This is your punishment. The short, sharp pain, the vague stinging that lingers, the thin line of blood, rising to the surface. This is your punishment, and you'll keep doing it until every trace of guilt, regret and self-hate have been bleed out.
You let the blood run over the sides of your arm; you'll clean it later, because no one is allowed to know. This is your punishment, and it is private. They will not understand, and they have no right to intrude. This is something you have to do; this is the only way to cleanse your soul.
Your gaze moves to the scars. You've collected a few now, in the fours months since that night, in the four months of this. Of the seemingly endless cycle of blood, relief, then the return of those feelings. They're not overly visible, the scars, because you don't want someone to notice them if your sleeve rolls up or something. They have no right to see the marks of your punishment. So you don't cut very deep; just enough to bleed, enough to release.
The faint lines are neat, almost perfectly parallel, because you've always been a bit of a perfectionist, and your punishment is important to you. It has to be perfect, it has to be neat and clean, because you'll never be clean otherwise.
You know a bit of dittany, a spell or two, would erase those scars. Or fade them beyond noticeable. Hadn't Madam Promfrey faded the marks from Potter's spell, when he'd slashed your face and chest? Those scars are only visible if you get really close to the mirror. But you need these marks, the evidence that you've punished yourself, and you've tried to rid your heart of the guilt, the shame, the hate.
Because you feel guilty for everything you did. Feel ashamed of that damn mark, faint yet clear on your other arm. And hate yourself for what you've done, for who you are.
You slide the blade across your skin again, knowing that you're running out of space on this arm. Four months of doing this, at least once a week, took their space. No problem. You'd move onto the other arm. You'd punish yourself until you didn't feel like this.
With the blood still fresh on your pale skin, you clean the knife, careful to erase every trace of blood. The knife has to be clean; you can't punish yourself with a dirty tool. Then you carefully clean the blood from your arm, and scan the floor for stray drops. You find one, and you're careful to remove it. Then you strip, and step into the shower.
The other boys in your dorm will be annoyed again. They hate it when you shower, because you spend so long in the bathroom. But you have to be clean; have to wash every night to wash away the past.
Not for the first time, as you wash your hair you wonder if coming back was a good idea. Sure, your N.E.W.Ts are important, and it'll be hard enough to find a job with your past anyway, but you're sick of the whispers, the people pointing at you.
He was a Death Eater.
You-Know-Who lived in his house, you know.
He tortured people.
Probably killed some, too. Why've they let him back in here?
But leaving now would be like letting them win. So you finish your shower, dry yourself, and dress. Pjs, because it's late and you may as well go straight to bed. And a robe, because the t-shirt you sleep in doesn't cover your arms.
You exit the bath room, your knife in your hand, hidden from the other boys, who barely look up. You put it away, carefully, then climb silently into bed.
You're not really tired, but you fall asleep eventually. Then you wake, too warm, and don't want to fall back asleep. Another nightmare.
You get back out of bed; it's almost three in the morning. You leave the dormitory. But the common room is a reminder of your past, of who you are, and you hate who you are, remember?
And so you exit, out into the dungeons. Cold, but they call you cold, too, don't they? Surely you shouldn't feel the temperature, not when your own heart is frozen over.
Where are you walking? You haven't picked a place, have you? You want to get out of the dungeons, but after that, where? The room of requirement, maybe? But remember that year, when you pretty much lived there? Remember what you did? And remember that night, the fire in there?
No, that room holds too many memories.
You end up sitting down on a staircase, because why not? Why not just sit here till sunrise, alone with your thoughts?
"Oh." The sound is soft, surprised, and followed by someone clearing their throat. You look up, and see him stood there, at the bottom on the stairs. You shift over slightly to let him pass; he avoids your gaze and ascends them.
"Are you - ah, OK?" He asks when he nears you. The awkwardness is overly evident, and even though you're not "OK", you nod. He nods too, and takes another step. Then another. And another, and he's passed you.
"What've you done to your arm?" He asks suddenly from behind you, sounding surprised. You jump, look down and realise you never pulled on your robe. That was stupid. You turn your arm to hide the marks; but too late, he's walking back down the couple of steps to you.
"What've you done?" He repeats.
"Nothing. Go away." You reply, trying to sound cold and in charge, but aware you sound childish, almost afraid.
He grabs your arm, twists it, and his eyes widen at the marks. You jerk your arm away and glare at him. "You shouldn't do that." He says quietly.
"Well I do. Don't start preaching, I don't care what you think." You say harshly. You should get up and walk away, but that's like giving in, and you won't do that. You're stronger now, remember?
"I have to do it." You murmur, then realise you spoke, horrified. "Forget it. Go away."
"Why do you have to do it?" He asks quietly, and you turn your head to look at him. Your eyes meet, and for a moment there's some kind of connection. He's never looked at you like that before, sympathetic, worried. He looks almost as if you're friends.
"Punishment." You whisper it, the word escaping despite your best attempts to stop it. You're still looking into his eyes.
"You don't need to punish yourself." He tells you.
"You don't understand. You can't. I'll stop when I'm ready." You tell him, and he nods, probably because he knows he won't be able to stop you.
He's looking at you, into your eyes, your soul, and you wonder if he's thinking you've changed. If he knows your not the confident, arrogant boy he always hated, but you're withdrawn, damaged. You've wondered, late at night, if you lost a piece of yourself in the war. And now, here, trying to do your stupid N.E.W.Ts, to do homework and study, it all seems to pointless, so mundane, it doesn't fit into your life, your past, your despair.
"You don't need to punish yourself anymore, though." He murmurs. "You...Remorse is enough. Believe me. Let it go."
"I can't." You whisper. "Not yet."
He seems to be searching your eyes for something, and then he nods.
"You...you'll be OK, right?" He asked, and you nodded.
You're a Malfoy, after all, your mother's little prince, and you'll get through this. You'll heal, and the scars will remain, to remind you that you're clean, your soul is as pure as you can make it. You'll know everything's fine, that your punishment is over.
He briefly touches your arm, then stands. "Bye, then."
"Bye." You murmur, and hear him walk slowly up the stairs. He pauses at the top and you know he looks back at you.
"Night." You call, with a half smile twisting your mouth.
"Goodnight." And then he walks away. You've connected, you think wryly. You and Harry Potter had the closest to a heart-to-heart you'll ever have, and somehow you feel much better for it.
And even though you know neither of you will ever speak of what just happened, that he'll never reveal your secret, and you know you'll never be friends, at all, and you know your punishment will continue for a little while longer, you know that you really will be OK, you really will heal, and you'll get through all this. Even if you never will be completely whole again.