Chapter 15

In my life, I have trusted almost no one. Even the snakes do not know all of my secrets, though it would be hard for anyone to get them to tell my secrets. Parseltongue is a rare gift – a cursed gift, some say. It is why I trust my secrets only to the written form of the language, a form I created, and one not easily reproduced. I doubt there will ever be more than a handful of sorcerers capable of reading my words.

I do have friends I trust. Friends I know will not see my actions as betrayal. They know of my prophetic gifts, of my visions. I have trusted them since I was young. All of us come from strong Pureblood backgrounds – none of us fit the mold of the upper crust. In some ways, we are all visionaries.

Still, even though the three of them know of my secret gift, I am afraid of revealing the contents of these visions to them. I do not trust that they will see reason, not so close to the opening of the school. They may view these visions as a way for me to enforce my beliefs about blood purity on them and disregard the contents entirely.

I do not want muggles in our school. Not after the visions I have seen. Not when I have watched the wizarding world crumble underneath my feet, watched as wands turn obsolete in the face of firepower the likes of which I could not have imagined if I had not foreseen it. I do not want these visions to come to pass. I will do whatever is needed to keep the paths from merging to this future. I love the wizarding world too much.

But that is not what they will see – not my friends, nor the world. They will see me only as a man who hates muggles, who views blood purity as a sacred law not to be violated. They will not understand that I do not hate muggles. Muggleborn witches and wizards have a place in our world, but that place cannot be our school. I have seen too much. Borne witness to too much. And I can do nothing now but grieve, for I fear it is too late to keep the paths from merging.

Harry’s head swam as he finished translating. Reading it was easier than transcribing it, but he was still exhausted. His eyelids drooped. There was no way he was going to be able to move in this state.

“Warden?” Draco asked from beside him. “Is there something I can do for you?” His voice was soft, almost melodic.

Harry mustered up enough energy to say, “Yes. Move me to the bedroom. No magic.”

“Yes, Warden.” Draco carefully lifted Harry out of the chair and moved him into the bedroom, then laid him gently on the bed. It was no surprise that the man had fallen asleep somewhere in the midst of the process, considering how draining translating Parseltongue was for him.

Draco sighed and returned to the living room, taking up residence on the couch. Processing everything he had learned and dealt with during the day was bound to be a fairly time-consuming process. The bond was the last thing he wanted to think about, so he focused his attention on the translation of the newest scroll. As Harry read, Draco had transcribed, which made it far easier to pour over the words.

Although the man had never voiced the names of his friends, Draco knew enough about his history to know that the man who had penned the letters was none other than Salazar Slytherin himself. And the line that had given it away was the one about the invention of written Parseltongue. As a Cursebreaker, knowing the origins of languages with Dark origins was a prerequisite of his job.

But that didn’t clear up the confusion in Draco’s mind. The man had said he’d had a prophetic gift. No one knew that. It wasn’t in any of the history books, and none of the other three founders had ever mentioned Slytherin’s gift to anyone. Perhaps Slytherin had never told the other three about his visions of a crumbling wizarding world. That seemed plausible, based on the latest translation.

Prophetic gifts were uncommon, but they weren’t feared. Not the way Parseltongue was. So why had Slytherin seen the gift as something he needed to hide? How bad had his visions been? Draco glanced uneasily at the box of scrolls next to the kitchen table – they weren’t even fully through the first scroll. Another translation or two would take them to the end of the first scroll, but that still left eleven. Most of them longer than the first. How long was this project going to take?

And, if the visions that Slytherin had mentioned were bad enough that he himself had said he was willing to become a monster, to instigate a war…what were in those visions? And how many of them had yet to come to pass?

Draco shuddered. He knew as well as anyone else that most seers were fakes. Legitimate prophets were born very rarely, and Slytherin’s words and actions spoke volumes about his legitimacy of a prophet from the get-go. True prophets rarely revealed their visions to anyone but their closest confidants, generally because they were afraid of forcing the future to follow a particular path. And the part about key events and key players, especially the part about key players being the orphaned and unloved…that resonated with Draco.

Because while there had never been many true prophets, the Malfoy family line had produced two legitimate prophets in the past three hundred years. But there was no shame in the gift – everyone in the family proudly proclaimed their relation to the Malfoys who had been born with the gift of prophecy. Sure, it had only been minor prophecies, nothing as world-shattering as what Slytherin had seen, but it was respectable nonetheless.

Draco sighed and rubbed his eyes. He was tired, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he dealt with what had happened earlier with the bond. That first punishment, that first burst of pain…he’d been unable to tell Harry because the bond between Warden and Anchor was a living bond, one that had a mine of its own. While Harry had primary say over what Draco was allowed to do and say, the bond had a secondary say of its own. If Harry wasn’t strict enough for the bond’s satisfaction, then the bond itself would come to life. Or, even if Harry was strict enough, if the bond felt Draco had behaved badly enough, it would reinforce any lesson Harry chose to teach him with a dose of pain. Draco had known this before he’d ever offered his submission to Harry in the ritual.

Knowing wasn’t the same as living it, however, and he was starting to wish he’d put a little bit more thought into what he was doing instead of jumping in. But of course he’d jumped in – he’d seen the chance to become the Anchor to the most powerful Warden he’d ever met. Draco may have acted impulsively, but he’d acted out of an impulsive desire for power. Ambition…well, he was a Slytherin. He’d been chosen for that house for many reasons, and his thirst for power was admittedly among the strongest.

Dealing with a living bond both terrified and thrilled him. Even the pain curse that Harry had put him through earlier….that had horrified and excited him at once. Because Draco was a Dark wizard, and he understand the darker impulses. The pain curse that Harry had used on him had been no more lethal than a stinging hex, and it had hurt just as much. Draco was terrible with pain. Even his friends had always thought he played it up for attention, but the truth was, he had absolutely no pain tolerance at all. When Buckbeak had bitten him, he’d thought for sure he was going to die.

Draco grimaced. Why he was remembering that incident right now was beyond him. Besides, he’d felt much worse pain than the bite of the hippogryph. The pain of being branded with the Dark Mark….there was nothing comparable to the pain he’d gone through for that. At the time, he’d thought the Mark was a privilege, a rite of passage. And then he’d learned the truth about the man – the monster – he was supposed to serve. Once he learned the truth, all he wanted was to take it all back, to have the Mark removed. But even after Voldemort’s death, the Mark remained. None of the Healers at St. Mungo’s had been able to find a way to safely destroy it, and Draco wasn’t willing to be one of their guinea pigs. He’d learned to live with it.

Just like he’d learn to live with this bond. This living bond that was much his master as Harry was his Warden. Except that the bond could physically force him to do things against his will that Harry would have to use compulsion magic to force from him. The bond had no such restrictions. The only problem…the bond wasn’t alive enough to communicate, so Draco was going to have to learn what the rules were by trial and error. The thought sobered him. Maybe there was some way for him to communicate with the bond.

Feeling absurd, he spoke in a whisper, careful to keep his voice low so that it wouldn’t wake Harry. Not that Harry could be woken up anyway, considering the man was sleeping off magical exhaustion, but Draco didn’t want to take that risk. “Bond, I don’t know if I can even address you this way, and I feel stupid for trying, but here goes. I don’t know what the rules are that you have for me, and I don’t particularly want to find out by trial and error. If there’s some way that you can give me a warning, I’d really appreciate it. I know I don’t have the right to ask anything of you, so I hope you’ll forgive my impertinence, but I’d really like to be able to behave properly from the start.”

Draco swallowed hard, feeling ridiculous. He’d just addressed the bond with respect, a bond he didn’t even know could communicate with him except to cause him pain. His eyes were drawn to the signal band around his wrist.

Words ran across the surface, written in an elegant cursive script. They read: I’ve never been acknowledged by an Anchor as a sentient being before, so I will give your request consideration. You are starting off well. I will thus grant you the use of my name: Alia. Continue to treat me with such respect, and I will be lenient with you.

Draco’s eyes widened in astonishment. The bond was truly alive. He’d never heard of anything like this! He cleared his throat – he wasn’t so caught up in his astonishment that he’d forgotten his manners. “Thank you for your consideration, Alia. I will try not to disappoint you.”

Etiquette handled, he turned back to his thoughts. Alia was a sentient bond, capable of communicating. How was that possible? As far as he knew, bonds weren’t supposed to be capable of sentient thought. Not even living bonds. But maybe there was something about the power level that he shared with Harry that allowed the bond to become sentient. This was something he had to research!

Draco’s body hummed with excitement. He couldn’t wait to mention this to Harry. The fact that there was a living bond between Warden and Anchor was common knowledge, though not much was understood about living bonds. Maybe Draco could focus his research there. Considering that he would be living with this bond – Alia – for the rest of his life, it only made sense to do research.

He stood up and walked to the bookshelf in the living room, looking for the book that Harry had mentioned about Wardens and Anchors. He found it on the third shelf down and started to reach for it when the signal band flashed gold.

Script, almost angry in its intensity, scrawled across it: He told you to touch nothing in the apartment other than tea. This is not a good way for us to start.

Draco dropped his hand from where it hovered from the bookshelf and backtracked to the couch, folded his hands over his lap so that the signal band was on top and spoke softly. “I’m sorry, Alia. I was too excited over the prospect of being able to speak to you. I let my emotions rule my logic.”

A softer script, still blocky to indicate firmness, appeared: I understand your excitement. It is new for me too. But you must wait for his permission.

“I understand, Alia. Thank you for correcting me,” Draco said, grateful that he’d been trained in formal Anchor etiquette from a young age. He’d never been so grateful for that training in his life, and it was a good thing he’d had it – without it, Draco doubted he would be able to take being corrected so calmly. That was one of the lessons that had taken him the longest to learn – he hated to be told what to do. Ironic, considering that being an Anchor meant he had to listen.

The original elegant script appeared: You’re welcome. Your etiquette is very good. You must have had a very good trainer. Also, you do not need to speak aloud to address me. Just project your thoughts at me as you would project at a Legilimens. I will be able to hear you, but only when you wish to be heard. There are limits to what I will allow myself to control, and your thoughts belong to you and you alone.

Draco swallowed, suddenly feeling sick. He’d never even thought that the bond would be able to control his mind. His actions, certainly, but thoughts? Gratitude rushed through him. Being allowed to keep his thoughts meant he was being allowed to keep his sense of self, and that wasn’t something Harry or Alia was obligated to do. Not when the bond itself was a slave bond. If Harry wanted to break him, Alia would comply, and if that meant thought control…well, Draco would have no choice. The stark reminder of just how much of his life was no longer under his control was enough to make him nauseated. Still, he managed to project a quick: Thank you, Alia. And yes, my trainer was very good.

The elegant script that either indicated Alia being in a neutral mood or a pleased one (Draco wasn’t yet sure which of the two emotions was being displayed) appeared on the signal band: I can tell. It would be nice to deal with a respectful Anchor for once. I get so tired of having to crush the disrespect that seems to be so common in Anchors.

Draco didn’t reply to that – he wasn’t sure he could reply to it, even if he wanted to. He was dealing with a living bond that was capable of sentience, the author of the scrolls was none other than Salazar Slytherin, and he was the bonded Anchor of Harry Potter. He wasn’t sure if his life could get any stranger, but he was sure that tonight was not the time to find out. And if he managed to get any sleep, well, he’d count himself lucky.

Chapter Fourteen      Index     Chapter Sixteen

 

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