Your parents are not at all religious and never have been.
"Religion," your Father used to say, sneering at the word, "is a Muggle way of explaining Magic. Initial knowledge and understanding of things is what separates us from Muggles. Never forget that, Son."
"Yes, Father," you used to say. And you never did, never forgot that.
It is all the more bewildering now to find yourself within a Muggle religious facility, having been placed here by no other than your Father himself.
"Homosexuality is a choice. It is a God-shaped hole in your heart that you choose to fill with sin!"¹ Mr. Vice's passionate voice fills the room.
Mr. Vice - your main coach and therapist - has a fascinating name indeed, considering what he is preaching. He’s in charge here.
"You strayed away from God's word, indulging in twisted desires that the Devil bestows upon you. You are broken but not worthless, God loves you!"
"I am broken but not worthless, God loves me!" You repeat dutifully, joining the chorus.
You don't believe in God or the Devil, but the truth of your broken, twisted nature is ingrained in you as firmly as your family name and obligations that you have no right to fail.
"I refuse to believe that my only son is to wallow in the most disgusting perversion imaginable." Your Father's cane against the flagstones measured his pace around the study.
"That my only heir is to stoop as low as to even think, that there is a possibility of him being homosexual." He spat the word in disdain. "Where have you even acquired this ridiculous notion from, Draco?"
Studying your hands, you said nothing. What could you possibly have said? Let alone admit that you’d never 'acquired' anything, as Father had put it. You didn't need to. This thing hadn't appeared out of nowhere, or attacked you from the outside. It had always been a part of you.
"Answer!" The cane stomped against the floor.
You flinched. "I don't know, Father."
"You don't... know." He stopped in front of you.
"But I do. I have always been opposed to your Mother's liberal ways of handling you. And... Here. We. Are.” He spread his arms.
“I should have forbidden you to indulge in this weird fascination of yours in the Muggle arts and literature that had proved to be inherently harmful. This Forster man, this 'Maurice' novel and other homosexual stories..." He cringed. "Yes, I have leafed through the books in your study, Draco. Do you have anything to say?"
You didn’t. What was there to say? He was right. You didn't even bother to hide them or conceal the titles. Fool.
"In light of these recent events, your breakup with your fiancée takes on a menacing meaning, rather different to the one I foresaw."
A menace indeed. You could say that about your engagement with Pansy.
"If it's not hard, I can make it hard," Pansy pressed her palm to the front of your trousers. The two of you were sitting on the bench in the Manor Park.
You felt ill. "Shouldn't we wait until our wedding?" You asked, removing her hand.
"Who would have thought you’d be such a prude Draco," she giggled.
“Fuck off!” You bristled, springing to your feet.
Though mad at her, you knew perfectly well that it was not her fault. You liked her, you did. Like a good friend. That was what you two had always been; nothing more. You broke up with her.
"Listening to what Theodore told me, I couldn't believe my own ears. So ashamed I have never been in my entire life. And you don’t even bother to deny it."
You most definitely should've denied everything, but you hadn’t. Father had caught you off guard. You had a feeling that the main reason why he was so mad at you was that you’d turned out to be a moron who had admitted everything, leaving him with no choice but to deal with this thing.
You had still been so shocked by what Theo had done that you hadn't even thought he might tell anyone, let alone your Father.
If he only knew the whole truth, and not only Theo’s part...
He’d better not know.
"Moral Inventory," Mr. Vice says, "meet our new friend. Henry, do please come forward."
Moral Inventory means a list of your sins, that you have to write down after searching deep in your heart. Your homosexual sins. You must read them aloud in front of the therapy group. And now it's Henry's turn.
He joined the group only a few days ago. A small mousy man, late thirties. Itchy and nervous, brown hair, dull features. You wouldn't recognise him on the street.
Unfolding a piece of paper, he begins to read: "I am a married man, and cannot wish for a better wife than merciful God bestowed me with."
You measure him up and down, trying to imagine a woman who'd be willing to go to bed with him. Ugh . You don’t know about a woman… but you certainly would not.
"But, the ungrateful sinner I am," he continues, and his head snaps up to look directly at you, "I find myself constantly thinking about men."
There's something subtly familiar about his manner or voice, you are not sure. Something long forgotten, barely there, but still... You feel the urge to fidget under his gaze. You are relieved when he looks down at the piece of paper in his hands.
"I am grateful to my wife, who persuaded me to undergo this treatment, and I beg God to give me the strength not to waver and erase this sin from my soul." He looks up, eyeing the group.
"Are you sure, Henry?" Mr. Vice says, "you may lie to us, but you cannot lie to God . Are you sure you haven't possibly forgotten anything? Any encounter, any detail? Yes, there is a shame in voicing such things in front of people, but the greater shame is to refuse to admit to your sins. God already knows." He lowers his voice dramatically.
"Yes..." Henry says, but his voice wavers, telling you that he is not at all sure. Not at all...
"No, you are not. Do tell us, what is it there is to tell?"
"There was this guy..." Henry stops, looking up at the ceiling.
"Yes?" Mr. Vice nods in encouragement. "We love you, Henry!" He waves at the group.
"We love you, Henry!" You repeat loudly.
"There was this guy... " Henry is blinking. "Whom I performed a... sinful act with."
"What act exactly? There is no shame in admitting to your sins, Henry."
"He... brought me to a… er... sexual satisfaction... by his hand, and I... returned the favour." Henry covers his face. "We sinned at my home, when my wife was out of town."
"How many times, Henry?"
"Twice. Only twice. I swear," he mumbles, his voice muffled with his palms over his face.
"Good, Henry. Thank you for your honesty. You may sit down, you've done well. We love you, Henry!"
"We love you, Henry!" You repeat dutifully, along with everyone else.
Head bowed, Henry walks down the dais, heading to his chair. Passing, he throws you a brief glance.
You remember reading your own Moral Inventory to the group for the first time, more than two months ago. You’d begun exactly like Henry.
"I grew up in a good family, but my sinful nature took hold of me in my teenage years, making me stray away from God."
You'd spent the previous evening writing down that bullshit. You were doing as you'd been told, and even included certain Muggle details, so that your story would appear natural.
"I fantasised about boys at school, men on the streets, actors on TV and from my imagination. Because of those fantasies, I broke up with my fiancée, which brought great distress to both our families. My parents have sent me here in hope of turning me back to God and His way. I beg God to forgive me, to cure me and save me from my sin."
You were about to head to your seat, when Mr. Vice stopped you.
"No, Drake, I don't think you are telling the whole truth." He shook his head. "Have you searched through your heart thoroughly?"
You instantly realised what was required.
‘Do as you are told, Draco,’ your Father used to say. You had always been good at doing as you were told. It had its benefits.
"I beg you to forgive me, but I haven’t been entirely honest with you." You bowed your head.
"Don't be afraid. We love you, Drake!"
"We love you, Drake!" The group echoed.
The only thing you were afraid of at that point was not getting the fuck out of this place any time soon. Making up a bunch of bullshit was nothing, nothing at all.
"Upon graduating from school, I went to college in London. There on the campus, I was sharing a dormitory with a young man. For two years we were pretending to be roommates, while in fact, all that time, we were indulging in the homosexual sin together. We performed to each other every physical act of sexual intimacy that is forbidden between man and man by God."
Vice liked it a lot, and you earned applause from the group.
Every word of it was a lie.
You’d never been intimate with a man. Not like that, anyway.
You’d rather die than tell anyone what had really happened.
You and Theo had known each other since forever. You’d never been best friends, but got along just fine. It was only after Hogwarts that you realised you liked him.
After the war, during those two years of your house arrest, you’d got interested in art. You’d begun reading books for nothing better to do, and soon discovered that architecture and sculpture drew you the most. So, once you were free to leave the Manor, the first thing you did was visit the National Gallery. There you bumped into Theo, who was no less fascinated than you.
From there your friendship grew. You attended every exhibition together; you took a course in the Muggle Arts College. You were astonished to discover how talented and creative Muggles were; how Wizards’ art, literature and music were nothing compared to theirs. You dived into it, hungry for new discoveries, spending entire days in London, returning to the Manor only late at night. It didn't bother your Mother much; she mainly wanted you to be happy. And with your Father in Azkaban, no one was there to stop you.
Around the same time, you realised that you liked Theo more than a friend should. It didn't come as a surprise, but you knew that you'd never act on it. Nothing could ever happen. Muggle arts is one thing, but for someone like you, with your upbringing and family duties, this was forbidden to even think about. Your Father didn't have to be around for you to understand that.
Two years you spent tiptoeing around Theo, trying hard not to give yourself away. You felt that he might like you in return, that he might already know.
So when he invited you to his house, saying that his parents were away for the night, it filled you with fear and anticipation. But whatever you may have expected from him, it wasn't what had actually happened.
As soon as you sat down on the sofa in his living room, he excused himself.
"Make yourself at home, I'll be in a minute," he said, handing you a glass.
"What's this?" You asked, eyeing a golden-brown liquid.
"Just you taste and find out." He winked, heading out of the room.
It smelled odd. Not bad, but odd. It smelled like... beneath the smokiness of Firewhisky, there was something else... something that had no business to be there. You closed your eyes. Parchment and worn leather of the library sofa, a faint whiff of Theo's cologne... and you almost heard his quiet laughter in your ear, which felt almost like a touch of his fingertips at the back of your hand...
Your eyes snapped open to land on Theo in the doorway. His smile was knowing, and his bathrobe was open in the middle. He pushed himself off the doorframe.
"You've changed your clothes," you said dumbly, staring at the dark trail of hair that ran down from his navel to that place where his cock stood out, bobbing in front of him as he walked.
He said nothing. You put the glass down.
When he finally stopped in front of you, shrugging the bathrobe off... you thought you were prepared. You thought you were capable of handling it. You thought you knew what was to come. That's why you didn't even try to reach for your wand.
Later, thinking about it, you couldn't remember exactly what had happened in detail, your memory supplying you with only distorted flashes:
... sharp pain from him grabbing a fistful of your hair, forcing your face down...
... your shock, rendering you unable to resist...
... your eyes tearing up, when you were choking on his dick in your mouth...
... finally, you came to your senses when Theo was writhing on the floor in agony, and the wand in your hand didn't waver. You’d ceased casting Crucio only when his screams deafened you.
The next three days you left your bed only to brush your teeth until you were spitting blood into the sink and to stand unmoving under the scalding shower.
"I think I’ve got a fever," you said, covering your head with a blanket when Mother knocked on your door.
"Father is being released in a week, dear." She sat at the foot of your bed.
You didn't know how you felt about it. Father was being released on bail, on a sum huge enough to buy another Manor. The sum, Mother said, had cost almost everything from the Malfoy vaults. It allowed your Father to shorten his term in Azkaban from ten years to four.
Those years without his constant presence, without his measuring looks and immaculate posture, had brought something into your life that you'd never had before. Something like freedom. Something that would be taken away as soon as he stepped into the Manor again. Something that didn't have the right to exist when Father was near.
"Are you happy, dear?" Mother's voice was quiet, she stroked your leg through the blanket.
"So am I," Mother said, but she didn't sound like it.
You both knew everything was about to change.
"Excuse me, Mother," you said, "I am unwell. I'm afraid this thing may be catching."
When she had left the room, your face crumpled, and the pillow under your cheek became damp.
You had been going on like this ever since. Even now, three months later. One moment you'd be good and calm, and the next something would trigger a vivid flash of memory, bringing all your anger and self-hatred to the surface. How could you? How had you even allowed him to do this to you? Why didn't you throw him off? Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn't you kill him on the spot, as soon as you realised that he’d put Amortentia into your Firewhisky? Why had he done it in the first place? When you liked him... and even more? When you trusted him enough to feel safe in his presence...
If there were answers to those questions, you would never find them.
The voice makes you jump. That mousy Henry-guy. How long has he been sitting on the porch next to you? Your mind is a bit hazy these days; little things escape your notice, you can never tell the details for sure.
"What?" You turn to him.
"Your bracelet, I mean." He points at your wrist.
"Is it a gift?"
"Yes. From my Mother."
You trace the platinum band with your finger, feeling as the ridges of the intricate crest with the capital 'M' in the centre graze your skin. This thing is holding you here, hostage to your Father's will.
"It is for your own good, Draco," he said, closing the bracelet with a flick of his wand, "you will be grateful."
"Yes, Father," you said, feeling as if all your senses were being dimmed down.
As long as this thing is around your wrist, your Father knows your whereabouts. As long as the bracelet is there, you are as good as a Squib.
"Beautiful," Henry says, "your family must be wealthy."
What the fuck does the man want? The patients are neither allowed to speak to each other privately, nor to approach one another closer than five feet.
"Ponder!" The voice says from behind. "Patients are forbidden to chat privately."
"Sorry, sorry!" Henry springs to his feet. "I forgot, I'm new here. Sorry!"
You follow him with your eyes as he disappears indoors, followed closely by Mr. Vice’s assistant Nicholas.
What the hell was that?
Your thoughts are swimming lazily.
Henry Ponder. What a ridiculous name. Though Drake Melroy doesn't sound any better.
Harry Potter crossed his arms, eyeing his visitor up and down.
Harry raised his eyebrows in question.
"Auror Potter," the woman corrected herself, mirroring his posture.
"What do you want?" Harry perched at the edge of his desk.
He wasn't at all happy to see Pansy Parkinson in his office. Absolutely fucking not, thank you very much. Especially when she was asking him to find Draco sodding Malfoy.
"I'm telling you, he's been kidnapped. He's been missing for three months!" Parkinson walked around Ron's desk to sit down in the chair.
"That's Ron's desk," Harry said automatically, "he won't be happy when he returns."
"If you won't offer a chair to your visitor, let your friend suffer." The woman did have the nerve!
"You are not my visitor, you've just barged in," Harry snapped. Honestly, could she be more annoying? "I don't do visitors. And it's lunchtime anyway."
"Potter, please ." She looked at him, her voice suddenly serious. "I need your help."
"Why me? " Harry asked, exasperated. "I'm not even in charge here. Anyway, the case should be filed using official procedure; it may not even end up on my desk."
"Because no one gives a fuck that he's missing! As soon as they heard that he was kidnapped by his own father, they laughed in my face. Do you think I haven't tried to alert the Aurors?"
It sounded crazy indeed. "Why would his father kidnap him?"
"Potter, do hear me out. Please. And then you can tell me if it's a bunch of bullshit or not."
"Why do you think that I give a fuck?"
"Because that's what you do. You’ve never tolerated injustice." Parkinson raised her chin.
"And you know me so well?"
"Everyone knows this about you, Potter. Please." She winced. "You can tell me to fuck off all you want. Just help find Draco."
Harry ran his palm over his face. There was something in her manner, something desperate. He knew perfectly well how the case of Malfoy's disappearance would go in the Auror Office.
"Okay, fine. Begin at the beginning. Don't waste my time."
"Now, Jared, I want you to address this chair as if it were your father, and tell him everything that makes you angry. Come on, everything you hate about him, you can say now."² Mr. Vice squeezes Jared's shoulder in reassurance and steps back, leaving the boy in the middle of the room, facing the empty chair.
"I don't know," Jared says after a long silence, "I have nothing to tell."
Jared is a newbie. He's been here less than two weeks. You can already tell, he's the problematic sort. The son of a Christian preacher, he refuses to play along. And unless he's going to pretend, he may never leave this fucking place. He may even end up in the one of the houses behind the wall, where they shut up the most hopeless cases. You’d even told him so the other day. You’d met him alone on the porch, during the afternoon session break, hastily trying to talk some sense into him in the span of those two minutes. Looks like your advice was given in vain.
"Come on. Let your anger out, channel it at your father! Tell him you hate him!"
"I don't hate him," Jared shakes his head.
"You do, Jared. You all do. That is why you are here." Mr. Vice comes close, making Jared step back.
It's the theory they base their system on: the sins of the fathers make their sons gay. Alcohol, drugs, violence and even divorce in the family inevitably lead to homosexuality, they say, selling this bullshit to those willing to pay for it in the hope of being 'cured.'
Maybe Muggles are idiots, after all; you don't know. But it's obvious to you that your condition cannot be changed. If you ever want to get out of here, you have to play the part and show them that it's working, that you're getting better, you're getting straight, so that their report will finally satisfy your Father, and he'll bring you back home.
"You want me to pretend that I hate my father!" Jared raises his voice. "I don't hate my father!"
"Then where does all this anger come from?!" Mr. Vice pokes him in the chest.
"Because you are making me angry!"³ The boy shoves him away. "Get off me!" He runs down the steps of the dais and along the aisle between the chairs, heading to the door.
"Jared!" Mr. Vice bellows. "You stop now! "
"Fuck off! You are all crazy here!" Jared wrenches the door open. “All of you!” His voice echoes in the hall.
He doesn't hate his father. Lucky boy.
"Father." You stepped into his embrace.
"Finally, Son." He patted your shoulders lightly.
Azkaban had changed him. Painfully thin, with his grey hair cropped short and gaunt features, he looked so frail that if it were anyone else but your Father, the only thing you could have felt towards this man would be pity. Why, then, was his mere presence sending your heart racing? Where did this fear even come from? But there you were: on your tiptoes, feeling eleven again, seeking his approval.
"Let's lead your Father to his bedroom, dear," Mother said, "first he needs a rest, and then we will talk to our hearts' content."
The cheerfulness of her tone made you look up. She took Father by the arm, pulling him towards the staircase. But there was something about her face, as though she’d shut down everything free and genuine and alive that had been there only a day before. It was exactly how you felt.
"Master is been return," the elf announced into the empty entrance hall.
The next morning, when your Father summoned you straight out of bed, you knew immediately that something was wrong. How terribly wrong, however, you realised only upon seeing his face.
"Come in!" He called, when you knocked on the door of his study.
Bracing yourself, you entered to find him with his back to you, facing the fireplace.
"Do sit down," he said quietly, still not turning to look at you.
Silence fell, dragging out long minutes, as he stood there motionless. Not daring to breathe, you stared at his back.
When he finally turned, his face was devoid of any emotion. Still not looking at you, he walked to the desk, gesturing at the Pensieve sitting on his desk.
"Do me a favour."
You stood up and approached the desk. The grim swirling contents of the basin looked smoky-grey.
Having barely lowered your face to its surface, you jerked back with a cry. Theo's writhing naked form on the floor was a constant presence in your nightmares. Something squeezed in your throat, rendering you unable to breathe; your mind went blank.
"Do you have anything to say?" Father's voice was almost a whisper.
Your heart racing, you stared at him.
"Sit," he ordered. You dropped into the armchair.
"This morning, your friend contacted me," Father sat down at the desk, "to tell me a thing so shocking that I still cannot believe it." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "But the memories he has shown me..." He slammed his palm at the desk, making you jump.
Staring at him in horror, you shook your head. If you had words, you would have told him everything, but you had none.
"My only son and heir is a pervert, forcing himself on his friend."
Theo had turned the story around, telling your Father that you had tried to rape him and then Crucioed him when you hadn’t got what you wanted.
"Is this true?!" Father shouted. "Are you HOMOSEXUAL?!"
Helpless before his ire, you didn't deny it as you should have. Everything must have been written across your face, for one look at you made him cringe.
He didn't ask you if Theo had told him the truth about the rape.
You couldn't see your Mother's face in the dark room. Having been lying in bed all day long, you hadn't bothered to turn on the lights.
"It's not true," you said to her back, silhouetted in twilight against the window.
"All of it?" Her voice was cautious.
"No. The...." Struggling to say the word, you stopped and took a breath.
"Rape..." You forced out. "Is a lie."
Your Mother exhaled. "And the rest?"
Looking at her sideways from your bed, you saw she was nodding. She wasn't surprised.
"But... why would Theo?.."
"Let's not talk about it."
"Draco... is there anything?.."
You didn't let her finish. "I don’t want to talk about it."
"I am sorry, dear," she said.
You turned your back to her, hugging the pillow.
After a long silence, there was a quiet click of the closing door.
"I cannot believe, My Dear, that you have been allowing this in my absence." Father threw the magazine on the coffee table.
‘Italian Sculpture,’ the title read.
"That you let him indulge in such things." Wincing, Father gestured at Michelangelo's David, pictured at the front cover in all his glory. "No wonder where these morbid inclinations come from."
Mother put her cup down, saying nothing, only glancing at you briefly.
She was sorry, she pitied you; she didn't know how to help.
"You are lucky indeed, Draco," your Father finally addressed you for the first time since the conversation began, "that I persuaded Theodore not to make it public. I had promised him to deal with you by my own means."
"Lucius -" Mother began, but you didn't let her finish.
"Thank you, Father," you said, and when she stared at you, you briefly shook your head. You absolutely couldn't let her say what she'd been going to.
"You have to be grateful indeed. I have found the means to fix your unfortunate condition. Regrettably, Wizards hadn’t found a treatment for it yet. But Muggles have. Muggle ways led you there, Muggle ways will cure you."
With a wave of his hand, a pile of blue and green brochures landed on your lap.
‘LOVE IN ACTION,’* read the capital letters, and below in a smaller font: ‘Your path out of sin to God's Kingdom.’
Dumbly you stared at them; the words didn't make any sense.
"This religious Muggle nonsense is not my concern, Draco," Father said, picking up one of the brochures from your lap, "but they say that, apart from a prayer, they have their ways of dealing with your condition, which have proven to be effective indeed. You are to do as you are told, do you understand? I need a Man and an Heir back as soon as possible."
"You are to depart tomorrow morning. Have the elves pack your things for you. You are to stay there as long as it takes to get you back to normal. It is a Muggle facility, so your Muggle clothes and knowledge," he spat the words in distaste, "will serve a good purpose for once."
"Yes, Father." You stood up to leave.
"Sit down, I am not finished."
He headed to the wall behind his desk and touched it briefly with the tip of his wand in a pattern. A small vault opened in the middle, and he retrieved something out of it, making the vault close and blend back into the wall with the same series of taps.
"Hold out your right wrist."
When you obeyed, he closed the metal bracelet around it with a click, waving his wand several times around your wrist. He didn't have to tell you what it was. By the dull numb feeling starting in your very core, by the way it was spreading down your limbs, dimming the brightness of the world around you, you already knew.
"It is for your own good. So you won't be tempted to leave the place. Thus, you will not give your magic away in front of Muggles, and I will always know where you are. No one but me is able to remove it, its magic is tied to the Malfoy family bond."
"Yes, Father," you repeated for the thousandth time; it was the only thing you were good for.
"I trust you to put effort into this, Son. Everything depends on you and your willingness to change," Father said before finally dismissing you.
When Mother entered your room that evening, you were already in bed.
"Your Father and I had a row," she said, sitting down at the foot of your bed.
"I told him that Theo had made it all up, but he wouldn't listen... He said you admitted it to be true. Draco, why?.."
"I told you, I won't talk about it, Mother." You tried to turn to your other side, but she gripped your shoulder.
"Why are you refusing to tell him the truth?! What had happened?"
You knew you would never be able to put into words what had really happened. You would never let your Father know what you had allowed Theo to do to you. You would never tell him that Theo had forced his dick into your mouth and you couldn't fight him off, allowing it to happen.
You shrugged your Mother's hand off and turned your back to her. Your throat was squeezing, you blinked the tears away.
"And anyway, it won't change his decision to send me to that facility... Theo is not his main concern."
You know your Father. He would have sent you there even without Theo’s story. You were gay, and you had to be cured.
"I am so sorry all this is happening, my dear." Mother stroked your hair.
"But they say, a lot of Muggles, having undergone their treatment, come out fully changed. Your Father and I see no reason they won't be able to fix a wizard. It will be alright, dear. We will visit."
"Yes," you said, feeling a tear rolling out of the corner of your eye. You didn't think there was a way to fix you, to fix it all.
"You dance so well, Drake," Ivy says breathlessly, as you are waltzing her around the room, "where did you learn?"
"Traditional upbringing." You smile at her, and she grins back.
She is small, the top of her head barely reaches your chin. She is tilting her face up to meet your eyes. She is funny and smart, and very pretty. She's a lesbian, 17, carted off by her parents to this place.
It is Friday night, and you are having a party. Nothing wild. Formal dancing and no alcohol.
Dancing is strongly encouraged here for your 'healing process.’ Waltz and Foxtrot. Nothing indecent. No Tango, God forbid.
Man-and-woman, boy-and-girl, M-and-F, couples swirl around. Those, at least, who know how to swirl. Those who don’t sway modestly in place, shuffling their feet to the music.
You must admit, you're having a good time. You always liked dancing, always were good at it, and you do have all the classic ballroom techniques up your sleeve. So when you swirl Ivy effortlessly, she laughs - she's enjoying it, too - and it makes you feel good for the first time in ages.
At the edge of your vision, Mr. Vice hangs by the wall, scribbling something in his tiny notebook he always carries around.
Good, you think. For the past two weeks, the reports had been quite satisfactory - quite, your Father had told you during his last visit. You have no idea how long he plans to keep you here, or what result, exactly, he expects to see. But good reports from Mr. Vice bring you closer to freedom. So you try your best and hope.
"Do you ever get tired, Drake?!" Ivy asks.
She's very nice, and you like her a lot; as a friend. Why is it necessary to fake this attraction of a different kind between woman and man? The one that will never be there. But you know that she's trying hard, too, and you want to help her.
"Me, tired? Never! " You laugh, swirling her faster, turning your waltz into something grotesque and silly, making heads turn in your direction. Let them. Let Mr. Vice's tiny notebook be full of the notes on you from this evening.
"Ouch!" Someone bumps into you.
"Sorry!" You say automatically, steadying the man by the arm.
Only then you realise, it's Henry. Henry Ponder and his partner Miranda. Before you almost knocked them out with your waltz, they'd been peacefully shuffling their feet by the wall, not getting in the way of those who really dance.
"Sorry," you repeat.
"No problem," Henry says.
His gaze makes you uneasy. What is the guy up to? For the last few days, you've been bumping into him a lot. At first, you thought it was an accident. Now, you don't think so; not at all. Is the man hitting on you, or what? You should probably report him, otherwise he may get you into trouble. You don't want your flawless record spoiled, do you?
A sudden noise and a commotion in the doorway make you turn. You see the staff uniforms, and among them two guys are being dragged inside.
"What's going on?" Ivy asks, and you realise that you are still holding her hand.
Mr. Vice says something to the staff, while Chris and Paul are standing with their heads bowed. Mr. Vice is gesticulating furiously with his hands, and two men head to the door, followed by the two staff members. You realise that the music has suddenly ceased playing.
"What does it mean?" Henry asks.
You shrug; hell if you know, but obviously the guys have got into trouble.
"Dear friends," Mr. Vice says into the microphone, "do forgive us this little inconvenience. Please enjoy your evening!"
The music resumes, and you tug at Ivy's hand, pulling her to the dance floor and away from Henry.
"Let us all pray for these two misguided souls, begging God to forgive them their sins!"
Mr. Vice is kneeling right next to you in the circle, and his voice is too loud in your ear.
Chris and Paul are on their knees in the centre, while the entire group is praying for their redemption.
Last night, during the party, the two men had been caught snogging outside. Idiots. It turns non-existent their chances of getting out of here any time soon. Their parents have been informed. They are here in the circle, too, kneeling among the rest of you.
"Letting the Devil tempt their souls last night, Paul and Christopher committed a sin, indulging in physical intimacy with each other. Had they not been stopped by the staff members, the consequences would have been even more menacing. They deserve a punishment and should atone. Do their parents agree?"
"Yes... yes," the voices reply from the opposite side of the circle.
"Do Christopher and Paul agree?"
"Yes... I do... I do," the guys in the centre repeat with their heads bowed.
"Do pray, dear friends, for their redemption. Do beg God to forgive them!"
You clasp your hands in front of you and close your eyes, bowing your head low. You had learned quickly that this posture is the best for such occasions.
Several minutes pass in silence, disturbed only by a heartfelt whispering of a prayer around the circle. The crane of your neck is uncomfortable, and your knees begin to ache.
"Now, anyone may come forward and strike the sinners⁴. Parents, do come forward!" Mr. Vice rises on his feet, gesturing to the group to stand up.
He goes up to the parents - the two middle-aged couples - handing them a Bible.
"Beat the sin out of them with the Holy Book!"
One of the fathers takes it, heading straight to the kneeling Christopher, and hits him on the back, hard. The sound is loud in the silent room.
After a few more blows, the man hands the Bible to his wife, walking away. When he approaches, you see that his face is streaked with tears.
The procedure repeats, again and again. Now Paul is being punished by his father. His shoulders are hunched, and he tries not to make a sound, but the sight of his crying face makes tears well up in your eyes.
Every strike makes you wince and want to cover your ears. You are thinking vaguely about your own Father. Would he have done that to you? If he believed in all this nonsense, he undoubtedly would have.
"Anyone may come forward and punish the sinners!" Mr. Vice's voice makes you jump.
You are sure no one will come forward. So when Tom and Jake do, you feel sick.
"This is some fucked up shit," someone says behind you, "is no one going to stop it?!"
You turn and see Henry's mousy, livid face.
You push past him, making your way to the exit.
When you reach the door, a shout makes you turn. In the circle, Henry shoves Tom away from Christopher's hunched form. It’s an unexpectedly powerful movement for such a small man. Mr. Vice is shouting, ordering Henry to step back.
Enough. You need to lie down. You run down the corridor to your room.
Henry showed his ID card to the man in the uniform at the reception area.
"One moment, please." The man scanned the computer screen in front of him. 'Alex' was written on the badge on his chest.
"Yes. There you are, Mr. Ponder. Please, follow me."
"It is quiet here," Henry said, dragging his valise along the corridor past the identical dark wooden doors.
"The group is having a morning session at the moment," Alex replied, "here we are." He stopped in front of the door with the number 238.
"This is your room, Mr. Ponder." He pressed the handle, beckoning Henry to follow him inside.
"You don't need the key. You are neither allowed to invite anyone to your room, nor visit other patients' rooms here. Rules."
Henry nodded, looking around. The room with a single bed was simple but nice. It looked like any room in any random decent hotel.
"Meals are served in the dining room three times a day, according to the schedule that you'll find in your bedside drawer. You may unpack your valise and come downstairs in an hour. I will escort you to the group session area."
"Thank you, Alex," Henry said to the man's retreating back, beginning to unpack his things.
"Patients of the same sex are not allowed to approach each other closer than within a distance of five feet."
"No physical contact between the patients of the same sex is allowed, with the exception of the briefest of handshakes."
"Bra should be worn for women at all times, with the exception of bedtime."
"Trousers are not allowed for women. Skirts or dresses should be worn at all times; the hem of a skirt or a dress should cover the knee."
"Shirts with sleeves are worn at all times, including bedtime. Short sleeves and tank tops are not allowed."
"Private conversations between patients are not allowed. Everything you say, you say openly for anyone to hear."
"Verbal and physical contact (within limits of modesty) between patients of the opposite sex is encouraged."
"Ballroom dancing (within limits of modesty) between patients of the opposite sex is encouraged."
"Masculine sports for men are encouraged."
"Feminine hobbies for women are encouraged."
"Any explicit, erotic or pornographic materials of any kind are forbidden."
"This is some fucked up shit," Henry Ponder thought, but said nothing, listening to the Rules of ‘LOVE IN ACTION' that were being read aloud by the patients in turns.
"Masturbation is forbidden," read the blond guy from the row ahead.
Although all Henry could see was the guy's bright-blond hair, styled so neatly that no strand was out of place, and a high collar of his white shirt... Henry knew perfectly well who he was. He would recognise him with his eyes closed, by the voice alone.
‘LOVE IN ACTION, Kent. Drake Melroy.’ the letter he'd received a week ago from Narcissa Malfoy had read.
You called in sick for today. All this business with Chris and Paul made you physically ill.
Idiots, why would someone even do such a thing in a place like this? No doubt their parents will shut them here for good. The memory of the Bible falling down across Paul's head makes you wince and squeeze your eyes shut. Fuck.
Paul’s parents are not at all like Jared’s. After he’d lashed out, calling Mr. Vice crazy, his mum had taken him home immediately.
They say she shouted ‘Shame on you!’⁵ at Mr. Vice, and requested his qualification to perform such things on the patients.
She also shouted ‘Shame on me!’ out of the car window, driving Jared away. Lucky boy.
You exhale. You miss your Mother. Father always visits alone. What does she truly think? Does she truly believe you can be turned straight? You don't know.
The sound of the door handle turning startles you. It's almost midnight, and you haven't turned the lights on.
The door opens and closes quietly, and now you feel someone's presence in the room. Afraid to breathe, you lie unmoving, your heart going mad.
The footsteps are light, barely audible on the carpet. They approach and stop by the bed, and now you see a dark silhouette against the window.
"Malfoy?" the voice whispers loudly, and the light flickers alive at the tip of a wand.
You squint, not able to make out the features of the person behind it. Their hand hovers above the bedside table, reaching for the lamp. And finally, when the light switches on, you stare dumbly in the mousy face of Henry fucking Ponder. You understand nothing anymore.
"Malfoy," he repeats, "it's you. I had to check, hadn’t been sure I was in the right room."
"What?.. what do you want?" This is surreal. You sit up.
"Come on, we're wasting time." Ponder clutches your wrist in a deadly grip.
"What the fu..." is all you manage to utter, before the room around you swirls and everything goes black.
: "Homosexuality is a choice. It is a God-shaped hole in your heart that you choose to fill with sin." – quote from the film ‘Boy Erased’.
: “Now, Jared, I want you to address this chair as if it were your father, and tell him everything that makes you angry. Come on, everything you hate about him, you can tell now." – scene from the film ‘Boy Erased’.
: " - Then where all this anger comes from?!
- Because you are making me angry!"
- dialogue from the film ‘Boy Erased’.
: “Anyone may come forward and strike the sinner” - scene from the film ‘Boy Erased’.
: “Shame on you! And shame on me!” – quote from the film ‘Boy Erased’.
* ‘LOVE IN ACTION’ – the actual name of the gay-conversion therapy institution, which operated in the USA, and where Jared (the protagonist of the film ‘Boy Erased’), and Garrard Conley (the author of the novel ‘Boy Erased: A Memoir’, based on the real life events) had been sent to by their religious parents.