He stood towards the back of the room, his back straight and his jaw tense. For all intents and purposes, he was invisible in the dark of the room. He watched the blush and lilac blurs up on the stage and he pressed his lips together, his teeth cracking with the pressure.
She was up there, her curls bouncing and bobbing, her smile bright; her eyes sparkling. She was everything.
She wasn’t his.
The reality hit him like a punch in the gut and he took a step back, and another, ready to make a break for it.
His feet had other ideas and he sighed, swearing lightly under his breath before he turned and moved into the corner, hidden in the recesses of the large room.
Normally he would have been disinterested; inattentive.
He was riveted.
His chin ticked up as he watched her move, gracefully for such a small body, winding through the arms of the others around her.
He tucked his hands in his pockets, pushing back his suit jacket and felt absurd as he stood stock still, one number bleeding into the next.
Surrounded by muggles with their contraptions in their hands, a faint glow lighting the house of the theater, he knew he had no right to be there.
And yet, she had invited him.
It wasn’t the first time.
No, the first had been 2 years previous and then again the next year.
The owls always found him with a hastily scrawled message and an envelope.
Always two tickets inside.
Imbecile , he thought to himself with a scoff, she never meant for you to use them .
Yet, he was decidedly firm in his stance.
When the music had died and the muggle woman walked onto the stage, tapping the top of the device in her hand, he watched as she walked to the edge when her name was called.
Her name .
She gave a dainty little curtsy, her fingertips curling up at the tops as she dipped her head low.
Lips moving of their own accord he felt the smile that pulled at the tight muscles in his face.
“And as always at Tiptoes and Tappers , we believe that a love of dance and movement starts at home. We would like to welcome families to come dance with their children,” the woman smiled broadly as people began to move.
He didn’t dare breathe.
Instead he watched as adults began to move, claiming their own, but his eyes were on the small person before him; completely enraptured until-
She looked the same as she had years before, when he had foolishly given her so much of himself. When the war had fallen to the wayside and he had tumbled into her arms. When so much of him had wanted this; had wanted her .
Curls tucked on top of her head, a sundress that hugged her figure, and he closed his eyes as he tried to impede the onslaught of memories that only seemed to torment him when his carefully sculpted walls were down.
She was everything she had ever been, he only wished he could have been that for her.
He opened his eyes once more to see her picking up the little creature at her knees. Together, like this, he could see the difference; night and day.
Burnt cinnamon and platinum.
Sunkissed and fair.
Dark and Light.
She danced them around, her arms and her smile full, until another set of arms joined them.
He felt the hot creep of bitterness that crawled up his chest, tightening his throat as he watched his childhood best friend dancing with them. His sandy blonde hair was coiffed, his dress shirt rolled up at the cuffs, exposing his forearms and the little being held her arms out, allowing Theo to pull her into them. He felt his own forearm tingle, though the bastard hadn’t been around for years, his mark was still only slowly fading. Reminding of what he had done; what it had cost him.
A constant reminder of why he stood in the shadows.
An onlooker in the life that might have been his.
The music slowed as the lights started to come up and he closed his eyes once more, remembering this.
Before he turned on his heel and left them behind.
He had barely made it out of the squat gray building before he heard his name. For a moment he thought of continuing on, ducking into the closest alley and disapparating, instead he turned, meeting her eyes in the dim light of the streetlamp.
“I didn’t-” she breathed as she came to stand before him. She shook her head, “I’m glad you came.”
Because what else could he say? The time for apologies had long since past.
She waited, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, and he gave a dark chuckle as he ducked his head to stare at his dragonhide shoes. Because if that wasn’t something he had thought about, dreamed about, in the last five years.
“Look,” she finally began and he could hear that tone in her voice. “I was wondering if you- would you like to meet her?”
He looked up sharply, storm clouds meeting honey, as he took in her words and the thought of the little child with blonde ringlets and a dimple on her cheek made his heart ache.
Visions played through his head as he thought of the joy his mother would take in knowing that she had a granddaughter, the idea of tucking her into bed at night and leaning in to smell her freshly washed curls. He almost smiled at the thought of the family house elf, Tippy helping to raise her and the trouble the pair would get in to. But reality was a fickle bitch, and instead he shook his head.
“No,” he said simply and with a shake of his head, he turned to walk away.
“She’s amazing, you know,” Hermione called out, “She’s four and already reading, her favorite is ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’ and Merlin knows that was your father’s favorite.”
Draco was rooted to his spot. He was sure he was a masochist, an addict gleaning for more; always just a little more.
He felt his lips quirk up at the witch’s words though, remembering how they had laughed as he had recanted the story of his father’s angry-and drunken- tirade about the children’s tale. Of how his father had tried to burn every copy but Tippy had saved one, just one, that she read to him every night.
“She loves to dance and- and she has a horrible sweet tooth. I swear she’s going to turn into a biscuit,” she laughed, “She loves to ride on the broom Harry got for her and she’s only fallen off twice, a fact she’s very proud of. And, she loves the Falmouth Falcons even though it drives Theo crazy and-”
Her words were innocuous but they were like ice water down his back. He felt his spine straighten; his shoulders stiffen.
“Thank you,” he bit out the words and he didn’t have to turn to know that she would flinch at the rancor that oozed between those two simple words, “For the invitation.”
He didn’t wait around to hear any more as he turned the nearest corner, palming his wand, and twisted away.
The door to the study was open when he arrived and he passed by tensely, keeping the facade until he had found the confines and safety of his room.
With a flick he locked and warded his door and slid down it, his hands gripping the roots of his hair until the pain was too much to bear.
Standing on shaky and unsteady legs he walked to the cabinet and pulled out a glass and hoped he could forget that he had ever loved Hermione Granger.
What's this? Another chapter? I thought it was a one-shot. you say
Well, you know it's nearing 2 am and these things happen.
I actually have a complete idea of where this story is going (Thanks Tippy!)
and it's going to hurt so good.
No promises as to an update schedule because I'm avoiding other life things at the moment.
but I love hearing your thoughts and it spurs me on.
Again, we die like men.
He supposed, as he looked down at the ornate black box that he should feel something akin to sadness.
Instead, as he reached out to run a hand down the garish, jewel encrusted coffin before him he just felt ...relief.
All encompassing, broad, sweeping relief.
The weight that had settled upon his shoulders sometime between his first memory and his first year at Hogwarts was lifted.
He wished he could feel grief or sorrow, Merlin he’d even give in to anger.
Instead he just felt removed; as though he were watching from the outside looking in. And to be fair, he might as well have been for all the help he was. His mother had taken charge, as she often did, as soon as his father had taken his last breath.
It had been a long time coming, a slow acting curse from one of his old comrades; someone he was supposed to have been able to trust that had destroyed the one thing he actually cared about; himself
The irony was lost on no one.
“Draco, darling,” he turned at his mother’s voice, watching as she swept in to the room with a purpose. Her long, shadowy grey dress should have been somber. She was, after all, a pureblooded widow far past the age of remarrying.
Instead, she looked regal and unyielding.
Like Hermione , he thought before he quickly bit the inside of his cheek. The thought had hit him out of nowhere and he brought himself back to the present, to his father’s corpse not yet in the ground, to keep from letting his walls slip.
“Yes Mother,” he spoke tightly.
“The guests will be arriving shortly, come in to the parlour,” her tone left no room for arguments and he gave a curt nod as he turned away from his father’s coffer and offered his mother his arm. They were silent for a moment, as they left the room behind, and Draco wondered if it was a force of habit; keeping their thoughts to themselves in the company of the man who detested the thought that they might have free will. They reached the parlour and his mother smiled, patting his arm, “I received word that Teddy Nott will be attending this evening.”
She said this so casually that Draco thought nothing more of it as he slid his arm free, ignoring the slow swell of something that was brewing and bubbling in his gut, “We’re adults now mother, he doesn’t go by Teddy anymore.”
His mother sat herself down in the armchair, waving him away, “He will always be Teddy to me. Such an obnoxious child but I hear he is quite the charmer now.”
Draco hummed noncommittally as he leaned upon the mantle, his gaze intent on the small flames dancing inside.
His thoughts drifted to Theo and, as such, to Hermione. He felt that familiar swell again as he thought of them together at the dance recital. It took him longer than he would care to admit that the emotion fermenting within him was anger. Anger at the boy who had once been his best friend, his confidant when all else had abandoned him. The only one who had really known about his relationship with Hermione Granger throughout the brief but torrid affair. His best friend that had seen him fall for the highbrow witch and had seen the aftermath of destruction left in their stormy wake.
He shook his head and turned away from the fire.
“Where are you going?” his mother asked and he turned to glance over his shoulder at her quirked and questioning brow.
“I need a drink,” he said simply and he didn’t stop as he walked out the large door and up the stairs to the study, ignoring the stares of the portraits as he walked.
This was his now, the whole damned legacy that the wretched man lying in repose a floor below had sought to command. At one point he had hungered for the power and the bloody reverence that his father had wielded so mercilessly.
Now he only saw the ruins of what that power left behind. The hollow eyes of his mother, the feigned respect of other wizards that had less to do with admiration than abhorrence. Now he could see what it had cost them. What it had cost him .
He wanted nothing to do with it.
It was here, as he poured himself far too many fingers of firewhisky, that he let himself think of her.
He could remember it, that night, when she had come to him. If he thought of it, he could still remember what she tasted like on his lips; all salt and vaguely like strawberries. Her hands had been shaking as she fiddled with the soft amethyst cloak he had bought her, the one he would never tell her had been weaved with protective enchantments but was fairly certain she already knew.
The words had reverberated around his skull for days. Weeks. Years .
They rattled around even now as he thought of tight blonde ringlets and lilac tutus.
And the man who held them both between his arms.
He clenched his jaw so tightly he felt the tendons pop. He tossed back the rest of his drink, uncaring that it ignited his throat and scorched his chest as he hurled the crystal glass in his hand at the wall furthest from him.
The ensuing crunch of glass did little to sway his mood and it was with his fists clenched tightly inside the pockets of his suit jacket that he left his father’s study and made his way back downstairs at his mother’s beckoning.
He put on his carefully sculpted mask and even held it there as callers passed, shaking his hand as they offered him spurious condolences for the man they too had surely detested.
He had just finished up one such conversation, with a wizard he couldn’t remember whose face had contorted when he had said Lucius would be missed, when he sensed her. It was as though the air had shifted around him and he looked up, eyes searching until he found her.
He swallowed thickly as his eyes met hers, his heart thudding against his ribs and thundering in his ears as he watched her pull her bottom lip between her teeth. He held her stare until another wizard appeared before him, spouting lies about his father’s character that no one believed, and when he looked back up, she wasn’t alone.
He pressed his nails into the palm of his hand, his knuckles clenching, as he watched Theo help her gently from her cloak, his long fingers tangling in her loose hair as he freed her from it.
Draco looked away, meeting the gaze of yet another wizard wanting to give him condolences that he didn’t need.
His mother found him first, her arm looping through his just as Draco felt them- felt her - draw nearer and he had never been happier for his mother’s interference as Theo appeared before him.
“Draco,” the man said, his voice heavier than the last time he could remember hearing him speak. Perhaps they had all grown more than he thought in their years apart. “Missus Malfoy.”
“Please, Teddy,” his mother said, not unkindly, to the man before her, “It’s Narcissa.”
Her tone left no room for arguments and the man before them nodded, “You remember Hermione Granger I presume.”
Draco turned his head, away from the witch who had stepped closer to him and saw his mother’s brow arch.
“Is there another?”
“No,” Theo laughed lightly, and Draco saw him slip his arm around Hermione’s waist, pulling her closer, holding her against him. “No, there is not.”
“It is good to see you Narcissa,” Hermione’s voice was solid, unwavering, and despite his best efforts, he felt his gaze drawn to hers. “Draco.”
He nodded once, his throat bobbing as he choked down the words that threatened; he didn’t trust his own voice.
“I am sorry for your loss,” Theo said the words automatically, “Let us know if you need anything.”
“Of course dear,” his mother said lightly, offering his hand a soft pat before she asked him of his mother and father.
Hermione stepped up even with Draco then, her gaze holding his, her voice quiet, cautious. “Are you alright?”
His hand twitched against his side and he gave a short nod, because of course she would ask him that. She had seen the scars his father had left, both the physical and those that were buried deep below the surface.
“I am sorry,” she continued on and Draco looked down at his dress shoes, closing his eyes as her words washed over him. “That he could never be who you hoped he could and- and I hope that you find peace.”
He looked up then, his eyes meeting hers, and he could feel it then; anger, sorrow and all consuming regret for all that he had done. All that he had lost.
He itched to touch her, to feel her skin below his fingertips and taste her on his tongue. Instead he watched as Theo reached out, lacing his fingers with her and gently tugging her away.
And all he could do was watch her walk away.
He wanted to rage. To throw things and make a scene and make damn sure that anyone who was anyone would know what he had done to Hermione Granger for the benefit of the bastard that now lay in the ground.
Instead he had waited until the guests had all left, back to the lives that hadn’t, presumably , been completely shattered by Lucius Malfoy.
Leaving Draco and Narcissa, once again, hopelessly and thoroughly alone.
He had left the too dark halls of the manor and apparated across the country side to the Leaky, knowing it was good for a quick pint if nothing else.
Which was how he found himself hunched over the bar top, giving off the air of someone who wanted nothing more than to be left alone.
His long fingers twirled the glass around the wood between drinks as he watched the contents slosh against the edges.
The sound of the barstool on his left sliding out made him glance up and he felt his jaw tick as he saw Theo sliding in beside him.
Draco scoffed and took another long drink, draining his glass. He sat it down, tapping the top once more before another appeared before him, his empty glass vanishing. He had never been more grateful for magic than when he wanted to get shitfaced.
“I am sorry, you know,” Theo said again after a moment, his own drink held between his hands.
Draco looked up then, meeting his friend's warm gaze, it made his anger boil over, “About my arse of a father or fucking my girlfriend?”
“What then Theo because I’m not sure I really want to hear it right now,” he said as he made to stand up, eager to be anywhere but there.
Theo reached out and grabbed hold of his wrist, holding him in place. Draco looked down at where the man’s fingers held him and then back up, his own brow quirking. Theo gave a sheepish grin and let his grip slip away.
“You were gone,You had made a choice and-” he said quietly, “And it took a long time for her to be okay again Drake.”
“Well,” he paused, “She seemed to look just fine to me.”
It was Theo’s turn to scoff at that and he too stood up, shaking his head as he tossed some galleons down on the counter. “I don’t know why I even bothered.”
“Bothered?” Draco asked, stumbling slightly as he held his arms us at his sides.
“Go home Draco,” Theo said, “Before you make any other choices you clearly regret.”
“What do you want Theo? You want to rub it in my face that you finally got the girl? Well, congratulations, you’ve done it.” Draco sat his glass down to clap slowly and exaggeratedly at the man before him.
“Stop,” Theo growled. “That’s not it-”
Draco laughed, “What do you want then Theo?”
“I’m going to ask her to marry me,” he said and Draco felt the floor slip out from under him. Everything was wrong . “I want- I want us to be a proper family and I thought. You know what, nevermind.”
He shook his head before he called out to the barkeep, tossing another few coins down on the bar top, “Make sure he doesn’t end up lying in a ditch somewhere ya?”
Draco scoffed as he watched the man give him one last withering look before walking away and he sniffed as he picked up the glass on the counter and drained it once again.
His chest ached and his eyes prickled but tonight- tonight he was going to forget.