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A/N: Many thanks to Lunicle who kindly betaed this for me.

Being A Slytherin

His fingers gripped the edge of the cold ceramic of the sink, his knuckles slowly turning as white as the ceramic itself. It was a good thing the sink was shaped like a shell; it allowed his fingers to settle neatly into the smooth ridges on either side of the sink as his arms shook madly with the strain of his weight leaning heavily upon his hands.

Everything had gone wrong. Everything had been turned upside down and inside out. He had only managed to fulfil part of his task; the task that had been given to him by the Dark Lord himself. He hadn’t been able to finish the last small bit, the tiny detail at the end of his task hadn’t been completed by him.

Draco was unsure if he was grateful to Severus Snape for stepping in for him or if he was angry at the intrusion into the glory that should have been his. He had day-dreamed about his task; he had seen himself in his mind's eye being highly praised by the Dark Lord for his sneaky mind and loyalty. He had imagined the looks of respect he would receive from his fellow Death Eaters. He had envisioned the look of pride on his father's face once he came out of Azkaban to be greeted by his son, a fellow Death Eater who had served the Dark Lord well and lived up to the reputation set by his father and his Aunt Bellatrix.

Nothing he had conjured up in his own overactive mind had become a reality. Instead, when faced with the chance to kill his headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, he had shrunk from the task. He had only been able to go as far as disarming him, and he had frozen. He had been unable to force the killing curse past his lips. His body had been damp from the sweat of pure fright. The adrenaline that had coursed through his veins when he had fixed the cabinet and watched as his fellow Death Eaters emerged into the Room of Requirement had only carried him so far.

Once standing in the cool night air on top of the astronomy tower, with his wand pointed at Dumbledore, he had felt only fright and revulsion at what he was supposed to do. Something had stopped him from speaking the curse aloud, although Draco was unsure as to what that something was.

He didn’t like Dumbledore; he never had liked the senile old fool, and if he was totally honest with himself he felt nothing now that the man was dead. Yes, his blood had run cold when the curse had hit him in the chest. Yes, he had been shocked when Duumbledore’s body had gracefully fallen from the top of the tower; but he hadn’t felt sorrow for the old man’s plight. He hadn’t had the urge to scream and deny what he was seeing.

He had, however, had the urge to run, and after being spurred into action by Snape, Draco hadn’t needed to be told twice to move faster than he had ever moved before. Draco knew he had never run so fast in his life. He had thundered down those stairs like a mad man, wanting only to leave Hogwarts and get back to his mother.

But Potter had been there. Draco pulled an annoyed face at the memory of Harry Potter, Saint Potter, the Chosen One. How he hated Potter, and now he had an even bigger reason to hate him. Potter had been the one to pursue him during his flight.

He and Snape had set off running through the castle, and Potter had chased them. He hated knowing that had happened, hated knowing that when it came right down to it, he had run from Harry Potter. There had been Snape and him, together with other Death Eaters in the castle, but Potter had ignored each and every one of them to follow him. And he, Draco Malfoy, son of Lucius Malfoy, nephew of Bellatrix Lestrange had run, had just turned tail and fled like a thief in the night, from Harry Potter.

The knowledge rankled him. Deep in his chest, the humiliation burnt that everyone would know what had happened- not just that he had followed orders of the Dark Lord, but that he had only managed to fulfil half of them before losing his backbone and running from Harry Potter.

Raising his head, Draco examined his reflection in the mirror. Platinum blonde hair, pale complexion, stormy grey eyes and a pointed chin. It was a good face, a handsome face, but even he had to admit that it was a soft face.

Sneering and smirking at all those beneath him did nothing to change that fact. His face was soft; the face of a rich, spoiled child who thought he could play a man’s game just because he was seventeen years old and legally considered an adult. He had tried to play with the big boys and had gone in way over his head.

Draco saw no strength in his reflection. He saw no character to his face; just a young, lost little boy who had wished desperately for his mother during his flight from school because he felt small and vulnerable. He'd had no clue how to face the challenges of the world when Quidditch was the only challenge he’d had to face so far in his life.

Glancing down at his arm, Draco observed the black snake and skull that squirmed on his skin- the Dark Mark, Lord Voldemort’s brand. He was the youngest Death Eater in history, and he had been so proud of that fact; it made him special. It gave him something else to brag about and link to the Malfoy name, and the fact that he had been given an assignment by the Dark Lord had seemed too good an opportunity to be true.

He was a Slytherin, wasn’t he? He was sneaky, devious, and scheming. He knew about the Dark Arts; his father had told him things he probably shouldn’t know, and he had been looking forward to executing all his knowledge in service to the great Lord Voldemort.

Draco snorted contemptuously at his arm. He had known nothing. He had been naïve and innocent, two things he had viewed as an insult. He had always wanted to be strong and brave, to be a man like his father, to be equal amongst the Dark Lord's ranks.

He had well and truly messed that up.

Killing is not as easy as the innocent believe

He groaned softly when Dumbledore’s words echoed through his memory as they often did, not usually in the day time; it was mostly at night. When he would be lying in his soft and comfortable bed, safe in his own room, away from the world and everything in it. When the darkness would move over the light from the moon and the shadows would lengthen up his wall and then melt away into blackness, as deep night encircled him, pulling his fake armour from him and exposing his fears as openly as Dumbledore had done the night he had been killed.

Raising a weary hand, Draco ran his trembling fingers through his hair and fought the urge to release the burning tears that stung behind his eyes. He couldn’t cry; he had broken down once before and sobbed like a baby to that idiotic ghost Moaning Myrtle; his cheeks stained red at the memory.

By Merlin, he was weak! Weaker than he had ever thought himself to be. To break down like that to a ghost, it was mortifying!

I’m standing here with a wand, I’m about to kill you.

My dear boy, let us have no more pretence about that.

Draco breathed deeply and tried to pull himself out of his humiliating memories and concentrate on good things about himself. Things that he liked. He had been doing this a lot lately, just standing there barefoot in the bathroom gazing at his reflection in the sparkling mirror and finally seeing himself as the spineless coward that he was.

He did not like what he was seeing in the slightest, but Draco had no way of changing his opinion of himself. He had failed in his task, just as his father had failed at the Ministry. He had sworn that he wouldn’t allow Potter to beat him as he had beaten his father, and he had at least made good on that promise to himself.

Potter had been up on the tower that night, but he had done nothing; why, Draco did not know, and he wasn’t interested in finding out either. Potter hadn’t known anything about his plans until the very second he had told all to Dumbledore, and he felt a small fluttering of pride in his stomach at that. At least he had managed to keep Potter off the scent completely.

His shoulders slumped as he sighed heavily. He would like to be able to blame someone other than himself for the mess he had produced, but it wasn’t possible. At first, he had found a slight relief for himself by blaming his mother. She was the one who babied him, who mollycoddled him and treated him like a child because he was her only child, her son, her baby.

She had been the one to spoil him and give in to his every unreasonable demand and whim as he had been growing up. Anything that happened that he hadn’t like Narcissa had changed or made go away. Not once had Draco ever really done anything for himself. Sulkily, he wondered how he was supposed to learn how to be a man when his mother treated him like a precious china ornament that would break should it be handled too roughly.

Really, Draco had a brilliant childhood; being a rich, only child and his mother's treasured baby, he had everything in the world he wanted. He hadn’t had to ask twice for anything, and pretty soon, when he was old enough to realise it, he didn’t ask any more, he just demanded.

His arrogant attitude had held well for him through school; the Malfoy name was one that was recognised and respected; it was even feared to a certain extent. He knew he was better than most people at school- even some of the Slytherins. His belief in his own superiority had been proved, at least to himself, when his father had been arrested and he had been requested, yes requested! He, Draco Malfoy at just seventeen years of age had been requested to join the Death Eaters by the Dark Lord himself!

His heart had done joyful flips at this news. His eyes had glowed with excitement of what he would be and what he could become, and the power he would have over others who did not wear the Dark Mark that he would wear with pride.

Being in Slytherin, people expected bad things from him; they expected his snotty attitude and his mean streak. They expected him to abuse the power he had at school when he was made a prefect for his house. All his bullying and unfair punishments that he gave out to unsuspecting victims during Umbridge’s reign over Hogwarts, when he had become an important member of her Inquisitional Squad, had been taken on the chin by his fellow students; they had expected him to become an active member. They would have been surprised if he had turned down the opportunity for extra power.

But of course, he wouldn’t do that, would he? Draco Malfoy was incapable of giving up a position of power, and he knew it. He had to be in control. He had to be the boss and be the one to give orders; that was why Crabbe and Goyle fit so neatly into his life. He could boss them around with no problems at all.

Draco loved to be centre of attention; whether he was the one telling a story, or the one the story was being told about, he didn’t care, so long as he was the subject of conversation. So long as he was being admired and praised, he was happy.

He rolled his eyes at the total idiot he had been to even think that the Dark Lord would be one of those people to praise him to the skies for his work and behaviour. Basically, he had wanted to look loyal and brave, strong and dark, in front of Voldemort, and he had instead ended up looking like the weak, little boy that he was.

Biting his lip distractedly, Draco flushed as he recalled the incident downstairs only hours ago in the drawing room, the spectacle he had made of himself and the embarrassment he had caused to his father in front of a room full of Death Eaters and the Dark Lord himself.

It hadn’t just been him who had jumped back in surprise and possibly shock when Professor Charity Burbage of muggle studies at Hogwarts had fallen limp and lifeless on the table in front of them. He had however, managed to be the only person in the room who had jumped so much that he had fallen out of his chair onto the floor.

Having always wished to be like his father, and having always believed in the values that the Dark Lord supported, Draco had assumed that he would be happy and comfortable surrounded by the Dark Arts, dark magic, and dark witches and wizards.

He had, however, not for the first time in his life, been wrong about his decisions. He did not feel the pride, smugness, and superiority he had thought he would by being around Death Eaters and being included in the meetings.. He felt only terror and disgust at the kind of people they were, the things they had done and would continue to do so as long as they remained out of Azkaban and the Dark Lord continued to rule the wizarding world.

Draco frequently wondered if there was any way to escape this black pit of hell his family had fallen into. But with his Aunt Bellatrix around, he knew it would be impossible to ever release themselves from the service of the Dark Lord. He had taken over completely now, Potter, Weasley and the Mudblood were out there somewhere, fighting for the right side, but they didn’t seem to be getting very far.

Draco snorted. What made them so sure that they were right? He still believed in the magical world for purebloods, and still thought Mudbloods shouldn’t be allowed in Hogwarts. If the Dark Lord stayed in his position of power, he knew he would be alright.

Eventually, his father would win back the respect of the Dark Lord, and with Bellatrix on his side it probably wouldn’t be too difficult; all she did was simper and crawl to Voldemort.

Even now, after making an almighty mess of everything, Draco was still safe in his own snobbish belief that he was better than most others and that he would be even more superior once the Dark Lord was established as the sole ruler of their world. He did, after all, wear the Dark Mark, and he had at least managed to complete most of his task alone. Everyone had thought he would die just attempting it, but he had proven them all wrong. Here he stood as alive as could be, ready and willing to serve the Dark Lord again if the need arose.

Despite this, Draco admitted silently to himself that he wasn’t sure if he did want to serve the Dark Lord. He had already been subject to more than he could handle in his own mind, and he wasn’t sure how much more he could take.

It was difficult to bolster his courage to get through the day, let alone the night when he was truly alone in the darkness. His mind spun over and over the night of Dumbledore’s death. Nightmares of what he had already heard rushed upon him, and he would awake shaking and terrified of his own shadow.

How could he be a Death Eater when he had suddenly become afraid of the dark? That was what Death Eaters were all about- darkness.

The idea of killing left him cold, sent a strong wave of nausea crashing over him, and he sometimes felt as though his knees were going to give way until he ended up collapsed into a shivering heap on the floor.

Cursing wasn’t much better for him either. With a curse, you had to actually want to cause pain for it to work properly, and Draco wasn’t sure if he did in fact want to be the one to cause someone to writhe and scream in agony on the floor.

Jinxes and hexes were different, however. He had indeed cast a fair few of them in Hogwarts, and enjoyed causing the humiliation to his unwitting victim. But jinxes and hexes didn’t really do any harm, did they? They didn’t necessarily cause any damage or pain.

But he was a Slytherin; he, Draco Malfoy, was a Slytherin. He had the Slytherin pride in himself- he acted the part everyday because that was who he was. He had been delighted when the Sorting Hat announced he was to be in Slytherin. It was his father's house, his mother's house, his Aunt Bellatrix's, his uncle's, Severus Snape's, and it was even the house of the Dark Lord himself!

He had been proud and contented that day, believing he would be able to follow in his father's footsteps and make him proud. But now Draco felt that even his father was wondering what in Merlin’s name they had gotten themselves into. Everything with the Dark Lord was spiralling into chaos, and it was far beyond the control of the Malfoys. It was even beyond their control to decide what happened to them.

His father was disgraced, and he, Draco, was an idiot, a scared little boy who couldn’t even look at his Lord and Master because he terrified him so much.

Gazing at his reflection once more, Draco grimaced when the cold, ugly truth reared its head like the Slytherin snake, and it announced to him exactly what he was in two words.

A bully.

That was what he was; he picked on those weaker or less intelligent than him. He used Crabbe and Goyle shamelessly, and he used those around him to get what he wanted. It didn’t bother him to terrify first years, insult those who were muggleborn, and taunt people like the Weasleys who were poor or blood traitors.

He was mean, no two ways about it, and he knew it. That was it- he was mean. Just mean. Not brave, or particularly smart or creative. He wasn’t a nice guy; he wasn’t good. He was spiteful and cold, and the knowledge depressed him somewhat.

Draco was pretty sure he didn’t want to be that person, the one people hated through his own doing and his own attitude. But he knew that was what had happened. He was pretty sure that even some of the Slytherins disliked him despite the fact he had been pretty popular in his own house, but that was because of who his family was, not because of who he was.

Shifting his knee a little to ease the dull ache that had materialised in his back from the hard floor, Draco realised that he had, in fact, always known this, but once before it hadn’t bothered him, just because people were afraid of him. That gave him a nice, strong power over them.

All dark wizards came out of Slytherin, and being who he was, Draco had a big part to play. He’d had to be the mean and unfeeling one because people expected it, knowing who his father was. He had played his part well every day, and now Draco was confused over whether that was in fact the real him or just a pretentious front for appearance's sake.

Either way, he mused, being a Slytherin was harder work than everyone thought. They had the reputation for being trouble makers. They had the opportunity to break the rules because it was expected and no one really wanted to see a nice Slytherin anyway. It would ruin the illusion and charm of the house if Slytherins suddenly went around being nice to everyone.

He had heard people commenting that Slytherins were two faced, and now Draco was wondering if that was true. But not in the sense he had heard it; more in the sense of to themselves. Were Slytherins two faced to themselves? Was he two faced to himself? Did he pretend to be hard, spiteful and cold? Was he really a nice, genuine, and warm person?

Somehow, Draco couldn’t see it, but that didn’t fully stop him from wondering what that would be like to be that kind of person. To have good friends around you who you could laugh and joke with. To show your nice side, and to have people want to be around you because of you, and not because they were afraid of you.

Rolling his shoulders, Draco bent to the inevitable that he would never be that person. In all honesty, he wasn’t sure if he was capable of being that person even if he had the inclination to try. He had a mask to try to present to the world. He had to try to convince those around him that he was comfortable and relaxed with what was happening, that the presence of the Dark Lord in his house did not give him the urge to jump into bed and hide under the duvet like a five year old.

Breathing deeply Draco squared his shoulders and glared at himself in the mirror. He would have to stop all this nonsense and start acting like the man, the Slytherin, he was supposed to be. Sighing, he cocked his head to the side and gave himself half a smile as he said quietly, “Being a Slytherin... it's not all it’s cracked up to be.”

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