Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Heavy violence, gore, sex, angst, manipulation, discussion of suicide, arguably Dark versions of both characters. Ignores the epilogue.
Summary: Draco Malfoy, at thirty, is the youngest member of the Wizengamot. He thinks he has achieved the highest political power of which he's capable—until he learns the secret of Ragnarok, the elite corps of wizards who deal with "unsolvable" problems for the Wizengamot.
Author's Notes: This will be, I think, a fairly short story, somewhere between 12 and 15 chapters, and perhaps even shorter than that. It involves fairly cynical versions of the characters. The title is the name of the event that, in Norse mythology, was supposed to kill the gods.
"Kneel before me, Draco Malfoy, newest initiate into the Wizengamot."
Draco dropped to one knee, keeping his eyes down. It should technically have been both of his knees that touched the floor, but he wasn't about to make such a complete sign of submission if he could get away with a lesser one.
Either it was permissible, or none of the people surrounding him noticed. Knowing their subtlety and the way they had essentially seized political power in the wizarding world in the last ten years, Draco knew which one he was betting on.
He didn't look up, but he knew who had stepped in front of him from the snowy white color of his robes and his heavy boots, made to help him with several foot problems. Algernon Risidell, his sponsor into the Wizengamot, placed both hands on Draco's forehead and pressed down hard enough to make him grunt with discomfort. Draco gritted his teeth and ignored the temptation to fold under those hands and kneel further, or fall. Risidell had warned him that he would suffer tests like this. To show weakness might not deter the others from accepting him into the Wizengamot, but it would affect their opinion of him. Draco wasn't about to risk that.
"Draco Malfoy comes before us as a candidate for the Wizengamot," Risidell said, his words deep and echoing. Draco suspected that was a property of the iron chamber they had entered, rather than of Risidell's own voice, but he couldn't be sure. It was another thing he would have to learn.
He had trained his eyes and his nose and his ears to the highest level of acuity they were capable of, he sometimes thought, and then something like this happened. If he hadn't been able to sense acoustic enchantments on the chamber in the brief look he'd had at it before he kneeled, he would require more training.
"What are his qualities?" demanded a woman's voice from the side, soft and husky with age. Draco knew where she was standing—six paces to the right from him and one forwards—though he had never met her and so couldn't identify her.
"Courage, strength of will, political knowledge, and diplomacy," said Risidell. He hadn't told Draco if that was a ritual answer or one that each sponsor had to come up with on his own.
Draco mentally completed the list. Ruthlessness, a daring that lets him take risks, pride, a hunger for power. He smiled, and knew that no one would see it because of the way in which Risidell was forcing his head down. A knowledge of how to use that power once he has it. He thought that last quality rarer than all the rest.
The woman grunted, but another voice took up the chorus of questioning. "Why should we admit him to our sacred ranks? Can he truly govern the wizarding world? Can he move with us in the stately dance of politics? He is so young."
Draco didn't let them see him tense. After all, he had expected opposition based on his age. He was only thirty, and most of the Wizengamot members—although not all—far older. And most of the younger ones had got in on the basis of blood.
"He has danced well enough so far to permit us to take notice of him," said Risidell mildly. "He has offered private advice in several crises that has proven to be invaluable. He has showed that he is his father's son in the ways that matter, while not having his father's necessary but regrettable other qualities."
Draco still fought the temptation to flinch whenever he heard someone mention his father, but he knew that such a source of weakness would prove an irresistible target to the other members of the Wizengamot. He would have to learn how to shield it, and quickly.
Besides, he had done what no other Malfoy had done in generations and become one of the powers of the wizarding world himself, rather than the power behind the throne. Notes and autobiographies and memoirs from many of Draco's ancestors indicated that they had done that because they thought it safer.
Or because, thought Draco, who had learned to read between the lines, they were afraid of what they might find if they dug into their own souls, looking for the true ore.
"What brings you to support him?" demanded someone else, behind Draco and to the left, who sounded agitated enough that Draco immediately deduced this was not a ritual question. "His money? His looks? His friendliness to yourself?"
Risidell laughed heartily. "His ancestors and mine had spats centuries ago," he said. "It's hardly friendliness. And you know that his name is involved with mine, now that I've sponsored him for the Wizengamot. If he fails, I take a blow and lose some prestige. I would not sponsor anyone I thought could not stand the strain."
Draco took a slow, easy breath. Remember that, he told himself. Risidell wouldn't risk his own power simply to bring in someone he was infatuated by. Because you fear something like that happening does not mean it would.
"It could still be his money," said the same voice, gruff and low and with a snarl in the back of its tones that said its owner got upset fairly often. Draco mentally marked it off for remembrance at a later date. He didn't think the ceremony was supposed to function this way, but it was giving him a list of his enemies.
Of course, most initiates were probably presumed to be so overawed and cowered by the ritual that they couldn't think such things.
"He doesn't have enough left to tempt me after the reparations that the Ministry made his family pay," Risidell said, with what Draco thought was remarkable honesty until he reflected on the people present in the room. Risidell was speaking a warning to his colleagues and also to Draco, in case Draco thought to influence him with gifts or bribes. "He has recovered some of that fortune through his own ingenuity, but he is hardly the richest of us."
Draco smiled again. He could have been, but he had found better things to spend the money on than decorating the insides of his vaults. When he shifted, he could feel the thrum of those things through his muscles.
"I, for one, have no objections," said a woman's voice, so warm that Draco thought for one moment she must be a singer. But he knew of no singers currently on the Wizengamot. She might be related to one, though. "I hope that Mr. Malfoy feels welcome among us and will consider us his allies."
Draco would remember that voice, too, though he suspected the offer of alliance would be less sincere when he was standing before her.
"Of course you don't, Melisande," someone else said from the side, his voice small and weak and disgusted. The singing voice laughed at him, and from the silence that followed, Draco had no doubt who had won that encounter.
"Does anyone else have objections?" Risidell asked, with a gentle emphasis on the word "else." No one seemed to, or else they restricted it to mutters too quiet for even Draco's enhanced ears to hear. Risidell moved back from Draco, taking first one hand and then the other from his forehead. "Rise, Draco Malfoy, member of the Wizengamot."
As Draco stood, someone behind him moved forwards to drape the ceremonial white cloak with a blue lining around his shoulders. Draco turned his head, catching her in the act. She paused and smiled at him, and spoke in the singing voice. "Welcome, Mr. Malfoy. I do look forward to the offer of alliance."
Draco recognized her now, and felt stupid for not doing it simply from the voice. Melisande Gilfleur was the most publically famous member of the Wizengamot, a tall woman with long blonde hair, eyes of a stunning green, and the ability to make public speeches that caused the newspapers and the public both to fall prostrate in front of her. Draco had seen and heard her numerous times.
It's the iron chamber that caused the difference and made her unrecognizable, Draco told himself defensively, though he suspected not, and made a little bow to her. "Thank you, Madam Gilfleur, and thank you for defending me."
She smiled, murmured, "Who could not?" and then moved aside. Draco turned in a slow circle, the way Risidell had told him he should after he was confirmed, so that everyone could see him. It also gave him a chance to get a look at the Wizengamot, and identify the position of the voices who had opposed his initiation.
The husky witch's voice that had spoken first, he thought, belonged to an older woman, probably past her hundredth year, who stood with her hands folded into her sleeves and simply looked at him when Draco nodded. She had straggling iron-grey hair and a mouth that could sour sugar. Draco asked Gilfleur in an undertone for an introduction, and she glanced back and forth between him and the woman with a faint, knowing smile.
"She's Madam Henrietta Yvers, dear," Gilfleur murmured. "And she thinks anyone under fifty ought to be shut up in a cage to teach them discipline, with the prohibition extended to sixty in special cases. I wouldn't let her trouble you."
Draco didn't like the idea that Gilfleur could see he was troubled, so he turned back to the direction of the voice that had asked why Risidell was supporting him.
That didn't take a lot of searching, either. There was really only one man it could have been, and he was leaning back against the wall of the chamber near the entrance, his arms folded, not bothering to clap. His gaze was hostile enough to score lines into Draco's skin if eyes were weapons. Draco smiled at him, and he turned his head away, snorted, and spat on the floor.
"And that's Mr. Jasper Kellerston," said Gilfleur, with a sad shake of her head. "He still can't let the grudges from the war go."
"What grudge from the war is that?" Draco murmured. Risidell was waving him forwards, out of the chamber, to take advantage of the food and wine he had promised Draco would be waiting for him in another room. Draco studied Kellerston intently in the moment or so he had, memorizing his blue eyes and the hooked shape of his nose, which were the most distinctive things about him.
"He claims that your father was part of a group which attacked and destroyed his family, soon after You-Know-Who's second return." Gilfleur pressed heavily down on Draco's arm for a moment, though her hand was hidden by the folds of their sleeves, so that Draco didn't think anyone could see. Her voice didn't change tone or volume, but, joined by the pressure of her hand, Draco would have been a fool to mistake the warning in it. "He's been known to become a little…violent in demanding redress for that attack."
"Surely most of the Death Eaters must be in prison by now," Draco murmured. Or withdrawn so far into the past that they wouldn't know what the present was if it tried to introduce itself. That was what had happened to his father. He was still at home, because Draco considered he would get better care from the house-elves than if Draco sent him to an asylum of some sort, but there was no fearing—or hoping—that he would ever be a political force again. "Almost fifteen years after the attack?"
"Fourteen," Gilfleur said, with the absent smile of someone passing on ancient gossip. "The problem is that there's no evidence of who the Death Eaters were, you see; the only way to find out for certain would be questioning most of the suspects with Veritaserum. And only Kellerston is in favor of that."
Draco had time to nod and wonder why she was being so helpful—well, of course she wanted something, but he hadn't yet had time to figure out what—before Risidell swooped up to him and took his arm. "Come with me, dear Draco," he purred. "We have so much to show you."
Draco willingly followed him, with a nod of his head to Madam Gilfleur. He could feel his heartbeat making his throat thick, and he could have used something to drink or food in his stomach to settle himself. His head was spinning.
This was one of the reasons he had chosen to become part of the Wizengamot rather than running for Minister. The Minister had had little power in the past ten years, as the Wizengamot claimed most of his duties and responsibilities behind the scenes. Among those duties was the possession of secrets that most of the people outside the higher circles of power barely knew existed, or didn't know existed at all.
Draco was about to learn them, and other people would not know.
He took care to keep some distance between his body and Risidell's as they passed out of the iron chamber into the maze of corridors that occupied the ground floor of the Wizengamot's headquarters. He didn't think the older man would understand the source of his half-erection. No one who had never succumbed to the dizzying lure of power would.
"You understand our philosophy now," Risidell said, as he closed the door on the room full of files hinting at alliances with wizarding groups all over Europe. "The Ministry floundered after Scrimgeour died during the war because, at the time, it was believed that only one person should be in possession of all our government's secrets. But what happens when that one person is killed? Chaos." Risidell shook his head, with a grim expression that told Draco he sincerely thought chaos worse than any damage someone with the Wizengamot's secrets in his head might do. "This way, if one of us dies, there are still many others who know what needs to be done. And the same thing if one of us turns traitor."
Draco nodded. His spinning head had calmed, and he no longer felt the need of food; he was almost replete with all the secrets he had seen so far.
There was still one, though, that he had wished to know since he turned his attention to the Wizengamot a decade ago. He had first heard of their existence then, or rather heard whispers and rumors of their existence. Risidell hadn't shown it to him so far, and Draco had to wonder if this wasn't just a legend, like a few of the other secrets he had asked about and Risidell had explained were reflections of wizarding society's paranoia.
But he wouldn't know if he didn't ask.
"What about Ragnarok?" he asked, just as Risidell started to guide him down a wide corridor with white stones set into the walls in an apparently random pattern. It wouldn't be really random, Draco knew. Not in the Wizengamot.
Risidell actually missed a step, and then turned a speculative glance on him. Draco saw the gleam of his eye and knew Risidell would be a bad enemy if he had cause to make him so. Draco tried to look back with respect and calm acceptance at the same time. He would be a worse enemy, and he didn't mind Risidell knowing that.
"I'm impressed, Mr. Malfoy," Risidell said, and smiled a moment later. "Very few people hear about Ragnarok before they manage to become part of us."
Draco accepted the compliment with a smile and an inclination of his head, never taking his eyes from Risidell's face. He knew the man had sponsored him because Draco had convinced him he would be a good ally who'd vote as Risidell did on most matters. It was an alliance of mutual satisfaction so far. No reason for that to change, but it would, beneath the surface, if Risidell refused to tell him the truth about Ragnarok. Draco had a fascination with the secret he knew was almost childish.
"What you may have heard is quite true," Risidell said, and seemed to gather his courage around him. Draco deduced that he thought he had little to lose with telling the truth, since Draco already knew about Ragnarok's existence. "We call on Ragnarok when we need rising Dark Lords put down, or when we know that someone is guilty but we cannot deal with him by other means, or when a Dark artifact or spellbook is discovered that the Department of Mysteries cannot contain. The goal is annihilation, and to that end, the wizard who works as Ragnarok uses his magic to destroy, utterly, all trace of the danger. If it was a Dark Lord, for example, Ragnarok would eliminate the magical knowledge and the knowledge of his habits in the minds of his followers as well as the Dark Lord himself."
Draco had picked up on the central point in that speech, the only one—other than Ragnarok's specific duties—that he had not known already. "Wizard?" he asked quietly. "The rumors I heard said that Ragnarok was an elite group."
The smile Risidell gave him proved that admitting that was the right move. It let Risidell fell superior in the possession of one secret, and less threatened than he would have been if Draco had known everything already. Draco smiled back and concealed the interest that made his blood sting along his veins.
"It suits us to let our enemies imagine this is an elite group," Risidell admitted. "That way, they're more likely to look over their shoulders and assume that what hunts them—if they're the kind of criminal who would have heard of Ragnarok at all—is a group of well-trained wizards they'll need to watch out constantly for. They might be able to take down one, but not all of them. Instead, we have a single wizard so powerful that his magic eats up everything it touches."
Draco restrained a moan with difficulty. He was fully hard now, and was grateful that Risidell was walking a pace in front of him and unlikely to see or feel. His voice was breathy when he asked, "Who is it?" but that couldn't be helped.
Risidell paused and looked back at him. Then he murmured, "I hadn't intended to tell you this the first day. But why not?" He led Draco swiftly around a few more corners, until they fetched up before a wooden door bound in gold and lead. The tingle of the wards around it made Draco's hair start to rise three feet away.
"He has to have such protections because of his own magic," Risidell said. "It pours in a torrent through his body, and it would destroy this building every time he was angry or had a nightmare if not for the wards. We experimented with shields until we came up with ones he couldn't destroy."
Draco discreetly squeezed his cock when Risidell's back was turned. He watched closely as Risidell took down the wards, but he couldn't see how it was accomplished. Risidell made a single gesture, spoke a single incantation, and lowered them—and Draco had to admit that was more sensible than working through the hour or so it would take to dissipate all those immensely powerful spells one by one.
The magic burst from behind the door the minute it opened. Draco held his breath as it swirled around him, cold and uncaring as a river in full flood. Yes, he could see why Risidell had called it a torrent.
"What happened to make him this way?" he asked as he followed Risidell into the room beyond. It was dim, he could see at a glance, as if whoever lived here preferred the light of a single fireplace to anything more.
Risidell shrugged in a way that indicated he was either unconcerned about the answer or too used to it to bother worrying. "A ritual of some kind. He interrupted it while it was in progress. It was meant to grant power to some Dark wizard or another, but instead it raised his own magic."
Draco held his breath this time for a different reason. He had been through such rituals himself. He wondered if whoever lived here would be able to sense that.
"Come in and shut the door if you're coming."
Draco knew the voice. He couldn't place it, but he knew it. He was whirling to face the chair in front of the fire, the one that had its back to them, before the figure rose from it.
A tall, slender man in black clothes, shirt that stretched taut over his muscles and trousers that bulged as though he carried more than one wand in the pockets. A face that looked at them without welcome or caring, without an expression, in a way that Draco thought the more practiced Wizengamot members would have envied. Green eyes that looked as if they could watch the world burn and not care.
"Potter," Draco whispered, and his heartbeat and his hunger spiraled wildly through him.
Harry wasn't surprised to see that Malfoy wore a Wizengamot member's cloak. He had always thought that the little bastard would find his way into the circles of power. A surprise that it had happened so soon, perhaps, but since he didn't have much interest in anything beyond his approaching death, he couldn't care about that, either.
And then something came along that did interest him.
Risidell was speaking, giving Malfoy the speech that was meant to impress all the new members. Malfoy listened to it without taking his eyes from Harry. His nostrils flared and his shoulders quivered with his emotion, but Harry could look straight through his body and into what lay inside it.
Malfoy contained magic. It leaped and dodged and circled inside him, a wild, red-gold power constantly seeking a way out. But he had it contained, somehow, in stronger bonds than Harry had managed to ever contain his own magic in.
He had gone through rituals of the same kind that Harry had, but Harry had no doubt that it had been done willingly in his case, in quest of greater power.
Harry licked his lips. Malfoy's lips drew back in response. Harry had no idea what was in his own face, but a reaction of Malfoy's sort was what he was looking for.
He needed to get rid of his magic before it destroyed his body. He had researched until he wanted to die simply of exhaustion, but all the spells or rituals he could uncover needed two people to perform, the other near his own level of strength. He had never found anyone like that, and so it had seemed simpler to give up in despair.
But if Malfoy was like that…
Harry bowed when Risidell said they had to leave and took his seat before the fire again, already planning. It would be easy enough to contact Malfoy again. It seemed likely that he would be drawn back soon, attracted to Harry's magic. It took some people like that, and while Harry usually disdained them, he would use Malfoy as hard as he could.
Sitting there in silence, he could feel his magic eating away at his joints, at his organs, at his bones. The human body was never meant to be the conduit of forces so elemental, and he was dying from the inside out. That he had lasted ten years was more of a miracle than he'd had a right to expect.
Harry had taken a career as the Wizengamot's enforcer because it was the only career that would suit the endless destructiveness of his magic—well, the only one that would do that and potentially help the wizarding world at the same time. He'd lived in silence, under the lie that he had emigrated to Australia when he was twenty, sick of all the fame and in search of a better life. The Wizengamot had deflected the attention from him in the last decade, certainly.
But Harry would have given much to live with the fame instead of with the magic.
Now, it seemed he might have the chance.
And if it turned out to be a fool's delusion, well, he might find the courage to overcome hope and stubborn resistance together, go out into some deserted patch of country where his dying agonies wouldn't destroy everything, and kill himself at last.