The Sugar Quill
Author: Penpusher (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Sorceror's Endgame  Chapter: Epilogue
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Prologue

A green flash, laser-thin, shot through the air to impact on something soft at approximately floor level. A cry of pain followed by muffled groans elicited a high-pitched laugh from the figure standing by the desk. Giggling uncontrollably, he raised his wand to rain a volley of identical attacks in the same direction, almost jumping up and down in glee at the resulting howls of torment. With a flourish, he took aim once again.

"Crucio!" he declaimed triumphantly, eyes afire with unholy delight as his victim writhed in unspeakable agony. The anguished screams were getting quieter, the vocal chords raw and lacerated. Abruptly there was silence. The torturer, his manic grin fading into uncertainty, repeated his Curse. In the firelight a shapeless lump jerked once as the magic hit home, but was otherwise ominously still.

"Fool!" Snarled a new voice, harsh and angry. A third person rose swiftly from behind the desk and strode over to the prone figure sprawled on the exquisite Chinese silk rug. He kicked it indifferently in the ribs. It remained motionless.

"You are just as incompetent at torture as you are at everything else!"

"I'm certain he isn't dead, sir, just unconscious." The voice was oily and uncertain, the face flabby, pale-eyed beneath a thinning head of grey hair.

"Of course he isn't dead! You're not even adept enough to kill him. The essence of torture is control: assessing the victim's pain threshold and keeping the level just below unconsciousness. It is an art - an art in which you have absolutely no ability, just like everything else!" The man was virtually spitting with rage by this time. He waved a negligent arm.

"Have him put in the dungeon. The East Wing. Nothing but the highest security for this one - he was a very able and promising student at one time. And, of course, blood will always out." He sighed and sat back in his chair, smoothing his silver hair gently. "After all, he spent more than twenty years in my house, under my instruction." He sighed then added almost inaudibly, "As my son." The other had not heard, he was issuing instructions for the removal of his handwork from the library. The silver-haired man sighed again then opened an inlaid mahogany cabinet and proceeded to pour himself a substantial drink. The other, having followed his orders, hovered nervously in the shadows by the doorway until the silver-haired man waved him away irritably.

"Are you still here? Get out of my sight - I've endured enough of your dismal ineptitude for one day. It defeats me how you ever managed to train as a wizard in the first place, let alone become an Animagus. Away! Don't taunt me with your uselessness. You're a constant reminder of how difficult it is to get good help these days. Take your miserable hide out of my sight and keep it there until I summon you. And stay away from the East Wing dungeon. When he wakes, I'll deal with him, and perhaps then you might learn a thing or two about torture - from an artist."

Wide-eyed, the balding man fled the library, wiping sweating palms on the seat of his trousers. For a long while his superior sat motionless at his desk, gazing unseeingly at the blotter. Eventually he reached for his untouched drink, twirling the amber liquid around the glass thoughtfully. The light from the dying fire caught on a carefully fashioned device etched into the glass and the man sighed. He knew its design so well he could have sketched the crest in its entirety on the blotter without a moment's thought. And the motto "Ambition is the mother of power", in Latin of course, had been the mantra which had dominated the entirety of his adult life. He had done his duty: married well, maintained the family honour, produced an heir to continue the family line. Making a sound of disgust, he drained the glass at one gulp and crashed it down forcefully on the desk. He crossed to the door in three impatient strides, slamming it forcefully after him. The contents of the desk trembled in the aftershock and the glass, already unsteadily poised, tipped over, spilling its dregs over the neat stack of writing paper. The liquid soaked into the letterhead, blurring the title: "Lucius Malfoy Esq."

 

~oo0oo~

 

Draco Malfoy came to slowly and painfully. He felt like he'd been on a three-day bender with the Bulgarian International Quidditch team, then comprehensively stomped on by a herd of mastodons. Come to think of it, that amounted to the same thing, didn't it? Gods, his head ached. It seemed like several days later, when he'd managed to drag his eyelids open, it registered that he was lying in a sprawled puddle at the far corner of a damp, dirty and extremely smelly basement. Further examination of the bars on the windows and the heavy iron door led him to revise that conclusion. This was, in fact, a dungeon. To be precise, his dungeon, in his house. At least, it used to be his house. Draco sighed. By his calculations, he was in the East Wing. That fact alone made the chances of escape more or less negligible, although he could pass some time prowling around to make sure. Just as soon as his legs agreed to hold him up, that is. How in hell had he managed to get into this situation anyway?

Draco fell back against the wall and let his mind travel backwards. It wasn't that he had expected to get off scot free for allowing Ginny Weasley to slip through his fingers. He knew he was due for some pretty serious punishment - Lucius didn't tolerate failure - but he hadn't bargained for Veritaserum. Something in Draco's explanation, his words, his demeanour, had obviously set Lucius's suspicious antennae twitching, and he had chosen to use the truth drug rather than accept Draco's word. However, he had never seen his father so overcome with shock as when the real truth of the matter was forced out of his son's own mouth. Initially, this numb disbelief had proved to be Draco's salvation: Lucius had been careless and Draco had escaped. However, he had not been functioning on all four cylinders and had left a trail as wide as Hogwarts Lake. It had only been a few months before Lucius's minions had caught up with him. Macnair had actually made the capture - Draco's face burned with humiliation at the memory. This was a Malfoy lackey whose contract he would take great pleasure in terminating - with extreme prejudice.

The pain of his injuries and the effects of starvation and thirst made Draco light-headed. His mind wandered into unfamiliar territory, dogged by memories he wanted to suppress. That moment of weakness on the brink of achieving something no other Dark Wizard, including you-know-who, had been able to accomplish - to seriously damage, perhaps destroy, the famous Harry Potter. He called himself every name he could think of - why had he been so weak? His father would have revelled in the experience, would have viewed the girl's coercion as arousing, her helplessness exciting. Just as he would take a twisted pleasure from his next task. Draco knew he had no future, he was facing little more than slow torture and death. He had already given Lucius every scrap of information that might prove useful, and a good deal that would not. He was an empty husk, drained, bled dry, useless now except for the entertainment of watching him die.

Draco had no illusions about his father's regard. His mother, Narcissa, had been a career wife: beautiful, educated, willing to tolerate an arranged marriage for the sake of money and status. She had been unaware of her husband's cruel, sadistic streak until Draco was born. Draco himself had been conceived purely out of duty because the Malfoy family needed an heir. However, after Draco's birth, Lucius no longer felt it necessary to conceal his true nature from his wife. Instead he used the young boy as a lever to ensure Narcissa's obedience to his every whim. Draco was a very observant child and grew up believing this to be both normal and acceptable. He had very few memories of his mother. After her death, he deliberately suppressed them, scorning her for her weakness and her lack of the true "Malfoy spirit". Lucius hardly paid lip-service to her memory. His father had been discreet, but Draco had always been wired for sound and had learned very early on, even before his mother's death, that there were many other women in Lucius's life. Narcissa slipped quietly away: Draco himself was the only concrete reminder that she had existed at all.

Unaware that he had slept, Draco was aroused by a scratching at the prison door. The key was turned and the door swung open on its hinges to reveal a strange stooping figure carrying a tray. Draco let out an unsteady breath and consciously relaxed muscles tight with anticipation. He watched the House Elf diffidently approach him and nerved himself to sit up, registering as he did so the chains on his wrists and ankles. The pain was not as great as he had anticipated, but he felt as weak as a kitten. The House Elf put down the tray without raising its eyes, then, before he could blink, it shot a bolt of silver sparks from its fingertip directly at the chains around his wrists. Draco opened his mouth in surprise, but the House Elf raised its head, a finger over its lips. It turned back to its task, opening the shackles on his ankles without destroying the chains themselves. It then gestured urgently towards the tray, lowered its hood and made as if to leave.

"Why are you helping me?" Draco's question was so quiet as to be almost inaudible. He shook his head. This was impossible. There was no one at Malfoy Manor who would give him a glass of water if he was on fire, and his reputation with House Elves was far from good. The Elf paused then lifted its hood once more.

"The mistress says 'All debts are now paid'. That is all I is saying. I must go now." The House Elf scuttled quickly away. Draco stared after it, something niggling at the back of his mind. He shrugged, sat up - more comfortably now without the chains - and investigated the tray. Bread, a slab of reasonable-looking cheese, a pitcher of water. He looked for a knife to cut the cheese and his fingers curled round something slim and wooden. Feeling his fingertips tingle at the contact, Draco's thin lips curved into a smile. His wand! Now he had a fighting chance to escape. It would be difficult, but suddenly hope came flooding back. He broke off some of the break and took a long drink from the pitcher of water. A frown spread across his forehead. Why did the House Elf help me? Who sent it? A faint wisp of memory chased its own tail for a while, and finally broke through to the surface. Dobby. He affirmed silently. And the mistress? Well, I think I can risk a guess who that is. So all debts are paid are they? He shook his head, smiling enigmatically. We'll see about that.

 

~oo0oo~

 

"Bring him in." The bald-headed man scuttled quickly out of the library, returning moments later pushing a suitably battered and chained Draco before him. One particularly spiteful shove sent Draco sprawling bonelessly forward onto the Chinese rug, smearing it liberally with nameless filth from the dungeon floor.

"Get on your feet, you worthless piece of excrement!" Lucius was already beside himself with impatience. Draco allowed himself an inner smile: Dad was losing it already, and he hadn't even started. It took him three attempts to lever himself off the floor, and each effort ground more and more dirt into the pastel silk. In actual fact, Draco had made good use of his time in the dungeon. The bread and water had, of course, saved his life, giving him the energy to perform healing spells for his considerable hurts and to provide the wherewithal for a comfortable night's sleep. The wand he had hidden in the emergency sleeve sheath, one of which he ensured had been sewn into every shirt he owned. Draco smiled: the clothes he was wearing might be filthy, torn, smelly and disgusting, but at least they were his own.

Lucius rose slowly from his desk, gradually bringing his temper under control. Gradually and with the utmost care, he removed his cufflinks and began to roll the sleeves of his immaculate bespoke robes to his elbows, taking his time, prolonging the expectancy. The bald-headed man was watching with barely concealed excitement, tongue darting rapidly over his lips as he eagerly anticipated the promised demonstration. Draco glanced briefly at him and felt the first stirrings of nausea: now he remembered why he had been revolted by Peter Pettigrew from the very beginning.

"Now, Wormtail." Began Lucius, silently sliding open a desk drawer and removing his wand. "The promised demonstration. I told you torture was an art form, and indeed it is - one that must be carefully prepared and meticulously studied before the practitioner can be truly effective. I studied with a master of the art - my father, who you never knew. That fact is, of course, very fortunate for you. He would never have tolerated a feeble, useless wretch like you as a servant, but then," Lucius sighed in an exaggerated fashion, "He always did accuse me of being too soft." For the first time his eyes lit upon Draco, hard as flint and just as unyielding. Draco flinched visibly.

"Father," he began, swallowing convulsively. Lucius sent a sudden bolt of fire into the rug at Draco's feet, obviously having written off the antique carpetwork as beyond salvage.

"I have disowned you." Lucius hissed savagely, "You are no longer my son, you are no longer a Malfoy. You are nothing! Just a piece of dirt, a miserable, snivelling vermin, a failure and a turncoat." Draco looked terrified.

"But I did my best "

"If that is your best, then the Dark Forces are well rid of you!" Lucius snapped back. "You are worthy of nothing better than the Avada curse." He raised his wand. Draco's drew in a sudden breath, preparing to duck, but Pettigrew could not contain himself.

"Oh, go on, sir!" he chuckled evilly, clutching Lucius's left elbow in his excitement. Lucius glared down at Pettigrew's hand as though it had leprosy. He shook him off violently and leaned over him, glowering in fury. Pettigrew cringed.

"If you ever lay a hand on me again " rumbled Lucius, leaving the threat unspoken. He turned back to Draco.

"But Father, one mistake - just one!" Draco was trying again. Lucius took an infuriated step towards his son.

"One mistake? One mistake?!" he shouted. "If it were only that, perhaps something could be salvaged. But you were always a disappointment, Draco, never the Dark Wizard you should have been!"

"But why? How did I disappoint you so badly?" Draco was shaking his head in confusion.

"Why? How?" Lucius was starting to pace around in his agitation. "No family of any status in the wizarding world has had to endure such a pathetic failure as a son and heir. You disappointed me at Hogwarts, you were hopelessly inept as a post-graduate, the rank you finally achieved was so low as to be a disgrace to the name of Malfoy. My influence wasn't enough - even that couldn't redeem you. Crabbe and Goyle, brainless as they are, at least produced biddable canon fodder. My only son and heir couldn't even be classed as that! Why even your useless sister would have " Draco's eyes shot wide open.

"My sister? What about her?" But Lucius had turned away and was walking back to the desk. Draco straightened up, all thoughts of escape forgotten.

"Father, look at me." his voice held an unmistakeable ring of command. Reluctantly, Lucius turned to face Draco, his face stained a dull red.

"I shouldn't have said that." he admitted, avoiding his son's eyes. Draco felt his muscles tensing, his breathing quickening. It had to be soon.

"Lucius." He said calmly, coldly. "What about Aurora? What have you been hiding from me all these years?" Lucius struggled, his face working.

"Silence!" he bellowed, then with a roar he drew his left hand back and struck Draco hard across the head. This was the opening Draco had been waiting for. Watching his father's body language, he predicted the blow and moved to avoid it. He was not totally successful, but at least he maintained his footing. The heavy iron chain fell away from his legs, but he held on to the one between his wrists. With a nimbleness at odds with his injured exterior, he kicked the wand from his father's right hand while freeing his own from the sleeve sheath. He pointed it straight at Lucius.

"Stupefy!" he shouted, simultaneously swinging the chain in an arc until it wrapped itself firmly around Pettigrew's neck. Pettigrew gave a horrified gurgle and snatched at the chain with both hands, his eyes starting out of his head. Draco took the opportunity to connect his right foot hard against Pettigrew's groin, grimacing in satisfaction at the resulting shriek of agony. Lucius crashed headlong onto the abused Chinese carpet like a fallen tree. Pettigrew grovelled, scrabbling at his master's feet, paralysed with pain and vomiting helplessly. Draco shook his head, looking indifferently at the tableau before him. That carpet has to be a write-off, he thought, then stunned Pettigrew too, for good measure. He stood for a moment regaining his breath and listening for the sound of reinforcements before once more aiming his wand at the two prone figures.

"Astringo!" he muttered. "Nothing like both belt and braces." Cords flew out of his wand, trussing them quickly and efficiently. He then moved to the door, opening it slowly and carefully. Nothing. Apparently the cavalry were on holiday. Draco stood hesitating. In all honesty, he had not expected to get this far. He now had no idea what to do next. Brain working in overdrive, he moved quickly to the desk, selected a pen and a stack of headed paper and began to write: he had to buy himself as much time and freedom of movement as possible, and chaos within the Malfoy empire would achieve both of those things.

Thirty minutes later saw Draco, having sent off the last of the owls, showered, newly attired in his own clean clothes and carrying a backpack containing a number of useful items, most of which were not his own. He stood in the library surveying the unconscious forms of the two wizards, deep in thought. His eyes flickered over to the desk. Moving over to it, he began to take it carefully apart, destroying documents, throwing items apparently at random into the fire. Methodically, he searched it for hidden drawers and, finding two, examined the contents, burning what he did not transfer to his own backpack. Finally he stood up holding one small item between finger and thumb: the Malfoy seal. Tossing it up to the ceiling, he caught it in the palm of his hand and pocketed it with a smile.

"Finders keepers." He said quietly, and left the library without a backward glance. Five minutes later he was astride a Nimbus 2000 stolen from the house collection, arrowing his way through the clouds, a very thoughtful expression on his face. Draco Malfoy had made up his mind where he was going - at least for a while.

 

Author's Notes: The title "Sorcerors' Endgame" is taken from the excellent "Belgariad" by David Eddings. I have just changed the grammatical format to suit my own purposes. This is the third and [probably] final story in this series, as I aim to tie up all the loose ends herein [famous last words!] Many thanks to all at Sugarquill who have been reading my efforts to predict what kind of adults the Potter characters would develop into. I hope this one isn't a disappointment.

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