LbN: Long wait = Long chapter! Sensitive material in this chapter, be warned.
Draco was as bad as his word.
It had taken three months of daily beatings for Abraxas to truly understand something—whatever he remembered from his past had to be suppressed. If there was a moment where he felt something was amiss, his feelings had to be kept hidden. If there was anything that he suddenly remembered, it went straight to the back of his mind. As long as he went through the motions of "proper behavior," even if he didn't understand them or agree with them, he could be reasonably sure that he wouldn't spend the next day sweltering in long sleeves that covered his bruises. Oddly enough, even though Draco openly hated him, he still seemed to like Abraxas best of the family. He'd been told, more than once, that his father wouldn't waste beatings on Scorpius, who couldn't handle them. And when he did behave properly, his rewards were generally richer than Scorpius's.
That was another odd thing. His relationship with his brother was better than anything thought possible. It even seemed to surprise them sometimes. Scorpius, though jealous that Abraxas was the favorite, protected his brother. Abraxas, though jealous that Scorpius didn't get beaten every day, tried to make Scorpius look good as much as possible. It wasn't an easy task. Scorpius was lazy, and a whiner, but he was what got Abraxas through some of the worst nights of his life.
Their ninth birthday was upon them sooner than either could have hoped. Since the age limit had been dropped for Hogwarts, they'd only have another year to wait. Their party was an elaborate affair—far too sophisticated for children, but then again, they were Malfoys. Abraxas had been perfect, as far as he knew. He'd made sure to be as pure-blooded as any of the adults in the room. Indeed, many had commented on how solemn and proper he seemed, much to Draco's pleasure. He'd even gone above and beyond the call of duty and engaged his crazy Aunt Bellatrix in a discussion about a family heirloom. It wasn't all that bad for once. If you tuned out the parts about "purity of blood" and "magical elite" then the history was pretty cool. His father had smiled approvingly, ran a hand through Abraxas's hair, and wandered away again to talk to Blaise.
As the night wound to a close, Draco beckoned to Abraxas. "Find your brother and go to my study. You may read, but touch nothing else."
"Yes, Father," Abraxas said with a nod. As he searched for Scorpius, he went over the night in his mind. Had he slipped up and done something wrong? Had he made a mistake somewhere? No, he thought, shaking his head. He'd been exceedingly careful, and Scorpius had helped him. Plus, even though his father could be very cruel, he hadn't taken to beating Abraxas in front of Scorpius. Not yet, anyway.
"I am impressed with the way you boys handled yourselves tonight," Draco said softly.
The house was quiet. Every tick of the clock was making Abraxas's hair stand on end. Still, part of the game was never showing fear until you knew that punishment was inevitable. So he sat up a little taller and waited for his adoptive father to say more.
"As you will be going to Hogwarts next year, your mother suggested to me that we might find it beneficial to hire a tutor for you. Not that we think you need the extra help, mind you. It's just so you'll have a bit of…extra comfort when heading out to Hogwarts. What say you?"
Abraxas ventured a smile, and when his father didn't glare at him, decided it was safe to answer. "I'd enjoy that, Father."
"Yes, me as well," Scorpius said. "Will we each have our own tutor, or the same?"
"Your own," Draco said. "However there may be days when you are together for your lessons."
"Yes Father," both boys said.
"Very well. You may go to bed now."
In the months that followed, both boys made progress under their tutors, but Abraxas worked the hardest and excelled. He had a young tutor, a witch named Persephone who was patient and funny and knew how to bring him out of his carefully made shell.
Scorpius, on the other hand, got stuck with a 75 year old wizard who thought hitting him with a ruler was good motivation.
Under the circumstances, it wasn't difficult to predict that Abraxas would do better. However, after a few months of tutoring, he began to be cautious about his marks. He did well enough to ensure that his father and mother would be pleased with him, but not enough to overshadow Scorpius. It was bad enough that the eldest Malfoy barely gave his first son the time of day, but he also took his resentment out on Abraxas.
"It's because you're his real son," Abraxas whispered one night. He was lying in the middle of the floor, too weak to get into bed after the beating he'd gotten.
Scorpius looked aghast. He hated when Abraxas referred to himself as "the bastard child" or insinuated that he wasn't truly a part of the family—even if it was true. "He's just in a bad mood."
"He wants you to do better than me."
"I'm trying to catch up," Scorpius said forlornly. He wrapped his brother's arm in a warm cloth. "It just doesn't come to me as well. Even when you have one of your headaches you can still do the work."
"Headaches" was the code term they'd come up with for the times when Abraxas's past memories became hard to ignore. He was having a lot of them these days.
"It's not your fault. I suppose I shouldn't show off so much."
Footsteps sounded in the hall, quickly coming toward Abraxas's room.
He let out a sob, knowing there wasn't anything he could possibly do to defend himself. Not that there ever was….
Scorpius took his hand and watched the door with the expression of a petulant lap-dog. It was unnecessary, however, because it was their mother who walked in.
"To bed Scorpius," she said softly. She pulled out her wand and levitated Abraxas into bed. "Now."
Scorpius nodded and complied.
Abraxas was in too much pain to do anything but lie there and weep. He did so as quietly as he could. How could he be sure his father wouldn't come back if he heard him?
"Calm down, son," his mother said. "You'll be fine. I think he may have cracked a few ribs tonight, so crying is just going to make it worse. Try taking a couple of breaths."
Abraxas did so, noting that it was probably more panic than pain at this point. He drank the potion offered to him without protest and allowed his mother to give him a kiss on the forehead before he closed his eyes to sleep.
"I think that'll be all for today, Abraxas," Persephone said with a smile.
"Yes, Persephone," Abraxas said. He was having one of his headaches again. They were always a lot stronger right after a lesson. The feeling of déjà vu was hard to ignore. He pushed it to the back of his mind as his dad walked into the study. "Hello, Father," he said brightly, hoping to cover anything amiss in his expression.
"Afternoon," Draco said, smiling at Persephone. "How are his marks?"
"Very good! He's a bright boy."
"What am I going to do without you when I go to Hogwarts?" Abraxas joked.
"Hopefully, by then, I'll be joining you. As a real professor."
"I'm sure the students would benefit from your enthusiastic style of teaching," Draco said with a smirk. "Abraxas has. Abraxas, would you excuse us?"
"Yes, Father," he said, piling his books on his desk. He left, but stood outside the door as they talked.
"Tell me truthfully," he heard his father say. "You and Phinnaes are in contact frequently about the boys, and you've had ample time to teach and observe both of them. I'd like to think that I can send both of them to Hogwarts, but if Scorpius is more suited for Durmstrang…." He said this last word with contempt, as if any child who went there didn't deserve to carry a wand.
Abraxas barely held back a gasp. Not only was Durmstrang far away from Hogwarts, it wasn't nearly as good of a school. It had a reputation for breeding thugs—low ranking Death Eaters that carried out the grunt work—while Hogwarts produced people like Draco. Smart, elegant, diplomatic…the people Voldemort needed to run the regime, in other words.
"Speaking frankly, I think both boys would do well at Hogwarts. No, I'm not sugar coating," she added with a laugh. Obviously Draco had given her a skeptical look. "Scorpius's talents lie in practical things. He excels when he is given the chance to do the magic. Abraxas does well by learning the theories behind the magic. No, I think they are both better off at Hogwarts. Especially since they'll be able to push each other."
Abraxas chanced a peek through the office door. His father had his back to him, and was nodding. That was a relief.
"Thank you, Persephone," he said. "I'll see you tomorrow."
As quietly as possible, Abraxas slipped into the guest room where he wouldn't be seen. Opening a small door underneath the window, he took the servants' stairs down to the lower floor to find Scorpius.
The man paced his study. It had been a whole week since the last report. He was getting ready to do something drastic, when there was a soft tapping noise at his window. "Ahab!" he yelped, running to let the owl in. If they were corresponding by owl, it meant things were either really good, or really bad. All the letter said was:
James is safe. Do nothing yet.
Unsatisfied, but unwilling to risk James's safety, the wizard took a few calming breaths and put the scroll in his pocket. "Come on in, Ahab. I think I can scrounge up some food for you." He managed a smile as the bird flew in. The message wasn't enough, but for the moment, it gave him hope.
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