The Search for Life and Death

The Ritual

THE SEARCH FOR LIFE AND DEATH

XI

The Ritual

The face staring back at him wasn't the one that he knew. The pallor of his skin was still as pale as it always had been, but now four rose-colored scars stretched across the left side of his face, from the peak of his forehead to under his ear. His iris had filmed over, until his eye was almost completely white.

Draco ran a hand through his hair, pushing his bangs back from his forehead and sighing when they flopped limply back into place, as unattractive as the rest of him. Glaring back into his one good eye, Draco briefly entertained the idea of punching the mirror and shattering it. It would be a defiance against the ideals his father had raised him to believe – control of emotional displays, basic propriety. Draco could throw a raging fit, destroy everything he could see by throwing or crushing it, and his father would never be able to stop him. He would never be able to hit him with another spell or say another vicious word in his presence.

And his mother would never be there to comfort him after his father's cruelty.

Draco felt the hot liquid of his tears rolling down his cheeks, even as his hands clenched into fists at his sides. He bet it would hurt a lot, punching the mirror. The glass would shatter on impact – probably not all of it, but a good portion of where his fist would strike. He would cut his hand, and shards of glass would be imbedded in his flesh. It would hurt, but at least he would feel something other than this chasm within his chest where had once dwelled the need for his father's approval, and the love he'd held for his mother. At least the pain would be received by his own actions, and not handed to him by someone who felt he deserved it. He wanted to feel something because he willed it to be so, not because it was dealt him. And it would be so easy…

"That would cause a great deal more of a mess than I care to bother cleaning up at the moment."

Draco started, spinning to face the entrance to the bathroom. He hadn't heard the door open, but his godfather stood there, leaning leisurely against the threshold and watching Draco with dark eyes.

He could ask Severus what he was talking about, play the fool and attempt to avoid any unpleasantness from what was likely to be a very trying conversation, but Draco had never been the type to play dumb. Often, his arrogance led to foolish actions, but the unsavory results were never what he had originally intended. Still, he couldn't bring himself to pretend not to know what his godfather meant.

Draco glanced back at the mirror and into his own warped image, before lowering his head. It had been an hour, at least, since he had seen his godfather – an hour spent hiding in the bathroom and from the man who had made him an offer he didn't want to refuse… an offer he couldn't take when it was given out of pity. To a hideous, scarred young boy. To a child with nowhere else to go. To an orphan.

Closing his eyes sent fresh tears washing down his cheeks and he turned away to try and keep Severus from seeing. It was a futile move, as the man had clearly already seen the evidence of Draco's weakness, but he attempted to save face nonetheless. He was already repulsive – no need to so easily reveal how pathetic he was.

Severus moved with a silent grace, gliding across the floor like an airborne predator. In a moment, he had moved from the doorway to in front of Draco, long, slender fingers cupping the pale boy's chin. Draco twitched involuntarily at the unexpected action, and he felt the grip Severus had on his face loosen until it was nothing more than a gentle dusting of his fingertips, tilting Draco's head back until he was forced to peer into his godfather's dark eyes.

Severus' other hand came up and he brushed away a tear as it slid down Draco's face. For a moment, both of them were silent; Draco peering into his godfather's dark eyes, and Severus staring at something far away. After a time, however, the Potions Master met his godson's grey eyes as he spoke.

"Your mother would show no mercy in the face of these tears, Draco." The boy tried to lower his face, ashamed, but Severus tightened his grip and refused him the action. "Narcissa was not a fighter. In school, she never did well with spells that benefited one in battle or conflict. Her area of expertise lay in the care of simple things – Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology. She could stay a wild gryphon with a look, and the most stubborn of plants would bloom vividly under her hand. She cared for others, Draco, and in that laid her strength."

Draco sniffled sadly, glancing to the left and away from the gaze that locked to his. Severus gave the boy's head a little shake, and Draco obediently returned his gaze to his godfather's eyes, tears still slipping down his cheeks. Gently, Severus soothed him as he continued to speak.

"Narcissa would never have defied Lucius for herself. He would have beaten her until she could not breathe on her own and have summoned someone to heal her, but she would never move to defend herself. I don't think she cared enough about what happened to her to bother with such a trivial attempt. Under Lucius' eye, it would no doubt have failed. He would have killed her eventually, but it wouldn't have been anything for her to be concerned about. It was you that made her feel concern, to have a reason to live. You gave her a reason to fight, Draco. She would rage against these tears, because she was an enemy of anything that dared to cause you pain. Even her husband.

Severus released Draco's chin and lay a long-fingered hand on his shoulder, still locking eyes with the boy. "So I do not wish for you to think that you are worthless. You are the son of your mother, who loved you dearly. That, if nothing else, makes you important.

"You are the heir to the Malfoy Family, and there is nothing that Lucius can do to stop that now. And you are my godson, Draco… and very important to me."

Draco could feel the tears rolling uninhibited down his face, but he didn't look away from Severus' eyes or try to wipe them away. He was drawn to the sincere tone of the man's voice, and how uncharacteristic it was for him to reveal so much of himself in words, to anyone.

"I do want you, Draco," Severus said, and his tone had grown softer, "as a member of my family. As an heir to my line. As a son, Draco, as you always have been, even when your father lay claim to you. I don't want you to think that my actions are done out of pity. I do not prescribe to pity. I love you, Draco, as a father loves a son, and I want you to find a home here, amongst the rest of my family, with no worries that we will ever betray you." He squeezed the boy's shoulder lightly. "I promise you that we won't."

Draco nodded softly. "I know that, godfather."

"Do you?" Severus asked carefully. "So you truly understand that, Draco?"

"I…" Draco hesitated under the power of those sharp eyes. For a moment, he faltered in his reply and thought about it. "I am… beginning to learn, godfather."

Severus offered the boy a small smile. "Then allow me to teach you."

In the teaching of magic in schools, students are taught what a spell is capable of doing. Through this manner, they learn not only what a spell can do, but by exclusion, what it can't.

This, however, is a lie.

Magic has no limits. Magic is everything.

Before mankind existed, before animals roamed the earth, before the planets drifted in the galaxy, and before the galaxy had a form, there was magic.

Older than all things, purer than all things, and the creator of all things, magic came first. It wasn't created or born, wasn't good or evil, wasn't light or dark – it simply was.

A muggle professor would explain to his students that all life follows numbers. The Fibonacci Sequence can be found throughout life, equations can describe processes of evolution and ecological functions, and three sets of three sets of threes can be found circling people's lives, waiting to be noticed.

A witch professor would explain to her students that spells are created through complex equations that magic forms itself around, as though magic itself is drawn to the patterns that sets of numbers and formulas create.

What neither of them will tell their students is that magic came before math, and is not the magic that is drawn to the mathematics, but the mathematics that are created by human minds – magic or muggle – to explain the use of spells and the processes of life in turn. What both of these types of people fail to admit to, out of fear or ignorance, is that muggles do not know everything there is to known about life, and wizards do not know how far magic can truly go. They may theorize all they wish, and they will continue to adjust their equations and add in new sequences as they learn new things, but there is so much that they don't know.

In the same way as witches do not know all there is to know about the ends of magic, if ends exist at all, there are some spells that little to nothing is known about. Rituals, which came before spells, that are as old as mankind itself, perhaps older. Their functions have been revealed over time, their purpose discovered, but not the means by which they work, or how or when they were created, or by whom – if indeed there was a whom.

The Godfather Bond is one such ritual.

No one knows what culture it started in. For as long as witches and wizards have been known to exist, this ritual has existed.

The bond between parent and child is sacred. It is the seed of a man which creates a child, and a woman carries her young long before it tastes fresh air and is welcomed into the corporeal world. A parent who fails by their own action to properly care for a child – or worse, who willingly brings them harm – performs a sacrilegious act that defies the very existence of magic. The recompense for this act is two-fold, as the parents of a child are two-fold. On one side, there stands the mother, who cares and protects – and so the magic will care for and protect the child. One the other side, there stands the father, who fights and defends – and so the magic will fight and take action to defend.

The Godfather Bond is a form of this.

As parents are able to name a secondary guardian for their child, to be certain that he or she is cared for upon their fall, the Godfather Bond upholds this when the ritual is performed. It bonds a child with his guardian, so that the child becomes the guardian's charge. This is recognized by magic, written in the oldest tongue of the world, to be recognized by all, and defied by none.

It was the Godfather Bond that Severus and Draco were preparing to perform.

The ritual allowed for only the two of them to be present, as any other presence would draw the third party into the ritual, as well. In ancient times, the rituals were completed in sacred areas, so that no two rituals were completed at the same time, to assure no interference between the magics. In modern times, the ancient rituals have long since gone out of service but for those few who held to the old ways, so there was little worry.

After dinner, once Elena and Conan had gone to bed, Severus and Draco made their way into the basement of Severus' home. One half of the basement had been made into a Potions laboratory, but the second part, secluded and enclosed, was a perfect square, completely bare but for the magic circle that had been carved into the stone centuries before.

Severus stood on one side of the circle, as Draco took his position opposite him. The boy gasped softly, as the three outer circles lit up crimson as they both stood steady. The inch-deep carved lines filled with scarlet light that rippled like liquid and could very well have been blood, but neither Draco nor Severus dared to reach down and touch it to see. Both stood perfectly still, across from each other, as the circle came to life, beginning to light up around them.

The three outer rings were scarlet, but the designs inside of the circle lit up blue, green, golden, and white respectively, as the thin line that connected the four designs began to ripple and slither like a serpent, and turn black.

"Verus…" Draco whispered uncertainly, as it appeared that the serpent-like line was getting closer to him.

"It's all right, Draco," Severus said, his voice still retaining his usual calm, despite his own awe and fear at the workings of the circle.

The snake-like circle continued to ripple until it had slithered over to surround Draco's feet, still somehow connecting the four designs. Once it touched Draco and lingered a moment, it painstakingly slithered over to surround Severus' feet for a time. Eventually, it rippled its way back into the center of the circle, and both its line and the interior of its form began to glow black, until a great hole had been ripped open in the magic circle that led… somewhere else.

All motion around them stopped, the light halted its glimmering though the color remained, and everything around them was quiet.

Until a voice, like a song, spoke from beyond the shadow of the hole.

"You, Severus Tobias Snape, have summoned me to bind you henceforth to the shadow that is your godson. You wish him taken from where he is and given anew to your blood, as your son, your heir, and your brethren. You ask this of us willingly, and will take it as we give it, eternally?"

"Yes."

"Speak to that which you agree to, Severus Tobias Snape."

"I have summoned you to bind me now and until eternity to my godson, who I will take as my blood, my son, my heir, and my brethren. I ask this of you willingly and will take it forever as it is given."

"Well spoken, you who bear the mark of Godfather."

The air above the hole in the circle shimmered, until a symbol appeared, glowing red. For a moment, it merely lingered there, an image like an inverted V. Then, it moved slowly over to where Severus stood, stopping mere centimeters before Severus' forehead for only a moment, before pressing against the skin.

The red hot symbol hissed as it touched his flesh, sizzling as it branded the skin of his forehead. Severus screamed as the symbol burned into him, but the magic of the ritual held him in place so he could not flee the circle. After a moment, the pain stopped and so did his screams, until all was silent.

His heavy breaths took over then, as he hung his head, his eyes closed and face dripping with sweat.

Draco quivered for a moment, as the voice sang again.

"You, Draco Urien Malfoy, have summoned me to bind you henceforth to the shadow that is your godfather. You wish yourself removed from where you are and placed anew in his blood, to become his son, his heir, and his brethren. You ask this of us willingly, and will take it as we give it, eternally?"

Draco hesitated only long enough to draw a deep breath.

"I have summoned you to bind me henceforth to my godfather, to become his blood, his son, his heir, and his brethren. I ask this of you willingly and I will take it as you give it, for all of eternity."

"Well spoken, you who bear the mark of Godson."

As before, the air above the hole rippled until a symbol appeared, this time a small triangle, outlined in black, but grey in the middle. It floated over to where Draco stood, and pressed itself firmly against his forehead.

It was worse than the Cruciatus.

Draco could not help but scream. The agony tore out of him through his throat, and he could feel the sound cutting him raw, dragging harshly across the interior of his esophagus. The symbol touched his forehead like a cattle brand, hot as fire and sizzling as it pressed against flesh.

The pain didn't stop there, however, but lanced through his body – heat enough to boil his skin, as though he were burning alive. Every pore in his flesh where sprouted a hair felt as though needles were being driven out of them, and his eyes felt as though someone were trying to dig them out with splintery spoons. The blood in his veins felt like both acid and lightning at once, raging through him, burning him from the inside out, and as wild as the magic they attempted to tame. Every beat of his heart pounded heavily in his chest, intensifying the agony, until he didn't think he could take anymore, didn't think he could survive anymore.

And the pain came to a climax, shooting from every vein and pore and flake of skin. Draco screamed as the magic flowed back through his body to slam into his chest, at the throbbing center of his body, agony doubling and tripling over itself as it dug in deep enough to pierce his soul.

And he choked to a halt in his screaming, as his heart stopped.

Somewhere, miles and miles away, another ritual was being performed. The boy who stood in the same position as Draco drew a gasping breath and then another, as his head dropped, sweat dripping down his face. He shuddered, his eyes closed, tears rolling down his cheeks, as the small triangle symbol in his forehead glowed for a moment, and then faded from sight.

The hole in the center of the circle began to close slowly, as a voice whispered from the deep.

"It is done."

I especially liked Ron's and Hermione's letters - those two are true friends of Harry's!

They were some of my favorite parts of the chapter, as well, and I'm really glad other people enjoyed them. Hermione and Ron's loyalty to Harry as a friend will become quite apparent in the future - perhaps not far from now. :D

I know that you have listed in chapter one that the pairing is going to be harry/ginny but is this going to be a proper relationship pairing or simply close friendship?

The pairings that I have listed on my profile (more reliable than chapter one's listing, to be honest) are romantic pairings. I rarely list friendship pairings, frankly, because the list would be enormous. Friendship means a great deal to me and, as such, plays a poignant role in my fanfiction. For the sake of clarification, however:

Romantic Pairings

Sirius/RemusGinny/HarryRon/Hermione

Note that there are some other pairings that I will be playing with, including some one-sided pairings that will not last, as I have yet to meet a person who married and lived happily ever after with the first person they had a crush on. As for friendships, as I said, the list would be too extensive to write in its entirety, but some friendship pairings of note are Harry/Hermione/Ron, Harry/Draco, Ron/Draco, Harry/Sirius. I'm sure you'll see a lot of combinations opening up here pretty soon, some growing relationships between family members and otherwise. I hope that helps, in any case.

Might there now or soon be a magical treatment for Harry's aid?

Had there been, they would have gladly given it to him. However, considering that they aren't entirely sure the cause of his deafness (which coincides with muteness), it is not truly possible for them to come up with a cure.

Harry should be able to get a CO-qu-l-er inplant. Those do work with the deaf.

It's "cochlear implants," just for reference, and in case anyone else wants to look them up. And yes, I know they do generally work to help people who are profoundly deaf. However, you must also recall that Harry is a wizard now thoroughly immersed in the Wizarding World, where people look upon muggles and the barbaric medical applications as being savage and primitive. Can you imagine Madame Pomfrey allow anyone to cut open one of her patient's heads in the Infirmary? She'd never permit such a barbaric display of unintelligent attempts at medical practice. I may touch on the idea of surgery in upcoming points of the fic, but I daresay that Molly Weasley would have a thing or two to say to anyone who suggested such a thing - if you'll recall, her reaction to the use of stitches for Arthur's snake bite in the fifth book were quite a lovely example of the Wizarding World's distrust of muggle technology.

I'm not going to make a magical equivalent to the cochlear implants or hearing aids, or otherwise, either, though I do appreciate people's suggesting ideas for me. I have some plans for Harry's loss of hearing and his muteness, though I'm pleased that people are so concerned about him. You'll see some of my reasons for last chapter's suggestion for reading Poe soon, I promise.

You had to go and name the guy Newton Figg and make me laugh.

To be honest, I didn't even realize that I basically named the guy after a cookie. A good friend and fellow-writer, Jai-kun, gave me the name when I asked for a suggestion. I kept thinking of Sir Isaac Newton. :D I suppose I wasn't so hungry when writing that chapter. :P

Thank you all very much for your reviews, comments, and suggestions. Today's recommended fic is Dear Order, by SilverWolf7007, which I have read multiple times, because it makes me laugh. :D And I enjoy the author's take on some of the characters, particularly Luna.

I look forward to your comments and reviews, and I'm interested to see what people think of this chapter in particular. Have a lovely Monday and, as always,

Live long. Live well. Write. Read. Dream.

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