Chapter 1 : Draconian Punishment
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Pathetic. Thatís what I am. Thatís what this is. Iím not even sitting, just sprawling on the floor, too messed up to care that my shirt is torn and one of my shoes is missing. I canít really do magic to save myself from this humiliation - might end up cutting the life line, and Iím not prepared to do that, not just yet. Thereíre too many questions left. One is plaguing my mind as we speakÖ well, not really. Thereís nobody to speak to, just me and my thoughts, the very same ones Iíve been trying to get away from these past three years.
Always been too good with potions, havenít I? Always known how to play with the ingredients to make the shimmering, bubbling liquids do whatever I want. Now Iíve found a way to forget, except it isnít really forgetting because it all comes back to me in the end. Waking up is the tricky part. Where will I be? How far have I gone? Will I be able to stop?
Well, Iím awake now. No idea where, though. Maybe Iíve finally gone abroad, to Venice perhaps? Itís time to stand up, time to find out what Iíve been up to lately. Am I in the news? Have I gone after Potter again, demanding him to return my old wand? I guess I can remember some parts of my miserable life even under the influence of the Forget-Me-Not potion, one of my own creations. Snape would be oh so profoundly proud.
I lift my bloodied fist to see if I can still move my fingers. They are wiggling at me, mocking my sheer existence. Everything seems to be all right even though I smell foul and I believe I look even fouler. I miss my secretary. The damn woman should be here already. Sheís my beacon in the dark, guiding me back to the life I try to escape so desperately.
Leaning my head against the solid wall behind me, I fumble through my pockets, trying to find a cigarette. I can never know if I still carry them with me since my counterpart is rather unpredictable. This time, I smile, my fingers brushing the battered pack. Iím in heaven for a tiny moment when the smoke encircles me, lingering close by even after the source is long gone.
Itís starting to get cold. I canít believe sheís not coming for me.
I try that idea of standing up, but my body is not functioning that well and I fall back, the skin between my shoulder blades getting slick with sweat. Maybe Iím finally too exhausted to move. Maybe Iím finally too beat to go further. Maybe this is my resting place. I look around, taking in my surroundings, feeling rather stupefied by what I see. Iím not alone. How did I ever survive the war with such perception skills? I guess I have to admit that I wouldnít be here if Potter hadnít felt so goddamn merciful.
Iím in a drug house. That much even I can tell. Dirty rugs and mattresses, brown walls that have never even seen paint, people whose eyes are closed even though open, no sounds, no sun, no life. I breathe in quietly, hoping that I donít have too many needle marks tainting my perfect skin. I canít even tell if these people are Muggles or wizarding folk. Iíve lost my touch.
Part of me wishes that she canít find me this time. Iíll wither away, and not a single soul will miss me. Easier for everyone, easier for MotherÖ I wish I could be a better son. I wish I could take the shame. I wish I could walk on the soil of England and not feel like Iím destroying everything. I wish she wouldnít always find me. Women. They have too much willpower in them. This one thinks she can save me.
Then it occurs to me, I havenít contacted her yet. Even with her superhuman abilities she canít really read my mind. If I donít tell her Iím back, she doesnít know where to look, not if Iím not in the news, not if I havenít shown my face somewhere. How long have I been gone?
I search for my wand. More often than not, I wake up without it. I guess the other Malfoy, the one who got me into this mess, hates magic, or at least he attracts the wrong kind of people who are more than interested in stealing something so valuable. As usual, itís not there; itís nowhere to be found. How many wands have I lost since the first one? I still ache for the first one. I still miss it. I still frigging hate the bastard who took it. Growling in anger, I hit my head against the only solid thing in my world.
Canít use a wand then; must do it manually. I pull up the sleeve of my left hand, revealing the disfiguring Dark Mark - my cool tattoo, as that dear secretary-woman calls it - and then bite the skin over the red mark as hard as I can, drawing blood. When the first drop enters my mouth, I stick my tongue out, willing the magic in me to work. Let her find me.
The time passes slowly now that I know she must have heard me. Sheís connected to the Dark Mark, much like we, Death Eaters were once connected to the Dark Lord. It was something she did, her magic, her mind, her rather strange worldview. She seems to think that if I canít flee from her, I canít be completely lost either. She has a funny sense of humour, too.
The loud CRACK tells me she has arrived, my dear angel. I feel laughter bubbling inside me, the need to let it out growing stronger with each subtle step she takes. Itís insane how much I want to see her again. Itís been so long. I can feel her near, searching for me.
And there she is, looking at me, clearly angry but also relieved. She doesn't speak, like always, she just acts. Her blonde hair is even longer than before, and she's so small, so fragile, her pyjama-clad body shivering slightly. One could never believe how strong that fragile woman actually is. She walks to my side, hits me in the head with a news paper and then grabs my hand, Disapparating me the hell out of there.
Once we arrive to her apartment, she pushes me on her comfy armchair by the fire, and sits on the coffee table opposite me, staring, her silvery eyes uncharacteristically intense and demanding. "Two months, six days, twenty-five minutes," she says, her voice low and void of her usual dreamy tone.
"Oh," I manage to cough out, thinking that my throat must be occupied by a Niffler. I wish she would give me a drink already. Is she trying to torture me?
"You give me nothing but 'oh'?" This time she sounds quite irritated. ďTell me again, why do I put up with this travesty?Ē she mutters, half expecting an answer, half knowing that there isnít one. I pay her well; sheís not my girlfriend, and she very well knows that. Sheís not a servant either, just an amusing little addition to those few people I happen to trust. She knows her place, or at least she should know.
My whole body is starting to ache. Withdrawal symptoms, perhaps? Or did someone break my bones in a fight? My bloodied knuckles tell me a story I really donít want to listen to now. ďI want a bath,Ē I say and she wrinkles her nose in disgust. I must smell really bad.
She pulls me up, letting me lean my whole body weight against her small frame. ďYou stink,Ē she confesses and makes me laugh out loud. She knows how to cheer me up. When she helps me out of my Muggle clothes and into the tub, I find myself wishing that she could be enough, that I would never feel the need to leave, ever again.
Shoving me under the shower, she first rinses me clean of all the dirt, sweat and blood, then puts the plug in and fills the tub, constantly watching me, intrigued by the odd marks on my body. This isn't a routine to us, but still, I don't feel the least bit embarrassed. I'm too weak to do this on my own and she needs me back. It's a good deal.
ďTell me about work,Ē I say as I lean back, closing my eyes, letting the water warm me inside out. She grouches down, resting her arms on the side of the tub, speaking quietly now, warmly, too close to my ear. First, she tells me the good news: satisfied customers, mentions at the Ministry and the press, Potions AwardsÖ We are successful, but thereís trouble in paradise.
ďRemember Eldridge?Ē she asks. ďHe left us. Poof, he's gone." She whisks her hands up in the air, resembling her old self all of a sudden, and even though her words are worrying, I can't help but hide the smile that is forming on my face. "Heís our best supplier," she continues, "and he just sent me a howler one day, demanding to know where you are, and why the Daily Prophet is saying youíre insane.Ē Sheís eyeing me from head to toe, seeing everything with those pale grey eyes of hers. Of course I remember Eldridge. I had to grovel to get him to trust us, trust me, and now Iíve lost him. Grovel, god damn it. Malfoys donít grovel.
I sigh deeply, sinking, wanting to breathe underwater, but she grabs my hair and nonchalantly starts washing it, as though she hasnít just stopped me from becoming a very dead potions dealer. ďLuna?Ē I taste her name on my tongue, and she ceases the awful scrubbing, but then continues quickly, unwilling to show me how much her name from my lips affects her.
"Mmm..." She urges me to ask what I need to know. But I've lost the question, too. Do you hate me? What should I do? How can I get my life back? I don't want to know her answers. "Nothing." I lean into the touch of her soft fingers in my hair. She's not so violent with her movements anymore, just massaging my scalp, just being close. I think sometimes she touches me just because she misses human contact. Her father died last year, a disaster waiting to happen I tell you, but he was the only family she had left.
I feel like her pet as she cleans the skin behind my ears, tickling me. She hums now, quietly, as though not even realising her own voice. I love the sound of it; itís soothing. ďGinny came to see me yesterday,Ē she says suddenly, moving behind me, getting a better access to my wild hair. ďShe and HarryÖ they are getting married. Ginny is expecting and she wants to have the wedding before the babyís born.Ē
She knows I hate it when she talks about Potter. I can feel the deep frown forming and the headache pounding andÖ bloody hell, woman! ďIím not interested.Ē
ďOf course you aren't,Ē she says, and I can hear the smile in her voice. And then, she snakes her hands around me, resting her forehead against my shoulder, inhaling my scent, the cleanness of it. She doesnít say anything, she canít. There are no words, never have been, never will be. Finally she lets go, standing, walking to the door. ďHoller if you need help getting up,Ē she yells through the door and then sheís gone.
Alone with my thoughts I canít really escape the direction they take. Itís always like this. When I come back, Iím ready to stay. When days turn to weeksÖ If I could borrow her strength, maybe then the all-consuming shame wouldnít push me over the edge. Could I try to capture the essence of her strength? Maybe there is a recipe for courage. The ingredients start to swim past me, whispering their knowledge to me, telling me which one to try, which one to discard. My mind is already working, trying to solve the impossible puzzle. Why canít it be like this when I face the problems of my real life?
The water gets cold, and still I ponder the possibilities of such potion. She needs to give me something to write with. I canít remember all of this. I try to get up, but the damn legs are still jelly. I push myself out of the tub and on to the floor, grabbing the towel she has left for me. I need to write, I need to get it out, I need to test it. I need a quill.
Crawling on all fours, I push the door open. Give me a quill, woman.
Luna jumps to my side, noticing the look on my face. She doesnít help me up but runs to her desk by the window, rummaging through the drawers. Thank Merlin, she knows me. In a matter of seconds I have a nice scroll of parchment, a quill, an ink bottle and a big mug of coffee accompanying me on the floor. She sits further away, waiting, her arms folded and her face expressionless. She doesnít even breathe, I can tell. That doesnít matter now. All that matters is an idea.
They call me a genius - or a mad scientist, depending on the day - but it's not true. I've just found the only real talent I have and put it to use. I know how to make potions. Period. After Snape died, after I spent a few months in Azkaban (thanks to the Potter clan my stay was rather short), I found myself owning all Snape's notes, all his potions ingredients, vials, scales, books, and his wand. He had left everything to me, except his home - that had burned down. I was eighteen, an ex-prisoner and I had no home. Father was still in Azkaban, and Mother lived with Andromeda, because well, Malfoy Manor had been confiscated. For some odd reason, she had found solace with her disowned sister. They had lost everything, and found each other through their loss. I still think she has lost her marbles as well, but if it makes her happy, I can't deny that from her.
A homeless outcast and the former nemesis of Harry Potter was rather keen on finding someone who wouldn't hex his puppy-faced self at first sight. In the most unlikely places, I happened to stumble on the rather strange and fairly unknown Luna Lovegood. On the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral in London she sat next to me and said, "I just saw the tomb of John Constable. I think he's dead." No hellos, no what-are-you-doing-heres, just that. She was intriguing and not at all serious in her strangeness. It was her way of telling me, "I think you're smart enough to know that I'm joking."
She took me to her place, rented her spare room to me, fed me, but most of all, she was there. She even let me build my potions lab first to her tiny kitchen and then to the small study she had used as a storage room.
Everyone thought that Luna Lovegood would follow her father's footsteps and would become an aspiring reporter after school. She jinxed everyone thoroughly by announcing that she would become an adventurer. At first she did adventure, but quite often she didn't even get as far as across the street, because she got so excited over Kwidlies and Turtlegnomes. She even made me a necklace out of the shells of those dreadful Turtlegnomes. Silly girl.
It was a happy and quiet way of living, but it didn't last very long. The press took notice of the ingenious potions I brewed, and at the same time they started to dig up all the dirt under my fingernails. They knew who I was. Everyone knew. Potter tried to interfere, tried to stop them from tearing me apart, tried until it was turned against me as well. No Death Eater would ever become a decent citizen again. They had been betrayed once already. I was to be stoned to death.
But they needed me, oh how they needed my skills. I was the one who created the potion that could detect all the remaining Death Eaters; it called them over, letting Potter and his boys arrest them with such ease. I was the one who removed the illness of Kingsley Shacklebolt. He had been cleverly poisoned, and only the notes of Severus Snape and the quickness of my mind were able to save his sorry arse.
Still, they hated me, but not nearly as much as I despised the weak and sickly creature that stared back at me from the mirror. I was a nuisance to myself and to others. Always eager to please, always unable to do so. Always trying so very hard to do the right thing or at least something that would make this small piece fit.
I was born wrong, parts of me never fitting anywhere, as though I had too many arms and legs, too many heads, too many faces. Never was able to friend anyone, never was able to win anything, never was able to please anyone, never was able to even kill one single person. And I tried so hard to fit. So damn hard. Nothing ever worked.
They shove it in my face every day, telling me what a worthless piece of scum I am. How can they think that I don't know this? I look at Luna, hoping that she could feel what I'm feeling, that she could truly know how it feels to be me. But she's turning blue from not breathing. She's trying to give me a peaceful atmosphere to work in. Doesn't she know that it soothes me, when I can feel her nearby with all the senses I have? She soothes me.
Finally she lets out a long, exhausted breath, looking at me with those big, moon-coloured eyes. Her mouth is dry and she steals a sip from my mug of now-cold-coffee. "What is it?" She points at the parchment in which I've scribbled the ingredients of the untested potion.
"You," I say and she looks confused. The smile that lights her face next makes me want to pull her closer. She knows. She can read me.
"Let me." Luna takes the scroll from me, holding it in front of her. She only needs glasses to look like a genuine professor. "You could ask Harry's blood for the root as well," she murmurs, reading further. "He's more courageous than I am."
"I don't need his blood," I snap, but regret it instantly. She just looks at me over the non-existent glasses, and turns back to the parchment. After ten long minutes, she hands it back, saying, "It's good." Good? Bloody hell. It's brilliant, and she knows it.
She smiles behind her hand, trying to hide the fact that sheís having fun at my expense. Itís too much for me and I attack her, tickling her until sheís weak laughing butter in my hands. Itís only then that I notice that Iím still wearing nothing but the white towel, and sheís lying underneath me, her eyes widening in realisation. Iím kneeling between her legs, my hands resting on either side of her shoulders. Sheís frozen, not breathing, not blinking, staring into my eyes, so similar to hers. Time stops, and I canít breathe either, all I can do is not collapse on top of her. Then, the most tentative touch of her exploring fingertips on my abdomen makes my breath hitch. I jerk back, almost getting up, when she grabs my arm, locking her eyes with mine. ďNo,Ē she whispers, pulling me closer. There isnít much strength left in me, and since sheís not letting go of my arm, I have no choice but to lower my body against hers. She feels so warm, so alive under me, and for a second there I let myself feel nothing but her.
Without warning, she slides her hands past my sides and up my back, embracing me lightly, almost lovingly, as though unwilling to ever let me go. I bury my face into her hair, wishing, hoping that this isnít a dream.
ďDraco?Ē She pushes me up from my shoulders, and reluctantly, I let her do that. But itís not words sheís looking for. She lifts her head just enough for her lips to be a breath away from mine. She moves under me, arching herself closer - and thereís nothing else I can do. Just kiss her. Just take her. Just love her.
Her lips are warm, like everything else about her. She opens up to me, spreading her legs, wrapping them around me. Her tongue tastes like honey, even though it doesnít, but sheís all that to me: sweet honey, summer nights, and the scent of lilies in the wind.
Right there, on the floor by the open bathroom door, over the spilled ink, I make love to her for the first time. Holding her near, I ask her to save me from the nothingness, beg her to forgive me everything, and when I breathe in her scent, when I lose myself within her, when I can sense nothing but her fingers curled around mine, I give in. I canít live without you.
Afterwards, when I can feel myself again, I find it difficult not to touch her. I shower her face with little kisses, finding her closed lids endearing. I whisper nonsense to her ear. I can't move; I can't leave her. I want her to know that she's everything to me. I don't want her to disappear. I don't want it to end.
Lying there eyes closed, she looks like the whole world is smiling with her. I adore you. Her words are not audible; she's not saying them to me. They are for her ears only, for her. She pulls me to a tight hug and for a second there we are engulfed entirely. I am a part of her; she is a part of me.
Together we stagger to the shower, washing each other from the afterglow. I haven't seen her naked before, and if I wasn't so weak, I would take advantage of her there and then. She's such a gorgeous little girl-woman with her blonde, waist-length hair and small hips and breasts. I bite her shoulder just to spite her.
She giggles. Luna Lovegood giggles and it sounds like fairy bells chiming. Could I ever run away from this, from her?
"That," she says dreamily as we step out of the shower, "was rather wonderful."
I couldn't agree more. When I look into the mirror over the sink, I see a young man with a pointy chin and long, blond hair. There is no sickly creature, just a normal flawed person. Can I live with that person? I shake my head, the hair framing my face, making me look like someone very much in love. It's just me. Can I live with myself?
I will try. With every step, Iíll try.