Part One: Imperio
There once was an author called Cy
Who said with a miserable sigh
I wish I owned Potter
A mouse and an otter
But I don't. What a shame. Goodbye.
Warning: This fic is rather a hard PG-13, and as such may verge on a low R rating in some parts, mainly in the second and third parts, for violent imagery among other things.Please do not read if this would upset or offend you. Thank you.
A/N: Well, the first of three weeks has passed in a haze of arduous revision, broken only by visiting my sister and my newborn niece! If you want baby pictures, you can find one by clicking on my homepage link on my profile (and yes, that's me holding her) Isn't she adorable?
On to this story. When I asked my close friend and Delta what I should mention in my A/N, she suggested, 'Please don't hate me for what I've done,' and then said I should dedicate it to my baby niece, 'in the hope that she'll grow up pure and not twisted and horrible like you.' Beth, I dedicate this to you with the severe injunction that this is what you should not think like.
As you may have guessed from the above, it's not a happy little story. This is part one: two and three will follow on the next two Fridays.
Oh, and in case you get confused; the first scene takes place in the past, and everything following that is in the modern day.
And I think that's all, apart from: Enjoy!
'She rejected me,' Salazar said simply, 'so I killed her.'
Godric clenched the hilt of his sword tightly, fighting down the terrible desire to wreak vengeance for Rowena's death, to hack Salazar's body into pieces and scatter them in the courtyard of Hogwarts for the crows to eat.
His eyes never moved from the scene: Rowena was lying in the exact centre of the room, her eyes closed and silken hair fanned around her, skin even paler than in life and unmarked by blood, though Salazar was drenched in crimson. Only the blue taint on her lips and the stillness of her chest showed she was dead.
Salazar was cross-legged by her side, playing with her hair as though she were merely sleeping, the light of half-madness in his eyes and his expression slack. 'I loved her,' he added, almost nostalgically.
'You never loved her.' Godric hissed, his voice twisted by pain and loss. Rowena had been like a sister to him, a sister and a friend, and the abruptness with which she'd been torn away from his heart made him ache and burn for revenge, but he held himself in check. As Rowena herself had been so fond of saying: death accomplishes very little.
'I did,' Salazar told him, eyes unmoving, unblinking, trained on Rowena's face. 'I loved her. That's why I killed her. She wouldn't love me back.' He sounded almost petulant, like a five-year-old denied its favourite toy.
'If you had truly loved her, you would never have killed her,' Godric spat, unable to stop the fire of rage and anger and hatred from erupting. 'Why! Rowena was the most powerful, the most peaceful, the kindest, gentlest, the noblest of all of us, and in one stroke you have stolen that from me, from the world! Why, Salazar? What madness drove you to murder, what insanity make you kill the greatest of us all?'
Salazar was silent for a moment. 'She wouldn't love me back,' he repeated, fingers still twining and untwining themselves in Rowena's hair.
Godric, unable to form words, gave out a cry of anguish, of pain and loss and hatred and anger, of horror at Rowena's death and misery and desire for bloodthirsty vengeance, of fury and dismay, all of which built up inside him to drown his mind in a wordless scream, so that when he spoke he barely knew what he was saying.
'A curse on you, Salazar, on you and on your descendents and on the descendents of your descendents until the world meets its fiery apocalypse! May it never be again that one of your line murders the most powerful, caring and noble mage of their time! May all the children of Slytherin be bound to protect the greatest mage of their generation, may they be bound never to harm them by word, blade or spell, by Rowena's blood may they be bound!'
And as the final word left his lips, he drew his sword, screaming, and flung it straight at Salazar, who had not moved or spoken once while Godric spat his curse. The sword shone gold in the sunlight as it flew through the air, the reflected light blinding for a moment, then it struck Salazar, passed straight through unhindered, and buried itself a hand's span deep in the wood of the wall opposite. There was a crash of thunder from the cornflower-blue sky outside, and with it a flash of immense power cut through the room, like lightening, ancient and powerful and inhuman.
Then there was silence, but for Godric's harsh breathing. A heartbeat passed, then slowly he crumpled to his knees, then fell to the floor, unconscious.
Salazar toyed with Rowena's hair. Throughout everything that had happened, his eyes had never left her face, nor had his fingers stopped playing with the silken strands of her hair.
They will be waiting to attack you on the road into Hogsmede. Leave the carriages about half a mile from the village, then walk northwest until you reach the main street. You should avoid them that way. In Hogsmede, stay with your friends at all times, and have your wand at the ready. If you can, carry some other weapon to defend yourself, in case they disarm you. They are growing tired of failure and I do not know what they may resort to in their attempts to harm you.
The note wasn't signed – they never were – but years of experience had proved that the sender, whoever he or she was, was trustworthy. Hermione had received similar letters since… when was it? She'd been six, she supposed, when she'd woken one morning to the very first letter, lying mysteriously on her bedside table, a child's messy handwriting warning her what the school bully was planning to do that day. Thanks to the letter, she'd avoided the plan that had sent three of her classmates home early in tears.
They'd started coming more often after she started attending Hogwarts, warning her about the opening of the Chamber of Secrets, hinting at the existence of the Basilisk. They'd told her that Scabbers was a danger, though she hadn't believed them until they were proven true. They'd said she should be wary of Moody, and warned her of a hundred incidents that could have harmed her.
They'd become far more frequent in the past year, as the war had escalated and not even Dumbledore could keep the rivalries within Hogwarts from breaking into open fighting. Anyone close to Harry was in danger from those allied with Voldemort. The writer of the letters knew, somehow, what attacks were being planned on them, so they could avoid the danger. The annoying thing about them was that they sometimes didn't give quite enough information, teasing hints as though the writer didn't want to give away too much, but was compelled to protect her.
The writer. She still didn't know who he was. Or she, but the tone of the notes suggested a male. When she was little, she'd heard stories about guardian angels and fancied that the letters must be from hers, before she'd grown older and dismissed that as myth and fable. Upon going to Hogwarts and learning that much of fantasy was true, she'd tried to discover if angels were real, if the letters had some explanation, but none was forthcoming. Angels appeared to be completely mythological, and she could find no mention of mysterious letters bearing warnings.
She still thought of the letter-writer as 'my angel', though.
With a smile, Hermione read over the letter again. Half a mile from Hogsmede… she would find a map and work out where that ought to be. Taking a fresh piece of parchment from her desk, she scribbled her thanks and an assurance that she would take the advice, then tied her letter to the owl.
'Take it back to whoever sends me the warnings,' she whispered to it, giving the smooth feathers on its head a stroke, then taking it to the window and letting it fly free.
She turned and left to pass the warning on to her friends.
The owl soared from the top of Gryffindor Tower, gliding powerfully on the open air as if postponing the task it had to do. Taking a message back to its master was never pleasant. He much preferred the brown-haired girl and her airy tower…
But an owl had to do its job. Dolefully, it began to sink down, its sharp eyes carefully searching for the little stone entryway. Its destination was underground – under the lake, if his owl senses told him right – and there were no breezy windows to fly through. Instead, a stone passage had been provided, one which led straight into the Slytherin common room, especially for the owls to use.
Finding the passage entrance, he reluctantly dropped into it, feeling the unsettling brush of magic wards against his feathers. The wards were almost unnecessary - humans could never fit through this passage anyway, and no other animal wished to wage war on the strange, featherless, furless, scaleless creatures that held dominion over the world.
Emerging into the noisy, dark room, the owl was momentarily disorientated, but soon spotted its way – that bizarre device called a staircase. It flew up, oddly angled in the stairwell, and kept going till it reached the top.
The door was open, and the room empty but for its master. He was sitting on his bed, pale silvery hair drifting around his face, grey eyes alert.
He looked up as the owl perched on his bed, appearing displeased. 'I should find a less intelligent owl to do this job,' he frowned, reaching out for the letter, 'then maybe, when I warned that Mudblood of some huge danger, she wouldn't get the letter. Then she'd die.' He grinned malevolently, eyes glittering.
The look soon faded though, as he scanned the letter briefly and his eyes darkened. 'She always sounds so damn… thankful. As if I'm some angelic good guy doing all this out of the goodness of my heart.' He scowled, and the owl was almost frightened to see how such pale eyes could appear so… black. He hooted softly, but Draco took no notice.
'As if I wouldn't kill her if I could,' he continued, crumpling Hermione's letter in one hand. Angrily, he threw it into the fire that burnt on the opposite wall from his bed. He got it in neatly – he'd done the same many times before, and practice had improved his aim.
He sighed, the murderous look draining from his face, and reached out to stroke the owl's feathers. The exact same place that Hermione had stroked five minutes earlier. If Draco had known, he wouldn't have touched the creature.
'Bloody Godric…' he muttered under his breath, staring at the fire, eyes narrowing.
The door opened suddenly, startling the owl, which hooted loudly. It snapped Draco out of his thoughts, and he looked around crossly.
'Draco,' said Blaise impatiently, standing in the doorway, 'what on earth are you doing up here? It's time to go. The ambush? We need to get there before them to set up our positions.
'I was just coming,' he said. He glared at the owl, snatching his hand off its feathers as though they'd suddenly burnt him. 'Back to the owlery,' he spat harshly, standing up to leave, and the owl took off hastily. It knew better than to stay around when its master was in such a mood.
Twelve of them, packed into two of the Thestral-pulled carriages, silently toying with their wands. It was the silence that betrayed them as different from the other laughing groups of friends making their way to Hogsmeade, that and their grim, tense faces, their expressions empty, minds set on one purpose.
All were Slytherins. All in fifth, sixth, or seventh year. All known to be allegiant to Voldemort, all known to be sworn enemies of the Light side. But they couldn't fight for real, with the black skull tattooed on their forearms and the black mask of a Death Eater hiding their faces. Neither were the childish exchanges of taunts and feeble curses acceptable to satisfy their growing desire to fight for their beliefs.
And so they were left with this. A bizarre combination of the two, planned by children, carried out by children, but with adult consequences and adult intentions. All of them would swear that, given the chance, they'd kill here today: most would carry through with that oath.
Twelve of them, against three, maybe four if a friend was daring enough to ride with them. Twelve of them with murder in their hearts. It did not bode well for the three.
Draco was the only one who knew that their intended victims wouldn't be coming today, and he hated himself for it. How dearly he'd love this attack to work, love to listen to the sweet, sweet music of terrified screams as they cowered before the superior Slytherins, love to watch them die, their faces twisted with pain. He hated all three of them, but he hated Hermione the worst.
He wanted to kill her himself. Oh, he hadn't learned the Unforgivables yet, but he knew Dark spells that would make her beg at his feet for the simple pain of the Cruciatius, the brief green flash of death that the Killing Curse brought. No. He wanted her to suffer.
But he couldn't, could he? He was cursed, an ancient curse passed down through the Slytherin bloodlines, from father to son, mother to daughter… To him. A simple curse, really, to protect the greatest witch or wizard of the generation, but oh, the consequences were dire when a Mudblood claimed the title of greatest. A foul, filthy, dirty Mudblood. A mutant.
There was the Muggle race and the superior Wizarding race, and that was how it should remain. But the second-class Muggles bred mutants, bizarre genetic malfunctions that had magical ability, like a monkey that could learn how to talk. Mudbloods were worse than Muggles – at least Muggles didn't claim to be the equals of wizardkind. Didn't end up being the 'most powerful, caring and noble' witch in his generation.
Scowling, Draco leant against the wall of the carriage and glared out at the passing scenery. More than anything, he wanted her dead, wanted her gone and out of his life. If he could have ten minutes without this foul curse…
'We're stopping here,' Blaise spoke up calmly. Draco frowned. They hadn't yet reached their agreed place…
Pansy appeared to have noticed this too. 'We're supposed to stop nearer to Hogsmede,' she informed Blaise with authority.
Blaise gave her a cool glare. 'Potter and his two sidekicks always manage to find out the details of our plans beforehand, presumably through spying,' Blaise pronounced carefully. 'Thus, by changing our plans at the last minute, we have more chance of success. Agreed?'
The other Slytherins nodded mutely. Blaise had been the initiator of their plans to attack the Gryffindor trio; she still held the reins of power, and they weren't about to try and seize them. Besides, it was a good plan.
Blaise gave them all a short nod. 'Good,' she said. 'Out, everyone, and stop the Thestrals.'
There followed a flurry of activity. The carriages weren't moving fast, so it was safe enough for two of their number to jump down and race to he front to stop the Thestrals so the others could get out, and shout to the second carriage as it followed behind them to stop. Then they had to hide the carriages and Thestrals in the thin strip of woodland that lined the roadside. They led the gruesome horses into the trees – very few of their group were unable to see Thestrals – and tethered them in a safe enough place. It was difficult to get the carriages to follow, but a good deal of spellwork got the job done. The Slytherins took up positions in the bushes by the side of the road, watching and waiting in silence.
And all the while, Draco was almost numb with horror. This wasn't a quick exchange of insults in the hallways, a few spells sent flying around before a teacher broke it up. This was a fight, a real fight with people out to kill. Out to kill Granger.
The spell wouldn't just let him stand by and do nothing. He could hurt her a little – a few insults, a basic curse or two – but not on this scale. It would force him to act, force him to block the others' spells and defend the filthy Mudblood and even die himself if it were necessary. That was what the curse demanded. He wouldn't even be able to let Potter or Weasley get too injured, he realised – gravely injured or dead would hurt Hermione, so the spell wouldn't allow him to let it happen…
Draco felt sick. He tried to escape in the chaos of hiding the carriages, but found he couldn't: he knew of danger to the Mudblood, and he had to protect her, which meant he couldn't leave her to face the danger alone. He had to be in the fight, and he had to defend her. And how could he do that without it being noticed? His fellow Slytherins would see, and Potter and Weasley would see, and she would see, and then she'd want to know why. And he didn't want her to know, didn't want anyone to know. The curse was shameful. Forced to protect a Mudblood, the lowest of the low!
The sound of carriage wheels on the rough dirt pathway pierced his consciousness, and he tried to stay calm. It might not even be them, yet, it could be one of the other groups of students heading to Hogsmede. But it was still a little early for people to be making their way down, and people would be even more hesitant than usual, this year, with the fighting going on. Wait till the attacks are over, they'd say, it'll only be an hour or so – only the Gryffindor Trio would come down this early. Idiots.
And it was them; he heard Hermione's unsuspecting laugh, and instantly his pure blood boiled with rage. He hated her, simply because she was a Mudblood, and Potter's friend, and the one he had to protect, and because he had made it his lifetime's study to hate her.
In the bushes beside him, he saw his comrades shifting, ready to attack as the carriage approached. He clutched his wand tightly, wishing for some twist of fate, some lucky chance that would allow him to keep his curse a secret…
A curse was shouted to his left, another to his right, and the Thestrals gave their eerie alarm cries, rearing, as the chatter inside the carriage turned to horror. The Slytherin hoards burst out, each member knowing their role – three to the Thestrals, to cut them loose and prevent an untimely escape, the others to the carriage, to corner their victims.
Draco was one of the latter, running to the carriage doorway amid all the shouts and shrieks and hexes flying already. The curse was already acting, Hermione was in danger and he had to protect her, forced to by the curse embedded in his own pure blood. The Gryffindors were already emerging, wands drawn and battle-ready, looking determined but dismayed by the numbers of adversaries they were facing. Curses began to fly.
The three fifth years who had cut the Thestrals loose stayed to the edges, watching warily – their job was to prevent any of their victims from escaping. The remaining Slytherins were split into three groups, one for each Gryffindor. This was the strategic part, luring the trio apart while surviving the initial onslaught of spells. If they could separate them, it would be three against one, and even they couldn't stand up to those odds.
Draco was tense, eyes flickering between his allies, watching warily. He couldn't let them hurt Granger, the curse prevented him, but he couldn't turn traitor either. How to accomplish this…
They were separating now, the trio, as the Slytherins carefully prised them apart with spells and hexes. Hermione ended up behind the carriage, and Draco, Blaise and Pansy went with her, encircling her. Her eyes flashed with horror as she realised she'd been split apart from her friends; she tried to call out to them, but she was forced to concentrate on the fight as she narrowly dodged a quick curse from Blaise.
Mudblood. Draco's eyes narrowed: he wanted nothing more than her death, than her torture, yet still he was forced to protect her. He was careful. Whenever Blaise or Pansy shot a curse that was at all dangerous her way, he quickly muttered some simple spell – a Stunner, for example – that was carefully aimed to crash into the other spell and knock it off course. This quickly annoyed the two girls.
'For goodness' sakes, Draco!' Blaise shouted over the yells and cries of curses, 'Aim right or not at all!'
Scowling, Draco glared at Blaise and carried on. He couldn't tell the Slytherins about the curse – it would be weakness. He would be spurned, cast out. If it was anyone but a Mudblood, anyone but Potter's friend, they wouldn't care, but they would never accept him if they knew of this curse.
Still, Draco thought as he knocked yet another of Blaise's spells off course, they'd cast him out as soon as they realised he was protecting her anyway. A traitor, they'd call him, and hatred flared again inside him, a burning, painful hatred that eclipsed everything for a heartbeat with its vicious intensity.
Flushed from battle, Blaise called to them both, 'Use Ipsae Odium, if we all cast it together she won't be able to protect herself!'
Hermione paled, taking a step backwards but finding herself with nowhere to run. 'Protego,' she muttered, and a thin shimmer in the air indicated the presence of a shield charm. Draco, gripping his wand tightly and cursing Blaise, knew why she was afraid. Ipsae Odium – colloquially, the self-hatred spell, one which made the victim hate themselves so much they'd plead for death, beg for it on their knees. It could be blocked by the shield charm, of course, but not three spells at once…
And Draco had to protect her from it. Hermione's shield would block one of the spells, Blaise or Pansy's but not both. Two shields… two shields would block both spells. And the Mudblood would be safe, and Draco Malfoy would be a Muggle-loving traitor.
Hating her, he took a deep breath, caught Blaise's eye, and prepared himself.
The two cyan flashes bounced harmlessly off the two separate shields and into the surrounding woodland, leaving a bubble in the midst of the fighting, a second's pause while attackers and victim gaped openly at Draco. He held his head high, refused to meet their eyes, and mentally cursed the filthy, unworthy, disgusting Mudblood with every swear word he knew.
Blaise shrieked in outrage, breaking the moment's pause, and attacked him. 'Imber Flammarum!' she shouted, pointing her wand not at Draco but above him. Surprised for a moment, he didn't react fast enough, and a streak of fire caught his cheek, burning him, the searing pain momentarily driving all other thoughts from his mind.
'Aquae Parma!' called a distant voice, one that was hatefully familiar; the Mudblood. His hand still clasped to his burning cheek, Draco looked up to find her looking at him with mixture of worry, fear and determination in her eyes, and he looked upwards to see the effect of her spell; a shield of water now arced above his head, the tongues of fire that were beginning to fall with increasing rapidity hissing into steam above his head.
Draco scowled at Granger; though he knew that it had only been her quick spellwork that had saved him from a painful death, his hatred was too strong for him to care. She was stupid, saving the life of an enemy who could be a danger. He could have been tricking her – it was an idiotic, sentimental, Gryffindor action, to help him. And of course, how like perfect know-it-all Granger to have the exact charm that worked best against Blaise's spell…
There was a pause of only a moment, before Pansy, finding her voice, screamed, 'Traitor!' and cast another curse at him, which he deflected swiftly. The fight continued. But now Blaise and Pansy, the anger of betrayal in their eyes, were fighting not just Hermione, but Draco as well. He didn't want to fight them. He wanted to be on their side, wanted to bring the Mudblood screaming to her knees, but they'd never allow him, not now. He deflected their curses and didn't attack them, but they had to concentrate on two opponents now, and Hermione had more opportunity to attack them, to fight back. The two girls, to Draco's dismay, were very soon unconscious.
There was the briefest of pauses, time only to regain his breath and try to work out what would happen now. Granger was sweeping a stray strand of hair out of her eyes, red-faced and breathing hard, scanning the tight knots of battle around each of her two friends. Potter was holding his own, had even managed to knock out one of his opponents, but Weasley was doing badly and tiring.
Hermione glanced briefly at Draco, her eyes wary and suspicious. 'I don't know what side you're on or what the hell you're playing at,' she said shortly, 'but I'm finding out as soon as this is over. I'm going to help Ron.'
With that, she turned – another stupid Mudblood moment; never turn your back on an enemy – and ran towards Ron. Draco glanced down at his two friends, Blaise and Pansy, lying bloody and beaten in the dirt. Slytherins didn't care for each other exactly, caring was weakness, and friendships were pointless. But you couldn't spend seven years in the same House, sitting together at meals, planning and plotting and laughing at your enemies without forming some kind of bond.
His curse was calling him to protect Hermione; the back-up Slytherins, who'd patrolled the edges to ensure no one escaped, were closing in on her. But Blaise and Pansy… 'I'm sorry,' he whispered, startled to hear himself say the words. 'I didn't want to betray you. Forgive me,' he asked, though he knew they couldn't hear him and wouldn't forgive him if they had.
The curse dragged him back to the present situation; the three younger Slytherins were crowded around Hermione, and though she could easily take on fifth-years, three enemies at once were always difficult. Draco saw one of them cast a particularly nasty curse at her while she was distracted, and though he tried to stop himself his actions were involuntary: he muttered a deflection charm then knocked the fifth-year out. Forgive me, he pleaded again in his mind, though he knew no one would.
Hermione took out another fifth-year, then duelled briefly with the third, who held her own better than her comrades. But not well enough to defeat the best witch in seventh-year, aided by Draco, and she soon joined the others in the dust.
Granger gave Draco a quick nod of thanks with a brief, curious smile – how badly he wanted to tear or torture that smile off her face – then turned to Weasley. He was unsurprisingly doing badly, about to lose to the three murderous Slytherins attacking him. Hermione barged into the Slytherins' victory like an avenging angel, if Mudbloods were allowed to be angels. 'Cloaca!' she shouted.
Draco watched from the sidelines, intervening to protect her whenever necessary, feeling the cruel chains of his servitude forcing his actions, making him act. The Slytherins knew he was a traitor – they'd seen him helping the Mudblood – and they attacked him along with the Gryffindors. Weasley gaped at him in outright shock, and Draco turned his head away, ashamed. He didn't attack his house comrades, merely deflected their curses from himself and Granger. I'm sorry, his eyes pleaded, forgive me… He was a traitor, came the unspoken replies from his fellow Slytherins, a traitor to their cause.
They were losing. There were only four of them left now, two of Potter's and two of Weasley's, all sixth-years, against the Gryffindor Trio. And Draco, to one side, cursed to protect Granger, blocking curses against his will. He tried his hardest, strained against the curse, but nothing worked. Nothing ever did.
'Retreat!' called one of the sixth-years desperately, a slender girl who was obviously scared, and Draco didn't blame her. 'We can't win!' The others, with the briefest of shared glances to confirm it, appeared to agree. The fight was over.
The Gryffindors – always chivalrous, always noble to the point of nausea, dropped back a few paces to let them escape, wands at the ready at the first sign of treachery. The remaining Slytherins gathered up the unconscious with hasty charms. Draco stood where the fighting had ended, head bowed and wand still gripped tightly in his hand, hating what he'd done, hating himself for doing it, most of all hating the Mudblood for being who she was, what she was. He didn't need to look up to know that the Slytherins were glaring at him as they bore the unconscious away, into the bushes where the carriages were hidden, didn't need to be a Leglimens to know what they were thinking.
They were gone, leaving him alone with the Gryffindors, and he longed to be able to kill them, to tear them apart for what they'd inadvertently done, and most of all to kill that Mudblood…
'Malfoy?' came her voice 'Malfoy, why…?'
He didn't stay to listen. Turning sharply, he strode off into the wood behind him, on the opposite side of the road to the Slytherins' retreat, ignoring Hermione's cry to 'Wait!' He pushed into the bushes, not looking up, not looking back, not looking anywhere but the ground in front of him and only that because he didn't want to trip. Once a little way in, where the undergrowth was less, he broke into a run, a run fuelled by anger and hatred and the desperate, unappeasable desire to kill.
His cheek was aching where Blaise's spell had burnt it, but he didn't care. He was a traitor, and he deserved to be hurt. He deserved the pain.
Latin Translations: 'Ipsae Odium' translates as 'hatred of the self'. 'Imber Flammarum' is 'rain of flames', and 'Aquae Parma' means 'shield of water'
A/N: Thanks for reading! Part two will be up same time same place, next week. Until then, review! The characters are providing barrels of rotten tomatoes to fling at me for being so evil…