Night came in like a lazy panther: padding along the beaches and mountains, deftly but "accidentally" eclipsing the world in black. With a feline softness, this darkness woke me, nuzzling my face and neck with a soft breeze.
Asmodeus slept in the crook of my arm, sprawled beside me. The room was still and empty; Pansy must have woken early and departed with the demon child. I regarded my softly-breathing pet indolently for a few quiet minutes, not quite ready to rise. His gray, furry side rose and fell, rose and fell. I prodded it with a lethargic index finger, and he squirmed in his peaceful sleep, batting at an imaginary adversary.
At last I stood, stretched, and went to freshen up in the bathroom. I found it was surprisingly late—about midnight. I'd slept rather long. Leaving the lights off for atmosphere, I ate some rather unremarkable portion of last night's room-service extravaganza out of the mini-fridge, and got dressed in some unremarkable black robes. I was ready for what portion of the night remained.
The hotel was rather quiet when I left my room. I supposed most of the occupants were either fast asleep, or already in the full swing of their "day's" activities. This suited me just fine. I wasn't feeling overly sociable, for whatever reasons.
I left the hotel for about an hour and amused myself by moseying down the long dirt road to the beach. Moonlight played on the water, and I sat to think in the cooling sand.
My mind, unfortunately, was not half as calm as the tranquil beach. My thoughts had strayed to Severus, and there they stayed, quickly becoming worries. I stared up, drinking in the sky. My desperation to keep him safe was ever tapping at the back of my mind, ghostly fingers on the door, and as the days had passed this insistent noise had only grown louder. Even in such a placid place and time, I had this insane impulse to just steal Severus away and hide him in some nondescript cabin in Siberia forever.
Draco Malfoy, mother cat.
I stood, suddenly uneasy with my own thoughts.
It's his own fault. If he wants to stand up to the inevitable, if he wants to stand against my Lord—it's his choice. He's an adult.
I looked at my watch. One. I might be able to track down my parents and lunch with them. That sounded…normal. Relaxing, even. I felt a need to speak to my father; to make amends with him. It felt like there was something greatly wrong with something I was doing; some grave miscalculation on my part.
Not your job, not your job, not your job.
Yes it is, yes it is, yes it is!
I forced the issue from my mind and headed up the dirt road, eyes on the stars.
The main dining hall had already been mainly empty, save for a few stragglers like a rather drained Delilah Crumley and the decidedly zen John Skycloud. The front desk, however, was quite sure that both my parents were yet in the Inn, and rather helpfully gave me their room number and directions to their room.
I walked along towards room two twenty-two, rather hoping someone had already ordered some room service. I was suddenly starving.
Their angry yelling slowed me halfway down the hall. I frowned. They'd been fighting much more than usual, as of late, which was rather strange as absolutely nothing had gone wrong for months. As I drew closer, I saw that the door was cracked open. A flurry of material passed as my mother strode by it, waving her arms and arguing shrilly. Not five feet away, I stopped, deciding to wait until the storm had passed over.
"—I absolutely will not go!" my mother was yelling. "I'm putting my foot down now! I have no business at a Dark Revel and neither does my son—"
"You have every business, Narcissa!" My father bellowed. I shrank back a little. I could see him half-reflected in a well-placed mirror. He was red-faced and glaring. "Like it or not, you are my wife and he is my son, which bears a certain amount of responsibility!"
"I will not go and watch a murder!" my mother howled.
My father started towards her and my heart leapt in fear. I pressed my back against the far wall of the hallway unbidden as my mother stumbled backwards over a chair. He caught her by her wrists and dragged her upright. I tried to look away by my eyes were glued to the scene.
"I will not have this," he said, his voice barely audible. She was trembling like a leaf in high wind. "I will not have you insulting what we do. It is sacrifice, Narcissa." His voice was gaining in volume and intensity. "—Beautiful, perfect sacrifice. Not 'murder.' It's something you should consider yourself honored to witness. How dare you disgrace it!"
"You still kill them, don't you!?" she cried.
He hit her, and in doing so, he struck me.
It was a slap across the face, stinging and white-hot. I was suddenly sick. She fell, clutching her cheek and crying, and I stumbled backwards, trying not to see the powerful form of my father standing above her. He was unflinching.
I ran down the hall, down the fire stairs. I should have stayed. I should have helped her, even if he'd killed me. She was my mother. It bore a certain amount of responsibility.
Instead, I ran.
He'd betrayed me. He'd betrayed us all, in an even worse way than Severus could have possibly accomplished. Even an animal would not strike its mate out of cruelty.
I flung myself down the main stretch of hallway on the first floor, bound nowhere. I nearly ran through the Muggle girl who'd been stalking me.
"Draco!" she exclaimed, "what's wrong!?"
"Absolutely nothing!" I yelled bitterly, and shoved her away. I made as though to run again, but she grabbed my arm.
"Why are you so mean?" she exclaimed.
I struggled out of her grasp again. "Why is the sky blue!?"
"It's dark out," she said dubiously.
I almost struck her, but stopped before I'd fully raised my hand. No. Not like this.
"Mr. Malfoy?" another voice said softly. I turned.
John Skycloud regarded me, having just exited the dining hall. He quickly took in the bone-white face and quaking body.
"I need to talk to you," he said firmly. "Your ladyfriend will have to excuse you."
"Oh, sure," Mary Sue said hollowly. In a dream, I trailed after Skycloud as he lead me away, towards the front door of the Inn.
"Thank you," I said, a ghost of myself.
He stopped just where the light petered out at the edge of the forest.
"What in gods' name has happened?" he asked quickly.
"You're too kind," I said. I went through the motions like a well oiled machine. "Really, it's nothing."
"Is it your father?" he said, not at all put off.
I halted. "How did you know?" I asked.
"It's the only plausible solution," Skycloud said quietly. "What has he done?"
I opened my mouth to speak, but no words would come. I felt the hot sting of tears in my eyes, and valiantly fought them back.
Skycloud looked at me gravely, and then shook his head. "It's an abomination," he said at last.
"What's been done," the older man muttered.
I looked away, uneasy at this uncanny ability to all but read my thoughts. "It's not the end of the world," I said, the façade slipping back into place. "He only slapped her…."
"I'm not talking about whatever it is your father's done, my boy," Skycloud said. He took in my confused stare with obvious disproval. "Are you trying to tell me they haven't told you?"
"I'd assume they haven't," I said bitterly. "Seeing as I've no clue what you're talking about."
"His own son," Skycloud murmured. "They didn't tell his own son."
"Can you just please explain what's going on!?" I cried suddenly, and unbidden the tears spilled. I wiped them quickly away. "What's wrong with my father!? He was never like this before, ever!"
Deepest pity filled Skycloud's dark eyes, and it only made the ball of contempt in my chest swell larger. "In my language, we have a word for it that's very hard to translate," he said quietly. "Aynatakyiwa. Roughly, 'breathing with another spirit.'"
"What?" I asked.
Skycloud sighed. "I'm sure they've taught you in school that you can't create power."
"Well, yes," I said. "Erstwhile's Postulate."
The man nodded. "However, a while ago, it obviously became important to strengthen your father quite a bit in the magical sense. The most effective way to do this is the aynatakyiwa process, in which a human being is bound to another sentient spirit and is thus able to use their power. In your father's case, this other sentient being was a demon. A rather strong demon."
"My Lord willingly gave my father to a demon," I whispered in a monotone. All for Harry's life debt. Unbelievable.
"Willingly, no," Skycloud said. "I doubt He ever intended to allow your father to spend this much time bound to a non-human creature. If Mr. Malfoy had ever actually carried out the task that was meant for him, the demon should have been killed in the process, freeing him from any future side effects. But now, he is trapped; aynatakyiwa is almost impossible to break."
"You're saying it's influencing his actions?"
"I'm saying it's controlling his actions. Only at times, and even then he doesn’t notice it. But as time passes, the demon grows stronger. It will overtake him."
I would have felt better if I'd just thought he was going insane.
"There's no…cure for this?"
"Death—his or the demon's. Usually, both."
I closed my eyes. "What kind of sick fuck thinks up this sort of spell…" I whispered to myself.
"It's actually a natural phenomenon, most of the time." Skycloud said. "Sometimes, if a child dies very young, its brother or sister will become tied to it. In these cases, the other spirit is so weak that the bond is rarely even noticed. Sometimes it happens to couples married a very long time. Slightly more noticeable, but again, not harmful. The unnatural thing was the choice to use something so…."
Skycloud looked at me, and gave an affirmative nod.
Somewhere in the dark, a bird cried out, and then was silent.
"Mr. Skycloud," I said, and my voice shook. "You've been very helpful—"
"But you'd like to be alone."
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak without tears.
"Perhaps, when he calms down, you should talk to him," Skycloud suggested gently.
"I trust he knew what he was getting into."
Skycloud smiled sadly at me for a long moment. And then, with a thin pop, the old man had Disapparated.
Far off, the bird cried out again. I fell to my knees, and stared helplessly into the diamond-spangled sky.
The stars are so fucking ugly tonight.