Summary :A year after Harry graduates from Hogwarts and the Light's last stand against the Dark is near. A curse goes wrong that, though it does win them the War, leaves serious repercussions for everyone.
Thanks to my betas Hyperbole and Suzine.
Ashes to Ashes
'…Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust' 1
'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.'
~The Bible, Genesis iii 19
Behold the Dragon of Ill Faith
He moves with rigid, deadly grace
Can new-found virtue undo vice?
Redemption comes, but at a price.2
Battle scenes, I've found, are always hopelessly over-rated. Be it in story books, history books (good ones and not those third rate ones about goblin revolutions they made us read at school) or one of those Muggle movies things the mud - sorry, pureblood habits die hard - Muggleborn, (Granger) makes us watch from time to time.
Stories will never describe what it's like before battle commences. Oh yes, you'll have the ten page motivational speeches and the two and a half chapters droning on about whatever emotional turmoil the hero is in but you'll never know what it's really like unless you were actually there. In a book Chapter 14 ends with an internal monologue or two and Chapter 15 starts smack in the middle of battle. Well, maybe I'm being unfair. There'll be another motivational speech, and then it's 'Curses to the right of them! Curses to the left of them!'3
The worst part is the waiting. When you know that any time soon you have to grit your teeth and be off to fight the good fight. Well, there's no such thing as a good fight. Some die, some are wounded - and as old Mad Eye Moody will tell you body parts are hard to replace - a few end up insane. Then there's the people left behind - the orphans, the parents, the widows and widowers. And now I'm beginning to sound like the jaded war veteran that I am, moralising and all.
Hmm, I'm only nineteen and I'm a war veteran already. Don't even know why they insist that I take my Auror training exams - I've definitely had enough on the job training. Of course what I've been through is nothing compared to what Ron and Potter and Granger have been through but frankly I wouldn't mind if I never saw another battle again.
The worst thing about this particular battle is that this is the big one. The siege of Hogwarts. We're all sitting here in the Great Hall patiently waiting for the Dark Lord and his army to show up (and slaughter us all as likely as not). Everyone's talking cheerfully about what they are going to do after this damned war is over and how we're going to trounce the Death Eaters. No-one's looking anyone else in the eyes though.
We have to win this battle. Note the emphasis on the have. It's your classic 'do or die' situation. This is the night (or day, it's only an hour before dawn) the prophesy comes into play. If Hogwarts falls we've lost the war. Oh this is the big one alright - everything comes down to this - the last stand of the Light.
God I'm tired. I haven't been able to sleep all night. I could have slept in one of the dormitories for a few hours (which is what almost everyone has been doing and what is recommended - tired soldiers are good curse targets) but I'm just too jittery. So now I'm not exactly sleepy but there's a general dullness about me. It'll clear up when the action starts and the adrenalin kicks in.
Ron comes to sit next to me and squeezes my hand discreetly. We don't want our families to know about us just yet. Potter and Granger know and that's two people too many in my opinion. Well, I guess Potter would have figured it out sooner or later no matter how preoccupied he is. He shares a flat with Ron, after all, and there are only so many late night projects that we could be working on that he wouldn't be involved in. Granger apparently put two and two together and came up with five. Potter swears he didn't tell her and I'm inclined to think he's telling the truth. He has much more important things to do than sit around gossiping about which reformed elite pureblood is dating his best friend.
"Alright?" my lover asks.
"Hmm," I say and squeeze back, wishing I could climb into his lap and feel his arms around me. I'm terrified that I'll never see him again after today. That one of us or perhaps both of us won't make it.
"Dray -" he's says somewhat hesitantly using the nickname that I hate. My name's Draco and it's only two syllables long. Why does he feel the need to shorten it to one? But I let it drop this time. He falters and then tries again.
"Yes," I say impatiently. Then I feel awful for being so snappy with him but I just want him to spit out whatever it is that's on his mind. The Dark Army could attack any time now and I may never get to hear what he has to say.
He grins. "You're always so impatient. Look, what I'm trying to say is that I lo-"
I jump to my feet. I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear his goodbyes. If I'm to stand a chance at surviving this battle at all I have to believe that I can and that our side is going to win and that is not what is going to happen if I start saying my final goodbyes.
"I'm going outside for a smoke," I say interrupting Ron and my voice comes out two octaves higher than normal.
"Draco, what's wrong?" he says standing up as well.
"I know and I do too but I don't need this right now and I have to go out and be by myself right now because it's what I have to do -" I'm babbling and Ron takes me by the shoulders and shakes me.
"Yeah I know, Dray. Go out, get some fresh air, sort yourself out. But then I need to say a few things."
I nod and stumble out of the hall as fast as I can. My left leg is rather stiff which is exactly what I need. A souvenir from the last battle, two months ago, which we lost. A nasty little curse which causes muscles to paralyze. Whoever it was that cursed me, and I place my money on dear Auntie Bella, was aiming for my chest but their wand slipped and it got me on the leg instead. Lucky me. If it had hit my heart I would have died. The healers at St. Mungo's did a great job, but it still hurts and gets stiff in the cold or if I overtax it.
I've come to the Main Doors now and they're slightly open. I can see Professor Snape, my parents and all the other reformed Death Eaters sitting or standing on the Entrance Steps talking and smoking. Reformed my arse! The only reason they've switched sides is because they realized that they were better off without the Dark Lord. I can't say so for my godfather; Uncle Severus is the only one who really repents taking the mark. Dad started to "follow the light" after my fifth year when he was packed off to Azkaban for a spell. There he had some time to do some serious thinking and he finally figured out that the Dark Lord was not going to storm the prison to release his not completely faithful followers, and that his Lord had no intention of sharing power. Also he realized that he could have his own way on the side of the Light as easily as he could on the side of the Dark if he played his cards right.
He and a few other like minded Death Eaters cut a deal for their freedom. With their Dark Arts expertise they're all quite valuable assets. Besides, they have no scruples using a few Dark, illegal curses if they have to. Even Dumbledore isn't above taking advantage of that.
I once asked Dad if he ever felt uncomfortable switching sides at the drop of a hat. He gave me an odd look and asked me why I thought that he should. "We're Malfoys. We survive. And that, my boy, is the secret of our success. We persevere. We may have to take a few steps back and bow down occasionally, but we always come through on top."
"What your father means, dear," Mum had clarified for me. "Is: principals be damned! Who cares what side we're on as long as it's the winning side?"
My mother has never been the most subtle of people.
"Not much longer, now," Dad's saying. "Sun's coming up."
It isn't really, but there's a faint light in the East, announcing the start of a new day.
Uncle Severus sighs. "It's going to be a beautiful sunrise. I might as well watch before I have to speak to the headmaster. It may very well be our last." He's growing sentimental. He must be getting soft with age. Or it could be that the sense of impending doom is mellowing him but let's not think about that.
Mum snorts. "Dear Severus, always so optimistic." She notices me eavesdropping by the door and frowns. I blush.
"It isn't nice to listen at doors Draco. Have I taught you nothing?"
"You've tried, but all in vain," I say coming out to join them.
"Where did we go wrong, Lucius?" Mum says with feigned anguish.
Dad shrugs. "We should have sacrificed him to the family deity when he was born."
"Do we have a family deity?" I ask.
"It's still not too late," Dad says ignoring me. "Draco, as soon this is over we're sacrificing you and producing an heir who will not disgrace the family name by listening at doors. Really, we expected better of you. It's so plebeian."
"Yes, Father! Sorry, Father!" I say brightly and sit down on the steps next to my mother. My knee snaps loudly as I do so.
"How's your leg?" Mum asks looking worried.
"It's fine," I lie.
She looks at me sceptically but doesn't say anything.
"Really, it's fine." Why is it always so hard to lie to my mother? "It's just a bit stiff. Healer Dresner said it would be like that for at least another three months."
Neither of my parents says anything. Are they wondering, like I am, whether I will be alive three months from now? Will they?
Aargh! I have got to stop thinking this way. It's imperative to keep a cool head before you go marching off to war. That bloke at Auror School said it would get easier with every battle. Well, that's just bullshit! It's worse every fucking time! You never stop being afraid. Never. The first time it was fun. It was like, "Woohoo! Lets all go kick some Death Eater ass!" Then you see people who you've known all your life fall and not get up again and you cause a few people to fall and not get up again as well and then it all changes and the war isn't funny any more.
Oh God, we're not going to make it through this! The Death Eaters are getting stronger and there seems to be more of them every time. There are all sorts of other things in the Dark Army too - giants, dementors, vampires, werewolves and Merlin knows what. Even if I survive the battle I'm the son of the Dark Lord's ex-lieutenant of evil. He's going to be especially pissed off with me and I have no doubts as to what He's going to do with me. We're all going to -
I'm brought back to reality when Dad slaps me in the face. He's squatted down in front of me and looks both concerned and angry. Mum just looks worried.
"What is the matter with you?" he snaps. "You were hyperventilating. Pull yourself together for pity's sake."
"Do you have to be so harsh with him?" Mum says angrily.
"Look at him. He's a wreck! I bloody well told you that you weren't ready for this. It's too soon after." The last two sentences are addressed to me. Dad doesn't want me fighting today. He thinks I'm not up for it yet and that I should stay off my leg.
"I'm fine," I say hoarsely. "I'm just a little nervous."
"Nervous? Ha! You almost wet yourself."
"I'll be fine once we get out there!" I shout at him. I stand up and glare down at him. He's still crouching on the floor so I can loom over him for a change. "Would it hurt you to show a little compassion for once? Not all of us were born without a heart you know."
"Draco!" Mum gasps.
Dad just stares up at me and says nothing. He isn't supposed to look at me like that. As if I've ripped out the heart that I've just denied the existence of. He's supposed to jump to his feet and tell me that he's my father and that I will treat him with respect not just look at me with this sad, haunted expression.
He does stand up eventually, but with none of his usual briskness, and looks me in the eye. I'm exactly his height so he doesn't have to bend down to do this any more.
"Is that what you think of me?" he asks. There's a faint trepidation in his voice as if he doesn't really want to know.
"I didn't mean it," I say quickly. And I didn't. I know that my father isn't infallible and I no longer want to be just like him like I did until a few years ago, but he's still pretty close to my idea of perfection. It's childish, I know. My father is anything but perfect. He's manipulative, selfish and arrogant. He's ruthless in his ambition and God, I know he can be a cruel son of a bitch at times but he's still my father - and I'm not sure that I would have him any other way.
"I'm sorry Dad. I just snapped," I say desperately trying to reassure him and not liking this new unnaturally sensitive side to him at all. "I know that you have a heart. I'm not sure of where you keep it, but I'm sure that you have one."
What was that? I'm not sure of where you keep it… Bleh! Great going Draco.
Remarkably he smiles, rather wanly though. "I just don't want you getting yourself killed," he says. "I worry about you. You do know that I care, don't you?"
I nod and try to swallow the lump that has formed in my throat. Dad nods too and looks away. I think he's doing the same as me.
Mum stands up and arches her back. "What are they waiting for?" she asks. "I don't know if I can take any more of this waiting. I should have stayed at the Manor. Lucius, how did you manage to talk me into this in the first place?
Father turns and smiles at her. He knows as well as I do that it's her decision to be here and nothing that he could have said to her would have encouraged this if she didn't want to. On the contrary - he's been trying to dissuade her from duelling for months. Suffice to say, he hasn't been very successful at it.
"Like this," he says and kisses her.
This isn't right. My parents do not indulge in affectionate displays in public. My father will kiss my mother when he leaves for work. Or if they are seeing one another off or picking each other up from somewhere or some other time which is appropriate to kiss in public. But those kisses are, while not totally devoid of any feeling, always perfunctory, brief, without any tongue and last exactly for three seconds. Yes! I have counted!
This one is much more involved than that. It's deep, hard and intense. They're kissing with a fervent passion that I've never seen before. Bleh! I'm watching my parents snog. But I can't look away. It's as if they're afraid that this might be their last kiss so they're trying to put everything they've ever felt for each other into this one and they don't care whose watching. That's just me… everyone else is pointedly looking elsewhere. What if one of them dies? I don't even want to think about how the other will cope. What if something should happen to Ron? How am I going to cope without him? I'd rather die myself than - Oh fuck! I'm going to start bawling any minute now if they don't let go of each other. I know I will.
"Oh yuck! Old people making out! You're supposed to keep the troops' morale up, Uncle Louis, not gross them out!"
I have never been so pleased to see my cousin Tonks in my life. Urk! She's got her eyebrow pierced. I haven't seen that before. She's so different from us that I still can't believe she's related to us.
My parents draw apart and my mother shakes her head. "You have no tact at all, Nymphadora."
Tonks shrugs and runs a hand through short spiky pink hair. "Like you can talk Aunt 'Cissa. You have about as much tact as a bludger."
Father mutters something under his breath.
"I heard that," says Tonks menacingly.
"I doubt you would have understood it," he says snidely. "I wasn't aware that you knew Bulgarian."
Neither does he but she doesn't know that and looks a little sheepish. She didn't really hear him and Dad knows it.
"Why you seem to think that what I said was about you is beyond me," he continues. "Don't you have to go and knock something over?"
"Ha ha," she says dryly. "Uncle Louis thinks he's so funny."
"How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that, Nymphadora?"
"As many times as I have to tell you not to call me Nymphadora, Uncle Louis." She grins at me. "Wotcher, Draco!"
After three years of hearing her say it, I still have no idea what 'Wotcher' means. My pride always stops me from admitting it. I smile at her. "'Lo Tonks."
"You two ought to be ashamed of yourself," she says to Mum and Dad. "Draco here might have been scarred for life. I know I have been."
"It's nothing he hasn't seen before," lies Mum.
Tonks and Mum get along like a house on fire. Urgh! That's an unfortunate simile to use, especially in light of what happened.
When my parents joined the Order of the Phoenix it was inevitable that they would run into Tonks and her parents.
Things were rather tense between Mum and her sibling for a while. I mean they hadn't spoken for twenty odd years and they hadn't exactly parted on the best of terms. Dad didn't help. He was openly contemptuous of the whole Tonks family, especially Nymphadora.
The first time we met her was painful. As I recall Mum had been arguing with Andromeda about something - I don't remember offhand - and Tonks walked in and her mother introduced her. Dad took one look at her and then asked Andromeda, "Why would you call a boy Nymphadora? And did he have an accident or was he born that way?" Let's just say that things went downhill from there and skip the details.
As time went by things gradually improved. For one thing Dad became more important to the Order as the Dark Lord gained power. He hadn't been in the Inner Circle for nothing. He knows what the Dark Lord is like and can anticipate his moves. We became more involved in the more dangerous aspects of the Order and slowly were seen as Allies and not as Dumbledore's latest 'redemption' project.
The summer I graduated from Hogwarts and started training as an auror, it was last summer now that I think of it, Mum and her sister were on good terms with each other and Dad had stopped insulting his in-laws. He wasn't exactly pleasant, but for Dad maintaining a lack of malice was quite an effort. Well anyway, relationships were at an all time high when tragedy struck.
Tonks went home one night to find her house on fire and the Dark Mark floating over it. Once they got the blaze under control she went to see if her parents were alright. My tutor had been called out to investigate the incident and he told me to go along with her and report back to him with any news they might be able to tell us.
As it happened they weren't able to tell us anything.
In fact they'd never speak again.
It hadn't even been done with a curse. At least that would have been quick and painless. From the looks of things it had been as drawn out as possible. To make matters worse there was a message on the wall written in blood. The morbid part of my mind wondered whose it was - my aunt's, my uncle's or both of theirs mixed up together.
A warning to the Morning Star
They were no safer than you are
This fate awaits those who rebel
Soon all you love shall rot in Hell4
Apparently the Dark Lord used to call Dad that when he was first ordained as a Death Eater. He wouldn't speak about when or why he had been given that particular epithet. Tonks had asked him if it were a code name of sorts and he had hastily agreed. I don't think that was the absolute truth, chiefly because Uncle Severus wouldn't look him in the eye for a week. I also caught him staring at my father with an expression very close to pity on his face. I mentioned it to Mum and she went rigid. I swear I heard the snap as her jaw locked. She told me in no uncertain terms to stop poking my pointed nose where it had no business of being and flounced off. I'm not sure that I want to know about it. I have something of an idea but it's just too awful to be true. No - that can't be it…
Well, the murders of my aunt and uncle were a warning for my father. A warning that this time it was only his relations by marriage that he didn't really care about. That it would be just as easy to get to Mum and me and that our deaths would be just as grisly if not worse.
Things suddenly became much more personal for all of us. I think we had all known that the Dark Lord would have a personal vendetta against us but this made it all shockingly clear.
I suppose Dad felt guilty that on some level he was responsible for Tonks' parent's death. After all, they had only been murdered because they were related to him. Otherwise none of them were important enough to incur the wrath of He Who Must Not Be Named.
Anyway, Mum sort of adopted Tonks - you know, making her stay at our place until she got herself sorted out and trying to get to know her better and all that. Dad didn't object and even made an effort himself. She seemed to welcome the attention though I think she had every right to hate us for what had occurred. But she is nothing like me. I'd go as far as to say that Dad actually likes her now. She still gets on his nerves and he gets on hers. For one thing she tolerates Mum calling her by her first name, probably because she is her mother's sister, but she can't stand Dad or me doing it. At first they would row all the time because Dad refused to call her anything but Nymphadora. Eventually she got her own back on him when she started calling him 'Uncle Louis'.
Somehow I can't imagine Dad as a 'Louis' or even plain 'Lou'. It doesn't suit him at all. But then Tonks' first name doesn't really suit her - it's too upper class pureblood.
She's arguing with my parents over their smoking habits.
"It's disgusting, it's unhygienic and unhealthy! How many more reasons do you need?"
In answer Dad lights two of them, hands one to my mother and offers me the packet. I take one, light it with a flick of my wand and inhale deeply. Whew! That's better. I should have done this when I first came out like I intended to do.
"That'll take ten years off your life," Tonks says to me.
"After today that may not be an issue," Professor Snape drawls from where he's lounging on the steps. I suddenly feel very cold and it feels like a couple of bludgers have been let lose in my stomach.
"Thanks, Severus. We get of the topic of gloom and doom for two seconds and you have to say something like that," says Mum. "Why don't you go skulk in your dungeon somewhere?"
He ignores her and stares gloomily into the distance. We all do the same. We can't postpone the inevitable. It's going to happen sometime today. Perhaps we all need a few moments of quiet reflection. It sometimes helps me to focus.
Potter comes out of the castle and looks around until he locates my father who's wandered off.
"Lucius!" he yells. "I'd like a word."
He always calls Dad and everyone else that he doesn't really like by their first names. It aggravates them because in a way he's saying - you're no better than I am. You may be older and smarter than me and have years more experience but you're still just my equal. So it's 'Lucius', 'Severus', 'Amadeus' (That's Avery) but 'Mr Weasley'. If Potter knew just how much he infuriates my father every time he calls him Lucius he would be very pleased. I tell Dad he's just lucky that Potter doesn't call him Louis.
He's had to work with Dad for a while so they have come to respect each other in a sense, albeit grudgingly. I suppose you could call Potter and I friends if you were being generous, but really, we've just learnt to tolerate each other. It's mainly because of Ron. I desperately want to like my lover's best friend just because it will make him happy and I think Potter feels the same way. So we go out drinking together and discuss our assignments and complain about our tutors from Auror School but I can't say that we're friends. Compatriots perhaps, but not friends.
Dad takes his time coming up to Potter. "You rang, Harry?" he drawls lazily.
"I want to talk to you about the Non-Fiendo5," says Potter very softly. He obviously doesn't want to be overheard. I'm not supposed to be listening to this, but all I do is to sidle unobtrusively closer so I can hear more.
There isn't any visible change in my father's demeanor. He still leans languidly on his cane and gives every appearance of being bored with Potter, but his eyes snap to attention with a flash of steel and gleam with keen interest at Potter's words.
"Oh?" he says, deliberately uncaring.
"I think I'm ready for it," Potter says.
"You think so, do you?"
"I know so."
The right corner of Dad's mouth twitches. "That's better," he says. He glances at me and I bend down and pretend to be examining my knee.
"Let's walk," Dad mutters and strides away.
Potter slides up to me and hisses in my ear. "Ron wants a word. You'd better go in. He's in a right state." He looks at me accusingly and then hurries off after my father.
I'm furious. Oh right, Ron's in a state so it has to be my fault. Why does everything that goes wrong in this place have to be my fault? Why does Ron have to go and tell him everything? If he doesn't like something I've done why can't he talk to me about it instead of going to his best friends? It's none of their business.
I stomp off back towards the Great Hall. I sincerely hope I don't run into Granger. If she starts mouthing off about how I'm breaking her poor little Ronnie's heart with my cruel, uncaring behaviour I swear I'll hex her and to hell with the consequences!
I'm suddenly pulled into an alcove by a pair of strong arms and the next thing I know I'm being kissed so hard that it takes my breath away. I feel all my anger melt away and I wrap my arms around my lover's neck and hold on tight. He breaks off the kiss and nuzzles my neck.
"Hey, you," I say stroking his hair. "What brought that on?"
"I couldn't go out there without letting you know how much I love you," he says without looking up. I feel something wet trickle down my neck. Damn! I'm no good with tears! It's usually him who calms me down when I'm in hysterics.
"Don't - don't please," I whimper, clinging to him. I'm almost in tears myself. I knew that this would happen. "I'll be fine. We both will be, you'll see. I love you too, Ron."
He sobs and holds me tighter. "Oh don't!" I say desperately. "There's nothing to worry about. We can do this, I know we can."
He pulls back and I kiss the tears off his face. "I just don't want to lose you," he whispers.
"You won't," I say forcefully. "I have no intention of dropping dead and I'm telling you now Ronald Weasley - if you die on me I'll kill you."
He laughs dryly at the absurdity of that statement.
"We're going to knock them flat," I say. "The only Death Eater you have to worry about is my father."
"Your father?" he says blankly
"When we tell him about us he's going to try and kill you," I say solemnly. I'm joking, but I suddenly realize that it's the truth. Our fathers loathe each other with an all consuming hatred. Even Dumbledore has given up on trying to make them see eye to eye and tries to schedule Order meetings so that only one of them is present at any given time. When Ron and I finally decide that the time is right to come out of the proverbial closet we're in for some spectacular fireworks. Oh well, we'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now winning this war is the first thing on the agenda and everything else after that.
He smiles and kisses my nose. "You really believe that we can do this."
"I do," I say firmly.
And it dawns on me that I do believe it after all.
Author's postnotes :
1. '…Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.' From the funeral service in the Book of Common Prayer.
2. Behold the Dragon of Ill Faith
He moves with rigid, deadly grace
Can new-found virtue undo vice?
Redemption comes, but at a price.
This belongs to me. I made it up. Go me!
3. 'Curses to the right of them! Curses to the left of them!' a Wizardized version of 'Canon to the right of them! Canon to the left of them!' from Lord Tennyson's 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'
4. A warning to the Morning Star
They were no safer than you are
This fate awaits those who rebel
Soon all you love shall rot in Hell
5. Non-Fiendo. As far as I can tell fiendo is Latin for 'the making' or 'it will be made' so non-fiendo is the unmaking curse.
If you want to see the pairings and the general overview of this story you might want to take a look at A Song of Slash is a Gay Song from where I got the idea for this. This story is consistent with and leads up to the part of the song after the lines Lets skip ahead, to newer times; And newer generations... But this isn't all fun and games - it's quite serious and nothing at all like the light hearted, silly song of slash.The previous parts and ships of the song have little or no bearings on this story.
Each part will be in a different point of view. Draco narrates Part 1.
Leave a review and let me know what you think of it. Like Draco I have no idea what 'Wotcher' means... could someone please enlighten me?