Title: Carpe Draconis
Author: Aoife Malfoy
Pairing: H/D
Rating: NC-17 for violence and language
Genre: Angst, Action/Adventure
Warnings: AU, No HBP Spoilers. Post Hogwarts, Second War Era. Draco-centric.
Disclaimer: Property of JK Rowling. Only borrowing for my own amusement.
Beta: the best ever micolerose
Summary: Is it possible to capture a dragon when you suddenly find one within your reach?

Act XIV

Licet volare si in tergo aquilæ volat.

A man can fly if he wishes, if he rides on the back of an eagle.

Severus strode briskly through the ancient hall of the Order Headquarters, self-hatred suffocating him from within. He hastened to leave immediately lest his well-construed mask of anger and bitter indifference crack under the memory of what he just put his godson through. He cursed this war once more, like he's done so many times already. If only Voldemort had not regain his power. If only he wasn't a spy playing a dangerous role in this bloody war. If only Draco was never born a Malfoy.

If only, if only…if only.

He breathed a sigh as he stumbled into his own living room. Making a beeline for his cupboards, he quickly pored out a drink. And only then was he able to relax his muscles that were stiff and sore from the afternoon's tense sword practice. He inhaled sharply as he downed his cup, letting the sharp smell of alcohol and the liquid fire of absinthe override his senses as they once again offered him escape.

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"Draco! Are you alright? Merlin that was amazing! The way you moved and attacked Snape! I couldn't even see you at one point you were moving so fast!" Harry babbled excitedly and apprehensively as he approached the unmoving blonde. He didn't know if his advances would be received the same way as they had been the previous weeks but he was still hopeful.

Sighing, Draco closed his eyes tiredly and willed the Gryffindor to disappear. He really did not need to be crowded by the idiot especially after he just had his arse handed to him by a man twice his age. It was humiliating! "Potter, what in Merlin's name ever gave you the idea that we were friends? Please tell me so that whatever it is I could go back in time and undo it! I will repeat what I've been reminding you all week long. Just because we manage to fall on the same side of this bloody war does not mean we get to be friends."

Deflating slightly at that, Harry stared down his shoes in dejection. "But I still don't get why-"

"Because! We've been through this before and I will not repeat myself again just because you're idiot enough to forget it!" Draco snarled as he stood, the residual hurt and anger from his training with Severus washing over him like a tidal wave. He rejoiced in the ability to unleash it. No matter who it was that got caught in the fray.

"Hey! Knock it off, Ferret! Harry's just being nice to you! And you should be lucky to get even that much!" Ron interjected angrily as he moved to defend his best friend.

Sneering, Draco shot back. "It figures that you would think that just because Harry Potter, the Boy Who Fucking Won't Die, deigned to talk to me I should get on my hands and knees and thank Morgana. Well unlike you, Weasel, I don't think the sun rises and sets on this git's say-so!"

"You fucking bastard! I knew it!" Ron shook his head in disbelief. "I knew that disowned or not, you're still every bit as nasty and evil as you always were! You're still Lucius Malfoy's son!"

Smirking, Draco inched closer to the git and eyed him coolly, "And don't you ever forget it."

With that parting remark, Draco swept away, his steps lighter than they've been in days and feeling more like himself than ever.

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"Would it really be that distasteful if they were to befriend you?" a voice broke into his smug thoughts.

Sighing at yet another interruption of the brave and stupid kind, Draco turned to face the old wizard. "I am no Gryffindor, sir. Or have you forgotten? Have the terms of my clemency been rescinded? Am I expected then to make nice with your cubs?"

Shaking his head sadly at the boy's sharp tone, Albus replied. "Of course not. I was merely thinking the transition would be easier for you that way. They aren't so bad once you get to know them."

Draco merely shrugged, unwilling to get into a conversation which would have the headmaster extolling the virtues of Potter and his horde of weasels. "A Slytherin has no need for friends."

"Ah, indeed but what of allies, Draco?" Albus asked him softly. "A war, after all cannot be won alone."

"That is true enough; sir, but I don't see how that applies to me. This is your war, headmaster, not mine." Draco reminded the man pointedly.

Smiling softly, Albus shook his head. "Forgive me, my boy, if I can't help but doubt that because for a war that doesn't exist for you, it sure has cost you greatly."

Draco's eyes narrowed at that, unable to come up with anything to refute the old man's words, the truth in them too painful and evident to deny.

"But never you mind, Draco," Albus smiled as he waved his hand dismissively. "Perhaps it is best that you don't listen to an old man's meanderings. You are right not to be bothered by any of this. Because I have no doubt you would be happy even though you might be in hiding or living in safe houses for the rest of your life. I am just glad that at least one student under my care is not troubled by the horrors of this war."

"In any case, would you mind accompanying me for tea? I can see you're a bit winded from your session with Severus and I would very much like to hear how that went." Albus offered with a smile as he turned and went back to his study, leaving Draco with no choice but to follow.

"Please have a seat." Albus indicated the chair before his desk and then waving a hand, he conjured a full tea set. "I believe you enjoy a nice strong cup of Earl Grey with a dash of milk and two sugars?"

Accepting the steaming cup, Draco thanked him politely. Savoring the enticing warmth and smell of the drink, Draco sipped it slowly. Tea always did wonders in soothing him. Narrowing his gaze, he observed the other man shrewdly over the rim of his teacup. He wouldn't put it past the old coot if this was exactly the reaction he wanted.

"How was your session with Severus? I trust he kept his word and did not harm you unduly?" Albus asked gently.

Scoffing and still sore from his defeat, Draco couldn't help but gripe. "Well, if you call being beaten into the ground by him, unduly harmed then by all means yes, he was a good little lapdog."

"Come now, I doubt your godfather would be so harsh. I understand you are both having trouble adjusting in light of recent events but surely he didn't mean to harm you?" Albus asked in alarm.

Draco snorted, "Severus has always been a harsh man, sir, so I suppose I should have expected it."

"Nevertheless, if you feel you cannot handle being tutored by him perhaps it is best that I cancel your sessions? I could get someone else to take his place although I would be hard-pressed to find anyone as good as he is. But if it is necessary, I should-"

"No!" Draco hastened to derail him, horrified at the thought of anyone thinking he couldn't handle a bit of taunting. He was fine on his own, damn it! And he will not be seen as weak! "It's alright. The session was fine."

Relaxing, Albus sat back with a small smile. "Good. I am delighted to hear that. I was worried about how you might react but it is imperative that your skills be as sharp as ever, my boy. Now, how about your accommodations? I know they are not up to your usual standards but I hope they are acceptable."

"They're fine. Either way there's nothing I can really do about it, right? It's not as if you can afford the articles I have lost or the luxury of what I am used to." Draco said bitterly, still hurting over the fact that most of his things, including his clothing were reliant upon the kindness of others.

His smile widening, Albus reached into his pocket. "I am certain I cannot afford it but perhaps with this you can." He opened his fist and there in the palm in his hand wrapped in a silk handkerchief was an ancient ornate key. It was a beautiful key, made of gold and it had an elaborate dragon with ruby eyes for its bow.

Fascinated and more than bit flabbergasted, Draco reached out gingerly to touch it and he was surprised when the dragon in the key jumped to life as its nostrils flared and it turned its head. He was even more shocked when the creature stilled instantly at the touch of his hand and it quieted down almost happily. "What is it?" Draco asked in awe.

"It is your ancestral vault key, my boy, one that was made when you were born. I was told that it holds the majority of the Black- Rosier fortunes."

"But-but how? I thought I was disowned? They took everything away!" Draco exclaimed.

"You underestimate the depth of a mother's love, Draco. Surely you didn't think she would just forget you? A boy she has raised and loved all her life?" Albus asked gently.

Draco shook his head, his eyes still riveted to the magical key. "I-I didn't know what to think. I am no longer the Malfoy heir-"

"But you will always be her son." Albus interjected. "Always, Draco. She wanted to make sure you were well taken care of. She has been keeping that key for a long time. She wanted to present it to you when you were of age but necessity requires that you are gifted with it now."

"But Father-Lucius will never allow this!" Draco exclaimed.

"Which is why it is expedient that he has no knowledge that this vault exists. Your mother's dowry was deemed unnecessary during the time of their marriage, Lucius allowed Narcissa to keep it for her own. He is wholly under the impression that she has flittered it away long ago when in fact, she saved it and when you were born she transferred it into a separate account with your name." Albus explained.

"I-I don't know what to say." Draco said with great difficulty, fighting the rush of gratitude and overwhelming love he felt for his mother. "I never even got to say goodbye to her." He added softly.

"Don't go around saying your farewells yet, Draco." Albus said cheerily. "She has asked to remain informed about your wellbeing and even to arrange a visit with you when it is safe, preferably when Lucius is away."

"That would be lovely." Draco whispered, his eyes shining brightly as his face lit up with a genuine smile. "She must trust you a lot." Draco said thoughtfully as he marveled at the weight of the object in his hand and he remembered his mother's cryptic note. "To give you this, to expose herself in such a way. She must trust you a great deal."

"I would be delighted if this was so." Albus smiled softly, his eyes twinkling maddeningly behind his half-moon glasses.

"I suppose I must trust you as well?" Draco said wryly, raising an eyebrow. "After all, what other choice do I have?"

"But, Draco you do have a choice. Of that I can offer in spades. Whether you trust me or not is your own decision. It will not affect how I treat you." Albus hastened to reassure him.

Draco mulled this over carefully in his mind and could not find any trace of deceit in them. He was surprised to find that the old man meant every word. He would be given a choice. Dumbledore had reiterated this over and over in the span of the last few weeks but only now did Draco believe him. "Perhaps that is the difference between you and the Dark Lord. I have often thought the two of you alike. After all, you both believe in your side with a faith that is blind to all else. He believes that mudbloods should be completely eradicated while you believe they should be allowed to run amok unchecked. As head of each of your factions, the two of you strategize and manipulate the people around you in a manner that you deem best. He controls through power and intimidation while you move people with words of kindness and half-truths. Both of you also have followers who will die and bleed in your name. The only difference is that your people do it willingly whilst his service is forced. You offer a choice while he does not." Draco closed his fist over they key, raising his eyes to meet twinkling azure. "However, I wonder if that is enough. If the difference between the two of you is big enough- significant enough for it to really matter."

Sighing, Albus regarded the Slytherin in front of him with tired eyes. "Your observations are true enough but what you must understand is that we are at war, my boy. There are some things that need to be done. It is a necessary evil, yes, but-"

"But an evil all the same." Draco shot back quietly, his gaze unwavering.

Albus held his eyes for a minute before bowing to the truth in that statement. He nodded his head slightly conceding the point as he agreed solemnly, "But an evil all the same."

Draco blinked at that, he was so sure that Dumbledore would deny it or that he'd be derailed from his opinion with a dismissive wave of a hand but he didn't. And for the first time, he felt that the man was completely truthful with him. He couldn't help but think that this stark uncompromising honesty deserved some measure of respect. After all, not many can stand up for their actions declare them as sin but still be completely unapologetic. It takes a lot for someone to be that wholly dedicated and he could see now why so many follow this man.

A burst of flames interrupted the charged atmosphere, startling both occupants of the room. Albus quickly strode over the fireplace, activating the fire call and soon enough Minerva McGonagall's distraught face poked through.

"Albus! There has been an attack on St. Mungo's! The Aurors arrived just in time to thwart them from taking over completely but many are injured." Minerva informed him without preamble.

"Open Hogwarts immediately, Minerva." Albus instructed her without batting an eyelash. "Make sure that everyone injured and sick are transferred there. The school has plenty of beds and space for the Hospital staff to work with. And I'm sure Madame Pomphrey would be a big help as well."

Minerva nodded quickly, already motioning to end the fire call when she stopped and tuned back, "There are also captured Death Eaters among the injured, Albus. What do we do with them? Send them to the Ministry?" Her voice which had been clinical and strong all throughout her report, broke a little as she added, "Most of them are from this year's Seventh Year Slytherin class."

Draco's eyes widened at that as his thoughts immediately turned towards the people he once called friends. I wonder if Crabbe and Goyle are okay. With their missteps they're probably counted among the injured. What about Pansy? Would she be there? Or perhaps Zabini Draco thought with a frown. He didn't quite know how he felt about hearing that the people he virtually grew up with the last seven years were marked and had actually attacked civilians. The cruel games of bullying other students now seemed darker too him when before he had chalked it up to good clean fun. He had yet to think of what they thought of him now, having seen his apparently very public disownment. His heart sank because he knew they viewed him as a traitor. Whichever student that marked him as such probably spoke for all of them on how they now saw him. Oh how the mighty have fallen. He shook his head bitterly. And yet he still wished Dumbledore would spare them. Merlin I am clearly spending too much time with Gryffindors! He wrinkled his nose in distaste, surprised at himself for having such a compassionate reaction to his former yearmates' plight.

Albus sighed heavily, his hand flying to his temples as he tried to soothe his headache. "Bring them to Hogwarts."

"What? But, Albus! Surely you don't think it wise to place them in the same vicinity of the people they tried to kill?" Minerva exclaimed, aghast by such a notion.

"Minerva, you should know this by now. Death Eater or not, Marked or not, it does not matter to me. All I see are children who are in need of care. Of course, I am neither daft nor senile, there will be the requisite Aurors stationed by their side. I doubt that they would leave them alone for even a minute so you should not worry about the possibility of escape. They will be tried for their actions but they need not do it while half dead or injured!" Albus explained firmly, unwilling to bend on the issue.

Minerva pursed her lips in a thin line. She wanted to argue against this course of action but she hadn't worked with the headmaster for this long without knowing a thing or two. She knew that there was no talking to the man when he got like this. So deciding to trust him like she always did, she quickly ended the fire call, intent on following her orders.

Albus quickly turned back to the boy. He'd almost forgotten he was there. He smiled apologetically at him. "I am sorry, Draco. It seems I am needed elsewhere. Perhaps we can finish this discussion another day?"

"Of course." Draco nodded as he made to leave, his mind swirling with a thousand questions. Who were the Death Eaters they caught? What would happen to them? Was it possible for him to see them? But Draco stilled his tongue, fearing that the answer he might receive would be the ones he didn't want to hear. So all he is asked when he stood, framed against the doorway was, "Why did you save them? You didn't need to and people might say they deserved a fate far worse than what they got. So why?"

Albus shook his head slowly and he looked Draco in the eye. "My boy, it is not up to me to hand out condemnations. I am neither judge nor executioner for who am I to say that their lives are worth much more than anyone else's? You see, Draco, living for as long as I have you're bound to pick up a thing or two and I've learned that no one really gets what they deserve. You don't get real love, or hate or kindness by earning it because its essence is in its spontaneity. Most of the time, it is bestowed without thought and it is up to us to determine what to do with it. Return it with equal sentiment or not. And that choice is what makes us who we are."

Draco shook his head wryly. "You are a fool." He told him but then ever so slowly he cracked a smile. "But I think I'm glad that you are."

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He was once again en route to his room, this time deep in thought over the attack. The war that had seemed so surreal and far away just an hour ago now seemed like it was imminent and looming. He was embroiled in his contemplations that he almost missed the mention of his name. But then again how could he not help but hear it when it was bellowed in anger like only the Weasel King could do? Interest piqued, he quickly hid behind the staircase, wary of another encounter of the freckled kind. He was still sore and tired from sword practice. He didn't fancy another round of insults with the Weasel, especially since it would be likely that it would end in fisticuffs.

"Can you believe the nerve of the Ferret? Waving around his sword like a ponce! As if he's better than the rest of us! Fight like real men, my arse! Just leave me alone with him for a few minutes, I'll show him a thing or two about how it's really done!" Ron's voice echoed loudly as he stomped down the stairs, his face still flushed an angry red hue.

An exasperated sigh followed the angry outburst and then a tired, "Ron, would you cut it out? He's no longer here if you haven't noticed and you're still bloody going on about him! Can't you just give it a rest?"

Snarling, Ron rounded on his best friend as they reached the bottom of the steps. "And why is it that you're always quick to defend him these days? You never did before! Actually, I remember quite clearly how loudly you joined in! What the hell's the matter with you?"

His patience finally snapping, Harry shot back, ""Perhaps I just don't like ragging on people who are on the same bloody side as we are!"

"What happened to you? What the hell did that Ferret do to you?" Ron shook his head in bewilderment, looking at his mate like he's never seen him before. "Because my best friend would not be choosing that git over me! What did he brainwash you? Offer you money? Suck your cock?"

A sickening crunch was heard as Harry stood over an incredulous Ron who was blinking up at him dazedly from where his nose was bleeding on the floor.

"Don't be disgusting! I can't believe you said that!" Harry roared, trembling from the force of his anger and indignation. "I think he is a hell of a lot better person than you are right now, Ronald Weasley! How about you actually stop and think about what he's been through this past few weeks, huh? He refused the Dark Mark! And he just left his whole family! And I thought you of all people would know how important a thing that is! But apparently not! So let someone who has NEVER had a fucking family of their own tell you. Losing the people you love by death or by choice is never easy. Never! And you being a complete tosser is not helping matters! So either stop being such a small-minded bastard or leave him be!"

Then Harry turned on his heel, afraid that something far more magical and damaging might happen if he stayed a moment longer.

Ron was silent for a few moments before he got up gingerly. Stumbling slightly, Ron walked away as he grumbled to himself about getting an ice pack and Hermione. He was sure that at the very least she would hear him out and not overreact like some damn drama queen!

Slowly, Draco moved away from the shadows as a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. Still staring thoughtfully at the direction Potter took, he couldn't help but think to himself that maybe he should reevaluate his policy on associating with Gryffindors, after all.

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"I trust that it is done?" Lucius asked as his wife walked into the room.

Smiling for the first time in weeks, Narcissa nodded, "Yes, of course. I am quite happy to do it."

"Good. Then the boy need not rely on the scraps of others like a mongrel." Lucius sneered as he turned back to his work, dismissing his wife.

Frowning, Narcissa stood her ground. "I am glad you are still supporting your son."

Releasing an exasperated sigh at realizing his wife was obviously determined to have this conversation with him, Lucius replied in annoyance. "I told you before, Narcissa. I have no son."

"What you don't have, Lucius, is an heir. A son, you still do. How can you deny it when he looks so much like you?" Narcissa asked, raising an eyebrow.

Lucius smiled sinisterly at that, savoring the event that made his wife's question a laughable observation. Draco looked nothing like him. At least, not anymore. There was one unmistakable difference. He had made sure of that. "I can deny whatever I wish. Now I have no time for mindless chatter. Do run along, Narcissa. I have much to do."

Narcissa's eyes narrowed dangerously but she merely nodded and turned on her heel. Lucius was up to something and she was going to find out what it was because no one was going to hurt her son, not anymore.

Not the Dark Lord.

Not his Death Eaters.

Not even Lucius.

Perrectum.

Exinde:

Act XV

Mater artium necessitas.

Necessity is the mother of invention.