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As always, the characters, places and events you recognize from the books belong to JK Rowling.

Snape’s late night visit was only the beginning of Draco’s abrupt change in fortunes. When the sun rose the next morning, Potter and his friends swept back into Hogwarts Castle like conquering heroes. Dumbledore also returned and apparently the Minister had forgiven him for all of his treasonous activities. Even more infuriating, the batty old headmaster refused to simply leave Umbridge to the fate she deserved. Instead he wandered off into the forest like some tree-hugging hippie, found the centaurs and bargained with the subhuman beasts for her life.

By the time Draco and his housemates returned from their morning lessons, the Aurors had visited and turned out the contents of their dormitory. Because he had carefully followed Snape’s instructions, they found nothing save for a small quantity of an illicit love potion hidden under Nott’s bed. It seemed that he had been using it to win Millicent’s affections, which came as unwelcome news to her. Draco was able to put his belongings right again with relative ease. The cruelest blow didn’t come until later that evening.

Throughout dinner, most of his housemates eyed him nervously, speaking as little as possible. Word of his father’s imprisonment spread quickly. Some of them avoided him simply because they feared being seen with him. A few whose families had suffered slights at the whim of his parents seized upon the opportunity to gloat. By the time dessert was served, Draco was feeling desperate for friendly companionship. As they made their way out of the Great Hall, he walked up behind Pansy and slipped his hand into hers. He knew he couldn’t take the risk of sneaking off to some hidden corner of the castle with her, but at the moment the simple pleasure of her company seemed like a blissful reprieve.

Much to his chagrin, she pulled her hand away. “What’s wrong, dearest?” he whispered, letting the hurt permeate his voice. “I hope you don’t blame me for what happened last night?”

Pansy kept her voice low and she did not look at him. “Of course not, Draco.” She picked a spot just off of the main corridor and turned to face him. It was private enough to have a conversation, but anyone passing by could easily see that she stood a full arm’s length apart from him. “I need to tell you something. After what happened in the Ministry, father owled me and told me to break off our relationship. You know it isn’t what I want, Draco, but I think we need some time apart. At least until things quiet down.”

Draco felt as though he'd been punched in the chest. His last bulwark against utter despair was being torn away. "Pansy, don’t do this," he managed to say in a shaky voice. "Not right now. This has been the worst day of my life. I know we can’t take a chance of Snape catching us again, and I’m not asking you for a shag. Just stay with me. Talk to me." His voice dropped to a whisper. “Please.”

She regarded him with the sort of rehearsed sympathy that made him think of his mother attending a funeral for some distant relative. “Draco, can you honestly say that you would still date me if it was my family that had fallen into disgrace and your father was demanding that you stop seeing me?”

Draco tried to summon a convincing lie. Of course he would stand by her side. He would never abandon her just because her father had the guts to take a stand on principle. After all, he loved her. In his shaky mental state, he simply couldn’t get it out in time. Pansy smiled weakly at him and continued.

"You of all people understand my predicament, Draco. I still love you. Really, I do. But I can't disobey him. It isn't proper. If your family is able to sort out its troubles and we can start over again someday, I’d like that very much." She stood on the tips of her toes and gave him a chaste peck on the cheek. He thought that he could see just a hint of tears in her eyes. “See you around, Draco.” Then she turned and walked away.

The remainder of the term passed in a hazy blur. With O.W.L.s over, lessons lacked any sort of urgency. Crabbe and Goyle eventually returned to their customary places by his side; they simply didn’t know what else to do. Their company provided him little comfort, however. Snape’s warning about the life he could expect to find at home weighed heavily on him as the last days of the term slipped away. He could only imagine the sorts of dark artifacts that had been placed in his father’s care, and it seemed well nigh impossible that any of them would have been removed before the Ministry arrived. The sick feeling in his stomach grew worse with each passing day. His father wasn’t going to be leaving Azkaban any time soon, if ever.

Draco tried to deal with his fears the only way he knew how, by twisting them into hatred and directing it toward Harry Potter and all of his friends. The smug, superior looks they gave him whenever their paths crossed drove him to distraction. The little Weasley slapper was especially irritating. Whenever she caught him glaring at her, she would flutter her hands around her head like bats and squeal in mock terror. To make matters worse, every time he was nearly ready to hex one of them, a teacher seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was as though they were all watching him, waiting for him to place one toe out of line.

By the time he boarded the Hogwarts Express for the journey back to London, he felt as though he never wanted to set foot in Scotland again. He made up his mind to speak to his mother about transferring to another school. Even though father’s old friend Karkaroff was no longer the head of Durmstrang, the school still had a reputation for valuing status and breeding. The Dark Arts were taught there, if not exactly celebrated. But his thoughts of starting over in the bitter cold of Scandinavia were quickly swept aside when Draco noticed Harry Potter walk past their compartment, alone.

“On your feet, lads,” he hissed to Crabbe and Goyle, barely able to contain his rage. Draco slid the compartment door open quietly and poked his head out, carefully checking for adults. When the coast was clear, they slipped out into the aisle and started to make their way toward the back of the train. He saw Potter emerge from the loo and began to stride toward him. Both boys had their wands out well before they were standing nose to nose in the middle of the train.

“I told you that you were going to pay for what you did to my father,” Draco snarled. He gestured towards Potter’s throat with his wand. “There aren’t any teachers around to save you this time.”

Potter didn’t seem frightened, in spite of Crabbe and Goyle looming over his shoulders. “Malfoy, I’ve dealt with far worse than the likes of you lately. Get out of my way before you get hurt.”

Stupefy!” Draco fired a stunner, but Potter had already fallen into a defensive stance and blocked it. Crabbe and Goyle added the few jinxes they had been able to master, but Potter seemed to be up to the challenge, turning all of their spells away with shield charms. As the hexes and jinxes cracked off of Potter’s defenses, Draco never heard the sound of the door to the adjacent compartment sliding open.

Expelliarmus.” Draco’s wand was torn from his hand. He spun around in alarm and found Susan Bones and Ernie Macmillan pointing their wands at him. Faster than he could run away, the entire compartment full of Fifth Year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs spilled out into the aisle, pelting the three Slytherin boys with a wide variety of hexes and jinxes. Draco felt his skin erupt with oozing boils as his legs collapsed beneath him and the world went dark. When the assault finally ceased, their taunting laughter sounded as though his head was underwater. He felt himself being hoisted into the air and unceremoniously deposited in the compartment’s luggage rack, where he spent the remainder of the journey trying to move his arms.

It took his mother nearly half an hour to remove the worst of the spells he had been hit with after the train finally pulled into King’s Cross Station. As she helped him limp away from Platform Nine and Three Quarters, being careful not to sully her outfit with any of the foul-smelling slime that clung to his clothes, he saw Potter walking away with a trio of muggles who appeared utterly terrified of him. It took every last bit of his self-control not to fling a curse at their backs.

“Hello, Narcissa. Draco.” The low, gravelly voice startled him and he spun around to face its source. Draco could tell from the way that his mother stiffened and took a sharp breath that she had been taken by surprise, as well. Standing behind them was the Auror, Moody, along with a young woman whose bright pink hair made his aching head feel even worse.

His mother quickly regained her composure and responded in her customary icy tone. “Alastor. Nymphadora.” She spoke the latter name with a particular disdain, and Draco immediately realized who the young woman was.

“Hello, Aunt Cissy,” the woman with the jarring pink hair responded in a sickly sweet voice. He felt his mother’s arm tense up at the mention of their familial relationship. If the young woman was bothered in the slightest, she didn’t show it. “And dear cousin Draco. Having a rough day, are we?”

“Mother, do we really have to associate with these people?” Draco spat, turning away and attempting to pull her along with him. He was tired, sore, depressed and his hair and clothes were matted with slime. There was nothing in the world he wanted less than to deal with his disgraced cousin and the salty old curmudgeon who accompanied her. He was surprised when his mother didn’t budge.

“Actually, you do.” Moody responded curtly as his enchanted eye spun wildly underneath his bowler hat. His cousin gave him a toothy, fake smile that made him want to retch. He started to reach for his wand, but his mother seemed to read his mind and she quickly took his hand in her own.

“May I have a moment with my son, just to help him compose himself?” his mother asked in an exasperated tone. “As you so coarsely put it, he has had a very rough day.”

Moody’s lip twisted into a sneer. Draco was mentally prepared to be hexed again, but the young woman laid her hand on the old Auror’s arm. “Come on, Mad-Eye. Let’s give them a minute.”

“Not a second more!” Moody snarled, turning and stalking away.

Draco opened his mouth to protest, but his mother cut him off, speaking softly and rapidly. “Listen to me, Draco. The Aurors will be following us everywhere we go from now on. It is imperative that you give them no reason to suspect you. Your father’s misdeeds have put us in a very difficult position.”

Draco curled his lip and stared at his mother as though he didn’t recognize her. “Misdeeds? How can you speak of Father like that? He was merely doing what he was ordered to do by-”

That is enough!” his mother snapped, cutting him off in mid-sentence. “We will not speak of this anymore!”

Draco glared at her petulantly, but fell silent. He couldn’t believe what his mother was saying. Was it really so urgent to suck up to these self-important Ministry functionaries that she needed to sully her own husband’s name?

She lowered her voice again, but continued to stare at him angrily. “Mind what you say, Draco. I have no idea what you might have heard about your father’s actions, but that knowledge could ruin your life.” Her voice softened just a bit and she looked quickly to make sure nobody was listening. “I love your father, Draco, and I was fully aware of his... associations before he ever courted me. But the choices he has made have put us both at grave risk. The Aurors aren’t the half of it. Please, keep your wits about you and whatever you do, think before you speak!”

She busied herself with attempting to remove more of the foul-smelling stains from his hair and clothes, but it was mostly for show. His mother didn’t know the first thing about laundry charms. Moody soon made his way back over with Draco’s miserable, half-blood cousin in tow and directed them towards a small waiting area near the ticket counter of the train station.

“If you’d be so kind as to join me,” Moody sneered with mock formality as he held his arm out to Draco’s mother.

“I’m perfectly capable of apparating myself and my son,” she replied, giving him a look that was both frosty and defiant. “I have my license, after all.”

“Not according to Madam Bones, you don’t,” Moody replied, looking very amused at his mother’s discomfort. His tone became brusque. “All of your privileges have been revoked until further notice. Now take my arm or I’ll pick you up and carry you!”

Narcissa was unable to keep the horror off of her face. As unnerving as Draco found it to see his mother lose her composure, the anger swelling inside his chest quickly overwhelmed his unease. The idea that the barbaric wizard glaring at his mother might actually lay his filthy hands on her made Draco’s blood boil. Just as he was about to lash out in defense of her honor, his mother sighed, looked away from Moody and held out her hand. It pleased Draco ever so slightly to see that Moody had to take half a step forward in order to place his arm beneath her outstretched hand. They vanished with a loud pop as soon as his arm made contact.

Draco’s cousin held out her arm to him, but he remained firmly rooted in his place with his arms crossed over his chest. “If you think I’m touching you, you’re mental, you filthy, half-blood freak.”

Before Draco could quite figure out what had happened, he found himself pinned to the concrete wall by an overwhelming force that knocked the breath out of his lungs and generally threatened to crush the life out of him. His cousin’s hair had turned a fiery shade of red and her eyes flashed dangerously inches from his face. He could feel her breath against his chin as she struggled to control her rage.

“I’m gonna tell you something, Draco. About your ‘blood traitor’ Aunt Andromeda. In spite of everything your family did to her and all the nasty, hateful things they said, she used to mark the calendar with your birthdays. Your mother’s. Our whack-job Aunt Bella’s. Even yours. She tries to act as though the way you all turned your backs on her doesn’t bother her, like it didn’t hurt. Well it did. It hurt her more than she’d ever be willing to admit. And every time you open your mouth disrespectfully, I’m gonna share some of that hurt with you.” Her lips twisted into a cruel sneer. “Because I can.”

Draco forced his lungs to pull in a shallow breath against the force that held his body to the wall as her nose hovered inches from his. “Why don’t you just leave us alone? We haven’t done anything wrong.”

She snorted mirthlessly. “You really think we’re here because you and your mother are some big threat? Don’t flatter yourself, Draco. Fudge was the only one dumb enough to believe that you two amount to more than Doxy dung on the bottom of the Dark Lord’s boot. A certain kindly old man has taken an inexplicable interest in your health and well-being. That’s the only reason Mad-Eye and I are here risking our bloody lives. Otherwise, we would have been happy to let the rest of your idiot father’s Death Eater friends deal with you and your mother.”

Draco stared back at her. He couldn’t quite keep the surprise off of his face as the implications of what she was saying sank in. “That’s right, Draco. He was not amused by the fact that Harry walked out of the Ministry alive. He doesn’t like to be disappointed. And at the moment, we are the only things standing between you and him. Consider that carefully before the next time you open your mouth.”

His cousin glared at him for a few moments longer before she released him from the wall. Draco hadn’t even managed to suck down a breath before she grabbed him by the arm and King’s Cross Station spun out of existence.

Thank you to everyone who has read Marked so far and given it such an enthusiastic reception. I'll do my best to keep the story interesting and up to date. Please take a minute to leave me a review and together we can make it even better!

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