Fenrir didn't come back after the full moon. Two days ago Lucius would not have been surprised at that turn of events but now he was surprised. And faintly worried as well. The full moons were getting harder and harder on Fenrir and there was a very good chance that the werewolf was laying in the dirt somewhere with broken bones and no way to reach help. That was the danger of an older wolf running without a pack.
Lucius waited until lunch for Fenrir to come back under his own power before he brought the subject up with Severus. The Potions Master had listened quietly before he'd gone to his bedroom and came back in battle leathers and carrying a cross bow. Lucius had been thoroughly surprised and more than a little confused.
"I have a feeling I know where he is," Severus said. "If I'm right we'll have to go deep into the woods."
Lucius nodded and wondered if Severus had any extra armor or maybe an extra wand in case his own failed him. Unfortunately, Severus was out of the door too quickly for him to voice this without sounding scared.
The forest was as dim as it always was and there was some fog that wasn't coming from an any natural source. This worried Lucius because the forest rarely did something like this and nobody knew why or where it was coming from. It had been the subject of many Magical studies but the general consensus was, "It's magic."
"Where do you think he is?"
"At the First Tree," Severus replied.
"The First Tree," Severus repeated. "A couple thousand years ago there was no forest here. About 500 years before Rowena Ravenclaw chose this spot for Hogwarts, there was a terrible battle about where the Tree's standing. Magical blood seeped into the ground and the Earth spirits grew this giant oak tree in a matter of days.
"Soon after that, Odie came here."
"Hmph," Lucius said, not surprised by Odie being in yet another story.
"Yes," Severus replied, amused. "Odie and his people took refuge under the tree from their detractors. The magic they performed there caused the forest to grow incredibly rapidly. The First Tree stands as a Magical beacon. That's why all these Magical creatures chose here to live. The First Tree was what drew Ravenclaw to have Hogwarts built here."
"You think Fenrir was drawn to the First Tree?"
"But why now? Fenrir has been in this forest dozens of times before. Why would the Tree suddenly be distracting him?"
"Probably because Odie is there. Normally the Tree's power is muted. It's being drawn to Hogwarts' wards but if Papa Odie is there the Tree will respond to him, making the beacon stronger. Odie hasn't been to this forest for nearly two hundred years."
"What made you think of this in the first place?" Lucius asked. Even if he had known this story this morning, Lucius still would have jumped to Fenrir broke his leg and can't move, not Fenrir has been seduced by a magic tree.
"Just something Papa Odie said a while ago."
"What did he say?" Lucius pressed.
"Just that he missed the Tree or something," Severus replied offhandedly. "Whether he's there or not, I want to see."
The forest was so dim and quiet that it was giving Lucius a severe case of nerves. He felt as if he was being watched and followed and studied. There were so many things in this forest that there was no telling if the thing that was watching him was actually something that he could handle. They must have walked for at least an hour before Lucius got the idea that he should ask about where the First Tree was.
"It's a couple hours into the trees," Severus replied.
"It isn't in the middle of the forest?" Lucius asked. Most important things were in the middle.
"The Forbidden Forest isn't a circle Lucius. There is no middle."
He ignored the implication of stupidity that Severus' tone implied.
So they walked more and Lucius continued to feel more and more paranoid. He was just starting to think that he would be in a fight at any moment when they came to a clearing. He had never seen a clearing like this one. A giant oak tree was the in the very center of the clearing which was perfectly round. A thin mist surrounded the clearing as if it was a fence. There were no sounds of bugs or other wildlife. Familiar river rocks circled the base of the tree, each arranged into a symbol, each symbol humming with magic. There was a heavy feel to the clearing as if it was speaking in a voice Lucius couldn't hear.
And there, beneath one of the low-lying branches was Fenrir, still fully transformed, his head on his paws, and looking quite miserable.
"Fenrir?" Lucius questioned before he could filter himself and not call the attention of the full grown werewolf. But instead of charging for the kill, Fenrir grunted.
"I think he's lucid," Severus muttered and even from this distance Lucius could see Fenrir roll his eyes. Yes, the wolf was lucid.
Lucius stepped out from the trees and entered the clearing. The change was immediate. He felt light and giddy as magic buffeted him from the ground and the First Tree. Magic was coming off the tree in thick waves. It was very little wonder that Fenrir was still transformed. The wolf part of Fenrir was far more Magical than his human part even though his human part was a wizard. The tree was forcing the more magical part of Fenrir to the forefront.
When he reached the Tree, Lucius knelt by the werewolf and placed a hand on his head. The fur was thick and wiry and unlike any fur Lucius had ever felt. Not because it was so unique but because it was werewolf fur and no one touched werewolf fur. The undercoat of Fenrir's neck was soft and thick.
"Are you alright?" Lucius asked calmly. He didn't think it was possible to be scared under this Tree. Not with the magic coming off it. He didn't feel powerful here but he didn't feel weak either.
Fenrir licked his palm and he took a moment to register that he was probably the first Pureblood to get a werewolf kiss and he was definitely the first Malfoy.
Severus came up behind him-sans crossbow-and looked up into the branches.
"I've never felt it this active," he said, sounding awed. "All this Magic, it's going straight to Hogwarts."
"To strengthen the wards?" Lucius asked.
"I think so," he replied. "Dumbledore said they would need to be strengthened before the Dark Lord moved into the open. I didn't think he meant this much."
"You said the First Tree reacts to Odie," Lucius reminded him. "Is he here?"
Lucius turned and saw Odie behind him. He was as scruffy looking as ever but he was smiling and the lines on his face had softened.
"How long have you been here?" Severus asked.
"A while," Odie told him and Lucius wondered if Odie had ever spent any time in jail for his motorway stunt. He didn't think so. "I was wondering when you would come for the werewolf."
"I wanted to make sure he wasn't dead," Lucius said. Fenrir nudged his face with a very cold nose. He wondered if that was a normal temperature or not. He put a hand on the snout and moved it away but Fenrir fought him the entire way and instead licked his hand again. This timid behaviour from the alpha made him think that the Tree had just as a profound effect on Fenrir as it had on everyone else.
Lucius was going to mention it when a movement caught his eye and he stood to try to discern what it was through the mist ringing the clearing. It was a person. A person Lucius recognized. Inspector Reyna. He looked vastly different than the last time Lucius had seen him. Clad in leather pants, without shirt or shoes, beads in his hair, and blue markings painted on his bare skin, Inspector Reyna looked like a wild man.
Others were coming behind him, some Lucius recognized, some he did not. Marty was there as was the elderly Maddie from Willow Point. Many of the Sleepers from the motel were there. Dozens of people were filtering in from the mist all as wild looking as Reyna. Lucius looked back to Odie. Peeking beneath his shirt were the blue markings and he also had no shoes.
"Did we interrupt something?" Lucius asked, feeling a small amount of discomfort. Odie laughed.
"No," he said simply.
"You're just on time," Marty said as she drew up close.
"What?" Lucius began but he was never able to finish a full enquiry. Severus's elbow had already connected with his temple and knocked him out cold.
When he came to, he was curious as to why he was in a hammock. His head ached something horrible and his left arm also hurt. He looked down and saw that someone had wrapped it. Blood had oozed through the gauze. There was a small exhale of breath to his right and Lucius turned to see Fenrir, now fully human, in a hammock next to him. Severus was in a chair near Fenrir's feet, arms crossed, and looking far too pleased with himself.
"What did you do to me?" he asked. His mouth was too dry for that to come out with any sort of authoritative tone.
"Papa Odie needed you for a spell."
"Could've asked," Lucius mumbled.
"No," Severus told him harshly and Lucius made a legitimate effort to open his eyes far enough to make eye contact. "What happened to you was very painful. We didn't think you would agree to it and Papa Odie didn't want to take any chances. Apparently, no one trusts you enough to actually give you the choice."
"What did he do to me?" he gasped, floods of pain coming to him now that he was more or less conscious.
"Odie gathered all of his Sleepers weeks ago," Severus began, "to perform a spell here at the First Tree. It was my job to bring you to Hogwarts."
Lucius recalled that Severus had been the one to extract him from the Muggle hospital and he had taken both him and Fenrir to Hogwarts. They had left Odie on the motorway with Inspector Reyna, the very same Sleeper who was well connected through his work. Lucius had heard enough about him to know that. It was no coincidence that Reyna was here now. Lucius had been set up from the very beginning.
"What spell?" he mumbled. Someone must have given him pain medication at some point because, even though his arm still throbbed with pain, he was drowsy and just a little too calm. They were in some sort of hut so he wasn't sure if they were still near the Tree or not, which could also explain his calmness.
"Well, first they had to wait until the Tree reacted to Odie's presence," Severus said and then nodded at Fenrir. "I knew you would follow Fenrir into the forest if he never came out after a full moon." Which explained why Severus had jumped immediately to the First Tree. "Really Lucius that was far too easy a trap to spring on you."
"I didn't think I was going to be attacked. Not by you." Severus smirked. "What spell?"
"They are strengthening the wards of Hogwarts."
"I had figured that out for myself," he snapped. "What did they need me for?"
"They wanted your Dark Mark," Severus told him. "Not only is it the Dark Lord's symbol but your Dark Mark was given by the Dark Lord himself. That makes it a very powerful catalyst." His arm hurt so bad that he had a vague idea where this was going.
"I don't have a Dark Mark anymore do I?" he asked.
"No," Severus said quietly, as if he didn't want to tell him this part. "They took it."
There was only one way to remove a Dark Mark that was to remove the very skin that it was on. Even then you couldn't just take an ordinary kitchen knife to it; you needed a magical blade. It would have hurt; it still hurt; he was absurdly grateful they had left him unconscious.
"It's going to be buried beneath the tree."
"I want to see them do it," Lucius said and both Severus and Fenrir looked at him in surprise.
"Are you sure Lucius?" Fenrir asked, his voice gravelly. His body would need another few hours to remember how to handle human vocal chords again. Lucius nodded.
"Yes, I want to see."
They had already finished burying the Dark Mark when Severus had led him from the hut, down a path, and back to the clearing. Odie had all but skipped up to him when he spotted the pair. Fenrir was still in his hammock sleeping both interested in what happened to Lucius's lost mark and too exhausted to at least pretend to care.
"Lucius," Odie cooed. "Our brand new ex-Death Eater! How do you feel?"
"Like I've been skinned," he snapped but Odie just looked satisfied.
"I would've taken Severus's," Odie admitted and Lucius looked at his friend in alarm. "I've been dying to scrap it off him for years but apparently he's too useful of a spy. Besides his isn't as powerful."
"Mine was cast be another Death Eater while yours is from the Dark Lord himself," Severus said, reminding Lucius that he gotten his position in the Death Eaters primarily on his family name while Severus had received his position by proving himself in battle.
"Come," Odie said grabbing Lucius's right elbow and leading him over to the Tree where there was a small patch of ground that was clearly freshly dug and recovered. The grass had been ripped away and the dirt was still very loose. Odie forced him to sit in front of it and then knelt beside him, throwing an arm around Lucius's shoulders. He could feel the Sleepers pressing in around him. Watching. Studying. Waiting.
Odie handed him a river rock just like those that were already arranged beneath the branches.
"We couldn't find it in our hearts to give you the choice of removing your Dark Mark," Odie said. "There is too much at risk and I cannot gamble with my people's future. Hogwarts must stand at all costs.
"However, I want to give you the opportunity to prove that you weren't a victim to this spell and that you truly have left Voldemort and his ways behind you. You have a choice Lucius. You can either step away from your past or you can continue to let it dog your every step. I cannot say that you will ever be completely forgiven by many of the people who have cause to hate you but I am giving you a chance to at least ask for some of that forgiveness.
"I want you to help us close Hogwarts to Voldemort forever."
"How?" he asked.
"I can show you," Odie replied. "If you'll agree."
Odie reached around Lucius so that he could cradle each of Lucius's hands in one of his own, guiding them in their movements. He guided him to place the rock on the ground over the loose dirt. Marty stepped up to place another rock in his hand and with Odie's help he placed down rock after rock until they formed a symbol.
He did not know what the symbol meant but the second he placed down the final rock there was a huge wave of magic that buffeted his body as it spilled out from the First Tree. It was like a powerful wind and it would have knocked him over if Papa Odie had not been behind him.
The other man was no longer wearing his shirt and when Lucius's shoulder connected with his chest he could feel something he hadn't felt before. Papa Odie suddenly had an extremely faint heart beat. It wasn't beating fast but it was there. Lucius was sure of it even though it should have been impossible for him to feel.
Lucius was so confused and so tired from his day that he simply sat in the grass under the Tree while the Sleepers began to disappear in the woods some by themselves, some in pairs, and a few others in small talkative groups. Hardly anyone was going in the same direction and it was clear that they were all leaving to return to their lives.
Reyna nodded to him once and Lucius returned the nod. Severus left towards the path that would take him back to the hut, crossbow in one hand, and a half-eaten apple in the other. Odie flopped down beside him and they sat in silence until they were alone.
"What's under all the other symbols?" Lucius finally asked.
"Just different things that make this place what it is," Odie said. Lucius rolled his eyes at the mystery of it.
"Such as?" he pressed.
"Well that one," Odie pointed to the symbol to his immediate left, "contains three bones from a thestral. It eliminates the ability to hide your identity within the clearing. Not even the most powerful invisibility cloaks would work here. That one," he pointed to another symbol further on, "contains a lock of hair from each of the one thousand people who built Hogwarts. They stacked the stones one on top of another, putting in a piece of their magic along the way. That symbol is the base for the wards at the school.
"But it's what's beneath the tree that makes this place so great."
"Severus said the blood of wizards and witches made the ground magical."
"That was part of it. A long time ago I led a small army here in pursuit of hundreds of witches and wizards. We slaughtered them all. On this very spot. There was no forest back then, just a meadow. In the middle of the battle, a child had a very powerful bout of accidental magic. She was so scared that she kicked up a storm without meaning to. The wind was so fierce that knocked the whole lot of us through a loop but we managed to get through it and kill them all anyway.
"It changed me. That battle. My men left me there to grieve about what I had done. I buried her there." Odie nodded to the Tree and Lucius stared at it. It wasn't just a magical tree unlike anything he'd ever seen; it was a gravestone. "This giant oak popped out of the ground a little while later. I forget how long. The forest itself was pretty much as you see it today by the time Lady Ravenclaw found this land."
"Why did you want to kill all those people?" he asked though Lucius had a fair idea. He recalled the night Potter and Granger had led them from Willow Point toward the motel. They had discussed Papa Odie then. Potter had said he'd been born a Muggle.
"I thought I was right," Odie said sounding bitter about his past. "I should have known better."
"I should have too."
Odie smiled and clasped a hand on Lucius's shoulder.
"We're both trying to make up for our sins, Lucius. Hopefully it won't take you a thousand years to even start getting it right."
"I've always worked well under a deadline."
Odie snorted with laughter and they both fell silent again.
There wasn't any breeze in the clearing but Lucius could have sworn he'd heard the faint rustling of leaves and a child's small, hushed laugh.