In Bad Faith – Chapter 1 Rewrite
A Harry Potter Self-Insert
Summary: Rewrite of In Bad Faith. Waking up is something I did every day. Waking up in the world of Harry Potter as Draco Malfoy's little sister? Not so much...
Chapter 1 – Ill-Starred
...It's hard to hate someone once you understand them.
Once upon a time, there was a prince and princess...
The prince was beloved by his peers, the princess a fair and beautiful woman. They lived in a magical island kingdom where noble birth and cultured upbringing held sway throughout the land. Theirs was a proud lot in life; they were to be the scions of their respective fortunes and unite two powerful houses in wealth, standing, and lineage. Even if the two did not hold great passion for each other, they certainly cared for their soon-to-be spouse.
After they were wed, the princess gave birth to a son, then a daughter.
The prince was proud to have a young heir and glad at heart to see his wife so smitten with their youngest.
But all was not right with the world, for the lowborn masses had risen up in rebellion against their rightful lords and ladies. Many years ago, the peasantry of the land had sought to degrade the rights of their betters, attempting to force themselves above the station that nature had placed them at. Fortunately, a brave and forthright young lord stood to right the world back to it's proper order.
The prince, noble-born that he was, rode to be at this young lord's side.
As the gathered pride of the kingdom easily trounced the rabble of the land, even the mighty old keeper of the great castle was unable to best him in fair combat. Finally, when the battle was nearly won, the unthinkable happened: the young lord was struck down by a wicked trap laid by nefarious and twisted minds who used their own son as bait.
That young boy's name was Harry James Potter.
Some say history is written by the winners.
I say history is written in the hearts and minds of children.
This fanciful story was the tale written for me as a child. I was raised and reared in a pureblood household, born to wealth and privilege, sired into a world that lay open for me like a banquet. This was a world where my kindly, loving parents...the only one I should have ever known, were cast as villains by an uncaring and callous public when they should have been the prince and princess of wizarding society, as was their birthright.
My name is Desdemona Galatea Malfoy...
...and this is my story.
I was born the 17th of May, 1981.
By all accounts, it was an easy birth. The midwife who served as my nursemaid in my early years often recounted the ease by which it all transpired. I was, likewise, an easy infant to care for in contrast to my elder brother, whom I recall being quite fussy and irritable. Looking back, it is hard to call those memories anything but a portent of things to come.
Of course, it's odd that I can personally attest to all of this.
It's strange that I was, more of less, fully cognizant during my infancy
Still...the truly bizarre item is that I remember far, far more than my own fairly brief existence. I remember...what came before...
...before Desdemona Malfoy.
...before witches and wizards and dragons, oh my.
...before dementors and magic and...all the rest.
I remember books, movies, videogames, websites, and a thousand, thousand stories of all kinds and stripes about a world millions loved and derided with equal measure...a world that I now found myself in.
A fictional world.
Imagine my surprise.
But..that wasn't the first thing on my mind. No, those first sensations were simple things, intense things that my newly-born infantile brain could only interpret in the broadest of strokes. Thinking was...hard, cognition beyond me as I floated in a haze of emotion and sensation.
I was just...warm.
It was a sensation which suffused my very being, seeming to come from within and without at the same time. In the sudden darkness, completely withdrawn from any 'real' stimuli, I suppose I should have been afraid. Despite these facts, I was so utterly comfortable in this...place? Time? Space? Void? I was so at home that I drifted off to sleep almost immediately.
And awoke to screaming.
It took me a moment of startled alarm to realize it was my own.
I have to admit that realization scared me more than anything else that comes to mind, even now. To explain why that is...is difficult, I'll admit. To put the situation in proper perspective, imagine the situation as I've explained it: you are encapsulated in an all-encompassing warmth that promises safety, security, and protection; then, you are ripped from that warmth and pushed, roughly, into a cold and unforgiving world of harsh lights and blurry images mixed with ill-defined sounds.
And you can't control the fact that you are screaming.
Throughout my life, control of my body had been sacrosanct, something inviolate and unalienable. To realize, rather abruptly, that you can no longer do something so basic as to stop yourself from crying out?
That thought rips the last remnant of self control from you.
And then I wanted to cry.
Embarrassing months. Humiliating months. Messy, terrifying, painful, melancholy, exciting, depressing, and unreal months. I was an infant, for all intents and purposes, and there was nothing I could do to speed the flow of time, so I was confined to a crib and playpen or an adult's arms while the achingly slow flow of time passed.
But, as my eyes developed, I watched.
As my ears developed, I listened.
...and I learned.
My name was perhaps the most amusing and alarming of my early 'lessons.' The language my new parents spoke was English, thankfully, though a bit more proper and stuffy than I was familiar with. There were odd turns of phrase that eventually led me to the conclusion I was now British...
My name was also a big clue that I wasn't exactly in Kansas anymore.
Desdemona Galatea Malfoy.
I cried a lot after hearing that little nugget, believe me.
By the time I'd learned my new name, though, I had long-since decided to go with the flow. There was no sense in disbelieving what my senses were telling me. I could be insane; even now the thought crosses my mind sometimes. I could be in a coma and this entire world could be a massive delusion designed to allow my subconscious to deal with some horrible trauma. There are other possibilities...but there's also the chance that 'this' is all real.
So, while I fancy myself a logical person, there came a time...probably about three months into my tenure as an infant, where I decided that I was far better off dealing with my 'new life' as if it were real, rather than a delusion.
If none of this turned out to be real, I reasoned, then there was nothing to lose by playing along and joining in the 'fun.'
If this life was real, though...well, I had everything to lose. If everything was real, then this was a second chance at life, a life that promised both danger and opportunities in equal measure. If I acted as though everything was a dream and disregarded any pretense of acting like a child...there was the chance I'd be thought possessed or strange and likely have no chance at a 'normal' life.
Hah, that word has undergone serious revision for me over the years.
Desdemona Malfoy's 'normal' was far different from 'my' previous normal. It...took a lengthy amount of time for me to accept that name as well the things it implied.
I will admit that, as much as I sometimes hoped I would wake up back in my own bead or in a hospital room, those instances have become fewer and fewer as I've spent more time in my new world, with my new family...although there is the occasional sting of betrayal when I think of Narcissa and Lucius as 'mom' and 'dad.'
...well, 'mother' and 'father.'
The...style of my new family...the manner in which they...'we' cared for each other, though, was not the only difference I've slowly acclimatized myself to. The sheer excess of my early days was probably one of the more jarring facts I'd eventually come to accept through the year. I've already mentioned the Malfoy's midwife; her name was Esmeralda and she was nominally in charge of my upbringing for the first three years of my life.
That's not to say that Lucius and Narcissa were not there, were not extant in my life...just not as much as I'd come to expect from a parental figure.
Lucius, in those early days, was a somewhat haggard and drawn figure who came and went at odd hours of the day and night, seldom appearing for two meals in a row. Narcissa, by contrast, was home almost overmuch and given to staring at portraits and albums with a melancholy and wistful expression in her eyes.
...and then there was Draco.
My older brother, as galling as that is to admit.
My new sibling was all the more difficult to accept because...well, I'd never exactly 'liked' Draco Malfoy. I'd generally tolerated him and enjoyed a few of his portrayals in fanfiction as a supporting character, but...he'd always been an 'annoying little snot,' to quote someone. Maybe Ron?
But, really, there are worse choices for a potential family.
I know the Malfoys as well as is possible.
I understand the pratfalls and pitfalls in this family. I understand, at lest a little, the people themselves. I won't say they're likable, exactly, or they're in many ways 'good' people, but they're certainly not the demons so many make them out to be.
At least, not all the time.
Case in point, Draco was nearly a full year older than me and very much a needy and clingy baby. In that respect, at least, I was probably a relief for my parents. It was easy to see the budding start of selfishness and arrogance in the small child, though I tried to turn a blind eye to his grabbing hands and temper tantrums...it wasn't like I was in any position to apply discipline, anyway. Still, at the first sign of distemper, Narcissa...mother, would shower the child in almost anything to get him to quiet.
Given the harried and panicked look in her eyes, the slightly frayed ends of her normally-immaculate hair, and the nervous tics that she usually suppressed, it was easy to see these were the actions of a first-time mother rather than someone trying to willfully distort and deform a child's ability to interact with other children.
Yes, mom was very much the picture of a scheming, evil matron of an Ancient and Noble House during those years. These scenes were actually the greatest source of amusement for me during the early years of my second childhood, especially because they usually presaged magic.
If anything is worth the insanity of my new life, the trauma of realizing I had died, and the terror of realizing who my parents were...it was magic. It was a bit of a let down that my mother inched her wand out of the way every time I made a clumsy and fat-fingered grab for it, smiling as she admonished me.
"Now, now Dezzy, that's not for you. That's mommy's wand, you'll get your own later~"
Her voice was musical, lilting, and happy in a way I had never imagined it could be. Normally, that would have probably garnered a tantrum from a child my age, however I graciously allowed myself to be soothed with a song and a bottle of milk. To this day, I thank whatever incarnation of the Abrahamic God or pagan deity was involved in Narcissa's decision not to breast feed her children.
I think that would have probably broken my mind.
And, yes, my childhood nickname was Dezzy.
I'll wait for your laughter to subside.
Narcissa would often levitate various colorful baby toys around either Draco or myself and I have never before been so enthralled by anything. I suppose this was the first time I thought about doing magic myself, too...as well as the possibility that I might not be able to do magic at all.
And that was the greatest scare I'd gotten since I died.
Given the majority of stories I'd read tended to demonize the Malfoys, the idea that I might (and considering my 'origins' I considered this a probability rather than a possibility) not be able to do magic, that I was a squib, terrified me beyond rational thought. The more lurid and grimdark tales I'd looked at tended towards blood sacrifice and slavery as an eventuality in the Malfoy family.
And it was that momentary burst of fear, not entirely irrational, that probably had something to do with what happened next...
All of the windows in the west wing of Malfoy Manor exploded outwards.
Between my fear, my surprise, and the ensuing (not entirely voluntary on my part) temper tantrum, it took several days for me to realize that 'I' had caused the micro-disaster. In fact, it was my parents who actually pointed it out and, even then, it took several hours to penetrate my sometimes-thick skull that I...well, that I had superpowers.
Yes, laugh it up, I don't care.
I call 'magic' a consolation for this life, though...at times, this life is a consolation for magic. As great and terrible as it is to possess such a powerful gift, it's also frightening in it's own way. In my life, my first life, I had been raised to see power as an obligation to use it to do good works and great things. In the life I lived now, that very much was not the case. My parents used magic for trivial things, inane things which I wouldn't have batted an eye at doing by hand.
Even Esmeralda, my nursemaid, used magic to move about furniture, clean my diapers, set my room to rights, and all manner of little chores that were so second nature that I never would have conceived of using a wand on them. For that, if anything, I may love my parents. They taught me that magic was not some grave and tedious responsibility, but something which I could use as I wished, something to make my life easier.
While not particularly 'cold' towards mother and father, I had to intentionally remind myself to occasionally reach out for hugs and affection, not the least of reasons was because I tended to get lost in my own little world. If I had to pick a single word to describe my second childhood? It would probably be 'intent.' I was always studying my surroundings, gazing at things with such focus I think my parents must have noticed something was a little 'off' with me.
I was very quiet as a child, forgoing much of the babbling and cooing common to newborns in favor of silent observation, especially after I figured out exactly who my new parents were. Given that I already understood 'their' language (barring a few colloquialisms which were unfamiliar, honestly who uses 'biggie' to mean 'poo?'...and I don't think anything else quite shattered my image of Narcissa as a stuck up pure-blood wife than the realization that she indulged in baby talk), it was fairly easy to analyze their conversations and pick up interesting tidbits.
As I'd mentioned, for the first few years of my life, Lucius was a distant father figure and I only saw him when at the dinner table or a few scattered instances of tucking me in at night.
I have no doubt that many people think of my father, of Lucius, as an arrogant and cold person, beyond merely 'human' emotions and sensibilities. Much like my infant years with my mother, my first impressions of Lucius shattered that image. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised; Lucius, for all the fact that he was a murderous monster, was also a human being. Even if that cold mask of indifference was a real aspect of his personality, it wasn't all there was to him.
It would be nice if monsters were so simple.
It would be nice if I could forget the bone-tired weariness that I remember seeing in my father's eyes those first few years. It would be nice if I could forget the moment I realized why he always looked so tired, so utterly exhausted. But, this isn't a nice, simple world with wicked witches and handsome princes ripped from a disney-esque fairy tale. No, this world is more like the older, dark, and meaner fairy tales...
I suppose that was my wake up call.
Well, one of them, anyway.
In Bad Faith
As young children, my brother and I didn't play with each other very much.
Draco was always a more physical child, whereas I was always curled up in a corner with a wizarding book of fairy tales or children fiction. That isn't to say Draco developed faster than I did, though. Despite being almost a year younger than him, I was up and walking around the same time he was, much to the surprise of both my parents. Similarly, I spoke my first word only days after Draco had, demanding with an imperious stare that my mother hand me Beadle the Bard with the single utterance, "Story."
For those of you who are curious, Draco's first word was, "No."
...can any of you honestly say you're surprised? Draco's first love was the word 'no.' He used that word so much it eventually became one of the few things that could make me 'fake' a crying fit just to get away from the little snot. Still, for all the fact that there were moments in which I despised Draco's very existence, there were also moments I was deeply thankful for having an 'older' sibling.
For most of my early days, I used Draco as my measuring stick for my behavior. When do I take my first steps? My first word? Read my first books? I'd grown extraordinarily disenchanted with the whole 'infancy' thing long ago and was desperate to retake even a shred of my independence. It didn't matter if it was running, reading, or crawling, the ability to do something under your own power is a gift you don't appreciate until you've lost it.
So, Draco was older...
I let him crawl first.
I let him speak the first word.
I spent an eternity waiting for him to take his first steps.
That isn't to say I wasn't without my own failures. I would stumble or fall a bit, just far less than I imagine other children did. Thankfully, mother had decided to put up cushioning charms throughout most of the "Childrens' Wing" of the house.
Two things, here:
First, as you might have understood, magic is awesome. I had my diapers changed by magic (thankfully). I had a potion put on my gums to relieve the pain from teething (mercifully). If I ever got filthy or dirty? Magic...and then a bath. What can I say, the Malfoys were neat freaks.
Second, yes, Childrens' Wing. Draco and I had an entire wing of the house exclusively for ourselves. If that doesn't explain adequately how 'well off' my new family was, I'm not sure I can illustrate the point further. We actually had separate rooms when we were just babies, which was a little jarring to realize coming from my upper-middle-class background and a fairly frugal lifestyle. Most of my first experiences with Draco, at least until I could get up and move around, were in the playroom, where we would "socialize" with each other.
Yes, mother actually used that word.
I won't lie, it was hard waiting for Draco to do what I was certain I could already, but if I wanted to maintain the image of being anything close to a 'normal' child, then I desperately needed this initial impression to sink in. Even putting aside the fact that I had demonstrated accidental magic, and therefore could not be considered a squib, taking too many steps too fast would force too much attention my way.
I was probably being overly cautious, but this was a world which had numerous skilled mind-readers on record.
Which was obviously on my 'to do list'...
Occulmency, Leglimency, Magical History, Politics, etc...this was a whole new world for me, one that I needed to hit the ground running in. Given that I'd read hundreds (if not thousands) of variations on this story, knew all the dirty little secrets, and knew all the major powers and players, I needed to be able to protect that knowledge and move on it quickly when the time called.
And speaking of major powers and players.
There was Voldemort and Dumbledore, I knew.
And then there was Harry Potter, who was, despite so many fan stories would be Dumbledore's Man until either died...unless I changed something. Of course, that was disregarding the possibility that I was in a non-standard setting. Who knows, maybe Dumbledore was evil in this world? Maybe the Knights of Walpurgis had a point behind their whole ethnic cleansing campaign of pure evil? Heck maybe the Ministry of Magic was actually competent in this world and was, in fact, playing Voldemort and Dumbledore against each other in some insane Machiavellian plan for a new totalitarian regime.
I began laughing (which was most decidedly not childish giggling), at the thought of a competent ministry.
Yeah, right, and the Dursleys might actually be a good foster family.
Even if there was something I could do before I got to Hogwarts, which would be during the Chamber of Secrets year, it was unlikely to be worth the risk of revealing myself. That meant Harry would stay with the odious individuals he had never called 'family,' Sirius would stay in Azkaban, and Voldemort's horcruxes would stay where they were for at least another decade. I could rationalize this all I wanted, but ultimately it came down to one thing.
I was afraid.
I was terrified.
In my prior life, no one had depended on me, not really. I didn't have kids, I wasn't in charge of any younger siblings (not as a provider, anyway), and I didn't have any older relatives who would live or die by my hand. In this world, knowing what I did, it was quite possible that a single mistake could doom...
If Voldemort attained his goal and established a hereditary mageocracy fascist government, then the English magical world, and possibly the whole of Europe, was doomed to a permanent future as a totalitarian slave state that would make Orwell blush. If I did absolutely nothing, was careful to make no impact on the 'story' at all, then my effect on this world just might be negligible enough that Harry would walk in his own footsteps and win in exactly the same way his 'fate' had foretold. Those were the two extremes: do anything and fail, do nothing and watch it play out in front of me.
Talk about performance anxiety.
Talk about temptation.
I won't lie and say I wasn't tempted. Almost anyone would be, if they entertained the notion for even a moment. I was a Pure-blood elite, part of the family that bankrolled Lord Voldemort himself. Short of replacing the Dark Lord himself, I couldn't climb any higher. If Voldemort established himself as dictator of the magical world, my father would be his left hand, the political face of the regime. As a result, I could expect a life of leisure (barring the possibility of a politically-motivated marriage) in the style and form of the obscenely rich.
Theoretically, my family would have its future permanently secured.
Theoretically, at least.
There were a few things that stopped me from making this choice. One was my own, personal, estimation of Voldemort.
He was batshit insane.
That's a technical term, in case you didn't know.
Looking over the decisions which he makes during the book series, there is a large (but debatable) amount of evidence that Voldemort is actually insane. I'm not referring to his 'kill all muggles' obsession, either. I'm referring to his operational doctrine; Voldemort is so classically 'evil' that when you consider him as a real person...not as a character in a book series, but as an actual person, you have a hard time believing that kind of unreasonable, questionably sane mentality is possible.
Granted, he's still an amateur when compared with the industrialized slaughter Hitler and Stalin implemented, but...
The average person never expects to confront that type of Evil in their everyday existence.
I gurgled slightly, a young child's approximation of a sigh.
It was so damned easy to think of this as a story.
Input action A within plot B, get result C. I was a writer, things like that came naturally to me; I expected a plot and characters to bend to my will through sheer force of effort.
In a way, I was used to being a god among super-humans.
There were dozens of stories which painted a semi-plausible story of child-heroes, and it was easy, so ridiculously easy, to forget that this wasn't a story that I could control the outcome of. If I wanted a happy ending, I'd have to work for it.
And that meant I'd have to stop thinking like a manipulative, omnipotent god...
...and start thinking like a one-year-old behind enemies lines.
I didn't have an invincible screen between myself and my actions. I had done a good job restraining myself up to this point, but I needed to continue. The absolute earliest I could make a move was during my first year at Hogwarts, anything else was too risky. I needed to establish myself as the youngest child of the Malfoy family. I needed habits, hobbies, interests, all the trappings of a life lived as normally as possible.
I needed to stop being a twenty-five-old, male, American graduate student...
...and start being Desdemona Malfoy.
With that thought, I put all scheming behind me...or tried to, at least, and set my mind on the present. I was in Nar...mother's arms, a sensation which had, at some point without my knowing, become synonymous with safe in my mind.
And wasn't that a shock?
But, at any rate, mother had decided that either I was fit for socialization or that other babies besides Draco were now fit to socialize with me. I was unsure of the real reason as to why it had taken this long for my parents to introduce me to even a select group of friends, but...well, given some of their names, I could make a few educated guesses.
After all, it was easy to forget that I was born only months before the Dark Lord's fall, given that my birthday was May 17, 1981...
On a side note, birthday parties for a one-year-old? Especially one that is effectively twenty-six?
No. They are messy, horrible, traumatizing experiences that I may have purged from my mind one day.
...but anyway, my point is that my first 'social experience' happened a year and a half after Lord Voldemort was 'defeated.' Given the guest list for my first birthday party, I imagine that many of the families had better things to do than play with children.
Like bribe government officials.
And commit perjury.
Speaking with complete honesty, the individuals involved in my first exposure to 'proper pure-blood society' were a who's who of Death Eaters. Note that I don't tag the word 'former' onto that appellation. Lucius Malfoy, my father, was still a Death Eater or at least so close ideologically that it didn't make any difference. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again, the man is a monster that talked about 'Muggle Baiting' the same way many normal people talk of an afternoon at the cinema.
But he's my father.
Keeping him alive might actually be the hardest thing I ever do.
"...and you've already met Draco, but I don't think I've introduced the newest addition to our family. This is Desdemona Malfoy."
"She's just darling, Narcissa. Look, Amycus, she has Lucius' eyes just like little Draco," A smiling brunette woman said as she looked over me from where I was being held in my mother's arms and it took a moment to place both the name and face.
She didn't look exactly like her movie counterpart, the hair being a slightly different color and her facial structure slightly...off in a way that I can't adequately describe. Ultimately, though, I could vaguely recognize the giant of a woman that stood before me.
The vaguely disinterested face of Amycus Carrow moved into my scope of vision and he, too, looked slightly different from the actor who'd played him in the last few Harry Potter movies. "Yes dear, absolutely darling, though I've yet to see this 'spark of genius' Lucius gushed over so."
Oh dear, this is worrisome on so many levels...
Mother laughed lightly, "I find it hard to believe my husband gushes over anything, Amycus. If you really must know, though, she's been developing awfully fast. She's already speaking, in fact."
Yes, that's me, the amazing parrot, I take payment in peanuts and degrading childish compliments.
"Really?" Amycus asked, his eyes as sharp as a bird of prey.
"Yes, here..." Mother leveraged me up to where I could more easily look at the strangers, rather than merely look up at them. "Look Dezzy, this is Amycus Carrow and his wife Alecto. Can you say their names?"
I take it back, I'm not a parrot, I'm a monkey. A preforming monkey.
I looked up at my mother, twisting my head to show her an irritated pout.
Narcissa blinked, looking wonderingly at me before smiling sweetly. "Please, honey? Just this once and then you can go read?"
My irritation subsided as I looked back to the expectant couple. Amycus looked, if possible, even more curious now. "Well, little one?"
I swallowed and focused. Talking wasn't exactly something I was 'good' at yet, not quite having the fully-developed vocal cords or the motor skills to properly move my tongue and lips to pronounce complex words, but this I could do. I thought about disappointing my mother for a moment, but decided otherwise. Something told me that this was...important. Besides, what was the harm in being thought of as an exceptionally bright child?
I have a feeling I'm going to regret this.
"A-my-cus," I said carefully. His eyes widened as I pointed a stubby baby-fat finger at him, then at his wife. "A-lec-to."
Their open mouths almost made my little 'performance' worth it. My laughter (again, not childish giggling) brought an embarrassed flush to Amycus' face.
"If you're through amusing my daughter, A-my-cus," Lucius drawled, his tone somewhere between his vicious sneer and an honest smile, "Crabbe and Goyle are in the drawing room."
Okay, I had to admit, that was a pretty good one.
"Indeed," Amycus nodded, visibly swallowing a barbed insult. "About my proposal, by the way? Have you considered it?"
My father's and Amycus Carrow's voices drifted off as they walked away.
"Indeed, I think we can come to an adequate agreement. Let's leave our wives to the children and we can talk more over a glass of wine." Lucius replied. Distantly, I heard the shutting of a door and the conversation was cut off.
"Very good Dezzy. Such a good girl," mother cooed at me. A part of me wanted to giggle and smile at the affection...another part of me wanted to treat it with disdain.
As Narcissa's fingers ghosted over my stomach, tickling and teasing, the battle was lost.
While I laughed myself into oblivion under my mother's twinkling eyes and Alecto Carrow's grinning visage, I wondered at my own dichotomy. Even as I was writhing in amusement, a part of me was still capable of rational thought. At times like this, I wondered if I was really two different people.
Part of me was definitely a child.
Desdemona Malfoy was a laughing, happy baby that carried a large amount of affection towards her mother and father (I might even call it love, in an abstract sense). She was interested in making her parents proud, making them smile and smiling back...and I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, even today.
Maybe this was an example of...was it Cartesian Dualism?
The mind and brain being two separate entities?
My 'mind,' the insubstantial ephemeral sense of self, personality, and memory that I had accrued over the course of twenty five years, had carried over between lives. It should be obvious that my 'brain,' the actual physical organ of thought, emotion, and memory storage did not.
There is no stranger sensation than the realization that 'I' might not be 'me.'
...if that makes any sense at all.
Finally, mother stopped tickling me and set me down on a large, soft cloth covered in colorful designs, stuffed animals that were enchanted to play and cuddle like they were alive, a stack of children's books, and...most surprisingly, two young children.
They had matching brown hair, and looked so similar I knew they had to be twins.
Okay, if the Carrows are here...oh, these must be their kids. Let's see...I remember two minor characters in the movies...but, did they have names? Maybe they were named in the books? Ugh...
"Here you are honey, why don't you play with Flora and Hestia? I'm sure they'd like to be your friends." Mother smiled encouragingly, setting me halfway between the pile of books and the stuffed animals.
I looked up at her uncomprehendingly, trying as best I could to broadcast my thoughts, which mainly consisted of, 'you're joking, right? You want me to play with two snot-nosed brats?'
I deliberately ignored how arrogant that thought made me sound.
It was a very...Malfoy-ish thought.
Narcissa kept smiling, though it was a bit strained, "Please honey? I'll read you the Hallows story tonight, your favorite, right?"
Hmm...your bribery is accepted, reluctantly.
With all the grim determination of a convict walking to his death, I leveraged myself up and began to toddle towards the two other children. As I had guessed, they were twins and, though they didn't look much like their movie-counterparts I could see both their parents in them. They were cute, in the way all young children were. Belatedly, I realized that Draco was not here, and my father had mentioned Crabbe and Goyle, which meant...
My heart jumped into my throat with realization.
For some reason I hadn't expected father and mother to treat me like, well...like Draco. I hadn't expected them to go to the same lengths they had with my brother. I'd seen Vincent Crabbe and Greg Goyle around the house once or twice, with their parents, but they'd always been fleeting glimpses as the two were brought in on play dates with my older brother and it had seemed common sense that Lucius and Narcissa had attempted to foster the two under Draco's guidance.
It was probably a combination of molding the two into perfect minions when they were young and honestly needing somewhere to leave their children during the day while they went to work...doing whatever they did.
Probably wiping my father's ass, just like the two little ones will wipe Draco's when they get older.
But...obviously, my birth had already changed something rather significant.
I had heard my father talking about a business deal with the Carrows. With a sinking feeling, I realized that this was probably part of their 'payment.' Hestia and Flora would probably be in my year at Hogwarts, which meant they were the perfect candidates for my...minions. In all probability, it was more complex than that, with a lot of backroom deals and family alliances, and political BS, but it amounted to one thing.
I had my very own Crabbe and Goyle.
In Bad Faith
There is an expectation that children get into things they shouldn't.
I'm fairly sure you've heard the horror stories about young kids who wandered off and drowned, or got into a cabinet full of drain cleaner, or something like that. Even first-time parents know that you can't let a little kid have too much freedom, or they'll paper mache a noose around their necks. I'm happy to say that I wasn't stupid enough to go looking for magical artifacts in Malfoy Manor, because...well, I'd read plenty of stories of tomes of black magic eating the minds of the unwary.
I really didn't want to think about the space under the house, where Riddle's journal was hidden.
Besides, mother was a Black and the books had shown they possessed a fairly casual attitude towards leaving dark artifacts out like candy dishes. Given that I had nothing to contradict that knowledge yet, I was extra careful about picking things up outside my own room. There was one area in which my stringent self-discipline failed me, though.
It was, ironically, books.
Make no mistake, I'm not Hermione Granger. I can't sit down and read a dense physics text and get anything out of it, I can't read an entire volume and answer a dozen questions by rote, but...
Well, I was going for a graduate degree in my past life, that made me very nearly a professional student. So, while I couldn't memorize some obscure treatise on magical theory, I was very very good at parsing the meaning of any given book. It came from a (short) lifetime of reading anything and everything that caught my attention, going to school for two solid decades, and writing several hundred pages worth of academic papers.
All of this love of books carried over to my new life.
Which was why it came as a shock for my mother to find me drawing with a seldom-used art kit, outside, under the bright morning light of a warm spring day. The nursemaid, Esmeralda, had been given leave once I proved both independent enough to cater to my own needs and quiet enough not to demand attention. It was only six months since she and father had introduced my two 'friends,' the Carrow sisters. Flora and Hestia came over with their mother regularly, but I had seen them only yesterday, which meant they wouldn't be around for several days more.
"Oh, what a pretty picture." Mother said carefully as I traced the outline of one of the hedgerows. "Dezzy? What are you doing out here? I thought you were in the playroom reading?"
I didn't look up, instead choosing to play the slightly obstinate child. Besides, the sun was warm and I given up art back in middle school last time around. It felt good to, well...'get in touch with my inner child' sounds a little corny, doesn't it?
"Done," I replied, looking back up at the tree I was scratching out with a crayon. Well, it was less a 'crayon' than a colored wax stick, but same difference.
"Done, sweetie? What do you mean, Desdemona? How did you get outside child?" Mother asked, a hint of sternness entering her voice.
"Done reading," I elaborated with care. My diction was slowly increasing as my mastery of the spoken word improved, but I was still hesitant about full sentences and big words. "No more books, got bored."
Understanding dawned on my mother's face, intertwined as it was with surprise. "Oh my, Dezzy, you read all of those books?"
"Mmhm," I nodded, and because I felt like distracting her, "Daddy came in to see Draco, left the door open."
A sudden fire danced behind my mother's eyes and I worked hard to swallow a grin.
Oh, Lucius, you really need to watch out for stuffed animals. There's not telling when one could just 'happen' to block a door. Oops.
I hadn't done it just to be a smart-ass or indulge in a little juvenile rebellion. In some ways, I really needed a break from my parents. I had always been the kind of person to value their time alone, and I'd had barely any of that in over a year...always under the watchful eye of my nursemaid, mother, father, or most recently, the Carrows. Just sitting out here, drawing, with the sun on my back, that was a kind of balm to my wounds that no one who hasn't lived through 'captivity' would understand.
"Dobby!" Narcissa barked, my mother's eyes narrowed to slits of anger.
I blinked, sitting up as I turned to see a small figure, dressed in a grimy pillowcase. He wasn't exactly like the movie version of his house elf counterpart, but...everything seemed to be slightly off, just a shade or a hair different from what I remembered. It was probably nothing, but...
My inner paranoia begged to differ.
"Watch Desdemona," Narcissa ordered. "She's not to leave the veranda, bring her lunch and juice, and take her back inside to the playroom in time for her nap."
"Yes Misses Cissy," Dobby nodded, his head flapping so rapidly I'd have mistaken him for a bobble-head.
The house elf disappeared in a 'pop' and reappeared only moments later with a an assortment of finger foods and soft non-chewable things. It was an all too poignant reminder that most of my baby teeth hadn't come in yet and I was still on a restricted diet.
What I wouldn't give for a nice, greasy cheeseburger...
Regardless, I smiled up at Narcissa, "Thank you mommy. Thank you Dobby."
Narcissa's anger guttered out under my weaponized cuteness, then she sighed. "Honey, don't thank the house elves, it makes them think above their station."
I blinked, faux-confusion in my eyes. "Like...train station?" There was a book in the playroom which detailed an assortment of funny childish stories on a remarkable facsimile of the Hogwarts Express. Notably, there were no books emphasizing the respective social classes and stations of non-humans.
Well, except for the ones that painted centaurs, merpeople, goblins, and the like as inhuman monsters out to steal your magic.
Narcissa shook her head, opening her mouth to explain, but evidently thought better of it. "No dear, not like 'train station,' I'll explain when you're older. Only say 'thank you' to wizards and witches, not house elves. I'm going to go talk to your father, behave yourself."
"Okay mommy." I watched as my mother left, heading back inside and down the hall. After waiting for a solid minute with no sign of her coming back, I turned to Dobby. Very deliberately, I looked the House Elf in the eyes and spoke.
"Thank you for bringing me lunch, Dobby."
His large eyes got even wider. "On no, Miss Dezzy, Dobby is not needing 'thank you's. Misses Cissy told you not to be saying thank yous to elveses."
"Don't care," I said with finality. "Mommy said 'say thank you to everyone.' Dobby is an 'everyone.' Maybe when mommy is around, can't say 'thank you,' but when mommy and daddy leaves, say 'thank you Dobby.'"
There was something resembling a heartbreaking happiness in the elf's eyes as he opened his mouth to object again.
I beat him to it, holding up a pudgy finger to my lips and 'shushing' the elf. "Secret between Dezzy and Dobby, don't tell mommy and daddy?"
He opened his mouth, denial in his eyes.
"Please?" I asked, desperately.
I could see the 'magic word' break him. It was probably the first time anyone had ever asked him to do something instead of ordering him to do it. I smiled at him and looked back down the hall, from whence I could vaguely hear my mother's raised voice.
Grinning, I turned back to Dobby and held out one of the soft cookies from my lunch, "Dobby want a cookie?"
The elf reverently took the small pastry, tears in his eyes. Very softly, he smiled, "Thank you, Miss Dezzy."
"Your Welcome, Mr. Dobby," I smiled, breaking out in laughter at his horrified look and stream of objections that 'Dobby is not a mister, Miss Dezzy, please don't be calling him one! Dobby will get in so much trouble!'
As I laughed at his antics, I chalked one point up for me in my crusade to be, if not 'good' then at least better than my family.
Besides, Lucius has no idea how to treat underlings. Dobby took a knife for Harry without any prompting, that's a brand of loyalty you can't buy...that kind of loyalty is a two-way street. Besides, I like the idea of having a desperately loyal little minion that can bypass the Hogwarts wards and the Privet Drive blood wards at my beck and call.
Yeah, like I said, I'm not aiming for 'good,' but you don't have to be good to at least be 'nice.'
In Bad Faith
It was later revealed to me that Alecto Carrow had been appointed my Godmother as a part of tying the Malfoys and the Carrows closer together. I managed to piece together that their family owned a rather large interest in potion ingredients and had been making a bid to supply the Malfoy family's Apothecaries. As I thought, the entire arrangement was a bit more complicated than it first appeared, and things were still being worked out, even as I spent more time in the company of the young twins, attempting to stomach their behavior, lack of conversational skills, and complete absence of the concept of personal space.
In the meantime, pure-blood society was slowly cranking back up as the months ticked by with neither hide nor hair of the Dark Lord being seen.
"Voldemort," I whispered lowly to myself. "His name is Voldemort, not the Dark Lord or any other brown-nosing BS. Just Voldemort."
That had become something to watch, I noted, as I flipped over the last page of Hogwarts: A History. More and more I was...absorbing?...certain aspects of my environment. When I spoke now, I had to fight the habit of being overly formal, picking up words that I was learning had egregious connotations, and other little 'gifts' of my upbringing.
I shook myself and went back to my previous train of thought.
Without Voldemort, most of the poor or less politically savvy Death Eaters had been tried, jailed, and forgotten. My father, a handful of others, and a small cadre of unmarked supporters had escaped largely unscathed
I beat back that thought when my father entered the playroom and picked up Draco, who stuck his tongue out at me once Lucius couldn't see, even as my mother came in to leverage me into her arms. Both were in some of their greatest finery for the night's events, wearing robes which had been decorated with gold thread in deep burnt amber hues to celebrate the season.
I wonder what they would say if I pointed out those are dangerously close to Gryffindor colors.
At any rate, with the coming of the pure-blood society also came the traditional festivals and parties of that same crowd. Last year I had been too young for my family to attend and the wounds of the Wizarding War had been too fresh to really 'party,' but this year...
The great front gardens of the Malfoy Estate (which very oddly looked nothing like either the books' nor the books or movies' descriptions and gave me something else to worry over) had been decked out in all manner of colors and decorations.
All very traditional.
Samhain was in full swing, with a guest list encompassing Ministry Officials, friends of the family, and business associates. Many, but not all, wore costumes that varied between the actually frightening (magic can make someone do a very good 'headless' impression) to the plainly ridiculous (a drunk I glimpsed who looked like a Pipi Longstocking reject...a male drunk, I should add).
Mother had explained that they were just costumes and that I shouldn't be scared, they were worn to disguise individuals and prevent fairies or demon-spirits from recognizing them.
Mother and father had settled for dignified masks, allowing us the same decorative garb.
They certainly didn't look anything like gold and blue-dyed Death Eater masks and you should be ashamed for thinking so.
I was honestly more interested in the festival itself.
Two great bonfires had been set up and, if I remembered correctly, represented a kind of ritual purification of those who passed through it, which seemed to be accurate as music kicked up and couples began to cycle through the two gigantic blazes. The music itself was not, as some might believe, the dignified tunes of classical violins, cellos, and others, but rather something more akin to Welsh, Scottish, English, and Irish folk music.
I wish I knew a bit more about musical history, the presence or absence of a given group's music would tell me a lot about whether or not the traditional British Isles' rivalries carry over to their magical counterparts. As it is, I can't tell one from the other...
I shook my head, clearing my thoughts as I decided to enjoy the festivities and-oooh, what's that?
Something in the back of my mind tickled my awareness...
It was a large cow's skull, stripped bare to the bone and decorated with designs and colors that danced across the chalk-white surface. The skull itself was being paraded around by a group of wizards underneath an enormous white cloth.
...this was Mari Lwyd, wasn't it?
The name had taken me a moment to place, my Medieval history not being quite as good as I would like it sometimes. Translated, roughly, to 'gray horse' (some regions maintained a white horse, or mare), this was an addition to some festivals in and around the British Isles. If memory served, the figurine was carried around on a pole and represented...
...a god? Or was it Goddess...something to do with horses?
What I wouldn't give for google...
Anyway, the totem was accompanied by a group of celebrants who came along and played various 'roles.' I think the most common were 'Punch and Judy' archetypes, sometimes in blackface, that would carouse around and bully people for food and drink.
Traditionally, it was carried from house to house, but in a Wizarding community, the houses were likely so strewn about that they couldn't hold a proper 'wizarding' celebration due to distance, muggles, or a combination of the two.
There I go again, non-magicals...at least I'm not calling them mudbloods.
I giggled (yes, I'll admit it this time) as they came closer, even as Draco started whimpering in terror. My mother could barely hold me back as I reached out to touch the large skull, entranced by the witchfire-blue eyes that had been conjured. I was beyond caring about maintaining my status as Desdemona Malfoy and it was all I could do to not start babbling questions.
Draco was bawling with fright.
Father shot a glare at the 'leader' of the procession, the man holding the pole which the cow's skull was attached, and the look in his eyes promised murder (not in any way figurative) if they didn't back off.
As the group of revelers moved off, father foisted the crying child into my mother's arms.
"Narcissa, hush the child," Lucius practically hissed, looking deeply uncomfortable with the bawling toddler.
Mother adopted a put-upon expression and accepted my brother, then leveraged me into my father's arms. "Hold Desdemona, then dear. She seems to be enjoying the celebration, at least, so she shouldn't be a bother."
Disagreement plain on his face, Lucius swallowed the expression before taking me with an uncommon amount of grace and care. Silently, despite the noise of the party around us, Lucius and I regarded each other with a mutual amount of...distaste? Caution? Wariness?
Whatever it was, it was not the natural reaction to holding your own flesh and blood in your arms.
Or, in all fairness, being held by that same flesh and blood.
Really feeling the love here, 'dad.'
Lucius managed to swallow his...whatever it was and moved on through the crowd as Narcissa took my older brother to an area set up with toys, games, and a magical boundary that was clearly 'for kids.' For all the fact that my father wasn't enthusiastic about toting me around, he did make the effort of 'showing the baby off,' since this was the first public function or party (beyond the infantile birthday celebration) I'd been in attendance at. So, as the man carried me around, we schmoozed.
Lucius, father, was in his glory.
The man was the kind of old-style, born-and-bred politician that the modern world barely ever sees anymore. His silver tongue had silver tongues, he slid effortlessly between arguments and conversations alike, saying hello to old friends and being introduced to naïve newcomers. At various points he would introduce his daughter, me, to the most recent assemblage of boot-lickers and toadies he found himself in.
The women would coo and baby-talk.
The men would, depending on how drunk they were, gently compliment me or make 'funny' faces.
For those of you who are curious, I made a funny face back:
My best impersonation of Queen Victoria's 'We Are Not Amused,' expression.
Wonder of wonders, father actually cracked a grin at my unimpressed and haughty visage.
...and this is why I don't go to parties, especially to mingle. Too much noise, too many people that I should know, but don't have any idea who they are, and I get so foul tempered that I can't even enjoy myself.
I better be getting candy or presents out of this later.
Or at least a new book.
"Ah, Severus," father purred, weaving around a political supplicant to meet up with his old 'friend.' Thankfully, Lucius didn't notice the way I froze spectacularly at the name. "I had not thought to see you here, tonight. You've been...distant, lately."
The bird-nosed man, looking younger (maybe that was why things were slightly off?), less sallow, and much more tense, turned towards my father with a good poker face on. "My apologies, Lucius, I have been...busy. You have heard about my...ah, career change?"
Meanwhile, I tried to contain my fear and loathing of the man in general.
I had no way of knowing if he could read 'surface thoughts,' like fanon like to suppose, or if it would be at all effective in this atmosphere.
Damnit, damnit, damnit-no, don't curse, he might hear! Wait, he's not looking at me like I'm a bomb about to go off..maybe you can't read minds except by eye-contact? Oh, please, please, please be true...
"Yes, taken under the wing of such a forgiving and compassionate man as Dumbledore, I can imagine you'd be very busy talking about all kinds of...things," Lucius insinuated carefully.
What was he...oooh! Father wants to know if dear old Sevvy is a backstabbing traitor who went tattling certain 'secrets.' Dad, if you kill him, it would be an awesome late birthday present.
"Indeed," Severus nodded and father tensed at the admission. "More the fool he, that Dumbledore thought I would trade all of my chips for shelter."
As father calmed marginally, I translated.
Yes, I ratted on a bunch of people, but don't be mad dude, 'cause ya'know, bros before hos and all that. You'll always be my one true love Lucy!
...have I mentioned that parties make me really irritable and grouchy, by the way?
There was more to the conversation, and some of it was probably important, but for the life of me I was getting past my ability to give a shit about things at the moment. I did catch snippets, such as Avery nearly going bankrupt keeping himself out of Azkaban, McNair actually having to get a job to support himself (which was worse than going bankrupt, because it meant you weren't behaving according to your station, I gathered).
Because all proper purebloods actually do is sit around dark rooms plotting nefarious plots...
And, then, suddenly, I was being handed off to the Potions Master.
"I don't believe you've been formally introduced, Severus. This is your second godchild, Desdemona Malfoy. If you'll excuse me, I think I see Nott going too deeply at the drink again." Lucius frowned, his cloak rippling behind him as he moved off to confront someone I couldn't properly see.
And I was left in the arms of Severus Snape.
The man whom I generally considered the most disagreeable, bitter, and needlessly hateful 'character' in this entire world...
"Well, I don't suppose you'd like to start crying and regurgitate your last meal on my like your brother did when we were first introduced?" Snape asked warily, his dark eyes scanning my form.
I gave him my best baby-glare, directed firmly at his humungous snoz instead of his eyes.
I would like to blame my next action on the idea that, as a child of only one-and-a-half, I could not be blamed for something I just 'blurted out,' but, really, I just didn't like Snape and wanted to insult him. I decided to settle on something suitably childish, yet still biting enough to give me that warm glow of satisfaction.
"Bird Nose," I announced with all the grace and dignity befitting my station.
Snape blinked, honest shock flashing across his face before settling in to a tug of war between amusement, disbelief, and anger. I chalked it up as a win.
"And thus any doubt lingering within me as to your honest parentage vanishes like dust in the wind," Snape snarked.
Deciding to push my luck, I giggled, "Boo hoo, hurt Bird Nose's feelings, boo hoo."
Snape blinked, surprised again as suspicion dawned in his eyes, "Are you mocking me?"
"No," I said, smiling innocently.
Or fiendishly, it could have been either.
Something deep in my reptilian hind-brain recognized that noise, fear and loathing rushing up within me. It took my conscious mind a few seconds to catch up with my instincts, but it clicked soon enough.
Oh dear sweet god, NO! No, please, anything but that!
The pink thing which entered my scope of vision was every bit as horrible as I had imagined, only more so. Although the next decade and a half had obviously not been as kind to the pink thing as my own parents, instead of looking younger, it merely looked as though its skin was too tight, her eyes fever-bright with madness, and a smile that belonged on a shark, not a human. The abomination was wreathed in so many florid, nauseating shades of a single color that she looked like some terrible kind of inverted rainbow.
And I knew fear.
I knew hatred.
I knew disgust.
"Severus! Good to see you! And who is that you have there?" The Thing In Pink asked, her mouth twisting in a mockery of human speech.
I did the only thing I could.
"This is the Malfoy's youngest, Desdemona," Snape said, his voice betraying some undercurrent of illness and displeasure.
I began to cry.
"And," Severus said, visibly hiding a smile, even to my young eyes, "I think I should get her to her mother. It seems she's been worn out by the party."
"A shame," The Thing In Pink sighed, looking away for a moment and then bouncing in some horrible imitation of giddiness, "Oh my, I must be away, Undersecretary Crouch is calling me."
And then The Thing In Pink was gone.
Snape directed a careful gaze my way, "You can stop crying now, child, she's gone."
My tears evaporated almost immediately as I quivered, "Not she, Bird Nose. Pink Thing. It."
Something fascinating happened to Severus Snape's mouth, then. It twisted and spindled, stretching before it resembled a smile. "...I must concede to wisdom beyond my years. Still, I think it best I get you back to Narcissa, at any rate."
"Don't tell mommy about Pink Thing?" I asked.
"I could have her attend your every birthday, if that is what you really want," Snape asked, deliberately misunderstanding my question.
I pursed my lips.
Touche, sir. Touche. Very well then, if it is a choice of lesser evils...I am still convinced you are a terrible, bitter shell of a human being that doesn't deserve to be within a mile of a classroom, but...The Thing In Pink is a crime against nature. No contest.
"No Bird Nose," I conceded. "Sev-er-us god-daddy, not Bird Nose."
Severus frowned in mock-contemplation.
"Could spit-up like Dray-dray," I scowled, which on a baby's face translates to a cute pout.
"Deal," Severus said quickly. "Now, lets find you mother before the Pink Thing comes back."
I sighed in relief.
Maybe Snape wasn't quite as horrible a human being as I thought.
Okay, rewrite time. This is a compilation of the first three chapters of In Bad Faith with a number of changes to the structure of the writing and stylistic errors, but no major plot changes...yet.
The next few chapters will have more changes as I go through them. Feel free to re-read this part or not. There are a few interesting tidbits I've thrown in here and there, but it's overall the same.