With little effort wasted, Draco soon found his mother sitting primly in the drawing room, scanning headlines from that morning's issue of the Daily Prophet. He smiled at the familiar sight; Narcissa, having been both well-bred and well-raised in a proud and elegant household, had always been elegant herself whenever she could manage it. It was a habit of hers that Draco was particularly fond of. Somehow, in the midst of what had been happening in her own home for years, she was able to remain as dignified and proper as she had ever been, if not to become even more so.
And yet, as good a mother as she'd been to him over the years, he knew it hadn't taken long for the china teacups, magical toys and playful banter of his distant past to change form before his eyes. For in no time at all, he would see the teacups shattered against the wall, the toys confiscated, the play heavily restricted, and his bedroom door kept locked for days at a time. It would have been enough to roughen anyone's character. But as he stood there, watching his mother as though she were a Muggle artist's masterpiece in a fine museum, he saw only the present, and knew nothing but fond admiration. He stayed where he was, unwilling to end the precious, rare moment of peaceful thought.
Keeping her gaze on the Daily Prophet, Narcissa pretended to be reading the beginning of an article aloud to the room itself: "Interesting… It says, 'Journalists all over Wizarding Britain are reporting today that Hogwarts' star student, Draco Malfoy, was found to be entertaining himself in a most unusual way. He was sighted this afternoon watching his mother read the Daily Prophet.'" That said, she glanced up suddenly, looking around as though bewildered by the content of the 'article'. It was moments like this that kept him sane…
Draco didn't even bother trying not to laugh. "Mother…!" he chuckled, shyly running his fingers through his hair. "Hogwarts' star student… I can think of two likely candidates for the title in this house right now, but I'm hardly any match for either of them, am I?"
When he had finished protesting, he remembered his conversation with the late headmaster, and quickly began easing her toward the point of his wanting to talk to her. "Not to mention, at least five hundred students who got themselves sorted into Ravenclaw the first time around."
Narcissa sighed in polite laughter. "'The first time around?'" she echoed playfully. "And just what might that mean?"
Draco's smile faltered considerably, but he had brought up the subject, and it would do no good to drop it now. His mother's amused smile was fading now, as well. "Suppose…" he tried hesitantly. "S-suppose you'd trusted someone for their whole life, like the way we trust each other…" (he could feel his heartbeat quicken) "…and one day, they told you something you… you never would have guessed of them… Something they'd kept secret for… well, for a long time…"
Narcissa took him in a welcome embrace. "Oh, Draco," she whispered soothingly. He could feel her shoulders and chest rise and fall slowly, peacefully, like the rhythmic movement of the ocean as it slept, promptly washing away his anxiety. "What on this earth could make you afraid to tell me anything?"
Draco smiled a bit, feeling his nerve return to him. "I forged my part in the Sorting Ceremony," he explained. "Only Dumbledore was around to hear where I really belonged." He paused briefly and sighed. "I wasn't meant to be in Slytherin, Mother."
While Narcissa listened to his sudden confession, her eyes went wide. She needed to know more. "Where did you belong, then?" She hadn't wanted to sound shocked, but in all honesty, she found the news he had brought her after so long quite shocking, in fact. One thing she was not, however, was angry.
Noting her surprise, Draco was tense again as he answered her: "Ravenclaw."
Narcissa beamed at his answer. "All the more reason to believe you were the star student there, mon fils."
Draco relaxed, but his mood dipped very slightly at her choice of words. 'Were'. He had known for a long time Hogwarts would never accept him back for the final ten months of his education, but from the moment Harry had given him that second chance less than a week ago, he had hoped some way could be found to disprove that theory. But somehow, even a slipped-out phrase such as 'you were the star student' brought home the worry that he would never again see the castle from the inside.
"Thank you," he said then, snapping himself out of it, "for not being ashamed of me."
Narcissa watched her son though the warmest eyes he had ever seen. Hoping she could comfort him better in their 'secret tongue', she asked him, "Draco, mon fils… Tu sais que je t'aime immensément! Pourquois as-tu peur de moi?"
To her question, he smiled in return, finally allowing himself to surrender his full trust to her again. He shook his head slowly, the thought of Hogwarts pushed to the back of his mind. Dumbledore had been right. She still loved him, and cared no less about him now than when she had so humorously welcomed him to the drawing room, and into and her presence. "C'est un mystère," he said comfortably.
For several hours thereafter, there was no Hogwarts, no Harry Potter, no Voldemort – there was no Dark Mark on Draco's arm, nor on Narcissa's. There was only the drawing room, and the two inseparable Malfoys who populated it.
Again, Draco enjoyed an untroubled sleep that night, but awoke early, having spent most of the previous day in bed for one reason or another. He could tell from the long shadows outside his window that the sun had just risen over the forbidden horizon, and a dull, grey sky told him that if it didn't rain by nightfall, it wouldn't take much longer than that.
Draco glared out defiantly, his narrowed eyes turned upward at the thick blanket of clouds. "You send your worst, go on!" he dared it. "That stupid, redheaded moth might have Granger in his army, but I have his family in mine!" Confident again that at least he wasn't alone there, he opened the door, wondering what he find to do with his time until more of the house had emerged from their bedrooms.
With little debate, he decided to further investigate the interior of the house, knowing he might be there for a long time. Might as well get to know the place, he thought as he set off, curious about his surroundings.
The first thing he noticed was the many portraits covering the peeling walls of the front room; the largest of which was covered by long, surprisingly dust-free curtains. Wondering why there were curtains hanging over the frame, he took the corner of one to lift it, but he had no time to move the cloth more than an inch or two before a gasp sounded behind him as though he had triggered a very wheezy siren, followed by a muffled thud. Draco let go of the curtain at once and spun around, but then lowered his eyes almost to the level of the floor, where a very old house-elf stared back at him in disbelief with great, round eyes.
"Draco Malfoy, sir! Can it be?" the elf cried ecstatically, continuing to stare as though he had made some marvelous discovery.
"Yes," Draco said, utterly bewildered at the sight of him, "it's me." He had been unaware that the place had a servant at all, let alone a house-elf, and one that would recognize him.
The elf immediately bowed so low Draco thought he might do a somersault. "Kreacher is honored, sir, honored to be in the presence of such noble blood again!" he exclaimed, and straightened up.
"Do you work here?" Draco asked uncomfortably once Kreacher had finished his greeting.
The house-elf nodded, his now narrowed eyes glancing up the staircase at some obvious enemy of his, and answered dutifully. "Kreacher does as his master orders, but he remains loyal to the most noble Black family line!"
Draco thought this over, and realized how Kreacher had known him by sight. "My mother was a Black," he said thoughtfully. "Before she and Father were married, of course."
"But Miss Cissy is still a Black, and so is her son!" Kreacher told him.
Draco raised an eyebrow, but decided to humor the elf. "If you insist. But if you're as loyal as you've said, why does this place look so untidy? Why haven't you been keeping up with your duties?" he demanded. After all, he had always been careful to fulfill his duties as his parents' son, so why should Kreacher get off easy for being lazy about his own?
Kreacher looked quite ashamed as he was scolded, and afterward, ran into the wall repeatedly, as if he were attempting to bash a hole through it with his tiny body. Draco cringed, repulsed by the sight. "Stop, stop!" he snarled, careful to keep his voice down. "Do you want to wake everyone up?" Kreacher stopped hitting the wall at once, and swayed slightly before looking back up at Draco. "Now that we're past that madness…" Draco muttered under his breath.
"Kreacher must punish himself when he has done wrong, sir," the elf reminded him.
Draco rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Or," he suggested, "you could always just skip the self-harm and get right to cleaning up the place."
"Thank you, sir," Kreacher said, and after giving another low bow, he Disapparated.
Draco exhaled sharply, but before he reached the top of the stairs, he found to his chagrin that he was no longer the only human awake in the house.
"Feeling heartless today, Malfoy?" asked Hermione from the landing, holding her wand in one hand and the top of the railing with the other.
"No, Granger," Draco retorted before he could stop himself, "but I appreciate your concern."
Hermione glared at him, and hastily returned his sarcasm. "Concern!" she scoffed. "Hmph, don't hold your breath for my concern! I saw how you just treated Kreacher, you arrogant little—"
Draco cut her off, hardly in the mood to hear her continue to rant about his exchange with Kreacher. "If you don't mind!" he growled as he tried to push past her. She pointed her wand before he could get by, and he stayed put, his eyes narrowed.
"And just where do you think you're off to?" mocked Hermione, who was now barring his way with the help of her free arm. Draco could feel the vengeance in her voice, but he was too angry and humiliated himself to care.
"Did you enjoy it when I called you a Mudblood, Granger?" he hissed back. "Did you like the way I treated you all through school?"
"No!" she shrieked. "Of course I didn't! No one did! Are you mad?"
"Then why are you doing the same things yourself?"
Hermione scoffed. "Well, someone has to give you a dose of your own potion," she told him matter-of-factly.
Draco had to marvel at her ignorance. "You're so self-righteous, you and that selfish brat, Ronald! Can you honestly stand there, grinning at me, and tell me you think I deserve more hell than I'm already getting?"
Hermione let out a sharp laugh. "Hah! What kind of hell have you been through? How can you expect anyone to take you seriously when you call your life hell?"
Raw, hot rage hit him in the stomach like a spiked Bludger. With the back of his fist, he whipped the wand out of her hand and took her by the collar of her Muggle shirt. "DON'T YOU EVER, EVER JUDGE ME!" he roared into her stunned face. "My life is beyond your intellect, beyond any nightmare you'll ever be able to fathom! I grew up in hell, Granger, so never speak to me like I haven't been there!" He shook her once to frighten her. "UNDERSTAND?" She stared at him, looking more terrified than he'd ever seen her. Still trembling with anger, he jerked her again. No pleading eyes could force him to let her go, not until she'd given him the answer he was demanding from her.
Just then, she muttered something under her breath that Draco could not distinguish. But before he could ask her to repeat it, her wand flew back into her ready hand, and she took aim. When he realized he was about to be outsmarted, the once-warm embers of his fury were fanned into flames of searing intensity. With a new strength, he shoved her across the landing toward the corridor. She let out a quick shriek, but managed to keep both her wand and her balance. "You tried to curse me just now, didn't you, Gryffindor?" he scowled. "But frankly, I don't think I could picture you trying Dark magic on for size. Even you must know you're incapable of cursing anyone, much less an 'arrogant little bully' like me. But then again, who's the bully this time, Granger? You know I gave up my wand – and I'm sure you know why – and yet you're turning yours on me like a coward!" By now, he cared no more for keeping his voice low than she had.
"I wasn't going to curse you…" winced Hermione.
Draco could tell she hated being called a coward, but he wasn't about to back off. "Oh, no?" he sneered.
"I was going to Disarm you… Y-you were choking me…"
"Was I?" Draco jeered, feigning a look of apology. Then his stare darkened again. "Rubbish," he snapped. "And have you forgotten what I just told you? I'm already disarmed!"
"Why are you so angry at everything, Malfoy?" she demanded, standing with her back against the wall.
Draco sneered at the question, thinking of what he'd written just a few days ago, after he and his mother had first arrived at the Burrow. "You wouldn't happen to have a Pensieve lying around, would you?" he quipped.
Hermione's eyes widened, her mouth slightly open. Without a word, she started off down the corridor, and Draco followed her, wondering if, perhaps, her unspoken answer was their destination.
She stopped short in front of the office where Dumbledore's portrait had been the day before. Draco reached over to open the door, but Hermione stopped him, apparently having second thoughts.
"We've already spoken," Draco told her quietly. She looked at him questioningly, but followed him inside, leaving the door only slightly open behind her.
Meanwhile, Draco caught sight of the stone bowl beside the portrait in which Dumbledore slept. "Is this…" he whispered, reaching out to touch the fine marble.
"…Professor Dumbledore's Pensieve," Hermione finished, her wary eyes watching Draco's every move.
There was an awed silence, and then Draco grimaced and said, "Do you think he'd mind m—"
Hermione gestured toward the portrait with a sideways nod. "Ask him, not me."
"But he's…" Draco looked at the portrait to find Dumbledore wide awake. "Er…" he said awkwardly.
"Of course you may," Dumbledore said, smiling. "Who better to leave it to than someone who won't use it to store his dust collection?"
Draco's eyes widened in awe. "Leave it t— It's mine?" he stammered, wondering breathlessly if the sudden bequest was some kind of joke, or if he had really just been given such a rare and priceless possession.
"Yes, Draco. It is yours." With that, Dumbledore nodded to Draco, then to Hermione, before standing from his painted chair and walking beyond the frame, out of sight.
Draco continued to stare at the lone chair for a moment longer, but when it occurred to him that Dumbledore wouldn't be back so soon after leaving, he let his gaze drop to the gift he had been given. Instinctively, his hand went to his pocket, but just as suddenly, reality overtook him. "I can't use it…" he told her sadly.
Hermione looked shocked. "Why?" she asked.
"My wand." He looked longingly at the Pensieve once more before walking away.
Hermione hesitated, confused, but then ran to catch up. "You mean you actually snapped it?" she called after him.
Draco slowed his pace just long enough to answer her. "Yeah," he sighed, his heart growing heavier with each step he took. "I 'actually' snapped it."
Hermione grabbed his wrist, pulling him back to look at her. "Why?"
Draco stared at her for a moment as though he wanted to answer, but then turned his back to her and returned downstairs without another sound. He knew she would never be able to comprehend his reasoning for doing what he had, even if she were to honestly try. No matter how much he wanted to be understood, he knew in his heart that a person like Hermione Granger would never take his story for what it was worth. Too much had happened between them, for unlike Ginny, whom he had essentially ignored until recently, Hermione had been a real, even preferred target for Draco's growing frustration over the years.
When he was nearly to his room, his eyes downcast, his thoughts were interrupted by a sudden 'ahem' from directly ahead. Draco stopped short and looked up to see Minerva McGonagall waiting for him outside his door. "Mr. Malfoy," she announced, "I'd like to have a word with you."
Draco nodded worriedly, and followed McGonagall into the office by the front entrance. "Er… Good morning, Professor," he said at once, hoping to at least start off their meeting on a positive note.
"I didn't hear from you yesterday," she told him, ignoring his awkward greeting.
Draco stood very still, wondering if she was expecting an answer. Guessing that she must have been waiting for something, he replied, "Did you want to?"
McGonagall suddenly glared at him, looking furious. "Well, naturally! I've been hoping for some sort of explanation from you, and yet you haven't said one word to me since you got here."
"Professor…" he tried.
"Why are you here? Answer me!"
"I came to hide, okay?" Draco explained quietly. He was getting sick of answering the same question time and time again.
"Hide? From what or whom do you expect to remain hidden while you are here?"
Draco winced at the thought. Most unsettling, however, was how little the headmistress seemed to know about him. "Don't you already know who I'm hiding from? Didn't Professor Dumbledore ever tell you how much I had to worry about over the past year? He knew! He knew the whole time!" He tried to fight the tension out of his tone to keep from raising his voice too much. He had enough experience from his dealings with Ron and Lucius to know that losing his temper would only ever cause him more trouble.
"Mr. Malfoy, I'm going to be frank with you, because so far, nothing else has proved effective, and my patience for you has long since worn thin." Draco clutched at the hems of his robes to keep from shaking at the look on her face. "I don't know why you came here, and as for your excuses, I don't want to hear them. Potter warned the Order of his suspicions during the school year, but I admit, I thought it nothing short of absurd that You-Know-Who would order an underage wizard to kill!" Draco opened his mouth to speak, to tell her he had wanted nothing to do with the Dark Lord, nothing to do with cold-blooded murder! But once again, the elderly witch cut him off before he could make a sound. "But Potter was right about you from the very beginning, wasn't he? And now, Albus is dead!"
"He told me it wasn't my fault," Draco mumbled softly, beginning to have his doubts yet again.
"He was a trusting man," she said thoughtfully, looking across the room as though she had forgotten for the moment to whom she was speaking. "He was selfless to the highest degree, and in the end, it cost him his own life."
Draco sat down slowly, watching her face while she grieved aloud to him. In the still moment that took place after she had gone silent, he sensed that there had been something less visible between McGonagall and Dumbledore than the typical, professional acquaintanceship he had expected. "Professor, I…" he began, but her features hardened again at the sound of his voice, and he lost his nerve.
"You are no longer my student!" she reminded him shrilly. "For the six years I've come to know you, I was sure I could at least trust you not to attempt murder…"
"Have you told Professor Dumbledore what you think of me?" Draco asked, knowing that if she had, she had not wanted to believe the aged wizard's reply, as though she were angry at him for succumbing to a Killing Curse.
"Of course not! We have far more worthy topics to discuss."
Draco's heart sank. "You mean Harry?" he surmised.
His conclusion confirmed, it took all of Draco's strength to force thoughts of pent-up envy back into the darkness. "Are we done, then?" he said as calmly as possible.
Minerva looked at him as if she couldn't believe how he was reacting. "No remorse, no sign of emotion at all…" she breathed, her words barely audible to Draco over his own quickening heartbeat.
Draco jumped to his feet, outraged. "You hear only what you've already insisted on believing! You want the truth? All right, here it is, so plain and simple, even you can't ignore it! I don't give a damn who or what you think I turned out to be! I know the truth, and that's all that matters! I'm not here for my own sake; if you had bothered to listen to me in the first place, you'd know that!"
Unwilling to stay and have another round of thoughtless accusations thrown at him, he took the opportunity to leave. Even the little bit of satisfaction he got from slamming the door of his room as hard as he could behind him could not quiet the angry voice inside him. Several moments passed before he realized that it was still the early part of the morning, and the loud bang of his door might easily have woken many of the sleepers in the house. Sighing in resignation, he got up to see if his mother had been rudely awoken, and if she had, to apologize. None of this was her fault, after all.
But the second his hand touched the doorknob, he was thrown backward into the opposite wall with a crash. Groaning in pain and shock, he stood himself back up and gave the door a confused look. What had just happened?
Cautiously, he walked back to the door, but this time, let his fingertips hover over the knob, barely a half-inch above it, careful not to touch the painted metal. He could feel some strange sort of magic twisting and repelling the skin of his hand, as though he were touching tiny, spinning wheels.
Draco removed his hand from the reach of this unknown spell at once, immediately casting himself into a panic. He was being locked in… Just the same way Lucius had locked him in the confines of his bedroom at Malfoy Manor whenever he had lost his temper at his father. It was horrifying how much smaller the room seemed now.
"M-Moth…Mother!" he called frantically. His father had always had the grace to let him know when he had been trapped, and to tell him when he would be allowed back into the rest of the house: two days, three days, a week… But he hadn't known before closing this door that it would soon be locked behind him, and a gnawing feeling deep in his soul suggested that Minerva, who must have hated Lucius as well as his son, would not be so prompt in unlocking it.
"Mother…" he whispered hopelessly. Slowly, he felt himself sink into the corner of the room, sitting on the edges of the worn, matted carpet. His throat felt parched, his wide, unfocused eyes flooded with unshed tears, and his mind gave way to the horrors of his past. "M-Mother…"
Tu sais que je t'aime immensément! Pourquois as-tu peur de moi? - You know how much I love you! Why are you so afraid of me?
c'est un mystère - it's a mystery