By Firelight

Patching Old Cloth

The room was still for a moment while everyone registered what Draco had said, after which Narcissa hurried to the window, searching frantically for any sign of spies. Meanwhile, Harry turned to Ron, waiting to see how he would react.

"You've got a lot of nerve," Ron scoffed, "coming here after you tried to kill me!"

"But I never-" tried Draco, but Ron interrupted him.

"Oh, that's right, it wasn't me you were trying to poison, it was Dumbledore. That's SO much better!" snarled Ron as he stood to approach Draco, wand in hand.

"You don't under-"

"And you let the other Death Eaters into the school, and Greyback! You must have heard what he did to Bill. How can you expect anyone to forgive you after all you've done?"

Draco was quite silent for at least a full minute. He wanted to run for it, and not stop running till every ounce of strength had left him. He felt the room begin to whirl around him, steadied only by his mother's voice. "You listen to me," she told Ron icily. "You're the one with too much nerve. How dare you accuse my son of something you don't understand at all yourself? Draco is a hero in ways you may never know!"

"Mother..." Draco protested in a hushed tone, as the incredulous faces of Ron, Ginny, and Mrs. Weasley strongly suggested that he was as far from heroic in their opinions as it was possible to be. Narcissa glared defensively back at the Weasleys, but said nothing more for the moment, although she made it perfectly clear that she still had plenty left to say.

Harry, meanwhile, was deep in thought. There was obviously more to the situation than Draco had ever let show, but unless he and his mother were allowed to stay at the Burrow, the full truth might never reveal itself. And something inside Harry told him he needed to know. He knew it was no coincidence that Draco and Narcissa had ended up on his doorstep to ask him, of all people, for help.

Looking intently at nothing in particular, Draco broke the moment's silence. "I'm not... proud of this..." he said hesitantly, sounding as though the words themselves were unwilling to leave his throat. "Any of it. But it's not like I had a choice," he added, finally glancing up at the Weasleys.

"Of course you had a choice!" exclaimed Ginny. "Everyone does. No one can force you to choose the Dark arts."

Draco shook his head wearily. How can I possibly make them understand? he wondered, the hope fading quickly from his eyes. "I know what you think of me," he told them quietly. "You're convinced I was brought up in a world of luxury. I know this, because for the past six years, I've done all I could to convince you of that. And in some shallow, materialistic way, it may be true. But there's more to life than owning things." Not daring to make eye contact with any of them, he felt once more the familiar tightening in his throat he recognized as desperation. What would he and Narcissa do, where would they end up, if he couldn't convince the Weasleys to let them stay? Once again, the fate of the Malfoy family was resting on Draco's shoulders.

"Draco..." began Narcissa in a soft, almost comforting tone, but Draco shook his head sharply and raised his eyes again to meet the Weasleys'. Seeing them there, together, and safe in their own house, made his heart sink with the knowledge that he might never again know that luxury for himself.

Ginny was about to say more when she noticed something, a difference in Draco's presence that she had never seen in him before. He looked quite the opposite of his usual, overly-confident self. He wasn't standing proud, he seemed dragged down with overwhelming emotion, and despite his determination over the past year to bring chaos and danger to Hogwarts and the rest of the Wizarding world, Ginny suddenly felt an unexplainable connection between the two of them.

Draco looked at the youngest Weasley, wondering resignedly if there was anything he could say to improve the situation, when he noticed her expression had changed. And even more suddenly, the answer dawned on him as a ray of sunlit hope. He neither knew nor cared where the idea had come from; all he knew was that there was no other way to convince them of his genuine intentions...

Taking in a slow, silent breath, the boy in question reached into his cloak pocket and withdrew his wand. Harry's jaw dropped, Ron and Mrs. Weasley gasped loudly, and Ginny, whose eyes remained the sole focus of Draco's, stood slowly, watching in horror for the attack...

And then, with a loud cracking sound, Draco's wand fell to the floor, snapped in two. He picked up the pieces and handed the first to Ron, and the other to Ginny. Now all he could do... was wait.

The silence that followed was excruciating. Draco ached to speak, but knew better. As he waited, thoughts and questions of every kind raced through the Weasleys' minds, and Narcissa began to feel faint. After a few painfully long moments, Harry and the Weasleys all turned their gaze to Draco's mother, wondering if she would do the same. Paling considerably at the idea of being defenseless in the company of Order of the Phoenix members, Narcissa shook her head in silent refusal, and stepped back slightly.

Draco's heart sank at her decision, but he still held on to a small shred of hope that his act would be enough for both of them. His eyes scanned the expressions of the Weasley family for signs of understanding, which to his immense relief, he found. Only Ron remained unconvinced, and that seemed manageable enough. Forgetting himself for the briefest of moments, he nearly let a small smile show, but reminded himself firmly that this was no time to let his guard down.

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