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Chapter 1 : darkmark.
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He is already bored.
Astoria Greengrass finishes scanning the files on her clipboard and folds her hands together. Her smile is professional and bland. "So, Draco, what would you like to talk about?"
Every ounce of ennui he had collected in the psychologist's waiting room is infused in his next words. "The weather."
The smile twitches the only part of her that moves like a statue that has made a mistake. "It's raining."
Of course it is; the rain doesn't stop. This bloody hunk of rock never should have left the sea. Mist lumbers outside the window, a paper-white purgatory. He's had enough. This is the last time he'll listen to one of Pansy's ideas.
Answerless but for a sigh, he stands, takes his coat from the rack, and leaves the room.
The only difference when he returns is that his hair is sopping wet.
She is sitting at her desk now instead of the sofas, but not for long. She rises, hands empty and clasp behind her. "You're back soon."
"It's raining." He hangs his coat up with more force than necessary. "Install a floo."
"Not fond of apparition?"
He slumps down on the sofa and the damp presses against him on all sides. "Very funny."
Every man, woman, and child has seen the photos of his wand's public confiscation, the ceremony to make an example of him and his family. If not, they certainly read about it in the interviews he gave Skeeter. Azkaban or not, there is no escaping hell.
Astoria seats herself on an armrest opposite to him, crossing her legs. "These sessions will rely on your words. I wouldn't know if you didn't tell me."
"Live in a cave? Read the damn papers."
She smiles, and it lingers this time instead of fading into stone. "I do, but they have a tendency for exaggeration." Her conversational tone jars him out of his torpor. She must notice, for she adds, "A necessary precaution against relapse. Once loyal, always loyal. A fairly accurate paraphrase of recent headlines, wouldn't you say?"
Sneering, he shakes his head. "You believe it, like everyone else."
"I believe that it would be prudent to hear both sides." She picks up the teapot from the table between them, lifting a lid to check its contents. She pours a cup for him and then for herself. "Every party has their own agenda. History favors the winner, says the old adage. There are true villains " her eyes flick up to his and anchor her pompous words to earth "but far more are followers and scapegoats."
Her sympathy is a ploy, and he knows it. To understand is her job, and ultimately, she will crack more galleons out of his coffers with tea and patience.
He knows this, but desperation is clawing his throat dry. There are words to say, but he does not know what they are or who they are for.
His dreams fill with smoke, and Crabbe dies for the twenty-fifth time. When he wakes up, he forgets to breathe.
Less than a week later, he finds himself in Astoria's office again.
"Where to begin?" He scratches at the stubble on his chin where he missed shaving. The lack of sleep has not been kind, but self-ridicule unwinds his tongue easily. "My life's been shit to say the least."
She brushes off his additional comment. "Begin wherever you feel appropriate."
"It's not a very happy story, my life. Shit beginning, shit middle, looked optimistic for awhile, then the lobbyists fucked it up." He drops his feet on the table with a loud thud, and the porcelain clatters. "But don't worry, I wasn't a very nice person. I'm just getting my comeuppance."
Something about the glare she sends him leaves Draco very satisfied. Certainly makes up for the new anti-sympathizer posters on the fence by his flat, urging 'Loyalists for life, life for Loyalists'. Or maybe and most likely he just wants to get a rise out of her. If she's going to dig through his mind, it's only fair to get under her skin.
She recovers quickly, picking up a spoon that has fallen from its dish. "We're not here to deal with right or wrongs. Just you." She speaks not to him, but to their reflections on the table's glass surface.
He scoffs and wonders why he's come back. He's had enough attention. Yes, he can safely say that he is sick and tired of attention. The most hated man to leave the Battle of Hogwarts alive, and yet everyone still wants something from him. Father wants him to do good for the Malfoy name while he's stuck in the limbo of the courts. Pansy, for the third time, can't grasp the concept of seeing other people. That damned propaganda brigade when they aren't knocking on his door for an interview, they're slandering him on street corners. No, he just needs to be left alone.
"This was a mistake," he mutters. The cushion springs squeak as he rises in that hundred and eighty degrees toward the door, when her voice cuts in, soft but urgent.
"How are the nightmares?"
He hadn't told anyone about them.
The question is on his lips when he turns to her.
"You have bags under your eyes..." Her speech drags as if she is thinking intently in-between her syllables. The peaks of her knuckles fade from their white as she relaxes against the sofa. "If there is something troubling you..."
Her unspoken plea hangs in the air: let me help you.
Underneath however many layers of false impartiality, she is, as he guessed upon first sight, too young and hopeful for her profession.
He lets her try. She will give up soon enough.
He means to begin slowly, but the memories balloon before he can shut the floodgates, and it only takes a few sessions for every drop to leak out. She pours tea every time, and he talks until he is hoarse.
When he translates his past into words, his finds his vocabulary insufficient. He was afraid; that much was obvious. The uncontrollable shaking strikes him still, five years since. How potent are the nightmares that were once reality.
He scavenges more exact words terrified. Terror for the future he was helping to create: a pure utopia ruled by those he walked alongside, those that went bump in the night.
Beautiful in idea, or so it seemed at the time. Savagery in action.
Pureblood and mudblood both spill red and paint the castle of his adolescence. Every time his nostrils fills with the stench of burning flesh, he wants to retch. When the pallid faces of his classmates resurface, he does.
Mother said it was the only way, and she knew best, but she also listened to Father who listened to a shade that could barely be called human.
The days of naivete are long past; his own soul is not without fault lines. A dozen-thousand sins hid under his cloak, but to free one was to free them all, and how could he face every single one? He'd sooner let them take his wand and pride and mind.
He stops short of admitting his crimes aloud, sometimes abruptly, and he wonders if Astoria can guess them. It does not occur to him until the third week that the listener of his stories was there in the war as well.
She makes it all too easy for the detail to slip between the cracks. When she holds her tea, it does not ripple because her hand trembles too much. Her curled lashes rest upon a calm gaze, and though they are not as soft as he had first believed, death does not hide in its shadow.
She saw and she knows, yet she does not suffer.
He is already jealous.
As Astoria observes him, he must observe her.
His conclusion: she is unnerving.
He is well acquainted with inscrutable beings. He had a childhood of mysterious figures slipping in and out of his life, whose names were too important to be uttered aloud in public, as Father would say.
Astoria is not inscrutable she is quite the open book, in fact but she simply does not make sense.
She carries herself like she knows him too well, a sly edge in her movements. Yet as she assembles his files, she would also exchange pleasantries as if she were meeting him at a corner cafe. He asks about Daphne sometimes, counting the days since he last saw the old Slytherin circle, and a bashful smile graces her face. She is constantly mindful of her age.
Underneath, an abstruse discomfort stews, and he cannot place it until he is midway through describing a Death Eater ceremony.
"This... doesn't surprise you?" he asks, after his last sentence leaves a taste of burnt flesh on his tongue.
Though she is already studying him, her head jerks straighter, like she notices him for the second time. When she listens, hawk-like and hardly ever speaking, the room teeters at the edge of glacial coldness.
"I've heard worse."
"Worse? I suppose you brush those off the same? That simple?"
Her mouth wavers open like his. Slowly, she lowers her quill.
He holds her gaze until she looks away to her pad of paper. He wishes that he hadn't asked.
A black desert wasteland stretches before him. He steps forward into nowhere, squinting at the sky that is dark with silt, moving in tides. At the center of its vortex is him.
He hears a harpy's call and twists his body toward the sound, but there is nothing except the wind. He swears there are faces in the clouds, ghouls escaping to heaven, but this is his mind tricking him again.
This whole place is a trick.
The whistling gale picks up, pulling dust in its wake. The landscape has overheard his thoughts. Dust turns solid, fluttering like fabric, and to his horror, he recognizes the beings taking shape.
Blood and breath frozen, he cannot run. Fear taints the air like kerosene, and they close in with gaping, soulless mouths. One takes him by his chin, and he knows this is it. A kiss for his sanity. His ears fill with their howl and then
A spark of blue.
It is small a single azure speck in the sky but it is there: bright, brilliant blue.
In a flash, the sky floods with color, engulfing the dementors, and he can feel his heart beating again. The world falls away in favor of the white plaster of Astoria's office.
Groaning, he wants to rub the blue that has burned into his retinas but finds that his hand is already occupied. Astoria is crouched by him, her fingers pressed gently against his palm.
"You fell asleep," she murmurs. "I didn't want to wake you, but you were tossing and turning and I..."
Her eyes are wide and blue. He blinks, and they are brown, as they always have been.
Taking his hand from her, he struggles to contain the ache behind his forehead; it is not a dream anymore. "You...?"
She hesitates. Her stare is still rattled as if she were the one who saw something unfathomable, not him.
"I was worried."
What are mere nightmares? Only images, hardly real, no matter how they feel on the nights he wakes up screaming, unsure if he'll open his eyes to a battlefield or the mocking shadows of his ceiling.
Did you-know-who get nightmares? He who performed seven nightmares for seven horcruxes, for a soul ripped to fibers, but how much humanity could have been left after the first tear? He was a born monster; anyone could have seen it except blind batty Dumbledore but so many followed, and there is the most sinister question of all: why?
He knows all about the word Astoria drops, the lengthy and accusing rationalization, but it sounds heavenly when it reaches his ears.
He is only her third patient.
A slip of the tongue told him, but he could have guessed, given enough time. The strong front she put up when they first met is but a curtain, thin and billowing like her skirts, covering thin elbows, thin knees. She fills herself out with conversation and tea. It is when she is scouring the bottom of the pot that he learns of her inexperience.
She tries hard not to sound optimistic she knows that false hope is not too welcome amongst his type of people but she cannot seem to help it. Her smiles appear when they shouldn't, are also thin but cheerful enough. They wait for him when he lets the room dip into silence. He isn't opposed to them.
She is propping up an extra cushion on the sofa when he enters the room.
"After last week, I practiced some sleep therapy," she explains. The side of her arm brushes his as she moves out of the way. "I thought you might be interested."
"In being your guinea pig?" Despite his habitual sneer, he is grateful, and her lips curve upwards.
He lies back on the sofa, digs his elbows in, and shuts his eyes. The last thing he remembers is the cloying scent of peppermint from her sweets tin.
His eyes open to a flash. Another follows, marked with a spiral filament. He isn't quick enough to shield from the third camera bulb.
A million mouths open and close, spitting questions as the reporters surge toward him. As he ducks and fights his way through the crowd, it never ends, and this is how he knows he's dreaming again.
At last, he stumbles into a gap and sees her.
She stands out from the sepia. More engrossed in her notepad than him, she has not heeded his presence. He takes a step toward her and her eyes lift. They are the same soft brown he is used to seeing every Wednesday.
"Why are you here?" he asks.
Her voice is more ethereal than her real-world counterpart's, echoing against the sides of his head. "I'm here to help."
Mere sound should not sting, but it does with bite and his mouth creases. He remembers the feeling from long ago.
Someone jostles into him. A camera blocks him. She is behind it.
His mind flares into white before he can even think to panic and the scene before him reverberates like thunder. He opens his eyes, and it is night. Blinking, he can only make out silhouettes; she turned down the lights.
There are footsteps, then the predictable clatter of a tray on the table. "Sleep well?"
He must have. He can barely remember anything.
He takes her tea and when he glances at Astoria, the dream floods back, clear as a photo and stinging anew with that artifact of the past.
Draco? She frowns. Is something wrong?
He can place it this time, now when he is conscious and in control of his mind. He has forgotten so much since his school days, but not the fragments that have allowed him to survive since then, and his heart picks up pace.
"You're a legilimens."
A/N I've said that I wouldn't post this until I finished, but that was over a year ago, so I'm going to throw caution to the wind and hope I get this finished in a reasonable time frame after posting this, because the first chapter has been sitting for aaages. It will likely be three chapters in total.
I've always wanted to write my own version of Draco, and so here he is! Quite inspired by various Dracos written by peppersweet, who writes one of my favorite Dracos (and now I will stop referring to Draco in multiples because it sounds sillier with every succession). I've always imagined Astoria as a psychiatrist for some reason, and so here she is as well! This authors note is entirely too chipper for the tone of this story, but alas.
Ahem, anyhow, a review would be much welcomed!
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