The normal hustle and bustle of the platform had now resumed as the clocks minute hand had drawn closer to its 11 ‘o’ clock destination. Up and down the platform people were boarding the train, slamming the carriage doors and emitting loud grunts as they hauled their heavy trunks onto the train and into the luggage racks. Draco focused his attention on Galen so to avoid the stares and whispers of the other students who were walking past him in his virtually empty compartment attempting to find seats. He had moved Galen from the luggage racks to the seat next to him due to the continuous squawking sounds he had been making. They hadn’t completely stopped but were becoming quieter and further between and he was still visibly shaken. After the fourth time of being nipped Draco gave up on trying to calm the bird and let his gaze wander outside the compartment window to the platform beyond.

He found himself staring hungrily at the parents who were hugging their children goodbye for the year, seeing the care and worry portrayed on their faces and the way the mothers fussed over their sons as they finally boarded the train. All this directed Draco’s thoughts towards his own mother who, usually caring and overprotective, had now changed for the worse. Since his father had been sentenced to 30 years in Azkaban for his crimes against the Wizarding World, Draco’s mother, Narcissa, lost the fight within her. The transformation she’d made in just a few short months had shocked Draco beyond reason. Once a strong, determined, ferociously protective mother, Narcissa was now a limp and lifeless ghost who wandered the halls of Malfoy Manor as though in a constant dream, never daring to even leave the house. He knew with all his heart that Narcissa still loved and cared about him but he also knew that it was hidden behind the constant pain she was in which had caused her to shut down so completely. Every time he looked into her eyes he saw the pain within them at the separation from her disgraced husband and the loss of her dead sister which continued to haunt her. Seeing that dead look in her eyes every day turned out to be too much for him to handle. He was too weak to stay and watch her continue to deteriorate so he decided to just be selfish and escape for the year, back to Hogwarts. Draco still remembered he nigh he told her and, despite his best efforts, the memory played loudly in his head for the 100th time.

                                                       *                                                                            *                                                                          *

The door to the study had been left slightly ajar and the flames from the magnificent fireplace were illuminating the dark corridor. Draco hesitantly pushed open the door to see his mother surrounded by darkness, sat in an armchair next to the fireplace and staring deeply into the depths of the flickering flames which was the only light in the room. Seeing his mother like this brought back the sting of pain that usually greeted him because of the suffering he knew she felt. Gritting his teeth, Draco forced himself to walk further into the room even though each step felt like walking on a hundred knives. As he drew closer to his mother, he again wondered whether she could even hear him from the dream world she seemed to be in. Surely she would have shown some sort of sign that she knew he was there, but he knew that there was no rousing her from this ghostly coma.

“Mother?” he tentatively called out in order to announce his presence without alarming her, yet she still did not stir.

Clearing his throat he stepped forwards to stand directly in her line of sight. Draco knelt down and put his left hand on her knee. For a minute, Narcissa continued to stare unseeingly into the orange flames without acknowledging him, unwilling to awake from her dream. Then her eyes flickered a few times, her eyes coming back into focus as she was dragged back into reality. Draco hated himself for disturbing her peace but the issue he needed to discuss with her couldn’t wait. Slowly she lifted her gaze, meeting his apologetic grey eyes. The dead look she carried around was still there, but she still managed a small smile.

“Draco?” her voice, full of surprise, came out hoarse as though she hadn’t spoken in days, which she probably hadn’t.

“Yes mother it’s me,” he smiled, taking her hand in his.

“How are you today m boy?” she asked tiredly and without real interest.

“I’m okay thanks mum, How are you doing?”

“Oh I’m fine, just fine. Where’s your father? He needs to write to the minister again about that mudblood in your school.” Her eyes narrowed and she looked around the rooms as though expecting his father to appear at any moment.

“Mum…” he began.

“Also Severus should be round soon for dinner yes. We have much to discuss with him your father and I.”

“Mum stop. Dad’s not here, remember?” the confusion in her eyes compelled him to continue, “he was sentenced to 30 years in Azkaban, for murder and other war crimes. Also uh.. Professor Snape isn’t coming to dinner mum, he’s dead. The Dark Lord killed him. Do you remember now?”

The truth of his words seemed to pierce through her, as they did every time he had to repeat them. Her eyes showed the intense pain that was resurfacing as she remembered what had happened almost 4 months ago now, shining with fresh tears which threatened to escape at any second. Though she had this reaction almost every time it still scared him beyond words and made him hate himself even more than usual, causing him to panic.

“Mum it’s okay, calm down. You’re safe. Don’t worry,” the words he repeated every time this happened, in as soothing a voice as he could manage.

Her eyes grew intent upon his face, studying everything about him as though drinking him in. Suddenly her face broke into a huge smile.

“I still have you at least,” she mused, lightly stroking his cheek.

“Uh mum...” how could he tell her? What could he say? His decision was made but it wavered in weakness at this hurdle he had to overcome, “Look, the thing is..”

“Yes Draco?” she smiled, “You know you can tell me anything.”

“I’m going back to Hogwarts,” the words escaped his lips before he had realised what he was saying, “Uh what I mean is that they’re giving me a chance to start over mother, and I really think that it would be good for me because last year I didn’t even end up taking my exams and the year was so stressful and I need to make a future for myself mum. Away from this whole mess and it’s just so hard living here and mum. Please say something.”

It seemed like an age had passed before she answered and even then her voice was barely audible.

“You. Are. Leaving. Me?” She had dropped his hand and folded her hands into her lap.

Her body started to shake and her eyes glistened, filled with tears that threatened to overflow. Draco was horrified at her reaction he knew it was going to be bad but he hadn’t realised that it would be to this extent.

“Mum please don’t cry. I’m sorry I just have to do this, I need this.” Her wide-eyed gaze was slowly drifting back towards the fireplace, “Mother, listen to me. I need to finish school so I can get somewhere in life. At the moment all I have is this huge black cloud over my head and I’m drowning mother. I’ll write to you all the time and we’ll see each other in the holidays and- and…mum…?”

Narcissa had resumed her original stance, head cocked to the side resting on the back of the arm-chair, hands grasping the arm-rests and eyes staring intently back into the fire. The vacant expression was slowly expanding across her face as she began to lose consciousness with reality again.

“Mum?” desperately he hoped he hadn’t lost her again but knew that she was gone.

“Draco it’s fine, really. You go and do well I’ll be here,” her voice had adopted a dreamlike quality that made him realise that she was no longer present in the room.

Bowing his head in defeat he stood up to leave the room, pausing at the large wooden door. Cocking his head slightly to the side without completely looking back he said one last thing.

“Goodbye mother,” and was gone.

                                                             *                                                                         *                                                                     *

Wincing slightly from the pain of the memory Draco sighed and wiped it away from his thoughts as per usual protocol. In order to distract himself he checked the clock on the platform again. Three minutes to go till the train finally left. Why couldn’t time just fast forward? At that precise moment he heard a gaggle of girls making their way down the train obviously looking for an empty compartment. As they reached him the whole group dropped their voices to whispers and noticeably slowed their pace, probably to get a better look at him. Forcing himself to ignore them rather than blast them apart he looked again at the clocked relieved to see he had less than a minute to go. 30 seconds…20 seconds…10…5…4…3…2…1… 

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