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He sometimes wondered what it was like for her. He was jealous, he supposed. She’d got out early. She’d left him behind before the going really got tough. She’d left him before the mansion was repossessed, before the economy turned, before the riots and the deaths and before London became a darker place. By then, it was too late for him.
The dazzling promise of her new life in France, away from London and away from him and everything of the old world – would she even have crossed his mind? Perhaps, as she’d left, she’d been thinking of him. He had a singular image of her boarding the Underground train that would have taken her away, her hair falling into her eyes as it did – perhaps she’d been thinking of him then, in her last hour on English soil. Or maybe it had been her plan to leave him all along. He’d be sorely disappointed if she hadn’t thought of him at all. They came together in a pair, she with him and him with her. But she had promised to write. She had promised.
Then the thin newspaper came that Sunday morning. Her life had been condensed into a square inch three pages from the back, a thumbnail of miniscule text that described her as bright, vivacious, one of the last of the old Pureblood families, even though blood status didn’t mean anything by that point. Survived, it seemed, by nobody. The last of the Parkinson line. Death by drowning.
Maybe, as books told him, she’d seen her life flash before her eyes, and he’d been there, buried somewhere in her blurred memories. It was a degrading way to go, he thought, choked underwater, hair spread out like a halo about her head, the hands of a murderer she’d never know holding her down like they were lovers. But maybe – his last scrap of hope – she’d thought of him in that moment, his name amongst the last words she breathed once she realised it was pointless, once she stopped holding her breath and let go.
Then he thought about it more and finally realised: as the waters closed over her head, there was time only to scream.
His Aunt had said that the chair of Courtroom Ten was a throne. As the enchanted chains slid over his arms, Draco Malfoy thought that this could not be further from the truth.
‘Do you confirm that you are Draco Malfoy, aged twenty-one, of thirty five Lincoln Road, London?’
‘Very well. We shall begin.’
Upon these words, the chain’s constricted around Draco’s wrists. The cold metal bit into his skin. He’d been through this before, but never as a defendant. For the past three years he’d been a regular at the witness stand, testifying against those who’d been fellow Death Eaters in the past. His parents were first before the jury, and after three months of intensive questioning, Lucius Malfoy had been sent to Azkaban for life. The list of crimes against him was too long for even the fastidious journalists of the Daily Prophet to recall, although Draco knew it by heart. Use of the unforgivable curses, assault, conspiracy to murder, even murder itself – an itemised, clinical life story of a father Draco now felt he had barely known except in the pages of newspapers. His mother had been saved by the testimony of Potter, Saint Potter, who moved a jury to tears with his tale of just what had gone on in the forest that night. She now lived a quiet existence in the last shard of the Malfoy estate, which had been broken up and torn asunder for compensation, damages, court costs. This last shard was where he now lived, too. Pansy had ridiculed him for it; twenty one, and still living with mother. But Pansy wasn’t around to joke about that anymore.
There were others he’d given evidence against. He was now recognised, not only by the Wizengamot and the various jury members that came and went, but by the Daily Prophet, and the other newspapers and magazines that followed the war crimes trial saga obsessively. The papers described him as a ‘pale, grim-looking figure, always giving evidence in the same deadpan tone’. He even saw the courtroom artist’s impressions of himself amongst the others. Right next to a chalked portrait of Avery, his own pointed face stared into the distance, the face expressionless, illegible, almost anonymous. For a second he thought the artist had forgotten to use colour, the portrait sketched in greyscale, but then he remembered to look in a mirror and saw himself, flesh-and-blood, in the same monochrome. The trials ripped energy out of him. Now it was his turn.
‘Draco Malfoy, you are called here today on charges of assault, grievous bodily harm, use of the unforgiveable curses and of being a member of the society for dark magic known as the Death Eaters, and for receiving and carrying out orders for the dark wizard known as Lord Voldemort. How do you plead?’
He did not have a lawyer to argue his case, but he’d had three years to work out his answer.
‘Very well. Mr Beverly, you can start.’
One of the prosecuting members of the Wizengamot stepped down from his seat and towards the raised platform where the Judge sat. Stern and severe-looking, Mr Beverly’s iron-grey hair and moustache were poker-straight, and his eyes were a piercing shade of blue that made Draco squirm in his seat.
‘Mr Malfoy, when were you invited to join the Death Eaters?’
Draco had answered this one before. ‘When I was sixteen.’
‘Who asked you to join?’
This one had been answered too. ‘I believe my parents were pressured into making me join by the Dark Lord.’
‘Do you know why?’
‘He had a mission for me. To redeem the family.’
‘What was this mission?’
‘To kill Albus Dumbledore.’
This confession was not new, and it did not draw a collective gasp from the watching crowd as it had the first time.
‘And did you carry out this mission?’
‘No, I did not.’
‘Why did the family have to redeem itself?’
‘My father failed the mission to capture the prophecy about Potter and the Dark Lord.’
‘And why were you chosen for this mission? Surely Lord Voldemort would have chosen a more trustworthy, competent Death Eater to kill such a powerful wizard?’
‘It was supposed to be a punishment. He knew I would never be able to do it. That…that was torture for my parents.’
‘Mr Malfoy, let’s put this in perspective,’ Mr Beverly had a twisted sort of smile on his face, and Draco knew, as he had before, that nobody believed his story. ‘Lord Voldemort, choosing a sixteen year old as the would-be assassin of Albus Dumbledore? Surely, you must see that this very idea is preposterous, Mr Malfoy. You told us this very same story three years ago.’
Draco swallowed and considered his next answer. Dumbledore had believed him. Potter had believed him. But this was a trial for one of the worst Wizarding wars in history, and the public was braying for blood. He knew that any answer he gave would be wrong in their eyes, that they would do anything to condemn him.
‘You have to understand. It was supposed to be a failure. That was the point. It was supposed to punish us. I was supposed to fail.’
‘But Lord Voldemort did choose a more capable wizard, Mr Malfoy. As I’m sure we all know, he chose Severus Snape, who murdered Albus Dumbledore years ago. As far as I am convinced,’ he turned, now, to the intent faces of the jury. ‘Your story about being chosen by Lord Voldemort is nothing more than…well, nothing more than fiction.’
‘That’s not true! He chose me because I was going to fail.’
‘Were the terms of this, erm-’ Mr Beverly cast a glance around the assembled Wizengamot with a smirk upon his lips, ‘-mission agreed upon your induction into the Death Eaters?’
‘So could it be said that your joining the Death Eaters was motivated by the desire to kill Albus Dumbledore?’
The point was absurd. Draco shook his head, but felt, strangely, too weary to argue back.
‘No. I joined because I needed to take the place of my father.’
‘And why was that? Why did you have to take his place?’
‘It was…the family name. Honour.’
‘Could you be more specific?’
‘We were ruined. About to lose everything. I did it for my family’s honour.’
‘And this...honour, presumably, would be restored by the murder of the greatest wizard to have ever lived?’
There was the slightest murmur through the court. Draco lifted his eyes slightly towards the very back bench of the courtroom and saw this year’s artist, her head ducked behind a large board. He supposed that the evening’s daily prophet would print another sketch of him in drab monotone, with maybe the merest dash of colour in his cheeks.
‘Yes. That was what I had to do.’
‘Mr Malfoy, at what age did you decide that you wanted to be a death eater?’
‘I was eleven.’
‘Did the Death Eaters seem great to you?’
‘At the time...yes.’
‘Did the idea of reckless violence, murder and terror appeal to you?’
‘Well...I was young. Yes, it did.’
‘And what did you want, ultimately, from being a Death Eater?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Mr Malfoy, you must be more specific.’
The word was scarcely louder than a breath, although each and every person in the courtroom caught it.
Mr Beverly turned to the assembled court, arms spread wide. ‘Wizards and Witches of the Wizengamot, there you have it. Draco Malfoy wanted to be a murderer, and his wild imagination and desire to kill and have ultimate power lead to only one solution – the murder of Albus Dumbledore. He fooled himself all along, thinking himself chosen, as if he was Lord Voldemort’s prized-’
‘That’s not true,’ Draco muttered. But already whispers were rippling through the court, and he turned his eyes to the jury, only to be met by cold, hard glares. They had as good as decided.
‘Order,’ the Chief Warlock called, and the whispers died away. ‘Mr Beverly, are you finished?’
‘Yes,’ with a satisfied smile, Mr Beverly turned and paced back to his seat.
There was a call of ‘Court adjourned’ from the Chief Warlock and, at once, murmurs and whispers shot through the assembled witches and wizards again. Draco shook the chains off as they receded back into the arms of the chair and strode off towards the exit. The dull hum voices grew quieter as he stalked the long corridor towards the lifts. The doors to the court hadn’t been opened yet, and he was desperate to leave before the crowd caught up with him. He had nobody to accompany him, not a soul that would wish to see him out of courtroom ten.
He wanted, more than anything, to vanish. Apparition would be the simplest way, but he’d never had a chance to get his apparition licence. He’d considered a disillusionment charm to disguise himself on more than one occasion but, in light of the trials, they Ministry had put a trace on him. Concealment was suspicious behaviour, only a way of proving his guilt. The few lonely sickles in his pocket hardly amounted to enough for Floo Powder, and he admitted defeat as he stepped into the lift. Like every other time, he would have to cross the Ministry atrium, swarming with people, and then find the nearest muggle underground station and make his own way home. It was easy enough to modify the same train ticket, day in, day out…
The lift finally clanked into the atrium. The door shuddered back; Draco took a deep breath, and then left.
Heads turned in his direction, and a tense, expectant sort of quiet fell over the atrium. He didn’t dare move, staring at the assembled camp of journalists, photographers, and assorted hangers-on, all waiting for a definitive outcome to the trials that had gone on too long. Towards the entrance, a group of protesters waited, threatening faces leering out at him.
He started to walk. From his left, a photographer rushed up, immersed in a cloud of purple smoke as he clicked away at the shutter release furiously. Behind him, a journalist was brandishing a quill, shouting ‘Mr Malfoy! Mr Malfoy! Do you have anything to say to the The Daily Prophet?’
There were more of them. Men and women, left, right, and centre, were pushing their way forwards, calling out the name of their publication and requesting his opinion. Like vultures, they circled around him, calls for information of the trials and the Death Eaters pressing in on him as he pushed his way through, mumbling ‘No comment, no comment,’ over and over. Nobody heard, and as he drew closer to the exit, the crowd grew thicker and he was forced to stop altogether.
A witch darted in front of him, her pink-taloned hands clutched around a crisp new notebook. With a bright flash, the photographer behind her snapped a picture, and Draco was left blinking, blinded, as the woman leant in close and said, ‘Mr Malfoy, I’m from The Herald, and we’re running a feature on the trials, if you’d care to give us a few words-’
‘That’s enough!’ someone suddenly shouted. A girl had jumped in front of him; the bright spot burned into his retinas obscured her face, but he could see a disarray of frizzy hair and a pair of ink-stained, nail-bitten hands waving in the air. ‘Mr Malfoy has nothing to say to you today!’
‘And who might you be?’ the journalist from The Herald scoffed. ‘I believe I asked him, not you-’
‘I’m his spokeswoman,’ the girl announced, and she pulled on Draco’s arm, dragging him through the crowd. ‘Move along!’ she yelled. ‘Nothing to see!’
He blinked furiously, waiting for his full vision to return, but he still couldn’t see the girl’s face fully – a girl, definitely, not a woman. Despite her confident voice and quick pace, the hand on his arm shook; she seemed young, even slightly frail.
‘Who are you? Where are you taking me?’ he demanded, in a low voice, as she pulled him clear of the protesters and into an empty phone box. The door slammed shut behind them, and she hammered on the keypad. It started to slide into the ceiling.
‘Shouldn’t you be thanking me?’ she said, haughtily. ‘I got you out of there, didn’t I?’
‘I didn’t need your help,’ he snapped. ‘I was fine by myself.’
She laughed bitterly. ‘Oh, sure you were.’
‘Thanks, I suppose,’ he stared glumly at the floor of the phone box, the spot of light in front of his eyes from the photographer’s flash vanishing. He sneaked a glance at the girl, who, up close, looked strangely familiar. Her lips were thin, chapped, pressed together, whether in amusement or annoyance he couldn’t tell. Her eyes – a dull shade of grey – were wide, and strands of hair hung into her face. Beneath the dull eyes there were unmistakeable dark shadows, and he watched her stifle a yawn as the lift finally slid into place in the muggle world.
She placed a hand on the door of the phone box, as if to leave, but then turned back to Draco with a sigh.
‘Look, to be honest, I didn’t actually mean to dash in and save the day like that. I’m a hack too. Wondered if you’d like to give me an interview.’
‘I certainly admire your nerve,’ he said darkly. The girl smiled and pushed the door open.
‘Could you just give me some answers? I’m not from the Prophet, I promise.’
‘Oh no, I know what you’re thinking,’ she said, suddenly, her face serious. ‘I work for a small paper. Sympathetic, if you must know. The Spark. It’s absolutely horrendous that the Wizengamot are giving such unfair trials, and last year I signed up as a member of the Freedom and Justice movement – The Spark is the official paper, by the way – and the movement’s designed to take back the basic Wizarding rights of victims of the warped justice system after the unbelievably biased nature of the trials, and the heavy use of Veritaserum and Dementors in the imprisonment process.’
After reeling this off, the girl stood there, breathing heavily, her eyes glinting. Draco rolled his eyes.
‘So you’re one of those Death Eater sympathy movement types I’ve read about?’ he pushed past her to leave the phone box. ‘You haven’t got a chance in hell. Sorry.’
‘We’re trying!’ she caught his sleeve and pulled him back. ‘And we’re not a Death Eater sympathy movement!’
He jerked his arm out of her grasp. ‘Think about it, you know, supporting scum-’
‘I’m just trying to help! I believe in rights and equal justice and fair trials for all, Death Eaters or not, just give me a chance to get a few answers out of you then I won’t bother you again.’
Draco stared down at her, conscious of the close proximity of the two of them in the lift, and stepped aside.
‘Oh, alright. I’ll give you half an hour. No more.’
‘No less,’ she smiled. ‘There’s this pub on Knockturn alley next to the apothecary, can you make tonight? Eight?’ Draco opened his mouth to speak, but she cut across. ‘Diagon Alley is too expensive, and I’ve got to get back to the office now. I forget the name of the place, but it’s got a black door and the barman only has one leg.’
‘Right. Okay. Eight o’clock at a pub you can’t even remember the name of, but you know that the barman is a cripple.’
‘Exactly. I’ll see you there?’
Before waiting for an answer, the girl turned to walk away.
‘Hang on a minute, who are you?’ Draco called after her. ‘You can’t expect me to turn up at some pub not even knowing what your bloody name is-’
She turned around, a smile playing across her thin lips again. ‘I’m Astoria Greengrass. You used to be friends with my sister, Daphne,’
Draco let his face relax into a slight smile, realising Astoria’s familiarity at last. ‘Yeah, I remember. How is Daphne?’
‘She’s a politician now,’ Astoria said.
‘Like a good Slytherin, then.’
‘Yes,’ Astoria laughed. ‘Same for me.’
And me, he thought. It was what Slytherins inevitably became, if you believed popular legend; politicians, hacks, criminals.
‘I should be going,’ Astoria said. ‘See you later.’
‘Right. See you.’
She turned and set off down the road, vanishing from view in seconds.
It had been two years since he'd seen Daphne Greengrass. Daphne was inextricably linked with Pansy, and memories of Pansy were still too raw to contemplate. It was the same with anyone from his old life. It was too difficult to speak to them, to see them as anyone other than the gaunt shades of themselves they'd been in seventh year. He found he couldn't trust anyone anymore. His parents had been the greatest betrayal, when he'd discovered that every word had been a lie, that he'd been branded with the dark mark as repayment for their failures - that was difficult, too. Visiting his father Azkaban was the worst. He felt he'd do anything to get him out of there, to redeem him once and for all - and yet at the sight of him, he couldn't help but be reminded of that last year in the Manor before it was repossessed.
Draco shut the door of phone box behind him.
Merlin, he thought. What did we all become?
a/n: I promised myself I'd never rewrite this. And, er, now I'm rewriting it. I've changed a lot, bringing certain characters back to life and changing others beyond recognition. I also hope that this new version will be shorter and a bit less of a chore to write. Also, while this fic is quite political and...and stuff, I by no means call myself an expert on politics, and if any of it seems woefully misjudged, it probably is. It's good to be back revising something that I've barely even thought about for a long time, and I hope I can stick it out to the end.
Thank you for reading ♥
He arrived in Knockturn alley a little early, having left too much time to navigate the muggle transport system. When he found the apothecary, he glanced to his right to see the pub. As Astoria had said, the door was black, although the paint was so old and chipped that little strips of older red paint flashed through like warning signals. The whole facade was shabby; a grubby sign hung above, creaking in the slight breeze.
Draco took a step back. The pub’s name was The Lantern – an optimistic name for such an unkempt place, he thought. Drawing his scarf tight around his neck, he placed a hand flat on the door and pushed.
The pub was quiet. Small knots of wizards and witches alike sat huddled around tables, and smoke hung around the room like a fog. Low murmuring wrapped the place in a gauze of sound. Draco hastened to the back of the pub, choosing a table half-shielded by a protruding wall away from the other customers.
Astoria was ten minutes late. The door banged open and she came striding in, still wearing the same clothes as she had earlier, her hair still in disarray.
‘Sorry I’m late,’ she said, not sounding apologetic at all. ‘Floo Network was a nightmare getting from the Ministry.’
‘You went back?’ he asked, as Astoria sat down, placing a folder and battered notebook upon the table. He picked up a vaguely northern twang to her accent he hadn’t noticed earlier.
‘Yes. They’ve just called up Theodore Nott for trial about involvement in the Battle of Hogwarts. I had to try and shoehorn in an interview with him before the Wizengamot sat in the afternoon.’
‘Never mind that, though. I’ll get started,’ Astoria flipped open the notebook to a fresh page, produced a crumpled quill from her pocket, and then set it over the paper. She seemed to think for a moment, her brow furrowed, until the quill leapt into the air and stood poised on the first line.
‘Hope you don’t mind if I use a quoter,’ she said. ‘Saves time.’
‘D’you want a drink?’
‘Seeing as we’re in a pub,’ she waved a hand at their surroundings, her lips curling into a wry smile.
‘Alright, I’ll go up,’ Draco made to stand, but Astoria grabbed his arm.
‘I’m buying. Consider it a thank-you for the information you’re about to give me,’
She stood and left the table, heading towards the bar. Draco folded his hands on the table, momentarily perplexed – in the old world he’d grown up in this sort of behaviour was strange, even unseemly. One did not drink in scruffy pubs, and one certainly did not let a woman buy one’s drink. He almost laughed at himself as these thoughts crossed his mind. The world he’d come from was old and archaic, but increasingly hard to shake off. He tried to distract himself by toying with the corner of her folder. It was stuffed with crumpled parchment…page after page of crinkling notes in an illegible shorthand, clippings, photographs, an entire documentary of the second war between two battered pieces of card. Before long, he had pulled the folder towards him and was thumbing through the pages, searching hungrily for some mention of his parents. Most of the notes were given over to the Freedom and Justice movement she’d described earlier, if he’d deciphered the handwriting correctly. This somehow bothered him; the concept of such a movement existing didn’t sit right with him. He could see the Ministry’s point, in an abstract way.
He’d reached the middle of the folder when Astoria returned with two dusty glasses of Firewhisky. She set these down on the table, eyebrows raised.
‘I didn’t think you’d be the type to go through my confidential notes,’ she said, snatching the folder back.
‘Since when were they confidential?’
Astoria pointed at the dog-eared cover, where, very clearly, the word ‘Confidential’ had been stamped.
Draco changed the subject. ‘Firewhisky, right? Not too strong for you?’
‘I’ve had a long day,’ Astoria almost snarled, ‘and I’m at perfect liberty to drink what I like.’
There was an uncomfortable silence. Astoria grabbed her Firewhisky and drained half the glass in one go.
‘The Freedom and Justice Movement is a rubbish name,’ he said, bitterly, sipping at his own glass. The Firewhisky burned his lips and tongue; he let it linger for a moment before letting it slip a fiery trail down his throat.
‘Suppose we should start. So tell me why you joined the Death Eaters,’ Astoria said, and her quill leapt into the air again.
‘You’ve heard about the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, I presume?’
At Astoria’s nod, Draco continued. ‘Well, my father was sent on a mission then to get the prophecy about Potter and the Dark Lord. You know. You probably read about it in the Prophet. They bungled it. Anyway, the Dark Lord was furious. He’d trusted my father with this all-important mission, and he’d been overpowered by a load of fifteen and fourteen year olds. He got sent to Azkaban, along with the others, and the Dark Lord lost almost all of his most prized, most valuable Death Eaters. So he wanted to punish us. Not just my father, but our whole family. I dunno why he didn’t just kill us all.’
It was a well-rehearsed story; he knew it by heart. Despite this, it was often something his mind picked over on sleepless nights. There were far faster, more efficient means of punishment – it would have been so easy for the Dark Lord to wipe out the Malfoy line with a few spells…but then the answer came to him a few years after the war had ended. The orders to kill Albus Dumbledore had been the most efficient form of punishment after all, the slowest, most tortuous way to ruin the Malfoys.
Astoria’s quill paused over the parchment for a second.
‘So…I joined the Death Eaters. I had to. You know that already. It…suffice to say my mother was unhappy.’
It was strangely easy to speak, to let these relatively simple words trip off his tongue, yet there was no way they could match the memories in his head. Unhappy was a delicate way of putting it…if the newspapers had found out what Narcissa Malfoy had become…
‘I, uh, I didn’t do it. As you know,’ he continued. ‘And he could have killed us right after that, but he didn’t. He…he rarely gave you what you wanted.’
The words trailed into silence.
‘You know what happened next,’ he said, surprised by the bluntness of his own voice.
‘Yes,’ Astoria said. ‘Assault, unforgivables-’
‘Please,’ he said. ‘Don’t.’
She lowered her gaze and the quill paused again.
‘So you want to know why I joined? Power. I was sixteen. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to be like my father and the others. You know, I was nine when I knew my parents were Death Eaters. They used to hold soirées at our manor. Very elegant, very fine. They’d sit in dinner robes and talk about who they would kill if the Dark Lord came back. Money, lots of it. I was brought up believing in that.’
‘I know,’ she said, and her voice was somehow softer. ‘So was I.’
Another silence fell. He tried to meet her eye, but she kept her gaze on the table.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I’m not much of a conversationalist.’
Astoria seemed to snap out of her reverie, checking her watch.
‘We’ve still got fifteen minutes of our half hour left.’
‘There’s not much of an article in what you just said, Draco, I’m sorry. But if it’s difficult to talk about, I won’t ask any more.’
‘I’ll talk,’ he said. ‘Just…give me time.’
There was another break in the conversation. Astoria shifted in her seat, her gaze constantly flickering to the door. Draco stared at her hands, palms flat against the table, spattered with ink, the nails chewed right down to the quick.
‘So what’s this...Justice Movement, or whatever it’s called?’ he finally said. Checking the clock above the bar, he saw that there were now only thirteen minutes left of their appointed half an hour.
‘The Freedom and Justice Movement,’ Astoria recited, stiffly, ‘was created in the year nineteen-ninety-nine in direct response to the harsh and biased war crimes trial held at the ministry. The movement aims to lobby top Ministry officials to improve the conditions in the courtroom and in Azkaban, first removing the Dementors as Azkaban guards and banning the use of Veritaserum in the courtroom. It also pledges to provide a suitable, trained wizard or witch to defend any Death Eater on trial at a reduced rate.’
The uncomfortable frankness of their last exchange seemed to have vanished. Draco’s lip curled involuntarily; the Dementors were there for a reason, he thought. And wasn’t it easier to ply criminals with Veritaserum? If they tried to give it to him, he would not resist. To tell the truth would be to prove his innocence.
‘I can’t imagine you’re very popular,’ Draco didn’t bother to mask the sarcasm in his voice, ‘Are you standing for election, or just giving out leaflets?’
‘I’ll have you know that we have growing support in Birmingham and Glasgow,’ she said, haughtily. But then her face fell slightly, and she added ‘Although we haven’t cracked London or Edinburgh yet. They’re very much…pro-Phoenix.’
Draco took another swig of the Firewhiskey before asking ‘pro-Phoenix?’
‘Surely you’ve heard,’ Astoria said. ‘Independent campaign group. Kind of the antithesis to everything we do. I bet they’re Ministry funded, as well, but I haven’t been able to dig anything up yet…’
‘When you say the antithesis-’
‘If they had their way you’d get life imprisonment,’ she said abruptly. ‘That’s all there is to it, really, Draco. They want retribution. And, in some ways, I can’t blame them. Don’t take it like that,’ she added, as he scowled and swigged at his drink again. ‘You know we’re in trouble and we probably deserve a lot of what we get.’
‘We?’ his expression darkened. He set the glass down, looking her in the eye. ‘You don’t-’
‘My parents were killed in the last week of the war,’ she said patiently. ‘If they were alive, now, they’d have gone the same way as yours. And I don’t know what’s better.’
He felt a surge of hot, bitter anger. ‘Dead or alive? You’re kidding me.’
‘I would not want my parents guarded by Dementors-’
‘Alive is always better,’ he snarled, and then found he couldn’t say any more.
‘Well…’ Astoria murmured. ‘I don’t know.’
A hush fell over the pub almost the moment she’d finished speaking. Behind the bar, the landlord was fiddling with an antique radio, the volume steadily rising each time he tapped it with his wand.
‘Oh no,’ Astoria murmured, sinking her head into her hands. ‘Braxton Barr’s doing a speech tonight. I forgot,’
‘Who’s Braxton Barr?’ Draco muttered, as chairs around them began to turn in direction of the radio. He didn’t pay much attention to the news these days; it was mostly about Death Eaters, things he’d known before.
‘He’s the leader of the Phoenix movement. I completely forgot. I should be helping my sister figure out a response for tomorrow’s Spark-’
‘Wizards of Britain,’ the radio boomed, making Astoria jump and almost slop her Firewhisky down her front, ‘our country is in a sad state. A sad state indeed. I would even go far as to say broken.’
Braxton Barr had a strong, quintessentially English voice in intonation and accent; perfect clipped vowels, soft ‘r’s, the sort of voice that sounded faintly aristocratic and old-fashioned to Draco.
‘And what do you do when something is broken? You fix it. That is exactly what the Phoenix movement calls on the Ministry to do. We want the Ministry to promise each and every one of you that they will lift this country out of danger and back to glory again. The Death Eaters destroyed everything that made us great. We had a stable economy, a stable government; now the galleon is worth half of what it was ten years ago, and the government is in ruins. The Death Eaters destroyed everything. Our currency. Our buildings. Our Ministry. But most importantly, they destroyed our people. They broke Britain, and it will be a difficult break to fix. But we can do it. We call upon the Ministry to do everything in its power to obliterate the Death Eaters, to punish them for the heinous crimes they committed, and to rebuild the society they destroyed. We want bring them to justice, but we cannot do this without your help. You can help make our country whole again. By supporting the Phoenix movement, you support justice. Wizards and Witches across the nation, I implore you: lend us your hand and help us rebuild Britain.’
The speech ended. The landlord tapped the radio again, and around the pub, chairs scraped across floors, and the low buzz of conversation resumed. Astoria ran a hand through her hair.
‘That was a load of bullshit,’ she said, darkly. ‘But he can make a bloody good speech,’ draining her Firewhisky in one go, she gathered her folder and notebook together. ‘I should probably get back to my sister.’
There was another tense silence.
‘You can come, if you’d like,’ she said, sounding a little hesitant. ‘I’m sure Daphne would love to see you again. And if you feel like giving me any more answers…’
He felt tired, but knew he’d rather make the painful reconciliation with an old Hogwarts friend than go home to his mother. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘I’d appreciate that. Is it far?’
He followed Astoria from the pub and out into the frigid night air.
‘Just a suspicion, but…you can’t apparate, can you?’ she said.
‘I never got my licence.’
‘Neither did I,’ she set off towards the end of Knockturn Alley, where a small passageway lead into Diagon Alley. He followed her through this, keeping a short distance behind as they passed through the brick archway and towards the Leaky Cauldron.
‘We’ll just Floo, then-’
‘I don’t have any Floo powder.’
They stopped near the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. Astoria gave him a withering look before reaching into her satchel and withdrawing a small drawstring bag.
‘I’ll lend you a pinch,’ she said, pulling it open.
‘Thank you,’ he said, as she shook a tiny pile of vivid green powder into his hand. ‘I can never get this stuff.’
‘What, really?’ she said. ‘That’s dire.’
They passed the Leaky Cauldron and headed to the communal fireplaces, lit by the brilliant smoulder of the day’s dying fires.
‘Flat seven a, Perth Tower,’ she said. ‘I think that’s all you’ll need to say.’
‘It’ll drop us off in the building’s shared fireplace,’ she smiled. ‘Seven flights of stairs, by the way. I do hope you enjoy exercise.’
He couldn’t help but smile back. ‘I’ve had worse.’
‘See you in a minute then,’ she said, and he stepped into the flames.
The door to Daphne's flat was nondescript. Nothing would have told him that a witch lived there. Astoria glanced briefly over her shoulder at the wall opposite and the floor’s other three doors, before drawing out her wand and tapping the lock.
However plain and simple the door might have been, the flat inside showed the unmistakable traces of a witch’s life. On a shelf near the door there was a Sneakoscope, a folded-up copy of The Daily Prophet and a moving photograph. Draco recognised the occupants to be Astoria and Daphne, both still in Hogwarts uniform. The flat was clean and well-kept, but bore distinct signs of shabbiness. Behind a tottering pile of folders and books near the front door, Draco could see a hairline crack running through the wall, and wondered if the papers and novels had been dumped there simply to cover it. Astoria led him to a door on the right, struggling with the handle for a few seconds. When she finally sprang through, Draco heard conversation within.
‘Sorry I’m late…’ she said.
‘How was the interrogation?’ a voice called out. Draco heard Astoria laugh, then she spoke again.
‘I’ve brought him back. Did you hear the speech, by the way?’
Draco took this as his cue to enter and stepped forward. The room was a kitchen, cluttered, flooded with bright, welcoming light. A large table dominated the space, covered in even more parchment and crumpled brown folders, ink bottles and quills scattered here and there. Just behind the table, an oversized antique radio sat on a cracked kitchen counter. Four people were gathered around it, each of their heads turned in Draco’s direction.
‘Good Evening,’ he said, scanning their faces.
‘This is Draco Malfoy, but you probably know that,’ Astoria pointed to him, and then to the other four. ‘This is Alastair, Fabian, Rowan and…well, you know Daphne.’
She crossed the room and took the seat beside Daphne. Unsure of what to do, Draco grabbed the last available chair in the room, seating himself next to Astoria.
‘So you’re the one we’ve heard so much about,’ Fabian asked, showing a row of brilliantly white teeth. ‘Astoria’s been talking about interviewing you for weeks.’
‘Well…’ Draco said. ‘She did.’
The five of them laughed weakly at this.
‘I should get you something to drink,’ Daphne leaned in and touched him lightly on the elbow, as if extending the hand that might repair their old friendship. ‘Tea?’
‘Two sugars,’ he shot back, immediately, almost forgetting to say please at the end. The others, evidently uninterested, all turned to look at Astoria.
‘Did you hear the rubbish Barr was spouting?’ Rowan said, and Draco noticed a slight tension in her voice.
‘Of course,’ Astoria said. ‘I’ll have to turn in an article about it for tomorrow morning, won’t I?’
‘I’m afraid so,’ Rowan nodded.
At once, the four of them began to discuss what Astoria might write. Behind them, the kettle boiled steadily louder; Daphne stood at the window, the cracked wood framing her. She’d changed a lot since those Hogwarts days, although Draco suppose that he wasn’t entirely the same person he’d been then either. Her shoulders were hunched, her robes bore a distinct look of shabbiness – they weren’t exactly cheap robes, but it was as if she hadn’t cared to look after them. A loose thread trailed from the cuff as she pulled mugs from a cupboard. He turned away and looked back at the group; it was always painful to see old acquaintances now that they were all in such disarray.
He guessed that Astoria was the youngest present. Rowan was possibly a few years older than him, with reddish hair and a keen, sharp face like a fox. Fabian had to be in his thirties, and was wearing flamboyant robes that suggested a Ministry position, something with a bit of pay. Alastair was the eldest, with grey streaks in his hair and an odd accent that convinced Draco he’d been educated at Durmstrang. He certainly didn’t recognise any of them from Hogwarts.
Draco could barely follow the conversation, which seemed to have turned to semantics, a deconstruction of every word Braxton Barr had spoken on the radio that evening. He was glad when Daphne tapped him on the shoulder and dipped her head towards the door.
‘We could go into the sitting room,’ she said. ‘Unless you want to hear this.’
He followed her through into the next room, where she set the two cups of tea down onto a coffee table and motioned for him to sit on an antique sofa that must have been salvaged from the Greengrass country home, for it looked completely out of place in the shabby flat. Daphne sat in an armchair opposite, lifting the mug so she could take a sip of tea.
Silence dragged on.
‘It’s been a while,’ Draco said eventually. ‘When was it, two thousand and one?’
‘I gave evidence at your father’s trial,’ she said. ‘Is he well?’
There was a coldness to her voice, yet it still retained the luxurious softness he recognised. The Greengrasses had never been an especially rich family, never of especially high standing, but Daphne had carved something of a name for herself in her time at Hogwarts. She had been one of the few Pureblood girls Draco’s mother had approved of. Daphne had the sort of cool efficiency and ruthlessness that made a Slytherin, and it seemed she had not lost it, despite the pitiful shabbiness of her appearance and flat.
‘He’s in Azkaban,’ Draco said shortly. ‘Yes, he is well.’
Daphne gave him a taut smile. ‘I’m glad my parents were never sent to that place. Do you hear from the others much?’
Who was there to hear from? He pretended to think about it. ‘Not really,’ he said. ‘I saw Theodore at my father’s trial, but the rest seemed to have disappeared.’
‘Blaise works for Gringotts,’ she said, her fingernails drumming a light rhythm on the side of her mug. ‘Tracey and Sophie have gone abroad. I hear Pansy moved to France.’
He felt a familiar tightness in his chest. ‘She did,’ he said. ‘She was murdered.’
‘I’m sorry to hear it.’
They didn’t speak for another few minutes. Draco took up his mug and sipped at the tea, willing Daphne to speak again, to say something that wouldn’t lead to another conversation about the past, their old and absent friends. He had not gone back to Hogwarts for that eighth year that so many of his classmates had taken. He’d only managed to pass a few N.E.W.T.s by taking correspondence courses from the Ministry, the bare minimum of qualifications he needed for a job. Daphne was one of the ones who had gone back, yet it seemed that she’d been no better than him at reconnecting with their old friends.
It was that final battle that had driven them so deeply apart. Some Slytherins he knew still resented him for his family’s betrayal of the Dark Lord, although he knew that most of them might have done the same had they got the chance. It was the horror of it that he knew all too well and they were so ignorant of: why else would he have stayed in the castle when they ran to join the Death Eaters in the forest?
The silence eventually became unbearable. ‘You’ve got a loose thread,’ he said, pointing to her sleeve.
She glanced down at her cuff. ‘I’ll deal with it later. Did you know that there are plans to ban robes?’
‘I’ve heard of them.’
‘They want us to cooperate with the muggle community more. Dress like muggles. Marry muggles.’
‘So I’ve heard.’
‘Pure blood is no longer something to be desired,’ she said. ‘In a few decades, Draco, we’ll all be half-bloods.’
This was the sort of conversation he always wanted to avoid in company. In truth, he didn’t know how he felt about blood status any longer. ‘Are you campaigning against it?’
‘Of course not,’ she said. ‘We’d lose over half of our supporters. The thing about politics, Draco, is that you often have to lie to get anywhere.’
‘What brought you into politics?’ he asked.
‘It’s cliché, I’m aware, but I believe I am a born politician,’ Daphne said. ‘The Ministry refuses to compensate for my parents’ deaths. I just want justice.’
He was unfamiliar with the Greengrass’ story. ‘How did-’
‘It was the stake-out at the Rosiers’,’ she said. ‘They were helping to coordinate the Snatchers. The Order of the Phoenix battered the place for three days.’
‘I didn’t hear about that.’
‘Burned beyond recognition,’ Daphne said, and the softness vanished entirely from her voice. ‘Astoria often has nightmares about it. She was the first to be told.’
‘And what do you do these days?’ Daphne said abruptly. ‘Employment, I hear, is difficult to find for our sort.’
‘I work for the Ministry,’ he said. ‘I…I have an apprenticeship in the Department of Mysteries.’
‘The Ministry?’ Daphne raised an eyebrow. ‘I’d have thought that’d be the last place to take you on.’
‘I think the belief is that it’ll be easier to watch over criminals if they’re in Ministry shackles.’
Daphne let out a short, forced laugh. ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘I hear the pay is good.’
‘Not particularly,’ Draco said, and there was no attempt to conceal his bitterness. ‘Not for the hours. Close to the courtrooms, on the bright side.’
‘Is there ever a bright side?’ Daphne smiled.
It was eleven before Draco left. The conversation with Daphne had lasted well over an hour: they’d spent a good deal of it talking about the legalities of the trial and the aims of her campaign. Eventually, a weary Astoria knocked at the door and told them that she was about to Floo home, and Draco took that as his chance to leave.
‘Just have to send a few letters, then it’ll be straight to bed with me,’ Astoria said, smiling, as the two of them descended the stairs.
‘Comparatively short, in fact, but I’m beat.’
He withdrew his modified tube ticket from his pocket as they reached the ground floor and was about to change the dates with his wand when Astoria stopped him.
‘It’s alright,’ she said. ‘Look, I’ll lend you some Floo Powder again. It’s cold out.’
‘I can stand the cold,’ he said, but she was already digging in her pockets.
‘Just this once,’ she said. ‘You can buy yourself some tomorrow.’
Home was the only thing he felt he could be proud of anymore. The smart terraced house in Kensington was the only thing they’d been allowed to keep out of the vast Malfoy estate. He did his best to keep it well, although it was a little crowded with the antiques and the furniture they’d managed to salvage from the manor. But the place had not once felt like an actual home. There was nothing comforting about it, nothing entirely secure. It was like a vacuum; he stepped out of the living room fireplace and scattered ash over a fine rug. The ash vanished with a wave of his wand, but at once the usual feeling of being inside the cold, dark hollow of a wrecked ship came back to him.
His mother habitually occupied the armchair by the window of the living room, and as he straightened up, brushing soot from his sleeves, she woke from her nap with a start and turned to stare blearily at him.
‘Draco?’ Narcissa Malfoy asked tentatively, as he went about lighting the oil lamps that were positioned about the room. ‘How was it?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said.
‘They printed your photograph in the Evening Prophet,’ she said, and her pale, bony hand emerged from the folds of her black robes to lift a newspaper from the table beside her. ‘You looked very smart, although those muggle clothes don’t suit you.’
He brushed a final speck of dust from his shoulder. ‘They’re thinking about banning robes, mother.’
‘Salazar, why would they do that?’
‘Muggle cooperation laws.’
‘They’re making a mockery of our culture,’ Narcissa sniffed. ‘Could you bring me a goblet of water, darling?’
‘Of course,’ Draco turned and left for the kitchen. The rest of the house was in darkness, as ever, but, then again, Narcissa rarely left the living room. In the absence of a house elf, it was Draco who cooked for her, who brought meals and drinks to her place in the living room, where she kept a constant vigil at the window as if perpetually hoping her husband would walk by in the street outside. He filled one of their oldest crystal goblets with an Aguamenti charm – Narcissa would not touch the glasses he’d bought from Diagon Alley, nor anything that came out of the tap, which she called the muggle contraption – and then brought it back to her.
‘I might go up to bed early,’ he said, and she nodded.
‘Goodnight, Draco,’ she said, and he dimmed the lamps for her so that she might sleep again. In the half-darkness, her eyes became hollows, flecks of light reflected on her irises like keyholes to the contents of her skull. He turned away, unable to look at her. It was often said that light revealed the truth, but the dimness provided a far more accurate picture of what his mother had become.
His bedroom was upstairs, were the house was far less tidy. Just inside the door of his room, Draco nudged aside a pile of books with his foot, exposing the peeling wallpaper they’d concealed. He flicked on the lightswitch to illuminate the room, using the muggle electricity his mother abhorred. She never ventured upstairs and it was truly his own domain; there was at least a sense of life there. It was a little like Daphne’s flat, except that hers had been bright and warm with voices. There was an impenetrable silence here, a mourning hush. A gauzy white curtain hung over a window he’d carelessly left open, and as he glanced over it moved in the breeze – his heart stopped, thinking of ghosts and inferi but, no, only his imagination.
Draco crossed the room and shut the window, cursing himself for being so foolish. His hands trembled; what if it had been Pansy, would he have been glad to see a ghost then? The truly dead never came back, though, and he knew almost for certain that Pansy was no coward. Still, he held on to a childish sort of longing. Perhaps, one of these days, she would ring the doorbell and be there in her customary cloud of perfume and cigarette smoke, her red lips distended in a sun-bright smile, kohl gathering in the lines around her eyes.
It was childish. It was only ever a childish thought.
He changed into his nightclothes mechanically, folding the muggle suit over the back of a chair. There would be another trial tomorrow, and another the day after, and the day after that. He would wear the same suit each time. Maybe the court would see it as a sign of austerity and of his repentance. He no longer owned smart robes. The ones from his teenage years no longer fitted him, and he hadn’t got around to buying any new sets. You barely ever saw people in robes those days. Society had turned away from the old magical way of life entirely.
He was in bed with the lights out by half eleven, shivering, trying to get warm. Not for the first time, he wished time could reverse – the Wiltshire mansion of his childhood had been warm, well-lit, with roaring fires in Winter. The Kensington house was by no means bad, but it was a far cry from his old home.
He was sick at the thought of the courtroom. He remembered the night before his very first court appearance, before he’d given evidence against Mulciber. Pansy had sat up with him all night to comfort him, and then she’d held his hand until they were right at the doors of courtroom ten. She’d only let go at the very last moment.
They had been planning to find a flat together back then. She’d waited for him to come out, all six hours of that day’s trial. She’d been dying for a cigarette break the whole time but hadn’t dared to leave. That night, they’d searched the classifieds section of the Daily Prophet for flats. Forty-eight hours later she was on a ferry to France.
He would never have known where she’d gone had it not been for the officers from the Magical Law Enforcement officer who’d turned up an hour after the newspaper had that Sunday morning. They’d explained in more detail about the terrible accident, gone on at length about her injuries, the way she’d been found broken like a doll in the bath, how he should maybe step outside for some fresh air, how he was to go down to the Ministry to help with their enquiries, to pick up the few possessions of hers they’d recovered. There was no family to give them to. He kept them, still, in a box at the bottom of his wardrobe.
Foolish. Childish. He screwed up his eyes tight against the darkness. It was not good to dwell on the past like this, to drown in memory each time he was close to forgetting. It was shameful. He could be in prison in a year; would people remember him like he remembered Pansy?
Draco sometimes wondered what it had been like to die like that. He couldn’t shake that morbid thought, not when death seemed to linger all too close to him. His mother had always said he had a vivid imagination. It was all too easy to close his eyes and imagine what Pansy looked like in that bloody water. He didn’t want to think about it, but to not think about it would be to lose her.
When he finally fell asleep that night, his dreams were plagued with cold hands.
‘Mr Malfoy, did you perform the Imperius curse on the night of December the twenty-first, nineteen-ninety-seven?’
‘And were you fully aware that it was an unforgiveable curse and therefore carried the most severe of punishments under magical law?’
‘And did you, subsequently, perform the Cruciatus curse?’
The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: ‘Yes,’ Draco said. ‘But it failed.’
‘But you performed the curse with intent to cause harm?’
It was pedantic, Draco thought, to argue the truth, but it may prove good enough to save him from prison. ‘No,’ he said. ‘If I’d truly meant it…it would have worked.’
‘But even the poorest of Cruciatus curses causes some pain to the victim, and evidence shows that a poorly applied Cruciatus curses causes pain that is duller, but lasts far longer, a common side-effect of miscasting. Mr Malfoy, this is not a question of intent: you cast an unforgiveable curse. You caused another human being to feel pain. We have evidence from ten convicted Death Eaters that you applied both the Imperius curse and the Cruciatus curse to Miss Lovegood on the night of her capture. You robbed her of her free will and, with other Death Eaters, subjected her to torture-’
Draco’s palms slipped between the chains as he jerked forward. ‘It was a kindness!’
The assembled jurors and Ministry officials shared a collective intake of breath, and it was then that Draco realised how he must have sounded. Like his Aunt Bellatrix, one who drew pleasure from the pain of others; he stammered the next words out in a rush to correct himself. ‘The Imperius curse, I mean, it was a kindness. A kindness of sorts. You don’t feel the pain if you’re under the Imperius curse. I…I was in control of her mind for at least five minutes of it and she didn’t feel any pain, I swear.’
‘Five minutes?’ Mr Beverly’s voice chilled him to the core. ‘And is five minutes suitable compensation for thirty minutes of unimaginable pain?’
‘I wasn’t there,’ Draco said quickly. ‘That was nothing to do with me. After my curse failed I was forced to leave.’
‘And thus you seem to believe you wash your hands of all guilt,’ Mr Beverly said. ‘Because your casting of the unforgiveable curses was a kindness.’
And it was, as Draco knew well; the feeling of being blissfully, exhilaratingly out of control, of knowing that there was nothing to fight for because all was worthless, all forgotten, that the pain in your body was no longer your own. To be under the Imperius curse was a kindness, albeit temporary, that cut you from life. He’d known it, once, cast by his mother’s hand, a quiet sacrifice that they had never spoken of, the spell that had saved him from a punishment handed down by the Dark Lord.
But not one person in the courtroom thought to ask him how he knew this, nobody picked up on what he had said; perhaps calling it a kindness had been too jarring, too distracting and, in retrospect, he half-wished he’d chosen a different word. Or were they simply prepared to ignore it, unwilling to hear that he, too, had gone through something similar? It was sympathy for the devil, sympathy for a Malfoy, hardly something good. Then the Judge called for the first witness of the day and his chance had gone but, no matter, no matter, the trial would surely drag on for weeks, would surely pull him back and forth through dirt and thoroughly destroy him in time. He could bring it up later.
A wooden chair was set out a few metres away from Draco’s chained throne, immediately before the Judge. As if sensing a witness was too appear, the chains drew about his wrists a little tighter, restricting any sort of movement entirely; the links lay cold and heavy on his skin, invisibly branding him.
The door was opened by a Ministry guard and a young woman entered. She was not as frail as he remembered her, but, ever since the war, she’d never been able to rid herself of the starved look of her face. Her wide eyes dominated her fine, pale face, and her dirty-blonde hair had been tied back in an uncharacteristically neat bun. As she took her seat, she turned for a moment to look at Draco. She did not smile, but there was a total absence of the usual fear a witness wore; he could not quite decipher the look in her eyes.
‘Do you confirm that you are Luna Lovegood, aged twenty, of Juniper Cottage, Catchpole Road, Cornwall?’
The ethereal, dreamy voice was familiar to him, although this was the strongest he’d ever heard it. He remembered her well; her wide eyes had fixed on him like searchlights that afternoon he’d helped the others snatch her from the Hogwarts express. It had been in the Christmas holidays. He would take food to her and the imprisoned wandmaker, Ollivander, once a day, and she would always ask him the time, what the weather was like, tell him she missed her father. She had always tried to make conversation, tried to reason with him, even pleaded – she reminded him, always, how easy it would be to run to the Order of the Phoenix, something he’d thought about often – but he had never once replied, never said a word. Possibly the only time she had heard his voice was when he put her under the Imperius curse and told her, carefully, to step off the train and follow him into the dark.
‘Miss Lovegood, could you tell us what happened on the afternoon of the twenty-first of December, in the year nineteen-ninety-seven?’
Still ethereal, still otherworldly, but her voice had a strange sharpness to it. ‘I was coming home for the Christmas Holidays on the Hogwarts Express. I was alone.’
‘Was this unusual?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘I was often alone at school.’
Draco remembered the feel of her mind when he’d controlled it; it had been light and clear, anxious but honest. She wanted to get home more than anything else, and it had been hard to persuade her to leave the train. All she wanted was home, the haven where she hoped war had not touched her father. Come on, he’d said. Just a little further. He’s here. He’s safe. It had seemed like such a cheap lie and she had complied so easily.
‘Did the train make it to Kings’ Cross?’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘But I did not.’
‘Where did you leave the train?’
‘I’m not sure, but it was a short time after we’d crossed the border into England.’
‘Did you leave of your own will?’
She had lingered on the threshold of the compartment for almost a few minutes, one pale hand clutching the doorframe, her last defence. He knew he had little time before Crabbe and Goyle would tire of guarding the surrounding compartments. People were already panicking about the unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere, the blackness that pinned to the train windows and hid the Death Eaters outside. He had five minutes to coax her from the train, five minutes to win her trust. His sleeves were rolled up and the tattoo was bared, but she came along like a lamb to slaughter eventually.
‘No, I didn’t.’
‘Were you forced to leave the train?’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘Can you tell us what happened just after the train stopped?’
‘Nothing unusual. It was very quiet. After that, the first thing I remember was…was waking up at the big house.’
And when he had led her off the train and out into the darkness, she had been so unsteady on her feet that he’d had to guide her, to take her hand as well as her mind and lead her on towards what he thought, at the time, was her death. He imagined that anyone watching from afar might have thought them brother and sister; they had similar complexions and, after all, they were both from two old Pureblood families, except his blood was noble and hers was traitorous. But if you cut them they bled the same. He’d known that after the first night.
‘And what happened then?’
Her voice was as clear and bright as ever. ‘I was tortured.’
‘Are any of them in this courtroom today?’
‘Just one,’ she said. ‘I don’t think I need to identify him.’
Mr Beverly gave her a kind smile. ‘For the sake of accuracy, we would appreciate it if you did.’
Luna Lovegood turned in her seat to face Draco but, yet again, there was still that curious look upon her face, neither reproachful nor frightened. And those eyes, still needle-sharp, impossible to look away from. In her cellar prison, she’d had a weird, submarine magnificence, for you could never see more than her eyes and the shapes of her face in the shadows that seemed to glow strangely green against the damp and mildewed walls. Hers were the eyes that watched him in his dreams, and hers were the spindly, clammy hands that would jerk him awake in an empty bed, always accusatory, always violent, now strangely calm and even accepting.
‘It was him,’ she said, before turning around again and removing him from her searchlight stare.
‘And what was it like in the manor?’
I was tortured when I arrived,’ she said. ‘And then I was taken to the cellar, where Mr Ollivander was. And…I didn’t know exactly where I was or even what time it was until I was rescued. There were no windows or clocks and we only had a candle for light, and it went out a lot…we were given bread and water once a day. Draco Malfoy brought it to us.’
‘Did you see any other Death Eaters in your time there?’
‘Not after the first night. After that, only Draco. I rather thought they’d forgotten about me, and when Draco came down every day I would ask him the time and try to talk to him, but he never answered. He didn’t try to hurt us, though, and he didn’t forget us.’
‘Presumably he would be punished if he were to forget.’
‘I don’t know. I don’t think they cared enough about us for that.’
He didn’t know quite what they kept her in the cellar for, because he knew as soon as her father had triggered that false alarm that his Aunt would have ordered her immediate murder. Perhaps, if Potter hadn’t turned up, she would have been taken from the cellar and killed in the night; perhaps he would have been ordered to do it, as the one who’d taken her from the train. A cyclical relationship they might have had. Her captor, her murderer, and the only words they’d exchanged had been in his head, all imaginary. He knew he wouldn’t have had the heart to do it anyway. He’d never been able to do it before and, besides, she seemed so harmless; the idea of her death was so pathetically pointless, surely it would achieve nothing? He did not share his Aunt’s bloodlust and he thought, if he’d had the courage, if he’d had the certainty of safety, he might have tried to save the girl.
‘Let’s go back to the night you were rescued, then,’ Mr Beverly said. ‘What happened then?’
‘I think some Snatchers had come to the house. Two Goblins and a boy I knew from school were put in the cellar with us. Dean Thomas. And a little bit later, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley were put in too. And then the house-elf Dobby appeared, and he got us out through side-along apparition. And that was it.’
In the chaos after the raid, it took him two days to notice she’d gone. They’d all been punished in some way for letting the Boy Who Lived slip from their grasp, yet again. Cruciatus curses all round: his Aunt had delivered the news in the same way she might order a round of drinks. Draco considered himself lucky to only have felt the curse for a brief, stinging moment, but the fault was all his – he’d known it was Potter, and there was no point trying to fool anyone that he hadn’t. He’d recognise the face anywhere, however disfigured, but while Potter was still alive and on the run there had been that tiny hope that he might have been able to get out of the war. Not to win it, not to lose it, not to retreat or run away, but simply to leave it, cease all involvement with it. Beg the Order of the Phoenix to give him a new name and a new identity, a life somewhere else, somewhere far away where he could not be found by Death Eaters. He supposed it was out of some misguided sense of family loyalty that, after all the tears from Narcissa, Bellatrix had been lenient. And after it was all over, it had suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t fed the convicts for two days and descended the staircase to find the cellar was empty.
It was two in the afternoon before he was allowed to leave Courtroom Ten, long after Luna Lovegood had finished giving her evidence and Mr Beverly had dissected it for the court. To his surprise, he found himself sharing a lift with Astoria.
‘Atrium?’ she said, her ink-stained finger hovering over the buttons.
They waited for half a minute before the doors slid shut, but nobody joined them in the lift. Draco was in no mood for conversation, but felt obliged to say something to her, and so politely asked her if she’d managed to write her article about the speech.
‘Yes, of course,’ she said. ‘It actually went in this morning’s edition. I stayed up half the night,’ she added, smiling, and he noticed the dark thumbprint shadows beneath her eyes. ‘I’m waiting for the evening edition for the Prophet to see if any of Barr’s supporters noticed it…we’ve had quite the argument going across the papers since this whole bloody mess started…’
‘I’ll look out for it.’
‘I was thinking of working on our interview tonight, you know.’
‘I’m not sure I want it to go in The Spark,’ she said. ‘Oh, I’m freelance, strictly speaking, by the way. So I feel like I can sell it to anyone. The Spark hasn’t got the biggest of readership, so…’
‘It’s strange,’ he said. ‘To think of someone selling your story.’
‘Oh, I didn’t mean it like that,’ she said. ‘I don’t mean to…you can’t really put a value on someone else’s words. But I need to be careful who publishes it, that’s all.’
He frowned. ‘Not sure the Prophet would touch it with a ten-foot broomstick.’
She regarded him with a cool stare. ‘There are other newspapers, you know. Listen, if you want to read it through or anything, you’re welcome to come around tonight.’
She handed him a business card with her address on it, and he was forced to stifle a laugh.
‘I know,’ she smiled. ‘It seems ridiculous. But I paid good Galleons to get those printed, so I should really pass them around.’
He grinned and pocketed it. ‘A formal appointment. I won’t be bringing a bottle of wine, then.’
‘Oh, bring the wine all the same,’ she said. ‘It cheers me up.’
Imagining that the trial would drag on until the evening, Draco had told his manager not to expect him for his apprentice work in the Department of Mysteries that day, and he had little to do before going to Astoria’s flat. He stopped at an off-licence on his way back from the Ministry and bought two newspapers and the promised bottle of wine, although he knew the Prophet would just irritate him and that the wine was sub-par, reduced price, not a patch on the expensive stuff his mother still hoarded. Narcissa was fast asleep in her chair by the window when he returned, and so he crept through to the kitchen as quietly as he could to have lunch and read the papers. As he’d expected, he found his own face on page ten of the Prophet, a candid shot of him in the Ministry atrium, harassed and pale, beside a report of his ongoing trial and a recap of his father’s convictions. He wondered who cared, who was really following his case from page to page for the Prophet to cover it in so much detail. An entertaining read for the likes of Potter, perhaps. Draco read the rest of the newspaper in a temper and completely forgot to open The Spark and look for Astoria’s article.
Dusk was falling by the time he left the house, the sky glowing a dark, sick shade of orange, peppered by the occasional flash of a passing aeroplane. His eyes were tired, and the blinding glare of a twenty-four hour corner shop on the way to the Underground made him squint, the light imprinted on his vision, so that every blink brought another flash of it. The station was packed with commuters, but a small piece of luck showed him an empty seat between two tourists. He realised, then, that he’d forgotten to change out of his courtroom suit and was still dressed in funereal black. He hoped that Astoria would take this to mean he hadn’t gone home before visiting her, that he had some sort of life outside of the trials besides his apprenticeship.
Britannia Tower was near-silent as he climbed, with the faintest of scraps of conversation playing as he ascended the ten staircases to Astoria’s flat. On the tenth floor, he stopped for a second at the top of the stairs to catch his breath, cast a contemptuous look at the lift that was out of order, and then stepped towards the door of flat 10b. Unlike Daphne’s block, this was a purely magical housing development, an unplottable tower block invisible to muggles that rose straight from the roof of a tube station. He supposed you could see all over London from the roof.
Astoria answered the door almost instantly and he presented her with the bottle of wine and an apology; from an off-licence, sorry, it was on offer. She said it was no matter and told him to take a seat. The front door opened right onto a space that was both kitchen and living room, sparsely furnished, with three doors leading off at the end of a short corridor. Too small for comfort, he thought, then reminded himself that she lived there alone and didn’t have the family wealth that he had.
He had to admit to himself that he was pleased with what she had written. It wasn’t overly sympathetic to him, nor was it in the Ministry’s favour; even he recognised that he’d done wrong and there was no use in trying to deny it. The only thing that unsettled him was the paragraph she’d spent discussing the punishment that might await him, the Veritaserum and the Dementors, the lengthy sentences that had been handed down so far, a brief recap of the controversial defeat of the Minister for Magic’s attempt to ban the latter punishments entirely. In fact, Draco barely figured in the article, which had more of a general focus on the trials as a whole. This pleased him; the less his name appeared in the newspapers, he thought, the better.
‘Funny,’ he said, as she sat opposite him and poured them both a glass of wine. ‘I thought…well, I was rather convinced you were writing an article about me.’
‘Oh, no,’ she said. ‘Contempt of court, you see. I just needed to familiarise myself with your story. Understand it better.’
‘Oh. Good,’ he said. ‘Well…I was actually worried, but this…this is alright.’
‘Delighted to hear it,’ she said, sounding amused. ‘I’m afraid my article about Braxton Barr’s speech was savaged in the Evening Prophet.’
They lapsed into silence for a few moments as they drank.
‘Your evidence today was very interesting,’ Astoria said, setting her glass down on the table. ‘I think it changed everyone’s opinions of you.’
He felt his face burn slightly. ‘I should’ve kept my mouth shut.’
‘No,’ she said. ‘In a good way. When I left everyone was wondering how you knew what it was like to be under the Imperius curse. Someone suggested they look back at your father’s evidence.’
‘It was my mother,’ he admitted.
‘You should really be telling this to a court instead of me…’
‘I don’t want her to end up there again,’ he said. ‘And, anyway, she used it to help me.’
Astoria frowned. ‘Come again?’
‘I was…this is difficult to talk about,’ he sighed. ‘The Cruciatus curse was an ordinary means of punishment for those who’d failed to carry out the Dark Lord’s will…the ones who were lucky not to be killed, anyway. And if you’re not in control of your own mind…you don’t feel the pain, do you?’
Her frown seemed to darken. ‘I understand.’
It seemed easier to talk to Astoria, as if there was something inherently trustworthy about her. He looked up and met her eye. ‘My mother put me under the Imperius curse so I wouldn’t feel any pain. I’ve never told anyone that before. Don’t…don’t put it in a newspaper, or anything.’
There was a brief silence before she spoke. ‘I won’t,’ she said.
In the dim light of her flat and with the taste of wine on his lips, she almost reminded him of Pansy, the way the shadows in the hollows of her eyes were reminiscent of smudged eye makeup, the way she seemed so ready to listen to him; he set his glass down upon the table.
‘There’s nothing else I want to say about the war,’ he said.
She met his eye again. ‘Of course.’
He stayed at her flat for longer than he’d intended to, swapping stories about family friends they shared, the past, life before the war. She told him how – and it was silly, really – she couldn’t think of her life in any other way now. It was pre-war and post-war, two entirely different lifetimes that might have been centuries apart. Two entirely different girls. And he agreed, thinking of his life in much the same way. Pre-war, post-war, and yet he could not bring himself to talk anymore about that vague third section that cleaved his life in two, the war itself.
Draco left at half past eleven, when the wine was long-finished and even the busy road outside had fallen into some unusual silence, some anxious hush. He had missed the last train, but she offered him a pinch of Floo powder and a stern reminder that he should really get his own, directing him to the block’s communal fireplace on the ground floor. When he stood up, his mind reeled; it had been a long time since he’d drank so much, even if it was a discounted bottle of wine from an off-licence opposite the Apothecary.
For some inexplicable reason he paused at the door, caught for a second by the frown on her face and the dull grey of her eyes, the way they shone slightly with reflected light from the hallway; she hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on as she showed him the door, and they stood in half-darkness. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, as if on the verge of leaving, but neither of them moved, neither of them spoke. There was something about the way the dim, yellowy light from the hallway sparked on her grey eyes, the way both colours were so dull but seemed so radiant.
And he found himself, as if by instinct, suddenly closer, his fingertips trailing along the line of her jaw; her eyes shut almost expectantly.
He let his hand drop. ‘Sorry, I should go…’
Astoria stood back to let him through. Once in the hallway, he turned; her eyes were half-shut still, but her hand was raised in farewell, her customary frown back in place.
‘Goodnight,’ she said. ‘See you sometime?’
He nodded and left without another word.