Usual Disclaimer applies. I am also looking for a beta, if anybody is at all interested…
Anyway hope you all enjoy this chapter.
The study was simply designed. No ostentation, no decadent sconces or gilded eaves. Only the deep red brown of gleaming mahogany lined the shelves. The armchairs were hardly more decorative- only bearing the simple stamp of elegance and grace. The same could be said of their occupants.
Father and son faced each other across the study floor, each ensconced in their respective corner.
"You made headboy."
It was a statement that didn't beg reply so Draco didn't respond. He'd learned long ago to be as laconic as possible where his father was concerned.
"As expected," Lucius added sharply in case there was any doubt.
His father was studying him again, fascination greedy in his eyes. Almost a mirror reflection of Malfoy senior, and with a coldness to match- Draco's lips curved. To form a human being of flesh and blood and sculpt them carefully, burning away all the flaws and leaving only perfection- that was genius. But there was always a price. Always.
"You're good Draco. But not better than me. Don't ever forget that," his father said slowly, the subtle threat as loud as a gong in the tomb quiet room.
There were very little sins the Malfoy's hadn't committed in centuries past, and parricide had been a particular favorite. The irony was too delicious to ignore- in a family that had wielded power for centuries the greatest threat always lay in their own bloodlines. It made for precious few leaders – but those that survived the culling. Ah.
"One can never best their master," Draco said acquiescing. He put his fluted glass down and stood up. "And I have learned everything from you."
Before he left however he turned at the door, and said to the old old man by the fire, "How did they say grandfather died?"
An empty grey gaze met his.
He shut the study door behind him, and walked away.
His first lesson had taken place in that study.
Hide your purpose. The passions are the windows of the soul. And practical wisdom calls for acting. He hazards defeat who plays with cards exposed. Put the defence of caution against the offense of the adversary; against the eye of the lynx, the ink of the cuttlefish. Even our wishes must not be voiced, so that they may not be met, by the one to deny them, or by another to satisfy them. – Balthasar Gracian "The Art of Worldly Wisdom"
This perhaps had been the most ingrained lesson he thought looking back. His father had been particularly ingenious with this one he remembered idly as he casually played with the wand rolling it over his fingers and under. Deft nimble fingers. How old had he been? Eight perhaps? Or was it nine? It seemed so many years ago.
"Before an enemy emotion destroys you completely and utterly. You must be careful enough to mask all intentions such that they cannot either deny or satisfy them. As soon as they can make you feel, or believe that you feel they control you. Control leads to a relinquishing of power. A loss in power is defeat. Never allow an enemy to see your purpose or unsettle you. Do you understand?"
"Yes father" he said hesitantly, his brow scrunched as he sat in the high chair, his feet not quite touching the ground. He didn't really but he understood on some level that he should say yes. He fidgeted with his tie under his father's stare.
"No, no I don't think you do," and he noticed the frostiness in his father's voice. Lucius quickly took steps to the study door, and opening it called loudly for Narcissa. Draco came up and out of his chair. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled.
He heard his mother's obedient light footsteps before he saw her- she looked bewildered as his father, clutching her by the elbow, took her to the middle of the room. Leaving her standing there he went and picked up his cane which he had left standing by the desk. It was a snakehead – the silver etchings glinting like daggers in the light. Without a word he walked back to the center of the room and faced his son. They locked gazes and seconds went by.
"Do you understand?" Silky now and infinitely more dangerous.
"Yes. Yes." Draco said, his voice stronger but he couldn't hide the note of desperation now.
He didn't even have time to breathe before his father drew his arm back and swung, the snakehead cane glittering like daggers in the son before cracking loudly against Narcissa Malfoy's head. She slammed against the bookshelves and fell slowly towards the ground, blood pooling around her. Her mouth opened and he saw her tongue slick with blood undulating, reaching up to the cavern of her mouth as if trying to form speech. But no sound emerged.
Shock held him still for a moment before he leaped forward, only to find, horrified, that he couldn't move. "Papa no," he said his cheeks wet.
"Please papa you hurt mama she's sick, she's bleeding. look papa look," he said frantically his words tripping over themselves, "please I understand I understand just please help mama."
He said begging
"You'll say anything to save her?" Lucius said calmly.
"Yes yes anything just stop papa," he said his soul wrenching on the last word.
Smiling at him Lucius lifted his wand and whispered, almost lovingly:
Two syllables. Six letters. And just hearing it was enough to freeze his heart because he heard the screams. Thousands of piercing screams as if wailing – they filled the room and he wanted to cover his ears because they were begging him to make it stop. Screaming to make it stop. And then one rose above the rest ringing clearly like a bell.
She was twisting her body flailing limply like a ragdoll's the arms being thrashed about as if children had seized each limb and were shaking them. Her head was moving side to side and her eyes were glazed and dead, as if she'd already passed the vale of suffering.
"You'll say anything," his father whispered dangerously. He took a step closer toward his only son, his only heir, "Will you do anything?"
He swallowed hard, and the Malfoy instinct came strong to the fore. He didn't glance at his mother as he shook his head, his shoulders wracked with dry sobs.
"Say it boy."
He swallowed again, "N-n."
He shook his head and tried again begging his mouth to work, "N-n. N-n-o…"
He couldn't be sick, he couldn't be sick, he mustn't be sick.
"Make me believe it boy." His father said again harshly, "Or we'll start all over again."
"No." He said his voice barely a whisper – but he held his father's gaze, not letting go. Not once.
His father shrugged. And he raised his arm once again, wand pointed at a now still Narcissa Malfoy.
And that's when young Draco knew what it meant to hate. To well and truly hate.
And he pulled his strength from that hate which bubbled blackly in his stomach, which pushed against the skin of his body, and jaw clenched he stared hard at his father, "No," he said in the same hushed voice. But it was different now.
And the elegant hand that had been poised as delicately as a conductor's paused in mid-flight, and then dropped.
Draco found he could move and before he could rush to his mother she disappeared.
"Where did you put mama," he said calmly shoulders not shaking anymore.
"Your learning- good." His father said, "She's upstairs still reading. You didn't think I would really harm my wife now did you?" There was an ugly little smile playing on his lips as he looked at Draco.
Draco didn't say anything.
"Simulacra," Lucius said exasperated, "Really what are they teaching you in school? You can tell by just looking at the eyes. You cannot fake eyes."
"I'll remember that."
His father looked at him sharply – trying to discern if there was effrontery in the remark, "We will continue next time. I have an appointment I must keep."
As he was about to leave he turned back to look at Draco who had remained standing stilly though he was no longer bound, "Do you understand now?"
Grey met grey and only the birds could be heard on that clear blue day.
You are the enemy.
Six years in Ravenclaw – neither the bravest house nor the most popular. Nor the wisest for that matter she thought shrugging.
But she'd liked the arrangement. After all she'd chosen it herself – how old had she been then she mused?
12? No 13 maybe. She'd stopped counting the years in the orphanage. Time had passed…differently. And she'd been older than the others.
Four houses but only two that seemed to matter. It had taken her a few more years to ponder why the situation was as it stood. Why such antagonism was allowed to foster. She looked up at the high table and the professors seated there. They were all gathered for the Sorting. Her brow crinkled in distaste at the word. The first years filing in were too young to understand that the Sorting was what you made of it – was your choice and yours alone.
She remembered when her name had been announced – ringing like the fall of a hammer in an empty smithy.
The school accepted few charity cases and when the letter came for her the nurse scoffed and tossed it away. That hadn't gone over well- they'd started growing on the walls.
She'd packed her bag and came quietly. Reading as much as she could. The old adage had held true particularly for Hogwarts- knowledge was power. She didn't want power though – she simply wanted none to have power over her.
She recalled the hundreds of faces peering, curiosity bright in their gazes as they stared at the new first years. There was scattered cheering when each house received a new student. None really paid much attention when she stood up – only Dumbledore smiled at her. She didn't smile back. As she slipped the hat over her head, all the noises in the hall were drowned and she was left in complete silence.
Well well well. What have we here?
Ravenclaw? Ha. No you're not Ravenclaw- Slytherin. There's your house- you could have power in Slytherin. Yes your type would do well –
I don't want power. Ravenclaw please.
Then Gryffindor for you – you could lead in Gryff-. No-no. You don't want to lead either. Are you sure? You could grow well and be happy in Gryffindor.
She shook her head in irritation.
The hat was silent. She kept her hands folded neatly across her lap and waited patiently.
She idly wondered at the question.
Doesn't matter. Give me what I want.
It hesitated for a split more second before bellowing Ravenclaw. She plucked the hat from her head and made her way to the table. She received a few welcomes and congratulations. A few stared, wondering perhaps what had taken so long. But they looked away soon enough when they saw her, forgetting what it was they had thought unusual in the first place.
The years had passed as she'd wished them to. Quietly.
She'd made friends in her own way- and they'd accepted her various idiosyncracies- her quiet habits, and strange ideas. They teased her goodnaturedly and she accepted it because she liked them. They were good people and for a long while she'd forgotten what it was like to be that innocent.
It was now her sixth year and the sun shone fiercely on the long green lawn. She held a breath and blew it out, disappointed not to see it turn frosty in the cool autumn air.
"Rivlen – ten o'clock tomorrow night CT meeting- don't forget," Julia called out to her, loud and unapologetic. She was standing at the edge of the grass grinning. She had changed her hair again – keeping it fashionably short now- blond and pixie. Rivlen let her lips curve as she remembered the first time they'd met.
Middle of first year and she still couldn't keep track of all the passageways. They kept changing she thought furiously, as she turned right.
"You're going the wrong way," chirped a voice behind her.
She turned to glare at the offender. Smirking blue eyes peered at her over small glasses. The chit was nearly dwarfed by her robes.
"Really?" She said, her voice clipped.
The girl's smile grew and she gave a little laugh.
"I knew you'd be like this I knew it! Just like out of a book!" she said with immense satisfaction.
One eyebrow rose in calculated disdain. That was one Rivlen didn't hear everyday.
"Sorry I'm being rude. You're in all my classes that's how I knew- you wanted potions right? You had to turn left about two hallways ago."
The look on her face must have been explanatory because the girl hurried on.
"Yeah I know- what am I doing here if I'm supposed to be in potions. Well I just had so much fun following you around. You were so lost. At first I thought you weren't and I followed you because I thought you had some secret…some secret," she frowned and pursed her lips, "oh yes that's the word – assignation. I thought you had a secret assignation. But then I knew you were lost cause you kept going in circles."
"And what if I kept going in circles because I was trying to lose you in order to keep my secret assignation?" She responded in a low serious voice.
That stopped her.
"Oh. I hadn't thought of that. Drat," she said muttering angrily to herself something about Sherlock Holmes.
Rivlen shook her head ruefully – she was too amused to be angry.
"Come on kid – we've got an angry professor waiting to take off house points."
She had just about walked past her when a skinny hand shot in her path. It was slightly dirty, smudged around the wrist. Rivlen followed the hand all the way up to the imperturbably cheerful girl with the smile that threatened to swallow her face.
"I like you. The name is Bellow. Julia Bellow," she said debonairly her head cocked to one side.
She took the hand offered and shook it gingerly.
She stared hard at the girl and when Julia didn't back down she grudgingly told her. At least the girl had balls.
"Khamsin Rivlen. Now can we go to class Bellow?" she said stressing the last word only slightly.
The girl nodded and they both started walking. They had reached Snape's door when Julia turned to her suddenly and said, "Interesting. Khamsin. That's Arabic. The fifty."
She shook her head still amused, and curiously attached five years later.
"Better be there," Julia bellowed as she walked away, her voice almost warbling in the wind.
Rivlen turned her face back to the sun and smiled widely. It was going to be a glorious year.
The topic of conversation the next morning was familiar.
"We don't have men here sweetheart. We have turnips disguised as boys," Maeve said dramatically, waving her fork in the air.
"Turnips huh- Bad news that," Julia said.
They all waited.
"I ended it," Maeve said finally, disgruntled.
They still waited.
"He wanted to wait- can you believe it? He wanted to wait! I was down to my knickers, bare chested moaning enthusiastically in his arms and then he says, 'I think that's all we can handle for tonight'" She said hissing at this point.
"That's all we can handle? When did we decide that was all we could handle. I was choo-chooing merrily along- do you know what that does to a woman? To just stop like that?!"
Julia shook her head, rapt as she stared at Maeve. Maeve often had people staring at her raptly. The reason depended on the sex of the person in question.
"When did men decide they wanted to wait? Did I miss some sort of no premarital sex campaign?"
"Maybe its when they became turnips" Julia suggested innocently swallowing a spoonful of rice pudding, "Rivlen don't eat the potatoes. I've heard things about the potatoes."
Maeve continued still on a roll, "Apparently only the men I date are vegetables. I thought after the last one that finally I'd hit cocksure gold with Robert 'I'm a badass' McKinsey. Nope. Wrong again- don't say it Rivlen. Don't even think it."
Rivlen smiled quietly – I told you so dancing merrily in her mind.
"You want a man," Julia said her voice hushed, "Then look to Slytherin house."
"I believe McKinsey was Slytherin" Rivlen said, eyeing her mashed potatoes suspiciously. Was it moving? Perhaps she needed to talk to the house elves…
"No most of Slytherin is filled with lazy little bastards – there are a several kind of people in this world Julia. Smart energetic people. Smart lazy people. Dumb lazy people. And Dumb energetic people. By far the latter is the most dangerous and Slytherin is populated with them. Take a look at Flint. A walking timebomb. Crabbe and Goyle would make Frankenstein jealous- true true- I wouldn't call them energetic either Julia but you have to admit they have an odd sort of inevitability when they do get moving. And there- fellow with the squinty eyes sitting next to the pug bitch- you can just see the brain cells frantically trying to start up- expect the obits anytime soon. And what about-"
"And what about him?" Julia said smirking, her fork pointing toward the entrance.
She would have said dangerous if it wouldn't have seemed a cliche understatement. Tall and lean with a face that would have made Desire weep for heaven on earth, Draco Malfoy was something else. The product of carefully bred genetic lines- it was impossible to miss the stamp of lineage on his brow. It was also difficult to imagine anyone else more suited to lead Slytherin.
His cap of hair shone almost white as he joined his fellow Slytherins.
"Now that is a man I'd love to sink my teeth into," Maeve said, not bothering to disguise the lust in her voice, "Can you imagine what he could do in bed?"
"He'd control you," Rivlen said absently. A man that good looking knew how to use it to his advantage.
"Honey he can control me all he wants- all I'm saying is he might want to put a silencing charm on the room. We just might bring the walls down," she said whistling. He looked over and she blew him a kiss.
Rivlen just sat and remembered.
Only two weeks to go before school started and she still hadn't gotten all her books. A rather dismal start to her sixth year but necessary. She hadn't had time to take off work.
And slowly she plodded up and down Diagon alley- buying her books and poring over other more interesting ones. One in particular had caught her eye, a small book of aphorisms. She hesitated for a long while before putting it down again.
At the register, the wizened lady smiled at her and slipped her the book.
Rivlen shook her head politely explaining it was too expensive.
The lady smiled and slipped her the book anyway, gratis. Rivlen didn't know what to say, so she said nothing at all. And when she'd paid for her purchases she politely thanked the woman. And it was with a lighter step that she further explored the possibilities of one of the most magical places in the wizarding world.
She only had one more place to visit, and it was with slight trepidation that she stood at the entrance of Knockturn alley. She'd noticed it first year, or at least noticed how people stayed far far away. And looking in she understood. She couldn't bring herself to step in though- and had walked away. But she'd made a promise to herself that come sixth year, when she was old enough and big enough, she would walk its length.
And now she was in her sixth year and she hadn't forgotten that promise.
Cutthroats and pirate alleys came to mind as she looked at it- nothing had changed. It was still damp and dark, with heavy mist curling about the grimy stones. And the sun still shied away she thought frowning.
Screwing her courage she stepped in and walked at a moderate pace. She didn't want to attract attention after all. And they had no call to harm her. Wrapping the robes around her tighter she walked all the way to the end and touched the back wall. She smiled as she felt the rough stone under her hands. Halfway done.
She saw faces at the windows, regarding her curiously- shadowed worried faces. Her heartbeat quickened and she focused on the constant plodding of her steps. She could see Diagon Alley again at least.
"A Ravenclaw?" A voice said in disgust behind her.
There were more than one she thought before turning, shoulders squared and chin up.
She raised one eyebrow in disdain at the group gathered in front of her. Slytherins all of them- students. Only students.
"Well what are we going to do with you?" One of them said. They were a measly bunch, all looking as twisted as their personalities. The only one she recognized was Flint, seventh year Slytherin Captain.
"You really don't have many options," she said politely, her voice echoing strongly in the narrow passage.
"I don't have any money. You could hurt me I suppose. Although I can't imagine you would get much satisfaction from abusing a girl of my size. But then again I am sure you're a clever bunch and will come up with something absolutely horrible that I can't even fathom," she said honestly, her face the picture of earnestness.
They were laughing by now- but they were unsure. They didn't know who was in control anymore, or how to approach her.
She figured Flint would have to take the initiative, as the oldest and most feared he had a reputation to uphold. He couldn't hurt her, of that she'd made sure. She'd left him only one option so she really wasn't surprised when he grabbed her book bag, and with studied care took out the books and slowly pulled them apart, cover from cover letting the now loose pages flutter down the alley, the wind curling about them and lifting them away. The book covers fell dully at her feet. She never took her eyes from his and he looked at her for two more beats before walking away- they laughed of course. But it was a hollow victory and they knew it.
Was it worth it Rivlen? She glanced around at the damage and sighed.
As she bent down to salvage what was left, footsteps to her right made her look up.
Of course it had to be him she thought frozen as she stood up, consciously aware of her essential drabness. Perfect of face, feature, and form- with neither heart nor soul to match. Dorian Grey in the flesh.
He wasn't looking at her, but rather at the book in his hands - the small book of aphorisms the woman had slipped her. Balthasar Gracian's The Art of Worldly Wisdom. The only book that had escaped Flint.
When he looked at her it was all she could do not to shift under his gaze. Sin shouldn't look that good.
He took his time perusing her, as if making sure he would remember her should their paths cross again. He looked down at the book, and then at her again- for a heartbeat she thought there might have been a flicker of amusement or astonishment in his eyes.
When he spoke his voice flowed around her- and she shivered. Black velvet she thought, slightly husky and rough around the edges with a seductive promise of warmth. Ice burned hotter than fire she thought miserably.
"That was a foolish thing to do. You could have begged for mercy and they might have left you alone," he said, his tone cultured and aristocratic with a distinct note of disdain.
"Yes. But you would have had more than one book to your name," he said tossing the slim volume at her.
"And beggars can't be choosers," he added, deliberately insulting, as he raked his gaze over her robes.
"Thy wit wants edge," she retorted humorlessly.
"What were you doing here?" he asked sharply.
"The scenery. I found it charming."
He gave a low laugh, clearly amused.
It was by surprise that she found him suddenly too close, gripping her chin between steely fingers forcing her to look up at him. The angle was uncomfortable, designed she thought to emphasize the difference between them. His height, his weight. His eyes were like storm blasts off a quiet sea.
He almost enveloped her, and goosebumps prickled her skin. Somebody's walked over her grave, she thought her breath catching as he looked at her lips his thumb coming so close to brushing across them. When his eyes caught hers again suggestion danced wickedly- alive like a candle flame.
He bent close, closer, his lips moving past her cheek to brush warmly against her ear. He was so warm and she had to physically will herself to not tremble. Keep still, keep still she thought, a mantra over and over in her head.
"You're wrong for Ravenclaw. But you chose on purpose didn't you?"
And then he was gone, without a backward glance, leaving her cold again.
His touch lingered on her skin long after he'd left, and it took longer to calm her nerves.
It wasn't until she looked down that she'd seen the small bag. Opening it gold galleons tumbled down into her open palm.
Rebuying her books, she pocketed what was left putting it aside for a small fund. She couldn't have a debt to Malfoy over her head. She'd seen what he was capable of first hand.
Later that night they held a meeting of the CT club. Conspiracy Theories, for those who weren't in the know. So far the members totaled up to a grand number of five. Maeve had gone along pouting the whole way- her equivalent of throwing a tantrum. Rivlen had been amused, and chose to humor Julia, who of course had come up with the brilliant idea herself.
"Julia why are we still doing this?" Maeve asked, fists on her hips.
She gesticulated wildly at the dorm room, cushions strewn across the floor.
"What are three gorgeous sixth year girls doing in a goddamn dorm room on a bloody Friday night?"
The other two CT members shifted uncomfortably and Rivlen felt sorry for them. Maeve had always been as intimidating as Julia was coddling. And she had an unhealthy tendency toward ciceronian oratory which had gone unchecked for years.
As Maeve gesticulated wildly Rivlen took the opportunity to look at the other two.
Little Natasha was little more than large eyes and hair. She couldn't speak up to save her soul, and always seemed determined to sink into whatever wall was behind her. Jo on the other hand was just as loud and just as boisterous as Julia. The two had taken too each other immediately.
"Do you know what we talked about last week?" Maeve continued now hitting her stride, "No no, please Jo let me. From Julia came the brilliant idea that the reason Hogwarts staircases shifted was because they were in fact sentient, and it was their craving for blood that made them want to send Hogwarts children to their death. She forgot to add that after they did this they made sure to salt their now brained victim in order to fulfill their iodine quotient," Maeve finished tossing her hair back.
"You have something better that you think we could do?" She snapped.
Maeve sat down and smirked evilly, "Funny you should ask but yes. I do. Call me crazy but the idea came to me at lunch. I want us to break into the Slytherin common room tomorrow night," she said casually, as if announcing tea time at a breakfast club.
Shocked silence seemed an appropriate response.
"Alright. I figured this would be your response," she said rolling her eyes and tossing her hair back, "So its just going to be Rivlen and I. I am not going to ask any of you," She said gracefully.
Rivlen raised an eloquent eyebrow.
"Don't start. You owe me. You know you do. Last summer, you owe me."
"Have you lost your marbles woman? The SLYTHERIN common room? Why not Hufflepuff? You just want to see them naked don't you! What were you going to do? Sneak into the shower room?" Julia finally responded horrified.
"I am shocked-shocked that you would think me that base, think that I Maeve Villain would stoop that low like some-some sort of peeping tom," she said her chest heaving. Rivlen was the only one who could see the fingers crossed behind her back.
"Yeah. Ahem. Well. You two, hands over your ears – this is for adults only," she snapped at the two grumbling first years.
"What article of underwear does McKinsey have in his possession that he intends to threaten you with?" Julia asked rolling her eyes.
"Article of underwear," she sputtered, "well I never…you listen here, both of you, and especially you Julia I am just not that…I…thong. Black. Red bow on the back," she said with a snarl. "I don't want the little bastard parading it around like some sort of apeman conquering thing. He might to get back at me."
"For what?" Rivlen asked, already inwardly cringing.
"For calling him a ball-less, impotent, slob, with a dick so small I had to pull it out with tweezers."
"That's not so bad."
"I hope his pecker withers off- not that there was much there to begin with granted but still-" Maeve grumbled darkly.
"How," Rivlen interrupted, "Can he prove the underwear is yours?"
"Ahem. Well you see, it uh sort of has my um my name kinda on it or my signa-listen its really not important."
"Oh no," Julia said, almost crowing in triumph, "Oh no. I think this is very important. Do tell Maeve- what name?" Julia asked caustically.
"Its not important, really just childish- you don't need to know."
Rivlen crossed her arms and looked around, "No. No I think that we think that what you think isn't important really is important. So please, continue."
Jo and Natasha weren't even pretending to cover their ears anymore – both were gaping wide eyed.
Maeve mumbled something that none of them caught, except for Rivlen who tried very very hard not to laugh. Very very hard. Maeve looked at her in irritation as she doubled over holding her belly.
Maeve repeated herself.
"VANILLA VILLAIN??!!!" Julia screeched loud enough to shatter glass.
"Next thing tomorrow I am calling St. Mungo's."
"Tell them her dogtags are on her underwear," Rivlen said helpfully, gasping now.
"Oh piss off," Maeve grumbled.
"What kind of woman puts her last name together with some sort of sexual-I don't know. I don't want to know why you picked it. No stop, sh stop. I don't want one more word of explanation. Nothing of the sort," Julia said fighting the giggles.
"Its an anagram," she said, "you're blowing it out of proportion. Rearrange the letters of Villain and you get Vanilla."
"I think your mother would be shocked-just shocked to know that her daughter was rearranging the letters of their proud last name as some sort of erotic stripper nickname," Julia said outright laughing at this point.
"Are you done?" she said coldly glaring at all of them as they rolled around laughing. Natasha was wheezing and the glasses slid of her nose as she hiccupped.
"Really Rivlen I thought better of you," Maeve said in disdain casually toeing her friend, "are you coming with me yea or nay?" She said. All heads turned to Rivlen.
For a woman who truly understood and valued the fruits of anonymity, this was a curious position for her to be in.
And one where there was no choice to be made. Honor and loyalty came above all else and as Maeve had pointed out unfortunately, Rivlen owed her. And Maeve was her friend.
Friend she thought.
She touched her fingers to her mouth as she smiled.
She went alone to Hogsmeade the next morning, content to be by herself for a while. It looked like a place out of a fairytale, she thought. It never ceased to amaze her. The cobblestone streets wound around everywhere, and carts with horses were constantly rattling over them, the clickity clack of the wheels blending into the overall hubbub- the teeming life of that town. She'd never seen a place more beautiful, or more alive. Between the cobblestones tufts of moss and grass grew, living emeralds tossed by a careless hand. It was times like these when a soft wind would blow in rustling the grass and unfurling the leaves of the tall elms overhead. The branches would sway too and fro and all the leaves would brush against each other – a soft sussuration of sound that she heard as a long weary sigh. The leaves were just turning that beautiful reddish gold, a color lit more splendidly in the twilight sun. Sometimes they would fall, tumbling down like feathers, and they would brush across the thatched roofs of Hogsmeade, curling around the house and always turning end over end. This was contentment she thought happy. This peace- the absolute absence of worry, and pain. Why she thought remembering that question posed to her so many years ago. Why? For this. For peace of mind. For forgetting, and for quiet. For hiding.
Let memories be bygones she said chiding herself, and pulling her threadbare coat around her tighter. It was getting cold and she was late.
By the time she found the inn her friends were at, night had already fallen and the temperature had dropped steeply. She nearly moaned when the heat in the bar hit her.
"Rivlen where the hell have you been" Julia bellowed across the now shocked silent bar. Julia's voice when fully unleashed always did have a tendency to elicit surprise.
She walked over, motioning to the bartender for a butterbeer.
"Julia you might want yell louder – I don't think they heard you all the way over in the dungeons," Rivlen said dryly.
"Its always times like these that I remember her last name, and the reason for it," Maeve said.
Julia snorted, "We were waiting for you so hurry up we're all starved."
Rivlen didn't look at the menu shoved at her, and in a quiet voice said she'd already ordered a butterbeer and that would be enough to hold her for the evening.
Maeve and Julia both fell quiet.
"I could always lend you money.." Julia started but faltered under Rivlen's steadfast stare.
"How's helping Filch going?" Maeve asked with a brittle smile.
Quiet fell at the little table as Rivlen's side job was mentioned. It had galled Rivlen to ask Dumbledore for this favor and he'd agreed as she knew he would, setting her up with a little salary. There had been no pity in his voice and to date that was the one thing she counted in his favor.
"Pettiness doesn't become you Maeve," Rivlen returned quietly, sipping at her butterbeer. It was an aspect of their friendship that she'd come to accept- they'd always butted heads on any important personal decision either of them made. This decision had been particularly bruising.
"You work for Filch?" Maeve said, her voice chilling for one so young. It had been second year, when Julia and Maeve both discovered quite by accident why detention no longer included helping Filch clean.
"I work for Hogwarts," Rivlen retorted – it was semantics but the distinction had been important.
"Is pureblood money not good enough for you then?"
"And then not even bothering to tell us. Did you think we would ostracize you? Gods forbid we be seen with the cleaning help?" She continued acidly.
"Don't you dare attach to me your own insecurities," Rivlen said finally her cool breaking.
They were face to face at this point, Maeve standing two inches taller and they were both glaring.
"This is ridiculous. What the hell is your problem?" Julia said, speaking to neither one exclusively.
"You," she said pointing to Maeve as she shoved them apart, "Whats gotten into you? Cleaning help? Pureblood money? Have you gone mad? She could give a damn where your money comes from- she just wants to work for hers. Accept it and move on. She's never criticized you, never mentioned your mother, never even knew you were pureblood till a few months ago."
"And you," Julia turned rounding on Rivlen, "Is it difficult to understand that deliberately deceiving us for two years might make us the slightest bit upset? We're your friends – and we've never given you reason to doubt us. Accept that and move on. We're not going anywhere girlie."
"I didn't want you to know. Is it so difficult to understand that I might want to keep a few things to myself?" she said finally, her cool breaking- hot tears pooling in her eyes.
"No. But we're your friends-your only family. And you're supposed to give us your trust. Don't we deserve that much Khamsin?"
She had cried then- one of the few times she could recall breaking down.
The subject was dropped as awkwardly as it had been brought up. Money had always been a touchy subject with Rivlen – Maeve and Julia had been adamant at first, upset almost that she wouldn't accept their 'charity.' Maeve had been more upset- but that had to do with the history of the Villain family. Everyone had his or her cross to bear, pureblood or no- such was the cruel wisdom of life.
And so they ate in silence – a silence interspersed at times by periods of conversation where Maeve would say something lewd, Julia would say something loud, and Rivlen would simply remain laconic, enjoying the pleasant wash of conversation.
Neither Maeve nor Julia noticed him come in, they were to busy discussing various attributes of male anatomy. Even to Rivlen it seemed as if he'd suddenly materialized, fully formed from frost and fire. The black coat was tailored impeccably to his lean frame and he seemed impatient as he unbuttoned it. He was looking for someone.
Her eyes swept the bar curiously and returned to him. He'd ordered by now, but he was still standing at the exit. Nobody approached him, although a few girls tried to catch his eye. He was too cold tonight. One slim elegant hand reached up to brush a few flakes from the top of his coat.
He'd turned his back to her by now, and that is why she was caught off guard when, slowly, almost leisurely, he turned his head toward her- his eyes caught hers and held. He was across a room she thought face flushed, and it felt as if he was standing directly before her, grey eyes boring into hers, almost daring her to look away. He remembered. She dropped her eyes and turned- her breathing hurried now. She had a sudden childish wish to disappear into the ground.
Maeve was looking at her speculatively. Maeve had always been sharp.
"You've spoken to him haven't you," she said to Rivlen.
Rivlen stared at the scarred tabletop.
"Yeah," she said pathetically in response.
Julia stared at her openmouthed.
"Well?" Maeve prodded.
"Nothing much happened. I met him the same day the Slytherin boys destroyed my books. He left money behind. I took it, bought my books, and have been saving up since then to pay him back."
"That's it." Julia said disappointed, "that's all you're going to tell us?" she said incredulously.
"You met Draco bloody Malfoy, and all you can say is he dropped a few galleons?"
Rivlen shrugged uncomfortably and opened her mouth. And closed it. And opened her mouth again. And closed it again. She looked down at the lees in her mug. Maybe she needed another butterbeer.
"He makes me tremble," she said so quietly Maeve and Julia had to strain to hear her.
"Explain," Maeve asked eagerly leaning forward.
She swallowed nervously, "I've never had that before. All he needs to do is get close to me, and I start to tremble, all over as if I was cold, but all I can feel is warmth. His warmth," she said frowning as she rubbed her shoulders. She couldn't control it, she didn't like it at all.
"Fucking fantastic, there is some warmth under all that ice. I knew you'd find your clit some day." Maeve nearly screamed ecstatically. Leaning forward she gave Rivlen a conspiratorial wink, "I was going to put it more vulgarly than that but I've decided to spare your delicate sensibilities."
"Thank you." Rivlen replied dryly, quite sure half the tavern had heard her declaration.
"Maeve not everything is about sex," Julia said shocked, "this is serious. This is Draco Malfoy not…not some joe shmoe. She is trembling because he's evil."
"Not everything is about deatheaters," Maeve hissed, "Merlin on a stick you can't even take a piss without somebody pointing another one out. If we go by the rumors we should just bomb Slytherin House and get rid of the whole lot of them. She's just having a reaction to him. You wouldn't know Julia, because all your lovers are fictional."
Julia blushed. It was known that she'd been pining away for Sherlock Holmes for years.
"That's not fair," Julia began, outraged.
Maeve quirked an eyebrow.
"ok maybe a little. But there's nobody like him," she said plaintively.
Maeve rolled her eyes, "Of course not love. He's fic-tion-al."
"Anyways," Rivlen interrupted, "Whether I tremble or no, and for what reason is of no importance. I'm going to pay back my debt and we will never cross paths again."
Rivlen said with finality, determinedly picking up her mug only to remember belatedly that it was empty.
"Its too late for that," Maeve said almost smug.
Rivlen and Julia both looked at her.
"With that kind of man it isn't over until he says its over."
She supposed this was a good a time as any to approach him. She had the entire amount and after this, well they would be through. She never needed to think about him again. She glanced around to make sure he was alone.
He watched her as she approached, his face revealing nothing.
She deposited the galleons in front of him, "Its all there. Thank you."
She turned to walk away.
"I don't want it."
He was smirking again she thought, irritation starting to nudge at her.
"Pity. That's none of my concern."
"Oh it is if this," he said, one hand waving in disdain at the small bag on the table, "is how you intend to write off your debt."
She was obvious in her silence.
"It is a debt," he said hands crossed in his lap.
She turned at that and looked at him hard, her eyes flinty, "Anyone else, and they would have told you to go to hell."
His eyes darkened as they regarded her.
"Oh that's right. I forgot who I was speaking too," she said knowing full well that he knew she had not forgotten.
"When you took the money, you accepted a favor," he continued, "One you knew you had to repay. You assumed that the form of repayment would be mere remuneration. You assumed wrong. Assumptions can be very dangerous little Ravenclaw."
Her jaw clenched and she forced back her anger. It wouldn't do for him to see her upset.
"I assumed nothing. You gave the money. I have given it back. There is nothing more between us."
"How long has it been? A month? Maybe a little more?" He said innocently.
"A month and three days to be precise."
He left it open to her. He was so sure of himself she thought.
"So for a month and three days Draco Malfoy wishes more than just mere remuneration. What is it?" she said disdainfully, "Some form of interest I suppose? You will be sadly disappointed to learn Monsieur that your mark has fallen far short of your usual prey. I am neither rich, nor well connected. I have nothing whatsoever to offer you. And there will be a limit. It was only a month and three days you will do well to remember that. There is a limit to my magnanimity."
"Everyone always has something to offer," he said, and something ugly surfaced in his eyes.
She sat down at the table, arms crossed regarding him steadily. This was a Malfoy she was dealing with- she mustn't forget that.
"The favor. What is it."
"You know I really haven't decided. Come back in a few days I might have something."
She stood up and gathered her things. So this is how he was going to play it. Her jaw tightened as she stared at the infuriatingly calm man at the table.
"No Malfoy. When you want that favor, you will come to me. And then I will decide whether or not it is too high a price or no. There is a debt of honor," she said stressing the word, "that I acknowledge, and I will play your game, but only to a certain extent and with certain rules. I will not be puppeteered."
She had her hand on the library door, and his mocking laughter following her as she exited slamming the door shut.
Not really much to say. Would very much appreciate any helpful criticism. Thank you.