Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to my fantastic betas bewarethesmirk and oldenuf2nobetter. And the awesome oldenuf2nobetter has done some amazing fanart for the last chapter (you can find a link on my user profile page). Please go look and tell her how amazing she is!
A work-in-progress so I make no promises about updates -grin-.
This story contains SLASH so if you do not like it - or don't know what it is - then DO NOT READ. Thanks :o)
Bleeding on the Outside
When Draco strolled into the kitchen in the morning, no-one would have guessed that he had spent the night on the floor. Ron, however, looked like he had been dragged through a hedge backwards: hair sticking out everywhere, dark smudges under his eyes, and it was obvious he was still wearing his crumpled clothes from the previous day. A cleansing spell had freshened them up, but it unfortunately didn't iron out the creases.
"Any news?" Draco asked.
"No-one's about," Ron answered, glancing up from his half-eaten breakfast. His fork paused halfway to his mouth as he stared at the blond boy in disbelief.
The Slytherin was wearing a very familiar blue shirt over his habitual black attire; it hung loosely on his slender frame.
"That's Harry's shirt," Ron said, not noticing the bit of sausage falling off the fork and onto the plate.
Draco poured himself a coffee and walked over to the kitchen table, pulling out a chair and sitting down. "Yes, it is. Bonus points for observation, Weasley; I didn't realise you were so attentive to Harry's clothing."
Ron stared at the familiar cloth, faded from years of washing, and a frown line appeared on his forehead. "But that's his favourite shirt."
"And I'm wearing it." Draco took a sip of coffee and regarded Ron over the rim of the cup. "What's the matter? Haven't you ever worn any of your girlfriend's clothing?"
"No, of course I haven't," Ron said, horrified at the thought. "She's a girl."
Draco shook his head pityingly. "You haven't? How sad. What a boring life you must lead." Ron was saved from coming up with a reply by the sound of voices in the corridor.
Both boys' heads whipped around, staring at the kitchen door as the voices increased in volume. They were arguing.
"I don't approve." Mrs Weasley's voice was shrill as the door swung open.
"Yes, well, as much as we appreciate your opinion, Molly, we have no other choice." Professor McGonagall preceded the other woman into the room. Her red-rimmed eyes alighted on Draco, and she pursed her lips. "Mr Malfoy, if we could have a moment of your time?"
Draco laid down his coffee. "Certainly," he said. "Here?"
"May I suggest we take the discussion into the front room?" Professor Snape spoke from the shadows of the hallway.
"Indeed, Severus," McGonagall agreed, not taking her eyes from Draco. "It is a rather delicate matter. The front room, if you please, Mr Malfoy."
As Draco got to his feet, Ron blurted out, "I want to hear."
"Ronald," Mrs Weasley snapped. "Keep quiet."
"Mr Weasley," the Transfiguration professor sounded equally sharp, "if you are needed, we will call for you. This is not the time for histrionics."
Ron slumped back in the chair, folded his arms and glowered. Draco barely spared a glance in his direction as he walked to the door. It was all right for him, Ron thought. He was getting told stuff; he could swan off wearing Harry's shirt and listen to whatever–
Harry's clothes. A light went off in Ron's head. Didn't Harry say something about leaving his Invisibility Cloak with the Slytherin? And wouldn't that mean that it was…
Ron's eyes snapped to the kitchen door and the stairs beyond. He was unaware that anyone in the room had noticed the change in his expression; he didn't see the look of suspicion Draco shot him just before he followed Professor McGonagall from the room.
He was far too distracted.
"Good morning, Potter," Lucius Malfoy said brightly as he strode into the cell. "Sleep well?"
Harry was sitting back against the wall, and he turned his bruised face to Lucius. "Brilliant, thanks."
Lucius narrowed his eyes at his prisoner's level tone. Harry should have been quivering in fear, both physically and mentally traumatised by the degradation he was suffering, but instead he was alert, defiant, and a good deal more sanitary than he should have been.
The cane clicked on the floor as Lucius regarded Harry, who met his stare; neither spoke.
Feazle skittered into the cell and stood just behind his master, his large eyes focused on the floor while he awaited his master's command. With no warning, the elder Malfoy's cane whipped back and hooked forwards, catching the creature in its path and propelling him forcibly towards the wall.
With a squeal of pain, little hands met cold stone with an audible crack, and the house-elf fell to the ground, whining piteously as he cradled his right hand against his chest.
"No!" Harry struggled to his feet, all pretence of serenity gone in an instant. "Leave him alone." He wavered unsteadily but did not fall, green eyes sparking with anger as they focused on Lucius.
"How noble, Potter, to see you rise to his defence." Lucius smiled at his own joke. "But I fear Feazle has disobeyed my orders. Have you not, Feazle?" He flicked the prone house-elf with his cane, and Feazle squealed.
"No, Master, no. I not disobey any orders. Feazle is a good elf."
"Explain to me then – when I expect our guest to be wallowing in his own filth and begging for mercy – I find this." The cane spun towards Harry and the tip shoved hard into his chest, sending him staggering back against the hard stone. "This," he said again, emphasising the word with another poke of he cane, "is someone who has had assistance. He is clean."
Harry was pressed back against the wall, eyes following the cane as Lucius let it drop back to its usual place by his side.
The house-elf remained on the floor, one hand clutched to his chest, his unblinking focus trained on his master. Lucius relished the terror in the creature's expression. If only Potter could be made to display the same pitiful demeanour; how pleasing it would be to have the boy cower at his feet like a beaten dog.
Slowly, prolonging the moment, he pulled out his wand and pointed it at the house-elf. "I believe punishment is in order. Don't you agree?" he asked, not expecting or waiting for an answer. "Crucio."
As he spoke the word, Harry flung himself from the wall with another shout of admonition. He clearly intended to knock Lucius to the floor, but with the beatings and lack of food, he wasn't as steady on his feet and misjudged the distance. Instead of slamming into Lucius, he barrelled straight into the path of the curse.
He was thrown back against the wall and crashed to the floor, his body twisting violently with the force of the curse. He let out a cry of pain.
Startled, Lucius took a few moments to register what had happened, staring down at the writhing boy at his feet, watching the curse tear through his body. And then, with the abrupt realisation that his master would be displeased if he caused any permanent damage, Lucius broke off the curse. He was aware that the house-elf was sobbing uncontrollably at his feet, but he paid it no mind.
Taking a step closer to Harry, who was still shuddering on the floor with the fading effects of the Cruciatus, Lucius looked down at the sweat-streaked face of the wizarding world's most vaunted hero. "How admirable, Potter," he said scathingly. "How positively heroic." He prodded Harry with the toe of his boot, and Harry flinched away.
"May I ask what exactly you hoped to achieve?" Lucius was genuinely puzzled. "You saved a house-elf a little bit of pain, but do you not think he will punish himself all the more for your act of mercy?"
The thought had obviously not occurred to the boy for his eyes shot to the house-elf, a look of horror flashing across his pathetically easy-to-read face. He made an attempt to hide the expression, aware that Lucius was watching. The trembling in his body was easing, and he laid his head back on the cold stone, clearly too exhausted to rise.
"Whatever is the matter, Potter? Where's that defiant spirit now?"
Taking a ragged breath, Harry focused blood-shot eyes on Lucius. His voice was a strained whisper. "Fuck you."
A spike of irritation shot through the elder Malfoy at Harry's words. "You really are stupid, aren't you, boy? One would almost think you wanted to suffer."
"Better than listen'n to you talk," Harry said.
Lucius's wand was pointing at the prone form before he had time to think about what he was doing, the curse falling easily from his lips. And this time, when Harry screamed, the wand did not waver.
Harry's body whipped back and forth uncontrollably, limbs striking hard off the wall as he was thrown about the floor like a rag doll. His harsh, broken cries were like sweet music to Lucius's ears; a symphony of exquisite suffering.
With a malevolent smile, Lucius strengthened the curse, savouring the sight before him. How glorious it would be to reduce this mongrel to a babbling wreck. How would Draco feel about him then, if he was left with a creature with no more sense than a newborn baby?
Harry's screams were echoing off the damp dungeon walls, and Lucius relished every decibel. He forgot about his intention to find Draco's whereabouts, his master's desire for Harry to remain uninjured; all Lucius could see was the object of all his hatred being destroyed at his feet. And it was a glorious vision.
He did not know how long had passed - it could have been minutes, or mere seconds - but Lucius slowly became aware of the house-elf tugging violently on the sleeve of his robes, and he reluctantly looked down.
"What?" he snapped, surprised when the creature stood his ground.
"You'll kill him, Master," Feazle said loudly, trying to make himself heard over Harry's cries. "Master will be punished."
The house-elf's words took a moment to process, and then Lucius blinked once, twice, and then abruptly ended the curse. The cries snapped off, plunging the room into an eerie almost-silence, the sounds of Harry's gasping breaths seeming like a whisper after his screams.
Lucius was staring down at the house-elf, who was cringing, expecting to be punished for his temerity. "You are unfortunately correct," Lucius said, and Feazle's head lifted. "I do not, for one second, think you were concerned for my welfare, but you were correct to point out our master's wishes." Seeing a look of relief appearing on the house-elf's face, his tone chilled. "Do not think, however, that I have forgotten your transgression."
Feazle bowed low, scuttling back out of reach, muttering apologies.
Taking a calming breath, trying to regain his customary poise, Lucius looked over to Harry.
Harry was lying on his side, facing the wall, as huddled as his shackled limbs would allow. He was trembling violently, and fresh blood flowed from his wrists, wounds torn open from straining against the metal tethers.
Lucius stepped over and crouched down, pressing the bloody flesh with his finger, lips curling upwards when Harry whimpered and tried to pull away. The blood was dark and sticky, and Lucius lifted the daubed finger to his mouth, tongue flicking out to taste the coppery stain. Feeling a strange sense of satisfaction, he wiped the rest of the blood off on the remains of Harry's shirt, noticing for the first time the state it was in.
"Remove that this instant," he said, directing his words to the house-elf, pointing a finger at Harry.
After a moment of confusion, Feazle realised his master was indicating Harry's shirt and not Harry himself, and he painfully raised his unbroken hand to wave it over Harry. His right hand hung uselessly at his side.
The shreds of Harry's shirt vanished, leaving his bruised and bleeding body exposed to Lucius's sadistically appreciative stare. Harry made another sound of despair, and squeezed his eyes tightly closed.
"Now isn't that better?" Lucius said, pleased to see the boy so obviously distressed. He trailed the tip of his wand down the side of Harry's arm in a mockery of a lover's caress. "You must be used to this, surely: the honour of being touched by a Malfoy? You are, after all, Draco's pet."
The boy remained silent, still shuddering, but he was listening – and how could he not, when Lucius was deliberately leaning close and speaking softly in his ear.
"You are nothing more than a rich boy's toy; does that make you proud? Or do you still delude yourself that you are more to him than that?" Lucius laughed. "It is our fault, his mother's and mine, we are guilty of over-indulging him.
"But, no matter; I know my son, Potter. And remember, he is my son – a Malfoy to the core. Soon, when he returns to his rightful place by my side, he will find someone more worthy of his time, and you will be nothing more than a passing memory."
"No." Harry's brokenly voiced a denial, whether to himself or Lucius, Lucius could not tell.
"No? Your self-delusion is most amusing. You think yourself so important? The infamous 'Harry Potter', hero of the wizarding world? In truth, you are no more than a mongrel half-blood with an excess of luck, blundering around with your little flock of trailing sycophants."
Lucius drew back and tucked his wand in his robes. "It amazes me that you continue to value your own existence. Even your family despise you, do they not? And your so-called friends only value you for your status. Do you truly believe that you would be so popular if you were anyone other than The Boy Who Lived? That my son would have thrown his life away for a nobody?"
"S'not true," Harry said. "They are m' friends." Lucius did not fail to notice that it was not Draco that Harry mentioned.
"Really? So where are they now – these friends of yours?"
There was no response, only the sound of Harry's ragged breathing. Lucius got to his feet and wiped off his robes.
"I'll just leave you with this piece of information, Potter: I sent a communication – a ransom note, I believe you would call it – to my son yesterday, and I have yet to receive a reply. Do you still believe he cares for you? It seems he is content to leave you here with me." Lucius's lips formed the barest smile; Harry had tried to stifle the sharp inhalation, but Lucius had heard it clearly. "We shall just have to see about making your stay even more pleasant; it appears you may be here for some time."
Lucius turned, nearly kicking the house-elf, who was quivering at his heels. He looked down. "And you," he said, "will not aid this boy in any way. Do I make myself clear?"
Feazle nodded, wide eyes flicking over to Harry and back to the floor. "Yes, Master."
"Good." With one final sneering glance in Harry's direction, Lucius strode towards the door of the cell, Feazle scuttling after him. As he set off along the corridor, Lucius fancifully imagined he heard a broken sob drift after him. He smiled.
"You received this yesterday?" Draco said. "And you didn't think to give it to me then?" He was holding a large envelope in his trembling hand, his thumb pressing against an ornate wax seal.
Professor McGonagall's lips pursed at his tone, and she brusquely replied, "No, Draco, we did not. We felt it more prudent to make sure it was safe."
Draco was practically vibrating with rage, but he hid it, holding his body so tight that the tendons stood out starkly along his neck. "But you couldn't, could you? Because you discovered it wouldn't open."
"How do you know that?" she asked, and Snape, observing from the doorway, straightened.
"If you had asked me, I would have told you yesterday. This letter is charmed. This seal," a long finger pointed, "means that it can only be opened by a Malfoy." Draco lifted his chin. "It can only be opened by me."
Her shoulders sagged. "We feared as much."
Draco's tone was icy, and he stared at her with unblinking grey eyes. "Perhaps my name written on the front should have provided a further clue."
Colour tinged the professor's cheeks as she reacted to his admonishment. She was unused to students being so openly scornful, but it was clear from the pained look of guilt on her face that she felt it was deserved. "Draco, we…"
"Mr Malfoy," Snape interrupted. "Once you are quite finished chastising us for our lack of judgement, perhaps you would deign to actually open the envelope."
Draco's gaze slid over to the Potions master, and he tilted his head, feigning apology. "I'm terribly sorry, sir, but the seal will only open when a Malfoy – and only a Malfoy – is in its presence."
"And you really expect us to believe that?"
Draco raised the envelope in his hand. "I'm here, I'm holding it, touching the seal, and yet it's still closed."
Snape raised a disbelieving eyebrow but could not argue with the facts. Clearly reluctant, he turned to Professor McGonagall. "Unfortunately, he may be telling the truth."
She was horrified. "We can't leave him on his own with the thing; anything could happen when he opens it."
"That may well be," Snape said. "But unless we intend to ignore its contents – and by default, Potter's predicament – someone will have to open it. As you said yourself, there is no choice."
The older woman looked defeated, and she nodded her head. "I know." She took a weary breath and turned to Draco. "We will be right outside the door should you need us."
"Draco, you may not like it, but we are only trying to do what's best."
"What's best for you…and your cause. Not what's best for Harry."
"That's not…" She swallowed back the shrill denial and continued more evenly. "You are still a child – there is much that you do not know."
"Trust me, Professor, you couldn't begin to fathom the true depths of my knowledge. Now, I believe I have a letter of some importance to read, so if you don't mind?" He gestured to the door.
Professor McGonagall turned away, cloak swirling in a flurry of emotion as she flung the door wide and left the room.
Snape's black eyes bored into Draco. "You grow more like your father with each passing day," he said.
Draco remained silent, and the Potions master let out a small exhalation of disgust, before pivoting on his heel and following the other teacher out into the hall. He pulled the door closed behind him, making sure it slammed.
Draco stared blankly at the closed door; Snape's words hung heavily in the air.
Was this how his father felt, then? This burning rage inside at the sheer arrogance of others. How dare they keep this from him, call him a child, assume that they, in any way, knew what was best.
The edges of the seal pressed into the soft flesh of his fingers as he clutched the letter.
When he'd seen it in McGonagall's hand – the familiar penmanship, the Malfoy seal – fear had flooded through him, a deep-dark terror made real by the sight of a single letter.
He'd hidden it behind the mask of scathing anger, and even now, alone in the room, he was reluctant to let the anger go. He felt his every move was being watched. The fear would smother him given the chance, and Harry needed him sane and focused.
The thought of Harry vitalised him into action. He grabbed a wooden-backed chair from near the desk and carried it over to the door, jamming it forcefully under the handle and locking the door as effectively as he could have done with his wand. They would be forced to blast it to get it open.
Returning to the desk, he laid the envelope down and took a deep breath. There was a letter opener lying on a stand, and he picked it up, pushing the pointed tip against his thumb and puncturing the skin. Blood immediately welled from the wound, and he held the bleeding finger over the envelope, letting a single scarlet drop fall onto the wax seal.
He'd lied to the professors. The seal would open, no matter who was present: all it required was a Malfoy's blood.
As the droplet of blood hit the seal, the wax rippled like water, and the envelope very slowly began to rise into the air, the thick paper unfurling from its constricting folds.
Whilst the Weasleys, and the rest of the inferior wizarding families, had to resort to the childish simplicity of Howlers, the Malfoys had developed a more sophisticated version as a means of communication. Draco had rarely seen it used; it required an intricate amount of spell-work to create, something his father saw little need for unless he wanted to create an impression.
Draco stepped away from the desk, his eyes not leaving the envelope, unfolded now into a single sheet of parchment as it hovered in the air.
The parchment began to stretch, rippling and twisting in an invisible breeze; sharp folds started to shape the paper, making corners, lines, edges, and with each subtle origami-like crease, a face began to appear, long and disdainful and chillingly familiar.
Lucius Malfoy's visage stared at Draco from sightless white paper eyes, and yet Draco could see his father before him. It took all of his will to stand firm and wait, and not bow his head in the habitual respect he had long been trained to show.
A few last tweaking tucks and the shaping ceased, and with a surprising fluidity of movement, the paper mouth began to move.
"You are a disgrace to the name Malfoy." Lucius Malfoy's voice was icy in its disdain. "And I am ashamed to call you my son."
Draco clenched his jaw tight and tilted his chin up, staring at the image of his father in silent defiance. He would not show even an imitation of his parent how much that comment wrenched at his heart. His father's voice continued.
"But I am a forgiving man, Draco; I understand the attraction of the forbidden, the need to act on your desires. And now is the time to set aside these distractions and regain your former position within proper society. Few know of your transgression, we have kept it hidden, and although our master will not allow your treachery to go unpunished, he will, I am sure, be most appreciative of the gift we both have for him and show you leniency."
Harry, Draco thought. He was trembling, not out of fear, but from fury. How dare his father think that this was a whim, that Harry was no more than chattel to be gifted to his master.
"We have not the luxury of time for you to see sense on your own, so I have been forced to resort to a plebeian method to encourage you to return to your home, where we can discuss the issues you have in a rational fashion."
Draco snorted derisively as the parchment Lucius paused to let his words sink in.
"I suggest you make your way here quickly; with each moment that passes, my patience is tested. And I'm sure I need not remind you of the consequences of testing my patience, do I? Or perhaps you do need a little visual reminder."
The face mimicked Lucius's sneer. "Don't keep me waiting, Draco. Return home before it is too late."
With those final, chilling words, the paper features contorted, the mouth widening and spitting a piece of card onto the floor at Draco's feet before disintegrating into a million dusty fragments that scattered across the surface of the desk.
Draco stared at the remnants of the parchment, his heart thud-thudding painfully in his chest as he let his gaze fall on the card at his feet; it was a photo, he realised, lying face down, and very slowly he reached down and picked it up.
The air shifted around him, creating swirling eddies in the papery dust. Draco's fingers tightened on the photograph, and he stood, barely breathing, dreading what he would see.
He looked down at the innocuous piece of card, and almost of their own accord, his fingers turned it over and he saw the picture.
Dark and barely lit, he recognised the Malfoy dungeons at once, but that was a subconscious recognition, his grey eyes were trained on the face of boy in the photograph: Harry, bereft of glasses and eyes closed, bloody and bruised, his hair gripped tight in an elegant hand as his head was lifted and held to face the camera like a trophy on display. The hand abruptly released its hold, and Harry's head fell hard against the cement floor. Draco hissed. And then the hand was back, twisting in Harry's hair and lifting again as the image continued on its unending cycle.
It was simple, direct, and had Lucius Malfoy been standing in the room, Draco would have thrust his fist into his father's face and kept pounding until there was nothing left to distinguish him as a Malfoy but his blood-streaked blond hair.
He crossed to the desk and laid the photo on it, placing both hands on the dusty surface and keeping his head bowed. Taking slow steady breaths, eyes staring at the repeating image, he tried to marshal his thoughts
"You can take the cloak off, Weasley," he said tightly, not lifting his head. "I know you're there."
There was a tense silence in the room behind him, and he pushed away from the desk and turned around, focusing on an empty space a few feet away. "Next time make sure the cloak is actually covering your feet."
There was a rustle of sound, a brief flash of trouser leg above the visible pair of battered trainers, and then a muffled, "Oh, bloody hell."
The cloak lifted to reveal a red-faced Ron Weasley. The red head gathered the cloak into his arms, and looked shamefacedly at Draco. "When did you…?"
"Give me some credit, Weasley. You came into the room when Snape and McGonagall left. Your stench was instantly apparent."
Weasley scowled, and Draco turned back to the photo suddenly tired of the bickering; he had no stomach for it.
Weasley came over to his side, looking down at the photo of Harry. "Harry…mate," he said painfully, swallowing heavily. "What the hell are we going to do?"
Draco let out a breath and then said firmly, "Obviously, we're going to go to the Manor and rescue him."