Title: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Draco/Blaise, a slight nod to Snape/Draco and another pairing I'll keep a secret.
Summary: Who did Harry Potter think he was: my knight in shining armor?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? If you squint. Most of this fic takes place in the years immediately following DH.
Word Count: 7,600
Author's Notes: A few of _pinkchocolate's requests that I tried to satisfy are lots of angst and a first person narrative, as long as it didn't read like a Stephenie Meyer story. (Since I haven't read Twilight, I'll just have to hope for the best.) She also left the song prompt of Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, which I admit isn't a song I'm familiar with, but the title gave me the inspiration for this fic. I only regret it couldn't be kinkier.
Last, but not least, thank you to taradiane and nqdonne for being amazing mods and my beta readers.
The ghost of Severus Snape walks in my dreams. He is the product of my nightmares and the hope I sometimes cling to in the first hours of morning. The hope that someday I'll find peace.
Some stories start at birth, or like Harry's as a baby left on a doorstep in Little Whinging. Mine starts here in Malfoy Manor, exactly thirty days after the end of the war.
I was eighteen years old and my father was standing in shackles in our front hall. I had the mad idea I could save him.
Thank God my mother was there to stop me.
She took hold of my chin and forced me to look at her. There were tears streaming down her face. "Now is not the time, Draco. You understand me?"
My mother is the strongest person I know. I owe everything to her. To see her so inconsolable hit me straight in the gut. I don't think I can ever repay her for the sacrifices she made.
She reached down and pried the wand I had clutched in my hand. Like I said, it was madness. What could I do against a dozen Aurors? I couldn't even hold my hand steady.
I had failed. Again.
My mother had a curious smile on her face. I didn't understand. "You are the head of the family now," she said.
Why did my mother have so much faith in me? I certainly didn't deserve it.
I had also started to bawl. It was embarrassing. Pansy was there too. She kept trying to hug me. God, she was annoying.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all this was Harry Potter, in a set of newly sewn Auror robes, standing there looking awkward as hell as two burley Wizards pushed my dad into the Floo.
Ten years in Azkaban. We were told we should be grateful. You can guess my response to that.
But it was the look of pity on Potter's face that I remember most.
He pitied me. Harry Potter pitied me. A Malfoy.
I told him to fuck off. What kind of Gryffindor feels guilty about winning?
Then I think the world tilted on its axis, because Potter actually looked relieved that I had just insulted him. Like a weight had lifted from his shoulders.
So am I, I guess, because the next thing I knew Potter was extending his hand and I actually took it.
"Take care of your mother," he said to me, shaking my hand. He had a firm grip. "Mrs. Malfoy." He turned toward my mum, bowing his head slightly, and then in an instant, he was gone, Apparating away with a crack and leaving us all gaping at the empty space where he had just been standing.
Pansy was the one who spoke up first. "He'll get his someday," she said, looking at me. "Trust me.”
One thing you should know about Pansy. She is girl of her word, but as I stood there watching my mother blot the tears from her eyes, I think my heart broke all over again. Potter was right. My mother needed me now. “Leave it,” I told Pansy. Potter wasn't important. Not anymore.
And it was true. Life went on and I barely thought of the man.
Did you think I would be spending my days pining after Potter? Big, strong Auror with the firm grip. Please.
That came later.
Well, perhaps I'm not being completely honest. One cannot avoid Harry Potter. He is the Boy-Who-Lived. A Hero. A force of nature. A right bloody pain in the arse. I'd see him striding down the corridors of the Ministry whenever I'd go to plead for the release of my dad, a scowl on his face, his robes snapping around his ankles a way that might've impressed Snape.
Anyway, we hardly spoke. Why would we?
Then one day everything changed.
To be the son of wealth is to live an idle life. I had no job. I could have, I suppose, continued my studies -- It would have pleased my mother, but that would have interfered with all the many hours I needed to spend brooding when I wasn't listening to Pansy recount the many ways that Harry Potter was the surest path to the devil outside the Dark Lord himself.
Since I was young and had no more ambition than to spend my time wandering aimlessly around London, I did just that. In my travels I had discovered something quite shocking. Muggles, with their fast cars and their harried lives, never seemed to notice that a tall wizard in long velvet robes was walking amongst them. I could have been a ghost for all the attention I drew, or a madman or maybe just another eccentric fop. The point being, of course, is that I could disappear. I had no name, no past. I was no one. Then one afternoon I heard someone call out my name. It had just started to rain, and I was in the process of trying to transfigure a tree branch into an umbrella without the passing Muggles noticing -- it's trickier than you think -- when I looked up and saw Potter. He was carrying the largest umbrella I think I've ever seen, and trying very hard not to laugh.
I told him to fuck off. Again.
Like Potter ever listens anyone.
"Here," he said, as cold wet streaks of rain had begun to soak through my robes.
"What?" I said.
I started to laugh.
"Don't be so stubborn. Take the fucking umbrella."
"It's raining, you arse."
And so on, the two of us arguing back and forth on a crowded street corner, while the heavens rained down upon us.
"Are you daft?" I finally yelled out, loud enough that people were starting to stare, "I can't take this from you. What's wrong with you?"
Potter stared at me. Whatever good humor he may have had at my predicament vanished. He looked seriously pissed off. "Fine, Malfoy. You want to suffer. Have it your way."
And then with a loud snap he Disapparated. I think Potter was so angry that he forgot there were Muggles around, and his sudden disappearance was causing a stir. A woman started to scream and another pointed her finger at me, calling out. I panicked, and then I ran. I think I was just as frightened of them as they were of me.
A week went by, and I began to wonder if the whole incident was a product my feverish imagination. And then one afternoon an owl came.
It was a small screech owl. I recognized it as the kind the Ministry liked to employ to save money on postage. A scroll was attached to the owl's leg, and when I unrolled it something small fell to the ground from inside. As I bent down to pick it up, I saw that that something was narrow with a hook as the end and colored black, and it took me longer than it probably should have for me to realise that what I was holding in my hand was a tiny black umbrella.
Blaise sniffed as he read the letter. "I told you to take the umbrella, arsehole?" He tossed the letter onto the floor and smirked at me. He was lying naked on my bed, his dark skin glistening with a mixture of sweat, spilled whisky and drying come. I liked to think of Blaise as my savior. Without him, I'd be just another ex-Death Eater slowly drinking myself into a stupor and getting sex the old-fashioned way: with a stranger in the gents. Now I could just get drunk and have sex without leaving my bedroom. "This some sort of weird Gryffindorian mating ritual, isn't it?" he asked, hooking his arm around my waist and pulling me on top of him.
I started to laugh. It must have been all the whisky I drank because Blaise sounded serious. "Please," I said, settling down onto Blaise's hips. "Do I look like a Weasley?" I shuddered. "Trust me," I said. "He hates me."
"I don't know if he hates you, Draco," Blaise said, touching my cheek. "I think he just finds you disappointing."
I flushed, angrily. "Disappointing? What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Blaise shrugged. "Just a guess."
I find Snape waiting for me on a rocky hillside. The sun is shining brightly overhead. It almost hurts to see. "Finally done with Zabini, I see." He gives me a filthy-looking smile before turning to walk away.
I have to hurry to catch up. "Enjoyed watching us, did you?"
Snape looks back at me. "There is no pleasure in death. I told you that."
I snort. "That's comforting."
There is a pause and then, "You're wasting your time with him."
"With whom? Blaise? Like it matters much."
Snape suddenly pulls on my arm. "It could."
Snape is too close. He smells of death; his breath rank as it puffs against my cheek, but I can't read the look on his face. The sun is too bright. He finally lets me go and I stumble away. "I know," I say, sounding triumphant. "My mother put you up to this, didn't she?"
"I case you haven't noticed, I'm a figment of your imagination."
I don't buy that for a moment. However, I've stopped in my tracks. "Wait a minute," I say, looking around. With a pang, I recognise the spires of Hogwarts rising in the distance. "I've been here before. The Dark Lord summoned us here. He was standing right over there." I point to an outcrop of rocks, my mouth dry as the memories of our frantic escape from Hogwarts come rushing back. "I was sure he was going to kill me," I go on, "but then you asked him not to." I look back at Snape.
"I thought you still had potential."
I sneer. "Weren't you mistaken."
Winter was on its way. To my retinue of velvet robes, I had added tall dragon-hide boots and a thick ermine-trimmed cloak. Still, I may have attracted only one or two stares from the shoppers I walked past on King's Road. That's when I decided that Muggles, in addition to being idiotic and morally deficient, were almost certainly nearsighted.
I tested this theory making faces as I walked past -- sticking out my tongue, googling my eyes. I then realised my folly after I winked at man who looked he might have had a stone or two on Crabbe or Goyle.
His fist flew before I even had a chance to reach for my wand, which is probably a good thing considering who happened to be standing nearby, but Harry Potter, Auror, wearing Muggle clothes and an ever-righteous scowl.
"That's okay. I've got it," he said to the crowd of onlookers while I spat out a mouthful of blood. I let myself get picked up off the pavement before I realised it was Potter who was holding onto my arm.
"What the hell?" I cried, trying to pull away. "Let go of me."
"Just walk with me, and I'll get you out of here," Potter said out of the side of his mouth as he hurried me along.
Who did he think he was: my knight in shining armor?
"Shut it, Malfoy. For once in your life can you do what you are told?"
Oh, that was rich.
"Like I'm going to go--"
Potter suddenly pulled me close. His eyes looked huge behind the smudged lenses of his glasses. "Okay, in ten seconds I'm going to Apparate us out of here."
I tried to wrench my arm free. "Like hell you--"
"--Are," I finished, looking around. We were standing in front of the gates of the Malfoy estate, one of my father's albino peacocks watching us curiously from the lawn. "You took me home?" I started to laugh.
Potter was looking at me like I was a wayward child. "You think this is funny, don't you?"
"Actually…" I start.
Potter looked fit to blow. "You were making a spectacle of yourself. You left me no choice." He lowered his voice. "You could have caused an incident with the Muggle police."
"Why, Potter. I didn't know you cared."
"You don't get it, do you? You could have been thrown in Azkaban. Is that what you want? To join your dad?"
"Fuck you," I said slowly and with great emphasis.
"Never mind," Potter said, shaking his head. "I don't know why I bother."
"I don't know why you do either," I roared back. "No one asked you to!"
But by then Potter had already vanished.
My mother called out to me when I walked through the front door, but I ignored her, running up the stairs two at a time.
"Blaise Zabini," I yelled into the fireplace in my bedroom.
Blaise's bored face popped out of the flames. He began to smirk when he saw the look on my face. "Trouble?" he said.
"Potter," I said, which is explanation enough, really. "I'm thinking of going on a bender. Care to join me?"
Blaise grinned and stepped out of the fireplace. "Always," he said, kissing me. He brought a bottle with him -- vodka, rum, I don't remember. I guess it doesn't matter. An hour later I was passed out on my bed, alone. Blaise never stuck around.
"I saw Potter again," I say, staring out into the abyss. I'm standing on a precipice. All it takes is one step…
I can hear Snape softly laughing beside me.
"He 'rescued' me from a crowd of marauding Muggles," I tell him. "It was disturbingly hot."
"You're mocking me," I say, glaring. I take time to note the incongruity that this Snape looks the very personification of death: robes reduced to dirty rags, his skin papery-thin and drawn tight against his skull, yet he still seems so very much alive. I ache to touch him, but I don't dare. I'm still shocked at how much I miss him.
"You're the one pining after Potter," he reminds me.
"I'm not pining," I spit. "Besides, once he opened his mouth and started yelling at me, the whole effect was ruined."
We both fall into silence, the only sound I can hear is the soft inhale and exhale of my own breath. I'm not even sure if Snape is still there. "I wish I knew what he wanted," I ask into nothing.
My head hurt when I awoke. The house-elves had already been in to clean my room. The bottle, my rumbled clothes, any remnants of my night with Blaise had vanished. I slid out of the bed and looked out the window that faced the South Lawn. Mist shrouded the Manor, and I had half a mind to believe I was still dreaming when a screech owl suddenly crashed into the glass.
I opened the window and the owl fell inside, wounded.
Contrary to what some might think. I'm not an awful person. I got my wand and healed the owl's wing. The pathetic little thing stared at me, grateful, as I nuzzled her feathers with my finger.
I stared at my finger with shock. I was bleeding. The owl had bit me.
The owl ruffled her feathers and glared at me before dropping a parchment scroll at my feet.
I looked down at the scroll and back at the owl again. "This is Potter's doing, isn't it?"
The owl cocked her head and gave me an indignant hoot.
"Fine," I muttered, as I unrolled the scroll. Bloody bird. She was lucky I had sworn off Unforgivables.
It was an invitation, printed on heavy parchment, the Minister's seal stamped in wax on the bottom.
12th of December, 2000
seven o'clock in the evening.
And then further down at the bottom, scribbled in blue ink.
"That's it," I said, glaring at the owl as I tossed the invitation onto the floor, "I'm not going."
I went to the ball.
My mother found Potter's invitation on my bedside table. I was shocked to find out she had been using the house-elves to snoop through my things. Or not really. She thought the event would be the perfect opportunity for me to meet a nice girl to marry and breed with. Someone like Annabelle Sneed, who despite her pure-blood pedigree, was a Hufflepuff who smelled like my Aunt Drusilla.
"She is a lovely girl," my mother told me one day over lunch.
I wrinkled my nose. My Aunt Drusilla was 123 years old.
My mother shrugged, like House affiliation and body odor were pesky details one could iron out by the time we got to the alter.
"I'm not going, Mother. Think about it." I pushed my plate away. The ham salad appeared to be mocking me. "We were on the wrong side. No one is going to want us there." Except Potter, I thought bitterly, but that was another one of those pesky details.
"Malfoys don't shirk their obligations to society," my mother countered, stabbing at her salad with bloodthirsty enthusiasm. "We have nothing to be ashamed about."
"I think I may have to disagree with you on that. We did imprison people in our home, not to mention the torturing--"
My mother raised an eyebrow.
"Harry Potter thought you were worthy of an invitation. That's something, isn't it?"
"Potter is a mad man," I spat. "You have no idea."
"I think I know a mad man when I see one, Draco."
I knew there was no placating her, so I invited Pansy to be my guest. She hated Potter just as much as I did.
It portended to be a memorable evening. Pansy wore an embroidered gown that must have cost her family a small fortune, and I grabbed an old pair of dress robes from the back of my wardrobe, the trousers two sizes too small. Potter happened to be the first face I saw when we stepped into the ballroom.
"Don't even think about it," Pansy hissed, pulling me in the other direction.
I tripped, trying to keep up as we weaved through the dance floor. "What are you talking about?"
"You're not running away and leaving me here alone with these people!" With a frightening quickness Pansy pulled me across the ballroom, where we fortuitously landed near the bar. "There," she said, still gripping my hand. "At least here we have the wall at our backs."
The war had made Pansy paranoid, probably with good reason. We had attracted a sizeable crowd of onlookers.
Pansy stared down a Ravenclaw I recognized from school. "I think you Crucio-ed her once," I said out of the corner of my mouth, "back when we were at Hogwarts."
Pansy frowned. "It was war. No need for her to take it so personally."
Normally I would agree, I thought, my eyes settling back on Potter again, but there were some things I took personally too. I watched Potter as threw his head back and laughed, his arm squeezing Ginny Weasley's waist. Of course, he was happy. He had won.
I saw that Pansy was staring at me with a look of utter disgust. "Look at your face," she said, handing me my drink as ordered, a gin martini, dry with extra olives.
I drank it down like it was nothing more than pumpkin juice.
Pansy rolled her eyes and handed me a refill. "Who knew you were such a sap," Pansy said.
My brain must have grown fuzzy from the drink, because I thought Pansy just called me a sap. "What did you say?" I said, knitting my brow.
She sighed and Accio-ed a glass of Firewhiskey for herself. "Forget it," she said, looking away.
"Fine," I said, sounding indignant. "I will."
"Look, Malfoy," said Pansy, suddenly grabbing hold of my collar and glaring at me with barely concealed contempt. "Cut the crap. I Floo-ed all the way to Paris to get this gown, spent two hours at the Hair Wizard’s, and I’m not going to even tell you what I spent on these shoes, and what do you do? You show up in a pair of trousers a rentboy would be ashamed to wear in public, proceed to get disgustingly drunk, all the while forgetting that I'm even here!"
I swallowed. Pansy is a force of nature all her own.
Pansy's face had turned ugly. "All so you can moon over Potter," she spat.
"Potter?" I started to laugh. "I'm not mooning over--"
Pansy's grip on my collar tightened, and I began to worry for my life. "Pansy," I said. "Let go of me."
Pansy didn't answer, her shoulders starting to shake. I could see tracks appear from the mascara running down her face.
Fuck. I know I’m not a very nice person. I’m still trying to work on that.
"Pans." I said, trying to get her to look me in the eyes.
Pansy let out a shuddering sob as she let go of my collar. "Why? Why Potter?" she cried, hugging herself. "Why not--" She didn't continue as if she already knew the answer. She backed up, neatly evading my hand.
Honestly, what was I supposed to say? Potter was smug, sanctimonious, and helped put my father in Azkaban. He also saved my life when he pulled me from that burning room, and, to be completely shallow, he was ridiculously fit and had that whole "I'm going to save the world" quality that was both annoying and hot. I couldn't stop watching him, the visage only ruined by the proximity of Ginny Weasley’s freckled hand to his tight little bum.
My dick hardened at the thought of him.
I barely noticed Pansy running away, still crying.
Potter danced like a convulsing ape. It almost made me have a smidge of sympathy for Ginny Weasley. Almost.
I licked my lips, standing about ten steps away. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, and in my head the last vestiges of reason. Potter was straight. He was an Auror. We were on the wrong side. And in a small mocking voice from deeper inside: I didn't deserve him.
I propelled my feet forward, powered by gin, curiosity and dumb lust. “Potter,” I said, forcing a grin as I extended my hand.
Potter broke away from Weasley and looked at me with surprise. "Malfoy?" he said, blinking owlishly at me behind his thick glasses. My hand was left out stretched, ignored.
That familiar pain in my gut roared back, and I gritted my teeth, my cheeks flaring. I should have known.
And then, suddenly, Potter lurched into action, grabbing my hand and shaking it hard. "Oh, sorry. You took me by surprise. I honestly didn't think you'd come. Erm…" He let go of my hand and rumpled the hair on the back of his head. It was disturbingly endearing. "Ginny, you remember Malfoy, don't you?"
Weasley was looking at me like I was something she found stuck to the bottom of her shoe.
Still, there was such a thing as propriety. "Miss Weasley. You look… lovely this evening." I wanted to ask her where on earth she was able find a dress in such a hideous shade of yellow -- she looked like a freckled banana -- but that would have seemed rude. So I kept smiling. My teeth were starting to hurt.
Thankfully, Weasley didn't appear to be as stupid as she let on. "I need a drink," she said, rolling her eyes before stalking off.
"So did you want to dance?"
"Huh?" I looked back at Potter. He was grinning. "I'm a bloke," I said slowly as if my manhood wasn't already apparent by the cut of my trousers.
"And blokes don't dance together. Got it."
He was teasing me. I narrowed my eyes. "What are you going on about?" I said.
Potter laughed softly and took me by the arm. "Come with me."
I didn't object even as I realised that this was starting to become a habit. As he pulled me along, I noted the other revelers parting to let us past like Potter was some sort of prince, and I was his recalcitrant charge. It was a testament to my curiosity, or more likely my own inebriation, that I didn't struggle. I think I was just grateful to still be standing upright.
Potter pushed me into a dark room that I recognized as the place where we had left our winter cloaks. "Are we going somewhere?" I asked, the blow of my back hitting the wall behind me softened by someone's fox-lined wrap.
Potter's hands were on my shoulders and I had to strain to see his eyes in the semi-darkness. His breath was hot against my cheek. "I don't know. Maybe," he said. "What gives, Malfoy?"
I snorted. Of all the impertinent questions. "I should ask the same of you," I said. I think that was my last moment of lucidity. By then Potter's hands had found the curve my hips, had torn open my trousers, had wrapped around my cock…
My trousers fell to the floor, and I let out of loud gasp as Potter's fingertips, to sure to be accidental, pressed inside me. "You've done this before," I said with surprise.
Potter laughed again. "You think you know a person, huh?"
I fell into oblivion. The two of us dancing.
Snape is laughing.
"Do you think this is funny?" I call out to him.
Snapes's robes billow around him as he answers, "One of the benefits of being dead is that you can wreck havoc with the living."
"What?" I don't understand.
He doesn't answer.
I awoke to the strange sight of two pointed ears sticking up over the end of an aging four-poster bed.
The ears could talk. "Master Draco," they said.
I quickly sat up and tried not to swoon from the pounding inside my head. "What?" I said, doing a quick self-body check. Spend one year living under the same roof as the Dark Lord, and I challenge you not to get paranoid.
That's when I saw that the owner of the pointed ears was a house-elf. He had a gold locket hanging around his neck and was looking at me with barely disguised glee.
"Do I know you?" I said, taken aback. House-elves tended to hate me. I'm not sure why.
"No, Master Draco. But I know you," he said, pointing his finger at me, but then his ears began to droop as he went on, "You were a sad boy then. Much trouble." He shook his head, looking near tears. "Kreacher wanted to help Master Draco, but Master Harry wouldn't let me. He--"
"Potter!" I said with alarm. I had vague memories of Potter from the night before. Disturbing memories. I think I may have asked him to dance. My attention turned back to the house-elf as I watched in horror as he picked up a porcelain vase off the bedside table and began dashing it against his forehead, tears streaming down his face. ""Wait. Wait! What do you mean Potter wouldn't let you?"
The house-elf didn't answer. The vase broken, he was now banging his head against the table, snot and blood dripping to the floor. "Ma- Ma- Master Harry m- made me follow you."
"I- I- I used to watch you w- w- weep!"
My eyes widened. "Wait, stop. Stop. Stop." I tried not to recoil as I reached out for his arm. "Stop. Just stop. Please."
The house-elf looked at me with a mixture of surprise and unabashed pleasure. A toothy smile spread across his snot-covered face. "Kreacher always knew Master Draco was a good boy."
I was too busy staring at Kreacher with stunned disbelief to notice the bedroom door had swung open.
"I see you've met Kreacher." It was Potter. He had a smile on his face, which quickly fell as he stopped dead in his tracks. "What did you do my house-elf?"
Kreacher was still beaming at me when I flew out of bed. "You had your house-elf follow me?" I yelled, reaching for my clothes that someone had helpfully left folded neatly on a chair.
"That was sixth year."
"I thought you were a Death Eater, and guess what? You were!" Potter bellowed back, his face turning purple.
I was never one to let logic get in the way of a good argument. "So, what else have you been doing? Spying on me while I wank?"
Potter smirked. "I don't need to spy on you, Malfoy. You were more than willing to do that for me last night."
My mouth fell open, and Potter's face darkened.
"You don't remember, do you?" he roared.
I did. It just got hazy beyond Potter dragging me into the cloakroom and… and… Oh shit.
Potter stared at me. "Unbelievable. I was right about you after all."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're a mess is what I mean. You're lucky I--"
"Lucky?" I was no longer bereaved. I was furious. "I don't need your pity, Potter," I spat. Kreacher forgotten, I lunged at Potter and smashing my fist against his face.
Potter was lying sprawled out on the floor, looking at me with shock as blood streamed from his broken nose. It was déjà vu all over again. It felt good, and I started to smile as I flexed my knuckles.
As I said, I forgot about Kreacher.
"Ow!" I suddenly cried, doubling over as pain shot through my right kneecap. I looked up in time to dodge another blow as Kreacher swung a fire poker at me again. "Kreacher doesn't like Master Draco anymore. Master Draco is bad!" he yelped.
"What on earth is going on in here?" came a voice bellowing from down the hallway. "Malfoy?" cried Ginny Weasley, standing in the doorway.
I gaped with shock. She took one furious look at me and turned her attention on Potter.
"I told you not to bring him home. I told you he was bad news," Ginny cried, picking Potter up off the floor, as I hobbled to nightstand and picked up my wand. I tore out of the bedroom, limping as I ran down the stairs, and out the front door.
I looked around, clutching my injured knee, my stomach lurching. I had no idea what had just happened. I turned around in time to see Potter's house disappear from view, the two houses next to it moving to take its place.
I added a growing ache in my gut to my woes. That was it, then, I thought. There would be no going back now. So I went along, still limping as I walked away.
Sunlight glittered off the frostbitten lawn as I Apparated inside the Manor gates. It was still morning. An event I hadn't seen in months.
“You're home early,” I heard as I crossed over the threshold.
I stopped in my tracks and walked into the dining room.
“Mother, I said, staring at her in disbelief. “Is that sarcasm?"
My mother refolded the morning Prophet and smiled at me as she poured herself a cup of tea. "Did you have a nice evening?”
“No. Not really. Although I did punch Harry Potter really hard.”
"Draco!" My mother looked at me with alarm.
I took my seat at the table and started buttering a piece of toast. "He..." -- took me home and took care of me -- "deserved it, Mother."
My mother sighed. I knew that sigh. It was an "I'm disappointed in you, but I'm not going to say anything" sigh, which tended to work in concert with her "when are you ever going to grow up" sigh.
"So, did you meet anyone interesting last night?"
I was wrong. It was a "when are you going to get married and give me grandchildren" sigh.
"No. Not really," I said, still thinking of Potter and preparing for the inevitable onslaught of questions regarding my appalling lack of interest in securing a mate.
"What?" I snapped, looking away.
"You must know that I only want you to be happy."
"I am happy," I insisted, scoffing. Too late I saw my mother get out of her seat.
My hand flew to my cheek with shock.
My mother looked just as shocked as I, her hand shaking as she sat back down. "Don't ever lie to me again," she said, looking down at her plate. She picked up her napkin and began blotting her eyes.
I don't think my parents had raised a hand to me ever except for the memorable time I had stumbled into the secret chamber under the drawing room when I was four. That time I earned a spanking from my father, the humiliation of which was still seared into my memory. I can't remember my mother ever even raising her voice.
I'm the worst son in the world. I didn't know what to say. "Mother, I'm--"
My mother raised her hand, silencing me, even though she still wouldn't look at me. "Go see Pansy. She fire-called me this morning, worried." Still in shock, I watched her get up from the table. In her haste she knocked over her teacup, sloshing tea over the white linen. It spread like a stain across the table. "We'll continue this discussion at another time."
My mother gave me a wobbly-smile. "Just go."
"Pansy Parkinson," I barked as I tossed a handful Floo powder into the fireplace and stepped inside. Seconds later I was tumbling into the parlor of her London flat.
"If I knew you were coming over, I would have thrown some clothes on."
Pansy smirked as she grabbed a dressing gown off the back of her sofa and put it on, her hair still damp from the bath. We had had sex before -- a grand total of two and a half times -- so I had seen her naked before, but nonetheless I could feel my cheeks flushing.
I could tell she was pleased with my discomfort as she brushed the ashes from my robes. "You haven't changed," she said, still smirking.
"I know." I suddenly felt depressed. "I'll probably never will."
Pansy rolled her eyes as she grabbed a cigarette out of a pack lying on the table and lit it with her wand. "No, I mean you still have your dress robes on." She flashed me an evil grin. "So tell me. Where did you spend the night?"
Pansy nearly choked on her cigarette. "No!"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"You have no idea."
Pansy began to laugh.
"Pansy?" I said, watching her. We had been friends for so long despite the fact that I treated her wretchedly. I had a horrible thought of what my life would be like without her.
"Will you marry me?"
This time Pansy did choke. She began to cough.
"So that's a 'yes'," I said, as I leaned over and slapped her on the back.
Pansy gave me a look like I was madder than Trelawney after a sherry bender. "Is this your way of saying you're sorry?"
"Possibly," I said, feeling depressed again. I scowled as I sank down into one of her chairs.
"Draco." She touched my knee.
"I am, you know," I said, staring a hole into the carpet. "…Sorry."
I was never one for sappy pronouncements, always thinking they were for the weak. It's probably my father in me, but I managed bite it out. That's progress, right?
"I know you are," she said, but she was still looking at me with concern. I suppose I can have that effect on people. She stood up and ground her cigarette out in an ashtray. "I want you to meet someone," she said, smirking and sounding coy. "See, I can't possibly marry you because I've found someone else. Darling, you can come out now," she called.
I frowned as Pansy's bedroom door opened.
"Long time no see."
"Goyle?" I cried with shock. I had no idea that they even liked each other
He at least had the decency to look embarrassed. He was wearing only a towel, which was wrapped low around his waist. It was frankly more than I needed to see.
"It's Greg," said Pansy, sounding annoyed. "You've been friends for nearly fifteen years. You can call him by his first name."
"Habit," I said as I watched the two of them snuggle next to each other on the sofa, arms wrapped around each other. Talk about sappy. It made me want to stick a fork in my eye. I tried to remember a time at Hogwarts when Pansy and Goyle were ever together when I wasn't around. I couldn't. I guess people change. "When did this happen?"
Pansy beamed. "Last night. I was still furious with you so I took a walk down Knockturn Alley, just to look at the shop windows, and who should I find wandering alone like a lost puppy." Pansy took Goyle by the hand and gave him a soppy-looking smile. "So I took him home with me."
Goyle gave her a grin back before leaning in to nibble on one of her ears. I had to close my eyes. It wasn't even noon, for God's sake.
"You're not angry?" Pansy said.
I waved them both off. "Why wouldn't I be? You're happy. I'm happy."
I thought if I said it enough. I'd start believing it.
"Well?" Snape is wearing the same expression as he did whenever I botched one of his potions questions. The arched eyebrow that says' you can do better, you miserable little wretch.'
I scowl. "Well, what?"
Snape doesn't answer. He is already walking away, and I have to run to catch up. "You can't just say 'well?' and walk away," I shout after him. "Come back here."
I immediately get my wish and Snape is standing directly behind me, the tattered edges of his robes taking on the look of tentacles as they blow around me in the ever-present wind. Death is a gusty place, and I step away.
"What's the matter, Draco. Frightened?"
I choke back a sob. "No. Sometimes I think death would be a blessing." I look at Snape. "When is it going to get better?"
Snape lets out a bark of laughter. "You're asking me?" His mouth turns downward. "It doesn't."
It was raining again. A bad habit London couldn't seem to break. I saw Potter before he saw me.
"Wait, Malfoy. Hold up."
I could hear the sound of Potter's trainers hit the wet pavement as he ran to catch up with me. "Malfoy!"
I kept walking. I wasn't in the mood. I turned the corner onto another street. Only a few cars were rushing past. Otherwise there was no one around. I had no idea how Potter found me.
"What the hell. Malfoy," I heard Potter cry out, and a hand landed on my shoulder and wrenched me around.
"Potter." I gritted my teeth. "How nice to see you."
"Cut the crap." Potter was wearing his Auror robes, which only looked slightly more ridiculous than mine in the context of the derelict-looking street where we were both standing. Potter fell silent, his eyes shifting to the side.
A gust of wind hit my face -- it was January -- and I began to shiver. "What the hell yourself, Potter? What's going on?" I didn't like the look I saw on his face.
Potter looked like he was trying to steel himself before he went on, his face schooled to look impassive yet he still wouldn't look me in the eye. "I continue to be surprised by your affinity for the Muggle world, Malfoy."
"You're stalling, Potter," I yelled, my heart starting to hammer inside my chest. "What's going on?"
"Your mother couldn't find you, and for some reason asked me for help." Potter's expression began to wobble. "I find you only couple of streets from my own house… Draco, you could have..."
"Can it, Potter. Just tell me," I yelled, both hands clenched to Potter's collar. I had no recollection of putting them there.
When Potter didn't even try to push me away, I knew…
Potter swallowed. "Your father's dead," he said. "Another prisoner…"
I felt the world tip and I stopped listening. I let go of Potter's robes and turned and started walking.
"Draco, why don't you let me take you home," Potter called after me, but I ignored him.
It was pointless. He hated my father. Any platitudes he could offer would have just been false. I didn't want Potter to lie to me. I just wanted him to leave me alone. Forever.
I very nearly got my wish.
Snape's hands feel like ice to the touch, however I'm grateful for it. There are tears streaming down my face. "Take me with you, please," I beg.
"No." Snape's lips nuzzle the side of my cheek, laying a single kiss there before backing away, his hands still clutching my face. For the first time I can see his eyes. They are tears in them.
"Why?" I shout, pulling away. "So I'm to be miserable forever. How comforting." I throw myself onto the ground and stare up at the starless sky.
Snape steps into my field of vision. "Stupid boy. Just like…" I catch his eyes, but he doesn't continue.
"I suppose you're going to tell me that I should go on and be grateful for what I have," I bite out.
"No, Draco. I will never tell you that."
I swallow back a sob and scrub hand a cross my face, embarrassed from my outburst. "Then what?" I demand, sitting up and cradling my knees.
Snape cocks his head. "Do you know my life changed all because I met one person?"
I shrug, looking away. "So?"
"She had green eyes. Brilliant green eyes. She was a pain in the arse, too. Bossy. Always thought she knew everything. And then I lost her."
I look at Snape with surprise. I heard the rumours, everyone had. However I never believed they were true. I saw Snape's visage begin to shimmer. He's fading. "I lost everything, Draco," he says to me, nearly translucent.
"Wait," I call, and Snape comes back into focus. "This is about Potter, isn't it?"
Snape arches an eyebrow. "Perhaps."
"But you… hated Potter."
"Death brings a certain clarity, Draco. I imagine he might agree with that sentiment."
I think about this as a sense of calm unexpectedly comes over me. I feel better although I'm not sure why. I find myself smirking. "If you like Potter so much, why aren’t you haunting him?"
Snape laughs. It's such an odd sound. "How do you know I'm not already?"
The theme for the 2001 Minister's Ball was Mirth and Merriment. Someone was overly optimistic.
Pansy yawned into her hand.
"We could dance," I said, gesturing toward the dance floor where the unholy sight Ron Weasley feeling up his wife was unfolding before all and sundry.
Pansy snickered. "Thanks. I'll take a pass."
"So where is Goyle anyway?" I said, looking around
"At the buffet table. Leave it," she added when I started to smirk.
"So both of you are eating for two. Good to know," I said, grinning despite myself.
Pansy rubbed her burgeoning belly. "Greg is just suffering from nerves."
"Oh, is that his excuse now?" I said.
"Shut up," said Pansy, elbowing me. "It will be over soon. I hope."
She looked a bit desperate, so I put my arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. Pregnant women made me nervous. It's like I expected them to explode at any moment, which theoretically they could. I took a quick step away.
That's when I saw him barging my way.
"Oh Lord." Pansy saw him too. "If we don't make eye contact maybe he won't notice us."
I snorted. The trouble was that Potter had the look of a determined bloodhound about him, and I was the wily fox. He was going to get me one way or the other. I figured I had about ten seconds to make a clean break.
As it happened I didn't even have that long. "Gotcha," Potter said, giving me a loopy-looking smile as his hand latched onto my arm. He reeked of whisky and desperation.
"Am I being arrested?" I gave him as cold a look as I could muster, which sadly enough wasn't that cold.
"Nah. I'm asking you to dance."
"Here. On the dance floor?" I raised my eyebrows.
"Anywhere you want," Potter replied. He smirked at Pansy. She just rolled her eyes. "Hey," he said, pulling me close. "I hear the cloakroom is available."
Such a romantic, that one. I let him lead me away.
"Saps," Pansy said, watching us go.
I still see Potter stalking around the Ministry, robes snapping at his ankles. Still a force of nature. Still trying to change the world. Still a bloody pain in the arse.
Although the scowl is long gone. You can thank me for that. And Severus, who still watches over us.