There was a chill in the air, despite it being May already. Spring had been very slowly taking over the land, having to fight for every inch of fresh grass and new blooms. Delphini knew that magic had something to do with it, as if the weather was at war as well.
She was furious, today, and as stormy as the weather, her mood rolling like the clouds above, concealing the sun that had barely creeped over the horizon. She had been up all night, dangerously close to rebellion as the stars rose and the moon walked its path across the sky. She wanted to fight.
She had been locked up in Malfoy Manor for over a year now. Her existence at Hogwarts had become too much of a liability for both sides, and Dumbledore had set her fate by trying to have her become the first student with permanent residence at the school. She had rebelled then, shattering her façade as a Lestrange, her fury a mighty thing to behold, and used all of the things she had been secretly learning, which ended with what could only be described as a witch hunt deep into the belly of the Forbidden Forest. It had taken her three days until she could find a compliant Thestral and fly out more or less unnoticed.
She had arrived at the Manor with plenty of cuts and bruises, but she had proven herself a warrior that day. Her mother and aunt had taken care of her, spreading balm on her wounds, fixing her broken ribs, magically stitching her porcelain skin back together. Then and only then, when she could present herself with her head held high and no trace of pain on her features, she had gone to her father.
Lord Voldemort had always been a menacing creature, but that day she had seen the true darkness at his core. If she could no longer serve him as a spy next to his most powerful enemy, if she could no longer hold the sword of his ire over the necks of so many through their children, she would become his soldier.
Her training had started immediately, and that first session had taken more than balms and simple spells to recover from.
Still, she had loved that year, the unique opportunity she had had to thrive here, enveloped in the darkness she had always craved. She had learned about the Dark Arts, she had been honed into a dangerous and deadly duellist.
Though, in that year, she had learned about of something else. She had seen the undoing of her parents. The ways in which their madness, although different, had taken chunks off their brilliant minds.
Father had always been paranoid, but now he was well and truly broken. These past few months had heralded nothing but more viciousness. The war had been painted with strokes of cruelness so far unknown. She had seen it undo them all. Uncle Lucius, Aunt Narcissa, Draco. Rodolphus and Rabastan, who trained her often, eagerly sharpening her skills, proud co-creators of the Dark Lord’s most lethal weapon. Mother and Father had been undone as well, though she barely dared think about it. Their cruelness unleashed upon the world and everyone in it, even herself. Even each other. Not quite, his on her, but never the other way around.
They had a gift though, a way of taking the bits the world claimed from them and use them, hurling them back, making weapons out of them. She could do it too, she knew. Broken or not, she could lunge every bit the world had taken from her, and take back with every blow.
The world had denied her of her true identity until that first day at Hogwarts, when Draco had told her about her true family. When, for the first time, the cold walls of the Slytherin Common Room had felt more welcoming than her home ever had. Then Christmas had come, and Uncle Lucius and Aunt Narcissa had refused to let her go without a fight, and she had revelled in the magnificent sobriety of Malfoy Manor, so very different from the loudness and the brightness and the chaos she had been brought up amongst.
Today, she loathed these walls. Today, Malfoy Manor felt like a jail. She had wanted to fight, she had wanted to stand side by side with her family, to perilously dive into the throng of the enemy, with her father’s mighty snake at her heel, the unstoppable duo that they were, both tasked with looking over one another.
If she were truly such a weapon, why wasn’t she allowed to fight? Why wouldn’t her father use her?
Rodolphus carefully treaded the hallway, not meaning to startle Delphini, but not willing to give her a heads-up. She would be all poise and careful display if he let her.
She was eerily similar to Bella at her age, but she had none of the wild edge of her mother. No, this girl had been brought up surrounded by people that did not understand her, that refused to accept her essence, so she had learned to conceal. Smoke and mirrors were basic staples of her, and she used them well.
He knew her, though. He had listened to Narcissa talk about her, and he heeded the insight she had into their wonder of a girl. He had also come to know her in the months they had spent together here, and with that came knowledge of her moods, not quite as variable as her mother’s, not quite as dangerous as her father’s.
He could see her, now. Perched up on the windowsill, her hair let loose and waving about her, her silhouette painted in hues of orange and pink against the rising sun, the colours made dull by the greyness of the day. Her posture was tense, and he could see her right hand spin her pale wand, a miniscule reflection of the true storm raging inside her mind.
Like her father, Delphini too was a born Legilimens, and Occlumency had come easy to her. The result was a mind that was now an impregnable fortress, far beyond what any of them could have imagined. She never let her walls down, not unless the Dark Lord himself ordered her so.
She slightly tilted her head, and he knew he had been made. Her mind, furious as it may be, never stopped scouting about, looking for others and precisely matching them to names.
"How'd you find me?" Her voice was perfectly neutral, shockingly cold.
"You always come here when you're upset... also, I looked everywhere else," he replied, stepping into Lucius’ study and walking to the wide open window.
He found it endearing, and more than a little reassuring, that this exquisite creature, made of darkness and refined in it, still had a measure of sentimentality to her. Delphini could care; Delphini knew how to like someone and even knew how to love, although she kept it well hidden around her father. Rodolphus could never thank Narcissa enough for that, for she was the one who had rooted this girl firmly in her caring heart.
Delphini pulled her legs up and over the sill, facing him. She was wearing a white, short-sleeved blouse and a long, emerald green skirt, with very sensible-heeled black shoes. Her femininity was more essence than façade, but she knew how to wield it as one of her weapons.
“How come he’s left you behind as well? Why would he side line a warrior like you? He goes on and on about how I’m to be his path to glory, about how I’ll help him pave the way to a new, better world and yet, here I am.”
Rodolphus made fists of his hands. He knew why, or he thought he did. This kind of doubt though, was dangerous. Their master was far too ruthless to let his own daughter get away with questioning him.
Delphini was staring him square in the eye, trying to pierce the barrier into his mind, he knew. She wouldn’t be so crass as to try and squash the hurdles he had put up over the years, but she was fond of a challenge, and fond of sly ways into people’s thoughts.
“You’re not getting in.”
"Try and stop me," she said, a wicked little smile on the corner of her mouth, and a definite push against his mind.
Rodolphus shoved her out, smiling back as the amusement disappeared from her face and her jaw squared. It was good, he thought, he needed her a little off her balance. What he was about to tell was the most dangerous secret any of them could hold, one he had just recently learned.
His master was well and truly broken. His master had procured power through any means he could, and he had undone himself in the process. His master had paved the way to his own demise, and that was why they were here.
The Dark Lord needed to keep his heiress safe.
His heiress though, the precious Augurey, was coming dangerously close to flying off the nest. She would try her wings, and if Rodolphus did not stay her course, she would fly straight into her own death.
“You know why, Delphini.”
She gingerly leaped off the windowsill and walked towards Rodolphus.
Her mother’s husband, Uncle Dolph as she half-teasingly and half-lovingly referred to him when they were alone, was probably the most interesting puzzle she had yet to figure out. Loyal to a fault, capable of sacrificing himself in a heartbeat, made for the fight to the point of being reckless, yet loving at his core.
She started circling him, and he moved in tandem, a rhythm they knew from endless afternoons of training.
“You do, Delphini. Think. Solve the riddle,” he challenged her. She caught a glimpse of laughter in his eyes, and she so craved being inside his mind at that.
“He wants to keep me safe, I know, but why?”
There was a sadness to his features, now. And he let his dark eyes drop to the ground, shying away from hers.
“To keep himself safe, Delphini. Tell me, haven’t you noticed a change?”
Delphini stood still at that, or as still as she could, pointlessly fighting the trembling that had engulfed her every muscle. This was dangerous. This was a murky path to tread. Treason, even in mere thoughts, came at a high price in the Dark Lord’s ranks.
Her father had been more than a little unhinged recently, his manner crueller, his orders becoming erratic, his plans failing right and left. He had done things to amass more power, and it had taken a toll on him, she knew.
He had done things he would never teach her, for he was not to be surpassed, she knew that to. What she did not know was the reason her father would not risk her, when he was so willing to risk everyone else.
“I am telling you this so that you never question him, no matter what happens, Delphini. Do you understand what I mean?”
Delphini nodded. Rodolphus’ intention was crystal clear. He was offering her a gift of protection wrapped in information. Information she was not meant to have, so that she wouldn’t go look for answers on her own. So that she wouldn’t bring her father’s wrath upon herself. He was risking himself by doing so.
“Why did my father choose today to attack Hogwarts? He already had control of the school.” She couldn’t pinpoint why, but she knew Hogwarts was central to getting the full picture.
“Because the boy found out about this, too. The Dark Lord shattered his soul in his search for more power, and the boy has been destroying the pieces. No matter what happens today, our master will never be whole again, and he’ll be more dangerous for it.”
Delphini’s throat went dry. Her mind whirled. Her eyes looked for Rodolphus’, and her thoughts halted. Then, they started again. This was all part of a greater plan, one where Rodolphus was providing instructions on what to do should the Dark Lord fall again. She knew that was a possibility, her father knew it too. He had disclosed a prophecy to her, and only her. The mournful bird whose dark wings would shield his soul and bring him back.
She would need a piece of his soul to retrieve him. Her mind set to running at that, leaping from thought to thought, putting the puzzle together. Running, and running, and running until she crossed the finish line and felt her very sanity slide on its feet, clinging for friction, halting at the thought of a snake.
The way she felt connected to Nagini, the way her father demanded to always have his familiar near. Nagini held a piece of her father, and Delphini could not fathom why he hadn’t left her behind. If he needed her safe so that she could help him rebuild the world once the war was over, why wouldn’t he entrust her with his soul?
“It hurts him when you and Nagini are close to one another, Delphini. In an ordinary day, he can tolerate it. But during battle, he wouldn’t be able to focus. That’s why you’re here. And that’s why I’m playing nanny.” He sounded more than a little displeased.
“Then why not leave Nagini in some other place, away from me?”
“He tasked your mother with the saving of his soul. Bella is to take Nagini to a safe place, if need arises. I’ll take you there as well but only if necessary.”
It took one look into the girl’s eyes. One glimpse of her brilliant mind escaping through her wide, heavy-lidded eyes, and Rodolphus knew the fault in his plan.
The fault in both their hearts.
She cared, like he did. And she could be just as reckless as her mother, just as tenacious. He knew then that his plan had failed. This was supposed to keep her safe but it had backfired in what he was sure would be a spectacular way.
Rodolphus extracted his wand from his holster, standing straighter.
“I won’t let you leave. You’re not going to Hogwarts, Delphini.”
She did not move. She merely looked into his eyes. He felt like he was diving into a bottomless sea, and his mind was too slow to catch up with her ruse.
Delphini muttered something under her breath, and Rodolphus felt his body take flight and crash into a bookshelf. His head screamed in pain and fury. He could not let her go; he was supposed to protect her. He had been commanded to. He had promised Bella he would.
Only then could his lungs take a gulp of fresh air, ridden of all oxygen as they had been by the impact. He moved to stand, and his eyes saw dark spots and bright lights. He leaned on the bookshelf, his left hand finding purchase there, levering his body up, but he was too late.
The last thing Rodolphus saw was a tumbling mane of inky curls, waving in tandem with an emerald green skirt.
Delphini ran. Her mind and heart galloped alongside her feet. How on earth had they come to this? How unhinged could they all be that they didn’t see the fault in her father’s plan?
Her mother had a true passion for the fight, a streak of evil in her that could only be quenched by battle. Bellatrix Lestrange would not walk away from battle, would never walk away from her master.
Her mother would not save the soul of her father, blinded by battle as she would be, so she had to.
Delphini tripped on the steps just beyond the great doors to the Manor, nearly landing hands first on the gravel path that lead to the embellished iron gates. She ran past those, the iron barely moving out of her way, and kept running. She damned every shield, charm and hex that protected this place. She ran across a vast green lawn, whishing she had thought to put on something more sensible for a fight than a silky skirt of her favourite colour.
She skidded on the grass as she felt the air be drawn out of her. Not by impact, no, but by the magical barrier she had just crossed. She took a second to steady herself, calm her breathing and focus.
Destination, Determination and Deliberation, she thought, just like she had been taught, before she turned right, just as another thought bloomed in her mind.
You can’t Apparate into Hogwarts.
Delphini landed with a thud and a crack in the Great Hall. It made no sense, but here she was, with far more pressing matters to attend to.
She was surrounded by people lying on the floor. The dead and the injured, she realized. There were cries of horror around her, but she had not been spotted. No, everyone’s focus was outside, on whatever was happening in the courtyard.
She could hear her father’s words, and her mother’s glee. Her mind spread its wings over the crowd, frantically looking for Potter.
Potter was no more. He was dead, truly gone this time. She couldn’t help but smile.
Delphini moved as fast as she could, taking care to hide her true features. She willed her hair and her eyes into plain brown, taming the curl in her locks into something that moved less like a mane and more like a curtain. She pushed through the mob of students, pressing her path forward.
A couple minds around her noticed her, judging her as foreign, but it was a fleeting thing, pressed for attention as they were by the crowd of dark robes and silver masks standing on the opposite side. Her eyes quickly scanned her father’s army, and her heart stumbled at the absence of her cousin, only to steady again at the sight of Draco calmly walking across the courtyard to join their ranks.
Another boy sprinted across the yard, yelling for all he was worth. Longbottom, she noticed, shifting her attention again when the young wizard fell and became a plaything for his father.
Her mind flew over, assuring her of the Malfoys’ well-being. Her aunt’s mind was still racing, trying to figure out how Potter still had a heartbeat the first time she touched him. Delphini caught a glimpse of her mother kneeling by her father, screaming her fury at the boy as a jolt of angry red left her wand. It had not been a clean death, but Potter was gone all the same.
She would not dare and touch the minds of her parents. She could not get by unnoticed, and she was far too busy trying to put a plan together.
Her ever scouting mind made every hair on her body rise, and she had to physically stop herself from trembling where she stood.
The boy, Neville, he was tasked with killing Nagini. He knew.
Delphini let her true features show, too focused now to keep the pretence up. There were gasps all around her, and screaming from both sides of the courtyard, but all she could see was a boy drawing a sword from a hat.
Her voice echoed and silenced everything around her. The boy fell, and so did the sword, and many others around her. The Death Eaters were offering her as much protection as they could, in all sorts of creative cruelty.
Delphini ran across the yard, her heels slipping on Potter’s blood when she reached Lord Voldemort and his soul. She let all the shields of her mind down, and pushed a couple of selected thoughts forward.
Her father’s crimson eyes pierced hers, and she saw the flame of anger be quelled by what he found there.
“Go,” her father simply said.
Delphini cast a shield around herself and Nagini, taking a second to peruse the sheer chaos that had erupted, and the way her mother was already engaged in battle, gracefully and recklessly dodging curses as she shot vicious spells at the enemy, and determinedly turned right, the mighty snake orderly coiled around her legs.
Lord Voldemort gave his full attention to the battle then. He had his immortality assured. His Augurey had done her part.
There was a fault in her. A fundamental one, and one that he had despised in everyone around him all his life.
One that he could not despise in her.