Two chapters in two weeks - squee!
chapter eight: oh what a christmas (to have the blues)
It was a short train ride home for Christmas.
I sat alone, shooing away the company of my usual Slytherin companions. At this point, I had become at best indifferent to their company. Perhaps it was because I'd found much better companionship with Luna or that I'd simply outgrown their blatant ignorance and stupidity. I was no longer a person they admired, either way. With the stress taking over my entire being, it seems as if I had lost their respect. And the funny thing was that I didn't even care.
Luna stopped by once.
She tapped on the window ever so gracefully as she shyly stopped in.
"Merry Christmas," she said at barely over a whisper. Slowly, she pulled a small box from behind her back and held it out for me. It was wrapped in silver and green wrapping paper, with a blue ribbon tied around it from both sides.
There's no easy way to describe this but I could physically feel gratitude spreading through my entire body. It was almost enough to untangle all the knots that were currently assembled in my stomach as I dreaded the idea of confronting the Dark Lord. Updating him with my failure.
"Luna," I said, sadly. With all the commotion, I hadn't even thought of giving her anything. I wasn't sure it would be appropriate.
After slowly untying the ribbon and unwrapping the carefully folded present, I opened the box to find that it was a silver pocket watch. The clock on the inside was a royal blue with silver roman numerals. As I turned it over, I noticed it had the initials L.H.L. engraved.
"It was my grandfather's. Lysander Hyperion Lovegood," she said as if she were introducing us.
"Luna, I can't take this," I begged her. There was no way I could take something so precious as a family heirloom.
"It is a reminder," she told me, ignoring my plea. "That time is a funny thing."
I pursed my lips together, fingering the beautiful antique. Not even a hint of rust, pure silver this was and well taken care of. It must have been precious to her.
"Time heals, Draco," she said. I only laughed, pathetically.
Time kills, I couldn't help but think. But I bit my tongue. I never understood the source of her optimism. It is a place I'd very much love to visit one day. With all the horrors in the world right now, she'd still managed to find the silver lining in everything. Still managed to maintain the belief that everything will turn out all right in the end. That good would overturn evil.
I didn't have as strong of faith in the righteous. After seeing my father being twirled around on a string like a marionette, I'd resigned to myself long ago that the Dark Lord is my future. I used to idolize the concept as a boy; naturally, I didn't quite comprehend the consequences of my family name. All I knew was that we were wealthy and important.
I never wanted to kill anybody.
She left as quickly as she came and I spent the remainder of the train ride in pure silence. It was nothing but a sea of white outside my window and the view brought me back to a piece of muggle literature. It was one of Luna's collection. Oftentimes, she'd read to me during my moments of stress. Her voice took me to places that helped me escape my nightmares.
Of course, naturally, her favorites are among the more bizarre.
Towards the end (and the beginning) of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, the mad scientist follows his creation to the ice caps, overridden with thoughts of revenge as well as tragic longing. He kills himself to accomplish this impossible mission and, after all the horror that he'd bestowed upon his monster, was buried by him. The monster that had destroyed his life had given him a proper burial and gave his respects to the dead as a son would to a father.
I'm not sure why this moved me so or why this scene had suddenly brought me back to that tale. I suppose I sympathized with the scientist. The man who tried everything to be great, to right his wrongs, but failed all the same. And yet – was forgiven by the very being he had tried to kill. A being that had been rejected by the entire world, including the one that cursed him with life.
There's a lesson in there somewhere. I just wasn't sure what it was.
Misery makes fools of us all, was all I could think of. The scientist's grief for his loved ones and utter regret. The monster's abhorrent physique and innate loneliness. We all do terrible things when we feel no other alternative, don't we?
At this point, the train had come to a grinding halt and I could feel backflips rising in my stomach. I scanned the crowd of family members and friends awaiting to greet the students. Happy faces covered up with scarves and knitted caps. Students scurried off the train excitingly to start their well-deserved breaks where they would stuff themselves with cookies and immerse in their seasonal gifts.
"It's the most wonderful time of the year," sang throughout the King's Cross station. Funny. It did not feel that way.
I was among the last to exit the train, wanting to steer clear of the stampede of glee. There were very few left at the station but there was one that I recognized immediately. She was alone. A white-blonde haired woman in emerald green robes; she stood with her arms crossed as if she were shielding her stomach from passersby and her eyes twitched back and forth from nearly every direction.
Until she saw me.
"Draco," she gasped.
Immediately, I fell into the warm embrace of my mother. With the stress of my mission and worry over Luna, I had all but nearly forgotten about my family. I guess it wasn't as if I forgot, but chose not to remember. I shuddered to think of the thought of my mother, alone, with two of the most dangerous people this world has ever know: the Dark Lord, of course…and then my Aunt Bellatrix.
It's not as if she couldn't handle herself. But I did worry over her.
"It is so good to see you, son," she said, still not letting go.
"Have they hurt you at all?" I asked her quietly.
At this question, she slowly retracted from my embrace.
"You don't need to concern yourself with—"
"Yes, I do," I interjected.
She pursed her lips together as I examined her closely. There were no visible marks that I could see, at least not on her face. Nevertheless, my mother had always been a tremendous healer. It was nothing she could not cover up. Even if there had been no physical marks, I'm sure there were plenty underneath the surface.
It had been a tough couple of months overall. Having my father imprisoned in Azkaban has not been the easiest. My mother spent nearly the entire summer consoling me privately, assuring me was that Azkaban was the safest place for him. She wasn't wrong. If anything, I'd say we had the short end of the stick.
There was a letter that my father sent me during the summer saying that I was the man of the house now. I don't think I'd ever been more terrified. My mother's fate was in my hands…and I don't feel as if I've done a very good job.
"They can't do this," I whispered.
"Yes, they can," she insisted. "And they will."
She cupped my face with her cold hands and then firmly entwined her hand in mine, squeezing tightly. My mother and I had always been close, even before the Dark Lord's return to power. I used to help with her garden work outside our manor and have a fair amount of knowledge regarding herbology because of it. I briefly remember helping my mother de-gnome the garden on several occasions. That was always my job.
My mother has always helped neutralize my father's cold exterior. While my father and I have a special father/son relationship, in public he is at best indifferent. Narcissa Malfoy has always loved her son, no matter where she was.
"Have you heard from him?" I asked.
She only shook her head. It doesn't surprise me. There's every possibility that they would confiscate the letters, reading them before she could. I expect he knew better than to write. I've only received the one, myself.
"I'm sure he's fine," I forced out. It was a lie. I wasn't sure. He was not a respected Death Eater anymore. I wouldn't be surprised if he died before the year was out. But I'd never tell my mother that.
"Let's go home, Draco."
"Draco!" I heard screeched as I stepped through the door. I suppressed my grimace and instead forced a smile.
"Aunt Bellatrix," I greeted half-heartedly. "I trust you are well."
Looking around the living room, I saw the whole lot of misfits gathered around the antique fireplace. It seems Bellatrix's in-laws were in town for the season.
There was Bellatrix's husband, Rodolphus, with his usual mute expression and a beer in his hand. Likely not his first. Rodolphus had always been a quiet individual. In fact, I don't believe I've ever heard him say more than three words to me at a time.
Sitting next to him was Rabastan, Bellatrix's brother-in-law. Rabastan is…well, in a word, insane. He's the leader of a little pureblood supremacy conspiracy mob that meets in Knockturn Alley every full moon. They're mainly harmless; however, I do recall the lot of them burning down a pub they once believed to be redistributing smallpox amongst the pureblood community. Apparently, they weren't aware that there is a cure.
Mercury Lestrange is Rodolphus and Rabastan's grandmother. An interesting woman. Mercury, or Mercy as she prefers, brags constantly about how many muggles she'd slaughtered during the third muggle war. She also may or may not have killed her daughter-in-law out of spite. It's not really clear.
"I heard you've had an interesting semester," chuckled Rabastan, puffing on his cigar.
"Indeed," I replied, feigning pride.
"Gonna take out the big man, are you, kid?" Mercy asked. She rose from her chair, circling me like a vulture. "Little scrawny for an up-and-coming murderer, ain't ya?"
"Yes, ma'am," I uttered.
"It is not our place to question those chosen by the Dark Lord," Bellatrix said, hissing slightly. "Draco will make a fine subject."
I could be wrong, but I'm assuming this was Bellatrix defending her nephew. It was an unsettling feeling, to say the least. She sat herself down beside Rodolphus who, as per usual, said nothing. I'd never understood their relationship, honestly, and I'm quite sure they'd never shared much congress together. He was far too indifferent to the Black family to risk procreating and she was far too in love with the Dark Lord and it showed.
"Come, Draco," my mother suddenly said. "Let us unpack your things."
"Yes, mother," I replied, possibly a little too willingly. As I walked up the dark marble staircase, I could hear Rabastan mimicking me in a high-pitched voice while Mercy and Bellatrix cackled. They were such an unsettling group.
I was not looking forward to this winter break. Don't get me wrong; I was more than happy to be there monitoring my mother. It's just the last place either of us wanted to be.
"You didn't tell me your lunatic sister and her gang of sociopaths were going to be joining us," I told her harshly once we were alone in my room.
"Keep your voice down," she scolded. "There are ears everywhere."
"I'm pretty sure they'd take that as a compliment," I said, somewhat sarcastically.
"It's not as if I have a choice, Draco," she explained. "We are the floor mat of the pureblood community, thanks to your father."
"He didn't drop it. It wasn't his fault," I argued.
"Yes, well, he let that mouse-faced boy drop it and left us to the wolves."
"So you're taking the Dark Lord's side now; is that what you're doing?"
"He abandoned us, Draco," she suddenly shouted. I could see her eyes begin to tear up as her face trembled uncontrollably. "He's locked up, safe, in Azkaban putting you on death row while I'm stranded here playing housemaid to a maniac."
She covered her mouth immediately and sat on my bed. Her lip was trembling as her eyes fought the inevitable tears and it took everything in me to not cry alongside her. But my father was right. I was the man, now.
I gently took her hand and sat down beside her, her face immediately collapsing into my shoulder. I could do nothing but hold her.
"We will make it through this, mother," I said. "I promise."
"And then what?" she retorted. "Do you want to live in a world where we win?"
I had no answers. I wasn't going to pretend like I did. She was right. Any triumph on our part would result in the possible destruction of the entire world, and the Malfoy family surely wouldn't survive that ordeal. It's not as if I wanted that to happen…but I had made a promise to a young fair-haired beauty. And I planned to keep it.
"I'm sorry, Draco," she said, wiping her eyes. "I just miss your father."
I shuddered to think of my father spending Christmas in Azkaban, surrounded by dementors. Within the past year, it seemed as if my father experienced nothing but fear. I can't bear the thought of the effect it would have to be drained of all of happiness. I vividly remember my third year at Hogwarts when the dementors were simply guarding the entrances. Even the couple seconds that it took to pass by them was damning enough.
To be faced with nothing but your worst nightmares…and to forget all those who made them go away. I tried not to think of my father cornered in a cell, trembling in fear. As a boy, I saw nothing but strength in my father. As a man…I see nothing but weakness. A weakness that I regret to say I've inherited.
"Severus tells me you're in love," my mother said suddenly.
My heart skipped a beat as I looked at my mother. I expected a lecture. Possibly a scolding, my mother can be slightly jealous at the best of times. However, all I saw was a genuine smile. She seemed to be beaming with pride at the thought.
"Don't let her go, Draco," she told me. "Don't let her out of your sight."
As far as holidays go, it didn't measure up to your average grandmother's Christmas. However, I had no great room to complain. The Dark Lord had evidently been too busy to send for me and I spent the entire season in the company of my mother. Granted, her psychopath family took up nearly every room; however, they mainly kept to themselves.
On Christmas Eve, my mother and I spent the whole night in the kitchen. Knowing that there were certain topics forbidden, we tried to find something that would bring joy to both of us. We toyed with the idea of getting a cat. I told her a small cat would get lost in a heartbeat in this giant mansion and would die in a corner somewhere. She then suggested a cougar.
The Witching Hour was my mother's favorite radio program and it had been playing Christmas music nearly all day. It was an odd contrast to the company spread throughout the mansion but no one seemed to mind. If anything, my mother was so very unlike these people; I expect a bit of her sister rubbed off on her.
Not Bellatrix. Andromeda. The one I'm not meant to talk about.
I know it must be hard to imagine, me spreading cookie batter onto a cookie sheet, licking the whisk while my mother danced around the kitchen to Madam Celestina Warbeck's 'You Stole My Cauldron But You Can't Have My Heart'. It was these private moments with my mother that I treasured and I gift her all the credit for my small trace of humanity.
"You stole my cauldron, my favorite black hat," my mother sang. "Purloined my owl, then flew off like a vampire bat."
I let out a proud grin as she used a spoon for a microphone. She grabbed my hand for the next verse and I twirled her around promptly, smiling as she shimmied her way to the fridge for some milk. You have to understand – my mother and I were in the belief we were living on borrowed time. We could spend every waking moment dreading the following minute but, instead, we chose to enjoy our perceived last holiday together. If not with my father, we would make do.
Luna was a private topic of conversation. Being my mother, she wanted to know all about her; she wasn't as nearly as paranoid or cautious as Severus was and for that I was thankful. Until now, there had been no one I could talk about her with. It was simply me and my thoughts. Now, I had a confidant.
My mother braved the dungeons of the Malfoy Manor to grant us permission from the Dark Lord to attend Diagon Alley, just the two of us. He had required her to request the company of Bellatrix and her family; however, they abhorrently declined, thankfully. It was a mother/son tradition that the both of us had taken a part in since I was just a small child so it's not as if the request came from out of left field. Every year, they covered the entire street of Diagon Alley with Christmas lights; it was quite a sight. And there we could talk about Luna without worrying of eavesdroppers.
"It's complicated, mother," I told her after endless poking and prodding on how serious we were.
"Well, it can't be so complicated. Do you love her? It's a simple yes or no question."
"Of course, I love her," I said, indefinitely. "But it's too dangerous right now."
"Do not let the Dark Lord ruin your life, Draco," she told me.
"It's not my life I'm worried about."
"When I married your father, I knew what I was getting into," she told me. "But I didn't care. Because I loved him. Still do. Even if he is a useless, good-for-nothing git."
I looked at my mother and the two of us burst out laughing. It felt weird to laugh with my mother, especially with the situation we were currently in. We stopped to get in line for a hot butterbeer and I could do nothing but beam at her. Such a strong woman. I don't think my father ever gave her much credit.
"I love you, mom," I suddenly said.
"If that's true, you'll grab that girl while she still tolerates you and give me some grandchildren."
I smirked that lovely Malfoy grin and put an arm around my mother. We paid for our hot butterbeers and retreated to a small bench that had been sheltered from the snow underneath a shop overhang. We sat in silence for a while, staring at the passersby drinking our hot butterbeer. Jingle bells could be heard in the distance and Christmas music played amongst the chatter of the little witches and wizards prancing around.
I had never much cared for Knockturn Alley honestly. Here, in Diagon Alley, there was life.
"Oh, my god," I suddenly said.
"What?" said my mother. Her tone changed to one of worry.
"It's her," I said. "It's Luna."
There were two white-blondes in the distance. Luna had some sort of Christmas ornament tangled through her hair with light-up earrings. Her father stood above her dressed in a bright red pantsuit. I'd only seen pictures of her father but, I have to say, I was not at all surprised. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
His long white-hair was tangled and disastrous, a nice contrast to my father's usual straight, well-kept do. He had his arm around Luna as she was currently blowing bubbles that had little fireworks inside. Her father would reach over her shoulder and point at something in the distance. She would look in the direction and her smile would widen, then she kissed her father on his cheek.
It reminded me a bit of the relationship between me and my mother.
"She is very beautiful," my mother said. "You can't hide from her forever."
"She is a blood traitor, mother; the Dark Lord would never allow it," I told her. "He'd kill her in front of me. And then anyone else I cared about."
"So, what, you're going to marry that awful Pansy instead?" my mother scoffed.
She had always hated Pansy. It is partially due to the fact that her father attempted to court my mother at a young age. I distinctly remember the story of my father clocking Pansy's father in the face over the matter. He'd always told me how humorous it was that he cried like a baby afterwards.
"I'd sooner marry Dobby."
Dobby. Wow. I hadn't thought about him in years. I believe he was Harry Potter's now; though, I'd never asked.
"It is noble of you," my mother admitted. "But you know what your father would say?"
"…what?" I asked.
"Malfoy's take what they want."
I never thought of my mother as a badass…but damnit, I had to hand it to her. She wasn't wrong. I looked over at her once I noticed she was reaching from behind her neck. She unclipped her necklace and placed it in my palm, clasping my hand gently.
"You tell her it's from me," she said.
The necklace was emerald green, to no one's surprise, with a silver chain. A large green, princess cut stone bordered diamonds. Knowing my family, they were real and expensive. A priceless heirloom for a suitable host. For Luna…evidently.
Holding it in my palm, I smiled, gripping it tightly. And then I made my way over towards Luna and her father, not 100% sure what it was I was about to say.
It was conflicting. Because I knew in my heart that Snape was right. I would be endangering her life and I wasn't sure how to cope with that. But...my mother was right, in a way. Why should I deprive myself of happiness during my last moments? Why should I let the Dark Lord destroy every aspect of my life? Why let the Dark Lord win?
Why not fight?
With that in mind, I made my way over to the father, daughter pairing, my mother's necklace in hand. At the moment, they were deep in conversation, smiling all the while. As I got closer, it seemed they were arguing about what color Crumple Horned Snorcacks were.
"They have no inherent pigment, father," Luna argued. "It changes according to the degree of weather by Fahrenheit."
"Luna, their birth color is skyblue because of the temperature the mother Snorcack keeps the eggs at which is 23 degrees Fahrenheit. But upon exposure to the outwards temperature changes after its egg hatches."
"You forgot to account the margin for error regarding the mother. She could neglect her motherly duty, you know."
"Luna," I suddenly interjected.
I could see her father was about to come up with a retort. However, upon seeing my face, he shared a small glimpse with his daughter who slowly nodded.
"I'll just grab us a few warm butterbeers, shall I?" he bowed and made his leave.
"Draco," she greeted, slightly surprised. "You look well."
"Thank you," I said, smiling softly, stunting my speech slightly. "I —you look beautiful."
She smiled very light-heartedly. It wasn't the warm one that I was used to and I expect that was my fault. I had no excuses. I stood there like an idiot with my hands in my pockets, pondering my next move. I had no plan on what to say – I wasn't even sure where this conversation would end or what it would accomplish.
Maybe I was being selfish. But I've spent so much of my energy worrying about making my father proud and taking orders from the Dark Lord…maybe I deserved this. Maybe I could be a better person with her by my side.
"Luna, I can't do this anymore," I told her. "I'm in love with you…and I can't keep pretending like I'm not."
I saw her small mouth widen into a larger smile.
"Will you marry me?" I asked.