Author: Meltha

Author: Meltha

Rating: PG at this point, but likely to rise

Feedback: Yes, thank you.

Spoilers: Currently, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Again, this will rise.

Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and . If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary: Draco's journey to Hogwarts will being soon, but first he is confronted with a few shocking facts.

Disclaimer: All characters are created by J. K. Rowling, a wonderful writer whose works I greatly enjoy. I have borrowed them for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

Shadowed Life

Part 1: Revelations

Draco Malfoy was not a nice boy. Few people would care to argue the opposite, and those few wouldn't have believed it themselves. From the age of four, he had learned the none-too-subtle art of getting his own way, whether it be by threatening the house elves of the Malfoy estate or via a resoundingly loud temper tantrum. One of his earliest memories was of clocking Dobby over the head with a sofa cushion when he was not permitted to fly his toy broomstick near a Muggle village a few miles from home. He was more spoiled than an egg left in the sun for six months straight, he knew it, and he enjoyed it. After all, he had been raised to believe he was better than anyone else around him with the exception of his father and mother, and of course the ever-present shadow of the Dark Lord, though he was sometimes unsure if he even believed he existed. Lord Voldemort seemed like a fairytale monster to him, one of the dangerous ones that lurked in the corners of dim, forgotten passages that only incredibly stupid people would try to enter, but he was relatively safe to people who supported him, provided that they were never idiotic enough to cross him. In any case, it didn't concern him.

On this particular summer afternoon, Draco stood before the mirrored wardrobe in his bedroom, checking his reflection from all angles. He would be having dinner with his father this evening, quite a rare occurrence. Lucius Malfoy was an imposing figure, and Draco didn't like to feel over-shadowed as a rule. But in his father's case, he was particularly wary of being imperfect. Lucius's sharp eyes tended to find any fault present with alarming speed, dismissing as worthless anything or anyone who didn't live up to his extremely lofty ideals. For reasons Draco didn't care to think too deeply about, he wanted to meet those goals.

His mother, Narcissa, was another matter. She was, of course, perfect. His father would never have married her otherwise. She was impeccably beautiful, perfectly well bred, from an ancient and pure family, and utterly aristocratic. But there was something about her that was lacking in his father. She smiled at Draco sometimes, a real smile filled with genuine affection. His father had never looked at him that way, and Draco knew he never would. It was the reason he worshipped his mother, though he was never obvious about it. Others might look at her and see a cold marble statue that was a touch too perfect for its own good, but to him, she was his mother, and that was enough.

With a sigh, he carefully straightened the hem of his dress robes, removing one stray piece of lint as he did so. He looked at his reflection critically in the mirror. He was a black figure against a background of silver and deep green extravagance. His room had been decorated in the colors of Slytherin since before his birth. It was expected that he would be admitted to that house. His expression clouded for a moment. In a few short days he would know for certain if he was going to uphold that family tradition. If he didn't… well, he would, and that was all there was to it. His features returned to their carefully schooled, impassive smugness.

"Perfection," he said decidedly.

"Indeed, Master Malfoy, sir," came a squeaky voice from behind him.

"What is it, Dobby? I didn't send for you," he said, a trace of irritation in his voice.

"Please, young sir, your father is wanting you to come downstairs for dinner now. He asks you to remember that he does not like to be kept waiting," the house-elf said, crouching in an effort to be as servile as possible.

"You may tell him I will be down directly," Draco said, checking his shoes one last time for any spots.

"Very good, Master," Dobby said, then sped away as fast as his short legs could carry him, which was really quite surprisingly fast.

Tonight was no ordinary dinner. In a little over a month he would be on the Hogwarts Express, heading off to school for the first time. Up to now, he had been schooled exclusively by tutors. No Malfoy was going to study with other children until it was absolutely necessary. If he had made an error, it would have become known, and the family name would suffer as a result, or so his father had told him. As a result, Draco had never actually been in the company of other boys his own age. The thought of being around other young wizards and witches was delightful to him, but at the same time, he couldn't help feeling nervous, a most decidedly un-Malfoy-like emotion. He didn't want to make a fool of himself, and he had little practice in dealing with others.

By this time, Draco had stalled as long as he could, and with a sigh, he swept out of the room in as close an imitation of his father's trademark imperial stride that his eleven-year-old legs could manage, intent upon making his way to the dining room before his father became truly angry. The hallway was dimly lit by hovering candles, as always. A carpet of green so dark it may as well have been black muffled his footsteps, making him feel almost like a ghost. When he reached the broad, curved stone steps that descended to the mansion's lower level, the clatter of his booted feet on the hard surface was almost painfully loud, and he winced, realizing he still hadn't mastered the trick of moving with predatory silence.

Another several chambers, each as dimly lit as the last, opulent yet cheerless, and he was standing at the opening to the dining room. He paused outside the door to straighten his robes once more, then nodded brusquely to a house-elf who was almost completely obscured in the folds of velvet drapery that hung from the door frame.

"Master Draco Malfoy," announced the piping voice, and he walked into the room.

"Good evening, Draco," his mother said, and while her voice was collected enough, her usually flawless skin showed signs of dark circles beneath her eyes. She obviously hadn't slept well. She was also wearing a dress of stunning silver satin, one he had always thought looked particularly wonderful on her.

"Good evening, Mother," he said politely, approaching her chair, bowing, and then kissing her cheek.

"Draco," came a voice from the other end of the exceptionally long dining table. His father sounded almost bored—almost, but not quite. Draco knew the tone well enough to realize there was a slight undercurrent of malice present. Obviously, he'd kept his father waiting just a bit too long.

"Good evening, Father," he said, bowing again and then taking his place at one of the long sides of the table between his parents. "I'm sorry for the delay, but one of the house elves hadn't polished my shoes properly. I didn't want to appear slovenly."

It was a complete lie, but in the Malfoy household the ability to lie smoothly was a virtue.

"Is that so?" his father said, tilting his head and half-closing his eyes. "Which one?"

"Oh, they all look the same to me," Draco said off-handedly. In truth, as much as he protested that he didn't really care what happened to the house elves, he knew that if he provided a name, undoubtedly the elf in question would be given a particularly terrible punishment with his father's current mood, and the idea of that gave him an uncomfortable feeling. "I can't tell one from another even yet."

His father nodded in elegant agreement, then clapped twice quite loudly, signaling dinner was to be served.

"I do hope your tardiness has not spoiled the food," his father said as he placed a jacquard silk napkin across his lap.

House elves quickly appeared, carrying silver trays heaped with mounds of fresh salad, steaming bowls of tomato soup, and then a roast with potatoes and carrots, Draco's favorite. He stole a quick glance at his mother as it was brought to the table, and she graced him with one of her rare smiles for a brief moment. He knew she was the one who had thought to order his favorite prepared, but he said nothing about it. Through all this no one spoke, and the clattering of utensils against china was the only sound to be heard. However, partway through his roast, Lucius broke the silence.

"I have a few words of advice for you," he said. "I know that you will do your best to live up to the family reputation at Hogwarts. Personally, I would rather that you had gone to Durmstrang than fall under the auspices of Dumbledore, but…"

He paused and glanced at his wife, who returned his gaze.

"Well, what's done is done. In any case, there is no doubt that you will be put into Slytherin. Should any other outcome happen from the Sorting, you are to let us know immediately by post, and you will be removed from the school forthwith. Is that understood?" he asked, fixing a look on him.

"Yes, Father," he replied, slicing a potato in half with his fork.

"Good," he said. "Your companions have already been arranged. Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe will be in your year and will almost certainly be placed in your house. They are both of fine, old, pureblood families, of course, and their fathers are…"

He paused, and a look was exchanged between Lucius and his wife.

"…friends of mine. I believe you will find them to be very accommodating."

Draco couldn't help it. He stared at his father, a piece of meat dripping from the fork that was halfway to his mouth. "You've picked my friends for me?"

Lucius glared at him quietly. "You do not want to mix with the wrong sort, Draco, and you've had no chance for practice in that regard."

"But what if I can't stand them!" he said, his voice rising.

"Draco, control your tone," his mother snapped quickly. "Your father knows what it is best."

For a moment, Draco considered a full-blown tantrum, but decided that it wasn't the best time.

"Yes, Mother. I apologize," he said, averting his eyes from either of them.

"Harry Potter is rumored to be in your year," Lucius continued. "Undoubtedly, he has been secreted away in a wizarding household since the incident with the Dark Lord, and he most likely has great power. Power is a very important thing, Draco, as you will come to understand. Do not make an enemy of that boy, but it is best not to place one's trust in anyone who may cause problems in the years ahead. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Father," he said.

"Good. Now, there is one other matter I wish to discuss with you," he said as a house-elf took his plate away while another quickly replaced it with a chocolate soufflé.

"Lucius," said Narcissa from the other end of the table, her voice suggesting extreme displeasure, "this may not be the right time. He's really quite young."

Lucius regarded her coolly for a moment, but then sniffed in a way that meant he had come to his own decision on the matter; "We spoke of this earlier, and it's been decided."

She glared at him but didn't press the point further.

"As I was saying, Draco, there will be another highly important contact you will be making at Hogwarts. Another student who has been admitted this year is Miss Pansy Parkinson," Lucius said.

"Who's she?" Draco asked, not particularly curious.

"Your betrothed," his father said.

Draco blinked.

"My what?" he asked, his jaw falling open.

"Your marriage within a pureblood line was arranged within a few months of your birth," Lucius said. "It's the usual method within the elite circles. There are so few candidates left with the proper credentials that these matters are best handled as quickly as possible."

"Are you telling me I'm engaged?!" Draco said, nearly choking.

"In a manner of speaking, yes," Lucius said smoothly, "and you have been since you were six months old."

"Who the bloody hell is Petunia Parkinstein?" Draco spat.

"Draco!" his mother said in irritation. "I realized this is a shock to you, but please watch your vocabulary!"

"I just found out I'm getting married off to some girl I've never heard of before. I think I'm taking it fairly well!" he said loudly.

"Draco!" his father said, his voice rising, and that was enough to snap Draco back into himself.

"Yes, Father," he said, though it was far from in the most obedient tone.

"Pansy Parkinson," Lucius said, pronouncing the words particularly distinctly, "is from one of the most illustrious families in Europe. Her ancestry can be traced back to ancient Rome, and her family's fortune is very impressive."

"What does she look like?" he asked apprehensively.

"I've no idea," Lucius said, dabbing his mouth with his napkin. "I assume she will be acceptable."

"You don't know?" Draco said, horrified. "Does she know about this?"

"Her parents are telling her this evening," Narcissa said. "I would rather have allowed the two of you to meet first and become acquainted, but your father disagreed. I'm sure she's just as stunned as you are."

"Yeah, but look what she's getting," Draco said quite seriously. "She won't have anything to complain about, but how do I know she doesn't look like a cross between a flobberworm and a garden gnome?"

"If there is anything severely wrong with her, then the agreement will become void," Lucius said icily. "Otherwise, you have the peace of mind of knowing that your future is entirely taken care of."

A biting remark was on the tip of Draco's tongue, but his father looked so entirely at the end of his patience that he decided now was not the best time to press the subject further.

"Yes, Father," he said.

"You needn't worry, Draco," Lucius replied as he stood to leave the table. "After all, this is how your mother and I were brought together, and our marriage has turned out splendidly, I should say. I will be away on business for a few weeks beginning tomorrow, so this will be the last time I see you before your departure. You will comport yourself with the dignity of a Malfoy."

Draco remained in dumbfounded silence as his parents left the room together, leaving him alone with half a plate of chocolate soufflé and a whirlpool of thoughts.

"Dobby!" he yelled a few moments later.

"Yes, sir," the house-elf said, appearing at his side. Though Draco would never admit it, Dobby was actually his favorite.

"I'm going for a walk. I need some air," he said and threw his napkin on the floor.

"It is very dark tonight," Dobby said.

"I don't care," he sighed. "Just be sure the lamps in the rose garden are lit."