Chapter 3: Into the Dark
~~~Chapter 3: Into the Dark~~~
The next three nights in a row, Connor woke up screaming.
No one said a word during the day, as if the entire household had missed the painful, panicked cries that rattled hollowly down the empty hallways in the deepest night. The breakfasts were civil affairs, pleasantly vague. The days were spent on last minute school preparations and wild Quidditch practices with Draco, Silas and Marcus. Dinners were formal, multi coursed, and stiffly ordinary. He smiled, nodded, and was properly dutiful. For all outward appearances, Connor was fine.
At night, in the dark, everything changed. He didn’t even remember why he screamed. The dreams were vague, only hazy memories of half seen faces and bare glimpses that evaporated as soon as the burst of air left his lips. He laid in his bed afterward, sheets twisted tightly around his torso and legs, and panted. He had no more sleep those nights, eyes wide and dry, staring at nothing.
On the third night, he found a bottle of dreamless sleep on his vanity, no note attached. He picked it up, holding the deep blue bottle to the light, and turned it around in his fingers. The light glinted through sending sparkles of azure along the soft gray walls of his bedroom. He’d never taken it before, never had the need, but that night, with the dark pressing around him like a warm, wet, living creature, he measured out three drops into a glass of water and drank it as if it were Lethe itself.
And then he slept.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Draco dragged his trunk to the doorway. “Can we go now? The coach is here.”
Connor settled a case more firmly on top of his own trunk. “No, mother hasn’t risen yet to say goodbye. You know we must wait.”
The younger brother pouted and crossed his arms. “Fine.”
There was a faint noise from the darkened corner of the entry hall. Dim light shone silver and white as an immense shape slid through the gloom. Draco glared in that general direction. “I don’t know why he’s here. It’s not like we’re still kids.”
Connor looked over his shoulder, seeing the faint ruff of soft white and blue feathers that ringed the neck of the Quetzalcoatl. “Glacies is just doing his job, you know that.”
At his name, the feathered serpent undulated his fifteen foot length onto the Oriental rug covering the stone flagging and coiled loosely. His ridge feathers lay flat and his ruff was relaxed. The large wedge shaped head with startling silver bird’s eyes turned Connor’s way and he laid his hand tenderly on the top of its head.
Draco rolled his eyes. “That’s all very well for you; he’ll be yours one day. But I’ll always be the younger son. He’ll always want to guard me, like I’m some stupid little brat in diapers.”
Brushing his burnished brown hair behind his ears, Connor scratched the creature’s lower jaw. Glacies closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. “I know, but the Malfoy children are his calling, and when there are none around, all he has for fun is stalking the house elves.”
A soft rustling behind them caught both boys’ attention. Narcissa stood at the top of the stairs dressed in an elegant lavender dressing gown. “Draco, dear, be grateful to your old nanny. You never know when you’ll need him again.” She descended gracefully, one edge of her trailing skirts held out of her way by a thin, ring laden hand. “Come give your mother a kiss before you leave. You don’t want to miss the train.”
Dutifully, one son then the other offered his cheek and Narcissa took each face in her hands, looking closely. “Draco Kyanitus Malfoy, you will behave yourself. No more spreading rumors and causing problems like last year.” The blush that stained his cheeks made the pale, blonde boy look surprisingly angelic.
Next, his mother had to reach a bit to caress Connor’s cheek. “Connor Andalusius Malfoy, you will watch out for your baby brother. And you will do me proud.” Connor closed his eyes, leaning into the benediction. He missed the look of jealousy and insolence that flashed over his brother’s face.
The matriarch stepped back, pushing Connor gently towards the door. “Go. Help your brother with his things. And write home, you know your father and I greatly enjoy your tales from school.” They loaded the same ebony coach from before, and the coachman slammed the door closed. Narcissa watched them ride off, both boys looking uncharacteristically sullen and withdrawn. With a sigh, she closed the door. Glacies raised his head and slithered nearly silently after her up the stairs once more.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The Hogwarts Express was abuzz with talk of the escaped convict. If Connor had to hear one more thing about Sirius Black he was pretty sure he was going to stick his head out of the train and scream, regardless of how wet he got. He was concerned but it seemed an awful lot like feeding fears instead of worrying about something concrete.
Silas slouched across from him. “What’s eating you?”
Shrugging, Connor stuffed a chocolate frog in his mouth. “Nothing. I’m just not sleeping well.”
“Whatever. Did you hear the latest from the Cannons? Rumor is they’re recruiting a second string beater and keeper. Think any more about trying out?”
Connor silently shredded the box the frog came in, setting the card of Phinneas Philpot, inventor if the self foaming beer mug, aside for Draco. “You know I won’t. I have this internship this summer, then hopefully the College of Magical Legalities.”
“Right, and you always do what Daddy Dearest says.”
The slender boy shot him a look of pure venom. “I do what’s in my best interest like a good little Malfoy. You know the drill. Just like you’re going to go into your father’s business come next summer.”
The boys stared gloomily at each other. Connor had gotten most his prefect duties out of the way when they boarded, and now he had a few minutes to sit with his friend before the last rush of the Hogsmeade arrival. He stared out at the gray country side, streaming by in a curtain of rain. The town was drawing near, but the train slowed too soon. Connor and Silas shared a look as Marcus slid in the door. The Slytherin team captain looked nervously over his shoulder.
“Something’s boarding the train I think—“Then the lights went out.
The three boys didn’t have time to do much of anything when they heard the hiss of robes in the corridor outside their compartment. Silas managed a faint luminos with his wand, just in time for the cloaked figure to appear in the doorway, ominously lit in the faint glow. Then it was just cold, bone chillingly cold, and Connor saw his vision swim, melting into images he couldn’t possibly have known, scenes from another world full of pain, betrayal, torment.
It was the dark all over again. The dreamless sleep potion couldn’t help him now, and he pressed the heels of his hands tight over his eyes, willing the image of a red headed woman crouching over the body of a withered old man in an alley to go away, not to hear her call his name and show him the two bleeding puncture wounds on the old man’s neck. He tried to keep it all in, he tried to swallow the fear, but it came out in a strangled scream.
Then it was gone, just like that, and the trio of Slytherins opened their eyes and stared at each other. Connor’s throat hurt from stifling the cry; his eyes teared up. Silas merely looked shaken, but Marcus was trembling slightly and his face was pasty. He rested his head back against the seat and muttered, “Dementors.”
The other two nodded and Connor stiffly pushed himself to his feet. He didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to try to explain to himself why the creature dragged up memories of things he didn’t understand.
“I’ve got to go see what happened. The other prefects will be in the prefect car, so I’m headed that way. I’ll see you both at the station.” He tucked his robes close around his body, wrapping up against the chill that settled into his bones.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Lilah was filing her nails calmly when the door to her office swung open with a bang. She’d more or less been expecting this for the past day or so, since she’d dropped the file off with Angel, and she wondered what had taken him so long. She flicked her gaze insolently up at him, not breaking her mini-manicure.
“Lilah.” The words were a warning.
“Yes, Mister Angel?”
“Would you like to explain this?”
“Explain what? I thought you were satisfied with our placement of your son.”
The vampire ran his fingers through his hair, sticking it even further straight up. “I was satisfied that he was safe and out of harm’s way. But I didn’t know you’d done this to him.”
She looked at him mildly, eyes wide, innocent.
“Don’t give me that. You know how he feels about magic. Why this family? Why this world?”
She smiled then, the edges of her lips curling up slowly. “Why Angel, if he doesn’t remember that he hates magic, then what does it matter?”
He glared at her. She’d been glared at by much scarier things than the broody soul boy, and stood her ground. He sighed, crossing his arms across his chest. “Why, Lilah?”
She leaned back, placing the nail file on the desk. “Connor is a mystical being, Angel. In order to transfer him smoothly into another life, we had to find vessel that could accommodate his energy sufficiently.”
He tilted his head, relaxing a bit. “I don’t understand. It’s still the same Connor, still my son, still with his own body.”
Lilah blinked, startled by his admission of confusion. Angel hated to be confused. “Connor’s internal magic is what gives him the strength and speed. It’s your and Darla’s legacy to him. Unless we channeled that essence into another form, he would still retain his supernatural abilities. You indicated that you wished for him to blend in as much as possible, and unless he was placed with X-Men of some sort, he’d need to tone down the superhero act. Our analysts showed that magic was an acceptable translation of that energy.”
Slightly mollified, Angel relaxed enough to reach out and fiddle with the miniature, fully functional, guillotine on the lawyer’s desk. “Cute. Ever off any Barbie heads?”
“Only when they misbehave.”
He nodded, distracted. “That makes sense.”
She swiveled her chair, watching him closely. “Actually, I’m glad you stopped by. I’ve been meaning to ask whether you read the latest memo from the Inter-dimensional Department.”
He frowned guiltily, but said nothing.
“I’ve been temporarily reassigned.”
His eyebrows shot up. As much as he hated this woman, he knew his law firm ran smoothly largely because of her. “You can’t leave, not without my say so.”
She grinned then. “Sorry, boss, but I don’t answer to you. The employees that re-staffed this office after the zombie turnover are yours.” She pointed to the ceiling. “I, on the other hand, am still bound to the Senior Partners themselves. When they say jump, I jump. It’s the law of the land.”
Angel was mildly nauseated by the faint feeling of… disappointment… he felt at the news. Almost as if she could read his mind, Lilah walked around the desk. Laying her hand on his shoulder, she murmured. “Ah, don’t look so glum. It’s only temporary, and I’ll be back before you even know I’m gone.”
He rolled his eyes. “You know I can’t bear to live with out you.”
She winked, opening the door for him, and said perkily, “That’s why you don’t live, sweetcakes.”