Draco was freezing. Harsh shivers wracked his body, preventing a return to sleep. He lay in his bed, underneath sheets of Egyptian cotton and a large continental quilt, freezing his arse off. The summer solstice was only days away; the Manor had no reason to be so draughty. With a profane word and a fumble at the nightstand, Draco grabbed his wand and pointed it in what he hoped was the direction of the fireplace.
A fire roared to life on—Merlin, were those the drapes? Draco sat up, traces of slumber suddenly gone as he frantically looked around the room. No, the fire was safely contained within the hearth. How stupid, how absolutely stupid was he to not look where he was pointing his wand? Something was wrong with him. He hadn’t been right in weeks.
He swung his legs out of bed, wincing when his feet hit the marble floor, which felt as cold as ice. He stumbled to the bathroom, making a face at the cold of the tile underfoot. A glance out the window revealed a darkened sky, sunrise still hours away. The hair on the back of Draco’s neck stood up as he approached the sink and turned the knob for the hot water. The knob let out an unpleasant screech as he caught the eyes of his reflection in the mirror over the sink. With a careful stare, he turned his head back and forth slowly. His grey eyes had dark shadows beneath—shadows that had appeared at the end of his fifth year and refused to disappear since. His cheeks looked hollow, and his skin translucent. Draco took a step back, removing his sleep shirt. His chest was a large expanse of white skin streaked through by blue veins. His ribs poked through the skin of his torso, making him appear emaciated. He turned to allow himself a view of his side, wondering when he became so bleeding skinny, when he saw it. A long red mark, scabbed over and peeling, stretching shoulder to arse. An almost mended scar, with a twin beside it, running parallel a couple centimetres away. Draco frowned. It looked like it had bled. Scars like that don’t just appear—
He realized too late that he had a hand reaching to the edge of the mirror, almost halfway there. No. He snatched his hand back, looking away.
Scalding hot water spilled out of the overflowing sink and splashed onto the tile and his bare feet. Draco bit the inside of his cheek in pain, jumping back on instinct and then scrambling forward to turn off the tap. Steam rose from the water inside the basin as it attempted to drain. He watched the water swirl slowly away, receding centimetre by centimetre out of sight.
He had forgotten something. Something important. Best it stay forgotten.
Narcissa sat with a straight back and a straighter gaze at breakfast. Draco sipped his tea slowly, gripping it with both hands in hopes that the chill that still sat in his fingertips would recede. He knew his mother disapproved, not just because of the look in her eyes but because she had often chastised him for bad table manners as such when he was a child. ”That’s how Muggle-lovers hold their tea, Draco.”
“Draco,” she said, pulling him out of his thoughts. “You’re not eating.” Draco looked down at his empty plate. The thought of poached eggs or bacon made his stomach turn unpleasantly.
“Forgive me, Mother,” he replied. “It seems my appetite has deserted me.”
Narcissa frowned, as if she was going to push the issue, but all she said was, “Please don’t forget, you need to be fitted for your dress robes either today or tomorrow.” Draco sipped his tea, and a sudden exhaustion settled into his chest. The thought of returning to his room filled him with dread, but the prospect of a day in Diagon Alley didn’t make him feel any better, either.
“I’ll do that today,” he told his mother. “Anything specific you wanted?”
Narcissa smiled a little. “I was hoping you would get green robes. You do look so nice in green.”
Draco frowned. He had been thinking of getting black. “I’ll consider it,” he said tightly. Narcissa’s smile faltered. Draco set down his tea and rose from his chair. “I’ll be home for dinner,” he said as he strode from the room.
The door to the study seemed stuck at first, and it took Draco three separate tries to open. When he did finally manage to open the door, he strode purposefully to the fireplace. The urn of Floo Powder sat on the mantle, but when Draco made to grab it, he knocked it over. It shattered on the marble floor, scattering the Floo Powder. With a curse, Draco bent and gathered a handful, hoping he’d gotten enough. He stepped into the fireplace and tightened his grip on the powder. Pain bit into his palm; he must have grabbed a broken shard of porcelain from the shattered urn. Draco took a deep breath. For some reason his stomach was all in knots. With a feeling of apprehension, Draco called, “Diagon Alley!” into the darkness of the study. And away he went.
Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions looked different from the last time Draco had been there. That had been… what? Four years ago? For dress robes for the Yule Ball? The storefront was significantly shabbier, as if the store had been out of operation for a good bit of time. Draco supposed that it had. Many stores in Diagon Alley had simply shut their doors out of fear of The Dark Lord during the past year. Most had come back, and Diagon Alley resembled the same bustling street from Draco’s childhood, but some things never could shake off what war had brought on.
Madam Malkin was a squat, smiling witch whose smile tightened when Draco walked in the door. “Mr Malfoy,” she said with a voice as pinched as her face. “Do come in.”
Draco smiled, hoping to appear less threatening. “I need a new set of dress robes,” he said.
Madam Malkin inclined her head. “Yes, of course. For the gala. We have another here for that, too. Please follow me.”
Narcissa’s gala must be garnering loads of publicity, then, if Madam Malkin had heard about it. In the back of the shop, standing on a footstool while another witch measured the hem of his robes, was a boy his age with messy black hair.
“Potter,” Draco said, surprised. Madam Malkin ushered him onto a nearby footstool, ignoring the interaction between the two boys. Doubtless, she hoped to avoid a duel in her shop.
Potter turned, earning him a prick from the needle of the witch measuring him. His black hair was shorter than it had been when Draco had last seen him, and he looked healthier and less pale. “Malfoy. Isn’t this ironic.”
Draco held out his arms at the witch’s prompting. “Ironic? What do you mean?”
Potter shrugged. “I dunno, it’s just funny, innit? I met you first here.”
“What?” For an inexplicable reason, Draco’s stomach felt like it was in his throat, and an unmistakable level of fear began rising inside of him. Was Potter making him nervous?
“You don’t remember? I suppose you didn’t recognize me then. Before our first year, you and I got fitted for Hogwarts robes at the same time.”
Draco furrowed his brow, trying to recall. He didn’t. “Sorry.”
Potter winced. The witch measuring him must have stuck him with another pin. “I wouldn’t expect you to. How’s the gala planning coming along?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Draco replied. “I’ve been able to avoid having to do most of it.”
Potter laughed a little. “Your mum seems to be a bit of the control freak. She came to see me to insure that I was attending. Even tried to invite my aunt and uncle.”
“Do you still live with the Muggles?” Draco asked, knowing it was none of his business, hoping the question seemed polite. Even to his own ears, his voice sounded strangled. Potter, on the other hand, looked the picture of relaxed. Figures it would be relaxing, being the Boy Who Defeated You-Know-Who. Draco had half a mind to guess that Madam Malkin was making his robes for free.
“There wasn’t any reason to. I’m staying at my godfather’s old place now.”
It was like someone had hit him in the chest. Aunt Bellatrix killed Sirius Black. Guilt crushed the breath in his lungs, and suddenly Draco was back in the Manor, standing cowardly behind his mother as Aunt Bellatrix held Granger and screamed at him to take Potter’s wand. That hadn’t been his fault. None of what his aunt or his father did had been his fault. But how little he had done to stop it. How many friends had Potter lost because of him?
Good riddance, Aunt Bellatrix.
Madam Malkin spoke from his elbow. “Did you have a preference to colour or cut?”
Draco turned away from Potter, glad for the interruption. “Mother wants me to wear green, but I would much prefer black.”
The witch tapped her chin with her wand. “What about a green lining?” She pointed her wand at Draco, muttering under her breath. The pinned robes fluttered open to reveal a dark green interior.
Draco frowned. “Can we make it darker?”
Madam Malkin nodded, waving her wand again, and the green darkened to that it was a few shades shy of the black exterior. “And the cut?” she prompted.
Draco shrugged. “Take whatever liberties you would like with style.”
She circled him, clucking her tongue and occasionally and making minor changes to the robes. While she adjusted his robes, Potter pulled off his pinned robes and stepped off of his stool. “See you at the gala, Malfoy,” he tossed over his shoulder on the way out of the store. Draco nodded courteously in response. Easy, everything he does is so easy. Madam Malkin, meanwhile, cuffed the sleeves, added a white trim to the interior hem and the cuffs, and marked holes for a series of buttons down the front.
“You’re all done, dearie,” she said, pulling the robes over his head. “I’ll sew these up and owl them to you tomorrow.”
“Thank you. How much do I owe you?”
As they finished up the transaction, a flash of red from outside the window caught his eye. He turned, distracted, to watch Ginny Weasley walk down the street next to Hermione Granger. Potter stood waiting for them outside of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour with a cone in each hand. He gave one to each girl and stooped, as if to kiss Weasley on the cheek. Draco’s stomach twisted painfully as he watched her duck her head away, out of his reach. Distracted, Draco handed Madam Malkin a handful of coins, probably more than he owed, and left the shop. He debated turning right and walking past Florean’s. Maybe he should say hello to Granger and Weasley. No, bad idea. He should go left, and go the long way around. Maybe stop at the Leaky and grab a drink. Ogden’s? No. He hated Firewhiskey. What was wrong with him today?
Draco turned left, painfully aware of Potter watching him as he walked out of sight. He may be coming to the Malfoy gala, but that didn’t make them friends. In fact, it hardly prevented them from being enemies. All too easily, Draco remembered how easy it was to hate Harry Potter.
The long way back to the Leaky Cauldron went by Quality Quidditch Supplies, the sight of which made Draco sick to his stomach. He didn’t think he’d ever want to play another game of Quidditch. Suddenly he felt ashamed for allowing his father to buy him a Seeker position on the Sytherin House Team. He hadn't fooled anyone by trying to be Potter’s rival—he was never as good a Potter was. That wasn’t to say that Draco was necessarily bad, or didn’t deserve his place on the team, but he wasn’t as good as he had believed—or wanted—himself to be when he was twelve.
Farther down the cobblestones blazed the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes sign. The storefront was nearly as brilliant as it had been before the Weasleys were forced to close it and go into hiding, but somehow the paint seemed to have lost its shine. The fireworks that occasionally erupted over the Alley fizzled faster, popped quieter, and sparkled less than they used to. Draco remembered the article from The Daily Prophet: the reopening after Fred Weasley’s death had been hard for the remaining twin, and he relied heavily upon his friends’ and siblings’ help.
Somewhere inside Draco’s head, a reasonable voice was telling him to not go into the shop, and think of what The Prophet would say, and his mother. He disregarded that voice, striding to the storefront with a level of confidence that he hadn’t possessed in years.
A fake owl let loose an atrocious parrot-like squawk when Draco opened the door, and belched a cloud of purple smoke that smelled like rotten eggs. Draco lifted an eyebrow and pinched his nose, disgusted, moving away from the doorway in case someone else walked in and caused the same effect. Inside, the shop was as crowded, colourful, and brilliant as it once had been, most likely thanks to Lee Jordan’s help. A stunningly pink display with a banner reading “WonderWitch” above it could be seen dominating a small side room. To the right, Fanged Frisbees and Self-Propelling Custard Pies whizzed through the air, so Draco ducked to the left, nearly knocking over a display of Headless Hats in the process.
“Watch yourself,” came a voice as a hand reached out to steady him. Draco looked up to thank the stranger in magenta robes, but the man continued. “Well, look who it is! Someone let shite in the door.”
“Excuse you,” Draco said, taking a step back to see George Weasley more clearly.
“You’re excused,” George replied quickly. “Come back later. Or not at all.”
Draco opened his mouth to say something—he wasn’t sure what, but he wasn’t accustomed to being publicly and loudly asked to leave—but he settled for a sneer and said, “Fine. I suppose I’ll not patron your establishment.”
George made a shooing motion with his hands before crossing his arms in front of his chest. “We don’t need bloody money here to get by, and we value a higher calibre of customer.”
Draco turned to leave and stopped, cocking his head. The nearest display was stacked high with beautiful corked bottles, each with a slowly swirling cloud trapped inside. “Weather in a Bottle!” the sign above the display proclaimed. “Pity,” he said, picking up a large bottle that had just started to storm. “This is interesting. Was this your spellwork?”
“Yeah. And the door’s mine too; it’s over there.”
Draco glimpsed the price on the tag and dug some coins out of his pocket. “Heard you’ll be able to make it to the gala,” he said quietly as he counted in his palm.
“Yeah, I’ll be there, alright. And I’ll be none too happy about it. Just because me mum’s all eager to let bygones be bygones doesn’t mean that I’m willing to do business with filth like you.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. He was hardly aware that his voice adopted a superior tone as he said, “Funny, you sound like me.” He held out his hand, full of coins, moving his palm so the metal clanked impatiently against each other. George met Draco’s eyes, brown drilling into grey for several long moments.
“Fine,” George said, taking the money. “Anything to make the Malfoy family poorer.”
“See you at the gala.” Draco turned, hiding his condescending smile and tucking the bottle into his robes. It really was pretty. The fake owl above the door screeched loudly as the door opened and a red haired girl entered, knocking into Draco. He stepped back to keep his balance as the unmistakable scent of jasmine assaulted him.
“Alright?” she asked, just as he snapped, “Watch it!”
Ginny Weasley backed up, eyebrows raising in condescension and hands finding her hips. “Malfoy. Last time I checked, we didn’t do business with slimy gits.” Her brown eyes narrowed, emphasising her words.
Draco’s throat tightened up. Her upper lip curled in a way that shouldn’t have made his heart beat harder. Embarrassment heated Draco’s collar, and he inclined his head.
“My apologies, Miss Weasley. I was just on my way out.” Did his voice always sound so thin? His apology seemed to have startled her. In the moments that she stood, open mouthed, thinking of something to say, Draco ducked out of the door.
Narcissa found her son in the library, lost among the tall shelves. Draco didn’t tell her that he had missed dinner because every time he had attempted to make his way to the dining room, he found himself inexplicably in his bathroom. Frustration had given way to sloth, and Draco had settled in an armchair in the Charms section, catching up on his studies.
Narcissa’s footsteps were muted by the thick Persian rugs she had insisted cover the entirety of the library. Like the carpet on the stairs, she found it a necessity that the library be as quiet of a place as possible, and Lucius had grudgingly conceded, hiding yet another length of pure white marble.
“You missed dinner,” she said, startling Draco out of Quintessence: A Quest.
“So I did. I’ll stop by the kitchen on my way to bed.” Draco carefully marked his place and set down the textbook, giving his mother his full attention.
Narcissa frowned. “I heard about your run in with the Weasley girl and her brother at their shop. I thought I asked you not to antagonize them.”
“You may have, I can’t remember,” said Draco flippantly. He stood to replace Quintessence: A Quest in its proper place.
“Draco, do not openly vilipend my wishes!” Narcissa cried, squeezing her eyes shut and balling her fists around the fabric in the skirt of her robes. Draco froze where he stood, book held above his head, poised on the correct shelf. His mother took a deep breath, looked away from him, and put a hand to her throat. “Forgive me,” she muttered.
Draco knocked the book onto the shelf and turned to fully face his mother. He clasped his hands behind his back, as he had been taught to do when apologizing to his mother. “I was being rude. I’m sorry.” Narcissa waved her hand, dismissing his formality. Draco relaxed. “What happened at the shop was a misunderstanding. I accidently bumped into the Weasley girl as she came in the door.”
She arched her back beneath him, dragging sharp nails up his naked back as he bit her shoulder. The scent of jasmine surrounding him, driving him wild. The heat coming off of her skin, her tongue in his mouth, her mouth on his—
Some expression of Draco’s face must have given him away because Narcissa regarded him strangely for several long seconds. Eventually, she broke his gaze to pick a book off of the shelf nearest hers.
“The empty shelves in the back are an eyesore,” she commented, voice even and careful. The back of the library, where they used to keep questionable books, now boasted empty shelves. Narcissa had Banished all Dark Objects and their like after the Dark Lord’s defeat. “I shall be shopping for new books to replace the old ones in the near future,” she continued, flipping through whatever she had picked up. “Do you have any requests?”
“I do not,” he said evenly, wondering what she was getting at.
“Think about it, please. And also, keep in mind that Memory Charms are dangerous and can be permanently damaging.” Before she had finished speaking, she had already turned to leave, book still in hand. Draco watched her go, confusion mounting. A wave of exhaustion swept over him, and he sat back down in the armchair. Maybe he would sleep in the library. It was certainly more comfortable than sleeping in his bathroom.
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