I can hear the fan geeks going, "It's about DAMN time!" all the way from here.
Life sucks. Read the fic. Enjoy.
CHAPTER ONE – RISE AND SHINE
The English countryside spread out far below the king owl that was carefully making its way to its destination, careful to avoid any unnecessary scrutiny. It was difficult, however, as the owl was not only flying out in the daytime, but also because of its size. It was much larger than normal owls – it was not called a king owl for nothing, after all – and was easily spotted, even at the height it was traveling. No matter what, though, he had to get the precious letters it had clasped in its talons to his master with the least bit of detection… and it was not the Muggles it was worried about. Oh no… Muggles could have easily thought of the owl as one that had just been awoken from its nest and dismissed it.
No… it was more worried about other wizards…
Fortunately, the owl's destination was finally in sight: a large mansion far away from any town, wizard and Muggle town alike. It had a dreary air to it, as if the residence dabbled in things that were not meant to be dabbled in.
At least his master was trying to straighten his act.
The owl landed just outside the window of a bedroom on the upper east side of the mansion, and tapped its beak against the glass impatiently. Unfortunately, for all its careful flying, it was in for a wait. The owl glared inside the room, hooting angrily when he spotted his master still asleep, buried under a thick pile of covers. It hooted again, and tapped its beak much more forcefully.
"Sn'wha…?" his master's sleepy voice finally came, poking his messy blonde head out from under the covers. Spotting his owl, he crawled out, going over and finally opening the window wide.
The king owl flew in gracefully, letting out another angry hoot, before dropping his precious mail on its master's desk. It swooped around the room, settling on its perch to eat as the master closed the window before plopping down at said desk.
Draco Malfoy rubbed the sleep away from his eyes futilely, wishing he could just crawl back into bed right away. He could not risk leaving this mail out in the open, however; not in this house, at least. He knew his room was safe from prying eyes, but he knew if he crawled back into bed, his father would storm in later to haul him out, and that would be nothing short of disastrous.
He shifted through the mail, spotting a letter from Ron and Harry and Yuugi each. A smirk came to his face at the envelope containing the older Japanese boy's letter; apparently, he had begun to write in his native language, before scribbling it out and replacing it with gibberish that Draco could actually read.
Draco leaned back, deciding to open up Ron's letter first. He had heard that the redhead's father had won some prize or other, but it had not been safe for him to get the details. Turning the envelope over, he shook out a newspaper article, a small box, and an even smaller note.
Picking up the article first, he smoothed it out, before beginning to read:
MINISTRY OF MAGIC EMPLOYEE
SCOOPS GRAND PRIZE
Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of
Artifacts Office at the Ministry of Magic, has won
the annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw.
A delighted Mr. Weasley told the Daily
"We will be spending the gold on a summer holiday in
Egypt, where our elder son, Bill, works as a curse
breaker for Gringotts Wizarding Bank."
The Weasley family will be spending a month in Egypt,
returning for the start of the new school year at Hogwarts,
which five of the Weasley children currently attend.
Draco felt a smirk creep up on his lips as he eyed the picture that came with the newspaper clipping; of a good chunk of the Weasley tribe waving energetically at the camera. Ron was holding that stupid rat of his, trying to get it to wave as well. Why he even bothered with that thing still amazed him.
Draco set the article aside, before eyeing the note and the box. The note was very short:
I thought you'd like this.
"Why am I worried…?" he mumbled, opening up the box… to reveal a small necklace, with a wdjat charm – an eye design similar to the one that decorated the Millennium Items – surrounded by feathers. His expression instantly turned sour.
"Oh, you're a riot, Weasel," he grumbled, setting it aside in favor of Harry's letter.
Harry's letters he always found amusing, as the Gryffindor boy would always write about some torment his dreadful Muggle aunt and uncle put him through, or what prank he pulled on that vile cousin of his. Muggles probably always would hold a bit of distaste for him, but none more so than Harry's Muggles. He was surprised the other boy had put up with them for this long.
The note ended with the mention that another relative was coming to pay them a visit, and how he had a feeling this was not going to be ending well for him. Draco almost felt sorry for him, but there was nothing he could do about it, even if he was completely regretful for his companion's current condition. At least, not while he was still pretending to be the obnoxious son of a Death Eater while being a friend to the Boy that Lived behind closed doors.
He set Harry's not aside, before turning to Yuugi's. His was a be lengthy; about how he had won the dueling tournament that year without the help of his other half, about how said other half was practically getting hogged by the tomb robber Bakura, while the quiet and unassuming Bakura rarely ever got to go out and about on his own any more.
"Someone needs to put a leash on that thief…" he muttered under his breath, folding up Yuugi's note and stuffing it back in the envelope.
Draco gathered up the letters then, going to his bed and ducking down, lifting the bed skirt and pulling the rug aside to access a loose floorboard that concealed his little secret. He placed the letters with the others he had received over the summer, marveling slightly at how they had multiplied. There was at least five from Marik, three from Hermione and Yuugi a piece, six from Harry, and the one from Ron, Bakura, and Seto. The thought of it made him feel a bit warm inside; letters addressed to him from friends, not lackeys. It was still a new feeling and he was not quite sure yet if it was something he enjoyed, but…
"It beats the alternative," he muttered, replacing the floorboard and the carpet, before eyeing the little gift from Ron. He should beat him over the head with it when he got back from Egypt, but for now…
Draco lifted his mattress slightly, and was rewarded with a glint of gold. The Millennium Scales looked back at him innocently; as if the stupid thing really was not the source of nightmares and strange dreams he did not understand. Despite that though… he now knew that the thing was not intentionally trying to torment him. It was trying to tell him something, but what that was, he had a feeling he would not know until it actually happened.
He dropped the box next to the Item, and with a soft sigh, crawled up to his bed and settled down into it, pulling the covers up over his face. Now that that was out of the way, maybe he could get in a couple hours more of sleep…
Then again… maybe not.
Not even counting Mutou and the rest of the dream team, Draco had seen a lot of strange things in the years he had been attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. None of them, however, had shocked him so speechless as the news his father had just given him.
"My… my cousin…?" he managed to get out, looking reasonably shocked.
"You heard me, boy," his father replied stiffly over his breakfast. "Your cousin is coming to live with us. She will be transferring to your school this year."
Draco felt a lump hit the bottom of his stomach. His cousin, Ecillia LeStrange, was probably just about as not right in the head as her errant mother, who was currently locked up in the Wizard's prison of Azkaban for being a Death Eater. The thought of having to live with her and go to school with her…
"Why her?" Draco finally groaned, suddenly finding himself not hungry.
His father gave him a critical look. "Her grandparents recently passed away. With her parents locked up, we are the only family available to take care of her. And so we will be."
The last was said in a tone that did not invite argument, and Draco did not provide any. Still though, Ecillia… it was going to be much harder to associate with the others this year when he had to worry about her snooping around, as he had no doubt that was exactly what she would be doing.
Not even a day into his cousin's indefinite stay at the Malfoy mansion, and Draco already hated her presence. Ecillia had apparated to the household with the help of a friend's parent, or some such person that he was sure to forget once they left, and she immediately started speaking to him as if he were a child, as opposed to only a month or so apart. Then, after she had been introduced to her rooms, she had decided to pay his a visit so she could "get to know him".
Like he really believed that was her reasoning.
When he had kicked her out, he had flopped over on his bed, which was where he was currently, weakly massaging the sides of his head as he rested on his stomach, sunlight from the window splashing over his legs. Bloody bitch… he could not wait until he was back in school; at least that was a bigger place to hide away from that menace.
Draco rolled over onto his back… and found himself staring up at emptiness. He jumped up, looking around in surprise as the room fell away, leaving him in a vast expanse of darkness.
"Oh, bloody hell…" he swore. "Not this again…!"
A low rumbling came from beneath him, and he braced himself as the creature that had been haunting his dreams for a while lurched up from the darkness. This was no longer the red-eyed menace that had tormented him during school last year, however. Slowly, his dreams and visions had mutated into this monstrosity: a black, snake-like creature that never seemed to do much other than hiss at him, almost like it was trying to tell him something.
This time, though… this time it seemed angry. Before Draco could attempt communication (a futile effort, as he found out in previous encounters), the creature lunged straight for him…
"GAH!" he exclaimed, rolling over and falling off the bed, hitting his head hard enough to leave a rather sizable lump. Shaking his head, he grumbled as he pushed himself up, cursing that damn Item and everything that had to do with it.
"Goodness, what a nasty mouth my cousin has!"
Draco came close to finding out what it felt like to jump out of ones skin, as he whirled around to see Ecillia leering down at him.
"What do you want?" he snapped. "What part of stay out of my room did you miss the last time?"
"Tut, tut, my dear cousin," she replied patronizingly. "I'm merely here to announce that supper is ready."
Draco blinked, before looking outside to see the sun setting. What the… had so much time really passed by…?
Ecillia yawned, bored. "Goodness, my sweet, sweet baby cousin is such a lazy boy on top of everything else…"
"Sod off," Draco grumbled, finally getting to his feet. "Go on, get out of here! Let me make myself presentable in peace!"
He ushered her out of the room, managing to resist the urge to shove her out the door, before slamming said door in her face. Pausing, he waited until her footsteps were out of his hearing range down the hall, before leaning against the door, rubbing his forehead with a hand. He did not understand it… something somewhere was trying to tell him something… but what….?
The wonderful day that Draco and his family went to Diagon Alley to prepare for school could not come soon enough. As it was, as soon as they appeared in the Alley, he insisted that he was going to meet up with Crabbe and Goyle, before bolting off without getting the okay from his parents. Finally, no Ecillia! No nagging! No, "my dear baby cousin" in that senselessly annoying coo of hers! He was…
All thoughts of escaping his tormentor left him as he passed by the broom shop. A group of children and other Quidditch enthusiasts were huddled around the window, proudly showing off the newest broom to hit the market. It was certainly a beautiful creation that just seemed to flow all the way from the tip of the handle to the very last, perfectly placed twig.
Draco could not help himself; he found himself pressing in close along with the other kids so he could read the sign on the display case.
STATE-OF-THE-ART RACING BROOM SPORTS A
STREAMLINED, SUPERFINE HANDLE OF ASH, TREATED
WITH A DIAMOND-HARD POLISH AND HAND-NUMBERED
WITH ITS OWN REGISTRATION NUMBER. EACH
INDIVIDUALLY SELECTED BIRCH TWIG IN THE BROOMTAIL
HAS BEEN HONED TO AERODYNAMIC PERFECTION, GIVING
THE FIREBOLT UNSURPASSABLE BALANCE AND PINPOINT
PRECISION. THE FIREBOLT HAS AN ACCELERATION OF 150
MILES AN HOUR IN TEN SECONDS AND INCORPORATES
AN UNBREAKABLE BRAKING CHARM. PRICE ON REQUEST.
Draco made a small face. "Price on request" typically meant more money than you could possibly afford in your lifetime, and while he might have been able to swing it, there was no way he was going to keep a purchase for that much for one item away from his father for very long, even if it was a broom.
He took one last, longing look at the broom, before turning around… and finding himself smacking headlong into a chest. He stumbled back, rubbing his face as he made to snap at the individual… when he stopped, realizing that he only came to just above the person's waist. Blinking, Draco stared up and up, until he finally found where the tall man's face was. He swallowed softly, trying not to stare overly long at the strange scar over his one eye…
"Rishid!" came a familiar voice. "What are yo—Malfoy!"
Draco brought his gaze down to see the welcome sight of Malik Ishtar, though he managed not to crack a smile, keeping up appearances.
"Ishtar, do you mind on getting your… compensation out of my face?" he replied smoothly.
For a moment, Draco though Malik was either going to burst out laughing or slug him.
"You want to take this elsewhere, you brat?" he finally snapped, though the look on his face was still rather humorous.
"Let's," Draco replied, following Malik off into a quiet, out of the way back road… where he suddenly found himself in a headlock.
"Brat indeed!" Malik exclaimed, mussing up the younger boy's hair has he flailed desperately. "How 'ya doing, Draco?" he asked, finally letting him go.
"Just dandy," Draco replied, managing to smooth out his harassed hair. "Didn't mean to bump into your friend there…"
He eyed where Rishid was standing guard at the entrance to the alley, like anyone with half a brain would even try to get past that big lug.
"Don't worry, he probably didn't even feel it," Malik replied dismissively. "So, how are things? I got your last letter about your cousin. I wish I could say I feel your pain, but damn…"
Draco shook his head. "Things haven't been easy since she showed up. I have to stay up late if I even want to get any letter written, not to mention sent out. I've had to move the ones that you've sent me to a lock box; she came awfully close to finding the loose floorboard I hid them in before." He paused a moment before continuing, "So, is everyone here?"
"Nah, just me and Rishid, though I think Yuugi said they were going to start traveling here today, so they might show up later," Malik explained. "Oh, and Harry's here already…" He trailed off, a grin worming its way onto his face. "You won't believe what happened… he inflated his aunt."
Draco's eyes widened. "Wait… the skinny one?"
"No, a different one, but still no less amusing," Malik replied. "If you get another chance to sneak away from the mighty female terror, try and go see him. I gotta go and finish up my shopping."
Draco waved after him as the Egyptian went back to his guardian, a small smile touching his lips. Things just seemed to get crazier every time he saw those people…
"Draco, dear? Where are you?"
Draco sighed softly at the sound of his coming doom.
"Is it September yet…?" he muttered, making his way out of the alley.