Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius—Arthur Conan Doyle (The Valley of Fear)
LAST Rewrite chapter in the can. SO. From now on, the chapters will be brand new content, so brace yourselves. Also, for those who have NOT been keeping track, Chs 1 through 7 have gone through some massive rewrites...I strongly recommend you take the time to go through the chapters and reread them.
If you don't want to reread them all, then I recommend you at least scan this portion of the chapters to see just how much you are missing. As for this chapter, I recommend you read it all, of course, though the ending bit is MOST crucial.
The street seemed somehow busier than usual, crowds of locals and tourists alike pushing their way through the crowds, hustling to get to the bus stops, tube stations, and so on. Despite the crush of the midday crowd, Sherry only had eyes for Tristan, chattering happily as he carried him, the two thoroughly enjoying their leisurely jaunt from their home in Belgravia to Hamstead Heath. He noticed, absently, a few of the less rushed city goers stopping to glance fondly at the brightly smiling child as he babbled, and pointed, and crowed as he took in the sights.
The dappled sunlight glowed green amongst the tidy, gated trees, bouncing merrily off Tristy's dark curls as the child twisted in his arms. Sherry tugged playfully on a wild curl, his nose wrinkling in amusement as Tristy squawked at him indignantly.
"Papa, no. Mumma said pullin' hair s'not nice."
He laughed, petting at the offended curl softly in apology. Still as downy soft as when he was a baby, his little boy's hair was getting so long, but he was loath to trim a single treasured curl. Though Lily had accused him of dramatics for saying as much, Sherry knew she agreed, as she had not made any effort to trim Tristy's hair, even though it would take but a second with magic.
Sherry jostled the distracted boy playfully, making him shriek in laughter and feigned dismay. "Oh, my, was that me? I'm sorry...it seems as if a Silly Monster has taken over my arms, I can't help myself."
He held back a chuckle at the little boy's aggrieved huff, jostling him again, poking softly at his tender ribs til giggles burst forth from Tristy's mouth. Ah, there is was. Dimples and laughter. As maudlin as it seemed, there was nothing quite as beautiful, or as magical. Sherry knew, without a doubt, that no feat of power by any wizard in all the world would match up to seeing his children happy.
He cocked his head to the side at his son's abrupt silence, but kept walking, his fingers still dancing along the boy's side, eliciting even more ticklish giggles from the surprisingly quiet child.
"Papa, look! That gentl'man's wearin' a dress."
Sherry's gaze followed his son's across the crowded parkway, landing on the conspicuous figure, tall and fair haired, standing utterly still, a solid rock amongst the flowing of crowds. The man, who indeed appeared to be wearing a gaudy dress of peacock blue and silver, was glaring at the both of them. The man was fingering a dark, wooden stick intently, slowly lifting it to point in his direction.
Sherry blanched, clutching his son to him tightly enough that the boy squawked in surprise, squirming in his hold, trying to get loose. Pressing his lips together in a thin, pale line, he turned on his heel and hurried off back home as quickly as he could with his little squirming boy in his arms.
"Where're we goin', papa? You said we were goin' to the Heath."
"Hush now, son." Sherry's words were sharper than he intended, but he trusted that Tristy was smart enough to realize he was upset about the 'man in the dress,' if he was speaking so sharply to him.
Blood pounded in his ears as he picked up his pace from a brisk walk to a jog. He didn't have an oyster card, nor money for a cab, so he needed to be as quick as he could before that man...Malfoy, he thought it was...could force his way through the crowds and catch up.
He heard a rough shout from across the way, and Tristy jerked in his arms, letting loose a wail of distress. Sherry felt the warm, thick blood on his cheek before he saw the wound that man's spell had left behind. The spell had cut straight through his little boy's right eye and down his cheek, catching the corner of his little mouth. Sherry choked on a sob and cradled his son close, fighting back the urge to be sick, or turn around and chase down the son of a bitch for hurting his baby. Tristy...Tristy's hurt. Get him taken care of, first...
Sherry, not giving a damn about the people he pushed past, even as he sent more than one elderly couple toppling to the side, ran as fast as he could down the street, searching frantically for a cab or even a friendly stranger he could catch a ride to the hospital with. One part of Sherry was thankful for the nosy crowds on the streets, as it seemed to be the only thing staying Malfoy's hand from taking another shot at them. The bastard was probably too cowardly to move against so many at once out in the open, after failing to kill them with that first shot. He clenched his jaw, swallowing harshly. That bastard had tried to kill his son, his little Tristy.
Tristy gasped and keened, clutching at him in terror and in pain. Blood smeared his little cheeks, too much blood, and he felt panic well up in him at the thought of his child bleeding out in his arms before he could get him help. Sherry let the tears spill unchecked down his haggard face. He nearly snarled as one of the passers-by caught his elbow, spinning him around.
"Sir, let me help! I can drive you and the boy to the hospital, get him help, yeah?"
Sherry took a deep gasping breath, his body shuddering at Tristy's garbled wails of "papa, papa..." in his blood-slicked ear. He hugged his boy closer to his chest as he followed the round-faced stranger towards his dusty car and slid into the front seat, holding Tristy firmly on his lap as he strapped himself in.
"Please...I can pay you once I get a hold of my wife..."
"No need, sir. I have a boy his age. I'd hope someone would do the same for me." The rest of the ride was tense and silent, save Tristy's sounds of distress. The kindly stranger's forehead was furrowed in worry as he weaved through traffic as quickly as he could towards St. Anthony's. Sherry slumped in the uncomfortable seat, letting the panic and anger course through him. Malfoy...when I find you, you're a fucking dead man.
Remus held himself rigidly, shoulders hunched and arms tightly crossed. His jaw ached from clenching his teeth, but he didn't dare relax. He kept the snarl of fury building in him trapped behind the barrier of his clenched teeth; he knew any outburst from him would distract the doctors trying to help Tristy, so ignored his aching jaw and kept his mouth clamped shut.
It was very fortunate for all that it wasn't closer to the full moon, because he was barely holding back as it was. Had the wolf been any closer to the surface, he was sure that he would have discovered for himself just how easily Fenrir Greyback managed to be as feral and lupine as he was, full moon or no.
Severus loomed like a vengeful wraith just behind the pale, slumped forms of Lily and Sherry, glaring blackly at the young doctor as he thoughtlessly rambled on about "trauma" and "permanent loss of vision." It wasn't much of a distraction, but the bloodthirsty part of Remus that wanted to tear out Malfoy's throat was appeased by the doctor's squirming.
A rustle of clothing drew his glance towards the two young boys slumped in their seats against the wall. Mycroft had been frowning darkly at his lap, trying to hide angry, helpless tears since he'd arrived, and young Sherlock just...stared. He stared at the doctor, as if staring alone could force a cure out of him. He stared at the pitiful picture Tristan made, unconscious in a large hospital bed, covered in bandages and wired to bleeping machines and dripping I.V.s. Unlike Mycroft, he didn't cry, but his expression promised many unpleasant things for everyone if somebody didn't find a way to make it all better for his precious little Tristy.
Well, whether the doctor could be of much help, there was one thing that would help immensely, even if it didn't fix anything. Malfoy was going to pay for what he'd done...he, and Severus, and Sherry, and most of all, Lily were going to make damn sure of that. They were going to take every drop of blood, every tear out of the man's flesh. It was only a matter of making sure Tristan was taken care of, first.
Remus watched as the doctor hurried from the room, eager to get away from Severus' glowering. His attention was caught by the low, hissed argument the Holmeses were having in the corner. Lily's eyes were bright, wild, and she was gesturing to the unconscious Tristan even as Sherry set his jaw stubbornly and stared down his wife.
"...he will KILL YOU, Sherry. Don't you get that?! He is going to be armed to the teeth, and not with any weapon you can counteract. Stay here, with Tristan, and keep an eye on him!"
"He could have a fucking magical nuke at his disposal, Lily, but that's not going to stop me from putting a bullet in him. I'm going."
The boys looked between their father and their beloved "mummy," brows furrowed in worry that was very, very justified. Though Remus knew that the situation was putting them all on edge, the elder Holmeses looked moments away from tearing into each other. Before a full-scale war could break out, Remus pushed his way between the two.
"I believe I have a solution?"
Two annoyed grunts answered him, and, surprisingly, Severus was the only one to give him his full attention. "Mme. Longbottom seems fond of the boy, and is no slouch in terms of magic. I'm sure she'd be willing to keep an eye on Tristan and the boys, so that we could go and...attend to matters...with Malfoy."
A tense moment of silence, and Remus held his breath. Finally, Lily gave a tight nod and dropped down onto the mattress next to the tiny form of her youngest. Though the tension didn't leave completely, it was lessened enough that Mycroft and Sherlock relaxed back into their seats.
The thing to remember about wards, especially old wards, based on blood and sacrifice, is that they are tricky—not quite sentient, but alive in a way that charms are not. Though it was true that the simpler category of wards were a lot like charms in their straight forward nature, the more difficult the wards, the more lively the wards were. There was no question that the wards around Malfoy Manor were very difficult, and very much alive...well, as alive as magic could be, in any case.
Had Lily or that idiot Lupin been the ones to try and circumvent them, the wards would have alerted the entire household immediately, spelled as they were to detect "undesirable elements," like muggleborns, half-bloods, or those of "creature" blood. Sherry made a move to help, but he waved the man back impatiently. Sherry, being a muggle, would be killed on the spot, like vermin, if he so much as set a foot inside the property line before the wards were dismantled, and he told him as much. He wasn't surprised when the man took several steps back, still obviously impatient, but unwilling to risk evisceration.
Severus, while not pure-blood, was at least an associate, thus keyed to have access to the property. Though he'd mourned his inability to beg off dull afternoons of tea and bigotry many times before, now he was pleased to have such ready access. So, smirk of satisfaction on his face, it was a work of seconds for him to coax the wards open, with the household none the wiser.
He was thankful, at least, that the man had drawn the line at a self-illuminating path, or it would have been much harder to mask their presence as they made their way through the hedgerows and towards the Manor. Severus glanced at Lily, smirking at her sneer of distaste as she took in the ethereal birds wandering the property.
The sheer pretentiousness of having pet albino peacocks, of all things, wandering the labyrinthine hedgerows of his Wiltshire estate, stunned even him, sometimes, and he'd had years to grow accustomed to them. Severus could only imagine what practical Lily thought of them.
The birds watched from their perch, silenced for the evening by the gardener, leaving the Malfoy head short yet another warning of approaching hostiles. Good. Even with their larger number, they could use every advantage they could in this instance. No matter what advantages they had in their favor, this was Lucius home, so there was bound to be at least one unpleasant thing in store for them, were they to alert him to their unwelcome presence.
Lily and Lupin, if they were lucky, would be killed quickly. Sherry, for the sin of being a muggle who dared intrude upon a pure-blood's home, would not be so lucky. Severus would venture to guess that the man would probably have it even worse than him, even counting the fact that Lucius would be very...displeased...with him.
The entire group was silent, less out of a lack of things to say, and more out of paranoia. The slightest noise could alert the household and spell disaster, and none of them desired conversation enough to risk it. Severus liked to think his lecture beforehand, underlining the possibility of death and dismemberment—in that order, if they were lucky—had made an impression. If he had bothered to ask Lily, he would have discovered he was absolutely correct on this point.
It was slow going with only moonlight to guide them. Severus slowed his steps with great effort, fighting the instinctual need to get in and out as quickly as possible, knowing it would be worse if they were separated. As it was, his dark robes made him nearly invisible, so even a step too far ahead, and he'd utterly vanish.
As he approached the front garden, he grit his teeth and slowed further, just enough so the others could follow his exact steps. He quickly weaved around the patch of dry grass, avoiding every stray twig, knowing even the slightest noise could be the one that woke the gardener House Elves sleeping in the shed. Severus held his breath, bracing himself in case he needed to take out a group of panicked House Elves quickly. Luckily, nobody slipped up, seeming to get that silence was imperative, even more than it had been in the hedgerows.
Though the Malfoy Estate looked eerie in the night, the doors did not let out cliché creaks as they were swung open. None of the family residing inside would have stood for such a thing, and for that Severus was glad. It made everything from this point on so much simpler. Muffling charms on the tile and thick carpeting further hid the quartets approach from the Master of the house.
Severus picked up speed once he hit the master stairwell, knowing that every elf, on order of Lucius, was to be confined to the kitchens at this hour. One right, two lefts, and another right down a carpeted stretch of hall, and the doors to the Master suit loomed before them.
Once again, Severus thanked Lucius' insistence on his company, as well as the man's feelings of invulnerability as he disabled the wards on the Master suite. Had he not suffered through many an hour of tea, and brandy, and scheming, this last bit would have been impossible.
After a moment, the wards dropped, and Severus stepped aside for Lily and Sherry, the two glowing like pale, vengeful gods in the moonlight. Lily's wand was clenching in a white-knuckled fist, and Sherry's gun was cocked and ready to fire.
As the doors of the Master suite closed behind them, Severus made sure to silence the room from anyone who might wander by in the night. It would not do to be interrupted...
Though he would never speak about what happened in that room, even with Lily, Severus never forgot. He never forgot the unholy glee that lit the poisonous green eyes of his best friend as she took her wand to Lucius' eye, slicing through, and down his cheek, catching a corner of his mouth. He never forgot Lupin beating at the man with bare fists til Lucius' skin split, his teeth cracked. He never forgot Sherry, usually so warm and genial, looking the most menacing of all, coldly shattering Lucius' kneecaps with bullets, before burying two more in the man's stomach, assuring a slow, painful death via blood-loss. He never forgot staring down at his once-comrade, calmly cleaning away any traces of their involvement with a flick of Lucius' stolen wand.
Narcissa, safely behind a sealed door of her own, slept through the chaos, saved by her husband's disinterest. She never heard Lucius's tortured screams or snarls of impotent rage as he was taken down by "the upstart mudblood bitch and her pet muggle." She never heard the four intruders leave, bypassing her door with barely a comment.
It was only while she was taking tea with her son in the solarium that next morning that she realized her husband was dead. Lucius Elf raised the alarm, his cry echoing through the Manor, scattering the other House Elves in its panic. Narcissa, unaccustomed to such a racket in the morning, was in no mood for dramatics, taking the nearest elf by the ear and dragging it to the study.
The creature shook and stammered, fitfully describing the scene to her. Shaking, the little Elf handed Narcissa the note left behind, addressed to her in Severus' cramped scrawl: "Have a care, Narcissa."
It wasn't an admission of guilt, but she was a Slytherin through and through. She understood the message perfectly. She would not be making the same mistake her husband had in interfering with Severus' affairs. In fact, her husband's death could be to her benefit. Draco would inherit from his father, of course, and after a period of appropriate mourning, they could leave the manor, leave England, behind.
Narcissa had always wanted to visit her maman's chateau in Bordeaux.
[End C 6]