A/N: So, here's the first chapter of Chrysalis, my NaNo project that was written last November. I've been tinkering with it for a few months now, and I'm pretty pleased with it. I hope you will all enjoy it.
This is Harry/Draco, post-Hogwarts, though the slash content is extremely light. There are very vague suggestions of other relationships as well.
I've got this all written out, though I'm not 100 percent sure of the chapters, yet. There are 46 sections, but I may combine some of the smaller sections with the ones around them.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Dedication: To Foodie, who still betas me despite my predilection for slash, and for FionaFawkes, who read and reviewed every single chapter, and gave me such excellent feedback. Also, for everyone who's read and loved my Harry/Draco. This one's for you.
Draco had made a lot of bad choices in his life, but he'd never really considered what they might mean until it was too late. Now he knew more than anything, that following in his father's footsteps was the worst choice he had ever made. At the time, it had seemed the only choice. Malfoys protected Malfoys, and if Lucius was in danger, Draco would do whatever it took to restore his father's status to the Dark Lord. How was he to know that in trying to regain his father's honour, he would loose everything?
In giving himself he had lost his honour, his dignity, and eventually, his freedom.
He'd wondered that whole summer before sixth year, just how his father felt, sitting in Azkaban, alone, abandoned, and friendless. And now he knew. Intimately.
Draco watched as the birds outside his window dove down into the still-icy Northern water to catch their lunch. It felt odd that outside his cell, life went on as always. That there were children somewhere, running, playing…flying. He might have been here only a few months, but it had felt like years. He missed his broom. Missed playing Quidditch. Hell, he missed the challenge of trying to beat Potter to the snitch. Now he wished he hadn't blown off everything sixth year. It would have been nice to have had at least one normal thing that year, when he thought back on it.
He jumped when the cell door shrieked as someone opened it, and turned to see who had entered. The Dementors were gone, but that didn't make Azkaban a happy place. One of the guards stood in the doorway, her wand pointed at Draco.
"What is it?" he asked tonelessly.
"You're to come with me," she said sharply.
Draco nodded. It was probably just another Auror who wanted information about the Manor, or the Dark Lord, or any number of other subjects he'd covered with other Aurors too many times before. It never really changed. Just the faces were different.
The guard waved him in front of her, and he began to move down the passageway, every now and then passing a door, some of which he knew held friends, and even a few family members. Not that he ever saw them. The only people he ever saw were the guards who came to collect him, and the Aurors, who came to interrogate him. Which was why he was so astonished when the guard opened the door to a room that contained two very familiar people. Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini.
Before the door had even closed behind him, he found himself with an armful of sobbing, skinnier-than-normal girl, a dark head buried in his chest. He smoothed a hand down her back to calm her. It felt extraordinarily good to touch someone—anyone—again. He nodded to Blaise. "Did we somehow earn a reprieve?" he asked the other young man.
Blaise shrugged. "Don't know. All I know is that they told me to wait here, then brought Pansy, and now you."
"Maybe someone arranged a Slytherin reunion," Draco said wryly. He examined the other young man closely. His usually dark golden skin was pale and grey looking, and his hair, once a long silken flow of black, looked as though it had not been brushed in months. Draco knew how much it must pain him. It was one of the things they had shared as boys, their impeccable grooming and love of haute couture. "You're looking…"
"Miserable?" Blaise chuckled wryly. "I feel about as bad as you look," he added, eyeing Draco's grey and tattered prison smock.
Draco sniffed. "Yes, these prisons really know nothing about proper fabrics, do they?"
Blaise grinned, and Draco felt a warmth grow in his chest. He'd missed this. The banter between them as Pansy cuddled with him. How could he have been so stupid as to risk it in the first place?
Pansy was still trembling in his arms when a door opened on the opposite side of the room, and a well-dressed gentleman with lank hair and pale eyes entered. "Ah, good, you're all here," he smiled blandly.
"Are we?" Draco asked. "What about Theo, or Vince or Greg? Are they not included in this little reunion?"
The man's smile never wavered. "I'm afraid not, Mister Malfoy, but if all goes well, they could very well be in the next batch to leave," he said, setting his briefcase on a small table near the door he'd entered by and opening it to retrieve a sheaf of papers.
"If what goes well?" Draco asked, his eyes narrowing at the officious man who was now ignoring him entirely in favour of his papers.
The man still had a bland smile when he looked once more at Draco. "The Ministry has decided to try a little experiment, Mister Malfoy. You three were the first candidates chosen."
"Chosen for what?" Blaise's usually calm voice was wavering, and Draco knew he was quite upset to let any of it show at all.
"We have decided that what you Death-Eaters need is simply—retraining. Many of you were highly intelligent in school, and your parents were productive members of society before You-Know-Who's return while you were attending Hogwarts. We felt that if you could be made to see the error of your ways, you could become so as well."
"Retraining?" Draco repeated through clenched teeth.
The man was smiling broadly now. "Of course, Mister Malfoy."
"And how, exactly, will this be accomplished?" Draco asked.
"Each of you, if you agree, of course, will be given a serum, which will de-age you to about eight years of age. You will then be "adopted" by someone of muggleborn or half-blood status, who will re-teach you about Muggles, and hopefully cure you of your hatred of them. If you can prove, by the time you have regained your proper age, that your views on Muggles and the Muggle world have changed, you will be cleared of all charges against you."
Draco looked at the man in horror. "We're to spend ten years with Muggles?"
The man shook his head, that same stupid smile on his face. "Oh, no, Mister Malfoy. You will be aging quite quickly. In fact, I have been assured that for someone of your age, the entire process will take less than a year. I believe the potion-maker assured me that you would age about one year per month."
Well, that wasn't quite as bad, Draco admitted to himself. But still, even a year with a Muggle wasn't something he was going to look forward to. "Will the three of us be together?"
"Oh, I'm afraid not, Mister Malfoy. In fact, until you have proven that your views are at the very least improving, you won't be allowed the company of anyone but the person who is raising you."
"Do we at least get to choose those who will be raising us?" Draco managed, though his temper was close to breaking.
"Actually, each of you has already had someone claim you. It is why you three were the first to be chosen for the Chrysalis Project."
"Chrysalis?" The man opened his mouth to explain, but Draco shook his head. "No, I get it. So, may we at least ask who?"
"I have been told you are required to sign the consent papers first. They want you to be completely aware of the conditions, and agree to this without the distraction of liking or hating the person you have been chosen by. This is about you, not how you feel about them, therefore it is imperative you choose because you wish to participate in the project, and not because of how you feel about, or because you wish to spite them. Understand?"
Draco scowled, but nodded.
"Good. Now…" The man flipped through the papers. "Miss Parkinson, if you will?"
Pansy snuffled for a moment, then pulled away from Draco. "But what if I don't like them?" she wailed.
Draco pulled her chin up. If he could do nothing else for her, at least he could give her a pep talk. "You are a Parkinson," he told her softly. "There is nothing they can do to change that. I promise, Pansy, that you will be fine, no matter what."
She nodded, then snuffled again and wiped at her eyes with her ragged sleeves, then turned and moved towards the man. She read through the papers, stopping every now and then to read one passage or another more intently, then looked up at the man. "And if we refuse?" she asked.
"You will not be punished more, if that is what you are asking," the man replied. "But the offer will not come again. If you have turned it down once, we have no reason to believe you will wish to participate later. We would rather try to reform those who are left."
Pansy nodded, then sighed and asked for the quill, quickly signing the papers where the man indicated. The man opened the door behind him and waved Pansy through, but she hesitated, looking back at Draco.
"Go on," he said, nodding. "I'm sure it'll be fine," he tried to reassure her.
Taking a deep breath, Pansy stepped through the door, and was gone.
"Mister Zabini, if you will?" the man then said to Blaise.
Blaise frowned, but stepped forward. He, too, took a great deal of time in reading his papers before reluctantly asking for the quill and signing them. He did not look back at Draco when the man waved him through the door.
"And now you, Mister Malfoy, please?" the man said, as though bored now, and wanting to get on with his day.
Draco moved to his side and began to read through the papers. There was a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo about how he would be recognized legally as a minor until the potion had fully worn off, even if his body was physically over the age of maturity, and how all legal decisions would be placed in the hands of the person who adopted him. It also stated that failure of the official tests he would be forced to take each month would mean that he would be sent back to Azkaban once more, and that he would be given this one chance only. There were also several rules he would be expected to live by until he had been restored to his full age, including full restriction of his magic until such time as he was once more allowed his wand, which would be given him by his keeper when they felt he had earned the right.
Draco grimaced, but really, what choice did he have? It was this or Azkaban for life, just for being a Death Eater. He took the quill from the man, and signed.
The man smiled. "This way, Mister Malfoy," and waved him through the door his friends had used before him.
Draco stepped through the door, wondering exactly who would be waiting on the other side.