Draco watched the smoke curl gracefully upwards from the lit joint and out the cracked open window. He took another drag and let the smoke work its magic. Exhaling, he leaned back on the window sill and rearranged his foot still on the floor to keep him from slipping off his precarious perch. Harry didn't particularly like this one vice of his, but Harry wasn't here, and he needed to relax. The whole ritual of removing the small box from its hiding place under the loose floorboard on his side of the bed, measuring out the proper amount of mallowsweet, then rolling it into a proper cigarette was the start to feeling better. In fact, after a shot or three of firewhiskey, and almost three smokes later, Draco was feeling quite mellow, indeed, and he laid his head back and closed his eyes.
Oh gods, he was tired! Tired of work and of his mother and her incessant yammering about grandchildren and the Malfoy estate and a myriad of other things that were unimportant to him. He fumbled around for the whiskey bottle, grasping it around the neck. He took another swig and felt the alcohol burn as he swallowed. But it was all good, he just needed another hit off his joint. The smoke soothed his burning throat on the way down, and Draco set the bottle back on the table. The liquor was half gone now, but he could still see Longbottom and Wood in his mind's eye.
Perhaps he should just Obliviate himself. The utter embarrassment of it all! Looking like a jealous schoolboy and then finding Longbottom and Wood together, it was almost too much! Draco could only mumble an apology, then Apparate home right there from the doorway of the apartment. He didn't care if the neighbors heard anything, nor did he care what Longbottom and Wood thought. He just wanted to escape from that sight.
Draco shivered as a cool breeze forced its way in through the crack. The joint was about gone; he was feeling as relaxed as he was going to become tonight, and the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions spinning around in his head was starting to settle down. The cool air was keeping him awake enough to think; the mallowsweet had mellowed him out enough to think calmly, if not completely clearly.
What exactly was his and Harry's relationship anyway? They weren't married, nor had there been a bonding or "commitment ceremony" as the Muggles called it. But, whatever it was they had felt right to Draco. This thing of being a couple, not quite married, but more than being just friends with benefits. He lifted his head from the wall and let it fall back with a small thunk. And he'd fucked it up! Maybe he shouldn't have tried to do it all himself, but he was almost finished with setting things right with his father's holdings. "Correction", Draco thought, "my holdings." He should have taken his time, and perhaps he should have involved Harry in what he was trying to accomplish; no matter that Harry had any clue about running a multi-national enterprise. Instead, he'd run off and left Harry in the dark. He'd been so focused on what he had to do that he didn't see what it was doing to Harry. His lover, boyfriend, partner, whatever the proper name for him, had been content with Draco as he had been; the owner of a hair salon. Surely, Harry shouldn't have had to contend with the bastard he'd become while trying to keep his father's dream alive. Oh yes, it would all pay off and the rewards would be great, but what good would money be without someone to share it with?
That day when Harry had come in for a style had made all those old schoolboy feelings rise again: the unfounded feeling that Harry was better than he because he was "The Boy Who Lived"; the unbridled disdain that he felt toward Harry and his friends, and then the completely unexpected feeling of being an object of desire under the obsessive surveillance by Harry during most of their fifth and all of sixth year. Draco had known then that he preferred boys over girls by then, even if Harry hadn't. Oh yes, his gaydar was very accurate. And the look on Harry's face when he'd kissed him almost a year ago! Just the memory of how Harry had responded to his tentative kiss, his lips moving with his, the almost hidden sight of his arousal, and his hands on his back, then under his sweater, the way they had shagged like mad bunnies, and the way Harry had felt in his arms made him feel a hot stab of desire. Right here, right now, half drunk and thoroughly mellow.
Draco opened his eyes and pushed himself upright, still perched on the window sill. He peered through the fogged glass at the early morning world outside, then flicked the tiny stub that was left of his joint through the crack. He watched it fall, its tiny burning end turning over and over, until it landed in a pile of slush near the walkway. He saw it go out and imagined that he could hear the quiet hiss of it dying.
Fuck, he was tired. Bed and sleep were calling. He had to be at the shop for some sort of appointment. He couldn't remember exactly what time or who it was with, but he had enough time left to snatch a few hours of sleep before making it in. It was only a quarter past five.
Running a hand over his face, Draco suddenly realized that he had sat there most of the night, thinking, smoking, and drinking; he hadn't figured out where Harry had gone, or who he might be with, but he had decided that he would start with the most obvious and then work his way down the list. And the list could wait until morning. Harry was his, no one else's and that was the way it was going to stay if he had anything to say about it.
Draco wiped the fogged windowpane with his hand and stared out into the night. There was still a light on across the street at old woman Henderson's. The old bat had been sitting at the window for hours now. Every so often he had seen the blinds being parted. How much longer was she going to watch him? It wasn't paranoia or an inflated sense of self-worth that caused Draco to think that, but the simple fact that he had seen her do exactly the same thing with almost clocklike precision: split the blinds apart and stare at the window of their flat facing her house for at least five minutes; then let the slats fall from her hand and settle back into her chair by the window.
He pulled the window shut with a bang, latched it clumsily, then slid off his window perch and staggered off toward the bedroom.
The photograph had faded with the passing of time, but her memory was as sharp as ever. Danny had been a handsome lad with a shock of blond hair, lake-blue eyes, and the sweetest smile that a mother could ever want. Vera Henderson's hand traced the ornate edges of the picture frame, her wrinkled, boney finger following the dips and curves over and over again.
Danny was forever twenty-four in the photo. He'd given her this picture for Mother's Day ten years ago. It had been such a wonderful day! He'd taken her out for lunch at her favorite restaurant and for a stroll around the park. Such little things, but it was all she wanted. That and a photograph of her only child. A mother's heart never asked for much, perhaps a hug, a kiss, or to be thought of in a fond way. Her Danny had been a good boy; obedient to a fault, except after he had moved out. It hadn't been a bad thing when he'd moved out. A young man should have the opportunity to leave the nest and spread his wings and it hadn't bothered her at all, until he'd gotten a roommate.
She wiped a tear from her wrinkled face and looked at the sweet face of her Danny again. If only he'd never had let that nasty, perverted boy share a flat with him. She would never forget his name: Roberto. Roberto with the curly black hair and the devilish smile. Roberto who had worked as a waiter in the posh restaurant down on Hoxton Square. Roberto with eyes that looked like molten chocolate.
He'd been the one that her Danny had brought home with him for supper one evening after he'd called and said that he wanted her to meet someone. He had said that Bobbie was his true love and the only one for him. Someone beautiful in body and soul with dark brown eyes and curly black hair. She couldn't wait to meet her!
When she answered the door that evening, she hadn't expected a slender Latin man with her boy. She'd expected a girl from Danny's description! Instead, there he stood… a curly-haired devil with his arm around her Danny's waist.
It was his fault that her Danny was dead; taken by some unthinkable disease contracted during a perverted act. She had forgiven Danny, but she'd never forgiven that boy with the dancing eyes and curly hair.
The years had passed but the pain and memories hadn't. She hated men like Roberto; nice to your face, but harbouring a killer inside them. She had no compassion for the murderer of her son, though he had died too. Her mouth twisted and she felt bile rise in her throat. She hoped Roberto was rotting in the lowest depth of hell now, flames charring his bones and licking his privates. She had sworn that if she could, she'd spare another mother the pain she'd felt when she sat by her son and watched him take his last few breaths. And now, maybe, just maybe she would be able to help another mother from losing her son to another dark-haired devil.
She sat the photograph back in its special place on the table near her chair. She would keep Danny next to her always. Narcissa had said he was a handsome boy too. She had met Mr. Malfoy's mother a few weeks ago, when she'd come to call on her son. Mr. Malfoy hadn't been home, but the silver-haired woman had seen her peeking out her window and had come over to inquire if she'd seen him recently. She'd introduced herself as Mr. Malfoy's mother and then insisted that she call her Narcissa. How sweet of her not to stand on protocol, as Mrs. Henderson could see that she was upper class, not like the likes of her.
And a prettier woman she'd never seen! Tall and slender, graceful and elegant, Mrs. Malfoy had swept into her flat. She usually didn't invite strangers in, but Narcissa was different. Something in the back of her mind had told her so.
She'd served Earl Grey and a plate of freshly baked biscuits, the ones that Danny had always loved. Mrs. Malfoy's visit had been the bright spot in her usual dreary daily routine. She was so easy to talk to, and Mrs. Henderson told her everything about Daniel and how wonderful he'd been; about his life and his death, the almost forgotten pain surging while being spoken of over a pot of tea.
"What a handsome young man, Mrs. Henderson!" Narcissa exclaimed. She set the frame down right in the spot that Mrs. Henderson had decided long ago was Danny's spot.
"He was, wasn't he?" Mrs. Henderson replied. She took a sip of her tea and gave the cup a little swirl before setting it back down in the saucer. "I miss him so."
"Oh Mrs. Henderson, I'm so sorry!" Mrs. Henderson could see her own pain mirrored on the woman's face, almost as if she knew what it was like to lose a son too.
"It's alright, dear," she replied, a faint smile on her face. I've gotten past it. I think I miss his visits the most. He always seemed to come by when I needed a lift." She took another sip of tea and studied the liquid for a moment. "It's a shame you missed your son."
Narcissa laughed. It wasn't a happy laugh but one filled with bitterness. "If I didn't try to come by and see him, I'd not see him at all. He spends all his time with his flatmate."
Mrs. Henderson suddenly felt cold inside, colder than she'd felt in all the years since Danny's death. She lifted her eyes and gazed into Narcissa's grey eyes. Their eyes locked and suddenly Mrs. Henderson felt warm, and needed… just like Danny had made her feel.
"I don't like that boy. I think he's up to no good with Draco," Narcissa said, her bottom lip trembling, "I'm so afraid… and there's nothing I can do!" She put her handkerchief to her mouth and Mrs. Henderson could see tears welling up in her eyes.
Vera Henderson felt her heart lurch in her chest. This poor woman was in the same boat she'd been in years ago: faced with the choices her son had made and nothing she could do about them!
"Oh Narcissa," Mrs. Henderson said, leaning forward and reaching for Narcissa's. "Oh dearie, if only I could help you," she said sympathetically.
"It's sweet of you to offer, Mrs. Henderson, but I don't know what you could do…" and Narcissa's voice trailed off and a thoughtful expression appeared on her face. "Well, there is one small thing, and if it's any bother, I would request that you refuse. " Narcissa gave Mrs. Henderson's hand a small squeeze and dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief. "If you could just keep an eye on him for me, and let me know how he's doing, I would appreciate it ever so much." She gave Mrs. Henderson a weak smile.
"Why, I'd be happy to do that for you, dear, and it's no bother at all."
"You're too kind," Narcissa said, and Mrs. Henderson could see that she was a bit embarrassed at her request. It must be hard for a woman of Mrs. Malfoy's position to humble herself before a simple woman like her. She studied her guest, and the littlest, most cunning voice reminded her that to be a friend of a woman such as Narcissa would mean being friends with power and wealth.
Narcissa's voice roused her from her musings. "I'll send round some special stationary for you to use. My staff will forward your missives directly to me that way. Plus, I'd like to reimburse you in advance for your time."
"Dear, you don't have to give me money for doing this. I couldn't bear the thought of a woman as sweet as you going through the pain I did with my son!" Mrs. Henderson exclaimed.
"I would still prefer to give you something for helping me," Narcissa said, rising from the old over-stuffed chair across from Mrs. Henderson.
"The only thing I'd ever want, I can't have. The only thing I want is my son," Mrs. Henderson said, and made to rise also.
"Sit," Narcissa said quietly. The voice echoed in Mrs. Henderson's brain and she obeyed. "You will write me about my son, and his comings and goings and whether he is with Mr. Potter and if there are any actions that you find strange.
"I will," Mrs. Henderson whispered. It wasn't a bad feeling to be ordered around by Narcissa… it was nice, Narcissa was nice, and…
"Mr. Potter is a queer, a poof, a shirt-lifter, whatever is the word of choice by you Muggles," Narcissa sneered. "You will write me about everything you see him do, and if he and my son go out together. How they act together. Anything and everything you see them do," Narcissa ordered.
Such a sweet woman to care so much about her son, and what a horrible man Mr. Potter must be to want to corrupt such a sweet woman's son! Narcissa was the nicest, most down-to-earth woman she'd ever met! Mrs. Henderson nodded and whispered, "Yes."
"You must be sly, old woman. Don't let them know what you're up to, and you will not ever mention my name in front of them." Narcissa's eyes glittered as she peered into Mrs. Henderson's eyes. "I trust you will not fail me."
"Narcissa, dear, I'll be happy to write to you! You can count on me! " Mrs. Henderson exclaimed happily. "We mothers should stick together!"
Narcissa picked up the faded photograph and Mrs.Henderson watched her study it once again. "A photograph is worth a thousand words," Narcissa said quietly.
Mrs. Henderson watched her sit the framed photograph down, not really caring if it was in its proper spot or not. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Henderson, her face now had a dazed, content expression, rather than the tired look of unfinished grief that she had before Mrs. Malfoy entered her house.
Narcissa snapped her fingers. "I'm sure we will," she said brightly, "I'm sure we will."
The box of stationary rested on the table next to Danny's photograph. The gorgeous silver pen Narcissa had sent rested atop it, ready for Vera to write at any time of the day or night.
She'd already started a letter for today. She'd seen Narcissa's son come in very late last night: almost a quarter till twelve. It was now a quarter to eleven in the morning and he still hadn't emerged. If it hadn't been so late, she might have run out and chatted with him. But for some reason, the thought had entered her mind that Narcissa probably wouldn't have liked her to do that. Mrs. Henderson covered her mouth as she yawned. She had tried to go to sleep, but the thought of missing something had kept her from crawling into her bed. And now she really could use a nap. Perhaps after Narcissa's son had left for the day…
At least that nasty Mr. Potter hadn't returned to the flat. Draco was safe for the moment. Draco, now that was an odd name, to be sure, but Narcissa had said he was named after a great-great-great-grandfather. The upper class always did things a little differently.
She separated the blind slats and studied the building across the street. Still no sign of Draco or that evil Mr. Potter. Funny how someone could fool you. Mr. Potter had seemed all right at first, but now she knew better. And if she had her way about it, she'd do what she could to keep Narcissa's only son away from that dreadful man. She let the slats drop back into place. The poor boy was probably upset that he'd been taken in by his flatmate. Perhaps he'd been out drowning his outrage in an ale or five. Although he hadn't seemed drunk when she'd seen him slouch in late last night. Narcissa had said he was very, very busy taking care of family matters and investments, and that he started his days early. What could be keeping him?
A dragon had died in his mouth. Nothing else could be so foul. He was completely sure of this. Well, perhaps a Troll or Blast-ended Skerwt was nastier. But right now he felt like he was breathing fire and his lungs were nothing but charred blobs of flesh. Draco blinked. It was the worst fucking hangover he'd ever had.
As he struggled to sit up, the dragon moved from his mouth to his chest. Draco rolled to his side and again attempted to sit up. A nauseating burning sensation in the back of his throat and a stomach that felt like he'd been on an ocean cruise in a raft convinced him to lie back down. Oh gods, he was sick and the room swirled around him and a hundred snitches started buzzing when he lifted his head. It probably hadn't been the best of ideas to mix mallowsweet and firewhiskey last night, but it sure had seemed like a good idea at the time.
Draco rolled off the side of the bed in an ungraceful tumble, landing on his hands and knees. He cringed as his stomach gave a flip and gurgled uncomfortably. A trip to the toilet seemed to be in order, and he started to crawl toward the bathroom. This was definitely not the best way to start one's day.
A hangover potion, a hot shower, and a change of clothes later Draco walked slowly to his desk and flopped into his chair. He tugged open a drawer, pulled a piece of parchment out of the desk and picked up his favorite quill. He needed a list, a plan, oh hell, he needed a good tracking charm to find Harry.
A bright shaft of sunlight shone through the curtains and into his face. Squinting, he peered down into the street below. Muggles were out and about doing God knew what. Dogs were barking abnormally loud and the sun seemed to be entirely too bright. Not to mention that Mrs. Henderson was still peering through her window at their flat.
Draco pulled the curtains closed, but the study was still well lit from the morning sun. Wishing he had taken an additional headache potion, he picked up his quill and promptly spilled ink upon his sheet of parchment. Cursing, he wadded it up and pulled another sheet from his desk drawer. His head throbbed, and he rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, then laid his head down upon his folded arms. One blood-shot eye popped open and gazed at the desk clock. Ten o'clock in the morning. He was late for opening the shop. He hoped Ramone had taken care of that.
It wasn't that Ramone was a dimwit, but there were times when Draco could have sworn he wasn't the sharpest quill in the bundle. Since his father's death and the subsequent demands upon his time, Draco had been relying on him more and more often to handle the shop while he was off. So far, Ramone had had only one mishap: a mixup of appointments resulting in a magical hair-setting solution being used on a Muggle who wasn't going to a costume party as Medusa. Luckily, a quick Obliviation and a few free service cards (given out of guilt) had mollified his client.
No matter. Ramone would have to run the shop. He had more important things to do now. Like bring Harry home and try to patch things up.