OH MY GOSH HI. Here's the story I've been promising you for ever and ever. Old-timers, you know how this works. Newbies, welcome to daily posting! I will post a new chapter of this story every weekday for about two weeks, taking weekends off to write. I have 70% of the story done and I will give up my social life and my lazy mornings to write the rest in real time for you. Now: I won't hold the story hostage, but in exchange for this madness, I really, really love getting your reviews. They keep me encouraged so I can finish the story on schedule. (I'm counting this as Monday's post - I know, it's Sunday night. Ah well.)
I am posting this story here AND at my new A03 page, because this site deleted my last story (you can find that fic on A03). I know a lot of you have subscribed to me here, which is the only reason I'm still using it. If anything gets deleted while I'm posting, I'll move exclusively to A03.
Lastly, and sorry for the novel of an author's note, this story is a bit darker than usual, just so you know. Okay, that's all for now. Visit my Tumblr (linked on my profile) if you want to say hi!
The train raced through the underground, the clack clack of the tracks beating a familiar tattoo as it echoed through the tunnels. It was the evening rush, and the Tube was full. More Muggles than any Pureblood would normally ever see at once, but the novelty had worn off by now. This was hardly his first time, after all.
He wasn't even supposed to be here. If anyone found out where he was sneaking off to, he'd be a dead man. A Death Eater willingly surrounding himself with Muggles! Blasphemous. The Dark Lord would have his head. It was almost funny... As close to funny as one could get these days, anyway.
Draco Malfoy curled in on himself a little tighter, his robes transfigured into a long, black trench coat to avoid attention, the collar up. He'd managed to secure the best spot; the corner seat was the perfect place to hide in plain sight, what with everyone packed in like sardines and avoiding eye contact. Bless the British Muggles and their collective aversion to interaction with strangers. It was organized mayhem, people herded about like cattle, but compared with the high-profile existence he maintained in his own world, disappearing into the suffocating crowd of commuters was a relief of almost indescribable proportion. He could feel the tension seeping out of him like blood. He imagined it oozing out of his skin, pouring out of his mouth, running down his cheeks, finally dripping down onto the floor. Blood was finite, but tension was in endless supply. He could drown everyone in this car with it.
The idea made him smirk, but as he caught sight of his reflection in the foggy glass, it looked more like a sneer, his lips curling into an unflattering line, hair shaggy and hanging down to his collarbone. It made him look old and bitter. He turned away.
Sinking a little deeper in his seat, Draco closed his eyes and let the sound of the train chip away at the darkness within him.
Sloane Square, Gloucester Road, Earl's Court, West Kensington...
On the train, he let his mind wander to places he'd normally never allow himself. Lately he had been wondering whether he could ever get out. Really get out.
Was there a way to stop being a Death Eater and survive?
Would he have to become a spy?
The very idea seemed ludicrous. Laughable. Even if he did somehow find an Order member, he'd be killed on the spot. He was the enemy. It was his job to hunt them down and finish them, and generally speaking, he did his job well.
Besides, the Order may as well have disbanded - it had been years since any of them had been spotted. The surviving members had just disappeared, vanishing into the night after an assault on one of their safehouses. That was a good night for his side: five Order members dead, including Ron fucking Weasley. Draco's father managed that kill. It had been a proud time to be a Malfoy.
They took Lucius from him later, of course, a retaliation Draco had yet to recover from. The anger simmered inside him, eating at his lungs like acid. Instead of mourning, he simply became more volatile. Thankfully, a Death Eater with an anger problem blended in to life at the Manor seamlessly.
They thought the War was won after Weasley was brought down, but they were wrong. Even with the Order gone, the Resistance was strong. Draco didn't understand how the Resistance was managing to fight so well after years of hardship... By all accounts they should have been wiped out years ago. Perhaps it was Potter again, leading the people like a fucking beacon of light. How he had stayed hidden for so long was yet another mystery.
But then again, that's what the War had become. The Resistance was strong, the Order was invisible, and nobody knew who was winning anymore. It was a goddamn disaster, six years in and only getting worse.
Perhaps he could flee. He was smart; had lots of contacts with the types of criminals who made people cease to exist. Could he pay them off?
Then he remembered seeing Timothy Randall after he had attempted to run away. The Dark Lord tracked him down. Skinned him. Kept him alive like that. Draco had to watch, along with all the other Death Eaters. It was a warning; he understood that much. It kept them terrified and subservient. It reminded them that an angry Dark Lord is far worse than a quick death. It reminded them to shut up and fight.
There was no way out. He was just stuck here until a Resistance fighter finally got lucky and snuffed him out like a flame. It wouldn't be long now. He could feel it.
South Kenton, North Wembley, Wembley Central...
The first time he was ordered to kill someone, it didn't quite work. The words left his lips, and the green blast from his wand hit the sobbing man in front of him, but the man kept moaning and whispering for mercy.
"Draco," tutted his aunt Bella. "You have to mean it."
Aunt Bella fancied herself a mentor, and decided to teach this particular lesson by example. She tortured the man for a while, long enough for blood to leak out of his ears, for his words to stop making sense. Draco was the one who finally asked her to stop.
"I'll mean it this time," he said. And he did. The man died immediately, painlessly.
Draco knew from then on that he had to kill captives before anyone else got to them. It was kinder than the alternative.
Killing was a little too easy after that. Kindness became a moot point.
Chalk Farm, Camden Town, Mornington Crescent...
He wasn't sure when things started to change for him. For years, he was proud to be who he was. Close to the top of the ranks, held back only by his age. He was a strong fighter, ruthless, and power suited him. Everyone had him marked for bigger and better things. Younger Death Eaters idolized him. The future, should this war ever end, looked bright.
The fact of Draco's intelligence worked in his favour at first, but eventually the little things started to catch his attention. He noticed when the raids stopped going according to plan. He overheard the panicked discussions between senior Death Eaters. He observed the slightly more desperate nature of the Dark Lord's orders. Some even suggested that there was a rat somewhere in the troops. What started as a tiny tear in the fabric of their ranks turned into a gaping hole. Everything felt unsteady, like they had just walked off a boat with sea legs. Regardless, they continued as if they were still the clear victors, held back by a few small inconveniences.
It was the first of many lies they told themselves.
The realization came to him one sleepless night when he was on a stakeout. It was made worse by the fact that it was so painfully obvious, and he had been blind to it for so long.
He didn't want to be there.
He hadn't wanted this reality for years now. Had he ever really wanted it? Gods knew he liked the power, but compared with his life before the War, this was a waking nightmare. What he wouldn't give to be back at Hogwarts, attending classes, stressing about his OWLs. At the moment, he was debating whether or not he'd have to torture their next captive for information before killing them.
He wanted to go back in time and choose Option B.
He wanted out, but it was too late for him.
Draco stared at his hands, the Dark Mark screaming up at him from where his sleeve ended. Merlin, it was ugly. How had he never noticed? It was terrifying when he got the thing, the stain on his arm. It was so long ago now, it felt like another life. In a way, it was. The Draco from Hogwarts wouldn't recognize the person he had become.
Doubt was a funny thing. It was like a tick; harmless on the surface, but when it burrowed in deep, extremely dangerous. Disorienting. Sometimes lethal.
A week after his realization, he was walking through the dark, rainy streets of Muggle London, trying to locate one of his contacts, when he saw a blue rectangle on the ground.
"Oyster," he read out loud, turning it over in his fingers. "Transport for London." Why Muggles felt the need to name their transport after a sea creature was beyond him. Bloody idiots.
He made to toss it back on the ground, but was interrupted by a jet of green light smashing into the brick wall by his head. Startled, he swore, breaking into a run as shouts echoed behind him. Goddamn it, someone had spotted him. Maybe his contact had ratted him out. Maybe his contact hadn't been a real contact at all. Either way, he had a better chance of Dispparating safely if he wasn't in the middle of an ambush. The street was slick with rain, his boots nearly slipping on a couple of greasy corners before he saw the entrance to a tunnel. A staircase leading into the ground with several Muggles ambling down the steps.
One of them was holding a blue card just like the one he still had clenched in his fist.
Another curse whizzed past his shoulder, and Draco figured there was little to lose. A Resistance member wouldn't attempt a spell once he was embedded in a crowd of innocent people. He ran for it, stumbling a bit on the steps and knocking over some annoyed-looking Muggles in the process. It was easy to mimic how they passed their cards over the electric box to get past the barrier, so he used his little blue rectangle and slipped into the throng.
Draco looked back over his shoulder. No sign of being pursued. Best to be safe and stay down here a while.
It wasn't until he was actually seated in a train that he realized how easy it was to blend in, how easy it was to take this route to the end of the line, how easy it was to forget who he was for a moment. Nobody even took notice of him here. Nobody gave a fuck what family he was from, or what he had done. Nobody cared that he might be on the losing side of a war that had been going on longer than anyone cared to remember. Draco Malfoy was a nobody in the Muggle world.
It was glorious.
Angel, Old Street, Moorgate…
One thing he appreciated about the Tube, aside from the anonymity, was the occasional visit from nature in the underground. Roots peeking out from a crack in the wall. Moss creeping along the damp concrete. Once he found a small flower pushing up through the missing grout between some tiles.
The station he used most often even had a small bird infestation. There was usually a sparrow flitting about the arches, peeking at him, chirping away loudly. It was familiar to him now, a staple in his strange life. How it managed to survive down there was anybody's guess, but it didn't seem bothered. He had even seen a raven on the platform once, a sleek one, nothing like the mangy city birds he was used to. It blinked at him before hopping away. Gave him a funny feeling, but ravens were like that. Scary clever birds.
It was a fleeting hope, but if nature could exist in this strange habitat, maybe he had a chance after all. He had no idea where he belonged anymore.
Rayners Lane, South Harrow, Sudbury Hill…
There is a Muggle saying: sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.
The problem with that saying is, during a war, you never really know when you've hit rock bottom. You just keep falling.
A quick Alohamora and Draco was inside the old diner, his entire body shaking, his stomach threatening to heave. He stumbled through the back hallway and passed the dark kitchen, hoping to find the loo. Thank God he had remembered this place. Thank God there was no alarm system. It was 3 a.m. and that last thing he needed was another complication. If anyone found him looking like this, well… He didn't want to kill anyone else tonight. He couldn't.
Ah, finally. Fumbling with the light switch, Draco blinked in the fluorescent light and nearly panicked at his reflection in the rusty old mirror above the sink.
Fuck, he looked like a massacre. Blood in his hair. Blood smeared on his face. His black robes were soaked with it. A pained sound pulled its way out of his throat before he could tamp it down. Stop it. Shut up. This was no time to lose control.
The taps creaked open, dumping cold water onto his waiting hands. Generic pink soap from the dispenser would have to do… He didn't even trust a Scourgify on this mess. The viscous gel burned as it slipped into his cuts, which only made him scrub harder. Hopefully the sickly perfumed scent would help clear the smell of blood out of his nose.
A wet trickle of something ran down his ribs, and Draco couldn't quiet the string of profanity that tore out of him. He ripped the robes off, deciding then that he would rather burn them than try to clean the blood out.
His ragged breathing echoed in the small room. He sounded like a trapped animal. He was a trapped animal.
The raid was an unmitigated disaster. There were kids in that house… He was told they were hunting Order sympathizers, that they should attack first and confirm the damage later. There were adults too among the bodies, but the sight of the kids –
Draco heaved, emptying the contents of his stomach into the toilet, retching until there was only bile left. Dropping to his knees on the uneven tile floor, he hitched a breath and looked around at the bloody mess he'd made of the small room.
For the first time since the War started, Draco realized he had become the nightmare parents try to shield their children from. He wasn't just one of two sides in a battle.
He had actually become one of the monsters.
Aldgate, Liverpool Street, Moorgate, Farringdon, Barbican, Baker Street, Great Portland Street, Euston Square, King's Cross St. Pancras, Uxbridge, Finchley Road, Hillingdon, Ickenham, Wembley Park..
It was too much to hope that he'd be able to sneak back into the Manor undetected. A strong hand clapped him on the back, and he nearly jumped out of his skin.
"You look paler than usual, mate," said Blaise, grinning. "Where'd you run off to? Been gone ages. Look like you've seen a ghost."
"Went to the dungeons," he lied, trying to hide the fact that he'd been having a drawn-out panic attack on the Tube for hours, much longer than he'd intended to be away. It wasn't even open yet when he finally finished cleaning himself up, so he broke in and waited. He broke in to a Muggle area and waited to be comforted by a ride on a Muggle train. Draco Malfoy. Death Eater. Failure.
"Found myself a slave to work off some tension, if you catch my drift."
Blaise clicked his tongue sympathetically. "Yeah, that was a bad raid. Glad they aren't all like that. Smart to fuck it off though. You find a pretty one?"
Draco thought momentarily of the state of the slaves in the dungeon. They were starving and dirty, and likely all consumptive. Besides, he was probably responsible for putting them down there.
He'd sooner cut off his dick than take a slave to bed. He'd sooner fuck a Basilisk.
"Oh yeah," he winked. "Gorgeous."
Osterley, Boston Manor, Northfields...
He probably could have faked it. He was a gifted Occlumens; he could have hidden his doubts, waited for the War to end, or better, waited to be put out of his misery by a Resistance fighter. It could have worked out perfectly. Nobody would have needed to know about his aching regret or his raging self hatred.
But then everything went fucking pear.
Draco was standing on a Tube platform when it happened. Transfiguring his robes was simple now - black trenchcoat, black boots, disinterested expression... Everything he needed to be ignored. The routes of the underground were mapped out flawlessly in his head. Where would he go today? He supposed it didn't really matter as long as he was left alone.
Except that someone stepped up right next to him, far too close, so close that their arms were brushing. Annoyed, he turned his head with a sneer, prepared to tell the idiot off.
"Hello Draco," said Luna Lovegood. Her long, nearly-white hair and her dazed expression were exactly the same as when they were in school. The only difference was the ugly red scar that gouged its way across her cheek.
"Didn't expect to see you here," she continued. "But then again, everyone is displaced nowadays. You look a little peaky... Everything alright?"
He managed a dry croak, somewhere between a cough and a "wha -" before the train pulled in. The crowd surged.
He lost her immediately.
Later, when he was unable to sleep, the mirage of his former classmate smiling airily at him, he thought several responses to her inane question.
Of course everything's not alright. How can you ask me that? Do you know what I am?;
Why aren't you running away from me? I kill people like you. I have killed your friends, your family, for God's sake Lovegood, why aren't you running?
Am I hallucinating?
Can you help me get out of this?
It occurred to him much, much later why she hadn't run away from him.
He never, not for a moment, thought to reach for his wand.