new future To a clean slate " he toasted, ignoring her.

Draco tipped the cup into his lips cautiously, letting it flow gradually. It was too fizzy, or maybe too flat. He couldn't say he liked it, but it was the symbolism that mattered, not the taste. Father had come home expressly for him. He would repay the favor.

"How was it?" his mother asked worriedly.

He would've told her it was absolutely fine, and that he wasn't a kid anymore and that he could handle a few shots without getting ill Unfortunately, this would have been untrue the moment it escaped him.

"Son? Son " Narcissa's fork clattered to her plate. "Draco, snap out of it "

"Leave him be," Lucius stated, witnessing his only son grasping at his throat and struggling for air as if it happened every day.

His intestines had gone too flat, his stomach, too fizzy. A powerful allergic reaction strangled his tears and drowned everything.

"DRACO " she shouted, quaking as much as he was. But the attack subsided as abruptly as it had come. The entire incident must have lasted all of four seconds, but it was an experience the child would carry for the rest of his life.

"Now I hope you've truly learned your lesson, Draco."

"You poisoned him ?"

"A small dose of galvanized mercury," he recounted evenly, "made more palatable to the adolescent human body via alchemical means. Meant only to give the user's circulatory and nervous systems a brief shock, it's a new method of potion-making I brewed at one of my stakeou- one of my business trips." Lucius pushed his chair aside and strolled leisurely around the table towards young Draco, acting for all the world like he'd done nothing out of the ordinary. He placed his hands on Draco's shoulders and imparted this advice:
"Accomplishment is achieved through discipline, security ensured with strategic flattery, and success created by imitating those at the top. Eighteen generations of Malfoys, pure of blood, have sought to restore the respectability of our proud lineage. Respect is what it all boils down to, Draco--never forget that. Respect and respectability. Learn to revere your forebears and the heraldry they saw fit to pass down. You may feign fealty to friends, but swear true allegiance only to you and your crest."

The power his father wielded, the trove of knowledge he seemed to possess, awed Draco immensely. Lucius hadn't broken a sweat exercising the necessary measures to keep his son in line. He wasn't like ordinary men. He wasn't like Mother. He was him..

The setting popped, the scene replaced. A rapid succession of flashes, chronologically ordered, marked the transition to another major memory.

A weird surge not of vindication, but of relief. Draco put the sorting Hat back on the stool as the Slytherin table thundered its applause:
Harry Potter, the Chosen One? Hah He was just another idiot in a sea of thousands, his only attribute, inordinate luck. He knew Scarboy's luck wouldn't last much longer. Draco made a formidable adversary.

Draco savored his new surroundings. The hallowed Slytherin dormitories were breathtaking. So storied, so rife with history... The moment would have been perfect had Blaise Zabini not ruined it by remarking how "grungy his house must have been if he was so amazed." Blaise soon found his fingers would only fold the other way, of course, and he cowered before Draco's smoldering wand. Crabbe and Goyle became his toadies instantly, and afterwards every first-year in the common room knew Draco was the king of his dorm.

He bolted from the Forbidden Forest, pale with disgust. A grievous cloaked figure continued to suck sinewy blood through a puncture in the corpse of a unicorn... Oh God He fought the urge to vomit. It couldn't be described. Just fled from.


There she was. Red hair, small nose. Pretty lips.

Blood traitor.

Why had Father been obsessing over such filth? Always going on about the Weasleys. He'd been positively aching for the chance to confront them. Draco, for one, hardly deemed her worthy. After all, only a complete imbecile would be picking up any rubbish by... G. Lockhart
He squinted into distant bookshelves, weaving through a line of customers ready to check out their books.

"Don't be so hasty, son," sneered Lucius, curbing him with his walking stick. "Subtlety is instrumental," he said, glancing at his quarry artfully (and arrantly without subtlety), "and if you can't handle that, I suggest you get out of the way."

But Draco wasn't listening. There was something odd about that girl, an alluring quality he couldn't put his finger on. In other words, she frightened him. Getting as close as possible to her became of utmost importance, and Father became dust in his trail. However, as he approached the shelf Ginny was leaning against, someone else appeared near her cauldron and stole her attention... a dark-haired, horrifically familiar someone. His teeth clenched automatically.

Draco launched into defensive snark mode, shooting insults at Harry he didn't fully register but was sure were clever.

"Leave him alone, he didn't want all that " piped Ginny.

"Potter, you've got yourself a girlfriend " he drawled, secretly stung.

The rest of his second year was a blur. He conspired to watch the girl under the pretense of checking on her progress for Father. Thoughts of opening the Chamber and continuing Slytherin's legacy, however, were soon suspended by shameful thoughts of rich, fragrant locks of red hair.

The scariest thing about his fascination was how inexplicable it had gotten. Introspection never yielded a suitable reason, yet time and again his eyes returned to the back of her head in the Great Hall. Even worse, the object of his mania, the back of the head he couldn't help but admire as he chewed his sausage despondently, reviled him on principle. Try as he might, he just couldn't bring himself to hate her the same way, as an enemy or as a blood traitor. He hardly knew her.

Then other girls began to notice him, and the months flew by. Draco welcomed each new fling with open arms, happy for the distraction. Though each relationship became more vapid and shallow than the one before it, they kept him sane.

Kept him sane? Draco was kidding himself. "Sanity" was all he wanted? Emptiness was all he could hope for? There were his lackeys, yes, but few true friends in which he could confide. Then came the final straw. His one remaining tether to his identity-his sense of family-unraveled. Lucius was sentenced to life imprisonment in a soul-sucking cell to while away the rest of his life, not once raising an objection or attempting to buy the court. Father had abandoned him. He had failed.

Draco unfurled a letter and pored over it discreetly beside the common room's fireplace. He threw the same letter into the hearth of his manor months later, steeling himself for the long journey ahead of him. He had made his decision. There was only one place to turn.

"Draco Malfoy..." hissed Voldemort exquisitely, "so delighted to make your acquaintance at last."
Sabius Nott, portly body covered head to toe in Death Eater regalia, dragged the boy by the collar to where the Dark Lord stood, obstinate and dangerously amused.

"You may depart now," he ordered, his red eyes fixed on the heap of ragged robes at his feet. "Inform the rest they are not to enter these quarters until I'm finished with the boy."
"Yes, Master," bowed Nott sycophantically, "I shall carry out your every whim faithfully and comp--"

"Spare the semantics "
"Yes, Master " he repeated, waddling frantically for the exit.

"That gluttonous moron," said Voldemort, arms crossed, "is a distant cousin of yours and our newest recruit. His deepest desire is to impress me. I think both you and I will agree it hasn't a chance in hell of happening."


"Oh no, don't get up off the ground on my account." He slammed Draco back onto the roughstone wandlessly and wordlessly. "Tell me, what do you think of my hideout?"

Draco removed his hood and examined his surroundings blearily. At the back of the room was a slender ebony throne, elevated by a slight altar-like dais. Tiny wisps of white provided scant traces of light from floating candles.

"Ah, how long has it been since we corresponded? If I recall correctly, a note was sent requesting your audience around three months ago."

The Dark Lord's tone did not invite response.

"Why come now?" he persisted. "Don't tell me you had trouble Disapparating, escaping Hogwarts grounds is not beyond your faculty."

"No, I admit it: I could have left at any time. I just needed to think about it."

"Three months worth of time? Surely it cannot have been that difficult a decision "

"My mother, she--"

"It does not matter," he cut in. "Let's not equivocate. Delay is weakling's play. Why should my fold adopt you?"

"Look at Nott," said Draco somewhat defiantly, rising tentatively up off the gravelly surface of the chamber. "I can't be worse than him."

"He came precisely when he was asked to," he countered venomously.

"He can't walk in a straight line "

For a second, Draco thought he saw Voldemort's face contort in shadowed anger. When the Dark Lord stepped into the light his expression was not one of fury or hate, but of bargaining.

"Would you be willing, as Nott humbly demonstrated, to do everything within your power to appease me?" he entreated. Whether his agenda was really to seek his assistance or simply to show him some mercy before cursing him, Draco could not sense it.

"Yes. I can--"

"Will you heed no one's word over mine?"

"Yes. My con--"

"Will you obey any imagined "higher authorities"? Do you know a cause which precedes ours?"

"...No," articulated Draco carefully.

Voldemort laughed, his tapered cloak swishing regally on the floor as he circled the young man. He savored the silence. To him the tension was delectable-a sensation only those with eternal life could appreciate.

"...Would you risk your life for me?" he aired.

"Yes " shouted Draco desperately, dissolving under the Dark Lord's acidic gaze. How was he doing this to him ?

Voldemort gave the air a flick of his forked tongue, then sniffed, apparently content.

"Good. You did not lie. Onto the next matter. Regrettably, due to your lateness, you will not be allowed immediate initiation. First, you shall have to complete a task. If, and only if, you pass this rite will you be worthy of the Dark Mark.

"Give me your arm."

"Wait, what are you--"

Too late. Where Voldemort's hand brushed his body, skin frothed with decay. The silhouette of dark concentric circle sank into Draco's flesh. It was a placeholder Dark Mark, to be substituted once the deed was done.

"You... you want me to kill... gah " His inflamed shoulder seared with a fresh wave of pain. "Kill... Dumbledore?"

"He's thwarted me for far too long. I cannot possibly enter the premises, he admitted, but you certainly may. Find a way to let outsiders in, or else murder him yourself. You are up to the task?"

"But how... ?"

"Nott Escort this man."

"Get off of me." Draco bucked against Nott's massive grip. "I'll let myself out."
The dolt looked to its master, confused.

"I said, let me go " he demanded, attempting to slip from under his wayfarer's cloak and away from Nott's grasp.

Scaly comprehension dawned. Voldemort spoke.

"...Mr. Malfoy, do you not remember collapsing on our doorstep, lost and irretrievably cold? Never value your pride over our time-honored tradition. I thought we had already discussed this. Let him go, Nott. Allow him to see with his own eyes the fruits of his foolishness."

Naturally, finding the place had posed no trouble. The trenches and turns that led to the Tower were nearly unnavigable, and Voldemort knew that; they were made that way. Draco huffed stoically, wiping the blood off his shoulder and tasting the tip of his finger, as if to gauge the severity of the wound. He had faked unconsciousness when the Death Eater spotted him. Nothing stopped him from taking the same way down.

The interior, however, treaded just as architecturally haphazard and unsound as the icy floes that encircled the structure. Mirrors swivelled searchingly in his direction and the boy felt like some invisible alarm pulsated with each step. Where had the guards run off to?

What struck Draco oddest was how much everything reminded him of Hogwarts, from the sculptures adorning the walls to the shifting quality of the staircases. Something strange was going on at his headquarters. Rather, something strange was headquarters.

Dwelling on the Tower, however, had not been an option. It would take every ounce of guile Draco had to kill Dumbledore. By the time his sixth year officially began, a fully-formed course of action was crafted and meticulously rehearsed in his head, complete with several back-up plans. But he would see to it that his sixth year wasn't like his second. He would participate in school affairs, keep up appearances, and live life to the fullest.

He wasn't going to give up on her.
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