Draco regretted picking the fight as soon as the wall slid back behind him. He shook his head in anger, feeling sorry for himself.
This whole Death Eater thing was starting to get to him. At school, it was easy to put up a pompous pureblood supremacy act, because no one’s life was on the line and all that was exchanged were angry words and threats between the houses that dared call him on it. But here, in the real world, where people were being lined up to be killed because they didn’t have “perfect” blood running through their veins was horrific and inhumane. How long would he be able to maintain his sense of right and wrong before he turned out like his aunt, who performed the Crutacius curse on anyone who looked at her wrong? How long was it before he lost all sense of humanity too?
He found himself back in Ashley’s room. Kicking off his shoes and stepping in fully clothed, slamming himself angrily onto the pillow. He looked over to the bedside dresser, seeing the picture clearly from the light of the setting sun. He grabbed for it, bringing it closer to his face.
It was most definitely the four Gryffindors, but there was snow behind them. It must have been taken right before Christmas break. Their black cloaks were a stark contrast from the pure blanket of white powder and Ashley’s hair nearly blended in, making her look bald. Her blue eyes were merry and bright, her silent laughter mocked him as she looked up to the photo taker, perhaps that stupid Colin Creevey git.
Of course, stupid Weasley and Granger were giving each other goo-goo eyes, their arms wrapped around one another’s shoulders tightly. Draco snarled at Harry’s image, who had his arm wrapped around Ashley, holding her close to him, hardly looking at the camera because he was so infatuated by her presence.
In the back of his mind, a gnawing started. It was small, but bothersome all the more. And the gnawing made him worry that since he was completely out of the picture, if he was looking at the portrait of two couples, not just a group of friends.
His heart wrenched so painfully he let out a cry, flinging the picture in the corner. He heard the glass shatter in the frame. Sitting up quickly, he let out a roar of frustration that seemed to shake the vastness of the Manor. He flew out of bed, hurrying to the dresser, knocking everything off its surface. A bottle shattered and the smell of vanilla reeked throughout the room.
He tore at his blond hair with an angry yell, finding nothing else to break. She had left very little behind and what she did he broke in fury. He stumbled back to his bed, tripping over the covers that fell from it, catching himself as the stumbled on the edge of the mattress.
“DAMN IT, POTTER!” He screamed, agony tearing at his chest. He fell on the floor, the blankets cushioning his fall. He put his head in his hands and wept, trembling with anger and hatred. Hadn’t Potter stolen everything from him throughout the years? And now her? The one thing that kept him together?
He had rejected his offer of friendship in his first year, been humiliated by him at Quidditch his second, had himself turned into a ferret as a result of Potter’s insistent insolence his fourth and caused his family humiliation two years ago at the Ministry. Potter had everything: friends, a family structure that adored him, teachers that admired him and anything else the prick wanted. Draco knew that there were more than enough girls at Hogwarts’ to have kept him satisfied. Draco knew he was meant to play the antagonist to the hero, the enemy to fuel Potter onward for the journey. He knew that he was meant to lose in the end, that he would always be regarded as the jerk that gave the three a hard time.
But this year, he had had something all to himself. He had something that Potter didn’t, that he couldn’t take away. And now? Now it was bound to happen. If he couldn’t find a way to get back to Ashley, it would naturally fall into place that they should be together. The four best friends, all marrying each other. It was a perfect picture, a flawless ending that only happened in fairy tales.
Draco collapsed on his side, hating himself for neglecting the fact that Ashley would turn to Potter in her time of heartache.
But would you have stayed? A voice asked him.
“No.” He croaked, “I had to keep her safe.”
And Potter could do that…that was the trade off.
“You promised.” He croaked, as if his voice could carry miles and miles away to her, reminding her of her love for him.
He felt himself at the lowest of lowest, in the darkest of nights and in the deepest of depths. How had he declined so much in one week? Was this what it meant to be a Death Eater? To have all the happiness sucked out of him, only leaving him an empty and bitter shell?
He had completely worn himself out, too tried to move and get back into the bed. He knew he would regret the stiffness he would feel in the morning, but moving wasn’t worth the pain of the shards of his broken heart piercing against him.
Four o’clock came much quicker than expected and Draco had been in the same position that he had fallen into last night. He was exhausted, drained of all energy and hurt by something that he didn’t even know was taking place. But there was the same fear scratching at the back of his mind that wouldn’t let him be.
His muscles were on fire as he pushed himself off the floor, untangling his legs from the sheets. Shoving the blankets back on the bed, he grabbed for his shoes, pulling them on. He looked at himself in a small mirror by the door and saw a shell of a man he used to be. He had grown even paler than before, his hair was quite lackluster and his grey eyes were as cold and icy as they had ever been. Purple bags started to pull at the bottom of his eyes, a tender puffiness swelled underneath the touch of his fingers.
Angry at his sorry appearance, he bolted out the door, finding the Manor utterly quiet.
He turned down the hallway, making his way to his mother’s room. When he opened the door, it was empty, the bed was neatly made and the curtains had been pulled back, letting in the afternoon sun.
Frowning, he shut the door and made his way quickly down the marble staircase. He made an abrupt turn, facing the wall that hid her library, shuffling in as soon as the wall was big enough for him to squeeze through. He was somewhat surprised when he saw Narcissa there, in her same seat and attire that she had worn the night before. Guilt started to weigh him down, wondering if she had gone to bed at all.
“Mother?” He asked softly.
She turned to him, rubbing her face tiredly, “Draco?”
“I-I’m leaving now.” He told her, “I’ll be back later tonight.”
Narcissa gave him a small nod and then turned her attention back to the fireplace, where she was watching the dying embers.
Taking a few steps toward her, he wrapped her in an awkward hug, his lengthy form stooping to encompass her. Narcissa gave him a small smile, patting his cheek reassuringly. He would have to apologize later, but Narcissa looked up to him and nodded him off.
“Don’t go anywhere.” He pleaded with her.
“I won’t.” Narcissa told him, “I’ll be here. Go.”
Draco nodded off, making his way into the parlor.
“Stella.” He called.
The little house elf came barreling through the kitchen doors.
“Yes, Master?” She squeaked, rubbing her hands together and looking up at him, eager to do his bidding.
“Mother’s going to be alone tonight. I don’t want anyone coming in, not even Bellatrix. Block the fireplace if you have to. I will appear at the front doors later tonight. Watch for me.”
Stella nodded her head eagerly, “Yes, Master.”
He turned from her, taking a pinch of the powder from the mantle, calling, “The Burrow!” and disappeared from the safe confines of the Manor.
He found himself at the same exact door where he thought he would never return. Had he told himself a week ago that the very people his father had taught him to hate would look past all of his petty, childish mistakes and help him and his mother retreat into safety he would’ve been utterly confused and disbelieving.
“Me? Beg for help from a Weasley? You’re off your rocker.” He would’ve growled at himself.
But there he stood, in his black tailored suit from Italy, the best that money could buy, smelling of his usual mint with his hair slicked back. He hoped that whoever looked wouldn’t be able to see past his sharp appearance: that he was utterly exhausted and was sure the worrying would eat him alive. He was terrified, the possibility of Bellatrix and the rest finding out, who had focused all their efforts of destroying Harry Potter, turning their focus to hunt down the one who had betrayed them in the most treacherous of ways.
With a trembling, pale hand, he knocked weakly on the door, frowning at the touch that lacked pride and confidence.
He shoved his hands in his pockets, the silk lining encompassing his fingers, kissing them with softness. He looked around worriedly, the same feeling that he was about to be ambushed suffocated him with anxiety.
The door opened a crack, a blue eye looking down at him wearily.
“Yes, Draco, of course, of course.” He ushered him in, side-stepping out of the frame as Draco rushed in, sighing with relief as the door finally shut. It was only then that he felt safe from the many hiding places that the wheat fields surrounding the Burrow seemed to offer.
Draco took a chance to look over Mr. Weasley, who looked as put together as he supposed a Weasley could. He had on maroon robes, which looked rather shabby, but were presentable.
“It’s alright if I call you ‘Draco’, isn’t it?” Mr. Weasley asked him, gesturing for them to move into the kitchen.
Draco nodded his head quickly, his heart beating with nervousness. He didn’t care what he called him, he just wanted to get this night over with.
“Right.” Mr. Weasley said, taking a seat at the long table across from him, “I’ve arranged for a hearing at the Board of Investigations at the Ministry. They were generous enough to understand the urgency of the matter and opened the courtroom for tonight.”
“Y-you didn’t tell them why though?” He hoped.
Mr. Weasley shook his head quickly, “Of course not. Glad they didn’t care to ask, though. I think they were more interested in closing the case.”
Draco took a deep breath.
“So…I’m in?” Draco dared to ask, almost afraid of the answer. “Your letter didn’t say…”
“I’m sorry to have made you worry.” He told him, “But of course, you understand that I couldn’t have put that in a letter. But yes, Dumbledore has accepted your request. Although, I’m sure he knew the moment you left Hogwarts that something else had happened alongside your father’s death.”
“So…what happens after the hearing?” His chest heaved with pressure, although he didn’t know if it was from relief or more nervousness with the shortening hour.
Mr. Weasley’s face grew dark, “I’m afraid we have no choice but to let you attend your…gathering, tomorrow.”
“Has she been warned?” Draco asked nervously.
Mr. Weasley heaved a sigh, “Ms. Fleagle is known for her stubbornness. Aurors have offered protection to escort her home tomorrow, but she’s denied all protective measures. As an employee of the Ministry, that’s her right.”
Draco’s face drained of all color, “Is she mental? Doesn’t she know anything about Bellatrix?”
“I’m afraid she knows everything about her and that’s what makes Delinda think that she is no threat.”
Draco sat back in his chair, completely dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe it. He had never thought of anyone so daft as to not take the threats of Death Eaters seriously.
“Why let me go? I told you I was the one who’s supposed to do it.” Draco reminded him.
“The Aurors who reviewed your situation thought that it would be too obvious, especially since the task was dictated to you. If you can, let Bellatrix lead the attack, try to find a way to escape if you can.”
“Won’t that be obvious?” He asked.
“We will have Aurors stationed throughout Diagon Alley tomorrow evening.” Mr. Weasley assured him.
“What if-what if we can’t save her?”
Mr. Weasley gave him his gravest look yet, “Delinda is fully aware of the situation, sure that if Bellatrix takes her life, the Aurors will be able to capture her and take her back to Azkaban.”
“And she’s willing to do this?” He asked.
“There are those who are willing to give up everything to see justice done. Delinda is one of those people, Draco.”
Draco looked at him, “When do we leave?”
Arthur looked at his golden watch, “About now, should be good. Plenty of time to get there.”
Draco rose from his chair, buttoning back up his jacket.
“Good choice,” Mr. Weasly nodded at his attire, “of choosing black, I mean. Let’s them know your serious.”
Draco looked him over once more, cracking a small smile, “And maroon?”
Mr. Weasley pulled himself to his full height, puffing out his chest, “Let’s them know I’m a Weasley.”
Draco hoped that his shoulders were broad enough that no one could tell he was shaking as they walked silently down a long hallway. His clacking heels made him sound more powerful than he felt. His hands began to sweat in the silk-lined pockets, but knew that if he withdrew them, he wouldn’t be able to control the violent tremors that were pulsating through his body.
“Nothing to worry about.” Mr. Weasly patted him awkwardly on his shoulder. “You should be fine.”
Draco knew he was innocent, there was nothing he had done wrong, but yet, there was a heavy weight that seemed to be tied to his heart, pulling it down into his stomach.
They stopped behind two large, looming doors at the end of the hall, an area that was completely void of all noise. The mindless chatter and pitter patter of the Ministry officials and workers seemed to be miles behind them, the pair venturing on into the outskirts of the Ministry building.
“Take a deep breath.” Mr. Weasley said aloud, although he wasn’t sure if he was telling himself or Draco, “We can do this.”
Draco shook his head, looking back to the large doors. He was glad for Mr. Weasley’s presence, although he couldn’t find the words to express his gratitude.
He wished Narcissa was there, although he wasn’t sure she would have attended a hearing that would paint a more menacing picture of her sister, when to the mother and son, they had relieved them of years of pain and hurt. He couldn’t help but feel a small voice in the back of his head, telling him to turn back now, that he shouldn’t be betraying Bellatrix like this.
It’s the only way. Another voice told him. To a normal life, to freedom.
He rubbed his chest nervously, the bump of Ashley’s ring interrupting the smoothness of his cotton shirt. The feeling of her ring gave him a mustard seed of courage as he looked to Mr. Weasly and nodded, “I’m ready.”
They pushed opened the doors, causing the chatter of the full courtroom to stop, ceasing all noise as many pairs of eyes looked down to the couple that walked in.
Draco swallowed, intimidated by the wizards and witches dressed accordingly in their black robes and matching caps, sitting high above him in a stadium-like setting. Draco couldn’t help but feel he had been brought into a cage-fight, knowing it was the rest of his life that was to be determined.
“Mr. Malfoy, take a seat.”
He looked up to the familiar voice of Delinda Fleagle, who sat at her own podium much lower than the others, but commanded the attention of the room. She gestured to the only chair in the middle of the floor. He watched Mr. Weasley as he sat in a chair to the far left, almost in the shadow where the light of the chandeliers didn’t reach.
Nodding his head slowly, he took a seat, taking a moment to look at all the wizards who stared down at him, knowing that there had to be at least a hundred.
“State your name for the record, please.” She asked. Although she was high up, he could see her opening her file and bewitching her quill to take notes for her.
“Draco Lucius Malfoy.” His voice shook.
“Please declare your current state of education.” She looked down at him.
“Seventh year at Hogwarts.” He told her.
He watched as her quill moved with his answers.
“What are you going to present to the Board this evening, Mr. Malfoy?”
“A memory of what?”
“Of Bellatrix Lestrange killing my father.”
There were silent whispers that spread like a disease within the grand hall, making Draco squirm nervously in his seat.
Delinda raised her thin eyebrow in interest. “Mrs. Lestrange?”
“Yes,” he choked, his throat going dry, “she did it to protect me and my mother.”
Another round of whispers waved through the arena.
“There is nothing you can say to lessen the bounty on her head, Mr. Malfoy.”
“She did.” He retorted, his voice struggling to remain even, “Think of her what you will, but she would have killed for her sister.”
It was a poor choice of words as Delinda tapped her wand on her desk, making a loud knock on the wood to call the council to silence.
Draco sank in his seat, the guilt and betrayal starting to seep into his muscles. He hadn’t only betrayed Bellatrix, but his mother, who had no idea that she was here snitching on the woman who had given them their peace of mind.
“Please state the names of all members present in this memory.” Delinda told him in a cool voice, looking to her parchment to make sure her quill was taking notes properly.
“Myself, Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, and…Ashley Delacour.” He choked, knowing that revealing her identity was impossible to protect.
Delinda made a humph noise, as if she had finally won a small victory, “The name of the girl who you wouldn’t release.”
“Yes.” Draco answered her.
“And why did you withhold her name?” Delinda asked him, “You know that withholding information may have severe consequences.”
“She didn’t do anything.” Draco argued hotly, “I was protecting her. I didn’t want anyone to seek her out.”
“What is your relation to Miss Delacour?” She looked down at him over her straight nose.
“She’s my girlfriend. Was.” He corrected himself quietly. But that didn’t seem a strong enough word for her. She was still more to him than a casual date and snogging session that seemed to be so loosely associated with the word.
Delinda was silent as the quill scribbled down the names.
“You are an Occulamens, it says here.” Delinda peered at him over her glasses as she glanced at her notes.
Draco nodded silently.
“Then you will have no trouble removing the memory, I’m assuming?” Delinda asked. “If you do, we have assistants.”
“I can do it.” Draco said weakly, trying to keep his spinning head level enough to keep his breakfast down.
She picked up her wand, making a move to levitate a stone basin from her desk, which had been blocked by the shape of the podium. Draco knew what was to come as she moved her hand to lower it in front of Draco, levitating before him at arm level.
“If you would, Mr. Malfoy.” She instructed, nodding towards the basin.
He nodded, struggling to swallow the lump in his throat as he extracted his wand from his left pocket. Taking a deep breath, knowing that there was still a small window for escape, he put the wand to his temple, the same odd feeling of pulling fibers out of his brain returned as he looked at the delicate silvery strand hanging from his wand tip. Reluctantly, he shook it off, watching as it detached and floated to the concrete bottom.
Before he could think to take it back, Delinda quickly ushered it back to her podium, as if reading his mind about his second thoughts.
He waited for Delinda to dip her face into the basin, as he began to wonder why all the people were needed to sit in if she was the only one to watch it. But she didn’t make a move to lean forward and witness what he felt like betrayal to generations of his family, all undone in one simple move.
What she did completely took him by surprise. Delinda looked to the basin, waving her wand silently. The thin fiber floated out, stretching and expanding, the gray swirls spinning maddeningly, until it had formed into a large square, large enough that all of the wizards could get a good view of it. It took moments for Draco to realize that it was serving as a screen, waiting for the images of his Manor to appear.
The swirling of the memory started to shape-shift and change with color, becoming the Manor within seconds. Draco swallowed hard, preparing himself to relieve the memory that he tried so hard to forget.
The silver and greens of his room appeared quickly, watching himself as his form was scrounging hurriedly for the necessities he had forgotten in his room, Ashley looked around nervously, pacing around to keep her mind of the impending doom that was about to take place.
Suddenly, there was a crash in the kitchen. Extreme worry etched across the Veela’s face, her blue eyes sparkled with fear, knowing that they shouldn’t have come.
“Stupid house elf.” He tried to console her, struggling not to let her know that he was thinking the same thoughts as she:
That they weren’t alone.
“Draco.” Ashley whined hoarsely.
The pair froze as the dreaded echo of heels clicked on the polished marble, signaling an intruder.
“Stay here.” He commanded.
“I will not!” She hissed.
He watched himself as he bolted out of the room, leaving Ashley crumpled to the floor in fear, clutching her wand so tightly that her knuckles were white.
The image followed Draco, his wand held firmly in his hand. The evening had set in, the chandeliers and lanterns gave an eerie glow to the Manor, which seemed to hold its breath in anticipation.
Draco cursed his shoes as he stepped down the marble staircase, looking all around in the shadows for the figure he feared to find. When he reached the landing, a jet of light had hit him squarely in the back, sending him stumbling towards the front door, hitting the wood forcefully. He fell to the ground, looking up to his open door. Waving his wand, he watched as his door slammed shut, followed by Ashley’s screams and loud hits in angry protest.
It was moments after that another jet of red light originated from the entrance to his mother’s library, by the dark corner underneath the stairs. Draco gave a painful cry as the jinx hit him square in the chest, sending his vision swimming and head spinning. He felt himself let go of his wand, hearing it roll away from him as he grabbed his head in pain.
Draco’s eardrums nearly burst with a loud explosion. He struggled to turn his head towards the source of the noise, his vision fading in and out. He saw his door being blown apart, and Ashley as she flew down the stairs.
“Draco!” She cried, “What happened?”
“Get…out.” He struggled.
“I’m not going to leave you.” She hissed, looking around for his wand, shoving it in his hand.
Draco struggled to cry out as the black mist he had feared started to emerge from the shadows, solidifying behind her. He looked up to the looming figure, the flash of the knife held high above him.
“Ashley.” He croaked, his body so weak that he couldn’t form more than her name on his lips.
“What?” She asked exasperatedly.
Ashley gave a sickening choking sound as the figure grabbed her, making her drop her wand and shuffle back as his hood fell from his face.
“I will not have your blood dirty my son’s name!” He snarled.
Stella stumbled out of the kitchen, clearly dazed and confused, straightening up at the rather compromising situation before her.
“Call Bellatrix!” Draco forced.
The elf was gone before Lucius could grab for her, loosening his grip on Ashley, who took the advantage and pushed him aside.
Suddenly, a red jet of light hit Lucius in the chest, coming from the twisted wand of Bellatrix, who looked wild with hatred.
“YOU WILL NEVER TOUCH HER AGAIN, YOU BASTARD!” She screamed, sending hex after hex his way, Lucius fighting to ward off her jinxes from the first one that stunned him.
Draco struggled after Ashley, who had disappeared into the parlor.
“Ashley.” He wheezed, making his way to the fireplace.
Ashley looked at him, her breathing labored and her chest rising and falling heavily. Draco grabbed for her, extracting his hand from her clothing as he felt the warm feeling of blood.
Lucius burst through the double doors, his hair a mess and his face livid.
Draco grabbed Ashley, rolling her onto his chest as they disappeared into the fireplace.
The scene went blank as the gray matter started to dissolve, falling like a misting rain as it disappeared completely.
The hall was silent. Draco swore he could hear his own heart beating, echoing loudly off the stone walls.
“That was it.” Draco said, feeling the need to break the silence, “I didn’t know he had died until I read it in the Prophet.”
“And what became of Miss Delacour?” Delinda asked.
“She had an abdominal laceration, but she recovered and is back at Hogwarts.”
“And why did you decide to leave?”
“I wanted to make arrangements for my father. I inherited the Manor and his bank accounts. I needed time to get everything in order.”
He looked to her quill, which was shaking violently as it tried its best to keep up.
“And what of Lestrange?” She asked.
“She’s alive.” Draco revealed vaguely.
“Where is she now?” She asked him.
“I don’t know.” He answered truthfully, “I only see her on occasion.”
The room fell silent once more. Draco looked over to Mr. Weasley, whose face was unreadable in the shadows that covered it. He looked back up to Delinda.
“I am putting a bounty on the capture of Bellatrix Lestrange. Should she be captured, she will be sentenced to death immediately by the Dementor’s Kiss.” She announced.
“Wait.” Draco fought weakly, “Doesn’t she get some sort of compensation for ridding of another wanted Death Eater?”
Delinda stared at him. In a mocking tone, she answered, “Yes, let me knock thirty years off her three thousand year sentence, Mr. Malfoy, that she has accumulated for more than seventeen years. I’m sure she’ll be very appreciative.”
Draco glared at her, anger starting to quickly boil within him. He shook his head in disappointment, knowing there was nothing he could to help the situation. How many bounties could you put on someone until it was decided there was no point anymore? Bellatrix’s sentence was just as ludicrous as her husband, Rodolphus, who had been sentenced to over fifteen hundred.
Delinda turned her attention to Draco once more, “Rest assured, Mr. Malfoy, that you are doing the Ministry a great service. You can be sure this has added stature to your family name. Court adjourned.”
The wizards and wizards started to rise, murmuring to each other as they started to exit their seats, climbing a short flight of stairs to leave the courtroom.
“Wait!” Draco piped again, surprised at his growing boldness.
They stopped suddenly to look at him. Delinda had risen in her own seat and stopped at the young man’s outburst.
“They’re going to kill you.” He told her, looking up at her with pleading eyes. She was so high he wasn’t sure if he could see how hard he was trying to convince her to take his warning.
“So I’ve heard.”
“Then you know that they’ve given me the task in doing it?” He asked her.
There were gasps and angry shouts as some of them started to withdraw their wands, pointing them at him threateningly. Delinda held out a hand, her face not revealing any emotion, hosting a rather bored expression.
“They knew that you had interrogated me. They wanted you finished before you found out. They wanted me to do it because you didn’t heed my warning of leaving them alone.”
Delinda stared at him.
“S-she’s coming for you. Bellatrix.” He clarified. “When I don’t do it, she will.”
“Then let her come, Mr. Malfoy.” Her voice was venomous, “I will be glad to rid England of this disease.”