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Chapter 1 : One.
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A wire act.
He stands there, teetering, stalling time. He wants to be there forever, lost in the abyss, feeling nothing—no love, no hurt, no confusion, no greed or want. He forgets that time is passing, with each day moving as rapidly as the last.
He is still deciding. Life continues, people remain, but he chooses to be alone.
Alone to let the darkness swallow him. Alone to savour her electric touch.
Alone to taste her sweet lips and warm body.
In the bliss, he feels himself falling like the rain, stinging everyone around him with his fierce cold droplets. In the back of his mind, he begins to wonder if this is the end…
... or if it is just the beginning.
The buzz of anticipation and excitement around the station is electric. Voices travel in highs and lows, up and down the platform, competing with one another to be heard. The train is blowing steam which swirls around their bodies, weaving in and out and joining them all by its breath as they all make their separate journeys. Some ladies hold down their hats on their head with a hand, using the other to wave vigorously through the train windows. Others have not let their children leave yet, holding them close to their chests and whispering their many concerns and wishes.
Most fathers’ stand awkwardly to the side, waiting for the affection that is either quick and passing or long and loving. It is never in-between. Goodbyes are not so easily uttered for men. He knew this well.
His mother’s sharp eyes soften as she turns to her son. “You don’t have to do this, Draco.”
“I do,” he says, aware that she is right. He is too stubborn to turn back now.
Draco Malfoy looks down at the black trunk by his side and he can feel his lips tighten at the thought of repeating his 7th year. He can hear himself telling his mother that it is only until Christmas, but his voice is far away, and he wonders if he is actually speaking at all.
There are unspoken words hanging in the air, but he cares not for them. He is itching to leave.
“We can just teach you this at home—most of the others of your grade are doing it ...”
He knows. She has told him a million times. The woman’s pestering could make the horns of a dragon come off in annoyance.
He grabs his trunk. “I’ll see you in the holidays, mother.”
His voice is not harsh, but final.
She stares at him. “Be careful.”
Her voice is filled with worry. Memories of the past year flash through Narcissa Malfoy’s blue eyes, but he ignores it. He doesn’t need the memories.
Draco walks to the nearest door of the Hogwarts Express, pausing momentarily and looking back to where his mother stands. He is surprised to see her gone, and he feels guilt nibble the edge of his mind. He should have said goodbye, told her he would be fine, that he loved her...
An owl would surely suffice, the cold, familiar voice in his head snapped. Leave it.
With a grunt, he heaves the trunk and himself into the train. He wonders if anyone else in his past year had decided to repeat, before brushing it away. He doesn’t care. Draco wants to be in and out of that dreaded castle—he is there to get the grades and then get a job. Friends never met much to him—his past self liked the company, but things change.
Relieved, he finds an empty passenger carriage. Draco throws the trunk down and flops on the chair, putting his feet up before him on the bar-seat opposite. His head lolls back against the wall and he shuts his eyes momentarily. He isn’t thinking—he is beyond that. Thinking is full of memories, full of regrets and mistakes and ... fears...
A sound thankfully jolts him out of the horrid thought path of reverie. He looks to the door, surprised to find a girl sitting on the end of the chair his feet occupy. A book is in her hand, however her eyes are unmoving.
Aware that he is staring, she looks up and holds his steady gaze. Her eyes are as blue as sapphires and unnerving at that. She does not blink or introduce herself, but she not need. He already knows her—he knows almost everyone.
“Greengrass,” he drawls, looking away and out the window.
The countryside is flashing past and he wonders how he did not realise Astoria Greengrass’s entrance or the train leaving the platform. Surely he had not fallen asleep?
“’Morning,” is her tart reply.
Her voice is bitter and full of an emotion he can’t quite put his finger on. Despite his better interests, Draco finds himself looking back at her. She is reading again, eyes moving back and forward at a speed that could match Hermione Granger’s. The girl looks nothing like the sister who had been in his year—she is smaller, features sharply defined and hair a golden blonde. It does not shine or glow in the dim light; it is normal, dull and tied back in a neat bun.
She is positively boring. Draco stares. It does not go unnoticed.
She is looking at him again. Her eyes roam over his gaunt features, dark eye rims and lank hair. He can see her thoughts, hanging unspoken in the thick air of the carriage as she frowns slightly. You are not what I remembered... Just like the Headmaster when he had visited Hogwarts with his father. I suppose war changes people.
He is suddenly self-conscious; however as soon as he starts to care, the thought is gone and replaced with blissful apathy.
Draco blinks, mind clear.
“Nothing,” he answers, turning to look out the window again.
He could have answered with a ‘How are you?’ but the two barely know each other or care for such formalities.
No more words are spoken. He likes it this way.
As he pats himself up and down anxiously, searching for his wand, the familiar sound of his Aunt’s step is nearing. It is methodical, comforting like the warmth of a duvet.
He closes his eyes and swallows, ceasing his search and waiting for her to help him. She is circling around him and whispering to herself. He opens his eyes, squinting in the darkness, screaming internally for his pupils to adjust already.
Her footsteps stop at the sound of his voice. He spins in circles, arms out, frantically trying to find out where she might stand.
“I taught you all I knew, Draco, and you didn’t stay loyal.”
The noise, it is unbearable. Everybody is taking at once, excited—their voices escalate to be heard and it feels like an axe has been swung into his skull. He can hear Harry’s name shouted and celebrated, and his own whispered in a slanderous hush.
It appears everyone has something to say, except for her. She sits opposite him, staring at her food. She has her year mates by her side, but they do not speak to her after the initial greetings.
She feels him staring again. She looks up.
Draco can feel his heart increase its speed as she smiles. It is slight, and he returns it with a curt nod, making sure to not betray too much emotion. Her eyes twinkle at this, mouth opening to speak, but she is interrupted.
He turns, unaware that his smirk is already in place. Pansy Parkinson stands near his chair, Theodore Nott by her side.
Theodore’s eyes meet his. Draco’s turn as hard as steel.
It’s mocking, antagonising. The air turns suffocating, and Pansy looks confused as the label hangs between the three, fatter than The Fat Lady.
“Nott,” he says. That’s all he can say. “Pansy.”
She wants to do something, he can see her hesitate. In the blink of an eye, he can feel her lips against his forehead, wet and sticky from lip-gloss. He wants to push her away, but he is intoxicated by her floral scent.
Unaware, he leans into her, memories coiling around them like a python crushing its prey. It suffocates him, and for a moment he forgets where he is—he is ethereal, a memory in an empty Hall full of nostalgia.
“I thought you would be home schooled,” she babbles, pulling away.
The cold bite from her departure snaps him back, and the sound of the hall erupts around him like the roar of a dragon. Pansy’s face is as red as a rose, and Draco notices with relief that Theodore has left her side.
Taking a deep breath, he attempts to adjust the green and silver tie around his neck. It is heavy and weighs him down like a convict’s ball and chain. Nothing eases his discomfort, and he feels dizzy.
“No,” he answers, finally pulling the tie off and throwing it on the table. His forehead is sweating, but he remains eerily calm. He is always calm. “Sit.”
He moves across for her but does not offer any more conversation.
All the while, Astoria Greengrass stares.
When their eyes make contact, she is the first to turn away.
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