It was in the moment that Harry Potter earnestly told the Wizengamot that he did not truly believe Draco Malfoy was evil that Draco began to wish Potter dead.
It was a surprisingly new feeling. Draco would have thought himself long familiar with it. For much of the past year, though, he'd wished the exact opposite. For the sake of his family, with each passing day his ancestral home was ruled by a noseless madman, there had been nothing Draco prayed for more than for Potter to be out there somewhere, ready to fulfill his destiny. To rid the world of darkness. To save it. To save him.
And Potter had, the world and Draco. From Fiendfyre, from the Dark Lord, and from Azkaban in turn, because of course Potter had taken the high road. He did the right thing no matter what. He didn't even hate Draco enough not to do that.
No, Draco had seen the way Potter looked at him with those Avada Kedavra-green eyes all through his trial. Potter was too far above him to hate him. The only thing there had been pity.
Draco wanted him dead for that pity.
For the pity that had been on his face as he waited for Draco and his mother at the door of the courtroom afterwards, not even seeming to notice all the stares on him. He'd just handed Draco back his wand without a word.
When Draco had tried to speak to him, Potter had walked away. Maybe he hadn't heard Draco. Or maybe he had.
The state of the Manor was pitiful when Draco and his mother returned to it. It had been picked all over, once by the side of dark and then by the side of light, Aurors checking it up to the minute of their arrival. Then they let his mother raise the wards again.
Except she didn't, because they were waiting for Draco to do it. His father had a true life sentence this time, so Draco was officially Lord Malfoy now.
Draco had feared his wand wouldn't work, that its allegiance would be too deeply to Potter along with the rest of the damn world's. But it raised the Manor's wards for Lord Malfoy.
Say one thing for being Lord Malfoy. The Lord was in possession of an astonishingly extensive wine cellar.
His mother gave him a wide enough berth for him to sneak down to the cellars unnoticed. She'd been eerily quiet since the Dark Lord fell. Since the Dark Lord rose again, really. Maybe they should have been celebrating their reprieve thanks to Potter's pity. Or mourning how that pity hadn't extended to Father. But despite how much time Draco had spent in his cell in Azkaban, thinking what he would say to his mother if he ever got the chance, neither of them seemed to have much to say to each other these days, even alone and safe. Draco found his comfort in a bottle instead, as only was tradition for a Lord Malfoy.
He didn't know what he would have said to Potter if he stayed and listened. He would have been expected to thank him, for one.
"Thank you for this, Potter," Draco said to the empty stone chamber behind the wine cellar, hearing his mirthless laugh swim over the walls with the same echo that tortured screams had, when it was Aunt Bella drawing them out with particular high-pitched desperation from their prisoners. He knew himself ungrateful, knew himself as rotten as his aunt's evil corpse decaying in the ground as he laughed, "Thank you, Potter! Thank you!"
He would have to be Lord Malfoy now, set about repairing what remained of the Manor and the name attached. Not to think of the prospect of whatever future awaited the bearer of that name.
He and his mother should be more than grateful, and that was a burn worse than whisky corroding his throat. They could both be dead or in Azkaban, and yet here they were, in a Manor they had both expected claimed in reparations that hadn't even tried to, with only an insignificant portion of the Malfoy fortune even stripped. They hadn't lost anything important but Father. And Vince. And Severus, if Draco was allowed to count him, even in his own head. They were so very intact still, thanks to Potter and his mercy.
Draco would be Lord Malfoy tomorrow, for his mother's sake. She needed him to be strong. And he would be. Tomorrow.
Tonight, he got drunk.
He soon didn't mind the cold and discomfort of the hard floor. Azkaban had bred out a certain level of his old sensitivity to creature comforts, and any distraction was welcome from his own thoughts. He poured out an entire bottle of brandy, because it had been Vince's favorite. He watched it trickle between the stones in rivulets over the gaps and mortar, certainly more beautiful than anything in Azkaban in the enchanted candlelight. He found that if he drank quickly enough, he could keep himself from thinking at all.
He was so drunk that by the time he tried to leave the empty room, he kept falling face-first against the walls. He was trying to head back towards the wine cellar and find another bottle of whisky or brandy, this one not to pour out. But he got turned around and ended up stumbling somewhere else instead, the charmed floating candle giving up on following him.
It didn't matter, with how the next room came alive with its own light. It illuminated a huge silver mirror, radiating from the sides in a stark white halo.
This was not a surprising occurrence, stumbling upon some strange room in the Manor with what looked a mysterious magical artifact inside. It had happened at least a dozen times in his childhood in this ghastly old place, even before there had been so many intruders poking around touching things and opening doors they shouldn't. There were a number of rules and safety procedures he'd had drilled into him back then by Father, to the point they had become second nature when discovering a new object like this. But Draco was drunk and curious enough to ignore the prompting of those instincts, justifying it to himself on the rationale that if there had been anything dangerous, the Aurors would have taken it away.
Really, he saw a mirror and wanted to look. To see some approximation of how he must have seemed to Potter outside that courtroom. A drunker approximation.
He staggered over to regard his reflection, letting the half-empty bottle drop and roll away over the old stones. He surveyed the vision he would have made, taking measure in turn of what shape he show his next two times compelled to leave the Manor anytime soon- Severus and Vince's funerals. Where he might or might not see Potter, probably not at the first and definitely not at the second. It depended on whether that noble pity extended to Potter's least favorite professor.
Severus, who from the sound of things had actually been on the side of light all along. Which made his funeral a curiously harder prospect than Vince's. It made sense for Vince to have perished in Hogwarts, the same as Aunt Bella and Voldemort, the same as it would have for Draco or his parents. But Severus had fought just as hard as Potter to take down the Dark Lord, harder no doubt in his Slytherin way, and death was his reward all the same, leaving only some ill-attended funeral to loom as the last reminder of the man who had been Draco's godfather.
It wasn't right for Potter to have saved so many, to have saved Draco, and fail Severus.
He hated Potter. He didn't want to see him at Severus's funeral.
He didn't want to go to Severus's funeral. He didn't want there to be a funeral, for Severus to have to have a funeral. Better his father or himself- or Potter, that would do quite nicely.
Merlin, he wished Potter was dead. If he could trade Potter for Severus, he would do it in a heartbeat. Or, yes, himself, if it came to it, because Severus had done what Draco couldn't. Severus was the reason Draco was here, to stare dismally at his revenant-reflection, thinking childish thoughts of aimless animosity towards Potter- instead of a life in Azkaban for slaying the great Albus Dumbledore, or an unwanted body on the Hogwarts grounds, felled by Aunt Bella for failing so completely in his duty. Severus should have lived, and Draco was too drunk not to indulge the notion that it was Potter's fault he hadn't. That if Potter had just wanted it enough, if he tried hard enough, he could have saved Severus from the Dark Lord, just like he saved Draco from Fiendfire.
Both of Draco's arms wrapped around Potter desperately to hold on as the broom hurtled forward, the marked arm clinging as tight as the unmarked one.
He couldn't stand his reflection for too long. His gaze strayed to the silver edge of the mirror, whose abstract etchings bore the impression of luminous letters overtop the crenellation-like border. Draco read them aloud, puzzling out the message rather slowly, with his mind addled, and every word broken up by another of the same symbol- a triangle with a circle inside with a line through it in turn, though only the circle was glowing along with the letters. He squinted at the word Ecidyrue, and read it out phonetically. "Eh-SID-eh-rue." It was gibberish past it, Llehfo tuokcabb mil cyamen oylno, but gibberish the mirror had lit up quite brightly between those triangles. That gibberish was far more attractive than his post-Azkaban reflection.
Potter had given Draco back his wand, which left him free to throw any hex he liked at the offending mirror. Perhaps Potter would be pleased if he knew that the first thing Draco did with this wand after it killed the Dark Lord would be to curse his own reflection.
"Finestra maxima," Draco snarled. He had to try there times before there was any effect. But on that third try, he saw the light erupt from his wand and spark in the glass before it shattered it. Except there was only the sound of a mirror breaking, sight of light splintering across the surface in patterns of cracks like sparks disappearing underwater, without anything falling from a surface as smooth as an undisturbed lake.
Before the shattering gave way to nothing, he heard the sound of the cracking glass, louder than it should have been for the charm, turn to a lilting melody, like a lullaby. Something, perhaps, a bit like the incantation Severus had hummed to heal Draco after Potter cut him open on the floor.
But it was more beautiful, the song, for the fleeting moment Draco could hear, before his vision itself was shattering in an infinite succession of breaking reflections, one after another superimposed until they were bright enough to burn everything in him to blackness.
Draco's first thought when he woke was surprise he didn't feel any hangover, though the headache or nausea might swarm in as soon as he stood up. His second thought was that he hoped his mother didn't realize he'd passed out in their cellars. Beyond how unseemly it was, he had rather hoped their days of people sleeping rough down here were at an end.
He picked himself to his feet, looking around the room blearily, and reached for his wand to light it. He checked every pocket and he couldn't find it. Nor did he see any signs, strangely enough, of the other thing he remembered in this room beside himself, some kind of large silver mirror. Had he left his wand upstairs somewhere? Even by his own recent standards, losing his wand before a full day was gone since Potter gave it back was impressive.
Unless it had somehow been summoned back to Potter's side. Or left on its own accord, not that Draco had ever heard such a thing was possible. But Potter was the Chosen One. He could do anything. And who could blame a wand for wanting to stay with Potter over Draco? Not like that made sense. He hadn't made much sense to even himself recently.
His thoughts were rambling and undisciplined as he picked his way out of the cellars, looking around for any sign of his mother or house elves to give away his newest small sin of passing out down here. He was lucky enough not be hungover or even feel stiffness in his limbs from sleeping on stone, but his luck ran out on avoiding elves by the time he had climbed the stairs into the house and come face to face-
With Dobby the house elf. The dead one.
"What are you doing here?" Draco blurted, thinking of how long the elf had been freed. His mind produced Potter's steady voice at the Wizengamot breaking only when his story of his brief capture at Malfoy Manor got to Dobby's death. In order to exculpate Draco, he'd told of how Draco refusing to recognize him had saved his life, in a grim sojourn to the Manor that ended with the impaling, by a thrown knife of Draco's lovely aunt's, of his rescuer Dobby. Potter had said he'd buried Dobby. With his own hands, like a squib too poor to afford a gardener.
He hadn't seemed to say it to show off what a great person he was- even to a misty-eyed Granger, who everyone knew had all kinds of bizarre ideas about the creatures. He'd seemed in a trance of memory, caught in a compulsion of recollection to tell the world the story not of Draco's bravery- not that there had been any- but of some dead elf's.
Who, from the sound of it, had been the one to actually save Harry Potter.
It was a miracle Potter's fumbling attempts to save Draco had worked. Such a Gryffindor.
Or apparently not so much, if that sob story about burying this elf was a lie.
"So you're alive. Did Potter send you?" Draco said, only to hear his voice come out high and squeaky. Maybe he'd drank some strange kind of booze last night. His voice hadn't cracked like that in years. "What does he want, then?"
Dobby frowned up at Draco with a confusion rather rich from someone Saint Potter had convinced the world was a martyr. "Dobby is not understanding Master Draco, sir."
Draco felt himself blinking rapidly. What had been in that booze? "Why are you calling me master anyway?"
"Master Draco is Dobby's master," Dobby said in further confusion. Say what you would about the ambience of Azkaban, at least it had meant a vacation from house elves asking unnecessary questions. "Why is Master Draco saying-"
"You're a free elf, aren't you?" Draco interrupted impatiently. He wanted to ask Dobby why he wasn't dead, but it was beneath his dignity already to be arguing with a house elf. "You don't have a master, right?"
Dobby's face when he stared up at Draco then was more expressive than Draco ever remembered on a house elf, some terrible mix of emotions he hadn't expected. "Dobby is not free, Dobby serves Master Lucius and Master Draco and Mistress Narcissa," Dobby said, in a whisper that sought not to be overheard, conspiratorial but somehow wistful. "But Dobby would like to be free someday."
It figured Saint Potter would mistreat his house elves. Or the creature just didn't like his new master going around crying about how dead he was. "Do you have any message from Potter?"
"No, Master Draco-"
"Then let me pass," he hissed, only to hear his mother's voice calling his name.
Draco brushed past, hungry enough to follow her voice to the dining room. His robes as he smoothed them down didn't feel rumpled, and Mother hadn't seemed in a state of mind recently to notice he had on the same robes as yesterday.
Breakfast at home. He had never thought he'd see the day again. Before Potter had taken up the case, part of him had expected he'd live until the end of his days breakfasting with Dementors. But here he was, with his mother's impatient voice once again summoning him for breakfast, in the great formal crystal dining room as it had been before the Manor became no longer their own. As if he could step into the past. As if Father would be there waiting impatiently too, and not in the cell Potter refused to save him from-
Father was, sitting at the head of the table with a copy of the Daily Prophet, as healthy and superior-looking as Draco had ever seen him.
"Father?" Draco breathed. He rubbed his eyes, wondering if he was hallucinating, only for Father to gesture imperiously at what had been Draco's usual seat at his left side. Draco's feet took him there automatically, a numbness spreading through all his senses separately like a dream evaporating in reverse, until his mother's voice made all the feeling go out of him at once and leave nothing but fear.
"It's your Hogwarts letter, Draco," she said excitedly, sounding more carefree than he had ever thought he would hear her again.
Slowly, with shaking hands, Draco carefully ripped open the letter. He remembered tearing it so hard the first time he nearly tore the letter as well. It was intact this time, but the words were no different.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Mr. Malfoy,
We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.
Draco stared at the letter until his father snorted derisively. "Don't act so shocked, Draco. As poor as your magic is for a Malfoy of your age, do you think I could be on the board of directors and my son wouldn't get into Hogwarts?"
Draco's index finger ran out to trace over the words that were there in black fountain ink, in McGonagall's crisp handwriting from Transfiguration blackboards and this same letter, once upon a time. There it was, the most impossible combination- Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore.
"May I see the paper, Father?" Draco asked calmly, which did not seem to be the reaction his parents had been expecting, after the amount of paling and shriveling he must just have done. Father handed over his copy of the Prophet, while house elves placed their eggs hollandaise before them, runny and with turmeric just as Father liked. Draco had always thought it looked like they were ingesting bubotuber pus, but Father had taught him to keep such opinions to himself.
He couldn't believe how good it tasted, the inane runniness of egg and sauce, the crisp snap of the English muffin beneath the egg and bacon and sauce, the familiar annoyance of the turmeric clouding the breakfast taste. There it was. Eggs just the way Father liked them.
The headline was nothing to do with the War. Draco couldn't remember the last time that had happened. Nothing about Muggleborn Registration or Death Eater attacks or Harry Potter sightings or the Dark Lord's threats. Only a smiling image of Gilderoy Lockhart triumphant over some great dead chimerical beast in the vast wild of what was labeled as Zanzibar- LOCKHART POPS POPOBAWA!
Underneath the date of July 24, 1991.
The paper fell from his hands. He replaced it with his Hogwarts letter, plucked from his mother's hands none too politely. "I have to go," Draco told them, "I'm sorry," and staggered towards the door.
"Come back here, Draco," Father ordered, and Draco ignored him.
"Draco, you haven't eaten," Mother called.
"I hate those bubotuber pus eggs!" Draco yelled at the top of his voice, after having already vacantly shoved both English muffins into his mouth like a starved Hippogriff. He raced out of the dining room, nearly knocking Dobby over in the process. "Sorry," he told the little obstruction, in case this mutant of a house elf still somehow belonged to Potter, and this wasn't what he was beginning to fear it was.
Draco's voice had never sounded so bratty. Or so high.
He found his room, but it was not his room. There was a large dragon decal on the door, which would light up neon in the dark, and crawl around letting off heatless flames. He'd taken it off in the summer of third or fourth year when he decided it was too childish. Or maybe it had been the summer after Father first went to Azkaban, when Draco had systematically rid his room of everything that didn't befit a grown man ready to fight for his family.
Except his stuffed dragon. Imoogi had still been there upon his return to the Manor last night, before he had broken his two-year parole in what he was beginning to suspect was a singularly spectacular fashion. He had kept her hidden in his closet, and a quick look last night had confirmed she was still there, though covered in dust, but he hadn't taken her out.
Imoogi had been a gift from Aunt Andromeda, back when Mother still spoke to her. Aunt Andromeda had told Draco the story of an Asian dragon called Imoogi, who was a girl in human form until she turned 17. That you could tell who she was and what she would become by the mark in the shape of a dragon on her shoulder. Draco had such a mark, hence the name suggestion, and hence his own name being Draco instead of Lucius as the first name Father had initially wanted.
There had been the smallest part of himself, in that bleak June he turned 17 mere days after watching Dumbledore fall from the tower, bitter that the birthmark hadn't meant what it should and turned him to a dragon.
He'd heard later of one of Potter's escapades riding a guard dragon out of Gringotts as well. There could be worse things to end up as, he had thought lazily in his small cocoon of terror of his childhood bed with his illicit radio- worse things than ending up as something ridden by Potter.
The offending dragon lay on his unmade bed beside his pillow, on top of sheets that were no longer plain green but silver with golden snitches. Imoogi had not a speck of dust on her, and had not yet lost her little baby dragon tooth necklace. Her long green body with its red spikes coiled over the snitches, with a stiffness to the red horns, and a plushness to the red underbelly that Draco could hardly believe she had used to have. If a toy could look young, she looked young.
Except she looked much as expected in comparison, when her reflection was beheld in Draco's floor-length gilded bedroom mirror, in the arms of Draco's own.
Young would be a mild word for how Draco looked. But then, the date on the Prophet had already told him what he was. 11, to be precise.
He might as well have been a house elf himself, from the look of him. He could not believe he had ever used to be so short.
He threw the stuffed dragon onto the bed and searched frantically through half of the obnoxious drawers full of obnoxious children's robes, before he remembered he wouldn't even have a wand yet. That was, if it was his own mind and not the world around him that lied about the time he should be in. He would get one days later in Diagon Alley, when Father took him there for school supplies. The day he met Harry Potter.
Typical Potter. Somehow, he'd managed to ruin Draco's life before he ever even met him.
Reaching out and touching his reflection did little to convince Draco that the image in the mirror before him was his own. He remembered his own 18-year-old face in some other mirror, pieces and small fragments in his memory of a brilliantly lit silver mirror with some sort of symbols and etchings, but it was a rapidly fading unreality, save for the wondering recollection that he'd cast a shattering charm and that it had shattered and yet not shattered-
That was hardly the most paradoxical thing currently facing him.
A magic mirror had sucked him into the past. Right on the nose of the day he got his Hogwarts letter. Or he had gone mad. It was hard to tell which would be preferable.
On the day Potter gave him back his wand. This had to somehow be Potter's fault.
Dobby had been acting suspicious. Maybe Dobby was in on it.
Far more likely this was some elaborate illusion or hallucination, than an actual successful instance of traveling into the past. Time travel was real, of course, but he'd never heard about someone traveling into their own body- only the whole body going, not just consciousness. And he'd used to be obsessed with things like this, in a three-month or so phase at age ten, convinced he would grow up to be an Unspeakable before Father had quite literally beaten the idea out of him. More likely he had been cursed and Mother was frantic in the real world trying to get him help, or he had gone battier than Aunt Bella and was trying to reckon all this out strapped down to a comfortable fluffy bed in St. Mungo's, while orderlies around him pretended to care about the barmy Death Eater.
Draco pushed up the left sleeve of his robe in one frantic jerk of laughably small hands, and his child's pale white wrist was empty. The snake and skull were gone.
Perhaps insanity was preferable to sanity after all.