The Search for Life and Death

The Dreamers

THE SEARCH FOR LIFE AND DEATH

V

The Dreamers

- WARNING -

This chapter contains some violence. Please be forewarned.

He was flying, the wind billowing around him, caressing his body as he cut through it, an old friend, a comrade, a force that he knew he could turn to. There was no broomstick beneath him, he did not need it. The wind was his companion, his friend, his lover, and she would not let him fall.

Harry's arms spread out at either side of him and his eyes were closed as he reveled in the feeling of the wind rushing around him. He would never weary of this sensation, never tire of the freedom it brought to his body, his spirit, and his mind.

"Harry…"

Harry opened emerald green eyes to gaze forward through the oblivion in which he flew. The voice that called him held a tone of sorrow, and somehow Harry knew it was because the sensation of flying was leaving him, and the voice – whoever it was – was sad to take that freedom from him.

"Harry…"

He could feel the free winds lessening in their strength and power, gravity returning to this world which existed and yet did not. He was righting in the air and coming down, and he could feel, as though it were being crafted by a god beneath his very feet, the ground reach up to catch him. He found his balance on it as his bare feet touched down and, as he looked down at the ground, he saw that he wore no shoes, and the only thing that covered him was a simple black robe. He had never owned something like this before, and he didn't think that he had ever seen someone wearing a robe like this. Why was he?

"Harry…"

"Yeah?" Harry looked up, searching for the source of the voice.

The oblivion through which he had been flying was slowly taking shape. With gravity had come the earth beneath his feet, not cold, hard stone but soft, grainy dirt that shifted under his feet. As he stood, he could feel blades of grass growing, pushing up from the ground to curl around his feet, undeterred in their growth. They were strong. He could not stop them – not alone.

"They lie beneath you, these blades."

Harry's emerald gaze still sought the voice, but he could not find the source. His world was still dark beyond the forces that had appeared, however. Only the blades of grass, the dirt, and the tree growing steadily behind him were available to his eyes. The rest was deeper even than darkness – far more than his eyes could take in.

"Do you seem them, Harry Potter – how they grow, shifting to sprout from the deep earth, heedless of the barrier you make."

"Yes. I see them." It seemed odd to him, talking to a disembodied voice, but how could he not answer? Obviously, there was someone here. He wondered briefly where here was.

"They are Death Eaters, Harry Potter – each and every one."

In his dreams, Sirius often forgot that he wasn't driven mad by the Dementors. He forgot that he snuck out of Azkaban to kill Peter Pettigrew. He forgot that his animagus form helped to stifle the effects of the Dementors. He forgot that Remus didn't blame him for Lily and James' death. He forgot that Harry had wanted to come live with him. He forgot that he wasn't completely mad.

But he remembered that the muggles had hurt Harry. And he remembered that Harry's heart had stopped.

In his dreams, Sirius was mad. His hair was long and ragged, his skin sour-white and stretched over his skull, and his eyes were wild. Every breath he drew rattled into his lungs, and he held a wand in a white-knuckled hand.

Vernon and Petunia Dursley lay on the ground before him. Petunia looked younger than she probably should have. The last time Sirius had actually seen her face-to-face was in Lily's seventh year of Hogwarts. She looked like she had then and, if he listened to what his mind was trying to tell him, he knew that wasn't quite right.

Vernon was far less defined than his wife. Sirius had seen pictures on the walls of the house in his peripheral vision and had taken what little he gathered from there and the distant image in his memory from when he had seen Vernon that one time before Lily and James had died, standing far away from them and waiting on Petunia, his fiancé at the time. At the moment, Vernon looked little more than an indistinct blob of multi-colored flesh, but in his dreams, Sirius didn't notice and it didn't matter. The screams were real enough.

"What you did to him was inexcusable!" Sirius screamed. Apparently, he had been screaming this a lot, because his throat was unbearably sore. His hand shook as he leveled the wand at the two before him, though from rage or exhaustion, he didn't know. He felt tired in an oddly distant way, but the rage was pure and true.

"You don't deserve to be called human!" Sirius snarled. "You're beasts!" He slashed the wand through the air like a sword and heard their screams turn into howls. Their bodies shifted, bones cracking and breaking and molding into new forms, as fur sprout all over their bodies and they shrank down on all fours, until they were cowering before him, a pair of dogs.

"Curs!" he yelled. He remembered the word with a sick fondness. It was one of his mother's favorite nicknames for him. "Beasts!" He slashed the wand, and again, and again. Growls, snarls of pain, howls of agony, the wand cut shapes into the air and opened bleeding mouths in their bodies until the two had collapsed on the ground. Petunia lay in a panting heap, and for the most part, Sirius left her alone. His attention was on Vernon Dursley, and he slashed the wand again.

A snarl, the man-dog snapped at him, teeth spraying saliva. Sirius parried with the wand, jabbing it forward. A rush of crimson light stabbed Vernon in the throat and he reared back with a long, yelping whine. Sirius slashed the wand over his body, fur flying as crimson gashes appeared across canine flesh, each accentuated by a sharp yelp or whine. Sirius ignored the cries, or perhaps reveled in them, and slashed the wand again and again.

"You're right, of course – Petunia Dursley was negligent in her duties of caring for her nephew. Harry should have been loved and treated as family. That was why I sent him there. They are the last of his relatives and, as such, I thought that they would cherish his presence in the loss of Petunia's sister."

"Well, you were wrong!"

"As I am well aware, Remus, and if I could take it all back, believe me in that I would. Time cannot be reversed." There was a moment of silence. "Don't look at me like that, Remus. You know what I mean. It's dangerous."

"Everything involving Harry seems to be dangerous. Why not do just this one thing, Albus? Just this one time – protect him. Stop it all before it happens."

"I'm sorry, Remus, but I can't do that. I can't risk it. So much has happened, so many things could go wrong. Things are safer in this moment, Remus – safer without changing the past and the future blindly. Things will be all right once Harry wakes up."

"They might not." His voice was a whisper, a plea full of pain. "So much, Albus. He's suffered so much, and how could we not see it?"

"I was blind, my boy. Blinded by… a desire for things to be one way and unwilling to admit they were not."

"I just don't understand… how can someone be so willing to hurt a child? How could Vernon Dursley ever do such a thing to a little boy? And Petunia – I knew she didn't like Lily, but to allocate this kind of abuse? Any abuse!"

In the distance, Sirius heard the conversation go on, but he had stopped listening to it in the background of his punishments. He roared with anger over the body of Dursley, still in canine form. He was more red than grey now, his flesh opened up with pulsing wounds that bled freely. He lay on the ground, legs twitching feebly, a low, fading keen in the back of his throat. He had hurt Harry – beat him – treated him like filth – kicked him – called him awful names – made him think he was worthless – HE WAS A MONSTER!

Sirius whipped the wand, bringing it slashing downward over both Vernon and Petunia, an explosion of light erupting from the tip of it, consuming both of them. There were startled yelps, then screams, and then silence. Sirius' eyes regained focus as the lights faded. Nothing remained but black charred spots on the ground, and the feeling of being relieved that they were gone and disgusted with himself and happy that he had done something to keep those people from ever hurting Harry again.

But who was the monster now that they were gone?

Sirius looked down to find his hands bloody. The wand had vanished – he didn't know or care where to – and his hands were caked in blood and grime. He stared down at them, and chuckled. Of course, who else would be the monster than the freak of the Black Family, who had done everything to avoid being what he had become? Who else? WHO ELSE?

Sirius began to laugh, and as he laughed, he also cried, because there really was no escaping it, was there? He was a monster, and he was mad.

In his dreams, he forgot this wasn't true.

The blades of grass had shifted, curving inward, and growing to wrap around his ankles. Harry ducked down to pull at them as they wrapped around his feet, but as he tore at handfuls, more sprouted to replace them, and soon both of his feet were covered in blades of green, green grass – blades which began to crawl up his legs.

"They represent the forces of the Dark Lord Voldemort – the Death Eaters who follow their lord without question, without complaint. They are many, Harry Potter – many and too many for you to survive. They will kill you, Harry Potter, if you stand alone."

The blades had reached his knees and were still growing, still crawling upward. Harry tore at them to no avail. They were so many…

"And you do stand alone."

"Please, let me go!" Harry turned his head frantically, searching for the voice, but there was no one there – no one at all. "Please!"

"I do not hold you, Harry Potter." Sorrow and regret was all the voice revealed – and the tiniest, most insignificant grain of hope. "You hold yourself in a position of defeat, Harry Potter – it is you who stands alone, by your own account. It is you, by your own choices, who will die from these Death Eaters."

The blades curled around his hips, digging deeply and cutting into him. Harry whimpered.

"You have but one option."

He pulled hard on his legs, trying to tear his feet away from the grass's hold. It only succeeded in causing him to lose his balance. Some of the blades of grass tore as he fell backward with an off! landing softly and, much to his surprise, against the trunk of a tree.

The tree that had been steadily growing behind him was now massive, nearly as large as the Whomping Willow. In fact, it was a great deal like the Whomping Willow, with a wide, rough trunk and vines hanging down from the limbs.

The limbs, though, weren't nearly as ugly and bulbous as those of the Whomping Willow. Some, Harry saw, were larger, while others were very thin and didn't look like they'd hold up against a gentle rain. That seemed odd to Harry, that a tree should be so mismatched.

"This is not an ordinary tree, Harry Potter. It is the Tree of Bonds."

"The Tree of Bonds?"

"Yes. It is a tree that rests in the hearts of all living creatures, revealing to those who can see it the bonds they share with others. Friendship, brotherhood, and love. The strongest of bonds are those thickest and hardest to break, while the weaker bonds are thin and can be snapped easily.

"If you wish to defeat these Death Eaters, Harry Potter, and not fall prey to their mass, you must nurture the Tree of Bonds that rests within your own heart. Each branch, each bond, must become thick and strong, for the Tree is there to catch you, Harry Potter, and if you give it strength, it will have strength in return to give."

There were a multitude of things that one had to do as Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Some were more rewarding than others, and a few were simply downright trying. But there were those select few which were incredibly dangerous to perform.

Trying to contain Sirius Black in a room was one of them.

"Let me see my godson!" The former Azkaban-attendee threw himself against the glimmering blue-white shield that encircled him like a dome. The shield pulsed as his body came in contact with it, reacting to the energy that flowed throw him, but failed to give at all. Sirius punched and kicked the shield a few times, bursts of blue light exploding at the contact. He screamed in rage. One of the picture frames on the wall erupted into flames. Sirius ignored it.

"Has anyone ever considered the similarities between Sirius and an eight year old child?"

"His bouts of accidental magic during these episodes are certainly rare for someone his age," Dumbledore said, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers as he watched the man.

"I wouldn't advise telling him that. I'm sure he'd find a way to use it to his advantage."

Remus and Dumbledore sat in the latter man's office, watching as Sirius fought a futile battle with the shield. The man had fallen asleep from stress-induced exhaustion (and a little help from a drugged cup of tea, courtesy of Madam Pomfrey) in the hospital wing after he'd arrived with Harry. He'd awoken after Madam Pomfrey had returned from her discussion with the headmaster and two professors, and had found himself in the odd position of playing mediator between she and his werewolf friend.

In an effort to shut him up and get Sirius on his side, Remus had told him about the scene he had walked in on. Harry's heart had stopped beating and Snape – Snape! – had been performing CPR on the child! How could anyone dare to have let it come this far? And Dumbledore, who had sent Harry to leave with those monsters, wanted to see Remus right now. Right now, when he was fully intending to never let Harry James Potter out of his sight ever again. The man dared to presume far too much.

But the recount had pulled Sirius to his side, and Remus had turned and stormed out of the hospital wing in a very un-Remus-like manner, though he had done so only after checking on Harry. Content to leave him in Madam Pomfrey's care for a short time, for the boy was doing remarkably better despite the earlier incident, Sirius had followed Remus to Dumbledore's office.

One look at Dumbledore, however, and Sirius passed Remus, storming toward the headmaster with the sole purpose of letting him feel the same pain that Harry had been under. It was Remus' quick actions which stopped the man from punching the headmaster as he had done when they first arrived, angrier than he was now. For his part, Dumbledore hadn't moved to defend himself. He looked quite content to accept his punishment without raising a hand against it. Remus had no doubt that if he had let Sirius continue, Dumbledore would not have held it against him.

Now that Sirius was confined within the dome-shield, the two calmer personalities in the room were permitted to speak.

"You realize this wouldn't be quite as bad if you hadn't told him about Vernon's direct actions in harming Harry?" Remus asked, remembering the conversation that Dumbledore had had with them after they'd arrived with Harry. It hadn't sunk in to Sirius then, Remus could tell, but it apparently had now. He would imagine the nightmares had something to do with that. Sirius had always been overly-prone to them.

"Yes, I'm realizing that now," Dumbledore admitted, some amusement tingeing his voice. "Today seems to be a day of mistakes, however."

Remus glanced over at the old wizard and the wide, dark bruise over the headmaster's eye. He winced at the memory. The headmaster had walked into the hospital wing not ten minutes after they'd brought Harry in and Remus had turned out and simply punched the man in the face. "Albus, I'm sor-"

"Mr. Lupin, if you insist on apologizing, I may be forced to give you detention," Dumbledore said, and his eyes twinkled lightly as he regarded Remus. "In your position, Remus, I fear that I would have done far worse than punching me in the face for my blatant negligence. You withheld yourself admirably, and this is nothing to be overly concerned about."

"You still could have allowed Madam Pomfrey to heal it." The werewolf looked away in shame, despite the elder man's words.

"Poppy has her charge, and he is in far more need than I," Dumbledore admitted. Recalling the discussion back to Harry dampened the mood, and both men sighed.

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the sedative did nothing to calm him down," Dumbledore said, watching as the curtains behind Sirius spontaneously combusted, and the man pushed over a table and started kicking it in a rage. "If his relationship with Severus is anything to go by, Sirius certainly knows how to hold a grudge."

You have no idea, Remus thought quietly. "Still, I think he woke up in a worse mood than when he fell asleep." It really was a pity the drug hadn't kept him asleep longer than a couple of hours. It would have had most people out for nearly eight, but Sirius just had to be difficult.

"It was not a dream-suppressing sedative," Dumbledore said. "I honestly had not thought to give him one, though considering what he had just learned, it should have been foremost on my mind. I've no doubt he had dreams about Vernon Dursley's treatment of Harry. It wouldn't surprise me if there had been a great deal of comparison in his mind, between Vernon Dursley and Sirius' mother."

Remus grimaced, but said nothing. He had come to the same conclusions himself some time ago. Dumbledore began to speak again after a moment.

"I am pleased that Sirius has had someone like you as a friend, Remus. I'm certain that it has made a great deal of difference that someone in his life would care for him. It's good for Harry, too, that you're there for him. He needs someone like you in his life."

Remus sighed, shaking his head. "I haven't done anything for him, really, except for this, and the fact that I waited so long…"

"See, that is where you're mistaken," Dumbledore said with a smile. "Arthur Weasley was not wrong in what he said this morning. Harry trusts you. More, in fact, than he trusts me, though I hadn't cared to look before he brought it up." Dumbledore's face grew solemn. Considering what he had put Harry through by foolishly placing him in the care of his aunt and uncle, Albus could hardly blame the boy at all. "Remus, I have a favor that I feel I must ask of you."

Remus looked at Dumbledore expectantly. "I have made mistakes with Harry, sending him to the Dursleys to live, in hopes that the blood he shares with his aunt and cousin would protect him. I have succeeded in protecting him from Voldemort, but it is clear that Harry must be kept safe from all who would do him harm, and that is something that I regret I had not considered.

"The Will that Lily and James wrote before fears of betrayal caused them to change it named Sirius as Harry's godfather, as you know – something that did not change in the rewritten version. However, with the possibility of something happening to Sirius which kept him from taking care of Harry, the three of them agreed that you were to be named his legal guardian."

"Me?" Remus gaped at the headmaster. "But Albus, you know that law states a werewolf cannot have guardianship over a child!"

"Yes, Remus, I do know the law in that regard. However, it states that a werewolf cannot have sole guardianship of a minor." Dumbledore offered a smile that seemed a little smug.

Remus stared at the headmaster. It was quite clear that he was planning something.

"Because of Sirius' current status in the eyes of the Wizarding World, we can obviously not name him as secondary guardian, or enact the Godfather bond described in the Will." That truly was a pity. "However, the two of you are the best options for guardians of Harry and I can't say I can think of anyone better to have him live with."

"But the law…"

"The law can be dealt with by simply naming a secondary guardian of Harry and having this guardian fill out the proper paperwork stating that his living quarters are with you."

"I don't suppose that you have someone in mind?" Remus asked, smiling softly. The headmaster's manipulations of the law through loopholes never ceased to amaze him, and he was not the first to wonder if Albus Dumbledore was, in fact, a Slytherin.

"Yes, actually, I do. I'm afraid you do not know her, Remus, though I wish I had thought to introduce the two of your beforehand. Elena Morely is an acquaintance of mine who has been performing some errands which I was unable to complete myself, for reasons I am not at liberty to disclose right now. Now that we are getting the old crowd back together, I hope she will accept my invitation to join the Order of the Phoenix. I think she will be a great asset in the war against Voldemort."

"Elena Morely." Remus let the name roll off of his tongue. "I don't recall ever having heard of her. Did she attend Hogwarts?"

"No. Elena did not attend a traditional school. She was apprenticed, for a time, though I will leave the details for her to divulge at her leisure and wish. I believe Elena would be more than happy to sign on as secondary guardian to you. Due to the nature of the law, she would be forced to dwell in the same household as long as the secondary guardian status remains, but I don't think we should have a problem finding a place where you can live comfortably without imposing upon one another too much."

Remus was grinning. He trusted Dumbledore, of course, but he hadn't thought that he would have been able to become guardian of Harry, despite Dumbledore's words. If someone signed on as secondary guardian, though, and lived there with them – it would be legal!

Remus' smile faltered at a thought. "Albus, what about Sirius?" Would the headmaster force Remus' friend to live somewhere else, away from his godson?

"Elena is well aware of the current search to find Sirius," Dumbledore said. "She is also aware of his innocence and that he must remain hiding. I think Harry will be pleased to have his godfather around, and Elena will keep his existence a secret."

Remus released a sigh of relief. Things were actually looking up. He and Sirius would be able to live with Harry. With a secondary guardian, the Ministry wouldn't be breathing down their necks because of him being a werewolf, and Harry would be safe from his aunt and uncle. Remus just hoped that when Harry woke up, their fears would be unfounded and he would prove to be fine.

"There is one other thing I must tell you about Elena." Dumbledore's words interrupted Remus' thoughts and he turned to look at the headmaster. "Elena has a son who will be moving in with her. He is younger than Harry and will be starting at Hogwarts this year."

Remus was smiling softly. He remembered clearly being an eleven-year-old about to start Hogwarts. He was sure the boy was excited, and incredibly nervous.

"His name is Conan," Dumbledore continued. "I don't imagine his presence there will be an issue, but I did want to bring it up and forewarn you before you agree to Elena signing the documents. Conan is well-behaved but… full of curiosity. He truly enjoys learning."

"Ah." Remus understood what Dumbledore was not saying. The boy was curious, and Remus was a werewolf. It would not be impossible for one to add the pieces of Remus' life together and discover such a fact. Hermione Granger herself had done it when she was thirteen. "Do you think it likely that he will figure it out?"

"I believe it possible that… others will hint toward the truth." Remus frowned at him in some confusion. Dumbledore sighed. "Elena is very open-minded and tries to ensure that Conan is, as well, but the boy looks up to his father greatly and I worry that, in some cases, he will emulate his father's more… unsavory traits in order to please him."

Remus was confused. Was Elena's husband not going to move in with them? "Who is his father?"

Dumbledore seemed to consider, for a moment, whether or not it was wise to answer. Finally, he sighed. "Severus Snape."

"How do I nurture it?"

"Build your bonds, Harry Potter – strengthen the love you have for others and that which others have for you. If you allow yourself to be aware of the Tree of Bonds within your heart, it will show you its brother, who rests in the heart of another. When two Trees of Bonds are nurtured by the heart of another, they may join, and in so doing, shape the other. Magic is from the heart – the soul – Harry Potter, and the Tree of Bonds is your soul. It is your magic."

Harry looked up at his tree. So it had always been here. It hadn't just sprouted from the ground moments before. He had only now just become aware of this magnificent force that dwelled within him, but as he stared up at his tree, he realized that his was not so grand to the studying eyes.

The bark that covered the tree was torn off in places, leaving bare spots that occasionally leaked sap in some places. Full branches were bare of vines or leaves. There were some vines that were thick, but many were very thin and some others were snapped in half or off completely. The tree looked… sick.

"The Tree of Bonds is you, Harry Potter. To nurture and heal the Tree within your soul is to nurture and heal yourself. To do so is to find your strength, your hidden power, and yourself. It is planted in your existence, Harry Potter. Help it grow and the Tree – your heart – will never fail you."

The voice whispered away, fading from the world that wasn't a world in which he was in. Harry did not need to see the source of it to know that it was gone. He ignored this for the moment, reaching out to touch the bark of the tree – his Tree of Bonds.

He didn't really understand how a tree could be his soul and be him, and he wasn't sure exactly how he was supposed to nurture it, but he could see that the tree was here, and he could see that it needed his help.

So he would do his best, to nurture it, to help it grow stronger, and maybe the voice – whoever it was – would be right, and he would gain power from that, as well. He knew he would need it for the fight against Voldemort.

Harry knew that he would nurse his Tree of Bonds as best he could, in hopes that it would grant him strength – perhaps, a new ability that would help him to defeat Lord Voldemort.

And perhaps he was right. Perhaps one the Tree was grown, it would give him new abilities. What he did not expect, however, was to wake up missing two.

Dumbledore was about to continue in what he knew would be a futile attempt to placate an even more enraged Sirius by explaining how Snape could possibly have a wife (and a child!) nobody knew about, and, in Sirius' words, why anyone would want to breed with the snarky bastard. He was about to explain to Sirius – again – that he trusted Severus Snape with his very life and, as he had told Severus himself countless times before, Sirius was foolish to hold a stupid schoolboy grudge even after all these years.

He was about to begin this lecture when the floo flared, and three pairs of eyes turned to see Madam Pomfrey standing just beyond the fireplace, looking both pleased and concerned. She met Dumbledore's eyes when the man looked her way and sighed.

"He's awake."

Malfoys didn't cry.

It was a rule – one of the most important. Do not show weakness to the world – your enemy. No emotion is to be shown. Malfoys didn't cry.

But Draco was crying. He was crying because he was hurting, both inside and out. His left arm was soaked and bloody, his head swimming and eyesight fuzzy, and every muscle, bone, and fiber in his body ached. But he would not move. He stood resolutely, stubbornly, defiantly between his father and the body of his mother. His father had been casting spell after spell – Cutting Jinx, Fire – but Draco couldn't let him do that. He wouldn't let his father mutilate his mother like that. He had to protect her!

She's dead, Drake. A voice whispered the words in his head, soft and sorrowful, but he shook them away. He didn't want to think about that now. He knew it, somewhere deep inside of himself, but he didn't want to think about it. As long as he didn't think about it, some part of it, however small, was surely false.

Lucius Malfoy's rage had progressed to a point that he was beyond words. When Draco had sent a severing hex at his father, Lucius had been startled by the action. He had been distracted, casting spells on the prone body of his dead wife and had not seen Draco appear from wherever he had been hiding. The severing hex had sliced through the skin of his arm from shoulder to elbow, and if Lucius thought about it, he could honestly admit that it hurt quite a lot. Had things been different, he might have been proud of such a powerful spell.

But Draco was clearly a failure. Lucius had made a mistake when telling Narcissa that he only wanted one child. He remembered her revelation, when Draco was still a toddler, that she was pregnant again, and he remembered her tears when she had begged him to let her have a little daughter. Lucius needed a heir and that was all he required. That, and her image, was all that Narcissa was required for, and he would not waste his time on another worthless female in the house. He had sneered at her tears and reminded her of that despicable family… the Weasleys – his eyes narrowed at the very thought. He had disposed of the child before it was spawned, with force enough that such a mistake would never happen again, and that had been what it took to quell Narcissa's whining.

That had clearly been a mistake, however. Draco was weak, he could see now. He always had been. He had too much of his mother in him, and Lucius was disgusted and repulsed by that fact. But he knew how to solve problems such as this.

Tears ran down Draco's face without heed and Lucius' eyes burned in anger. He remembered clearly the last time that he had cried. He'd been six years old and had stolen his father's wand from the man's room, attempting to do magic, despite having been expressly forbidden to enter said room. It had been his grandfather who found him as he sat attempting to levitate a chair.

That was the first time Lucius had ever felt the pain of the Cruciatus Curse. The punishment had been swift, but effective. He had never touched his father's wand again, and after the after effects of that spell wore off, Lucius could not remember ever having cried again.

But here was his son – his son! – who was supposed to have his blood and his strength and his cunning, and he was crying like a schoolgirl – not like a Malfoy. The boy was clearly defective, clearly a mistake, and Lucius would not have his good name ruined.

"Crucio!"

Draco screamed and writhed on the floor, his feet trying to find purchase to push himself away from the attack, but Lucius kept his wand trained on the boy. He reveled in the screams that tore raggedly from Draco's throat – listened to them with the air of a creature that fed on pain. How wonderful, to deliver just desserts to those who he so despised.

He lifted his wand and the screaming stopped. He watched with some interest as Draco dragged himself across the floor. His limbs were still shaking, his arms quivering lightly and keeping him from moving very fast, but the boy was stubborn. It occurred to Lucius, watching the bleeding child pull himself across the red-stained carpet, that Draco was not dragging himself away from Lucius, but rather, toward his mother. He looked at the woman with amusement that he did not allow to show on his face.

Narcissa Malfoy lay on her back where Lucius had left her when he had turned his attention to Draco. Her mouth was parted slightly, as though in preparation to scream, and her eyes were open wide, blue irises glazed in death. Her blonde hair framed her overly-pale features, but blood had seeped around her and begun to absorb into the locks. Lucius had cut great gashes into her body after he had used the Killing Curse on her. Her right arm had nearly been severed from her body and there were great gouges opened in her torso.

Lucius noted, with some irony, that he had gouged a whole chunk of flesh out of her stomach. He must have been thinking about the second child for a moment, though he couldn't quite recall. All he could really remember was the flash of multi-colored lights that came from his wand with each new spell cast. He didn't even remember what all spells he had used, but that didn't really matter. He had enjoyed himself, after all, but it was much more fun when they reacted. He turned his attention back to Draco.

The boy had managed to drag himself to his mother and was now laying, quivering, half over her body, as though to protect her. Lucius couldn't help but sneer at him. A mistake, indeed. Oh well. He would merely have to sacrifice a small amount of money and the papers would tell of such a tragic accident and how distraught he was at their deaths. He would find a new wife – a more beautiful one, he promised himself – and have a new, more worthy heir. It wouldn't take much, after all. He was rich, and women were fickle. He had but to take his pick.

But first… Lucius raised his wand, training it on Draco. He contemplated holding him under the Cruciatus until his mind snapped, but that had always been Bellatrix's favored form of destruction. It was effective, of course, provided one made certain that all mental facilities had been broken to the point that nothing could be gathered from the person once they were found, and that was not a hard thing to do, especially for Bellatrix. She had always been very good at excessive destruction.

But Lucius Malfoy was not Bellatrix Lestrange, and he had never liked loose ends.

He pointed his wand at his son, who lay over the mutilated body of Lucius' wife, clutching her robes as though trying to protect her while begging for protection himself. Lucius sneered.

"Avada-"

The spell that struck him from behind silenced him, and he fell to the floor before he could end the life of the boy who had so dishonored him.

Author's Note: I have adjusted my manner of responding to reviews. I will quote the questions asked in reviews and offer answers to them, and perhaps some comments, as well. Feel free to ask any questions you might have, and I dearly appreciate comments, as you well know. ;)

This chapter's suggestive reading is a pair of one-shots. Because there is only one chapter in a one-shot, I have decided to suggest two at a time. My first suggestion is The Feast, by Jai-kun - a tale that gives Peter Pettigrew his just desserts in a form that pays homage to one of the greatest writers of all time, Edgar Allan Poe.

The second one-shot I will suggest today is by Solstice Muse, entitled Bookends. It's a lovely little fic from the point of view of Arthur Weasley, concerning the way his family is treated by others after the war.

I hope you will check them out and I'm sure you'll enjoy them.

I note you didn't explain James' Major Fuck-up at the bottom as the numbering would indicate you intended...- ElfIcarii

- This question was asked in a review of Chapter 3 and I felt it was a good idea to make a note of it. The Prank will be revealed in greater detail later, possibly in this fic, but I am also working on a short fic in the era of the Marauders which will cover it and reveal why it plays such a part in the minds and hearts of Sirius and Remus. Rest assured, it will be covered in due time.

I hope he'll finally understand that Harry isn't James, and that he needs help, now more than ever...- nightline

- I have my doubts that Severus will change his stripes so easily, but we shall see, I suppose. At the very least, next chapter you'll see a side of him you have not yet. :D

Author's Note: My thanks goes out to everyone who reviewed. I will be spending the next four week trying to hit my deadline for finishing my novel, and we'll see how that goes. I want to try and get on a set schedule of updating and I will try, even if it's only once a month to start. Eventually, I'd like to update every other week. But, as always, we'll see.

I hope you all enjoyed the chapter and I look forward to your reviews. As always,

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

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