The Malfoys escaped the Battle of Hogwarts amongst the smoke and sting of cursefire, sprinting along the grounds as the air shimmered and boiled with magically murderous intent. Draco could feel the echoes of the surrounding spellwork deep in his chest, reverberating like the worst kind of orchestral cacophony. As soon as they were clear of the school wards, Narcissa grasped her husband and son, and twisted through the dimensions of the world.
They Apparated into the foyer of the Manor.
Draco stumbled. His mother caught him, hugged him to her chest. She had been shorter than him for a while now, but all of a sudden he felt like a child again in her arms. He was shaking, the air trembling on its way in and out of his lungs, but his mother was steady as stone, warm as sunlight.
"We're fucked," he whispered, and his mother hugged him tighter.
He heard footsteps, and saw his father wobble out of the entrance hall.
"Mum," Draco said, and his mother held him at arms length, stared at him, jaw set, eyes hollow.
"I'm giving the Singhs a call," she said, "Why don't you go get cleaned up?"
She gave her best effort at a smile. It looked like it hurt.
"Yes, Mum," Draco said.
She squeezed his arms, and let go, and headed to go use the Archway Mirror.
Draco stood there in the foyer for a while, staring at the crack in the floor tile where Macnair had dropped a muggleborn from ceiling-height. He stared at at the broken sconce as it flickered sporadically. That's where Aunt Bellatrix had impaled a ministry hostage.
He looked down at his feet. There were still some prisoners in the cellars, probably. He started to feel sick, but then shut the feeling aside, and took to the stairs to his bedroom and bathroom.
The bath was drawn and steaming, scented with a clear, sweet smell that was reminiscent of (and nothing actually like) the seashore. He peeled his robes off, the smell of ash and sweat and magical discharge stinging his nose like static, and sank into the water.
Draco was asleep and dreaming of nothing when his mother knocked at the door and opened it.
"Draco, darling," she said.
He didn't appreciate being brought back to consciousness.
"What." He didn't lift his head.
"We're leaving. The Singhs would love to have us pay them a visit. It's been so long since you've seen your fifth cousins, won't that be nice?"
Draco opened an eye and stared at the dark silhouette of his mother in the doorway.
"As soon as you're ready." Her silhouette departed the doorway.
He lay there in the dark, in the softness of his bed, balancing on the very edge between awake and asleep. He didn't want to get up. He couldn't.
"Get up," he said to himself.
His mother came back at some point. He didn't know how long it had been.
"Draco," she said. Her voice was sharp.
He sat up.
"Join us down by the mirror in five minutes."
And so he did. The Archway mirror rose from the floor, twisting with intricate knots and carvings, rising up and tapering to a point. The surface of the mirror shimmered and rippled like water, indistinct.
His father was sitting hunched on a hovering trunk. His mother took her wand out and touched the mirror surface, and ripples spread out from the tip, shimmering until the image of a warm and sunlit room appeared.
With that, she holstered her wand up her sleeve and stepped through. Draco glanced at his father, who had made no sign of moving from his trunk. Then he stepped through the archway after his mother.
The air that bathed him on the far side of the mirror was warm and thick with humidity, smelling pleasantly floral. A woman straightened up from where she had been bent over a desk. Her hair was greying, her brown skin wrinkled. Her smile was wide. She bowed her head slightly to Draco as he came through the archway. He returned the bow, more deeply.
"Oh, how tall you are now Draco," said Lady Singh, in a voice accented by aristocracy and foreignness.
"Again, our most gracious thanks for your hospitality," said Mother, producing a basket of fine wine and foodstuffs.
Lady Singh rebuffed the gift once, and then took it gracefully with a, "Oh, Narcissa! This was not necessary. It is lovely to have the opportunity to see one another after so long."
"I feel the same," Mother responded, with real warmth.
It was morning here in India, so Draco had the whole day to kill while his parents (well, primarily his mother) gossiped and chatted with Lady Singh. Her demeanor was poised, even joyful, betraying none of the turmoil their family had endured over the past few years. He had joined them for tea for a while, and then excused himself the instant it was appropriate for him to do so.
"Oh, Draco," said Lady Singh, as he left, "Do enjoy the gardens! We have quite a few unusual specimens. If you'd like to walk the full grounds please do be cautious, we have a few very rare and very dangerous endangered beasts. My daughter will be home in the evening, I'm sure she'd be happy to escort you around the grounds."
And that led Narcissa to inquire about the beasts, and share land husbandry stories from the Manor, and so on and so forth.
Draco found his way to the gardens, eventually, and settled himself into an incredibly comfortable wicker-and-cushion chair. He watched the butterflies and pixies dance by, and the shadows crawl along the immaculately tended pathway.
It made sense for his mother to have evacuated them from Britain, but in his opinion it was a move that stank of guilt. It wouldn't look good to the courts back home, if Potter won. He wondered, vaguely, if he would ever set foot back in the Manor, or if he would marry one of his fifth cousins here, join the Singh household, raise a family. The younger one was just five years older than him, he knew. As ancient and pure the Malfoy family was, Singh was even more ancient, and possibly purer. Thus tradition stated he would take the surname, and the messy Malfoy history would melt seamlessly away.
It seemed nice, he decided. His mother had figured it all out. But he had always vaguely imagined a union with one of his classmates – there were several with suitably pure lineages – growing up and inheriting his father's place, sending his children off to Hogwarts. If he became a Singh here, he'd be out of touch, out of place in an unfamiliar culture and language. He'd have to pick up Arabic and Hindu and perhaps Urdu. He knew he could do it, but it would be a pain in the ass.
Would Potter win? Was he winning, now, all the way over in Britain, the golden savior boy that everybody loved, who always did the right thing in the right way at the right time. Who was good-hearted and noble and brave and beautiful, who, if he bested the Dark Lord, would surely have his pick of any partner who crossed his path. He would have a lovely, rich life and probably a hundred children. Or maybe, knowing him, he'd probably go ahead and pick some dirt-blooded muggle trash and settle down happily.
Draco covered his eyes with both palms. Fuck Harry Potter and all that noise. Fuck Voldemort.
He fell asleep in the garden chair, and woke just as the sun was setting.
A woman stood before him, younger than Lady Singh, with a glittering stud in her nose and sheer robes of delicate gold and green.
"Hello cousin," she grinned, one hand on her hip, "Remember me?"
"Hello Samira," he said, "And no I don't."
"Ha. What's up? Is your mum trying to get us to fall in love?"
Draco snorted. She laughed, joyously and delicately, and tugged at the cloth draped over her head.
"So is it true then, that you're all grown up and evil now?" her eyes flashed a little, and her grin widened.
"Just a little," he responded, dryly.
"Hm," she said, and eyed him up and down, "You're skinny."
"And you're fat."
"Except I make it work," she said, truthfully, "Well, we'll probably never fall in love, cousin. But I'm told and exotic and well-bred husband with a slightly dark past would be good for my reputation. However, I'll have you know I've been courting around, so you'll have to bring a little bit more to the table. Come to dinner."
Draco stood, and followed her to the dining room.
The next few weeks passed in a haze of alternating naps and walks around the grounds with Samira. She'd always been a good cousin; mean enough to be fun, civil enough to be pleasant. But he spent most of his days sleeping, and she spent most of her nights out on the town.
"You should go with her to one of those parties she goes to," Mother told him one afternoon, "If for nothing else, the chance to enjoy one of the largest all-magic cities in the world."
"I went as a kid," he said shortly.
"It's different as an adult," she said mildly, "I'd have thought you knew that. It worries me that you're wasting your days and Lady Singhs' hospitality with sleeping. Do you need to see a Healer?"
Draco shrugged. He didn't say that maybe sleeping was a great way not to get into any trouble. That maybe he was tired of wakeful life, which was full of bullshit like dark magic and political intrigue and reminders of his failures and expectations for his future and… What would he have done with his life, if all this crap with the Dark Lord had never happened? Lord around the Manor, probably. Make his opinions known at the Wizengamot. He didn't know what he was supposed to do now. All he knew was guilt, and anger, and a bone-deep tiredness. And he slept easily, with occasional dreams, occasional nightmares, but those were hazy and faded and not all that real.
So it was strange, that one night he woke with a start. The moon was up, and bright. He stared at the ceiling for maybe an hour, before he sat up, put his robes on, and went out for a walk.
He strode through the palace, until he finally came to one of the back exits, which led into the thick vegetation behind the house. The trees chirped and hummed and buzzed with insect life, and he walked down the wide dirt road, the moon lighting his way in a silver almost as bright as daylight.
He was just thinking about turning and heading back, when he heard a sound behind him, like soft music, harps and flutes.
There, standing in the road behind him, was a manticore.
It had to be a manticore, it could be nothing else. It had an angular human face, framed by a wild, dark mane. Its paws were enormous, and its tail arched over its back, gleaming menacingly in the moonlight, sting poised, spines trembling.
The soft music was coming from the manticore, and it advanced on him, step by step, eyes unblinking, its smiling mouth full of pointed fangs.
When it had come so close Draco could have reached out and touched it, the music stopped.
His heart was pounding. He was rooted to the spot. He tried to recall any useful information about this beast.
Hide almost impervious to magic. Swallows its prey whole. Incredibly violent. Difficult to subdue. Sting causes painful and swift death. Can shoot spines from its tail from a great distance.
Fuck if any of that was remotely useful. He let his wand fall into his hand. It was Protego or nothing, probably.
The manticore lunged at him, knocking him down before he could even shout out the spell, knocking his wand from his hand. The back of his head hit the ground painfully, the weight of the manticore on his chest suffocating him, and the creature's face tilted back, as the manticore opened a huge jaw below its human-face, full of three sets of fangs and a great, writhing tongue.
Draco lay there, and stared past the manticore's maw at the night sky.
"If you could eat me feet-first, please," he said hoarsely, "I think I'd prefer that to headfirst."
The manticore's tongue writhed. And then slowly, its great monstrous jaw closed, and it tilted its false-face forward again, the dark human eyes blinking down him.
"Ohhh, you are funny," it purred, "What's your name?"
Note: This fic is cross-listed on Ao3.
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