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Chapter 21 : A Lonely Friend
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When the time came to leave Hogwarts for the spring break, Draco and Goyle went to Hogsmeade as instructed and used a Portkey at night so they wouldn’t be seen. Once at the Goyle Estate, the two surveyed the place at a distance to see who might be there. The vast house looked empty and seemed quiet, no doubt because of protection charms. They entered through the back door with caution not knowing what Death Eaters might be there.
Once inside, they were solemnly greeted by Goyle’s mother who ushered Draco into a secret room where Lucius Malfoy awaited. It was a small windowless space dimly lit by four gas lamps, one on each corner of the dark red walls. Draco hadn’t been in the room since he and Goyle were just kids playing hide and seek. He had actually forgotten that it existed.
He recalled that there used to be a table in the center of the room, but it had been removed. And instead, the place was outlined with chairs for meetings. No doubt, it had been used recently for Death Eaters.
Upon seeing his father, Draco felt the weight of dread on his shoulders, a loathing that he hadn’t felt toward the man in a long while. The heavy air in the place told him that his father was in a dangerous and infuriated mood, which meant he would most likely get struck with a Crucio before one word was uttered. But to Draco’s surprise, this didn’t happen.
The door was sealed shut and Lucius cast the Muffliato spell inaudibly so that no one could listen in on their conversation.
Draco stood at the center of the room as Lucius circled him menacingly. He held an expression of disgust as if he was looking at the biggest father-son disappointment in wizarding history. Clearly he was pondering what to say to him and precisely how to say it.
Draco waited patiently for his father’s cruelty, preparing himself for the worst as feelings of shameful disloyalty crept about the room. He felt like a guilty child who’d sinned against his father… against his own flesh and blood. Not only because of feelings for Hermione, but because his parents’ lives were on the line and he’d done nearly nothing to save them as of yet. Only weak attempts had been made on Dumbledore’s life, which doesn’t exactly exude loyalty to his family or to the Dark Lord.
Lucius took in a sharp breath and finally spoke.
“The Dark Lord… has had much time to ponder just why that wretched old man is still alive and why it took you so long to mend the Vanishing Cabinet. And he has come to the conclusion that you mustn’t care of what happens to your parents.”
Lucius waited expectantly for Draco to react, to deny the accusation. But when Draco stood as still as a statue and said nothing, a deeper kind of disappointment came to Lucius. He had held some minor inkling of hope that the Dark Lord had been wrong.
“Even if you truly care not as to whether I live or die, I honestly expected that you would at least care for what happens to your mother.”
“Of course I care what happens to you both. Any notion to the contrary is absurd.”
“Well the Dark Lord wouldn’t believe it even if you told him yourself, because your inaction speaks otherwise. And so, regrettably, the game has changed, my son. It is now your life he will take should Albus Dumbledore live. It is imperative that he die! You are being tested and you are failing! Your loyalty as a Death Eater is being questioned as is your loyalty as my son.” Lucius got close to Draco’s face then. “You are no longer doing this to save your parents’ lives. You are doing it to save your own.”
Draco’s stomach turned and twisted into knots with a new kind of fear and worry… so much so that he thought he might be sick. He suspected Voldemort would kill him should he fail. Lucius only confirmed it.
“Your mother hides behind her beauty and does an amazing job at appearances, but I know her as I know myself and she is an emotional wreck at the new state of things. She is so worried sick, she’d probably make a deal with the devil to save you from your task. Nonetheless, she hides her fear well.”
Draco listened to the plans laid out for him. He knew them already, but there was now a date and time set for him. He was to let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts through the Vanishing Cabinet and his Aunt Bellatrix would serve as encouragement. Her sick moral support would be there to fight Dumbledore should he need assistance. And when the Headmaster was dead, Draco would be leaving Hogwarts and go into hiding.
There was a long pause as Draco was still wrapping his head around the fact that Voldemort really planned to kill him if he should fail. His fear and worry for his life turned into anger.
“You worry for Mother. Honestly, do you even care for what is happening to me?” Draco finally asked accusingly. “Could you do it? Could you go up against him, Order of Merlin, First Class? Grand Sorcerer? Do you think Hogwarts teaches its students half of what that man knows of magic?”
“If I could take this task from you, I would.” Lucius said to the floor. “But I cannot. Just kill him and there won’t be any consequences to think about. You must succeed. Failure is not an option.”
Draco noticed the change in his father, his face and voice declaring deep regret.
“Has it ever occurred to you that Dumbledore has done nothing against me?” Draco asked. “I suppose it would be easier to kill him if I hated him, but I do not.”
“Albus Dumbledore is the enemy of all Death Eaters. That makes him your enemy!” Lucius shouted.
Draco hated everything about this conversation, but he had no idea that it was about to get worse.
“To kill a man, you must put a stopper on any human emotion that could cloud your judgment and cause you to sway. Shut down any and all compassion and do what you must. With your opponent having a much greater skill than your own, you must be intelligent in your actions, take in your surroundings, make sure that he is alone, and try to anticipate what he will do to stop you. To send the killing curse first will not work on Dumbledore. He will only block it and do ‘who knows what’ after that. You must disarm him first, then strike him down with the Avada. It’s the only way to finish him without dying in the process.”
Draco couldn’t believe Lucius was actually giving him advice on how to murder another human being. Of all the advice his dark wizard father gave him over the years… like preserving the Malfoy wealth, heading a legitimate but shady business, the importance of underworld connections, and finding the loopholes in magical law, it was advice on murdering someone that screamed to Draco that it was wrong. He knew his father was dark, but never had he thought so dark as to commit murder. His opinion changed in hearing the sick advice that was coming from his mouth.
“There are several key people on the Black List now. Dumbledore, Shacklebolt, members of the Wizengamot, Ministry officials… and as they disappear one by one, they will be replaced with those who support the Dark Lord. Plans are underway… plans that start with Dumbledore. This is why it is so important that he be dead. It is time to do your duty and kill Albus Dumbledore!”
Lucius was so worked-up that his hands shook trying to calm himself. It was only then that Draco noticed that his father seemed to age past his chronological years. He looked old.
“In doing so, you secure your rank, bring honor to your family, and you will be respected for taking him down.”
Respected? Draco repeated in his mind as it made him sick to think of killing the Headmaster as something that would actually bring respect.
Tightening his cloak with a snap, his father composed himself about to make his exit, but not before giving Draco one last piece of advice.
“If need be, use your utter hatred and anger that you harbor toward me to kill the man. Point your wand as if you were pointing it at me. The image should serve you well.”
Draco was surprised by his father’s words that were meant to bring guilt. They hit their mark dead on as his words that were spoken in anger long ago really had hurt his father. His mother told him that he’d said he wished that it was him the Dark Lord killed and not James Potter. He was wrong to say it, no matter how heated the conversation.
“I will do my duty, Father. But for the record, I do not wish you death.” Draco replied truthfully.
He hated his father for his past treatment and hated him now for being a Death Eater and getting him involved in such a dangerous and gravely situation, but those things didn’t exactly warrant death. Could he ever forgive him?
No. Draco thought quite simply. There would be no forgiveness for Lucius Malfoy.
Lucius paused, but said nothing as he opened the door to walk out.
Narcissa stood just outside the door raising her eyebrows so as to not let out tears of joy at seeing her son still safe and alive.
“Draco, it’s been so long, son. You look thin. Have they been feeding you at school?” She started.
“Not to worry, Mother. I’m fine.” He said as the door shut to give them some privacy.
She continued to talk about nothing important and acted as if everything was fine, but it wasn’t. She spoke of talking to several people that he knew from the past and basically rambled about everything but his task.
Draco expected her to be like this. He let her rant and go on about nothing, but he was about to ask her a serious question about something that came to his mind when thinking of his duel with Lucius all those years ago.
“Mother, how is it that you can remember every detail of every conversation that you’ve ever had, but not remember what started the argument between father and I when the mirror shattered into my back?”
“What?” She asked, bewildered.
“Tell me what started that duel. I want to know.”
“Why do you continue to ask about that terrible day? I’d like to forget it.” She said with irritation.
“Tell me the truth and I’ll never ask about it again.” He negotiated. “But it must be the truth.”
Narcissa let out a long sigh and tilted her nose into the air. She didn’t really want to say, but thought it probably wouldn’t matter now. It was years ago. And so she told him rather quickly and bluntly.
“You wouldn’t shut up about some Mudblood girl and how she defied your father’s beliefs.”
Draco’s heart skipped a full beat as the air became stale in his lungs. Hermione?
He could hardly believe it. He remembered long ago questioning his father’s beliefs because of her, but that was just to himself. He never remembered actually voicing his opinion to his parents.
Do not react. He had to tell himself. Do not react.
“You began questioning him as to how she was at the top of your Year academically, when Mudbloods were supposed to be stupid and have less magical talent than Purebloods. Your father responded by saying that if a Mudblood beat you, then it must’ve been caused by your own slacking. Of course you argued that point furiously and when he forbade you from speaking about her again, you wouldn’t stop. You nearly shocked us into heart attacks when you claimed that she was... attractive. And so he sent the Crucio for your insubordination and utter disrespect and told you that he was pulling you from your friends at Hogwarts and sending you to Durmstrang. That’s when you decided you weren’t going to take any more of his lashings and so you started spitting your venom and using words to hurt him, saying you wished he was dead and all that. It all happened so fast. You started dueling and then suddenly your blood was all over the floor.” She shuttered at the thought of him nearly dying. “It was terrible and I won’t speak of it again. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mother. I understand. Trust me. I won’t bring it up again.”
He had always been curious as to what really happened. All he could remember was that he had scars on his back that seemed to magically appear one day. He couldn’t remember what had happened because she had erased his memory. And now, years later he stood baffled by the truth of how it all started because Hermione defied Pureblood teachings. He had questioned those beliefs at thirteen years old and certainly took his lashings and had suffered greatly in doing so.
Narcissa searched for a better memory to talk about… a good memory. Perhaps they could speak of how wonderful last Christmas was and how the house elves had decorated the manor. No wait. She couldn’t bring up the elves. He would ask about them and be sad to hear that some of them were now dead. No. She couldn’t tell him. He had a task to complete and shouldn’t be worrying about them. She would have to tell him later, she decided.
But Draco saw the pained look on his mother’s face.
“Are you alright?” He asked with concern.
“Yes, of course.” She lied. “Let us have dinner. I just need something to eat is all.”
The Malfoys had a quiet, but tense formal dinner with the Goyles and afterwards, goodbyes were said and Draco couldn’t help but notice that his mother had hugged him a little longer than normal.
He hadn’t thought of it until that very moment, but it might’ve been the last… the last meal, the last goodbye with her should he fail.
As she embraced him, she whispered into his ear.
“Snape. Snape will help you, my son. Let him help you.”
It was difficult for him to witness the dreaded worry in her eyes and in her voice.
“Not to worry, Mother. All will be alright.”
It was a lie, but he didn’t wish her to worry herself sick. His father had told the truth about her. She was hiding her fear and worry quite well, except for in their goodbye.
“I love you, Mum.”
“I love you too, baby.” Narcissa managed to voice so quietly, it was almost silent. Her heart swelled at hearing the words that didn’t come often enough. She had to block out the possibility that she might not ever hear him say it again. It was far too much for a mother to bear.
When his parents left, Draco pondered his father’s advice about shutting down his compassion. How does one do that when every space of his heart loved someone? Was it possible to ignore such a powerful emotion and push it aside, pretending that it never existed? One way or another, he would have to figure out how to do it, or he would fail.
He let out a long sigh as Goyle motioned him to return to the secret room. Once they entered, Goyle resealed the door so that his mother couldn’t hear their conversation.
“You know I cannot discuss certain things with you.” Draco said first, thinking that his friend wanted to discuss Death Eater plans.
“I know. That’s not what I want to talk about.”
“Alright.” Draco said ready to listen to whatever Goyle had on his mind. He decided to pull a chair out from the wall a bit and Goyle did the same.
Reluctantly and with much hesitation, Goyle began.
“I was wondering…” He paused, unsure what to ask exactly. “Well, you’ve been with plenty of girls and I was wondering… Not that it’s my business exactly, but word has it that Blaise made Astoria available to you and you didn’t bother with her. I’ve been trying to get a girl forever and…”
“Let me stop you there.” Draco interrupted. “Blaise wants to keep Astoria and so while she might be technically available right now, truly, she isn’t. Unfortunately for her, all Slytherin men should understand this and leave her alone. Do not attempt to comfort her while she is vulnerable and complicate things. Stay out of it.”
Goyle clenched his jaw a bit frustrated. He didn’t like Draco’s answer, but would respect it.
“Who then?” He asked. “Who should I go after? I meant what I said about Slytherin girls not being interested and all the girls from the other houses seemingly don’t want me because I’m in Slytherin. I’m not a terrible person, Draco. Bloody hell, you are more cruel than I’ve ever been and yet you’ve never had a problem getting girls.”
“Those girls that you speak of throw themselves at me because of my name, my status, my money or whatever it is that they want from me. They don’t know me and certainly don’t care about me at all. Is that what you crave? A mindless, meaningless relationship with a clingy girl that wants you for nothing but what you can provide for her?”
“Yes. At this point, I’d be happy for any girl to use me.”
“No, Goyle. You don’t. And I know that you don’t because of the conversation that we are having.”
Goyle shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He was discussing his weakness to someone who didn’t seem to have any, especially when it came to girls.
Draco wondered then just how much Goyle knew about his past relationships. Did he know any truths at all or did he believe the rumors?
“How many girls do you think I’ve had sex with?” Draco asked frankly.
“I don’t know… a dozen probably.” He guessed.
“Three.” Draco admitted. “That hardly makes me a Slytherin sex god, doesn’t it?”
Goyle seemed to be surprised by this. Surely there were more.
Draco spoke of his past experiences with girls at length and explained how he was used. He hated bringing up his past with women, but wanted his friend to know the truth.
“Do not be envious of me. I learned from those women, Goyle.”
“What? That they can be diabolical schemers?”
“Yes, but more importantly, they made me want to crave the real thing… crave a real relationship with someone that wants me for me, nothing else.”
Hermione’s image came to him, her voice speaking of a cardboard box. A bit lost in the memory… as in a daydream, he began to speak of her as time seemed to slow.
There was a long pause and then Draco finally spoke.
“The girl of my dreams… would live in a cardboard box with me, if that is all that I had," he began as his memory played through the times that they were together.
"She would talk to me about everything and nothing until we saw the dawn, just to spend time with me."
His mind moved to the watery scene from the day before. "She would send a prayer to God on my behalf because she truly and most genuinely cares for me."
His breath caught as he recalled the spark in her eyes when she smiled at him. "And she would have a way about her that draws me up from the depths... and pulls me into the light, making my life not so dark. And being around her would make me want to be better than I am."
Coming out of his daydream, he added, "You see? I don’t need women to make me happy, Goyle. I only need one. Even with all the experience I have, I still crave the same thing you do."
“Then you speak of love, Draco. What I don't understand is why is it so difficult to find? Why can’t I pursue a girl and make her love me?”
“Love is complicated. You cannot force a girl to want to be with you. You cannot force love.”
“Then why do they make love potions?” He asked as if he were desperate to use it.
“Profit. Any so-called love from a potion is only temporary infatuation. Even Slughorn taught that,” Draco replied matter-of-factly. “It will never be the real thing and it will never last.”
After a long moment, Draco asked Goyle a question.
“Why, Goyle, do you want to jump into a relationship so soon? Most people don’t find their mates until well out of school. Why the rush? Is there a reason?”
Goyle let out a few long sighs before being completely honest.
“Because I’m lonely, Draco. At the end of the day… I’m lonely. And I think I could be a good boyfriend.” He added. “You know… I would protect her and give her things that would make her happy. And I would be faithful and loyal to her. If Slytherin House has taught me anything, it would be how to be loyal and committed to something, or someone, no matter what.”
He let out another long sigh and confessed.
“I understand what you are saying about sex… about it being meaningful. But right now I would give everything to the girl that will take a moment to look at me instead of past me. I wish for a girl that will give me her hand instead of pulling away from mine. Is that too much to ask?”
Goyle swallowed hard and then added, “You say that love is complicated, but I think you are wrong. I think love is simple and its people and circumstances that make it complicated.”
Draco pondered his friend’s words and realized that even though Goyle might not be the sharpest person, he knew what loving someone was about and knew that he wanted it more than anything else.
“I suppose you are right about that.” Draco admitted. “But that girl might not be at Hogwarts, Goyle. But when you find her, she will be very lucky to have you. Be patient. Love can show up at any time and perhaps with someone…” He shrugged. “…someone completely unexpected.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
And with that, the conversation was over.
Draco tried not to think of Hermione, but she was there in every corner of his mind… her touch, her lips, her smile. She was there and he didn’t want her to leave.
School resumed without incident. Time passed and the days on the calendar turned to the dreaded day when his task was to be completed.
There was no way Draco could know that Harry’s suspicion had risen to a new height. Even though he had suspected weeks ago that a duel with Harry was coming, he didn’t expect Harry to send a Dark Curse that he’d never heard of.
The curse sliced through his flesh and even though he was lying in a pool of cold water, he felt like he was on fire. His blood was draining from the wounds and he thought he might die right then.
But then Snape came along and spoke the incantation that would save him. He almost attempted to stop him, but the pain was so great, he didn’t want to move or even breathe. He just wanted to die and get it over with.
But Snape managed to pull his blood back into his body by some miracle of magical healing and soon Draco found himself in the hospital wing at Hogwarts.
After Madam Pomfrey gave him an elixir to help with the pain, Snape excused her for the night, not wanting her to see Draco’s Dark Mark. He then magically hung freshly cleaned white sheets for use as curtains surrounding the bed in an attempt to give them more privacy should anyone else enter.
But as he attempted to dress the wounds, he couldn’t see them. There was only blood.
“Concealment charm.” Draco whispered through the pain.
Snape removed the charm, ignoring old scars while trying to seal new wounds.
“What happened to you?” Professor Snape asked shortly.
“Obviously, Potter attacked me.” Draco answered through gritted teeth.
“I’m talking about the scars on your back. As a professor, I am required to report certain… shall we say ‘suspect’ wounds.”
“It was an accident long ago. A mirror busted and the shards went into my back. There is nothing more than that.” He snapped.
“Right.” Snape replied, unbelieving. “Mirrors just burst into shards for no reason at all, don’t they?”
Draco steeled himself and didn’t explain further. What did it matter now anyway?
When Snape was finished dressing the new wounds, he began to cover the Dark Mark on Draco’s forearm.
“I’ll get it.” Draco snapped, grabbing the medical gauze from Snape. “Just leave me alone.”
“Fine.” Snape said, giving up. “But do a good job or its both our heads.”
Harry remorsefully confessed to his friends all that had happened. How Malfoy’s body lay gravely injured on the flooded floor of the lavatory, bleeding profusely from several gashes to his chest, barely moving. How Snape calmly waved his wand over him so that the blood that had mixed with the water seeped back into Malfoy’s chest.
Hermione became frantic trying her best to remain calm. But she could not hold in her shock when Harry described the watery and bloody scene. Her hands went to her face in horror with terrifying worry for Draco.
She knew Harry didn’t mean to hurt him so badly. She could see it in his eyes… the disbelief that the spell was a Dark Curse. He had no idea that it would do that much damage and had no right to meddle with magic he knew nothing about. It was downright dangerous and a terrible lesson learned at Draco’s expense.
While Ginny took Harry to get rid of the book that held the Dark Curse, Hermione took her opportunity and ran to the hospital wing.
She heard steps coming from the door and hid herself behind a large column. She watched Snape leave and rushed into the door before it had a chance to close. That’s when she saw the white hovering curtains and knew that Draco was behind them. Her heart leaped in her chest at the chance to be with him again, but it was mixed with fear at what damage she might find.
A few steps more and she saw him sitting shirtless on a bed with his back to her and wrapped with bandages where the curse had sliced into him. It looked like he had just finished dressing a wound on his forearm.
As Hermione stepped closer, she expected to see fresh wounds, but there were old ones as well. Scars… so many and so deep.
She knew where the new wounds came from. What of the others?
“Sss… scars.” She managed to say behind him. “They were not there before. They were not there when we…”
Draco was not exactly surprised that she showed up and was certainly not thrilled that she saw his scars.
“Yes, they were. You didn’t see them because I concealed them.” He confessed. “Very few know they exist.”
“How did you get them?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” He replied shaking his head a little.
Well... This chapter had to be written for what is coming in the future. And now Draco and Hermione are alone once more. Stayed tuned. All is ready for this heated and climactic conversation as he finally tells her the truth.
Love to all for your patience and understanding this year. I've lost five people in my life since July with the most recent just last week. I have been extremely busy with funerals and making flower arrangements for them (just something personal that I enjoy). And their deaths inspired me to write, "When a Wizard Grieves." Check it out if you are interested.
I love all of your Reviews. Sometimes, I don't even know what to say. But I do promise that I will get to them when I have the time. Please be patient with me.
With humbled appreciation,
P.S. An astounding 45,000 reads and 245 have favorited. What a wonderful gift you give to me. I am so blessed. Thank you. A most sincere Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.
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