Madonna And Child
by Ishafel

He is not her child, though this is the third night in succession she has spent beside his bed. He is very, very ill -- dangerously ill -- and his mother has been to see him twice already since it grew dark, his father once. But when the pain is very bad it is not their names he cries, but hers. He does not love her, anymore than she loves him, but she thinks that maybe he trusts her as he does not trust them. He trusts her to be there when he calls, and after all he is only six, and he likes her because she has never been anything but kind to him.

He is not her child; her Dobby is nearly his age but maturing far more quickly. He is far healthier than this boy, asleep in his own bed. There is no one to hear him if he should call out in the night, but she knows he will not. He does not have the confidence this child has, that there will always be someone to come. His mother has spent his childhood beside other children's beds; his father stayed with the mistress's family when she left to be married.

He is not her child, and so she does not have to feel sorry for him when he coughs until he is sick. She wipes his face with a damp cloth and frowns over the blood in the bowl, because if he dies she will be blamed. But she feels no sympathy; he is an ugly, pale little creature, often ill. He means nothing to her but an unpleasant duty. If he lives, if he dies, it is nothing to her but another success or failure. They will reward her or they will punish her, and they will have other children, perhaps.

He is not her child, though he is her responsibility. Though he is related to her by blood. Her own mother served the Blacks as she now serves the Malfoys but her father was human, was also the master. It sets her apart from the others; she is taller than they, with pale hair and blue eyes and faintly golden skin. It sets her Dobby apart, too, not in looks but in temperament. He does not think of this child as an equal, but he does not think him a superior either. They are almost friends, in this elusive period apart from reality and time. Soon enough their paths will diverge: Draco's into sunlight, golden as only his father's name and his mother's riches can make it. Her Dobby's into shadow, into the strange peace that comes in servitude, which is not what she wishes for him but which is his destiny.

He is not her child, but she could no more walk away from him than she could her own. It is not love but duty that binds her. She helped his mother to birth him, and if he dies this night she will wash his body and prepare it for burial. She heard his first words, watched him take his first steps, patched his cuts and held him while he cried. He is not her child and she is not his mother but in every way that matters he is hers, as much hers as Dobby is.


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