Fic Title: Pulling Him Up
Chapter Title: The Stranger (35 of ?)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and its characters belong to JK Rowling. Ravial, the shadows and so forth are figments of my imagination.
Rating: M (for all things grown up)
Ff Author's Notes: Well, the plot bunnies are unstuck. And I had a dream, I was sort of hiding behind Harry, and he and Severus was talking. Then it was my turn and Harry had the audacity to push me forward. Severus changed into Voldemort who then gave me two things, a kris (a dagger used by Malay warriors) and a freaking hairpin, and somehow the conversation turned to "Yup, I'm gonna specialize in Herbology and Defensive Magic." -What?-
Warnings: Threesome - HP/DM/SS. Yaoi. OOC. AU. Post-OotP and completely way out of HBP and DH.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: THE STRANGER
Draco studied Se'dra in silence while unconsciously tracing patterns on Harry's hands. He could not shake the feeling that something had happened to him before the meeting started. The latest image of his father kept superimposing on the Silver Wolf in front of him. Somehow, Father knew. He was sure of it. And I feel ... odd. Draco frowned. He felt as though he had been blind and the veil had lifted, allowing him to see with refreshed sense. And he could still hear it, that low, musical and harmonious song that seemed to be everywhere. However, neither Harry nor Severus had mentioned it.
"I think with this, we shall end our meeting," Shacklebolt announced. "There are certain plans that can be in motion now."
"And you have our thanks, Auror," Sa'el said, standing up. "Oh, we have a candidate supervisor."
At Shacklebolt's inquiring look, she grinned. "Bronze. If you pair Robert Calderwood with him."
It seemed to be an inside joke between the three of them, as Shacklebolt started laughing.
"Well, it's time for me to get to work then," Stormmare said, rubbing his hands together. He was looking at some of the Ministry officials. "You do know that you have a couple of cling-ons attached to you, don't you?" He smiled wickedly. "Well, unfortunately for them, I do not treat intruders with gentleness, so please, inform your various hospitals to be prepared." His hands began to glow. "Auror Shacklebolt will keep you all advised."
"Indeed I will." The dark-skinned wizard agreed as he folded his map. Stormmare touched him with both hands and the Auror vanished. Then he went on to the Muggle representatives who disappeared at his touch, but oddly, Draco was not too alarmed. Stormmare exchanged a few words with Professor Dumbledore before he, too, vanished. The Elf continued on, until the only people left were Severus, Millicent, Hermione, Ron and Harry.
"You have things to discuss," Stormmare said smiling, even though he had started to perspire, as Se'dra and Sa'el approached them. "Do you want me to take you to theirs, or they to yours?" he asked, tilting his head in question.
"What are we doing?" Ron Weasley asked him. Draco arched an eyebrow and Ron's ears went red. It seemed that the redhead had forgotten that it was Draco next to him and not Harry.
"Ours," Se'dra and Sa'el replied. "If it's still intact." Se'dra made a face. "The children were obviously not happy they had to stay behind and miss the chance to see you."
Stormmare chuckled. "Well, I will visit them, but not this evening. Grandfather has to rest after he sends you home. Perhaps tomorrow."
"Grandfather?" a unison of young, confused voices said at once.
"Take my hand," Se'dra said to Draco with a gentle smile, his other hand already holding Xylar's.
Dubiously, Draco took it and he stopped himself from squirming – Ron was holding his other hand and he was equally as uncomfortable. They were holding hands in a perfect circle, with Sa'el and Xyra next to Harry.
"Don't let go now," Stormmare warned.
"Thank you, Father," Se'dra said with a smile. "Oh, best if you close your eyes."
Draco closed his eyes and felt the ground vanish, but Ron amazingly managed to keep him steady. He felt both Ron and Se'dra let go of his hands and he opened his eyes.
"Mom! Hey you lot! They're back!"
He blinked as his face was splashed with tiny drops of water. They were encircling a fountain within a courtyard, and the courtyard was surrounded by a one-storey building.
"Aww, Dad, you didn't bring Grandfather with you?" a young boy appeared with a sulky expression. "That sucks." Then his expression turned to surprise when their eyes met. "Is that – that is ..." The boy made an odd squeak and disappeared through a doorway.
"Hey, mate, come on, I was giving Father a hand dishing up tea you know," said a voice. "Can't it wait?"
"What the heck?" Ron sort of yelped. "I'm not hearing you ... but I am – you? What's ..." Whatever else Ron had tried to say, Draco did not hear, as another person came through where the boy had gone.
A metallic clatter rung in his ears, as a soup ladle, made contact with the floor.
"I think I need to sit down," Draco heard himself say.
The next few minutes were a blur. He vaguely noticed Se'dra guide him into the house, with his loves behind him. They were quiet, probably to minimize the confusion he was going through.
"Maybe something to eat, and something to drink," he heard a new, male voice say.
"...chocolate maybe ... Wulf, do you still have your chocolate bar?" A voice which sounded like his own asked.
"Hang on, I might have one with me."
That's Hermione. Draco shook his head and tried to focus on her. He shook his head again, and saw that she was rummaging for something in her bag. Then she was quickly tearing off a wrapper. She went over to him, and Draco could see that she looked worried. She pulled at his hand and placed the chocolate bar in his hand.
"Draco? Draco, eat up. Hey, snap out of it. Focus."
Her eyes grounded him and he sat up straighter and began to nibble on the bar. "You always come prepared," he mused.
"Someone has to," Hermione replied drily. "I'll get you a glass of water."
"Hey." Harry sat beside him. He felt Severus caress his hair and he smiled.
"I'm fine – just a little shocked," he said. Well, that is strange. I don't hear the music now. He felt better and looked around. Millicent and Ron were sitting on dining chairs, with the young boy, who was trying hard not to stare at him. Harry and himself was sitting on a bay window seat, with Severus leaning against the wall next to him, his hand clasping Draco's shoulder. Xyra and Xylar were nowhere to be seen.
There were a mixture of voices from the kitchen area – Hermione's, Sa'el's and Se'dra, and three others.
Se'dra came into view with Hermione right on his heels, holding a glass of water.
"Drink up," she ordered.
Draco just raised his eyebrow but drank anyway. "I'm sorry if I'd caused a fuss."
"No," Se'dra sighed, "The mistake is mine. Please forgive me. After tea, we will talk. He'll kill me if we don't eat."
"Oi, shut your trap." Someone burly with wide, dark-scaled shoulders, carrying a tray of roasted chicken and assorted roots, came into the dining room. "Come, sit with us. Eat. That'll make you feel better." He disappeared back into the kitchen.
"That, is my husband, Eldar," Se'dra introduced with a slight smile, and Draco noticed his ears had turned pink. "This is Adalricus. Our eldest son."
"Hello," Adalricus greeted while setting some plates down. He looked very much like Eldar except for his bright, rose quartz eyes. "Behave yourself, Wulf. Stop staring." The young boy made a face, which earned him a light smack over the back of his head.
"Our youngest, Hrodwulf. Come."
Draco let Harry pull him up, and the three of them sat down around the dining table.
"You look so much like him!" Wulf suddenly blurted and Se'dra winced. "Sorry Dad."
"It's all right." But Se'dra gave a long sigh.
Draco looked at the youth, who was almost a mirror image of him. Their facial features were nearly similar, except that the youth was darker skinned, sported dark black hair and the pair of peculiar amethyst eyes. Small bowls of delicious-smelling soup were placed down and Draco twitched in his seat feeling the odd presence behind him. A hand held his shoulder and he looked to see the youth smile at him.
"I'm Alvinius, the second son," he said, quirking a smile. Then he sort of gave Draco a knowing smile, firstly looking at Severus and then Harry. "Come on Mom."
"Yes, yes, yes," Sa'el muttered.
The scent of freshly baked bread and his stomach growled.
"Yeah, you're ready now," Alvinius said wit a huge grin. He sat down beside Se'dra just as Sa'el came round and placed a huge plate with freshly cut bread.
"Right, happy munching people." She quickly kissed Eldar on the cheek and then she seemed to forget about everything else but food. The three boys laughed, but still she paid no attention to them.
"Well, at least someone will not be grouchy tonight," Eldar said with amusement. "Did the meeting go well?"
Se'dra just nodded his head – he was too busy with the bowl of soup to talk.
Draco exchanged a look with Harry and Severus, and both shrugged. Well, it's not going to harm me if I eat, he thought and helped himself to couple slices of bread. That truly woke his appetite and he began to eat in earnest.
The three sons engaged in idle chatter and Draco merely listened and observed. He noticed Eldar staring at Ron with curiosity, and his dragon-like face broke into a grin. That is strange, Draco thought. And I thought that house-elves, goblins and Veelas were strange. There's a lot more going on in the world than just the normal everyday wizarding folks. He heard Hermione hiss.
"But I'm hungry," was the reply. In the background, Millicent snorted with laughter.
Severus sipped on his tea carefully and simply watched the going-ons in front of him. He looked down when Harry grunted with pain. Draco, who sat beside him, apologized softly, but Harry waved him off, and told him to keep going.
There were moans of complaints coming from the kitchen until the two older brothers merely told the youngest to "suck it up". It was somewhat hard to imagine that he was in a home, where two of the persons, were referred to as a Chief and Commander. Perhaps it is due to the sons, Severus mused. It also intrigued him, of the relationship, Se'dra and Sa'el shared with Eldar. It was clear that Eldar and Sa'el had bonded first, as Adalricus was several years older than Alvinius.
It's not your business, said a voice and Severus told it where to go. Not my business, yes, but it does not stop me from being curious. He contemplated Se'dra's face. This was not something that I have expected. His eyes narrowed in thought. I suppose I should not be too surprised that the crafty fox had secrets. Or perhaps not.
A flash of silver caught his eye, and he turned to watch Draco. And speaking of curiosity, what has happened to my Slytherin brat? As usual, he felt himself frowning and fretted. He spoke, this evening, with wisdom that I have not witnessed before. Severus suppressed a sigh.
They are no longer mere students, the voice reminded him in his head. You cannot always keep them closeted in an isolated world that is called Hogwarts. They were born in the wrong era for that. He breathed in deeply. As it is, I doubt my information gathering days are over. Not with these two as stubborn as they are.
"So ... I'm not even certain where to begin." Se'dra said once most were settled with cups of strong black tea.
Severus felt Draco relax beside him and felt a warm hand on his thigh. He was glad he had the cup of tea to hide his face somewhat.
"I can start it off for you," Draco started in an almost sardonic tone. "You look like my father. Are we related?"
"Indeed we are," Se'dra said softly. "I am Lucius' twin. I bore the name Phaedrus Nicholas Malfoy for ... perhaps three years? At my third birthday, when I did not show any tell-tale signs of magic like your father, my birth mother was uneasy to leave the matter solely at the hands of my father and so, I was brought to the woods. I suppose Big Tree felt pity for my mother and myself, and he brought me to an Elvenkind. Ravial took a liking toward me, and lo, Stormmare did not have a choice but to take me in. The Elvenkind raised me, and trained me in their ways, but I did not quite fit in. I have an unnatural knack blending into wolf packs and Father had to put his feet down several times - and a couple beatings - as I was meddling in their natural ways. And then I started making friends." Oddly, he turned sheepish.
Eldar snorted while Sa'el laughed. Severus blinked, and warily looked up at the ceiling. He thought he heard a trill of mischievous laughter.
"Well, Naiya," Se'dra said, "do you think they deserve your audience?"
Severus' nose twitched at the sudden whiff of jasmine and he resisted the urge to fire a spell at something right in front of him. He could not see it but he knew it was there.
"It will be rude of me if I don't," a soft, sweet voice answered. "Especially to one who is a kindred soul. If it pleases you, my Kings and Queen, We will borrow your power."
"We?" Sa'el eyebrow went up.
"But of course," the ethereal voice said sweetly, "We all want to meet him, and he meets us!"
"Just don't get too carried away," Se'dra warned.
"I should warn you, I do not appreciate surprises," Severus said putting his cup of tea down. He got another trill of invisible laughter in response.
His fingers started to tingle and he stared at Sa'el, Se'dra and Eldar. Their foreheads were glowing silver with an unknown crest.
"Here we are," Naiya said happily as the air around them burst with misty silver and hues of blues.
Severus was somewhat unprepared – he knew he could not use his magic out of politeness – so he backed himself up against the couch. There were, more than he could count, of Naiya's kind in the lounge with them. And what Naiya was, was a Sylph, with brilliant turquoise hair. She reminded him of something he had seen, when Harry and Draco tried to make their house hospitable again. However, the Sylphs' attention was not on him, or Harry, who was trying his best to scramble away, but failed, as they were everywhere. The Sylphs, however, did giggle at him.
"Draco Malfoy." Naiya smiled. She had taken his hands, which were glowing as how it did earlier in the day. "Now, eye to eye, we see each other. There is no more need for subterfuge." Then her lips turned with mischief. "You are with us now, as we are with you."
Another Sylph, this one with hair and eyes as radiant as kyanite, came towards Draco, and pressed a pointed finger on his forehead.
The young wizard started to laugh weakly, and the Sylph gave him a lopsided smile and shook her head. "So, I suppose it was not just my imagination."
"No, Draco. Although you are creative when imagining things," she said impishly. "Do you know who I am?" At Draco's nod, she continued. "Say my name then."
"Sulestri," Draco acknowledged.
"Truly," several Sylphs sighed with happiness.
"Thank you, your Majesties," Sulestri said gratefully.
"Why you insist on those titles I do not get," Sa'el said ruefully. "If it is all right, we're taking our energy back."
The Sylphs giggled and then they faded to invisibility once again.
"So you do have magic." Harry stated.
"Of a sort," Se'dra said scratching his chin. "For most of you, magic comes from yourself and your wands are conduits and partners. However, for us, except maybe for Eldar as his way of magic is completely different, we can tap into mostly everything and use it."
"Or misuse," Sa'el added.
Se'dra nodded. "And that is one of the main reasons why we have isolated ourselves. We work with magic – so to speak – to balance energies in the world, and not so much against individuals."
"Before we met," Draco had a slight frown, "or maybe we have met but Father used a memory charm on me. Anyway, Professor Trelawney, spoke of another Prophecy, that is 'clouded by those who wish it concealed' and something about Severus being Touched, Harry returned to the living, and I who does not know, carry The Blood. Do you have any idea of what it is about?"
"Come with me, and I will tell you."
Severus started as they all turned to look at the youngest. Hroldwulf had spoken in an odd, cheery but very masculine voice; his eyes were blank and expression stiff. He glanced at the boy's parents and was surprised to see the odd looks of reverence on Sa'el and Se'dra's faces. It was challenging to read Eldar's expression. He frowned. Why had Ravial not say of his connection to the Silver Wolves?
Prudence, said a voice in his head. Perhaps, they are isolated, not by choice, but by necessity.
"Are we?" Ron asked in a hushed tone.
"Er, Father?" Adalricus looked back at Eldar questioningly. Hrodwulf had taken his hand and was firmly guiding the older brother out the door.
"Go," Eldar instructed, rising to his feet.
"All right," Adalricus said and threw the tea towel over his shoulder.
"We had better follow along,"Se'dra said. "It's best not to test His patience."
"Who is 'he'?" Severus heard Ron ask Hermione in a hushed voice. She shrugged but she had a troubled look on her face.
"I don't know," she answered.
The sun was setting when they exited the house. Severus looked around with keen interest and looked back at the ordinary looking house. Not exactly a castle. It's not even a mansion. The house was on top of a hill however, and it overlooked numerous buildings. Hrodwulf was not leading them into the town, or even farmland, but to another hill. On the base of that hill, was a flight of gray steps, and Hrodwulf almost fell face down, had his brother not reacted quickly. The tell-tale snores however indicated that the boy was fine.
Eldar tapped his son on his shoulder and Adalricus stepped back. The dragonkin lifted the sleeping boy effortlessly, and absently started humming to himself as they went up the steps.
Severus' skin prickled. Although nothing on top of the hill seemed out of the ordinary, he knew they were not alone. The presence was not of the Sylphs, but something much heavier.
"It has been a fine evening, has it not?"
He did not think; his body acted simply by reflex. He had spun round with his wand ready to face his adversary.
The Stranger, dressed in deep blue robes, paid Severus no heed. His hand made a movement as though tossing something up. Orbs of glowing lights appeared above their heads.
"Steady now – you don't want to accidentally cause a scrub fire, do you?" The Stranger said meekly, idly toying with his long black hair. "Oh, do not look at me so, Severus Snape."
If it was possible, Severus' expression darkened further. If there was one thing he hated, it was mysteries. And blasted prophecies. Perhaps it was due to that very reason he felt extremely suspicious of the ordinary-looking person. Ordinary does not exactly cut it you know. The fellow did not simply Apparate.
"And I would have thought something is seriously wrong with you if you think that all is rosy after his downfall," the Stranger agreed.
There was something about the way he looked that made Severus took a cautionary step back. Again, there was no warning whatsoever and the Stranger reappeared right before him. The Stranger pressed a finger on Severus' forehead.
"For goodness sake, stop your frowning, man," the Stranger chided. "I'm not going to harm you, confuse you or ... convert you. All I ask is for you to keep an open mind, no matter what your beliefs are."
"Who are you?" Severus asked, almost in exasperation, jerking his face away from the Stranger's finger.
"Hello Harry," the Stranger greeted, beaming a smile at Harry. Severus felt slightly perturbed as Harry acknowledged the Stranger like an old friend. "Oh yes, I go by many names. The Elder is what the folks here call me. But I also like 'The Stranger'." He grinned wickedly. "We meet so I can shed some light on your troubles. I had to wait for certain things to happen before we can have this conversation," the Stranger said as he casually made himself comfortable on the ground and turned his face to catch the last rays of the evening sun.
"Let's start on the so-called prophecy and why untimely exposure might have catastrophic consequences. I am bound by ... ethics, if you please, that I cannot simply work with you and amend things that are wrong. The least I can do is to provide a window whereby it is safe to converse without announcing the details to the Meddler." The Stranger's face grew thoughtful. "It isn't the human counterpart that you need to worry about – it's what that's attached to her."
The Stranger chuckled and pressed a finger to his lips. He shook his head at Hermione, his eyes twinkling with good humour. Then his attention returned to Severus.
"The Dark Mark has faded, but not the one in your heart, Severus. In time, you will learn, Severus, to accept. And to forgive yourself. You grew up to be a very cautious man, only allowing a handful of people to be close to you. Old habits are hard to break; old, worn paths easier to tread. You cannot change your past of a couple decades." The Stranger regarded him thoughtfully. "But your circumstance has changed and you have a future to reach. Think of yourself as a large, oak tree, now. Let those whom you care for, and who cares for you, be the earth for your roots, water for your nourishment, the sun for your awakening, other trees for you to shelter."
The Stranger then turned to Harry. "Such it is with Life – there are good moments, and there are bad moments. Being named in prophecies tend to make people edgy, because as you know, it isn't all that glorious. This is a path that will be walked by three," the Stranger smiled, "and a burden – or gift – to share. You wonder, why then, are your names mentioned." His eyes flitted towards Severus and then Draco. "Severus Snape. Harry Potter. And Draco Malfoy. There are others, yes, but essentially, it is because you are ... you, that have become the Keys to lock a certain door of Time."
"Hold on there. You said you were not going to confuse but you do know that you we're not exactly on the same page," Ron Weasley said accusingly.
Melodious chuckles filled the air. "Please forgive me. As I mentioned, old habits are hard to break." The Stranger made a face. "I've been practicing to ... well ... communicate to your level of understanding." He scratched his head. "Let's put it this way. Certain things that had happened in the past, that revolved around these three, have made it possible to defeat Tom Marvolo Riddle and thus shifted the Powers-that-be on equal footing once more. If, somehow, the Meddler, has found a way to change situations of the past that affect one of three's tasks, this evening might have turned out differently."
"You're talking about would-be paradoxes," Hermione said with a frown. She started pacing and started to talk, as though to herself. "If Time being mishandled is really the issue, and if Voldemort coming back to life is really a bad thing, that means, it has to be someone who is close enough to Draco, Harry and Snape to really, effectively, change its course." She stopped and stared at the Stranger. "If so, that'd be almost impossible given the time duration. Snape was near us at that time, but Draco was nowhere close." Her expression turned into displeasure. "You're not telling us all of the truth."
The Stranger winced visibly. "This one is a gem," he complimented to Ron.
"We know," the redhead smiled crookedly.
The Stranger sighed. He stood up and walked toward Draco. "You should visit your father some time. There are things the two of you need to talk about and it should not be left to fester."
He paused and stared at Severus for some undecipherable reason. The Potions Master in turn, glowered at him.
"Patience, Hermione – I'll get to the truth you have been seeking. The Blood that is spoken of in the prophecy, is that in you, Draco Malfoy, is the bearer of Power, thanks to your family's well known reverance of keeping the blood pure." The Stranger chuckled. "Although it is not just all Malfoy – no – it is because of one strong-minded lady who had married into the family. Your grandmother – Elyssa Lovejoy. She had known about Se'dra here, who holds some of that ancestral power. It is not so apparent in Alvinius, who holds more of Sa'el's blood."
Why is it of great importance then? Severus mused.
"You have been Awakened rather abruptly, due to a traumatic event," the Stranger said gently. "That is why I am here. I was Called. You are a creator, Draco, and before your nightmares and dreams are used to sprout unimaginable things, we will need you to put up wards within your mind. This is to stop you from conjuring things when you are asleep or unawares. Do you understand?"
There was a long moment of silence before Draco nodded.
"And so, if it's not the Time Meddler we have to worry about, but the one influencing her," Hermione begun talking again, "and Harry's and Snape's part in the prophecy are almost passive in nature, Draco is the one of importance. Draco can create things. Are you taking note, Milli?"
"I hear you," Bulstrode replied.
"Something that is not supposed to, is lingering here," Hermione muttered. "The one attached to a woman who could tamper with time. Deaths. And Draco's gift." She froze, and then she looked at The Stranger with terror in her eyes. "So, what you have been trying to say, but you cannot say it outright," Hermione began slowly, "is that something is using the woman to get at victims and through deaths. It needs to accumulate power, before it is able to get at Draco – it needs Draco's powers for something."
"She is fucking brilliant." The Stranger was so elated he had caused the orbs of light to flare up.
"So I am on to something then?"
"That is the truth." The Stranger nodded and he turned his attention back to Draco. "That is why the warding is crucial. I cannot do this alone with you, due to what had happened. I need Adalricus, Severus and Ronald to help us."
"Why the Weasley?"
Both Severus and Ron sounded aghast. Severus felt furious and before he could let out an outburst, the Stranger held up his hand warningly.
"Adalricus I need for his shamanic healing, Severus for your talent in Occlumency, and Ronald Weasley for his tactical thinking. Also because he comes from a long line of pure blood ancestry. Blood to Blood call. That is what we need to anchor him. And I honestly would rather do it with co-operative magic than solo."
"Why not Harry?" Ron looked rather pale.
The Stranger shook his head. "I do not mean to slight you, Harry, but there are times when your mind wars with itself."
"No, that is totally fine." Harry said, nodding his head. "I'm not exactly an expert keeping certain memories in check as Severus can attest. And I'm a half-blood, Ron."
"All right. This is all fine and dandy but I'm not the problem – what does the ferret have to say?" Ron asked hotly.
"Just what is it that we are required to do?" Draco asked uneasily.
"A merging of minds for several moments, as I instruct each of you of your tasks. This will also be a magical contract between you and I. Se'dra may be able to teach you some but that will not suffice, for in that aspect, you outrank him. Therefore, you will be my apprentice. I will not make you into a puppet with 'You shall do this! You must not do that!' You will make your own choices, weighing the values of two sides of a coin."
"I need to think," Draco said with a frown and walked away.
Severus thought of a multitude of reasons to argue with the Stranger that involving Ron and Aldaricus was a bad idea. However, the more he tried to rationalize, the more he favoured the Stranger's intentions. He thought hard and long but he could not recall any academics that taught them to create. If anything it was merely to project what was already there. Severus did not realize he had walked up to Draco until his lover's voice brought his attention to the present.
"In years that I've been in Hogwarts, Severus, not once we were taught to create something," Draco said pensively. "We can charm, hex and alter what is already present."
"I still don't like it," Severus said quietly.
"I don't either, Severus, but this has to be done. Before I do something by accident and consequences turn out deadly. As it is, I'm aware that something in me has changed and I can feel it. I'm trying very hard not to think of creating doorways and find out where the Time Meddler is." Draco's eyes narrowed. "Oi Weasel, come here!"
Ron Weasley came to their side, albeit grudgingly. Harry, Severus noticed, had drawn both Millicent and Hermione in a conversation, effectively distracting them.
"You're going to help," Draco said abruptly.
"Fine, you git. If that's what you want."
"I suspect some thoughts, memories and feeling will leak," Draco pressed on, his eyes looking at Ron, and then at Severus.
"I know that," Ron said gruffly and then he looked at Draco straight into the eyes. "If you think you can handle my Mudblood-loving thoughts, memories of me trying to kill my friends under the Imperius Curse, and the guilt I feel every time I think about it, sure! Why not?"
"During the final days, I was held at ransom, as … incentive for my parents. I was bound." Draco took a deep breath but he did not look away from Ron. "I was raped. Multiple times."
Ron Weasley looked shocked. "So … it wasn't because of Dementors, huh?" The redhead straightened his shoulders and nodded. "Let's do this."
Draco nodded. "I'm ready."
I'm not. Severus steeled himself. He watched as Hermione and Millicent set up wards around them while Alvinius, Se'dra and Sa'el chanted incantations along with hand movements. Eldar had taken off with the youngest son, presumably to put the boy into bed.
"It'd be best if we sit down," the Stranger said, motioning to the ground.
"I will need you to face me," Adalricus said to Draco. "I'm a Healer by profession. Come, sit down, in a meditation position, your palms facing upwards." The two sat down cross-legged. "Let me know if you feel uncomfortable." Adalricus laid his hands on Draco's and clasped them. "You, with the red hair, you need to sit behind Draco and rest your back against his – be the foundation he rests upon. And palms down."
"Do I need to use my wand for anything?" Ron asked curiously.
"No. Come, Severus, we will sit down and face each other. All I require you to do, is to always maintain eye-contact with me. Adalricus, Draco and Ron, you can close your eyes."
"What if I fall asleep?" Ron muttered under his breath.
"The shield is complete," Se'dra spoke.
"Good and thank you. Are you ready Adalricus?"
Severus took a deep breath, not knowing what to expect from the ritual. He sat before the Stranger with Adalricus and Draco in between them. He stared into gentle, hazel eyes, and relaxed.
"I need you, Draco, to open your heart to me. I understand it is difficult, but you need to trust me," Adalricus said softly. "You will not be alone."
Draco's breaths turned tremulous but Severus did not dare look away from the Stranger's eyes.
Severus felt as though he was asleep and his spirit soared into the depths of the Stranger's eyes. He caught a glimpse of something that for a second, made him feel awed, and then terrified. All of a sudden, he was vaguely aware of the scent of home-made bread, and heard Harry's chuckles, then his own image looking down with a gentle gaze and a smile. Then there was darkness and he smelled stale sweat, and he had a strong sense of an unclean feeling. There was a fleeting glimpse of of a masked person. He felt his own throat constrict with fear.
"Those are memories, Draco," Adalricus said in a soothing voice. "I'm sorry that you had to experience that. But that is the past – it is not happening right now. Take a deep breath and listen to my voice. You have to look past it. Come out of the darkness. Find me."
Severus' vision faltered, and he trembled with rage at what he saw, but he quickly collected himself. It felt strange as he looked out of Draco's eyes – his perspective had changed and they were now floating above the tangle of bodies. He heard the rhythmic thuds and belatedly realized it to be two sets of heartbeats. Their awareness was pulled to the source of the strong, calm heartbeat.
It's the Weasley's, Severus thought to himself. Ron Weasley's heartbeat was like a beacon of light; the rhythmic pulse brightened up the darkness periodically. Then they saw it, a Rowan tree softly glowing with Ron Weasley's magic. As they came closer, they saw a doorway within the tree.
"It is within this tree, that your strongest magic is protected, but we will need you to imprint your own wards."
Severus felt Draco's confusion and to his surprise it was not the Stranger or Adalricus that helped Draco to focus, but Ron. Severus heard the Stranger speak but he could not comprehend, but evidently Draco did. The trunk of the tree began to glow with runic inscriptions and Severus thought he saw the Malfoy's family crest.
"Well done. Now, Severus guide Draco in the ways of Occlumency."
That was not too difficult due to Draco's aptitude to divination and the Stranger helped to weave the defenses within the tree.
"Now, to seal it off from outside intrusion."
Ron's awareness took leadership and he did not speak but there was a forceful quality that showed Draco to create a mental shield. It amused Severus slightly, as it pushed the Stranger away from the Tree. Another form started to take place – a black dog, and it guarded the tree. Severus felt the hair at the back of his neck rise as Draco's awareness approached it and laid his hand on the dog's forehead. When Draco's awareness pulled back from it, the rune Algiz glowed on where Draco had touched it.
"Thank you kindly for your assistance, Adalricus, Severus and Ron. It is done. Return."
Severus blinked and looked at Draco. He looked slightly strained and withdrew his hands from Adalricus.
"Thank you," Draco said softly.
"It's been my pleasure, Draco. Now, if you ever need anything – a person to speak to, or if you think you need further healing, don't hesitate. You are family after all."
"Is it done?" Hermione asked with surprise. "That was quick."
As those who had been sitting down slowly got to their feet, Severus was aware that Ron looked conflicted and then blue eyes gazed fiercely at him while Ron rotated his neck and shoulders.
"Those bastards," Ron's voice was quiet, which was quite peculiar to hear. "Are they still alive?"
"No," Severus answered.
"Good." Ron shook his head when Hermione touched his elbow, and she looked at it inquiringly. "I can't talk about it."
"That's fine," she said understandingly. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Now, the real work begins tomorrow," the Stranger said with a smile. "I shall come to you at home, Draco, say ten in the morning? There'll be no surprises that way."
Draco nodded his assent.
"So, time to go home, is it?" Harry asked, adjusting his glasses.
"Yes, I think. How are we going to do that?" Hermione asked. "Can we Apparate out of here?"
"Yes, after we have taken our wardings off," Sa'el replied. Se'dra was already dispelling the protection spells. "Thank you very much for coming."
"You two will come home with me," Ron said, looking at two young women. "You can always let your parents know where we are Millicent, and it is getting late. What with all the shit's that's happening lately, better to be safe than sorry."
Hermione went to Harry to hug him and it surprised Draco when she did the same to him. She did not attempt to hug Severus, however, but gave him a pat on the his upper arm. "Right, we'll keep in touch and look out for the Daily Prophet. We'll possibly meet up again soon."
"Well, I'll see you around, Draco, you two," Millicent said solemnly as Hermione and Ron took her hands and they Apparated away.
There was a long pause of silence. Severus realized that the Stranger was nowhere to be seen. Before the silence became awkward Se'dra approached Draco and shook his hand. "You know how to find us," he said mysteriously. "And do as what He suggested, and talk to your father. Soon."
"Well, even if you do not come visit us soon," Sa'el said with a smile as she hugged Harry and Draco in a motherly sort of way, "we will see you again when we need to work. Mind you," she bit her lip, "we might be busy smoothing out kinks here."
Se'dra chuckled. "Well, that's what our sons are for – to take our places. Best for you three to be going – I suspect that you will be busy tomorrow."
To be continued on Chapter 36.