Draco held the door to his quarters open for Ivy to pass through, not missing the way her breaths grew rapid and shallow to pair with the audible racing of her heart. He closed the large wooden blockade and leaned his forehead against its ornate carvings while he took a few deep inhales and slow exhales to calm himself before he moved to address her. What could he say? How could he make any move that would not increase her fear of him? She had to have seen the monster that lived within. Kingsley had been wrong in defending him, too forgiving of his crimes. Unforgivable curses had been cast through his wand and spoken from his lips. He had killed. He had tortured. He had manipulated. There was nothing left unsullied within him, and somehow he was expected to turn around and tell his Ivy Lane that she had no reason to be afraid.
Can I tell such a lie? Malfoy asked himself, knowing that her dark cavernous gaze was locked onto the back of his head. No. He decided with a huff. But he could take her fear away. Yes, that was something that he could certainly do. It would be a kindness.
“Get changed into your garments for bed, Ivy Lane. Your things are already in the dresser.” He said as he turned towards the young witch, who he knew had been told to obey him while in his care. Without hesitation, she turned towards the head girl's room and Draco called out only seconds before she closed the door an afterthought. “And put on the bathrobe that’s on your bed before you come out. Socks too. It gets chilly at night.” He explained. There was no sense in her being cold on top of being nervous.
Draco moved towards his small kitchenette, pulled down two stemmed glasses and found the vials he had borrowed from Snape’s storeroom. When the missing potions were noticed, it would be blamed on Neville Longbottom who had been given the task of doing inventory during detention. There was no reason to believe that Malfoy had taken them, and no witnesses to accuse him. With shaking hands, he uncapped the first vial which was translucent and purple. A small amount of it would go a long way, and he utilized the dropper from his own potions kit to make a precise measurement. Three drops dreamless sleep. He recited to himself, then pulled the cork from a cloudier blue potion that he poured half of into the same glass. They had all learned in fourth year to brew a calming draught, but he had not had the time to do so. Days had passed too quickly since Ivy arrived to find a moment for personal potions work. For now, this would have to do.
On top of the mixture, which did not react in any way that he could observe, Draco added a heavy pour of the darkest red wine that he had been able to confiscate from Slytherin house. It blended well, hiding the potions within it in both appearance and scent and he let out a sigh of relief. She would never know. The blond wizard poured himself a glass as well and took them both to the table in front of his couch, paying close attention as to not mix up the two. For absolute certainty, his drink moved back into his hand and he downed half of it in two large gulps. Thank Merlin…
“Draco, is that for me?” Ivy made her presence known and carefully closed the bedroom door behind her until it latched firmly. There was too little air circulation in the dungeons for there to be a draft to reopen it, but Draco reasoned Ivy had no way of knowing that. She was just being polite.
He forced a smile and nodded. “Yes it is. Come sit with me, Ivy Lane.”
She moved to the opposite end of the couch, drowning in the too large robe he had put in her room. It was Astoria’s - who was a full head taller and several years older - but he had not found time to send for something by post. Ivy picked up the glass, swishing it around gently as she had seen adults do, and stared at the liquid before speaking up. “I’ve never had wine before. My father wrote to me once when I was traveling with friends and he said that I wasn’t allowed.”
“He told me the same thing a time or two. Good thing he isn’t here to scold us, isn’t it?” Draco took his own sip to emphasize, but the witch did not budge. An exasperated sigh left his chest, but he turned to the girl and lifted his glass in a toast. “Don’t worry about me telling your father. This will be our little secret. Have you ever had a secret before? A real one? Not something your friends actually wanted everyone to know.”
As he knew she would, Ivy shook her head. Of course she hadn’t. Unlike him, she was raised as a creature of the light that did not withhold from her elders. This did not stop a shy smile from spreading across her face and a flush of pink from rising to her pale skin. “No, but I think I would like to try one. A secret.”
“To trying new things,” Draco said, adding an extra flourish to his pronouncement with a wave of his free hand while they clinked glasses. He sipped his own drink only to taste, pretending to gulp much longer than he did, because he knew she would follow his example. As nervous as she was and as misplaced as it may have been, Ivy trusted him.
Her nose wrinkled when she had downed nearly half of her own heavily poured glass through oversipping, and therefore half of the potions he had added to it, and quickly her mouth was overtaken with a wide yawn. Soon she would grow from giggly, to loose lipped, lazily lethargic and then simply drift off to sleep. “It’s good.” Ivy smirked with the awkwardness of youth and her stiff spine relaxed against the back of the sofa. What little Draco could see of her hands peeking out from the oversized sleeves lost their tension, and he felt instant relief.
“Hermione looked lovely, didn’t she? My father seemed pleased.”
Malfoy noticed a bit of admiration for the older witch in her tone and he nodded in agreement. “Yeah. You did a good job. When Astoria returns for her marking, you should be her bathmaid too. The two of you can practice doing her hair ahead of time. It’s easier to manage than Granger’s, don’t worry about that. Less likely to give you a rope burn while braiding.” Draco loved running his fingers through Astoria’s strawberry locks when they laid in bed together, and he was instantly reminded of the place he would much rather be. It was easier with her - okay, it was easier with Granger even - than with the familiar face that sat next to him. He knew nothing of being her age that would be of much use to the flow of conversation or their entertainment. Truthfully, he half expected her to propose a poorly mimicked tea party within the week.
Ivy looked down at her glass and took another sip that caused her lips to pucker, which she shook off quickly. “I bet Astoria is even prettier than Hermione. Far prettier than me for sure. You’re very lucky.”
The wizard frowned before reminding himself of the insecure nature that girls in his own house showed at thirteen. On more than one occasion he had needed to send Astoria into the bathroom to comfort one that was crying over a zit or bad haircut. But for Ivy to worry made no sense. She was a Veela. If meeting Fleur Delacour had taught him anything, it was that even part Veelas were stunning and certainly were well aware that that was the case. Had the humility that Snape taught her really rooted itself deeper than her very nature? While impossible sounding, Draco had seen more impossible things in his life come to fruition. This doubt of hers was something he could rectify, feeling wrong that she believed such a damning falsehood.
“You are the most beautiful witch I’ve ever seen, Ivy Lane.”
This time, her cheeks were closer to scarlet as she drank to avoid looking him in the eyes. “Thanks.”
“Not a problem.” Draco rolled the stem of his glass between his thumb and fingers, spinning it to swish the wine around for his amusement, and pretended not to watch her from the corner of his eye while she finished off the glass.
Could the minutes have passed any slower if they tried? Was time itself out to get him? Malfoy held back a groan and tried not to look at the large wooden clock on his mantle. If this was somehow his punishment for a lifetime of mistakes, then the Light was surely the least just force in the universe. It needn't take his actions out on her, dragging out the inevitability of her intelligent mind racing through horrible scenarios that Draco could unfortunately imagine. Based on her words when they spoke of their betrothal, she feared what he could want from her. And Draco could not shake the fear from his core that the scenarios only worsened from there. More than all of it, he refused to be the monster that lived under her bed and slithered it’s way into her bad dreams.
“I didn’t have any, just so you know.” The girl set down her glass and picked up a pillow that she hugged to her chest and wrested her chin on. Her legs were tucked under and she bounced her knees lazily.
Draco cocked his head. “Any what?”
“Friends.” She answered quietly, embarrassment evident in her tone. “The kids at school said I was odd. None of them wanted to be my friends. And-“ She stopped as quickly as she began.
He leaned forward, making himself lower than her. “Tell me, Ivy Lane. And what?”
The raven haired girl would have cried if she had been able, the inability an unwanted side effect of the concoction he had put in her drink. “-And you didn’t write to me. You said- no you promised you would send me a letter as soon as I left so it would be there when I got to France and you never sent even one stupid letter. That’s all I wanted. Just one.”
A lump that could not be dislodged formed in Draco’s throat and he could not quell the guilt that rose within him. In so many ways he had already failed her, and excuses that he had no longer been allowed to remember who she was could never take away the hurt of his silence. But what was an apology in the face of that pain? Four years alone with no one to talk to. It was no longer a wonder Ivy had grown cold, but a logical end. A touch of sick twisted destiny to make a tender hearted child turn to stone.
With a rush of energy, emboldened by the light buzz from the drinks he had consumed at the marking celebration, Draco quickly went to his rooms and opened his trunk. Rummaging down to the very bottom - past overly chewed quills, crumpled parchments and female quidditch magazines - he found what he had envisioned. It was a leather bound journal his mother had bought him for no discernible reason and only the first few pages had been marked. None of it was important - they looked to be old charms notes - so he tore out the scribblings and brought it back to the common area. Malfoy placed it next to the girl with his hand spread over its cover then crouched down on the floor and lowered his voice, trying to speak with the utmost sincerity. Draco had humbled himself before the dark lord out of fear and schmoozed his way through school when his grades were less than the perfect marks Lucius had expected. Being below was not entirely unusual but this was different in ways he could not deny. For one, he wanted the best for the witch he spoke to. Whatever that best may cost him.
“I am sorry that I never wrote to you, Ivy Lane. It was very, very wrong of me to go back on my word. I realize that I have hurt you and cannot take that back, but I would like to show you I can do better if you’ll let me. May I?”
Her eyebrows scrunched and eyes narrowed, the dramatics of girlhood more endearing to him than they were forgein, but she nodded in stubborn agreement.
“Thank you.” Draco picked the book up and waited for her to take it from him. “In this book, I will write you letters and you can write them back to me. When one of us is done writing we can leave it right here on the sofa for the other to find. I’ll even charm it tomorrow so only you and I can read what it says. Consider it our special journal. You can write me anything in this book and no matter what it is you won’t get in any trouble. I will never tell anyone and if you ever need help I will protect you from anything. Okay?”
Ivy took the book in her hand and put it on top of her pillow, running her hand over its cover. “Yes. Okay.”
For reasons unknown to him, Draco smiled widely before reaching his arms around the girl and kissing her sweetly on the top of her head. As he had done the same thing a hundred times before, his arms knew hers and his nose recognized the smell of her hair. This girl was not a half Veela, a wedding gift, a mad woman or any other foolish title others decided to use to put her into their own ‘little boxes’. If they believed she was, they couldn’t have known her at all. Same as the day she had been born and was placed in Draco’s five year old arms by his nervous godfather, she was his Ivy.
“I won’t let you down this time.” Sitting down where he had started the evening, his little witch moved the pillow, one that would from then on be her’s, to his lap and laid her head upon it while she turned to the fireplace. Her eyes fluttered once, twice and then no more as the draw of dreamless sleep took her.
Though he had planned to carry her to her bed when the potions won against her strong will, Draco instead watched the flames dance on her cheeks that were still rounded with youth. He pulled her black hair back from where pieces tickled her twitching nose and watched the lines of tension that reminded him of her father fade away. Ivy’s jaw unclenched, hands fell from their tight fists and her breaths turned deep and easy. It was after dawn when his own need for a few hours of rest pulled Draco’s eyes away from her sleeping face so he could tuck her into her bed, ward the door and unceremoniously plop into his own still wearing the dark suit he had chosen for the marking ceremony. He kicked off his shoes to free his feet from their prisons and found himself sleeping much better than he had in a long time.