Holy hell, was Harry's first thought upon waking. Ow. Wow, that hurts…. Why is it so cold? Where am I? He squinted and found himself staring up at thick white clouds. He got to his feet, brushing dirt off himself, and looked around. Trees in every direction. Of course. Last night came back in a flood of memories, most clearly evidenced by the Dark Mark carved into his skin. He fingered the raw flesh, and immediately wished he hadn't. Searing pain shot up his entire arm, not as bad as last night, but unpleasant nonetheless.
He decided to return to the trees he thought Lucius had led him from. He would find the Portkey, return to the Malfoy Manor, and demand that Lucius send him back home. He ducked into the grove of trees.
He was looking for the one big enough to hold a dozen people, but every tree looked identical to him. He remembered Lucius's route was long, full of twists and turns. Probably on purpose. Harry ran his hand through his hair agitatedly and dropped it back at his side. His palm fell across his wand, burrowed in the confines of his pocket. Hastily he pulled it out.
"I could Apparate," he murmured. "Nothing's stopping me." He raised his wand. "Apparatum Malfoy Manor."
He reappeared in a warm, well-furnished cottage. Looking out of the windows, he saw the sprawling green of the Malfoys' lawn. He pocketed his wand and carefully pulled down his left sleeve. Time to face Lucius.
He walked across the vast yard and let himself in. The familiar gold and marble hall greeted him. And standing in the middle of it, their backs turned and immersed in conversation, were Lucius and Dumbledore.
"I told you, I have no idea where Potter – " Harry interrupted Lucius by slamming the front door deliberately. Both of them turned around.
Lucius's complexion turned ashen as his gaze met Harry's. But Dumbledore offered him a smile and said warmly, "Good morning, Harry."
"Morning, Professor," Harry returned shortly before focusing his attention on Lucius. "You bastard," he growled. "You left me there to die. You manipulated me, lied to me, wouldn't give a damn if I got killed. I don't want to be dragged into your politics. Those spells you taught me? You deserve to have them used against you, every single one, and kept alive and conscious the entire time." In one fluid motion, he had his wand out and pointed at Lucius's chest. He was breathing hard. "Eviscero!" Lucius hastily constructed a glowing shield that absorbed the curse, but he looked shaken.
"Harry," Dumbledore said quietly. In his anger, Harry had forgotten he was even there. "You'll come with me. Lucius, I'll speak with you later."
"Yes, Professor," Lucius murmured.
He left Lucius's side, took Harry's wand from his fingers, and opened the front door. "Come, Harry." Harry reluctantly turned and followed, but not before shooting Lucius a last murderous look.
Dumbledore walked up to the statue in the front yard. "Headmaster's office in Hogwarts," he told the stone statue clearly. He motioned for Harry to press his palm onto the stone, doing the same. With the familiar tug behind his navel, color swirled around them and they were gone.
They appeared in the center of Dumbledore's circular office. Dumbledore took a seat behind his desk and motioned Harry to a chair. He sat hesitantly, wanting to be anywhere but there.
The old man lifted his glasses and rubbed his eyes wearily. "I have so many questions, I don't know where to begin." Harry shrugged. "If I were to question you, would you even answer honestly?"
"You have no reason not to trust me."
"I do," Dumbledore answered sadly, "if you're associating with Lucius Malfoy and dabbling in dark arts."
"What difference does it make to you?" Harry asked with disgust. "You're trying to shield me from dark arts, all things that aren't good and wholesome, but how much longer can that go on? Voldemort wants me dead now, you can't fight dark magic with light spells. It's not fair for you to confine me like this, to handpick what I can and can't learn – "
"Be quiet," Dumbledore told him firmly. "I've heard all of your justifications before."
"You have?" Harry asked skeptically.
"Yes. From a twenty-five-year-younger Lucius Malfoy." Dumbledore leaned across the desk. "And no matter how passionately you feel about it, I cannot let you fall into the same trap he did."
"Why do you care?"
"Because you are like a son to me," Dumbledore answered simply. "You don't understand what you're doing – "
Harry got up abruptly, nearly tipping the chair over. "You condescending bastard," he hissed, "I do understand what I've gotten into, that's why I'm doing it. You're the one who doesn't understand, you're so tied up in your own agenda – "
"Harry, stop. I wasn't finished."
Harry threw himself back into the chair and stared at the floor sulkily.
"You don't understand. I'm sorry if you take offense at that, but you don't. Becoming a Death Eater is an emotional and physical drain. Why do you think Lord Voldemort is so powerful?" He paused, but Harry remained silent. "The Dark Mark serves as a binding to Voldemort, but it also acts as a channel of power – from his supporters to himself. This causes problems for most Death Eaters, leading to poor health and an early death. I can't even predict what it will do to you." Harry slid his hand across the Dark Mark subconsciously. "What were you thinking?" Dumbledore sighed. "I don't know what's going to happen. You and he are linked in ways nobody, including myself, fully understand. This may end up killing one or both of you."
"If it does, that's the consequence and I'm willing to risk it."
"Harry. Realistically, how would this benefit you?" Dumbledore asked.
"Because otherwise I'm going to end up dead," Harry spat. "I told you, you can't fight dark spells with light magic."
"If you're so insistent I'll teach you dark magic," Dumbledore answered. "I forbid you to join Voldemort."
"Thanks for the offer, but I'd rather learn it from somebody competent," Harry answered coldly.
Dumbledore sighed. "Then you won't be learning it at all. There's really nothing else to say on the subject. You may go now. You will be spending the remainder of the summer at Hogwarts; your belongings will be mailed to you."
Harry rose silently and stalked out of the office. A house elf was waiting for him. He bowed shortly and led Harry to his room.
Harry was about ready to fall asleep after a tiring day of doing nothing, when he heard the noise, a gentle tap tap tap on the windowsill. He pushed the covers off himself and got up groggily, lighting the candles with a flick of his wand. A barn owl was perched on the narrow ledge, looking at him curiously. Harry pushed the glass up and let the bird in.
The envelope was addressed to him in shimmering green ink. He slid a nail under the seal as he opened Hedwig's cage for the visitor, who fluttered in gratefully. The owl took up almost all the space, and Harry was glad Hedwig wasn't in there as well. His aunt had grudgingly fed her on occasion while Harry was gone, but she had been locked up in her cage the entire time. Tonight was the first in weeks she was let out of her cage, and she was taking advantage of it.
The letter was written neatly on cream-colored parchment, a change from hastily-written scraps from his friends. Harry's breath hitched in his chest when he recognized the writing as Lucius's. Heart pounding, he unfolded the letter.Harry –
I apologize for last night and this morning; you left so quickly I didn't have a chance to explain myself. Hopefully you're not so angry with me that you won't read this.
Yes, I had conspired with the Dark Lord about the events that took place in these past few weeks. We had a general idea of how you would react, and tailored it daily. However, I did not tell him of our…trysts. Those will remain a secret.
Nearly everything I did was fueled politically. I'm sorry. You're free to feel used, because you were. Any other way would have gotten both of us killed. I'm willing to sacrifice myself to Lord Voldemort, but not you. Never you.
I know that sounds inconsistent with how I acted, but I do not expect you to become a Death Eater. The Dark Mark is merely a symbol; it's truly your actions that distinguish someone as loyal to the Dark Lord. I could not have prevented you from getting the Dark Mark, otherwise I would have. But that shall just have to be your cross to bear.
I'm sorry for tarnishing your innocence, your body, your mind. Perhaps you're able to forgive me, but I would understand if you weren't. All I needed was a chance to explain myself.
After Harry's eyes had scanned the elegant signature, both parchment and envelope dissolved in his fingertips, to sand, to ash, to nothing at all. He ran a hand through his hair, sighing. "Could you stay while I write a reply?" he asked the owl, who hooted gently in affirmation. Harry picked up a quill, contemplating what to write.
Then he dropped it back onto the desk. "Nevermind," he told the barn owl. "There's nothing left to say." The owl hooted a second time and flew out the open window.
Harry stared after the bird, shutting the window slowly. It was over. There would be consequences – he ran his hand across the Dark Mark. Difficult, severe consequences, for everyone. But he was tired of thinking about it, talking about it. It hurt, and there was nothing left to say.
[A/N – And thus ends the story of La Rencontre Momentanée. I know that it doesn't seem like all the ends were tied up, but I'm going to talk about that. If you read none of the other author's notes in the story, read this one, it's important. (Then again, for people who didn't read them, they'd miss that, wouldn't they? :-P)
I began this story back in May, to write Lucius/Harry interaction mainly. There was a plot behind it, but that was secondary. At least initially. As I continued writing I found myself more and more interested in Harry's dark side, why Voldemort wanted him, why Lucius acted as he did. And that's why I'm writing a sequel that will be more plot-driven with some Lucius/Harry interaction in it. As opposed to this fic, where it was the other way around.
I actually didn't even consider a sequel until I posted chapter seven. So it had been finished for a while before and the sequel was kind of… unmeditated but a good idea. I've begun it and you'll see it in three weeks to a month, hopefully. I also have a general rule (frequently broken, but a rule nonetheless) that war and politics in fiction stories is boring. So the sequel will still be really interaction-driven, but this time with more people – Harry's back at Hogwarts, as are his peers, and he's got more than enough to deal with.
As I mentioned before in the chapter eight note, I'm taking an eight-day vacation very shortly, where I hopefully can write several more chapters of the sequel (as yet untitled, which is why it's just, for now, 'the sequel'. :-p) I'll see you all later, and hope you enjoyed La Rencontre Momentanée as much as I did.
- Awesome Opossum]