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Let Darkness End by redherring
Chapter 1 : obscurum
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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A/N: I've had this stored on my computer for absolutely ages - it was actually one of the first things I ever wrote, I think. With a considerable amount of editing and re-writing, I'm finally daring to post it.

Disclaimer: Obviously, Harry Potter is all JKR's. Three later quotes in italics are taken from p12 of Deathly Hallows, so I don't own them either. 

Hope you enjoy :) 
 

 



Draco does not sleep on the first night.

He does not sleep but he lies on the floor, still and quiet, hour after hour. He stares at the ceiling though there’s nothing to see. A cloaked figure walks past every now and then; he hears their footsteps echoing off the walls and the swish, swish, swish of their cloaks against the stone floor. A member of the Order on guard duty, he assumes. He prays each time that they are coming for him, that they have realised their mistake and will let him go. He still believes he can be saved.


*


On the second night he sleeps fitfully: he dreams of all he has seen. The Dark Lord is there, laughing at him. You should have done better, Draco.

He wakes to find that the mirthless laughter is coming from his own mouth. Disgusted, he retches, but his disgust pours, explodes, bursts from him and he throws up on the stone floor. The acrid smell makes him retch again.


*


The third night brings company. The door to his cell is flung open and a figure is forced inside. They remove their hood, and beneath the dirt and blood caking their face he can make out the familiar features of the Death Eater Nott.

“They got you too, eh?” asks Nott.

Draco does not reply. Conversation feels invasive, intrusive: he has enjoyed solitude.

“I tried to run,” Nott says, “but I should have known I could never escape. How long have you been here?”

Draco rolls onto his side to face the wall. Nott seems to get the message.


*


After almost a week in Azkaban, Draco receives a visitor. He is let out of his cell by an unsmiling man (Arthur Weasley, his memory reminds him with a jolt) who says barely a word but clicks his commands and glares his disapproval. They take a portkey away from the island prison and Draco stares at the ragged fortress from the mainland, remembering his very first sight of it as he was dragged here with cuffs on his wrists and abuse in his ears.

There is another building on the mainland, a smaller, paler reflection of its sister leering across the dark stretch of water. How considerate, Draco thinks, to save visitors to the condemned the unpleasantness of an Azkaban visit themselves.

Draco is led inside, into a small, grey room with a desk and a chair on either side of it. He is pushed into one of them, and Weasley stands at the back of the room. The door is opened. His mother walks in and he feels his heart sink.

Narcissa looks dreadful. Her eyes are huge, icy pools in her white face as she extends a hand to him across the table. He looks away, afraid the sorrow in her swimming eyes will drown him too.

“No touching,” Weasley says sharply, and she withdraws her hand.

“How are you?” she asks, her words soft and embracing as her hands cannot.

Draco shrugs.

Tears brim in those icy pools; it is so cold in here he is surprised they don’t solidify. “I tried to come before,” she says, “but they wouldn’t let me see you.”

He wouldn’t have wanted her to come. He is glad they kept her away so that he wouldn’t have to.

“I haven’t been able to see your father at all,” she says, studying him for a reaction he will not give. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything about him? No… of course not…” Her lips shiver; he prays she will not cry.

“Please talk to me,” she begs. “I don’t know when I’ll be allowed to come again.”

They go on like this for a few minutes, no longer. Weasley coughs from the back of the room to declare the end of the torture. “Time’s up.”

Such a short time. Hardly worth the effort, Draco thinks, but still he stands at once. Narcissa rises without complaint, adjusting the skirt of her robes and telling him she loves him.

“I love you too, Mother.” His voice is hoarse and cracked with lack of use.

She smiles briefly before being ushered out.


*


Things get worse instead of better. Sometimes he wakes up screaming, but that isn’t unusual here. Sometimes he wakes up crying, and that is even worse. The first time it happens, he finds Nott leaning over him, uneasy.

“Are you all right?” His voice is surprisingly gentle.

“Of course I am.” Draco sits up and wipes his eyes on his sleeve.

Nott unfurls from his crouched position and walks back over to his side of the cell. They have divided it in this way from day one; in this place of public humiliation, each man craves his own seclusion.

“If you’ll let me, I can help you,” Nott says.

“I don’t need your help!”

It’s a good thing that he doesn’t, because Nott doesn’t offer it again.


*


Nott often talks in his sleep, Draco has noticed. Never enough to keep him awake himself, it has never been an issue for him, until one night Draco wakes to hear the calling of a name. At first he almost mistakes it for his own.

Draco stares for a moment at his unconscious form, at the lifeless corpse of a man. He sleeps splayed out, fearless, his snores deep and low and his breathing regular. Draco watches, uncomfortable in the knowledge that on previous nights Nott has watched over him like this.

As though he can feel the eyes on him, Nott soon wakes.

“Do you miss him?” Draco asks.

“What?” Nott’s voice is gruff with sleep. “Who?”

“Your son.”

He sits, running a hand through his remaining, tangled hair. He doesn’t want to answer and Draco knows he should leave it there, but still he will press him because here in this hell all boundaries are broken, all social laws forgotten.

“Yes,” Nott replies eventually. “Of course, you know Theo, don’t you?”

No, Draco muses. He does not know Theodore Nott any longer, and nor does Theo know him. Theo is not here. Theo escaped where he did not. The sins of the father, he thinks.


*


It is a long time since Draco last spared a thought for Theo, or for Vincent, Greg, Pansy, Blaise, Millicent or Daphne, for that matter. Though he is in no doubt that his plight is the worst of all possible worlds, still he wonders what their lives are like now. If he had succeeded, the world Draco had been helping to create would have been theirs too. When he fell, they all did.

Greg escaped with a minor sentence, Draco knows; Theo will suffer for his father’s sins. They are the lucky ones – Draco still shudders at the memory of Vincent’s fiery death. Blaise and Pansy will turn their backs on those they once loved, just as Slytherins should.

The rest will drift, caught somewhere in between, saved by a lack of true guilt but bound by the ties of their pure blood. Daphne’s uncle, Draco knows, torched a house full of Muggles and watched it burn to ashes. He knows because he was there to watch it too. Three of Millicent’s cousins bear the mark; she is closely related to the Blacks and the Rosiers. There is no escaping it for any of them. They are all in this together and have been since the beginning.

If Draco had been given his way, he would have pulled them all in further. He would have had them join. They had crowded round his chair as subjects to their sovereign’s throne, and he had shouted silky lies just as they had been fed to him. They had all believed him, except for Blaise, perhaps, but Blaise had never believed in anything.

Draco had convinced them he was god, and he had the mark on his arm to prove it.


*


“Do you miss your father?” Nott asks him one day, after an eternity of pauses that have shrunk and stretched across the stifling space between them over the last few days, weeks, lifetimes.

“I miss my mother,” Draco admits.

“I know. But Lucius?”

Draco says nothing.


*


He could have said something, perhaps should have. His answer is not difficult.

Draco has always loved his father. Mistakes are made and grudges held, but blood will always bind.

A part of him thinks that he should hate his father, but unlike love, that subtle, ever-beating pulse, hating takes energy, and that is the one thing Draco does not have. Listless, tired, he stares at the ceiling day after day, barely speaking, hardly moving, rarely eating.


*


His mother comes to visit him a second time, and tells him she’s got him a lawyer. He almost wishes she hadn’t bothered. He cannot see how it will do any good.

Unsurprised to find he enjoys self-pity, he smiles, which she seems to mistake for gratitude.

“It will be fine,” she says, and her smile is far brighter than his. “I promise. It will all be fine. Don’t worry, my darling.”

Why not, he wonders. He hasn’t got a chance in hell and he tells her so.

“Don’t say that,” she says fiercely. “Don’t you dare. This lawyer, she’s very good. One of the best. She’ll do everything she can. Don’t worry, Draco.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. And he is; he’s sorry for everything.


*


The next day, the Dementors return to Azkaban. It is certainly a fitting punishment for them all, he thinks, a twisted irony to be tormented by those they once saw as allies.

They terrify him. He sees them, sometimes, when he dares to open his eyes, though this is hard to bear. He sees them and remembers being thirteen and laughing when Potter fainted on the train. He has fainted plenty since they came here.

When he is at his most despairing, he thinks he would like to die. Then when he thinks of the rope rough against his skin, his legs swinging as he hangs, or of stealing a wand for a flash of green light, or of slitting his own veins until streams of his life poured from them, he knows he could never do it.


*


“Hello,” says his lawyer. She’s young, but not too young, and tall, taller than him. Her head is a mass of tightly-wound dark curls and she doesn’t smile when Draco looks up to meet her eye.

“Hi.”

“My name is Maxine Parker.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“I’ll do what I can for you,” she says bluntly. “I can’t promise anything except that it isn’t going to be easy, and that I will do my job to the best of my ability.”

She leans in a little across the forbidding metal table. He fights the urge to retreat.

“I just want to make one thing clear,” she says.

He nods.

“I have no respect whatsoever for you and your kind, and I have no sympathy. I am only doing this for the money. Got that?”


*


One bleary day, he wakes to find that Nott is gone. Draco spends the morning wondering, worrying, pacing. At what may be noon, though he has no way to be sure, Nott returns, escorted by a Dementor.

Draco leaps up. “Where’ve you been?”

“My trial.”

“Oh. I –”

“I got life, of course.” Absurdly, Nott smiles. Perhaps it is laugh or cry, Draco thinks.

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“They were lenient. I was lucky.” A laugh bursts from his throat. “Rodolphus, Rabastan, Mulciber... they were Kissed.”

Nott bends down and scoops up his meagre possessions. He takes them with him, Draco knows, because they’re all his has left in this world. When Draco leaves he will do the same.

“You’re… going?”

“They’re moving me to another cell. In isolation.”

“Oh. Well... goodbye, then.”

“You’ll be out soon,” Nott says urgently. “They can’t give you long, not after what Narcissa did. When you get out, you’ll talk to Theo, won’t you? You’ll tell him – tell him how fucking sorry I am?” His hands shake even if his voice does not.

“Of course,” Draco says, “of course I will.”

“Thank you. Well... you look after yourself, Malfoy.”

And with that he’s gone, the Dementor swooping after him. Draco is left alone in the blackness and the quiet.


*


A life in Azkaban is no life at all. He knows Nott will die within ten, twenty years.

He desperately wishes it hadn’t come to this. He wonders if Nott is missing him too.

That night, Draco sobs for the father he has lost.


*


Nott deserves his sentence, does he not? He has murdered, tortured, maimed… He deserves to be punished for the crimes he committed, as do they all.

He thinks about them, joined forever by a mark that burns even now. Avery, McNair, Yaxley, Selwyn, Jugson, Rodolphus and Rabastan. Bellatrix. Lucius.

Draco too belongs on that list. He has committed those crimes. His forearm blazes with a fire that wakes him up screaming, writhes with a snake that he imagines still can move.

But he has never killed. He has never been able to kill another human being. Draco, Draco, you are not a killer. Dumbledore was right about one thing.

And so, Draco wonders, does this make him better than the others? Or does it simply make him weaker?


*


His turn must come eventually. He is called to a meeting with the prison officials, a gathering in a cold, Dementor-guarded room. He drowns in the waves of despair it creates while the panel, seated along a harsh metal desk, are protected by an otter patronus that patrols up and down. There are two redheaded men he has heard are Weasleys, a black-haired witch glaring at him down a beak of a nose, and, incredibly, Hermione Granger. Does she not have better things to do?

Granger doesn’t look at him. She shuffles the pile of parchments on the table in front of her, she mutters to the witch at her side. She adjusts her inkpot, her quill; she stares out of the window while she waits for them to begin.

He thinks of the drawing room at home and what had happened the previous year. Her writhing on the floor, convulsing and crying as pain shuddered through her. Her blood on the carpet, the spells that wouldn’t get it out, not completely. Bellatrix lowering her wand, pausing, offering him a go if he wanted. Granger’s eyes, wet and accusing.

He thinks of all this and he tries not to look at her either.

“Draco Malfoy,” says one of the Weasleys. Draco can’t help but stare at the scars on his face. “Your trial is to be held two weeks from today.”

“Would you like legal representation?” inquires the second Weasley, who is shorter than the first, more muscular, his forearms littered with scars and burns. The war has marked them all in one way or another, Draco thinks. “The Ministry is obliged to provide a lawyer for any man who will pay.”

Draco shakes his head – he has Parker, for all the good she will do. He risks a glance at Granger. She looks rather taken aback. Perhaps she supposes he is arrogant enough to think does not need a lawyer. Perhaps she thinks he believes he does not deserve one: perhaps she thinks him a martyr.

“Well, that’s all.” The first Weasley signals to the Dementor, which obeys at once like the obedient pet they all know it is not.

It seizes Draco’s arm in its grip of steel, and he is reminded of the cuffs that bound and bit on his first journey here. The Dementor leads him through the door; in the shimmering glass of its window he catches a glimpse of ghostly skin and dirty robes, unkempt hair so long that it almost brushes his shoulders.

He looks away. He has no desire to see the face in the mirror.


*


Time passes slowly, painfully, dragging on over the next two weeks. Draco counts down the days, though sometimes it is hard to tell when one starts and the next begins. He makes a tally to keep track, scratching lines onto the wall with an old nail he has found.

He meets occasionally with Parker, and she does little to calm his fears. She hates him, he can see that. He has no idea why she is defending him; his mother can’t be paying her that much. Each time she leaves him she leaves him feeling worse, and there is no comfort he can grasp at but scratch yet another of his lines on the wall.

He sometimes considers etching in his name as well, perhaps along with some sort of message for future inmates. It is a romantic ideal, an action of fiction’s great heroes condemned without cause.

But this is not fiction, and he is no hero. He has long since known that history will paint him the villain.


*


On what he calculates to be the day before his trial, he is woken by the grating groan of the cell door opening. A large man is pushed inside. Draco shrinks back; he has no desire for a cellmate.

Lucius!” the man growls.

“What – no, I’m Draco,” Draco corrects, alarmed. “Who are you?”

“Crabbe,” he says, and even in the dim light Draco can see that his face is contorted, eyes screwed small and jaw set tight. “And you killed my son.”

“What – no!” Draco stutters. “No – I didn’t –”

“Don’t lie to me!”

“It was an accident!” Draco insists, fear bubbling. “I didn’t start the fire – it was Goyle, I think, it wasn’t me I swear –”

Before Draco knows it he is flat on his back, arms flying to cover his face as heavy blows rain down on him. No, he tries to cry, no, I didn’t do it. He’s sure he didn’t, though it seems so long ago now. And if he did then it must have been an accident; he has always been too weak, too scared. He has never killed.

But he has also never known true physical pain, and it is only fitting that he should meet it here.

The sharpness eventually dims into the blurring of agony when, finally, Crabbe gives up the attack. Draco does not move. He fights to stay conscious, but as blackness beckons he lets go, gratefully sinking into the painlessness of oblivion.


*


He wakes the next morning and realises that it is the day of his trial. He still does not get up because it hurts, everything hurts, everything, but it will be over soon, won’t it, they will come, they will take him away and all of this will end. It is his trial; they will try him and they will find him innocent.

He waits and he waits, and he waits in vain.

Why don't they come?


*


The next day he sits in a chair in a courtroom of men who hate him. (He was only one day off.) The chair is hard, high-backed, throne-like. (He could have been a king but he has made himself the fool.) Chains snake around his arms and bind him to it; the cold eyes upon him keep his own to the floor. (He daren’t look when he won’t like what he sees.)

He’s afraid now. He wishes Parker would hurry up, but she is nowhere to be seen.

He leans his head against the back of the chair, closes his eyes against the tide of murmuring voices. He knows his mother is here, somewhere.

He opens his eyes again but the light hurts and the sight of the entire Wizengamot sitting before him makes him feel queasy, so he closes them again. The light still burns against his closed eyelids. His limbs ache, sting, throb. He feels weak and slightly faint.

“Order!” someone is shouting. “Order, order!”

His head shoots up. They can’t start now. He isn’t ready, she isn’t here. He can’t do this alone.

A man stands up; an unfamiliar voice speaks. “Draco Malfoy, you have been brought here in front of the Council of Magical Law so we can pass judgement upon you.”

Draco forces his eyes to stay open, squinting against the light that is so painfully bright. He sees Cornelius Fudge, the former Minister for Magic. He wonders why they would give an inept fool a second chance but condemn the misguided one.

“We have heard the evidence against you,” Fudge continues, and Draco wants to beg him to stop, plead for just five more minutes because he needs Parker to be here. But she will come, she will, he’s sure of it. She promised she would do her job.

“Draco Malfoy, you are charged with organising the raid on Hogwarts school in the summer of 1996, with the injuring or otherwise incapacitating of Katherine Bell and Ronald Weasley, with the attempted murder of Albus Dumbledore, with the use of the Unforgivable curses. You are charged with bearing the Dark Mark. How do you plead?”

Draco doesn’t know what to say – there is no one to put the words in his mouth.

“How do you plead?” Fudge repeats.

Draco coughs and blood pours from his mouth down his chin, down the torn and shabby robes he has been wearing for God-knows how long. He’ll give them the truth. It’s all he has.

“Guilty,” he says, his teeth stained scarlet.

Fudge nods. “Does the defendant have anything he wishes to say before we make our judgement?”

Draco shakes his head. There’s nothing, nothing that can help.

Fudge turns to the Wizengamot. “The defendant has supplied the Ministry, of his own accord, with information regarding Vol-Voldemort, which we shall take into consideration.” He clears his throat. “I now ask the jury to raise their hands if they agree that the appropriate sentence would be ten years in Azkaban?”

Every one of the witches and wizards on the right hand side of the dungeon raise their hands. Somewhere in the room, he hears a woman begin to cry.

A Dementor glides towards Draco and the chains on the chair recoil. He gets to his feet very slowly, clutching onto the back of the chair.

The room is swimming in front of his eyes. He sways on the spot. The Dementor reaches out a skeletal hand to grasp his arm, and Draco sinks to the stone floor into the darkness that has been waiting.


*


He opens his eyes slowly, the effort greater than it should be. He is lying on an impossibly soft, wonderfully comfortable bed. He wonders if he is dreaming. He prays that he isn’t.

The door opens and a woman walks in. It’s Parker. He sits up and gasps.

“Careful,” she says sharply, “you’re still on the mend.”

He stares around, bemused.

“How are you feeling?” she asks.

“Where am I?”

“St Mungo’s.” She measures an amount of clear liquid into a goblet, holds it up to the light for examination, hands it to him when satisfied.

“What’s this?”

“Skele-grow. You’ve got four broken ribs and a fracture in your left arm, as I’m sure you’ve felt by now.”

“Why – why are you here?”

“Because your mother is still paying me.”

His mother. He feels a sudden, wrenching need to see her.

“She wanted to come,” Parker tells him, “but they wouldn’t let her. And the Healers wouldn’t help, when they heard who you were. So you’re stuck with me. You’re just lucky I got halfway through Healer training before dropping out for law school.”

He nods vaguely and his head starts to throb. He rubs it gingerly.

“Drink up,” she says, and he throws back the Skele-grow. It tastes vile and he spits it out and she forces him to take it again.

He lies back on his pillows, and Parker sits there still staring at him. “How did you get in this state, anyway?”

He doesn’t answer.

“Fine then, don’t tell me.”

“I got in a fight,” he says.

“I see.”

He rubs his head again. “Where were you?” he asks.

She says, “You should get some sleep.”


*


She hadn’t told him how bad the bruises were. He’s a right mess, a mass of purple and blue, with tinges of green and brown where some have started to heal. He can feel what the mirror won’t show, the blotches of bruising down his side, chest, back. But his face bothers him the most, more than it probably should. He is embarrassed to think how he must have looked that day at his trial, how he must look to Parker now. He runs his fingers over the lump above his swollen eye and remembers the pounding of Crabbe’s fists.

Draco discards the mirror. He lies down and closes his eyes and tries to fall asleep.


*


He cannot prevent himself from looking; he is morbidly curious. And though what he sees terrifies him he cannot help but look again. The figure continues to revolve, hanging upside down directly above Draco’s head, suspended by invisible ropes and the disgust of many staring eyes.

The Dark Lord raises Lucius’s wand and the prisoner wakes; she groans, struggling helplessly against her invisible bonds. Now she is awake it seems distasteful to stare, so Draco looks away.

“Do you recognise our guest, Severus?”

The woman calls out to Snape for help, her voice cracked, terrified. Draco stares down at the table but her reflection writhes in the polished surface.

“And you, Draco?”

Draco flinches at the sound of his name, jerks his head as his only response. With an involuntary glance upwards he sees that Charity Burbage is crying now, tears pouring from her eyes into her hair.

Draco barely remembers her. He had never taken Muggle studies. He glances at his mother beside him, at his parents holding hands under the table. He looks at the Dark Lord just in time to see him raise his father’s wand.

“Avada Kedavra.”

There is a flash of green light. The woman crashes down onto the table below. A gasp leaps from him unsanctioned and Draco falls out of his chair and she’s dead, she’s dead she’s dead she’s dead, and screams have replaced her gasping tears, high and piercing, gut-wrenching, painful –

“Calm down!” a woman is saying as still the screams rage on. The teacher, he wonders, back to haunt him from the grave? “Everything’s all right, just be quiet!”

Draco wakes up and realises that he is the one screaming. Parker is standing beside him, anger and pity in her face.

“Sorry,” he mutters, rolling onto his side away from her. This lessens the pain his back but then his ribs begin to blaze. He sits up, gasping.

She fetches a bottle from the cupboard. “Drink this.”

He does and the pain vanishes instantly, but the scene is still spinning in his mind. He leans over the edge of his bed, bile burning bitter in his throat, and vomits onto the spotless floor.

She cleans it up with her wand, and Draco feels a pang of longing. He hasn’t been allowed a wand in so long.


*


When he wakes to find her sobbing at his bedside, he knows he is going to discover unpleasant truths. He watches her for a moment with the uncomfortable knowledge that he is intruding on something very private, but with a perverse compulsion to watch such an intimate display of grief.

“Why are you still here?” he asks when he can bear it no longer. He doesn’t mean now, as she sits there forcing him to witness her tears – he is asking why she has come at all.

“I should have come to your trial,” she says.

He doesn’t tell her it’s ok, because it isn’t. She should have come.

She whispers, “But my son was younger than you.”

People use it so often these days, that cruel, ominous past tense. He knows now what is coming.

“I thought I could punish you. I thought I could take your money and promise I would help and ... and then let them sentence you to life. And I’m not sorry. But I – I should have come.”

“I got ten years.”

“You deserve every day of it. But I couldn’t have got you less, anyway.”

“I’m sorry about your son,” he says and he is, more than ever before. He does not pity her as he knows she pities him – he is truly, wholly, fiercely sorry for what has been done, for what he has done, for what they have inflicted on this mad, beautiful, broken world.

How did it happen? he wants to ask. In what brutal way did Death take him? Draco has seen men die so often it would be easy to think it doesn’t matter. But this woman is the result of death; now she has confessed it, he can see the loss of her son etched into her eyes, her twitching hands, the lines on her weeping face.

Sorry, he says again, I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. He apologises until both of them are crying together.


*


He returns to Azkaban the next day. It is better, he supposes: he is clean, well fed, his hair has been cut, his injuries have been cured, and he feels stronger, healthier, more alive than he has in a very long time.

But he cannot escape the inevitable, which is that he will have to spend ten more years in this hell. He doesn’t know if he can do that.


*


Ten years,” Crabbe spits. Draco curses the guard that chose to share the news with him. “Is that all?”

He has learnt that it is best not to respond.

“I got twenty-five, d’you know that? Twenty-five fucking years. So why did you get so little? Because you’re young? Because of Narcissa’s last-minute change of fucking heart?”

“Yes.”

A grunt. “Typical.”

Then –

No,” he says slowly. “That’s not enough. They wouldn’t ... not for that...”

And then it seems to click: it is an apelike epiphany.

“You – you informed on us, didn’t you, you rotten little bastard?”

“What? I –”

“Once the Dark Lord was killed and we knew it was all over, I got away. I didn’t hang around like half those bloody idiots and just let them take me. I was on the run for over a month until they found me. D’you know where it was they found me, Malfoy? I went to one of the fucking safe-houses, didn’t I?”

“I swear, I didn’t –”

“When they got to me they had a right laugh about it, said they knew where all of them were so even if I did run I’d have nowhere to go. They said they knew everything, said someone had snitched.” He advances, a hunter with his prey firmly in sight. “I should’ve known it was you. My money was on Selwyn, actually.”

“It wasn’t me!”

“I’ll bet it fucking was.”

He’s much too close now; Draco can see the sweat shining on the taut skin of his bald, square head.

“You’re the reason I’m here. So I’d better make it a fucking memorable stay, hadn’t I?”


*


Though Draco does not know it, he has been in Azkaban for a little over eighteen months. The days merge together, a fusion of horrors that have no end.

He supposes he should do more, be more, feel more than he does. He shouldn’t sit here wasting and wishing the days of his life away. But all he knows now is that his nightmares are real and that every day will be like the one before it.

Ten years. It might as well be a lifetime.


*


One morning, Draco is woken early, unexpectedly, by his guard. Ignoring Crabbe’s joke about the death penalty, he hauls himself up and is taken through the prison, to the mainland, to the small, grey, familiar room. He used to meet Parker here; here he watched his mother cry all those months ago.

He’s confused by this. He knows he is no longer allowed visitors.

There is a table sat in the middle, a floating island in the expanse of grey, chairs thrown on either side of it. He sits down because no one has told him not to; he wonders why he is here. Perhaps someone is going to interrogate him. But there is nothing more they can take from him – he has already given them everything he has.

The door opens, but he does not look up. He hears footsteps, unforgiving against the hard floor, and then someone slips into the chair on the opposite side of the table.

“Malfoy,” says a voice he most certainly recognises.

His head shoots up and he stares. He doesn’t believe it.

“Hello,” Potter says.

His ears must be lying, his eyes deceiving him, because Harry Potter cannot be sitting in front of him.

Potter.” It is a rasp, a croak. He has spent weeks ignoring Crabbe’s shooting words and conversations that are meant to trap him. He is embarrassed at his own voice but Potter, Potter is too polite to comment.

“How are things?” Potter asks.

“Oh, never better.”

This must be the first civil conversation they have ever had. Civility can come now, Draco thinks, only now that it is all over and each has received what is owed to him.

There is a pause, but it isn’t awkward. Draco doesn’t stop staring, but neither does Potter. Draco drinks him in, his old childhood enemy who is now the saviour of the whole world. Potter is no longer that scrawny scar-head chopping daisy roots in the dungeons or forever beating him to the Snitch, and it shows in his face, his manner, his eyes. Draco has a sudden urge to know what changes Potter sees in him. He imagines the old Slytherin prefect in torn and ragged robes, face gaunt, teeth greying, reduced to as little as a man can be. This is the image he has held in his mind for all these months, and he dreads the thought of it being confirmed.

“Why are you here?” he asks eventually.

“I’m getting you out of Azkaban,” says Potter. “I’ll do what I did for your mother. That is, if you want me to.”

It isn’t a lie or a sadistic taunt. Potter is too good to lie; he doesn’t have it in him to be so cruel as to taunt Draco now. And he says it as if it is the easiest thing in the world. For him, Draco supposes, it is. But –

“Why?” Draco mutters. “Why are you doing this?”

Potter looks uncomfortable now. He makes an odd gesture in Draco’s direction. “I know what you’ve done,” he says, “and you aren’t like the rest of them. You’re an arrogant idiot, Malfoy, but you don’t deserve this.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.”

“Thanks,” Draco says again. “You’re a good guy, Potter,” he tells him, because he is, and because the silence has become pressing.

“So is that a yes?” asks Potter.

Draco opens his mouth, and hesitates. He sees Dumbledore falling from the Astronomy tower under the leer of the glowing green skull. Grown men weep bloody tears as he tortures them at the Dark Lord’s command; third-, second-, even first-years writhe under his Cruciatus curse as Amycus Carrow bellows his orders. Charity Burbage begs him for help he cannot give; Granger twists and screams as Bellatrix hits her with curse after curse.

And then Draco thinks of Crabbe, of the Dementors. He thinks of his mother, sobbing at his trial. He thinks of Dumbledore again, and the curse that he did not send towards the old man.

“Malfoy?”

“Yes,” Draco says. “Yes it is.”

 
 




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