Draco stood in the chamber, his spine flattened against the smooth stone wall. Small torches lined the hall, alight with dancing flames, casting eerie shadows upon the room's only occupant. His sunken cheeks were revealed; pale skin stretched across thin limbs; his eyes almost colorless, illuminating a blank, dead stare.
As he stood there, he wondered vaguely, had he not done such foolish things as a teenager, where he would be standing this very moment. Perhaps in his mother's kitchen, being fussed over and fed expensive sweets like he was a toddler? Perhaps in his own regal mansion, reclining leisurely on a velvet sofa and reading a book? Perhaps strolling down the sidewalk, a pretty girl snuggled under one arm?
Yet those ideas did not matter because he was not doing any of those things. He was loitering around the Dark Lord's chamber, waiting for Snape to return. He was often assigned these stupid sort of guard duty tasks. Ever since that night three years ago, the Dark Lord did not trust him with many 'bigger' assignments. Well, he couldn't blame his lord for this uncertainty. But couldn't the Dark Lord see he had matured? Couldn't he see he was ready for larger missions? He did not like the murders or destructions by any means, but it was certainly better to be on the Dark Lord's good side than bad.
POP! Finally. Snape must be back. Now Draco could actually leave this pathetic assignment behind. His job was done: to confirm that Severus Snape (the git) had made it back safely and without trouble.
But it wasn't Snape who entered the corridor. It was Pansy Parkinson.
She smiled at him (or was that a grimace?), her fingers splaying and closing repeatedly at her sides. "Hello, Draco."
"What are you doing here?" It sounded rude and piercingly arrogant, snagging and sharp, so unlike how he used to talk to her. Quite unlike he used to talk to anyone, in fact. Even bloody Potter and the other lowly scum back at Hogwarts – while he'd always managed to speak with a cool, lofty tone, never had his tone show such ruggedness, such bruises. But then, he hadn't been so bruised back then.
Drawing himself back to the present, he glanced her up and down as she said, "I was directed to come here."
"Why? You're not a – " He stopped, his eyes fixing on her intensely, understandingly. "Pansy." His tone was suddenly flat with urgency. "Pansy. No." He dropped his voice warily, even though they were the only ones in the hall (and the entire building, for that matter). "You can't do that. You can't join the Dark Lord." He pushed himself off the wall and stepped towards her quickly, nearly babbling now in panic. "You don't know what it's like, you don't know anything about this life, you have to leave now before – "
Without breaking eye contact, she grasped the left sleeve of her robe and pulled it up to her elbow roughly. His vision was met with a thin-lined tattoo of a skull, a snake slipping from its mouth.
"I guess I'll know soon enough what it's like," she said with a half-smirk.
Draco looked back into her face. He had not felt so despondent or scared since that night two years ago, the night. The night he had been unable to murder Dumbledore; the night Snape'd had to do his mission for him; the night he had been whisked away from his entire life and thrown into a spinning new world under the Dark Lord's rule. In fact, he had not felt this much emotion period since then.
He struggled to form his mouth around words to say to her, but found the task quite difficult to accomplish. Finally, he managed to sputter out, "Why?"
"Why?" she repeated, looking at him.
Was she going to make him spit out the whole bloody question? Surely it was obvious what he meant. "Why did you join?"
"I had to," she said simply.
"That's not an answer."
"It is. I had to join."
"Why? Why did you have to?"
She brushed her fingers lightly over her uncovered left forearm, of which the sleeve she still had not pulled down. "Many reasons."
"Like…?" He could feel himself growing impatient; hear the harsh tone his voice had developed into over the past few years reappear. In tones that he hoped were smoother, he said, "Like…what?"
"My family: They wanted their only daughter to do them proud. Safety: I'm better protected under the wing of the Dark Lord than I am caught in the middle, not choosing a side. Myself: I wanted to feel as though I was doing something with my life." Her lips twisted. "And you."
"Don't look so unsettled, and don't blame yourself. I wanted to see you again."
"But – Pansy – I'm a mess – you don't want this for yourself – "
"Draco, don't tell me what I do and don't want." She shoved him lightly on the shoulder, and he suddenly saw a glimmer of her as a teenager, realizing that they had been teenagers not all that long ago. "I want to do this. I am doing this."
"And it's my fault," he mumbled, looking down at the ground. "If it were not for me, you wouldn't be here. You said so yourself: I influenced you to do this."
"Yes, you did influence me," she consented softly, "but I chose by myself to become a Death Eater." She reached out a hand to him. He wasn't sure if she expected him to shake it or kiss it or what. "But I would be quite pleased to have your friendship again during this time."
He glanced uncertainly from her eyes to her offered hand, and slowly reached out to grasp and shake it gently. "Welcome to the Dark Lord's rule," he said tonelessly, fixing penetrating eyes on her round dark ones. His gaze portrayed no emotion; he wanted her to see what he had turned into, what she would turn into. But she seemed unaffected by this look, for she calmly shook back and smiled slightly. Two skull eyes glared at him from her bare forearm, reminding him eternally of not only what he had done wrong for himself, but now what he had done wrong for her.
And so he and Pansy developed a partnership, of sorts. Everything in Draco's life was exactly the same, and yet, completely different. The Dark Lord would assign him tasks, as per usual, and he would always complete them, as per usual, no matter how boring or tedious or downright horrible they would be. But now, there was always someone waiting for him to return. Now there was someone whom he could go to after an exhausting mission, or even a dull one. He made a point never to discuss his tasks with her, but knowing there was someone to merely lean on was a comfort in itself.
His father, locked up in Azkaban, had never been able to provide this for him. His mother would have, he knew, but he did not want her coddling and tears. His other relatives, such as Bella, would have been no comfort whatsoever, and he did not want them thinking him a complete wimp.
But with Pansy, it was different. With Pansy he could just collapse on the sofa in her house, and she would chat with him. And Merlin, did they chat. They chatted about everything from Hogwarts to family to food to ignorant Muggles to distant memories to owls to stores to money to weather to anything in-between. They never chatted about the war or anything to do with their lord. But Draco drew comfort from these visits all the same.
When Pansy began to be given assignments by the Dark Lord as well, Draco extended the same courtesy to her, offering her a sofa to recline on, an available ear to listen, and an available mouth to talk. In a way, he felt closer to her than he ever had, even when he had dated her at Hogwarts in their sixth year. They'd never been so comfortable around each other as they were now. Draco was not quite sure he'd ever had such a good friend, in fact. Crabbe and Goyle, while always loyally by his side trotting around like dogs, had never really understood him, and he them. Perhaps he had just never really tried. But whatever the reason, he cared more for Pansy than he ever had for another friend.
"You called for me, my lord?" Draco murmured to the stone floor.
"Indeed," the cold tone replied. "I have a mission for you, Draco…a very important mission."
"I am always at your service to do whatever needed, my lord."
"You will need to prove your loyalty and strength with this mission…much more so than you did with the one I assigned you two years previous."
He kept his eyes on the ground even as his face tinged red. "I was quite young and foolish back then, my lord. Rest assured that such an event will not happen again."
"See to it that it does not," the Dark Lord replied quietly, dangerously. He paused; the young Malfoy could almost hear his tongue rolling around, playing with the words he was about to speak, delighting in Draco's slight discomfort. "I need you to go to a Muggle village and murder someone."
"Of course, my lord."
"You will go to this Muggle village and murder Andromeda Tonks."
He blinked at the ground in disbelief; surely he had misheard. "My lord?"
"No, Draco, you heard me perfectly. You are to kill Andromeda Tonks. Her filthy husband is gone from this Earth already, there is no reason not to remove the blood traitor as well."
Draco's gaze floated up to those red eyes, which glittered as they met his intently. "Can you complete this task?" the Dark Lord asked quietly, smiling gently as though trying to pretend that he cared about the young man standing in front of him.
His lord was testing him again; his lord knew exactly what he was doing to him. Not only was he supposed to kill someone, but he was also supposed to kill someone in his family. A true test, indeed.
"Yes, my lord," said the Death Eater, staring back with just as much intensity.
The Dark Lord smiled. "Excellent. You need the address, I presume?"
He nodded, and his lord proceeded to give it to him. Draco then Apparated to the quaint little town.
He had never been there before. His mother had never wanted to come and visit her blood traitor sister in her pathetic Muggle town with her pathetic Muggle-born husband and half-blood daughter. Because of such, Draco had never met his aunt Andromeda. He had seen her in old photo albums Narcissa still owned, though Narcissa knew not of this. She did not know he knew about them, did not know he had glanced through them several times, did not know he had watched her with the books in her lap, sobbing over the pages of what used to be. But he had, so he knew what Andromeda looked liked. Her hair was not nearly as pitch black as Bella's, nor as shimmery blonde as his mother's, but a mousy shade of brown. Her eyes were not the gray steel of Bellatrix's, nor the deep blue of Narcissa's, but the pale color of the sea. Her face was not as hollowed and dead as Bellatrix's, nor as chiseled and fair as Narcissa's, but was a smooth heart shape. She was the middle child, and was in the middle in every way compared to her sisters. Except for the fact that she was the only one who had rebelled against the Dark Lord, that is.
Silently, he padded up the walkway and towards the front door of the house. Without a word he unlocked the door of the house. It was dark. She must be sleeping. That would make this easier; he could kill someone while they were sleeping. No problem.
Draco walked up the small staircase towards the rooms. He heard rustling noises, and turned towards the room he heard them in. And there she was, standing in front of a mirror, brushing out her long hair, her nightgown whishing against the wood. He stood in the doorway, stock still, watching her do this simple task, the last simple task she would ever do.
She turned suddenly, somehow sensing his presence. A shallow gasp emitted from her lips, and she stumbled backwards slightly. Then she squinted at him slightly, curiously, as though distantly recognizing him. "Is that…are you…who…Draco?" she whispered. "Is that you, Draco?"
Draco didn't reply. His lips felt cemented together.
Andromeda flicked her wide eyes over him, and slowly straightened herself. "Draco?" she said again, and now she stepped forward slightly. When he did not move, she took another step, and then again, but when she was roughly several meters from him he regained his senses and drew his wand.
"Don't come any closer," he growled.
"What's going on?" she said curiously, halting her steps but not seeming scared. "Draco, what are you doing?"
She doesn't get it, he thought. She doesn't get who I am, what I am about to do. All she knows is that I'm her nephew, not that I'm her murderer.
"Don't come any closer," he said again, his wand hand shaking.
Her eyebrows raised in puzzlement. "Are you threatening me?"
That's not all I'm going to be doing.
He couldn't do it. He couldn't do this. He had no right to do this to her.
But, no. He had to. He needed to. Who knew what would happen to him, to his parents, if he didn't?
"Draco – " She reached out a hand to him, an offer, his last offer to do the right thing, to go against the Dark Lord's wishes –
The hand crumpled, the arm dropped, and Andromeda's body fell to the floor with a thud.
Draco stared, wide eyed, at what he had just done. His whole wand arm trembled now. "No," he gasped. "No."
His wand tumbled from his grasp to the floor; his legs wobbled and he staggered sideways. "No. No," he choked.
His vision was tilting, careening, from tears or disorientation he could not tell, perhaps both. He staggered again, nearly falling on top of her lifeless body, but suddenly felt hands clasp tightly around his shoulders, drawing him back, holding him up.
"Shh," said a voice close to his ear. "Shh, Draco. It's okay. It's okay."
Pansy. She was here; he did not know how or why but she was, some sort of angel come to save him. But it was too late for him to be saved.
"Shh, shh. It's okay. It's okay. You're okay."
No, it's not okay. No, I'm not okay.
"It's all right. I've got you. Shh, Draco. It's okay. You're okay." She repeated these phrases over and over, trying to soothe him. Her voice was rugged and broken, as though she was crying as well and needed to say the words for both of them.
"You did what you had to do," she whispered in his ear, her breath warm and caring. "It's okay. It's okay. We're okay."
We're okay. We're okay. He grasped her arms tightly, holding on.
"Let's go now," said Pansy quietly, and she Apparated them both back to her house.
She was no longer able to support his weight, for he was not supporting any of it anymore. She helped him fall on the sofa, and sat down next to him. He felt hollow; his eyes were dry and his sobs gone, but he was shaking terribly all over. He noticed that she, though her eyes were dry as well, had wet streaks down her cheeks.
Pansy carefully wrapped her arms around him, and he gratefully did the same. There was no need to speak, there was nothing to say. And so he rested his head on her shoulder, and said not a word.
She was not sure how long she sat there with Draco, on her couch, but really, she could not have cared less. Eventually they had pulled out of their hug, but even then she had remained by him silently, both persons shaken and needing to collect their thoughts.
"How – how did you know where I was?" Draco asked in quiet tones, staring ahead at the opposite wall.
She twiddled a small piece of her robe between her fingers. "I don't really know. My Mark started searing, but it wasn't the usual searing – I mean, someone was summoning me, but I knew it wasn't – I just somehow knew it was you, and not the Dark Lord."
"But…I didn't summon you…isn't he the only one who can use the Dark Mark for summoning means?"
"I guess not," Pansy said simply, looking at him sideways.
"I guess not," he echoed thoughtfully, then turned his face to look at her. He was silent for a moment, pensive, then said, "I should be getting on to my house, I don't want to impose on you any longer."
"I haven't minded," she said hastily, perhaps too hastily.
Draco smiled slightly. "Yes, well, I need to be getting home. I'll see you later, Pansy."
"Yes," she said, "you will."
"You're sure no one lives here?" Draco glanced around warily. "And no one comes by regularly?"
"Draco, trust me: no one is going to see us."
"It's not us I'm worried about someone seeing," he said bluntly, "it's me. You're not a wanted Death Eater, Pansy."
"Neither are you," she said softly. "You didn't kill Dumbledore, you know."
"I was there," he said defiantly, becoming defensive and jerky instantly at the mention of Dumbledore, as always. "Besides, I've done other – things."
"Not that anyone can accuse you of doing, though. They may know about those other events, but not who the committer of them is. You're fine, Draco. We're fine."
He looked at her out of the side of his eye. "You don't always have to do that."
"Pretend like everything's fine, when it's not."
"I'm just trying to be helpful – "
"Well, it's not helpful," he snapped irritably.
"Forgive me, Mr. Malfoy," she said, flaring, "I in no way meant to agitate you."
Draco pressed his lips together in a thin, vexed line, gray eyes staring straight ahead as he walked, his hands stuffed in his robe pockets. Crossing her arms, she took his lead and said not a word as she stalked down the street next to him.
They walked in stony silence as the sun began to set behind them. Finally, Draco split the stiff air. "Do you…" He paused, swallowing, seeming to debate how to phrase his words. "Do you ever wonder…if we had not joined the Dark Lord…what our lives would be like?"
"It does no good to wish and wonder," she reasoned quietly, "but yes…I do."
He nodded resolutely, as though that was the end of the conversation. Casting him a look, Pansy questioned, "Do you?"
He nodded again. "Yes. Quite often." He exhaled, then said, "I used to regret it. Joining him, I mean. I could see the life I had given up so clearly, and wanted to go back and continue it. But…now, I don't."
"Really. So you enjoy working for the Dark Lord?"
"No. God, no. But…it…it's made me who I am, today. I don't know who I would be as a person if not for becoming a Death Eater. And to be honest, I don't trust the person I would be. It's a horrible life, and doing all these things…somehow, when I was young, I thought I would feel satisfied when I killed or possessed someone, fulfilled in a way…" He laughed hollowly. "That never happened. But even so…in some weird, twisted way, I'm glad I'm a Death Eater. It's created me." He kicked a small stone lying on the sideway, watching it skitter into the road before inquiring timidly, "Do you…feel the same way?"
She hesitated, pondering the question, chewing and curling her tongue thoughtfully. "I don't know," she said honestly, after awhile. "I really don't know. But I do understand what you're saying."
Draco gave a small, "Mmmph,", recognizing her words, before the two lapsed back into the deafening silence. Pansy glanced around at the bare yet comely surroundings, letting her thoughts roam. The sunset looked like paint streaks, dabbed wildly with a brush, vibrant colors setting the atmosphere. A light summer breeze rustled the few trees, the wind smelling pleasant.
"I do," she said suddenly.
"You do what?…"
"I do feel the same way. I do believe I am who I am today because of the Dark Lord, and I wouldn't trade that person or her circumstances for anything."
"Because, despite all of that person's issues, and problems, and thoughts, and mistakes, and situations…despite all that, I'm – well, not always happy, but content, at least." She shot him a sideways glance. "And that's mostly because of one thing."
She smiled slyly. "Guess."
"All right…how about…the pretty Death Eater masks?" he said lightly, teasingly, playing along with her little game.
"No. Try again."
"The pleasure of looking at such a handsome lord?"
"Hardly. Guess another."
"The pleasant burning sensation on your arm from the Dark Mark tattooed there?"
"Nooo." She nudged him with one shoulder playfully. "Go again."
"God, Pansy, I don't know."
"You're terrible at this game."
"Oh, shut up." Pansy smirked. "Just be nice and tell me, eh?"
"Very well." She paused, letting the unanswered question dance in the air for a while. Then, abruptly, she spoke: "You."
Draco blinked, thrown off guard. "Me…? What – I – "
And before either of them knew what was happening, Pansy had halted, spun ninety degrees, grabbed the front of Draco's robes to force him to look at her, and pressed her lips to his.
It was not, by any means, the first kiss the pair of them had shared. There had been lip-locks between them back while dating at Hogwarts. But they had all been meaningless; usually they had been for show or just because they could. This one was different; it was raw, it was real.
Both seemed equally surprised at what had just transpired at first, but once their initial shock faded, so did everything else around them: the trees, the deserted cabins, their present situation and thoughts and even who they were. Because it didn't matter right then. Nothing did, only the fact that this was shared, this was special; and no one, not their parents, nor their friends, nor the Dark Lord, could take this away from them.
He was falling in love with her. No, scratch that, he was already in love with her, completely. There was no other explanation for the way he felt around her, for the way he felt when he wasn't around her. For how she could make him feel like the happiest man on Earth with a single smile, for how she could know what he was feeling with a single glance.
He wasn't sure exactly when it had happened: perhaps after that kiss on the sidewalk? – perhaps the night he had murdered Andromeda? – hell, maybe when she had walked into the Dark Lord's chamber for the first time, so many nights ago? – but whenever it had happened, it had happened bad. He needed to be by her, be with her, all the time.
They spent even more time together than they had before now, and he cherished every second. But something was missing; there was a hole somewhere. He wondered if he could fill it, as he walked out of a small jewelry store. Maybe he could. He had to try, he knew that much.
He couldn't very well take her out to a restaurant, what with his face being quite sought after at the present time. So he invited her over and did his best to magically whip up a gourmet meal, setting the table up lavishly with gold silverware and the best china he owned.
Pansy seemed delighted when she saw the arrangement on the table, her bright eyes illuminated by the candlelight, the rest of her face slightly shadowed. "It looks lovely," she praised, squeezing his shoulder affectionately.
They each sat at opposite ends of the table, but Draco soon found himself rather uncomfortable with this situation. His table was designed for large dinner parties, so Pansy was quite some distance away from him. Discreetly, he flicked his wand under the table, and Pansy watched in faint amusement – no, that was astonishment on her face, most definitely – as the table appeared to shrink itself (he was positive she hadn't seen his wand poking out through his sleeve. Well, maybe she'd seen a glimmer of it). Now it was small, round, and cozy. He scooted closer to her and began dishing out the elegant food.
Somehow, he managed to make light chatter throughout most of the meal, though his stomach grew increasingly heavier the more he ate (and it was not just from the food). Before he knew it, all the food was gone, and now all that was left for them to savor – well, hopefully savor – was the weighted object in his pocket.
"Pansy," he croaked. She looked at him oddly. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Pansy, I don't know what I would have done this past year if it were not for you. You are amazing, you are the only thing that has kept me going at times."
Pansy's eyes softened, and she took his hand. "I feel the same, Draco."
"I…I've never felt like this before, ever. You make me feel completely different, completely alive." He thought his words sounded rather cheesy, but he did not care: never had he spoken something truer. "I love you, Pansy."
"I love you, too."
Did she have to keep interrupting him? Couldn't she tell he had been preparing this speech for ages, and she was distracting him from it, making him lose his entire train of thought? Women, he thought impatiently, and continued. "There's – there's something I have to ask you."
"Okay." Her grip on his hand tightened slightly. Was she nervous of the question? Excited? Did she know what he was going to ask; was he making it that obvious? Or was she scared of what he could possibly be asking? Or maybe –
Stop it, he told himself. Ask the bloody question already.
"Do – do you like diamonds?"
Her eyes widened.
He reached into the pocket of his robes and pulled out a small black box, never taking his eyes off of hers. She stared at the box, wide eyed, not speaking nor moving.
"Well?" he said anxiously. "Do you? If not, I can purchase a ring with a ruby instead. Or an emerald? Or even a sapphire?"
Finally, her eyes slid to his. "Is this a proposal?" she said quietly.
"Well, yes, of course."
She started giggling.
Draco was alarmed. "What? What's so funny? Would you prefer a pearl?"
"I just think it's funny," she chortled, "how you automatically assume that I will agree to marry you without even asking, and are already fussing over what type of stone should be in the ring band. It's so arrogant of you." Her laughter increased as she gasped out, "It's so Malfoy-like of you."
Suddenly he felt panicked. "Does that mean – you don't want to – I mean, you don't like – you think – you don't want to –?"
She let her giggles die away, and he cracked open the little black box, revealing a stunning gold band set with a huge diamond. He looked at her with large eyes and whispered, "Will you marry me, Pansy Parkinson?"
Her laughter was gone, and now she had the same blank, big-eyed expression as before. Then she looked up at him, eyes shimmering with suppressed tears. Her face reflected utmost happiness and joy, but, most of all, love.
"Yes," she breathed, and, as though she had lost control of her muscles in such bliss, slid limply into his lap and collapsed in his arms.
-Several months later...-
Pulling her cloak around her shoulders tightly, she walked towards the entrance, keeping her head down against the cold. She pushed open the door and stepped up to the front desk.
"Yeah?" said the brawny man standing behind the desk, glancing up at her lazily.
"I'm here to see Draco Malfoy," she said flatly. "Can you take me to him?"
"Aye, but he's a high security cell," the guard replied. "That means you can only view him through his bars, and you ain't allowed inside."
"Why ever not?" she demanded. "He's not going to harm me."
"Rules are rules, ma'am. You're just going to have to deal with 'em."
"Very well," she said stiffly, lifting her head, staring at him through unintimidated eyes. "Take me to him, then."
The guard hollered for another, who came lumbering over and told her to follow him. Arms crossed, she walked behind him as he led her down several corridors before stopping in front of one. He pointed and said, "You have ten minutes." Then he disappeared.
Pansy stepped up to the cell he had pointed to. Over the door there was a small barred window, so she peeped through it. "Draco?"
There was a shuffling noise, then suddenly his face appeared, mere centimeters away from hers. He didn't say anything, just stared at her, as though she was nothing, meant nothing.
"I…how are you?"
"Fan-tas-tic," he drawled, enunciating each syllable exaggeratedly, gray eyes dull.
She swallowed. "I just…wanted to see you."
His mouth twitched, and he spread his arms. "There's not much to see."
Her gaze hardened. "I don't know why I bothered coming, then. I'm sorry to have wasted your precious time." She turned on her heel to leave. She didn't need to stay around when he wasn't even going to care.
"Pansy. Wait. Please."
She halted, glancing back at the door.
"Don't go. Pansy…please." Desperate fingers poked out through the bars, grappling thin air, calling her back. It was such a sincere, helpless gesture. Touched, she turned back, facing him once more.
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "I'm glad to see you again." She reached up a hand to the bars, tangling her fingers in his. "It's just been…hard."
"I know, Draco. I know."
"I just…I just…" He swallowed painfully. "I just don't know if…with this situation…if we should…continue."
"You'll be released someday," she whispered. "We'll be free to be together someday."
"No, Pansy. No." He shook his head. "I don't want you to be tied down like that. I think it's better…I think it's better that we split up now…and…" His voice broke, and he turned his eyes to the floor.
Eyes stinging, she said, "Draco…Draco…" But she knew there was no debate. She knew he was right. It would be easier to split up now before their whole life was wasted away like this, together, but not.
She dropped her chin to her chest, lip quivering. Inhaling deeply several times, she lifted her head determinedly. Dropping his fingers, she took the ring around her finger and slipped it off, pressing it into his hand. He looked up at her.
"Remember me," she whispered, and walked out.