|Never Really a Choice (Ashley Mulciber/John Dawlish, PG)
||[Feb. 26th, 2012|06:30 pm]
Title: Never Really a Choice
Pairing: Ashley Mulciber/John Dawlish
Word Count: 2,408
Summary: One of the Lord’s promising young Death Eaters, Ashley Mulciber, finds out he is a Veela mated to John Dawlish, a Ravenclaw seventh year he used to tutor. Ashley asks John to give him a chance and John honestly has no idea what to do about it until his mind is made up for him.
Notes: Written for the do_me_veela fest.
Large raindrops fell from the sky, saturating John’s already soaked-through cloak. They made plinking sounds in the mud, diluting it so that it ran in opaque rivulets through the grass. The grey autumn sky was murky and bleak as it sheds its icy tears. John pulled up his hood further over his head and tried to not think. Thinking hurt and it made him question everything, along with what exactly he was doing here.
The field where he had told Ashley Mulciber to meet him was deserted. It stretched out for many long yards before finally hitting a row of dark trees signaling the start of the wood. John tried to decide where Mulciber would come from – if he would apparate or portkey or come on broom, swishing like a strange bird from behind the row of trees, his dirty-blonde hair plastered against his forehead with the rain, the color of moist sand.
John tried to focus but found every muscle in his body tense to the point where focus becomes allusive and panic festers freely. He wasn’t ready for this, he’s yet to graduate Hogwarts, not to mention start his Auror training. He was a smart kid, but that’s about it. He was not especially agile with his body or good with his words. He could still taste the sweet lemondrop candy from Dumbledore’s office and feel Alaster Moody’s oppressive glare at the back of his neck. How had they known? He hadn’t told anyone, not even the couple of friends he had. Partially because it was embarrassing and partially because…some things just stick around, glued to a place deep within the mind. Stuck. John had only been a second year when Ashley Mulciber had been in his seventh, but perhaps that was part of it. He’d still been a child, still impressionable and what Mulciber could do and how willing he was to show John just how it worked, had awed John beyond measure. That feeling of awe had stuck somehow. The feeling of importance that half-blood Ravenclaw of twelve or thirteen couldn’t have avoided feeling when he was with Ashely even if someone had told him that Mulciber was already working for big bad Dark Lord.
John had been absolutely in love.
So when the letter came at the start of last month, Ashley’s neat, tutor-perfected cursive drawing out words, the meaning of which John could not comprehend at first out of shock, he had felt, despite his confusion, a wave of nostalgia wash over him. He was no longer a child, although still absolutely innocent of sexual experiences – girls terrified him and blokes terrified him even more – but he felt that burning, longing feeling deep in his chest, exactly like the liquid warmth that had spread through him every time Ashley had guided his hand through the figure of a spellcast which he had no business learning.
Yet he hadn’t answered the letter, sending the owl on his way with a nervous flick of one hand as his other hand frantically shoved the large square of parchment into a deep pocket of his ropes. At first, he hadn’t replied because it was so unbelievable that John had to check that it wasn’t a trap. He knew of the Mulcibers’ allegiances; everyone did, proof or no proof. From rumors and what he knew of Ashley, John had induced that he was probably some sort of Imperius specialist for the Dark Lord now. But the thought made him uncomfortable and he tried to not dwell on it.
A nice, deep dig into the Mulcibers’ family history had told John that Ashley was telling the truth in that letter. There was Veela blood in his family. Veela blood so ancient and diluted that these days all it managed to do was give the Mulcibers light hair and eyes, perhaps a fair complexion and slim body build. But that was about it. For the genes to manifest themselves so strongly as to attach Mulciber to a specific mate was incredible. Not impossible, but doing an estimate in his head convinced John that it was one in a million chance. Literally. And why him? Out of all the people, how and why would Ashley’s Veela blood attaché him to scrawny, mousey, insignificant John Dawlish whom Mulciber had tutored in his last couple of years at school?
Then he hadn’t answered because he didn’t know what he would say or do. Of course, logic told him that he should tell Mulciber to stuff it. No, he did not want to meet up, no he did not care if Mulciber was afflicted with a bad case of Veela. He certainly was not going to – what was that word Ashley had used? Ah, yes, mate, how romantic – mate with him. With a Death Eater. Imagine that. But he couldn’t bring himself to write that. The little boy inside of him whined and complained, begged to see his old tutor again, perhaps his first love, in a way. He wanted to know why Ashley thought, after all these years, that John would run into his arms. Out of a sense of – what? – duty? Did he expect their to be a compulsion on the side of the intended partner? If Mulciber had ever bothered to pay attention to books, he would know there was no compulsion for the partner with Pure Magic, only whatever stimulus a Veela could provide. John worried over this, over his own inability to tell Ashley to bugger off. He’d started carrying the letter around, began expecting to see familiar grey-blue eyes, the color of early morning mist over the lake, and familiar dirty-blonde hair suddenly pop out from around the corner or linger on the edge of a crowd, watching him, everywhere he went. It would make every sense to just reply to the damned letter and forget about it.
Still, he did not. This time out of shame. Shame for his inability, every time he picked up the quill, to form words that would reject even the possibility of seeing Mulciber. Maybe there was some magic in it. Maybe it was some sort of Imperius. John wouldn’t put that past a Death Eater.
Finally, unable to hold it in any longer, he’d told a friend. Marlene. Was that how Dumbledore had known? Had she run first thing into his office and told him? She seemed to take his theory that he’d been Imperius for fact. Very Gryffindor, that sort of thing. He didn’t care that Dumbledore had denied her involvement, in the end, John figured, it didn’t matter. She had only done the responsible thing. Far more responsible than what he’d been doing – dreaming about Mulciber and carrying around his letter in an inside pocket like some sort of sentimental token or good luck charm.
Now, as he stood in the middle of the grassy field, feeling the early October rain soak through his robes – he’d never been good at waterproofing charms – John’s mind played Dumbledore’s words over and over in his head. He’s a Death Eater, John. You could be doing us all a big favor. I don’t know why he trusts you but he obviously does. You don’t have to do anything, John. You don’t have to harm him, you don’t have to kill him or even lie to him. All you have to do is lead us to him. The Aurors will do the rest. And if Mr. Mulciber happens to be innocent, the MLE will certainly not harm him either. It was a fat chance that the MLE would let Ashley go, but it was also a far chance that he was innocent. So John waited; the portkey in his pocket seemed to burn against his side, although he knew it must be ice cold. All he had to do was open the locket and the Auror squad would be here within a second.
When Ashley came, he apparated in some distance away from John, then covered the rest of the way on broom. He hadn’t changed much from how John remembered him: blonde with soft features, full pink lips, somewhat small but expressive eyes, fairly tall, rather slim, absolutely collected and focused. Only…now he seemed far more stressed and there was a long, thin scar peeking out from under his robes, running up along his neck and crawling over his chin and across his cheek to disappear under his hairline. Definitely a battle wound scar.
“I’d thought you’d decided to ignore my owl,” Mulciber said after a while of them just staring at each other. John knew he should have opened the portkey locket as soon as he saw Mulciber but he fingers had gone numb and he couldn’t force himself to pass up this opportunity.
“Well, you know,” John babbled, actually blushing, “I didn’t really know what to do, at first I thought it was a trap and then I thought…I don’t know what I thought but it’s a startling proposal, don’t you think?” He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets, one hand closing nervously over the locket. He saw Ashley’s eyes stray downwards to his hidden hands and John held his breath. But Mulciber seemed only mildly interested, more jumpy than suspicious.
“What made you change your mind?”
“I couldn’t get you or your damned letter out of my mind,” he said, honestly.
Ashley smiled softly and waved his wand twice. John felt his robes dry and stay that way. He suddenly noticed that Mulciber’s robes were quite dry as well. “You haven’t changed, John. Not really.” An almost whimsical smile crossed Ashley’s face and it made him look awfully handsome. John shivered. “Do you remember how I used to tutor you?”
John nodded, swallowing. “Yes, I r-remember. It was fun. I…Ash, I don’t know how this is supposed to work, how you expect it to work. You’re fighting a Merlin damned war on the side of a lunatic. Why would I…do anything with you?”
Ashley shrugged. “I know there’s no compulsion on your side, John. But I just need you to give me a chance to…” He shook his head and John thought that Mulciber looked everything from afraid to lonely in that moment. “Look, I’m not here to recruit you. You were never in my House, we were never on the same side. That didn’t matter to me when you were twelve and it doesn’t matter to me now. I won’t even make you stay if you hate it. But there’s magic here, John. You’re a Ravenclaw, you’re smart, you know there’s magic in these things. Magic can’t be one-sided, it just doesn’t work like that.”
John looked down, afraid to meet Mulciber’s eyes, afraid that the older boy would see his doubt, would see the confirmation there. This wasn’t an Imperius, it was just…magic. Not compelling magic but it was still there, humming between them. Perhaps it had always been there, even when John was a kid.
“You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t feel it too,” Ashley continued and, to his horror, John felt himself nodding. Mulciber’s arms were around his waist surprisingly fast. John was forced to look up into his face and meet his eyes. They were grey and misty, incredibly warm. Ashley held him as though he was still a child, lightly but not limply. Mulciber pushed a strand of John’s light-brown hair that had stuck to his forehead out of his face and kissed him.
John had the fleeting thought that this was probably his first real kiss. He was also kissing in the rain, a romantic cliché that all the girls he knew seemed to want to fulfill before they died. He felt warmth spread through his body and one hand came up to rest on Ashley’s shoulder blade.
His other hand was still clutching the locket, and it was that stinging coldness against his skin that jerked John back into realty. He couldn’t do this, it wasn’t right. He was not supposed to be making out with a Death Eater in the rain, instead of handing him over to the Aurors. He wanted to drown in the sensation of being kissed and obviously wanted but that made him weak, didn’t it? Moody had told him in no unspecific terms, there in Dumbledore’s office, that Aurors needed to be strong and if John was weak, he had no business coming in for the training. John had been weak for most of his life. Not pathetic or anything, but still weak-willed and far too soft around the edges when it mattered.
He opened the locket.
Ashley jumped back at the first sound of boots hitting the ground. Crimson cloaks began spreading out in a circle to surround them. The air began to close up, the anti-apparition field going up lightning-fast.
John’s eyes were glued to Mulciber’s face. He had expected to see anger there, perhaps betrayal. All he saw was…disappointment and maybe, just maybe, understanding. “What did they tell you, John?” Ashley asked, even as the Aurors began to shout for him to put his hands up and not move. “Did Dumbledore tell you that you’d get the chance to matter?” John couldn’t reply because the accuracy of that statement had knocked the air out of him. “Of course he did. Because of everyone in the world, the one person who never believed in you was you. And Dumbledore knew that.” The Aurors were closing in. A curse hit the ground at Mulciber’s feet, making him jump to avoid it for certain. John thought they weren’t firing in earnest because they were afraid to hit him. “You think this proves that you’re strong and independent, John? Try again. I’m sorry.” Ashley turned away from him to face the Aurors at his back.
John had another portkey back to Hogwarts. He used it and landed in a heap at the front gate. Dumbledore was there to lay a hand on his shoulder and say in that infuriatingly impenetrable voice of his. ‘You have done well, Mr. Dawlish.”
John looked at him, at his amused blue eyes and bit out before stocking away toward the castle, “Of course I did. But you already knew that I would do exactly that, didn’t you, Headmaster?”
As he trudged up to the castle, in his head, John could see Ashley Mulciber crumbling to the soggy grass, overwhelmed by dozens of curses, and something deep inside him broke.