— Chapter 1 —
Behind The Curtain
NO LIGHT SHONE BEHIND THE CURTAIN. Bound in chains and cloaked in darkness, I listened to what lay beyond.
"Lot 324. An Acromantula spiderling aged three months, found in the murky marshlands of Cat Ba National Park — a prime Vietnamese specimen. Shall we start the bidding at 500 galleons?"
As the crowd murmured, a trickle of blood slid down my neck. The metal collar binding me was too tight. Each time I moved, it chafed against my skin.
"Thank you, madam. Do I have 560?"
"Thank you, sir. Do I have 580?"
Heavy boots on polished linoleum — footsteps approaching. I tensed but didn't turn. They wouldn't risk injury, not when they wished to sell me.
"Lot 325. Going once... going twice... sold to Mister Macmillan! Thank you very much, sir."
The footsteps stopped. I felt a gentle nudge — someone's wand pressed against my spine. Huh, maybe I was wrong. My eyes fluttered shut. Oh well.
A calm, soft voice spoke inches from my ear. "Please make room."
It was Mister Snape, the man who'd brought me here.
I bowed my head and tried to honor his request. Difficult, as there wasn't much room to begin with.
"Lot 326. A wand of unknown power discovered in the previously-thought lost tomb of the wizard Djedi. To verify this creation, Mister Ollivander, if you please?"
The curtain shivered, and a thin spool of light peeked through a crack in its center. Someone stepped up next to me. Our shoulders bumped together, throwing me off balance. I stumbled, trying to remain upright, but my hands were bound together, chained to the collar around my neck. I screwed my eyes shut, bracing for the humiliating pain of falling flat on my face.
A pair of strong arms wrapped around my shoulders. "It seems standing is beyond your mental capacity. Perhaps you require some instruction."
"Sorry," I whispered. "I know. I'll try harder."
Chains rattled as the person next to me was secured to the platform. "A last-minute addition," said Mister Snape. "I'd introduce you... but it seems like wasted effort." He turned and left. I listened to his footsteps grow fainter and fainter before vanishing entirely.
Beyond the veil, the auction continued. "Lot 327. The teeth of a lycanthropic virgin, harvested under the light of a new moon."
The person next to me — a girl, I realized — spoke. "What's your name?" Her voice was light and dry, like leaves rustling in an autumn breeze.
"He told us not to talk," I whispered. Maintaining silence behind the curtain was of paramount importance — Mister Snape told me so.
The girl snorted. "He can lick his flobberworm for all I care. How old are you?"
"Fifteen," I said.
Her voice fluttered. "Fifteen..."
She paused, hesitating for a brief moment."Eighteen."
So, she wasn't much older than me — that fit with what Mister Snape had explained about Noble Adoptions. A mercy, a condescension, he'd called it. A way for wizarding families to expand their size and influence by providing an education to the underprivileged.
"Are you a wizard?"
Did you have to know how to perform magic to be considered a wizard, or was simply having magical blood enough? Until four days ago, I hadn't known I possessed either. Regardless, I wasn't about to answer. The auction was much more interesting. They were on Lot 329, now: an abandoned estate somewhere in Bristol.
"So... why are you here?"
I closed my eyes. Was it too much to ask to stand in silence? "Please, leave me alone."
We fell silent. In front of the curtain, the sale of Lot 330 began.
"It's almost my turn," said the girl quietly. "I'm 332."
She was right before me.
"Are you scared?" I asked.
She considered that for a moment. "No."
"Because I'm only following orders." The girl growled low in her throat. It was a feral noise, rough and coarse, like gravel scraping together. Her shoulder bumped against my collar. It dug into my skin, deeper than before.
Hot blood trickled down my neck. "Would you stand still!?" I hissed, struggling to keep my voice down.
"Sorry." The girl said a word in a language I didn't know. "There's just so little room, and my collar is" — another growl escaped her — "oh, who cares."
I didn't respond. If we were caught (a seeming inevitability at this point), I wouldn't be the one Mister Snape saw talking. The darkness pressed in against me, a suffocating shroud of silence.
"Will you tell me your name, at least?"
There — off in the distance. Soft footsteps. Mister Snape was approaching. "He's coming," I said.
"Tell me your name, or I swear to Merlin I'll yell right now."
My breath caught. "You're lying."
"Try me. Three seconds. One."
Noble adoptions were voluntary, they had to be for the ritual to work. Whether by desire or necessity, this girl was here of her own free will. There was no way in hell she'd jeopardize her standing just to learn a stranger's name. She was bluffing. She had to be.
But what if she wasn't? What if she wasn't logical, but bat shit fucking bonkers? Mister Snape was almost upon us now. I could hear his breath, his soft footsteps. What harm could telling her my name do, anyway? Sure, I'd be disobeying Mister Snape's instructions, but I'm certain he'd rather I whisper than allow someone to shout.
"Harry!" My voice shot out in a rush, louder than I intended.
Mister Snape's wand pressed against my neck. "I thought I said no talking, or are you incapable of following simple instructions?"
I blanched. "Sorry," I whispered.
Chains rattled as the girl was unbound from the platform. Somehow, her lips made their way right to my ear.
"Nice to meet you, Harry," she whispered.
I gaped, flabbergasted, as Mister Snape led her away. It had been years since I last talked to a girl. St. Brutus's didn't allow them on the premises, and before that... well, I wasn't exactly Casanova of the year.
I should have been glad she was gone, glad I was finally left in peace, but all I could feel was yearning — an intense desire to talk with her more, to find out more about her. I watched her outline vanish into the darkness, unable to look away. When she reached it, even the curtain shivered with curiosity.
It was an unsettling feeling. I heard Mister Snape murmur to her in a voice too soft to make out, heard his footsteps coming back towards me, no doubt to depart the same information, heard the mechanical creaking of the curtain as it opened before her... but all the noise faded to blissful silence when I finally saw her face.
Long silver hair, deep blue eyes, delicate collar bones. There was too much of her and entirely not enough. Bound wrists fastened to the collar around her neck. Delicate fingers, manicured nails. A dress of lavender and cream that flowed like willow branches in a summer breeze.
She turned her head. Our eyes connected.
A moment, a second, an age, passed between us.
Her pupils expanded, becoming pools of night. The air blistered. A searing pain blazed down my back. I tried to look away, tried to break our connection, but her gaze held me in place. She raised an index finger and placed it against her soft, pink lips. Her throat convulsed, her tongue darted out.
For a moment that felt like an eternity, she sucked the tip of her finger without ever breaking our gaze. When she withdrew that finger, I saw it was coated with a thick, silvery substance that looked like threads of fine silk. She blew on her finger, and that thread erupted into flame. With a careless flick, she sent it sailing towards me, and when it hit, my body erupted in fire.
I cried out audibly, jerking so violently in the chains holding me that I lost my balance and fell to the floor.
The fire burrowed into my flesh, taking root in my spine. It chewed outward, nibbling at every inch of my body until I no longer knew where I ended, and the fire began. I couldn't breathe, I needed oxygen. Darkness closed in on all sides, threatening to swallow me whole. My vision dimmed, and the world became hazy and dark.
I wondered if I was about to die, wondered if this strange girl was about to kill me. Of all the ways it could have ended, being murdered via a-beautiful-girl's-hairball wasn't what I envisioned. Alone in the dark, I curled in on myself, closed my eyes, and waited.
Her voice crashed against my mind like a breaking wave. I heaved a deep breath and opened my eyes. I was still standing on the platform. Mystery girl was still in front of me. Her eyes weren't black anymore, but deep blue and misty with the dew of unshed tears.
She looked away and walked into the light. The curtain closed behind her, and our moment ended.
I stood, stunned. Did I imagine that, I wondered.
Something pressed against my mind — her voice. "Harry." She laughed a beautiful laugh. "Life is full of little ironies, no?"
A moment later, warmth like I'd never known flooded through me. It was bliss, like sinking into a bath after toiling in deep snow. The wound on my neck closed, the aching of my tired body eased. The pressure, I felt it. I visualized it as one end of an endlessly long rope.
If I followed it, where would it lead?
"I don't understand."
"With any luck, you never will." Exquisite sorrow, remorse. "I am sorry."
"Wait," I started. I wasn't going to let her go, not without an explanation. I visualized the rope in my mind and yanked on it with all my might.
The world around me, the darkness behind the curtain, dissolved. Light swirled around me in a dizzying spiral. I felt fear, confusion, determination, and... something else — something deep and feral. Thoughts danced through my mind in a language I didn't recognize. I heard the crowd, the auctioneer, the frantic beating of my — her — heart. And then it was gone. I was back in the darkness. The rope, the warmth, her voice vanished as if they'd never been there to begin with.
Chains clinked. I was unfastened. I stared at my feet as Mister Snape walked me to the curtain.
A hand on my shoulder got my attention. I looked up as Mister Snape began speaking. "When the bidding begins, stay silent unless you're directly asked a question by the auctioneer. If you must answer, supply the fewest words and the least amount of information possible." His grip tightened on my shoulder. "I hope you find a suitable family."
"Thank you, sir," I said, and as earnestly as I could, added, "for everything."
Mister Snape turned away without another word. Before me, the curtain wriggled and a thin sliver of golden light peeked through. I shivered with excitement. If what Mister Snape said was true, if magic really did make the abnormal normal, then surely even I could find a place in this new world — a place to belong.
The curtain opened. Golden light flooded in. I took a step forward, then another. With a creak, the curtain shut behind me. Suddenly, everything was different — I was somewhere else. The murmur of the crowd. The smell of dust. The creaking of benches.
"Lot 333. A muggle-raised-magical up for adoption."
A room framed in black marble. Pews rising from floor to ceiling. Torches that burned with strange orange flame. An opaque stage so transparent it seemed I was floating in mid-air.
"Tell me, child. What's your name?"
The auctioneer was talking to me — a direct question.
I swallowed. In my entire life, I'd never been the center of attention, not like this. "Sorry, sir?"
The auctioneer, a rotund man dressed in a three-piece mauve suit on the right side of the stage, smiled indulgently. "Your name, child. Tell us your surname."
I cleared my throat. "It's Potter, sir. Harry Potter."
The auction house erupted in chaos.
Harry Potter fanfiction is a free-for-all buffet — there's something for everyone, but everything isn't for everyone. This story, much like buffet-style lasagna, has a very particular flavor (and probably won't sit well if it's the only thing you've eaten today). Therefore, to avoid consuming inedible drivel, I thought I'd let you know what to expect.
 AU world. Magic will be identical to canon in practice, but different in philosophy. Put another way: the way wizards use it will be the same, but the way they talk about it will be quite different.
 Enough helpings of ice-queen-fire-bird smoothie to give anyone indigestion. HP/DG and HP/FD, but not FD/HP/DG (think of it like, Twilight, but more Veela).
 No Hogwarts. None. Not even a single Hogsmeade. As a result, there will be no hidden train stations. In fact, there will be no trains at all. Even in the muggle world. None. No trains (train lovers, beware).
 No house elves. I'm proud to announce that characters will wear socks (rest easy, sock lovers), but none of those socks will make their way into grubby soul-diaries.
 No soul bonds of any kind.
 This chapter was beta'd by Jarizok :)