not your typical annihilatrix (furiosity) wrote,
not your typical annihilatrix

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Fic: Before Peace [Harry/Draco, NC-17] - 28

Title: Before Peace - Chapter 28 - So This Is Good-bye
Author: furiosity
Chapter Rating: R
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Wherein N.E.W.T. results are unsurprising, Millicent gets married, Blaise has great plans for the future, Draco thinks he's lost his marbles, Harry agrees, and Narcissa suffers an unexpected shock.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.

Before Peace
Chapter 28 - So This Is Good-bye

"I got in," said Draco, lowering his NEWT results letter. "I knew I would."

No one was there to hear him; his mother was outside, inspecting the house elves' work in the orchard. Still, it felt nice to say it. He'd only earned Acceptable marks in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, but the core subjects required for the first round of Auror tests were all that counted, and those were all Exceeds Expectations. Draco was slightly vexed that his Potions mark was not Outstanding, but it was high enough for what really mattered.

Next to the NEWT letter lay an unopened roll of parchment addressed to Draco from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He unrolled it, letting pieces of the heavy green seal fall to the floor.

Dear Mr Malfoy,

We have received your application and are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to attempt the Auror entrance examinations. These are a series of tests on everything from magical aptitude and knowledge of international relations to physical and psychological fitness. The tests will be held at the Auror Training Compound, commencing September 3rd.

There will be an information session held for all new potential trainees at the Training Compound on August 22nd. You are encouraged to attend it in order to familiarise yourself with the screening process and to meet your future colleagues. If you do attend, please be sure to bring your official Hogwarts maturation certificate; this will speed up the paperwork process on examination day. If you do not attend the information session, please bring your certificate with you to the Training Compound.

To confirm your intention of attempting the entrance examinations and receive a one-time Portkey to the Training Compound, please present this letter to Kingsley Shacklebolt at the Auror Headquarters no later than August 14th.

The letter went on to warn him about potential difficulties he might face during the examination; it also listed several dozen waivers he would need to sign before trying the tests. Draco rolled his eyes. The informational pamphlets about Aurors made it all sound very glamorous, but in reality it was just another Ministry job. He wondered how everyone else from Moody's Auror Training class did on their NEWTs. If Millicent got less than Exceeds Expectations in Charms, she wouldn't be able to go through Auror training; that would be ironic, considering that her wedding -- rushed along to make sure she would be married before she left for training -- was only a day away.


"I always say it's all about the hair," whispered Pansy as they sat in the Longbottoms' central ballroom and watched Millicent approach the altar. Instead of her usual tightly woven braid, Millicent's hair hung loose in unruly ringlets, making her look years younger and adding soft femininity to her stern face. She wore traditional wedding robes the colour of dark emeralds; they were so long that she seemed to be gliding across the polished floor. Millicent's mother, a tall, willowy Muggle woman who looked uncomfortable in dress robes, watched her daughter approach, dabbing at her eyes with a lacy handkerchief. Alfred Bulstrode towered behind his wife, his usual scowl replaced by an expression of infinite surprise.

"He probably never thought he'd be able to marry her off, mannish as she is," continued Pansy. Draco was beginning to regret having taken her instead of Daphne; she had maintained a constant stream of running commentary about everyone she happened to glimpse even for so much as a moment.

"For the love of God, Pansy, it's her bloody wedding day," Draco whispered back. "Ease up on the gossip."

Pansy sniffed, but had the good grace to shut up.

There were no empty seats in the ballroom; there must have been at least two hundred people here. Draco supposed he should have been grateful that there were no Muggles except for the bride's mother. That would have made this whole affair a disaster and a half, what with having to pretend having a Muggle wedding.

At the altar, Longbottom looked nervous in ill-fitting robes of deep burgundy. Behind him stood his grandmother, flanked by two people Draco didn't recognise: a man and a woman in their forties. They were dressed in plain black dress robes, nothing special, but a necklace woven of brightly coloured beads made the woman stand out. The man held a stuffed green lizard and hopped about from time to time, like he needed a piss.

"Those must be Longbottom's parents," Draco thought out loud. He couldn't think of anyone else Augusta Longbottom would have allowed to stand there looking as ridiculous as they did.

"There are six Mediwitches behind them," said Pansy. "I saw Mrs Longbottom cast a Disillusionment Charm whilst you were talking to Finnigan and Thomas."

Draco bit down on the inside of his mouth. That had been one embarrassing episode. Thomas was wearing trousers so tight, they left almost nothing to imagination. Draco had to fight not to keep stealing glances at Thomas's crotch as they'd talked. Still, these things would always happen, and Draco had always had a very firm grip on his highly embarrassing instincts. He knew it would keep happening, but as long as he didn't touch, he could look all he wanted.

Millicent and Longbottom recited their vows three times to each other, and then a different set of vows to their parents. When Millicent spoke, she addressed Longbottom's mother and father, but it was Augusta Longbottom who named her daughter. This caused a brief wave of mutterings amongst the pure-blood contingent, but these were quickly silenced.

After they exchanged rings, Longbottom clasped Millicent's hands between his and whispered something, causing her to grin.

"You may seal your vows," rasped the officiator.

Draco had expected a peck, as was customary in front of such groups of people, so he was rather shocked when Longbottom and Millicent went for a full-on snog, their wedding robes clinging together, green slashed with red. He tried not to stare, but couldn't help himself. After a moment, Draco realised he was getting hard watching Longbottom's jaw work as he kissed his wife.

Oh for fuck's sake, he thought irritably, fighting the urge to adjust his cock.

"I know," whispered Pansy. "How inappropriate!" Draco just shook his head, not even bothering to upbraid himself for speaking instead of thinking. Again.

There was a cheer from the Longbottom half of the ballroom, and it quickly picked up volume, rising to a crescendo just as Longbottom finally let go of Millicent, both of them grinning like pleased cats. Leave it to the Gryffindors to make a spectacle out of a perfectly proper, traditional wedding. Draco couldn't believe Millicent had gone along with it. Then again, maybe he could.

Augusta Longbottom clapped her hands, and a food-laden U-shaped table appeared at the back of the ballroom. As Draco and Pansy began making their way over, they almost collided with Zabini and his date, a busty blonde with spider webs tattooed onto her temples.

"Excuse me," said the woman. Her voice had a lightly nasal twang, but Draco couldn't place her accent. "I do apologise."

"My fault, really," said Draco, smiling politely. "Won't you introduce us, Zabini?"

"Aleida Van de Graaff," said the woman, and stretched out a pale pink hand. Draco pressed his lips to it; her skin was warm and smelled expensive. "Charmed," he said, and cocked an eyebrow at Zabini. "Draco Malfoy, at your service."

"A word, Malfoy?" Zabini said, tight-lipped.

"Certainly." With an apologetic half-bow, Draco followed Zabini into the spacious courtyard. Neither the Van de Graaff woman nor Pansy seemed to notice; they were already sizing each other up with radiant smiles that, in Draco's experience, usually hid daggers. Women were so very insane.

"Well, well, well," said Draco when they reached the relative quiet of the courtyard. "Aren't you moving up in the world? Do those tattoos mean what I think they mean?" The Dutch wizarding society was still a monarchy, and members of the nobility all bore various markings on their temples. Spiderwebs meant a barony.

"They mean exactly what you think they mean," said Zabini.

"Come now, Zabini, don't tell me you have serious designs on this woman? A bit out of your league, isn't she?" Nobles did not marry non-nobles, after all.

"Completely," agreed Zabini. "But that could change if she wants it to. Her father can't say no to her."

Draco patted his chest. "And you're going to make sure she can't say no to you."

"That's why I wanted to make sure you don't bring up Lolita."

"Why would I ever do anything as stupid as that?" asked Draco. "Unless I wanted her for myself, but she's not my type."

Zabini gave him a strange look, and frowned. "I thought she wouldn't be," he said slowly. He opened his mouth as though to say something else, but promptly closed it.

Draco frowned. That gesture was as un-Zabini-like as they came. "Is something else the matter, then?"

Zabini was still giving him that strange, searching look. "No," he finally said. "Nothing." He licked his lips. Zabini had what Draco called a prince's mouth -- thin, well-defined lips that hid perfect white teeth. Draco wondered if Zabini's lips were as cold as the rest of him. He felt a surge of excitement in his lower belly and quickly cast about for something to say, just so his mind wouldn't keep wandering to altogether inappropriate places.

"So, what did you tell Lolita?" he asked.

"Nothing; what was I supposed to tell her? I just left." Zabini cast a nervous glance over his shoulder.

Draco rolled his eyes. Van der Whatever was nowhere in sight, and neither was Pansy. "She hasn't tried to find you?"

Shrugging, Zabini tilted his head to one side. "How would she? She doesn't even know my surname."

Draco quickly hid his eyes. He remembered accidentally mentioning Zabini's last name to the barmaid, but she probably had forgotten it. It wasn't as though she could write it down, after all. He felt it again then -- that strange sense of... emptiness raking through his mind. When he thought about his seventh year, it often felt like the memories were trickling down from a sieve, and some were too big to fit through the holes, so they never materialised, except as faint echoes.

"So where did you find the Dutch heiress?" he asked.

"Her older brother is a close friend of my mother's," said Zabini. "She apparently got into some kind of trouble back home, and he sent her here to straighten her out, without her father's knowledge."

Draco snorted. "I'm sure you'll be happy to assist her in that, no questions asked."

"I'll be happy to do more than that," murmured Zabini, and there it was again, that twinge in the pit of Draco's belly. When was the last time he'd got laid? He couldn't remember. No wonder he was having trouble keeping those other impulses under control. A few more weeks, and he'd be willing to shag a goat.

They made their way back to the ballroom, where a queue of guests waited to congratulate the happy couple as they all took their places at the table. Zabini's heiress and Pansy seemed to have found something in common -- a love of shoes -- and were happily, but in hushed tones, discussing the footwear of all the women present.

"Congratulations," said Draco to Millicent when he reached her. "You look fantastic."

"You're sitting next to us," she informed him, looking stern as ever. Even the fancy hair didn't change that, though she did look great.

"What about Pansy?"

Millicent squinted. "I suppose she can come, too. Right, Neville?"

"What?" Longbottom blinked rapidly, looking startled. "Oh. Of course."

"Congratulations," Draco told him. "You'd better treat her well, or I might just steal her from you."

Longbottom put a possessive arm around Millicent's waist. "In your dreams," he said firmly. Millicent blushed. Blushed!


From his seat two spots away from Millicent, Draco could see the entire ballroom, which looked even more impressive from this angle. The manor should have one, he told himself.

"Have what?" asked Pansy, looking up from her plate of cold shrimp.

"Oh, nothing," replied Draco, and surveyed the food in front of him.

"Right here!" called Millicent. Draco looked up and found himself staring at Potter's chest. He didn't know how he knew it was Potter's chest, but he knew, and it was.

"Potter," he said amiably.

"Malfoy," came the reply. "I'm to sit next to you, it seems."

"I don't have a problem with it if you don't," said Draco, half-grinning. His and Potter's paths hadn't crossed much since the war, which was strange, considering that they'd shared a dormitory and done the Auror Training together, but he bore Potter no ill will.

Potter didn't smile; he pulled out the neighbouring chair and sat down, not looking at Draco.

"Who's your date?" asked Draco, then remembered that Potter was like that. It was too late to bite his tongue, so he bit into a cabbage roll instead.

"Didn't bring a date," said Potter. "Didn't want to embarrass Neville's gran."

Oh. "How thoughtful," said Draco.

"Yes, that's me. Mr Thoughtful, at your service," muttered Potter, still not looking at him.

Shrugging, Draco turned back to his food. For some reason, though, his appetite was gone, and there was a painful, twisting sensation in his chest, coupled with an overwhelming déjà vu. He'd been here before, sat here just like this, talked to Potter... and then... he got up and...

The feeling faded, but the twist in his chest remained. He glanced at Potter, who brooded over a plateful of onion soup. "What's with you?" he asked, almost involuntarily. "Did you not get into Auror training?"

Potter finally looked at him, and Draco was taken aback by how green his eyes were up close. "I got in," he said through his teeth. "Did you?"

"Yeah," said Draco, realising that Potter was pissed off at him and wishing to know why. "It should be interesting," he said, wishing for an excuse to run away. When Potter looked like that, bad things happened to people he was looking at.

A fleeting ghost of a frown marred Potter's features, and Draco froze. His cock felt hard enough to punch through metal; when had that happened? And with Potter? Potter? He did have nice eyes, and that low, slightly menacing pitch to his voice, but Potter was, well... Potter. Draco had had fantasies a few times, but that had been years ago.

"Yeah, it should be interesting," said Potter. "You know, I just realised I saw someone I need to talk to. I'll see you around."

Draco watched him go and tried to remember why Potter might be cross with him. The last time they'd spoken had been... well before Christmas, was it? No, it must have been Easter... Draco hit his temple with the heel of his hand, as if that would dislodge the stuck memory. Nothing.

"Are you all right, Draco?" asked Pansy.

"Yeah," said Draco, but his voice sounded far away. There had been a time when Draco was going to involve Potter in his plans to save his father, somehow. But how? It didn't matter.


He was staring at Potter again, for the umpteenth time in three hours. Almost a month after Millicent's wedding, they were sitting at a round table, waiting for the information session to conclude. Their instructor, a burly wizard named Appleby, had taken their paperwork for processing; once he was back, they could go home and begin preparing for the examinations.

Next to him, Millicent was saying something, but Draco barely heard her. Potter steepled his fingers and half-turned his head to Lisa Turpin. He grinned, and Draco felt a surge of inexplicable envy. His entire being wanted Potter to look at him like that, to smile at him like that. What was wrong with him? Ever since the wedding, he couldn't stop going over every detail of their brief encounter at the feast, every word, every movement.

He needed to stop this, somehow, because it was rapidly turning into an obsessive infatuation, and Draco didn't understand where it had come from, didn't understand why he couldn't control it like he'd been able to control his baser urges ever since he'd realised that he liked boys much more than he liked girls. It needed to stop. Now.

You've been down this road before, warned a voice that wasn't his own. There was something familiar about it, but Draco couldn't place it. Did this have something to do with those strange gaps in his memory since Potter had exposed Umbridge's meddling? Maybe those Eyelets had been more than recording devices. Maybe they'd had nasty properties no one knew about...

He realised that Potter was looking straight at him, and what Draco felt was reflected in Potter's eyes, too. Lust, longing, confusion overwhelmed him; he was drowning, but he couldn't look away. Potter swallowed, drawing Draco's eyes to his Adam's apple. He wanted to flick his tongue across it, wanted to press his body close to Potter's, to feel Potter's heart beating next to his. He was going in-fucking-sane.

The door banged open and Appleby walked in, carrying a sheaf of parchment. The spell was broken, and Draco looked away, embarrassed. Appleby handed everyone their paperwork and wished them good luck; Draco didn't even check if he'd received the right paperwork. He murmured a quick goodbye to Millicent and ran, away from Potter, from whatever affliction had beset him. Maybe it had been the room. Maybe this was some sort of early test that no one told them about.

"Malfoy," called Potter behind him. Draco stopped, but didn't turn. He was still considering flight when Potter caught up to him.


"What was that?" asked Potter. "You looked about ready to pounce on me and claw my eyes out."

Yes. Minus the clawing part.

Draco heard himself say it and froze.

"So," said Potter. His eyes were hesitant. "You remember again?"

Draco blinked. "Remember what?"

Potter's jaw tightened. "Nothing." He turned around and began to walk away.

"It was the Eyelets, wasn't it?" called Draco after him. They hadn't been mere Eyelets. Something had happened to him during his seventh year, something everyone knew about except for him. That explained Zabini's awkward frowns, Millicent's casual but worried looks. Potter's intense gaze...

Potter faced him again, from a distance. "What?"

"The Eyelets," said Draco miserably. "They were something else, weren't they? Something's happened to me. These not-Eyelets did something."

Potter took a deep breath through his nose. "Do you really want to know?"

"Yes, damn you!" Draco shouted. "I want to know." He couldn't fix whatever was wrong with him unless he knew what had caused it.

"Follow me," said Potter, and began to walk towards the fireplaces.


"Don't get any ideas," said Draco nervously when they landed in Potter's drawing room. It was a large room, and the window opened onto an impressive yard. How Potter had come by such a place, Draco didn't know. He wasn't sure he wanted to.

Potter gave him a dark look. "Wait here."

He left the room and reappeared several minutes later, carrying a Pensieve. Draco's heart drummed wildly in his chest. Potter was going to show him what had happened. He watched Potter press his wand to his temple, draw out strand after silvery strand, and place them in the Pensieve. When he was done, Potter gestured at the Pensieve, his eyes guarded. "You won't like this, Malfoy," he said. "Are you sure you want to see?"

"Of course I'm sure," said Draco. "Stand aside."

He bent low over the Pensieve and fell down into an endless abyss, landing next to the same sofa he'd just left behind in Potter's drawing room. Potter sat on the sofa, and Draco saw himself on the floor.

"You're a bit obsessed with winning, aren't you?" Potter slid off the sofa, crawled towards memory-Draco on all fours, and collapsed.

Memory-Draco looked down at him. "'Obsessed with' is a bit strong. I prefer 'driven by'."

Potter struggled up into a sitting position and faced memory-Draco. "That's good," he said. "So am I."

"It's a good thing we're not on opposing sides, then." Memory-Draco shifted slightly backwards.

"Huh?" Potter looked surprised, as though jolted out of sleep. "I forgot what we were talking about."

"Winning." Memory-Draco looked slightly green. He was drunk, Draco realised. He did not remember this ever happening. How was that possible? But clearly it had happened; memories couldn't lie.

Potter flicked his wand in memory-Draco's direction. "Not a bad charm, is it?" Potter asked, setting his wand aside. "Lupin taught it to me. Said my dad invented it. All the benefits of being drunk with none of the drawbacks."

Memory-Draco snorted. "My dad would disapprove."

Draco bristled. His father was none of Potter's business; why would he ever say anything like that to Potter? Oh right; he'd been drunk.

Potter moved closer to memory-Draco. "You ever wonder what it would be like to have it off with a bloke?"

Memory-Draco winced and looked aside. "What does that have to do with anything? You're not making any sense."

"I know." There was a faint flush playing across Potter's face. "I just wondered about it suddenly. Probably the Firewhisky talking."

"Never thought I'd say this, but I think I prefer talking to you, and not to Firewhisky--"

"I want to kiss you," blurted Potter.

"No," breathed Draco.

"Do it," said memory-Draco.

Potter's eyes widened for a long, awkward moment, and then he leaned in and pressed his lips carefully to memory-Draco's. The real Draco screwed his eyes shut as his memory counterpart moaned softly into Potter's mouth. "Oh, God, I don't want to see this," Draco pleaded, and he instantly felt the Pensieve shift around him, to an unfamiliar low-ceilinged corridor. Memory-Draco stood near the wall, glaring at Potter.

"So we're just going to go back to the way it was before?" asked Potter.

Before what? Draco asked silently as memory-Draco sighed and leant his head back against the wall. "I'll make you a deal. I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone."

"But I don't want you to leave me alone," said Potter. "I mean. We were friends. Kind of."

"We were never friends," hissed memory-Draco, without looking at him. "I was one of the Ministry's pawns, just as you were a pawn for the Order of the Chicken--"


"Whatever, it's a bird. I just want to go back to my normal life. That life does not include you."

Draco blinked at himself. Why would he do that? Why would he say that? He and Potter had been friends, of a sort. He didn't remember this, either -- he didn't even know the place. It didn't look like the Hogwarts dungeon.


He was in the former Gryffindor dormitory, looking at sleeping memory-Draco over Potter's shoulder. "I don't know what's wrong with me," Potter said.

Memory-Draco kept breathing, evenly. Too evenly; he was obviously only pretending to be asleep. "Why can't I remember this?" he whispered.

Potter traced his finger down memory-Draco's arm, a gesture so casually intimate that Draco broke out in gooseflesh. Memory-Draco made a very convincing sleepy noise of discontent and pulled his blanket up over his shoulder, turning away from Potter.

Potter froze. "Fuck," he whispered. "Are you awake?"

Memory-Draco did not reply.

"I wish I could talk to you," said Potter, his voice bitter. "I wish you would stop acting like the war didn't happen."

Memory-Draco pulled the blanket even further over his head with a mutter.

Potter sighed. "I feel like a complete idiot talking to you like this. I never thought I'd see the day when I wanted to hear you talking back." He was silent for a few moments. "Then again, I probably wouldn't know what to say if you were looking at me right now. I don't want to hate you. I don't want you to hate me. Even if you never remember that night, I--"

Draco knew which night Potter was talking about, now. Panic gripped him. He didn't understand anything.


He was in the courtyard, behind Potter, who sat slumped against one of the arches. Memory-Draco seemed to be lecturing a second-year student. "You will go up to the South Tower," instructed memory-Draco. "You'll tell the Fat Lady that you need to see Ginny Weasley. Tell her to come down here and collect her boyfriend--"

"Don't want Ginny," mumbled Potter, though the second-year scrambled off as though pursued by Doxies. Potter reached forward and grabbed a handful of memory-Draco's robes, but he couldn't keep his balance and he fell, pressing tightly against memory-Draco's chest.

"What--" memory-Draco began, but Potter didn't seem to notice he'd spoken.

"Don't want Ginny to see me... like this," he said.

"Well, she'll have to," said memory-Draco, prying Potter's fingers off his arm. "I'm not dragging you all the way--"

"I loved it," said Potter, still heedless. "Your dick in my mouth. Fuckin' loved it."

"Oh, no," whispered Draco to himself. "No, no, no."


Potter and memory-Draco were under Potter's Invisibility Cloak, and Draco was forced to stand so close that he thought he could feel their proximity, though this was a mere memory.

"How's he going to explain it, I wonder?" Finnigan's voice was drunken, loud.

Thomas chuckled. "I don't think he's worried about that right now, mate. I wouldn't be..."

"Too right!" There was a creak of bedsprings. "But seriously, d'you think Moody's going to notice if Zabini's not at breakfast?"

Potter held the Invisibility Cloak over them with one hand, pressed to the wall. His other hand was pulling memory-Draco's robes up and off him. Memory-Draco tried to move aside, away from Potter's searching fingers, his brows furrowed, his breathing irregular.

Potter shoved his hand into memory-Draco's pants, drawing a quickly stifled gasp. "Remember?" he whispered, and Draco saw his hand movements quicken. Memory-Draco's hips arched off the wall and into Potter's touch. He lifted his head and met Potter's gaze in a pathetic attempt to glare. Potter bit his lip in a way that made things inside the real Draco unravel helplessly.

"Kiss me," Potter whispered -- a command, not a request.

The dormitory was suddenly quiet. "Did you say something?" asked Finnigan.

"Nah," said Thomas. "Must've been someone downstairs."

Memory-Draco didn't seem to have heard them; he was fucking Potter's hand like it was the last thing he'd ever do. His right hand was fisted in Potter's hair, pulling his head down so that he had control of the silent, furious kiss. It was the hottest and most shameful thing Draco had ever seen, and he could not remember it.


Draco had seen enough. He didn't think he could stand any more of this. "Out," he said firmly, and he was standing in the real world again, next to Potter, who looked at him as though watching grass grow.

"You didn't even stay long enough to see the really good parts," he said, a trace of sarcasm in his voice.

Draco swallowed thickly. He didn't want to know what the really good parts were. "We did all this?"

Potter nodded. "All through seventh year. You made yourself forget."

Draco felt dazed. "I can see why."

"Oh, thanks," muttered Potter.

"I didn't mean-- I-- oh, forget it. How did I forget?"

Potter shrugged, and fixed him with a pointed stare. "I think I was in love with you."

"I-- That's ridiculous," stammered Draco. He wanted to run. He wanted to go back and watch everything again, and all the other things. He wanted to close the distance between them and find out what Potter tasted like. He knew that, he realised with sudden clarity. He knew what Potter tasted like, and what Potter looked like naked. He just couldn't remember. "How did I forget?"

"Dunno," said Potter. "Some sort of device. You were right proud of yourself for it, though."

An image -- a memory? -- floated up suddenly, surrounded by a bluish haze. An old, leathery-faced woman stared at Draco through the mists of time. When you is stupid, you run out of choices, she croaked, and vanished. Who was she? What was happening to him? Draco's throat felt so dry that he could not even manage to say another word. He simply bolted from the room, barrelling down the shoddy stairs as though chased by a herd of enraged centaurs. He Disapparated as soon as he was safely out of Muggle sight.

The fresh, clean smell of Wiltshire air calmed Draco a bit. He couldn't walk inside the manor; not after what he'd just seen. It would be written all over his face, and his mother would wonder, and... Draco didn't even want to contemplate what would happen to him if his mother -- or worse, his father -- ever found out. They couldn't, they simply couldn't. What could he do? Obliviate Potter? Wipe out an entire year of memories, like he'd done to himself? He'd join his father in Azkaban.

Draco circled endlessly along the walkways, his mind awhirl with possibilities, frantic leaps from subject to subject. Of course, he could never see Potter again. He would have to quit Auror training and find another way to free his father. What if Potter showed these memories to someone else? Or did the whole school know? Impossible. It would have been public knowledge, then. They must have kept it a secret... He could steal the Pensieve from Potter's house. That wouldn't do anything, though; not unless he could convince Potter to put all those memories inside the Pensieve, and even then Potter would remember.

Potter. He'd seen Potter naked, touched him, tasted him, and he couldn't even remember it except as a half-faded image in someone else's memory. Worst of all, he wanted to do it again, wanted it so much it hurt. How could he have let this happen? How?

Draco looked around and saw that it was pitch-dark. The only light came from the upstairs drawing room, where his mother liked to spend her evenings. She probably sat there now, bent gracefully over an embroidery hoop, not having the faintest clue that her only son was a freak, an abomination. The world tilted, and Draco clutched at the nearest wall, realising that he was exhausted. He would sleep, if he could. Tomorrow, he would try to think about this rationally. Right now, he couldn't seem to muster up one shred of rationality.

He schooled himself into composure and made his way upstairs to say good night to his mother. He couldn't afford to do anything differently, to let on that something was wrong. Everything was wrong, but his mother couldn't know.

Narcissa Malfoy sat by the drawing-room window, one hand curled around the armrest of her favourite chair. In her lap lay a large, black tome Draco didn't recognise. Judging by the handkerchief in her other hand, pressed tightly to the centre of her chest, he supposed it must have been one of those romance novels she sometimes read. Her eyes weren't on the book; she gazed out beyond the windowglass with an expression of utter calm.

"I didn't see you; I would have waved," said Draco, realising that she must have seen him circling the manor.

Narcissa turned her head sharply, and Draco was taken aback: he had never seen her face so pale and masklike. "Mother? Is something wrong?" He took a few steps closer.

She looked straight at him, her eyes red-rimmed but dry. "Your father is dead."

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