Dream Yourself Awake
"So, the meetings… what are they about?" Draco asked again. He was only curious, but it was the kind of curiosity that wouldn't leave him alone until it was satisfied. "All Order of the Phoenix matters, I'm sure," he added in an official sort of tone that made Narcissa smile.
She sighed, knowing she'd have to explain eventually. "They want information, that's all. It's nothing I want you worrying about." When Draco looked incredulous, she nodded. "Yes, they've been spending days asking me for any clues I have of how to rid the world of the Dark Lord. It would be easier for everyone involved if I had the clues they're asking for."
She was about to say more, but Draco spoke up, his eyes thoughtful. "What do you mean? We know plenty of details that could help them win the war. I know I do."
"Draco," Narcissa whispered, grabbing Draco's shoulder suddenly, "we don't know what they could do with anything we tell them…"
Draco stared at her in astonishment. "Of course we do," he told her. "They'd win the war! Mother, which side are you on?"
"I'm not choosing a side. I'm trying to find a place in between where we'll both be safe."
"But we're safe here!"
Narcissa looked as though she felt guilty for not telling him sooner to be careful. "Draco, I don't think you understand…" she began, still speaking in hushed tones. "From the moment we entered the Burrow, I knew we had taken too great a chance. Just because most of these people have been friendly to us, that doesn't make this a safe haven. In deciding to seek out Harry Potter, you took a great risk, and by revealing ourselves to members of the Order, and then showing up at their headquarters, we only added to that risk." Draco lowered his eyes, turning his head away, knowing he had been reckless yet again, but still certain that his choices were already being justified. "Can you even be sure that Ginny—"
Draco's heart raced at the mention of Ginny, and he felt the muscles in his face and neck tighten. Rather than listen to the rest of his mother's point, he stood and headed swiftly for the door. Ignoring her protests as he opened it and walked out, he busied himself trying to block any hint or thought from his mind that Ginny, the charming balance between hope and patience, would ever betray him the way that Pansy had.
In his effort to keep the harmful notion away, his attention wandered to a corridor by the staircase, from which several muffled voices could be heard at once. Draco walked closer, and as he did, the voices quieted, until only one could be heard at a time.
"…that unless there's a major breakthrough within the next few days, we'll all be fighting this war on our own. We can't afford to wait!"
"We've tried everything we can, Minerva. I get the feeling she's been leading us on a wild goose chase from the beginning. What more can we do?"
Draco took a few more cautious steps toward the door and, drawing in a deep breath, he gathered what courage he could find and knocked before he could talk himself out of it.
There was near-silence inside, but shortly afterwards, the door opened a few inches, revealing a sliver of the brightly-lit room. Then, Minerva stepped in front of the doorway, looking slightly bewildered, as though Draco had been the last person she had expected to see there.
"I… want to help…" Draco said slowly. He tried to look her directly in the eye while he spoke in an attempt to disprove any preconceived suspicions she might have had, but it was hard. His mother had spent days stubbornly keeping anything she knew a secret, and now he was offering all that knowledge to the same people she had warned him not to dare trust. His heart was already heavy with guilt, but in thought, he begged fate to see that his actions now would cause no further harm, especially to his mother.
But then another thought nibbled at his mind. If he told the Order all he could, swore his allegiance, and thereby took Dumbledore's advice to another level… not only would Dumbledore be proven right about him for all to see, but Ginny would know how badly he wanted to do what was right, no matter how much resistance his mother would give him. He wanted that; more than anything, he wanted to show Ginny that he wasn't a product of his past.
"I'm not sure what information you're looking for, exactly…" he said, "but I'll do what I can." When Minerva didn't allow him entry right away, he added, "I want this war to end as much as you do."
Finally, she opened the door wider so he could join the others. Draco took an empty seat and looked around.
"Well, Mr. Malfoy—" Minerva began. Draco shifted uncomfortably at the mention of his surname. Minerva, of course, was wise enough to take the hint. Unable to hide a good-natured smile, she corrected herself. "Draco…" Then, she grew serious again. "To be perfectly honest, anything you can tell us would help a great deal. As it is, we're outnumbered, and we're fighting blindly. If we're going to stand any chance at all, we'll have to turn the tables quickly. Time is of the essence."
Fear prickled at Draco's heart. Of course they were outnumbered, but Draco had hoped they were well-armed and well-protected. Now, apparently, it wasn't as safe there as he wanted to believe. The urgency of the situation was clearer now than it had ever been, but the more he scrambled to conjure a solution, the more unprepared and useless he felt.
"Draco, look at me," spoke a voice, sounding a thousand times steadier than Draco felt. He looked up from his lap to the speaker, which turned out to be Arthur Weasley. "Nobody's asking you to come up with an entire war plan on your own. The rest of us can figure that out. We just need to know what to expect."
Draco's heartbeat slowed to a more comfortable pace as he listened, and he tried again to find what the people surrounding him sought.
"Do you know where he might be?" Draco asked all of a sudden. "What I mean is… even with his loyal pawns in control of the Ministry, he wouldn't go there himself, at least not yet. I think he'd want to take Hogwarts first. But just imagine, hundreds of minds being brainwashed, and those who resist would be sent to a kind of detention they might never recover from…" The thought of Hogwarts being turned into a Death Eater youth recruitment center was enough to make him literally feel ill. "We can't let him do that…"
"So, he's trying to get to Hogwarts now," Alastor said. "I suspected as much. And they've damn well given him a golden opportunity to do it."
Draco looked up at him, horrified. "What do you mean?"
Molly answered before Alastor could explain. "They're already out in the open at Hogsmeade, searching the shops almost daily, and watching the streets and alleys for anyone suspicious…" She trailed off, looking frightened for the first time Draco knew about. Seeing her that worried brought back memories that made him start shivering as the fear in her eyes proved contagious. She and Narcissa weren't as different as they both believed they were. A wave of empathy surged through him, although he said nothing for the moment. Arthur placed a comforting hand on his wife's shoulder, but he, too, could find nothing encouraging to say.
"Where there isn't prejudice, there's terror," Alastor added, "and when people give in to fear, they do things they never could have believed of themselves." His gaze fell meaningfully on Draco until the boy could no longer stare back.
Forcing his gaze away toward the wall to his right, Draco understood perfectly. "Things like getting the Dark Mark, or… or trying to kill."
Alastor nodded, his magical eye now watching Minerva for any sign of agreement, but she was no longer listening. She had turned toward a window and pulled the curtains apart just enough to see the street below, which looked as though it were shaking beneath the driving rain. The swift descent into darkness almost surprised Draco, who was the next to notice the curtain opening. It felt almost as if the room had lost much of its own lighting when Minerva had unknowingly welcomed the night inside.
The moment of peaceful reflection lasted only a few seconds, however. It was then replaced with an uncontrollable pang of frigid fear. Draco gasped for air as the room spun wildly around him. Old visions and living nightmares reawakened before his eyes, spinning even faster until they had no form. But worst of all were the memories…
He was in the Astronomy tower at the age of sixteen, watching hopelessly as his headmaster fell to the hard ground, broken… He was fourteen, locked in his former bedroom, screaming and kicking and banging at the door with all his strength, while his mother's cries for mercy echoed throughout the manor… He was eleven, spending every second of Christmas Day shut in that miserable bedroom for the first time, wishing only for life-saving water… He was ten, still in confused shock after his first Cruciatus Curse in living memory, yet somehow unable to remember anything from the years before…
Five voices speaking the same incantation woke Draco from this worst of daydreams just enough to make him aware that he had slid off his chair, and onto his knees. He opened his eyes when he realized that both the spinning and the visions had stopped. What he saw was a room full of silver light: five Patronuses taking the shape of a cat, an owl, a weasel, a lioness and a lynx.
For a moment, he could only stare at them in awed silence, but once the light returned to the lamps both indoors and out, the silver creatures disappeared. The air in the room was warm again; all that remained of the incident was the mixture of fear and amazement written on Draco's face as he slowly stood himself back on his feet.
"Dementors?" he breathed. "Here?"
"You-Know-Who lets them go wherever they please nowadays," Kingsley said, somewhere between worried and exasperated. "Let's hope he didn't send them here…"
Draco looked at him, wide-eyed. "If he did send them… w-where would we go?" Everyone looked at him, but no one spoke, which terrified him further. "We would all have to leave if he found out we're here, right? There is another place, isn't there?"
He had lived more or less out of fear for seven years: fear of torture, fear of dying, fear for his mother's life – but now, there was more at stake. Icy shards of broken glass seemed to form in Draco's stomach, and as he looked around at the others, he realized that they, too, were afraid. He had thought it impossible to frighten his old Transfiguration professor, and yet the aura of deep concern surrounded her, as well.
"But there's got to be some place in Britain that's still safe…" Draco protested, unwilling to lose what little composure he had left. "We can't just sit here and wait for him to—"
"We're not waiting, Draco," Arthur said. "We're doing everything possible. We're not the only people we have to worry about."
"I can only imagine." Draco's voice had gone quiet, though still audible. He decided that now might be the worst possible occasion to ask any more questions, so he left it at that.
While silence had filled the room for a little while longer, Draco was anything but relaxed. He was busy searching his brain for anything that could be used to aid the Order, when he found something he had overlooked before. It was strange; he had never thought much of it in the past. Yes, his father had been more secretive than usual when Draco had found that old hiding place years ago, but Lucius had always been unpredictable, hadn't he?
To this day, Draco could not recall why he'd gone into the drawing room at that particular moment, but when he had, he found a large, square hole in the hardwood floor, revealing a hidden chamber below. The hole, he had surmised, had been safely concealed under the rug all this time, the corner of which was now pulled back. As he neared the entrance to this underground chamber, he noticed that it was not simply a hole, but a complete room, filled with shelves upon shelves of ominous things. When he tried to get a better look, a glint of gold met his eye from among the otherwise black and grey collection. Before he could get any closer, however, Lucius came back into view and ended up cursing Draco so badly that he couldn't move for at least two minutes but to cry. He never saw or heard how his father sealed that hole, but when he was finally able to sit up, he saw that the entrance he had seen before had disappeared without a trace.
He hadn't thought about it very much since, but it reappeared for him now as though it had happened only days ago. Knowing what lay in that hiding place could be essential to the Order. In the back of his mind, he wondered what the gold object had been, but he set aside his curiosity and stood at once, not sure what to say first.
At the same moment, it occurred to him that for whatever reason, Harry Potter was absent from this meeting, and quite possibly, from every other Order of the Phoenix meeting, as well. It seemed that the Boy-Who-Lived was the first person who should hear about this.
"Where's Harry?" he asked before he could stop himself. He couldn't imagine why those who would accept his help would seemingly show little interest in Harry's.
Minerva sighed, her expression unreadable. "The last I've seen, he was upstairs talking with Miss Weasley."
Draco tensed a bit at the thought of what the two of them might be talking about, but he forced his worries down, remembering that with a war going on all around him, there were more pressing matters to be concerned about. "Excuse me…" he told the others as he hurried out of the room, leaving them in confused silence.
It took a few minutes for him to locate the Chosen One, but when he did, he found Harry and Ginny deep in conversation.
"It wasn't because I don't love you anymore, Ginny. I always will."
"I understand. But after we all came here, I realized that there's something else I want, something I've wanted all along; I just never thought about it."
"To be needed. Being loved is one thing, and it is important. But being needed is different, and I never realized how meaningful it was until… until I found out I had it. Draco needs me, Harry. And meaning that much to him, or to anyone, means the world to me." Draco inched closer to the half-open door so that he could hear them more clearly.
Harry's tone alarmed Draco. He actually sounded heartbroken, and it made Draco shudder to think of his part in the reason. Earlier that year, Blaise Zabini had destroyed Draco's relationship with Pansy, and Draco had been heartbroken himself. Now, he realized that his feelings for Ginny, and hers for him, were causing Harry the same grief. A faint voice spoke from within, reminding him that he wasn't here to discuss Ginny; he had come to tell Harry about the hidden chamber back at the manor. Even so, it was hard to focus on that when guilt kept creeping up on him.
"I think I know what you're going to say, but I don't agree. You don't need me. Not like he does. You're independent, Harry, and that's also a good thing. I just need to be more than a girlfriend to someone. I know you love me, Harry, and I love you, too. But it's just not the same as it was. You'll find someone new. I know you will."
Draco had already reached the door to the room from which the conversation was heard, but he dared not make his presence known. His father's secret room was pushed out of his mind, and common sense told his legs to turn him around and run, but they would not obey, for reasons Draco could not guess. So he stood beside the doorway, leaning his back against the wall, his nerve gone. Harry would surely hate him again, and this time, it would be personal.
Just as Draco was thinking this, Ginny stepped out of the room, looking melancholy. "I'm sorry…" she sighed. It wasn't till she had turned back towards the staircase, it seemed, that she noticed Draco standing there. She startled, obviously not having expected him to hear anything she'd just said to Harry.
Draco swallowed back his words as they began forming questions in his head; he wasn't sure which to ask first, or whether he should ask them at all. Why would you throw away your chance at the kind of future he could give you, Draco wondered feverishly, just to be a friend to me? You've got to keep your options open. What sort of future could I offer you? This was one of the more pressing mysteries on his mind.
It was sudden – it was inconceivable. A young blossom would never turn from the sunlight to befriend the shadows; that Ginny had turned away from what was best for her, letting go of a very promising relationship in the process, was downright unbelievable.
But then, something strange occurred to him. Maybe he wanted this. Immediately, shame at the idea overtook him, and he quickly labeled it as the work of selfishness. He tried to shove it aside, but it wouldn't budge. In all honesty, he knew what she had said about him was true. He did need her. Like any human being needed air or water, he needed her. He needed to know she would never go away, and he needed her to need him in return.
Maybe she did.
Overwhelming hope welled up in his heart, and for once, the thought that it wasn't right to be happy at a time like this was the one he pushed down.
Slowly, Ginny took his hand and started toward the stairs again. Draco followed without a word, never once taking his eyes off of her. When they neared her bedroom, Ginny gently guided him in and closed the door, and they sat down together on the edge of her bed.
"Are you okay?" Ginny asked. "You haven't said anything…"
Draco sighed, trying not to smile. He nodded. "Why did you do that?" he asked after a small pause.
Ginny glanced down at her knees, and Draco's urge to smile at her vanished. "Because he had to understand. He has to know I don't want to wait around until the war is over. But I didn't tell him everything… I couldn't."
Draco's heart started racing. "What couldn't you tell him?"
Finally, Ginny looked back up at him. Her eyes were shockingly timid, and the I-know-what-I'm-doing confidence that usually dwelt there was missing. "That I love you." Her voice matched her eyes, and it seemed as though she thought he was about to tell her to leave him alone. For Merlin's sake!
The next thing they knew, they were sharing the warmest, most amazing kiss either of them had ever experienced. Where they were and why had never been further from Draco's mind. All that mattered now was that they were together, and that this kiss would last forever…
But it didn't.
When they at last pulled away from one another, Draco had about three seconds to gaze at Ginny before his Mark suddenly began searing with invisible fire. It had been less than two weeks since he had last felt it burning, but he had hoped that whatever healing magic Ginny had used to make it stop would last. At first, he was in too much shock to cry out, or to make any noise at all. As the burning grew to an unbearable intensity, he took a shaky breath inward and closed his eyes tightly against the pain. It was the Cruciatus Curse all over again, only this time, it was concentrated in that one forearm. Still, he refused to make a sound.
"Draco! Draco, what's wrong? What is it?" Ginny tried frantically to work out what was happening. Unable to speak, Draco clutched at the sleeve that concealed the Mark, hoping she would understand.
She shuddered, but wasted no time in trying to help. She opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a round container of thick, pearl-white liquid, then squeezed a dollop of it onto a handkerchief. But the instant the potion touched Draco's arm, he howled in agony, praying with all of his strength for it to stop. Tears slipped down either side of his face like a stormy downpour on a windowpane.
Ginny looked up at him in horror. This potion was meant to soothe pain, not cause more! Rereading the label on the potion bottle, she found nothing that would explain what was going on. She panicked; this was the same potion she had used to heal him before! What had gone wrong this time? There was no time to wonder.
"I have to… find someone…" She threw down the handkerchief, then sprinted out the door, down the stairs, and straight to Narcissa's bedroom. "Mrs. Malfoy!" she shouted as she got to the closed door. She knocked as loudly as she could until the woman opened up, looking annoyed.
"What's the meaning of—" Narcissa began.
"Draco's hurt! I don't know what happened, but you have to come and help him!" Ginny stammered breathlessly.
Narcissa took on a highly distressed look. "Where is he?"
Ginny beckoned for Narcissa to follow her, and dashed back upstairs, looking over her shoulder once to make sure the elder witch was still close behind.
When they reached Ginny's room, Draco was still sitting on Ginny's bed and clutching at his sleeve, even though it no longer covered the Mark completely. His eyes were open again, and he turned his head to the doorway when Narcissa and Ginny appeared there. The curse remained strong, but the harsh burn had eased enough to allow him to breathe and think properly. He stiffened a bit at the sight of his mother, not wanting her to see his pain, only to discover she already knew about it.
"Draco…" she whispered at once, kneeling by him. "What happened? Ginny told me you'd been hurt. What is it, darling?"
Draco shook his head. "It's just… It's nothing," he stammered with a forced calm. "I'm fine. I'm okay now."
But Narcissa knew better. "You're shaking, sweetheart," she pointed out gently.
Knowing further protests would prove futile, he looked down at his arm remorsefully, and she followed his gaze. Realizing what was happening, she took his left hand in both of her own, and closing her eyes for a moment, let out a dejected sigh. Her empathy was comforting and worrisome at the same time. He found himself wondering if she felt the same thing, but was unwilling to let him see.
"If he's trying to summon me, it's not going to work," Draco assured her, defiance written across his face. Then, his eyes softened as he looked up at Ginny. "There's more than fear keeping me here now."
Lord Voldemort was already seated in the drawing room when his servant arrived, looking moderately anxious. "You bring news, I trust?" he addressed the hooded figure as it knelt before him, its head bowed in an extra show of respect.
The man chose his words carefully before speaking them. "I have not found them yet, my lord, but I—"
"Do you think this is a game, Lucius?"
"N-no, my lord, I assure you—"
"Was I mistaken in thinking I could rely on you to complete this simplest of tasks?" Lord Voldemort snarled, his snake-like, red eyes gleaming with malevolence.
"I haven't given up, my lord…" Lucius protested, sounding as though the air had momentarily been knocked out of him. "Half of the job is done; there can only be one way they have remained hidden for so long." He stopped short, knowing that what little news he had brought his master was not good news after all. He knew that if his wife and son had been on their own all this time, they would have been found. There was only one other option, as unlikely as it seemed. But undoubtedly, his hypothesis would not make the Dark Lord any happier with him. On the contrary, in telling his conclusion, he would be fortunate to live another day. No, it would not please the Dark Lord to hear that two of his former servants had turned on him, and were now living under the protection of the Order.
Lord Voldemort, however, was growing impatient. "Well?" he prodded. "What have you discovered?" He was ready to find out for himself using his skill as a Legilimens, but Lucius finally answered, albeit rather uneasily.
"I know my son well," explained Lucius, making no effort to hide his loathing of his connection to the boy. "Draco is far too reckless to remained undetected for long with only Narcissa to protect him. I believe they have sought protection from a more capable ally."
For the next few seconds, Lord Voldemort only glowered at Lucius, which prompted him to continue. "I see no other possibility but that they found that protection at the meeting place of the Order of the Phoenix."
"Impossible!" Voldemort snapped, and he rose slowly to a standing position. "How would they so much as locate the Order? No one loyal to Harry Potter would give them a second glance!"
Lucius could only hope he had been wrong.
Harry groaned in obvious frustration, watching his two best friends argue over his and Ginny's official breakup. It should have been Harry's and Ginny's situation, and theirs alone, but in an admittedly impulsive act, he had confided in Ron who, in turn, confided in Hermione. Perhaps it had been the initial sense of "this shouldn't have happened" shock that had gotten Harry to speak up about the unhappy ending, but whatever it was, he had acted on it, and he was regretting it.
Moreover, he had far from forgotten the task with which Dumbledore had left him. He didn't have time to try and keep them from bickering. He had to start searching for the rest of Voldemort's seven Horcruxes, before the vile creature could manage to make an eighth.
Finally, he got up to leave, with Ron and Hermione watching him in surprise. Neither of them said another word to each other for the rest of the night, but went to prepare for sleep in near-silence.
Draco sat on his bed, staring idly out his bedroom window at the street, on which the pounding rainfall still sounded. His mind soared through the window into the darkness, back to the Wiltshire home that, for so many years, he had been forced to call his own. His father had done his best to ensure that it was the only home he would ever have. Perhaps Lucius thought it amusing to see all of Draco's hopes and dreams crushed before the boy could even write them down. But the joke was on Lucius.
He knew many of his classmates thought of Hogwarts as their home, but for him, those days had ended long ago. Getting the Dark Mark changed so much about his life. For that matter, how could he call the school "home" now? He would never be allowed back in.
But Malfoy Manor had stopped being his "home" the minute he and Narcissa had Disapparated from its grounds well over a month ago. He had found a new home now, and the best thing about this place was that Lucius would never be able to find it.
A precious calm washed over him as he lay back against his pillow, and after a few more seconds of watching the rain, he let himself sink into sleep.
Ironically, his dreams were anything but peaceful. Yet it wasn't Draco's past that haunted him that night; it was the future. Visions of what could very well happen before long made him toss and turn restlessly in his sleep. Emerging from his room one day to find the Order's once-safest location under siege… seeing Ron successfully convince Ginny that Draco had led the Death Eaters here, just as he had led them into Hogwarts less than two months before… hearing Lucius' reaction to finding Draco with the Order… watching as the life vanished from Narcissa's eyes, while Lucius turned his wand on his son one final time…
"Draco! Draco!" a voice shouted from behind him and, opening his eyes, he finally awoke. He lay on his side in bed, facing the window. His eyes darted around frantically until a gentle hand touched his arm. "Draco, it's okay," his mother's voice whispered sweetly. "It was just a dream."