(Characters property of JK Rowling & co. although I would be happy to take Draco off their hands. Story by Ishafel, copyrighted 10/31/02. Postwar fic.)
EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY TABLES
When Draco Malfoy was nineteen years old, he betrayed everyone and everything that had ever trusted or loved him. Since his graduation from Hogwarts, he had led a small squad of Resistance fighters, made up solely of the children of DeathEaters and former DeathEaters, men and women whose loyalty was to him personally and not to the Cause at all. He sold them to Voldemort, many of them to torture or death, for little more than the proverbial thirty pieces of silver. He leaked information that nearly led to the capture of Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore, simply because he had grown to love the taste of treachery. He killed his own father, a man at whose side he now fought, with an Unforgivable Curse. He sold the Malfoy estates, property that had been in his family for thirty generations, for a pittance, and threw his mother out on the street in the dead of winter. And in the end, as such men do, he turned on his master. It was generally believed that he had used some new variation of an Exploding Curse on the Dark Lord. Dumbledore and those few men who served most closely knew the truth: no spell he could have cast would have harmed the Dark Lord at the height of his power. Malfoy had torn Voldemort to pieces with his bare hands.
Afterward, when he had destroyed the last thing in all of England to have faith in him, Draco Malfoy ran. He left behind a trail of blood, a great deal of it his own, and it should have been easy enough for the Aurors to track him, for Harry, the most powerful Auror ever trained, to track him. But in ten long years he had not been heard from or of, and many thought that he was dead. It made a certain amount of sense: that he had stumbled away from the remains of Voldemort's headquarters, and, already mortally wounded, bled to death in some deserted wood. That he had attempted to Apparate, and ended by splinching himself. Only Harry and a few others knew the truth, that Malfoy's trail ended at the top of the highest tower of the Dark Lord's fortress, as if he had simply sprouted wings and flown away.
After seven years the Ministry of Magic rescinded their exile of him, declared an amnesty for all servants of the Dark Lord, though there had been few enough survivors. Malfoy did not come. There were sightings of him, but they were always unverifiable and had grown rarer and rarer over the years. He had been seen in a Muggle hospital in the worst part of London, only a few weeks after Voldemort's fall, clearly on his deathbed. In a jungle in the Amazon, living among a tribe of native wizards who spoke no recognizable language. In Russia, at a Muggle nightclub, with a stunningly beautiful women on his arm. Playing Seeker for a farm Quidditch team in Australia, half crippled by his injuries. Begging for food in a slum in Calcutta. Working in a field in South Africa. Since the amnesty he had not been seen at all. Harry had been always a step behind him, and now he was totally lost.
Until today, when the call had come in. A Muggle, an American airline stewardess, believed she had their international terrorist seated on a flight from Kennedy Airport in New York to Heathrow in London. He seemed like such a gentleman, she said, that it was hard to believe he could be what they said he was. She had recognized him immediately--no mistaking that bone structure--despite the fact that he was thin and tired looking, his hair and eyes the wrong color.
Harry did not truly believe that it could be Malfoy, but the timing was perfect. They had recently begun a rumor that his mother was dying, a last desperate hope of luring him into the open. It was hard to say why it was so important to him that Malfoy be found when there was no hope any longer of bringing him to justice, but he knew that he could never retire his Auror's badge until he knew just how the other man had evaded him so long. And no one in England could truly relax--least of all Hermione, the youngest Minister of Magic in two hundred years--until they knew whether Malfoy was a threat to the country's security. Harry's job was to bring him in, so that he could be "de-briefed." If, during that time, Malfoy resisted and received a few bruises, so much the better. Harry held Malfoy personally responsible for the deaths of countless witches and wizards, among them Percy Weasley. They could not--legally--make him pay. But they could still make him suffer.
Harry had been waiting for more than three hours for Malfoy's flight. It had been a long time since he'd been in a Muggle airport--since he'd lived with the Dursleys, and gone to pick up Aunt Marge. How old had he been, that last time? Fifteen, perhaps. Impossible to imagine Draco Malfoy choosing to fly when he might have Apparated. Impossible to imagine Malfoy in such a drab setting, Malfoy as he had last seen him, face very white against the darkness of his robes, mouth twisted in a sneer, eyes so light they were nearly translucent, and the Dark Lord's hand on his shoulder. The last time he had seen Malfoy had been the day the man had announced he had "changed allegiances," with all the ease that most changed robes.
The planes were very loud despite the soundproofed glass. Harry had spent most of his time in the country, near Hogwarts, when he was not tracking Malfoy. He had been in London perhaps a dozen times since the war ended, and every time he hated the city more. But, finally, it was time for Malfoy's flight to arrive. The gate had been cleared; there were no civilians present. No journalists, thank God. They still respected Dumbledore, and no one wanted to risk this exchange going sour. Malfoy was the most dangerous man in the world, at present, and one of the most powerful.
The plane was drifting slowly toward the gate. Harry could almost sense Malfoy's presence on it. He wondered after so much time if he would even recognize the man, without the platinum hair and eyes that were Malfoy's most notable features. Muggles were coming down the ramp, now; ordinary people his team was dragging back to safety. And finally there was Malfoy, near the end. He was moving slowly, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the changing light. He had only one suitcase, a small, beat-up black duffel bag. He wore Muggle clothes, jeans so faded they were almost white, a dark blue sweater, and his hair was darkened by nature or artifice or magic to a tawny gold, his shadowed eyes an indeterminate muddy color that might have been blue or brown. He was undeniably Draco Malfoy. He looked ordinary, human. He did not look like a monster.
Harry could pinpoint the exact moment when Malfoy realized something was wrong. His head came up, his eyes flashed silver, his body tensed. There was, about him, the look of a panicked animal. Harry moved to meet him, out of the shadows. "Malfoy," he said. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to detain you on behalf of the Ministry of Magic."
The other man stepped back, dropped the suitcase slung over his shoulder, and put his hands up. "I'm sorry, there must be some mistake. I think you have the wrong man, sir."
Harry slowed his advance, a little thrown by the words, and Malfoy took another big step back. "Look, Malfoy," he began, hoping his voice sounded soothing. "It's okay. We just want to ask you a few questions. No harm, no foul."
"Right," Malfoy's voice was a little wild, a muscle jumping in his cheek. His eyes looked like ice, and his face was white despite his tan. Harry took two more steps forward, and Malfoy took one small one back and then stopped. It felt absurdly choreographed, as if they were dancing.
Harry put his hand out, as if he were trying to reassure a nervous dog, and Malfoy growled, "Don't touch me, Potter. I don't let anyone touch me."
"It's okay, Malfoy," Harry repeated, letting his hand fall.
"It's not okay! What happened to your thrice-damned amnesty, hmm, Potter? What happened to 'Come home, Malfoy, all your sins will be forgiven?'"
"We just want to talk to you, Malfoy, we won't try to hold you. You have my word of honor on that."
For a moment Harry thought he was going to give in. And then behind Harry one of the men took a step forward and he could see Malfoy was panicking for real. "I can't trust you, Potter, I can't trust anyone. Surely you must see that?" And then there was a flash of light, and where Malfoy had been a peregrine falcon flapped great tawny wings tinted silver 'round the edges. Harry could see that it was in trouble. One of its wings didn't move properly. Low as the ceiling was, it would never be able to outfly their crossbows. After a moment the falcon became Malfoy again, on his knees before Harry. "I swore I would never hurt anyone again, Potter." And he held out his wrists.
Harry moved then, very fast. He dragged Malfoy's arms behind his back and cuffed him tightly. Malfoy gulped for air once, whether in fear or from the pressure on his bad shoulder it was hard to say. After, he went limp, so that only Harry's grip on his wrists held him upright. Harry's second-in-command, Lieutenant Midgen, ran forward to search Malfoy for weapons.
"He's clean," she announced, sounding disappointed. One of the other officers hand already upended Malfoy's duffel bag. There was very little in it: only his wand, an envelope with a small wad of dollars in American Muggle money, Muggle clothing, a book called The Perfect Storm and apparently about an actual storm, and the Malfoy signet ring. Midgen emptied his wallet into a plastic bin: perhaps twenty Galleons, a few more Muggle bills, an American passport in the name of Michael Drake, but with Malfoy's picture and a Boston address. A Muggle credit card in the same name. A crumpled photograph of a woman, taken with a Muggle camera, so badly faded that her features were impossible to discern. It was all a bit depressing, because it was almost certainly everything Malfoy owned in the world.
Harry let go of Malfoy's wrists and let him fall. He finished, sitting on the filthy rug with his face pressed against his knees. It went against everything Harry believed in to feel any sympathy for the man, but he seemed so utterly defeated it was hard not to. "Get up," he told him, poking him experimentally in the ribs with the toe of his boot, and eventually Malfoy did. He stood, swaying a little, eyes closed. Harry grabbed his left arm and Midgen his right, and between them they marched him out, nodding to the grateful Muggle security guards, all of whom believed they belonged to a special anti-terror strike force. Malfoy stumbled once, as they moved through the automatic doors toward the road. "Open your eyes, idiot," Harry hissed in his ear, and after a moment he felt the other man begin to move more naturally. The car from the Ministry was waiting, right where it was supposed to be, and Malfoy offered no resistance when they shoved him inside. Harry got in after him, while Midgen went around to the other side.
Malfoy slumped forward, so that his forehead was pressed against the front seat, and shivered. He reminded Harry of a dragon bound in chains of admantine, a hawk with its wings clipped, sure to die in captivity. Hard to remember, now, that this was the man who'd destroyed the Dark Lord, led so many of their people to captivity. Hard to imagine someone so fragile could be so ruthless. But Malfoy's sweater had ridden up, and Harry could see his wrists. There were scars all along his arms, a shiny ridge of tissue under the cuffs. He'd been bound before, and not by smooth steel. Knifemarks like veins stretched from wrist to elbow. Self-inflected, those: it was a common enough reaction among those who had fought Voldemort, though he'd not expected Malfoy to bear them. There was no sign of the Dark Mark on Malfoy's fair skin; it appeared to have been cut away. Not so fragile, then. Not if he had been willing to do that.
The car moved smoothly and soundlessly out into traffic, surrounded by other Ministry cars as if it truly contained a human prisoner. Malfoy didn't look up, didn't seem interested in the changes ten years and wrought on London. Harry could see that he'd lost weight, more weight than he could really afford. The brown gold hair curling over his collar was unfashionably long, though both color and style rather suited him. The collar of his tee shirt was frayed. He looked as if he'd been living rough, difficult as it was to imagine. Draco Malfoy, who until he was seventeen had barely been capable of dressing himself. Even later, in the Resistance, he had had a reputation as a dandy: always immaculately dressed, robes pressed, nails manicured, hair groomed. Now he looked as if he'd put on the first clothes that had come to hand.
The war had changed things for everyone, of course; it had changed Harry's life as much as Malfoy's. Gone, his dream of playing Quidditch for England. Though Quidditch had started up again as soon as the war ended, there were too many other things that needed doing for him to spend his life playing games. His work as an Auror took priority, and by the time he was done the task he had set himself--to round up and neutralize all those who had fought with the Dark Lord--he would be far too old to play professionally. He didn't mind that so much anymore; so few men and women of his generation remained that the team was made up mainly of teenagers. He would have felt out of place, if he had managed to bypass his guilt and his conscience to take up the Seeker's position. It would be twenty-five years at least before England had another international standard team. The loss of the brilliant young Oliver Wood, in particular, had been felt throughout the world.
It was not Quidditch Harry mourned, as he sat beside the silent Malfoy. It was not even the men and women--friends, all--who had been lost in battle, or even the senseless deaths of so many civilians. Those deaths, while tragic, had not been his fault (though he hoped they still weighed on Malfoy, the man personally responsible for so many tragedies). For Harry, that pain had begun to dull. He was grieving now for himself. He had imagined, once, that by twenty-eight he would have had a family of his own. A wife, preferably petite and redheaded, and a few redheaded children. And a house, cozy and small and cluttered as the one he had grown up in had not been. A house down the street from Ron and Hermione, because in his dreams there was no happier ending than for the three of them to be as close as humanly possible. Instead he had a half-furnished apartment he had not seen in weeks, a handful of dates with women he barely knew, best friends who could not stand to be in a room together.
When the car pulled up outside the Ministry, he grabbed Malfoy more roughly than he meant to. The man made no effort to walk, and Harry was happy enough to drag him inside. The receptionist--he'd been out with her once or twice, come to think of it, but couldn't remember her first name--moved to block him. "The minister asks that you wait here. She's in a meeting, but she left these papers for you and she asked me to tell you she'll be down shortly."
Harry put out his hand to take the file, letting go of Malfoy, who collapsed. Harry turned, astonished, to catch him, and dropped the folder. As he and Rowan? Or Stephanie? bent to pick up the papers, the door banged open, and Ronald Weasley blew in from the street like a cyclone. He was so angry Harry could almost see rage rolling off him in red waves, like an old Muggle cartoon. He sent Rowan/ Stephanie/ Elspeth running for Security and moved to confront Ron, but his best friend shoved him out of the way so hard he spun into the wall. Momentarily dizzied, he missed what happened next.
Draco tried, when they pulled him out of the car, to stand, but his legs had turned to rubber. He wasn't worried, particularly; this happened to him frequently of late and it was not as if he were on the run at the moment. They dragged him into the lobby of the Ministry of Magic, and it looked the same as it had when he had been there last, a big echoing room with a domed ceiling supported by pillars. The receptionist came to meet them and Draco waited peacefully, letting Potter hold him up. Then the arm under his shoulder was gone, and he fell, splitting his cheekbone open on the floor because it had not occurred to him to put his arms out to catch himself until rather too late. It was nice and cool where he lay, and he rather hoped they'd let him stay there. He pressed the undamaged side of his face to the tile of the inlaid seal and closed his eyes. Papers drifted down around him and he wondered hazily if Potter's Seeker reflexes had deteriorated as badly as his own.
A crash, and footsteps, and a heel driving hard into his ribs. He stayed where he was; as if he had a choice, flat on his stomach on the Ministry's seal. When it came down again, breaking bone, he wondered if he had made a mistake trusting Potter at the airport. Perhaps it would have been better to fight, to have it over quickly and cleanly. He had not really understood, when he had decided to come back, that everyone would hate him so. It was one thing to know it, intellectually, and another thing to experience it as he was now. The pain was getting to him, and almost without thinking he willed it away, forced his heartrate to slow to normal, his breathing to regulate. He was master of himself still.
Potter was yelling, now. "Ron, no!" (how clichéd) and the heel drove down one final time, and then he could hear the two of them tearing into each other. He had forgotten all about the Weasel, but now he remembered. "Ron! He's not worth it! Get yourself under control!" He remembered the sound the older brother had made, dying. What had his name been? It didn't matter; he'd been fool enough to trust Draco, fool enough to turn his back. In the end he'd meant nothing, his death a small sacrifice in the name of the greater good. Draco could not even remember what he had felt when he'd killed him. Had he enjoyed it? He rather hoped he had, given the price he was paying now.
The door banged again, and he risked opening his eyes, although he was afraid to try and raise his head. What he saw made him groan. A tall man, all tangled white hair and beard and swirling robes. Dumbledore. He was in for it now.
Dumbledore said, very gently, "Mr. Weasley. Please, calm yourself. Rowan, darling, we won't be needing Security after all. Run and fetch a mediwizard. Harry, please check and see if Mr. Malfoy is still breathing." Said it with rather less expression than one would say, "Check and see that the water is boiling."
Draco opened his mouth to say something cutting and witty, realized he was still facedown on the floor and that he had bitten his tongue and it was bleeding, and decided not to bother. Potter's cool, practiced fingers slid under his jaw, checking his pulse, and Potter said, "He's breathing."
Draco would have stopped, to spite him, but he was beginning to really hurt. Bitterly, he reflected that nothing had changed. Potter and Weasley were still golden and he was still trash. Dumbledore's brand of snobbery, while less common, was equally rigid—he had dislike Draco on first acquaintance (though admittedly Draco had deserved it) simply because of his last name. Even during Draco's time on the "right" side, Dumbledore had never been friendly. Malfoys were barely acceptable as allies, in the worst of times; they were never to be friends. He remembered hearing Dumbledore say in that same tranquil tone, "The enemy of one's enemy may be useful, Mr. Potter."
Draco had been useful, if not precisely as Dumbledore had expected. Like any Malfoy, he had come to resent being used. But he had killed their Dark Lord for them, ended their futile little war. He had saved a hundred thousand lives, and they begrudged him the hundred he had not saved, merely because he had had to kill them himself. If he were not so busy holding the floor still, he would have gotten up and straightened Dumbledore out. Well, he thought sadly, no doubt he would have plenty of second chances.