Draco stood in his rooms in Malfoy manner. Summer had come and gone and in a few hours he'd be getting on the Hogwarts Express. Standing alone on the balcony connected to his sitting room, Draco leaned heavily against the thick stone railing. He was exhausted. His whole reality had been destroyed, shattered into millions of broken pieces. It had taken all summer to try and pick a few of the pieces up and come out of it relatively whole.
He let his head fall back, tired gray eyes searching the cloudy pale blue sky. White gold hair stirred around him, one silky strand caressing his cheek. His body tensed. Even his hair reminded him of everything. He couldn't escape it. Draco sighed and let his head fall forwards so he was looking across his property once more. No. He couldn't escape it. He was Lord Malfoy, inheritor of the wizarding world's wealthiest fortune, controller of all Malfoy investments and assets, soon to be 6th year student at Hogwarts School, and possessor of the darkest reputation in the wizarding world (excepting the Dark Lord's own).
Ever since his father had been caught at the Department of Ministries and placed in Azkaban, the Malfoy name had fallen on his shoulders like a ton of bricks. He'd been enraged, wanted his father back. He didn't want to take up responsibility of the family yet, didn't want to let go of the respect and love he had for his father to accept that he'd been placed in the worst prison on the planet. He wanted to blame bloody Harry-fucking-Potter, to kill him for destroying his family. But then his mother, the docile mindless woman, came roaring to life, and smashed to bits those childish reactions.
Draco remembered his mother being a loving, beautiful woman when he was a child. It was at her knee that he learned how to read and write, learned aristocratic manners and politics, celebrated in his childish magics. His father had been absent. When Draco had seen him, his father had been serious, almost sulky now that he had been forced to look back and see the truth. But he had been happy with his mother.
All that changed when he had turned ten. The man he had admired from afar stepped into his life. Lucius gave him praising smiles when he upheld the Malfoy values, and used a heavy hand if Draco caused disappointment. His mother was pushed away to the side. She withdrew and became a silent doll. Just as the aristocratic, pureblood Lucius demanded.
Draco had noticed, but hadn't cared. He had his father's attention and his father was making him a man. It didn't matter that Lucius contradicted some of what his mother had been teaching him. Draco was proud to be following in his father's footsteps, and felt self-important when he was allowed to attend business meetings. He watched everyone's subservience to his father and puffed out his chest. Then Lucius made him feel talented and special when he taught him special magic before Draco was meant to go to school. And after a year under Lucius' care he went to Hogwarts an arrogant bully spewing his Death Eater father's words proudly.
A bitter smile twisted his lips. He'd been so naïve. Such a child. He'd still been a child four months after his sixteenth birthday when he was told his godlike father had been imprisoned. He could remember clearly the disbelief he felt, then the rage. He had stormed from school, leaving even before the Hogwarts Express could take him home. He had come home screaming for his mother to get their law-wizards; that he would get his father back. He remembered kicking the elf that asked if it could get him anything. He remembered his self-righteous anger and pride at how well he was handling things. Then his mother had come down.
She was dressed beautifully in a simple white silk dress and her eyes were burning. She was awake once again. He had smiled, feeling great relief at seeing her. He had relaxed knowing she would take care of everything; make it right. He never expected her beautifully manicured hand to slap him hard across his cheek. Shocked, he stared into her eyes. She looked back at him, her gray eyes, eyes he had inherited from her, were calm and determined. He still remembered clearly what she had said then.
"It's time for you to grow up, little dragon. It's time for you to stop lying to yourself and blindly following where others tell you to go. You have to make decisions now. Your fragile life is in your hands alone. No one can do this for you, but first you have to understand the reality of things. Follow me. You have things you need to see."
He hadn't understood, but had felt the seriousness in her words. The fear curling up from his stomach had told him that nothing would be the same again. He could have ignored her. He could have turned around and flooed to the law firm the Malfoy family employed, but he didn't. He trailed after his mother and was taken downstairs into the basement, the small dungeon. He had known his father went down there sometimes to do business, but he'd never been allowed. He followed his mother and she played back for him the room's magically recorded memories.
He watched his father torture human beings of all ages and sexes. Watched hundreds of victims suffer by his gleeful hand. Sometimes it was to get things he wanted, sometimes to punish those who had wronged him, and sometimes it was just because he wanted to play. Sometimes the victims died, sometimes they didn't, but they always screamed, always bled. Draco had always known his father used Dark magic, known his father stuck fear in the hearts of many, but he had never understood. He hadn't let himself realize the truth. Hadn't looked passed the strong front his father presented. But his mother forced him to see the stark, naked truth of his father.
Draco had been sick. He even cried. His mother didn't say anything. She didn't comfort him or make him feel weak or stupid. She just watched him with understanding eyes. And he burned with shame and confusion. He could barely cope with what he was learning. He had been forced into a mental fog.
His mother took him by the hand and led him out of the room. Lucius' crystal memory orb, the one holding the record of what he'd done in the dungeon, was held firmly in her hands. She took Draco to the Department of Ministries and led him to the Auror department. There, she turned over the orb as evidence against her husband. She demanded sureties that he would never be able to get out. Draco had stood there numbly as his mother condemned his father and said nothing, neither supporting nor stopping her.
After that, she took him to an expensive inn near both Diagon and Knockturn Alley. They rented a room and she had all of his father's middlemen and business representatives come to Draco to explain in detail what each business and investment entailed. Draco spent days there. And learned a lot. His father had the Malfoy money in almost everything. He even had muggle investments. Lucius traded slaves, drugs, loaned money, hired people to procure rare items and then sold those items for a substantial profit. Some business dealings were legitimate, others were tainted, and a few wee ebony black. His mother gave him full reign.
She had told him, "I made sure Lucius is out of the picture. This is your decision alone, my dragon. Handle it."
He spent almost a week thinking, dealing, growing up. Then he made his decision. He continued the businesses that were legal and a few that were shady, but he pulled out of the most illegal activities. He made copies of all the records of those dark dealings and handed them over as evidence to the wizarding law enforcement as further padding to keep Lucius in Azkaban. His mother had bowed her head to him, acknowledging the battle he had gone through. And she stepped up to his side to help him fight the Ministry off of his inheritance.
He learned that while he was coming to terms with his father and himself, his mother had been stalling the legal proceedings of the Ministry in its attempt to seize all of the Malfoy assets. It was a hard fight that took almost the whole summer. He had been interrogated by Aurors several times to clear himself of any of the crimes his father committed. He really was innocent. He'd done nothing unforgivable yet. Potter had imprisoned his father before he could cross the line past bully to Death Eater. If he wasn't spending his summer nights in a holding cell, then he was alone in the manor's master suite where his mother and father use to sleep.
His mother was there, but she never offered to do anything for him. She didn't help with the businesses he had agreed to continue, even though he was being yanked to and fro by the damn Ministry. When he specifically asked for her help, she would do as he asked but no more. His godfather was there as well. Severus answered many questions about being a Death Eater and the Dark Lord. And Severus didn't soften the truth. He told it all, from every angle, he made it stark and sharp and painful. They sat up many nights late into the morning hours discussing the war and politics, past and present.
It wasn't all maturity and growth, though. There were nights when Draco got drunk, and screamed and raved; nights when he sat numb and silent. He'd go through fits where he would sleep for days, or not able to sleep for close to a week at a time. He'd been forced to see the world as it was; to see the games, manipulations, suffering, and joys. He'd had to grow up. He'd had to make decisions. And he did. He chose not to embrace the darkness, not fully. But he didn't choose to reject it either. He decided to support the fight against the Dark Lord, but rejected Dumbledore's offer of bringing him into the Order at the price of becoming a spy.
He couldn't accept that roll. Instead, he would fight the Dark Lord on his own terms, under no one's command. He chose to make his new beliefs known, to show those tainted in the school and those powerful in wizarding society that there was a better way to achieve their goals besides mass murder, torture, and slavery. He decided to take up the long and difficult task of cleaning up the Malfoy family name.
The summer hadn't made him soft. It had made him harder, colder. He grew serious. All his smiles were bitter, cynical. Three months had become a lifetime. But not all the changes were purely internal. He'd grown physically as well. He now stood at six feet. His white gold hair was all one length now and reached to his shoulders. It was the traditional style for the Lord of a pureblood family to grow it out to at least mid-back, and it was slowly getting there.
His face had lost the last of its baby fat, had become sharper and more defined. People still mistook him for Lucius, but if you looked past the similar coloring, you'd see he inherited more of his mother's features than his father's. His seeker build had thickened. He was still slender, but his shoulders had broadened as he gained inches. He wore the ancient Malfoy signet ring on his right hand. Draco looked down at it now.
It was a platinum band with a diamond embedded in the center. Tiny runes encircled the gem and then two tiny imprints of the Malfoy crest were placed on either side. Aurors had pried it off of Lucius finger before he was sent to Azkaban and had only handed it over to him a weak ago when they recognized him as the legal Lord Malfoy, cleared of all involvement and free to take over the Malfoy family as was his birthright. And there were things that were the same, as well. Draco was still proud of his heritage, believed he was elite because of his ancestors' accomplishments and his own. He still upheld the untainted Slytherin views and morals.
There was a knock at the door and Draco turned from the balcony and strode across the sitting room, tying his hair back at the base of his neck as he moved. He wore dark black pants, tight and riding low on his hips. The white, silk, button-down shirt was untucked and fell to just past his waist. The sleeves were rolled half way up his forearm, casually. Visible around his neck was a black cord and hanging from it a thick silver pendent as big as his thumb resting at the hollow of his throat. It looked like a Celtic knot, but looking closely it became a contorted dragon. He opened the door and found a house elf standing on the other side.
"Master Sir, your mother is waiting to see you off to the school."
"Thank you. I'll be right down."
The elf popped away and Draco shut the door. He went into his bedroom, unrolling his sleeves and buttoned them as he went. He put on his black school robe, leaving it hanging open, and made sure he had everything he needed in his school trunk. His three owls were secure in their cages. Satisfied that he was ready, Draco strode from the room and went downstairs.
Narcissa was waiting for him in the main lounge where the flooing fireplace was located. Her dress was dark green, falling to swirl around her ankles and rising to just under her chin. It was sleeveless and backless. Her golden, yellow hair was done up in curls piled on top of her head, and she smiled faintly at him when he entered the room.
"Mother." He bowed to her before stepping forward to hug her. "You are going out?"
"I am." She nodded. "I have a social date with several of your peers' mothers."
Draco nodded. She had been speaking to Slytherin parents a lot recently, and trying to recruit several of these important women in wizarding society over to neutral territory. Most of her time that summer was spent making sure Draco would get back up again after he had fallen apart, but just this week she had gone back to her original passion of working for the wizarding news paper, Witch's Weekly.
"Good luck. I'll write." Draco smiled, leading her by the hand to the fireplace.
"So shall I." She smiled sweetly. "Goodbye, my dragon. If you need anything…"
"I know." Draco kissed her cheek.
"Be careful, darling."
He nodded and she disappeared. Having no reason to stall, Draco picked up some floo power and flooed to a public fireplace in a tavern near Kingscross Station.
Ron and Hermione hurried onto the train. They were holding hands, but their attention was not on each other. They were anxious to see their friend. Dumbledore had forbidden them to write to Harry and they were worried. They knew how much Sirius had meant to Harry and he had taken losing his godfather hard. It didn't help that he had watched with his own eyes as the convict had fallen through the veil. They had done their best to help him, but Harry had been too angry and grief-stricken to really take comfort from them.
Living at the Dursley's was hard at the best of times, and Harry was sure to be in a sorry state. They told Dumbledore this, but no matter how they pleaded he wouldn't relent. Hermione only hoped that when she told Harry that she was dating Ron it helped and didn't hurt Harry more. She already made Ron promise to be very careful and make sure they didn't isolate their friend or ignore him. Ron had agreed quickly.
"Come on, Ron." She rushed her boyfriend.
"I'm coming, 'Mione." He said as he pushed his way through the students crowding the train.
He had a good hold on Hermione and tugged her through as they made their way to the last compartment, the one they had claimed as their own since the first year they had come to Hogwarts. Finally, they arrived outside the door and found it shut. Ron looked back at Hermione and saw worry and excitement in her brown eyes.
"Let me go first." She asked and he nodded.
Hermione slide the door open and stepped in, Ron at her heels. Harry sat in the farthest corner, his face away from them as he looked out the window. Hermione gasped and covered her mouth with both hands. Ron stood frozen behind her. Harry wore torn, filthy clothes ten sizes too big. The T-shirt sleeves reached to his elbow, but his exposed forearms held scattered bruises and his wrists were scabbed and raw as from rope burns. His exposed neck and collar bone were littered with more bruises, and what looked like hickies.
"Harry." Hermione called, her voice quivering, tears falling from her eyes.
Their friend turned his head and Hermione whimpered deep in her throat. There were cuts on his cheeks and forehead. She guessed they were from his missing glasses being broken. One cheek was swollen and bruised, and his bottom lip was split and scabbed. His hair was greasy and limp. But it was his empty dull eyes that struck her to the heart. There was nothing behind them, and instead of being a rich emerald green, they were almost a lime color. They held no recognition.
"Oh, Merlin." Ron choked. "I'm going to get help."
Hermione said nothing, but when Ron's support left her back she staggered forward to keep her balance. Harry's eyes followed her with a slight delay. She knelt and reached for his hand, calling his name gently. Harry blinked at her, but didn't respond. Her hand touched his and he reacted violently. He jerked away, curling deeper in the seat, eyes going wide.
"Don't touch me!" He yelled hoarsely.
Hermione backed off immediately, crying softly. She murmured gentle words and assured him he'd be fine, that he was safe. Slowly her friend relaxed and uncurled a bit, but still his eyes remained empty. He didn't answer any of her questions. He said nothing. She wasn't even sure he understood her.
"Oh, Harry. What did they do to you?" She bit her lip hard.
Ron came back in the room looking furious, but he was careful not to raise his voice or otherwise startle their friend. He helped Hermione to her feet and sat across from Harry. Hermione settled at his side, practically in his lap.
"What did they say?" She asked weakly.
"There's no one on board who can apperate to Hogwarts, so we're just going to have to wait till we get to school. Dumbledore will be there and come aboard with a portkey to the infirmary." He said as calmly as he could. "So basically he has to wait hours before his wounds are tended to."
"We should never have let him stay with the Dursley's." Hermione moaned. "We knew they were bastards. We should have told someone, explained that they were mistreating Harry."
"Dumbledore knew." Ron spat, but softened when Harry flinched. "When he came to my house in the summers after we rescued him, Mum saw how starved he was, how beaten down, and chewed the Headmaster out. But he kept insisting that it was the only place Harry was safe."
"How could he do that?" Hermione asked helplessly.
"I don't know, 'Mione." Ron sighed and wrapped his arms around her. "I don't know."
"Will Harry be alright? He wouldn't even let me touch him. He flinched back and began screaming at me."
Ron hesitated, his arms tightening around his girlfriend, before answering; "Of course he will. This is Harry. And we'll be here to help him."
The rest of the ride had been quiet. Occasionally Hermione would sniff or begin crying again and Ron just held her close. Harry stared out the window with his dead eyes, saying nothing. When they talked to him, he turned his head to look at them, but never responded. Finally, they came to Hogsmead Station and everyone began exiting the train. Hermione straightened up and hid her tears. Ron's face hardened with anger. Minutes passed and the train grew silent. They heard someone come aboard and walk toward their compartment, and both Ron and Hermione stood. Dumbledore came in. His face was lined with age and weariness. His eyes filled with sorrow.
"Ah. Dear Harry, you're home now. Come on. Let's get you to the hospital wing."
Hermione and Ron said nothing as Harry stood. He didn't move closer to them though. Dumbledore reached for him, but the teen jerked back and away.
"He won't let anyone touch him." Hermione explained.
"I don't think he'd appreciate others seeing him like this." Dumbledore said sadly. "I'll try and make it quick."
He stepped forward and ignored Harry when the teen tried to shove him away, screaming in terror. Hermione and Ron didn't think. They reacted. They grabbed the back of the Headmaster's robes to pull them off their friend, but instead all four were portkeyed out of the compartment and brought to the hospital wing instead. Harry was still struggling, though not as violently. The portkey had taken a lot out of him. He was sobbing, begging to be released.
"Don't touch me…let go, let go of me! Please… Don't…" He cried and fought.
"Pomfrey! Help me restrain him!" Dumbledore ordered as he wrestled Harry toward a bed.
"No!" Hermione called out in horror. "He'll be fine if you just let go! He'll calm down and go still!"
"Just let go!" Ron yelled furiously, pulling hard on the surprisingly strong old wizard.
Dumbledore looked at the two highly distraught Gryffindors and did as they said. He let go of Harry and stepped away. Harry immediately went silent, his skinny frame shaking and trembling as he gasped in breaths. Eventually his breathing evened out and his trembling lessened. Pomfrey had both hands over her mouth, too shocked to do anything as she watched Harry recover.
"Harry, can you get in the bed behind you?" Hermione asked gently.
The teen turned without hesitation and obeyed, sitting on the white hospital bed. Pomfrey snapped out of her paralysis and rushed over. She began doing tests and Harry didn't react. With a sigh, she told him to lie down, and again Harry obeyed without question.
"He does whatever you say?" Dumbledore asked with a deep frown.
"I think he'll listen to anyone." Hermione sighed. "I think he's in shock and locked himself deep in his mind. He won't talk or respond to anyone, but he will do as he's told. The longer he's like this the worse he'll be. We need to pull him out of it!"
"We will, Miss Granger." Dumbledore assured her.
"How could you leave him with the Dursley's?" Ron suddenly bellowed. "You knew they were abusive! We told you and you kept sending him back! You knew how vulnerable he was after Sirius' death and you refused to let us talk to him! You sent him there and let him be hurt!"
"I am but a man, Mr. Weasley." Dumbledore said brokenly. "I had no idea the abuse was of this nature. I thought they were merely neglectful and verbally harsh. That was a preferable environment compared to his death."
"Sometimes words can be more detrimental to someone's health than physical blows." A silky voice came from behind them and they all spun to find Professor Snape standing by the doors of the infirmary. He'd been there since they had portkeyed in, and was still processing everything he had heard and witnessed.
His face was blank and both of the Gryffindors stared with wonder. They had only ever seen the man wear an expression of anger, derision, and disgust. Seeing him now, face empty and mask-like was disturbing to say the least. Dumbledore didn't seem surprised and he even sighed with something like relief.
"Severus, my boy…"
"You annually gave us reports of Potter being pampered, waited upon."
"The Ministry would have removed him." Dumbledore explained.
"Maybe there would be just reason for that." Severus said and strode over. He looked down at the boy lying quietly in the bed. The wounds healing a bit as Pomfrey worked. "You should have told the Order the truth regardless. We could have supported him. He could have been helped and the damage healed, instead of us sitting ignorant and causing more damage unknowingly."
"Unknowingly!" Ron laughed, eyes still filled with rage. "You knew very well how much you were hurting Harry! You never stopped tearing him apart!"
"Ron." Hermione put a hand on his arm, and Ron subsided, still simmering.
"My actions would have done nothing more than make an arrogant boy mad. Much like yourself, Mr. Weasley. I had no intention to cause serious emotional harm. I am a spy. I had to be harsh to the savior of the wizarding world. Death Eater children are in my house and gossip to their parents. I must maintain my position if I am to save lives. But I would have told Mr. Potter all of that. I would have approached it differently had I known of his abusive background. And you knew that, Albus."
"I thought he was fine. He was strong and spoke no word of complaint. He didn't show any other signs of emotion struggle." Dumbledore said thickly and tears formed in his eyes. "I did not know it was this serious."
Hermione sighed, "No. Not even we knew it was this bad. We didn't know how close he was to breaking or how fragile. We had our guesses, but Harry was very good at acting and hiding his weaknesses."
Severus stared at her with something akin to disbelief and Ron snorted bitterly.
"That's right, Snape." He said with a dark smile. "He's not really a Gryffindor. He's a Slytherin."
"Explain." Severus ordered.
"I don't know for sure if it was on purpose or not, but when Hagrid came to collect him for first year, he told Harry about his parents and about being a wizard." Hermione began. "Harry didn't even know. He thought his parents were killed in a car crash. He thought he was a freak for making things happen. He was so happy to be out of the Dursley house and about being taken somewhere where he might be normal. When he was told that a dark wizard had killed his loving parents, and that he had destroyed the Dark Lord, he was shocked to say the least. Then he was told how all dark wizards came from Slytherin."
"And he met Malfoy." Ron added.
"Well, he begged the hat to put him in Gryffindor, when it said he was a Slytherin too. He didn't want to dishonor the parents whom he had killed. He didn't want to be thought of as bad. He wanted to be good and accepted."
"Then he was faced with fame and manipulation." Severus murmured. "He fought because he was desperate."
"That and guilt." Hermione began to cry again. "He never really talked about this stuff. Ron and I've had to guess a lot and piece things together from the little he does say, but we do know for sure he thinks this is all his fault. That every single person who dies at Voldemort's hands is his fault; his godfather, his parents, and Cedric especially. He'd have been suicidal after the Tri-Wizard's Tournament if it weren't for his overwhelming sense of needing to stop Voldemort."
"I use to think he liked the attention and fame." Ron said mournfully. "But after the tournament I realized what 'Mione always saw. He hates it. He is uncomfortable with attention, has little-to-no self-esteem, and more guilt is added for fooling everyone into thinking he's worth something."
"He's always been close to breaking." Hermione agreed, wiping her cheeks. "But he's always been strong at the same time. He really was happy here for the most part. He called Hogwarts home. He loves us and Remus. But losing Sirius…"
"We told you. We told you he'd need us." Ron accused the Headmaster.
"I should have listened." Dumbledore looked into their eyes and they saw the torment in them. "The wizarding world, now that they know Voldemort is back, was going to be trying to get their hands on Harry. And the Death Eaters are desperately trying to find and kill him. I didn't see any other way, but I realize now I should have looked harder. Severus, what can we do?"
"Why are you asking him?" Ron demanded. "Harry won't want help from him!"
"Severus has studied psychology extensively in his training to be a spy. He also helps with Death Eaters victims. He knows about abuse, and is the only one I know who can heal wounds of the mind." Dumbledore explained. "He will be the one best able to help Harry now."
Hermione and Ron stared at him with wide eyes.
"I need to see what happened." Severus finally spoke. "I can do nothing for fear of making it worse without knowing exactly what happened and where his mind is at."
"I can substitute…" Dumbledore began.
"No. I can not afford to miss my classes or miss welcoming in the new Slytherin's sorted into my House." He interrupted. "I will make a trip to Surrey when everyone is asleep and delve into the house's memories."
"Very well." Dumbledore nodded.
"I will put him to sleep until we are ready to help him." Pomfrey said and waved her wand. Harry's eyes fluttered and then closed. Ron and Hermione stared at him. "His wounds are extensive. It would be best that he heal while asleep anyway."
"Will he recover?" Dumbledore asked fearfully.
"Physically." She assured him.
"Do all you can for him." Dumbledore ordered and turned to the two Gryffindors. "We can't let the school know he is so vulnerable. Tell your House he is training in secret."
"His friends need to know." Ron argued. "He'll need us and they'll need to know."
Dumbledore sighed, "Tell only those you know you can trust with your lives and Harry's. Do you understand? Tell everyone else that he is training."
"Yes, sir." Hermione answered, putting her hand on Ron's arm once again. Ron shut his mouth and stayed silent.
"I can't make up for my horrible mistakes." Dumbledore whispered. "But I will protect him now."
"I must go." Severus said. "Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger."
They watched him leave. Dumbledore followed after them without saying anything more. Hermione and Ron went to their friend and took his hands. They stood there like that for long minutes before they both kissed his cheeks and went up to their common room, promising to be back soon. Harry didn't even twitch, so deeply asleep that not even dreams could get through to him.
Chapter end. So what do you think? Keep going with it? Please let me know.