Crimes Never Forgotten
Draco sat on his bed, excitedly jotting down a last-minute entry in his diary, when a knock sounded from his bedroom door. He startled and looked toward the door fearfully, but a second later, his mother peeked in and sighed, grinning slightly. "Mon fils," she said adoringly, "would your father knock? I doubt he would."
Draco sighed, amused. "But you know you never need to, either, Maman," he reminded her happily, ending as she had started: in French. He delighted in the long-lasting joke between them, the humor lying in the fact that Lucius had never bothered to learn a word in the elegant language, and so the mother and son could chatter all they wanted without worrying about being overheard.
Narcissa smiled briefly, but then grew more solemn. "Are you ready for the train, darling? It's time to get going," she whispered quickly.
Draco felt his throat tighten unexpectedly at the thought of leaving her alone with her husband for nearly four months. "But Mother, I don't want to leave…" he begged her, his eyes filling with concern. It had been three years since Lucius had changed, and as frightened as Draco had been at first, it was made clear quite early in those three years that he was not the only one in danger from his father's new, unpredictable nature. More than anything or anyone he had ever known, he hated the thought of returning for the winter holidays to find his mother broken. He had to be strong for her.
Narcissa watched her son lovingly, but she couldn't hide all the fear from her eyes when they heard Lucius' voice pierce the air from downstairs. "Come, Draco! You'll miss the train!" he called.
Draco shook his head so fiercely he felt dizzy. "I'm not going, Mother. We can send for a tutor, I don't care. But I'm not leaving you here. Je n'irai pas!" he refused, his voice breaking at the last few words. He threw himself into her arms, his tears too heavy to swallow back. They held each other, both unwilling to let go, until the door swung open and Lucius wrenched Draco away, having to drag the sobbing child down the stairs, into the sitting room, and into the fireplace. Lucius threw a small handful of Floo powder at the boy's feet and waited for him to speak.
"P-platform… nine and… three-quarters…" Draco stammered, and dried his tears before he arrived by the Hogwarts Express. Dobby followed wordlessly, levitating Draco's school trunk onto the platform, and then glanced around nervously. Within moments, the house-elf had scuttled off into the crowd. Draco was far too worried to care what he was up to. Finally, Lucius came out from the fireplace and grasped Draco hard by the shoulder so that the boy had to clench his fists to keep from tearing up again.
The next minute, Draco was on the Hogwarts Express, which had just started to pull away. Rubbing his shoulder for a single moment of self-pity, he turned to face the window. Lucius was easily seen from where Draco sat, and he glanced for an instant at his young son before turning away. It was, perhaps, a wishful daydream, but Draco felt himself push open the window in his compartment and scream with all his strength, "Don't you hurt her, don't you even look at her!" But the next thing he knew, the window remained shut, so he was left to guess that his moment of bravery had occurred only in his own mind.
In the five years to follow, Lucius' empowered attempts at keeping his wife and son apart would be met valiantly with increasing efforts on Draco's part to protect and defend his mother at any cost. After the Dark Lord's return, however, their situation worsened rapidly, and while Narcissa's well-being was Draco's top priority by far, he often felt himself slipping under his own weight, crushed by the pressure he was under. Incidentally, when falling grades and more frequent outbursts at school got him thrown in detention more times in his sixth year than the first five combined, more and more people began to notice how distraught the teenager was becoming, though most of them arrived at the easy but inaccurate conclusion that it was Lucius' arrest that had brought him down so low.
Draco gasped sharply at the sound of a heavy door opening, and in the next few seconds, his vision blurred and formed again, and the youth knew he'd been asleep. He turned wearily, mildly curious as to what had woken him up, but found to his despair that the recent arrival was of Arthur Weasley… Just how long had Draco been sleeping? He had wanted to prepare himself, and maybe put his quill back to work for a few minutes before — Oh, no…
On instinct, he had reached for the partially-used parchment he expected to find in his cloak pocket, but it wasn't there. One look at the table, where his quill lay alone, albeit slightly ruffled, told him it was time again to panic. He must have left it on that old coffee table, for anyone to find… Who else had seen what was written there? He dreaded the answer.
"Where are they, dear?" said a hushed voice, and Draco recognized it as Arthur's.
"Well… she's upstairs, the last I saw of her…" Draco's heart sank, knowing fully well who Molly was referring to so curtly.
"And… and the boy? Is he with her?"
Draco stared into the fireplace, wondering whether to be angry or just hurt. The boy. They wouldn't even use his name. He knew why: He knew of how Fenrir had snuck into the school after the other Death Eaters once Draco had turned his back, nearly murdering the Weasleys' eldest son and scarring him for life. Or, perhaps it was just because the boy was forced to see that dreadful Mark with every glance at his stinging left arm. After a year, the pain from the day he'd been branded had not gone away, perhaps a sign from the evil creature to keep him aware of the consequences his imminent failure would bring about.
And it had certainly kept him aware. He could not remember enjoying a single decent night's sleep throughout the entire year. Three times that year, he had nearly collapsed from exhaustion alone, and the most recent incident had landed him in the hospital wing long enough to get everyone 'worried' about him. Hah, worried… The word Madame Pomfrey should have used was 'suspicious'. But of course, paranoia would go in either direction that year.
Then, without another warning, Draco found himself looking straight into Arthur's face. Finding no words appropriate, he sat still, trying not to think of or look at anything in particular. Finally, he saw the man sitting down through the corner of his eye. Draco looked up at him on instinct.
"Why did you come here?" asked Arthur. He was addressing Draco with shocking patience, Draco's eyes flickered with something even he could not recognize. All he could guess was, after surviving that vicious, twelve-month rollercoaster that had carried him here, the lack of anger in Arthur's voice seemed the first sign that the rickety car was slowing to a stop.
Draco gulped and asked in an unintentional hush, "How much do you already know?"
Arthur shook his head slowly while he answered. "I want to hear it all from you."
He could not possibly have known how hard those words were for Draco to hear… or how much he had needed to hear them. Arthur was letting Draco tell his side of the story… Unfathomable!
Before even attempting to speak, he gave himself a few seconds to wonder who was responsible for raising Arthur's youngest son, because it now seemed entirely impossible that the man before him had had any part in Ron's upbringing at all.
Draco's eyes refocused on Arthur's and a small pang of guilt hit him. He looked quite worn out, probably from a long day at work, but one thing he didn't look was impatient. Draco firmly decided not to mention his exchange with Ron after all. Respect, a nearly-forgotten concept to Draco where Narcissa wasn't concerned, reached out to him, and he returned it in the only way he knew how. Looking at the floor, he started by answering the original question directly. "Potter took us here. We were in Surrey yesterday, trying to find him. I guess we hoped if he couldn't help us himself, he'd know someone who would…"
"And what do you need help with, Draco?"
Taking a deep breath inward, Draco thought he could feel the pain in his left arm intensify for a split second. The youth shuddered, and it took him a few more seconds before he could respond. "I need to be sure what's left of my family won't be destroyed. I need her to live."
Arthur went quiet, his face unreadable. While he took on the weight of what Draco had told him, the teenager waited, not daring to let his mind wander. Arthur seemed to be waiting for an explanation, more of Draco's story perhaps. But he would not say another word, not until Arthur had spoken.
Yet when he did, it wasn't with the same tone he had used previously. A note of quiet resentment could be heard there. "If it's Azkaban you're trying to avoid, Draco, I can't promise very much just now. I hope you don't believe yourself innocent."
Draco knew what Arthur meant without another word wasted. Between Fenrir's attack and the poisoned mead, he knew he had caused this family a lot of grief. But how could he explain that he had never meant to cause them lasting harm? So-called bullying was one thing – but these were crimes, crimes against the family he had inadvertently come to for help. He was beginning to realize just how much he was asking of them, and his resolve was in shards.
But he couldn't give up on his mother. She had done nothing against them. "I know what I've done. And I'm not going to ask you to help me now." He was speaking slowly, his mind on what was to come. He pictured waking his mother upstairs, seeing tears fill her eyes as he told her goodbye, perhaps forever… She would never let him leave without her… But he knew Arthur would never trust him, and he could only blame himself. This was Narcissa's only chance. "But don't send my mother away, too." He realized his voice was breaking, but he didn't care anymore. "You have to understand… She's all that matters to me anymore—" Draco cut off, feeling as though he were being strangled. But he knew what was happening. He closed his eyes; the pressure cramming into him was too strong. He hated himself for doing it; surely, the man sitting across from him had more right to cry than he did. But the thought of never seeing her again was too much. For seven long, excruciating years, they had been all each other had in the world; nothing else had made any difference to them. "Just… P-please…" There was nothing outside these walls for him but danger. He had no wand, no defense against his fate. Was this his last chance to protect the one person he could remember ever loving? He would sooner die than let it slip away.
But once again, when he met Arthur's eyes through his own overflowing tears, he found his expression had changed. Now, clearly, it was Arthur's turn to stare at the other, shocked. "You won't even try to defend yourself?"
Draco was incredulous at the question. "How can I?" he asked between uncontainable sobs. "What words exist that could make you forgive me?"
Arthur's answer was even more unexpected than his offer to listen in the first place, and the voice that issued from his throat was extraordinarily heartfelt. "You've already put them to use."
Draco gasped as he watched Arthur pull a small, wrinkled, slightly-torn square of parchment from a pocket in his robes. "M-my…!" was all he could manage. He looked at it and couldn't even figure out what he was feeling. Was it hope? Relief, perhaps? No, no words of his could describe the great rush he felt while he realized he hadn't lost his latest writings to just anyone…
"Molly sent it to me with her letter. She said Ginny found it here while you were asleep. Maybe someday soon, you'll feel up to telling me more."
Draco let out his gasped breath slowly, still looking at the parchment in Arthur Weasley's hand. Then, if it hadn't been enough to see it again, the full meaning of what Arthur had said hit him with utmost force. "You're going to let me stay?" he breathed, his silver eyes widening.
Arthur nodded, having seen for the first time the unmistakable difference between this desperate child and his cold-hearted father. He was coming to a few realizations of his own, it seemed. So many before him had guessed Draco had done everything he had only to make Lucius proud, but they had all been lying to themselves. Was it possible that Arthur understood this now, too? After all, the tearful youth had let slip that his mother was all he cared about. In doing so, had he revealed his long-concealed opinion of Lucius as his father?
But none of these questions could enter the front of the teenager's mind, which felt like a room so packed with unrecognizable human figures that nobody could move an inch. And each one of these strange people was whispering in the ear of the person next to them, all speaking the same single word repeatedly: 'forgiven'. And the moment Draco heard this, he refocused his eyes on the man before him, who had nearly lost two of his sons in the space of the past year alone, but had still forgiven Draco for his part in what had happened to them. He knew he would care why eventually, but for now, all he could feel was gratitude.
"Merlin…" Draco whispered. The watery traces of his tears were slowly but steadily evaporating into the warm, comfortably dry air of the Weasleys' living room. He slowly began to consider once again that things would get better, and soon rather than later. Maybe, just maybe, things would work out.
Arthur resisted a smile at the look on the young Malfoy's face just before sleep returned to the boy. Forgiven or not, the worry and bloodshed his actions had caused would not be washed away with tears alone, however genuine they might have been. Even the writings Ginny had found had not initially been enough to bring Arthur to forgive all Draco had said and done to the Weasley family. But together, along with the adolescent's plea for his mother's safety, had confirmed for Arthur what he'd always been too hurt to consider. Draco Malfoy was human, and inwardly, a terrified child. Arthur took one last look at the parchment he was holding before following Molly upstairs to sleep.
"If I ever had the right to be afraid, it was lost long before I knew what fear really was…"
Mon fils = My son
Je n'irai pas! = I won't!