Title: Room with a View - Part 3/3
Part One | Part Two
Arcturus sighed. Bored, bored, bored out of his wits, that's what he was! These rude brats, leaving him alone like that! Draco was staying in the room even less now; he was gone all days, and Arcturus suspected him of sneaking over to Potter's room at some, if not most of the nights as well. Despite the fact though that curiosity was almost killing him, there was no way he'd ever follow him there, what with his father's portrait hanging in that room.
Wasn't it ridiculous, he thought - there he was, dead for more than forty years, his father for more than sixty, both of them reduced to an existence that was a mere shadow of their once vivid lives, and still he felt the old twinge in his stomach when he thought of his father's dark, piercing eyes set disapprovingly upon him.
No, not even for the sake of escaping the deadly dullness that threatened to engulf him again he would expose himself to his father's contempt, least of all have him find his son spying upon two teenage boys making out - although, he thought, he'd really like to witness what had brought the life back onto Draco's face.
Yet his fear was real, the fear of slipping back into the world of before, the world of blurred memories and indistinct feelings he now felt reach out for him, swallow him up again, and he knew it wouldn't take long for him to drift back into that haze that had been his home for more than 30 years.
He entertained himself by trying to concentrate on the memories of that dark-haired, desperate, and oddly touching boy whom he'd seen rushing through the room, but found himself unable to evoke even the faintest recollection - to the contrary, the more he delved into the past, the time between his death and now, the more confused and lost he got. He sensed that the young man was familiar to him, family even, that he'd seen him before many times; he felt as if he were just a mere inch away from knowing, as if all he had to do was extend his hand and reach out, and he gave a sardonic laugh at the irony of him reaching out of anything.
Nevertheless, he kept trying. Scenes from his life, from childhood and high age, unfolded before his inner eye, memories of events after his death wandered through his mind, triggered by faces, names, voices, some of them clear and detailed, some but the briefest flash, almost forgotten again the moment they'd appeared. Yet the unhappy, frantic young man never was among them, although Arcturus felt that he should remember, the idea that he'd, somehow, failed the young man by not trying hard enough, nagged at his consciousness and made him grumpy.
Talking to Draco proved useless, it seemed, Arcturus thought huffily, that there was only place for one black-haired boy in his misled offspring's mind. "Whom the hell are you talking about?" he said, amused, enervated, testily at last; and Arcturus felt humiliation rise inside him, stinging, when he had to repeat over and over again, "I do not know."
"What did you see, then? What did he - whomever we're talking about - do?"
"I do not know."
"Well, then," a pale eyebrow was raised, and the lopsided smile on Draco's lips only added to Arcturus' mortification because it was gentle and indulgent, and only a tad weary, "I don't see-" and he waved him off.
Yes, well, he didn't see either.
He felt abandoned, lonely, he really could do with a bit of distraction, and after a few days, it particularly angered him that this young relative of his, this Malfoy boy, didn't seem to know what he owed his ancestor. He'd honoured the boy with his conversation, he'd even been willing to pass on his experience to the pup! Yet, apart from a close questioning about the Gaunt family – and Draco was both abhorred and almost cynically amused by them, understandably so – the boy seemed less and less inclined to listen to him, to talk to him, had even accused him once of not understanding! Understand what? Really, he gave him no chance at all!
If only they had, well, just been in his presence more often, discussing, quarrelling, yelling, kissing, making out, whatever. In fact, Draco and Potter had only cared to treat him to a single one of their screaming matches (the more regrettable since, what he could make out through the walls, they were spectacular); this didn't exactly soften his heart towards the ungrateful brat.
This row had obviously been triggered by Draco's suggestion to visit his father, and had been nothing but a mere aftermath.
"It is an incredibly stupid idea," Potter had bellowed, dashing into the room and flinging himself onto the bed, "asking Lucius Malfoy of all people!"
"Don't you badmouth my father!" Draco had yelled back, "He would help me look for Mum, he would never turn against us!"
"Are you sure about that?" Potter had sneered, and "Yes," Draco had answered simply, and had kissed Potter violently. Potter had, fortunately, kissed him right back, had started rubbing their groins together, and worrying Draco's nipples through his thin shirt; and then, that dolt Weasley had flung the door open, and although he had immediately withdrawn with a groaned "oh god my eyes I am blind now", the boys had jumped apart and refused to resume their cuddling no matter how much he urged them to continue.
When Arcturus complained to Draco the next day, he was met with an incredulous stare.
"And do you have any other, um, serious problems I could see to while I'm at it, like, this really nasty dot on your frame?" Draco said sourly and made a show of rubbing at an imaginary spot.
Arcturus huffed. "Have you had your portrait taken already?" he asked pointedly and noticed with satisfaction that Draco looked a bit uneasy.
"Ha! In due course, you will regret your cheeky words, then!"
The left corner of Draco's mouth went up. "That's quite possible. I, ah, hope, though, that I'll have other portraits to keep me company." His eyebrows went up questioningly, and Arcturus snorted. Childish innocence!
"The other portraits - those who're still worthy of my conversation - unfortunately fail to see the entertaining aspects," he said haughtily, and Draco grinned and ran a tender finger over Arcturus' hand.
Actually, Arcturus thought, they didn't seem to bother at all, his sister-in-law refused to mess about with Mudbloods - she had even had the audacity of calling him a blood traitor for his 'wanting to meddle with the low-brow inhabitants of the house', that pretentious, silly goose! -, his brother was barmy, and his father, well, no one who knew Phineas Nigellus Black would've suspected him of participating in gossip. As a matter of fact, he hadn't seen his father for weeks, which was, now that he came to think of it, a tad strange. Why hadn't his father at least-
"Hey! Where are you going?"
Draco turned around, the lop-sided grin still on his face. "I'm sorry for having to leave you so soon but I have an appointment to keep," he sighed, "with Granger, and she does not take well to keeping her and the books waiting."
"You're going down to the library?" A memory stirred in the back of his head, struggling to drift towards the surface.
"Yes," Draco said, sounding both amused and impatient. "Any reading suggestions?"
"I'm only making conversation, no need to get snappish on me," Arcturus grumbled. "I presume you're working on that codex about Horcruxes."
A few hours later, dusk was already settling in, the door was flung open and slammed shut almost simultaneously, and Arcturus thought, not for the first time in these turbulent days, that it was not entirely bad not to have a body left that could suffer a stroke or a heart attack.
Draco rushed through the room and leaned against the window sill, breathing heavily and curling his fists. He mumbled inaudibly under his breath, and Arcturus pricked up his ears as he caught - or thought so - the name Potter.
"Boy, what has happened-"
Yet he was not to finish his sentence - in fact, Draco had paid him no heed anyway -, because the door was flung open again, and Potter stood on the threshold, panting and covered in sweat.
Draco whirled around and inhaled deeply, his veins pulsing at this neck, but Potter beat him by a second.
"What the fuck do you think you were doing?" he yelled, taking a step into the room and smashing the door shut so that it vibrated in its hinges. Really, no respect at all for his precious heirloom, the git.
Draco gave a contemptuous snort and shrugged nonchalantly, yet his eyes glittered. "What did it look like? Honestly, Potter, don't tell me that you still don't recognise books when you see them! Being exposed to Granger all those years must've left some marks, not even you can be that thick!"
Arcturus could hear Potter's teeth gnash. "I know that- oh, that's ridiculous!" Potter threw his arms up in exasperation. His lips pressed together, he glared at Draco who raised an eyebrow at him, daring him to continue.
"That part of the library is off-limits, as you well know, because," Potter said, the calmness in his voice so constrained that he sounded angrier as if he'd been shouting. "Because there is. A. Fucking. Manticore. Down. There. Which we have yet to get rid of. You- you and Hermione! I can't believe you talked her into accompanying you!"
"Rest assured that Granger's completely capable of making her own decisions. She might be a M-uggleborn, and a bossy smart-arse to boot, but I've to concede that she is smart, so-"
"That's not the point," Potter bellowed. "Don't go there!"
Draco's eyes lit up in an almost mischievous gleam. He lowered his head and shuffled his feet, abashed. "Yes, Mr Pince," he whispered. "I'm sorry, Mr Pince, I promise I won't do it again, I-"
Potter was pacing up and down like a predator in a cage, reminding Arcturus of a young lion he'd once hunted down. At that, he halted abruptly and stared at Draco who was leaning languidly at the window. "That's not funny, Malfoy! I told you not to go-"
The anger that had been simmering closely under the layer of mocking broke forth again. "Oh yes, right, how could I forget! Great Harry Potter has commanded, and his minions are to follow!" His face contorted into a sneer. "What do you think gives you the right to order me about in my family's home? I have every right to go wherever I want to, even if that misled relative of mine thought it appropriate to bequeath-"
Potter's temper snapped. Seething with rage, he stormed over to the window and grabbed Draco's arm, whirling him around. Arcturus held his breath when Potter's fingers dug deep into Draco's shoulders, and he shook him violently.
"You could've been killed, you stupid git," he yelled, his voice cracking. "It is dangerous in the library, can't you get that into your thick skull? It is-" he broke off, panting heavily.
Draco had gone very pale, tensing up under the other boy's touch. His lips pressed into a thin, trembling line, he narrowed his eyes at Potter. "Get out," he hissed barely audible. He turned his head away, and Arcturus saw him work his lower lip.
"Get out of my room!" Draco repeated, his voice rising a notch, and Arcturus couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Draco shrug so violently that Potter, who was obviously taken aback, let his hands slid off his shoulders. What was the stupid boy doing? Both throwing away his own ticket to safety and Arcturus' guarantee for an entertaining evening, just because of- he narrowed his eyes at the boy.
Draco was breathing heavily, his lower lip again sucked between his teeth. The expression in his eyes was quite unreadable, yet a moment of pain flashed up so briefly that Arcturus thought he'd imagined it. He gulped visibly, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down from constriction.
Arcturus quelled the urge to let out a desperate groan. He'd really thought - hoped - the boy would leave his brain switched on!
"That's what it's about?" Potter gaped, incredulous, yet his hackles rising again. "Would it make you feel better if I assured you that I never wanted that horrible house?"
Horrible? Arcturus bit his lip, struggling whether to interfere and knock that impertinent dimwit down a peg or lean back or let the scene unfold undisturbed.
"Of course it's not- What you want or not is of no interest to me whatsoever, Potter," Draco snapped, and took a step away from Potter, shoving him violently away when Potter tried to reach for his arm. "I know you consider everything and everyone inside this house your property - or maybe outside, too, maybe the entire wizarding world, uh? Do we all have to bow to you, that's what you want, no? Our Hero-"
"Stop being ridiculous, you arrogant-"
"- but I assure you that I won't! I am not your possession! I can do what I want! I-" He whirled around, his eyes shooting daggers at Potter. "Get OUT!"
"Fine," Potter snarled, the corners of his mouth almost white from tension. "Have it your way, Malfoy." With a disdainful shrug, he turned away. "We'll be meeting tomorrow at eight, do us all the favour and for a change try not to be late."
He stalked towards the door, his chin up, but his hands were curling and uncurling at his sides. Arcturus rolled his eyes. These boys! He'd always regretted not having begat any sons, and had envied his siblings who'd successfully continued the male family line, but - had his nephews been as irrational and stubborn during their teenage years as these two blockheads? He himself, for sure, hadn't been, his father would have- no use dwelling on the past, he decided, he'd better see and get some sense into and entertainment out of the boys.
Summoning all his willpower, Arcturus closed his eyes and succeeded in making a sniffling sound in the back of his throat, like someone trying but not quite managing to suppress a sob.
Potter stopped dead in his tracks. With a little gasp, he swung around and closed the distance to Draco in a few energetic strides. "Draco," he mumbled, grabbing the other boy's upper arm and pulling him close.
"Potter, no, what-" Draco pressed his palms against Potter's chest, shooting a menacing glare at Arcturus from under his fringe. Arcturus winked at him, and grinned.
"You're an idiot," Draco informed Potter, who nodded eagerly, already busy kissing down a line from Draco's jaw to his collarbone. "Harry, I- mmmmh." Potter had successfully silenced him by bringing his lips back up to Draco's mouth, and Arcturus saw Draco loosen up in the circle of arms that held him tight.
Potter nudged him away from the open window, towards the wall, and Arcturus sighed with frustration. Even if he inched as close to the edge of his portrait as possible, squinting around the corner - which he totally wasn't doing, there were some standards of dignity to maintain, after all - he still would not be able to see- there was a bare arm wrapped around already half-naked shoulders, and long, elegant fingers dug deep into ink-black hair.
"Draco," he heard Potter repeat, his voice a hoarse whisper. "Draco, oh Draco." Merlin, what an eloquent specimen of male wizardkind he was.
Not that the much-valued member of his family scored any better. "Harry," he heard him moan, "oh yes, please. Oh, here."
Please what? Oh where? They didn't spare him and his needs one single thought, now did they, these selfish brats? At least, the ragged breaths emanating from out of the blind angle were promising.
Low moans that were definitely Potter's mingled with Draco's whimpering gasps that sounded, he thought, truly like the mewling of a Kneazle. Using his power of imagination, he tried to fill the sounds with matching images - Potter's sinewy hands running up and down the length of Draco's svelte body, eliciting moans from him which were rising in both volume and pitch; their mouths and tongues meeting in gentle yet passionate battles, producing hushed whispers and ragged pants; and eventually, the soft murmurs that Draco whispered into Potter's mop of hair, interrupted every now and then, and more and more frequently, by little yelps, a sure indication of Potter sliding down Draco's body, kissing his way towards Draco's groin.
Arcturus found himself trembling with anticipation as he heard, and almost felt, Draco's head bang repeatedly against the wall, accompanied by somewhat slurping sounds that left no doubt about Potter having reached what he'd aimed for.
"Oh, godyes," Draco whimpered, his voice high-pitched and close to breaking, and Arcturus felt once again a brief tug at his heart at the boy's obvious vulnerability. "Harry, pleaseyesoh - ouch! Mind y-your teeth!"
"Shorry," he heard Potter's low voice rasp, thickly laced with lust and eagerness, yet a tiny chuckle ringing with it. The slurping continued, interspersed with husky grunts, and Draco's yelps resumed with it. His moans and outcries increased and quickened until they blended together in a long-drawn wail, followed shortly afterwards by a single shout, and subsequent coughing.
Boys! Getting off from sucking someone else off, really; and furthermore making, at least almost, a mess of it.
Arcturus heard them pant and sigh, heard a body slide down the wall and land on the floor with a thud, and his ready imagination eagerly added sweat-covered pale skin and glazed-over eyes, a black head resting on a bony shoulder and pink lips nibbling at another, matching pair. Slowly, the panting subsided, their breathing returned to normal; according to the rustling, clothes were put back on, although, judging by the smacking sounds, Potter - or Draco? Both? - was seizing the chance to place some further kisses.
After what seemed an eternity - and Arcturus was not inclined to use that word off-handedly - Potter got up with a groan and stepped into sight again, his hair even more a mess than usual. He rubbed his nose awkwardly and gave a curt nod into the direction where, Arcturus reckoned, Draco was still sitting.
"See you tomorrow," he said, his voice still coarse, yet a smile lit up his features and reached his eyes. "Sleep well."
"Sod off, Potter," Draco replied but allowed the smile of Potter's voice to find an echo in the tone of his voice.
Arcturus bit back a grin and contemplated trying to squeeze the boy for some details when all of a sudden, he found himself confronted with a very angry-looking Draco, whose fuzzy hair and love-bitten throat matched oddly with the irate blaze in his eyes.
"What the fuck are you playing at?" he hissed, stemming his fists left and right of Arcturus' portrait and leaning so close that his nose almost touched the canvas.
Arcturus sighed. How could he explain – explain that he had, against all odds, begun to care for this stormy boy, that he wanted him safe? Explain that he was so, so afraid of being lonely ever again?
"Do not dare interfere again, ever," Draco growled at him. "Or I'll-" he indicated the flick of a wand, "Incendio, you understand?"
"I'm sorry," Arcturus said, and, to his surprise, actually meant it.
Something terrible had happened.
No one was telling him anything, of course, and whenever he'd asked, he'd been fobbed off, ignored, or even shushed into silence. Grumbling, Arcturus peered at Draco who was lying on the bed, curled up in a ball with his pillow tugged under his body.
Draco was back in his room, yes, yet everything had changed. Yesterday noon, the werewolf and that disgusting Snape bloke had come to fetch Draco, sombre and grave expressions on their faces, and their careful, ostensibly amicable manner had Arcturus go suspicious straight away.
Draco had returned about an hour later, and Arcturus had received a shock at the sight of him. Paler than usual, almost deathly so, his hands quivering, his shoulders hunched-up, he had smashed everything he could get hold of and then had withdrawn to the bed, ignoring both the werewolf's gentle concern and Snape's harsh commands. Since then, he hadn't spoken a word, not even uttered a sound, had refused all food, and hadn't once looked into Arcturus' direction, no matter how often he'd addressed him, worried, joking, teasing, angry; he'd just lain motionless on the bed.
Snape had been here twice, and the werewolf, and even the Mudblood, radiating common sense, and of course Potter, innumerable times, yet only to be steadfastly ignored; and since still no one cared to enlighten him, Arcturus fought down his reluctance to disturb his father and went looking for him.
Yet his father's portrait was empty, and when he hastened downstairs, Arcturus was shocked to find the gallery at the staircase bereft of most of the paintings. Those impertinent creatures, he seethed, momentarily distracted, a bit of mad screeching every now and then gave them no right to remove any family members.
"You're my nephew, aren't you?" a young voice behind him startled him, and Arcturus turned around to face his uncle Sirius, a little boy of about five years, painted only a year before his premature death.
He nodded and grabbed the chance. "Do you happen to know where my father is?"
Sirius stuck out his lower lip. "Your Crups are nice," he said. "I want to play with them."
Arcturus could've yelled with frustration. "Sure," he replied through gritted teeth, "as long as you tell me where my father - your brother - is."
"Oh, Phinny," the little boy beamed, and despite the strain that was pulling on his nerves, Arcturus had to grin about the fact that this child was the only person he knew, dead or alive, who was not in the least afraid of Phineas Nigellus Black.
"He's gone to meet his other self, at Hogwarts."
Arcturus stared at him in surprise. Something really exceptional must have happened. Moving around in the house, especially from one room to the next, was already stressful and wearing, and hardly ever worth the effort, but covering a distance as far as Hogwarts was truly gruelling and could only be managed by the remnants of a once immensely powerful wizard. Even his father only seldom undertook the journey, usually grumbling something about wanting to meet the only adequate interlocutor he had, meaning, of course, himself.
"Are you sure you've understood him correctly?"
"Of course I have," the boy pouted. "We're facing a great danger. Perilous times, that's what he said, our survival is at risk. How come you know nothing about this?"
How come indeed, Arcturus thought yet gave the boy, uncle or not, a stern look. "Hogwarts," he mumbled, more to himself, but Sirius nodded, a grave expression on his childish face. "He went to assist the Headmistress there."
"Head-mistress?" Arcturus said, baffled. Hadn't there been that friend of his father's, that long-bearded what's-his-name? He sighed, absent-mindedly petting his favourite Crup's head.
Sirius sniffled. "I want to play with your Crups," he insisted, and moved closer, causing the Crups to bristle and bark at him.
"Did he say when he'll return from Hogwarts?" Arcturus asked, raising his voice over the barking. "What in Merlin's name has happened?"
Tiny, almost spidery fingers, witnesses of the boy's looming illness, plucked at the silver threads of his jacket. "Shut up," he yelled at his Crups, and in the ensuing silence, the little boy's whisper was overly clearly audible.
"A woman has died," little Sirius whispered, one thumb in his mouth and peering hopefully at the Crups which had begun to snuffle at his legs, while Arcturus' heart was filled with cold dread.
A woman? Oh, no-
At least, the noise had attracted attention. Potter stormed out of the dining hall, one, no two Weasleys - two identical Weasleys, how disturbing - at his heels.
"What the fuck is going on here?" he shouted, and Arcturus actually felt a tad uneasy under his glare.
"I'm sorry," he said out of reflex before he could regain composure, and compensated the slip of the tongue with a particularly condescending look.
"He's barmy," little Sirius whispered to Potter, nodding at Arcturus who was repeatedly wiping his forehead, and a muscle in Potter's cheek twitched.
"He's not the only one, I bet," he murmured, and turned to Arcturus. "Why did you leave your room?"
"What," Arcturus snapped, "do I have to ask your permission?"
Potter rolled his eyes. "I should've known that trying to talk to you is completely pointless."
"No - stay." Arcturus bit his lips, angry at himself for sounding so pleading, yet the anxiety mounting up inside him was almost unbearable now. "What has happened?"
Potter narrowed his gaze at him. "You really care for no one but yourself, don't you? You lot - you make me sick. Draco is your relative, for crying out loud, and don't you all claim that the family is everything? Yet you still regard it beneath you to console him? Is he not flinty enough for your taste, does he still feel too much? You hard-hearted, unfeeling-"
"Harry," one of the double-edition Weasleys said, "mate, calm down. You're, um, quarrelling with a portrait, you're aware of that?"
"Console him," Arcturus mumbled. There's no hope left for me, he recalled the boy muttering, and wiping a black lock off his forehead. So desperate, so-
"Hey!" Potter shouted, and had the audacity to tap his knuckles against the painting. What a disrespectful twerp he was, Draco had been right when he'd accused him of not understanding the wizarding world's ways.
"How is Draco?"
"Why don't you look after him for yourself if you're so worried?" Arcturus hissed, and noticed with satisfaction that Potter was at a loss for words. No big deal, but still.
"He's-" Potter mumbled, his feet shuffling, "he's probably not in a, um, mood to talk to me of all people. At least that's what Hermione suggested. She said I'm insensitive," he added a tad sulkily.
Arcturus felt an odd twinge of conscience. "He's not exactly being loquacious in general."
Potter sighed and placed his hands on his shoulders, bracing himself and pressing his mouth briefly onto his wrist as if to suffocate a remark, and shooting the Weasley double a shushing glare. "Has. Has he eaten anything?" he asked, and when Arcturus merely shook his head, he flinched and heaved a deep sigh.
Arcturus quelled the urge to roll his eyes (or insult the Weasleys for good measure). "Boy. Why don't you just tell me what has happened?" he asked, although deep down, he knew the answer already.
Potter looked him straight in the eye, and said matter-of-factly, "Narcissa Malfoy's mangled body has been found."
"Draco." Hesitatingly, Potter entered the room, peering over to the bed where Draco was still lying curled up. "Draco, come on, you can't go on like that. Please, at least, you must eat something."
Draco remained motionless, yet Arcturus saw his eyelashes flutter against the pale skin, and gave Potter an encouraging nod.
Potter drew closer, the worry clearly readable in his tensed up face, and with a jolt of surprise, Arcturus felt himself warm up to the boy for the first time.
"Leave me alone," Draco said, digging his face deeper into the pillow.
"Draco." Potter fell silent again, took a few steps to the secretaire and placed the bowl he'd been carrying onto it. "Draco, I've-
"You won't believe it but I know my name. There's no need to repeat it over and over again."
Potter smiled sadly. "At least, you're talking to me."
"I wouldn't place my money on it. Go away."
"I've brought you some pumpkin soup. As far as I recall, it's one of your favourite dishes."
He sighed when Draco remained silent, and eventually said in an - actually not bad - imitation of Draco's voice, "Oh, Potter, I'd never have guessed that you know about my favourite dishes."
"I don't feel like joking, Potter."
"I know, I'm just trying-"
Draco uttered a disgruntled sound. "I suppose I won't get rid of you unless I've bowed to your wishes, will I?"
Arcturus saw Potter's hands clench briefly but to his relief, the boy managed to maintain his composure. "Draco, please. I'm so, so sorry but-"
In a dash, Draco was out of the bed and over at the secretaire, sending the bowl crashing against the wall.
"You're- you're pitying me, Potter?" he spat, his bottled up temper and misery breaking free with a gush. "What, am I acceptable now, all of a sudden, because my mother's dead too? She wouldn't be dead but for you!"
"What," Potter stammered, nonplussed. "Are you nuts? I didn't-"
"You as good as killed her!" Draco screamed, beyond himself, his whole body trembling from hatred and rage and anguish. "It all happened because of you! Hadn't you abducted me I could've protected her! I should've protected her! I- Had you died back then when you were meant to die, none of this would've happened! My father would still be here! He would've protected us! Don't you tell me it's not your fault!"
Potter stared at him open-mouthed, unable to stop the waves of scorn and pain that seemed to be aimed directly at him, and Arcturus hoped he'd understand, see that-
"I'm sorry that I exist, then," Potter hissed, tight-lipped and hurt, and Arcturus heaved a sigh. Boys.
"There's no excuse for that, Potter!" Draco was breathing heavily and had withdrawn to the farthest corner of the room, pacing up and down frantically as if all the pent-up emotions had eventually found an outlet and were forcing him to the restless movement.
Arcturus blinked, confused. There had been another boy, as dark as Draco was fair, and he too had been desperate, here, in this very room - it had been so long ago, when he too had been weary of the wan remnants of the world, and he just couldn't remember-
"Believe me, I know how you feel! It's not as if I-"
"Oh, I've been waiting for that to come! Ickle Potty and his dead family! It's always about you, isn't it? Can't you just for once bear the thought of not being the centre of the universe?"
Potter was trembling all over. "You," he ground out between gritted teeth, "you dare speak of self-centred? You-"
With a few energetic strides, he closed the distance to Draco and before the other boy could put up any resistance, he grabbed the collar of his robes and brought his mouth onto Draco's with full force.
"For Merlin's sake, Potter," Draco managed to squeeze out of the corner of his mouth, "you can't kiss me now, I'm yelling at you!"
Potter paid his protest no heed, though, letting his hands sneak up Draco's collar and down his back, and within a few seconds, Draco melted into the embrace. His lips parted willingly, and Arcturus saw the tip of a pink tongue dart forth and lick across the lower lip, meeting another tongue there.
The two of them stood like that forever, their mouths meeting, parting, and meeting again in passionate and tender kisses. Potter's hands went up and down Draco's back, stroking and caressing him, and holding him tightly in place; and Draco seemed to give in to the feeling of being held, cuddling up closer to Potter and digging his fingers into the mop of black hair.
Eventually, Potter ended the kiss, whispering "Draco, I'm-"
"No, don't," Draco replied, placing his index finger over Potter's mouth. "It's okay. Well, I guess not okay, but- you know."
"Yes," Potter said, running a tender hand through Draco's hair.
"Harry," Draco mumbled, staring at the floor, "what I said- I'm-"
A finger against his lips silenced him. "It's okay," Potter said, and kissed him again, his hands sneaking their way under Draco's shirt and wandering lightly over the soft skin.
Draco squirmed a bit, and Potter stopped, eyeing him questioningly.
"Harry," he whispered and leaned his head against Potter's shoulder, his hands wrapped loosely around Potter's waist. "I- I need to know how-" his voice faltered, and he hiccupped against Potter's neck. "I mean, Snape told me already that- that they found her on our premises and that she's been- that he allowed Grey- oh god-"
He looked down on the floor, his face twitching with pain, and Arcturus felt a tug at his heartstrings.
"I don't know more either." Potter brought one of his hands up to Draco's face and ran the tip of his thumb across the corner of Draco's mouth.
Draco nodded. "I have to go. I have to find out what has happened, and why she sent that letter, why she made you think that I knew something. I still don't understand, and I- I simply have to understand. I- oh god, I have to tell Dad."
"Snape has already seen to that."
"I have to go! I- I can't stay any longer, and you can't keep me from going." He wriggled in Potter's embrace, and stepped back the moment Potter loosened his grip.
"Draco," Potter mumbled, "you can't go back to Voldemort! He'd kill you on the spot, or maybe he'll take his time, but he would kill you! And-" he took hold of Draco's arm, turning him around to face him, "that won't bring your mother back. Be sensible, Draco!"
Yes, Arcturus thought, shoving all reservations against that half-blood nitwit aside for a moment, don't let him go.
Draco glowered at him. "Harry Potter, the voice of reason. That I would live to see the day."
"Draco, please be sensible! You can't take on Voldemort alone, you-"
"Oh yes, that's your job, isn't it?" Pushing Potter away, Draco lowered himself onto the bed and began rocking to and fro like a caged animal. "The bastard has killed my mother, no, even worse, he has allowed that- that creature to have his fun with her first! Don't-" he looked up, and hatred was blazing in his eyes. "Don't you tell me I have no right to go after him! My mother was as good as yours!"
Potter drew a few steadying breaths, yet there was an edge to his voice, and his eyes were darkening. "I didn't- You know that the Horcruxes are our best chance! Maybe our only chance at all! We need you here!"
Draco glared at him. "But I haven't got the faintest idea about these Horcruxes, even you should've been able to figure that out in the meantime! You have kidnapped me for nothing, and my Mum died for it!" He buried his face in his hands. "That damn locket, I have no idea why- why Mum would think-"
A golden locket on a long, thick chain was swinging in front of his face, and Arcturus gasped with shock.
"Come on," Potter mumbled, and tentatively stretched out his arm to touch Draco's shoulder. "I'm- I'm not good at-" he made an encompassing gesture, "this, but I- Draco, I want you to stay." A diffident smile played on his lips. "There, I said it."
Draco looked up, an unreadable expression on his face, and Arcturus held his breath.
A sharp knock on the door, and a female voice called out. "May I have a few words with you, Draco?"
The two boys jumped apart, and Arcturus glared at the intruder, a tallish, brown-haired woman donned in black robes. What a stupid timing! Arcturus squinted at her. Familiar she seemed to him, yet he couldn't-
Andromeda? He racked his brain. Andromeda? Not the- his eyes narrowed at her. The third of the Black sisters, the one who dared to dishonour the family by-
"You're the one who married a Mudblood!"
Three faces turned to him, shock written all over Potter's and the traitress' faces while a slow smile spread over Draco's.
"I've been wondering how long it would take this old nuisance to interfere again," he heard the brat mumble. Okay, he had been making allowances with respect to the boy's bereavement but that was the last straw, he wasn't going to-
The traitress moved across the room, and Draco stiffened. "I've come to have a word with you, Draco. Harry-" she said, nudging Potter, and he gave her a quizzical look. "Would you mind leaving us alone for a moment?"
Potter teetered on his toes for a moment, his gaze darting back and forth between Draco and the traitress. "'s okay, Harry," Draco mumbled and gave his hand a squeeze, his eyes following him when Potter left the room.
With a swift move, Draco stood up from the bed and straightened his back, his chin up. "What can I do for you, Aunt?"
Merlin, Arcturus thought, she looked downright horrible. She'd never been able to compete with her beautiful sisters, had always been appallingly average with her brown hair and her common face. Her gentle smile and tender nature had foreboded trouble, no wonder she'd turned out a blood traitor.
But the sickly pallor of her face, the wrinkled edged into the skin around mouth and eyes, the shrunken cheeks seemed recent. The silly woman didn't have the audacity to mourn her sister, the sister she'd betrayed all those years ago?
"Draco, I- look, I know that we've never been close but-" she ran a hand across her forehead, gathering herself. "You mother was my sister, and I, well- I feel your loss, I-"
Draco scowled at her. "You've come to tell me that? Bit of waste of breath, don't you think so? I am aware of the familial connections, fancy that, yet as to a tearful family reunion – I'm sorry but I fear I'll be a disappointment for you in that regard."
Ah, a Black's courage! What was that impertinent woman thinking, that he'd give in to a few mawkish words? She was, Arcturus thought and determinedly fought down a sentimental sensation stirring in the pit of his stomach, still a traitress, one who left the family behind and turned against her next of kin.
"There's not much family left to reunite, now is there?" Andromeda heaved a sigh. "I've lost my daughter, my son-in-law has lost his bride, and now I've lost my sister, and you your mother. It's enough, Draco. It must end."
"There's no use moaning and groaning now. If you blood traitors hadn't forgot what you owe to your family, she'd-"
"Be silent!" Andromeda shouted, and Arcturus obeyed, disgruntled yet inexplicably pleased - there was Black-ish fire in her.
"Read that," she said, the impatience and fervour in her voice forbidding any contradiction, and handed Draco a piece of parchment.
Draco scowled but took the sheet. Without any forewarning, the blood drained from his face and he faltered, clutching and crumpling the parchment in his hands.
"She- why," he whispered and looked up at his aunt, who, along with Arcturus, flinched at the sheer despair and anguish in his eyes.
"She wanted you to be safe, Draco," Andromeda said very gently and tenderly. "She sent that letter to Harry to make him come for you, don't you understand? She didn't think- she doubted that they would just come and rescue you, so she baited them." Andromeda's voice faltered a bit, and she craned her head back, blinking away a tear. "To make sure that no one would recognise her hand and get suspicious, or even ignore it, she spelled it, only to be revealed to her son. When you touched the letter, the spell vanished."
Draco trembled all over. "But-" He brought a fist up to his mouth and stuffed it into it as if biting back a cry. "I- still don't- understand, why didn't she tell me, why you-"
A wistful smile spread across Andromeda's face, and Arcturus suddenly could see the beauty in her. "And you would've obeyed? You would've gone away, if she told you to, even without her? You would've left her behind?"
"N- no. No, I wouldn't have done that! But she could've come with me! She could still be ali-"
"She didn't dare attract too much attention. Your mother knew that Voldemort was keeping a close eye on her, on both of you, as well as she knew that she was going to her death when Voldemort summoned her to him. It seems that Grey-" her voice stumbled over the name. "That Greyback had already insinuated- also what he had planned for you-" her voice trailed off again, and she dabbed the back of her hands against her eyes. "She wanted you out of there. Safe. That's what it was all about."
Her hand reached for the parchment but remained there, leaving it in Draco's clenched fist. "She wanted you to know. It-" a tiny sob escaped her. "It seems that she still trusted me somehow, and so she wrote me this second letter, spelling the Owl to deliver it with a bit a delay. She was a clever woman, your mother, and-" she paused, pressing her hand against her mouth. "I loved her very much, although I never had the chance to- well, the chance and the courage to tell her. I'm not going to make the same mistake with my Cissy's son."
Her other hand, still resting on Draco's, hesitatingly began stroking the back of his hand. For a moment it seemed as if Draco would shove her hand away, but then, slowly and almost reluctantly, he began moving his fingers against his aunt's palm. She held her breath and took a step closer, bringing her other hand up to his head and running it over his shining hair, light as a feather.
Draco twitched and winced, and again Arcturus thought he would recoil, but with a sound that was like a cry caught in the throat, he flung himself into his aunt's arms.
Andromeda caught the sobbing boy in her arms and sank down to the floor while holding him tight. They stayed like that for a long time, hunched together as if they were the only people in the world. Draco mumbled unintelligible words into the collar of his aunt's robes, burying his face in the curve of her neck, and she smiled sadly and kept stroking his hair.
Eventually, he raised a tear-stained face. "I- it's my fault-" he sobbed and hiccupped, and Andromeda kissed his temple, hugging him tight and pressing his head against her breast. "I left her alone."
It's all my fault, I have brought this upon me. Arcturus jerked up, looking around. A white-blond head, a black-haired young man. He rubbed his eyes, angry and anxious. Draco was crouching on the floor, his aunt's arms around him, and there was no one else in the room.
"Sshh. She was already dead when you arrived here. There was nothing you could've done. Read- when you've calmed down, read the letter again." She clasped her hands around Draco's, curling his fingers around the parchment. "Keep it."
Draco sniffled and gave his aunt a brave and shaky smile, wiping away the dampness from his eyes and cheeks. The other one continued to pace around the room, frantic, panicking, his face contorted with fear and despair.
"What do you think," Andromeda whispered, "shall we go downstairs and have a cocoa?"
Draco managed a somewhat cheeky grin. "I'd rather have a FireWhisky, actually."
She chuckled and screwed her eyes in mock consternation, ruffling his hair. "Actually, I could do with one, too. Come on."
The other boy, flinging the drawers of the chest open and tearing his black hair, looked up, and Arcturus's heart skipped a beat at the familiarity of his lean face with the dark eyes.
"'Is there anyone around here?" he called out, his frustration growing and growing.
"What?" Stopping dead in her tracks, Andromeda turned to him. "Oh, you again." The corner of her mouth went up, causing her lips to settle into the same lopsided grin that brightened up Draco's face. "We've got one of these at home, too. My great-great-grandaunt, from the Rosier side of the family. N-Nymphadora used to love her as a child, she always wanted to dress up like her."
She stepped closer, and her narrow face, so unmistakably Black-ish, how could he not have seen it, mingled and blended over to another Black's face, and he was so close to grasping who, and when-
"Who are you?" Arcturus groaned, and Andromeda frowned at him. "The one with the Mudblood husband," she replied tartly.
"Not you- the one over there!"
Following his outstretched hand and gazing at a small, ancient chest of drawers, Andromeda raised her eyebrows at Draco. "Seems they'll all go mad after some time, doesn't it?"
"Weird, he's been quite normal, most of the time," Draco said, shrugging.
"You impertinent boy," Arcturus hissed, and directed his gaze at Andromeda. "Is a bit of respect really too much to ask for? You might not know who I am, what with your indifference towards-"
"Of course I know you," she interruped him, running her index finger across his face, and he went rigid with indignation. "How could I forget you?"
She dabbed her fingertip against his nose disrespectfully, and he glared at her. "I remember you so well - we all began learning the alphabet with you! Arcturus Black - A and B, on the tapestry and here." A slow and wistful smile brightened up her sad, tired face. "I remember how you used to pick on Regulus because his tongue kept stumbling over the -rct- in your name, and he cried and refused to go near you for a long time."
Arcturus snorted. "The little wimp. To think that he bears my name." A pain seared through him, and he gasped when he felt the piercing gaze of the young man focussed on him from the other side the room like an accusation. "What do you want from me?" he winced, and, ashamed about his weakness, turned away from Draco and Andromeda. He saw Andromeda shrug and the boy circling his finger at his temple, but his attention was claimed by the other boy who came closer, a desperate yet pleading look on his face.
The door fell shut after Draco and his aunt, and the young man walked over to his portrait and looked him right into the eyes, urging him to see, to understand.
And with a snap of his mind, he saw. Saw the frantic young man, saw Regulus Arcturus Black pace through the room, saw him cast spell after spell after spell at the chest of drawers, saw the fright and terror on his face, and the locket in his hands, held so tightly that the engraved S leaved an imprint on his palms even after the locket had been hidden in-
"Wait! Come back!" Arcturus yelled. "Come back!" When no one came, he mustered all his power and set out for his brother's portrait in the dining room, an accomplished smile on his face.
He was going to have their attention now, wasn't he?