Chapter 10 - Epistola
The first month of classes dragged by in a liquor induced haze for Draco. He spent most of his days nursing a pounding hangover and his nights cuddling with whatever bottle he pulled out of his trunk first. It was easier to pretend that the world wasn’t completely upside down if his head was never fully clear. Half in a bottle of firewhiskey he could pretend that he wasn’t one misstep away from Azkaban or from being disowned by his own father. Half in the bottle he could pretend he didn’t know what Granger’s lips tasted like.
Fully in the bottle was more of a problem, while he couldn’t manage to slip into unconsciousness without the aid of an unholy amount of alcohol, it was more frequently problematic. When he found the bottom of the bottle of whatever he was drinking, Draco allowed himself to think about Granger and how her hair smelled like tobacco smoke and vanilla -which he’d learned in their shared bathroom was from her shampoo- and how her lips felt pressed against his. When he finally rolled the empty bottle to his bedroom floor, he drifted to sleep thinking about how she tasted like honey from her tea and the bitterness of an alcohol he’d never tried before.
The worst part of the cycle was when he woke up the next morning, but it was the most useful. Waking up to a pounding behind his eyes reminded Draco that the kiss was a mistake; Granger was a war hero who was too busy being a know-it-all to linger on secret hallway kisses, and he was an ex-death eater who hated muggle-borns. The kiss was a fluke accident that neither of them ever chose to acknowledge even over a week later. For ten days the two of them pretended that it had never happened; co-existing in a tense silence, the two never acknowledged what happened in the hallway.
He’d received two letters this morning at breakfast, both sealed with the Malfoy crest. He hurried back to his room as soon as they fell onto the table beside his plate, not wanting to open either in front of curious eyes.
The first was from his mother, he recognized her elegant scrawl that read his name on the front of the envelope. He opened it with a deep breath, reinforcing his occlumency walls before he started to read.
My Dearest Draco,
I hope that the first month of your final year at Hogwarts has been delightful and you are enjoying your studies. Although the responsibility of Head Boy had been cast on you as a term of your probation, I encourage you to also remember to view it as the prestige that it is. Malfoy men have always held authoritative positions, and you are no exception.
With both you and your father away from home, I fear the manor has grown most lonely for me with only the elves to keep me company. I wait with bated breath for your return at Christmas time, your letters I’m sure will do wonderfully to keep me sane in the meantime. I urge you not to worry about me my dear; in the wake of your absence I have taken up a project alongside the ministry to purge Malfoy manor of some of the more unsavory cursed objects that were left behind in the aftermath of the Dark Lord’s residence.
I so look forward to your response darling, please do me the satisfaction of providing me with as many details regarding your time in the castle as one can fit in a letter. I wish to know everything even if you were to consider it not relevant, it would bring me great happiness to experience the world beyond the Malfoy property through your letters if I cannot live it for myself.
I know you do not like when I bring this up but as your mother it is my responsibility to worry about you. Have you considered my suggestion of seeing a mind-healer at all? I truly believe that it would be in your best interest to speak to someone; you cannot hide behind your occlumency walls forever. I know you’re scared darling even if you’ve repressed the fear so much that you forget sometimes, it’s alright to be afraid. Fear does not make you less of a man -one of the many things your father is wrong about- it simply makes you human. I do not wish for you to remain closed off to the world out of shame or anxiety.
Please do consider what I have said. I love you my dragon.
The audacity of the ministry, expecting his mother to open their ancestral home for them to pillage as they see fit. She’d said as much in her letter, he knew her ways of speaking in semi-riddles well enough to understand what was happening.
He missed her terribly. The two had always been close before he’d gone to Hogwarts. With Lucius away so often on what he now knew had been death-eater business, his mother was left to care for him on her own. Thanks to his father and their family’s place in the war, she was confined to the grounds of Malfoy manor for knowingly harboring an evil wizard. Lucius was in Azkaban and Draco was at school, leaving Narcissa to live out her five-year house arrest on her own with only the elves and whoever walked through the floo for company.
Draco picked up a quill to write back to her.
It is lovely as always to hear from you. I too am looking forward to returning to see you for the upcoming holidays. As you know, Head Boy has been a title I have aspired to achieve for since the first time you and father told me about Hogwarts. My co-head is what some may describe as a difficult character, and I find her acqaintence testing my patience more often than not. Other than my difficulties with my co-worker, I am having a most pleasant time thus far. All of my classes are of a calibre of difficulty I expected, and I have no doubt I will walk away from my final year with only the highest of N.E.W.T. scores.
Despite my rocky history with plants in my first few years, I find my advanced herbology elective most enjoyable. I know you always had more of an affinity for the stars than the land, but I find myself thoroughly enjoying my time in the greenhouses. I am also pleased to tell you that I am top of this class and if I continue to assist her with the younger years classes, Professor sprout has promised to write me a letter of recommendation to apprentice under her when I graduate in order to one day fill her place as Herbology master when she is to retire.
I hope that you can keep this information to yourself as I know that father would be most disapproving, he still desires me to take his seat on the Sacred-28 board and do nothing but discuss how pure-blooded and rich I am for the rest of my days. I know that you understand why I wish to do more with my future.
Blaise Zabini and Theodore Nott both send their regards and wish you well. I am thinking of inviting them both to the manor with me for Christmas if you find that agreeable, both boys find themselves without a place to spend the holidays as Ms. Zabini is to be on honeymoon with her new husband, and Nott manor is supposedly an even more unwelcome place since the passing of Mr. Nott -though I would have thought the lack of that horrid man could only make the place better-. If you are alright with it I will extend the invitation to the two, please let me know.
I hope you are being careful with the ministry mother; I would find it most upsetting to know that they are forcing your hand in relinquishing any valuable family heirlooms by accident if it were to be mistaken as a belonging of that monster. You know I care not if we were to hand over the entirety of Malfoy manor to the aurors and started fresh, however I know that if that were to happen the fault from father would be placed on you and I do not wish you to have to face his wrath.
I will take your suggestions about a mind-healer under consideration.
With the utmost affection,
Draco Lucius Malfoy
The second envelope he received was from his father. His usually impeccable handwriting was shaky and there was an ink blot in the middle of the ‘O’ of his first name. He opened the letter half-heartedly, not particularly wanting to read whatever the bastard had to say.
I have heard through whispers that you have been appointed Head Boy. It is about time you stopped being a stain to the Malfoy name, though I must express my disappointment that you did not tell me yourself and I instead had to hear the news of my only son’s accomplishment from a filthy half-blood guard.
Do not allow yourself to fall below the calibre of greatness that is expected of you as my only heir to the Malfoy name. I expect now that you are without distraction, that you will be first in all of your classes. I do not need to remind you that is a disgrace to come second to anybody as a Malfoy, let alone a pathetic mudblood as I have allowed you to for the last several years.
Following the defeat of our Dark Lord, it is more important than ever that you uphold the position of the Malfoy family in society seeing as I am unable to do so myself from Azkaban. Make no mistake my son, you may be an adult in the eyes of the law now, however you are still my heir and as long as you carry the Malfoy name you will answer to me and do as I say.
I will not be as forgiving of any disobedience as I have been in the past. My absence from the manor does not change anything.
I await and expect your response,
If he didn’t respond his father would only write again, likely with more thinly veiled threats that Draco was confident he would have no problem fulfilling regardless of his imprisonment.
I will not disappoint.
Sealing both letters into envelopes, Draco shrugged his robes back on and made his way out of the dorm to the owlery.
She’d been putting off reaching out to anyone for weeks now, but when Hermione had two letters fall in front of her bowl of fruit, she knew she couldn’t keep avoiding her friends. She rushed from the great hall to the library, wanting to read them in the privacy of her regular table in the depths of the bookshelves.
The letter on top was from Harry.
Molly passed on from Ginny that you’ve been having nightmares about the war again, I thought you’d said they stopped months ago? I wish you would have told me yourself; you know I’m happy to help. Have you thought any more about what Molly suggested about seeing a mind-healer? It might help.
Everyone misses you and Gin dearly. Ron and I went over the other night for dinner, Molly gets lonely with so many of us gone from the house now, but every day it’s a little bit easier. Training has been a good outlet for Ron’s grief, I think. We found Molly in Fred’s room again the other day when we stopped by for dinner, she and George were just sitting there crying over his old quidditch uniform. I’ve been trying to convince George to go back to the joke shop but he’s talking about selling it.
Can you do me a favour and look out for Ginny for me? I doubt she would want to see me after the breakup, but I still care about her and worry for her. She doesn’t know that I saw but she snuck Fred’s beater bat in her trunk before she left, I think she’s struggling with his death more than she’ll let on.
On a happier note, I finally finished the theory portion of my auror training, I’m starting field work in a few weeks once I pass my application training. Ron has some news as well about training but he’s writing you a letter right now beside me, so I think I’ll let him tell you himself.
We’re going to write to McGonagall and request permission to come and visit you and Gin at Hogwarts, even if I have to pull my ‘Chosen One’ card.
I hope you’re doing well Hermione; we miss you dearly and you better not replace me with head boy Macmillan as your best friend just because you’re living with the bloke now.
Love you always,
She wiped a stray tear from her cheeks, it was easy to forget how much she really needed her best friend when she was sequestered in the castle and buried under her problems. She hoped they would manage to get permission to come visit, a month was the longest she’d been apart from both of them since before the war. Actively deciding not to mention that Ernie wasn’t head boy like she’d thought, she pulled a quill and some parchment out of her bag to write a reply.
I’m so happy to hear that your auror training is going so well! I’m so proud of you and Ron both for everything you’ve accomplished already. Of course I will look after Ginny, she’s taken to sleeping most nights in the Head’s dorm with me anyways. I think Gryffindor tower holds too many memories of last year with the Carrows for her to really want to spend much time there, so she’s practically moved in with me.
I’ve thought about going to see a mind-healer, but I think I may go and see a muggle psychologist over the break again, like I did during the summer.
I’m going to be returning to the burrow for Christmas holidays with Ginny, I hope that you and Ron will be able to come spend it with us if your training doesn’t occupy too much of your time, I miss you both terribly.
All my love,
Hermione Jean Granger
The second letter was from Ron, his messy handwriting was illegible to most people. Lucky for her, she’d been correcting his essays since they were eleven, Hermione was fluent in the chicken scratch.
Auror training has been really great so far! The poisons testing was bloody hard, but I passed all on my own! I actually did that thing you used to do with the study charts and schedules, and I got every question right! Who would’ve thought I’d ever get a perfect score on anything to do with potions? I bet Snape is rolling over in his big-nosed grave right about now.
Mum and dad and the rest of us really miss you ’Mione. I know we aren’t together anymore but you’re still one of my best friends and I’ll always love you, no matter what. I’ve been taking turns living between Grimmauld and the burrow lately, I think if I leave mum and dad alone with George in the house for too long the three of them will drown in their grief. We’re all trying really hard to move forward; I know Fred wouldn’t want us to mourn him forever.
Can’t wait to hear from you ’Mione, love you lots.
Beaming with pride at her friend’s accomplishment and his newfound maturity, she pulled another piece of parchment out of her bag to write him back.
First off, I want to say I am so unbelievably proud of you for doing so well on the testing all on your own! I always knew that you could be quite clever if you were to properly apply yourself. I must remind you that it’s in bad taste to speak ill of the dead, as much as Professor Snape made it difficult for us to do anything but dislike him, he gave his life to the Order of the Phoenix and he died a hero. I’m sure if he were still alive, he would have been proud of your accomplishment as well.
I think your insight on what Fred would have wanted is incredibly mature of you. Please remember that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and if you ever want to talk about him or the war in general, I’m just a floo away.
I’ll be coming home with Ginny for Christmas this year. I’m quite excited to see you all I’ve missed everyone so much already. Good luck with the next part of your training and remember to stay safe!
Love you always,
Hermione Jean Granger
She quickly tucked all of her things back into her bag and headed to the owlery. She was ascending the stairs quickly, watching her feet so she didn’t trip on the hard-stone steps when she ran directly into a hard body.
Hermione had an apology on her tongue as she looked up to whomever she had run into when her eyes met stony grey ones. Her automatic recoil at eye contact was evidently unnecessary when she realized the eyes belonged to Malfoy. As usual, she heard and saw nothing.
Before she could get her apology out of her mouth, Malfoy scowled darkly at her and walked around her, continuing his descent without a word.