A/n: I'm so terribly sorry for the late update; I guess I've been doing more reading these days than writing. As a token of my regret, I'll dedicate this chapter to everyone who's reading this, especially those who've waited for this chapter (er, I am seriously wondering if anyone out there is reading this thing!)! I'll stop rambling now and just let you read. Don't forget to tell me what you think, because I do care.
P.S.: I listened to Lifehouse's You and Me while writing this. It's a beautiful song, if I do say so myself.
Chapter 2 – Tripping On Words
All of the things I want to say
Just aren't coming out right
I'm tripping on words, you got my head spinning
I don't know where to go from here
"Draco my son, do you understand completely the responsibility that you bear as the sole heir of your father? Do you still remember everything that he has taught you, reminded you?"
"A contract made with the Dark Lord cannot be broken once allegiance is sworn, and the Mark imprinted."
"That was one of the first things Father said, Mother."
"The family name, my son. Remember the family name."
Did he really want to become a Death Eater? In certain cases, it wasn't something that you choose to be; it was a choice, a selection exclusive to Voldemort alone. Voldemort and the family name. The Dark Lord only picked the best to serve as his masked servants, and Lucius once mentioned in passing that there was a test to determine if one was truly qualified enough to step into the inner sanctum.
As he adjusted his collar in front of the mirror, Draco tried not to think about what awaited in the near future, if Lucius's escape proved unfruitful. He knew, from a young age, that if anything should happen to his father, there was more to the inheritance that meets eye. But he had no reason to worry, Draco assured himself. With Voldemort's imminent ascendance, and the Dementors' adherence to the Dark side, there was no reason why Draco should worry about anything more than the family name.
"Do you want to listen to my new lyrics?" simpered an unsolicited voice at his elbow, causing a wave of irritation to wash over him. It was her again. Parkinson, barging into his dorm at the crack of dawn. How could it be possible that he never noticed how pug-like her face was? Even more infuriating was the way she hung around him, like a giggly bimbo sans the looks.
"What lyrics?" he snapped irascibly; the past conversation he had with his mother still weighed heavily on his mind. "You came up with lyrics? Bravo."
Pansy blinked stupidly, wondering if her blonde Draco was being sarcastic with her. Still, she persevered like a dogged girlfriend. He's a Slytherin, she tried to reason. There's no reason why he shouldn't be cold and indifferent…
But not with me.
"Yes,' she said meekly. "Since you were so brilliant on Weasel-bashing, I figured that I should get his girlfriend too—that beaver-Granger."
Something inside him snapped; he had once heard his Goyle use the term 'beaver' in a crass manner to describe a certain kind of woman, and although Pansy's usage had nothing to do with Goyle's version, Draco's hatred for her flared all the same.
"Don't," he snarled icily, "let me hear you talking about her that way."
"She is not Weasley's girlfriend," he added, but only under his breath. She's not.
Blaise Zabini, who had been slicking his long black hair back, cocked his head at Draco and frowned. "Do I hear you defending a Mudblood, Malfoy?" he asked casually, but he did not meet Draco's eyes. "The very one who once slapped you, no less?"
"Perhaps," responded Draco smoothly. "But as always, I have my reasons."
Blaise's eyes crept over to where Pansy stood, transfixed with shock. "At least," he ventured half-jokingly, "make an effort to clear things up with Pansy here. She's frightened."
Draco spared him a glance before walking towards Pansy's, and draped an arm over her shoulder. "Frightened?" he asked with a smirk, "now, who could possibly be frightened of me? My father's in Azkaban, isn't he? Who should be frightened of 'ol Malfoy when Potter's running around playing hero?"
Blaise crossed his arms across his chest. He was much taller than Draco but there was something about young Malfoy that was discretely intimidating. "You may have your little joke," he smiled, "but even the Slytherins think twice before contradicting you. You've changed, Malfoy," said Blaise warily. "Once, our old Quidditch captain wouldn't think twice about flaying you verbally for losing out to Potter, but now…." He trailed off, accentuating his reluctance to voice whatever it was that ran through his mind.
"It's not I, who have changed," said Draco with a half-smile that ended at his lips. "It's the circumstances. It's because of Potter unveiling my father as a Death Eater. Now, everyone expects me to turn into another masked murderer."
It was a shock to both Blaise and Pansy to hear Draco speak of his father that way. But before either could open their mouths, Draco smiled hurriedly, though a shadow did fleet over his eyes.
"It was a joke," he said with a raised eyebrow. "Now, let us have breakfast….perhaps there's still time to knock a few points off Gryffindor."
Pansy smiled nervously. Now, that sounded like the old Draco.
"Rest assured, Mother," said Draco in a pacifying tone. "I will do everything I can to bring honour to the family name."
"It's enough if you don't tarnish your father's legacy," snapped Narcissa as she reached for the half-filled glass of Gobberstein's Gin, a colourless liquid which hissed quietly. "What with your grades, not befitting that of an heir."
Draco kept his mouth shut. He knew that his mother was only suffering from the imprisonment of her husband, and the endless testimonials forced out of her from the Interrogators. A muscle in his cheek tightened. "Perhaps you should get some sleep, Mother. I will be leaving for Hogwarts tomorrow," he said quietly as she Summoned the bottle of Gin with a cry of 'Accio Gin!'.
His advice passed unheard and unheeded.
"Excellent method of grinding the Thestrals' fangs," said Snape silkily as he swept past Draco. "But I trust that you can do better," he added with a warning smile. Draco jolted out of his daydream, and hurriedly continued with the tedious task of turning fangs into powder. It was horribly uncharacteristic of him to display negligence in front of the Hufflepuffs, whom they were having Double Potions with. Already, Hannah Abbot was nudging her brunette friend and they snickered knowingly. Draco almost blanched at the sight of Hufflepuffs snickering.
Afraid of me, my foot!
But the incident left a dent in his subconscious. He had a bitter taste of what it was like to be the laughingstock of the Slytherin House. It would cause all foundations he had lain to come crumbling down. His mother wouldn't be pleased, and the Dark Lord…He shuddered to think what Voldemort would make out of Lucius's son, who successfully carved a name for himself as school jester.
Did Voldemort keep an eye on every Death Eater's heirs? If so, Draco was temporarily reassured by the fact that Crabbe and Goyle's achievements would make him seem like the Hermione Granger of his house.
Granger. His insides writhed at the thought of Voldemort discovering that he had consorted with a Mudblood. Not that he had consorted with her yet, a little voice in his head shot back. There's still time to back out. Yeah.
But another side of him knew that Hermione herself knew what she was getting into the moment she kissed him, and thus far, she didn't seem to give a damn about what Voldemort thought. He was half impressed by and half envied her. She appeared to lead a charmed life, with the omnipotent Potter acting as a living Patronus at her side. Why should she be afraid if Voldemort come a-calling? She had Potter and his heroism, that's why! It was only he, Draco, who lay awake every night, thinking of the disappointment he was being to his mother, and the shame he was bringing to the family name.
The family name.
"Deep in thought, aren't we?" jeered Peeves the Poltergeist as Draco walked along the corridors. "Why, Peevies here didn't know that rodents are capable of thinking! Hey, I heard that rabbits eat their own dung! Do ferrets-"
"Silencio!" shouted Draco angrily and forcefully. Every strand of his silvery-blond hair felt as though it was standing at its end, and he honestly hadn't expected anything to happen, as the spell would just pass the poltergeist, but to his increasingly astonishment, Peeves did shut up. What was more, the poltergeist had a shrewd look in his eyes; they reflected the surprise in Draco's own grey ones.
"The only one who could control Peeves is the Bloody Baron," Draco breathed under his breath. He sneaked a look around; the ghost was no where in sight. So what silenced Peeves? Draco couldn't bring himself to believe that his spell had done that.
Draco took a deep breath and walked away. He needed to go to the Secret Garden. He had to ask Cupid for a favour. With each step that took him close to the room, Draco felt his heart sinking. If only there was a place where he and Granger could show up together at the Great Hall and not be ostracized. A sudden surge of selfishness made him wish that she was born a Pureblood instead of common Mudblood, but it was quickly washed over.
Whatever happens, I'll still think that she's different form other girls, he thought as he entered the room.
I just can't let her know that. Not yet. The world seemed to be spinning as he was welcomed by the serene sight of the ever-present moon. Absently, Draco found himself wondering what the garden would look like if it was day time. It would be more beautiful, he decided. Up in a rowan tree infested by Bowtruckles, Cupid watched sadly as the young master approached him.