A/N: Before reading this fic, please note that it is a sequel to Marauding Dragon and if you haven't read that, you probably won't understand this. If you have read it, feel free to skip this and read on. If you have not and don't feel like reading a 40+ chapter story at the moment, the CliffNotes version is as follows: Sirius escapes Azkaban, Draco adopts him in dog-form, Sirius saves his life and reveals he's an Animagus, and Draco makes friends with Ginny, Luna, Harry and Theodore Nott. At Hogwarts, an ambitious and slighted Ron goes to Slytherin and pals around with Pansy, Nott and Harry get into Gryffindor and Draco into Hufflepuff. They have some rough times but manage to make friends with the Hufflepuffs, Weasley twins, Hermione and Millicent Bulstrode, reveal Scabbers as Peter Pettigrew and save the Philosopher's Stone. Woohoo! But Nott's father is none too happy about him being in Gryffindor and that's where our story begins…
Theodore Nott stood in the doorway of the Weasley household, having been dumped there by the Knight Bus, wet to the bone and rather intimidated.
"I'm terribly sorry," Nott coughed and blushed. "I didn't know where else to go or what to do. And Fred and George had said something… I'm sorry, it's a terrible bother, I know, but Harry lives with Muggles and Draco… well his father… you know… I'm so sorry but I was wondering if I could maybe sleep here, just for the night?"
He stood there for only a moment before Mrs. Weasley pulled the bedraggled boy in, shouting for Fred to grab the trunk, for Percy to get towels and blankets and for Ginny to set a pot on the stove for hot chocolate or tea or whatever Theodore would like. Sitting the boy down at the table, she took off the sopping garments while Ginny boiled water.
"Theodore, what is the matter? What is going on, why are you here, dear?" She passed him the mug of Darjeeling that Ginny had seeped and he blew on the surface of the water, allowing the steam to rise into his face.
"My father threw me out," he informed her in a numb voice. Taking a tentative sip of tea, he swallowed then continued. "Well, I suppose that isn't properly true. I ran off after he gave me an ultimatum. Told me that I was going to Durmstrang or would be home-schooled and never leave the house again. Said that he wouldn't suffer a Gryffindor in the family and that I wasn't going back to Hogwarts no matter what." He took another sip of the tea then looked up at Mrs. Weasley. "So I packed a trunk and left." He wrapped his hands around the mug, pensive. "Harry's family hates magic and Draco's father is too close to mine to be safe. Fred and George were the only other ones I could think of at the time. I am terribly sorry, I do realize what an imposition this is, just showing up at your doorstep like this. I'll try to find something else tomorrow, I just needed somewhere for the night, some place he wouldn't look for me or find me."
"Find something else? Nonsense, dear," Molly tutted as she wrapped another comforter around him. "You'll do no such thing. If you need a place to stay you're very welcome to stay here."
"He can share our room if he likes," George spoke up.
"Or we could give him Bill's," Ginny added. "Now that he's got an apartment in London."
"Molly," Mr. Weasley whispered urgently, motioning her over. She left Theo to talk with Ginny and the twins. "Dear, are you sure that this is a wise idea? His father was… is a Death Eater!"
"All the more reason we should be there for him!" She chided. "Who will he go to? The Malfoys? That would be just as bad, perhaps even worse. I'm sure Lucius Malfoy would have no qualms about sending Theodore straight back to his father – and then what? He gets shipped off to Germany or locked up, just because he ended up in the wrong house? Besides, he's a Gryffindor; the hat knows what it's talking about."
"Oh does it?" Arthur replied impatiently. "Then how do you account for Ron?"
"Ron is… this isn't about Ron!" She retorted. "Now that boy is cold, tired and homeless and I don't intend on turning him out!"
"What if his father comes looking for him?" Arthur rejoined doubtfully. "Why can't he just stay at a hotel? Get a room at the Cauldron?"
"Wizarding London is no place for a boy alone, long term. Cut off as he is I doubt he couldn't even afford it. And his father is more likely to be able to force his way in somewhere like that than in our home. He probably doesn't even know who Theodore's friends are."
"I'm sure it won't be too hard to find out," Arthur replied with a sigh. "I understand your sympathies dear; but this boy is from a long standing Slytherin family with a likely Death Eater father. I don't like it, one little bit."
"Well the twins and Ginny trust him, and that's good enough for me." She pulled her housecoat shut and tied the belt that had slipped loose. "The boy stays, dear," she informed her husband with an air of finality, walking back over to Theodore. "Fred and George will take your trunk up to Bill's room and I'll make you up a plate of something. I'm sure you must be starving."
Theo gave her a little nod and glanced over apologetically at Mr. Weasley. For a moment, he looked at the boy as if he were something quite foreign; at a glare from his wife, however, he returned the smile and came over to give Theo a pat of encouragement on his shoulder.
"Our home's not as fancy as I'm sure your father's is," Mr. Weasley told him, "but you're welcome to stay here. Any friend of Fred and George is welcome in our home at any time."
"Thank you sir, ma'am," he told the two Weasley parents. "I'm very grateful. And whatever you need me to help with or do, I'm more than willing to do so. Simply tell me and I'll be glad to help."
"That's sweet dear," Mrs. Weasley set a plate of chicken and potatoes in from of him. "But you just get some rest for now."
From the doorway, Ron watched his parents fuss over Theodore, giving him food and trying to warm him up. At first he'd held out slim hope that his father would put his foot down and throw the git out; he should have known better however. Ginny and the twins were fawning over him to a sickening degree and when he saw his mother give the exhausted Theo a peck on the cheek that was the last straw.
Storming up to his room several stories up, Ron slammed the door and punched the pillow. Bad enough he had to live in a hovel with parents who were more concerned about being touchy-feely than providing what their kids needed. Bad enough that the looks Fred and George gave him made him feel like a stranger in his own home.
Now apparently they'd found a replacement for him. Infuriated, he pulled the blankets over his head and promised himself he would write a letter to Pansy first thing in the morning to see what he should do.
"And so Harry beat out Cedric and they ended up winning the House Quidditch Cup which is really good because Harry has loads of talent, but Cedric was right behind him and I think that next year we'll have a good chance to win," Draco rambled on as he pulled dirty laundry out of his trunk and piled it up for the house elves to clean. "I know I'm going to try out; I don't think I'll be able to be a Seeker like Harry because Cedric's older and he's really good at it, and I don't think I have the arm strength to be a Beater, but I think I've got a pretty good chance at making one of the two open Chaser positions. I might be a good Keeper to, I don't know I haven't really tried, but our Keeper is a sixth year so she'll be back next year too."
"That's lovely dear," his mother forced a smile. "Draco, love?"
"Yeah Mum?" He looked up at her just as he pulled out an armful of textbooks.
"Your father and I need to talk to you, sweetie." She twisted her wedding band around on her hand, looking off to the side instead of at her son.
"What about?" He stood, setting the books aside on a low shelf. "Is something wrong?"
"I think your father will explain it somewhat better than I could." She motioned him over and guided him out of the room to Lucius' study.
His father was seated in front of the fire in one of the large armchairs, looking intently into the flames. When he heard the steps of his wife and son, he turned around and waved them in. Dragon followed, looking at Lucius with what Narcissa might have sworn was nervousness.
"Sit down son," Lucius directed him to the other armchair. Narcissa stood behind Lucius' chair and Dragon lay at Draco's feet, waiting anxiously for what was to come.
"What's going on?" Draco looked at his two parents, confused. "Have I done something?"
"In a manner, yes," Lucius sighed. "Draco, I heard about your… goings on towards the end of the year. There are whispers that you saw the Dark Lord. That you fought with him." His tone was low and urgent, though not precisely angry.
"Yes, yes I saw him in the woods." Draco shivered a bit at the memory. "He was possessing a teacher… they'd killed a unicorn, he was drinking her blood – I wanted to make him pay for that," he whispered. "She was so beautiful and delicate and he mangled her, blood dripping down his front…"
"Draco!" Lucius rapped his walking stick on the floor. "Draco, a unicorn does not matter!"
"What?" Draco looked at him with a stunned expression.
"Draco, you could have been killed, died – for what? For an over-glorified horse that was already dead? The Dark Lord is not someone to be played with, Draco – he is not someone to be defied." Lucius swallowed. "I accept part of the blame for this. I allowed you to grow up too wildly, become too headstrong, run around with too much freedom. Draco, you are losing sight of what is important."
"But dad, the unicorn…" He tried to find words to convey how deeply the display had offended and disgusted him.
"Forget about the unicorn, Draco! Think about yourself – about your family. The Dark Lord detests disloyalty and if you set yourself against him, you won't be the only one to pay!" Lucius chastised.
"Disloyalty?" Draco looked at him doubtfully. "But I thought… I mean, the record… the trial… you said that… that your were Imperiused…"
"Draco, I did what I had to so that I stay free, that I could care for my family. That's what I have always done and will always do, but I can't do that if you're undercutting me!" Lucius looked at him severely. "I realize that you are still quite young; I did not wish to burden you at such a young age, and your mother didn't either. However, circumstances have made it unavoidable.
"If the Dark Lord is making attempts to return, you are not to get in his way. I am not telling you to abet him; leave that to others who have less to risk than you. That is not what I'm suggesting. But Draco, you must stay out of the way! I've heard rumors about who your friends are – and do you realize how thoroughly upset Mr. Nott is about Theodore's placement? I'm sure he's having a very similar conversation with Theo as we speak.
"You are young, Draco, and haven't seen much of the world. But I assure you that you will see very little of it indeed if you continue to be friends with who you're friends with and behave the way you have been behaving. You are not to stand in the Dark Lords way again, do you understand me?" His tone was severe and his gaze emanated a mixture of distress, fury and concern.
At his feet, Dragon whimpered and Draco could feel his heart sinking.
"Why, though? Dad, Voldemort is evil…"
"Don't say that name!" Lucius snapped, harsher than he'd meant. "Draco the Dark Lord is not evil; he is fighting for our rights, to live as we do – weeding out the filth that has infiltrated our world."
"How can you say that Dad?" Draco leaned in. "I know what you say about pure-blood and stuff but it's not true! I see it every day at Hogwarts, kids from Muggle families do just as well…"
"No, Draco!" Lucius snapped again and Narcissa put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Draco, if they continue to infiltrate they will do to our world what they have done to theirs. They will take away everything we have, give it to the filth that has managed to weasel its way into our society! They understand nothing of our traditions, nothing of true wizards, risk exposure to the rest of the world, dilute the blood lines…
"Look at the way we have to behave, Draco! Look at the way wizards conceal themselves, the way we're forced to hide magic and magical creatures and even our dwellings from those idiot Muggles – why? We are the superior ones, we should be able to move about as we please without concern for such filth, such untalented wastes of life!"
He clutched the sides of his chair and Draco shrank back into his chair. Everything that Sirius had warned about, everything that Sirius disdained was pouring forth from his father's mouth with a frightening vehemence. The crackling fire was the only sound for a long while, until Draco gathered his courage and voiced a question he feared the answer to.
"Dad?" He looked into his father's eyes, grey orbs that matched his own. "Were you – are you – a Death Eater?"
For a moment, Lucius considered lying, worried about what his child would think of him, worried that his own flesh and blood might hate him. The truth would out eventually, however, so he nodded, thinking it better to have the chance to explain why he was a Death Eater and explain the sense of it to Draco.
"Yes, Draco. I have the Dark Mark on my arm. I chose it, son. Chose it for us, for you and your mother." He looked at the fire, then back at Draco. "Our world is in peril, son, and the Dark Lord is the only one who realizes that, who is willing to fight for pureblood rights. He gained much power and if he ever returns will do so again; better to be a part of that than a crushed resistance."
"But he uses people Dad!" Horrified, he looked at his father, not understanding. "He doesn't care about us!"
"He rewards loyalty Draco – and punishes disloyalty. I hate to put this upon you, but if you defy him, I do not know how much I can do to protect your mother and you, even myself. Should he return, I can explain it away as childish foolishness if it is only the one incident. But if it becomes a repeated pattern, then everything I have worked for will have been for nothing."
Unable to formulate a response, his head reeling, Draco simply sat there motionless. Narcissa went over and embraced him, trying to offer some sort of reassurance.
"Draco, we're not angry, only concerned," she murmured. "You have to understand. I know you must have had a lot of silly ideals and nonsense pumped into your head at Hogwarts, but that's not the way the world works. Family is all you ever have – and sometimes not even that if your own blood betrays you. We need to stick together, provide a united front, not put one another at risk."
"But what he does… what he can do…"
"The world is an ugly place, Draco," Lucius told him with a note of sympathy. "And sometimes… sometimes people have to do ugly things to protect the ones they care about and get what they need. This house, these grounds, our lifestyle – it has to come from somewhere. We have a tradition to uphold, honor to preserve and protect…"
Pushing away Narcissa with a sudden gesture Draco bolted from the room and ran down the hall, Dragon close on his heels. His parents heard the front door slam shut and Lucius sighed.
"That went exceedingly well, don't you think dear?" He muttered sarcastically.
"Perhaps you should go after him?" She suggested.
With a nod Lucius followed Draco's path down the hall at a brisk pace, leaving Narcissa alone with her thoughts in the study.
A/N: So the summer looks as though it's off to a rocky start. But no worries – things will get a little bit better. A little bit worse too, but not every chapter will be quite so depressing. Promise. ;) The next chapter will be up before long, so stay tuned and see what happens.