A New Beginning
If his slumber had been plagued by the scanty claws of nightmares, he could not account their scathing. For Camille, his full night's rest was a god-send. Upon his waking, Madam Pomfrey handed to him a bow-stringed roll of parchment—"A message from the Headmaster,"—she had said after bidding him a "good morning." Camille rejoined the greeting then eyed the strung parchment as Madam Pomfrey took her leave of him, lightened scarlet robes trailing in place of her crimson ones. At the touch of a finger, the bowed string untied itself then leapt into the air and, after its ends looped into the semblance of butterfly wings, fluttered up and out of sight. Smiling after the bewitched string, Camille unrolled the parchment and read the neat script scrawled there.
It is my hope that the Stringerfly did not give you a start on this fine morning, the finest first of January Hogwarts has seen since my time as Headmaster to my thinking. Not to worry, the delightful critter, a little invention of my own making (and not too miserable of one if I do say so myself!) will find its way back to me eventually, as it always does. Anyhow, you would be doing this old man the highest honor by joining him for a spot of breakfast. Shall we say my office, nine o'clock? We can discuss matters further then, or not. It is whatever you wish.
Yours most sincerely,
PS. Simply ask and Madam Pomfrey will gladly show you on your way.
Camille set aside the parchment and briefly considered the letter. What was there to lose, if not to gain? With no superior argument to dissuade him, the unvoiced debate was settled shortly and his decision to leave was made final. Then again, there was the issue of his attire. He couldn't possibly dine with the Headmaster of Hogwarts appearing as atrocious as he. No, that wouldn't do at all. Searching about for a solution, he soon found an obvious one that had dodged his eye earlier. Or had the solution appeared there only as he began to look for one? He couldn't be sure, but let the notion die as he stood and approached the set of clothes that were folded neatly atop the foot of his bed.
The stack consisted of a dark blue long-sleeved thermal of simple fashion and faded blue jeans, thick wool socks and tan moccasins. As he sorted through each item, a well formed within him. Its cavity filled as his eyes drank in each icon of the individual articles. Camille knew these clothes. They were his clothes; they belonged to him. Where did they come from? The question begged for an answer. Madam Pomfrey hummed somewhere in the near vicinity. He called for her and she appeared a moment later.
"I'm sorry to bother you—"
"—No bother at all—"
"—but where did these clothes come from?"
"From your belongings, dear; they're all with the Headmaster, in his office."
"Oh, right—thank you, Madam Pomfrey. Wait, uh, one last thing…"
"How do I get to Du—er—the Headmaster's office?"
The clothes fit him like a second skin and he cherished the sensation of identity that they bestowed. Once they and his moccasins were upon him, he set out promptly from the hospital wing. It had been seven days since his arrival at Hogwarts, six of which, he had learned, he had spent in a coma, so, the prospect of being up and about sped him on his way and put a spring in his step. Dumbledore had explained the coma to be a result of the spell that had affected him, along with memory loss, and the color change of his left iris. It was that same spell that had killed his entire family. Dumbledore had explained to him the night previous that the spell was, in itself, unpredictable, often generating a multitude of effects. The man had rambled on, as if fascinated, about the spells intricacies. Only a wizard of awesome power could have managed to create and cast this spell, he had professed, or, in this case, a witch. The witch was his aunt, his maternal aunt, an aunt he had never known of because no member of his family ever spoke of her, at least not to him or in his presence. She was not acknowledged therefore she never existed. Not until now.
Long before he was born, Audrie Hallett was sentenced to life in Azkaban at the age of twenty for grand scale murder, torture, and the castings of magic so perilous that they had been dubbed forbidden ages ago by the highest, most ancient laws known to the Wizarding World. Working along with the Ministries of multiple countries, the Halletts lured their estranged kin into a trap. The young girl was ambushed by not only her parents, twin sister, and extended family, but by twenty senior members of the Order of Merlin, each of them ranked first class. As the story went, she slew half the battalion of the wizards and witches of the Order before ultimately being subdued. She was sentenced the next day after a short trial.
As to how she had escaped Azkaban, Dumbledore did not say and Camille could have cared less to ask. What was done was done. His family was dead. Audrie Hallett had had her vengeance. Though Dumbledore did not say the words, he knew his death would complete the circle. She would come for him, of that he was certain. For the moment, it would seem he was within sanctuary, though these walls that surrounded him, if what Dumbledore had said about his aunt's power was true, offered only a tentative safety at best. He would not flee, in spite of it all. Besides, flight would only bring about his death quicker. As the thought crossed his mind, he reconsidered the course before dismissing it altogether. That was the easy way out and he knew it. No, he would not make himself an easy target. If he was to die by her hand, by Merlin, he would make the bitch work for it. A smile that belied his bettered mood crept onto his visage as he rounded the corner.
Distracted by his myriad thoughts, Camille had not paid heed to the veracity of the castle's limitless beauty. Stretched before him for what seemed like miles was a sun-lashed hall, its walls and floor tiled by marble. The tile surfaces reminded him of cream swirled into light caramel. Its eastern wall was beset by vast windows that stretched to touch the lofty, vaulted ceiling far above him. He felt as an ant might while intruding within a human home. Walking past them, he glimpsed a far greater view of the grounds than he had when he peered from the hospital's windows. The bright blue sky was clear and the sun blazed bright, warming his tanned flesh with its sultry white hands. Green fields of grassy hillocks continued on as far as the eye could see, bordered by the lapping waters of an enormous lake and by the craggy boughs of a gloomy wood. When the next staircase was upon him, he took it without thinking twice, more than a little hesitant to look away from the picture book scene. Atop the staircase's landing, the surroundings gave him pause, but he trudged on anyways, confident in his navigator abilities. Soon, he realized his confidence had led him astray and found himself to be lost within the labyrinthine halls of Hogwarts.
Continuing down a similar hall then another, both as enrapturing as the very first, Camille had a stroke of luck. At the end of the latter of the two halls, three boys stood in a huddle, conversing amongst themselves, their voices reaching him with no more volume than a murmur. One was leaned coolly up against the wall, his features hidden in the shadows between two shafts of sunlight. The other two had their backs to Camille, though, regardless of distance, he determined that both were quite pudgy, though their heights contrasted somewhat significantly. As he took a few step further into the hall, the fat backs sluggishly twisted about. Their rotund faces did not disprove his assumption. Camille raised a hand in salute as a greeting bubbled up from his gut—
Well, that wasn't really ideal but—
"Oi, Cam!" The voice called again. It was coming from the group of boys.
The figure in the shadows leaned forward causing his features to bestride light and shadow. Still, the boy, for he was a boy, was quite identifiable. How could Camille forget, enamored as he had been, enamored as he yet was? Draco Malfoy motioned to him from across the hall. Camille would have to be un imbécile to refuse. Giving his lengthy bangs a revitalizing flick of his head, Camille ambled down the hall, chewing the inside of his cheek the entire distance. It was all he could do to stave off a dastardly smile that sought to betray him.
With the distance shortened, Camille was able to depict the features of the pudgy pair; the tubby twosome; the chubby chums. Oh, how he could go on for days! The neatness of their cropped brunette hairs contrasted almost as much as their height. While the taller one's hair resembled that of tangled mop, the squat one's do was straight, as if freshly buzzed, though, to his disadvantage, it only made his round head look that much rounder. The short one reminded him of a dwarfish fleshy snowman; round, round, and more round. His cheeks were those of a doting grandmother's dreams. The taller looked the more intelligent of the duo, for his small dark eyes sat behind a pair of glasses, yet his foppish poise argued otherwise; perhaps he was dropped on his head as an infant? Camille couldn't be sure. It was rude to assume such morose things. His ruminations, though not in the least finished, were, for the moment, laid to rest as the trio formed a quartet.
"Crabbe, Goyle," Draco said, his eyes not leaving Camille's face, "This is Cam; he's new this term."
After a moment of silence, the short one scrunched his brow, forming a few rolls of flesh on his forehead.
"Cam," said Crabbe, "Cam what?"
"A downright nosey lout this morning you are, Crabbe!"
The interjection was as swift as the swoop of a hawk.
Draco glared sternly at his companion and continued his berating. "What, hunger gone to your head again has it? Can't go a morning without breakfast then?"
"Right—Goyle—take Crabbe to the Great Hall and get yourselves something to eat. Maybe it'll do something for his manners."
"Okay. Meet up with you later on, then?"
Draco was nodding before Goyle finished his sentence. "Yes, yes; I'll come find you soon, now, off with you."
The two boys, firmly dismissed as they were, did not look back and soon disappeared around the corner. The remaining boys watched them leave and continued to do so even when there was nothing left to watch. Camille felt the tension; it lay across them like a heavy blanket stiff with starch. Why not cast it off? After a moment, he did just that.
"Hi," he said curtly, turning to the blond.
Draco looked to him, a singular corner of his mouth upturning, and then said, "Hi." The exhaled response had brimmed with relief. Camille chewed his cheek, contemplating what he would say. What could he say?
"—No, go ahe—"
"—No, no, it's okay; you first."
The blond chuckled, a light pink powdering his cheeks, then cleared his throat and gave a shake of his head, the blush all but vanishing as he collected himself.
"What brings you to this part of the castle?"
"To be perfectly honest, I'm lost, actually."
"I could have guessed as much."
Camille took the crude remark as a joke, but his chortle died quickly upon is lips for Draco's plain expression remained as such.
"Where are you off to?"
"The Headmaster's office—"
Draco blinked then cocked his slightly to the side. "Why?"
Asphyxiated as he was by some awesome power wielded by the hoary orbs, a monstrous compulsion enthralled him as surely as if rapt by the waxen song of the siren.
"Professor Dumbledore… invited me… to have breakfast with him."
"And why does Professor Dumbledore want to have breakfast with you?"
The words drifted to him as if through layers of syrupy molasses, scooted lazily about his ears then kissed their creamy tangerine channels, like the whispered sooth-sayings of the succubus.
"He… hopes to discuss… matters…—"
The enchantment faltered then broke entirely as Camille's conscience took control and restored his defenses; walls were thrown up, bolted into place, reinforced by chain and lock. His eyes narrowed at the intruder who seemed all too eager to hurtle them, or break them down completely. Heat wafted up from the collar of his shirt to prickle his neck.
"I don't believe that to be entirely any of your business, Draco."
The boy's stance deceived him, revealing him to be undaunted by Camille's defensive retort which only made the defender that much more readily guarded. Blinking once more, Draco's façade shifted curiously; an expertly woven veil of contrite palled the masquerading inquisition.
"Please, forgive me, I didn't mean to pry; I am curious about you, Cam."
A half-truth would have to suffice for the time being, but Camille resolved to be wary of this charmer whose lips versed deception as skillfully as the king of thieves.
"No harm done, but really I must be going; I don't want to be late."
Camille stepped passed the blond—
Draco reached out to stop Camille and tugged at the boy's left arm then let go as he turned about.
"—let me make it up to you; allow me to show you the way to the Headmaster's office. Besides, you're already lost as it is."
Though correct as Draco indefinitely was, Camille hesitated and locked onto the boy's eyes. In them he glimpsed their calculating intellect, their analytical nature. There was more concealed within the depths of their silver pools than Draco let be known; Camille read as much. The tremulous cobalt of fear flickered dimly therein, stirred about in the sterling grays; the diluted viridian of trepidation tinged the silvery waters. Why were these emotions there, what had given them life? Camille read the boy before him as he might the leaves of a fascinating print of old; saw the truth between the black bold-faced sentences that constructed the laws and limits of the persona Draco assumed; glimpsed the snow-white soul, the true persona, encaged, bound by forces Camille could not determine. There was more to this boy, much more.
Renewed intrigue spoke where he would not, "Fine be me—lead the way."
The two walked on in a silence only made imperfect by the taps of their heels. They passed more elongated windows that barred yet more striking panoramas and put countless lacquer halls behind them whilst they danced in and out of light and its dark child.
Draco had admitted to Camille that he was curious about him. Though, given what had occurred only a few minutes before, and that he was presumably accurate in his reading of the blond, he had to wonder: what did 'curious' entail exactly? Here he was, new, in every meaning of the word in a ways, and here was this boy of great intelligence and sensual gait, tempting him with saccharine words, each syllable flicked delicately by his silver tongue. What was his aim; what was there to gain from him, a boy whom clung to the image of himself, an image marred, blurred, made foreign? Perhaps there was nothing at all. Perhaps this boy sought something he knew not to be there like, a hunter led astray by a base hound. It was only a matter of time before the huntsman would realize his hunt was to be fruitless. Camille was only to be certain of one thing which, ultimately, resulted in him being certain of two things: Draco Malfoy was curious about him, and he liked it that way.
As the pair started up a flight of winding stairs, Camille glanced to the huntsman at his left, eyed the pale flesh bereft of blemishes and pockmarks, the sensual rose-pink lips, delicate nose, defined cheekbones and jaw, the smallish dimpled chin, and a steely orb, and loosed the bait.
"So, you're curious about me?"
The tracks were laid.
The scent was caught.
The chase was on.
For the majority of the journey to the Headmaster's office, Camille found that he was recounting a paraphrased variant of all that Dumbledore had told him about himself. The experience was unsettling. Though he believed the identity Dumbledore had all but handed to him was accurate, it was more than disconcerting to relay this identity when each word strummed and plucked in him chords of uncertainty. It was like trying to tell an entire novel while only having read its back cover. Mostly, Draco asked very basic questions: what his whole name was, where he was from, how old he was, what Quidditch position he played, and what his favorite school subjects were, among other things of similar ilk. The only specific question the blond asked pertained to his blood status—which he Camille found as more than off-putting—but when revealed that he was pure-blooded, the boy seemed to be overall happier to be in Camille's company than he had been any other time, smiling more often and laughing lightly in between a few witty exchanges when they occurred. Camille was rather quiet otherwise, except when answering questions or remarking at any conclusions Draco drew. In spite of his quiescence, Camille observed Draco being drawn ever more to the accidental mystery of him, of his life.
After passing through a few more hallways, some windowed, others more enclosing, and up a final flight of stairs, the two boys stood before a large stone gargoyle on the seventh floor of the castle.
"Well, here you are."
Camille looked about—expecting to see some grand entryway way or another appear out of the thin of the air.
"I don't understand. Where is here, exactly? I don't see an office anywhere…"
"It's here—" Draco indicated the monstrous bust before him, "behind the gargoyle."
Camille took a few steps forward to peek about the stone cretin—or attempted to do so.
"The professor didn't tell you the password?"
"You need a password to see the Headmaster?"
"And I suppose you don't know it either?"
Draco blinked and gave the back of his head a quick scratch, squinting one eye as he did so.
"I think it was something like wizzing-fizbee—"
"It changes after New Year's."
"Right," Camille huffed as he turned away from the stone effigy, exasperated.
His stomach groaned as he leaned against the far wall then slumped to the cold marble floor—perfect; not only would he be earning the Headmaster's displeasure, but he was missing breakfast too. A rogue tress of deep auburn loosed itself to dangle before his face and though annoyed, he watched it bob there, missing the subtle smirk with which he was being regarded. Draco's blurred form floated to his side and the two were silent for a while. Camille heard the ruffle and shifts of the boy leaning against the wall and buried his smile beneath the shade of his hair as he entertained the assumption that Draco was indeed struggling to find something to converse about. His conscience chuckled with giddy joy, like a child who had discovered sweets. How cute! cute, cute, cute. Camille furtively peeped up from beneath his auburn umbrella, his gaze tracing vertically the slender yet curvaceous lines closest to him—calves… thighs… Camille bit his lip—and that per—
Camille cleared his throat, tossed his hair, and reeled in his meandering gaze as Draco broke the silence.
Perturbed by Camille's sudden action, Draco paused before continuing.
"—why did you transfer here?"
And the hunter finally cornered his quarry.
"It's funn—well, really it's—er…"
Camille's lips fumbled with each incomplete story he tried to formulate into truth as if they refused to lie.
With a quizzical expression, Draco observed the boy beside him, his eyes ever searching for what they could not see.
Camille pressed his back up against the wall and used the force of his legs to slide upward on the marble. The thump of his heart sang in his ears as he leaned against the wall, feet crossed. Should and Should-Not had fastened a rope about his brain and each pulled at one end or the other, each battling to win the game of tug-of-war. Honesty and Deceit each whispered their credos into opposite ears. Then, he looked once more into those gray-silver eyes and wavered.
The stone gargoyle animated and stepped aside, revealing a passage behind where it had once been. A shadow stretched across the tile from the passage and grew steadily shorter, till soon footsteps were audible, then the Headmaster walked to mouth of the passage, stopped, and peered across the hall at the two boys.
"Now, there is my wayward breakfast guest," the Headmaster hailed musically in his airy tone, "and Draco! So very kind of you to have led him here, as I am certain you did. Yes, very kind."
Camille glanced at Draco as he was being addressed and took note of the subtle alteration in his poise and expression, as if one switch had been flicked off while another had been flicked on.
"I felt it my duty as a Prefect to show our newest student the way, sir."
"Quite right, Draco," Dumbledore said, looking from over his half-moon spectacles, "Ten points to Slytherin."
Camille watched the exchange and sensed a history between the two. So much he did not know! about this strange place and its people, and their respective histories alike! Only his proximity to the blond allotted him the moment to catch the cheery smirk the boy wore as he gave a curt bow.
"Thank you, sir."
Dumbledore bowed his head slightly in response and then looked to Camille.
"Good morning, Camille," the man said, smiling warmly, "I hope you are hungry."
The boy nearly laughed. "Yes, sir—very hungry."
Dumbledore clapped his hands together, "Splendid, splendid; the elves have quite outdone themselves in preparing breakfast for us. It must surely be this weather."
No one spoke for a moment then Draco and Camille shared a look, one that Dumbledore observed quietly while compassion brought him to grin knowingly.
"Well," he said, indicating the passageway with a sweep of an arm, "when you are ready…" then turned into the opening where his figure dissipated amongst its shadows.
With the one person to whisk him away having gone, Camille was left to endure an exchanging of goodbyes. He hated moments like this—wait, he thought, I do? The thought only reiterated his sense of loss and a somber temperament stole over him. Sobered, he was ready to meet the awkward goodbye. Best to get it over with…I'm starving anyways.
Both boys started into motion simultaneously, each going to turn to the other.
As he turned and extended a hand, Draco began, "I—"
As he turned, Camille was tripped up by the uncrossing of his feet and would have fallen flat on his face, had not Draco been in his path. He fell into Draco, his head landing upon the boy's chest, and felt his savior's hands grapple him by the shoulders to catch him fully. The brunette mumbled an apology and thanks, mortified as Draco set him up straight.
The two eyed each other for long moments, both their cheeks sweltering shades of rouge.
"Er—I'll, uh, see you later then?" Camille asked timorously. He looked at the nearest window peripherally and considered whether or not to throw himself out of it.
Draco blinked a few times and the bottom of his mouth moved; he was chewing the inside of his bottom lip. "Uh… yeah, sure…That would be fine."
"Uh… okay. Bye, then."
Camille did not wait, but spun about and walked swiftly into the shielding dark of the passageway, happy to be invisible. Soon, he was drifting upward on an enchanted spiral staircase then passing a lavish threshold, complete with a golden eagle as its knocker.
The Headmaster's office was comely and beset with countless shelves and bookcases whose contents spilled over their containers, long tables whose surfaces were littered with gilt candelabras that held waxing burgundy candles and stacks of musty parchment and tethered pyramids of frayed scrolls and all things of antiquity, and stand-alone oddities squatted here and there and in every corner. The back wall of the room was covered, mural-like, by the animated portraits of all of the former Headmasters and Headmistresses of Hogwarts. There was an age-begotten scent, as there was with all old things and in old places, like the leaves of an ancient text, with a sprinkle of cinnamon and chicory that filled the room. Camille felt instantly at ease and soaked in the sensation. At his desk, near the center of the room, Dumbledore sat in an elaborate high-backed armchair and watched Camille enter. As the boy approached, he motioned at the lone sofa chair before his desk.