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Just the Beginning

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Draco knew there would be punishment for his failure. What he didn't know was why it was taking so bloody long. 

He sat in darkness, his hands bound behind him. His wrist ached from the thin, scratchy rope digging into them. His eyes itched and watered from the dust and ash in the small cell. Vaguely he wondered how many people had been burned to create so much ash. He had witnessed at least three executions in the past year. That didn't account for the solid foot of ash that covered the floor, visible in the light squeezing in around the door. It was not a reassuring sight.

How did this even happen? he thought miserably, coughing as he inhaled even more ash. He wriggled his hand, trying to work the rope loose, but only succeeded in scratching the skin even worse, and glared at the door ahead of him.

Oh, yes. How could I forget? Potter. Stupid. Draco kicked at a pile of ash, which proved to be a bad idea when a great cloud of it flew right in his face. He coughed and hacked, cursing under his breath. When his lungs were finally cleared and he could breathe again, he tilted his head back, staring up at the low ceiling. He could see long gouges scratched into the charred wood. He looked away. 

A scream from outside shocked him, and he jolted in his seat, nearly tipping the chair. He sat stock-still, his eyes wide as he  gasped for breath. His heart was beating faster than a jobberknoll's death wail, and just as loud. He swallowed hard, suddenly finding his mouth dry. 

Don't panic. There were plenty of other prisoners. It's not —

Another scream. This time it was unmistakable. Draco felt his heart stop, his eyes watering again, and this time it wasn't because of the ash. He clenched his fists, his teeth digging into his lip so hard he bled. 

Mother. 

A choked sob forced its way out as another scream pierced the air, and then slowly quieted to hopeless sobbing. Draco threw himself forward, getting to his knees in front of the door and peering through a small gap between two boards. As he did, he felt a sudden chill, and he gasped as he saw what was happening.

His mother knelt on a dais in the center of the room. Her blond hair hung in limp strands down her back, and her shoulders shook as the other figure standing on the dais grabbed her by the chin and forced her face upwards. In the air above her hovered what was unmistakably a Dementor. Draco watched, frozen in shock, as the Dementor swooped towards his mother, lowering its hood. He could do nothing but  watch as his his mother fell, lifeless, to the floor as the Dementor sucked out her soul. 

Several things happened within the next few seconds. Draco heard his father cry out from across the room. He was instantly silenced. At the same time, the door to Draco's cell swung open, and he fell on his face, having no way to catch himself. He was grabbed by his hair and hauled up the dais before being  shoved to his knees. 

 "Draco! How nice of you to join us!" 

It was hard for Draco to see, but the sound of his aunt's voice sent a chill down his spine. He heard the clicking of her  boots on the stone floor, and then her long-nailed hand curled under his chin, jerking his head up to face her. Through the haze of blood and tears he could see her large, dark eyes, a sadistic gleam in them. He had seen that look before, when she was torturing a Mudblood someone had brought in. He had stood back, watched with something close to interest, when it was happening. Now, on the receiving end, he understood why that girl had  screamed that way when Bellatrix looked at her. 

 "Now, Draco, don't be frightened." She smiled. "If you're good, maybe I won't even kill you. Our house-elf is getting rather old, isn't he, Rodolphus?"  Bellatrix looked up at the Death Eater who still had a fistful of Draco's hair. "Yes, I think Draco will be a suitable replacement." She grinned, her eyes sliding back to Draco's.

 "Just kill me," he choked out. Bellatrix grinned, her grip on his had tightening. 

 "I don't think so, dearie." She let go of his face, slapping him sharply as she stood, and looked to Rodolphus. "Let's leave him for the Dementors. We'll have a nice little show." Rodolphus let go of Draco, and he and Bellatrix walked off to a door at the side of the room. Bellatrix glanced at him once more before the door closed, smirking. 

 "Get out on your own and we might let you live," she said. Then the door closed and Draco was left alone with the Dementors. 

Draco shivered as he stood on unsteady legs, biting his lip and stumbling off the platform. His head still ached, and the cut on his head was still bleeding profusely into his eyes. He managed to make it another five feet before he came nearly face-to-face with a Dementor. He nearly gasped, remembering at the last second to close his mouth. He slowly walked backwards, not taking his eyes off the creature, until he tripped over something and fell to the floor, hearing a loud snap! as he landed on top of his wrist. Draco barely managed to contain a cry of pain, and them one of horror at realizing what he'd tripped over was his mother's body. Panting, he looked up at the Dementor, his eyes wide. 

 "Bellatrix!" he called in desperation, looking frantically around the room. He scrambled back away from the Dementor. "Bellatrix, please! Let me out!" He managed to get to his feet, and got over to one of the doors, almost falling over several times and trying desperately to avoid looking at the body of his father, yet his eyes seemed drawn to where he laid on the ground only a few meters from the door, blood flowing onto the floor from his chest, where Bellatrix's long, silver knife was still sunk to the hilt. 

 The knife! Draco nearly laughed in spite of his panic. He staggered over, falling to his knees, and turning so his back was toward his father's body he pulled the knife free. Then, using his unbroken hand, he angled the knife so it would cut the rope binding him. Thankfully, the Dementors didn't seem to care much for him — probably don't have much of a soul for them to take — but he couldn't afford to be too optimistic, or they definitely would be paying attention.

Draco finally managed to cut through the rope after several minutes of frantically sawing with the knife, and he stood, running back over to the door. He quickly shoved the knife into the keyhole, turning and twisting it until the lock clicked, and he jerked the door open. He stood in the empty doorway, gazing down the long, narrow corridor ahead, before stepping out and slamming the door behind him. He then pulled the knife from his pocket, gripping it tightly, and began to walk down the corridor with only three things on his mind. 

Find Bellatrix. Kill her. Get out. 

Chapter Text

Draco held his breath as he made his way slowly through the maze of dark passages that he now recognized as those that ran between the Ministry courtrooms, though on which level he wasn't sure. The corridor ahead was narrow and the stone floor was cold on his bare feet, but he forged ahead anyway. The knife in his hand was a small comfort whenever he passed another dark corridor or room; He knew the Dark Lord kept his armies of Inferi in the lower levels of the Ministry, and a werewolf pack lived on another. This one, however, seemed mostly empty. Still, it was unnerving. 

It was made even more unnerving when he finally found a room that wasn't completely dark. Draco stepped inside quickly, tucking his knife into his pocket, and took the torch out of its bracket (with some difficulty) and turned around; He nearly dropped the torch when he saw the body. 

From the looks of it she'd been dead a few days; Draco thought he remembered an execution a week or so before, though not in the courtroom. More likely they'd just chased her through the corridors until she starved to death, or more likely froze. Draco held the torch a little closer to himself at the thought. The most unnerving part, though, was that he recognized her. 

Daphne Greengrass. One of Pansy's friends. Her parents hadn't joined the Dark Lord when they'd been asked. Draco had known they'd been punished, but he had no idea that this was their fate. He vaguely wondered if any of them were still alive. The bloody footprints leading away from the body seemed to suggest so, but he wouldn't get his hopes up. A lot could happen in a week.

Draco went back into the room, searching around for anything that might help him. He found what appeared to be an old wooden crate, and after a bit of breaking and tearing a few strips from his shirt he managed to manufacture a sort of splint for his broken wrist. Then, picking up the torch again, he set off down the corridor again, looking at the floor ahead of him so he wouldn't have to see Daphne again. 

Draco soon came to a stop, listening hard. He could hear voices nearby. He bit his lip, setting the torch in a bracket and taking out the knife. Then he slowly walked forward, holding his breath. 

 "...freeze to death long before he gets out!" A gleeful, high-pitched voice whispered. Bellatrix. Draco held the knife a little tighter. 

I can do this. Just go in there and finish her off. Quick. Her and Rodolphus.

 He stepped toward the doorway, treading lightly. It seemed to take forever to cross the few feet between him and the door. 

 "If he even manages to get out," Draco heard Rodolphus say. "He's soft. Wouldn't last a minute against the Dementors." 

 "Oh, I've no doubt they'll have him out in no time at all. I suspect he'll put up a bit of a fight, too, though." 

Draco inhaled a deep breath, bracing himself and barely peeking into the room. Good. Bellatrix and Rodolphus both had their backs to him. Wanting to waste no time, he charged into the room, dashing toward Bellatrix. At that moment, she turned around. 

Draco saw her eyes widen as, in a single quick movement, he plunged the knife into her chest. Bellatrix gasped, her nails clawing at Draco's face as he jerked away, pulling the knife out. In an instant Rodolphus had his wand aimed at Draco. Several hexes flew past Draco, one grazing his cheek and eye. Draco cried out dropping the knife, stumbling back, ducking around the doorway. Hearing Rodolphus charging for the doorway, Draco ran down the corridor. 

He didn't stop running until he was sure he had lost Rodolphus; he had run through countless corridors and ascended every staircase he could find. He had knocked his broken arm into the wall and doorways uncountable times, and he couldn't see from the eye that had been hit by Rodolphus's hex. His head ached horribly just behind that eye, too. He knew he would have to stop and rest soon, but he couldn't until he found a safe place. And that safe place was outside the Ministry. 

And so he kept running. He ran through the darkness, past barred rooms full of Dementors and Inferi. Through dim, empty offices, artificial windows long gone, so all that showed past them was dark earth. A skeleton or two the only sign the offices had been occupied at all. 

Finally, after what seemed like days, he reached the Atrium. He nearly laughed with relief, bracing himself on the wall to keep from falling. He stumbled to the box — what was it, a phone booth? It didn't matter. He pushed buttons at random until something clicked. There was a dull clunk, and then Draco found himself leaning against the wall of the box as it rose up. 

When the box stopped moving, Draco slowly stepped out of it. He leaned against the building behind him, taking in deep gulps of the air. While definitely not fresh — he was right next to a road, for Merlin's sake — it felt good to take a breath and not choke on the ashes of countless other people. 

His relief was short lived, however. Within a matter of moments he had begun to feel lightheaded; his mouth was dry, and he could feel liquid dripping from his injured eye. When he put his hand up to his face, it came away red. For a moment he was too dazed to do anything; then came the realization that if he could get out, so could Rodolphus. Swallowing hard, Draco took off down the street, stopping at a corner. From the dim light he couldn't tell if it was night or early morning, but it scarcely mattered. The Knight Bus would still be running. He didn't have a wand, though; that was a problem.

He didn't have a wand. The realization took a moment to sink in.

No wand.

No protection. 

No parents to hide behind. 

Draco choked on the breath he'd taken.

No parents. All his life he'd had them there. Depended on them.

Now...they were gone. Dead, or as good as. 

He had nobody, nothing, not even a Sickle to his name anymore. 

For the first time in his life, he was utterly alone. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Draco leaned against the wall, trying to catch his breath. The realization that he was all alone had hit him like a train. He took a deep breath and ran down the sidewalk, not stopping until he reached a house he recognized. 

Nott. Judging by the lack of lights in the windows, nobody was home. Draco had figured out that it was indeed nighttime, and Theodore Nott would never be at home so early. Draco glanced around, and when he saw nobody watching, he hurried up the front steps and through the door. 

Passing Nott's wards would be easy. Draco had memorized every cursed floorboard and lamp from the time he was five years old. It took mere minutes for him to reach the stairs, and before much longer he was in the bedroom.

Spare wand. Draco knew that Theodore's father had passed away a few months ago. It was bad form to take a dead wizard's wand, he knew, but...Theodore wasn't using it. And he'd return it as soon as possible. He just needed it long enough to Apparate. 

He searched through the wardrobes and drawers until he finally found what he was looking for on the mantelpiece. Draco inhaled, taking the wand out of its wooden holder carefully. Then he ran out of the house as quickly as he could possibly manage. 

When he had reached the street again, he glanced around once more before hurrying into an alley. 

He stopped at the end of the alley, closing his eyes and taking several deep breaths. Then, focusing hard on his destination, he turned quickly on the spot.

He found himself at the entrance of the Leaky Cauldron. Not wanting to waste any time, he pulled up the hood of his robe — Which by now was more a collection of rags with a hood on top — and walked into the dark, dingy pub.

Only a few customers sat at the tables, finishing off their drinks. The bartender — Draco had never bothered to remember his name, since he wasn't planning on being a customer anyway — looked up from the glass he was cleaning. Draco looked away, walking swiftly to the back door and stepping outside. 

Taking the stolen — Borrowed — wand out again, tapping it on the necessary bricks in the wall before him. Then he stood back as the bricks shifted, forming an archway. He hurried through before it closed again, and made his way down the dark, empty street.

Nearly all the shops were closed for the night, and some looked to be permanently, with boarded-up windows and dark doorways. Newspapers fluttered in the wind on a stand in front of one empty shop. Draco paused as he walked by, picking up a copy— he technically hadn't cancelled his subscription, so it wasn't really stealing — and looked at the headline. 

Malfoy family to be executed on Friday,  by order of the Dark Lord Voldemort

Draco swallowed hard, focusing on the day named instead of the article. Friday. That made it somewhat easier. He turned the paper over to see what the date was, but a gust of wind pulled it from his hand. He groaned, walking across the street and kneeling to pick up the paper, but as he did the wind blew his hood down and he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the store window, nearly recoiling at the sight.

The whole right half of his face was covered in bloody burns and cuts. The area the curse had hit had turned blackish-red. Worst of all was the empty, bloody hole where his eye used to be. Draco choked back a sob, covering his mouth and leaning his head against the glass. 

 "Draco?" 

He looked up, half convinced he'd heard his mother speak. But...no, the reflection in the glass...

He whirled around, aiming the stolen wand. He stared in terrified silence at the woman before him. 

 "No," he choked out. You're...you can't be here. I saw you, I stabbed you. How...how are you here?" 

The woman stepped closer, her wide eyes searching his face. Draco's hand shook as he tried to hold the wand steady. His heart was in his throat, and he was beginning to feel faint. 

 "I...I killed you," he said, stumbling backward to lean against the wall. "You shouldn't be here..." 

 "Draco, please calm down. I'm not going to hurt you." She rested a hand on his, gently pushing his arm down. "I'm not Bellatrix."

 Draco stared at her, nearly at the point of hyperventilating. When she reached out to touch his face, he couldn't help it; He fainted. 

 ***

 Draco had been awake for three minutes, and he still couldn't figure out where he was.

It wasn't the Ministry; wasn't the Manor; definitely wasn't Azkaban. 

So where was it? And why was it so...clean? When Draco imagined a house where Bellatrix might live, his mind conjured images of bloodstained walls and broken windows, not...lace curtains. 

Draco sighed, nestling further down in the bed. The room was, mercifully, warm, but the clothes he had been wearing were nowhere to be seen, and the idea of walking about the room in only his underclothes in search of them was unappealing, for some odd reason. 

The door swung open and Draco heard footsteps, though they didn't sound like those of Bellatrix's high-heeled boots. Tensing up, he slowly looked towards the door. 

 "Oh, good, you're awake. I've brought you some clothes — I'm sorry, but your other ones were filthy, and couldn't be saved. These ones should fit — I asked Molly for some of Ron's that he hadn't worn in a while." 

 The woman looked up at Draco from the stack of folded clothes in her arms, and Draco recoiled; the woman looked very much like Bellatrix. But now, in the light, he could see that her cheeks weren't quite as hollow, her eyes less crazed. Her curly hair was, while still dark, a more subdued shade of dark brown, and didn't stick out from her head like she'd been struck by lightning, instead curling gently near her shoulders. Instead of an ill-fitting corseted dress she wore a light purple nightgown that didn't quite match her slippers. A large bag was slung over her shoulder. 

 "You hit your head pretty hard when you passed out. I would have brought you to St. Mungo's, but I'm wanted by the Ministry, so if I had shown up there we'd likely both be arrested." She sighed, setting the stack of clothes down and sitting at the edge of the bed. Draco flinched when she reached out to touch his face. 

 "Where am I?" he asked quietly. "Who are you?"

 "I'm your mother's sister. Andromeda. You're at my house."

Draco recalled his mother and father mentioning the name Andromeda a number of times — often scornful or mocking in tone, and mentioning a sister of Narcissa's who had married a Mudblood, but beyond that he didn't know much. She had a daughter, didn't she? 

 "Why did you bring me here?" he croaked, his throat feeling on fire. "I'm...you could have turned me in, or...or killed me." He looked up at her. 

 "I'm not going to harm an innocent." She pulled a bottle out of her bag. "I'll have to change the bandage on your eye. It's been a few hours..."

 "How long have I been here?" 

 "Just overnight." She sighed, reaching out and untying the bandage around his head. "I wasn't able to save the eye, but the bleeding's almost stopped. You're lucky the curse stopped at the eye." 

 Lucky isn't exactly how I'd describe it, he thought, holding still as Andromeda trickled some cold, stinging substance into his empty eye socket before gently closing it. Essence of Dittany, his mind supplied. And something else. Probably a potion of some kind. 

 "Now, stay still until that stops stinging." Andromeda stood up. "Your arm should be completely healed by now. I'll get you something to eat."

 "Thanks," he murmured, though he wasn't feeling very hungry. He still had that ache in his head, and his mouth was dry. 

 "I'll get you some water, too. You haven't had anything to drink in days, I'll bet..." Andromeda sighed. "A bath would do you good, too, but I'm afraid you'd pass out..." 

 "Yeah..." He sighed, staring up at the ceiling. "Probably."

 Andromeda sighed. "Do you think you can dress yourself and come downstairs?"

 "Yeah." He ran a hand through his hair. "I think so."

 "Good. I'll get you some breakfast. Try and relax." Andromeda walked out of the room, pulling the door shut behind her. 

Draco sighed, pushing himself to a sitting position -- he was pleasantly surprised to find his arm had been mended -- and took a deep breath. He pushed off the covers and stood before pulling on a pair of jeans and, after weighing the options of going without a shirt versus wearing it, reluctantly pulled on the hideous maroon sweater. 

He walked out of the room, glancing around.  The rest of the rooms he passed had the same clean appearance and light curtains that light shone through. He could guess that it was probably late morning. He came upon staircase and slowly walked down, holding onto the banister tightly. In another room, he could hear Andromeda speaking to someone, and he paused at the foot of the stairs, listening.

"...and be quiet, please, he's tired. No, no, get that out of your mouth." Draco rounded a corner and saw Andromeda pulling a glass phial out of the grasp of a small, purple-haired child maybe a year old who was sitting on the kitchen counter and watching Andromeda cooking something. The child looked up as Draco walked into the small room, and it was immediately apparent that he was somehow related to Andromeda. 

That's the Lupins' kid, he realized with a pang of guilt. He remembered not so long ago thinking of the boy as just another half-breed to get rid of, a thought that now made Draco feel sick. He looked away, keeping the scarred side of his face angled away from the boy. 

"Draco, this is my grandson, Teddy." Andromeda gestured to the child, who was chewing -- or rather, gumming -- on an unpeeled banana with a curious look. Draco nodded slightly, trying to look interested, though Andromeda didn't seem to notice, already back to stirring the pan of eggs -- and what looked like slices of apples -- that was on the stove.

Draco sighed, sitting down on the stairs in the corner and leaning on the door behind him, fiddling with the ends of the sweater's overlong sleeves as he looked out the window. He was then startled, a moment later, when Andromeda set Teddy on his lap. He stammered, looking up, but she was already out of the room. He heard a door open somewhere in the house, and voices. He sighed, adjusting Teddy so he wouldn't drop him, and stood, walking to the door and listening with his ear against it. He moved away as he heard footsteps approaching, and the door swung open not an inch away from hitting his shoulder. He stepped back, holding Teddy closer. Andromeda walked in, followed closely by a young witch -- probably 15 or 16 -- with dark hair cut unevenly at shoulder-length. Her sage-colored robe floated behind her as she walked into the kitchen, carrying several large bottles of something dark green and slimy-looking. Teddy let out an excited squeal when he saw her, and she turned, beaming, towards him.

"Teddy!" she exclaimed, and Draco took a step back, a breath catching in his throat as, for a moment, he thought Daphne stood in front of him. But -- no, that isn't possible, the logical part of his brain said. It's not her. Daphne's blonde, remember? Her eyes were brown, not green. He suppressed a shudder at the thought of Daphne's eyes, lifeless and staring. And she's dead.

 "Draco, this is Astoria." Andromeda waved a hand toward the young woman, who nodded slightly in acknowledgement. "She's been staying next door and helping me with Teddy." 

Draco nodded stiffly, taking another step backward. Astoria. She'd been two years below him at Hogwarts. And she was Daphne's sister. That certainly explained the similarity. Draco suddenly felt very, very sick as he remembered the footprints leading away from Daphne's body. 

He took a deep breath, holding his hand out to Astoria. "N-nice to meet you," he stuttered, his lungs already aching as he tried to keep his breathing even. Astoria shook his hand, giving him a quizzical look. To Draco's great relief, Andromeda shooed Astoria away and took Teddy, pushing a plate full of eggs and toast into Draco's hands and giving him a light nudge in the direction of the open door. He sighed, walking over to the small dining table and sitting down. 

He was only able to eat half of what was on his plate, but he felt significantly better afterwards, his headache subsided; he had a vague but grateful suspicion Andromeda had snuck in some sort of healing potion. He then went back to the room he had awoken in, lying down on the bed with his back toward the stand mirror in the corner. He felt a slight stinging sensation in his left arm, but pushed himself to ignore it, closing his remaining eye tightly and taking deep breaths. How long he laid awake in bed he didn't know, and he didn't notice when he started to drift off. For the first time in nearly seven months, he slept peacefully. 

 

 

Chapter Text

As a week passed Draco was finding himself more at ease. Astoria's visits still left him on edge, and Teddy was noisy at best, but the place gave Draco a sense of safety that he hadn't had in several years, and he was slowly starting to fit in. He was even getting used to Andromeda's unexpected visits from members of the Order of the Phoenix. Even though the visits were unbearably awkward and Draco often excused himself to his room after the first few minutes, he felt he was making great progress. 

Which is why he didn't think much of it when he heard Andromeda speaking to someone as he walked to the living room one morning to put Teddy down for a nap, so great was his surprise when he found Andromeda speaking with none other than Harry Potter.

 "...And there was definitely a—"

Potter broke off, his mouth moving but nothing coming out. Andromeda looked between the two of them, looking as though she regretted being born. 

 "Harry, you remember my nephew," she said defeatedly, waving a hand toward Draco, who was slowly backing out of the room. Teddy had spotted Potter, and was squirming around to escape Draco now. 

 "Yes," Potter said, his jaw set and his eyes narrowed. "I do."

 Andromeda nodded. "He's been staying here a while."

 Potter nodded, frowning. Draco bit his lip. 

 "I...I'll just take Teddy to his room. Sorry."

 "No, Draco, you can stay. It's fine," Andromeda said. Potter made a sound as if he disagreed, but Andromeda glared, silencing him, and held out her hands. Draco walked over, handing Teddy to her before sitting at the end of the couch. He crossed his arms, sighing, and tried to tune out the conversation going on beside him, focusing on the patterns in the carpet. 

That one looks like a sheep, he observed to himself. And that could be a cat...maybe a lion cub or some—

"Draco?" Andromeda's voice interrupted his thoughts, and he suppressed a groan, looking up. As well as he was doing with conversation skills, Potter was a challenge he'd rather put off for a few weeks. Or a few years. Or forever. 

 "Yes?" he asked wearily. 

"Harry wants to know if he can speak to you."

Draco looked over at Potter, trying to gauge how likely it was that he could just say no. So far his chances were looking slim. 

"I don't know. Can he?" Draco raised a brow, looking at Andromeda. She didn't look amused. 

 "Alright, fine." He stood, following Potter out of the room. Why do I feel like this is a bad idea?

***

 "So," Potter said through gritted teeth, pacing the length of the small room. "You."

"Yes, me," Draco muttered, looking up tiredly at the low attic ceiling, wishing Potter had chosen somewhere less claustrophobic to talk. Of all the places in this house... "What did you want to speak about?"

 "Why you're here." Potter sounded annoyed, which was a small comfort to Draco.

"What do you mean, 'why I'm here'? Last I checked, I don't answer to you." 

Potter glared at him. "Last I checked, you answered to the Dark Lord," he snapped, and Draco flinched, biting his lip. 

"Yes, well, that didn't exactly work out, as you can see."

 "Yes, I can see that." Potter stopped his pacing, looking right at Draco. "Why? Did You-Know-Who realize you're as much of a failure as your dad?" 

Something flipped inside Draco. He stalked across the room, shoving Potter against the wall. Potter's eyes widened, and he tried to struggle out of Draco's grip. 

 "Don't you dare speak about my father. Ever," Draco hissed, gripping Potter's shoulders tightly. "You have no right."

 Potter glared at him defiantly, drawing his wand. "Let go of me. Now." 

 "You get the hell out of my life and stay out." Draco stepped back, his hands curled into fists. "And that wasn't a request." 

Potter glared at him, stalking across the room and disappearing down the ladder. Draco bit his lip, glaring after him.

When Draco walked downstairs, he could hear Andromeda arguing with Potter over something in the kitchen. He sighed and went to the living room, where Teddy sat on the floor rolling an empty bottle back and forth. He looked up when Draco walked in, tilting his head. Draco sat down, sighing, and picked up a book from the coffee table. A minute later Potter stormed through, grabbing a handful of Floo Powder and stepping into the fireplace, disappearing in a moment. 

Andromeda walked in, sighing. "What happened?"

 Draco scoffed, closing his book. "Same as always. He was sticking his nose where it didn't belong, and got mouthy when I told him to stick it somewhere else." 

Andromeda frowned, but didn't say anything.

 "And it's not any of his business why I'm here," Draco muttered, crossing his arms. He knew he was being petulant, but he really, really did not care. Andromeda was silent for a while.

 "Harry thinks," she said finally, slowly. "that I should let Shacklebolt take you in for questioning."

 Draco looked up at her in disbelief. "Questioning? For what?"

 "He thinks you might be able to give them the information they need to bring down the Dark Lord."

"Information? I've been locked up for six months! I'm even more in the dark than you are!" Draco stood, his fists clenched at his sides. "If you think I'm going to help you — I don't owe you anything! Look at what happened to me!" He gestured to his scarred face. "You would have let me die!"

 Andromeda frowned. "Draco —"

"You let Daphne die! You let my parents die, and hundreds of others, for what?" 

 Andromeda swallowed, looking guilty. "Draco, it was for the greater good of our cause. We had to wait, and gather more information —"

 "Greater good?"  Draco cut in, staring at her in disgust. "Do you know who you sound like?"

 Andromeda began to stammer a response, but Draco had already stormed out of the room. 

He slammed the door to his room, letting out a frustrated growl and punching the wall, hard. 

"Ow...!" he whimpered, glaring at the wall and clutching his now possibly broken fist. He inhaled sharply, muttering a few choice words under his breath, and sat on the bed. His hand hurt, but he wasn't going to Andromeda for help. No, he would be just fine without help. 

***

 Draco woke early in the morning, and after verifying Andromeda was still asleep, quietly crept down to the kitchen. 

While he was searching through the freezer for the ice pack he knew was in there somewhere, he heard a shuffling sound behind him, but didn't think much of it — Andromeda had a cat, so it was probably just that. 

So it was an unpleasant surprise when he turned around and came face to face with Astoria Greengrass. 

 Draco gasped, stumbling backwards, muttering curses under his breath. Astoria covered his mouth, holding a finger up to her lips. 

 "Shh," she whispered. "I'm just dropping off some potions for Andromeda. Are you alright? What happened to your hand?" 

Draco shook her off, pushing past her and heading to the chest of drawers where Andromeda kept dish towels. "I'm fine."

Astoria followed him, to his chagrin, and grabbed his arm, examining his bruised knuckles. "Did you punch something?"

"I said I'm fine!" Draco snapped, jerking his arm out of her grasp; the sleeve of his shirt had slipped up, revealing a portion of the brand on his arm, the head of a snake just visible under several scratch marks. 

"I'm sorry," Astoria said quickly. "I can heal it, if you'd like." 

Draco sighed in relief — she hadn't seen the Mark. His relief lasted about three seconds. 

"I — mine hurt too. Lavender helps with the burning." She pulled up the sleeve of her dark blue robe, gradually revealing a mark — the same one that covered Draco's own forearm. Faded scratches crossed it as well, and the skin around it was rubbed raw. 

 "They — the Death Eaters — made me take it." Astoria's voice was quiet and serious for the first time in Draco's memory, and quivered as she continued. "Before they — Before they let us go. They wanted to chase us. Make a game of it. They branded us so they could let us know when they — whenever they were close."

 Draco's stomach twisted; he had heard the Death Eaters talking loudly outside his cell of such games, before he and his parents were moved to the courtroom prior to the — He couldn't bring himself to think 'execution'. 

 "That's sick," he forced out, feeling he needed to say somethinganything, to fill the silence. 

Astoria sighed. "It wasn't so horrible after the first few hours. I just kind of got used to it." She plastered on a smile, but her eyes were watery. 

"I'm sorry," she said after a moment. "Typical me, bringing down the mood with my sob story." To his own surprise, Draco found himself shaking his head. 

 "Talking about it helps," he said. "I— I don't mind."

Astoria sighed. "No, really, I shouldn't be putting it on you, you've got enough to worry about. I — Normally I talk to myself about it," she said, looking embarrassed. Draco nodded, understanding. More than once he had found himself talking to the air late at night. 

 "I should go," Astoria said, rubbing her eyes with her sleeve. "I can heal your hand, if you want."

Draco blinked away his confusion. During their conversation he had forgotten the pain in his hand; Now it was back, and worse than ever. 

 "Thank you," he said quietly, holding his hand out to her. She held it,  palm down, and tapped her wand against the knuckles several times, murmuring an incantation. The pain subsided, and Draco could feel the bones clicking back into their proper place. Wiggling his fingers, he looked at Astoria, who was already putting her wand away. 

 "Would you like to stay?" he found himself saying, before he could catch himself. Astoria looked at him, surprise clear by her startled expression, which slowly melted to an apologetic grimace as she looked at her wristwatch. 

 "Oh, no, sorry. I have to get home, I've got a Calming Draught brewing and I can't leave it."

Draco nodded, something like disappointment settling inside him. "Alright, that's fine."

"I can come over later, if you want." Astoria looked up at him. "Or tomorrow. What do you prefer?" 

"Andromeda's out tomorrow," he said, shrugging. "I'd prefer then."

Astoria nodded, looking understanding. "She can be a bit overwhelming, can't she?" 

Draco nodded, sighing, and ran his newly healed hand through his hair. "No kidding..." 

There was a creaking sound from above, and both Draco and Astoria looked up. 

"I'd better go," Astoria said. "See you tomorrow." 

"Yeah, see you tomorrow." Draco held up his hand. "Thanks for healing this."

She flashed him a smile. "Try not to break it again. I'll bring you something for your arm when I come over."

"Yeah, thanks," he said. "See you then."

"See you then." With a swish of navy blue robes, Astoria was gone. Draco glanced to the ceiling before heading back upstairs to his room. 

 

Chapter Text

"Draco, wake up..." Andromeda's voice roused Draco from what had formerly been a pleasant sleep. He groaned, cursing himself for keeping the door unlocked. Wait, had he locked the door? It seemed like it. He groaned again.

 "Draco, please. I'm going out today and I need you to watch Teddy for me." 

Oh, right. She is going out, isn't she? He sighed, moving the pillow from his face. "Alright, I'm getting up." 

 Andromeda nodded. "Breakfast is downstairs, and Astoria is stopping by to drop off some potions," she said, walking out and closing the door. Draco sighed, sitting up and dragging the covers back. 

 He looked through the small closet, surveying the assortment of maroon sweaters, faded jeans, and a handful of t-shirts that Andromeda had found in the attic that had belonged to Nymphadora, along with a single robe and cloak. After finally dressing in a t-shirt and some jeans that were slightly less threadbare than the rest, he went downstairs and nearly ran into Andromeda.

 "Breakfast is on the table," she said, ducking around him to reach a vial on the table beside him. "Give this to Teddy if he gets fussy, and remember to keep him away from the stairs."

 Draco nodded, taking the vial. Andromeda ruffled his hair, picking up her cloak. "Be careful, and make sure you get something for lunch, I'm not going to be back until late." 

 "Alright," he said. She sighed, kissing his forehead, and hurried out. He stared after her for a moment before heading upstairs to check on Teddy. 

***

Astoria appeared just before lunchtime, a basket full of vials and bottles over one arm. She smiled at Draco as she walked by, then positively grinned when she saw Teddy in his arms. Teddy giggled, holding his arms out to her and nearly toppling out of Draco's grip. Astoria put down her basket, catching the child.

 "Tassy!" Teddy exclaimed, hugging Astoria tightly. She chuckled, kissing his head. 

 "Oh, how's my big boy?" Teddy responded with incoherent babbling, but Astoria nodded along. "Oh, really?" 

Draco sighed, looking at her. "We were just about to have lunch. Do you want anything?" 

 "Oh, what are you having?" Astoria asked, shifting Teddy to her hip.

 "Well, Teddy is having a bottle, and you and I, if you want, will be having..." He glanced over his shoulder into the kitchen. "Tangerines and hard-boiled eggs."

Astoria smiled. "I'd be delighted." She ruffled Teddy's lime-green hair, earning a lopsided grin from the child that showed all three of his teeth. Draco smiled a little, already glad he'd invited Astoria over. 

***

Draco sat on the couch in the living room, sitting still as possible while some mind-numbingly boring Muggle film about a bear of very low intelligence (or something of that sort) played on the television set. Teddy's bright yellow head rested on his chest, drool dripping from his mouth, while Astoria snored on his shoulder. He looked up in alarm when he heard the front door creak open, then sighed in relief when it was only Andromeda. 

 "Everything alright?" she asked quietly, setting a wooden box and several parcels on the table and walking into the living room. He nodded, though in his opinion having his best shirt (not that that was saying much) covered in baby slobber wasn't very alright with him. 

 "Do you need me to take Teddy?" 

He shook his head. "I don't want to wake him," he said, then gestured to Astoria. "Or her." 

Andromeda nodded. She sighed, looking at the television and giving Draco a pitying glance. 

 "Dreadfully boring, isn't it?" she said. He nodded. She smiled a little. 

 "I'll be making dinner. Oh, and a friend of mine asked if you'd mind visiting for a while tomorrow, he said he could help you with a new wand."

Draco's heart leapt; he hadn't used a wand since the night Andromeda found him; he'd lost Theodore's father's wand when he passed out. The thought of having a new one, his own, was almost enough for him to forgive Andromeda for trying to make him go in for questioning. Almost. 

 "Okay," he said. Andromeda smiled and walked out. Draco sighed, looking over at Astoria and nudging her head with his shoulder. She grunted, opening her eyes and looking up at him. 

 "What?" she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. "I'm not changing Teddy again."

 "Andromeda's back." 

 Astoria swore. "I meant to leave before she got back. Sorry."

 "It's fine." Draco smiled a little, offering his hand. She took it and he stood, pulling her up off the couch. 

 "Thanks," she said, sighing and brushing wrinkles out of her burgundy robes. "I'm gonna go."

 "Alright. See you later."

"See you later." She smiled, kissing Teddy's head and ruffling Draco's hair. He could feel his face growing warmer as she turned and walked away. 

After the front door closed, he let go of the breath he'd been holding. "Well then," he said quietly, and went to the kitchen,where Andromeda was calling for him to help with dinner.