Author’s Note: This is a crossover between Harry Potter and the Heralds of Valdemar. The story starts in the summer before Harry’s seventh year at Hogwarts, and about eleven years after the mage storms in Valdemar (though I might be a year or two off on that part.)
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters and ideas belong to J. K. Rowling, while all Valdemar characters and ideas belong to Mercedes Lackey. I own neither.
Toward no crime have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.
– James R. Lowell
Draco was starting to think that this whole Death Eater business was a bad idea.
No, actually, that was wrong – he knew it was a bad idea. That was why he’d made up his mind that no matter what his father threatened him with, there was no way he was swearing his life and loyalty to a psychotic snake-man who had a reputation for killing his followers for fun. Agreeing with Voldemort’s cause was one thing. Draco was not too keen on Muggles and Muggleborn wizards, but he felt that destroying all nonmagic folk might be a bit extreme. And knowing what he did of the Dark Lord’s opinion of dissent in the ranks, Draco had figured it would be better for all concerned if he just sat this fight out as a neutral party.
So that part he’d been all right with. The bad idea had been the part where he’d explained his reasoning to his father. As it had turned out, Lucius Malfoy had been counting on his son’s initiation into the Death Eaters to boost his own status. He had not been pleased with Draco’s attempts at logic, and as it turned out, had gone ahead and arranged for Draco’s induction to the Death Eater fold despite his son’s wishes.
Draco, of course, had not been informed of these plans until he touched the Portkey that teleported him to the ceremony. And that was where he was when he realized exactly how bad of an idea his thoughts on Death Eaters could be.
“So the youngest Malfoy comes to join me at last.” Voldemort looked down at Draco with a cold smile, red eyes unblinking in his snake-like face.
“Um… yes.” Draco glanced uncomfortably around at the surrounding Death Eaters, identical in their long hooded robes. He wondered which one was his father – and then he wondered if it would matter. “About that. I wasn’t really expecting to be brought here just now to join up. I don’t suppose there’s any way I could have some time to get prepared? A few days or so?”
“No preparation is necessary on your part,” Voldemort told him, those unsettling red eyes raking across Draco’s face. “All has been arranged. You need only swear yourself to me. Unless, of course,” he added dangerously, “you do not wish to do so. Are you looking for a way out, boy? Because that can be arranged much more easily than an initiation.”
“No, sir,” Draco said quickly. He knew exactly what happened to those who turned down a place in the Dark Lord’s ranks. It wasn’t pretty. “I’m just – just a bit nervous. This is an important occasion, you know.”
“Yes,” Voldemort said softly. “I do know, indeed.” His eyes gripped Draco’s in their glare, searing into his brain to peer at his soul. Draco fought the urge to squirm under that gaze, wishing with all his might that he were somewhere else – anywhere, as long as it wasn’t there. He should have visited his cousins in France this summer, like his mother had wanted him to. Then he wouldn’t be here, being forced into an initiation he didn’t want.
“Ahh,” Voldemort breathed. Draco froze. What was that? Why was the Dark Lord staring at him that way? Draco was getting the feeling that there had been a test somewhere in the past couple minutes, and that he’d failed it very badly.
Voldemort rose from his throne, towering over Draco and the Death Eaters. “It appears that young Mr. Malfoy does not wish to join our ranks, after all,” he said, smiling grimly. “A pity, Lucius – you assured me your son had great potential. I’m afraid you won’t get to see it fulfilled.”
Draco saw it coming, saw the Dark Lord raise his wand to utter a curse. He scrambled to pull his own wand from his pocket, but he knew he’d never make it in time. He wondered briefly if it would simply be the Killing Curse, which was at least a clean death, supposedly painless, or if the Dark Lord would choose something to make more of an impression on other potential Death Eaters. He was afraid it would be the latter.
And then – to the left – through a doorway, a huge, closed doorway – a flash of light drew everyone’s attention, everyone’s eyes long enough for Draco to turn and bolt in the other direction, for the doors on the other end of the room. He heard crashes behind him, and shouts, as he ducked through the mass of Death Eaters, but he knew better than to try to turn around while escaping. He reached the door and snatched desperately at the handle. It was locked.
Draco pulled out his wand and whispered, “Alohomora,” hoping he wouldn’t draw anyone’s attention. Fortunately, he didn’t. Unfortunately, that was because the spell had no effect.
Giving the door handle one last tug, on the off chance it might come loose with physical force, Draco stepped back to try blasting the door open – and stepped right into another Death Eater.
“I don’t think so, Draco.” Draco recognized his father’s voice, he even recognized the way Lucius gripped him by both arms. “I don’t know what you did back there to upset the Master, but you’re going to go back and prove to him you’re a worthy candidate. I’ve worked too long to get back in his good graces to have you ruin everything for me now.”
Draco knew it was futile to twist in this grip, but he tried anyway. He knew that this was one test where there were no second chances. If he got near Voldemort again, he would be dead. And, quite understandably, he did not want to die.
Apparently, someone – something? – else had similar feelings on the matter.
A powerful force knocked Draco aside, breaking Lucius’s hold on his son. :Get up, quickly!: a voice ordered. Draco scrambled to his feet, looking around for the speaker. Instead, a shining white horse presented itself. :Up! Up now, you twit, before they hit us!:
Draco still couldn’t see the woman who was shouting at him, but it was fairly clear what she wanted him to do. And since she seemed to be on his side, at least for now, Draco decided that going along with her plan had to be better than waiting here to get killed. He struggled onto the horse’s back, wishing his father hadn’t deemed horseback riding too Muggle a skill for his family.
:About time,: the unseen woman snapped. :Now hang on while I get us out of here.:
Giving Draco just enough time to get his arms securely around his mount’s neck, the horse sprang away with incredible speed, towards the door where all the commotion had started. Or at least, the speed seemed incredible to Draco, but for all he knew this was how fast all horses moved. He hoped he wasn’t going to be expected to help fend off attacks, because it was all he could do to hang on to his ride.
Still, the horse didn’t seem to need his help, barreling through the Death Eaters like they were so many paper dolls. She didn’t have any qualms about removing wizards from her way with a neatly placed kick or bite, either. Those wizards with the sense to hang back and send curses at Draco from afar found that the horse was moving too rapidly, that she was never in the place that they aimed, and several Death Eaters were suffering from friendly fire by the time the horse brought Draco to the closed doors through which she’d entered.
:Don’t let go,: the woman ordered, just before the horse plunged forward. There was a sickening jolt, and Draco’s stomach seemed to have forgotten to come when they moved, and then – they were elsewhere.
Draco twisted around on the horse’s back, expecting to see the Death Eaters chasing after him, but the only thing behind him was the entrance to a small church. Draco blinked. Had he touched a Portkey somehow, without noticing?
Realizing the horse had slowed to a stop, Draco looked at the area in front of him. It was a rather pretty field, full of other horses as white as the one he rode. But they weren’t behaving the way normal horses would. Granted, Draco didn’t know much about what horses usually did, but he was fairly certain that standing in a large circle staring at him with extremely intelligent eyes was not typical behavior. It was starting to make him nervous. He wished his mysterious rescuer would show herself.
A worrying thought occurred to Draco. Suppose the woman hadn’t made it out of the audience chamber with the Death Eaters? The curses had been flying pretty fast there. He was amazed he and the horse had made it out. Much to Draco’s astonishment, he felt rather panicky at the idea of his rescuer being left at the hands of the Death Eaters. He didn’t usually feel that level of anxiety for anyone but his parents.
:Stop that. I’m fine.: Draco breathed a sigh of relief, hearing the woman’s voice again. He twisted around, trying to figure out where she was. Could she be invisible?
:Of course I’m not invisible. Don’t be stupid. Now come down and let me get a good look at you.:
Draco bristled a bit at being called stupid, but his curiosity about his rescuer was greater than his annoyance. The horse knelt down, allowing him to step off. “Okay, then,” he said, once he was on firm ground. “Here I am. Where are you?”
Draco frowned. He’d thought there was nothing behind him but the horse. Still, figuring that since the woman had rescued him, he might as well humor her, he turned.
And he fell down – down – into a pair of eyes as deep a blue as the early autumn sky. You, Draco realized dizzily as he finally recognized the owner of the mysterious voice. It’s you!
:Yes, quite,: she replied – not verbally, as Draco had been assuming, but inside his head. :I am Orelia. You are Draco. I Choose you.:
And with those words, feelings overwhelmed Draco – feelings of warmth and love, acceptance and friendship, and most of all, a promise that she would never, never leave him or betray him. And for the first time in his life, Draco realized that it was a promise he was prepared to believe enough to return it.