A/N: After so long being away, I'm finally back again! Aren't you all kind of happy? o)
Actually, I have to say my apologies for disappearing. It's not my fault really... because I was gone for most of the summer. Anyway, I've always wanted to doa Draco fic that has NOTHING to do with romance or slash... though it does have a little slash connotation in it (but its not with Harry). Anyway, I hope I did an okay job with portraying death. It's kind of cliche... but oh well. First times for everything.
The first thing that he noticed when he woke up was that all the pain was gone. It was somewhat ironic because, although he'd been clandestinely, hopelessly praying for it all these years, he had gotten used to its lingering presence and didn't really expect it to ever leave. Maybe he was experiencing that odd numbing sensation again that the Imperius curse gave its victims.
He slowly sat up, but didn't seem to feel the deep gashes in his forearms, or the pounding pain in his head that had been with him for a month or two. He raised his arms, and they seemed to be all right – not even a crudely etched scar marred the pale, lanky limbs. A brief thought flashed through his mind.
Had he finally been saved?
But no, that was impossible. Nothing except death do him part could save him from the Dark Lord's cold clutches. He was his man, now, regret wholly as he might. And regret he did, all those painful, darkened nights when he could see nothing except green flashes, hear nothing except the resounding cries of people being tortured, people being killed… he could feel their agonizing screams in his very soul that he feared he didn't have anymore.
Always, he would crouch tighter in his corner, uselessly hanging on to his wand as the cold, clammy perspiration dripped down his forehead.
Now, Draco Malfoy stared around at his surroundings – or rather, lack thereof.
It was the same room he remembered being in last – the stark, cruelly whitewashed walls leering down at the fully occupied beds that were placed in rows, like the newborn baby room. It was the same, except… everything had a sort of oddly supernatural glow, and it was all faded, a tinge of grayish gold that draped down upon the walls and beds like a semi-translucent blanket. The occupied beds had human-shaped lumps in them, some of them writhing, some of them eerily dormant.
Draco frowned a bit as he walked down an aisle. There, on the last bed, lay Blaise Zabini. His dark hair was matted and damply clung to his bloodstained face, and his ragged, labored breathing seemed to bounce off the walls and ripple through Draco. His hands were gripping the sides of the metal bed so hard that his knuckles had turned white and Draco feared the metal would bend at any moment. The strangest thing of all was that Blaise's eyes were open, vacantly staring at the ceiling, the once sharp blue irises now glazed over and frightening.
Draco called his name, but it had an oddly distant ring to it, and unsurprisingly, Blaise seemed not to hear it.
Draco cautiously bent over his 'friend', his silvery-blond hair brushing over his face as he did it, and tried to get the deadened eyes to look at him. Blaise's pungent breath fanned Draco's hair gently out from his eyes, but Blaise still didn't look at him. His eyes were indeed at a point somewhere between Draco's chest and his neck, but he seemed to stare through Draco rather than at him.
Draco wondered if Blaise was dead.
Yes, he was breathing, but he wasn't there anymore. The Blaise that Draco knew – the sarcastic, ladies-come-hither, casually formal, handsome Blaise – was gone, to be replaced with this shell.
Draco cautiously studied Blaise's bloodied face. A long gash, running from his left ear, across his left cheek, over the bridge of his nose, to stop just below his right eye, was still oozing red blood and a sickly yellow pus, and Draco winced, taking a step back.
Suddenly, the ragged breaths grew quicker, more desperate, and the hands clawed at the sheets madly, Blaise himself thrashing around like a madman as white foam frothed out of his parched lips. He was moaning something incomprehensible, and the sudden outburst made Draco jump back about five feet, horrified as he watching this frenzied seizure. A chill ran down his spine.
Now Blaise was tearing at his hair, his face, smearing the blood from the deep gash across his eyes, his mouth, his hair… his moans gained some reserved strength, and they became terrible yells of anguish that didn't even sound remotely human anymore. Draco watched wordlessly as the ghastly shrieks shook Blaise's whole frame, the metal railing squeaking audibly against his weight as he pounded his fists against the railing.
Why didn't anyone come attend to him? Why didn't anybody care?
Draco looked frantically around the room for someone with a wand who wasn't bedridden, and he finally spotted a witch at the end of the room huddled by a bed, her wand lying on the floor beside her.
She looked vaguely familiar, but Draco didn't pause to try to remember who she was. His feet felt rooted to the floor, and he at last started shouting at the top of his lungs for her to come over at once, Blaise, his friend, his only real friend, was dying. Once again, as the words left his mouth, they had that same faraway ring to it, like he was miles away from her. At any rate, she didn't look up, and she didn't come over. She merely stayed huddled in a pathetic heap by another bed at the other end of the room.
He threw curses at her, but they suddenly died, as Blaise's excruciating screams became a huge, wracking shudder that faded away to nothing. His hands dropped from his face to lie limply at his side like a broken war hero. And Draco knew he was gone.
As Draco stared, stunned at Blaise's death, a little red light suddenly flickered on at the head of the bedside and started to beep. It must've caused some disturbance, for a door at the end of the hall opened and two hassled-looking witches ran out of it, looked around for the source of the beeping, and finally came bolting down the aisle.
The first one, with what must have once been lovely red hair, but now was a drab shade of rusted copper, stopped shortly at the sight of Blaise's face. With no doubt of what must have been traces of horror, she choked down the bile rising up in her throat and quickly composed herself.
The other witch was older, graying at the temples, but coldly looked upon the dead boy's face with no visible expression at all. Quickly covering his body with a white cloth, she sighed and rubbed her temples. The one with the red hair bit her lip, looking worried as they walked away muttering something amongst themselves.
Draco, unable to think of anything else better to do, as he didn't want to hang around his friend's body, tried to get over his initial shock by following the two.
"That's the third boy this week…" The younger one was saying. Draco, with amounted force, bit back the sarcastic retort that rose to his lips: well maybe if you had come when he was having the fucking seizure, he'd still be alive!
Instead, he muttered, "Useless women," in the same, odd ringing tone of his, and wasn't surprised when they didn't seem to hear him though he was practically breathing down the backs of their aching necks.
The older one sighed. "Yes…so Lord Voldemort's reign will rise… and fall the same way."
"They… the boys… they were all so eager to serve Him, and now three of them are…" The younger one trailed off, and Draco thought he heard her voice choking. His eyes narrowed; besides Blaise, which of them had died?
The two women exited through the same way they had come in, looking tired and frayed to the edges; their very robes even looked dismal and completely threadbare.
After they left, Draco stood in puzzlement for a moment; yes, he did remember being here, but where was here? Halfheartedly studying his surroundings, all he saw was rows of white beds on metal frames, stark white walls, and the same ghostly tinge that made everything glow. It seemed that he was either in the afterlife, or in the middle of nowhere.
"And I can't be in the afterlife, because I'm not dead," decided Draco firmly to himself after a moment of contemplative doubt in which he tried to remember what had happened before he wound up in this room – all he got was a haze of blurred events, screaming, and the metallic smell and taste of blood – so he concluded that he must be in some bizarre makeshift hospital. Even though the nurses – if the two witches had even been nurses – hadn't come until after their patients were dead. So then… it was more like a morgue.
A place where hopeless, or dying death eaters, were shipped to after they fought the good fight for their master. A place where they calmly waited for the inevitable death.
Draco briefly wondered why the Healers couldn't do something about the patient's condition, but then immediately came up with the answer: Healers couldn't care less about Voldemort's army. They were pawns, mere dispensable game pieces, and when they died, they died. And that was that.
The witch in the corner suddenly made an audible noise that could've been a sob… and all of a sudden, something painfully registering in his mind, her voice sounded dangerously familiar. Frowning, Draco clutched back his fears and crammed them back into the bottom of his being as he walked over to where she was huddled.
As he got closer, her features became sharper in his minds eye, like a hazy image smoothing out its wrinkles… and suddenly he knew who she was. With a gasp, Draco fell back at her frail face, contorted into silent wails as she cradled something still and lifeless in her arms. He tried to call for her, all pretensions of her disowning him earlier forgotten for the time being, but only a strangled sort of yell escaped from his throat.
And before he could say more, someone who could actually see him spoke.
"She is still in a state of shock… Mr. Malfoy."
Draco whirled around, a bit surprised that there could be a voice this passive amongst all these slowly dying people. There was something familiar about the voice, and it took him a moment to register who it belonged to as he stared into the silvery beard, the piercing, vivid blue eyes, the periwinkle robes… it was like reminiscing a memory from his childhood, slightly blurred, fuzzed over, and hard to recall the details.
But he finally knew who it was.
Albus Dumbledore looked the same as he always did, with a calm, almost senile look on his old face even though Draco knew him to once have been the most powerful wizard alive. And if he hadn't interfered, Dumbledore would be alive still. So if he was dead, how come he was standing here, looking very much alive and talking?
Draco backed away, convinced he was going crazy.
Dumbledore seemed to read his mind. "No, you are not hallucinating, Draco. Quite ironic, however…"
"But how are you here?" Draco spluttered. "You're…er… I mean… that is…"
"Dead," Dumbledore finished firmly, an almost satiric smile gracing his face. Draco nodded.
"Does it matter?" Dumbledore continued calmly, his eyes twinkling as vividly as they did before he had died.
Draco looked at his old headmaster incredulously. "Well, yes, as a matter of fact…"
Just then, the witch gave another convulsive heave, and buried her face into the thing that she was cradling, rocking back and forth as if something inside her stirred and caused her to start sobbing anew. Draco's eyes averted back to her, and he felt a sort of burning inside his body, as if something was eating away at his insides. Swallowing rather difficultly as he realized Dumbledore was watching her too, Draco bit his lip as he watched his mother cry.
"Why… why is she crying like that, there?" Draco asked after a hard moment of staring hardly at a spot between her foot and the metal bedpost. He could feel Dumbledore's eyes on him, and this time it wasn't though he was looking through him; Dumbledore, thank the lord, was looking directly at Draco, with a sort of contemplative frown on his face.
"I would think that would be obvious," The old man said quietly. Draco stared back at him for a moment before he gave a sort of a start. "Did something happen to one of my family?"
Dumbledore finally removed his eyes and now was gazing to the distance. "So then… you don't know…"
"Know what?" Draco asked, a bit annoyed now. It seemed as if everyone was in on a joke that he was to be the butt of. And Draco didn't like it. Hoping to spur Dumbledore on some more into giving him the supreme answer to his problems of transparent voice, nobody seeing him, and his mother crying, Draco asked disgustedly, "And what is that limp thing she's holding?"
He was met with silence. His mother's tears spilled onto the ground, making little hollow noises that seemed magnified a thousand times as it hit the floor, and Draco couldn't help but kneel to look at whatever she was holding so desperately. It was so still, so lifeless, eyes glazed mouth closed pale face bloody face tears on the body broken…
Draco's suddenly blank eyes mirrored his own as he stared down at his body.
It was like staring at a distorted mirror reflection; it looked like it was supposed to have been him, but some things just didn't fit, or look quite right. The hands, so thin and slender, didn't match his own… his eyes hadn't really been that shade… he looked too thin, too gangly, to be the great Draco Malfoy.
After a time, be it minutes, hours, days, or years, Dumbledore sighed.
And Draco stood up. "I can't be…" He said hoarsely, afraid to voice the word 'dead'. He was afraid that if he did, that action would make it final, make it solid, and he would never be able to go back.
Raising his hands, Draco stared at them for a long while before lowering them again. "I can't be." He said, with more affirmation this time, more conviction.
Dumbledore peered at him from above his half-moon specs. "And why not?"
"Because…" Draco hadn't expected him to ask that. "Because…" Because what? He was too young? Too good looking? Too obedient, too eager to serve and please, too much of a coward to fight for what he really believed for, too caught up on being alive? "Because mother needs me," Draco finally whispered, clenching his fists. What a pathetic answer, when just a week ago, he could care less what his mother thought about him. But then, seeing her so pathetically dejected, like the very soul had been torn out of her, Draco decided that it was a good reason – and the only one he had.
Dumbledore straightened a little as they both looked silently at Narcissa Malfoy again, whose tears had almost dried as she brushed some strands of pale hair out of her dead son's face. Draco took a step towards her.
"Mother, I'm right here." She didn't look up. "I'm here, see? That… that thing… that's not me, I'm here, right beside you." Draco took another step. "I haven't left you, Mother, I'm not going to leave you again." He knelt, and felt the burning inside of him well up out of his eyes. He hadn't thought it possible to cry when one was dead. Draco tried to brush some hair out of his mother's wet eyes just like she had his, but his hand went through her, or she didn't feel it.
"I'm sorry, Mother."
And then… and then he was standing up again.
Dumbledore had tried not to look sympathetic, but he had failed. But Draco found that he didn't mind.
Now, Dumbledore was saying, "You may be wondering why I am here."
Draco nodded, and he had a hint of a smile embellished in his voice as he said cheerfully, "That, I am not quite sure of myself. I didn't even know any time had passed until I found myself here. One minute I was facing Severus in the Great Hall… and suddenly, three years have passed."
Draco didn't know what to say to that. Maybe time didn't quite function around you when you were dead.
Dumbledore eventually shrugged his shoulders, tapping on the side of his crooked nose with one long finger. "I assume that I am present to guide you to whatever comes next."
Draco looked puzzled. "Whatever comes next?" Wasn't this it for him? He'd been taught that everyone had one life to live and that was it. He didn't believe in second lives, or second chances, or the afterlife. He simply wasn't taught that way and never knew anything else to believe in.
Maybe that was why he was so afraid of being dead, because he was afraid of melting into nothing.
And anyway, of all people, why Dumbledore? Draco still felt guilty whenever he set eyes on him… knowing that he had lived till… well, till whenever he died… bearing the weight of some responsibility in his teacher's death.
Now, Dumbledore's smile finally showed through. "Draco, I don't blame you for my death."
But… "But I took your wand so Professor Snape could kill you." Draco said blatantly. He didn't know any other way to put it, and the words seemed so stupid on his lips because they were devoid of all the weighing burden he felt for Dumbledore's death.
The old man sighed resolutely. "It was not your fault. If you hadn't taken my wand, I would've still been to weak to defend myself against Severus." Seeing the unconvinced look on Draco's face, Dumbledore said, "I can go on arguing with you for some time about this case, but I hardly think that's how you want to spend your afternoon."
Draco shrugged dejectedly. "It's not exactly like I have anywhere else to go."
Dumbledore actually chuckled. "Now, surely you don't think you're doomed to stay here forever?"
Draco thought for a moment… and shrugged again, thinking Dumbledore would say more. When he didn't, Draco felt curiosity tugging at his side and brushed it away, asking as nonchalantly as he could, "Well… what else is there?"
Dumbledore only half-grinned this time. "I'm not sure. I have not been there yet… are you afraid to go?"
Afraid? Draco was taken slightly aback. Well… no, he wasn't exactly scared. He had experienced so much suffering, so much agony, strife, hunger, emptiness, loneliness, cold fear…that he decided that the afterlife, whatever and however bad it was, couldn't be much worse than he'd already experienced. And so to Dumbledore, he shook his head.
"You won't be able to see your mother again, Draco. Or anyone else." Dumbledore said quietly. And Draco, for some part of him deep inside always knew, lowered his eyes in resignation. Besides Narcissa, he had nobody else. His father had abandoned him, his relatives and former friends all despised him, and Blaise, after Draco actually thought maybe… just maybe they could… well, he had left too.
Draco fleetingly wondered if Blaise was in the same situation he was in right now, but decided he didn't want to think about Blaise anymore. Forcing himself to look at Dumbledore again, he decided he was going to leave. Once and for all. The pain would stop forever, and he would maybe be in numbing bliss from now on.
"Will I be alone?" He asked finally.
Dumbledore looked at him for a long time, hardly, until he answered. "I think so."
And Draco knew that, too. He had done so much damage in this life that he didn't expect to laugh or reunite with anyone in the afterlife. And he was surprised to learn that he was okay with that. Maybe he had been influenced by other people so much in this life that he just needed some time alone… to finally discover who he, Draco Malfoy, truly was. And yes, maybe it was too late for that. But it never hurt to try…
For the first time, Draco smiled. Halfheartedly, but it was a start.
Suddenly, the white room looked a lot duller than it did before, but the wall straight in front of them seemed to shine and glow with a supernaturally opalescent sheen. Dumbledore was standing before it. Draco raised a brow, almost interested. Was this the door to 'the afterlife'? It seemed so cliché that he almost laughed.
"Come, Draco." Dumbledore beckoned, holding out a hand to wave him over to the glow, the glow that held the other alien side to it. Draco felt oddly anxious; he had so much to experience, so much to learn, and so much time to finally… sit back… and let life wash around him without having to be forced to participate.
Breaking into a trot, he strode up to it with some of the gall that he'd had once during his Hogwarts years, and almost entered the door before something held him back.
Turning round, he cast one last look at his mother, memorizing every inch of her sallow face, and remembering what it used to look like. She was still holding the cold body of her son in her arms, and Draco felt a brief twinge of grief that his mother couldn't come with him… but then again, maybe this was only his own personal bliss.
"I'm sorry, Mother." He whispered finally, choking as he found the words. "Goodbye."
He thought he saw Blaise's outline flash before him, but Draco smiled all the same.
Taking a deep breath, he finally walked those steps to freedom… and blessed solitude.
I never saw myself as sentimental... but here I go...
And so the worst is over now... and I can breathe again...
A/N: How was it? Bad? Good? Eh? Review! - I might do a continuation fic from Blaise's point of view. But eh... with my luck, we'll see how things go. - x belles