This World or Any Other: Book II
Summary: Two dead. Three missing. The Order is down a leader and another innocent takes the Mark. Where is the Chosen One, and who killed Draco Malfoy? Dramione, sequel to "Clean," book II in "This World or Any Other" series. COMPLETE.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to J.K. Rowling. Credit where credit is due, Joanne.
a/n: This work is the second in the This World or Any Other series and must be read as a companion to Book I, Clean.
Chapter 1: The Muggle
The tall, lanky Slytherin eyed his reflection in the mirror with displeasure.
The issue wasn't that he didn't look good in black; he did, without question - though he wasn't the sort to note such things aloud. It was more an issue of what the black meant.
Because Theo Nott refused to believe that Draco Malfoy was really dead.
"Impossible," he'd said, blinking. "That's - it's just impossible."
Blaise had reached out a hand to comfort him, and Pansy had glanced up through her tear-sprinkled lashes.
"I know, Theo," she'd said, her voice scratchy from crying. "It's heartbreaking. We all loved him - "
"No," he corrected her roughly. "You wanted his last name, and you" - he snapped, turning to Blaise - "you didn't even know what was going on with him all of last year, did you?"
Blaise looked taken aback. "Theo, what - "
"Don't pretend like you cared about him," Theo ranted angrily. "You didn't know. None of you knew."
But Theo knew.
First, there was Potter.
Potter, kill Draco?
Only in a world where nothing makes sense.
Though nothing did make sense, honestly - Potter and Weasley and Granger were gone.
Theo had seen Draco's face when he looked at Granger at the House Ball, like he'd never seen anything like her. Theo had seen Draco's face when he would glance up every so often, in the library or the dining hall or the classroom, nodding thoughtfully to himself as though assuring himself that everything was okay, because he'd assured himself that she was still in the room. Theo had heard the shake in Draco's voice every time he'd denied it, denied her, denied everything - only to hold firm when he finally told Theo to keep her safe.
And Theo had seen Granger's face, when Draco would look back at his books and she would glance up nervously, biting her lip when she saw his bent head. Theo saw Granger run through the castle with Draco's blood on her hands, watched her hold back her tears as she sat in silence, hiding. Theo had seen the sparkle in her eye when he'd told her about a Draco she'd never known, and he heard the regret in her voice when she spoke, knowing she'd never know him. Theo had watched her look to Draco for strength and he'd watched Draco look to her for comfort and Theo knew - he knew - that it was not fucking likely that she'd bail with his killer.
"She's Potter's best friend" - no, fuck that. if Granger was gone, Draco was with her. Theo was sure of it.
Draco Malfoy was not dead. He couldn't be.
"Tell me what really happened up there," he'd demanded, throwing his books down angrily and confronting Professor Snape.
He hadn't even had the decency to look cornered.
"You already know what happened, Mr. Nott - "
"Bullshit - "
"Theo - "
"Tell me the truth!" he yelled, thumping his fist angrily against his chest. Come at me.
It seemed like everything Theo did now was a challenge, a dare. Lie to me, his face said. Lie to me, and see how I take it.
Snape's mouth had formed a thin, grim line.
"Death can be difficult to accept, Theo - "
"He's not fucking dead," Theo ranted through gritted teeth. "Draco's not dead - "
"Mr. Nott, perhaps I can recommend some counseling for you," Snape had said smoothly, not looking up. "It seems you are losing control - "
"I don't like to be deceived, Professor," he'd said disdainfully, though truthfully, he was all bravado. He couldn't blame Snape for seeing through it.
"Sit," Snape said firmly, gesturing to a chair. Theo complied with a miserable grimace, slamming his back against the seat.
"I understand you are upset."
"I - "
"Listen to me," Snape interjected, cutting him off angrily. He took a deep breath before speaking again. "Listen to me carefully."
Something about Snape's tone had piqued Theo's interest, and he sat quietly, though he pressed his lips together tightly in an unconcealed expression of impatience.
"Draco Malfoy cannot be reached. He cannot be found. He is gone," Snape said slowly, before adding morosely, "because he is dead."
"If," Snape continued, "if you continue to make noise - if you continue to follow smoke where there is no fire, you will cause damage like that beyond your wildest imagination."
Snape cleared his throat quickly. "And again," he added, "I say this, because he is dead. Do you understand?"
Theo nodded slowly.
His next move had been much more tactical. There was a lot less yelling, and no cursing, which until then, had been about as tactical as Theo had ever managed.
Nott, Sr. had turned unhappily at the sound of his son's voice.
Theo coughed, clearing his throat.
"I want to take Draco's place," he said firmly, rooting his feet in the ground as he spoke, in the hopes that he would be as immobile emotionally as he was physically.
His father had laughed at this.
"No you don't, Theodore," he said skeptically. "I understand you lost your friend, but I don't think you can grasp - "
"I want to take the Mark, Father," he said, shaking his head. "And I'm of age. You can't stop me."
"You may be of age, but you're hardly a functioning adult," the elder Nott had snapped. "Draco got himself killed. You would only do the same."
Theo held his tongue, wincing at Draco's name. "Still," he said evenly, trying not to argue. "I - I want to do something. For his legacy."
Nott, Sr. snorted. "You've got another year of school - "
"I'm not going."
His father glanced at him sharply. "What do you mean - "
"I'm not going," Theo repeated. "There's no point. You think the Dark Lord has carefully thought through his curriculum? No," he sneered sarcastically, and his father looked around suspiciously, clearly paranoid about his son's mocking tone. "I don't need Hogwarts, Father - and you were the one who encouraged Draco to take the Mark - "
"Yes, Theo, but that was Draco," Nott Sr. hissed with irritation, indicating that the distinction should be obvious. "Draco Malfoy was not my son, and his own father was inadequate - "
"But Father - "
"Why, Theodore?" Nott demanded. "Why do you want this?"
Theo looked defiantly at his father before answering.
"To keep my friends close," he said, his tone cynical and unwavering.
That approach hadn't worked as he'd intended, but he had time. He was less angry now, or at least, he didn't let it show; after about a week, he'd learned that rattling his chains wasn't going to get him answers.
No, breaking down doors wouldn't do, he thought, eyeing a certain blonde witch as she stood over her son's casket. He'd have to slip in through a window.
He smoothed his dark hair before sidling next to Narcissa, glancing around to make sure they didn't have an audience.
"Narcissa," he said evenly. She had been Mrs. Malfoy for most of his life, but this seemed like a first-name-basis kind of conversation. She only looked at him blankly, her eyes a vast, empty ocean of misery.
"Theo," she replied. The edges of her voice were rough, like she was out of practice.
"Seems silly, burying an empty casket," he mused, looking at her pointedly. "Doesn't it?"
"Somehow, nothing about burying my son seems silly," she replied coldly, turning back to the picture of him that had been placed on his casket. It was the same portrait that had been on the cover of the Daily Prophet almost every day this last week - always a different story, but the same message.
"Murder at Hogwarts: the Boy Who Lived Takes the Life of Malfoy Heir"
"Sacred Twenty-Eight Teen Massacred by Chosen One"
"Young Prefect Slaughtered in Hogwarts Mystery - Harry Potter to Blame"
"No, it doesn't." he acknowledged, nodding somberly. He sighed, allowing himself to share a moment of sincerity with her. "I cared about him, you know."
"I know," she whispered, running a finger down Draco's portrait. The picture she had chosen made Draco look somehow both innocent and cold, though the one Theo had known was neither. "You two were like brothers."
"We were brothers," Theo grunted emotionally, dismayed at the unexpectedly sensitive tone that erupted from his own voice. Narcissa looked at him fondly.
"I still can't believe he's gone," she said faintly. "I just thought - "
"You thought you would feel something," Theo prompted. He looked at her meaningfully. "Right? You thought the bond between you was so strong, you'd feel him go."
"Yes," she said, nodding weakly. "I suppose that's silly of me."
"I don't think so," Theo said stonily. She looked at him. "I don't," he assured her. "I kind of agree, actually." He leaned in, lowering his voice. "Doesn't something seem strange?"
She looked alarmed, glancing around furtively, and he placed his hand gently on her shoulder, trying to calm her. "Narcissa," he said steadily. "I need you to get me an audience with the Dark Lord," he told her quietly in her ear.
She shook her head. "Theo - "
"I need to take the Mark," he said, gripping her shoulder as she went rigid. "I need to be on the inside."
"I won't be a part of this again," she said adamantly. "I will not send another young - " she stopped abruptly, a dry sob suddenly heaving from her chest. "I will not be responsible for another death."
"He might not be dead, Narcissa," Theo breathed quietly in her ear. "Do you really believe he's truly gone?"
She shook her head furiously. "Theo - it doesn't matter, you still - "
"The Dark Lord confides in his Death Eaters and no one else, Narcissa, you know this," Theo reminded her, his grip on her shoulder tightening even as he tried to keep his posture still. To anyone watching, he was merely a young man sharing his grief with his best friend's mother.
"I need the truth," he added. "You need the truth."
She pursed her lips. "This is dangerous," she sniffed carefully, "and stupid."
"Those are your son's favorite ways to describe me," he said, his voice dancing as he tread deliberately over the present tense.
She shuddered. "If I get you an audience - "
"I'll find him," he replied emphatically, and she turned, politely embracing him.
"Wait here," she whispered quietly in his ear.
Dudley Dursley had not been a particularly sound sleeper since the summer he and his cousin, Harry, had run into those - what were they?
He shivered helplessly.
He'd developed a bit of squeamishness in the dark, and it was always worse when it was around the time Harry was supposed to be home. Which, he knew, was supposed to happen shortly. Four days, in fact. He had it circled on the calendar.
Were those voices?
He crept down out of his bedroom. Yes, he was sure of it. There were voices coming from his living room. He glanced quickly up at the clock - 5 a.m.
What was going on?
"Really, Harry? This is where you thought we should go?"
Dudley frowned. Harry?
"Look," his cousin replied evenly. "I don't want to be here any more than you do, I just don't really know what choice I have."
"Are we safe here?"
It was a girl's voice. Dudley crept out onto the landing of the staircase, lowering himself to his bottom and sliding slowly down each individual stair, until he could see three heads through the slats in the railings.
There was his cousin, Harry, still lean and wiry with a head of messy jet black hair, a small, curly-haired brunette with her back to Dudley, and a tall, skinny redheaded boy who was slouching. Dudley vaguely recognized them from photographs he had seen, and he was sure he'd seen the redheaded boy driving a flying car once.
Though, in general, he tried to convince himself those odd things he remembered here and there had never actually happened. And that was certainly one of them.
"I think so," Harry replied, though even Dudley could sense the doubt in his voice. "Dumbledore told me last year that I would be safe here, because of my mother."
"We can't stay, though," he added. "I mean logistically, the house is too small - "
"That, and I refuse to stay in such close quarters with Malfoy," the redhead said derisively.
Dudley squinted as a tall, slender blond boy stepped into his view.
"Don't make me say this again, ever," the blond drawled lazily, "but I agree with Weasley."
The blond boy had a strange accent that Dudley couldn't identify. It sounded a little bit like he was a character in a movie Dudley had seen recently about a prince during the medieval times, or something. The blond seemed so . . . regal.
And he also looked familiar, Dudley thought, squinting.
"Well, on the one hand, it's probably best that we stay in the muggle world, don't you think?" the girl asked thoughtfully, biting her lip nervously. Dudley thought she looked quite pretty when she did that, and by the way he was watching her mouth, the blond boy seemed to agree.
The redhead looked queasy at the thought. "Where else would we go?"
"Well," she said uncertainly, though Dudley could tell she'd already thought about it, "I do need to go see my parents." Her eyes flicked to the blond as she searched his face for a reaction, but he didn't seem to give one. He didn't seem particularly expressive, the blond.
Why did his face look so familiar? Dudley could have sworn he'd seen it recently.
"What about any of the Order locations?" The redhead asked. "Grimmauld Place? Who is the secret-keeper? I mean, now that Dumbledore's - "
He'd trailed off, and Dudley noticed that the girl looked immediately at the ground, while the blond wordlessly touched her hand.
"Um," she said, biting her lip again. "I think we can all get in there, the whole Order, now that he's dead."
"So we could go there?"
"Yes," Harry said. "We could, technically - but so could they." He looked uncomfortable at the thought. "Maybe we should try to send a message, first?"
"Dear Order of the Phoenix," the blond orated sarcastically, "I'm not really a murderer - "
A lightbulb went off in Dudley's head and he scrambled down the stairs.
"I know who you are," he said, pointing at the blond.
All four of the people in his living room swung around at the sound of his voice, instantly pointing their wands at his chest. He raised his hands quickly, stuttering.
"S-sorry," he said. "Hi, Harry."
"Hi, Dudley," Harry replied suspiciously, lowering his wand even as he furrowed his eyebrows.
"What did you say?" the girl asked. She gestured to the blond. "Did you say you recognized him?"
"Yeah," Dudley replied, nervous to have her attention. "I saw him in the newspaper."
"Newspaper?" the redhead asked, perplexed. "The muggle newspaper?"
Dudley felt himself turn scarlet. "No," he admitted, picking anxiously at his fingernails.
Harry wrinkled his nose with confusion. "Dudley," he asked, "are you trying to tell me you saw a wizard newspaper?"
"Hold on," Dudley mumbled, heading to his room. He grabbed the first one off of a large stack that he kept hidden in his closet, nodding with certainty as he verified his theory, and ran back down the stairs.
"This is you, in't it?" he asked, holding it out to the blond. "Drah-co Malfoy?"
"It's Draco," the blond corrected him quickly, and the girl ripped the paper from his hands, her eyes flitting miraculously fast over the words.
"I can't believe it," she said, shaking her head. "I can't believe how quickly they were able to print this - they're saying Harry's on some kind of a murderous rampage - "
"Hang on," Harry interrupted, eyeing Dudley. "Since when do you - "
"I like that the pictures move," Dudley said, embarrassed. "I found one in your room, and I - I asked your owl to - "
He stopped, feeling himself redden. "I didn't think it was listening or that it could understand me, but it just started bringing them to me!"
Harry had an odd half-smile on his face. "Dudley, that is so bizarre," he said, though he bore distinct traces of amusement. "But yeah, Hedwig's pretty smart - she definitely understood you."
Dudley grunted his agreement.
"Well obviously Dudley is an exception," the girl said, and Dudley caught a distinctly bossy undertone to her voice, "but obviously with Malfoy's picture going around, we're going to have to hide him and disguise him."
"Disguise?" the Dray-co boy wrinkled his nose with obvious distaste. "But I - "
"You are pretty distinctive," the girl pointed out, and though this was undoubtedly true, Dudley suspected she'd said it to flirt with him. Draco seemed to know this, too - he bore a supremely cocky smirk on his face the instant she said it.
"Fine, we'll add it to the to-do list," the redhead said obnoxiously. "1) Find somewhere to hide, 2) shave Malfoy's head - "
Draco's face contorted into a look of disgust. "Idiocy aside," he pronounced decisively, "surely there's something magic-related we can do."
"It's actually incredibly difficult to change your appearance with magic," the girl said primly. "Otherwise, I'm sure everyone would - "
This conversation was not interesting to Dudley.
"Why does it say you're dead?" he asked, pointing to the paper. Draco's face was clearly staring back at them, looking somber.
"Have you read it?" Harry asked warily. Dudley shook his head.
"I really only like the pictures," he said honestly. Harry nodded, not entirely put off by this statement, and Dudley felt slightly reassured.
"Well," Harry said, sighing. "They think I killed him."
"It's a long story," Draco added. "But it's really imperative that everyone think I'm dead."
Dudley blinked. "Imperative?"
Draco narrowed his eyes. "Yes," he said coldly.
"It means important," the redhead said, rolling his eyes. "You don't need to be a dick about it, Malfoy," he added, leaning over to make a face at Draco.
Dudley liked him already.
"Well, look," Harry said, assuming the role of a general addressing his troops. "We're probably going to have to split up. We can figure out what we're doing tonight, and then tomorrow, Hermione and Malfoy can go to her house, and Ron and I can - "
He paused. "Er, well, I haven't quite figured out yet what Ron and I will do - "
"We won't be at my house for long," the girl, Hermione, said, and Draco looked at her sharply. Dudley privately agreed with Draco's immediate show of concern, thinking that something seemed off in the girl's hesitation.
"Why not?" Draco asked, an edge of distress to his voice. "What is it that you need to do there?"
"I'll tell you later," she said quietly, and Dudley frowned. It was quite exciting, whatever was happening, and he didn't appreciate being left out. Ron, the redhead, seemed to agree, narrowing his eyes suspiciously as Hermione and Draco spoke in undertones to each other.
There was a loud bang behind them.
"What the devil is going on inside my house?" Vernon Dursley called loudly, waddling his way into the living room.
The four wizards froze, and the way Harry's mouth opened and closed vacantly reminded Dudley of an abnormally large goldfish he'd seen recently.
"These are my friends, Dad," he said quickly. "Ron, Hermione, and Draco," he said, pointing as he named them.
"It's a bit early, Dudders," his father grumbled, but he seemed to soften. "Petunia!" he called, turning to wake her. "Petunia, we have guests."
Ron groaned as soon as Vernon left the room. "What, are we having a family breakfast now?" he sighed irritably. "Merlin's saggy left - "
"Ronald!" Hermione snapped quickly, and Dudley licked his lips as a slow smile spread over his face.
What an unexpectedly interesting morning.
a/n: This is a bit of an abnormal chapter as we have a guest narrator in the form of Dudley Dursley, but you can look forward to hearing from Draco and Hermione soon. Theo Nott will be joining the cast as a main character, but this is still primarily a Dramione story.
This chapter is dedicated to the-uchiha-avenger, frederickgweasley, and illholdthematches, a couple of marvelous tumblr reviewers who were really encouraging during the last story and who I hope have made the jump here. Thanks for reading and reviewing!