In the Forest
by Mango

 

Title: High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleam: In the forest
Author: GMW Wemyss
Rating: BBFC 15
Genre: Gen; Adventure; Thriller
Word Count: 3043
Summary: Why the clever, if not terribly brave, prince went all in green into the greenwood to seek a wolf.
Author's Note: Allergy advice: May contain traces of wolves; ballads; fairy stories; aunts of Wodehousian fearsomeness; Housman; Lupin (Teddy).

Edited by my ever-reliable tree_and_leaf, noeon, and femmequixotic, whose advice, where taken, was indispensable, and who will be justly entitled to say, where I stubbornly failed to take that sound advice, 'I told you so': I admit to a certain pigheadedness and bloody-mindedness in spots.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.


High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleam: In the forest

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Here the truceless armies yet

Trample, rolled in blood and sweat,

They kill and kill and never die;

And I think that each is I.  

 

None will part us, none undo

The knot that makes one flesh of two,

Sick with hatred, sick with pain,

Strangling -- When shall we be slain?  

 

When shall I be dead and rid

Of the wrong my father did?

How long, how long, till spade and hearse

Put to sleep my mother's curse?

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Once upon a time -- which is how all good fairy stories begin -- there was a shining prince who went into a wood to seek a wolf.

The prince -- a shining prince, very fair with a maidenly paleness, very blond, with grey eyes, and he went all in green in the greenwood -- the prince was clever. He was not particularly brave. He was too clever for that. And he was particularly not brave when it came to wolves. He feared wolves: he was quite clever enough for that .

But there had been a wolf, once, had tried to help him, and he'd not been clever enough to take the help, too frightened to take the help offered by the wolf.

Mind, there had been a wolf once had tried to kill him, and not to kill him only, or cleanly: that wolf, the prince had been quite clever enough to realise, had meant him worse harm than that.

The prince -- his name was Draco -- was clever enough, then, to be afraid; but he was also clever enough to know that he'd funked the wolf that had wished to help him, and he'd funked the wolf that had sought to destroy him, and if he funked this, having funked everything else in his life, even without wolves being involved, he'd funk every challenge yet to come. (There was another prince, and there was that prince's knight and that knight's lady, none of whom particularly liked our shining prince, who would have denied this, and grudgingly admitted that he'd just not quite funked quite everything to date, but our prince knew better. He was rather clever, our prince, and he knew rather too well how clever he was, and our prince was firmly of the opinion that, although he wasn't particularly brave, even when wolves weren't involved, he was, our prince considered, Always Right, and Always Knew Better -- indeed, Always Knew Best. Some princes are simply that sort of person, whether they're particularly clever, or particularly brave, or contrariwise.)

And that is why our shining prince, clad all in green in the greenwood, with his wand in his hand -- for our prince was a Wizard as well -- found himself in a wood, a deep, dark, tangled forest of night, where ravens croaked hoarsely and wolves -- or a wolf -- was, it was hoped, to be found.

The wood was tangled, dark and deep, and our clever, shining prince, all in green in the greenwood, was quite clever enough to know that there were beings in it that even a wolf might be wiser to avoid. There was, or had been, at least, a giant, and he'd never heard reliably whether or not the giant was yet there. There had been a sentient motorcar as well, at one time, although -- feral though it might by now have become -- it might yet be an ally and a refuge, should the prince find himself in difficulties. There were certainly Centaurs, with their mighty bows that shot true, some clever, some wise, but all or almost all hostile to man. And there were things worse even than these, it was said: giant spiders, for one, to which all things were meat. It was a very tangled, dark, deep wood, a Caledonian forest stiff with magic and danger, perilous and trackless: not a place for a clever prince who wasn't terribly and foolishly brave.

And then, of course, there was the wolf.

The dark, deep, tangled forest perilous held, it was said, many secrets with its dangers, and dangerous secrets they were: not only the beasts and beings, and the sentient motorcar that had once been an artefact and was now in some sort a being, but seductively dangerous and dangerously seductive artefacts far beyond such craft: even, it was rumoured, a stone -- or the fragments of a stone. A stone it was that had once belonged to that other, braver (if less clever) prince (his name was Harry, and the name of his loyal knight was Ron -- although the clever prince Draco called that knight the Weasel -- and that knight's lady was braver far than was clever prince Draco, and quite as clever as he, and her name was Hermione): a stone, or the shards of a stone, that could bring one's dead back to one, for a time, and that the ancestor of the braver prince had had of Death himself.

But Draco was a clever prince, if not in his estimation brave, and he was far too clever to enter the treacherous and perilous wood seeking so perilous and treacherous a gift. Not even the lure of speaking again with his dead could have overcome his clever consideration, or stiffened his spine, sufficiently to draw him into the tangled, dread forest.

Only the wolf could do that: and had done.

For the wolf that our clever, shining prince sought, going all in green in the greenwood, was no ordinary wolf. Nor was he a wolf all the time. There were those, even -- the aunt of our prince being one; the braver prince, Harry, being another -- who denied that the wolf was a wolf at all, at any time.

Our shining, clever prince, however, knew he wasn't terribly brave -- least of all when it was a question of wolves -- and he knew he was terribly clever, and he considered that he was Always Right, and Always Knew Better -- indeed, Always Knew Best. Some princes are simply that sort of person, whether they're particularly clever, or particularly brave, or contrariwise.

He was quite clever enough, our shining prince, to know that -- even when it wasn't a question of wolves -- the tangled, perilous forest, deep and trackless, was a dangerous place in which to show a light: there was no telling what sort of things it might draw to him. Then again, he was quite clever enough, our shining prince, to know that -- even when it wasn't a question of wolves -- the deep, trackless, tangled wood, dark and dangerous, was no place in which to blunder about in the dark, without the light of a wand. There are, when seeking a wolf in a perilous Caledonian wood, no good choices, and the prince was clever enough to realise this.

And so, going all in green in the greenwood, the clever, if timorous, prince Draco made his way ever deeper into the forest, sometimes showing a light by which to see his way, sometimes not, lest he draw the attention of the creatures in the forest even more dreadful than wolves. And all the while, he wondered if his Aunt Andromeda, and the braver prince (whom he rather disliked, if truth were told), were right, and the wolf wasn't ever a wolf at all. Being a clever prince, he had nonetheless not taken the risk of going into the dark, tangled, pathless wood upon a perilously moonlit night, just in case, even if that had meant he was forever debating whether to risk a stumble or show a light.

For the fact remained that, wolf or no wolf, he wasn't going to funk this. When the wolf wasn't a wolf (if he were ever a wolf), after all, he was the grandson of our prince's aunt (on the prince's mother's side of the family), and the godson of the braver prince, Harry, and most of all, the son of the wolf (who'd not been always a wolf: but a night or so every other fortnight, in fact) who had once tried to help the shining prince, all those years ago. That wolf, the first wolf whom the clever prince had funked confronting, had been, on the days when he'd not been being a wolf, a thoroughly decent chap, called Remus Lupin (which, the clever prince had always thought, hadn't been particularly clever: asking for it, really). And that same Remus Lupin, who had once tried to help our shining, clever, not terribly brave prince, had -- when, of course, he'd not been being a wolf -- married the daughter of our prince's Aunt Andromeda, a maiden named Nymphadora (although she didn't like the name, any more than she had relished being the cousin of our prince, who, although clever and shining, wasn't terribly brave, a failing which she, being something of a warrior princess herself, had disdained as unbecoming in a prince, however clever).

So the wolf -- who might or not be a wolf, just now, or indeed ever -- whom our shining prince sought in the deep and perilously tangled wood by night: a wood into which our prince had gone perilously deeply by now -- was own cousin to our prince, when one came down to it, and the son of the wolf who had once tried to help our shining, clever prince; and our prince, even if he wasn't terribly brave (particularly when it came to wolves), wasn't going to funk this quest, at least.

Our prince, torn between clever caution and canny avoidance of unseen danger, risked another brief light, and saw that he had come to a glade or clearing in the heart of the perilous wood; and in it, sleeping huddled and exhausted, worn down by fright and anxiety, was a slight, not at all wolfish figure that could only be the child --

'Teddy,' called our clever prince, for this was indeed his young cousin of tender years. The child woke with a start.

'Teddy!'

'Oh! Cousin Draco! You found me, I wondered if you or Uncle Harry would!'

'I found you, Teddy. Are you -- hurt?'

'N- no. Not hurt, exactly. But --'

Relief had made our clever, shining prince incautious, and the reaction against the strain had made him waspish. He stuck his wand, butt-end, in the grass of the glade, to give them light -- which was a very foolish thing to do, and not at all clever -- and stooped to pick up the child. 'What the devil were you thinking, Teddy, we've been worried mad! You're not yet old enough to be at Hogwarts, let alone in the Forbidden Forest on the grounds -- how in b-, er, how the devil did you get here? Was it accidental magic? Were you trying to do something silly, like Apparate at your age? Have you any idea how worried we've all been? '

'But I don't know how I got here,' Teddy wailed. 'I was home asleep, and you know Grandmother is ever so careful --' and so she was, not least because young Teddy, although not a werewolf like his father, was a Metamorphmagus like his mother, and Teddy's accidental magic was exponentially more chaotic than anyone else's was, or any child's had a right be -- 'and then I was here . I didn't mean to!'

'Nevertheless,' began our shining prince, only to stop as the light of his wand went suddenly out and he heard a low, snarling chuckle behind him. Even in the sudden darkness, he could see, our clever, timorous prince, that Teddy's eyes were wide with horror.

'Ahhhh.... It's the little princeling himself. Draco Malfoy. A bit old, now -- not so young and tender a chicken as when you got away from me ... that time -- but not too old and tough. No, not tough at all.'

'Greyback.' With the clever part of him, our prince inconsequently considered that Fenrir Greyback, the wolf that had once tried to abuse and kill him, was another victim of risky naming choices, rather as Teddy's father had been: asking for it, really. The other ninety per cent. of our clever, timorous prince was simply terrified.

'Yes. In the ... flesh.'

'You'll not harm Teddy.' It wasn't a terribly clever thing to say, but it was quite remarkably bravely said.

'Oh, I don't wish to harm the little mite -- even though the cub would make a dainty morsel. Oh, no. I've much more satisfying plans for the son of my old enemy Lupin.'

'My father was a hero!'

'Teddy, not now --'

'He was a hero of the War, he was, and he fought the Death Eaters!'

'I've ate a lot more than Death, see you,' rasped Greyback. 'But we shan't quarrel, cub. You'll come to look upon me as a father, when you've learnt your heritage, who -- and what -- you truly are. A wolf. Like your father. Like me. And you've served your purpose as what else you are already, although I must admit I was expecting the other princeling to come for you. Steal a cub and the pack follows, and may be trapped, eh? And trapped you are, my succulent young princeling of a Malfoy, and for you also I have plans, and very satisfying ones they are -- for me. I don't know that you'll enjoy them -- although you might do, I've always had my doubts about you -- but it won't matter for long, either way.'

'Do you really imagine,' said Draco, in a very princely fashion (and he was rather pleased that his voice didn't sound at all as frightened as he knew himself to be), 'that I'm alone?'

Greyback threw back his head and howled with laughter. 'I know you are. You're too clever by half, but not half so clever as you like to think. No, the only thing that surprises me is that you're not quite as much the coward as you're painted. It wasn't clever to come here alone after the cub, but it was certainly foolhardy enough.'

'Draco's not a coward,' said Teddy, stoutly. 'He's brave like Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione. And Aunt Ginny,' he added, conscientiously, although Ginny was not -- very much to his credit, Draco had always thought -- at all one of Teddy's favourites.

This time, Greyback laughed still harder. 'Malfoy? Not a coward? Brave? Cub, who told you such a thumping lie? Draco, I'll be bound.'

Teddy's answer was overridden before he could voice it. 'No,' said a remarkably well-known (and disgustingly brave and princely) voice. 'I did.'

'Potter!' Greyback turned with snarl, Draco's wand still in his claws, but Harry Potter was not to be seen. It is quite likely that Greyback would next have turned about and sprung upon Draco, thinking himself tricked in some manner, but not even the cleverest of princes can say, for four well-placed and exceeding powerful cutting hexes sliced Greyback into as many, rather messy pieces before anyone could do anything at all.

Typically, Teddy -- being a small boy, and therefore at heart a savage far more bloody-minded than any wolf -- found this fascinating, to the clear horror of his courtesy aunt Hermione, who stepped swiftly into the glade and swept him up from an unresisting Draco, striving vainly to turn the lad's eyes from the splendidly gory mess that had formerly been the most dangerous werewolf in the Three Kingdoms.

'All clear?' The voice from the wood was Ron's; and the answering voice, 'All clear', was that of the Auror-turned scholar, Neville Longbottom.

'Ah,' said Draco. 'I'd wondered who'd made a fourth with you and the Weasleys.'

Harry looked at him, blandly. 'Oh, Ron and Neville were our reserves. Who in buggery -- sorry, Teddy, you didn't hear that -- who the devil do you think insisted on eradicating Greyback?'

With a trepidation that was a measure of his cleverness, Draco looked 'round, and saw his worst fears realised. 'Ah. Hullo, Mother. Aunt Andromeda.'

He received in return two very old-fashioned looks: he was quite clever enough to know that that meant that, so soon as Young Teddy was away from the scene, he'd be getting the wigging of his life from his mother and his aunt. He was also clever enough to know it was unlikely that Harry would wait to barrack him. He turned resignedly to face Potter, who was now -- as if the night hadn't been grim enough already -- flanked by Longbottom and Weasley.

To Draco's surprise -- which he concealed in as princely a manner as he could manage -- Harry was looking at him with marked approval.

'Very gallant of you, Malfoy. Very brave indeed -- and will be set out in my report as such. You may consider yourself as Mentioned in Despatches, in fact.' Harry strode towards him and leaned in, his voice low, almost like a kiss. 'Incredibly thick, but brave. Do try to leave the heroics to me, damn it, and you be the clever one, all right?'

Harry stepped back, and spoke next in his normal parade-ground tones. 'Right, then. Ron, you stay with the carrion until a team arrives. Hermione , Nev : get young Teddy settled and take him to Poppy for a quick looking-over, Andromeda and Cissy will be there after they've had a word with our brave rescuer here. I'll go and ginger up that same team, that ought to have been here already, damn it -- someone is going to wish he or she had never been born, by God, appalling dilatoriness, I'll not have it, who the hell is Duty Officer tonight --.'

As the sounds of Apparating died away and his mother and his aunt turned their gazes upon him -- Weasley, with surprising delicacy, had turned away and cast a charm to block his being able to hear the impending rocket -- Draco, being a clever if not always brave prince, knew, with sick certainty, that the person who was about to wish he'd never been born, was him.

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END

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