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“Whatever is done for love, always occurs beyond good and evil.”

                               -Friedrich Nietzsche

                            ~   

The air is thick with the scent of sleep, warm skin and lavender.

Someone buried under a thick comforter lets out a pained sort of groan, stretching within their makeshift cocoon, before emerging somewhat ruefully.

"Deli!" They croak and not a second later, a tidy looking house elf appears with a thunderous 'crack' at the foot of the bed, her long ears pulled back with a piece of navy ribbon.

"Master Draco, Sir," she greets softly, bowing low enough that her pointed nose skims the floor. Draco Malfoy reaches out to brush her head with gentle fingers and she jumps, startled by the sudden contact.

"I told you, that’s really not necessary," he mumbles around a yawn before dragging a hand roughly down his face and pushing his feet into the slippers beside his bed. The elf flinches, her wide blue eyes briefly meeting Draco's before skittering away.

She'd always been somewhat shier than most house elves, even more so than Dobby, surprisingly. She's kind, though, and Draco tries his best to treat her well. Because in all honesty he still holds a residual fear of Granger and her S.P.E.W campaign, doesn't really indulge in the idea of being targeted by her for supposed House Elf abuse, tantalising as it may sound.

"Sorry, Master."

She produces a newspaper from under a dainty arm, presenting it to Draco like a sword and he has to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Good Grief - once a house elf always a house elf, he muses to himself. He’s fond of her, however, it’s impossible not to be.

"Would Master Draco like to read th' paper now or after his breakfast?" Draco considers it, wondering if he's coherent enough to process the utter codswallop that passes for news nowadays.  

He waves Deli away with the explanation that 'after breakfast would be perfect'.

She nods then excuses herself, visibly struggling with the need to bow as she makes her exit and Draco sighs loudly once she's gone, forcing a harsh breath through his nose before cracking the vertebrae in his back as he stretches with practised ease.

Grousing quietly, Draco pushes out from the folds of his bed and shuffles stiffly across his floor in search of a shirt.

Pansy's supposed to be coming over to take him out for lunch, and by the looks of things, it seems to be drawing close to midday, already. 

Draco winces and hurries into his en suite, meaning to shower quickly so he still has time to fire call Millie about that memory devouring pocket watch she'd accidentally discovered on her last work shift.

 X

A shower, it turns out, is exactly what he needs to wake right up and Draco finds himself feeling ridiculously chipper once he's fresh-faced and fully dressed. If one thing is for certain, it is that Draco Malfoy likes to look good. He's always been a little bit vain, no more than any other wizard and he knows he's a far cry from ugly, so what's the harm in being self-indulgent.

He makes his way to the living room, glancing at the gilded clock that inhabits the far wall above the fireplace, before begrudgingly deciding that he'd have to call Millie later. Pansy possesses absolutely no patience and certainly wouldn’t wait for them to finish a conversation especially not one about a watch. Draco honestly doesn't know how he had acquired such selfish friends - but then again that surely must say more about him than anyone.

It's a quarter to twelve now, so he decides to settle into a seat by an open window. Deli has laid out the Daily Prophet on the table so Draco decides to skim through it whilst he waits for Pansy to arrive.

Draco flicks through it in a non-committal sort of way, barely spending more than ten seconds on each page. It's not as though there's much to look at, anyway - the main story seems to be about a woman with the largest collection of Dibaba Teapots in all of Europe and a picture of her surrounded by an abundance of said floating teapots takes up the entirety of the front page.

One article, however, catches Draco's attention. It concerns his place of work, proclaiming that 'as an establishment, it is a vessel of mystery and ambiguity, founded on lies spanning back for centuries'. Draco tenses for a moment, before he sighs and turns to the next page. They're not exactly wrong, per se, Harkinson Bailey's is secretive at best but the Prophet is unabashedly crass about the whole thing. They have their reasons for remaining incognito to the public eye, being dealers and care-takers of some of the wizarding worlds most powerful magical tomes. If what they are doing draws too much attention from the media, it could attract all sorts of unwanted persons. It's in Harkinson Bailey's best interest to let them blather until they grow bored and move onto their next victim-

The floo abruptly bursts to life with a bout of green flames as someone appears within the depths of it's burnt-out pit startling Draco right from his train of thought.

He rises to his feet with the languidness of a house cat, wondering vaguely why Pansy is here so early - But it's not Pansy standing in his floo, it's-

Merlin, it can't be -

"Mother?"

He stops moving, stops breathing even, just watches as Narcissa Malfoy, who he hasn't seen in over a year, steps out of his floo. The layered skirts of her dress are gathered up carefully in her gloved hands to avoid coating the hems in dust.

It's almost like encountering a ghost, he thinks as he takes in the sight of her, and Draco has to fight the urge to slap himself for fear that he's dreaming. How did she even find out where he lives - 

Her dress is nothing short of stunning, over which she has tastefully draped a mauve cloak with shining onyx buttons lining the left side. Her hair is swept back from her face by an intricately decorated pin and flows down her back in complete uniformity.

She looks...well, she like she always has. Impeccable.

Beautiful, yet deadly. Like the nightshade which used to grow in some secret alcove of the Manor Gardens. 'A single touch of nightshade can leave a man delusional' his father had once told him as he had caressed the velvety head of one bud in the midst of blooming with the tip of his cane. Draco is sure his Mother is possible of much, much worse.

When she finally meets Draco's gaze her eyes are needle-sharp and restless.

"Draco," She greets extending a slender hand and Draco hesitates before reaching out to take it, helping his Mother to a chair near the floo. "What a lovely home."

He blinks. "Thank you."

She fits here entirely too well. Reclined delicately against a high-backed, ornately carved seat in Draco's clean, airy flat. With it's tall windows, lavish curtains and carefully polished wooden floor. He almost asks her to stay...but he knows she won't. And to be frank, he's not so sure if he'd forgive himself if he asked.

"How are you?” Draco utters, looking down quickly at himself to make sure his clothes are, uh, suitable.

His Mother raises a single dark brow which is enough to convey her slight amusement. "Darling, I adore you, but let's save the pleasantries for a later date, yes?"

Draco lets out the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding in, feeling his lungs aching vaguely as he draws in new air. His Mother extends her arm again and Draco doesn't miss the hesitation in her eyes though he still finds himself curling into her like a child, breathing in the scent of a familiar, sweet smelling perfume. He pulls back, feeling wistful and seats himself on the chair opposite from his Mother. He feels uncomfortably off-kilter, sort of numb because Narcissa Malfoy is in his bloody house.

She’d have never worn her hair like that if his father were still here. The style suites her.

"I have something important to tell you, Draco," she says, her voice a strange mixture of tranquil and sombre, like the sea before a storm. Draco nods, remaining silent as she speaks.

"There's been..." She pauses for the briefest of moments, weighing her words, "An occurrence of sorts. Concerning a missing persons. Of great importance, mind you, and a group of Wizards suspected of dabbling in the Dark Arts has taken an interest in his work. They're looking for him - hunting him down."

She stops here to produce her wand from within her robe sleeve: It's a finely crafted, eleven inch,  albino birch wood wand with a Phoenix feather and Veela hair core. He'd always envied hers - prefers it over his own, especially now that his wand is heavy with the weight of a sorrow which somehow makes him ache from the inside out. 

"They left this in my care."

Draco watches as his Mother summons something, the thing materialising in the space above their heads, appearing sheerly out of thin air. Draco can immediately feel the power radiating from the object before it has even had a chance to fully form itself and he inhales sharply.

Golden sparks fling themselves from the tip of his Mother's wand as she pulls the - book? - from its place suspended above, letting it fall gently into Draco's lap.

He waits for a single beat before ghosting his fingers along the leather bound book. It's a heavy thing and soft under his palm, Draco thinks smiling to himself, before carefully - oh so carefully - pulling back the cover.

Inside, the paper is worn and yellowing and he scours it for any sign of a name. He gives a victorious huff when he finds a pair of initials just on the inside corner of the cover.

S.S.

Draco frowns, tracing over the two letters thoughtlessly his mind lost in it's analysis.

"S.S?" He looks to his Mother for an explanation but her face has gone pale and distant, her hands twisting and fidgeting ceaselessly in her lap.

Draco feels his stomach writhe anxiously at the sight, remembering how his mother had looked the exact same way when Voldemort had commandeered their home. The exact same way as when she had first laid eyes on his Dark Mark, where it had writhed like the animal it conveyed, raw and aching, against his stark white flesh.

He pushes the sickening memory down, and closes the cover again, really studying it this time. It looks like... Like a potions anthology of sorts, maybe two hundred years old if his estimation is correct.

Potions? The word resounds in his head like an echo growing quieter by the second. His Mother knows little about potions let alone enough to make use of the advanced practises contained within this book.

Draco struggles with the possibilities until realisation suddenly barrels into him and - it feels like a blow to the face - he almost drops the book as if it physically burns to the touch.

His Mother won't even look at him now and Draco feels a noise, brimming with panic, surge up the back of his throat but he swallows it down and holds his breath. It tastes like acid and terror. He almost retches.

"This is Severus'." He whispers in confirmation and his Mother flinches at the name, her eyes restlessly scanning the room as if some one might hear him, as if someone will appear through the walls any second now and Draco wonders who could make a woman who has shared the company of the Dark Lord himself, afraid. The air turns instantly cold.

"Look at me," He commands surprising himself with the authority that resonates through his voice like thunder.

"Now tell me the truth, or is that too much to ask of you, Mother?" 

She brushes a stray lock of hair behind her ear and takes a moment to compose herself. "Whilst in Paris I... I was gathering enough memories to allow me to create a portrait of Severus."

Draco stares at her.

No. No she...She can't possibly be serious - How could she think - how could she have kept that from him?

He feels something bubbling just beneath the surface of his skin, threatening to burst forth and consume him whole. He trembles with it, so infuriated that all he can do is let out a bitter laugh. She had promised that there would be no more secrets when his Father had been incarcerated. What a fucking load of shite that had been. He laughs again for lack of knowing what else to do.

"How long?" He asks in a tone devoid of the adoration which had been there only moments ago. "How long has he been..." Draco doesn't want to say 'alive' because that really isn't the right term. His Mother nods in understanding anyway.

"He's been with us for just under a year."

Draco almost chokes on his own tongue, gapes at her. 

"You're fucking joking me! How dare -"

"Draco Lucius Malfoy, you watch your mouth!"

They glare at each other until Draco caves and mumbles an empty apology.

His Mother sniffs haughtily but doesn't say anymore. Good, she must know that she's lost her right to correct him, lost her right to tell him what's right and what's not. But then again, Draco supposes that she had lost that right a long time ago.

After a while Draco gazes back down at the book sitting in his lap, wondering again why Severus would entrust it to his Mother. It looks like an ordinary potions guide but Draco isn't so easily fooled; he can still feel the strange magic clinging to his fingertips.

"He intended for you to have it. Though I don't see how you could benefit from a Potions Anthology." She's confused, Draco can tell, but she suppresses it because there's nothing Narcissa Malfoy hates more than not knowing. He'd never told her too much about Harkinson's, he supposed it would just be another thing for her to worry over. He's in half a mind to tell her now, just to see the shock on her face. You know, balance the playing field.

"Why did you wait so long then? Why didn't you tell me any of this sooner?" He questions clasping the book tightly in his hands as if that will bring Severus back.

He'd never thought losing someone twice could sting so much. 

His mother grasps his hand over where he has a white-knuckle grip on the book's spine, stroking a thumb softly over the back of his fingers. Like she used to do so often when he was a child and it works. Draco begrudgingly feels his back relax a little bit, but he's still angry - still hurt by what she's carried out behind his back. No wonder she stayed away for so long, no wonder Draco couldn't -

"I did this to ensure you came to no harm, Draco." She says softly with a crease in her brow, as if she can't quite grasp why he's not grateful for what she's done. Frowning doesn't suit his Mother; it makes her look older, more fragile and if there was one thing that Draco's Mother isn't, it's fragile.

"I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself, Mother." He means to say it in a way that holds bite, but it comes out sounding small and tired.

His Mother's eyes noticeably soften. And Merlin he wishes she would just stop already, his head is spinning with the surplus of information pressing against his skull from the inside out. He thinks he might break-

"I don't doubt your abilities, Draco - I believe you - but you're still my son." She looks mildly troubled. "I still care."

Draco feels his eyebrows draw together and though he loves his Mother, the declaration does nothing to help the nausea spiralling through him.

He gives a tight-lipped nod. "I know."

Silence closes over the both of them as they both lose themselves to their own thoughts.

How exactly does someone go missing in a portrait?

Draco sighs, closes his eyes and imagines the face of his Godfather. It's becoming increasingly difficult for Draco to wrap his head around the idea that Snape is somehow alive, and even more difficult to confirm in his mind that he is missing,

"Who - Do you know who exactly is trying to find him?" Draco asks and his Mother gazes at him for a long time, her face gradually turning neutral. She only does that when she has something she doesn't want to say and Draco is determined not to let that happen. He leans closer to her, voice straining around the words. 

"Mother, please. If we are going to have any chance at finding him you need -"

Someone appears in the floo with a soft 'thud' and Draco snaps his mouth shut, twisting round to find Pansy half - frozen in the act of stepping from the floo pit.

She swallows, looking rapidly between the two Malfoys. Onyx eyes fall to the book in Draco's hands before flitting to his and Draco can see that Pansy knows this book is brimming with old magic. The air is heavy with it, like the sky before a downpour.

"Mrs. Malfoy, Draco didn't tell me you'd be coming over today," Pansy conceals her concern behind a radiant smile as she smooths down her robes and glances subtlety at Draco once more.

He almost groans back at her in response.

She moves swiftly over to Draco's Mother, bending slightly at the waist to press a soft kiss to her cheek. His Mother, ever the weak one for good manners, smiles at Pansy before setting her eyes sharply on Draco as if silently willing him to keep what he's been told to himself. This, however, will be extremely difficult, what with Pansy having an intellect to rival Hermione Granger's own and also because it seems like she's already trying to piece things together. It's as though Draco can actually see the cogs in her brain spinning.

"Oh no, I was just leaving, dear," Mrs. Malfoy rises easily from her seat touching Pansy's arm as she slides passed her on the way to Draco's floo. Draco's seen her pull that move on guests at various Malfoy Ball's before, to try to sweeten them up. Malfoy, through and through, Draco thinks.

"He's all yours, now." At that, Pansy scrunches up her already squished nose in feigned disdain and Draco has to smother a loud snort, thankful that his mother has her back to them. Having to explain why they were laughing would imminently lead to an awkward conversation about Pansy's rather fantastic discovery of her attraction to the fairer sex, and Draco honestly does not have the willpower to get through that, least of all with his own Mother.

Pansy moves to stand next to him with a small smile of her own and together, they watch his Mother climb effortlessly into the floo scooping up a handful of floo powder on her way, from a bowl on the wooden shelf above the fire place. She hesitates before muttering something in French under her breath, a prayer most likely, before smiling wanly at Draco. But it's paper thin and he can see right through it, can see this unmistakable anguish that lies behind the smile.

Her eyes meet his.

"Stay safe."

Then she's gone.

X

Pansy drags Draco to a pretty little patisserie in the middle of Muggle London which, it turns out, is run by a Wizard named Franklyn who Pansy briefly attempted to set him up with. Turns out Franklyn is happily married to the kind Witch behind the counter who is currently swollen with their third and fourth child.

They settle at a table by the window on the second floor where the sun shines through and warms Draco's milky skin.

He ends up trying to explain to her why Fortune Teller's haven't already gone extinct, even though it's been proven that their work is a whole load of Hippogriff shite.

"Vicarious reinforcement," Draco shrugs leaning back in his seat and Pansy crooks a brow at him in a way that says he sounds like a, quote, 'pretentious bastard'.

"You know," he pushes, smirking slightly as he tries to validate his point to no avail. "Seeing someone else do something successfully and feeling the urge to try it for yourself in the hopes that the result will be the same. Plus, Muggles eat that stuff up - they love it."

Pansy snorts as she takes a bite of her pastry.

"Right," She says sarcastically around a mouthful of Danish but not without giving a small hiccup of a laugh.

For a moment they both sit in amicable silence drinking tea and picking at the platter of sweet treats between them.

When he feels eyes on him, he looks up and, surely enough, Pansy's watching him from behind a chocolate truffle, quietly curious.

"What?" He asks and she shakes her head, unsettling some of her hair from it's bun, and puts the truffle down, pressing her slender fingers into the edge of her plate.

"Why was your mum here, Draco?"

Draco's mouth goes from perfectly functional, to drier than the Sahara desert in the space of a heart beat.

Bollocks.

He knew she was bound to ask about it eventually and was surprised when she had watched him stash the book away without uttering a single thing which is very unlike Pansy, who has an opinion on just about everything and anything. Blaise often refers to her as their 'Little force of Nature'. Draco has a few other choice words he'd prefer to use instead.

But, anyway, here it is. The big Question.

Draco could see his Mother's face swim before his eyes, reminding him that he is to keep his mouth shut. But Pansy's looking at him with an unwavering determination, the sort that Draco had seen on her during their O.W.L.S and N.E.W.T.S and he so badly wants to tell her about Severus and the portrait and-

He finds himself fiddling with his napkin just for a reason not to look at her.

"Come on Dray, I'm not an idiot, I can tell this is when you're in over your head - This is serious, let me help you," She says tilting her head to try and catch his gaze from under the hair that's fallen into his face. Of course, she's right but Draco won't allow himself to admit it.

"Besides, that book you've got positively wreaks of ancient magic and something tells me it's not all the 'good' sort, either."

Draco sighs.

"Pansy -" he begins and then his mouth utterly betrays him " - Snape's alive."

He claps a hand over his mouth just as Pansy chokes on her tea, spewing it back out like a mini geyser. It would have been funny if she hadn't looked so livid.

"Draco, what the fuck!" She fumes, dabbing aggressively at her mouth and then at the table. "Draco, what the actual, bloody fuck?"

Pansy has started to shake her head out of complete exasperation.

People are shooting them scolding, dirty looks so Draco leans forward and drops his voice to an urgent whisper. "Well not 'alive' alive. He's a portrait. Mother's been gathering memories whilst she's been in Paris, he's been around for about a year-"

"A year?" Pansy looks about ready to burst. "And she's only just told you any of this?"

He hesitates then nods and she hisses sharply between her evenly spaced teeth.

"But... He's recently disappeared - nobody knows where he is - and Mother thinks it's because there are some notably  Dark Wizards who want in on something he knows," Draco continues.

Pansy frowns. "How exactly does someone in a portrait go missing?"

"That's what I thought!" He agrees feeling his eyebrows draw together.

She nods."And the book?"

Draco shrugs and begins picking idly at his napkin again. "Mother says he left it for me - so I'm sure he knows about the Harkinson's situation. There must be something he wants me to do with it, something possibly hidden inside? I mean that's usually the case with these sorts of books."

Pansy purses her lips and picks up her truffle again, nibbling at it half-heartedly as she thinks.

"Have you considered contacting anyone who might be able to help you with all of this?" She asks, her tone careful and Draco smooths out his napkin against his thighs. Folds one corner, then the next.

Truth be told, he hadn't, he'd barely just gotten his head around the fact that his Mother has been keeping this from him for so long. Pansy was, again, correct though, he'd need to get a team together, and fast.

"I've heard that....Potter and his lot are quite good when it comes to locating missing persons," She says somewhat off-handedly.

Hold on-

What?

What did she just say?

Draco's head snaps up and he scowls at the mention of his childhood enemy. It all seems quite idiotic now that he thinks about it, but he's stubborn so there's no way he's backing down from his adamency to not go to Potter of all people for help.

"Potter?"

Pansy takes a moment to sip at her tea before she leans forward across the table, pushing a cake out of her way with a pointed elbow. She stares at him with a serious set to her mouth - an expression that Draco's all too familiar with.

"Look, as much as you hate the idea of having to ask Potter for any kind of help, you have to acknowledge that he's good at this sort of thing - you can't ignore that. It's his job to locate and track down missing people," Pansy says quietly her eyes flitting between both of Draco's and, this close up, Draco can make out each of the tiny moles and freckles scattered across her heart-shaped face.

Draco looks away stubbornly and he hears her sigh.

"Don't make this harder than it needs to be, alright?" She says reaching out to pat his hand.

"Pans-"

"Draco, please, if asking Potter to help lessens the risk of you getting yourself hurt in the long run, then do it. Do it for me, at least, if you can't even do it for yourself."

Draco glances back to her, finding a rather vulnerable looking Pansy peering back at him expectantly, from under her fringe. It's rare for her to let this side of herself show and his resolve cracks almost immediately at the sight. He covers her tiny olive-tone hand with his, a small smile forcing itself onto his lips.

"Fine, you selfish Slytherin prick. Happy?" he mutters and she grins, barely masking her relief.

He's secretly glad that he has someone like Pansy on his side, worrying and watching out for him. It makes him feel safe and he loves her for it.

"You bet I am, You poncy little bastard," She mutters back and Draco snorts. "Besides, he's not an ugly looking boy, if you're into that sort of thing."

Draco feels a flush crawl up the back of his neck as he attempts to stutter out a reply and Pansy smirks knowingly, withdrawing her hand from Draco's to take another measured sip of her tea.

"Sod off, Pansy," he finally manages, once he's got his tongue back under control and she smiles but says nothing more on the subject.

X

It's almost seven when Draco reaches back home after separating ways with Pansy for the day. She'd made him promise to write to Potter as soon as he was able and he'd foolishly agreed.

Right now, though, he wants nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep until next week.

Draco smiles at the idea.

Bloody Merlin, wouldn't it be brilliant if that were a possibility? He shrugs his robes off, leaving them in a pile on the living room floor, followed by his shoes, which he unceremoniously kicks under the coffee table.

Next, he hobbles into the kitchen, deciding that he'd need a glass of Firewhiskey before he could even remotely consider writing to Potter. The notion itself is enough to give Draco a pulsing headache. He pours one glass, downs it almost immediately, then pours himself another and carries that and the bottle of Firewhiskey to his study toeing the door open softly.

Marlow hoots at him as soon as he's into the room and he grins, puts his things down and hurries over to the owl, unlatching his cage and sticking his hand inside. The tiny owl hops happily onto his wrist and spreads her wings as if stretching, whilst she lets out another hoot of greeting.

"Hello to you too, Mars," he mutters fondly and carries the owl to his desk on which he keeps a jar of dried Wallow Worms. The owl eyes the jar and pointedly cranes her head round to stare Draco down. Draco raises an eyebrow at Marlow's impatience, yet he still uncaps the jar, fishing out two particularly fat worms.

Handing them to Marlow is a bit of a production because she keeps trying to pluck them from between Draco's fingers before he even has a chance to fully get them to her. Eventually he does, gawking as the owl simply swallows them whole.

"Sweet Salazar, chew your food, why don't you, Mars?" The owl simply turns her beak up at Draco in response and he rolls his eyes, setting the owl down on her perch at the edge of the desk. For some reason, Marlow finds it fascinating to watch Draco write which is ridiculously endearing. "

Alright, suit yourself, you just might like to taste what you eat once in a while, is all," Draco tells the owl. He then settles himself down in his desk chair and rifles through his draw for a small, yet durable piece of parchment. Luckily, he finds one right at the back, and lays it across the top of his desk.

The problem is, once Draco is sat there with everything ready, he realises that he has no bloody idea what he's going to say.

'Oh hello, Potter! My Mother has just informed me that the man who tormented you for the best part of, I don’t know, seven years? Has been made into a portrait, but, alas, he has disappeared because there may or may not be a group of dark Wizards pursuing him and I need your help to hunt him down ! Yours faithfully, Draco Malfoy, your childhood enemy.'

Although he's tempted, that type of letter really won't suffice and he doubts Potter will find it nearly as bountifully humurous as he does. Draco massages his brow and sighs.

Letters were never his forte, really ; he preferred face to face interaction. But it's not as though Potter and him are exactly on speaking terms so he doesn't have much of a choice on the matter.

Marlow hoots softly in his direction and he startles, then reaches out to pet at the owl's head with a gentle finger. Calm down, Malfoy, he tells himself, before picking up his quill from its holder.

He takes a deep breath through his nose, summons a pot of ink and begins to write.