Author's Note: I took a moment to review the story "There's an American in the Tower!" and I realized that I was in such a rush to write "The Son of Alphard" and was basically flying by the seat of my pants from chapter to chapter that I didn't divulge everything that I had thought of or knew to have happened in the story. Which is really lame, and kind of cheating out my readers. So, as a gift to anyone who is still reading, and still loves the saga of Lian Kowalski, allow me to present the secret chapters.
To any new readers: either check out the original or hang on to your socks because this is the true sequel to "There's an American in the Dungeon's!" Harry Potter story, AU of the Half-Blood Prince.
Welcome to New York
The street car moved through the traffic as though it were not there. Horns honked and people walked around as if they owned the place. Americans, I thought with a groan. It was late in the afternoon, or early in the morning, or something. My brain was feeling really fuzzy and I couldn't fully trust my sense of time. Still underage, we couldn't technically travel instantaneously across the ocean, and using the floo network internationally required special permission from both governments. Permission that the British Ministry was unwilling to give to three people undeniably connected to known Death Eaters.
So, I got the unique opportunity to travel with the Malfoy's via Muggle methods. High class methods, such as limousines and private jets, but Muggle methods nonetheless. (Technically they got the hook-ups through Squibs, but they'd sooner die than admit it.) Mrs. Malfoy wore the same expression the entire trip; that of a woman who was disgusted by her surroundings, and was above everything and everyone. Draco mirrored her expressions in the presence of crowds, but in the privacy of the three of us he either slept or gazed quietly out the window. As for me, I fidgeted restlessly for the greater part of the trip, unable to relax or sleep.
I had to see her. Now, more than ever.
I'd tried to write to her since that day on the Hogwarts Express, but the minute I returned to my empty home reality was waiting for me. I was the head of my house, and my first duty was to give my father a proper burial. My next task, per pureblood traditions, would've been to avenge his death. Unfortunately, I'd have to hold off on that because the man who had killed my father happened to be occupying a cell in Azkaban, and I wasn't keen on paying a visit.
"Is that it?" Mrs. Malfoy leaned forward in her seat, frowning at the town house, or what was left of it. Draco and I gazed at our apparent destination, feeling a great sense of disappointment wash over us. The building looked more like the Shrieking Shack than anything, yet it was the address Lian had signed with on her letter. "Is she an orphan?"
"You don't have to stay, Mother," Draco told her, neither confirming nor denying Lian's familial status. "Go on to the estate, we'll catch up later."
"I'll at least wait in the car, in case this is all a trap or something," she sniffed, as the car pulled to a stop along the curbside.
"Thank you, Narcissa," I said politely. Last year I'd have referred to her as 'Mrs. Malfoy', but I was the head of the Nott household now. There was a certain decorum I had to follow. "For everything."
She almost smiled at me, but her eyes were soft. "I should thank you. I was grateful for the chance to escape London, what with...recent events."
With another word of thanks and a slight bow, I opened the door and stepped out into the Manhattan heat, which I was convinced would be my undoing. But it was worth it, if she was at the end of all this.
Walking towards the decrepit house, with it's caved-in roof and ashened walls, I did notice that the only thing still standing was the front door. That was odd because it had no hinges upon which to hang.
"You first," muttered Draco as he walked behind me, glancing up and down the street nervously.
"This was your idea," I pointed out. I would've never thought to just strut into the American continent and hunt her down if Draco hadn't provided the vision and means. He claimed he was here for the books by Merlin but I suspected he wanted to get away from London as much as his mother did.
"She's your ally."
He had me there, even if I still was vague on the meaning of that word. Squaring my shoulders I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. The instant my knuckles came into contact with the wood, or maybe the moment my foot fell upon the top step, the townhouse winked into life. The crisped remains turned into solid walls, high windows and a slated roof. It stood about three stories tall, maybe four, depending if they had an attic or not. The door was painted a dark blue on my second knock, by which point Draco had joined me on the front step and nearly jumped out of his suit.
The door opened inward and a boy about our age frowned at us. He had dark blond hair, piercing blue eyes and wore a t-shirt with the emblem Spiderman scribed across the front. I was momentarily distracted by the cartoon image of a man in a red and blue bodysuit shooting something out of his wrist when the boy spoke. "What do you want?"
He sounded neither friendly or hostile, but perhaps confused at our being on his doorstep. I wracked my brain, knowing Lian mentioned having a brother but unsure if she'd told me his name at some point. If this was even her brother…
"We're looking for Kowalski," said Draco, looking down his nose at the guy. Granted, he'd lifted his chin slightly to make it seem more intimidating.
The boy gazed back, completely unphased. "Uh huh. Lemme guess, Pigpimples?"
"Do you mean 'Hogwarts'?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
He grimaced. "How did you even know this address?"
I held up Lian's letter, well technically it was a scroll, but on the flip side was printed her home address. I assumed. The longer the boy wearing a Spiderman t-shirt frowned at us as the hot sun boiled our blood, the more I doubted we were in the right place. He kept staring at us skeptically, and just as it occurred to me that we could either walk away or overpower him, he stepped back from the entrance and waved us inside. "Aight then."
"Thank you," I crossed the threshold and immediately experienced a sense of relief as the house seemed to be charmed to keep the interior cool and refreshing.
The boy sniggered at the look on my face, eying the both of us apprehensively still. Draco was too busy scrutinizing the upholstery to care. A glance about the place gave me mixed feelings as well. It looked...plain on the inside. The furniture itself might as well have been purchased at a Muggle's'R'Us around the corner, and not all of the pictures moved. In fact, most of them were still, staring straight ahead with blank, but happy faces, stuck in a moment forever. It was kind of spooky. Not only that, but the entry way opened to a kind of sitting room to the right, which was also a kitchen/dining area towards the back. To the left was a glass door with a wooden frame leading to a small library or office. Or both. Dead ahead was a narrow staircase with a suspiciously shiny banister. I saw doors leading off the landing up there, but most of them were closed.
My eyes were drawn to the family portrait near the top of the stairs on the upper wall. It confirmed for me that we were in the right place, as I recognized Mr. and Mrs. Kowalski, sitting on a bench as their children stood around them. I felt relieved to see the subjects breathing, and there was Lian, grinning like she had all the answers. The boy who'd led us in and was currently sat in an armchair frowning at us was featured also, and his portrait version was giving me the same look. There were two other children I'd yet to meet the real versions of yet, but if this was home, it might not be too long before-
"So," Draco coughed uncomfortably. "Where is Kowalski?"
The boy quirked up an eyebrow. "You came all this way and you don't know?"
"We just thought we could catch her at home-"
"Catch her? She's not an animal." He thought about that statement before amending, "Well, most of the time. Try again."
"We really need to see her," I spoke up before Draco could say something stupid again. "I'm sorry for the intrusion but we didn't think more than just wanting to find her."
Her brother seemed to relax a little bit, which was more than I could say for myself or Draco. We were still standing just inside the house, unsure of exactly how welcome we were. "Well, I suppose that makes sense, but you're out of luck. She's at work, and won't be home til-"
"What do you mean, 'she's at work'?" said Draco incredulously.
"I mean exactly what it sounds like. People our age get jobs to earn money so they can pay to go to expensive international schools that there was a slightly illegal scholarship for but was dissolved at the conclusion of last year." The teenage boy took a huge breath before adding, "Who are you guys again?"
I wondered if he could see my elation to hear that she was at least planning on returning to Hogwarts this year. "I'm Theodore Nott, and this irritable halfwit is Draco."
Her brother eyed us in apprehension, likely trying to calculate the best judgement call he could make given the circumstances. It was a miracle he'd let us in the house at all, and we were ill-prepared to deal with anyone who wasn't Lian or her parents. I honestly felt nervous under this teenager's scrutiny.
"When will Kowalski get off 'work'?" Draco demanded, saying the word 'work' like it was poisonous.
That was the moment the brother adopted a kind of pedantic demeanor. "Well, one Kowalski got off work around six, while the other Kowalski gets off work around seven," I glanced towards the clock over the fireplace and felt a shock to the system as I saw that it was half-past six. My internal clock was way off. "And then the only other working Kowalski of the house gets off at ten. You're gonna have to be more specific, there."
"Your sister, Lian, when will she be back?" I clarified. Hopefully he could give a plain answer and we could either wait or leave and return at the appropriate time. Anything was better than staying stuck in this situation.
"Ten. She won't finish her assistant teaching job until then."
"Teaching?" I repeated, unable to imagine Lian being paid to teach anything other than sarcasm. "Teaching what?"
"Dance," he answered, shrugging. "You're welcome to hang out until she gets back. I'm sure our folks won't mind, they almost never do."
I glanced at Draco, who looked about as desperate to leave as I did then, but just when we were about to find an appropriate way to decline the half-hearted invitation, a door from the upstairs burst open. Seconds later a young girl came sliding down the banister, hopped onto the floor and skidded towards the boy in the armchair. "JJ! Joey just called and said he saw John Lurie at his cousin's pizza sha-a-" she broke off abruptly, turning her head to examine Draco and me thoroughly. She kept her mouth agape as her voice slowly died out, until she resembled a fish with her exaggerated, surprised expression.
She looked nothing like the boy; she had short, wavy black hair and large brown eyes. She was skinny and clearly at an adolescent age but clearly going through a growth spurt.
"Phi," the boy clicked his fingers at her until she blinked and became human once more. "You're embarrassing yourself."
Snapping out of her stupor and stepping into the role of someone without shame, she grinned up at us. "Hi! I'm Seraphina and I have got to ask...did it hurt when you fell from heaven?"
The brother recoiled somewhat; apparently this behavior was not new to him, but also not wanted. Under my breath I replied, "...crawled outta hell more like…"
"What?" Seraphina asked quickly, not having heard me but caught the movement of my lips.
Suddenly, the fireplace surged to life, causing Seraphina, Draco and myself to jump in surprise. The boy looked relieved, if anything, as he declared, "Mom's home."
Mrs. Kowalski stepped gracefully out of the green flames, and sized up her children and the two intruders within seconds. Her son waved cheerfully, or sarcastically, I honestly couldn't tell. However, I did feel it necessary to mind my manners, as Draco seemed to be malfunctioning beside me, so I couldn't count on him. Stepping forward to meet her, I extended my hand to shake hers. "Mrs. Kowa-"
She beamed up at me as she slapped my hand away. "Call me Amaya." And then she pulled me into a hug, effectively knocking all the air out of my lungs. She pulled back and surveyed my face after a moment, still smiling. "It's nice to see you again, Theodore! Who's your friend?" she nodded over at Draco, already moving in on him. I half expected him to cut his losses and run away from her.
"D-Draco. My name is Draco M-Malfoy."
Mrs. K stood at 167 cm, if I had to guess, and yet she still managed to instill more fear in Draco Lucius Malfoy than most Death Eaters we knew. "Good to meet you, Draco," she said warmly before hugging him too. She stepped away if only to begin herding us like cattle into the small kitchen. "When was the last time you boys had a decent meal? I'd whip something up but I'm afraid you've caught me without a lot of groceries and anyway it's our family's Take-Out Tuesday. My husband's bringing home dinner tonight, and if I call him now we'll have enough for seconds and possibly thirds. How'd you boys feel about Chinese?"
"We had Chinese last week, Mom," Seraphina whined, following and sitting on a tall stool by the bar. "I could meet Dad at Joey's cousin's place and bring home several boxes signed by the man, the myth, the-"
"Honey, let the guests have a say and you know pizza tastes better at the shack than at home. We'd all have to go meet Dad in that scenario." Mrs. K picked up a strange looking device and began to hit buttons on its underside before placing it against her ear. "You eat pizza all the time, anyways."
Seraphina pouted and looked at Draco for help. "You like pizza, right?"
"Chinese sounds great," I said, just wanting to drive the attention off of the both of us.
Amaya pointed at me. "I knew I liked you. Oh hey sweetie," she turned her head away, apparently speaking into the black, curved device she was still holding against her face. "You're already in line? Great! We have company tonight, get extra everything okay? Love you!" She took the device away and hit another button. "He'll be home soon. Hope you're hungry!"
With a loud clap of her hands she marched towards the office/library space and walked inside, removing her summer cloak and setting down her bag. Whatever she planned to do next I never knew because Seraphina was poking my hand, effectively claiming my attention and irritation at the same time.
"So what was your name, handsome?" she asked pleasantly.
"How old are you?" I asked, squinting across at her.
"Age is just a number," she replied instantly. "It's not gonna matter in a few years, right?"
"Nott," Draco muttered. "Can I have a word?" He stood abruptly and marched back towards the front door. I followed him swiftly, suspecting what was coming before it hit. "Are you insane? We're here for Kowalski, not her entire bloody family. She's not here, and won't be for several hours. Can't we just leave?"
I sighed. "If you want to go, you can."
He jutted his chin at me. "You can't be serious, you actually want to stay with these…" he stopped himself but the damage was done.
"Freaks?" The frowning teenager had moved from his armchair to linger by the staircase. "What? Just because a house-elf didn't answer our door and our parents had the audacity to openly love and spawn more than one child?"
"That's not what I-" Draco tried to say.
"Stop. Here's what I know: I don't like either of you, I don't want my sisters anywhere near you, and you're liars who have no business in my home. Also, you're both incredibly rude, you probably don't care that you don't know my name."
"You never offered it."
"You never asked. It's Jake, FYI."
Draco looked confused. "Eff-why what?"
Jake blinked. "You're not serious? Oh Morrigan you are. Hoo boy." He cleared his throat. "How do you qualify to...everything I know is a lie."
"Are you alright?" I asked, not sure I wanted the answer.
"How are you friends with Jules?" Jake demanded.
The front door opened, saving Draco from getting strangled by Jake Kowalski, as his father entered carrying plastic bags that smelled of some kind of spice. "Who's hungry?"
Dinner was an interesting experience. Mr. K was a serious-minded person, who had chosen to spend his life with Mrs. K, who was energetic and direct. I don't think she allowed the conversation to die even for a second. She talked to me, to Draco, her own children; she asked about our day and our thoughts about it. She asked about Hogwarts, and our thoughts on that. She asked about everything I'd never expected to talk about over copious amounts of fried chicken, noodles and vegetables. I learned I liked Chinese food. I didn't like being the center of the Kowalski's attention, as they had an annoying habit of focusing on you. Like, laser focus. I was starting to understand where Lian's personality had spawned from.
Draco was a bit more in his element under all the attention. He seemed to forget the obvious Muggle tones of their lifestyle and completely flourished under their observation. He had Seraphina drooling over her fried rice within six sentences. When Jake noticed this as I had, he kicked her chair out from under her and watched as she fell over. This led to a Muggle wrestling match, and their parents didn't even bat an eyelid.
"So how long are you boys going to be in town?" Mr. K asked, guiding us to the sitting room and gesturing for us to take a seat somewhere in the vicinity. "Do you need a place to stay?"
"No, thank you," said Draco, having found his manners about half-way through his egg rolls. "That, at least we've prepared for."
Amaya had kept piling food before us, insisting we were gaunt and in need of nutrition. I was stuffed and about this close to falling asleep on the sofa, but I didn't want to be rude. Forcing my eyes to stay open and my posture to remain correct, I noticed Mrs. K checking her wristwatch. "Okay...Julie should be home in a couple hours. What do you guys think—movie or board game?"
Seraphina, who had slumped into a large, overstuffed cushion upon the floor, bolted to her feet. "We should watch Star Wars!"
"I think Godfather would be more appropriate," Jake mumbled from where he'd settled beside his father.
"Ten points from Pukwudgie!" Seraphina snapped. "Ju-Ju would be ashamed to call you brother!"
"It was just a suggestion, don't get all high and mighty on me. Ten points from Wampus for overstepping."
"O-Kay!" Amaya held up her wand, the first sign of magic in the house since she'd arrived home by floo powder. "I think we're gonna do a board game."
Her squabbling children stilled as the wand drew their attention, but they weren't about to surrender. "But Star Wars is—"
"Good idea honey," replied Mr. K, speaking as though his kids had not. "Clue?"
"If I could ask," Draco said politely, drawing the focus back to him. "What is a movie?"
All four Kowalski's stared blankly at him, then at me, and back at Draco. After a stifling pause, Mrs. Kowalski said, "Sera, go get A New Hope."
Her daughter punched the air in victory and dashed to the wooden cabinet in the corner of the room, upon which was perched an odd black box. She opened a drawer, took out a paper box, unsheathed a black rectangle and shoved it into a larger, black rectangle with buttons and switches all over it. She pressed a few of these, hit a switch on the box and stepped back while Jake turned the lights off.
Draco looked at me, fear flickering in his grey eyes, suspecting some weird Muggle ritual. He went to protest, to explain he just wanted a verbal answer right before our ears were blasted to smithereens by a loud crash of percussion and trumpets. Words began to move across the screen in the most baffling manner, and I knew that despite how full and sleepy I was from the food and sleep deprivation, I would keep my eyes wide and wondering as the 'movie' made itself known.
The front door slammed shut and my eyes flew open. The last thing I recalled was Luke Skywaker blowing up a moon or something. Guess my exhaustion was stronger than my curiosity after all. I looked around just in time to see a pair of red tennis shoes vanishing upstairs.
I pushed off a blanket—when had that happened?—and followed those shoes up the stairs, eyes trained on the door that opened and shut in her wake. Dimly I heard Draco's voice back in the sitting room but I couldn't backtrack, not now, when she was finally here.
I moved to the door, knocking on it a few times. A voice, her voice, answered, though admittedly the reply was muffled. I assumed it was alright.
Why was my stomach suddenly filled with butterflies and all that nonsense? It was just Lian, my ally, my— I pushed the door open and was met with another narrow staircase, no banister this time, just walls. I climbed these cautiously before reaching the top and cast my gaze around.
Compared to the rest of the compact living space, this room had clearly been enchanted with an undetectable enlargement charm. About as large as the entire downstairs, with one wall comprised entirely of a mirror, and the opposite almost entirely window, the two normal walls were covered with pictures and posters, all of which were thankfully moving. Close to the ceiling, she had a shelf built into the wall and mirror parts, lined with numerous books and charts and random objects of some sentimental value. In the corner furthest from the door, a study area was set up, with a desk, parchment, glass phials, a cauldron and drawers overflowing with things she'd need on hand. In the other corner, facing the large window-wall, was mounted a bed. Like a bunk without the lower part and support. Briefly I wondered how she got up there.
The room's only occupant was standing by her wardrobe, removing her—
With a jolt I stepped back down the stairs, almost tripping myself until I reached the door again. It opened before I could grip the handle and Draco made an appearance. "Sure, just leave me with the lot of them. Have a nice nap, did we?"
"Go back," I tried to tell him but he was already marching up the stairs. "Draco!"
"I did not wait four hours to chicken out-!" He snapped, reaching the top and gazing around. "Kowalski!"
"What's this I hear about you 'working'?" He didn't sound embarrassed or surprised, maybe the coast was clear. Or maybe he really was that rude.
"I'm trying to make an honest living, Malfoy, you should try it sometime."
Ouch. "What the-! What the hell is that?!" Now he sounds surprised. Also scared. I ran back up the stairs to either look or pull him away, whichever made more sense.
Lian was facing us, leaning against her wardrobe, wearing an enormous hoodie with the sleeves ripped off and cotton shorts. She stretched her bare feet across the wooden floor as she spoke, brandishing the thing that had spooked Draco.
"It's a prosthetic. You didn't think I'd live the rest of my life with a stump of a right arm, did you?"
Without any expectations or warnings, the piece was grotesquely ingenious. Still possessing her shoulder and bicep, the prosthetic arm latched around her elbow, her forearm, wrist and hand entirely remodeled in metal, gears and wires. Still, it was so detailed in its design, I could imagine it being a glove that she could just remove to reveal the flesh and bone beneath.
"What happened?" Was not the greeting I had planned upon, but there was no taking it back now.
Lian turned her eyes on me, and all my nerves seemed to fade. Why had I been apprehensive to begin with? She was Lian Kowalski, the half-blood who had turned Slytherin on its head in a matter of months. And she was my—
"Well now, my dear ally," Lian smiles warmly and crossed the floor, stepping on and over a footstool in the process. "You might recall the events of almost a month ago down in the Howell's of your Ministry?"
Whether she cared or noticed how Draco and I winced, she didn't say. "Vividly."
"Mhm. While I was doing the job of an older and supposedly wiser man, I crossed wands with a witch by the name of Bellatrix Lestrange." Draco's eyes grew wide. "She took my arm with a dark curse and after several agonizing days, this was completed and fitted to replace it."
Yup. That was the girl I'd traversed an ocean and sky to find. The bluntness was refreshing after the many whispers that haunted my footsteps in London, but I had ten months to grow accustomed to the way she talked. Draco was still learning, and in that moment I knew he was filled with inner conflict.
"Bellatrix is Draco's Aunt." I stated, causing my friend to shoot me a hateful and pleading glare, while my ally blinked and clasped her hands, metal and flesh, behind her back.
"Oh really?" She glanced at Draco, who had taken a deep breath and shut his eyes, expecting her anger. "In that case…" She stepped right into his personal space, took his face in her hands and angled his head until he opened his eyes and stared directly into her own. "...You're not here for fun, are you?"
Draco swallowed whatever harsh retort had risen in his throat. "No."
She held him in place, almost studying his grey eyes in silence before she took a deep breath. "Figures."
Draco stood still, frowning a question as they remained lock in the longest look ever. "Merlin's hat...you're a Legilimens, aren't you?"
Lian raised her eyebrows a fraction. "So what if I am?"
"You're scanning my memories right now—I recognize the sensation now, even if it's really subtle—how long have you trained to be one? Is that another trick they teach at your American school—Great Salazar is that how you—no, of course it is. So many questions about you just got answe—"
"What'd you mean 'now'?" Lian interrupted him. "You never noticed at school."
"You looked into my private—"
"Not all of them, and not all the time-!"
"If I could interrupt," I cleared my throat loudly, breaking their gaze as they both turned on me. I was feeling an ugly sensation in my chest, like a many fanged, vicious creature had awoken. "What's a Legilimens?" I recognized the term, but couldn't place the definition just then.
Lian chewed her lip and moved closer to me. I felt the creature inside relax as I stared into her fiery brown eyes. "A Legilimens is a person who can look into another's mind and through practice can interpret or discern their thoughts, feelings and memories." She tilted her head at Draco, smirking slightly. "For example, I just saw your little trip through the American customs. Whatever brought you here must have been serious if all three of you were willing to navigate the Muggle world."
"Yes, about that…" Draco glanced around her room, and I'd bet ten galleons he was worried she had more siblings hiding out up there. Maybe if she had more in the way of furniture I'd worry about that too, but other than the walls and corners, her room was empty. What was up with that? "Are we secure in here?"
Lian looked around her large room. "Just us and the mirror images, Malfoy. I suppose I could lock the door if you're entirely paranoid, but that runs the risk of pissing off my dad."
"The jolly man downstairs?" Draco sniffed. "Yeah, he's terrifying."
"He can be," she said seriously.
"Do you work every night?" I asked, if only to be apart of their back and forth.
She took out her wand from her hoodie's pocket and waved it at the door. I didn't hear it lock but assumed she'd done something to calm Malfoy's concerns. "Yep. Weekdays I'm at the studio, and weekends I'm at the restaurant." Biting her wand gingerly, she reached up to twist her hair into knot, then used her wand to hold it in place. "Days start at 6am, I study with Aunt May for a few hours so when I go back to school I'll be able to keep up with maintenance. Then I-"
"Do you have time during the day to spare? Or are we going to have to seize you at night?"
Lian raised an eyebrow at Draco's choice of words. "Maybe you should explain what you're doing here, then we can discuss my office hours."
Draco looked at me for help, and I knew he was doubting everything about our plan from start to finish. The revelation of her ability made a certain aspect of it more clear, but there were still holes. Could we really tell her? I glanced at the metal arm, thinking maybe she had enough on her plate without our issues.
"Oh for crying out loud," she groaned. "Just say it. If the last year taught you anything, you should know I can keep a secret."
I took a shuddering breath. "We came here to see you, yeah, but...we were also sent to you...by Professor Snape."
Draco cleared his throat before finally admitting. "We need your help."
Lian glanced between us, apparently trying to glean the truth of our statements before reacting. "Okay." She moved towards the large window, sitting on the hardwood floor and resting her back against the glass, facing us. "Have a seat, gentlemen." We sat, Draco more reluctantly than I. "You should probably start at the beginning."
She had to be exhausted, why was she being so patient?
"You recall the article published in the Quibbler a few months ago?" Draco said, not looking at her but out the window at the New York sights. There was no way her house was high enough to see the view, and I suspected it was enchanted like the rest of the room. Maybe it was similar to the spell on the Great Hall ceiling, except instead of reflecting the sky it showed her the city.
"I seem to remember a certain subject I couldn't exactly discuss over breakfast, yes…" I remembered when Potter's interview came out, naming names of all the Dark Lord's followers that he'd seen the night he returned. Everyone in Slytherin had read it and many had plans to strangle Harry Potter, but the damage had been done. Lian never mentioned it to any of us, even though I knew she'd read it. Talk about tact.
"Yes, well, with the arrest of my father, aunt, uncles and many others, not to mention Elias's death," Draco glanced my way as I grimaced. "The wizarding world has elected to alienate us and the Dark Lord welcomed us with open arms."
"Calm down," I said soothingly. "He makes it sound like we ran to him when really he tracked us down." Lian made no further comment, but I knew she was fighting to keep her peace. Her lips were thinner than I'd ever seen them. "Our entire lives we were taught to believe in what he's trying to accomplish. We're basically legacies of his cause and…"
"We didn't think our lives would change much. We're still in school, after all, it's not like we'd be much use to him." Draco said, back to frowning out the window. "But it was only after we'd sworn in that he revealed what he wanted to use us for."
"You got into Hogwarts last year because Umbridge wanted you to be her eyes and ears on Potter and Dumbledore," I was watching her face as she listened. I knew she was biting her tongue at this point, refusing to interrupt us no matter what. "Which is exactly what we're supposed to do...except instead of eyes and ears, he wants us to kill one or both of them."
She raised her eyebrows but maintained her silence.
"Which, believe it or not," Draco sighed. "Is not something I want on my record."
"We went to Professor Snape, who is a double agent for both sides. Which is truly the most Slytherin thing I've ever hear of, but the point is: he directed us to you." Her eyebrows dropped down her forehead as she frowned at that information. "He told us you'd taken Occlumency lessons with him and that you would be able to teach us."
Her expression practically oozed 'Oh, did he now…?' She waited for us to expound but when we did not she said, "And why would that help you two with your dilemma?"
"Because while the Dark Lord is a master of manipulation, Professor Snape explained that practicing Occlumency will help us keep our own minds while still keeping my family safe from his wrath." Draco explained after a long pause. "As it is, if I don't do as he commands, he'll kill my mother."
Lian bit her lip, showing the first sign of sympathy in her eyes as she looked at Draco, who still refused to look at her. I realized he didn't want her looking into his thoughts, and wondered if she was aware of my private thoughts and feelings...given the amount of times I'd stared boldly into her eyes, I was basically inviting her to review them at her leisure…
"Maybe 'keep your minds' is too specific," she said, rubbing at her eyes. "You two are thinking really loudly right now, even my sister could hear you."
I felt my stomach leap into my ribcage in alarm. Several questions filled my brain, but Draco was faster. "You can hear us thinking?"
"You have no protection and you're both under large amounts of stress and normally I keep my own defenses up but I was curious as to what I'd have to work with and...yeah." she finished lamely, shrugging her shoulders. "Fi isn't quite as strong as I am, and she doesn't care about developing this particular skill given what she's seen me go through."
"How many members of your family can hear our thoughts?" I asked, feeling sick. If I was ashamed of the quiet thoughts I'd had whilst her parents and siblings hosted us, I hated to think what Draco might be going through.
"None of them, not even Seraphina. She can if she tries, but like I just said, she doesn't care. And anyway she's too green to hear actual thought, it'd be more like flashes of emotion." Gesturing at the space between the three of us, she added, "I know you two better, and can interpret your emotions correctly for the most part. Sometimes I get actual thought, when I really try and when you're defenseless. But right now, you're both scared shitless and I swear I'm hearing you in stereo and it's driving me nuts!"
"That could work for us," Draco sneered. I knew he was angry now, that was the sneer he saved for Harry Potter. "We'll drive the Dark Lord insane with our fear. Perfect."
"Oh sure, you go ahead and try that out, and I'll sit back and watch as he takes your fears and turns them against you. Oh wait! He's already done that! Back to square one then."
"I was promised sanctuary and guidance, Kowalski! I didn't sink to your level to be scolded!"
"Sink to my level?! Have you ever actually asked for help before, Malfoy, because you're an absolute-"
"Guys!" I yelled to be heard over their argument. I'd almost forgotten they hadn't liked each other this last year, and despite Draco's quiet attitude towards this plan, it must have been eating away at him inside. I was too eager to get here, to see her again to notice or care. Not to mention, both had extremely headstrong personas. Of course they were going to fight. I sat there between them, their eyes blazing but on me instead of each other. "This isn't going to work if you can't talk to each other civilly."
"I don't believe it's going to work at all, as she's neglected to say she'll help us. Are you spying for the government again, Kowalski? Gathering intel to turn us in? Forget the bloody trace I'll modify your memory right n-" Lian launched herself off the glass and tackled Draco, releasing a feral roar as they clashed. The entire exchange lasted maybe ten seconds. Quidditch had been good to Draco, giving him strength, but Lian had the advantage in flexibility, skill, and a steel limb. She had him on his stomach, his arms locked in a painful twist, with her knee planted on the small of his back. "Bloody hell." Draco's gasp was weak, but at least I knew he was alive.
"You enter my country, my home state. You come into my house. You ask for my help. You DARE speak and think to me like that. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't break your arm right now!" I opened my mouth to provide one and she snapped, "Not you!"
The only sounds Draco made for the better part of three minutes were his ragged breaths and a series of grunts as he attempted to break free of the mad American's grip. I wondered how long Lian could keep him pinned, or how long before Draco could finally think of a reason to walk away from this loft safe and whole.
"...If you agree to teach us, and we see results before our next summons…" Draco began, sounding less like a reason and more like a bargain but Lian listened all the same. "...I will cover your Hogwarts education expenses."
Lian blinked. I think she was waiting for a catch. It wasn't the reason she was hoping for, but it was still a good reason. Wish I'd thought of it first…
"You will speak to and think of my family with respect from now on. You will never use the word 'Mudblood' again. And if I don't think I can trust you completely in a month's time, I'm out."
Draco sighed, or tried to; it was more of a squeak. "That's fair. Do you accept the terms?"
Lian released him, standing up and offering him a hand as he flipped on his back. "I do. Welcome to New York, Mr. Malfoy."
I sat there numb, thinking that I'd either witnessed the greatest alliance being formed or stood by and allowed the beginning of the end. Either way...no going back now.