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Chapter 35: The Altercation
Draco’s heel beat the floor rhythmically, filling the empty dining hall with the dull clicks that echoed on the wooden floor. His homework was scattered haphazardly amongst the long table. He couldn’t focus; he looked at his blank essay, which had only been signed with his name in the corner, his brain unwilling to help him form the words. It was the last thing he had to do for the week and he had to send it all back by Monday.
Transfiguration was by far his worst subject. He didn’t understand why he did so badly, although by class standards, he certainly wasn’t the worst. When he had left, he had an A, Acceptable. Had his father been alive, it would have been far from it. He could almost hear his father now, “Stupid boy! It’s Transfiguration for Merlin’s sake! What is so goddamned hard about turning a damn bird into a cup!”
That was the reason he chose to be behind. He couldn’t have been bad in Potions, he wouldn’t have been allowed with Snape teaching him and it having been Lucius’ favorite and best subject as well. But, they only had two classes together and needing help on homework and lessons had been the only excuse to talk to her when she first came to Hogwarts.
But he had let himself slip so far, learning to depend on her for help, that he truly was lost. He knew that he had already missed the term test, turning the bird into a water goblet, and knew that the writing portion of the test was Monday. Naturally, the test had been postponed until the summer for him, when the term had ended and more free time was available for the N.E.W.T.s that were to follow. It irritated him knowing that he would be at least half a year behind everyone else, when he knew he was one of the more studious Slytherins.
He huffed angrily, throwing his quill on his blank parchment, watching as the excess ink splattered onto the blank paper.
He had tried in vain all morning to get his mind off last night with the Weasley’s, but he couldn’t. Just when he thought the night was as its darkest, with no hope of seeing dawn, he had. There was a chance that he was going to get him and his mother out of this, that he was going to be able to fulfill the promise to her, that their Death Eater ways of life had ended with Lucius.
He just had to think of a way to tell her.
He had tried avoiding her all morning, nearly killing himself as he acted as aloof and cold as possible, burying his nose in his studies when she had come in to offer help. Narcissa was extremely studios and he regretted pushing her so far away now that he needed help, but he had to buy himself time to come up with a way to tell her that they were about to leave everything they knew behind.
He was afraid of failing to convince her, of her staying with the Manor and telling him to go on, that this is the place where she had shared over half of her life with his father, that it would be wrong to abandon everything now. He was scared that she had lived so long in the dark, that she would be too afraid to come out into the light, where there were genuinely good people that wanted to help those who wished to turn from their ways. But that philosophy had never been a part of her life. With a sister like Bellatrix, it had been everyone for themselves.
He had waited impatiently all morning for Weasley’s letter, trying not to let his mind wander to the possibility that they weren’t going to keep their word, that they had run to the Ministry and were planning an ambush to take him in for questioning. Would he and his mother be thrown into Azkaban as accomplices for all these years, even though they had never done anything?
There’ll be reason for my capture come Monday, Draco thought to himself gloomily, and then they’ll start to make posters of me.
He shuddered to think of his grimace alongside those of Bellatrix and Fenrir, with their crazed eyes and haggard appearance, his polished and rather timid expression plastered next to theirs. Then she would see it, shame exploding within her chest. What would she say then?
“Me?” He could almost hear her laughing at the speculating questions, “My gracious, no, we never were together. Glad I dodged that one.”
Draco hung his head, fingering the corners of his parchment. No, she would never have done that. He couldn’t be sure of the shame, but she would never have disowned what they had.
No! Stop! He rubbed his faced tiredly, trying to make himself stop thinking of her, what she was doing, if she was thinking of him or not, anything to keep his mind off her. He couldn’t stop himself; everything always led back to her, even the most mindless of things that in no way shape or form were related to her brought her bright eyes and blond hair floating into his vision.
Just when he thought he might lose his mind, Stella came charging into the room.
“A letter for Master Malfoy!” She squeaked, holding the rolled parchment high in air, as if it should be lost in the spotless trail from the kitchen to the dining room.
“Give it here!” He said eagerly, extending his hand. Stella moved forward quickly, nearly chucking it at him in her last few steps.
“Thanks.” He nodded at her, not bothering to watch her bow and scuttle backwards out of the room, careful not to turn her back on the Master of the Manor.
He tore off the thin film of sealant, his heart rising at the short response:
Five o’clock tomorrow, meet where you came last.
Draco read it over and over again, cementing the words into his mind, half-expecting the words to rearrange and say, Ha! Just kidding, you’re on your own! But they didn’t, they remained as still and final as when they first arrived.
“Okay,” he nodded, tucking the piece of parchment into his jean pocket. He looked back to his Transfiguration essay, waving his wand to clear of the ink spot on his paper, enabling him to start his essay with a clear mind, knowing that he was taking the first step in the right direction.
The light pouring in from the high windows were starting to fade, shades of pinks and orange flooding the monochromatically gray dining hall. Draco straightened up, trying to rid of the ache in his back as he stood to pack up his homework. Rolling all of his essays and other assignments together, he folded his books in his arm and strolled into the kitchen.
He went through the swinging doors, seeing the house elves sitting at the table polishing silver that didn’t need it. It was impossible to try and get them to stop working, so he never attempted to do so.
“Stella.” He called.
The little house elf carefully put the platter on the table, jumping down from her high chair and running to him, looking up at him with large, hazel eyes.
“Make sure you take this out to the barnyard tonight. This needs to get back to Hogwarts by Monday.”
“Yes, sir!” She piped, carefully taking the scroll from his hand, nodding and giving him a deep bow.
“Do you know where Narcissa is?” He asked her.
“In her library.” Stella answered obediently, adding another bow to his answer.
“Thank you.” He said, about to walk out the door.
“Stella can take your books to your room, Master Malfoy!” She insisted, grabbing for the large pile in his hand, swaying with the heavy weight.
“Are you sure?” He asked, worry etching across his face as the elf stumbled underneath the pile. Normally he wouldn’t have cared if she fell, but the fact that she was the one House Elf that he had known all of his life suddenly hit him and he was gnawed by a small sense of worry. His father’s absence sure was changing things quickly.
“Stella is sure!” Her muffled voice exclaimed.
“Alright.” He told her, taking one last look as she struggled to push the books onto the polishing table.
He walked back into the entrance parlor, his shoes clicking against the white marble as he made his way to the left side of the grand staircase. He squinted at the dark walls with a square molding pattern on it, struggling to remember which one to touch.
He put his hand to the square right in front of him, stepping back to allow the height of the wall to slide back, revealing a dark passageway that suddenly turned to the right, designed to look more menacing that it was, deterring unwanted strangers to think it was a place where they did not want to go.
He wasn’t fooled however; it led to the most harmless room in the house. He waited for the wall to lock itself back in place before he started to walk down the narrow hallway, turning the corner to walk into medium sized room that was warm and rich in color, the exact opposite of the rather white-scale tone of the rest of the Manor.
His mother sat curled on a leather couch, a green blanket on her lap, her pointed nose in a black, leather bound book. A tray of tea and tarts were on a leather upholstered coffee table, the kind that wasn’t flat and seemed to have been stapled with gold buttons, creating a rather uneven surface.
A large painting of the Malfoy Manor in its first years hung on the left wall, bookcases surrounding the other three sides. He was always amazed at how different it looked: a fresh coat of paint, the sun shining, the fields green with grass and the lake sparkling under the high sun, the trees swaying silently in the gentle breeze. The Manor had true grandeur and class. Now, it looked like a forbidden fortress with its looming iron gates that boarded the estate, keeping the rest of the world out.
He had to give credit to his mother, however, in the design of the room. Everything was brown leather: the tables, the chairs, the couches. The paint on the wall was a scarlet red, creating quite a contrast against the white fireplace on the opposite side of the wall, where a painting of a French woman and her pug sat in a gondola, lazily floating on a lake.
On the other two walls, uninterrupted by fireplaces and portraits, were bookshelves, stacked the length of the ceiling with a plethora of volumes. All sorts were contained within: leather-bound, dragon hide, mole skin and some that were falling apart because his mother had read them so much. Many of them he had read with her during the summers, when his father had become too much for the both of them, knowing full well he could never step into Narcissa’s library, keeping the way to get in a secret.
“It’s our secret.” She would nuzzle him, holding him closer as she stroked her son’s bruised cheeks.
If there was one thing that helped with the stinging pain of Lucius’ hatred, it was the books his mother had collected throughout the years, his only anecdote to the lack of his father’s interest. When he opened a book, no matter if it was new or an old favorite, the characters always seemed to take him by the hand, letting him visit their world for a while, keeping him safe from the troubles of his.
“Draco.” Narcissa greeted warmly, pulling him from his thoughts as the put her book down on the table in front of her, patting the seat next to her.
He stepped over the heap of blankets that had piled on the floor, sitting down next to her stiffly.
“I’m sorry about earlier.” He told her, staring at the contents at the coffee table.
He felt her hand in his hair, “Did you finish your essay?”
He nodded, unable to feel better about himself until she had accepted his apology. He turned to her, looking at her in her cream sweater, making her hair look even blonder, her blue eyes popping against the paleness of her attire.
“It’s alright.” She breathed to him, as if reading his mind, fingering the softness of his cheek.
He sighed heavily, trying to figure out if he was going to tell her or not. She seemed content and her library had only ever brought peace to her, her only fortress that allowed her to escape the duties of being a wife to a Death Eater and a mother to his protégée son. He didn’t have the heart to ruin it for her.
“I’m going out tomorrow.” He told her, “I just wanted you to know so you didn’t worry.”
Narcissa dropped her hand, throwing him a look of confusion, “Whatever for?”
“I-I just need to clear my head before Monday.” He lied. “But…I need you to promise me that you won’t go anywhere, at least until I get back.”
Narcissa narrowed her eyes at him, trying to figure out what her son was up to, “Tell me, Draco.”
“I did.” He retorted softly, unable to let the anger get the best of him, “I just don’t want to have to worry about you, is all.”
Narcissa gave him a tired smile, “Not yet eighteen and you already have blood on your hands.”
Draco shuddered at the reminder. “When did father…?”
“Much older than you.” Narcissa answered. “We were married right out of Hogwarts, and I didn’t have you until I was twenty-five. Everything started to spiral out of control ...yes, that was it. Just after the Potter’s died did we finally get a break.”
Narcissa whispered the last words; sure that Voldemort would have swooped into the library had she uttered them any louder.
“Although, Lucius had already been in his ranks for some time. It got worse when he started to recruit followers. It seemed every night he was coming home and telling me of someone else that had refused and had to be punished for it.”
“Twenty-six?” He guessed, quickly going over the numbers.
Narcissa gave him a sad look, shaking her head, “And I thought he was awfully young to be doing such things, although no one is never old enough to take another’s life. And yet, you will be a decade younger.”
She closed her eyes for a moment; the events’ of the past month were starting to take a toll on her, both mentally and physically. She wondered privately how her older sister could be so consumed with the ideality of Voldemort’s followers. Although she had put up a front for all these years, Narcissa couldn’t bring herself to fully understand to need for such darkness and hatred.
“I am not strong like Bell.” Narcissa voiced, unwilling to open her eyes.
“Bella’s not strong.” Draco sneered, “She’s cowardly. She hides behind the shadows of a madman.”
Narcissa’s eyes flickered open, her mouth pursed and her eyes alight with anger. Before she could speak, Draco asked, “At what point will you stop defending the one that demeans you?”
Narcissa looked away, putting her hand to shield her mouth. Draco knew her well enough to know that she was trying to cover her trembling lip.
“Blood is thicker than water.” Narcissa reminded him.
Draco shook his head, looking up to the girl in the gondola. His eyes scanned the far wall, and eventually landed on a medium-sized piece of cloth with many moving portraits on it.
Draco knew what it was, but rose to look at it anyway, trying to dissipate the growing tension in the room. The members of the Black family tree looked at him, silent as their cartoonish faces looked back at him blankly. He put a hand to the burned face, knowing that Andromeda’s portrait had been scoured long ago.
“She married a half-blood, didn’t she?” He asked her.
Narcissa nodded slowly, swallowing hard at the thought of her estranged sister, wishing she hadn’t been so stupid to chose a husband over her family.
“You’re whole family cast her out?” Draco asked.
Narcissa flicked her eyes up to him, but only for a moment.
“Will you do that to me?”
Narcissa’s breath caught in her throat. She looked up to her only child, her baby, as he looked at her with all the seriousness in the world.
“What?” She frowned in horror, wondering how he could dare to ask such a thing.
He turned back to the portraits, fingering his picture, insulted by the rather snotty appearance the designer had given him. He looked to the blank spot next to him, knowing that there was only one person in the entire world whose portrait belonged next to his.
“When I marry her,” he started quietly, “will you take your wand and burn my face off, just as your father would have expected you to?”
Narcissa was dumbfounded into utter silence.
“She’s not pure-witch.” He told her, as if she didn’t already know, “She’s a half-breed, a lesser witch. She has no place here, in the Manor.”
Draco found himself subconsciously touching the empty space beside him once more. He looked to his mother, who simply stared back.
“We can’t have a fairy in the family.” He prodded further.
“What do you want me to say, Draco?” She shrugged helplessly, “I believe in pureblood supremacy. That was how I was raised.”
“So the answer is ‘yes’?” Draco frowned at her.
“I gave you no such answer.”
“But I’m asking you now.” Draco asked her.
Narcissa continued looking at him, not wanting to give him the answer that he was prodding her for. She adored the girl, to deny that would be the gravest of lies. But she wasn’t pureblood witch, that much was obvious. Would she disown him? She would never think about it, but she couldn’t lie to him and tell him the whispers behind their backs wouldn’t bother her into insanity.
“What does that have to do with who she is?” Draco asked her, “Her ability to be a wife, a mother?”
Draco turned to the paintings once more, looking at the rather small tree, each pairing only having one or two descendants for each couple, sure that some hadn’t been included at all.
“How many have been pruned?” He asked her, pointing to the blank spaces between siblings and parents, “How many Squibs have been eliminated? How many others were there, that weren’t up to the Black par?”
Narcissa was growing angry quickly and she started to shake within her seat, her blinding anger keeping her rooted to the leather.
“You would do well to watch your tongue.” Narcissa warned him quietly. “We are purebloods, through and through.”
“Well, you might want to get a head start on mine then.” He argued just as venomously, turning his attention from the tree and making his way to walk out.
“Where are you going?” She hissed.
Draco spun back on his heel, glaring at her, “You say that blood is thicker than water, but I say that love is stronger than blood. Bellatrix may be your blood, but Ashley is my water, and I would rather be stained with that.”
With the end on such a sour note, he disappeared into the darkness of the hall once more.