Chapter 1 : A Safe Haven
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Author’s Note: The first line is quoted from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, page 592. I’d also like to thank long_live_luna_bellatrix for help with the summary, as well as Ilia for the title. Oh, and WeasleyTwins, for encouraging me to actually sit down and write this.
Written for the May 2009 Staff Challenge.
“No, Draco,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.”
His mercy? No. The old man was daft. I was not at his mercy; it was the other way around. Albus Dumbledore—whom people claimed to be the greatest wizard of all time—was at my mercy. It didn’t matter that I was hesitating to do what I should have done minutes ago. The fact remained that I had a wand, he didn’t, and there was nothing else in the world that mattered. “You’re a fool,” I spat, so disgusted by the idea of being at his mercy that the anger inside me rose. I had never understood why people adored the dying old man in front of me so much. My headmaster was pathetic; he was weak. Look at him now! I was merely seventeen years old and I had disarmed him. Some wizard he was.
But the old grandpa was still looking at me as if he were expecting something more to come out of my mouth. Something else besides the killing curse. “What?” I sneered, my eyebrows arching as I was somewhat confused. “You think I am really at your mercy?” I guessed, not sure what else he could be waiting for. But I knew better than to cave in to an old man’s desperate attempt at staying alive. That was all Dumbledore was doing, simply trying to avoid the killing curse that was destined to come towards him in any way possible. Distracting me, tempting me, it didn’t matter, none of it would ever work.
“What I think does not matter,” he spoke softly, and I had to actually strain my ears just to pick up on the near silent words.
I stood a little taller as a smirk found its way across my face. “That’s right,” I grinned, pleased with myself. “Your thoughts mean nothing. You mean nothing.” Because as soon as I flicked my wand, Albus Dumbledore would be as dead, just like his stupid admirers, and no one could argue that fact.
“Draco, Draco, Draco,” Dumbledore muttered, shaking his head as he spoke. “If you wish to kill me, then do so now. I suppose the rest of the Death Eaters will be up here in no more than a minute and you don’t want to wait for them to have to kill me, now do you?”
“I’ll kill you when I feel like it,” I snapped, once again finding that I didn’t want to hear this old man chastise me. But the truth was hitting me in the stomach like a killing curse out of nowhere. Hard. I wanted so desperately to kill Dumbledore, but not because I wished to see my headmaster dead. I only wanted to kill him because I did not wish to find myself dead. In order to perform a killing curse, one had to really believe in what they were doing, though, and I did not meet that criteria.
The old fool, no matter how full of crap he was, had a point. No matter how much I wished to deny it, there was not enough hatred inside me to kill a man. Had I ever wished my headmaster ill fortune? Yes, certainly. But I had never managed to go all the way in my attempts to kill him and there was a reason for that. Even if I had only known it subconsciously.
Dumbledore nodded, but I had the feeling that he was not accepting my statement as the truth. It was like he could see right through me. Was I really that transparent? “Of course,” he agreed, though his eyes told a different story. Those deep blue pools of blue were silently pleading with me to come to a quicker conclusion. He was waiting for me to change my mind. All I had to do was say the magic word and I would be whisked away to potential safety. What a thought that was.
Everything inside me told me to stick to my initial plan and push onward. I could kill him. I would kill him. And I would be the Dark Lord’s favorite before morning even came. But then there was that faint voice in the back of my mind that said otherwise. The voice of reason screamed at me to take the offer that had so generously been given to me. Dumbledore was offering me a simple way out of this hole I had dug myself into and my mother would be saved too. That was an offer that no one else had been able to make until that very moment.
With Dumbledore’s plan, I could secure the safety of myself and my family. Or at least for myself and my mother. I honestly didn’t give a rat’s ass about my father, but I didn’t need to say that out loud. He could rot away in Azkaban for all I cared. And if he ever got out, Voldemort could kill him and I doubt I’d even cry. But my mother… I never wanted anyone to touch her and perhaps the only way to guarantee her safety was by accepting Dumbledore’s proposal.
We would be as good as dead to the rest of the wizarding world, but we would be protected, safe, and comfortable. Alive.
Who was anyone to say that the Dark Lord wouldn’t kill me anyway? So what if I managed to kill Dumbledore? Perhaps I’d be the favored servant for a week or so. But what would happen when I messed up and the Dark Lord is less than pleased? There’s no guarantee then that I would remain alive. The Dark Lord showed no sympathy.
Accepting Dumbledore’s promise was a surer way of staying alive than killing him. What good would it do to kill the one man who may have actually been able to protect my mother and me? All I had to do was swallow my pride and accept what he offered. Just one moment of bowing my head and coming to terms with the fact that I had failed, once again. But if failing meant ensuring my mother’s life and my own life, then perhaps that was the price I would have to pay.
No! I thought harshly, shaking away those other thoughts and getting myself back on track. I couldn’t think about any alternative plan. Not now. Not after everything I had done. I had gotten the Death Eaters into Hogwarts, which was no small feat. Right under Dumbledore’s nose, I had managed to slip in the Dark Lord’s servants. And now, I had to obey the orders he had given me.
There was no choice, really. No protection could be offered from Dumbledore—or anyone else, for that matter—that would be great enough to keep me safe forever. The Dark Lord would track me down and make sure I was killed personally for the betrayal. I would never be forgiven. Only staying in the Dark Lord’s favor would be enough to keep me alive.
But I still found myself asking, “Could you really save us?” The words were out before I even knew what I was saying, but there was no way I could take them back now. The question hung in the air and my wishful thinking was now spoken out loud.
Something alit in the headmaster’s eyes as a small smile spread across his face. It should have been reassuring, but all I could manage to think was that the man was taking far too long. His reactions were too slow and his thought process didn’t seem quite up to speed. How the hell could this man save me? “Yes, I could, Draco,” he assured me, though it was not reassuring at all. “Better than you could ever imagine.”
The footsteps were bound to be coming up the stairs any second now, I knew that. With every breath I took, my decision time was slipping through my fingertips. Either way I looked at it, I ended up dead. But what Dumbledore could offer that the Dark Lord did not, was the protection of my mother, something I had never thought possible. The idea of starting over with my mother, with the comfort of safety taking the place of a father, seemed more and more appealing with every second I thought about it.
My grip on my wand loosened and I knew for a fact that I would never be able to kill my headmaster. I had been deceiving myself into believing that I could do it, but the truth was simple. I was not a killer. I had never done anything like that before and I couldn’t make myself start now. I wasn’t a killer, and I was going to take the easy way out now. Or perhaps it was the hard way. Perhaps disobeying the Dark Lord was not only the right choice, but the difficult one as well. Who would’ve thought that I, Draco Malfoy, was going to do something right?
“Okay,” I finally managed to mutter as I swallowed my pride and bowed my head. For a moment, neither of us moved. I think that Dumbledore himself was honestly stunned that I had accepted his offer. Even if he had known that I would accept before I had been willing to admit it to myself, I don’t think he had fully prepared himself to hear me submit to his promise.
It could have been a moment where we both looked up and smiled, him proud of me for the first time in my life and I would be pleased to know that Dumbledore looked at me as he had looked at so many other students before me. But no such moment came about, for the footsteps were now heard on the staircase. In an instant I snapped out of my reverie and scrambled over to snatch up Dumbledore’s wand. “Here.” I hastily shoved the wand into the headmaster’s hands. “Now save me,” I ordered, not about to let him back out of the promise he had made me. “Now!”
It took Dumbledore a moment longer than usual—and I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with him—but his beady blue eyes soon jumped into action, darting around as he muttered an incantation underneath his breath. “Harry,” he called out softly, loud enough to hear on the balcony, but quiet enough to remain unheard by anyone that was currently sprinting up the staircase.
Unveiling himself in a rather dramatic affect, Potter stood there with his jaw dropped and his eyes wide, as if he honestly thought that I was the essence of pure evil who had just admitted to wanting to play for the other side. Anger filled up inside me as my eyes flashed to Dumbledore who was hurriedly putting up barriers and locking spells on the tower to slow the Death Eaters down. He did not see my glare, but I had a feeling he knew that I felt betrayed. He had made me look so weak, and my invisible audience had been Potter, of all people.
“Under the cloak,” Dumbledore muttered as he turned back to us, ushering me towards Potter. “Both of you, now.” I was not pleased about this predicament in the slightest, but I had made my decision, and I was not so much of a fool as to allow my pride to interfere with my life.
“Don’t step on my toes,” I remarked sarcastically, unable to help myself in the presence of the one person I could not stand above all others. Even the mudblood was more preferable than Potter. The Gryffindor didn’t say anything, though, his eyes locked with Dumbledore’s. I studied them for a fraction of a moment, but from what I gathered, there seemed to be a silent war raging between them. Most likely about me. “Can we get going here?” I snapped, and both pairs of eyes tore away from each other and glanced towards me.
“Please, Professor,” Potter pleaded, though for what exactly, I was not sure.
Dumbledore was disagreeing, that much I could understand from the way he stood and the way he shook his head at his favorite little pupil. “You agreed to follow every order, Harry.” He spoke to Potter as if he were his own son. That disgusted me. These two could have their sappy little moment later. I needed to get away now. The two of them seemed to be forgetting the fact that there were Death Eaters on the other side of the door to the Astronomy Tower, and they weren’t far away from breaking through. “You have always trusted me. Please, do not stop now,” Dumbledore said softly.
“I’m sure you two have plenty you’d like to argue about, but can we do this later?” I finally snapped. “In case you two forgot, I need to get out of here. This second would be good.”
Dumbledore nodded and took a step back. “When that door opens, you two run. Stay hidden under the cloak. Meet me at the front gates.” Potter nodded and I just stood there, wondering why the hell it was sounding like Dumbledore was leaving my life in the hands of Potter. “And Harry,” he added as an afterthought. “If you’re waiting for any more than five minutes, get off the grounds and apparate to Grimmauld Place. Do you understand?”
Potter looked hesitant and seemed to have something he desperately wanted to say. But he choked back the words and nodded and then he was beckoning me forward. Obviously he wasn’t in the talkative mood at the moment. Fine by me. It meant I didn’t have to be civil.
But the fact remained that Dumbledore was leaving me in Potter’s care. Like Potter was worth anything more than I was. “What are you going to do?” I questioned the headmaster and Potter turned back around to listen to the answer.
“I’m going to take care of the people you let into the castle tonight, Draco,” Dumbledore answered honestly. And something that felt very much like guilt plagued my stomach as his eyes met mine. The bluntness of his statement made me tear my gaze away, unable to look him in the eyes. For lack of a better word, I was ashamed of what I had done that night. And Albus Dumbledore apparently had a way of making me feel like the most guilty man on earth.
Finally dropping his arm and letting the cloak fall over us, we became invisible to the world. “Now, Harry!” Dumbledore instructed in a harsh whisper, just before the door was broken down. We didn’t waste time seeing who had come up the stairs. Potter took off and I was forced to follow at his side, for neither of us could move much farther than an inch away from each other if we wished to remain invisible the whole time.
Down the winding staircase we ran, through the corridors of the castle I knew so well. We made our way down all seven floors of Hogwarts before Potter came to a screeching halt as he saw his little friends. “Not now,” I hissed, my own safety becoming much more important than anyone else’s at the moment. They would all live. My fate was still up for debate. “Potter,” I warned, about to mention that Dumbledore had ordered him, even if I had no clue what that agreement had been about.
But as Potter’s eyes lingered on his girlfriend, my thoughts strayed off. What the hell was I doing? The Dark Lord was going to find me, he was going to kill me. I was being an idiot. No one could protect me! Not even Dumbledore. But I couldn’t go back to the Dark Lord now. That would mean my death, no questions asked.
I caught sight of my own friends out of the corner of my eyes and my stomach twisted and I felt as if I was going to be sick. I was a traitor to my friends, just as much as I was a traitor to the Dark Lord. And I was a traitor to Dumbledore for doubting his ability to protect me. Was it possible to be such a traitor that you don’t even know who you’re betraying anymore?
Potter’s instantaneous movement pulled me back to the reality of the situation. In an instant, I was forced to continue on, stuck on this path I had chosen. Potter was sprinting and I was forced to stick with him. The consequences of having too much space between us would have been deadly; and though I was no fan of Potter, I valued my life over my comfort at that moment in time.
“Want to try to remember to let me know when we’re moving, next time?” I couldn’t help but snap at him.
“Want to try shutting up so no one hears random voices?” he retorted and I had no choice but to not respond. He had a point. No one was supposed to know that we were there. Dumbledore had probably already told the Death Eaters that I was long dead. It would do no good for someone to hear my voice in the middle of an otherwise empty room. They would be just a little bit suspicious, I would think.
The front gates of Hogwarts were in our sight as soon as we exited Hogwarts’s Entrance Hall. Determined to make it to Dumbledore’s designated meeting place, both of us forgot our old prejudices for a moment as we made a dash for the huge gates of Hogwarts. It was only when we finally made it there that Potter rounded on me. Still in close quarters due to the confinement of the cloak, his face was mere inches away from my own. “What are you playing at, Malfoy?” he demanded. “You don’t want to be saved,” he grounded out through his clenched teeth, obviously displeased about the current situation.
“Did it ever occur to you Potter, that maybe I do?” I snarled. I didn’t want to explain myself to Potter. I didn’t need to. He was just the stupid Chosen One, too arrogant to see past his inflated head and I didn’t need to waste my time on him. It didn’t matter that he had just helped me in taking a step closer to safety.
But standing on open grounds while Death Eaters roamed Hogwarts freely was not where I really wanted to be and each moment that I started to fidget, unable to stay perfectly still, and it’s this that Potter chooses to comment on. “Can you not?” he snapped and I couldn’t help but smirk.
“What? You have nothing better to comment on?” That’s the case, whether he admits it or not. He doesn’t know me one bit and I just called him on it. Idiot thought he knew me. No one knows me. No one will ever understand what it feels like to stand next to Potter, waiting for Dumbledore, and knowing that befriending my enemies is the only way I can possibly remain alive.
I was saved when Dumbledore finally arrived in a rush. “Follow me,” he instructed and I wondered how he knew we were there, or if he simply trusted that we were. Potter seemed sure of himself, though, and I followed him obediently out of the walls of Hogwarts to where apparation was possible. “You can take it off now,” Dumbledore told us and Potter threw the cloak off. “We’re apparating back to Grimmauld now. I’ll take Draco.”
Potter nodded and twisted on his heels before apparating away with a pop. I turned to Dumbledore, unable to utter the simple thanks that was rising in my throat. Instead, my eyes met his and I nodded, a simple understanding coming between us. And I think he knew that I was saying thank you, but that I just couldn’t manage to utter the words that had never before passed over my lips. “Come, Draco. We must leave.”
I didn’t love the idea of linking arms with the headmaster, but I did so anyway, ignoring the fact that if anyone saw me like this, they would ask where the real Draco Malfoy had gone. It didn’t matter, though. Because from that point on, everyone would believe me dead and I would be starting a new life in safety. “On three, Draco,” Dumbledore instructed. The moment he said three, I apparated away with him, allowing him to guide me to whatever safe haven he had in mind.
And I found no reason to question him.