A/N: DEATHLY HALLOWS SPOILERS. Compliant with all except Epilogue. Harry Potter is not mine.


There was, perhaps, nothing more uncomfortable than being on the losing side of a war and living to tell the tale.

Draco Malfoy looked around the Great Hall yet again, at the families reuniting and mourning their dead, at the glorious victors celebrating and tending to their wounds and looking about to collapse with exhaustion -- and waited for the other shoe to drop. He and his parents were just sitting there -- his father was still in his Death Eater cloak, no less! -- and no one had approached them to arrest them. They weren't even made to feel unwelcome. They were simply like the Muggle entrance to the Leaky Cauldron: there, but overlooked.

His mother, ever the unflappable hostess, tried desperately to pretend that nothing had happened. "Draco darling, I do hope you've been keeping up with your studies, despite the upheaval of the previous year," she said, in her soothing, cool voice. "I assume that the N.E.W.T.s will be given later on, and I want you to be prepared if they are."

"Let it rest, Narcissa," Lucius said, putting a hand over hers on the flat table; his eyes never stopped scanning the crowds, as though he expected one of the numerous Aurors present to jump up and arrest him. "We shall have Madam Pomfrey look over our injuries, and then we return to Wiltshire at once. Draco's education is secondary to other matters at the moment."

"Draco's education is second to nothing," Narcissa said, her voice still calm despite her argumentative words. Her blue eyes flashed with suppressed impatience. "You know as much as I do --"

Draco couldn't bear to listen to them talk that way, as though they still knew exactly where they stood in the Wizarding community, and knew what would happen next. "Mother," he interrupted, "if we're going to go soon I'd better go to my room and pack my trunk. I want to be ready."

"Of course, darling," she said, inclining her head. "Do make sure you've not forgotten anything."

"I will, Mother."

Relieved, Draco stood up from the Slytherin table and made his way between the tables until he'd reached the doors of the Great Hall and come to the main entrance hall. The dull roar of sound from the survivors cut off as soon as the heavy oak door banged shut behind him.

Draco released a massive sigh. It wasn't supposed to be like this. He didn't know how it should have been -- he certainly hadn't been keen on the idea of the Dark Lord winning, as he hadn't wanted to spend his life in servitude to that hideous thing -- but he knew that this wasn't it. It couldn't be. After everything his family had suffered, after all the sacrifices they'd made for a man who had made grandiose promises and failed to deliver on them all -- what then? What was he supposed to do? What was to become of him?

He scrubbed away the tear that betrayed his helplessness, and started towards the Slytherin dungeons. For now, he would pack his belongings and leave Hogwarts behind, perhaps forever. Tomorrow was tomorrow, and he would worry about the future when he was good and ready to.

Lucius pulled a pocket watch out of his waistcoat for the third time. The minute hand had only moved slightly since he had last checked it. "He must have run into one of the other Slytherins," he said idly. "You know how chatty he is sometimes."

"I want to go look for him, Lucius," Narcissa said, not hiding her anxiety. Her knuckles were white as she gripped the sleeve of his robes. "It's been nearly an hour, he cannot have so much to pack --"

"He's fine," Lucius insisted, but Narcissa stood and left the Great Hall without uttering another word. Muttering under his breath, he quickly followed after, and he felt the eyes of every person in the Hall on their backs as they hastened away.

"It's been so long since I last visited these dorms," she said, as they descended lower and lower into the bowels of the castle. "But -- ah yes, there it is."

They found easily the suit of armor that guarded the entrance to the Slytherin common room and dorms, and gave it their last name -- "The Most Respected and Feared House of Malfoy" -- before darting into the dark, narrow passageway which widened into the common room. A neglected fire flickered in the open grate, but not a soul occupied the leather chairs around it. In fact, the entire wing was perfectly still, as though completely vacant.

Lucius went ahead and found the Seventh Year Boys' dorm, and a cursory examination revealed that the room was empty. Draco's trunk sat gaping open at the foot of a rumpled bed, untouched. "He never made it to his room," Lucius said to Narcissa when he returned to her side. "Wait at the entrance in case he eventually comes, and I will search the castle."

"Bring back our son," she breathed, and, squeezing his hand one last time, they separated at the armor and went their own ways.

He encountered many on his harried tour of Hogwarts, but none had Draco's distinctive head of ash blond hair; some made disparaging comments about his family but Lucius simply swept past, an imposing figure in his black death cloak and robes. He had one mission now, only one thought in his mind: to find his son, his only son, so recently returned to them and now missing.

But no one had seen him. When Lucius lowered himself to ask, of students and professors and ghosts, if they had seen his son, they all answered in the negative. One or two said they thought they had seen him headed for the main entrance and the double doors that led out to the grounds, but that was absurd: why would Draco run away? He had to be here, somewhere.

After a futile hour's search, however, Lucius was ready to believe anything.

He went to Narcissa, still standing guard over the Slytherin common room entrance, and they both raced outside, to where the late battlefield lay sprinkled with dew in the pale gray early morning. Narcissa called for him, repeating his name over and over, and Lucius's heart sank as he saw a faint trail through the damp grass, winding this way and that in a dizzy pattern until it simply vanished some hundred yards from the school's front doors.

"Where can he have gone, Lucius?" Narcissa cried, half-hysterical at the prospect of having lost Draco again. "Where is he?"

"I don't know," he said, and the words tasted bitter in his mouth. "Merlin, Cissy. I -- I don't --"

"Draco!" Narcissa screamed, her voice breaking slightly. The wind carried her voice on its back as she spun in all directions, seeking him at the lake, or the Whomping Willow, or the Forbidden Forest. "Please, Draco!"

"Draco!" Lucius shouted, looking all around the school grounds.

"Darling, where are you? Draco!"

Their son was gone.