The summer between his fourth and fifth year at Hogwarts was the very last golden summer before Draco's world turned upside down. In this story, I am working on the premise that Draco saw Lucius' activities as dangerous, but didn't know the full story. If he is a little more innocent in this than in most of my other stories, then that is also deliberate. Perhaps you should prepare yourself for just a little OOCness, just in case. One-shot.
"A kind summer, a kingfisher summer; and suddenly he was grateful for it."
Rosemary Sutcliff, 'The Eagle of the Ninth'
"A kingfisher summer, all the more shining because it might have no aftertime."
Rosemary Sutcliff, 'Lady in Waiting'
The terrible news came in the form of his mother's owl, bearing an urgent message – he'd known it was urgent because her handwriting, normally so precise and elegant, was hurried and scrawled and somehow fearful. Opening the folded paper he had felt a great foreboding come over him, and as he read the message through he knew – suddenly he knew, with stomach-twisting certainty – what it was going to say.
Your father has been arrested. We are undone.
And that was all, but it was more than enough. The official notification from the Ministry had come soon after, a pompously worded note informing him with great solemnity that his father was now being held at the Ministry Building pending his trial and that any attempts to contact him would be…inadvisable. That sly, insolent taunt had been a nasty insult, true, but it had been the first note that had taken his breath, shocked it from him with an almost physical blow.
Your father has been arrested.
Intellectually, he could dimly grasp the full size and scope of the repercussions that would flow from this. He could think beyond the fact that his father would probably never walk free again, see into the future that would come after he was taken to Azkaban. But that type of rational calculation was only one part of him; another part was shocked, terrified, and most of all, betrayed…You promised me! You promised me you'd never be caught…
His father had promised no such thing, of course. He didn't make promises that he could not be sure of keeping. Cunning, subtle, sophisticated Lucius, who lied to the whole world on a daily basis but had never, ever been less than honest with Draco…
No, he had never lied. But the implication had been there, nevertheless; the unspoken promise that he would always be there, that no one – not the Ministry, not the Death Eaters, not Potter himself – would ever get the better of him.You liar! Oh, you liar…
It was the summer of his fourteenth year, and the world was changing around him – suddenly, after remaining a dark, distant cloud on the horizon for most of his life, the Dark Lord was suddenly fully incarnate again, and tales he had blithely disregarded before were suddenly, terribly relevant again.
His father had always had a mark on his arm, and he'd always known why and what it signified. But he'd never truly understood, until he'd seen it turn black and malevolent, until he'd felt the way it burned under his curious, sickened fingertips.
That – on a gloriously sunny day, in the last week of the holidays – was when he'd begun to understand, and begun to fear.
The rich, green valley that the Malfoy had called home since time immemorial had been his playground, his territory, for all of his life. Since before he could walk he had roamed the fields and the forests, had scrambled over the hills and swum in the river, had played with the village children and his other friends and had discovered, with a sense of awe, the hidden, secret places of this land that was his whole world…
He knew every inch of this small enclosed world, loved it with all the fierce passionate strength he was capable of – when he chose to lose himself in the secret heart of it, there were very few who were capable of tracking him. But his father had been his very first guide on those same paths; there was nowhere Draco had found that Lucius did not already know of. His father, too, loved this land…
On the side of a small hill, he was lying on his back beneath a shady tree, looking up at the huge, empty vault of the sky – so terribly, achingly blue – concentrating fiercely on thinking of nothing in particular. It was warm, and silent, and the air was still and heavy all around, as if he were the only living thing in the world. He came here when he wanted to be alone, when he wanted to forget, for a while, that he was Caius Draconis Malfoy and his father was a Death Eater.
But today, it seemed, he was not to be alone. The wind brought him the sound of soft footsteps coming up the hill, and he levered himself up off the ground to see who it was who would disturb him here, and ruin this perfect silence. From where he now sat he could see the whole of the Malfoy heartland spread out before him like a patchwork quilt – the rich green forests, the golden fields, the small villages that sheltered under the solid, immutable bulk of the Castle – and he could see the intruder coming up the side of the hill, a small figure dressed in old, shabby robes, incongruous with the fall of his long, white fair hair.
What was his father doing here?
It was another five minutes before the small figure finally resolved itself into his tall, powerful father. When he finally made his way over to where Draco was sitting, his legs drawn up and his arms linked around his knees – a tellingly defensive posture – his normally white skin was lightly flushed, and his hair was windblown and a little tangled. It made him look more human, more normal than Draco had ever seen him.
Looking at Draco, as if for permission, his father slowly lowered himself to the ground, and they sat there, the both of them, overlooking their lands in silence. It was not a companionable silence, as it might have been even a day earlier, but rather a tense, strained one, filled with unspoken accusations and fears. For the first ten minutes, they did not speak, Draco because he was too angry, too disappointed, too caught up in a mixture of emotions he didn't understand and could not express, and Lucius because, perhaps, he was thinking of what to say and how to say it.
They were not good at verbalising their emotions, the Malfoy. Draco knew his father loved him, knew it without a doubt, but that emotion was expressed through small things; a glance, a nod, a cool comment, and sometimes, the best times, a hand on his shoulder, squeezing slightly. They did not talk about their feelings, or wear them on their sleeves for all to see, but this, Draco understood dimly, was something that had to be said, spoken into the open space between them.
Finally, his father began. "You are upset." He did not look at Draco as he spoke, but continued to face out over the hill, looking towards the east.
Draco turned his head. "I am." Suddenly, he could not bear to continue with this cautious, wary circling. He burst out, "Why do you have to go back to him?"
Lucius' mouth twisted, just a little dryly. "You do have a gift for getting to the heart of things," he murmured, and then, "No, bach, don't draw away, I'm sorry," as Draco bridled, stung by his father's tone. He took another breath, and then went on. "There are some times, Draco, when we must do something we find…distasteful in order to guarantee our safety. My service with the Dark Lord is like that."
Draco scowled. "Don't patronise me, Father; I know all that already. I know why you joined him, before I was born. But what I don't understand is why you must go back to him – you're strong enough to refuse him now, aren't you?"
"Oh, Draco, if only it were that easy…"
He turned fiercely on his father. "Of course it's that easy, Father! Just don't go back, don't answer the Call. Stay here, behind the Veil – we'll be safe…" But even as he spoke, Draco knew he was being naïve. He could see the darkness of experience and knowledge in his father's eyes, see the tangled complexity of the world his father inhabited, and he could understand that something rich, precious and all too fleeting was slipping from his grasp no matter how tightly he tried to hold onto it…
Suddenly, he was afraid, and he reached out impulsively, grabbing his father's arm, as he had not done since he'd been old enough to understand the unwritten rules of House Malfoy. He could feel his father's strength through the worn, shabby material of the robes, feel the muscle and bone and sinew, and the will that directed and controlled them, but instead of reassuring him as it had always done, he was aware for perhaps the first time that his father was flesh and blood, a mortal man, and that he could die.
He held his father's arm with all of his strength, looked entreatingly into those cool, silver eyes that he had always worshipped. "Promise me," he began, voice vibrant with intensity.
Lucius raised a quizzical eyebrow, back in perfect control again. "Of course, Draco. Only release my arm, first…"
"Promise me you won't get caught," Draco begged. "That you'll always come back…"
But his father only sighed, detached Draco's grip and took his hands into his own. They looked down, then, at their joined hands – similar hands, smooth and white, elegant and strong, Lucius' adorned with an battered, ancient seal ring that he never, ever removed. One day Draco would wear that ring, and his son after him…
"Listen to me, Draco," Lucius said seriously. Despite himself, Draco looked up and listened. "I will do everything that is in my power to find a way out of this mess. If it is at all humanly possible, I will always come back to you. Do you understand?"
This time it was Lucius gripping Draco's hands, and he understood. His father had promised to come back to him, and the terrible moment had passed. There were no shadowed complexities in his father's eyes now, only clear sincerity, only the love that he never ever expressed out loud.
Suddenly, he smiled, one of his rare, genuine smiles that lit up the world. "So, Draco bach, is all well now?"
And Draco, innocent, naïve fool that he had been, had laughed and smiled in return. "Yes, Father, all's well now."
Side by side, perfectly content, they had gone down the hill; two pale, silver figures, rejoicing in the last, halcyon days of summer, as their world lay drowsing peacefully below them in the fading light.
A.N – Well, OK, this insisted on being written. Tell me what you think anyway. Feedback of any kind is welcome.
Bach – affectionateWelsh term, used for boys. Not sure on the precise translation, and not willing to perjure myself on the net.