Book One - Ashes to Ashes
Five months are gone and I am still looking for her. As each day passes I am sickened with the possible reality that I am far too late. Zabini’s contacts at the Ministry have confirmed that her parents have both been killed; her father upon capture and her mother not long after in one of the vigilante shelters. According to Blaise, these shelters are starting to lose more of their security each day as members abandon the campaign of torturing Death Eaters. It must be a sight to see the “good” people of the magical world embracing their morality once again.
None of that is my concern. Blaise said there is a shelter in the forest outside Hogsmeade and I am leaving tonight to investigate. I will not rest until she is found. Too much time has already been wasted, too much suffering for loyalty to me that I never appreciated until the day I realized she was gone. I continue to find the shell of an arrogant, privileged and delusional boy in the mirror each morning and it disgusts me.
I have to find her.
Draco placed his book of parchment in a bag along with his other supplies and thundered down the Manor staircase headed directly toward the door. He raised the new wand he had purchased to replace his original, which had been lost to him during the nightmare that was Voldemort’s last days, and started to speak the incantation to open the door when his father’s voice speaking his name echoed from the drawing room into the foyer. With a heavy sigh Draco followed the voice and glared across the room with great agitation.
Lucius took his time looking from the parchment in his hand then spoke curtly, “Where do you think you are going?”
“To find Pansy. After five months why is this so difficult for you to comprehend?” Draco turned to leave, but stopped when he heard his father walking toward him.
The effect that Voldemort’s defeat had had on the Malfoy family was crippling. Their Manor had been nearly destroyed while being used as the Dark Lord’s headquarters. The once ornate and immaculate home showed signs of magical battles and the rooms that were not destroyed by Death Eater activities had been devastated by fires and lootings executed by vigilante groups determined to find and punish anyone considered to be a supporter of the now defeated Dark Lord.
Lucius walked across the dilapidated room and stood in front of Draco, “Do you understand the danger involved in this mission for a girl you did not even like?”
Draco glared at his father with all of the resentment and pain that had been building for a life time and responded sternly, “My relationship with Pansy Parkinson, what I do from this moment forward, and what life I chose to build from the ashes of destruction you caused is certainly no longer your concern.” The blonde started to walk away and when Lucius grabbed his arm, Draco forcefully pulled it back.
“You realize that if you are caught by one of these mobs you will be killed. If they find out who you are they will probably torture you first and they will kill Pansy simply for her association.” Lucius approached his son and spoke softly, “I’m sorry Draco, but in truth she is probably already – “
“Don’t you dare! She is not dead and I am going to find her and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” Before allowing a response, Draco stormed out of the dining room and slammed the front door behind him.
The activity of suspected Death Eater’s continued to be monitored closely in the months following Harry Potter’s victory over Voldemort, making travel over long distances difficult for Draco. During his time at the Manor however, he had brewed a potion he hoped would help him apparate without detection by means of muffling his magical signature. The ingredients were rare. It was a complicated brew that Draco had taken from the potions journal Snape had left him and his first batch was enough to get him to Hogsmeade. The journey back, with or without Pansy, would require non-magical transportation, but it was more important to find her as soon as possible.
Draco apparated just outside the village and hid in a nearby cave for an hour to make sure he had not been detected. Once he was confident his potion had worked, he walked deep into the forest until he spotted a rundown shack in the distance; guarded by three large men.
Draco spent the whole day doing surveillance on the shack he knew had not been there months before when he combed every inch of the same forest. There were fewer guards than he expected, but his father’s warnings of the possible consequences should something go wrong motivated his calculated diligence. The Ministry of Magic remained in shambles in the months following Voldemort’s death, causing the magical community to turn a blind eye at vigilante groups intended to collect and kill death eaters while attempting to “rehabilitate” those who were possibly led astray in their support of the Dark Lord. All Death Eaters were killed upon capture. Men, not of pure blood descent were killed immediately as it was determined that they were beyond rehabilitation or redemption. The women and children were sorted into groups and housed in shelters where they were tortured for information and punished if it were proved that they had committed specific crimes in service to Voldemort. Specific crimes, of which Pansy was guilty of many; a fact Draco was haunted by as each day passed that he had not found her.
Just after the sun set and the shift change for the guards had commenced, Draco made his move toward the back of the shack and in through a cellar door he had located earlier in the day. The images were similar to the many other shelters he had been to, though no less horrifying. Room upon room of bone thin women and girls, some beaten no doubt from trying to escape or refusing to divulge information, others crying and by the looks of their eyes they had not stopped for weeks, possibly months. He had searched every room and could feel his heart breaking as he opened the last door, assuming Pansy was not on the other side. Draco walked into the dark room and saw nothing until the autumn moon spilled in through the window and illuminated a frail dark haired girl curled up on the floor. She was dressed in blood soaked rags and did not move as he approached her. When Draco gently elevated the girl’s head tears poured from his eyes. He pulled Pansy into his arms and lifted her nearly lifeless body from the cold ground. Draco held her close to him and whispered, “I’m here to save you. I am sorry it took me so long.”
Pansy was unconscious and her breathing was labored; her pale skin was ice cold and she was limp in Draco’s arms. He maneuvered from the room and down the stairs with great ease when suddenly he heard a door open and could tell it was in the kitchen. Anyone in the kitchen would be blocking the only passage Draco had to avoid guards and it was apparent that Pansy was far too weak to sustain any sort of attack. He panicked only a moment then balanced Pansy against him before reaching into his bag, pulling out a small bottle, and drinking its contents down. In a split second he felt his appearance changing and held his breath as to not allow any sounds from the discomfort of his transformation. After a few minutes, he took a deep breath and finished down the stairs towards the kitchen.
Draco walked in and stood before two large male guards sloppily eating at the kitchen table. He ignored their wide eyes and open mouths and announced confidently, “This woman has been wrongly accused of the crimes for which you are holding her and I have come to return her to her family.”
One of the guards stood and clumsily bowed before responding timidly, “I’m sorry Sir. We were told…by many witnesses at Hogwarts the night of the battle that this is the woman who tried to give you over to He Who Must Not Be Named. She is a traitorous and evil witch and she has been punished accordingly.”
Draco took a deep breath so as not to blow his polyjuiced cover as Harry Potter: blessed chosen one, enemy, and another on the list of debts to be paid. Draco had spent what seemed like lifetimes listening to Potter’s superior yet pathetic voice and felt confident that he had already delivered a stunning impersonation as he continued, “Why would I take time out of my busy chosen one life to come and rescue the woman who tried to hand me over to Voldemort? Further, why are you questioning me at all?” Draco was momentarily lost in the idea that Potter had been no doubt sitting comfortably at Hogwarts, being waited on and praised every minute for months while the Malfoy family lived in shambles and Pansy was being held in a dark room, starved, battered and nearly dead. His distraction was brief however when he realized neither guard had responded.
Obviously his plan had succeeded and he rolled his eyes as he walked toward the door, “Are you going to open that?” Both guards collided trying to be the first to assist Harry Potter. When the door was open Draco looked at both of them, “You should allow the Ministry to prosecute these people.” Before allowing for a response, Draco rushed through the open door, careful not to rustle Pansy anymore than necessary and once clear of the shack, his pace slowed and he disappeared into the forest.
Draco walked for miles looking for any sort of shelter where they could safely rest. The October wind blew through the trees and stabbed at the pale skin of his face and he stopped to pull a blanket from his bag to cover Pansy with. It was painful to look at her; to see the months of brutality visible through cuts and bruises all over her body and it had not escaped his attention that she weighed nearly nothing. Once they had been walking for an hour or more, he contemplated apparating directly to St. Mungo’s. Even if he were to be caught and carted off to the Ministry, at least Pansy would receive the medical attention she so desperately needed. At the same time, that would also mean they would be apart again; and whatever had happened to him after the war, Draco was sure that he must stay as close to Pansy as possible and that was never going to change.
Just as they passed through a clearing where Draco had made up his mind that apparating was the best option, he spotted a run down cottage in the distance. He moved quickly toward the shelter and saw no sign of a resident when he looked in the window. He opened the door, walked in and rested Pansy on the sofa then knelt in front of her and brushed the matted hair from her face, “I am going to make this all up to you Pans, I promise. And I will never let anyone hurt you ever again.”
14 October 1998
I finally found her and I would say not a moment too soon. She is unconscious, as she was when I found her. She has been badly beaten and who knows what else. I have half a mind to send Potter an owl asking him if this is the perfect magical world he had in mind when he saved it. There is no doubt that we were all in the presence of pure evil a matter of months ago, but what happened to Pansy, what is happening to who knows how many other women and children is not justice, it’s revenge. Evil in its truest form and even I have a hard time stomaching that this is what our chosen one would want.
There are no words to describe the pain I feel from every mark of brutality on her perfect skin and I am terrified of the scars that will reveal themselves when she wakes. I need her to wake up. I need her for everything and that is difficult enough for me to process. I keep going over that night at the castle and there was nothing I could have done to save her, protect her. All I know is I will do everything I should have been doing during the last seven years for the rest of her life…which had better not end in this cottage.
Two weeks passed after Draco rescued Pansy and found refuge for them in an abandoned cottage deep in the forest. He had secured their location with every protection and invisibility charm he knew along with alarms on every door and window and restrictions on the wards in or out of the cottage walls. As soon as the Harry Potter polyjuice wore off, Draco used another potion, a random Hufflepuff boy who had never been seen speaking to another soul, and went into the village to obtain supplies. The blonde worked tirelessly to clean up the cottage, saving the use of magic for healing Pansy. He moved her to the bedroom and used every spell at his disposal to mend cuts and bruises and cleaned Pansy from head to toe, complete with new clothes he was sure she would approve of when she woke up.
Draco paced and sat and paced and slept at Pansy’s side every minute of every day and finally as the second week came to an end he contemplated again the need to find help. Blaise had been helpful during the five months prior while Draco desperately searched for Pansy; in fact, Blaise had just always been helpful period. The risk, however, of leaving Pansy alone was tremendous. If Draco were caught wandering around the forest by any of the vigilante groups or even worse, an Auror, Pansy would certainly die because she was in no condition to take care of herself. Blaise was also trying to lay low in the wake of Voldemort’s demise and putting his security in danger was also not an option. Draco was pacing, wondering how it was that he had started caring about anyone but himself in the first place, when he heard stirring on the bed. He turned and saw Pansy shoot up into a sitting position, holding her frail arms painfully around her chest and stomach and crying as she looked around.
Draco rushed over to her and sat down on the bed. He reached out to calm her, but she pulled away from him and looked down. Her tears continued to fall as she whispered breathlessly, “Please don’t hurt me anymore…I’m sorry…I’m so sorry.”
“Pans, it’s me…its Draco,” he sat motionless waiting for her to look up and acknowledge that she knew him. He fought for something else comforting to say, but trying to reassure her that he would never hurt her when he had so many times in the past, seemed inappropriate. His thoughts were interrupted when she finally did look up and she moved toward him.
Pansy wrapped her arms around Draco’s neck, allowing him to feel the trembling in her entire body, and sobbed into his shoulder, “You’re alive…they told me you were killed at the castle and…I wanted to believe that they were lying but…I knew you weren’t dead…”
No words were available to Draco as he held onto her tightly. Everything that she has been through and all she was worried about was me, he thought as she continued to cry. After a few minutes he pulled away and saw the wave of pain rush across her face. He gently moved her back against the pillows and sat down next to her. “You need to sit back and rest.”
She frantically grabbed his hand, “Were you captured? Is that how you ended up at the shelter?” Pansy could not seem to get a tight enough hold on Draco’s hand and she continued with her free hand to keep up with her relentless tears.
Draco shared Pansy’s need to be as close as possible and he moved to sit next to her, wrapping his arms around her shaking body as he answered, “Blaise has a few contacts in the new Ministry and provided me the information I needed to find you finally. I’ve been looking for you since May.”
Pansy was shocked as she pulled away and looked at him, “You have?”
He brushed his hand gently down her face and wiped the tears falling down her cheeks, “I’m sorry it took me so long and I’m sorry that –"
She put a trembling finger to his mouth to quiet him then rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. “You are my hero Draco. There will be time for apologies, but never apologize for this.”
Draco rested his head against the top of hers and began feeling the peace that came with knowing Pansy was finally safe. They fell asleep for hours curled up together; each waking randomly and smiling at the warmth felt by being so close to the other. Pansy finally woke again as the sun was setting. She sat up quickly and winced at the aches and pains radiating through every part of her body. She was only moderately panicked when Draco was not still at her side, but the smell of the most amazing food she had ever smelled filling the cottage reassured that she was not alone.
There was no doubt that she was still incredibly weak, but if Pansy was anything she was determined so she stood and moved slowly from the bedroom into the living room. When Draco saw her up and moving he rushed to her side and carried her to the sofa. “What are you doing out of bed?”
“Are you cooking?” Pansy smiled and her eyebrow arched slightly, “I’m finding out all sorts of secrets about you, Draco Malfoy. You are my hero and you cook?”
Draco rolled his eyes and smiled, “It may not be edible, but yes I can cook some. I guess you could say I’ve learned a few things about myself these past five months.” He returned to the kitchen and finished preparing their plates then walked back into the living room and handed Pansy a plate with eggs, bacon, toast and fruit. “We need to work on building up your strength. My mother always said that eggs are good for strength.”
She smiled and immediately starting eating. This was the first food Pansy had had in quite some time and the fact that Draco had prepared it for her made it more delicious than anything she had ever eaten before. After a few quiet minutes and only a few bites of food Pansy was finished and she set her plate on the table, “Thank you that was brilliant.”
“Can I get you anything else? Something else to eat? Tea? Anything?” Draco started to stand to take their plates, but Pansy grabbed his arm and made him stay.
The room fell silent again; Draco watching Pansy look down at the floor. She finally looked up and smiled, “I do not even know how to begin to thank you for what you did for me, Draco. If you had been caught they would have killed you.” She looked down and paused before continuing quietly, “My father was a pure blood, and they were not killing pure blood men. It was because of me. Same with my mother; because of what I did that night at the castle.”
Tears were streaming down Pansy’s face again, “It is no secret that I have never liked Potter or Granger or the Weasley’s…any of them. And for years is was all a game. But that night…the Dark Lord standing there, casting out his ultimatums… I was scared, and I saw Potter, and I panicked. Potter was meant to fight him, defeat him. We were Slytherin and we were supposed to be safe, but you were never safe from him. I was just scared.”
Draco pulled Pansy into a tight hug and stroked her hair, trying to calm her. The memories of the battle at Hogwarts were painful enough, but the reality of Pansy’s losses was more tremendous than he had even considered and the recounting of her torture had just begun. He pulled away and wiped her tears, “I am so sorry that I was not at the castle with you and I tried to find you after, but my parents literally held me captive in the Manor for the first few weeks afterwards. Once I submitted to questioning at the Ministry, I packed my bags and started searching, but if I had found you sooner, been with you so that you were never taken at all –"
Pansy appeared surprised by the tears that formed in Draco’s eyes. Even after everything he had done for her his new emotional side was somewhat startling. She reached over and wiped his face gently, “Please stop apologizing to me, Draco. What I did that night at the castle, where my priorities have been…who I have been these past seven years… What did I expect was going to happen?”
She looked down quickly, but Draco lifted her chin so their eyes met, “You did not deserve this, Pans. There are things which we may never be able to atone for, but I do not believe even Harry Potter himself would condone what you have been through. He certainly told the guards that when he was carrying you out of the shelter.” Draco smiled victoriously and his heart skipped when Pansy’s playfully devious smile surfaced.
“You had Potter Polyjuice potion? How delicious is that?” She blushed slightly that she resorted back to wicked thoughts so soon and after a short pause she took Draco’s hands, “Everything has changed now though, hasn’t it?”
He pulled her close to him again and kissed the top of her head as she settled against his chest, “I certainly hope so.”
As weeks turned to months, Pansy continued to heal and her strength was nearly completely returned. She was even able to go into the village shopping, Polyjuiced of course, but enjoyed the idea of being around people for probably the first time in her entire life. The feel of Draco’s protective hand holding hers was almost surreal; everything since she had woken up was like a dream. Whenever Pansy needed anything Draco was there. He encouraged her to discuss her time at the shelter because he worried about her keeping everything inside and was determined to prevent her from embracing debilitating guilt. The parts he was convinced she was leaving out to spare him were brought to the surface through night terrors that Pansy had often. At no time did he lose his patience or compassion and his feelings towards her did nothing but grow with each passing day.
Christmas morning Draco paced around the cottage for almost an hour while Pansy made breakfast. She finally walked into the living room and giggled as she spoke, “Malfoy, what is wrong with you this –"
“Nothing!” He smiled awkwardly to cover for his interruption and continued mindlessly, “I’m just excited…about Christmas.”
She laughed as she carried the tray of eggs, bacon, toast and assorted pastries to the table in front of the fireplace then pulled Draco to sit on the sofa next to her. “I love Christmas too. I bet you didn’t know that, but I do…always have.” She reached over to hand him a napkin then took her plate and curled up in the corner of the sofa. There was a long pause as Pansy gazed up at the tiny tree Draco cut down from the forest and the dazzling magical ornaments that twinkled and danced in its sparse branches. When she returned to Draco’s eyes she could tell he had been watching her the whole time and she continued talking to distract his attention.
“There were never many gifts at my house, and of course you and I never really exchanged gifts for anything, but Christmas was not even about that really. I like the lights and the snow and the warm feeling that seems to infect even the coldest of hearts. I always feel warmer at Christmas…” She trailed off and looked down for a minute to hide her blushing then continued quietly, “Especially this one.”
There was no way to deny that since the minute Draco knew Voldemort had entered Hogwarts, his heart swelled with a need to love and protect Pansy with everything he was. But these feelings were all still new. He could not remember a time when he ever needed another person so much and he was awkward about expressing what had been rushing through his head and burning in his chest for months. He set his plate down then reached over, took Pansy’s hands, and looked deep into her eyes.
“I owe you an apology, and since there are so many things to apologize for I am going to combine it all into one. I treated you deplorably. I put you in danger every day and I knew you were unfailingly loyal and I used it…I used…you and I am so sorry for that. And I am also sorry that it took me so long to find you –”
“As I have said on numerous occasions you may not apologize for that because there is nothing to apologize for. You spent months looking for me, Draco, and you did not give up until you succeeded; one of the many reasons I love you.” Pansy looked down again quickly then up with a bright smile, “I do however accept your apology for the rest and you’re forgiven because now I owe you my life…literally.”
“I accept your life and wonder if you are still interested in sharing mine?” Draco locked onto Pansy’s surprised eyes and continued before she could respond, “I know I was a bastard, Pans, but I promise you that I have changed. All that has happened, all that I’ve done… I do not deserve another chance, but I promise you that this time will be different. I am different and most especially during the last few months it is all because of you.”
She paused for a moment, her mind obviously reeling, then she eventually blurted, “What are you saying?”
Draco smiled and took a deep breath, “I had certainly begun to acknowledge how I felt about you before the war, but I never realized how essential it is for me to love you until I thought I’d lost you, and I will never forgive myself for taking this long to figure it out. But now that I have figured it out I know that I want to love you for the rest of my life and I know that I need you to feel the same.” He maintained the intense lock with her deep brown eyes and after too many quiet moments he continued hesitantly, “Are you going to say something?”
“I hope I’m not actually dead or just dreaming.” She allowed Draco no time to respond before moving over onto his lap, running her fingers into his silky blonde hair and pulling him into a long kiss.
Christmas was magical and with the New Year Draco and Pansy decided to stay in their quaint little cottage indefinitely. The real world brought with it a host of inquisitions, oppositions and possible danger and the process of discovering each other was far too magical to risk it by returning. They spent their days walking around the forest, talking about everything from how much their worlds had changed to how they planned to renovate the cottage. Each evening was a cozy dinner and quiet time together in front of the fireplace; more peaceful and content then either could ever remember being. They shut out the world and had no thoughts of ever looking back.
1 January 2000
I can hardly believe how much time has passed. When we planned to stay hidden in the forest, in our magic cottage as Pansy calls it, I never actually thought it could be real. The horrors of the war, the scars that Pansy had when I found her all seem like a different lifetime. I hate to say it, but if this is what being happy feels like than I wasted so much time trying to run from it.
Pansy is my entire world and I would have it no other way. We have been talking about going somewhere far away from here…somewhere that no one knows us and where those that do could never find us. In truth this works brilliantly with plans I have of my own and
Draco looked up as Pansy walked into the bedroom, “What are you saying about me in there?” She walked over to the bed and giggled when Draco pulled her down next to him.
He moved so that he was hovering over her and smiled, “Just that you are the most beautiful creature in the magical world and that my life would be worthless without you.”
She reached up and ran her fingers through his messy hair, “I keep asking myself every day if you are actually real.”
Draco leaned down and kissed her then pulled away just slightly, “You made me. What can I do to convince you, Love? What do you need to prove that I am yours?”
“You were on the right track before actually.” She smiled as Draco leaned in to kiss her again.
March saw the first signs of thawing and Pansy was desperate to cure her cabin fever by going into the village. After hours of opposition she convinced Draco that she wanted to go alone in order to procure a surprise and eventually she got her way. He was less than amused that Pansy had chosen the Ginny Weasley Polyjuice Potion for her trip to the village, but closed his eyes and pulled her into a long kiss on her way out the door. “Be careful…and I’m not kissing you again until you cease to be a Weasley.”
“I love you,” she held his hand until distance pulled them apart, “Don’t burn the place down while I’m gone.”
Draco walked outside and yelled after her, “I love you too.” He watched her dance into the distance and out of sight then walked back inside and started to panic. Today of all days? He had every reason to be impatient waiting for Pansy to arrive home and he looked at the small diamond engagement ring hiding in his pocket several hundred times while he paced during the hours of her absence. When the door finally opened Draco was ready to drop to one knee immediately, but fortunately stopped when he realized it was not Pansy. He moved forward defensively and barked, “How did you find me?”
Lucius Malfoy ignored his son’s tone and brushed past him as he looked around the cottage, “As if you could possibly evade me, Draco. I’ve known this entire time that you have been hiding here with Ms. Parkinson and I am so sorry to disrupt your holiday, but you are needed back home.”
“Is it mother? Has something happened?” Draco scrutinized his father’s expression, hoping if something had in fact happened to his mother that there would be some sign of concern. But Lucius had returned to his usual arrogance and this troubled Draco as he waited for a response.
“Your mother is fine and very relieved that you will be returning home and fulfilling your responsibilities to the family.” Lucius paused and looked around again before settling on Draco, “A great deal has happened while you’ve been in the forest playing house and it is time to come home and tend to your obligations.”
Draco rolled his eyes and sat down on the sofa, “It is not like the Ministry is holding a job for me and I would assume enough has not changed that mother is hosting formal dinners at the Manor again. My obligations are here and I am not leaving.”
A menacing laugh suddenly filled the cottage, but Lucius was gruff when he spoke, “I have had enough of your attitude, Draco.” The Patriarch looked at a stack of papers on the table and continued, “I can see that you have been keeping up on your current events in The Daily Prophet so you know that Potter supported the story of him going in and rescuing one Pansy Parkinson from a vigilante shelter. The chosen one continued by saying that whether or not she was guilty of the crimes for which she was accused, no person should be persecuted, but rather tried fairly by the legal authority. Just like the saint everyone imagined him to be. At the same time he has made it possible for families once thought to be supporters of the Dark Lord to reenter social acceptance. That is where your involvement becomes important.”
It was Draco’s laugh that filled the room next and he relaxed against the back of the sofa, “You think that I can make people accept the name Malfoy again? I would think my disappearance would be the best gift you could have received. I tried to murder Dumbledore remember and –"
“Severus murdered Dumbledore.” Lucius took a deep breath and started to continue; he was surprised when Draco dared to interrupt.
“Because Dumbledore asked him to,” Draco stood and started pacing, “As you acknowledged I have stayed current with what has been happening in the world. I read all about Snape’s allegiance to Dumbledore, the fact that he was protecting Potter all along, and that he stepped in because he was intended to kill Dumbledore at the headmaster’s request. It certainly explains a lot about that night on the Astronomy Tower.”
Draco finally stopped pacing after a few silent moments then glared at Lucius, “The last time I stepped up so the Malfoy name would be accepted after you could not deliver, I almost ended up a Death Eater. I was nearly burned alive, am now indebted to St. Potter, and almost lost Pansy. Your request is irrelevant to me and I decline wholeheartedly.”
A suffocating silence fell over the cottage as the father and son glared at each other. Lucius finally broke the eye contact and spoke quietly, but sternly, “You have two weeks to settle your affairs here and then I expect you to return to the Manor. If I have to come and collect you, or even worse track you down, I assure you that all the promises you have made, that you will never hurt the lovely Ms. Parkinson again, will have been in vain. Who and when you marry is essential for the family’s newly found stability and therefore it will not be Pansy Parkinson you pledge to in April –”
Draco’s heart started to race and he blurted without thinking, “I will pledge nothing to anyone other than Pansy so whatever you are planning –”
Lucius moved toward the door as he interrupted, “It is already arranged. You have met Astoria Greengrass, haven’t you?” The Malfoy patriarch smiled menacingly as he watched Draco’s expression fade from anger to anguish. “Come now, Draco, she’s lovely, smart, and more importantly she is from a proper pure blood family; not some bottom feeding orphan from…”
Lucius trailed off as the door opened and smiled wickedly, “Ms. Parkinson, lovely to see you again and looking better then ever. I will leave you two to talk.”
As soon as Lucius was gone from the cottage Draco rushed to Pansy and pulled her into a tight hug. When he pulled away he looked down at her with the most calm he could muster. “You need to start packing, anything you absolutely have to have and keep in mind we can not carry everything.” Draco rushed into the bedroom and started packing his bag.
Pansy watched the blonde rushing around and panic surfaced on her face as she observed his frantic manner, “Draco what happened? What was your father doing here? How did he even find –”
Draco stood in front of her and put his hands gently on her arms, “There will be time to answer questions, Love, but right now we have to pack and leave as soon as possible. My father was here to tell me that I am required to return to the Manor where I will prepare to be married to –”
He pulled her into a frantic kiss then rested his forehead against hers, “The only person I am marrying is you and that is why we have to get out of here…now.” He started to walk away, but suddenly turned back to her and grabbed her hands, “On second thought…I need to do this first.” He dropped to one knee and pulled the small diamond ring from his pocket, “Pansy Parkinson…will you marry me? And before you even ask I have had this ring for months and this is why I did not want you to leave the cottage today in the first place.”
Pansy laughed and knelt down in front of him. Her expression turned more serious as she looked into his petrified gray eyes, “Are you sure about this? You look as if you are about to faint.”
“Because you are taking a bloody eternity to answer the question,” Draco smiled and took her hands, “I love you and this last year has been the best of my entire life. I want to take walks with you and lie on the sofa and read books with you and play with your hair every night before bed forever.”
Her eyes glistened and she squeezed his hands tight, “Are you prepared to turn your back on your family for me?”
Draco released her hands and slid the ring on her finger. He reached up and gently held her face, “I would die for you.”
“Please don’t,” she smiled and leaned close to kiss him, stopping just before their lips touched, “I could never imagine my life without you.”
“Don’t even try then.” Draco closed the distance between them for a quick kiss and then abruptly stood and pulled Pansy to her feet. “We will celebrate this for days just as soon as we are far away from here.”
She followed as he walked toward the bedroom, “So you never mentioned who your intended is.”
Draco rolled his eyes and started throwing things in his bag, “Astoria Greengrass.”
“Eww…really…why?” Pansy started packing as well and the disgusted look on her face continued as Draco responded.
“She’s from a rich pure blood family and if she marries me then her father gives his stamp of approval on the Malfoy name. My parents need a new social circle since their old one is mostly dead now...or in Azkaban.” Draco’s fury grew as he considered what his father was asking; once again the prospect of doing something he found abhorrent simply so the Malfoy Patriarch could find a new way to tear everything apart again. Suddenly the blonde felt the soft touch of Pansy’s hands on his arms and he took a deep breath.
The dark haired girl moved to stand in front of him and reached up to brush his face, “I’m not going to let him hurt you anymore, Draco. Just one year away from that man and you have become your own man; loving and loyal and brave. I will kill him myself before I let him ruin you.”
Draco pulled her into a tight hug and kissed her head, “Nothing will come between us again, Pans, I promise.” He released her and picked up the bags, “I hate to leave this place, but if he comes back –”
“Have we even determined where we are going or how we are getting there?” Pansy picked up a bag and showed panicked at their lack of plans.
Draco held out his hand and smiled, “Well after all of the compassionate words Potter had for you in The Daily Prophet I assume you are no longer on the Ministries monitored list and I hope I can say the same now that a year has passed. I thought we would apparate… Ireland perhaps?”
Pansy took his hand and squeezed it tight, “The beginning of a brilliant new life.”
“I thought that happened last year?” He pulled her into a kiss and they disapparated from the cottage.
“I love you…I hope you always know how much.” He brushed her face and ran his fingers into the back of her soft dark hair; pulling her into a long kiss.
When they separated and he leaned his forehead against hers, she wrapped her arms around his neck and wove her fingers into his hair, “I do know…and I accept that you will love me that much forever, but you will be married to someone else.”
The girl pulled away, but Draco grabbed her hand and pulled her back to him, “Stay with me…please.”
“As what,” she paused and looked up at him, “Your friend? Your mistress? The girl who followed you around in school?”
He moved close to her and raised her chin to look at him, “My only love. You are my entire world, Pans, and I will not lose you now.”
She reached up and placed her hands on his face gently, “Tell that to your father, Draco because I think I’m already lost.”
Draco shot up in bed and immediately reached for Pansy, but she was not there. He grabbed his wand from the table, “Lumos,” and looked around in horror as he recognized the illuminated room was his bedroom at Malfoy Manor. He stood immediately and surveyed the room briefly before rushing to the door and charging down the staircase; yelling at the top of his lungs, “WHERE IS SHE?”
He stormed into the drawing room where he found his father reading The Daily Prophet. “What have you done to her?”
Lucius looked up and smiled deviously, “You mean what you have done to her because you could not follow the simplest of instructions. I told you to settle your affairs and return home and instead you decided to run. I told you I would not be chasing you, Draco, and so I brought you here myself.”
Draco charged at the chair where Lucius sat and slammed his hands down the on the table, “Tell me where she is.”
“And what do you presume to do once you have this information? You are to marry Astoria Greengrass in just over a month and – ”
Lucius’ menacing chuckle filled the drawing room as Draco stormed toward the door, “You are not able to leave the Manor, Draco. I’ve bound you here and even if you do manage to escape I have bound your powers so that they will not work anywhere, but within the Manor walls. Your mother and I decided that some time to reflect on your responsibilities was important.”
Draco sighed as if the wind had been squeezed from his lungs. He turned to face his father with a pleading expression, “Please, don’t hurt her.”
“That is entirely up to you. If you are willing to step up and embrace your obligations then Ms. Parkinson is free to go. However, if you are anything less than diligent in the attention paid to your only acceptable future I will have no choice but to start removing your distractions.” Lucius put the newspaper down and looked up at Draco quickly, “You are excused to contemplate your options.”
Draco stood paralyzed with the reality of his situation. His main objective was Pansy’s safety and being with her at all cost. If that meant he had to be married to someone else for survival purposes only he would figure out a way to make it work. Draco finally looked up at his father and spoke calmly, “I do not need any time to think about this. Pansy’s safety is the only thing that matters and I will do whatever is necessary to insure she is cared for. Now where is she?”
Lucius rolled his eyes as he stood and walked toward another door leading to the passage way to the cellar, “Your mother would not allow me to keep her down here so she is upstairs in a guest room. I expect as part of our arrangement that she will be gone by this evening.” Before Draco could respond Lucius disappeared through the door.
Draco walked out the other door and headed back to the staircase when the sound of his mother’s voice saying his name echoed from the great room. He paused only briefly before following the voice and found Narcissa sitting at the desk across the room. The pale woman approached and pulled him into a tight embrace as soon as she could reach him. “I have missed you so much.”
He wrapped his arms tightly around her, “I’ve missed you too, mother; though I resent being brought here and all that has been arranged.” Draco pulled away and walked across the newly decorated room, “I see much has changed in my absence.”
“Most especially you,” Narcissa walked over to the sofa where Draco sat and took his hand, “You seem to have grown…and not just in height.”
Draco took a deep breath before looking up at his mother sadly, “I was free…happy for the first time I can ever remember. I should have known it could never last.”
“I know that you love her, Draco…” Narcissa paused when the pale boy stood and walked across the room to the window. She joined him and placed a comforting hand on his back as she continued quietly, “And I am sorry that it has to be this way, but you know that refusing him is not an option.” She moved to stand in front of him and brushed her hand gently down the side of his face, “The things that have been asked of you are awful, Draco. I am sorry that this is the only life I was able to give you. If there was a way that I could stop him…a way that I could ease the pain when you tell Pansy –”
Draco put his hand over hers then leaned down to kiss her head, “I do not blame you for my life. I know that you could do no more to save me from him then I could do for you. Have you seen Pansy?”
“Yes, I checked in on her. She knows where she is and she knows that you are all right. I made sure she was served breakfast, though I’m quite sure she was afraid to eat anything after you were both pulled here against your will. I can not fault her for that most especially with everything she has no doubt been through.” Narcissa took Draco’s hand, “I can see that you took very good care of her.”
Tears started rolling down Draco’s face. He was overwhelmed by the opportunity to release over a year’s worth of emotions about how he found Pansy and all that had happened to her. Narcissa led Draco back to the sofa and took his hands, “You can tell me anything, Draco; I hope you still believe that.”
His will to maintain composure evaporated and his tears fell more furiously as he spoke, “If she had been there one more day she would have been dead. They killed her parents because of what she did at Hogwarts the night of the battle; giving up Potter to Voldemort in the great hall. She was beaten and cut and starved and who knows what else because she has never been willing to tell me much. For months after she had night terrors almost every night. She woke up screaming and crying and for a few fleeting moments until she came around completely she would not let me anywhere near her.”
Anytime Draco thought about Pansy’s captivity, his imagination was horrifically graphic and he finally broke down completely and wrapped his arms tightly around his mother and cried into her shoulder for several long moments. When he finally calmed and pulled away he stared down at the ornate carpet, “I asked her to marry me. After everything that’s happened she still said yes.” He looked up at Narcissa and more tears fell from his eyes, “And now I have to tell her that if we stay together my father will probably kill her…or worse.”
“Well maybe I’m willing to take my chances.”
Draco and Narcissa both looked up and saw Pansy standing in the entrance to the great room and the Malfoy Matriarch stood. She kissed Draco’s head and whispered, “I’ll leave you two alone to talk.” Narcissa stopped as she passed Pansy and took her hand, “You are a very special girl, Pansy. I hope no matter what happens that you always know what an asset your strength is.”
Pansy smiled and squeezed Narcissa’s hand, “Thank you…for stepping in on my behalf because I know you are responsible for my accommodations. No matter what happens, I also know you believe how much I love Draco and that there is nothing in the world that I would not do for him.”
Narcissa returned the smile and spoke quietly, “I hope that is true dear…for both of your sakes.” She squeezed Pansy’s hand once more then excused herself from the great room.
As soon as Narcissa was clear of the room Pansy rushed to Draco and pulled him into a long kiss. The emotion running through both of them escalated quickly until suddenly Draco pulled away from her, sat on the sofa and stared down at the ground. The dark haired girl shook off the chill that pierced her spine and joined him on the sofa; she ran her fingers through his hair and waited for him to say something, but there was only silence. After a few deafening moments, Pansy took Draco’s hand, “Please just tell me.”
Draco did not look up from the spot on the floor he was intently focused on. He finally spoke flatly as he held tight to Pansy’s hand, “Are you all right?”
“No, I’m not all right. We were apparating to Ireland and the next thing I know we are in the entrance hall of your house and someone stunned me. Now you look like the worst has happened. You’re not married already are you?” Pansy felt tears welling in her eyes and she pulled her hand away to wipe her face.
“Not yet, but I have no choice.” Draco continued to stare at the floor and his own tears fell down the pale skin of his face. “If I refuse he will punish me by going after you and I can not allow that.”
Pansy was visibly shaking, causing her voice to crack as she responded quietly, “You’re giving up?”
“What do you suggest as an alternative, Pansy?” Draco finally looked up and felt tightening in his chest as he met her pain filled eyes, “We tried to run and he brought us here. You are only alive because my mother no doubt pleaded for your life. If I refuse his command again I can not assure that you will be spared.”
“I have no life without you, Draco.” She moved closer to him on the sofa and brushed the tears from his face, “Taking you away from me is the worst punishment he can deliver so I am willing to take my chances.”
Draco stood angrily in response to the carelessness with which Pansy treated her life. He paced quietly for a few minutes then looked back at her, “I will not put your life in any more danger.”
“What life do I have without you? You are all I have left, Draco. After all that has happened since the day you rescued me…everything we said to each other and everything we shared…” Pansy trailed off as she stood in front of Draco to stop him from pacing, “How can we let go after everything we promised?”
He held her face, pausing to kiss her forehead then her eyes and finally her lips before responding, “I am crushed beneath the idea of not having you in my life; there would be no reason for me to continue breathing if you were gone from the world too.”
“Please never say anything like that again.” She stepped up on her toes and kissed him then frantically wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in his chest. She inhaled deeply as if drawing every existing scent from him to store away for when they were inevitably separated. “Promise me that you will continue to live the life that we talked about. Promise me that you will remain the loving, compassionate, brave man that you have become this last year because anything less means that your father has won.”
Draco pulled away just enough to look down at her, “You’re saying goodbye…”
“Isn’t that why I was allowed in here to speak with you?” Pansy started to pull away, but Draco tightened his grip around her. She looked up and new tears fell from her eyes, “I know that you have no other choice, Draco, and I want to make this as simple for you as possible so –”
“Simple? Pansy, I love you. I wonder if there is anyway that you could ever know how much.” He brushed her face and ran his fingers into the back of her long dark hair then leaned down to kiss her.
Draco rested his forehead against his love’s and she wrapped her arms around his neck and wove her fingers into his hair. They gazed longingly at each other and finally Pansy interrupted the silence, “I do know how much you love me…and I accept that we will love each other this much forever. You will just be married to someone else.”
Pansy pulled away and Draco grabbed her hand and pulled her back to him, “You can still stay with me…please.”
“As what,” she paused and looked up at him, “Your friend? Your mistress? The girl who followed you mindlessly at Hogwarts?”
He lifted her chin to look at him, “My only love. You are my entire world, Pans, and I will not lose you now. We can figure something out and –”
Pansy put her hand gently to Draco’s mouth to quiet him. Her relentless tears returned and she forced a sad smile, “I’m already lost, Draco. Your father has seen to that. You are the only thing I’ve ever had that was worth fighting for and just as you want to keep me safe I want and need the same for you. If we fight him he will destroy you and I can not allow that to happen. I can live being without you, but only if I know you are living the life I wish for you…even if it is without me.” Pansy reached up to dry the tears falling down Draco’s face, “We may have to leave each other, but no one leaves the world…” she paused as she felt herself starting to lose her composure, “And you can’t…forget me…ever –”
Draco interrupted her with a long kiss that caused them both to nearly suffocate. He pulled away and wrapped his arms as tightly around Pansy as he could without shattering her. He buried his face in her neck and breathed deep the mixture of lavender and vanilla that had become the closest thing to peace he had ever known. What if I kill him instead? Draco felt Pansy’s body tense against him as if she had read his thoughts. He pulled away and looked down at her, “Pans, I am so –”
She placed her hands on his face and pulled him into a kiss. He rested his forehead against hers and she closed her eyes and whispered, “Me too…but I think we both accept that there is no other way.”
There was a long quiet pause, though it no doubt crossed both their minds that the sound of their hearts breaking was deafening. Pansy started to pull away, but Draco pulled her into a desperate kiss. They fought for several minutes to be as close together as possible under the circumstances; then they heard movement on the staircase and Pansy pulled away from Draco enough to look at him, “I expect you to keep your promises.”
“And what about you?” He refused to let her go and fought to wrap his arms around her again, “Where will you go?”
“Blaise is in London. I thought I would start there, find work and a place to live and –”
Draco’s composure slipped and he blurted frantically through new falling tears, “This is mental, Pansy. You can’t go. I know that I said it was dangerous to attempt defiance, but what about the rebellion against what has happened between us? I can not do this.”
Pansy took Draco’s hands and kissed the top of his lowered head, “Yes you can. Love me enough to give me what I want most…the promise that you will remain the man I fell in love with in the forest. Your father is going to throw me out soon, Draco. I have to know that you are going to be safe and the only way that can happen is for you to promise me that you won’t let him win. Promise me that you will make a wonderful life for yourself and mean it.”
His eyes were on fire and his hands were trembling in hers. He forced himself to look up at her and whispered, “I promise…”
Nearly choking on the words Draco trailed off and pulled Pansy into another long kiss. He pulled his lips from hers only to kiss every part of her face, neck, hair. When he finally reconnected to her eyes his heart started racing, “I love you so much more then I ever thought I was capable. I almost wonder if any of this has been real.”
“We were reintroduced to our hearts and souls. There is nothing more real than that. I love you so much more than the little girl at Hogwarts did. I will live on every memory we made together…good and bad.” She kissed him one more time then pulled her hands reluctantly from his, “Goodbye, Draco.”
Draco could feel his legs trying to fold beneath him as Pansy walked away. He turned quickly and blurted, “When will I…” but trailed off when she was already gone. Every move he made from that moment forward was involuntary. He could feel his hands ripping through his hair, felt himself rushing toward the entrance hall as if she would be waiting there, but she wan not. He winced at the pain in his knees as they hit the floor, then at the pain in his chest as he gasped for the air Pansy took when she left. The foyer started to blur and suddenly Draco felt himself being pulled from the room. When his vision cleared he was upstairs in his bedroom and as Narcissa sat on the bed he wrapped his arms tightly around her and sobbed in her arms for hours.
20 March 2000
Pansy has been gone for almost three weeks and not a moment has passed when my entire body has not ached for one more minute with her. She went to London…I think. Zabini is being a bloody menace and will not divulge any information about her at all. He claims that he is not telling her anything about me either…or perhaps she has not even inquired. He will only assure me that she is safe and I suppose for now that will have to be enough.
Lucius was gracious enough to give me one week of solitude before arranging a dinner party with Astoria and her parents. If I did not feel as if my heart was being ripped from my chest every minute of every day I might wonder who I feel more sorry for in this arrangement. Astoria is actually not as dreadful as I anticipated. She is intelligent and pleasant and undeniably beautiful. I’m sure the fact that she is pale, blonde and Slytherin, complete with pure blood coursing through her veins made her a perfect candidate in Lucius’ twisted mind. Dinner in any event was awkward; the parents left us alone to talk afterwards and that was painful. At least at first. It turns out Astoria is going through her own mourning period…having found true love with Montague of all people. At the news of her arranged marriage to me the poor bloke went mental and fled to Ireland. She was reluctant to speak much about her loss and I can understand the impulse to keep it hidden inside. This is a disaster.
In keeping my promise to Pansy, that I would embrace the person I struggled to be for her, I have no control over caring about other people. I genuinely understand everything that Astoria is feeling. So that first evening turned into a pity party of tears and reassurances that even though we would both rather jump off a cliff than marry each other; somehow everything would work out in the end. We have spent a considerable amount of time together since, first by force and then by choice. I find that the pain of breathing is a little less when Astoria is around because she understands this nightmare. I almost wonder when she rushes off from our meetings if it is not right into Montague’s arms; and perhaps the story of his departure and her pain of being apart from him is simply to make me feel more at ease. I can hardly fault her if that is the case. I have no sense of expectation in regard to Astoria’s loyalty to me. If Pansy was still here…if she would respond to any of my owls who knows what I would do. I thought for sure when I told her that Astoria potentially had her own indiscretions that Pansy would have been here in a heartbeat but no response at all.
Maybe she’s right…because I love her with everything I am maybe the best way to show her how much is to let her go.
The first of April brought all of the traditional changes; colorful flowers started to bloom under the blanket of rain that fell in between warm bursts of sun. People filled the streets, exploding with spring fever and all the magical tendencies it brings. One sunny morning Draco apparated to the Greengrass Manor to pick Astoria up for their scheduled day in Diagon Alley; when he arrived he found her crying in the gardens at the back of the Manor grounds.
A somewhat immediate bond had developed between Draco and Astoria based on their shared experiences of lost love and they grew closer than either of them had imagined possible in a short amount of time. Draco rushed over and sat down next to her. He put his arm supportively around her shoulder and spoke softly, “I can see that you are not all right. Is there anything I can do?”
Astoria reached up to wipe her tears then turned to look at him, “I have not been honest with you, Draco. You see at first, when I said that I had not heard from Montague it was true, but then about a week ago he returned and –”
The blonde boy chuckled at the confirmation of his suspicions then placed his finger to Astoria’s lips to quiet her, “Not another word. I figured something was going on when you started having to rush off to secret locations or showed up late and disheveled to our meetings.”
“I am so –”
Draco smiled and interrupted, “I know that you don’t love me, Astoria.”
“But I care about you…more than I ever imagined I would and certainly sooner than I had considered.” She smiled as she took his hand, “And that is why last night I told Montague that we had to say our goodbyes…for real this time. Whether or not you and I want it to happen we will be married in a few weeks and I want you to know that I will take that commitment very seriously. When my father first told me of the arrangement that he made with your father I was horrified. Everything I knew about you at Hogwarts was…well –”
“You have no need to elaborate or fear that you will offend me. I was a deplorable human being and can only imagine the prospect of having to spend the rest of your life with someone of my caliber.” Draco sighed heavily and looked down.
Astoria watched him for a moment then responded with a quiet, but spirited tone, “So imagine my surprise when you were so much different; polite and shy and charming. That first night you were so sweet and you have become very special to me over these past several weeks. I know that your heart belongs to another, Draco, and that you want desperately to be sitting with her right now. I only hope in the absence of that possibility that we can find a common ground to make the most of what fate has dealt us.”
Draco looked down at Astoria’s hand in his then up into her sparkling blue eyes. There was an undeniable connection between them and he felt very protective of her. He could also not deny that he cared for her a great deal and believed the friendship they had developed would be enough to sustain the charade they were about to play as newlyweds. Draco smiled and squeezed her hand, “If I had to enter into an arranged marriage with anyone I am glad that it is you.”
Astoria smiled and rested her head on his shoulder, “I guess we should start talking about the details of our ceremony. I know our mothers have been working tirelessly, but perhaps we should familiarize ourselves with the specifics. I am a girl and if this is the only wedding I am going to have I would like to know that it is going to be perfect.”
“Aside from the groom of course,” Draco chuckled uncomfortably at the conversation then stood and continued before Astoria could respond, “You are absolutely right though; we should probably discuss certain details and – ”
The blonde girl stood and took Draco’s hand again as he nervously paced, “Why don’t we go to Diagon Alley instead. We have two more weeks to worry about details. Let’s just go and shop, eat too much food…go find some trouble in Knockturn Alley.”
Draco’s eyebrow arched at the surfacing of Astoria’s Slytherin tendencies and he took his wand from his pocket and squeezed her hand, “As you wish.” Without another word they disapparated from the grounds.
13 April 2000
I am quite certain that Astoria was expecting a kiss at the end of our date this evening and I feel a bit guilty that I could not accommodate her. This brings me to a very large concern about the fact that I am going to have to kiss her at the wedding in four days. I do not want to, and not because of anything to do with her in fact I find her more lovely and enjoyable to be with every day. But the only person I ever want to kiss again is Pansy. I can not imagine that ever changing regardless of how close Astoria and I continue to become.
For years I had no heart, barely a soul, nothing that sparked the very core of my emotion. Now I am shamelessly in love with one woman and marrying another who I also find stimulating, but do not love in that way and who does not love me in that way. I can not have Pansy and I worry that someday Astoria will realize that all of the agreements and understandings decided in the beginning robbed her of the life she truly deserves. At the end of the day who really wants to be married to me? Who could ever handle all that loving me entails besides Pansy Parkinson?
What in the bloody hell am I going to do?
The night before the wedding Draco made plans to meet Blaise in London for drinks. Pansy walked into The Leaky Cauldron and as promised found Draco sitting at the bar. She walked over and leaned on the counter, “Hi Tom, I’ll take a fire whiskey, a bottle if you please.”
Draco looked up at her with complete surprise and felt his heart start beating again as her scent enveloped him, “What are you doing here?”
“Blaise told me where I could find you,” she paused and poured herself and Draco a shot then sat down and smiled, “I’ve something to ask you and depending on the answer then I may have to ask you something else.”
He drank the shot and poured them both another, “You can ask me anything.”
Pansy drank her shot then did another quick one before looking Draco in the eyes, “Please do not marry Astoria Greengrass tomorrow.”
Draco poured them another quick round, drank his whiskey then looked at her sadly, “Short of her having a terrible accident there is no other option. Trust me, I have spent weeks coming up with any way to avoid tomorrow. That’s why I decided to come here and drink away reality the night before.”
The dark haired girl looked down into her empty glass quietly for a long time before breaking the silence. “I can arrange a terrible accident,” she looked up at Draco with a smile, but blushed and looked down again, “That was a joke by the way.”
“She does not deserve any of this. I am incapable of giving her any sort of good life.” Draco poured another shot and drank it quickly.
During the long silence that developed Pansy looked at Draco, taking in every feature of his perfectly pale face and the curls in his hair at the base of his neck. She finally reached over to pour herself another shot and interrupted the silence, “Thank you for keeping your promise. You may not be happy, but you have not resorted back to your old self and that makes me happier than you could ever know.”
Draco chuckled bitterly, “Yes, well it helps that Astoria hates what is happening tomorrow as much as I do. The common ground has made it possible for us to become at least friends.”
Pansy looked down sadly and lost the battle to the tears building in her eyes. Draco noticed immediately the change in Pansy’s demeanor and he reached over and took her hand, “I will run away with you right now if that is what you want.”
“You know we can’t. I know we can’t,” Pansy paused and finally looked up at him, “But this brings me to my other request.”
Draco pulled her hand to his lips and kissed it gently, “Anything.”
Pansy stood and pulled him from the stool where he sat. She leaned close and whispered, “I realize my timing could not be worse but…I want just one more…” she trailed off and pulled away, “Never mind…I’m sorry I –”
He said nothing before pulling her back to him and into a deep kiss. Draco fought to find his wand atop the bar and disapparated them from the pub. When he and Pansy finally separated they both looked around at the cottage in the forest. Draco pulled her close again and leaned in to kiss her. He stopped just as their lips touched and whispered, “If this is our last night together than it should be here.”
She closed the distance between them and they said their final goodbyes.
Draco woke as the sun streamed in through the windows and realized that he was back in his room at the Manor. For several long minutes he wondered if the blissful hours he spent with Pansy had been a dream and then he found her letter on his pillow.
17 April 2000
I thought that I could do this, stay away from you, disappear from your life, but I know that I can not. You asked me to stay with you and if that offer still stands then I accept. I will stay away until after the ceremony and then if you still want me to I will come back and take whatever moments in your life I can have. I await your invitation my Love and if none comes, if it is too much for you to risk once your new life has begun I will love you still until the day I die.
The moment he folded the parchment and put it on the table next to his bed it disappeared. Before Draco had time to react there was a knock at his door and Narcissa poked her head inside, “It’s time for you to get up and get ready, Draco. The ceremony is only a few hours away.”
Draco smiled, though not about the wedding, and responded more cheerfully than expected, “I will start getting ready. Can you give me a moment, mother?”
“Of course,” Narcissa closed the door and as soon as she was gone Draco went to his desk, pulled out parchment and a quill and began writing furiously.
Once again you have changed my world and made it so much better. I will contact you as soon as I can.
I love you,
He folded the parchment and called for his owl who escaped out the window just as his bedroom door opened again and Lucius walked in. Draco stood promptly and waited for his father to speak, but when nothing was said he interrupted the silence, “Is there something I can do for you, father?”
Lucius continued to look curiously at the sparkle in Draco’s eye and after another brief pause he responded, “You are awfully happy for someone who was adamant this day would never actually happen.”
“You have not given me any choice and in truth it is not nearly as tragic as I previously imagined. Astoria is lovely and we get on quite well. She’s Slytherin, pure blood and has a trouble making quality just under the surface that I very much admire. She is not Pansy, but she’ll do, I suppose.” Draco took a deep breath and walked to a chest of drawers where he started pulling items from each drawer. Just get through today…the next few days and then you will see her again.
The Malfoy Patriarch continued to watch his son rush around the room preparing for the ceremony and after a long silence he cleared his throat and waited for Draco to stop and look up. “I have news, the reason for my interruption actually. You will be married today and then the families have arranged for an extended holiday for you and Astoria in Rome.”
Draco knew Lucius was looking for a reaction, but he refused to expose his new arrangements with Pansy. The blonde smiled brightly and continued assembling his attire for the afternoon, “That sounds lovely. Astoria was just telling me how much she has always wanted to see the Coliseum.” He stopped and looked at his father, “Thank you. We will be sure to acknowledge your gift at the reception.”
Lucius’ eyebrow arched and he continued somewhat suspiciously, “When you return Astoria’s father has arranged an interview for you at the Ministry and –”
“The Ministry? Why on earth would the Ministry employ the misfit who planned to kill Dumbledore –” Draco cowered slightly at his father’s enraged interruption.
Lucius approached and spoke in a quiet, but stern voice, “I do not ever want to hear those words escape your lips again. Do you not understand what today means, Draco? This is your chance to start over, backed by one of the most prestigious wizarding families. I can not express plainly enough the severity of the consequences if you mess…this…up.”
Anger washed across Draco’s face as he glared up at Lucius and responded in equal tone, “You will kill Pansy. I understand you completely and that is why I am trying to make the best out of yet another disgusting responsibility to save this family. Now if you will excuse me I would like a few moments to myself to prepare.”
Lucius backed away from Draco and started across the room. He raised his wand and opened the door then turned to Draco, “The security team on the grounds has been instructed to dispose of Ms. Parkinson on sight so I hope that was not a last minute invitation you sent as I arrived.” Before Draco could respond Lucius exited the room.
Draco turned and raised his wand to slam the door then sat down on the bed. He ran his hands through his hair and sighed heavily as the tightness in his chest returned. No matter what plans he and Pansy made there was no way to stay off of his father’s radar; not to mention Astoria was bound to be hurt. For weeks Draco’s sense of protection had grown where his bride to be was concerned and he found himself torn between the woman he loved more than life itself and the woman who had befriended him under the most awkward of circumstances and with whom he was intended to spend his life.
He could feel the acid traveling up and burning the back of his throat as the clock banged away minutes; drawing closer to the moment where he would become someone’s husband, knowing he intended on entering into an affair the minute he was able. So much of his old temperament was left and it was bubbling over into the person he had struggled to become. He felt persecuted and therefore entitled to selfish moments spent with the woman he chose to spend a lifetime with. At the same time Astoria was just as much an innocent victim and after making it clear that she intended on being committed to their marriage she would be devastated if she knew Draco did not share that intention. He was confused and angry and felt himself slipping to a petty diabolical level where he once found comfort and control. After several manic moments lost in thought Draco was interrupted by a familiar gray owl flying in the window.
The bird landed on the table next to the bed and Draco untied the parchment from her leg, “I’m surprised you were permitted in, girl,” he stroked the bird’s head and continued with a chuckle, “I did not think the bride was permitted to converse with the groom before the wedding.” The bird squawked at him then flew off and Draco opened the note and read quietly to himself.
17 April 2000
I realize that this is not what either of us had planned for a wedding day, but I wanted to thank you for making the last several weeks very special nevertheless. You have surprised me in so many ways and though I was not your first choice I hope you know that I will be honored to be your wife.
With all of this awkward wedding stuff I can not help but wish you were here so I could talk to you about the fact that my mother is mental today and that I think I hate my dress now that I’ve put it on again. (I am afraid I ate far too much on that last trip to Diagon Alley.) It is all so strange because you never even noticed me at Hogwarts and in a matter of weeks you have become one of the best friends I have ever had. I suppose that says something for our future right?
I’m not even sure what I am trying to say anymore. I just want you to know that I understand as always how you feel about today. We are in this together, Draco, and I hope that you know I am here to support you always. I am not expecting you to love me, but hope that our future is as caring and safe as our beginning has been.
See you in a few hours…I’ll be the plump blonde in the appalling white dress.
Draco took a deep breath after reading the letter a third time then folded the parchment and put it in his book. He was even more torn and confused after reading Astoria’s letter. They were friends now, if nothing more. If he planned to keep his promise to Pansy, that he would remain the person he struggled to become, then how could he knowingly hurt Astoria by having an affair? At the same time, there was no possible way of staying away from Pansy if she was willing to stay with him. Out of options and overwhelmed by the inevitable, Draco resigned to get ready for the ceremony; complete step one then move forward.