Whispers

Draco Malfoy had been born into two, primary things in life, and they were probably not the things you thought. Sure there was the whole Pureblood supremacy complex thrust upon him from birth, and the Death Eater-destined path he crawled along before he could walk--but no, these were not the things that would grow to both further and limit him later on in life. They were strange and obscure and, sooner than later, he would grow to not even realize they were there. They would plague him for years, decades, and even when it stopped--even when all around him saw someone different--he would always have to keep himself in check.

These two things came even before servitude to Voldemort, even before the despising of all Mudbloods and Muggles and Blood Traitors.

These two things were, supposedly, set in place to uphold the Malfoy name, and they were, plainly, the concepts of being loud and showing no emotion.

Now, at first these two may seem to contradict, fore they appear to hint at being loud, vocal, boisterous and being soft, silent, reserved. And in a way, they did. Draco Malfoy was to be very outgoing; he was to create alliances with every Pureblood, Slytherin preferred, possible. He was to make himself known, to place the Malfoy family name in the stars of his arrogance and popularity, despite the fact that any acknowledgement given should be bitterly so. Still, he was to be emotionless. No matter what crime he committed, how many jibes he was faced with, Draco Malfoy was to with-hold all desire to express himself. He was to be cold, resilient, and no matter how much he talked, it should not be for any reason other than giving wings to a chosen cause. He should not know how to smile, how to cry.

These were the things he should and should not do.

It was hard, at first. From the time he took his first steps, these were the rules, the lines on which he was to tip toe across. His father did not tolerate sentimentality or softness in his heir, and his father made no move to show any affection to that said heir. He did not want to install those habits into his son. His son needed to learn, needed to heed these basic lessons if he were to be brought out into soceity, introduced to the Death Eater community. A parent was, after all, judged by his child's behaviour, and he would not have people think him weak.

Narcissa was, in many ways, a different case. She was a trophy wife, in some respects, although her relation to the disgraced Black family had to be carefully hidden. Lucius Malfoy spent many nights lamenting the Blacks' downfall, puzzling out as to why Sirius Black had turned out as such, planning how he would ensure his son did not ever humiliate him like that. Narcissa was something beautiful, something expensive and obscure, it seemed, that Lucius could take to Ministry parties with him. She was, in his opinion, well-trained. She followed the Malfoy family rules to rote.

Narcissa Black Malfoy had an aura of iron; thin, impenetrable iron. Still, it was thin, and years later Draco would understand that there had been velvet beneath.

When Lucius was not around, it was evident how much Narcissa treasured her son. She, in essence, did not know how to show her affection--all of this had been crushed out of her through life with the Black family, and then life with Lucius Malfoy. But she was, if kind could be used, as kind as she could manage. She would give House Elves night time stories to read to Draco because she could not do it herself. She would have one of them make sure he was comfortable, supposedly a form of 'tucking' him in, before bed, and would buy him sweets at Diagon Alley and have them sent up to his room.

She was not a terrible mother. Not good, if truth be told, but as good as a descendent of the Blacks and a wife of a Malfoy could be.

In time, Draco was taken to events where other Death Eaters were present, events to mourn the fallen Voldemort, and to plot his resurrection. Of course, he and the other Death Eater children did not participate in this. They were, for the most part, only for show. Pansy Parkinson was dressed in black silk, the pallor of her skin contrasting with her dark hair and eyes. For a little girl, she looked disturbingly like a grown woman, her face a mask of indifference. Or as indifferent as any young child can be. Gregory Goyle had on a grey suite and tie, his round stomach looking out of place in the carefully constructed facade his parents had made for him. Blaise Zabini looked impeccable, like a sly, smooth businessman, all in black with his hair slicked back and a condescending smirk on his lips. Well, as condescending as a child could muster.

Draco had long learned this mask they all wore, and he wore it well. His father led him around the hall and he nodded darkly from beneath angel hair bangs to men and women who eyed him with just as much pleasantness. In time, his father would begin him on the habit of slicking back his hair. He hoped that perhaps the pretty young boy would look more imposing, if a seven year old could be imposing, with a hard shell of hair to glare beneath.

At eleven, Draco would find himself at Hogwarts. Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe had both grown into tall, fat creatures and they stood, like bodyguards, on either side of him. He was small, for an eleven year old. Slightly bony, and a little short. He made as much a racket as any band of trumpeteers, announcing his presence with a well-placed insult, sealing it with a nasty smirk. Snarling, sneering, grimacing. He knew no smiles, no laughter, no mercy. Potter refused his friendship, and so Potter became an enemy. An enemy that would have done better as an ally, but still someone to be looked down upon.

He cursed, sent jeers of, "Filthy Mudblood!" and "Blood Traitor!" every way he could find. Everyone knew him as Harry Potter's tormentor by the end of the first month.

If he was a ruthless eleven year old, the sixteen year old he grew into was even worse. He became truly cruel, shedding both the hair gel and the self-asserted bodyguards. That evil would come from beneath a dangerously handsome exterior seemed to make it all the more shocking, biting. His snow-blonde hair gave him the appearance of an angel, but he wasted no time in proclaiming himself the devil. That evil should travel alone, one tall, slender figure loping with devilish confidence throughout dark hallways seemed to frighten people even more.

He was loud. He was known. And yet, he could never be truly known.

He never once spoke a word that would hint that he had a conscience. Never once showed he had feelings. Everything he did was a carefully erected ploy to further net his family name with the Dark Lord, while never truly damning them to Azkaban. Everything was planned, everything known and cautious. Everything heralded the Malfoy name with one of power and authority.

Never anything to suggest they were human.

He had been betrothed to Pansy Parkinson since before he'd known himself, and she had grown into a bird of a girl. With small, puckered pink lips, those same smoldering dark eyes and hair, and a curved figure, she was an ideal woman to have at his side. She was not beautiful like Narcissa, but she seemed to fill in where he lacked. Where he was all hard angles and flat planes, light hair and angelic features, she was soft, voluptious and exotically dark.

Draco didn't love her. He didn't know what love was, even if he had. But he knew he would marry her, simply because that was how it was meant to be. That was what was best for the Malfoy family name, for the future Malfoy heirs. That was what he would do.

All he knew of marriage was the impression he had been given from his father and mother and they, like him, showed very few emotions, even to each other. Marriage was cold, stiff. It was duty.

Then, he met her. Amidst all the plans for war and for Voldemort's inevitable revival, somewhere amongst the tornado of emotions that came with having to kill Dumbledore, having to betray the place he'd called home for six years...Somewhere among being scheduled to receive the Dark Mark, somewhere between knowing his mother would be killed, somewhere, someplace, somehow. He met her.

She was a flurry of warmth and red and silk, and those aromatic spring flowers and, of course, cinnamon and apples. That was the kind of feeling she struck in him. Of something soft and perfect. Something that could hide him, through a veil of dreams and soft murmurs against his skin, from all the chaos outside. She was something inside.

He had been taught to be loud all his life. But when he was with her, he was always silent, and she always whispered. Her whispers were all he needed, and he wondered what it would be like to whisper. It sounded like something fluid and creamy from her lips. It sounded smooth and carressing. He was always silent, because, although he wondered, he was afraid, for once, that if he spoke, it would not be loud.

He had been taught to show no emotion all his life. But when he was with her, he felt as though he expressed everything through his eyes. His facade would fall away, and it was as though his face softened. She was always so, so expressive. She told him everything. He would ask her how her day was, and the first thing she would say was how she felt about it. She made sure he knew how she felt, and she never asked him his feelings. He was grateful.

He guessed it was the result of having such a large family. When they sat alone, at peace, in the Room of Requirement, she spoke at length about her family. In whispers, against his neck, or his arm; she would tell him of their antics, her crazy brothers, her loving parents. How they cared for her, how, despite being so many, they all knew each other perfectly, all told each other everything. Her take on her family was strange, to him, foreign. He could not imagine anything outside the cool, stony atmosphere of his own home.

Her warmth, if it was possible, chilled him.

Yet she faded in and out of focus, for him. One moment she was there, a curtain of red and freckles and wonder, and the next he was left alone to contemplate having to use an Unforgivable. On the Headmaster, nonethless. It had to be done, anyway. It had to. Or else they would kill him, and his mother. And the Malfoy name would be disgraced, just like the Black name had been. He couldn't allow it.

And so he was louder and more emotionless than ever, and she watched him with her thoughtful whispers. His cruelty extended to morbid heights, and she still watched him with her thoughtful whispers.

Then one day, she changed it all.

"I love you," she said, and she said it loudly. Clearly. It resonated in his head, in his chest. Love. She had put that word into his vocabulary. Was this love? If it was, then he wanted to tell her the same. He opened his mouth, but nothing came. This ache, this precious pain he held, this fascination for her, this yearning. Was this love? Is that the adjective you put to it? This emotion beyond emotions, this contemptible thing that was greater, greater than him. But not greater than her. Was this love?

She blinked then, abruptly, and he saw a tear slip down her cheek. Everything seemed to slip, to spin. His jaw dropped open, his brows furrowed. There it was. Shock, on his face. He raised his thumb to brush away the crystalline drop, but suddenly she was no longer in his arms. She was walking, firmly, towards the door.

"Wait," he whispered. It sounded odd on his tongue. She paused, turning around to look at him. There was a sadness in her face, in her posture, and it made a sharp stab of something invade his chest. "I...I..."

She laughed, then. A croak of a laugh. "I did not expect you to say it. I did not expect you to feel it. I don't know what I expected." She made to leave again, but he reached the door before she did.

"Love," he whispered, looking at her with pain etched on his features. It felt strange to have something like this on his face. It did not feel right. "Just one word. You are...you are...everything." The agony of forcing those words out seemed to wrack through his body in small tremors. Tremors of more shock, yet also tremors of satisfaction. He thought the feel of her in his arms once more was definitely worth the agony.

When the night came that he was to kill Dumbledore, he ached to be with her. It was late. The sky was clear, clear and loud. It was an emotionless sky. A sky that resembled him so much that he hated it. He wanted to be the person she knew. As he held his wand towards the old man, this man who had educated him for so many years...his hand did not shake, and his face was a mask of concentration. His voice was as loud as the sky around them as he struggled to get the words out.

But he couldn't. He kept thinking of her. What would she think of him? What would he do?

He couldn't do it. Severus did it, and then they ran. He ran like the coward he felt he was, but at the Hogwarts gates he turned, lagging behind to look up at the towering castle. To look back at her. At what she said was love, at what he knew was everything.

He did not know if he would see her again. So he did not see the harm in using her own words as his goodbye.

"I love you," he whispered.

Then he was gone.

Author's Note: This story has been plaguing me for about two nights now. I temporarily forgot it and contemplated writing something happy. Something slashy. Gasp! Innocent-constantly-shipping-Ginny/Draco me has had the urge to write something slashy. This was after reading some delightfully good Ron/Draco and Hermione/Snape. I mean, Ron/Draco is my new guilty pleasure slash ship (my first, honestly, snce HPDM was never something steadfast), but HERMIONE and SNAPE?? It felt so, so wrong, but some of those stories are so so so well-written, with such magnificent plots and the characterisation..! Ecstasy Okay. I'm weird. Gimme a break!

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