Draco’s wounds had healed completely by the end of the next week. Hermione had gone back to work a few days after getting him the television, once it was clear he could move around unassisted and not do himself further injury. She’d come back to The Manor every night, and Draco was surprised at how much he missed her presence when she was gone during the day. It really had been lonely in his exquisite home for the last couple of years. Just being able to hear her moving around in the next room, or the sound of her laughter, or the knowledge that she was simply there was comforting.
After Hermione left for work one morning, Draco made a decision. It was time to go out. He still had not properly thanked Harry and Ron for saving his life, and as hard as it was going to be to say thank you to Potty and Weasel, he knew he needed to do it. It would be a good time to get that other apology out of the way too.
Standing up quickly, Draco suppressed a small groan of pain. Ever since that night at the safe house, his left arm, particularly his forearm, had been troubling him. It felt like there were insects crawling under his skin, and at times he had to fight the urge to scratch the flesh from his bones in an attempt to relieve the sensation. At first, he had thought it the after effects of some curse or jinx, but after two weeks, he knew what it really was. The Mark was beginning to show again.
Fearing what it could mean, Draco kept it hidden from Hermione. It was not an easy thing to do; she was practically living in his house, sleeping in his bed every night. Hiding a magically tattooed forearm was a hard task, but so far, he had been successful. He bit down on the pain that threatened to engulf him every night, to prevent himself from crying out and waking the sleeping woman beside him. Nothing he did, no spells he cast on himself, would stop it. The Dark Mark was reappearing slowly and distinctly.
For the moment, Draco pushed all thoughts of the Mark, Death Eaters and the Dark Lord from his mind, clearing his head before he Apparated to Harry and Ginny’s place. There was no way he would forget where it was after that night, so he was not concerned about being splinched.
Harry was sitting with Ron on the back verandah when he arrived. Neither of them had been back to the Ministry since the battle with the Death Eaters; both deserving a well-earned break. Harry looked up as Draco stepped onto the small verandah, giving him a quick smile and a nod. Ron merely looked at him, though without seeming to want to kill him. That was good enough for Draco, and he sat down, taking in the view.
The verandah looked out over a small lake bordered by tall trees. The midday sun glinted off the water, casting sparkling diamonds of light into the air. A soft breeze tickled the back of his neck, and Draco sighed appreciatively, thinking how pleasant it might be to buy a house in the country.
“Anything wrong, Malfoy?” Harry asked, sliding Draco a drink. He picked it up and sniffed it, and Harry laughed. “It’s not poisoned you big git.”
Draco merely shrugged, and tossed back the drink in one go, the fire whiskey creeping down his throat and settling into his stomach with a familiar burn. He motioned towards the lake. “This is nice, Potter,” he said quietly. “I could live here.”
Ron snickered. “What, and give up the luxury and grandeur of Malfoy Manor?”
Draco’s smile fell. “Yes. In a heartbeat. That place, that house, is only full of ghosts and bad memories. I don’t think I want it anymore. It’s way too big for starters – you could fit five families the size of yours in there, Weasley, and still have room left over. It’s really quite ridiculous. I have no idea what my parents were thinking, other than having the largest and grandest estate in the wizarding world.”
“Somehow, I don’t think you came here to talk about real estate, Malfoy,” Harry said after a while, and Draco sighed, running his fingers through his hair.
“Actually, Potter …what?”
Harry was staring at him, his brows drawn together. Ron looked bewildered at the abrupt change in mood. Harry leant towards Draco, and he pulled away, confused.
“You want to give me a kiss, Potter? I’m flattered, but I don’t swing that way” he replied, laughing. Inside, his heart was beating a million miles a minute. He knew what Harry had seen; Draco had lifted his left arm to brush his blonde hair out of his eyes, and he realized from the look on Harry’s face that the sleeve of his robe had slipped down.
“I want to see your arm, Malfoy,” Harry said bluntly. Draco pulled his arm closer to himself in a protective measure, sneaking a glance at Ron. The red head still looked confused, but sat and watched the interaction carefully.
“Why Potter; it’s just an arm,” Draco drawled, trying to be casual. Harry suddenly leant forward and seized Draco’s wrist, pulling his arm towards him with surprising strength. Draco instinctively fought back, but he was still tired and weak. With a defeated sigh, he gave up, letting Harry stretch his arm out across the small table between them and pull the sleeve of his robe up over his elbow.
No one spoke, the three of them staring at Draco’s pale forearm, the Dark Mark more visible than before. Ron sat back with a hiss of shock, and Harry glanced up, questions burning in his eyes.
“I don’t know what it means,” Draco said simply. “I don’t know why it is there, only that it hurts like hell.”
“Voldemort’s gone though,” Ron said softly.
Draco rolled his eyes, snatching his arm back from Harry and pulling the sleeve of his robe down, covering the evil black marks. “I’m aware of that, Weasley,” he snapped, before turning to Harry. “What do you think?”
Harry frowned, looking slightly uncomfortable. “Has no one told you yet?”
“Told me what? As you know, I don’t get out much these days,” he quipped sarcastically, before hearing words that sucked the bottom out of his stomach.
“Zabini escaped Azkaban.”
Draco sat forward and put his head in his hands, his heart beating wildly. For a moment, he thought he was going to vomit; for a moment, he’d thought he was finally safe, his life free. He took a deep breath.
Ron shifted in his seat before answering. “A week ago. Without the Dementors … No one knows where he is; probably off with his tail between his legs licking his wounds.”
“What the bloody hell is the matter with you two? ‘Licking his wounds’! God Weasley, you’re an idiot! Death Eaters do not go and ‘lick their wounds’! I’m in danger. Merlin, Hermione’s in danger. She’d been staying at my house! The place isn’t protected anymore,” Draco spat, glaring at Harry and Ron.
“Malfoy, we thought …” Harry began.
Draco stood up suddenly. “When were you two going to let me in on this little secret?” he shouted, banging his fist on the table. “Don’t you fucking get it? They want me dead!”
“And just when were you going to let us in on your little secret, Malfoy?” Harry shouted back, standing also. “How long has it been there? How long since it started to come back?”
“Two weeks, since the fight with Zabini,” Draco yelled, frustration in every line of his body. “Do you think I want this? Do you really think I want this horrible thing on my skin? I never wanted it in the first place you idiots! My father forced me into Voldemort’s service! Every time I look at it I am reminded of what I used to be!”
“So you were a Death Eater then?” Ron asked coldly.
Draco turned on Ron, rage coursing through him. “You’d love that wouldn’t you, Weasley? You’d love to have your little suspicions confirmed. ‘I always knew it’, you’d be able to say when they finally came and dragged my sorry arse off to Azkaban. Well I was never a Death Eater. Yes, my father was one, and yes, he had been grooming me my entire life to be just like him, but I never got to that stage, thank Merlin. I never wanted to be a bloody Death Eater. It was all an act; everything I ever did at school, all an act! Do you have any idea what my father would have done to me if he ever suspected I did not truly support the Dark Lord? Do you? I’d have been extremely lucky if he’d have killed me, but then again, Lucius Malfoy was never known for his compassion and mercy! You were there, Potter,” Draco yelled, turning his anger on Harry, who sat impassively, letting Draco’s fury wash over him. “You were there at the moment I failed him. But it was also the moment I knew for sure who and what I was. I just wish you two could fucking understand that.”
Draco felt exhausted after his fervent speech. Neither Harry nor Ron had said a word, and he sank down into his chair, tired, cranky and extremely apprehensive. Harry reached over and made to lay a hand on his shoulder, and Draco shoved him away forcefully.
“Don’t touch me, Potter!” he snarled. Draco was already wound up, feeling like a rubber band that had been stretched too far, so when Harry touched him, he snapped. Standing, he drew his wand swiftly, pointing it at Harry, who had his own wand out. It was pointing at Draco’s heart. He was impressed. He hadn’t even seen Harry move. Ron was standing also, his wand held high, pointed at the same target as Harry’s. Draco heard himself laugh.
“Well, boys, now it looks like you have what you always wanted – Draco Malfoy, outnumbered. You know neither of you would take me in a fair fight?” he sneered, and then shook his head. He had no idea why he was saying these things to the men who had saved his life. He only knew something was terribly wrong, and he had no idea what to do about it. Ron only tightened his grip on his wand, his face twisted into an angry scowl, and Harry let out a sigh.
“Malfoy …” he began, but was cut off.
“What the hell is going on out here!” Ginny’s voice yelled from behind Draco. He turned his head a fraction, and saw Hermione standing beside her, mouth open in shock. The look on her face shattered his world, bringing it tumbling down around him, and with a deep sigh, Draco turned to Harry and Ron, and lowered his wand. The other two, however, did not.
“Don’t make me ask again! Harry! Ron! Someone please fill us in,” Ginny said loudly, coming onto the verandah.
Draco felt Hermione’s hand on his shoulder, and he turned to look at her devastated face.
“Stay away, Hermione,” Ron said sharply, “he has the Dark Mark.”
Hermione sighed, throwing the redhead an irritated look. “I know, Ron.”
“Yes. Now, please, someone explain? Draco?” she demanded, her hands on her hips.
Instead of answering her, Draco turned and rolled up the sleeve of his robe. He heard Ginny gasp in the background. Hermione looked at him, puzzled.
“Why?” she asked, and he shrugged, at the same time thinking how amazing she was. She didn’t jump to any conclusions about him, she didn’t run away, she just accepted and tried to make sense of the situation.
“I think we should test him,” Ron blurted out, his eyes never leaving Draco’s face.
Hermione frowned. “Is that absolutely necessary, Ron?”
Harry answered. “I’m sorry, Hermione, but I think he’s right.” He turned his green eyes on Draco. “Will you do it of your own volition, or will you make me force you?”
Draco only laughed. He walked inside, pulled a seat from the dining table, and sat down casually in the center of the room, his long legs folded and his hands linked behind his head. “Come on, Potter, what are you waiting for? It’s not like this is an unusual experience for me. I know the way your Department operates,” he spat.
The others had come inside, all wearing very different expressions; Ron looked ready to murder Draco on the spot; Harry was looking sympathetic; Ginny confused and a little scared; and Hermione, absolutely livid. She strode across the room, grabbing Harry’s arm, and muttering to him in a low angry tone.
“It’s okay darling. Don’t worry. I don’t think Potter will let me die,” Draco called to Hermione, who simply glared at Harry, Ron and Draco in turn like they were total idiots. Harry walked towards Draco, holding a vial of clear liquid. Draco shuddered, sitting up straight.
“I hate that stuff, Potter; it’s vile,” he said softly. Harry looked at him closely.
“How often?” he asked.
“Once, or sometimes twice, a week,” Draco replied, knowing exactly what he meant. He heard both women gasp. “Only a few drops at a time; although I don’t think they cared if I was dead or alive by the end, or that I’d helped them get their hands on elusive Death Eaters, just as long as I was behaving myself.”
Harry took a few hesitant steps closer, his wand out. Draco smirked at him, tilted his head back a fraction and opened his mouth. He felt Harry tip the Veritaserum onto his tongue, and he swallowed. His head fell forward, and he closed his eyes as he waited for the potion to have effect. It came quickly; it had been a while since he’d had a dose. Slowly, Draco raised his head, his eyes coming to rest on Harry.
“What is your name?”
“Draco Lucius Malfoy.”
“Who am I?”
“Harry Potter, Boy Wonder,” Draco sneered, unable to help the old resentment rising up.
“Where are you right now?” Harry asked, ignoring the insult.
“I’m in your house you great big prat,” Draco growled.
“Are you a Death Eater?”
Draco sighed. “I thought we’d gone through this, Potter. No, I am not a Death Eater.”
“Why has the Dark Mark reappeared?”
“I don’t know,” Draco said shakily. He was feeling sick and dizzy, and had begun to sweat. He hated Veritaserum!
“Where is Blaise Zabini?” That question came from Ron, and Draco turned to look at him with glassy eyes.
“How the hell should I know, Weasley,” Draco snarled. “I thought he was in Azkaban, until you guys informed me otherwise.” He felt his head fall forward again, the blood rushing in his temples, his body on fire. Slowly, he lifted his head. A trickle of blood ran from his nose, and he wiped it away. He heard Hermione and Ginny gasp; vaguely saw Ginny get up from the lounge and walk in his direction; he saw Ron’s lips move. He heard nothing but the pounding in his ears. Draco’s eyes found Harry’s.
“What the hell did you give me, Potter?” he managed to ask, before falling from the chair, the world going black.
A/N: Hey guys! Thanks for all the wonderful reviews on previous chapters! I hope you liked this one! Sorry about the cliffy :)...
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