Summary: Potter. Weasley. Malfoy. Black. Seven years after the Battle of Hogwarts, a new threat has emerged that will cross distant lands and centuries in this thinking person's canon fantasy. A dark, ensemble page-turner filled with action, suspense, and mystery.
I have a curious fascination with Draco Malfoy. He strikes me often as the character who deserves a great deal of sympathy that he is too infrequently granted both by other characters and by readers.
In the books Draco is cruel and excluding, but much of this behavior is attributable to the prejudices of his father. Draco becomes a Death Eater and does several things that endanger the lives of others, but he often acts out of fear, not true malice. Draco is angry, sullen, and disrespectful, but let's face it, he is a teenager. A rather large percentage of the population should be villainized if that is an appropriate cause for judgment. Perhaps the strongest inditement against Draco is that he is a bully and taunts those who are different or weaker than himself. But the same could easily be said for James Potter and Sirius Black, both characterized as heroes for all intents and purposes in the books. It is rather hypocritical to condemn Draco for stealing Neville's Rememberall or for teasing Harry about the Dementors when James and Sirius habitually tormented Severus in their youth. James and Sirius are, of course, excused for their behavior because Severus is supposed to be the "bad guy," but in truth their behavior is no different. The parallels between Draco/Harry and James/Severus are so striking, I wonder if Rowling didn't set these relationships up intentionally to generate sympathy. Probably too much for me to expect from a children's book, but who knows? At the end of the novels, Draco is shown to be a normal guy, married, with a family. A transition occurs from the end of the Second Wizarding War to the days of the Epilogue. Draco somehow grows up, becomes independent of his parents' prejudices, steps away from the immature behavior of his past, and moves on. I find this Aristotelian recognition fascinating, especially since Draco avoids the true concept of the Tragedy with his very own happily ever after. This story, it seems, explores that transition, and it is for that reason, and the incredibly well-written text, that I remain so fascinated with this story.
In Chapter 3, we learn the identity of Nott's killer. Not one to be reckless, I assume having finally learned something from his school days, Draco disposes of any incriminating evidence before carrying on with his task. Heartless, yes, but Draco is nothing if not practical. It takes almost until the end of their "conversation," but it is clear that while Draco can understand the snakes that have come to him since putting on the ring, these same snakes cannot understand Draco. It easily causes one to wonder how this particular power of the ring could be beneficial to a Wizard. Was it crafted because someone believed snakes were some sort of divine creature that held the secret to happiness, eternal life, abundant riches, etc.? it seems unlikely. Perhaps it was a side-effect of the true purpose of the ring, whatever that is. Regardless, the snakes do recognize the ring, and there is something to be said about that. The snakes know the ring can transport Draco somewhere else given a flow of blood. It is likely they also know that their bite, which according to my sources on wiki is venomous, will have no effect on the wearer of the ring. Since much of this story, however, depends on what is known and unknown, I wonder what other powers the ring possesses that are not known to the snakes. At the end of the chapter, you introduce Astoria, an absolutely lovely addition, but I'll reserve my thoughts on that until the next chapter.
Favorite line: "the beating he took from his disagreement with the oak tree"
Thank you for writing!
Author's Response: Thank you again, Ravenclaw House, for your thoughtful and kind remarks. Yes, chapter 3 gives our protagonist a name. But we already knew a lot about our protagonist. This is meant to give us some distance from the name "Draco," before the big reveal. It causes us to ask, 'what do we know, exactly, about the 7-years-wiser Draco?' The ring, well, you'll just have to keep reading... Thanks again for your kind and considerable feedback. More to come, I promise.
I think what you've done with Hermione in this chapter is brilliant. You really explore what her life would be like if she were NOT part of the 'trio of excellence'. Harry and Ron went off without her to go adventuring. Harry is now missing and Ron is injured, and Hermione is likely feeling quite self-righteous, kind of "If I'd been there, I could have..." So now, when she has an opportunity to be involved, like she should have been in the first place of course, she's bitter when she's rebuffed. Hermione doesn't do well when she is told 'no'. She is quite possibly one of the most well-developed of Rowling's characters, though she's explored woefully little in the books in my opinion. This makes sense because she *is* in a lot of ways Rowling herself according to interviews and such. You take Rowling's premise and extend it in several ways in this chapter, still reflecting some of the childishness from the books as she is still a young woman, and it's a real treat to read.
Hermione's advances in research through spell craft is really fascinating. I love that she finds the laptop too slow. She's basically used magic to turn herself into Google using the extensive magical library at her disposal. It stands to reason that Wizards wouldn't have digitized much to put online. It would be interesting to see if that would change if the Statute of Secrecy ended. Would the volumes of text at Hogwarts be digitized to be shared world-wide? I wonder... I especially love the glowing eyes touch as Hermione's spell is active. Your description of the event so well done, I can easily picture it. The orchestrating analogy and the description of the scene is very well described.
This chapter walks a fine line between exposition and true storytelling well. Anytime you have a chapter that must deliver X amount of information, it runs the risk of feeling formulaic. But we completely buy into Hermione as fact-finder after her spell has run its course and her description of the ring fits with the narrative well.
I am a huge fan of the brief magical exchange between Hermione and Ginny. Hermione is a masterful witch, one of the best of her age as is promoted many times in the books. But Ginny is a magical nexus far underused in the books and films. Rowling talks about the power Ginny has as part of her lineage, something about her being the 7th child of the 7th child and the only daughter among them, but it's really never developed. That Ginny could counter Hermione's spell with ease fits with this.
And, with this chapter's close, we return to the first chapter, knowing now who the departing figure was in chapter 1. You've set an incredible mystery before us. I'm utterly fascinated and simply can't wait to see where you go with this. Thank you for writing.
My new favorite of the first 5 chapters, Silencio has two of my favorite characters from the Potter canon and some of my favorite lines in your entire story.
We begin with Draco's characterization of the ring's power of transportation, which he describes as euphoric. It's telling that this comes immediately after Astoria's perception of the smoke as a manifestation of darkness, a darkness so strong that she fears for the welfare of her child. This distinction shows how far Draco has yet to travel if his marriage to Astoria is to be harmonious. With such a dark heritage to overcome, Astoria is right to doubt her husband's self-control when it comes to his ability to resist dark manifestations of power. This story is an interesting study in personal development and self-examination. But back to the chapter.
This chapter is also a fascinating study in dualism. From the Manor's stateliness and decadence in the last chapter, we go to the Burrow, a home that Draco describes as looking so bad that "all the shabby architects in the world combined could not have built a worse looking house." (One of my favorite lines of the chapter). From the darkness of Draco's clothing and the way in which he appeared, to the wholesome surroundings of the farmstead. From Draco's bemusement and passivity, to Hermione's misguided aggression. Even Ginny's weakness ("her slight willowy frame swaying in the breeze") compared with Hermione's impotent strength. It is truly a humorous encounter made wonderfully complex with the dichotomies you layer throughout the chapter.
You do something I did not expect with this chapter. You present Draco's and Hermione's unbiased opinion of the other. Escaping the confines of Hogwarts, you ask, what would they have truly seen when they saw each other again for the first time after 6 years. I find their reactions truly hilarious. They both note the physical attractiveness of the other and that's not something you would have expected in these bitterest of enemies, but it happens very naturally here.
I love that Draco just sits down to wait once Hermione has silenced him and demanded his wand. It's almost that he's so amused, he can't think to do anything else. It's a very funny, made more so by your description of the moment, "He took to the ground with a thud"
Possibly my favorite line, "Eww. Someone married Draco," is absolutely hilarious. I can just picture Hermione's face scrunching up as she comes to this realization. Following their departure from Hogwarts, Hermione surely gave Draco very little thought, but this was a real shocker to her. It's ironic, the number of FF that feature Draco and Hermione as a couple the way you show them interact here. The potential for attraction is here, but they're still very bound by Hogwarts prejudice, which is not sufficiently explored in most FF in my opinion. You have little opportunity to do so here, but you hold to the spirit Rowling began.
"Congratulations, Draco" Another brilliant line, sarcastically intoned by Hermione.
What is most intriguing to me is the way in which Draco approaches Ginny. He is a husband. He imagines how Astoria would feel if she were Ginny. He shows a great deal of empathy here that is uncharacteristic of the teenager he was, and it is telling of how much Astoria has already changed him. Were this happening 6 years prior, Hermione's assumption that Draco was to blame in some way would have been completely reasonable. But even though Draco has killed someone in this story already (and we anticipate he will again, without pause), he is not the same boy he was at Hogwarts. The chapter's conclusion, that darkness had come with Draco, is interestingly not a condemnation of Draco, for the darkness he brings is the news of others' actions. Draco is merely the messenger, putting this character in a much different role than the one to which we are accustomed.
Great chapter. Thanks again for writing!
Wow! What a chapter!
Chapter 7 ratcheted up the action after a couple of well-crafted but slower expository installments that were necessary to get Draco going in the right direction.
Here we're introduced to Neville post-Hogwarts. Still gentle but troubled by recent events that we discover are just as shocking as those that occur later in this chapter. Apparently, Ron, Harry, and Neville (who Rowling has stated did work as an Auror before becoming a professor), a German auror, and an unknown person who disappears are all ambushed at Birka where a slew of werewolves were magically turned and attacked. We can assume that the gorgon who appears at the end of this chapter is the same creature that Neville's supervisor attacked, which leads us to believe this person failed in his/her assault on the creature. That or there's more than one gorgon in the employ of whoever is in charge of the drow (could be Soran, could be another bad guy).
You introduce the Drow as combatants and place them in both Birka and here in Heidelberg, and they really come across as a ruthless enemy. They're opportunistic in fighting method and unafraid of following through on a fight around Muggles. Just the fact that they bombed the pub, which was full of Muggles, was a huge statement of where you're taking this fight.
You also introduce a couple of new characters, Wilhelm, Heloise, Reza, etc. each of which has his/her own interesting story. I love, in particular, the Persian spell Reza uses. Would all cultures have spells in their own language that have developed over the years? Do all cultures have their own magical schools that pass these traditions along? You raise a lot of interesting questions with that one spell and I'm curious to see if you follow that narrative thread at all in future chapters.
This is a gritty chapter. You follow the tone of Rowling's Battle of Hogwarts, really getting graphic and brutal with the violence in all directions. The drow attack seems more insidious when you factor in the defenseless Muggles. At least at Hogwarts, the battle was all among magic users. Here a lot of defenseless people are put up to slaughter. It's a well written chapter and accomplishes a drastic change in tone from the previous few where the action took a backseat.
This is also your first chapter without your main character. What is amazing is that the narrative doesn't stop because of Draco's absence; it becomes more complicated. We're more interested now in what is going on because the story has become so much bigger than "Harry is missing, and Draco is trying to find him." Now things are happening across Europe, involving multiple magical creatures (werewolves, a gorgon, the drow), and affecting non-magical folk. It's a really fascinating twist and makes the main plot line of Draco finding Harry more intense. Plus, for those of us who love Neville and feel he was completely undervalued in the films, this is a welcome return to a favored character. He even gets to save a little girl whose closing paragraph at the end is genuinely a sweet and surprising conclusion. I love the final sentence - Mommy said they were going back to New York, which is what Emma wanted to do anyway. I can just picture this stubborn little girl crossing her arms and pouting because she wanted to go home all along.
A great chapter. Thanks for writing!
The properties of the ring are continuing to baffle me. Perhaps the magic doesn't take you to a person (Draco to Astoria; Ginny to Harry) but instead to a location. Draco went home to the Manor. Harry's blood takes Draco home to the Burrow. Ginny's blood takes Draco nowhere because he's already at the Burrow. If they'd tried Hermione's blood, I wonder where it would have taken Draco. Do they live with Harry and Ginny at the Burrow? Odd. Anyway. So when Draco mixes his blood with the Ophic powder, he travels to Scotland, which is doubt is the home of the Ophions. Or maybe Scotland was the halfway point between the Ophion home and Draco's home, or some other ratio based on the amount of blood and Ophic powder used in the mix to transport him. It is rather odd. I do hope this is explained a bit more.
I like that Hermione is "dealt with." Such a tidy way to say magically silenced and trussed up so that she cannot interfere in what Ginny wants to keep private. Hermione could be more useful if she were given the opportunity. Yes, she is annoying and wants to go to the ministry, but, much like she did in school, she tends to bow to those with stronger wills. If Ginny says No Way, Hermione will probably just go along with everything without too much of a fuss.
I absolutely love the origin story to the twin's joke shop. It was actually Arthur's potions collection that started it all and the prank locks he would set (which inspired the twins even more) was a great touch. It really gave Arthur some additional layers, especially when you explain that he stopped setting the locks after Fred's death. So sad!
Draco's instinct to respond to Ginny's tears with an embrace is a surprise. He's really softened under Astoria's watch. It's pleasant to see. Harry has already had one child, but seems to be cast in a role where he isn't the dutiful father he should be. This is a thread I'm picking up here and I'm interested to see where it goes from here.
I love Draco's classification of Muggles as ignorant and useless. He does still have that pureblood prejudice underneath despite his many changes in character.
The Banshees' song is puzzling. You use some very obscure language that required some strategic googling on my part. From what I can tell, the Banshee are sending Draco to the one responsible for killing(?) their wean (child of Scotland), which can really only be Professor McGonagal, but where in the world does she fit in this story?
The banshee, as a quick aside, are absolutely terrifying. They're powerful, magically and physically, and seem like they could seriously mess you up. Draco talks about their attractiveness, but it's kind of like the way we're attracted to/fascinated by a deadly shark. It's beautiful in a way, but really scary all the same.
Draco being flung into the Loch of Stenness at the end is a great conclusion to the chapter. Each chapter with him seems to end with him traveling to another unknown destination on his search for Harry. He really has no idea what he's doing does he?
Great chapter. Thanks for writing.
And at long last we meet the villain herself. Soran being a woman did surprise me (of course I immediately chided myself for being so sexist), and oh, what a villain she is. Not only is Harry imprisoned, but he's being held in a magically impervious room (great touch with the werewolf blood, now we understand why there have been attacks on werewolves in Europe), and he's being systematically tortured so that she can gain the ability to speak Parseltongue.
The joke, of course, is that Harry is no longer a Parselmouth. That part of his ability died with Voldemort's soul that had inhabited his mind for so many years. Soran either doesn't believe this when he's told her or he hasn't told her in an attempt to stay alive longer. It is certainly possible that she demanded he speak Parseltongue and Harry believes she'll kill him if he has no use value. What a twist.
I love the opening with the Gorgon. We get a brief explanation of ley lines, which does clarify some things about how the ring works, but we get a glimpse into this tank of a creature who is apparently working for Soran for drugs(?).
Soran herself seems to be in a perfect location for one who wants to take over the world. We just heard about Ophions from Ginny in the last chapter and now know that they're not just ancient beings, they're still around and they're tied to Soran, the ring, and probably the Dragon Queen, though we have no idea who she is.
Harry's preparation, bound and gagged with werewolf blood, was a creepy beginning to a psychological roller coaster that was at first confusing, then ugly, then sinister as Soran's interrogation continues. It seems she's developed a cocktail of Crucio and Legillimens to probe Harry's mind to extract the Parseltongue ability from him. I wonder if she's tried presenting a snake in front of him and waiting to see if he'll speak to it in Parseltongue instinctively, the way he did in Book 2.
Soran's inability to accurately reproduce the personalities of Harry's friends became apparent as the interrogation went on, Dumbledore's eye color, Hermione's odd behavior. You described everything very well in what was a very odd scenario to put together I'm sure.
This was a great introduction to Soran. Brutal, vain, and a little dense. Just the right kind of villain. A fantastic chapter. Thanks for writing!
And here's McGonagall, supervising Aurors. Now we understand why the Banshee were lamenting McGonagall's passing, though she can't be dead I'm sure.
I love your character analysis of Ron at the beginning of the chapter. Outwardly brave, inwardly petrified. Ironic that you describe his condition at the beginning of the story as petrified. A bit of poetic justice perhaps? And Neville's mental condemnation of Ron's casual treatment of the situation is a great touch as well. Ever since the first book, he can be counted on to stand for the right thing instead of the popular thing.
It's a treat to see the Hogwarts crew reunited for this adventure and I love seeing characters of your own creation there as well. This subplot with the Durmstrang disappearances is fascinating as well. Since the professor who was taken was a werewolf, it's possible all of this is connected to Soran as well.
Neville and company seem to be pretty actively pursued by the Drow, here and later (earlier) in Heidelberg. I wonder how they get involved in this to begin with. Are they recruited by Soran in the same way that Voldemort recruited magical creatures?
McGonagall's attack on the Gorgon was amazing. I can just picture it in my mind, the two colliding with the water and fire, struggling underwater. Really incredible.
I'm really anxious to read the next chapter. Thanks for writing. Great chapter!
Your opening paragraph makes me lament published fiction. Why, oh why, did JK never add such poetry to her books? Admittedly, they're written for children, but you have developed such a rich history for the Malfoy Manor that it's simply wonderful to read. I love that a pavilion by the lake in the back of the estate is where three generations of Malfoys have proposed. Readers don't think of the Malfoys being romantic, but it should certainly be considered. In my mind, I see Lucius and Narcissa as a sort of Morticia and Gomez Addams... Narcissa was unfailingly loyal to Lucius despite his imprisonment and her apparent indifference to Voldemort's genocidal cause. It stands to reason that she didn't pick up and flee once Lucius was in Azkaban (though it would have been the safer option for her son) because she genuinely loved Lucius above all other considerations. I can only assume her profound love for Draco, as powerful as it is in the books, still stood second to her love for Lucius. That says quite a bit about Malfoy women and the shoes Astoria must fill in Narcissa's mind. If a woman is not willing to (essentially) leave or risk all for her man, she is hardly a woman worthy of the Malfoy name. Understanding this, it is far more reasonable that the reigning Malfoy matriarch would be doubtful of a woman as untested as Astoria.
Your line, "no child knew love like a Malfoy child," is beautiful and echoes the themes from the novels, but only to a point. Lucius hardly showed Draco what I would call love. Draco was certainly raised to believe he was better than every other child in the universe. But I don't know that Lucius and the Malfoy lineage expressed "love." Narcissa on the other hand... That's a different story. One of the most compelling moments in all of the novels to me is when Narcissa lies to Voldemort about Harry's death because doing so gives her a fraction of hope that she can find her beloved son. Add that to the betrayal of Voldemort by confiding in Snape about Draco's task in HBP and you have a woman that truly and completely loves her son. So, yes, I can see that no child knew love like a Malfoy child, but that love came, under the hands of Lucius at least, with the heavy burden of expectation. This, I believe is what you reference with the comment about variation in parental philosophy. Well put.
Draco's motivation for going on this quest has been something over which I have puzzled since you revealed Draco as the protagonist. It is easy enough to say, this is the plot line you have chosen; we just follow it along without questioning. You, however, are not a lazy writer. And so, I feel compelled to fully understand why Draco would leave the comfort of his home, his wife, and his newborn son. There are several clues in this chapter. He denies it is about evening the Hogwarts score, where Harry saved Draco's life in DH. He makes a distinction between the boy he was and the man/father he is now. He explores Harry's comparatively easy choices in their teenage years. He condemns Harry for believing his own press, which in my mind says that Draco thinks Harry simply isn't up to the task ahead of him. I'm still not on solid ground with the motivation but that is probably because Draco's motives are so complex themselves. Perhaps it is partially because Draco refuses to be his father, because he wants to be a good man for Astoria and Scorpius, because he feels obligated, because... Well, the list goes on. It will be an interesting moment when Harry and Draco finally meet and Draco tells Harry why he went looking for him. Interesting indeed.
Returning briefly to the theme of love in your story. The house elf rolling his eyes because Draco tells Astoria that all he needs is a kiss is just priceless. They're two years married with an infant, but they're still gaga in love with each other. So cute! What is most interesting to me about this love, which I didn't even notice until this read-through, is what Astoria says about darkness at the end. Astoria has just explained to Draco that there are no good guys and bad guys, but she clearly believes otherwise. She fears the possibility that her husband has it within him to be a bad guy, to be overcome by the darkness that has surrounded his family for so long. But she chooses not to tell him this. She is steadfast in her verbal reassurance that duty and love are what make the world go round, perhaps because she believes these things will be what save her husband from himself in the end, duty and love for his family. Or perhaps because she simply wants to reinforce those things to continue deprograming him from his father.
An absolutely amazing chapter. Certainly one of my favorites. Seeing Draco and Astoria together and comparing them to the elder Malfoys was a real treat. Great job and thanks for writing!
I like the context you give the beginning of this chapter. In the first page you establish this isn't a kid's story anymore. These are adults dealing with adult pressures and responsibilities. But in particular contrast to Rowling's work, this is a woman's story. A woman who has chosen to be with the Chosen One. Harry is adored by the entire Wizarding World, but he's known by few and Ginny in particular sees through the facade of brilliance and exceptional skill to a man, one who is not as well-prepared for his fame or the expectations heaped upon him. Harry is, as he says in the first book, "just Harry." Being a wizard didn't change that. Neither did his parent's deaths, his mother's sacrifice, his nemesis' death, or his status in the world. He's still just Harry, but he has no idea how to BE that anymore because of his immersion in the Wizarding World. As soon as he was taken out of the Muggle World (where, incidentally, Dumbledore put him quite intentionally), he lost the core of himself as "just Harry" and in being treated so very extraordinarily, he's in completely over his head.
In this story, you take that core idea and expand it to the next stages of his life. In his early marriage to Ginny, how will this massive change he's gone through during his teenage years from "Just Harry" to "Harry the Chosen One" affect their lives? And your take, which I think is quite accurate, is that it will be a negative effect. Not only will he continue receiving attention, but he'll be given honors far too young for him to be prepared to handle and he'll think himself more capable than he actually is. You make an interesting point when you list Harry's roles in, what I interpret to be, descending order of priority: "Chosen one. Auror. Husband." Unfortunately, being Ginny's husband is the least impressive of the three.
The hostility between Ginny and Hermione is intriguing since it's very uncommon in their relationship. But then again, so much has changed for them over the last few years. Ginny and Harry have married. Ginny's had at least 1 child. Hermione and Ron have been together for a long time as well, but in the context of this story, Hermione is without both her usual cohorts. Without Ron and Harry, and told that she can't assist in any way, Hermione almost seems lost to the point of lashing out like a wounded animal.
Your writing is top notch. Flows very well. I like the "watched his silhouette shrink" and of course the ominous "A lot of things would be different now" at the end.
So, you've set an engaging stage. I can't wait to read more. Thank you for writing.
Author's Response: I'd like to thank the kind and insightful comments from Ravenclaw house. I do not feel that this will be a "woman's" story any more than it will be a "man's." Though I will say that I take that question very seriously, and will address the role of gender in the story. I'm glad that you enjoy the use of language; I know it's not for everybody, but I really enjoy delving into the psychological and artistic qualities of a scene. As an author, I feel it's my job to create a world worthy of your imagination and time. The more intiguing, researched, and polished I can make it, the more enjoyable it will be (hopefully).
You have a devilish habit of avoiding proper names and leaving your readers guessing. It's a lot of fun to read. It is possible to deduce the unnamed wizard in chapter 2-you leave several clues. It has to be someone close in age to Nott, someone who Soran at least thinks would be sympathetic to the House of Slytherin, a male from your pronoun use, a powerful wizard, one trained at least to a small degree in legiliminsy, which any protege of Snape or Voldemort would likely have been, a participant in the Second Wizarding War who was close to Voldemort. All of these things add up to very very few characters in the Harry Potter universe, but even fewer still would be the ones who would react so strongly to the possibility that Harry Potter was in danger. It is because of this, the repeated, almost frantic questioning from the wizard to Nott before he begins his spellcraft, is what throws the whole story into motion. Why is this wizard, whom Soran thinks will be an ally, so concerned about Harry Potter, and why would he be willing to kill a former friend to have his suspicions confirmed, especially when he has such a distaste for death?
You have set forth an interesting character study here. Our protagonist is ruthless, or at least he can be if he is driven to be ruthless. He commits an approximation of manslaughter in this chapter alone. He did not seek Nott's death, but his interrogation technique caused it nonetheless. In truth, he doesn't want to be an agent of death. This chapter hints that he would not have chosen this path on his own-it had to be thrust upon him.
It is interesting that this is how your protagonist as a singular agent, in his own voice, is introduced to the reader. A very layered, complex character. He is a lot of fun to follow in this story!
My favorite line has to be "It was, of course, an accident..." The 'of course' is what does it for me. It's almost irrelevant that Nott died, inconvenient really, of course the wizard didn't mean to...
Author's Response: Of course! Your questions are well posed, Ravenclaw house. A central thread of this story will be: what motivates people to do the things they do? How are 'good' and 'evil' constructed, and how does that polarity shift in a group when the envionmetal conditions change (e.g. Characters get older, get married, etc.)? There's a lot of twists and turns ahead...