By Firelight

With Debts Unpaid

Draco scrambled out of the battle-torn grounds of Hogwarts and Disapparated home before he knew exactly what had happened. As he at last entered his own room, never having slowed his pace, he felt himself crumble under the weight of what he had seen. Memories of that night roared in his mind, twisting through each other till not one of them was recognizable. What have I done! his mind screamed, his hand still gripping his wand tightly. He stumbled to his bed just as his mother appeared at the door, her expression wild with worry.

"Draco?" she whispered, her voice shaking in her shock at seeing him back so soon. "Draco, what happened?"

Draco looked at her, trembling. "Mother, we need to get out of here!"

Narcissa ran to her son and grabbed him by the shoulders, shaking him fiercely. "Tell me, Draco! What happened?"

Draco looked at her with the eyes of a frightened child and answered, "I didn't do it. I couldn't..."

To his complete surprise and awe, Narcissa took him in a fierce embrace, tears now streaming down her cheeks. He wanted more than ever to break down and cry in her arms. But he knew he mustn't, not now. Right now, they had to flee.

"Mother," he said, "we need to leave, now! He'll find us here... We've got to get away."

Narcissa looked at him, tears still streaming from her pale blue eyes. "I know," she said.

The two had Disapparated within the hour, reappearing in a dark back street in a Muggle town a safe distance from Wiltshire. It was certainly the farthest Draco had ever Apparated, but the two of them had discussed their destination before leaving home, so they both arrived intact. When Draco saw the closely-built houses and the small, fenced-in yards that now surrounded him, he gave his mother an incredulous look.

"What did we come here for?" he asked her.

Narcissa spun around to face her son. "Do you know of anyone in our world who would help us now?" she asked in a forced hush. Shocked, Draco stared at her for a while, but eventually shook his head resignedly. His mother took his hand and reassured him, "We'll be far better off here, darling. No one will think to look for us beyond the boundaries of the wizarding world."

With that said, they traveled the rest of the way on foot, silently scanning the horizon for a secluded space in which to spend the rest of the night, unnoticed by any Muggles who might be in the vicinity. They didn't get far before Draco began to feel raindrops landing on his arms and neck. Squinting upward with a grimace, he saw only pitch black sky; the moon and all traces of starlight were gone from view. He looked uneasily at his mother who, by the uncomfortable look written on her face, had clearly noticed the slight drizzle as well. As the wind grew swifter and the rain more urgent, Draco sprinted alongside his mother down the deserted street until they found a modest shop with a few lights still lit inside.

Narcissa unlocked the door and they hurried in, half-soaked from the downpour, to find themselves in a modest library. It was peacefully warm inside, and it seemed deserted, though the lamps around the front room were still lit. They knew neither fire nor magic was in those lamps, which were arranged somewhat pleasantly throughout the library, but the thought of what else could burn so well confused Draco. Still, he set his curiosity aside and took a seat in a nearby armchair, watching his mother for hints on what she was expecting to happen. She sat nearby, bearing the appearance of one who did not know what to expect, which admittedly made him all the more uneasy.

He began to panic in the long silence that followed. He wanted fiercely to ask his mother what would become of them, a witch and a young wizard in the Muggle world. Would they still be able to use magic? Draco doubted whether that would be a wise decision, but the events and unharnessed emotion of the past year had made him feel somehow reckless, and once again, desperate. The will to live was more important than ever; in fact, now far beyond the point of feeling simple remorse over what he had done, he hated the very force that had reduced him to these desperate acts, and in doing so, had nearly succeeded in making him a murderer.

He hated the Dark Lord.

That night, Draco had what appeared to be ten nightmares at once. Each one horrified him more terribly than the last, and all he could think of after awakening was Dumbledore's offer, and whether he, the heir to everything his parents had – which included the Dark Mark – had truly deserved such treatment. "I never have," he decided finally before falling asleep once more.

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