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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.




 




 

 

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