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Sinners by ciararose

Format: Novella
Chapters: 18
Word Count: 39,570
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature

Genres: Drama, Romance, Angst
Characters: Draco, Pansy
Pairings: Draco/Pansy

First Published: 11/12/2006
Last Chapter: 01/21/2008
Last Updated: 01/30/2011

Summary:

Gorgeous banner by silv3r_ic3 @TDA





3 years have passed since Graduation, and the war continues. The line between good and evil has become blurred and wearied. In a battle that has changed each participant in a different way, can there be a beautiful side to evil? No matter how tainted or regretful, can love exist among the cruelest of Dark followers? Through love, grief, joy, fear, and death, this is not the story of the saint. This is the story of the sinners.


Chapter 1: Chapter One - Don't Trust a Killer
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Hogwarts School Closed, Declared ‘Prohibited Area’ by Ministry
 

Yesterday, at a news conference held by the Minister of Magic, it was announced that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the school renowned for teaching some of the greatest Wizarding names, the school that has provided the primary means of education to British witches and wizards for centuries, and a familiar landmark to almost every witch and wizard in the world, is now closed. The reason for this closure was not revealed, however, the Minister declared the entire area a Prohibited Zone for any civilian and advised the public that approaching the school would be extremely dangerous. Rumors as to the reasoning behind the closure range, and it is not clear whether the danger is under Ministry control or not.







The mark on her arm burning impatiently, jet black against ivory skin, she hurried up the corridor toward the meeting room. She rubbed at it in discomfort; she was used to the sensation, but it didn’t make it any more enjoyable, and it tended to tingle for hours after the summons. It was always hard to ignore, although she tried sometimes, playing a dangerous game that never lasted for more than a minute or two. He always lasted longer than she did- but then again, he had had the mark longer too.




She reached the heavy doors and nodded to the masked figures standing on either side of it. They glanced at her arm before pulling the doors aside- as though anyone without the mark would be here.




She hated having to see Him in person. Each time he called her, chills came with the summons. He was evil, dark, a picture you longed to turn away from, but so terrible that you could not stop looking. He sat in the front of the hall, and her memories of the place contrasted distressingly with the shadows that adorned it now, with the gleam of red eyes in torchlight, and the icy cold of pale hands resting against dark wood. Each time she walked up the center of the room, footsteps sounding against the stone, she could feel the thrill of youth, and taste each word she had ever spoken within these walls. And then she would bow, and He would speak, his voice destructive and hypnotic, and each train of thought would shatter with a crash against the floor.



 



Hogwarts School Overtaken by Death Eaters

 

The closing of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry caused dismay and outrage among the Wizarding community two weeks ago, as parents of young witches and wizards were forced to find alternative schooling for their children. Until now, the reasons for the closure remained unclear. The Daily Prophet, however, has received exclusive information from a source inside the Ministry that, if true, is truly and deeply alarming. The source, who wishes to remain unnamed, has revealed that Hogwarts School has been commandeered by the Dark Lord and is even now serving as a Headquarters for his followers. How this turn of events was allowed to occur is surely a mystery, but if true, this news is certain to cause panic throughout the Wizarding community, as it is an undeniable indication of the growing strength of You-Know-Who and his followers.





The castle was an ideal strategic location, and had the added benefit of some dark sentimental value to the Dark Lord. It was large, strong, and nearly impossible to enter against the will of anyone inside.

 

But she hated being back here. She hated how she always turned toward the common room before remembering that she no longer lived there, sometimes not until she had reached the entrance. She hated that the room she occupied had once watched her learn Transfiguration, and that the teacher was long dead now. She hated that screams echoed against the corridors, and that shadows crossed so easily when the torchlight was faint, and that every place she went seemed to hold some memory for her, of when she had been there before, young and vibrant and not aware that she could never get out. The place she had been sorted was now the place she met the Dark Lord each time he called her to receive her instructions. The first place she had ever watched a Hogwarts Quidditch game was now the place she had first learned to kill. The first place she had ever been kissed by a boy was now the first place she had suffered a Crucio at the Dark Lord's hand.

 
She didn’t do well in the past.






Ministry Suffers in Polls, Public Outcry Growing in Volume

 

The Ministry of Magic is the victim of increasingly common attacks on wartime policy. A frightened and desperate public has turned upon its government seeking assurances and protection. The Ministry of Magic insists that it is taking every possible action to combat the violence and destruction wreaked by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and that the Ministry is ‘not to blame’ for its failures. Members of the public, however, who are used to relying on help from their elected officials in these troubled times, are becoming more vocal in their disapproval and impatience. Yesterday marked the death of the two-hundredth wizard to loose his life at the hands of a Death Eater or as a direct cause of the war. This figure does not account for the almost five hundred Muggles who have died.

 





She let herself into her room with a key, and went to the closet to remove her coat. She slipped off her shoes and shook hair from her eyes, then turned toward the window. She wasn't surprised to see an old classmate seated on the bed with a book.

"You weren't due back until later," she said, stepping in to the closet to change into robes. She emerged in simple black ones and walked toward the bed, watching her guest sit up against the pillows. She put a pillow against the wall next to him and sat down, leaning on it and tangling her legs perpendicular to his own, her heartbeat, as always, responsive to his lightest touch. She couldn’t remember when first he had tempted her, knew only that he owned her pulse.




"It wasn't as difficult to get in as we thought it might be," he replied, quietly. "No wards."

The dim, grey light coming from the window seemed to call for quiet, for monotone and simplicity. Pansy could feel fatigue radiating from him, both magical and physical. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back. It was a dark sort of day, grey with fog and uncertain and quietly threatening. Pansy, who had not been on assignment that day, felt fatigue creeping into her too, like fog running through her veins.

"Who was it?" she asked, and he opened his eyes to gaze at a far wall.

"Macmillan."




No matter how cruel, how hardened they became, Avada Kedavra never became any easier than the first time. And the first time had been a taste of death- dazzling, almost beautiful, persuasive and coaxing in the darkest way.





Murder in Diagon Alley
 

In an alarmingly bold move on Tuesday, three Death Eaters were seen, masked and hooded, leaving the Wicked Wands pub in Diagon Alley at approximately three in the afternoon, and promptly Disapparating. Frightened and concerned, neighbors alerted the Ministry before entering the building, only to find the bartender, a Timothy Neeling, dead on the floor, along with two patrons whose names have no been released. The obvious and reckless manner in which this crime was committed suggests that the Death Eaters, supporters of You-Know-Who, are no longer adverse to operating in public and in broad daylight, an idea that has prompted several nearby homeowners to pack their bags for the country. The targeting of Mr. Neeling does not appear random, but no connections between his life and his murder have yet been found.




"Was he alone?"

"No. Abbot and a kid where there, too," he told her, and she could see him watching the scene play out against the stones of the wall. Unlocking the door. Entering quietly, coming in to the kitchen, maybe. Macmillan would have yelled, Hannah would have whimpered. She could almost hear his voice, demanding allegiance and knowledge. The standard speech, which was rarely effective. Macmillan would have been dramatic as always. The flash of green light when the words were spoken, a scream from Abbot. A second flash, and then get rid of the witness.

It was always the same. Only a few ever cooperated, usually the ones who weren't particularly useful anyway. They were the cowardly ones. Their betrayal didn't save them.







Flashback





“We of the Ministry deeply regret the necessity for this news conference. But it is our duty to inform the public of the ultimate triumph of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. We hope the people of this good nation will forgive us our mistakes, so that we may all bind together in this time of dire need. The Ministry of Magic is no longer the most powerful force in this country, and at this time, we feel that although the best possible efforts to prevent this situation have been taken, there is simply nothing we can do but wait. We of the Ministry urge you to take every possible precaution against the danger that lurks outside your homes. Do not speak to, or contact in any way, any person that you feel may be under the influence or employment of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. If you do make contact with such a person, take every possible measure not to provoke them. Although we know that our people are brave and will fight for their freedoms, the truth is undeniable. The war, for now, is over. We have lost.”








He folded his hands across his stomach. Pansy stayed where she was, looking out the window across from her seat. After a few minutes, she glanced at Draco, noting the even rise and fall of his breathing. He was asleep, but she knew any sound would wake him, as it always did. They were both light sleepers, companions of the night, where darkness greeted them with familiarity. Pansy had never liked the sunlight anyway.

She moved sideways until she lay parallel to him and rested her head on a pillow. The soft rustling of her motion woke him and he slid one arm aside, tiredly pulling her closer and gripping her waist. She heard his breathing slow, then become steady, and eventually, she fell asleep herself.

 


Chapter 2: Chapter Two - She Was Born to Be The One That We Could Blame
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She gasped and woke, and the room was dark. The bed beside her was empty.


After a moment, her eyes focused and she could see by the moonlight streaming from the window. The torches were not lit. She saw the bright cream of her new robes hanging in her closet, and her skin against the dark bed covers. Draco’s pale skin and hair glowed gently as he turned in his seat by the window to face her. He looked like a ghost, white and shining against the rest of the shadows in the room.

“Bad dream?” he asked flatly. Keen ears had picked up the sound of her sharp breath.

“No. Just flashes,” she said.

He nodded and turned back to the window. She watched carefully to be sure he wasn’t looking, then lifted her pale wrists from her lap. Dark crescents bit sharply where her fingernails had dug in to the skin on her arm. She rarely moved in her sleep, and never had she injured herself. The marks shook her; they were new and unusual and a bad sign.

“Are you hungry?” she asked him, and he turned around and stood up.

“Yes. We should eat.”

“Do you want to go somewhere? I don't know how late it is,” she asked him, looking around for the clock but unable to see the numbers clearly in the dark.

“It’s ten o'clock,” he told her. “We may as well eat something from the kitchens. Do you want to go down? I could bring you something,” he offered, gazing at her steadily. It was a look she loved, the steady and burning stare that alone seemed capable of setting her skin scorching. She shook her head.

“No, I'll come. Light your wand, though. I don't know if the torches will be lit.”

The left the room, closing the door softly behind them. As Pansy had predicted, the torches were unlit, and the followed the light of Draco’s wand as she lit them behind her. They passed a few Death Eaters on their way to the kitchens, but many were out on assignment, and those who had recently returned were mostly resting and healing various injuries. Theodore Nott gave them a nod as he strode off in the opposite direction, black cloak billowing sinisterly behind him. They reached a painting that showed only fruit, tickled the pear, and entered the kitchens.

The house-elves were bound by enchantment to serve the castle regardless of master, to ensure they would not need re-employment each time a new Headmaster was appointed. They now looked ill and ragged, a far cry from their neat and efficient pasts, but they still served the occupants of the castle in much the same manner as always. They bowed respectfully as Draco and Pansy made their way toward the center of the kitchens.

“What can we be getting for you, Mr. and Miss?” they asked, and Draco requested dinner for them both. They sat down at a table in a corner of the kitchen and ate their food in contemplation, and Pansy could tell after only a few moments that something strange was happening to Draco. His face was impassible, as it almost always was, but his eyes were troubled and downcast, and he stared determinedly at the table, avoiding her eyes.

“What’s the matter?” she asked concernedly. She let him know with her steady gaze that she expected an honest answer, rather than reassurance. He would never lie to her, but she knew it was hard for him to share any discomfort.

“He’s calling again. He doesn’t usually summon me this often,” he replied, and Pansy glanced at the mark burned upon his arm. It glared jet black against white skin.

“Why didn’t you go? You’ll be in trouble if you don't hurry,” she told him urgently, standing up and taking his arm to inspect it more thoroughly. Draco didn’t answer, but she knew he was just being stubborn. His pride barely allowed him to serve others, but necessity bent his will.

"I'll go now. Don't wait for me,” he told her, but she knew she would anyway. Their hybrid relationship meant that she knew she would wait up for him no matter how late the hour, afraid of losing best friend, lover, confidant, and partner in the Dark Lord’s clutches.









Pansy woke with a start, turning over in luxurious sheets. She knew immediately that she was not in her own room, but it took only seconds for her to orient herself and realize she had fallen asleep in Draco's room, waiting for him to return from his audience with the Dark Lord. The old Charms room was lit only with a dying candle, and Pansy glanced around to see what had woken her. With the way they now slept, it could have been anything from a noise outside to the sputter of the candle as it burnt away. With a few seconds careful listening, however, Pansy determined the source of her abrupt return to consciousness. Footsteps were echoing outside the room, and from the pace and distance of them, Pansy knew it was Draco returning.

He opened the door almost silently, his face expectant and then smooth again when he saw her. Pansy was immediately alert, waiting to hear the latest assignment that, from the looks of it, was not at all to his taste. He closed the door behind him and sank in to a comfortable chair nearest the door, and Pansy rose from the bed with a barely audible rustle.

"Anything interesting?" she asked, pacing to his side and seating herself on the arm of the chair. She wondered why the Dark Lord would have called him so soon after his return. Draco had said his mission had gone well, and there was no feasible reason for the Dark Lord to have inflicted his wrath upon his servant.


“Just more captures,” he told her, raising his eyes to meet her own. Whatever the situation, no matter how serious, his profound look always electrified her, and sent a bolt of lightening shooting straight into her heart. He never looked through her, but always directly in to her in some strange, delightful way that strummed a little against her spine.

“You just got back,” she whispered, her forehead creased in confusion and disapointment.

“He's planning something big, I think. Another battle maybe.”

He was conflicted on the issue, she could tell. He was always composed, always stiff, and churning only on the inside, but she read his frustration in the slight curve of his lips. A new battle meant easier tasks if they won; less resistance. But it also meant weeks of preparation, of operating in midnight secrecy and danger. She gave him a moment to think, them prodded gently.

“He has new plans?” she asked, trying to hide her own anxiety.

“Yes,” he said, still deep in thought. "He wants to end a few things. The Ministry has been resisting; they have a few new departments. They're causing trouble."

He stood up abruptly, and strode across the floor with soft footfalls. He went to the bed and sat wearily against the cushions, glancing once at Pansy. She knew the tiny glance was a request for her presence, and she followed his steps to the bed and sat beside him, facing him.

“The Greengrass family have been giving generously to the Ministry.”

Pansy frowned, surprised. Daphne Greengrass had been in her year in Slytherin, a friend of hers. She couldn't understand their sudden loyalty to the Ministry.

"He thinks they may be trying to set up an understanding. They're looking for power."

Pansy nodded her understanding. The Greengrass family had been a wealthy PureBlood family from the time she knew Daphne They had parted after graduation, and Pansy hadn’t heard of Daphne since her name was mentioned by the Dark Lord. It made sense that the family was using their gold for themselves; it was a tradition of wealthy Purebloods. It seemed this particular family had cast their lot with the wrong side.

“I think we're going after them,” Draco told her. "He didn't say, but from the sound of it, we're looking for one of the old families."

“Their choice," she said wearily, rubbing her forehead in anticipation of a throbbing she felt gathering in her temple. The Greengrass family had chosen wrong. Pansy was more concerned with the suggested battle- she had had mixed results with the few that had taken place in the past years.

Draco breathed deeply, his mouth relaxing. Whatever his opinion, he had made his choice. He would never admit his weakness, but when he pulled her slightly closer and adjusted his grip on her waist, she knew he needed her more than he liked to tell himself. She let her head rest in the nook created by his arm, and she heard his breathing calm.

“Go to sleep,” she instructed. “You need it. We both do. Always.”

He was silent for a few minutes, and she was sure he had fallen asleep, but he spoke again suddenly.

“I don't know when I am going to leave,” he told her quietly.

She knew this meant he would be gone when she woke up in the morning. She raised her head and put her hands on either side of his face, moving aside strands of shining silver blonde hair from his forehead. His eyes were open and glowing grey and blue in the dark, where the candle had finally blown itself out. She would never let herself cry.

She brushed her lips once against his cool ones, and felt the faintest tug on her own. He wanted her to ask him to stay, but she never could, not if it meant inviting violence from the Dark Lord.

"What can I do?" she asked softly. There was no way for her to ease his anxiety when she shared it, no way to make him forget all of the times they had been fearful or hurt, no way for her to take away anything that had ever made his burdens heavy, but she would try.

"Don't get lost," he replied, and without warning she wanted to cry, to scream and choke and feel the hot tears course their way down her cheeks. But she never could. She knew he asked only that she stay alive and well and, when it was over, find him again, and she knew that he would never say so.

"I'll be careful."

She would be secretive and silent and do her job, and all the while know that he could do the same and still she would fear for him and for herself, should she ever lose him. And she would know that she could never say so.

Please don't, she pleaded in her mind. Don't go.

“Stay safe,” she told him. “Come back.”








 



Chapter 3: Chapter Three - Echoes
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“Stay safe,” she told him. “Come back.”

Almost asleep, he remembered the significance of her words. They had saved him once, after all. They had brought him back to her, as whole as could be expected and as undeserving as those who had the misfortune to meet him on the way. They didn’t particularly matter to him, at the time. He couldn’t remember their faces.

The circumstances had, naturally, been different. He was hardly asleep, and she certainly not beside him. But she had, somehow, seen that he needed a reason. A reason to return. She had given it to him, in four words.







Flashback







The common room, when he reached it, was nearly packed. It was late, some of the younger students had gone to bed, but the older students, plagued with schoolwork, remained awake and studying. The rare group that wasn’t buried in books was still quiet, subdued by harsh glares. Here was the room he had spent so long in. he didn’t care- memories would have no place in the life he was making for himself. And there was Crabbe, and there Goyle, looking moody in a corner. He wouldn’t say goodbye. They had never been people he would particularly miss seeing. He didn’t need any of them, really- Blaise, Daphne, Theodore, Pansy. But the thought of them made him wonder what had happened to them all- where had they been all year? Once, they had been attached, not always out of friendship or need, but together all the same. And this year, suddenly and almost unnoticeably, they had drifted apart. How had he allowed that? They might have been powerful allies.

Behind him, a familiar scent. He didn’t turn around, although he recognized it. He wasn’t entirely sure that he cared to speak to her; goodbyes were not something he had intended to make. Her absence this year disturbed him the most, in fact. Surely she had been there still, behind him, watching as she always did. She would not dare to abandon him. A Malfoy was never abandoned unless they ordered it, in which case they were abandoned quickly and efficiently. But he didn’t remember telling her to get out of his life.

 “Draco?”

Too late to decide, then.

“Pansy,” he said, nodding to her.

 “You’ve been scarce lately,” she said, and her eyes drifted a little over him. If she noticed anything different, she kept it to herself.

“I’ve been busy.”

She had started to reply, but he cut her off. For whatever reason, he felt urgent suddenly, much more so than he had before. He desperately wanted to do something stupid. He thought he might kiss her, but instead he grabbed her hand.

“Pansy, don’t leave the common room tonight,” he told her, cursing himself as he did.
 
 “Why? What’s going on?” she half asked, half demanded, and he felt the Mark burn on his left arm. The signal: it was time.

 “Just don’t, alright? I’ve got to go.”


He was halfway to the exit, inwardly hitting himself, when she slipped her hand into his again. The others in the common room were busy, they didn’t notice what he suddenly had. Somehow, she knew.

“Stay safe,” she whispered. “Come back.”

Outside the common room, he spared a precious second to kick the wall. Childish, surely, but justified. What ironically dreadful timing.










    Would she bring him back again? Did he need her to? He wouldn’t wake her.









 

She knew he was gone before she opened her eyes.

The bed was colder than she was used to, and her skin in particular felt bare (though she still wore her robes) without his touch. But she didn’t need these signs, for before she was even fully awake she had known he had left. Her sleep had been restless, more so than usual.

Already it had begun to creep in her veins; fear as cold and dull as stone. She had not forgotten how he had appeared the night before. Something was wrong, something had changed, and it wasn’t for the better. The battles would break out soon again, It was nearly time, it had been months since they last had quelled. In between the active periods of war, there was always the quiet, creeping stealth of the Death Eaters' assignments, but battles cropped up with disturbing regularity.


She expected an assignment today, but there was probably time to attend to some personal matters first. She dressed and left the classroom, immediately encountering Blaise Zabini down the hall. His eyes slid from her to the room she had left, Draco’s room, and he raised his eyebrows slyly at her. She sneered and continued on her way, but before a moment had passed he was walking beside her.


“Hello, Pansy,” he said, amusement in his tone. “You’re up early.”


“As are you. Assignment?”


“No… I was hungry, actually.”


Pansy couldn’t help but melt her frosty demeanor slightly at his naturally buoyant attitude- until his curiosity arose.

“Where’s Draco?” he asked, with enough decency not to make any of the allusions Pansy was sure were tempting him.


"He's...gone."

And I don’t know when he’ll be back and that scares me, not to know how long I’ll be without him. And I think I need him, and that scares me too.


 



 


Flashback


 




 



“Are you ready?” he asked her, his wand at his side but his hand uncharacteristically tense. She eyed it and nodded, stepping forward across the sandy foundation of the Quidditch pitch.

“You’ll practice on these first,” he said, and from an ornate box he produced three butterflies, glowing silver and violet in the moonlight. They fluttered nearby, attracted by the lights that emanated from their lit wand tips.


“Concentrate,” he told her, his eyes following hers. “It takes emotion.”

Pansy’s eyes narrowed, and she searched for something to channel into the spell; some fury or hatred, but she couldn’t seem to summon the feeling.

“Now.”

“Avada Kedavra!” she cried, and watched, dazzled, as green light flooded the darkness around them for a second. Draco swept his hand across the sand, and picked up one grounded butterfly. It was motionless, and for a moment, Pansy thought she had succeeded, but it fluttered a wing once, twice, and then struggled slowly and began to move.

“That was close,” he told her, even as she tried not to show her frustration.

“I’m not angry enough,” she said, trying halfheartedly to conjure the emotion even as she dismissed it. “It won’t work without it.”

Draco, however, was shaking his head, stepping nearer to her. “It doesn’t have to be anger,” he said, and she turned her head, confused. “It can be anything- as long as it’s strong. Anything you can feel in your blood.”

“Frustration?” she asked almost ruefully.

“No,” he said, closer now and circling behind her. “Fear. Or… sorrow. Or betrayal. Or passion, or desire.”

Her breath was a little shorter, a little harder to reach, when he stood just inches behind her. The air grew steadily lighter as their skin grew closer, and she shivered as his hand brushed the skin of her neck. He slipped one arm around her waist, strong and sturdy and warm and heavy, and held his wand in the other. He bent his lips to her ear and she trembled in delight at the contact of his hot breath.

“Try again,” he said, and she raised her wand. She summoned every tingle of her skin into the wand, focusing her energy on the butterflies still tumbling, both in midair before them and within her skin.
  
"Avada Kedavra!”
   
The green light erupted once more, brighter and more shimmering than before. When its glare had cleared, the insect was visible, immobile in the dust and most assuredly dead.


She turned before the spots had entirely faded from her vision, planting a brushed but searing kiss on his jawbone.

“It’s almost beautiful,” she whispered, still trembling a little.

“Dazzlingly,” he agreed, gesturing back to the castle.


 




 


“You look sick,” Blaise said flatly, observing the dark look in her eyes.

 “Maybe I am,” she said, half aloud. “Blaise? Were you summoned last night?” she asked, a sudden and burning question impounding itself in her.


 “No,” he said, dark eyes curious. “But Crabbe was, and perhaps Goyle.”

 
Crabbe and Goyle! Mindless brutes as they were, they served some purposes, but to be paired alongside the quick and cutting intellect that was Draco made no sense at all, and to not include Blaise- or herself, come to think of it- seemed downright strange.

“Do you know what’s going on today?”

“Today? No. But Nott was kept back as well, so He may have something for us tonight.”

Something he didn’t want Draco a part of, for whatever reason, something that put Draco in danger because he’d gone with the least valuable, the sacrifices, and that made no sense either because Draco was, and had been for some time, an asset to His cause. Was he losing favor? And for what reason, after three years of service and devotion?


 




 



As into the danger walks Draco, unaware and unsuspecting and wholly unprepared.


 




 



The house was quiet as timely death, towering and cowering and carefully pruned to be overgrown. The grounds were deceptively still, showing none of the chill anticipation that crawled in search of spines to shiver. In short, the house was waiting, the air was waiting, and the figures- cloaked in black and stealth- were waiting, as always.

A hand extended from the shadowed sleeve of one, a pale and strong hand that motioned forward once and waited for his order to be obeyed. The shadows moved with deliberation, determinedly black and stalking prey. With practiced ease, a wand extended and a lock slid open. And no magical alarm was triggered; no army of Aurors with stunning spells at the ready. It was almost too easy.

Almost.



For just as the shadows almost completed their mission, just as Draco almost escaped the plot that bound him, just as the Dark Lord’s plan almost failed, Pansy almost smiled, almost cried, and almost screamed- almost changing the future, but not quite.




 




 

 


Chapter 4: Chapter Four: So Cold it Burns
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The first family was easy. They didn’t struggle, too bound with terror in the face of the hooded and masked intruders to their homes. Resignation showed in the faces of the adults, and even the children looked merely solemn, the fear in their eyes burning but not hysterical. Had they expected the visit? It seemed impossible to Draco, but something in their attitudes scraped at his intuition roughly.

You’re here in the service of someone else, he reminded himself, not your own hunches.

But as they approached the second house, his doubts waxed.





Still gone.

Pansy felt the emptiness deeper, more profoundly at night than during the day. The night had always been her place of refuge, her home, for who was more suited to the night than a creature of the Dark? Night held promise for her: the promise of anonymity if she chose it, the promise of mystery when she wanted it, the promise of adventure when she needed it. But without Draco, the night seemed vastly more empty to her- the world so much more threatening when she was facing it alone.

He had been gone this long before, and many times, too many times, she had woken to find that he had left her in the night. She tried so hard not to hang on to him, not to ache without him, not to need him. How could he ever need her so much? He was cold, he was beautiful and untouchable and so vulnerable in so many ways that it seemed only she could see. And for all his ice, for all his frozen heartbeats, he still burned through her with every glance. And for all that she tried not to, for all that she reminded herself that she wasn’t brought up this way and that she wasn’t taught this way and that she shouldn’t be this way, she trembled with yearning for more, for him to look at her that certain way that he had, as though cutting into her and healing her at the same time.

 
Sometimes she wished that he wanted her the same way, and sometimes it seemed that he did- he showed her the only way he knew how. He was frost on the windows, never melting but gleaming in the candlelight until you would swear it was fire.

He could cut into her until she wanted to break, and still she wanted more.
 
She didn’t want to face the night. She closed the curtains and lit the lamps.





Flashback





Seventeen. What an age to be.

Seventeen, and still, her dark hair curled and waved over her shoulders in the same way. Seventeen, and still, her undecided blue-green eyes stared like nighttime. Seventeen, and still, she sat straight, she spoke softly, she gazed deeply and she moved gracefully. Seventeen, and still the rain caressed the windows.
What an age to be.

Her last year at Hogwarts, gone. Her future pulled at her, but she couldn’t see through the mist. Marriage, said her mother, every year since she was four. But her mother wasn’t here to tell her that now, and the war that raged somewhere beneath this rain was telling her otherwise.

Pansy looked down at her hands, splayed across the piano keys but not playing anything, soft and long-fingered but not inclined to coax any notes to break the soft monotony of rain against the roof.

War.

She knew which side she would be on, if it came to it. Her parent’s had informed her. It wasn’t really a matter of belief, merely fact. Now that she was of age, she would likely be petitioned any day now. The Dark Lord was gaining followers, but the Aurors were still affecting the ranks, with more and more being sent to Azkaban- Nott, Avery, Malfoy.
Malfoy…

The father imprisoned, and the son…

The son missing for months, not seen since the Christmas Ball.

Pansy breathed slowly, recalling the look in his eyes when he had last seen her – desperate, urgent, pleading in a way she had never imaged he could look, but his face as impassive as ever. Reading him was solving a mystery.

“Pansy,” came his voice from behind her, and her breath hitched a little. No illusion, this one- only he could say her name that way. She stiffened, listening as his footsteps crossed the room, stopping right behind her. He didn’t touch her, didn’t need to for her to feel him standing there. She turned and saw him just a foot away, his eyes blank.

“Draco,” she breathed, standing up and letting her eyes roam over him, observing his soaked robes and the tiny scar on the side of his throat that hadn’t been there when he had left. She had so many questions for him but she didn’t know how to ask, she wanted so badly to touch him but she didn’t know how to cross the distance between them. He didn’t move, and his expression didn’t change, but she could see him watching her.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, reaching for her wand and performing the drying spell that he seemed to have forgotten. He looked down at himself briefly, gave her a nod, then answered.

“You’re of age, Pansy. Its time to go.”

So He had sent him. Earlier than she had expected, but not alarmingly so.

“I’ll get dressed,” she told him, before hurrying to her closet to find her robes. She slipped out of her dark green nightdress, then emerged to find him looking out the window.

“Pans…” he said, not facing her. “Its not what we thought.”

“What do you mean?”

“It isn’t… its different, Pansy. Everything they tell you. Everything you think it will be, it never is."

Pansy looked up, shocked. “Draco…”


"But they don't ask you. No one is asking, are they?" He stared out into the rain, past her shoulder. "I'll take you now, and that will be my damnation. And yours. Of course yours."


This was so different from the Draco that had left.  He was speaking to himself, it seemed, lost in thought or perhaps in memory. He was so changed that she could only watch him, wondering why she hadn’t seen it before. She didn’t know what to say.

“We have to go, Draco,” she said softly, and he turned from the window. He took her hand, preparing to Apparate.

“Happy Birthday,” he said quietly, just as they disappeared.

 





Pansy knew now how hard he had tried. There was nothing more that he could say, knowing her situation. And as much as she knew he was right, she was glad that she hadn’t listened, glad that she hadn’t left him.





This time, it felt right. The security was advanced- wards on all of the entrances and windows, Dark Detectors hidden in prominent places. Draco’s doubts abated slightly, this at least was a challenge. He waved his hand at Goyle, who moved in a crouch toward the front door. The tiny silver device in his hand was twitching slightly as he wound it around the doorknob. The door rattled, creaked, and finally, with a barely audible sigh, clicked open.


Draco led the way inside of the house, striding silently down long corridors. The first door on their right seemed promising, and upon entering it silently he found a bedroom occupied by a single man, looking to be perhaps Draco’s own age. He was glad they had found this room first- men his age tended to be noble and reckless, a bad combination that often led to rash actions. Moving over the bed, he pointed his wand sharply.


“Incarcerous,” he hissed, and as ropes bound him the man woke up, thrashing but silent at the gag in his mouth. His eyes fell on Draco and burned with murderous rage, but immobilized he was helpless.

The rest of the family was soon similarly bound, despite an unfortunate incident in which Goyle tripped heavily, quickly awaking the three members who had not yet been captured. After binding the frantic members of the family, Draco strode back into the hall.

“Goyle,” he hissed in a dangerous voice. “Never do that again, or I will let Crabbe use you as a battering ram again. And this time it will be a very solid door.”

He turned to Avery. “Deal with it.”

Goyle’s pained screams echoed briefly as the effects of the Cruciatus Curse took hold.

Draco paced in front of the captives.

“You are now captive under the orders of the Dark Lord,” he announced to them, the words slipping automatically from his lips. “You will obey my orders, or I will kill you. You will not attempt to escape, or I will kill you. You will not attempt to contact anyone outside this room, or I will kill you. You will remain silent. Be grateful for the Dark Lord’s mercy.”

He turned and left the room.





Pansy awoke suddenly, alone in the room and gasping. The mark on her left forearm was burning painfully, jet black against her pale skin. She grabbed her arm, biting her lip against the burning, as intense as when it was first scorched into her skin.





Flashback





Pansy and Draco hurried along the corridor, he pulling her along, past torches and doorways from which faces leered. Her mind was reeling in the shock of finding him in her bedroom. They stopped outside a heavy and ornate wooden door, upon which Draco knocked three times. The door swung open slowly, and they hurried inside.

 

Pansy stopped short just inside the doorway, her mouth opening and her eyes wide in horror. The Dark Lord sat before her on a heavy, throne-like chair, his eyes red and gleaming, his skin pale and sickly blue. Pansy shuddered and began to tremble, but even as she unconsciously began to step back, Draco’s hand slipped into hers. His touch was not tender, but firm. The warm sensation of his skin against her, so lacking in the past months, quelled her horror and allowed her to move forward, into the light from a circle of torches.

“My Lord,” said Draco, kneeling before him (Pansy did the same). “She is here.”

“Miss Parkinson,” he said, and his voice was cold as a blast of icy wind. “Just of age, and ready to join me, I presume.”

“Yes, My Lord,” she confirmed, struggling and almost succeeding in keeping her voice from shaking.

“Are you prepared,” he said, leaning forward to stare hypnotically into her eyes, “to give up everything you have? To fight and die in my service?”

She took a moment to answer. “Yes, my Lord,” she said, unable to tear her eyes from his.

“Very well,” He said. “Draco, mark her.”

Draco rose and followed the Dark Lord’s gesture toward a side chamber. Pansy tore her eyes from the Dark Lord’s and followed, bowing as Draco had done.

They entered a small chamber, bare except for a raised stone dias surrounded by a black velvet curtain. They stepped inside the curtain and Draco swept his wand once, closing it.


A scroll hovered near the curtain, slowly unrolling as they turned to face it. It was written in Latin that Pansy didn’t understand. Draco took Pansy’s left arm, rolling back the sleeve and raising it. Pansy’s breath hitched as his fingers trailed the delicate skin of her wrist. Draco placed his wand at the middle of her forearm, the white skin there gleaming the candlelight.

“This will hurt,” he warned, and Pansy nodded.

“Vestigium Is Viscus,” he said, and Pansy gasped her skin began to burn. “Quod Redimio Lemma ut Suum Fortuna,” the flesh was turning black, twisting before her eyes, “Signum in Cruor Quod Servo Insquequo Nex.”

The mark was appearing faintly, then growing darker, burning at an excruciating intensity. Pansy gasped. A cry rose from within her, but before it could escape her lips Draco brought his mouth to hers in a crushing kiss. He held the wand steady at her arm as the burning grew, his lips searing against hers, rough and demanding. Pansy felt weak at the knees, her breath was short as he kissed her, the burning in her arm not forgotten but somehow less intense compared to this. He pushed closer to her, pulling her against him with the arm not holding his wand, but as suddenly as the pain in her arm had started it stopped. Draco broke away from her, lowering his wand. His pale cheeks were slightly flushed and his lips pink, and Pansy felt weak again just looking at him, but as he stared at the Dark Mark now charred into her skin he looked a little sick.








Chapter 5: Chapter Five - Thunder and Lightning
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The third house… this was interesting.

 

No alarm spells, save for one at the back door. No Dark Detectors, but a series of trap jinxes placed along the front walk. For some reason, it alarmed his senses more than had the first house, which had no security at all.

 

Draco’s orders said to go inside, and go inside he did.

 

Avoiding the trapped front walk, he led the others toward the front door. It was locked and sealed, but Draco ran his wand across it, muttering, and it opened with a squelch.

 

The house wasn’t lavish, but it looked comfortable enough. Draco noticed, however, that for a family that seemed close knit, there were surprisingly few pictures adorning the walls and mantles. Indeed, there were only one or two, immaculately straight and aligned above the fireplace.

 

Draco slipped upstairs ahead of the rest, entering the first bedroom he found. It seemed to be a guest room, because the bed was made and no one occupied the room. Draco swept the light of his wand behind curtains and under the beds, but found nothing- except for that the people living here were immaculately neat. It seemed even the floor under the bed had been dusted, and for homeowners without house-elves, this was quite an achievement. Except, that is, for the bed. Upon closer inspection, Draco saw that it was made messily, the corners crooked and the sheets loose, rather than tucked in. One of the pillows seemed crooked as well, and a depression lingered where someone’s head had lain last time they had guests. Draco was reminded of his own feather-stuffed pillows, awaiting him back at Hogwarts. Not the only thing waiting for him.

 

His own feather stuffed pillows, certainly more comfortable than these, mere cotton.

 

Cotton, and firm.

 

That should not hold an impression longer than a few minutes.

 

Draco’s eyes swept over the badly made bed, noting that one corner of the bedspread was still turned over. As though someone had recently vacated the bed hastily.

 

 

His heart suddenly thumping, Draco strode from the room, not bothering to keep his footsteps quiet. He blasted the door beside it open with his wand. The room was empty, even the closets save for special occasion wear, as thought no one had stayed here for days. The next room was empty, and the next. By now his noise had attracted the others, who watched his actions, confused.

 

“Get out of here,” Draco snarled loudly. “It’s a trap!”

 




Pansy sat at her piano once more, this time not in her bedroom at home but in the room she occupied at Hogwarts. Once again, her fingers were still, as though trying to re-create the spell of whatever magic had brought him to her that day.

 

It didn’t work.

 

Pansy sighed, raising her eyes to the window, where once more all was dark. Three nights since she had gone to bed dreading the morning and woken up alone.

 

Three nights.

 

Was he simply on a longer mission than usual? Had he been captured? Was he hurt, lying alone somewhere? And why, of all people to send, had the Dark Lord sent Draco with the least clever of all of his servants? And why, of all people, was Draco missing the Dark Lord’s planning now? For he had a plan, certainly, one that Pansy had been witness to only an hour before.

 




Flashback




Pansy awoke suddenly, alone in the room and gasping. The mark on her left forearm was burning painfully, jet black against her pale skin. She grabbed her arm, biting her lip against the burning, as intense as when it was first scorched into her skin.

 

She rose and hurried to put robes on over the nightdress she wore. Grabbing her wand, she left the room and closed the door behind her with a soft snap. She met Blaise in the hall, heading in the same direction and also clutching his arm. She nodded at him and then walked together toward the Great Hall. Once they arrived, Pansy knocked three times and waited for only a second before the door was opened inward and they were admitted inside.

 

Once within the chamber, she saw that they were far from the only ones there. Avery, Nott, and many others were also assembled, kneeling in the torchlight before their master. Pansy joined them and they waited in silence while three other Death Eaters arrived.

 

The Dark Lord rose before them and stood fingering his wand.

 

“Ah, my faithful Death Eaters,” he spoke, in barely more than a whisper, but Pansy caught every word he said.

 

“You will observe that we have assembled in full force once more, my friends. The time is upon us again.”

 

Pansy shivered.

 

“The battle will break out again soon. Two weeks from today, on Thursday the 16th of December, at the Ministry of Magic. And this time we will not be driven back. There will be no warning, and no mercy.”

 

He stared sinisterly down at them all, a hint of a smirk upon his deathly face. “You will fight, or you will die. That is all.”

 

He dismissed them with a wave of his hand, and one by one they bowed before leaving the hall.

 




Every nerve in her body told Pansy that Draco should have been there. Draco had seemed to uncertain when he had returned from his audience; had seemed genuinely unsure about the Dark Lord's plans. Her intuition was tingling, but no explanation presented itself. Pansy’s heart felt contracted, and she breathed deeply in an effort to untwist it. It wasn’t natural, she told herself, to feel this way about someone. Her feverish need for him had to be the result of the flu, a virus, a spell gone wrong.

 

Pansy’s fingers found the keys again, and this time, a note sprung from them, hovering in the air around her, beating and echoing against her spine. Another note, and then one more, holding it, until her left hand joined her right in caressing the keys. Moonlight Sonata began to resonate around her, so perfect a piece for creature as consumed in nighttime as she, and she closed her eyes to the night as she remembered….

 




Flashback




The drawing room was dark, not due to the lateness of the hour, for it was still relatively early, but from the storm clouds gathering above the house. Pansy, at fifteen, was a visitor once more to the Malfoy Manor, and while she usually enjoyed her stays there, this one found her more pensive. The rain that was threatening to sweep the windows pleased her but added to her thoughtful mood. The Christmas holidays had only just begun and she would not be returning to Hogwarts several days. And while Christmas promised to be as satisfactory as always, she felt a little sad. Gone were the holidays of childhood, when she had barely contained her anticipation for the ball, the presents, and the lights. Gone where the days when she had seen her family not for who they were, but for who they seemed to be- her mother so beautiful, her father so strong. And while she still loved the holiday, while she was still enchanted by the ball and the splendor, she couldn’t bring herself to feel the same awe she once had.

The magnificent Christmas tree gleaming in the corner still delighted her, and that was why she had chosen such a place to be perched on this, two days before Christmas. The piano was there also, and so Pansy was content, for now, to stay in the room, filling it with notes that floated from the instrument at the command of her fingers.

 

Pansy didn’t notice her mothers eyes watching her daughter from the doorway. Observant as always, Mrs. Parkinson could see that her daughter was deep in thought, and left without a sound from her heels on the marble.

 

Barely a moment later, another figure descended the stairs, in search of the source of the music. Draco stopped for a moment as her mother had done, but then continued into the room, making no noise on the plush carpeting until he stood beside the piano. Pansy continued playing, though surely she knew he was there. Instead, her eyes were focused out the window, as though she were playing to the thunder that was holding its interruption until she were finished.

 

When the music came to an end, the sound took a moment to disapate into nothing, Draco, uncharacteristically courteous, waited until they had finished before speaking.

“Ready for gifts?” he asked her, watching her eyes slide over the Christmas tree.

 

“I was looking at the lights,” she said, tearing her eyes away.

 

Draco looked surprised, but then followed her gaze back to the tree. They really are a spectacle, if you look, he thought. Trust Pansy to be the first to see anything. But Draco could see her fascination with them- the way they sparkled, the way they gleamed off of every surface, looking for all the world like a flock of fairies. When she turned back, he saw the reflections in her eyes, and for a moment they sparkled as brightly as did the lights on the tree.

 

He sighed. “We’re thunder and lightning, you and I,” he said to her, taking a seat beside her on the piano bench. She looked at him in that way she sometimes did, right into his eyes, and agreed.

 

“You’re right,” she said simply, and smiled.

 




 Thunder and lightning. So different, yet so alike, and both so dazzling, but always in the grasp of something so much more destructive.




‘It’s a trap!” he snarled at them, pushing Crabbe out of the way. He started to descend the stairs, but before he had gone more than a few steps, a wand was at his throat.

 

“Throw down your wand,” a rough voice said. Draco lowered his wand before, quick as lightning, her grabbed the wand holding him still, spun, and broke it neatly. His raised his wand and quickly paralyzed the man before running down the steps, jumping the last few. He made it almost to the door before a series of Pops filled the air and he found himself surrounded. Another rough voice shouted something and Draco snarled as he was bound in ropes. He thought quickly but could find no means of escape. Incredibly, Draco Malfoy was caught.

 

 He heard the sounds of several others being bound and dragged to the ground floor. Even as he twisted in the ropes, he knew it was pointless, but the thought of Azkaban kept him active.

 

“Let’s go, kid,” said a rough voice, hauling him cruelly by the rope in his mouth. With a Crack! they disappeared.

 




Draco emerged in a filthy corridor. His captor dragged him toward something he couldn’t see, twisted as he was. The ropes cut painfully into his skin as he was pulled, and with every struggle they became tighter. They turned a corner, and then another, and Draco desperately hooked one foot around the wall, but the man gave an impatient tug and Draco’s yell was muffled through his gag as his ankle broke.

 

Struggling to breathe through the cloth, Draco could nonetheless taste that the air was stale and heavy as he was thrown into room. Staring up at the man murderously, he could see that his captor was rough and dirty, much unlike the usual clean cut Aurors. His methods were certainly efficient, however- as he locked the door and stared at his captive through the bars near the top, Draco knew he couldn’t escape. The man leered before leaving Draco’s view.

 

Draco slumped against a wall, exhausted from three nights with no sleep, as well as his struggles. Panting against the pain in his ankle, he felt a wave of nausea. He forced his mind to focus on anything but the situation he was in- it was highly unlikely he could escape from such a cell, which was surely guarded by spells, not to mention probably deep within the Ministry of Magic. At this thought, he felt a strange notion brushing at his conciousness, but before he could grasp it properly another thought struck him.

 

Pansy.

 

What would she think when he didn’t return?






Chapter 6: Chapter Six - Secrets
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Pansy dreamed of secrets. This time there was no comfort in the fact that Draco’s skin was not radiating heat against hers. Instead, she tossed briefly against the images invading her eyes- the telltale green light she had come to associate with impending death shining in each scene. She watched the Dark Mark illuminate a familiar skyline. Screams rent her visions. Hogwarts was crumbling, the stone walls collapsing, and London was teeming with armies of wizards even as the ground split and shook Then, suddenly, all was quiet. The city’s streets were gray and silent, the sky an opaque white, and ashen rain was falling. In the center of a street stood Draco, dressed in black, and he turned his eyes on her. Even as her gaze penetrated the storm tossed depths of his, they silver-grey irises she knew so well narrowed and deepened in color, revealing crimson slits.

 

Pansy awoke, and for a moment her lungs were iron. The breaths within her coiled like fog.

 

Forcing herself to relax, she breathed audibly. The sky was still dark, and intuition told her this was not the stony silence preceding dawn. It was still night.

 

Forever, she had dreamt of secrets.

 

Not always hers, though her secrets would certainly be enough to drive her to sleepless nights. She dreamt of the secrets of centuries, of shadows, of shades. Upon waking, however, her secrets were always what kept her eyes open, and tonight was no different.

 

Secretly, she wished for youth.

 

She wanted the carelessness of childhood, yearned for the freedom that she had always taken for granted. She wanted the choices, wanted the simple decisions that had seemed so agonizing, wanted the thrill of exploring, of a new touch, a new word, a new discovery.

 

Secretly, she wanted to dream.

 

She wanted to feel as though she were climbing toward her every fantasy, wanted to feel as though if she only tried harder, stretched farther, she could touch everything she had ever wished for. She wanted to envision her own world, and not one in which she played the same part as a hundred others.

 

Secretly, she was tired. Secretly, she was ashamed. Secretly, she was hopeless and regretful and disgusted and sorrowful and desperate and so very afraid.

 

Secretly, she worried that the one thing she might actually need might just be lost.

 







Flashback





Draco, fearing his father’s wrath, had spent almost an hour searching for the potion ingredient he had been sent to fetch, but it wasn’t anywhere in or near the stables that he could see. Why he had been sent and not a servant, he couldn’t fathom, but at seven years old he was hardly going to ask.

 

He wondered if Pansy was still in the playroom. Surely she would be waiting for him, as she always did- but even as the thought occurred, he heard a scream, a high-pitched and frightened scream that could only have come from the voice of a little girl.

 

The voice seemed to have come from above him, and the playroom was a floor below. Sure she had done something silly again (like the time he pushed her in the stream and screamed bloody murder until Narcissa Malfoy could levitate her out) her ran up the stairs and toward the source of the scream.

 

When he saw that the door to his father’s study was open, however, he hesitated. Both of them were strictly forbidden from entering the room, but even as he hoped he had mistaken the source of her noise, he heard a whimper and, sighing, he pushed the door open.

 

“Pansy?” he called down the stairs. “Pansy, what’d you do now?”

 

“Draco?” she said, sounding frightened. “It’s cold, Draco.”

 

He found her lying stiffly on her side, one half of her body so frozen it seemed she couldn’t move it. “Pans?” he said, whispering. “I’ll get my father.”

 

“No!” she cried, he fears of the wizard battling with her pain. “Please stay here, please don’t leave me-“

 

“Pansy, there’s nothing I can do,” he said exasperatedly. “Just stay here.”

 









Pansy wasn’t sure why this particular memory rose within her at that moment, but she swept it away. She had no time for memories, and no time for dreams.

 

It was then that she heard the voices.

 

They were loud and heated, and obviously belonged two men having an intense argument. Pansy slipped her clean robes on and emerged from her room, and stood in the shadows. The two men approached rapidly, and before they reached her she could tell their identities- Blaise and Theodore Nott.

 

“They couldn’t have been,” Blaise said wildly, waving his arms in emphasis. “The Ministry had no idea of the Dark Lord’s plans. There wouldn’t be any reason for them to be staking out that particular house.”

 

“I tell you, I saw them! At the Ministry, escorted by Aurors! You know they were never bright, any one of them could have let it slip-“

 

“Without the Dark Lord knowing? Without him seeing into their worthless minds? You said yourself, Crabbe and Goyle were never bright. You were mistaken, Nott,…”

 

They had passed her by now and their voices faded with the distance.

 




The pain from Draco's ankle had dulled somewhat, and with vigorous effort he had managed to wriggle his gag out.

 

Life had improved.

 

But still, his head was throbbing, and without his wand he felt weak and powerless. The ropes that bound him were as tight as ever, and he couldn’t turn into a more comfortable position without agony from his broken bone.

 

At the moment, however, he wasn’t struggling. His mind was focused, his eyes shut, as he concentrated with all his will on his wand, willing the magic to call it to him. He had been trying for hours, it seemed, and nothing had happened but for a dull ache arising where he had clenched his teeth.

 

At least he knew he had time to escape before Azkaban. Ministry regulations meant there was paperwork to be filled and witnesses to call, he probably wouldn’t be moved from the Ministry holding cells until several days had passed. It surprised him how dirty the cell was, knowing the Ministry and the regulations that had cropped up after Rufus Scrimgeour’s death- the new Minister, a self-righteous but powerful man- believed in fair treatment of all convicts.

 

And yet, here Draco was, feeling anything but fair.

 

Shockingly enough, this wasn’t the worst he had felt, though undoubtedly this was one of the worse situations.









Flashback





Crucio!” high, cold voice called, and both their screams echoed off the walls. Twitching and writhing in agony, Draco and Blaise Zabini yelled almost in unison.

 

Abruptly, the pain stopped, though both knew it was only a matter of time before it began again. Failure was not something looked kindly on by the Dark Lord, especially failure by some of his highest ranking servants.

 

“After explicit instruction,” the Dark Lord said, his voice low and dangerous, “I find that the two of you managed to make such a mistake. Was I not clear enough?”

 

As he spoke, he drew his wand slowly up, and both men were dragged upright as though rope were tightening around their necks.

 

“You kill the subjects, yes- and then allow a witness to escape?”

 

They were gasping and panting now, rising upwards, their feet unable to find purchase on the ground.

 

“A witness that could have jeopardized the entire plan- that could have reported straight to the Ministry had not I intercepted him?”

 

They were moving forward, closer to him, both turning steadily blue as their airways were constricted.

 

“You are glad, no doubt, of my mercy. You will leave this hall alive, because I am a kind and just Lord.”

 

They were now only a foot apart, both forced to look deep into the haunting crimson eyes as the lowered one hand to each of their left forearms. Their cries of pain rebounded once more around the chamber as he touched them, and burns began to spread from the point of contact. He held his hands there for several long moments before raising his wand once more. With a contemptuous flick, they were thrown bodily from the hall, slamming open the doors.


”You will not fail the Dark Lord again.”


 









Draco couldn’t imagine pain more excruciating than the pain he had felt that night. It had been beyond him, beyond his every imagining, until had he not been who he was he would have begged for death rather than a continuation.

 

He hadn’t failed the Dark Lord since, until the events of last night, but his mind wasn’t focusing on the punishment sure to await him, for it could never come if he were locked in Azkaban, feeling his sanity drained from him as he awaited the date of his last kiss.

 

Slowly he began to drag himself toward the door, disgusted by his weakness yet unable to perform any more dignified movement. He could see, from a certain angle, a portion of the hallway outside the door. A lone table sat nearby, by no one occupied the chair beside it. This was strange, as he knew for a fact Ministry prisoners were kept guarded at all times. On the table he could see only a tankard, what appeared to be an old wireless, and a copy of the Daily Prophet. From the headline he could see, there was no mention of a capture of several Death Eaters- this too was highly unusual, as the Prophet made a point of announcing every capture made, to raise the country’s low morale. Again, Draco felt the brush of realization on the edge of his consciousness, but exhausted, he slumped down and didn’t concentrate on it further.

 

 The situation was dire. He could see no escape until the situation changed- until he were brought upstairs for trial, perhaps, and that could take days.

 

Days in which the world could change.

 

Not for the first time, he thought of Hogwarts. This thought led him logically to Pansy.

 

She was so different, from him, from anyone else he knew, from any of the girls he had previously spent frenzied, heated nights with. She was so unusual in the way her eyes saw what no one else could, in the way she could know his thoughts without his ever speaking them aloud, in the way she, like no one else, could look at him and remind him of rain and fear and fire and quiet all in the same instance. She, who’s touch could change from soothing to burning in seconds.

  For a moment, he pondered her, his mind calling on a thousand memories of whispers and fights and kisses and denials. She wasn't good for him- he was worse for her.

He forced his mind to anything but Pansy and it landed, resolutely, on his surroundings once more. Why did it seem so surreal to be here? He hated with a passion the feeling of wrongness, the feeling that told him he was missing something desperately important, but it persisted until his eye fell on the wall in front of him, stained and filthy and covered in dirt, and shockingly, blood, as though the Ministry had suddenly forgotten its humanitarian aims, as though the previous occupant had clawed, desperate and caged, against its boundaries.

 

As though they were trapped in a horror beyond capture.

 

As though they were trapped in the den of demons.

 

And with an overwhelming wave of nausea, Draco knew what he had missed. He was not in the Ministry, had not been captured by Aurors.

 

Bounty hunters.



Chapter 7: Chapter Seven - Smolder Silent
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“I tell you, I saw them! At the Ministry, escorted by Aurors! You know they were never bright, any one of them could have let it slip-“








Pansy was falling.

 

She leaned heavily against the door behind her, and with a crash it burst open as she pushed the handle. She walked slowly into the room, heels echoing, mind anywhere.

 

Crabbe and Goyle at the Ministry.

 

Captured, locked, killed, kissed.

 

Crabbe and Goyle.

 

The two that had made her suspicious, the ones that He sent with Draco, the ones that had failed. At the Ministry. Failed.

 

Was he with them?

 

Captured.

 

She put her hands to her head, clawing, fingers rough, entangled in her hair.

 

“Come back,” she whispered, and a chant rose with the breeze in her head. “Come back, come back, come back…”








Bounty hunters.

 

Draco gritted his teeth as a dull, thoughtless pounding took up residence in his head.

 

Bounty hunters. The brilliant idea had been Scrimgeour’s, after his Aurors couldn’t do their jobs alone. The ruthless men that never became Death Eaters simply because it didn’t pay enough, or because they never had the opportunity. Instead, they roamed in packs, seeking to find Death Eaters before the Aurors could get to them. Once captured, a bounty hunter owned his prize, and could name whatever price he liked for the Ministry to meet. In theory, Scrimgeour’s idea was working- an extension of the Auror system, and that was about all most Wizards knew about the mysterious men. But among the Dark Lord’s followers, they were a story- the kind of story that warns, that amuses, that hides the underlying fear. To be captured by a bounty hunter was a fate worse than the Ministry itself. Because the truth of the situation was that bounty hunters had days in which to negotiate their price. And the best way to continue their practice was to use the days to persuade a Death Eater to reveal the locations of others.

 

And by owning their prisoner, they owned the right to use any means of persuasion necessary.

 

They served no loyalty to the Ministry; indeed, it would have been better if they had. They didn’t want plans of the Dark Lord, didn’t care about the army’s secrets. They wanted the one thing most Death Eaters couldn’t give them- the prisoner’s peers.

 

If Draco had known where he was going, he would have struggled harder.








The Ministry.

 

Pansy quite forgot who she was for a moment.

 

For a second, she was the woman she had been before. Before everything had grown tired and gray. Before she knew no reality beside the one in which she lived. Before she had been pressed, choked, pulled, pushed, strung, and dropped, before she had grown too heavy to move.

 

She had been alive, and even as she stood on black heels, on gray stones, in a haunted castle, she remembered. For the first time in a long time, she remembered. The thrill. The chance, the risks, the infatuation, the ardor, burning intensity of everything. It had been real, she could taste it. Hadn’t she had power, hadn’t it run in her blood?

 

She knew why it came back. She knew why she remembered, in that moment. She had never felt helpless, had never felt lost, and suddenly she had been paralyzed with helplessness. She could live without him, she knew she could. She could feel every second without his feverish touch. But Pansy Parkinson was a woman who got what she wanted. And she had never wanted anything more than she wanted him.

 

And the Ministry, The Dark Lord, King Arthur in Avalon couldn’t keep her away.

 

She had been that woman once. She could be her again, if only for the sake of retrieving what had given her the illness in the first place.

 







Flashback









London was dark, the streetlamps casting only targeted illumination, so that the group of four was thrown alternately into shadow and draining glare. Their footsteps were confident, and though they all wore black robes, two were clearly female.

 

“Davis, what’s the address again?” Pansy asked, turning her head casually to the woman slightly behind her.

 

“247 Keyport Road,” Tracey Davis replied, pulling a wrinkled piece of parchment from her robes.

 

“Don’t forget it,” Pansy warned, before taking the parchment from her. Pansy pulled her wand from a pocket of her robes and tapped it lightly to the parchment, watching as it curled and writhed before falling in ashes to the earth.

 

The group reached a corner, and one of the men glanced at a sign on the left. As he looked up, the hood of his robes slipped slightly, revealing silver-blonde hair.

 

“Keyport, this is it,” he said, before leading them left.

 

The music was audible to them long before they reached the location, but the Muggles in surrounding houses didn’t seem to have felt it or heard it. 

 

The house itself was indistinguishable from those around it, but the lights blazed inside, unlike its neighbors’. The four stood on the front step a moment before going inside.

 

“Have you got it, Zabini?” asked Draco, and Blaise pulled a crystal flask from his robes before tucking it back inside. Tracey Davis raised a hand to knock, and though it was barely audible among the pounding music, they heard approaching footsteps.

 

Draco leaned over, his lips brushing Pansy’s just below her ear as he breathed, “Are you ready?”

 

She turned to smirk back at him, one hand reaching up to trail a finger across his jaw line before replying, “Always.”


The door flung open, revealing a short man in acid green robes and an obvious state of intoxication: he swayed as he looked up at them, and it was obvious he had no idea who they were, but beckoned them inside anyway. They entered a narrow hall, and once the door swung shut, they could barely see. The hall was mildly crowded, and smoke hung heavy in the air, but it was obvious that most of the people were upstairs. Indeed, as the group ascended the steps, the air became thicker and hotter, and on the second floor bodies were pressed so close together it was difficult to navigate between them. The crowd was comprised entirely of young witches and wizards, reveling in their youth, tan and taut expanses of skin eliciting fever as they pressed and brushed together.

 

The heavy pound of music concealed the pant and hiss of breath from the many people crowded in the room; almost all were dancing or else occupying a dark corner. Pansy cringed almost imperceptibly as she came into contact with the heat and sweat of a plain looking boy, clearly a Mudblood.

 

“Can’t we just do it now,” Tracey Davis whispered to the others, her disgust evident.

 

“No. We’re waiting for the signal,” Draco snapped back.

 

“Come on Davis, let’s blend in,” Blaise said with a smirk, grabbing her hand and leading her to the center of the room. Within a minute they were indistinguishable from the many couples pressed against one another, their hips moving in tandem and breath mingling.

 

Pansy felt Draco’s hand oh her back, and she moved forward into the room, sneering every time she came into contact with someone else. She wished she had much more than her robes between them, but they’d been required to dress the part, which meant that she wore a black ensemble that bared smooth spans of skin to be brushed. Most of the crowd has removed whatever robes they wore over Muggle clothing, and the pair copied them now, though Pansy regretted it. Once they reached the middle of the room, only a few feet from Blaise and Tracey, they stopped moving. Draco’s hands found their way to her hips.

 

Pansy felt her heart beat faster. They were minutes away from accomplishing their goal, the air was thick, and Draco’s breath and skin were hot against hers. They moved together, their rhythm impeccable, gained through years of proper dance lessons that every Pureblood child attended. Her dark hair pooled over one shoulder and he bent his head to the other, his teeth grazing the tense skin.

 

In unison, Draco and Pansy both tensed as the marks on their left forearms burned. Draco looked up and caught Blaise’s eye. Blaise nodded. He and Tracy moved quickly, disappearing in the crowd.

 

“Should we follow?” Pansy breathed.

 

“They don’t need us yet,” Draco replied, his voice low.

 

Within a minute, the two were back. Tracey nodded at Pansy. The first part of the job was done.

 

They remained where they were for perhaps ten minutes. The crowd was beginning to get thinner, many people seemed to be sitting down and several looked distinctly nauseous. Then a scream rent the air.

 

A woman lay on the ground, shaking violently; it had been her friend who screamed. As one, the four conspirators drew their wands.

 

At first, the jets of light that their curses produced went unnoticed by the riveted people watching as several more people began to fall ill. Then someone shouted, another woman screamed, and those nearby the curses began to move, pushing other out of the way.

 

Pansy’s wand was moving fast, curses flying from it as panic set in. There was a rush for the stairs, which became blocked, yells mingled with the voices of the Death Eaters. Pansy picked out the face of the boy who had touched her, his Mudblood eyes wide. Her spell hit him squarely in the chest.

 

It took only moments for the room to clear. They didn’t pursue the escapees. As the four left the house, stepping over fallen bodies, the music continued to pound; no one had turned it off.

 

 Compared to the house, the night outside was very cold. Blaise flicked his wand as they set off back down the street; the door behind them slammed shut.

 

“They kept touching me,” Tracey complained, making a face.









It was crude, and certainly tedious, but necessary. Draco rubbed his wrists where the rock had scraped them. Frankly, had he been in Auror custody, he wouldn’t have bothered getting the ropes off, but he was wiser now.

 

Once his hands were free, the rest was easy enough. He inspected the cell more closely than he had bothered before; these men were not infallible, and there was a chance they’d forgotten something.

 

Evidently not.

 

It was in the middle of running his hands over the door that it opened. Draco didn’t bother to conceal his newly freed limbs; they probably expected it.

 

“So you got ‘em off, eh?” said a man from the doorway. He had a thick accent, but he was perfectly understandable. Draco didn’t reply.

 

“You’re a smart lad. I’m sure by now you know where ya are.”

 

Again, he held his silence.

 

“Then you know it won’t do ya no good to hold off on us. Now, I’m gonna ask you a question and you’re gonna answer, that work for ya?”

 

“Alright then. Now, I got a special interest in some friend’s of yours. Names of-“ he pulled a grubby scroll from his pocket and consulted it- “Theodore Nott n’ Blaise Zabini. And I’d like you to be tellin’ me where they might be found.”

 

There was no good in replying honestly, they were at Hogwarts, but Draco was not their Secret Keeper and couldn’t reveal their location if he wanted to. He didn’t speak.

 

“No? Nothing? Well that’s too bad,” the man said. He turned to leave. Draco was confused for a moment. Then, faster than Draco could have predicted and impossible to avoid, the man’s hand swung out of nowhere. It connected with Draco’s face and knocked him brutally to one side. Dizzy and aching, Draco sat up again.

 

  “Now, let’s try again. Blaise Zabini. You know where ‘e is?”

 

Draco, leaning his head against the wall, wasn’t even listening. The next blow caught him off guard again.









Draco, his head now spinning nauseatingly, lay down.

 

The man had left after several repetitions of the same questions, and several repetitions of the same treatment for Draco’s silence. He would be back again, but for now, the stone was reassuringly solid against Draco’s aching head.

 

He felt no defiance, no burning for revenge, no resourcefulness that might enable him to find a way to escape the situation. Once, he might have fought back, had something to say. Once, there had been more than this- this resolution, this dull ache. Draco was sickened by himself, by his own acceptance, and though the disgust was not a new feeling, the passivity was. He had felt more once, and though he had worked to conceal it, this new fact, this new reality that there was nothing to conceal was worse. Hatred, desire, rage, sorrow, fear, possessiveness, anticipation, triumph; he had felt it all. He had been consumed by it. Malfoys were not content to sit and rot and bleed in a cell. Malfoys were not passive. He would not be.
 









Flashback
 









At Hogwarts again. Hogwarts, where six years of his life had passed. He had thought he would never return, but he was back, simply because the Dark Lord needed someone there.

 

It hadn’t been easy to convince the teachers and Headmistress that he was trustworthy. If he had been the one to actually kill Dumbledore, it would have been impossible, and even now, it had taken heavy pleading and crocodile tears.

 

The first few weeks of his seventh year had been strange, to say the least. The people who had always been his to command at Hogwarts hadn’t seen him all summer, and though his leadership had not been lost, they shared something he didn’t. They knew things he didn’t, and it irritated him to no end. Even now, sitting in the common room, though his was the highest and most comfortable chair, he was also the only one not engaged in conversation.

 

“Pansy,” he said, his voice drawling lazily. She looked up from where she had been talking with Blaise Zabini.

 

“Go get my Transfiguration book,” he ordered. Homework, though tedious, was necessary to keep up appearances.

 

“Where is it?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.

 

“In my dorm,” he replied lazily, waving one hand in the direction while remaining draped over his chair.

 

“Well then why don’t you get it yourself?” she said daringly.

 

At this, Draco sat up. He’d never heard Pansy speak like that to him, and she did it now with no indication of a reason- as though he were being stupid.

 

“What did you say to me?”

 

“I said, why don’t you get it yourself?” she repeated, slowly and obviously.

 

“I understand that. What I don’t understand is what makes you talk to me like that.”

 

“What makes it alright for you to send me to fetch your book?” she said defiantly. Draco was utterly perplexed. Never before had she questioned him so rudely. He stood up and grabbed her arm, dragging her away from the amused and curious stares of their classmates.

 

“What the hell is wrong with you?” he demanded.

 

She shook her arm free of his tight grasp, glaring up at him.

 

“With me? I’ll explain it very carefully to you. You just made an unreasonable demand of me, and I refused to cooperate.”

 

“Obviously,” he hissed. “But see, I seem to remember the natural order of things. I say go. You go.”

 

She was obviously furious, her eyes burning, and it struck Draco that he had never before seen this look directed at himself. It was completely unnatural- generally, Pansy looked nothing short of enchanted when she looked at him.

 

“You don’t own me,” she spat at him.

 

“I’ve always owned you, Pansy.”

 

“Well then let me make it clear to you that times have changed. Once , I let you walk backwards and forwards over me. Last year, you completely forget about me. Last summer, I don’t know where in the hell you are. And now? You’ve lost the right to me. You never should have had it in the first place.”

 

She walked away and sat down, resuming her conversation with Zabini while Draco stood still, looking murderous.

 









Flashback











It was so ridiculous, so ludicrous, it continued to prop up in his thoughts for a week. How dare she? He continued to ask himself, and the worst part was, she didn’t seem to feel any remorse. He had woken the next morning quite sure that she would be crawling back to him, groveling for forgiveness, but it hadn’t happened. Pansy, always reliable, always willing, was suddenly neither. He’d never before realized quite how much he relied on her to do her job, and now, when he was reporting to higher authority than teachers, it was really showing.

 

And that was before The Incident. The singular most unnatural thing of all things in the Wizarding World. The preposterous event took place a week and a day after the all-too-public argument in the common room.

 

Draco had been in the library, for once, now retrieving a book that in better times he would have had Pansy retrieving for him. He was feeling highly resentful toward the entire establishment, for homework, for classes, and for stupid teachers who didn’t know what was good for them. He was already at the common room when he realized it was dinner time, and he was about to turn around when a flash of movement caught his eye.

 

There, looking perfectly content and utterly unaware they’d be interrupted, were Pansy and Blaise, kissing enthusiastically in the corner farthest from the fireplace.

 

For a moment, the picture refused to process in Draco’s mind. Pansy, his- his something, hadn’t he already claimed something over her? And Blaise Zabini.

 

That happy moment of ignorance vanished quickly. Before he had noticed, his wand was in his hand. Malfoys don’t like  others touching their things. The blissful couple didn’t notice him until a nearby glass, left carelessly on a table, exploded into dust. They broke apart.

 

“Draco?” Pansy asked cautiously. She wasn’t going to pretend she didn’t know him well enough to know that this wouldn’t go over well. And frankly, she wasn’t going to be modest- in rage or ardor, she handled him best. She gave Blaise a push toward the stairs. He didn’t need telling twice.

 

“Draco, please calm down.”

 

He stowed his wand away (the perpetrator of this betrayal had, after all, left the scene of the crime). But he continued to stand tense and angry, looking accusingly at Pansy.

 

“What the fuck was that, Pansy?” he asked, his voice low and dangerous. She’d heard that voice before. It didn’t bode well. Still, she couldn’t help but know exactly the thought that was going through his mind, and it riled her temper.

 

“What did it look like?” she retorted, knowing she was pushing his boundaries and thoroughly enjoying it.

 

“It looked like you were making a very grave mistake. Malfoys don’t take kindly to betrayal, in case you’ve forgotten.”

 

“I haven’t forgotten, Draco. But you seem to have forgotten- you seem to be continually forgetting- that what I do isn’t your decision.”

 

“You are mine,” he said, advancing on her. “You are nothing without me.”

 

Pansy, who had been holding her ground, now moved toward him. “I was yours. I was your toy, your servant, your complacent little pet. Without you,  I am what I should have been all along.”

 

“You wanted it!” he bellowed, forsaking his low tones. “You wanted what I gave you! That was the way we were, Pansy!”

 

“No,” she said, not shouting, “That was the way you were. That was the way I let you be. I wanted you, Draco. I gave you me, and what did I get in return? I got to be the one to clean up your mistakes. When you wanted me, I was there. And I wanted you all along, and never got anything.”

 

“So your just going to let whoever wants to stick their tongues down your throat?”

 

He had thrown it at her bitterly, and she knew it, but in that moment she wanted nothing more than to drive him to the edge. She closed the two foot gap between them before he could blink, and in moments her hands were twined in his collar. She pulled his face to her level and met his lips with hers, forcefully, angrily, and he was surprised but not immobile. Her tongue found its way to his mouth, and he was gripping her waist, almost shivering. She took a moment to register that he tasted sweet and icy all at once, before she yanked herself away. His collar was crooked and his face flushed, and she ignored the wanting shudder that shook her hands.

“Can you taste him?” she whispered, and in the second it took for him to register what she’d said, his eyes sprouted steel, but she was already out the portrait.

 








Pansy felt like she was shedding the layers of fog that had lately been building in her mind. She knew what she was doing. And though she new it was a revitalization born of desperation, it was a fresh feeling, something she hadn’t felt in a long time. She walked the halls of Hogwarts confidently tonight.

 

The door she was looking for was several floors from her own, but she found it quickly. She knocked, heard a grunted reply, and waited while footsteps approached the other side. It swung open to reveal a dim-looking, slightly haggard man, much taller than herself.

 

“Hello, Eric,” she said pleasantly, her voice low and melodious. He looked confused, but greeted her in return.

 

“I wanted to ask you something,” she began, and he leaned against the doorway with his palm, waiting. “I heard a rumor about Vincent and Gregory… that they were caught, and I’m just curious as to whether its true or not.”

 

He looked slightly confused. “Why’re you asking me?” he asked.

 

“Well, I just knew, if anyone knew the truth… well, you see everything at the Ministry, Eric, we both know that. You always have such good information for the Dark Lord, so I thought… I’d come to you first.”

 

She tilted her head slightly, looking up at him through her eyelashes, her lips slightly parted. He didn’t look away.

 

“Well erm… well yeah, I suppose I saw ‘em. Just last night, ‘smatter of fact.”

 

“They were never as bright as you and I, Eric,” she said with a little laugh. He grinned shiftily. “Was there anyone else with them, do you know?”

 

“Well yeah, there was… well let’s see, there was Yaxley, he was there, and Jugson, the son, not the father.”

 

“No one else?”

 

“Naw, it was just them, but see, I only do the first shift, and they came in right as I was leavin’. If there were anyone else, it’d be Bunkson who saw ‘em, not me.”

 

“Well, thank you,” she said abruptly, turned away and leaving him looking bewildered in her wake.

 

 She retraced her route down the hallway, irritation mixed with a healthy serving of anxiety. Eric, the dimwitted security at the Ministry front desk, was hardly an asset, but he had useful information at times. A  fearful gnawing was growing in her stomach as she thought of Draco, shipped off to Azkaban, dropped in a cell and drained of powers. She could remember her mother talking about it: “It’s a wonder the Lestranges never lost it, most do, and just end up dead in the end…”

 

Bunkson, where would he be? He wasn’t on their side, she’d have to seek him out elsewhere. She wasn’t sure what she would rather hear from him, but she was going to find Draco one way or another. She’d spent years wanting him- she still wanted him- with an intensity that made her stomach ache. There wasn’t a word for how quickly he could make her heart beat, how easily he could make her skin boil and he breath catch. Not any word she’d ever been taught, anyway.

 










Chapter 8: Chapter Eight - Addiction
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This time the man who dropped by was small, squat, and smelled like some mixture of old pumpkin juice and eggs, which frankly did nothing to relieve the nausea that was already plaguing Draco. This time, he didn’t slump like a child on the floor, but sat up when the man entered (he would have stood, but ankle was still doing odd things, and he had no wand with which to heal it).

 

“I betcha know why I’m here then,” the man giggled, fingering his wand with glee. Draco could only suppose this was not the leader and the chance at some action was rare for him.

 

“No, but I can have a guess that you’re not bringing me biscuits,” Draco drawled, looking lazy and unconcerned. The man seemed taken aback by his attitude and glanced at the door, licking his lips.

 

“Don’t you play wiv me,” he said, again glancing at the door. “I got you all locked up. I can do whatever I want.”

 

“Yes, and so far you’re doing wonderfully,” Draco replied snottily. The man raised the wand and pointed it at Draco’s arm, his hand shaking slightly with primitive fury. Draco felt himself wince inwardly and hoped the man hadn’t noticed; if he was distracted enough, there might be a chance for a bid for the door.

 

“Think yer clever, eh? Now, you gonna tell me where yer friends are?”

 

“If only I knew.”

 

“That’s too bad, innit?” The man gave the wand a little twitch and mumbled something, and immediately, Draco felt the pain, and he looked down to see the cut that had raised blood to his arm. He could tell this would be just the beginning. He tuned out, knowing that it would only continue in the same vein, and focused instead on memory. He wasn’t one to dwell in the past, but with nothing else to distract him, his days at school came back clearly.

 




Flashback




At first, she had shocked him into acceptance. He didn’t speak to her for days after he had found her in the common room, and it infuriated him to see that she wasn’t pining or crawling back to him. It was in such a mood that he was walking through the corridors of Hogwarts one night, well after curfew, knowing that to be caught out of bed would be disastrous but not paying attention to the sense that urged him back to the common room. And even as he turned a corridor that took him farther from safety he realized that with Prefects patrolling as well he had quite a chance of being caught by Pansy. As though the thought had summoned her, she came around the corner ahead of him, looked up, and stopped abruptly.

 

“Draco, you’re past curfew,” she said, but with no evidence of scolding, she was simply stating a fact.

 

“I was a prefect once too, remember?” he replied, not increasing his pace but walking toward her casually.

 

“But you’re not any more,” and her words stung him because it had been a blow to learn that his questionable associations had cost him the position.

 

“Going to turn me in, Pansy?”

 

“You know I’m not,” she sighed, and he raised an eyebrow. They were level now, and both stopped walking; Draco leaned against a wall.

 

“I thought you were through doing favors for me?” he knew he was pushing her farther than he ought to, knew his arrogance would cost him, but he didn’t care very much, the look on her face was worth it.

 

“We’ve been friends since we were five, Draco,” she reminded him. “Just because I’m tired of your attitude doesn’t mean I’m tired of you.”

 

He smirked. “You’ll never be tired of me, Pans.”

 

“And there you go again.”

 

She started to walk away, but he caught her elbow and she turned back. “What, Pansy? This is just me.”

 

“Don’t I know it?” she said. “But I’d have thought, for me- at least for me- you’d have a little respect. If there’s anyone you owe that to, it’s me.”

 

“Pansy, what haven’t I given you? I bought you gifts. I took you to that stupid ball. I’ve hung around with you for years!”

 

“Did I ask for it?” she snarled, her eyes heated. “You gave me all of that and in return, I was your property.”

 

“Shit, Pansy, what do you want from me?” he raised his voice, almost shouting, and she lost control, he could see it in the way her dark hair fell into her eyes, in the way she shook with anger, and in the way her eyes blazed back at him.

 

“I wanted you! I wanted you to trust me, to tell me what you wouldn’t tell anyone else! I wanted you to stop pretending to be my friend and start really doing it! Who else do you know, Draco, that’s stuck with you? What did I do that I didn’t deserve a little insight, a little glimpse at whatever the hell you hide in your head, and I never got any of it- instead I got to follow you, to be sent wherever you pleased, and every time you were angry, every time you were upset or jealous or excited, I knew, when no one else did, and my reward was for you to hold me off as well as you could, for you to treat me like you did everyone else, like they couldn’t possibly understand, but I did!”

 

He was staring at her like he’d never seen her before, no longer leaning casually against the wall but standing upright, his arms loose as though he didn’t quite know what to do with himself.

 

“God, Pans,” he said quietly, and she just looked back at him, asking him a question with her eyes that he didn’t know how to answer. He opened his mouth, closed it, and shook his head, but before she had a chance to do or say anything, he let out an involuntary gasp and grabbed his left forearm convulsively.

 

“Draco?” she asked, confused, but he didn’t respond; he was backing up, leaning against the wall again, and still clutching his arm. She moved towards him and reached out a hand, but he sank to the floor, his eyes screwed shut.

 

“Draco, what-?”

 

She sank to her knees beside him and reached for his arm. He protested, but she swatted his other hand away and rolled up the sleeve, shuddering when she saw the ugly mark burned there. It was jet back, the skin around it an angry pink, and when she ran her hand over it it  was hot and swollen.

 

“Is He… I mean… is it calling?” she asked, whispering, her eyes wide as she stared at the brand.

 

“No,” he hissed, “He’s… reminding me… why I’m here.”

 

“You mean… you came back to Hogwarts… for Him?”

 

He nodded, opening his eyes to find himself meeting hers, silver to midnight, thunder and lightning. He felt trapped, reckless, and her words still echoed in his head- “I knew, when no one else did…”

 

And here she was, next to him, where she had always been, though he hadn’t acknowledged. He could still feel the burning, roaring, crashing feeling that had jumped in his stomach when he had found her in the common room, closely entwined with Blaise. He could still see the aftermath of her anger, the anger he had never seen, and he couldn’t understand her hurt, because he had never seen that she had been hurt. It was beyond him, but she wasn’t, she was so close, in fact, that he could see the green petals that lined her pupils against the nighttime blue that he had never noticed before. He didn’t understand her, he didn’t understand the situation, hell, he didn’t understand himself at this point, but he wanted her, had wanted her since he had seen another touching her, since he had known what he had been missing in his best friend that he had always known was beautiful but never really seen.

 

“At least pretend to trust me,” she said, whispering, and he knew what she was asking for, so he stood and pulled her up with him. He ushered her inside an empty classroom nearby, so dark he could barely see her.

 

“Pansy… there’s only so much I can tell you,” he said, and she stiffened, so he hastened to continue. “But I can try.”

 

“Just before last year, He asked my mother to bring me with her…”

 




He had been her best friend for years, and still, somehow, she had always known he was using her. She weathered the storm of his every outburst of fury, standing by while he yelled and, twice, healing his hand when he cut it, punching through a window in fury. She knew it wasn’t dignified, her devotion to him, but she couldn’t help it, and she stuck by him although she knew the other students saw her as silly, with her desperate crush on her own best friend. But somehow, she had always thought that if they could see him when she was alone with him- see the way he would absentmindedly tangle his fingers in her hair, or the way he would pull her to lean into him, his arm around her waist, or the way he would nip at her neck with his teeth, or if they knew what she had given him when she was sixteen- they might not think she was so pathetic for wanting more.

 

The games he had played with her were cruel, she had known that, but she also couldn’t get enough, as addicted as she was. He was a drug, and she was always waiting for the next fix.

 





Flashback




Draco, just tell me!” Pansy exclaimed, throwing up her hands. She was following him through the halls of Hogwarts, well past curfew, on the last day before summer holidays. As Prefects, they were very much allowed to be out, but Draco seemed to be abandoning his rounds and Pansy followed. He was stalking toward the dungeons in the mood she had seen before- that towering, barely concealed temper that promised a tempest when unleashed. Draco didn’t reply to her, and in fact made no indication he had heard her. Pansy did, however, hear a noise, and she turned to see Granger rounding the corner with her mouth open as though about to scold them for abandoning their posts. Feeling that she was doing the girl a favor, frankly, considering what Draco would do to her, Pansy called over her shoulder:

 

“For once in your life, Granger, keep your fat mouth shut!”

 

Pansy hurried after Draco without listening to the girl’s reply. He had reached the stairs that descended to their level and he was taking them far too fast; a habit of recklessness she had seen get him into trouble before. Pansy followed, half-running to keep up with his long strides, and by the time she reached the portrait hole it was closing behind him. She pushed it open carelessly ignoring the indignant squeal of the occupant.

 

“Draco what is going on?”

 

He grabbed something from a nearby table and threw it violently toward her; she flinched, but it was only a newspaper. She unfolded it and scanned the headlines:

 

Prominent Members of Wizarding Community to Receive Azkaban


Well-known wizards Jugson, Yaxley and Malfoy sent to Azkaban along with several others form crimes performed in the name of recently re-incarnated Dark Wizard.



 




Pansy put a hand to her mouth, looking back at Draco nervously.

 

“I’m sorry, Draco,” she said softly, hoping to calm him, but it only seemed to enrage him more. His hands were balled into fists, his hair falling into his eyes, and although he was making her nervous Pansy couldn’t help but think that he looked amazing; his normally flat grey eyes turned molten silver.

 

“You don’t understand,” he hissed at her, and she was glad that they had come in so late, and the common room was empty.

 

She wanted to yell back, but she knew him too well.

 

“Then let me try,” she said evenly, trying to keep her voice calm.

 

“HE FAILED!” he screamed at her, and she sucked in a tight breath and held it for a moment, but Draco wasn’t done. “DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHO FAIL?”

 

Pansy felt plainly as though she were standing on the edge of something, some great cliff, and that whether she stepped forward or backward something had already changed, and perhaps there was a cliff behind her too, so that she had no choice but to fall. Yes, she understood what happened to people who failed. It was a simple formula. Failure meant punishment.

 

“He’s safe for now. He’s safe in Azkaban,” she said, trying to calm him, and though he had stopped yelling now, the way he was looking at her made her deeply uncomfortable- somehow both chilling her to the bone and bringing fever to her skin. She moved toward him cautiously, until she was close enough to touch him, but she didn’t dare.

 

“It’ll be fine, Draco. Everything will be aright.”

 

He approached her slowly, giving her every instinct to turn and flee and every desire to meet him, to feel his skin on hers. She could sense, dimly, what was coming, because it had happened before, and because anger was a natural transition for him, and so she acted on neither of her senses and remained still, letting him come to her. He stood directly in front of her, and he was several inches taller than she was, so that she tilted her head slightly to look at him. He was intimidating, so much more powerful than she, and his power lay in the fact that she was addicted and could not pretend otherwise. So when he bent to whisper to her, she tilted her head sideways, allowing, inviting, instead of refusing like she should have.

 

“Don’t lie to me,” he hissed in her ear, and his hands shot out of nowhere to her wrists, so that she was effectively a puppet, controlled by him as she had always been. His lips moved from her ear and dragged along her jaw line. She stumbled backward and he followed, his breathing audible after his outburst, and within seconds her back had hit the wall.

 

“Draco…” she breathed, trying to sound like a warning but failing miserably. In response, the smooth skin of her neck found the attention of his teeth, and she was lost.

 

It wasn’t something he did often, but it wasn’t new either, that somehow he shifted so naturally from rage to lust in seconds. Pansy supposed it made sense; that when  your heart was beating rapidly and your brain reeling and your blood pounding you sought the closest and most heated distraction. And Pansy knew she should feel used; that she should say no and break away and run and never turn back, but on these occasions he was hers and she couldn’t give them up. He released her wrists and braced himself against the wall behind her, and what held her back now was not his hands, but the knowledge that she was undeniably hooked; he was food, air, and water.

 

His breath was hot against he skin as he moved his teeth across her flesh, pausing where she gasped. She hated it, she wanted it, his lips had caught hers and it didn’t matter what she wished because her hands were moving of their own accord, reaching upward to grip his shoulder and dig her fingers into the silken hair that brushed his neck. He was claiming her, possessing her, and she could have told him there was no need, he owned her, he’d owned her since he was five. His hands were roaming, trailing her sides, and her knees trembled and she was sure that if she hadn’t been leaning against the wall she would have fallen to the ground. His hand slipped beneath the hem of her sweater, and she could feel it catching against the smooth buttons of her blouse, and she knew what he wanted because it was familiar, entirely familiar and still thrilling. Her hands slid from his shoulders and she pulled her sweater over her head, freeing the dark tendrils of hair that had been trapped by her back and sending them tumbling over her shoulders and into her eyes.

 

She put a hand against the side of his neck, feeling the pulse beating against her fingers. She wanted to prolong this, to extend this time when she could make his pulse race the way that he did hers. His hands were cupping her waist, fitting her perfectly, and her hands slid to his tie, slipping the silken cords loose. She didn’t want to leave what was sure to be expensive lying on the ground; instead she stuffed it into the pocket on his pants. She felt reckless; a sudden and urgent desire to be nearer to him; she lopped one arm around his lower back and pulled him closer, grinding her hips into his. She heard a low, guttural noise. It was a moment before she realized that it had come from him, and the thought that she enticed such a reaction from her icy companion emboldened her.

 

His hands slid to the buttons on her blouse, and then to the warm regions of her bare skin; and then she was lying down, and he was there and his shirt was undone. Her hands were primitive in their need to touch and brush and slide over his back and across his stomach. And she felt everything at once, but not fear, because although she knew that this was new and different and unknown, it was still him, her best friend, the only one she had ever really wanted. For a while, she knew nothing but hot breath and warm skin, and the sharp sigh of his breaths and her own gasp. And suddenly there was pain (was that pain? It seemed so exquisite) and she bit down on his shoulder and he traveled her skin with his lips, and he wasn’t angry (or was he?) and she wasn’t afraid.

 





Had she been foolish, to relinquish so much? Pansy didn’t think so, somehow, because of all the things she had given him, that hadn’t been the most important and she couldn’t say she didn’t want to. She had belonged to him; had been intoxicated by him entirely, and Pansy thought that for it to have happened any other way would have been cheating, somehow; like forcing a puzzle piece into a space it didn’t really fit.

 

In any case, hadn’t she gained as much as she’d lost?

 

Not now, her traitorous head reminded her. It was true. Now she’d lost a hundred, a thousand, a lifetime’s worth more.

 

And that was why she was to be found, on this dreary afternoon, hurrying down Diagon Alley. Her pace was not leisurely; she had an uneasy feeling that wouldn’t be left behind.

 

Bunkson…

 

He was a younger security wizard who lived alone in London. He frequented the Leaky Cauldron and worked late hours at the Ministry, as well as the earliest Monday shifts.

 

She had given him a few hours; enough time to become well intoxicated and still coherent.

 

Now, the Leaky Cauldron was packed, and few heads turned her way as she entered the pub (though the ones that did looked immediately away). She closed her eyes for a second, remembering the photograph she had hidden in her cloak. When she opened them, it took her only a few seconds to spot him in the crowded room. He was sitting alone at the bar, a full glass in front of him as well as an empty one. She picked her away across the room and sat carefully one stool away from him. The barman (not Tom, that toothless wonder had been killed a year previously) glanced over, saw her, froze for a moment, and then hurried toward her. She asked for a gillywater. Glancing to the right, she could see him clearly; a forlorn looking young man. She turned carefully in her seat and leaned toward him.

 

“Do you mind if I join you?” she asked him, her voice low and persuasive. He shrugged, not taking his eyes off his drink, and she slid over one stool into the one next to him.

 

“Why so down?” she asked him, leaning toward him to mask the movement of her hand, which slid slowly into her robes. She grasped the handle of her wand and withdrew it painstakingly, not taking her eyes off the man before her. He didn’t answer for a moment, then opened his mouth and turned to face her.

 
“I-“


He froze at the sight of her face, and he cast a frantic look around. He started to slide from the barstool, but under the shadows she dug her wand into his ribs.

 

“If you answer me, I won’t kill you,” she said with a pleasant look on her face, as though having an intimate conversation with her acquaintance. His eyes darted around again, and he nodded a fraction of an inch.

 

“Get that look off your face,” she hissed warningly, and his features fell into an unconvincingly blank expression. She sighed.

 

“The night before last,” she began, “You saw prisoners being brought into the Ministry.”

 

He nodded jerkily, not taking his eyes off the room around them.

 

“One of them was a Malfoy,” she continued. He nodded again, but stopped midway and cast his eyes upon her again, then shook his head.

 

“What?” she said sharply; her attention, which had been divided between him and the patrons around them, shifted entirely to her informer. “Yes, there was a Malfoy, he was tall and blonde-“

 

“No,” the man said shakily. “I saw them all. There wasn’t a Malfoy with them.”

 

“You’re positive?” she said, trying to block out the slow whine that was growing in her head. “Are you sure you know-“

 

“Who doesn’t know the Malfoys? I’d remember-“

 

“Shut up,” she snapped, and she was feeling restless again; the whine in her head growing louder. “If there was a prisoner, who would know?”

 

She gave him a sharp jab to loosen his tongue. He was very white.

 

“Erm… Dawsen, he would know…”

 

She stood up, straightening her robes and slipping her wand back inside.

 

“If you tell anyone I spoke to you,” she said, leaning over so he could hear her very clearly, “I will be sure you never have the opportunity to speak again.”

 





 


Chapter 9: Chapter Nine - Persuasion
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Draco was feeling contemptuous.

 

It was nice, actually. He hadn’t felt this sneering disrespect in a long time. Though why it had returned now, he wasn’t sure. Did one have the right to feel contempt when they were wandless, bloody, and in considerable pain, on the ground, in a cell?

 

Probably not.

 

Prisoners, as he knew them (and having had considerable experience with prisoners, he did) generally went through phases. The numb disbelief. The blind panic. The resistance. And finally, the acceptance.

 

Draco felt none of that.

 

In fact, besides the downright contempt for his situation and himself, he felt nothing. He wasn’t afraid- he’d had worse to be afraid of. He wasn’t angry, either, although anger was something that came easily to him. He did, however, experience now and then a twinge of regret.

 

He wasn’t sorry for what he had done. He had done it, he had made the decision, and he had no interest in what other people had lost for him. He wished only that he had achieved some semblance of what, when he was younger, he had yearned for. He had wanted people to remember his name. He wanted to achieve something that no one else had. He wanted to ensure that he would leave something behind, some tether. And frankly, he had done none of that.

 

When he was eventually subjected to the Dementor’s Kiss and then disposed of, he would be a headline, not for what he had done in life but what he symbolized in death. That wasn’t what he had been looking for. And within a few months time, he would be forgotten. The Malfoy line extinguished, not in a grand explosion but in a puff of smoke as brief as that of a candle being snuffed.

 

No one would remember him- except, perhaps, for Pansy.

 

And that was another uncomfortable regret. He had never said anything to her. Her last words to him had been, in fact, “Come back.” And he wouldn’t. It was so fitting that the only person whom he never wanted to break a promise to would be the one who’s request he denied. Fitting because the world owed him denial. Fitting because she was, in herself, an exception.

 

Maybe she thought that, before his seventh year, he had never noticed her. It wasn’t true.

 

He knew that, for whatever reason, she was the one who withstood him, his rage, his envy, his lust, his resentment. She had thought that he took her for granted. In that, she was right. But could she blame him? When she had offered, he had accepted. It wasn’t as though he didn’t have a conscience. He did. He knew that she wanted more, and he had given it when he could. She hadn’t understood that he had tried. It wouldn’t have been hard for him to care for her. But why give her what he wasn’t sure he knew how to give?

 

Did she think he wanted to hurt her, that he enjoyed it?

 

And Merlin, he had lost control sometimes. When he was angry or upset, and she was there, relentlessly, and he could see how hard she tried. Until her, no one had ever looked at him like that- like she didn’t care that he could hurt her, like she wasn’t at all afraid.

 

And that was the deepest regret that plagued him. She would never look at him again.

 


Flashback






“So the cursed necklace… and when Weasley was poisoned…”

 

And Draco felt it, the certainty that he had made a mistake in telling her this. It was a dead weight in his stomach; the knowledge that she would know what he had done. There was no explaining; he had made his choice, and he didn’t regret it. But he still couldn’t bring himself to answer her, to confirm what he would always be in her eyes.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

His eyes snapped up, meeting hers, which were not yet accusing or condemning.

 

“I couldn’t tell anyone.”

 

“You told Crabbe and Goyle.”

 

“I didn’t really, I just…”

 

“God, Draco. Have a little faith.”

 

That wasn’t anything like what he had been expecting to hear.

 

“Did you think I’d run away?” she whispered, taking hold of his left arm and pushing back the sleeve, her eyes burning into the ugly mark there. She traced it with a gentle fingertip, and he wanted to pull his arm away, because his stomach was twisting and he felt a sudden urge to run, but he did nothing, and watched her instead.

 

She raised his arm and pressed the brand to her cheek, leaning into it and looking up at him.

 

“When have I ever run away from you?”









Dawsen. A senior member of the Ministry, an Auror, and a seasoned warrior. Possibly the most dangerous person Pansy could possibly seek out.

 

She was on her way to the alley where he regularly Apparated to work.

 

She had gotten the information from the cowardly security man she had accosted at the Leaky Cauldron. He had been more than willing when she offered to coax it out of him with her wand.

 

“In the alley behind the department store…”
 

“Seven-thirty a.m. every weekday…”
 

It was an interesting use, really, of people who would otherwise be a brainless shield. They heard things, and all it took was the right kind of persuasion to force it out of them.

 

Persuasion was something Pansy knew all about.

 

She had been instructed, at the age of sixteen, in something she didn’t yet fully understand the merits of. How ironic that Narcissa Malfoy had been the one to share the wisdom.

 



Flashback






“Pansy?” came a woman’s voice, accompanied by the telltale sound of heels on expensive wood. Pansy looked up from her perch in the drawing room, closing her book with a snap. Narcissa Malfoy was a charming woman when she wanted to be, but that didn’t mean Pansy felt at all comfortable disregarding the rules of formal conversation with her.

 

“Where’s Draco?” the woman asked, scanning the room with her eyes. During the days Pansy spent at the Manor, it was rare that she be left to entertain herself, and Pansy knew Narcissa would reprimand Draco for it.

 

“He’s writing a letter, Mrs. Malfoy,” Pansy explained, smiling as she sat up straighter. Narcissa moved further into the room, looking graceful and lovely as always.

 

“To whom is he writing?,” Narcissa asked, her forehead furrowed in disapproval. Pansy ducked her head in mute answer. She must have asked a hundred times.

 

“My son,” Narcissa began, sitting down beside Pansy on the edge of the seat, “is many thing, Pansy. Considerate is not always one of them.”

 

Pansy was tempted to nod fervently, but didn’t.

 

“He’s like his father in many ways, Pansy. But I promise you, he can be persuaded.”

 

“I’ve tried, Mrs. Malfoy. He’ll never tell me what he doesn’t mean to.”

 

“Maybe you’re not persuading him properly.”

 

Pansy looked at the older woman quizzically. She liked Narcissa Malfoy, who was always a little enigmatic but often helpful in a conspiratory way.

 

“There are all kinds of ways to get under a person’s skin, dear. Charm, fear, threats, seduction, distraction. Keep trying. Eventually, you’ll get there.”

 

She stood up and started to leave, before turning briefly back to the girl on the sofa.

 

“I want my son to be happy, Pansy. I think you try your best.”

 

On that mysterious note, she left Pansy to her thoughts.

 







Charm, fear, threats, seduction, distraction…

 

If she were still alive, Pansy would have found Narcissa Malfoy and thanked her personally for the information.

 

Even as she entered the alley, Pansy felt the odd sensation that prickled between the nape of her neck and the brand on her arm. She wanted to get this over with, find Draco and go. She hated the deceptive feeling of being watched; knowing even as you turned around that there would be nothing to see. She ran her fingers over her left forearm and continued down the alley, slipping into a doorway and pressing in the shadows as she got nearer the center.

 

She waited there for perhaps five minutes before a soft Pop! reached her ears. Footsteps approached the doorway where she stood, hidden, and they were almost upon her before she slipped out, wand held ready.

 

The man reacted so quickly she barely had time to block the curse he had thrown at her. She tossed her hair out of her eyes and saw that he was running in the opposite direction, casting curses over his shoulder to hold her at bay. This time, it was Draco’s advice she counted on.

 

“It only takes one…”
 

She ignored the curses he was firing, they were missing her and intended only to keep her from persuing until he had called for backup. As he was  a senior member of the Auror Department, the only thing that kept her from being actively chased at the moment was the fact that she had caught him off guard very early in the morning. She raised her wand and concentrated on his retreating back, holding her arm steady, before murmuring her spell.

 

“Petrificus Totalus.”

 

She counted a second before his arms and legs snapped together and he fell hard on the concrete, motionless. She approached him cautiously, if he was smart and he hadn’t been hit, he would have pretended anyway, but he didn’t move. She nudged him with a toe before bending over to flip him onto his back.

 

His nose was bleeding, an ugly result of the fall he had taken. His eyes were not darting, as was usual with victims of this curse, but instead fixed on hers and boiling over with anger and hatred. She wasn’t phased- anger and hatred was something she had experienced plenty of.

 

“Frederic Dawsen,” she said in a passive imitation of Draco at his most lazy. “I think you can help me.”

 

She waved her wand over his prostrate form, binding him in ropes, before she took of the Body-Bind curse.

 

“I don’t help Death Eaters,” he spat, struggling hard.

 

“Well then I’ll make you an offer. You help me, or I make sure you’re no help to anyone ever again.”

 

He stopped struggling as his eyes focused on her wand, which was pointing directly between his eyes.

 

“All I want is a little information. I don’t have to hurt you to get it, if you’ll cooperate.”

 

He said nothing.

 

“Three nights ago, you brought in captured Death Eaters.”

 

He neither confirmed nor denied this, but since Pansy knew it to be true, she didn’t wait.

 

“What were there names?”

 

He didn’t answer, and she let her wand twitch. His eyes were wide.

 

“That’s all I need, Mr. Dawsen. Just the names.”

 

Still, he was silent, and Pansy sighed.

 

“You have grandchildren, Mr. Dawsen?”

 

He began to tremble, his eyes darting from her wand to her face.

 

“Please don’t hurt them,” he whispered.

 

“Answer me, so they can see their Grandfather again.”

 

She waited, allowing him to imagine, and she was rewarded within a minute.

 

“Crabbe,” he began and he cleared his throat as his voice shook, “Vincent Crabbe. Gregory Goyle.  David Yaxley. William Jugson Jr.”

 

Pansy hadn’t been paying attention; she’d been holding her breath for the name she’d be looking for to fall. But after a few seconds, she noticed he had stopped speaking.

 

“And the others?”

 

“That was all,” he said, looking frightened. “There weren’t any others.”

 

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “There were more, Dawsen. Draco Malfoy. He was with them- no, stop it,” she said, jumping to her feet as he shook his head. “He was there, why are you lying?”

 

Her hand was unsteady; she was backing away.

 

“Don’t lie to me,” she hissed, and he continued to shake his head. Her thoughts were disconnected, brief and senseless. The spell that held his ropes in place was weakening, and he sensed it and began to struggle, but she barely paid attention. It wasn’t until he had Disapparated that she noticed he was free. Her wand arm dropped as she backed away, stumbling. She put her hands to her head, leaning against the dirty wall of the alley. Why had he lied? What if he wasn’t lying?

 

Stay safe. Come back.”

 

Where are you?
 

The sound of arriving Aurors breached her thoughts, and she groped in air, turning into nothingness as she heard a voice shouting. The familiar squeezing, the airless sensation of temporary nonexistence…

 

Pansy opened her eyes, looking around in desperation for the familiar castle, but she was in an unfamiliar city. It was dark here, and passers-by were staring at her- they were obviously Muggles, and they brushed past her, hurrying, not caring. There were lights all around her, from their vehicles to the buildings, and it was so noisy, and she turned once more into air and this time emerged in quiet.

 

Pansy sat down in the dirt road outside the gates of Hogwarts. Since the interrogation of Eric, it had been growing, the panic of being lost, but she had been going somewhere, and she had pretended that it didn’t claw at her. But now she was aimless. There was no trail to be followed, no helpful bread crumbs, and if he wasn’t captured then what happened?

 

“Stay safe. Come back”
 

“You are nothing without me.”

 

“We’re thunder and lightning, you and I…”

 

“This will hurt.”

 

“Yes, Draco,” she breathed to the grey clouds, to the dirt beneath her, to the trees that were rustling. “It hurts.”




Chapter 10: Chapter Ten - Breaking
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Flashback







“You’ll be gone tomorrow.”

“But I’m here now.”

“It’d be better to say goodbye now.”

“I suppose.”

But he didn’t say goodbye; he only moved to allow his lips better access to her collarbone. She pulled him closer, her hands clasping the front of his dress robes. She kissed his lips hungrily and a whimper escaped her.

“Is that your way of saying goodbye?”

In answer, she captured his bottom lip between her teeth and slid her other hand the buttons of his shirt. He groaned audibly.

“Is that yours?”







“Don’t,” he told her, his voice rough and breathless. “It’s not worth it.”

“It’s worth it.”

“You should be scared of me, Pansy.”

“Do I look scared?”

“Damnit, Pansy, listen to me.”

“I don’t follow your rules anymore, Draco.”

Her breath was hot at his throat. The new mark on her arm that still burned was red and stinging against his skin. She was all soft skin and shadowed blue eyes.

“I’ll break you,” he said, knowing that this was cancer, this was death, this burn was only the ember of a flame that would consume them.

“Then break me,” she whispered, and the flame rose higher.







He had warned her. She hadn’t listened.

Was this the consequence? Was she being punished for thinking that because she was cold, the fire wouldn’t burn her? How stupid she had been, to drink the poison so eagerly and assume that she was immune.

Pansy was on the path outside Hogwarts, still, though rain had begun to fall. She pleaded with the thunder overhead, and perhaps it could understand, because once she had been thunder herself. Wash it away, she begged. Let me be clean again, drown me, so long as I wake up without the burns.

She wanted so much to be free of this, of fifteen years, of every hateful memory and if she could claw her way out of the skin he had touched she would. It was treachery and betrayal; that she would wish so badly to be rid of him and still be unable to let him go. She knew that what she was swallowing was acid, but it stung and burned so sweetly that she couldn’t put it down.

Just leave, please, just go, she begged of the parasite in her, but it wouldn’t go, and she hated herself for being glad, for embracing the serpent that kept her warm as it bit her.







Flashback






Pansy had stayed up, and by the time she woke she could tell it was the middle of the night. The fire burned low in the common room, and it seemed she was alone, which meant it had to be late enough that even the feverishly studying fifth and seventh years had given in to sleep. She too had been studying, but it wasn’t only schoolwork that kept her in the common room. Draco had left hours and hadn’t returned by the time she fell asleep. She wondered if he had crept past her while she slumbered and gone to bed, but then she realized that it had been the sound of footsteps echoing outside in the dungeons that woke her.

The portrait swung open and she could see, even in the dim light, that it was he by the characteristic gleam of his eyes and the pale luminosity of his hair. He climbed into the portrait with familiar grace, his movements never stumbling, and it was the sight of his sly footsteps that made her rethink greeting him. She had an idea where he had gone tonight, and the confirmation of her suspicions would only hurt. She didn’t want to know. He couldn’t possibly know the sting that seeing him enter the common room gave her; the contradicting aches of knowing where he had gone and wishing she were wrong. But Pansy was a contradiction in herself, and a masochist for her dull desire to gauge out the part of her that felt betrayed.

“Draco?”

He froze on his way to the stairs, and turned toward her. She wished he looked guilty, but he didn’t look like anything; his face was expressionless.

“You should be asleep,” he told her, and she hated the patronizing way he said it and the way he didn’t seem to actually care either way. She got up off the couch and felt a strange satisfaction in the way her stomach felt hollow when she saw that his tie was crooked and his hair mussed. Good, she thought. She deserved to hurt for continuing to delude herself.

“Where were you?” she asked, though she knew the answer. Why did she want to hear him say it so badly?

“Out,” he evaded, and he started to turn toward the boys’ dormitories. She waited until he turned to say goodnight.

“If not a Slytherin, did you at least pick a Ravenclaw? Was she pretty?”

He voice was expressionless, she felt detached, she didn’t even want to begin to think what was wrong with her. As he was about to answer, she turned and sped up the stairs as fast as she could, leaving her books behind on the table. She couldn’t stand being in the same room with him and the other looming entity, the elephant that spoke in whispers about what he had done.









He had tried to stop her, to keep her away. It had been so easy to keep the others away, but she was Pansy, she was an exception, she was defiant in her obedience.

He should have tried harder, bit deeper, pushed further. But he had always been best at hurting her. Sometimes he had tried not to, and sometimes he had wanted to, and sometimes he didn’t mean to, but it always ended the same way. She had invited him to break her and he, unswerving in his selfishness, had tasted her, not knowing she was as poisonous as he.

What had she done to him?

She had wreaked her havoc quietly, like death bestowed upon the sleeping. She had crept into him like shadows. He had always calculated everything, pruned out what was not acceptable, what he couldn’t control. Control was power- the ability to decide what not to think or feel or remember. And she had first been only a candle, easily extinguished. But she had caught him on fire.

Draco flexed his hands into fists of frustration, itching to sink them into the unyielding stone of the walls surrounding him, but any movement from his right arm sent spasms of agony to his brain. He wanted to be rid of the memory, of the regret, of the desire. He wanted to claw out the tumor that was growing within him; the cruel knot that would not allow him to be in peace; that continued to twist tighter whenever his brain threatened to accept his fate. She had planted the seeds of hope in him. But hopes were too frequently dashed, too often thwarted. Hope was foolish.

Let go of me.

He had been dragged not into the cooling ice of ocean but into the burning tides that must be Hell. And the armies of the underworld were his own, clashing against one another, because he fought against it but still thirsted after it. He had been cold, ice personified, and all it took was a taste of the flame to make him crave it.








She was soaked and chilled to the bone. She knew that she should return to the castle; to the heavy and secretive walls. She was moving before she realized it, raising her Marked arm to the heavy gates that opened smoothly. She was halfway to the castle before she registered that her feet had found the path. She was halfway to her room before she realized she was inside. She had long since taken the defining turn before she realized that the room she was returning to was not her own.


His room was silent, as it had so often been. But behind the silence; behind the gentle hiss of stillness, were a thousand moments she knew. Whispers, promises, shouts; laughter and anger. Echoes, tingles, brushes and burns. Every inch of this castle kept their secrets.

“You’ll never be tired of me, Pans.”

She could almost see him, leaning against the wall, his grey eyes blinding. He had promised her so much. He had been a promise in himself. He alone could break her, and he alone could make her whole again. He had left her.

“You left me,” she said to the phantom that gazed at her. In her mind, she could see his smirk; the way he walked. He was echoing. Pansy screamed.

A shriek of rage slipped from between her lips and her hand flew to the desk and landed on an inkwell. She snatched it up and threw it at the wall, where her mind’s imitation of her best friend stood, and it shattered in torrents of black liquid. She snatched up a book and pitched it through the window and the sound of rain crept in, drowned out by her scream. The rain was blowing into the room and running in torrents down her cheeks; but how curious that it was warm.

The door flew open.

Pansy turned, uncaring. Theodore Nott stood in the doorway. Behind him were Blaise Zabini, William Jugson Senior, and Antonin Dolohov. Pansy first felt only confusion. Each of them had their wands out and extended toward her.

“Pansy Parkinson,” said Nott, in his dry and unpleasant voice. “I’m afraid you’ve made a grave mistake.”








“Let's go, kid.”

Draco hissed in pain as the filthy hand tightened on his already injured arm and dragged him from the cell. Was it time already? Was he going straight to Azkaban?

He was dragged down the hallway and up a short flight of stairs. The upper levels were marginally cleaner than the cells below, but still strewn with empty boxes of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and mud. The doors were all sagging on corroded hinges but for the front door, which Draco was pushed through.

A man in clean robes stood outside, wrinkling his nose in disgust. Draco wasn’t sure whether the distaste was directed at himself or the man who’s grip was tight on his arm. For a second, the free and empty space around the decrepit building seemed to taunt him. Escape would be so easy- Draco actually tried his weight on his injured ankle to test the possibility. It was then that he felt the cold.

He recognized it instantly, the seeping fog that seemed to drown him. It coiled in his lungs like heavy mist, and he could no longer summon the energy to run. Everything seemed to be lit with a bright green light, a familiar light, and from the trees came the voices that he had heard ended.

“No, not my family, please, spare them…”

“Go, run, Death Eaters!”

“Stay away from me, monster!”

Their faces swam in his vision, and the tortured visage of his father, who had died insane, and his mother, who had been killed in a crossfire, and Pansy, her face bloody, her eyes closed, the mark on her arm burning as a result of His punishment.

Then, as quickly as they had come, the voices faded. A silver light was dimming the green slightly. Draco opened his eyes and saw that the man in clean robes (and now Draco saw the white emblem on his breast, an imposing A entwined with a wand) had conjured the light. The Dementors, two of them, were retreating slightly, but not leaving, so that the cold remained but didn’t chill quite as deeply.

An Auror. The man was an Auror, and the Dementors were surely here to perform their task.

But why, then, was the man forcing them back?

“Go on then,” said the man still holding tight to Draco’s arm. “Give it here.”

The Auror held out a case to the dirty man, who released Draco. Draco tried to flee but found that he couldn’t move, and it was then that he saw that the Auror had trained his wand on him. The man’s eyes were full of hatred.

Draco could see, from the corner of his eye, his captor had opened the case. It was full of gold, gleaming in the daylight; an immense amount of money.

“An’ it’s all here?”

“One hundred thousand Galleons,” replied the Auror in a bitter voice. “Robbery. A sum never before paid for a prisoner.”

“Yeah well ‘e’s never been caught before, has he? This one’s been causing trouble for years.”

“If by ‘trouble’ you mean death and suffering, than you’re right.”

“Yeah well it’s off to Azkaban for a little kiss now.”

“Not quite yet. The Minister wishes to question him.”

“You won’t get nothing outta this one.”

“We’ll see,” said the man, and he gripped the sleeve of the still frozen Draco and turned, vanishing into thin air.








Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven - One Moment
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“Pansy Parkinson. I’m afraid you’ve made a grave mistake.”

 




It only took one moment.

Pansy had learned this lesson a thousand times. Reality doesn’t give a warning. Reality doesn’t give you a chance, or clues, or the opportunity to go back and change. Reality doesn’t promise anything. Reality tempts and teases and changes its mind.

In one moment, reality was different. In one moment, the moment you thought you were living was past.

That was all it took.





Flashback




It was one of the missions that occurred early in the war; the kind that promised to be exhilarating and exciting. They had sent the youngest, the Death Eaters just out of school, in a group. The mood was thrilling, the tension buried. Pansy’s heart was pumping fast.
 
Tracey Davis, Blaise Zabini, Crabbe, Goyle, Theodore Nott, Draco and Pansy. They moved through the sleepy town casually, occasionally stilling as a light in a window burst into life. If they were nervous, they hid it, because after all, lying was what they did best.
 
“Scared?” asked Blaise in a taunting voice, reaching out to nudge her side.
 
“Only of your aim, Zabini,” she said slyly, smirking up at him. “I’ll be sure to stay well out of range.”
 
He laughed, and Crabbe and Goyle chuckled dimly. Draco shot them a look.
 
“Be quiet,” he hissed, and they fell silent.
 
Draco was tense; his hand was tight around the wand in his pocket. Even his steps, which Pansy knew so well, were tight. He was the only one of them who had been in the service of the Dark Lord for more than a few months, and he always seemed a little more serious. Pansy wasn’t sure what was wrong- they’d been ready for this, after all, since their sixth year. She could still remember his words the day she had been Marked: “Its not what you want.”
 
But wasn’t it?
 
Pansy felt a nervous twitch in her stomach at the sight of his stiff posture and tensed neck, and also a twitch that had nothing to do with nerves. He was graceful and prowling, his eyes fixed on their destination. She dropped back a step and slipped behind Tracey and Blaise to join his side, striding to keep up with his longer legs.
 
She moved one hand to his shoulder, touching him only briefly before letting it drop. To her surprise, his hand snatched her wrist as it fell, exerting a grip that was powerful and possessive. In response, she maneuvered her hand upward and circled two fingers around his wrist, squeezing briefly before pulling away. He looked at her for a moment, saying nothing.
 
The main street was running out quickly, but they weren’t concerned. Their destination lay ahead; a large farmhouse on a hill just beyond the village. It was lit by the moon from behind, and it was this that kept their tensions invisible. They were creatures of the night, of shadow, of deceit and desire. The moon was their companion, silvering every beauty and hiding every lie.
 
They rose slowly out of the village, toward the luminous house. The breeze was growing harsher, less inhibited by buildings on either side, and they could hear it rushing through the trees. The eerie noises didn’t alarm the group; they knew too much about true fear, about reality’s hauntings, to give into the imaginary.
 
Without a command, they spread out, circling around the house and keeping one another in sight. There was no motion within, no lights gleaming at the window. But someone was inside- someone they had been sent for. Pansy wondered if they felt different today than any other day. Had the world warned them that time was running out? Had it been a particularly beautiful summer’s day; had they looked at the stars before going to bed? Pansy hoped they had felt the wind on their skin; that they had kissed someone; that they had savored this day without knowing why they should. She wasn’t ashamed of her wishes for this stranger, because she recognized in them a wish for herself. Time is man’s keeper; the lead pulling onward, of which there is never enough. Humans are destined to live with the past, and fear the future.

That night, Pansy denied mortality. She drew her wand and glanced to each side; first at Tracey, who nodded slightly, then at Draco, who stood still. She had, not by accident, taken her position in front of the front door. She stepped forward, up the two steps to the wooden porch. It didn’t creak.
 
 The door swung open at a tap of her wand, in sync with the rhythmic pounding of her heart. She stepped into darkness broken only by the moonlight streaming from large windows into a large front room. She beckoned the others, and each of them stepped forth and into the room. Blaise, Crabbe and Goyle moved toward the stairs, but Draco flung out and arm and gestured to the rest of the house. They didn’t yet know for certain where to find their quarry.
 
Pansy moved from the large room into a silent kitchen, neat and silvered by the night. She heard the others moving softly from room to room, betrayed only by the passage of air. The downstairs was empty.
 
They moved back to the front room and Draco turned swiftly toward the stairs, followed closely by Blaise and Tracey. Pansy lingered only a moment on the front doorstep. She observed the broken sky, stars blinking deceptively, before pointing her wand skyward.
 
"Morsmordre", she whispered. No screams announced the arrival of the ghostly image in the sky. The world slept on.
 
She moved away from the wind-rustled night to the stillness within. She followed the heels of the others upstairs. The house was spacious and welcoming, but cluttered and imperfect; so unlike the homes she was used to. She reached the door at the end of the hall, around which the others were clustered. Someone’s hand stretched out and touched the doorknob, hesitating for only a moment. It only took a moment. The world was calm. The world exploded.
 
They were blasted backward from the door, which burst out in a rush of heat and debris. Pansy’s back hit the wall; she felt the others land in similar situations. She scrambled to her feet, but the floor was unstable and pitching. Figures were emerging from the door, five or more, each clearly wizards. Pansy drew her wand, she saw one of her companions beside her do the same but their curse was drowned out in a rush of noise- yelling; wind rushing, another great blast as a part of the wall blew apart. One of the wizards now firing curses at them was cut down.
 
Pansy turned to the person beside her; it was Tracey, now firing curses at the figures moving toward the stairs. Pansy didn’t look for the others; the air was smoky but she could see figures rising beside her. She moved after the fleeing wizards, flying down the stairs with others at her heels. She heard a yell from behind and something heavy falling but she didn’t turn- she cursed one of the escapees as they reached the foot of the stairs and he fell heavily, forcing Pansy to leap over his prostrate form as she reached him. The other wizards had halted, the were yelling for their colleague and firing curses at the young Death Eaters, blasting apart the walls around Pansy’s head as she dodged rapidly. She was fed on fear; they on honor; and the more primal instinct was winning: she was close to them now, and the others had reached her and were joining her spells with theirs. The wizards fled through the open front door. The Death Eaters pursued.
 
Outside it had grown chillier as the wind grew fiercer. The yells of the men didn’t reach the village but the fire that had started in the house drew the townspeople’s attention, and there were figures emerging from the houses, pointing upward to the symbol in the sky. Men were running toward the house and the fire, drawing wands.
 
Yards away, at the outskirts of the forest behind it, the three remaining men were still fighting the forces of the Death Eaters. Pansy didn’t know where Crabbe had gone, and as she watched, Blaise was blasted into a nearby tree. Sparks were drifting on the wind from the burning house and her eyes caught a flicker of flame in the needles of a tree. Draco cast a well-aimed curse at the nearest man; he fell forward, motionless. With a cry of fury, one of his companions slashed the air with his wand, but Pansy had already turned her wand on him. In the midst of his spell, he turned, and the light that shot from his wand was redirected- just as Pansy turned to see if Draco had been hit, she felt it connect with her midriff.
 
At once, searing pain paralyzed her. She drew in a ragged breath and struggled not to drop her wand, but she couldn’t lift it. Her hands clutched her stomach, and when they came away they were wet with blood.
 
She looked up and found that her wand had dropped from her hand. She felt heavy, her knees were sinking of their own accord. She landed hard in the grass and heard, above the rush of the wind and the roar of the fire, a wordless, meaningless yell, a snarl of piercing but human depth. With effort, she raised her head and saw a flood of green light. Her attacker lay on the ground, cold.
 
She felt rather than heard his approach and she let her head rest, fatigued from the effort of holding it upright. She was shivering despite the blistering heat of the fire, and the voices around her were deafening one moment and hushed the next. Her eyelids were heavy; she was tempted to let them fall but denied herself the pleasure for fear that they would prove too heavy to open again. She turned her head and saw Draco kneeling beside her, his gaze not on her face but fixed intensely on her torso, which was rapidly becoming numb, though she could still feel the sticky flow of blood. He slipped his arms beneath her shoulders and legs and lifted her easily, and at first she thought it was this that made her so dizzy and disoriented, but then she recognized the familiar squeezing, airless sensation- they were leaving.










Pansy trembled like a child, her head tucked into the crook of Draco’s elbow, her breathing ragged. She felt a curious sensation in her left arm; then she realized that he had held it toward the gates of Hogwarts, admitting them entry to the grounds. He was striding up the path now, whispering to her, and she strained to hear his words. They were not tender promises or gentle declarations; instead, he gave her whispered but fervent instruction.
 
“Fight it, Pansy,” he said in a firm but quiet tone. She struggled to obey, but she felt only comfort steeling over her. It didn’t even hurt any more. She sank closer to him, dark curls blending with the black of his robes, obscuring the blue eyes that threatened to drift shut. It was only when she heard him curse loudly that she realized they were inside the castle. She felt him shift her weight and grab her wand; his was still in his pocket. She heard a distant bang and took a moment to contemplate that he had blown the lock apart.
 
She was lowered onto a bed- her bed. She felt colder without him, but he was distracted, pulling back her robes to reveal the source of her troubles. She heard him curse again, but he sounded farther away now. He was speaking; weaving spells with his wand clutched tight in his hand. Her eyes were sliding slowly out of focus and then back in; her thoughts were confused. She wondered if he was cold- his hand trembled.
 





It was only when she opened her eyes again that she realized that time had passed. Draco was no longer at her side; she saw his blurred form standing somewhere nearby, his back to her. She longer felt cold or comfortable and her vision no longer blurred; she could see perfectly but feel perfectly as well. She seemed to be afire, excruciating pain wound its way up her back, and in a few seconds she realized she was scorching hot. She threw the blankets that covered her to the ground; they seemed to be made of lead. Her movement attracted Draco, who crossed the room in strides carrying a flask, which he tipped quickly into her open mouth. It scorched its way down her throat and she coughed and sputtered, and her wound seemed to blister worse than ever; she felt her vision waver and she stilled. Evidently Draco thought she had fainted again; he sat on the ground, his back leaning against the bed, one hand clenched around the empty flask so hard it could shatter, the heel of the other hand pressed tightly against his forehead.  







 
She awoke stiff and sore and still in considerable pain, though not the fire-whipped agony of the night before. The blankets she had tossed away lay over her again, and her hair had been pulled across one shoulder. She felt a stiffness restricting her movement; she peeled the blankets away and saw a thick white bandage wrapped securely around her waist. When she lifted her hand, it was white and trembling.
 
Movement caught her eye; she looked up to see Draco, still in his clothes from the previous night, pacing the room. He didn’t see her awake, and she watched him change direction with no meaning, apparently unsure what to do with himself. This was uncertainty she rarely saw in him, but it didn’t last long: he glanced to his right and saw her, then turned to walk instead to the bed.
 
He didn’t say a word to her; indeed, he looked as blank as the foggy windows behind him. She tried to sit up, but he shook his head.
 
“Stay still,” he told her, in a low and hoarse voice. She stopped moving, but the robes covering her (his, she realized, hers must have been filthy) shifted, exposing a corner of the white bandage beneath. He leaned closer, inspecting it with wide and fixed eyes. His hands swept over the length of the clean white material with a kind of reluctant fascination; he looked nauseated.
 
“Draco…” she said in a soft but dry and cracked voice.
 
 “You should have been more careful,” he snarled at her. She stared at him indignantly. Was he actually going to be angry with her? Hadn’t she already suffered the punishment?
 
“I didn’t-“ she began, but he cut her off.
 
“You didn’t think!” he growled at her, unintentionally tightening his hands on her torso. She hissed in pain and he jerked away as though burned, looking at his hands with a half-horrified, half-sickened stare. She sat up straighter and rose from the bed on unsteady limbs; this time, he didn’t protest but stepped backward slightly as she moved cautiously toward him. She drew the too-big robes closer to her, covering the bandage. It was only now that she was closer that she saw how disheveled his hair was, as though it had seen the company of his hands too many times; or how his eyes were wide and pink from lack of sleep.
 
“I’m still here,” she assured him, feeling slightly dizzy from standing.
 
“Almost,” he said, his hands twitching, as though afraid to touch her. She raised an unsteady hand and curled it into the collar of his shirt, pulling his forehead down to meet hers.
 
“Always,” she whispered




One moment; one instant, one frame. The scene had changed.

 
As out of one hell stepped Draco, so into another fell Pansy.









Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve - Misunderstanding
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A grave mistake.

Oh, what a mistake she had made.


Mistakes weren’t easily forgiven among the Dark Lord’s ranks. Betrayal was even less openly received. Pansy Parkinson had committed her crimes.

The sight of the wands trained on her had offered no explanation, only confusion to a deep degree. But now she understood how she was being repaid for her pasts. For every action there is a reaction. For every curse, for every breath, for every vow and scream and sob and laugh and smirk and moment of weakness, of wanting, there was an equal and opposite denial. The time for atonement had run out. For Pansy Parkinson waited a hell equal to that which she had loaned out.

She had tried to live in the future, but the past had lived within her. Now the present had taken her future away from her. There was nowhere else. There were four walls, one window, one door, endless days, and one death for her.

She had never felt immortal, she told Draco one summer day, under a vaulting blue sky, under a promising sun. No, but she had spent her days as though she were. Only the night felt true: you could live through it as though the sun would never rise, but rise it did, casting light on all your imperfections. But now Pansy lived in a darkness that promised no light at the end.

And how ironic that it was really all a misunderstanding.





Flashback








“Pansy Parkinson. I’m afraid you’ve made a grave mistake.”

All of them had their wands trained on her, and a flicker of uncertainty seemed to pass through Blaise’s eyes at seeing her. Was it because of the hopeless position she occupied on the floor? Was it because of the rain on her cheeks, or the way she glanced so briefly at the broken window? Or was it simply because he was armed, armed against her, a friend, someone on his side who had saved his life once, and been saved by him?

Instinctively, she reached for her wand, automatically stretching out her hand in response to the primal reaction that gripped her: fear. Somewhere she knew that reality was shifting, but primarily she felt only disoriented.

That was when she discovered her wand, not with her fingers, but with her eyes, clutched tightly in the pudgy hand of Antonin Dolohov. Even as she saw it, the group seemed to move as one, into the room, toward her with ruthlessness in their motions. Pansy didn’t know what to do, there was no movement left in her. She glanced out the window again, thinking of the vast empty spaces that it held the key to. The fog was drifting silently into the room, swirling and trailing, and the only thought that occurred to her was this: she had no defender, no ally. She was alone.

Their hands touched her arm, and she scrambled to her feet, backing away, denying this present that was unreal and deceptive. She shook her head. She closed her eyes. There was nowhere to go. She backed into the window, knowing it was no escape. The fog encircled her, whispered good-bye in her ear.

She couldn’t hear her own screams as they encircled her, couldn’t hear their responding yells, she knew only that she was lifted off her feet, and for a moment the world was deaf in its uncertainty, but then the sound caught up. She struggled, bit, and kicked, she yelled. One elbow found its mark in her captors nose, she was dropped but she landed on her feet, and she was running, but more had joined in the chase, and she was surrounded on all sides by what she had been only a few hours ago: mysterious, menacing, cloaked in darkness. And perhaps the darkness had confused her, because suddenly there was nothing to see: she was limp, unresisting, she knew no more.





When next he appeared, Draco could sense only a vast amount of movement churning around him before opening his eyes. But the current surrounding him was made of people, rushing, chattering, and when he did open his eyes he saw that he was correct in his judgments: they had arrived at the Ministry of Magic.

The Atrium as he had seen it before seemed busier, less gleaming, more harassed, the products of three hard years of destruction and fear. Before he could assess more, however, the Wizard who still gripped his arm in a vise pushed him forward.

“Try to run, you’ll have more wands on you than gnomes in a meadow,” the wizard grunted, but Draco could have assumed that himself. If there had been any place to escape, it had been outside the decrepit building he had just left.

He was shunted along, and it took only a moment before a path began to clear in the crowd. Whispers could be heard fleeting from one person the next, whispers of his name, of his crimes. Within a minute he was the center of attention in the Atrium, the focus of a hundred burning, accusing eyes. Draco ignored them.

He was pushed into a lift that was cleared ahead of him by another wizard in Auror robes. Glancing to his left and right he saw that he was now being escorted by no less than six or seven Aurors, no doubt they had been present at the exchange of money but hidden, to prevent him escaping if he had tried. The lift held them all easily and it was a moment of almost peaceful quiet as it shuddered downward, into the very depths of the Ministry.

Draco was glad as they approached their destination; he was walking with a pronounced and painful limp. Looking down he saw, quite out of reach but still visible in the pocket of an Auror to his left, a familiar wand. His wand. It infuriated him to see it possessed so casually by another, but there was no hope of reaching it. He was propelled forward by the group around him, through a door, into a corridor that was gleaming white and a stark contrast to the filthy gloom of his last habitat. He realized, looking into various rooms as they passed open doors, that it was an infirmary of some kind. He was forcefully turned into a door on his left and made to sit down in a stiff but very clean chair. He didn’t question his location; he didn’t much care.

A uniformed man stepped into the room and spoke in low tones to the Auror who stood near the door. Draco strained to hear but caught only a few words…

“Filthy and bloodthirsty as usual, not that this one deserves any better…”


The newcomer approached Draco, who didn’t turn his gaze from the door.

“Let him see the ankle, you,” sneered one of the Aurors.

Draco obliged and endured several minutes of inspection before the man let him alone. He left the room and returned with a woman in matching robes, who held her wand out. Draco hadn’t even had time to contemplate his odds of obtaining it when he felt his arms bound behind the chair.

The woman tapped his ankle several times, murmuring under her breath. In a minute, Draco felt a warm and peaceful sensation surrounding it; it was healed. He suppressed a sigh of relief and lowered his gaze from the door, inadvertently meeting the woman’s eyes before him. They captured his interest; she looked at him not with hatred but with pity, and though normally it would have infuriated him, he couldn’t seem to care. Her eyes were brown, so lacking in their shallow observations, so opposite from tempest blue.

Although Draco would have appreciated a little relief from the other injuries he had sustained (not least of all the aching cut in his arm) the Aurors unbound his arms and pushed him to his feet. He was led back down the starkly white corridor and into another door, where he found a hallway that was equally clean but not nearly as bright. The walls and floor were grey, a uniform, dull color. Along one side were rooms with single doors and small windows, along the other were what appeared to be offices. It was into one of these that Draco was forcibly directed, and he saw that it, though clearly a cell, was the polar opposite of the conditions he had just left. A thin bed sat in a corner; the walls were unblemished and smooth. Through the window in the door he could see a stretch of an enchanted window in the office opposite. The sky had fallen.

Draco sat on the bed. Nothing left to wait for.





Flashback







The ball was pretentious and presumptuous and cheerful in its falsehood. But that was familiar, reassuring, all was right with the world as long as they pretended it was. They skated on ice so thin one could clearly see the turbulent waters beneath, but somehow it did not crack, would never crack.

And speaking of ice, there he was, sauntering in the door, frozen and perfect. He was deceptive, chilled, he was hers and not. He was not approaching her, infuriating her, tempting her, and just as she almost surrendered and came to his side, he turned, his victory evident in his smirk. She tossed a dark curl out of her eyes, he was coming to her now, his best clothing pristine as always, his own façade seamless.

He easily parted the group with which she had been standing. Pansy studiously ignored him, ignored the fact that she was always aware, of his breath behind her and the way he shifted his weight and the slow, careful fall of words from his lips. Millicent Bulstrode gave her a sly look, her eyebrows raised. Millicent was a sharp one; she saw immediately through Pansy’s carefully orchestrated stiffness. Others thought her slow; they were mistaken. Millicent Bulstrode was a watcher.

Now the music was rising, tempting, and groups of two were dotting the middle of the room, revolving, perfect, like the wind-up figures in a music box. Pansy was tense, sure that when he touched her she would be rent in two, but no, it merely gave her a curious contracting sensation, as though she were twisting. His hand on her elbow; her lungs were empty, angry.

“Dance with me,” he commanded, ordered and coaxed and suggested. She shook her head, turned away, twisting.

“I don’t want to.”

“Yes, you do,” he said, and she was convicted, convinced. Damnit, Draco. Let me say no.

He steered and she followed, perfect, a rhythm they had shared since they were eight, since he had refused to look her in the eye and she had doggedly stared at the floor. They would be awkward, they would be angry, they would be artificial and still, somehow, this fit. This combination, this pattern, perfect, as they would never be.

And then the figure, the hateful striding form. A man in black, approaching, alarming. He came to them as he had never done before, came to Draco. Here was the man they knew brought with him change. Here was the man who brought upon others the news of death, of destruction, and never before had he seemed so menacing as now, when his destination was theirs.
“Malfoy,” he said in a low voice. Draco was frozen, Pansy was stepping away, willing herself not to hear, and she didn’t, because his words were whispered, into Draco’s impassive but still face. Death had reached them, had touched them with fingers cold and scarring.

Draco turned away.

Pansy was frozen, watching as did others, seeing the man in black and Draco’s footsteps and knowing the truth but not feeling the icy mist that was fog to Pansy. The man in black was gone. Draco had walked away, and Pansy knew nothing but to follow.

Wandering, retreating and fearing and unthinking, she followed, her footsteps growing lonelier as she walked further into the labyrinthine garden. The sky was dark and bathing the world in blue. The moon was just rising.

And here, sitting but looking no more innocent than a stilled snake, was Draco, his eyes fixed. Pansy wished he was innocent; but knew that if he was, she couldn’t want him as she did. He was tainted. His shadows were more intoxicating than his lights.

She didn’t speak, because she had nothing to say, no words to share. Her dark blue dress rustled softly as she sat beside him, and her bare, pale shoulders shivered slightly.

“My mother,” he said in a low voice, and she remained very still, because she had known, known from the moment the man in black had turned his footsteps toward them.

She knew what he was thinking, what was pounding itself into reality with every beat of his heart, because she too had thought it, when her family had been lost. The world was huge, dark, teeming, a thousand times more threatening when you had no defender. It was so easy to feel abandoned.

“Not alone,” she said softly, and though he was stiff, his skin was warm when she ran a finger across his neck. He tried so hard not to look lost. He reached, his lips meeting hers, confirming them. He seemed determined to prove she was real. She invited, he pursued, their bare skin met.

Not alone.






Draco fled sleep. His eyes were open in time to see the procession; another like his, several Aurors and a man between them. Draco looked closer. The man was recognizable not by name but by position; another follower, another servant. The Aurors paused almost directly outside the cell, turning to consult with someone in the office opposite. The man looked around curiously, and Draco approached the door.

The man spotted him and gave a dirty, nervous giggle.

“They got you too, eh?” he said, his eyes darting from left to right. Draco raised an eyebrow.

“News?” he asked, in a cold drawl. No time for idle talking; surely the man would be moved any second, and Draco wanted information. Maybe there would be an escape.

The man glanced around again, making sure the Aurors were well engrossed in their conversation. He leaned forward, but still, Draco had to strain to make out his words.

“Battle,” the man said, with another nervous giggle. “The 16th, right here.”

Draco had no interest in battle unless it could free him, and by then he would surely be sleeping among the nameless outside Azkaban, forever a prisoner of the sound of the grey sea. But the thought that he had not been informed, he, the son of Lucius Malfoy… that woke suspicion in him.

The man was still speaking, quickly now. “Couple got caught a few days ago. Don’t know more’n that. Oh, and a traitor.”

From the look on Draco’s face, the man must have known he was curious, because he elaborated.

“Don’t know what happened, really. All I know is one moment all’s quiet, next moment everyone from the sixth floor up can hear the screaming.”

The Aurors were moving toward the man again, finishing their conversation with the worker of the office.

“Shame, too,” the man said with a leer. “Didn’t see much of her face, but they carried her right past me. Pretty thing, too. ‘Cept for that scar.”

He illustrated, marking a thin line from the bottom of his rib cage to just below his hipbone. Draco was frozen.






Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen - Traitors
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When we are young, we are promised opportunity. Make your choice, child, go forward. We can never go back.

 

The future is given to you, the past withheld. There is no changing what you have already done. Pansy never learned regret.

 

Now, however, the past was catching up, consuming, delivering her the rewards she had sown. She had no future; her present lay at the end of a wand.

 

“You could be dead now,” the silken voice informed her, laden with mockery and rage. “Perhaps, when you beg to die, you will find I am merciful.”

 

His eyes, so gleaming and scarlet, burned her, smoking and drawing her gaze.

 

“I don’t take kindly to betrayal, Miss Parkinson. How careless of you. Did you think the Ministry would save you? Did you think they cared?”

 

No, she wanted to say, but she couldn’t speak. I’m not the traitor you’re looking for.

 

“How lucky for me that one of my faithful Death Eaters saw you meeting with your Auror friend.”

 

If only she had trusted, found the source of that instinct that told her she was not alone. If only she had listened.

 

“Death will come easy for you. Tell me what they know.”

 

“I don’t know,” she whispered, her voice hoarse and throat raw, echoing the screams that had reverberated here earlier.

 

“That is unfortunate.”

 

He raised his wand. The promised death did not come with it.

 

She had no future. She retreated instead into the past.

 





Frozen.

The sounds of the other prisoner’s footsteps no longer reached his ears. Draco could hear nothing for a moment, until the noise seemed to burst forth, deafening, confusing, his own heartbeat growing steadily louder and drowning in the noise of far-off voices, of footsteps in the hall and above, of water dripping somewhere nearby.

“Pretty thing, too. ‘Cept for that scar.”

 

The scar that had grown underneath his trembling hands, the scar that had saved her life the night he thought that she had surely died, her skin pale and blue in the candlelight.

“Almost.”

“Always.”

The room seemed smaller, the walls closer and the air thinner. Draco’s feet were moving before he knew it, but this time he wasn’t saving her, only sitting where there was nothing he could do. He had no questions, only a bright and resilient denial. Pansy, with her tempest blue eyes always storming, her voice that had spoken so many different truths and lies. Pansy who had denied him and trapped him and amused and coaxed and tempted. Pansy who always seemed to shiver with breathlessness when he kissed her. The one he had always meant to keep away and had failed to. Hadn’t he himself promised her this, given her this? It had been his wand that marked her.

 

He had, in the end, been destruction’s driver, as he had always promised he would be. Somehow her insistence that it didn’t matter had leaked into him, but now the certainty returned in full force. The poison that surely lingered in him had spread.

 

And it was now that he was glad, not for the first time, that it was so hard to sting him. He wouldn’t feel it, the reality that would tell him she was beyond his reach. He refused. But this vacant space allowed for another, more treacherous emotion to bloom. Hope would kill him, but it would not now allow him to perish. What if she was still alive?

For a moment, instinct denied him the option he was considering. Surely, it would be madness, suicide. But he was dying already.




Flashback




The nighttime was a dangerous place to live. For one thing, it offered both truth and concealment in equal amounts. Night lived by its own, darker, rules.

 

Pansy felt a faint quickening of the pulse. She was experiencing that familiar late-night nervousness, the inexplicable but not entirely unpleasant flutter of anxiety that came along with the disorientation of waking in the dark. The honest heartbeat that gave no reason for fear other than the truth that something was always waiting, that gave no reason for anticipation other than the truth that someone was always watching.

 

Next came the warm spread of pleasure in her blood, because she had, unusually, woken before him, so that he lay still beside her rather than waiting in the patch of moonlight created by her window. His skin seemed to radiate faintly, but wasn’t nearly as cold as it looked and instead created feverish trails where they touched. His silver hair was tousled with sleep and his eyes, though tightly shut, looked restless. She sat up, disengaging dark curls from his arms but allowing her legs to remain tangled with his, and the movement woke him easily, though his eyes remained shut. She leaned forward and spoke quietly to his ear, allowing her lips to catch his skin gently.

 

“Something’s happening,” she whispered, informing him what he must have already known from finding her awake. His eyes opened and flutters gripped her stomach again, seeing the silver not clouded by sleep. She fought to keep her breathing even as his hand lightly circled the smooth bone of her hip and continued upward across her ribs, following the faint line of injury etched there.

 

“Not here,” he said in reply, his lips at her jawbone. She sighed in delight, but the noise was interrupted by her breath catching as her arm began to pulse and burn. He stiffened, and she knew he felt it too. She started to shift, moving closer to the edge of the bed, but his arm entrapped her, and a familiar, half-amused, and half desperately rebellious look came into his eyes. His lips found hers, barely touching before greedily claiming her. It was a game they played; too see how long they could ignore the burn in favor of another.

 





It was the spark that often smoldered in him, one that wouldn’t burn itself out. Hope would consume him, if it was false. But he couldn’t destroy it, couldn’t drown the hope and turn instead to acceptance. Accepting his own fate was one matter, allowing hers, and all of the weakness that it would drown him in, was unthinkable. Her fate was tangled in his, because in her death he would find his own. She had kept him alive too many times, denied him too often, and allowed him more than she should.





How strange, the abilities our minds withhold. How much more powerful than magic is the misted world of our own perception? Tell me a lie, we command ourselves, and the lie soothes us. I am not here, this is not happening, it’s all a dream, wake me when its over.

 

So it was that Pansy felt death, knew she should surely die, knew that something within her was breaking itself, and still saw only the rain that blurred the window of her vision. Rain that could course tears of deception over her skin, so that the voice that should tear her in two was instead luring, coaxing her away, sweet and silver-toned.

Ready or not, here I come…
 
The curse never became any less excruciating, never dulled. In fact, the pain seemed to grow, as each time it was administered promised hours of ache afterward. Her skin would bleed where it had scraped in protest across the stone.

 
Tell me a lie.




Flashback




The Masquerade Ball had been a tradition for years. Originally, it was a secret, a rebellion by the children of the wealthiest Wizarding families, a way to break the cardinal rule of aristocracy: be aware of who you are.

 

By the time Pansy prepared to attend it, it had evolved into an annual gathering, with only one rule: masks stay on until the end.

 

So it was that the carefully embroidered, pearl-adorned mask was enchanted onto Pansy’s face that night, emerald green against her pale skin. It was this ball, this particular celebration that was her favorite. It was a festival of mystery, of falsehood, of imaginings. It was the only celebration of darkness.

 

Pansy’s gown, tight to the waist, where it flared into a full, elegant skirt, whispered softly as she walked alone down a long stone hall lit only with torches. From the end came strains of music, of promising tones. The doors opened before she reached them, and she entered the ballroom.

 

The room was large and consumed by rustling shadows. The torches flickered on the wall, casting the identity of everyone near into further doubt where it threw patterns on their features.

 

It was two hours of catching only glimpses before he came to her, quiet and prowling. Four others had danced with her, never noticing the fact that her eyes behind her mask did not rest on their faces.

 

“You were always good at keeping secrets, Pansy,” his voice reminded her from behind. She made herself to turn slowly, to leave her eyes where they were until her movement forced them to shift.

 

“Evidently, not good enough,” she said.

 

“If it were anyone but me,” he answered, with a low chuckle. “But I’ve always seen through you.”

 

“Why don’t I get the same privilege?” she asked, feeling recklessly freed by the darkness.

 

“I have a better mask than you do,” he replied, taking her hand to lead her to dance.

 

“Too bad it doesn’t come off at midnight,” she whispered resentfully, not quite loud enough for him to hear.

 





It was possibly the worst idea he had ever had. Generally, he tended to dismiss plans that would almost certainly lead to his painful and slow death, but he embraced this one, clinging to it as a dying man clings to the hand offered to him, as though to climb back out of Hell.

 

“You! Come here,” Draco shouted hoarsely through the bars on the door. The guard he addressed turned sharply, giving him a hasty appraisal before choosing to ignore the command. Draco growled in impatient, partially panicked frustration and kicked the door hard, rattling its hinges.

“Let me talk to an official, Damnit, or I swear I will blast through this door.”

The guard looked amused until he met the younger man’s eyes. They were wild, boiling with some emotion that Draco clenched his jaw to contain. The guard approached cautiously.

 

“What do you want?”

 

“I want to see the Minister.”

 

The guard snorted. “You’ll talk to the Minister whenever he chooses to talk to you, filth.”

 

He turned to walk away, stopping when he heard the young man’s snarl of fury. Alarmed, he turned back to the door, his wand in hand, before an Auror stepped from a nearby office.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“He says he wants to see the Minister.”

 

The Auror turned a suspicious eye on Draco. “What do you want with the Minister?”

 

“I want to give him what he wants. I’ll tell him everything.”







Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen - Choice
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“I want to tell him everything.”







The Auror looked blankly back at first, before his expression slowly registered calculation. He was looking for the ruse, for the ulterior motive. His eyes asked why.


Why?

Because she was not vibrant, didn’t spark, but with the same quality as a chilled breeze, could lift away the fog in his mind. Because her skin didn’t turn cold in the rain. Because her face had the beauty of solemnity where her mouth turned down at the corners. Because her eyes seemed able to read secrets.

 

The Auror motioned to the guard, and bent quickly to order instructions into his ear. The guard turned and walked briskly to the end of the hallway while Draco waited, fingers moving restlessly across the wall. The Auror approached him rapidly.

 

“This had better not be a trick, or you’ll be off to Azkaban within the hour.”

 

Draco didn’t bother to sneer, instead, he retreated farther into his cell, out of sight of the watchful Auror. He leaned against the wall, both hands on his forehead, blocking out the familiar, but imaged, screams.

 





If he was dead, she could retreat. The thought threatened to burst from her, and seemed particularly vengeful in her throat, tearing forward and building peculiar pressure behind her eyes. But she couldn’t block the thought; did not have the vulnerability required to swallow it. If he were dead, she would fall backward, into thoughts that seemed to fill her with painful structural damage, as though any moment she might crumble into dust.


If you’re gone, please, let me go.


But she didn’t know.


It had been her choice, her instinct, her mistake; how heartbreaking and healing and sharp. Her choice. Choice, deliberate, instinctive, the forbidden apple, just within her reach. Bite, it dared her, taste what you told yourself you wouldn’t. Make the choice.






Flashback 




 
 Dinner. Pansy procrastinated, waiting on her bed for the last possible moment to get dressed. She pulled on one shoe just as a knock sounded on her door, but she didn’t bother to open it. He let himself in, looking pristine except for the undone tie that dangled from his neck.

 
“You’re running late,” he said, casting an amused eye over the dress that was half unzipped and the shoe remaining in her hand.
 

“I was busy,” she said, casting an eye into the mirror to pin back her hair.

 

“Doing what?”

 

She ignored him except to turn her back and allow him to zip the dress. She turned around and examined his tie for a moment before tying it neatly, their tradition since she was six years old and he couldn’t do it himself.

 

“You’re anxious,” he said simply. She stiffened only slightly and pulled away.

 

“I’m irritated.”

 

“You’re anxious. You just don’t let anyone see.”

 

She turned and smiled pointedly at him, leading the way out the door.

 

“That’s right, Pans. Just keep smiling,” he said after her, offering a smirk.

 





Dinner with the Moon family was never Pansy’s favorite part of the Christmas holidays. Delia Moon was perhaps the most simpering, false woman Pansy had ever met. Not to say she wasn’t clever. In every carefully aimed comment towards anyone, Delia hid a second meaning. Matthias Moon was a sharp-faced businessman with only his own interests in mind. He was well-known for tastelessness and a wandering eye. They came to dinner every year with the Parkinsons, Malfoys, Zabinis and Notts and drank all of the wine. Pansy couldn’t understand why her parents associated with such a family, but they were business associates, and so had to be tolerated. Less useful was their daughter, Lilian.

 

Lilian was, naturally, the picture of sensous beauty, with gleaming, fire-red hair and golden eyes. It was her attitude, however, that made her such a deep annoyance, and perhaps a source of some nervousness, to Pansy. Lilian delighted in making herself a target of attention from Theodore and Draco, while managing to subtley insult Pansy at every turn in the conversation. By the end of the evening, Pansy was annually in a towering temper.

 

To Pansy’s annoyance, Lilian had seated herself with a pointedly empty chair at her right side, which Draco graciously accepted. Pansy took her seat on his other side, next to Blaise, who raised his eyebrow in amusement at her stiff expression. Pansy shot him a scowl before turning to smile gracefully at the Moons.

 

“Hello, Lilian,” she greeted, noticing the girl’s perfect smile in her direction.

 

“Hello, Pansy. Hasn’t it been ages? That color looks so nice on you, you’re so white,” the girl returned, and Pansy braced herself for a long evening.

 

“Draco, why did you never tell me you were such a good Quidditch player? I’d love to see you play,” Lilian began, turning her eyes to him.

 

“Yes, she’d just love to see his broomstick,” Blaise murmured in Pansy’s ear, grinning impishly at her. Pansy rolled her eyes discreetly.

The night wore on, and Pansy grew gradually more desperate to return to her bedroom with each mocking smile Lilian sent her way. She paid little attention to the adults, and instead held whispered conversations with Blaise, ignoring the disapproving looks from her mother.

 

After dinner, Pansy’s parents retired with the others to another room, for the inevitable argument about business and politics. Pansy was left to survive among her classmates and Lilian, who quickly decided to entertain themselves in the library. Pansy followed reluctantly, and was kept sane only by the company of Blaise, who, mysteriously, seemed to have little interest in the suggestive conversation of Theodore, Draco, and Lilian.

 

“Ah, Pansy,” Blaise sighed dramatically. “Jealousy suits you.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Pansy replied, only paying half her attention.

 

“While you desperately want your best friend, he spurns your attention for that of the dazzling guest, who’s charms he will no doubt partake of as you sit alone, nursing your wounds. “

 

“He wouldn’t, he knows I can’t stand her,” Pansy argued, angered by the note of uncertainty that she hoped only she could hear.

 

“There’s a word for that; I believe its called ‘cliché’,” Blaise responded sagely.

 

“You seem immune to her.”

 

“Let’s just say I have experienced her charms before. Her bark is much stronger than her- uh- bite.”

 

Pansy stared in half-disgust, half amusement. “You’re terrible,” she said. Blaise returned a smirk.

 






Pansy feigned a headache to excuse herself from the room not long afterward, but it only took fifteen minutes in her bedroom to feel like a coward. Pansy wasn’t one to run, and however irritated she felt, she wouldn’t let Lilian drive her away. She was only here for a night, and besides, Pansy had a reputation to uphold, despite the fact that every glance Lilian received seemed a little like betrayal. He was her best friend, after all. Lilian could have his attention for one night.

 

It was this resolution that sent Pansy back to the hallway and toward the library again. Before she could reach the door, however, she heard a soft chuckle to her left.

 

Turning, she found that she faced the door to a mostly unused sitting room. The was light beyond it, flickering; a fire in the grate. She heard it again, a muffled sound, half of a sigh. And suddenly she knew, beyond a doubt, what she would find behind the door. She could feel the beginnings of nausea, the kind of restless discomfort that came with sitting still too long. She didn’t need to look, she could picture the scene as clearly as if the door weren’t there. How masochistic she was, how stupid for wanting to see, to drive the splinters further in. She deserved to hurt for this, for every faith, for jealousy, for wanting. She pushed the door open, just slightly.

 

Pansy felt herself freeze, but her eyes seemed more clear than ever, clear enough to see her hands, golden against his pale skin, and her lips which seemed to leave a glowing trail behind them as she kissed his neck, marking each spot as clearly as though it had been burned into Pansy’s eyes. It was then that she noticed his tie, undone, hanging limply, and Pansy wondered strangely if he had undone it himself or if Lilian had. An odd, quietly strangled murmur erupted from Pansy’s lips and she hastened to close the door, but too late, his eyes had shifted and he seemed to freeze a little.

 

“Pansy?”

 

She was near the end of the hall before the door opened, and she considered slowing, but there was nothing she wanted to hear from him. She turned without being sure of where she was going, until she found herself slowing to a halt outside a door that looked identical to all the other doors in the house but wasn’t, most importantly, her room, or the one she had just left. She had entered and sat down on a plush couch before she realized she was not alone, and she considered leaving. She hated that Draco could do this, could make her want to run when she prided herself on the ability to cover the cracks. She wouldn’t run.

 

“Hello, Blaise,” she said, and she was dimly pleased to note that she didn’t sound strange, though she couldn’t seem to make herself look anywhere but at the candles on the wall.

 

“Pansy,” he said, nodding to her. “Feeling better?”

Something about his carefully polite tone alerted her, and she looked at him, seeing the way he was deep in thought, eyes flickering between her and the door.

 

“You already know, don’t you?” she accused, less angry than shamed.

 

“I take it you saw something you didn’t mean to,” he replied, raising an eyebrow. “If it is any consolation, he didn’t mean you to see either.”

 

Pansy laughed, a hollow sound to her own ears. “No, it didn’t look like that was his plan.”

 

“Some of us, I am sorry to say, have no appreciated of class, Pansy, darling,” Blaise said, sitting beside her.

 

“What do you know about class, Blaise? You can’t tell me every one of those fifth years was classy, particularly since I happen to know Selena Capper was among them.”

 

“Just because I don’t limit myself to the finest selection doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate taste when I see it.”

 

His finger captured a curl of her hair in demonstration and he smirked appreciatively. Pansy was silent. How badly she wanted to break his trust, as he had broken hers. How unfair, that Draco could be free of her whenever another girl offered equal attention. Pansy was sure that he never felt betrayed, no matter how urgently she wanted to betray him…

 

Pansy turned her head to see Blaise still watching her, looking thoughtful. He leaned forward, and she didn’t move away...

 





“Thursday, the sixteenth.”
 
“Yes.”

“Here? At the Ministry?”

“Yes, here.”

Draco was fighting for patience, but it was harder now than ever before, now that the Dementors were near again, because the screaming wasn’t imagined now, but faintly unceasing in his head…


The Minister leaned forward, unbothered by the Dementors, protected by the Auror’s Patronus charm. “Why are you suddenly so keen to give up?”


”I told you why.”

“I know your condition,” the Minister said, nodding impatiently, “But I don’t understand why, of all things, that would be it.”


“Does it matter? I’ve told you what you wanted to know.”

“We’ll need more information, numbers, layouts, tactical things.”

“Whatever you want.”

“Alright.”

The Minister left his chair and moved toward the group of Aurors standing behind him. They held a whispered conversation, gesticulating intensely, for several minutes before the man returned.

“We will grant your condition, on a condition of our own.”

 
“Which is?”

“That you return, once the business is done with, to the custody of the Ministry of Magic, with the guarantee that you will not be subjected to the Kiss.”

“Yes, fine.”

The Minister seemed suspicious at such a lack of resistance, but Draco didn’t bother to reassure him. They had no choice but to accept.

“Alright. Jenson, write this down.”








Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen - Hold Your Breath
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Flashback



 


What a sweet betrayal it was. Pansy, so owned and used and cracked and ashamed, in the arms of another, so amused and sharp-eyed. And Pansy was so bitter-sweetly elated, so vindicated and healed and distracted and still, so ashamed. Ashamed that she needed to be fixed, because all her pride came in that she was untouchable and unbreakable. Ashamed that she could want another, could feel their brushes and glances and kisses just as easily but could never hunger for them. Pansy, such a pretty masochist, was so good at putting away the hurt and being satisfied, as though she were absolving the sins of her coveting. She deserved to hurt, for being hurt in the first place.


And so it was that Blaise, with his lips soft and his attitude amused and yet somehow, still earnest, gave her a taste of what she wished she could want, but never did. And it was all momentary bliss, for Pansy. Pansy, who always appreciated the warmth of the sun while wishing for the storm to return. Thunder and lightning. Thunder never lasted long without the rain.



Was she cruel, to encourage, to kiss him back? Maybe. But cruelty was so easily forgiven.





“You were always such a good liar, Parkinson.”


The words slithered, threatened. Pansy could no longer block them out, as quiet as they were.


“It made you valuable.”


He advanced, his wand drifting in a steady circle, mesmerizing. Pansy was cold; they had taken her cloak, leaving her in the black dress she had worn to meet the Ministry official. It was true; everything about her was deception. Such a graceful, pretty, well-dressed killer.


“You’re not valuable anymore, Pansy. You told all the wrong lies.”


His wand stopped moving.

 

“You told me you didn’t betray me, Pansy. You told me the Ministry didn’t know anything. How is it, then, that three of my most secret messages have been intercepted? How do my Death Eaters keep winding up in prison?


Who could have told them, Pansy?”





Draco could feel the Minister’s hand tighten almost painfully around his as the wand tip touched them, and he himself could not stop a twitch. This was not the life he was supposed to be living.

 

“Do you swear not to betray the Ministry’s actions to any member of You-Know-Who’s party?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you swear that your actions will not harm any innocent or member of the Ministry or its forces?”


“Yes.”


“Do you swear to return yourself to the custody of the Ministry after the fall, prompt to the best of your ability?”


“Yes.”


The coils of flame that had emitted from the wand wound themselves around the clasped hands of the two wizards, so different, binding their words. Draco’s heart beat fast.




Wednesday, December 11th





The rain was falling again, heavier, this time, with the promise of darkness rolling in clouds from the west. Draco ignored the instinct to flee as he crept toward the gate to the grounds of the castle. All of his life, his instincts had served him well, but he couldn’t run even as he stepped out of one betrayal into another. He made himself believe she was waiting- the last thing left to die for.

 

He raised his left arm just as a rumble of thunder shook the sky, and the gates swung open to a chorus of rustles as members of the Ministry crept behind and around him, through the gate, into the cover of shadows. Wednesday the 11th, the day before the planned battle, the day every Death Eater would be here, waiting, and trapped inside the walls.






Flashback 

 





The sun was just setting in the window when he opened the door, almost noiselessly, though he knew she would hear it. She stood at the window, her back to the sill and head turned away, very still except for the hand that twirled her wand slowly around her fingers. She turned her head toward him just as the sun sank behind a hill, dimming the bloody light that had illuminated the room.


“Nervous?” he asked, leaning casually against a wall and crossing his arms.


“Hardly,” she replied, crossing the room in lithe steps. “But I bet they are.”

 

She nodded toward the window, toward the world outside.


“They should be, knowing they’re facing us.”


“Are you hungry?” she inquired dismissively.



“Not particularly.”



She seated herself on a sofa near the dark fireplace and conjured flames that immediately warmed the room. He moved toward a cabinet in the corner and poured himself a drink before taking the seat beside her. She ignored him, picking up a book on the table nearby, but after a moment she shifted, allowing him to stretch the length of the seat and crossing her own legs on top of his.

 

“Draco?” she said, after several minute’s silence.


“Yes?”

 

“That’s not your first drink of the evening.”
 


“No it is not.”


“That is not an attractive habit, you know.”

 
“You’re still attracted, Pans."



Pansy scowled, and used her feet to push him away. He chuckled softly.


“I never overindulge, Pansy. Don’t pretend you’re the angel of abstinence.”

 

Draco could see, even in the dim light, the faint flush that his words provoked. The few moments of silence, however, proved too much for his attention span.

 
“Pans?”


She didn’t reply; her annoyance was evident in her posture. Draco scowled and shifted closer to her in time to hear an irritatingly frustrated sigh as her eyes followed him. It wasn’t until he was closer that he could see the anxiety that was almost invisible but for the way her forehead wrinkled slightly in consternation.


“Nervous?” he said again, this time speaking to the curve of her jaw, just below her ear.


“No,” she said, so firmly that Draco laughed quietly against her skin.





Draco crept toward the castle, trepidation growing insistent in his mind. He would surely die here, caught in this rain-swept land between two forces that would kill him before they let him go. He had only vague hints of a plan forming in his mind.


It was just as he reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest, just as the Aurors behind him had filtered as close as they could under cover, that the world fell apart.


“Is that your way of saying goodbye?”


It took a lifetime for the doors to open silently, a lifetime for the black, masked faces of Draco’s fellows to spill onto the lawn, a lifetime in which Draco’s heart beat twice, in warning and promise and reminder. A lifetime in which the sky rained chaos, because this girl was all that was left, of years of innocence, and risk, and denial, and gasps and sighs and whispers. Because she could already be dead, and the words that repeated in his head might be just the remainder, the dead, gray light that burns for minutes after the sun has already set.


Draco stood perfectly still behind a tree, breathing heavily, listening to the sounds of yells and spells cast from the newly born battle behind him. He glanced toward the tower that was his destination, but couldn’t see anything in the dim light.


“I don’t follow your rules anymore, Draco.”


He circled the lake.

 

The sounds of cries were distant now, though Draco could have watched the progress if he had cared. What did it matter to him who won?



The boats were stored where they had been since that last, fated group of first years had entered the castle. Draco recalled his own journey as he propelled the boat forward with his wand, directing it into shadows and hollows in the bank. His first night at Hogwarts, so sure of everything, of life and its guarantees.

 

He passed beneath the cave’s mouth, low enough that he ducked his head. The cavern was pitch black without the lanterns that had lit the way that night. He lit his wand cautiously, quietly, and crept up the stairs to the hidden door. His mark granted him admission.


The halls were deserted, silent, and cold. The castle had none of the feeling of abandonment that he though he might find, instead, each corner seemed to threaten violence beyond, as though destruction lurked everywhere the wand light didn’t reach.


“God, Draco. Have a little faith.”


Minutes, perfectly timed with each heartbeat that grew louder in the silent corridors, crept by as he crept through the halls of the castle. If these walls could talk, would they? Would they stay standing without secrets to hold them up?


Up the stairs, sure that he was being pursued; he went quickly now. Down another hall, and it didn’t matter if they heard him, he was running. No future past that door.


“When have I ever run away from you?"


Up the spiral steps, dizzying, his breath coming in gasps, a stitch in his side, but he couldn’t slow down if he had wanted to, because these were only steps, only steps that disappeared and didn’t fight and didn’t die, and here was a door, behind which there might be a mystery and fights and surviving or might be nothing.

 

“Not alone.” 


He approached it, slow now, wondering, for some reason, if it was still raining outside, because she always loved the rain.

 

“Something’s happening.”



“You’ve been scarce lately.”


The door was locked, and his throat was dry, and his breath was thin, and the castle was cold and the rain was heavy and the thunder was loud, just overhead, audible through the roof, and he unlocked the door with his wand.

 

He couldn’t open the door, but it didn’t matter because it swung open on its own and he was greeted with a blast of icy air, damp air, and he saw there was no glass on the window before he looked down.



At first he thought she was crying, because he cheeks were pale and damp, but he realized that the rain blew in from the broken window and had settled in glistening streaks on her skin. Her eyes were closed, eyelashes dark against shadows under her eyes, and she lay limp on the ground, head against one arm, but she didn’t shiver in the cold.

 

Her lips were parted only slightly, as they always were when she slept, as though about to whisper.


He didn’t know he had moved until he was crouched beside her, and she was so still, and so cold, and suddenly the rain didn’t seem so icy where it struck him through the window, and he wondered if he sat here long enough, if it would wash away the perfect silence in the room.

 

 It felt like a betrayal to lift her arm from where it wrapped around her waist, but he had to know, had to know, had to know…


The rain seemed to fall in rhythm with the pulse of her heartbeat.


He leaned his head against the wall, and his mind, clever as it was, could offer no future except this tiny, freezing room, but he knew that something was threatening, approaching, and they couldn’t stay here, although it was this place that seemed to hold the culmination of a thousand breaths held.


He was calculating as he removed his cloak and robe and covered her in them, trying to hide the sensation of her frozen skin. In only his shirtsleeves, the room was arctic, and he slipped his arms beneath her hurriedly. He couldn’t run and carry her at the same time; he could only the hope that the battle was still being conducted outside.

 

Unbreakable Vow. He had bound himself to return to Ministry custody.
 


He felt a glimmer of familiarly smug triumph as a plan began to stir in him.




Yes, its back! What do you think about this turn of events? What's Draco's plan, eh?!
 



Chapter 16: Chapter Sixteen - Restless and Running
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The castle had never seemed so vast as it did now. Draco could see nothing through the windows into the dark, and his footsteps echoed a warning each time he turned a corner. He took every shortcut he knew of, freezing each time he thought he heard a voice.


The darkness of the corridors without torches or moonlight was thick; the stone illuminated only by the faint glow of rain outside.


It was in this darkness that Draco made his way to the cave from which he had come, unable to light his wand because of the weight that occupied his arms. He put Pansy down with some difficulty in a boat and slipped in beside her. The sharp sting of rain on her face did not wake her; the cold matched only by her skin.


As he circled the lake, Draco began to hear the faint sounds that he had left behind, but quieter this time, drowned by the storm. He ignored them and moved in the opposite direction, faster now, adrenalin in his veins.


He was almost to the gate when he was seen.


A figure seemed to appear in the mist out of nowhere, creeping in the shadows in much the same manner as Draco himself. Draco froze, breathing hard, beside a tree. There was nothing he could do without his wand. He dropped into a crouch with agonizing slowness, his muscles protesting, and deposited Pansy on the ground before drawing his wand. As he stood once more, the movement seemed to catch the figure’s eye, and their head snapped toward the tree, their wand flashing.


Draco ducked the spell and responded swiftly, forcing the man to dive aside before resuming his sprint toward the tree. Midway there, the man’s gaze shifted toward the limp figure among the roots, and he slowed, confused. The man’s distraction was long enough for Draco.


“Avada Kedavra!”

 





Flashback

 





Pansy ran.


She glanced over her shoulder and around a corner as she sped through the streets of Hogsmeade, avoiding any sign of light. The battle hadn’t lasted very long, but the number of fighters that had arrived to oppose them had surprised them. Every resident of Hogsmeade, rather than cower in his or her houses, seemed to have run outside in support of the Ministry, and the Death Eaters had suffered losses before they took their revenge. The fighting was dying out now, and Hogsmeade was almost silent but for the pockets of activity- every villager that could have had fled with the Aurors.



She was breathing hard against a stitch in her side, but other than that and a sharp cut across her cheek she was relatively unscathed. She kept her wand out and kept running, finally coming to a halt at a four-way crossing and turning in a full circle indecisively.



“Pans!”



She heard her name hissed softly behind her and turned around, but the darkness made it impossible to see further into the gap between two buildings. A moment later she saw a glow appear and grow larger as a cloaked figure limped into view.


“Draco,” she breathed, moving toward him and into the shadow of the shop next door. “Where were you?”


“I got caught up on the road with a couple of Aurors. What happened to you?”


Her hand traced the cut. “He almost missed me,” she said, shrugging dismissively.


“What-“ he started to ask, but fell silent as they heard footsteps approaching fast. Pansy heard a whisper and the light from Draco’s wand went out, plunging them into darkness. She felt an arm around her waist pulling her backward into the space between the buildings until she was pressed tightly against both the wall and Draco. She felt his back stiffen as a wand light turned around the corner, faintly illuminating four or five figures in Ministry robes. Pansy’s hand crept toward her wand, but before she could do anything more they had gone. She breathed a sigh, feeling her heartbeat mingle with his.


"Should we follow?"

"No," he replied. "Someone will take care of it."


Pansy slipped out of the tight space and he followed. She led the way through the shadows, toward the road that led back to the castle. All was quiet now, the frenzy of a few hours past forgotten except for the telltale silence in the abandoned houses.


The castle was aglow despite the late hour. Pansy and Draco, no strangers to nighttime, crossed the midnight grounds quietly. Her eyes followed the moon behind the clouds, remembering how much darker it always seemed to be when she was alone.


The castle doors opened without a creak, and they passed others, some limping, others simply looking harassed as they hurried through the hallways. Pansy led the way to her room.


Draco sat on the bed and examined his leg thoughtfully while Pansy took a heavy book from a shelf in the corner. She sat beside him and checked the index before rifling through to the spell she needed. Wand in hand and aimed toward the deep gash in Draco’s knee, she recited the words on the page and watched it heal.


“Better?”


 She handed him the book and allowed him to treat the cut across her cheek, leaving ivory skin unblemished. She went to the closet to change, kicking off her shoes as she went, and grabbing the first nightdress she found. Within seconds she was back, bare feet cold on the stones. She climbed back onto the bed and huddled against the pillows, watching Draco flipping through the book of healing spells. She traced a scar on his shoulder with her finger, shame rising in her cheeks, that even now she could feel the familiar, half-desperate restlessness stretching in her skin. She was nineteen years old, and so overwhelmed.


Her fingers must have trembled, because Draco turned his head to look at her, his gaze burning and perfect, his eyes blazing, and suddenly she knew he wasn’t reading at all.


She laid her hand flat against the side of his neck, urging him closer. They were young, too young to be tired and afraid and ashamed and guilty, but it was there, mingled with every intensity of being nineteen and independent and hopeful and determined. It seemed impossible that having avoided and teased and wanted for so long that they were still left here, living this life so separate from everything they had ever known and yet so intertwined with everything they had ever learned. Their perch here was desperate and impermanent, but still, they held on.

 

Pansy kissed him fiercely, melting to the insistent pressure he returned and falling backward, her lungs filled and veins pulsing with the warm smell of his breath. It was this, she knew, that promised her everything if she could just survive, this promise uncaring of oaths and eternity and permanence. Her shadows were not forever, could not last, because she had brought light with her into the darkness and could taste it now, in skin on skin, in sighs and breaths and demands, in turbulent silver lightning burns and the icy sting of boiling blue thunder.

 





London was freezing, but the rain had stopped and seemed to gather in mist that seeped along allies, forewarnings of the darkness that crept the streets. Draco had stopped beneath a dilapidated overhang, the cold seeping easily into him without a cloak. He sat beside a still unmoving Pansy, hands restless, sure that any moment the Ministry would swoop down upon him, or else that the yet unfulfilled vow would steal his life away in payment. The outlines of a destination had formed in his mind, but he was distracted and restless, his eyes jumping between the street and Pansy’s pale face. It was a few minutes before he noticed her stirring, her head drifting deliriously. Her eyes opened to the sky, slowly, and she used a hand to push herself shakily upright. Draco watched her, his hands growing numb where he gripped the railing of the stairway beside him. Her eyes swept the street, and then snapped towards him when he sat upright.


“Draco?”


Her voice was soft, uncertain. He watched her through shaded eyes as she moved back toward the wall.


“What did you do, Pans?”


She stilled, her eyes faintly luminescent in the gloom.


“What do you mean?”


He didn’t answer, only continued to watch, grey eyes fixed on her but still somehow looking through.


“They thought I told the Ministry.”


“What did you do?” he repeated, his tone flat.


“I tried to find you,” she whispered shakily. “Someone saw me. They thought I betrayed them- because they knew, Draco, somehow… the Ministry knew everything.”


She twitched, startled, as he stood with fluid speed. He strode a few steps in either direction, peering through the darkness.


“Why would you do that, Pansy? Why would you let them see you? Did you think you were going to spring me from the Ministry, Pansy, did you think you could just stroll up to any official and ask where I was?”


She was beginning to tremble, whether from anger or cold, he didn’t know.


“No, Draco,” the venom in her voice evident even when weak. “I thought I was going to find out what the hell happened to you!”


“I can take care of myself,” he spat at her.



“Evidently not.”


A growl escaped him, he turned and his fist collided hard with the wall in frustration. “You don’t understand,” he snarled at her, curled in a shivering ball on the ground, her back against the wall.


“I get it, I was stupid, alright, but what was I supposed to do?” she bit back at him.


“You were stupid, alright? It was my fault! I screwed up, I got caught, and this"- he gestured to her, weak and hurt and shivering- "is my fault!”


“Draco, you didn’t even-“


“I told them. I told them everything. That’s why they thought you betrayed them- it was me.”


He turned his back on her, his hands and teeth clenched in fury and guilt and sickness, at the panic he had felt seeing her so still and pale on the floor of that freezing room in the castle.

 

“I don’t care, Draco. They thought I spoke to the Ministry anyway- someone saw me.”


“Because of me.”


“I would still be there if it weren’t for you.”


The thought seemed to startle him and he looked around once more, as though expecting to see hooded figures creeping up the alley.


“We have to go,” he said tensely, striding back to her and offering a hand that she took, snatching his wand up as she went. He didn’t ask if she could walk; he knew she would be offended. She stumbled slightly and he tightened his grip on her hand, dropping it as though burned when she hissed in pain.

 

“What is it?” he asked edgily.


“Its nothing,” she replied carefully, trying to walk ahead, but he caught her hand again, gingerly this time, and pulled her into the light of a lamppost nearby, rolling up her sleeve. He stared in revulsion at her arm, covered in half-healed cuts, one extending across the back of her hand. She jerked her hand away, swaying at the motion unsteadied her. Draco leaned heavily against the lamppost; his eyes closed and jaw tight. She took his hand again and tugged on it, prompting him into taking the lead once more.


“Where are we going?” she asked after a few minutes had passed; she was starting to shiver violently despite the layers she wore.


“I have a vague idea,” he responded shortly, quickening his pace. They continued to walk, in silence, for a ways before coming to a halt. Pansy had begun to shake more fiercely, her feet unsteady.


Draco caught her before she hit the ground.


Swearing, he picked her up once more and looked around, reading the street signs beneath the lampposts. He took a breath, spun once, and disappeared.



 

The apartment was well maintained in a clean, middle class neighborhood. Doorbells were rarely used at three o’clock in the morning; Draco rang twice before anyone answered. The door swung open to reveal a clean-cut, young man, who stared in surprise at the visitors and the strange scene they presented.


“Draco Malfoy?”



“Adrien Pucey? You work for the Ministry?”


“Well… in a manner of speaking… you know the circumstances.” The man winked at Draco, who did know the circumstances indeed. The man worked for the Dark Lord in a number of useful informative ways- never marked because of the risk of discovery by his colleagues.

 

“You’ll need to let us in.”

 



 

In case anyone is interested, Chapter One HAS been rewritten. Please let me know what you think of the new version :]



Chapter 17: Chapter Seventeen - Anticlimactic Absolution
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Adrien Pucey did not yet know of any battle at Hogwarts. As Pansy slept on, restless and dreaming, Draco’s thoughts moved beyond her. Single minded, he had no given a thought to the fact that both of their lives hung in the balance. He had never had a thought for any future beyond the one he had chosen when he got the Mark. Both of them had escaped the impossible. And both were still as trapped as they had been when between four walls, as trapped as when they had lived at Hogwarts. Hell waited for them to realize they had reached its fiery pits.



If the Dark Lord had triumphed, as He almost certainly had, then He would find them. Draco had no delusions as to their chances of evading Him. They would die; finally caught by the fate they had avoided so many times. Draco had always expected Death to be a surprise, but then, he had expected a lot of things.



If the Ministry had finally won, using their unusual advantage, he and Pansy would be no less hunted. Draco had evaded the Vow, for now; having delivered himself to a Ministry employee he was technically in their custody. Even if they assumed him dead, they would eventually discover the truth. And Pansy, no longer protected by the powerful associations she had held, would be the target of just as large a search. She was as much a sinner as Draco- sometimes more, Draco thought, though not in the same style.



The most pressing problem, however, sat in the next room.



Draco’s attention shifted as Pansy stirred more coherently, her lips parted in whispers.











Pansy’s eyes drifted open, and she sat up slowly. She regarded him for a moment in silence, her eyes piercing and knowing, and Draco gazed steadily back at her, that look that she loved, that scorched and melted. She thought she might break.



“Where are we?” she asked him, breaking his gaze to look around the room in which she had lain.



“Adrien Pucey’s apartment.”



She looked at him quizzically, unsure of what to ask next. It didn’t matter. They both froze as they heard the sound of an owl tapping on a window in the next room. Within a second, Draco had pulled her to her feet and planted a searing kiss on her lips before leading her by the hand to the door. She started to ask, but he hushed her with a look.


”We don’t want to be here when he reads that letter,” Draco whispered, pulling her into the hallway.











Dark Lord Defeated
Country rejoices




News this morning from the Ministry brought disbelief and joy to the members of the Wizarding community. In a secret battle that took place last night at Hogwarts school, the Ministry of Magic took the members of You-Know-Who’s party by surprise, and, in a struggle that lasted several hours, managed a heroic victory. Six members of the Ministry fought You-Know-Who personally. It seems, however, that the celebration is tainted by tragedy- in the struggle against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself, the Minister of Magic, Barney Wimble, was killed.

“He died a hero’s death,” said Auror Harvey Trinlet. “It was he who distracted You-Know-Who long enough for us to get a good shot in.”

Rumors that long-hidden Harry Potter was present at the battle have not yet been confirmed.

Several other losses were suffered among Ministry ranks, including Aurors Gerald Fonrish, Jeffrey Malf, Olive Derrin, Ralph Backard, Lela Frow, Nicole Konch, Miller Mowsen, Ian Willersam, Jason Gaicerson, Peter Becat, Adam Popaff, Kelsey Coulbish, and several that are yet unnamed.

The fight, however, is not over yet. Many of the Death Eaters fled the scene and are at large today. Those found in the castle, however, have been taken into Ministry custody and will be tried and penalized for their crimes within the next year.










It was the first place anyone would look, but it was also the last place they had to go. Malfoy Manor hadn’t been inhabited since the death of Draco’s mother. It lay in much the same condition except for the thick coatings of dust that gathered on every surface and the overgrown state of the gardens. Draco had dismissed all of the servants- he had never expected to come back here.



Pansy turned in a full circle, her eyes leaping to familiar things. It was surreal to be back here after having been resigned never to see it again. She sat down on the stairs, her mind blank. Her whole world was turning upside down.



Draco took out the newspaper he had stolen from the table of Adrien Pucey’s house. He strode into the next room, presumably to find a light.



Pansy heard only silence for several seconds, before the sound of his footsteps came running around the corner again.








“Draco,” Pansy said softly from the window seat, where she had been perched for an hour as Draco told the tale of his doings since he had gone missing. His head turned toward her, his expression unfathomable.



“Who saw you make the Unbreakable Vow?”



“The Minister. An Auror, I don’t know his name.”



“The Minister is dead, Draco.”



“There’s still the Auror.”



“I think you killed him.”








Escaped Death Eaters Still Elude Ministry





A newly triumphant Ministry of Magic, now under the direction of new Minister Gary Yarnole (previously Head of the Department for Magical Cooperation), is taking fierce offensive action against the Death Eaters who fled the scene of Thursday’s battle, where their leader fell. Authorities urge anyone who has sighted any of the following to report to the Auror Tip Line immediately:




Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott, Arnold Logun, Darcy Herring, Samantha Bernadeir, Charles Kern, John Tarner, Jacklyn Palm, Katherine Ikyn, or Tracey Davis.




Do not under any circumstances attempt to approach these suspects. They are all well armed and versed in the Dark Arts and extremely dangerous.










Draco checked and re-checked the wanted list. Nowhere were he or Pansy mentioned.



He wasn’t relieved.



The new Minister of Magic was, as yet, an unknown entity. If he had reason not to mention Draco or Pansy, they could easily be sinister. Pansy’s idea made sense- if Draco had killed the only remaining witness to his Vow, there could be no charge against him; no proof that he wasn’t released for his information.



Pansy had no such reprieve. There was no reason for her not to be hunted… unless…



“You weren’t in the castle,” Draco said suddenly, his eyes turning to her.



“What?”



“You weren’t there when they got inside. There’s no charge against you.”



His eyes were excited and Pansy sat up straighter.



“Someone will tell them,” she said slowly. “Someone will give names.”



“Not unless the Ministry offers a deal,” Draco said, standing up and striding over to her. “Which they have no reason to do, if they believe they know the identities of everyone in that castle anyway.”











They were twenty years old.



They had murdered, lied, coveted, stolen, hated, lusted, deceived, desired, and destroyed. They had been greedy, prideful, angry, jealous, afraid, desperate, daring, reckless, resentful, and ruthless. They had committed their sins.



They no longer lived in the shadows, no longer ran or hid or moved under cover of darkness to bring darkness on others.



Still, the rain fell, and the clouds moved to block the sun. Still the lightning flashed and thunder roared. Still, they lied, coveted, hated, lusted, desired, and deceived; still they were jealous, prideful, angry, afraid, daring, reckless, resentful and greedy. No more did they do the bidding of the night, but still, they were creatures of shadow.



Pansy, so beautiful and deceptive and alluring and mysterious and thunderous, still shivered, trembled, burned and sighed at his touch.



Draco, so handsome and composed and clever and proud and electrifying, still fed on the poison that lingered in her lips and breath.

They hungered for one another, trading the venomous darkness, improbably alive.



They were twenty years old.








End






Anticlimactic? Yes. The last chapter? Curiously, no, and that's all I will say for now.






Chapter 18: Satisfaction View
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




And now, a preview of the second volume of Sinners, entitled Satisfaction View.










The crack! of Apparition was audible from the library when Pansy returned to the Manor. Draco could hear her heels on the marble floors and closed the book he had been reading; not a piece of literature but a record of his father’s old business contacts. Pansy stuck her head through the door before coming inside, seating herself on the desk in front of Draco, smoothing her black skirt over her knees.

 

“Any luck?” Draco asked, taking the cloak she handed him and hanging it on a hook in the corner.


”I’ll need to borrow an owl,” she said solemnly, her eyes wide.

 

“What? Why?”

 

“I think I’ve seen one of those Death Eaters. I’ll need to notify the Aurors immediately.”

 

Draco snorted softly at her innocent expression. “You found him, then?”

 

She hopped off the desk and followed him into the hallway. “Scared him half to death, too, when I showed up at his door.”

 

“He thought you were dead?”

 

She nodded and ignored the slight tightening of Draco’s jaw. “The Aurors haven’t found him yet. He’s living in some horrible apartment in the east, under the name ‘Blake Sarini.’” She whispered this, leaning closer under the cover of straightening his collar.

 

“Very subtle,” Draco smirked, raising an eyebrow.





They had been looking for him for three weeks.

 

Draco had found a few useful contacts in his father’s old business records, which had put him in touch with the right crowd. It had still taken several weeks to track down their old comrade.

 

Most of the others had already been caught. Blaise was clever. He knew how to disappear.

 

Pansy had been out meeting people, charming the wealthy older gentlemen’s tongues into loosening. Draco had to admire her skill. Secrets moved in circles like theirs, undulating and twisting until truth became a lie.

 

They could deal with lies. Right now they needed truths.










They walked the streets of London mostly during twilight, still uncomfortable in the daytime. People stared. People feared.

 

It didn’t bother them. They had done things to be afraid of.

 

They took a few turns, streets leading them further and further into disrepair, as though they were descending into despair. Gates creaked. Paint was peeling where not reinforced by the spray-paint sentiments of teenagers.

 

They found the apartment building, inconspicuous and crumbling. The stairs smelled like unwashed skin, and Pansy wrinkled her nose in distaste, while Draco raised a disdainful eyebrow at the state of the hallway, stepping over the discarded shell of someone’s firewhiskey.

 

They knocked on the door and waited for nearly five minutes, hearing shuffling and rummaging within, before it opened and a suspicious face peered through the gap allowed by the flimsy security chain. He nodded to them before closing the door briefly to disengage the chain.

 

Pansy looked up at Draco, noting the slightest set of his jaw and feeling an airless thrill in her spine.

 




Blaise was much thinner; his face had lost some its appealing fullness, but he was still haughtily attractive and the hollows in his cheeks suited him. He let them in with only the barest hint of concealed wariness, his hand in his pocket but surely clutching his wand. Caution had saved him from discovery.

 

Pansy and Draco told him nothing of their involvement in the battle that had brought him here. They were careful not to discuss their puzzling freedom, though curiosity was evident in Blaise’s tone. He wondered why they were here.

 

From a pocket in his robes, Draco withdrew a sack that clinked promisingly. He set it on the table between them and watched Blaise eye it calculatingly.

 

“I don’t need your charity,” he said with a sneer.

 

“I’m hardly giving it to you,” Draco said. “I need a favor. It might take effort on your part. For that, I’m willing to compensate you.”

 

“What do you need?”

 

“We need you to talk to some of the old crowd. Don’t let them know the agenda. We just need to know who sent this.”

 

From within the same pocket, Draco produced a folded piece of parchment, which he handed to Blaise after a moment’s hesitation. Blaise unfolded it and read the words written on it with puzzled eyes.

 

 

“What does this mean?”

 

“Does it matter?” Pansy asked, raising an eyebrow. “We don’t know either. We just need to know who sent it.”

 

“What makes you think I can help you?”

 

Pansy took the note from him and folded it once more. “Blaise,” she said, quietly. “Please. Do me a favor.”

 

She handed the note to Draco, who took it from her almost harshly. She glanced at him but he didn’t look back at her.

 

“I’ll see what I can do,” Blaise said.

 

“Thank you,” Pansy sighed.

 

“How did you find me anyway?”

 

“I spoke to some people,” Pansy said vaguely, moving past him to examine the living room. Blaise had obviously put some effort into cleaning the place up; and it was cheaply but tastefully decorated, but still, it wasn’t his usual scene. He could hardly be frequenting Gringotts these days. Rich, handsome, and young were all targets for gossip, and Blaise didn’t need gossip in the position he was in.

 

If only the Ministry knew where to look, they’d find him in an instant. But the Aurors had never learned the golden rule: all information has its price.

 

Blaise followed her further into the apartment, watching her eyes on the window and the sooty view beyond. Draco’s almost silent footfalls came a moment later.

 

“Everything’s changed,” Pansy said, almost in a whisper. Blaise came closer and stood at her side.

 

“We’re surviving,” he said, a trace of a smirk on his lips. “You look good, Pansy.”

 

“You look like you need a new flat,” she replied, and he laughed.

 





They had a dinner to attend.

 

Draco had spent weeks carefully charming and manipulating his way into the graces of some of his father’s old business partners. His associations were a topic of concern to them not because of any moral ambiguity, for most of them were too greedy and comfortable to care what went on beyond their doors, but because it was hard to associate their names with someone so out of touch. Draco was difficult to resist because of the fame of his father’s shrewdness, but still, his youth and fame were off-putting to some.

 

They went straight back to Manor after leaving Blaise’s building, and Pansy hurried to her room to change into a blue silk dress. Draco always brought her with him to the tedious events he was invited to; bringing her was less threatening to the old men then going by himself, and besides, she always charmed them.

 

Pansy left the room and walked through the hallway toward the stairs in the sunset-gloom. She was just passing Draco’s room when the door opened and his hand snatched her wrist, turning her and pushing her backward into the wall as his lips met hers demandingly.

 

Her lips parted, yielding, her eyes drifting closed and her hands twined in the fabric of his robes. He smirked victoriously, breaking contact with her lips to place possessive kisses on her jaw and in the hollow of her throat. Her back arched in delight where his mouth lingered on the curve of her neck and his breath was loud at her ear where he whispered into it.

 

“The old men will love you,” he said, and she pulled away only slightly, her hands running trails on his back.

 

“Don’t assault me in their hallway, they’ll be scandalized,” she said, catching his lips once more and suppressing a pleasurable shiver at the growl that escaped him. She molded herself tighter to him, her hips grinding closure and a gasp escaping her when she felt him shudder.







Back from the dinner, Pansy sat quietly in the library, her head spinning. She pulled the note that she had taken back from Draco out of her pocket; the same one they had shown Blaise earlier that evening. Her blood ran cold for a moment as she read it; eyes skimming the words that she now had memorized and the writing that lay imprinted on her eyes when she slept.

 

Someone knows what you did, Pansy.

Someone was watching.











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