Draco’s first week back at Hogwarts could have gone better.
He reflected on this as he lay blind and bleeding in a little-used corridor, trying to hear through his ringing ears if the footsteps of his attackers were retreating.
It really was an idiotic choice, returning to Hogwarts for his seventh year after all that had happened. But what would he have done otherwise?
He announced his desire (if it could be called that) a month ago, when it was just him and his two parents in his father’s study. Lucius sat slumped in his armchair, face in its typical state of perpetual blankness as he stared at the fire, holding a wine glass in his right hand. His left arm dangled over the edge of the chair, mark exposed. Draco and Narcissa stood to the side, and Narcissa looked as though she might burst into tears. “Why, Draco, Darling?” she pleaded. “Just stay here with us. There is time enough to go back. We must take time to –rest—recuperate—find ourselves as a family again.”
“I feel plenty rested, Mother,” Draco said. In truth, the manor threatened to drive him mad, with its metaphorical coffers all but empty, with the gaping blackness and imperceptible, psychological stench of death that hung in the air. His father’s empty eyes. His mother’s desperate, failing attempts to act as though everything were normal. The dangerous, silent doors of the cellar. The table where Professor Burbage was killed. The floors that became slick with blood when He found out about Potter and the Horcruxes, while all three of them huddled in the back, too terrified to move or look up. The halls where the Death Eaters had walked, killed, and tortured. Where Aunt Bellatrix had tortured the Granger girl, right in front of him. Where Draco had tortured Rowle, His fingers cold on his neck, his wand shaking so hard the curse kept missing—
“We will hire a tutor then, Darling,” said Narcissa.
Draco almost answered, With what money? But instead asked, “Who would accept that job?”
The cornered animal look in his mother’s eyes was answer enough. The unspoken response was, of course, nobody. Nobody would deign to serve the Malfoys now, except the house elf they had happened to inherit from a distant relation only a few weeks prior. And it was a miracle that the ministry had allowed them to keep her.
He wouldn’t have anything to do if he remained here, except use Occlumency to avoid the horrible memories, drink sleeping potions at night so he wouldn’t dream, and walk on eggshells around his parents, just waiting for one of the three of them to snap. No, cowering in the mansion was the worst choice Draco could make. Cowering meant admitting wrongdoing. Cowering meant giving up the Malfoy pride. Cowering meant cutting themselves off from purebloods and mudbloods—no, Draco reminded himself, half-bloods and muggleborns— and muggles alike. If he didn’t return to the sunlight now, he might forget how.
“I have to go, Mother,” he said quietly. “Don’t you see?”
Lucius sat up, making his wife and son jump and stare in astonishment.
“Of course Draco must return!” Lucius’s voice rasped from too-little use, but he turned with a skeletal smile of mad joy. Draco’s stomach twisted. “You will do the Malfoy name proud, won’t you, Draco, dear boy?”
Draco hadn’t known until that moment that it was possible to feel such intense disgust and pity and love and determination to make a person proud all at once. It was a ghastly echo of Draco’s first day at the train station.
You will make us proud, Draco, my boy, his father’s eyes had glinted, his hand had been firm on his shoulder, his walking stick was glistening and polished and Lucius stood with his back straight and his demeanor stately. You will show the world of what Pureblood stock is truly capable.
“Yes, Father,” Draco said quietly. And going to Hogwarts would have been justified simply because of the expression of delight and satisfaction that spread across Lucius’s face at his reply – an expression he hadn’t seen since before Lucius had spent time in Azkaban.
And so Narcissa had written to Hogwarts, to McGonagall, the new headmistress. Her reply had been simple and brief.
Dear Mrs. Malfoy,
The doors of Hogwarts remain open to any Wizard who is a British citizen, and any other Wizard who comes with a recommendation, if they are not banned by the Ministry. If you think it wise for your son to return, he will be accepted.
Prof. Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress
Accepted, not welcomed. But accepted. That was good enough for Draco.
“Mother, you don’t have to come with me. I can find my own way to the station.” Draco murmured as Nippy, the quiet house elf, readied his trunk.
“I know that, Darling, but I want to see you off.” Narcissa checked her appearance in the hall mirror. Draco looked towards the study.
“I’m afraid he isn’t feeling up to it,” Narcissa said. “You understand, don’t you?”
“Of course.” Yes, he understood. Just as he understood everything else Lucius had done. That didn't make it more forgivable. Draco took his turn looking in the mirror. He subconsciously tugged his left sleeve firmly over his wrist. He had said his goodbye to Lucius earlier, anyway. He’d had a bit more color in his cheek since the decision had been made, and he had even stood up to shake Draco’s hand.
They went to the station, keeping very close together, looking out for other wizards and witches. But it wasn’t until they got to Platform 9 ¾ that they were spotted.
“It’s Malfoy! Of all the cheek!” someone said very loudly.
“Do everyone a favor and lock yourself in Azkaban, you belly-crawling dung-licking bigot!” someone else called.
Narcissa’s lips pinched together. She turned and reached up, smoothing Draco’s collar. It didn’t need smoothing, but Draco let her do it. “Are you sure you’ll be all right?”
“Don’t worry, Mother,” Draco smiled at her. “Who cares what half-bloods and blood traitors think anyway, right?”
It was the wrong thing to say. Narcissa went white. “Draco!” Her fingers dug into his shoulder, sending pains across his back. “Draco, you mustn’t say such things! You mustn’t!”
“All right! All right,” Draco held her shoulder in return. “I won’t, Mother, don’t worry. It was just a bad attempt at humor, all right?”
“You mustn’t,” Narcissa repeated. “Promise me. I couldn’t bear it if—”
“I won’t,” Draco repeated. “I’ll keep my nose clean, Mother, I promise.” Narcissa’s grip loosened and her hand dropped. She looked down. Draco couldn’t see her eyes, but he knew she would be fighting tears. He hated it when she cried. She didn't used to, not ever. He gently rubbed her arms as they hung at her sides. “I’ll be all right. Don’t worry.”
She looked up and gave him a watery smile. “I know you will, Darling. I’m not worried. Here,” she raised her hands to her neck and drew a chain over her head. She pressed the necklace into his palm. “We decided you should have this.”
Draco looked down at the gift. It was the Malfoy emblem, engraved with the words, Sanctimonia Vincet Semper. The charm was warm from Narcissa’s body.
The whistle blew. Draco bent down and gave her a kiss. She kissed him back.
“Write us,” said Narcissa.
“Every week,” said Draco. He got on the train without looking back, gripping the necklace hidden in his hand, his school bag containing his robes over his shoulder. The crowded corridors emptied before him as if he’d used a repelling charm. Rushing students pressed themselves to the walls, turned their backs, stared from a distance.
“Malfoy,” the whispers followed him. “It’s Malfoy.”
“You dunce, they served him. The only reason they’re not in Azkaban is because Potter interfered.” That wasn’t true. Potter had interfered, yes, but they had also defected at the battle and betrayed their fellow Death Eaters at the trial.
“What’s he doing on the train? He can’t come back to Hogwarts, can he? They won’t allow it, will they?”
Draco moved through the train as students swarmed ahead of and behind him, looking for an empty compartment, an empty seat, an empty space. But no one spoke to him. No one, at least, until Seamus Finnigan appeared in the passage, legs splayed and hands on his hips, blocking the way. Draco halted. Whispering students, especially a healthy portion of first and second-years crowded around behind him, eyes as wide as teacups.
“You have gall, Malfoy,” Finnigan said, looking him over with narrowed eyes. “I’m surprised you and your cowardly mum dare show your faces in civilized society.”
Draco gripped the shoulder-strap of his bag, feeling his wand in the pocket (Potter had returned it after all), just begging to be used to hex Finnigan’s face into that of a fish.
“I’m surprised that you’re back,” Draco said. “Being held back a year, are you? I suppose it’s not much of a surprise, coming from someone like you.”
Finnigan looked angry at first, and then he lifted his chin and smirked. “And just what do you mean by that, Malfoy?”
Finnigan was laughing at him. Draco bit his tongue. It if were not for his promise to Narcissa, he would have been strongly tempted to coolly say “mudblood” or even just “half-breed,” just to see the look on Finnigan’s face. But only strongly tempted. Even without his promise to Narcissa, Draco had a firm handle on his emotions and no desire to see the insides of Azkaban ever again. Finnigan wanted him to call him a mudblood. Finnigan wanted an excuse to write to the Ministry and denounce him as a criminal worthy of Azkaban. Draco would not give him that satisfaction.
Instead he smirked back. “I only meant that with your over-exuberant explosions over the years you’ve caused more property damage to Hogwarts than I have in the past year alone.”
Finnigan looked gobsmacked and furious. Draco took the opportunity to brush past him, knocking him against the wall. “Close your mouth, Finnigan, or the house-elves will mistake you for a plimpy and make you into stew.”
Finnigan found his voice as Draco walked through the rapidly scattering smaller students. “You watch yourself, Malfoy! You’re not welcome at Hogwarts, you hear me? You’d slither back into the stinking hole you crawled from if you knew what’s good for you!”
Draco finally found an empty table in the dining car. He started to put his bag on the overhead rack, thought better of it, and sat down with the bag underneath the table, clamped between his legs. He folded his hands in front of him on the table and pretended to watch the scenery out of the window. In reality, he watched the students passing by in the car. It was with a sinking feeling he realized that he recognized very few. Pansy, Blaise, and Greg weren’t coming—he knew that already—unlike Finnigan they’d decided to not re-do their disrupted final year. But the lack of visible Slytherins was unnerving.
All the better, maybe, he admitted to himself. Many of their fathers and mothers would be languishing in Azkaban right now, thanks to the Malfoys. Draco didn’t fancy facing any of them if he could avoid it; especially his old comrades (he couldn't bring himself to call them friends). Still, a sense of overwhelming and friendly (albeit surreal and out of place) calm washed over him when he donned the old familiar house colors.
In the carriages on the way to Hogwarts, the students forced into the same one as him squeezed themselves into corners, turning their heads away as if afraid that breathing the air too close to them would infect them with the plague.
It wasn’t so bad, Draco told himself as they went to the Great Hall. He didn’t mind being avoided. Being avoided was probably the best thing for him, honestly. He didn’t come here for friendship, he came to make a statement. The fact that they wanted so desperately to not be near him meant his statement could not be ignored. The wide berth around him was strange and unfamiliar, clashing with the waves of happy memories. He felt positively naked without Vince and Greg.
Don’t think about them, he ordered himself furiously. They were quick enough to turn on me when they had the chance, weren’t they? Quick enough to cowardly attempt to use the Malfoys as a stepping stone?
Especially Vince. The great hulking idiot had become fierce and unrecognizable, his mad grin displaying itself at every sight of violence and agony, his loud boastings insufferable, his treacherous, subtle cuffs aimed at Draco and his parents, his out of place pride and excitement, the damn fool, Draco was glad he'd killed himself—he was--
Draco fought waves of discomfort stepping past discolored and broken pieces of stone. Hogwarts had been greatly refurbished since the battle, but it was still partially in ruins. His footsteps came slower and slower until he stopped altogether, at one side of the hall as students flowed past him. He closed his eyes, forced himself to breathe. He drew on his Occlumency, compartmentalizing his emotions into boxes and shutting the lids. Then he opened his eyes again. First-years were passing him now, following McGonagall, and whispering amongst themselves.
“I don’t know what I’ll do if I’m sorted into Slytherin!”
“I’ll have to go straight home if that happens.”
“D’you suppose they’ll throw us in Azkaban if they do?”
“My parents would kill me.”
Draco went into the Hall. With a sickening lurch in his stomach, he saw that he had not been mistaken on the train. The Slytherin table was all but empty. A few remained, but there were next to none of the classmates he knew that would be in their sixth and seventh years. He sat at the far end of the table and instantly everyone crowded away from him, still whispering. Only the Bloody Baron looked at him, fixing him with cold eyes. Draco fidgeted and the Baron looked away.
Draco recognized more people at the other house tables than at his own. Seamus Finnigan of course, Parvati Patil and Michael Coroner and a few other Ravenclaws Draco recognized but didn’t know their names (it wasn’t surprising, Draco reasoned, that Ravenclaws would want to repeat their seventh year). And then there were the students that had begun a year under Draco that were now his classmates, including Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasely (she was barely visible, sitting at the front of the room on the opposite side of the Gryffindor table, but the bright red hair was unmistakable—Draco made a mental note to avoid her as much as possible). Harper, the boy who was Slytherin Quidditch seeker in Draco’s sixth year, was there also. He laughed over-loudly near the front of the room, and more than a few Slytherin girls, giggling nervously at the tension surrounding their table, huddled around him.
The evening passed in a blur. Very few students were sorted into Slytherin. Those that were got scattered applause and accusatory and/or pitying glances. Draco felt a growing anger at the attitudes of the other houses – especially when it was compared with the thunderous applause and standing ovations students received when they were sorted into Gryffindor.
“Ungrateful prats,” Draco whispered fiercely to the tabletop, knuckles growing white as they gripped the edge. “They don’t even remember that Snape died for them, do they?” Or that Merlin himself was Slytherin, or their very own Potter-worshiping Slughorn, or—or—hell, his mother had spared Potter’s life. Granted, that was to get to Draco, not protect Potter, but still—
When the feast came Draco had no stomach for it. He ate a few bites, thought he might be sick, and abruptly left the hall, going down to the dormitories in the dungeons. The silence welcomed and accused him simultaneously. He stood in the common room for a moment as good and bad memories fought for dominance in his mind. Draco stood in front of the Slytherin tapestry for a moment, then rested his fingertips against it.
A yawn from a neighboring portrait. “Well, look who it is!” proclaimed a painting from the other side of the room. Draco didn’t see which one.
“What a relief!” exclaimed Elizabeth Burke’s portrait. “Good to know that at least one brilliant Slytherin has returned!”
“Brilliant?” huffed another painting. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself lad, disgracing the honorable name of Slytherin like you have—”
“Disgracing?” shrieked Elizabeth Burke. “May I remind you that Salazar himself was the best of us and he knew the truth about—”
“Even Salazar wasn’t completely mad—”
“Oh be quiet! If it were up to you Slytherin House would be completely contaminated by now! We would be overrun with muggle-borns! I swear, I will lead a rebellion if we start relaxing our standards! I’ll destroy myself before I see this house infiltrated with the filthy, arrogant, useless mudbloods—”
“Shut up!” Draco snapped. The portraits ignored him, deep in their argument. Slytherin House really was in trouble if even the paintings were at each others’ throats. He escaped to his assigned room and found it to contain a single bed.
But of course. With Slytherin being so empty, and nobody would want to room with him anyway…
Draco felt a wave of homesickness unlike anything he had ever known, not even during his first year. He sank down on the bed, lost for a moment in self-pity.
But only for a moment. Draco shook himself.
You will do the Malfoy name proud, won’t you, Draco, dear boy?
“First things first,” Draco murmured. He circled the room, casting protective spells and counter-jinxes, especially around his trunk and bag and other personal belongings as he unpacked them. “My name,” he said in defiance to the walls. “Is Draco Lucius Malfoy.”
In his sixth year, Draco had been the only person capable of saving his parents from Voldemort. He had done it. And now in his belated seventh, he was the only person capable of saving their very names from all of Wizarding society. And he would do that too. He would do it so his father could stand straight and look people in the eye again. He would do it so his mother could smile and be strong again; no more tears. He would do it if it killed him. Metaphorically, of course. Dying would have the exact opposite effect on his parents, no matter what else he would manage to do for them along the way.
The first few days of classes passed strangely uneventfully. Students still avoided him, looking over their shoulders and whispering, and sometimes laughing. The professors all looked him in the eyes at least once. Their dry sarcasm and passive-aggressive taunts made the students giggle. Professor Flitwick looked the most suspicious, Professor Slughorn looked the most uncomfortable, and Headmistress McGonagall looked at him – not exactly the kindliest, but at least with the least amount of malice. She didn’t teach Transfiguration anymore, though. Sturgis Podmore, one of the war-heroes, was the new professor.
Draco sat in the back in all of his classes except Defense Against the Dark Arts. He loved this class, still, though it was the hardest to sit through. The professor, ex-Unspeakable Saul Croaker, clearly thought very little of him, and his dark gaze would at another time have made Draco feel threatened. A lot of the material was review, and at the same time a lot of it was not. Draco knew, thanks to Aunt Bellatrix, a good deal about the hexes and curses they were learning to deflect. He could have demonstrated many of them, though he kept that information to himself.
It was difficult to sit there, and yet satisfying. The hatred that buffeted against him was strongest there, and but he could sit in plain view, excel in the art, and they could hate him and he could be proud as he sat there alone - always alone. His only issue was with the memories, but Occlumency training helped him push them away and he could perform without distractions, most of the time.
It was there, and only there, that he almost missed Aunt Bellatrix.
So it was one week into classes when he, used to the students avoiding him, let his guard slip, and he made a stupid choice. He walked down an abandoned corridor towards Charms.
Strangely, the weight on his shoulders was so much heavier than it had been in his sixth year. Perhaps it was because before he had at least had the support of the greatest Dark Wizard of all time and all of his allies on his side, even if they terrified him. Now, it was just Draco. His parents were far away, shut up in the manor, hardly daring to show their faces. And Draco, stupid, stupid Draco, had presented himself full-force in the bright light of Hogwarts, surrounded by exactly those who hated him most, and stupid, stupid Draco supposed that he was good enough to counter them all.
And stupid, stupid Draco hadn’t been paying attention when he chose his route to Charms class.
Really, the blindness hex was a nice touch. Draco turned a corner, lost his sight, and had no idea who was attacking him. It didn’t hurt as black clouds descended over his eyes, and Draco stopped dead, confused until his wand leaped from his hand with an audible snap. Then realization dawned and he ducked. The next hex crashed into the wall behind him. The cave-like, muffled echo told him someone had cast a muffliato charm. Shuffling footsteps—lots of footsteps. Draco groped on the ground for his wand, furious, and then the hexes started hitting him.
They must be skilled, because they were all non-verbal. Or else, the ringing in his ears prevented him from hearing any whispered spells. Even as pain ripped up his back, tore across his face, and stabbed underneath his fingernails, Draco didn’t feel very afraid.
After the Dark Lord, he didn’t think anything could make him feel afraid again.
Draco pushed himself to his feet, forcing a mocking grin through the pain. “Oh, very noble and brave of you,” he said to his unknown assailants. “Hiding your faces. Just do me a favor, tell me, exactly how many of you does it take to gather up the nerve to dual one Malfoy?” Something swept his feet out from under him and he fell. Humiliation burned in his core. “Oh wait,” Draco spat. “This isn’t a dual, it’s a bloody ambush. What a bloody brilliant way to impress your Lords and Masters, Saint Potter and co—”
Draco flew backwards and slammed against the wall. Blood squelched between his teeth. Something pressed up against his nose and mouth, but when he raised his hands his fingers only touched his skin. Draco choked, retched, and started to panic. Something rammed into his stomach and he lost the ability to even try to breathe. The hard stone pressed against his back and side. He struggled to sit up and found himself bound by invisible ropes. Anger swam across his vision, turning the dark a blood-red shade. It ballooned inside of him, pressed against his eyes, started the tears – somebody was laughing.
Occlumency saved him.
Empty your mind, sweetie. Only allow in what you want in. Focus and project. You are strong, your blood is strong. Don’t let the blood traitors in.
Draco banished his emotions, banished the tears, and he finally stopped struggling as he became lightheaded. His chest exploded with pain, his heartrate sped as if that would help make up for the lack of oxygen he was getting.
And then he could breathe again.
His ears still rang. Draco gasped, lying on the floor. He dared to try to move and his hands lifted on his command. He sat up and rubbed his ears. The ringing lessened. He heavy breathing echoed in the hall. Something was dripping onto the floor. He moved his hands across the rest of his face and the nerves in his nose awoke when he touched it. He cried out and retched, and then bit down on his knuckles and leaned his head against the wall, waiting for the pain to subside, struggling to keep the vomiting reflex under control.
He still couldn’t see. Shifting masses of grey and black mist held no meaning for him. Draco moved carefully, feeling the blood from his crushed nose run over his mouth and down his chin. He got onto his knees and crawled, running his hands over the stone. He couldn’t feel his left leg. After a moment of panic he found it with his hand and it felt normal enough. So it was simply numb, not gone.
Accio wand, he thought, more sarcastic than anything else. Really, a more useful spell could not be invented, if only it could be used without the item he wanted to summon.
Oh, Merlin, what if they had stolen it?
Foosteps, an irregular rhythm, as if someone were taking two quick steps with long pauses in between.
The anger returned, and the humiliation, and blood rushed up his neck. He didn’t want to be found, not in this state. Draco Malfoy, helpless on the floor, viciously attacked by young wizards. Mudbloods—no, Draco corrected himself, half-bloods and muggleborns— most likely, fifth and sixth years and possibly seventh years, all younger than him, all with much less experience than him, they hadn’t fought in a war with a Dark Wizard at their side, had they?
If only he could find his wand—
You will do the Malfoy name proud, won’t you, Draco, dear boy?
His throat closed over. One week into classes and he was already failing. Couldn’t even avoid an ambush, for god’s sake.
He bumped into something. The pain sliced through his face again and Draco thought he might faint. His shoulders shook and his head swam and he crouched there on his hands and knees like some kicked puppy.
Not like this, not on his hands and knees. With a massive effort of last resort, Draco hurled himself backwards so that he sat there awkwardly, on his knees, head swimming. He fought the vomiting reflex again, dizzy with the pain. The footsteps got louder and then stopped. The person had rounded the corner and seen him.
Draco stared straight ahead, trying to use his Occlumency training to look as though sitting on the floor with a crushed nose and blood all over his face and a numb left leg and god knew what other sorts of injuries were a perfectly dignified thing for a Malfoy to be doing.
“Oh, hullo, Draco. Have you lost your wand?”
Draco couldn’t believe his ears. He would have scowled, but any movement to his facial muscles were agonizing. The voice was airy, cheerful, and factual. Not mocking, and not surprised.
Oh no. Not her. Anybody but her.
Not Luna Lovegood.
That would explain the footsteps; she had been skipping.
“Let’s see,” she said, moving past him. “Oh, you nearly had it, didn’t you? It just rolled under the podium here.” Movement beside him, and then she pressed the smooth wood into his hand. Draco’s fingers closed over it and cool relief washed over him. It wasn’t broken, at least.
All right, you’ve given me my wand, now get lost, Draco thought, afraid to open his mouth because of the pain.
“Draco, you’ve hurt yourself,” Luna said thoughtfully. “Hold still a moment, and I’ll—”
Draco jerked backwards, fearful of what she might try, as Luna said "Episkey!" in her airy sing-song. He flinched, his bones gave an audible crack, and the pain disappeared.
“There,” said Luna in a satisfied voice. “I knew it would work, because I had to do the same thing for Harry Potter one year on the train. Though yours looked significantly worse. It’s odd how boys hurt themselves so badly, isn’t it? Does it hurt much?”
Luna Lovegood had healed Potter? From the broken nose that Draco had given him? Draco suddenly wanted to laugh. Instead he glared in Luna’s general direction, wary of her next movements. Draco hated the very thought of her calmly healing him, when she had languished in their cellar for—
Draco shuddered and banished the thought.
What did she think she was doing? To be pitied was bad enough. To be avoided, to be mocked, to be pointed at with disgust and whispers and hatred. To be spat at by the few Slytherins that remained, to be laughed at by the pureblood relations of Vince and Greg, to have a constant, heavy, throat-blocking frigid stone in his throat and stomach—
There’s Draco Malfoy. He’s a Death Eater. He betrayed the Wizards. He and the rest of his pathetic family should be in Azkaban for the rest of their pitiful lives. It’s a shame they got rid of the dementors. Dementors are too good for them.
Shame, disgusting, pathetic, weak, helpless, traitors—
“Draco?” Concern wound into Luna’s voice.
Pity was bad enough. To be pitied by the pitiable, to be pitied by the insane, pathetic, wispy Luna Lovegood, admired only because of her connection to the famous Harry James Potter—
Draco jerked to his feet.
That was a mistake. His numb leg gave out and he flailed, catching the edge of the podium he had knocked against earlier. It rocked under his weight and something heavy on it wobbled.
“Filthy blood traitor,” Draco blurted. Or, he tried to. His tongue was numb as well, and the only thing that came out was a splutter-surrounded “blood.”
“Yes, there is still quite a bit of blood, isn’t there?” said Luna, her voice back to its distant, dreamy tones. “You really ought to go see Madam Pomfrey.”
Draco rubbed his mouth and managed to slur out the next words, “I do not. Leave me alone.”
“Oh, dear,” Luna said, as if she hadn’t heard him. “You’ve been attacked by Wracking Prockbins, haven’t you?”
Draco maneuvered his leg into a position that allowed him to lean some weight on it. “What?”
“Wracking Prockbins. They’re related to Wrackspurts, but they affect your eyes instead of your brain. You can’t see, can you? Is that how you hurt yourself?”
Draco had a hard time believing that even Luna Lovegood was stupid enough to believe his current state came from hurting himself. That only meant she was protecting his dignity by pretending to not know what had happened, and that was a thousand times worse.
Draco, carefully balancing on his numb leg, tugged his robes into place, taking care to ensure that his left sleeve came down to his wrist, merely said, “I’m fine.”
“Wracking Prockbins will affect you for days, I’m afraid, and it looks like you have a rather bad case.” said Luna. She moved without him hearing and so he jumped when she threaded her arm through his left one. “Try focusing on seeing light again, I hear that helps. Now, let’s get to Charms. I suppose you’ll want to stop by the men’s room first.” She tugged him forward and Draco stumbled, partially because of his bad leg, partially through indecision.
Which was worse? To admit he needed the help of Loony Luna Lovegood, of all people, or be seen by hundreds of students in this state while he groped around, blind and bloody?
It wasn’t really a choice. Draco gave a tug on his left sleeve. Of course, Draco reasoned while he limped along at her side, falling against her more than once (she didn’t seem to mind his weight, and was surprisingly steady), it was only natural that someone so batty should be obliged to assist someone of his bloodstatus. There wasn’t anything shameful in it, really. That was why house elves served them, wasn’t it? She wasn’t taking pity on him, she was fulfilling her proper place.
The cellar rose to his mind again, mixed with the overwhelming stench of blood from his own face, and made him stumble again.
No, no, no.
How he wished he could see. The images from his memory wouldn’t be so stark, then. He concentrated on using a leg he couldn’t feel, and staring at light he couldn’t see, and the images faded.
“Here we are,” said Luna, releasing his arm and turning him to face the door. “Take your time. If I’m not here when you come back out, wait. I’ll be right back.”
Draco gripped the doorway. The silence of the halls told him the time. “You’ll be late for Charms,” he said, stupidly. The numbness in his mouth was wearing off.
“So will you,” said Luna cheerfully. “It’s all right, Professor Flitwick won’t mind,” and she scampered off before he could protest again. Draco felt his way into the bathroom and to the sink. He turned on the water and gingerly washed his face. The horrible pain from his face gone, the rest of his body started protesting. His stomach felt as though someone had skewered him with a spear. His back ached as if he’d fallen from a great height and landed on it. His limbs intermediately burned, stung, and throbbed. He would have to deal with them later. His nose, however, felt as good as new.
“Scourgify,” he muttered, hoping the spell would alleviate any bloodstains on his robes. The scent of blood vanished, mercifully.
He emerged, getting the hang of his leg, and waited for Luna. The seconds turned into minutes, trudging past while he fidgeted. He didn’t really mind missing the first half of Charms class; what he minded was the inevitable questions, mockery, stares, house point deductions—
“Here you are!” Luna panted and pressed a small circlet into his palm. “It’s an eyeglass, it’ll help you see. Come on,” she pulled on his arm and they started out through the empty halls, quicker than before, as Draco could use his leg properly. “I’m sorry it took me so long, someone had gone through my things and I had to search the other dorm rooms as well. They probably didn’t know what it was, though. It was developed by my father, especially for Wracking Prockbins.”
“Brilliant, just what I needed,” Draco muttered.
“Yes, I thought so,” said Luna happily, his sarcasm lost on her. “We’re getting close now.”
Draco pulled away and crashed into another bloody statue, his shoulder bumping a picture frame. He staggered and fell while the painting scolded him, then jumped back up. “Don’t say anything!” he hissed furiously, and Luna didn’t.
They reached the door, Luna whispered, “You’re opening your eyes rather wide, Draco. It doesn’t look natural.” With this last piece of advice, she slipped inside and disappeared, leaving an almost palatable emptiness at his side. Draco shut the door behind him, and stood, frozen as he felt several dozen eyes turn to him.
“Mr. Malfoy, Miss Lovegood,” squeaked Professor Flitwick. “I will see you after class, please. Take your seats; we are practicing bewitched sleeps. You will find the incantation on page 127. Use the frogs at the benches.”
Draco moved sideways, heart in his mouth, knowing he must look strange and awkward in his movements. He forced himself to take one bold step, then two, then three, then—his knee knocked against the bench at the back of the class and he sat down. The class slowly resumed its murmuring. Silence came from beside him; he was alone. Thankful, at least, for that, Draco ducked down with the pretense of pulling his book out of his bag, though he already knew the incantation. Aunt Bellatrix had taught him (it was a convenient way to keep prisoners quiet). Instead, out of desperation, Draco held the glass piece to his eye and winced in surprise at the murky light that hit his cornea. He couldn’t make out more than shifting grey colors, but it was something. He pulled out the book, set it on the table, and flipped through it with the pretense of finding the spell. Then he shut it, hid the eyeglass in one hand, and ran the other along the tabletop until he found the glass container that must contain the frog.
He murmured the charm, aiming his wand at the glass case, felt a gentle stream of magic, and then sat for a moment, wondering if it had worked.
“Very good, Mr. Malfoy,” said Flitwick’s voice from beside him and Draco jumped. “I see you have already mastered this charm.”
“Yes, Professor,” Draco said.
“It’s quite a difficult one,” said Flitwick.
“I studied it over one—summer.” Draco turned his head away from Flickwick, even though he couldn’t see the accusatory stare that was almost certainly coming from him now.
“Very impressive,” Flitwick repeated. “Are you…all right?”
Draco’s fingers tightened on his wand. I am a Malfoy. Of course I’m all right. “Yes, Professor.”
“You can work on other assignments now, if you wish, in the remaining time.”
“Yes, Professor,” Draco repeated, listening to his steps pattering away before swearing under his breath. Homework assignments. What if Luna was right and this blindness continued for days? He wouldn’t be able to keep it secret. Draco held up the eyeglass again by covering his face with his hands and then peering out through his fingers. He spent a few seconds focusing on the waving lights before retrieving his Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook and pretending to study.
He found himself thinking of home. But not home as he remembered it from a week ago – home from years ago, before the Dark Lord, before the Death Eaters, when his mother sent bubbles across the room to exasperate his father, when they worked together to animate the exotic dragon models brought one of father's long trips overseas, when his father helped him onto his first broomstick and Draco had risen immediately, with pride, and then promptly fallen off, but his father had caught him with a quickly-uttered charm and his mother had caught him in her arms and then fallen over and father had to catch her too, but they had all ended up on the floor anyway, laughing like it was the funniest thing to have ever happened to anybody—
The bell rang and students rose up, filing out of the room. Draco remained where he was, putting his books back in his bag and waiting until the footsteps faded before carefully standing up. His foot bumped against the table leg, but with one hand trailing on the table edges, Draco managed to make his way to the front of the room. He stopped when his hand ran out of table edges.
“Miss Lovegood, Mr. Malfoy. Will you please explain your tardiness?” said Professor Flitwick from somewhere in front of and below Draco’s head.
“Yes sir,” said Luna. “I was concerned about Wracking Prockbins, you see. The air was thick with them, you can tell because of the dust in sunbeams. So I went to my dorms to grab a warding amulet, but I couldn’t find it right away, and I’m sorry it made me so late.”
Luna Lovegood was lying.
“See, here it is. Would you like to keep it?”
All right, maybe she wasn’t exactly lying, but she was lying by omission. Draco couldn’t believe it.
“That’s all right, Miss Lovegood. No harm done. And Mr. Malfoy entering the room with you…?”
“That was a coincidence,” Draco said quickly. “I – forgot to take my Charms book with me this morning. I had to go back to retrieve it.”
Professor Flitwick was silent for a moment. “Very well, no harm done, Mr. Malfoy. Be sure to be on time, both of you, or I may need to deduct points from your houses.”
“Thank you sir,” said Luna. Draco said nothing. He turned around and followed Luna’s footsteps out. Charms, thank the heavens, was the last class period of the day. And what’s more, it was Friday.
“You lied,” he muttered to Luna as they closed the door behind him.
Luna sounded surprised. “No I didn’t. You did.”
“You didn’t tell him you were with me and that made you late,” Draco amended.
“I thought you didn’t want him to know, and I didn’t see a reason to tell him. Was I wrong?”
“No,” Draco said. He stopped and held out the glass piece.
“Is your eyesight better already?”
“Then keep it. You’ll need it, won’t you? Are you going to supper now?”
“Do you need—”
“No. Just back off and leave me alone, will you?”
Draco spun on his heel and stalked away. His footsteps echoed. He couldn’t hear any other students, so he brought the eyepiece up again. A dark shadow loomed in the shifting shades of grey and Draco swerved to miss what was probably a suit of armor.
Somehow, he made his way down to the dungeons. He only tripped five times, only stubbed his toes ten times, only ran into various walls, bannisters, and displays seven or eight times, and he only fell twice. He got to his room and closed the door (when he went through the common room, silence fell completely), then uneasily searched his room as best he could. There didn’t seem to be anything missing; his charms had held.
Draco lay back on his bed, exhausted, and unstopped a small bottle that sat on the bedside table. He took a small sip, and smiled to himself. Mother had given this one the flavor of raspberries. He restopped the potion and pulled out a chain that was hidden beneath his clothing. He gripped the charm in his palm and repeated silently to himself, in an endless refrain, santimonia vincet semper, sanctimonia vincet semper, sanctimonia vincet semper, for the sole reason that it sounded like home, until he fell asleep.
Purity Will Always Conquer.