|The Black Road IV: Broken Wings
Author: Guede Mazaka
“I was angry with my foe:
And I watered it in fears,
* * *
Ginny was between visitors when Draco finally made his way into the Catacombs. Normally his name was enough to carry him through, albeit with a good deal of sneering, but tonight Voldemort’s Ministry was in an uproar from the highest officials down to the janitorial staff, which was mainly composed of enslaved resisters. Draco saw Macnair kicking a crumpled, whimpering body down a flight of stairs while he shouted orders to a group of half-dressed shock troops; when he ducked into a side-hall, he glimpsed Snape agitatedly discussing something with a sneering Pettigew.
He ducked into Ginny’s rooms with something close to relief, then locked the door behind him.
“Draco?” came a startled gasp from the sumptuous bed. At first all he could see was a corner of brilliant green, but then Ginny slipped from behind the gauzy curtains and came towards him. She was done up like an artfully disheveled geisha, which meant she’d probably been due for a visit from his father.
He gave a mental sneer in that direction, ignored how it was tinged with more than a little hysteria, and listened for his father’s call. When it didn’t come, he relaxed; he had a while before his father noticed his disobedience. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. All of a sudden everything was just—” She waved a hand towards the hall, which echoed with muffled shouts, thuds and the occasional scream. Her other hand pulled and twisted at the delicate golden collar about her neck, which prevented her from ever venturing beyond the Catacomb walls. It kept her from touching anyone else’s wands as well; her own was locked somewhere even Draco didn’t know about. “Something with your father, I think. I heard Macnair gloating about him being out of the Dark Lord’s favor, and he was supposed to be here hours ago but he missed his appointment.”
Her prettily-painted mouth wrenched with hatred as she said ‘Dark Lord,’ and a tiny trace of pleasure crept into her voice as she talked about Lucius. Once upon a time, Draco would have done more than slapped her for that, but nowadays, he had to restrain himself from vigorously nodding his agreement.
“And Avery’s dead,” Ginny added, eyes lighting up with violent satisfaction. The beringed hand she had wrapped around her collar twisted so hard that Draco heard the screech of metal on metal. “I’ll never have to have that bastard between my legs again.”
Avery never had been a favorite of Draco’s either, and when Draco had permanently lost favor in the Dark Lord’s eyes, the other man hadn’t wasted a moment in digging knives into the wound. Good riddance, then.
As if she was reading his mind, Ginny put her hand on Draco’s arm and leaned very close. She glanced about, apparently decided everyone would be too busy to bother listening in, and then dropped her courtesan’s mask. “How is he?”
“He took it. He’s gone and—Ginny, Harry Potter is back from the dead.” Draco wasn’t quite so sanguine and dropped his arms around her neck, roughly pulling her up against him. He might be disgraced, but after nearly a year of secret double-crossing, he still wasn’t under suspicion of being a traitor and he needed that bit of protection for a little while longer. “But he’s not—he’s not human, and he’s not the Harry that died,” he murmured, kissing up the side of her neck.
She’d stiffened the moment he had said that name, and when she finally remembered her part in keeping up the act, her movements were obviously mechanical. Hopefully if anyone was spying, they’d take it as a foolish burst of defiance on her part. “Are any of us the same? Where is he?”
“Not coming to see you,” Draco snapped beneath his breath. He bit Ginny hard enough so that he could see the redness through her make-up when he lifted his head. When she winced, he grabbed her arm and twisted it up high behind her back. “Grow up, damn it. He’s—he’s gone dark.”
Ginny jerked herself back and stared up at Draco with the injured infuriation that made her so popular among the higher echelon. She’d be a rebel till someone finally killed her, and it made her a very hot bedmate. “What are you doing here?” she loudly said.
“Oh, I thought I’d try what has my father—” the word spat itself out without nearly as much vitriol as Draco wished he could put into it “—so damn fascinated.”
He yanked her back to him, and the meeting of their mouths was a battle to see who could be more filled with frustrated rage and wounded psyche. For a moment, it overwhelmed him.
Then his newfound sobriety caught up with him and Draco wrenched himself off, returning to his assault on her neck. He raked his nails through her hair till all the pins and baubles in it came popping off and clattered to the ground. “I’m leaving, Ginny. Harry’s crazy and he knows I’m a spy, and I don’t trust him not to let that slip to someone.”
She curled her free hand around his neck and gouged at him with her nails. “But what about—”
“Oh, he’s still taking care of Voldemort. He can do that without me risking my neck to sneak out information, believe me,” Draco snarled. He let go of her arm, took hold of both sides of her collar, and ripped them down her shoulders. “Are you coming?”
Her nails removed themselves from his flesh, and while he buried his face in her breasts, Ginny stood stockstill. Eventually she got down to his level with kimono hiked up, and proceeded to climb onto his prick with all the viciousness of a she-wolf. “You don’t have to bring me with you. They know you’re helping—they trust—”
“Then they’re idiots, because I’m not and never was doing this because I find your arguments more convincing,” Draco hissed to her throat. He gripped her buttocks and made her move faster.
“They just can put you out of your misery sooner than Voldemort.” Perceptive girl. She grabbed onto his shoulders and rolled her hips up into his hands, tossing her head back before ducking to savage his lip. “No, I’m not. If Harry’s back and working against Voldemort, then he’ll still need spies. Maybe you’re too afraid to stay, but I’m not. Not if that’s what it takes.”
Draco started to laugh, but his climax turned it into a strangled shout. That was more fitting, anyway. “You stupid, stupid girl,” he gasped. He took back his earlier compliment. “He doesn’t need you, believe me.”
Instead of listening, she shoved herself down a last time and screeched like a banshee. Her lipstick was smeared over her cheek like someone had taken a knife to her mouth, and her eyes glittered blindly at the ceiling. He hadn’t expected her to listen, anyway, but it still stung. No one ever listened to him. Not even a brainless whore who thought she was some great tragic heroine.
* * *
Well, that had been an utterly pointless meeting, and if Draco could sort out the reason he’d tried from the seething tangle of resentments and hatreds and plain despair that currently made up his mind, he would’ve burned it out of himself. Instead he went to see his father. Apparently visits from not-so-dead but very inhuman former adversaries left him with the need to make bad situations even worse.
His father was confined to his rooms, ostensibly because he was busy plotting strategy, but Draco could read triumphant looks and sidelong sneers as well as, if not better, than anyone. The open contempt extended to Draco as well, and for once he was grateful that nobody in Voldemort’s organization seemed to think he was capable of anything. He got into Lucius’ chambers without a single challenge.
“Father—” Draco began.
Lucius had been bent over his desk, frantically rummaging through papers and books, but when Draco spoke, he whipped about and stared. So did Draco, because his father was hollow-eyed and pale, and looked like Ginny tended to after a session with Macnair. “Draco,” Lucius breathed.
For nearly a minute after that, he merely stared at Draco as if…as if…except they were far too gone for that. Draco gave himself a shake and carefully avoided looking at the scratches and bruises and bites on his father’s skin. He gazed for a while at Lucius’ hands, but how his father clutched his cane to himself was still too telling, and finally Draco had to settle for watching the far wall. “What’s going on?”
“I sent you a message. Go directly to the manor and—” Already his father was returning to the business at hand, dismissing his son as if Draco were nothing more than a servant.
“I got the damned message. If I’ve got to put up with mother, I’d like to know why,” Draco snapped. A long, long time ago, he would have jumped at the chance to go home and be pampered and cosseted by his mother. Long ago, before she’d made the bargain with Snape that had saved Draco’s life—or so she told it, and ever since she’d never ceased to take out on Draco her hatred of being in debt to Snape.
A too-hasty brush of the hand sent a pile of scrolls cascading from the desk, but Lucius made no attempt to pick them up. Instead he called up yet more books, some Draco knew only as being from the section of their library that they still weren’t allowed to touch, and feverishly paged through them. “Goddamn it, Draco. Do what I say and don’t argue.”
Draco blinked. Normally his father would have drawn himself up and coldly shredded Draco’s self-esteem, or have simply pointed his wand and sent Draco out of there without any further debate. In comparison, this reaction was almost stunning in its weakness. “Why not? Can’t I have an opinion about what’s to be done with me?”
“No.” Lucius stopped at something and smoothed down the page with a trembling hand. He angrily slapped his fingers against the book, as if that would help.
After a while, he realized Draco hadn’t left and slowly turned about with a little of his old chilling presence. But even if he’d been in top form, it wouldn’t have mattered because Draco was completely, utterly at the end of his rope. For two years he’d seen Voldemort mismanage his victory and turn the world into a living hell. Watched where he was, shoved to the margin where only spying for the resistance had given him any importance to anyone. And then Harry Potter had shown up—Harry had showed up not dead and clearly in tune with dark forces beyond anyone’s immediate understanding, and he’d obviously shown up to maim and kill, but instead he’d…spared Draco. Possibly the worst insult of all.
“Draco, must you be so difficult? And now of all times? I’m trying to look out for your well-being,” Lucius said. He sounded almost plaintive, but there was enough irritation in his eyes and anger in his voice to disabuse Draco of any inclinations towards sympathy. “Listen to me, and—”
“And what? All will be well? Excuse me if I find that hard to believe now.” Draco snapped out a cigarette and lit up. He raised an eyebrow at his father’s disapproving look: of course Lucius hated anything Muggle, and especially anything he considered detrimental to their appearance as the purest of the pure.
Surprisingly, that look crumbled a moment later and Lucius actually appeared to be trying for persuasive instead of commanding. “I do have your best interests at heart,” he said in a low tone. “You used to believe me when I said that. I thought I raised you to believe in the Malfoy family.”
Something twisted in Draco’s chest. He took a deep drag and the nicotine loosened it right up. “Well, that was then, and a lot’s gone on since. You also brought me up to be full of spite and pride. And I’m good at those. If nothing else, I’m good at those.”
His father pressed his lips together, then opened his mouth and took a sharp breath, as if he were about to launch into another tirade. Then he flinched and his hand made an aborted move towards his arm, where the Mark was. Real fear crossed his face.
“Harry Potter,” Draco abruptly said. It wasn’t a finished thought, so he didn’t say the rest.
Just as well, because his father’s violent reaction to that was enough: Lucius recoiled, knocking two heavy books onto the floor where they snarled and flapped their displeasure. He went even whiter and the hand he was using to hold his hand convulsed so the cane-end rattled against the desk-leg. “Why did you say that name?” he hissed.
Draco shrugged. He ashed his cigarette in an expensive urn that stood near the door, and his father didn’t call him on it. “I’m going, Father. Have a nice life.”
He’d already turned when Lucius called out: “Draco—”
He didn’t want to turn, but the silence that followed was so unbearably tense that Draco didn’t dare be the one to snap it. Much as he wanted out of this infernal closed cycle, he didn’t want to get out here, in the damp, revolting ancient catacombs where Voldemort had chosen to make his headquarters, as if they still had something to hide. Draco glanced over his shoulder.
His father’s face was…open, Draco thought. Guessed, because he’d never seen any expression like that on his father before. Open and raw and almost mere human.
“You are my son,” Lucius said, voice a bit thick like he’d been imbibing.
“Then no wonder I turned out so badly, since that’s all I ever was,” Draco retorted. He didn’t stay to see his father’s reaction to that. “Bye, father.”
No one stopped him on his way out. As soon as he was clear of the Catacombs and on an empty street, he Apparated himself directly into the nearest resistance hideout.
It was cramped and damp and miserable, but it didn’t pretend to be otherwise. A Weasley was leaning over a table full of maps, and from the sofa, gaunt-cheeked Lupin was slowly rising.
“Potter’s not dead anymore, and I’ve been compromised. Ginny’s sticking around to keep on spying so you’ll have to find an alternate for me if you want to keep in touch with her,” Draco said oh-so-casually. He sat down in the nearest chair and tapped the ash from his cigarette. “Merlin, I’m thirsty. Is there any decent wine in this place?”
* * *
The edge of Voldemort’s robes was heavily ornamented with rich brocade and jewels that weighed it down as he swept agitatedly about the room. It skittered and scraped against the floorstones so that Lucius always had to keep one eye fixed on it; the ornamentation had drawn blood from more than one cheek in the past.
“Did he mention anything else?” Voldemort finally said.
“No, my lord. Only horcruxes and nonsense about Lucifer.” Severus was pressed so close to the floor that Lucius, also prostrated, could make out only the blanch-white curve of one ear and nothing of the other man’s face. “However he was able to return, it seems the process has left him addled in the head.”
Voldemort stopped almost at the extreme end of the room, drawing himself up so he seemed like a black spike protruding from the floor. His robes rustled as he lifted a hand to his face, but what he did with it, Lucius had no idea. And Lucius currently had no energy to spare in speculations, as then came the chilly probing of the Dark Lord at his mind. It was all he could do to force his fingers to remain lying flat and to keep his breath steady. He did his damnedest to project a sense of confusion, hurt, and complete trust in Voldemort.
The first two weren’t hard at all. He’d gotten the summons just after Draco had stormed out, and he hadn’t been able to see where his son had went before he’d had to come here. His body still hadn’t been healed from Potter’s assault, and he could smell the bastard on his skin.
“So you don’t believe what he told you.” After a moment, Voldemort came back across the room. Nagini was sleeping coiled half-on and half-off a table that he passed; Voldemort went only two steps before he turned back and stroked her back. It was uncharacteristic of him to show any sign of indecisiveness. “Somehow I doubt that. His explanation would appeal to your sense of retribution, Severus.”
“My lord?” Whatever else he was, Severus certainly was a skilled actor. His question included exactly the right proportions of bewilderment and fear.
“I cannot,” Voldemort said in a deliberate voice, “Find a trace of Potter within the Catacombs, save for what I can sense on you two and on Avery’s corpse. If not for those, I’d have to believe that two of my best Death-Eaters have lost their minds.”
Lucius almost protested, but he recognized barely in time that the pause was meant to give them time to stew in their fright, not to invite discussion. He dropped his gaze.
For several moments it was silent. Then a low, rustling scratchy sound filled the air: Voldemort was caressing Nagini’s head. “However, you are not, and Potter once again poses a danger. An unknown danger to hear you two, though I expect you will bend all your efforts to elucidating his mysteries.”
“Yes, my lord,” Lucius and Severus both murmured. The sidelong glance Severus gave Lucius indicated that the irony of the exchange hadn’t been lost on him.
“In the meantime, Potter has to be neutralized before the resistance regains their figurehead,” Voldemort went on. His tone was almost musing.
After some hesitation, Lucius thought it’d look better on him to offer some information. Harry could plot all he wanted, but if he expected Lucius to lie down and tamely submit to his wishes, he was still nothing more than a hotheaded youth. “Potter doesn’t seem interested in joining up with the resistance, my lord. He made a point of repudiating them in the church.”
“And he made a point of defying me,” Voldemort hissed, whipping around. His robe-edge came within a hair of slicing open Lucius’ cheek, and before Lucius had finished recoiling, his foot was wedged beneath Lucius’ chin. “He broke into my Ministry, and of the three high-ranking officials he encountered, he slaughtered one, disarmed the second and apparently expressed a great interest in the third.”
Voldemort’s red eyes burned deep into Lucius’ mind, prodding and testing without a modicum of finesse. Then he suddenly withdrew, mouth twisted in disgust, and carelessly kicked Lucius aside with his foot before returning to Nagini. The blow carried little physical force, but nevertheless Lucius couldn’t prevent himself from drawing his next breath so sharply he felt it lacerate his throat. “I assure you, my lord—Potter will—”
“Did he seem open to negotiations of any sort?” As suddenly as Voldemort’s temper had flared, it chilled. He held out his hand a foot above the table and watched Nagini sluggishly lift her head to it with a curiously detached demeanor. “It makes no difference whether he wishes to support the resistance—though that is an interesting development—as long as those recalcitrants can convince others that he is. Wouldn’t you agree, Lucius?”
Lucius willed himself not to grind his teeth. Apparently Potter had a better reading of Voldemort’s eccentricities than anyone had suspected. “Yes, my lord.”
“I need him inactive till he can be dealt with in a permanent fashion. So…” Head tilted, Voldemort meditatively stroked the underside of Nagini’s head. Her tongue flickered out almost to his mouth, and his eyelids dropped like those of a great beast chewing contentedly over its latest meal. “The way he killed Avery…very messy. Not Gryffindor at all.”
“He always was a hot-tempered boy,” Severus said.
Voldemort abruptly whirled to look down at him, but made no move forward. The movement of Voldemort’s fingers on Nagini slowed, then ceased altogether. “But ridiculously attached to the morals his guardians spoon-fed him. I don’t remember him ever being so meticulously vicious before. Or expressing interest in men before.”
His gaze swept purposefully over Lucius, who swallowed hard and pushed himself up on numb arms. Perhaps this would get him Crucio’d for the rest of the night, but he had to at least try and forestall what was obviously on Voldemort’s mind. He had a little pride left, and it was essential that he keep it. “My lord, I doubt interest had much to do with it. Potter was after revenge against those that had hurt him before, in whatever way he believed would injure them worst.”
That red gaze looked expressionlessly into Lucius’ eyes. “There is truth in that. Potter’s motivations now appear to be rooted in personal reasons, then?”
“They generally were before, my lord.” Severus almost glanced in Lucius’ direction. “But he never was a natural grudge-holder. I don’t believe he’d strike twice at the same target, at least—”
“At least in regards to you, though you got off rather lightly compared to Lucius,” Voldemort dryly said. Now it was Severus’ turn to go pale and stiff as Voldemort eyed him. “Severus. I understand you and Pettigew divided what possessions of Sirius Black’s fell into our hands.”
A curt nod and a murmured ‘by your grace’ were Severus’ only answer.
“Pettigew destroyed his share in a fit of delayed resentment, the fool.” Behind Voldemort, Nagini slowly coiled herself back down. He lowered his hand to rest on her back, but did not look away from Severus. “Have you been so foolish?”
So much blood drained from Severus’ face that his skin appeared thin and dry as very old parchment. He began to reply, but had to stop and moisten his lips before he could produce any noises. “I can give you a complete catalog within the hour, my lord.”
“Do so. As for you, Lucius…Potter may not be interested in revisiting you. Or he may. I cherish you highly and so I’d be a fool to allow you to continue in such vulnerable surroundings. You will retire to Malfoy Manor immediately.” Voldemort drew one nail along Nagini’s back to produce a bone-shivering rasp. “Rookwood will temporarily take on your administrative duties here, but I’ll not keep you idle, you may rest assured. Spend some time with your family…that son of yours. He could use firmer guidance.”
“My lord.” It was all Lucius could safely say.
As soon as Lucius and Severus had made their exit and retreated to an isolated part of the Catacombs, Severus lost his temper. “Black?” he hissed, throwing up his arms. He stalked to the far wall of the room, then whipped about to glower at Lucius, as if that would do anything. “Black?”
“You always did say that Harry had an unusually deep attachment to the man. It would make tactical sense.” Of course, Lucius doubted it made as much strategic sense as Voldemort seemed to think he did, but he was not about to deepen his disgrace by bringing that up.
Banished. House arrest. Rookwood taking over, and Draco haring off to Merlin knew where. Narcissa and that insane sister of hers was going to have a field day with all that, as if the idea of Voldemort using Lucius as—as simple bait wasn’t already denigrating enough. Severus was snarling and frothing at the mouth in his fury and his attempts to not come out and complain about it where Voldemort might hear, and Lucius could hardly care.
“Potter will not react that way,” Severus snapped. “Lucius—Lucius, damn it, will you stop nursing your pride for one moment and attempt to be rational about this?”
“Can you be so certain? It’s rather clear that Harry isn’t quite like he used to be.” Something fell into Lucius’ eyes: a lock of hair. He pushed it back and somehow caught his fingers on the tie so it snapped and all his hair fell free. He irritably pulled it out of the way and savagely retied it so tightly that the skin around his hairline was drawn tighter than a bowstring. “Are you going to suggest an alternative to our Lord’s idea?”
Severus’ lips pressed into a hard line. After a moment, he stiffly shook his head. “I’m not an idiot.”
“Then I suggest you get on with your end. I need to prepare for my…retreat.” The word stuck in Lucius’ throat, a clot of acid. He spat it out and swerved around Severus to reach the door. “At least I have one advantage—I won’t have to be in Black’s greeting party.”
“No, you’ll be too busy serving on his godson’s.” Before Lucius could make a grab at him, Severus had pushed past and stomped down the hall. His robes slapped around the corner, and then he was gone.
“Was I interrupting?” said a low, lazy voice like a riffle of rocks over boulders. When Lucius turned around, Fenrir Greyback was lounging against the wall. He drew back his lips in a wide, feral grin full of jagged yellow teeth. “Our Lord’s sent me as your escort, just to show how much he values your safety.”
Lucius briefly saw the world fade into pure mist. It resharpened a moment later, but it was an entirely different world—it was a place where he, one of Voldemort’s earliest supporters, no longer had a place by the Dark Lord’s side. If he wanted to survive, he’d have to make alternative arrangements with some other power that was great enough to contest Voldemort. He’d have to make compromises. But that no longer carried the tang of humiliation; in one short interview, Voldemort had ensured that Lucius no longer had to fear the possibility of that. Humiliation now was the circumstance that characterized his life.
It was freeing, in a way that only the condemned and the deeply insane probably could appreciate. “I need to pack,” Lucius said. He was startled at how pleasant he sounded. “You may accompany me to my chambers first.”
Greyback dropped his lower jaw so his smile exuded bloodthirsty anticipation. “Of course, Malfoy. Is your son going to be home?”
A chill ran up Lucius’ spine, ending the strange moment of near-euphoria that had taken him. He reminded himself that Draco was eighteen, and if not a good Death-Eater, at least a full-fledged wizard. And somehow Lucius didn’t think Draco would be home…he hoped now that Draco wouldn’t, no matter how worry twisted in his chest. His son was better out of it; at least then something would stand a chance of being salvaged from the Malfoy line. “My entire family will be in residence, as well as Bella. You do remember her, don’t you?”
The smile on Greyback’s face twisted into a sullen snarl. “I do. Come on, Malfoy. I wouldn’t want to keep you from your loved ones.”
“I’m quite sure,” Lucius said. In fact, he was no longer sure of anything at all, except that Voldemort was no longer his way.