You stare at the paper with muted, far-off horror. You've frozen in place, a cup raised half-way to your lips. The Hall seems suddenly miles away and all you can hear, taste, feel, see is the headline. Colour flees from the tunnel of your gaze; you feel removed, deadened, and the school and its inhabitants seem non-existent. You simply cannot comprehend that there can be any normalcy left in the world, because your world has just collapsed and how can the world be normal if it has collapsed?
Lucius Malfoy Dead: Wife's Suicide Follows
Wife's. Your mother had always only been a follower to the world, a fragile, mindless, porcelain china doll that does what it's told and is incapable of its own thoughts; thus is not deserving of nothing other than the word that encompasses all that: wife. What would you be, then? Property?
Malfoy's Found Dead: All Property Disposed Of
So that's what you vow to do. Get disposed of.
They were your parents, you scream inside your head. Your lips are too numb to move. It isn't fair, it can't be fair – this, this isn't just. It can't be just. The only thing your mother was guilty of was loving too much. She loved your father too much. She loved you too much. And now, she couldn't love anymore. Those – those bastards had taken her biggest love away, her husband and now – separated – they had both fallen.
You wonder how your father died. He had no soul, anymore; he could only just sit in his cell, a painted doll without the glittering eyes. Just dull, glassy, fragile. You wonder if maybe they had forgotten to feed him. Had he withered away to nothing? Had his body slowly eaten itself out, until he was all ribs and gaunt and death was a gift? Or had a disease ripped through him, seizing his chest quickly, stopping his heart where it laid in his body. Maybe the food had been poisoned, rancid. Perhaps a lone enemy with a vendetta against his father or the Malfoy's in their entirety, had ended his life. Maybe it was more than one – a huge group each taking turns to slide knives into pale skin, ripping and tearing, taking turns to pound metal boots into unresponsive ribs until they cracked, gushing blood from blue lips, cheekbones shattering, lungs collapsing, veins and arteries spewing forth their precious cargo of crimson liquid so that it spattered on walls and cloaked all the enemies in the crimson liquid, and his father was lying there, broken, until one last stomp of metal boots landed on his head, squishing it like a grape between two fingers, blood and blue-white matter weeping from the wound --
NO! You cannot think on this anymore. It would destroy you – forever, make you go mad and do something you'd regret.
NO! You cannot do this to yourself, you will destroy everything they have made for you…
NO! You must, you must, it is time, and like so clear the water of the rain pounding on the castle roof, you know what you must do.
NO! You will be betraying all their work! Hermione, Ron, Harry, they had saved you from yourself –
NO! You will do this. You will not be saved again.
You race away from the prying eyes of the Great Hall, who even now have read their own morning papers, and were staring with narrowed eyes at you, to predict your reaction from the news. You have one goal and one goal in mind: you will die today, and meet your parents in death. Your life isn't worth living anymore.
You wanted to find a way to save him, to bring his soul back. But now his body is dead, and you have failed like ever before. It's all you'll ever be – a failure. This was the last time you failed your father, because this next act will not be failing. Really, you think it will be the only thing of any substance you've ever done with your life. You won't be a coward, this time. You'll get to the top of the Astronomy Tower and cast yourself away from the rungs, and then you will be free. Finally, that sweet embrace of death will be yours.
Hell or not, even nightmares are better than life.
Why hadn't They killed you when they still could? Why had Ron Weasley found you, to take you away from your peace? If you had drowned then, from the injuries, or never woken in the hospital, you would have been spared this knowledge of your family's death. It wasn't fair!
Or really, was it? All the things you've done, deserving of fates worse than death.
The realization settles on you like ice and you brace your face and run faster to your doom.
This was your punishment. To see your family gone, forever. This was why you hadn't died all those times before. This was your punishment. This was what you had been waiting for, in order to pass the veil.
Then it was your fault your parents were dead. The Fates had joined together to assure your punishment was done. If only you hadn't been deserving of every rotten thing you'd come across, if only you hadn't been cruel, if only you hadn't been pure evil wrapped in a silk façade, that even now was unraveling, sallow, pale, fading to nothing. Then your parents wouldn't have been killed to teach you a lesson. For your punishment to be inescapable.
It was all your fault.
Everything bad to ever happen to your parents – it was all your fault.
Even in death, you doubt you could escape that truth. But you hoped you would.
Or would their hating faces lie beyond the veil? Were you doomed to endure their voiceless accusations until the end of time? It would destroy you, you know. But it is none less than you deserved.
You break open the door to the highest tower of Hogwarts like a demon out of hell and you do not slow down as you speed toward the rail. If anything, you approach it faster, so fast you couldn't just be running, you must be flying and then you are – over the railing, flying for such a brief second that for just that second, all of it might have been worth it – and then you're falling, falling to your death, and you sit in death's embrace happily – until the pain hits.
Your arms are jerked from their sockets, your stomach ending up somewhere in your toes. Worst of all is the burn around your throat, cutting into you, suffocating you, and then you are wrenched upwards, so quickly – funny, you'd always thought you'd be wrenched down – and then you open eyes that you had clenched shut, and see you are still flying over the Hogwarts lands, not dead, not splat, but you are motionless save for the wrenching upwards by your cloak around your neck.
You're pulled over the railing, into arms like steel around your chest. The body behind you is breathing heavily, shuddering with fear and anger and distress. You hear an erratic heart pounding beneath your head and you feel it in time to the pounding in your own head. You have no energy left to move.
The body behind you shifts, making your head loll back on his shoulder with a solid thud. Your eyes are open, but you cannot see anything through the grey. Not even the striking green of his eyes, which you know would be there. Just – nothing. Everything is grey.
Something hot and cold is dripping down your neck, and with a sudden shock you realize it is your blood. Your cloak had ripped at you so suddenly from Harry's grab that it had cut into your flesh. If only it had cut deeper.
The haze of grey is slowly turning black. Your eyes list. Your mind is disconnected from your body.
Then Harry murmurs a spell and you are wrenched back to yourself, colour in full detail like the moment you woke in the Infirmary. It is staggering and you gasp.
You see just enough of Harry's hand to wince before his palm strikes your cheek in a cold, clear slap of pain.
"What were you thinking, Draco?"
You know. You don't answer.
"Did you honestly think that killing yourself would help you?!"
But you didn't kill yourself. You're still alive. Still! you ask the Fates. Still! Still you have not made up for your pitiful excuse for a life. You're a failure again. You can't even kill yourself properly.
"Don't think that!" Harry yells at you. His voice is fire, his arms remain steel.
You're too exhausted to move your head to look him in the eyes. You try to move your own gaze, but they cannot reach far enough. You wonder what he meant.
"You're not a bloody failure, Draco!"
You freeze up, your body tense.
Harry sighs, and the resistance leaves his body. He leans back on a wall. "I'm sorry, Draco. I know your thoughts. I know all of your thoughts."
You stop breathing.
"You were dying that day, after that asshole Smith got through with you. You died in my arms, Draco. You died. Hermione knew a spell – it would bind our minds together, a bit, give you some life from me. It's only temporary – Hermione created it herself, just a few months ago. When you were strong enough to survive by yourself, it would wear off. It did. I didn't let the mind connection, go, though. I'm sorry. I should have the moment you woke up, but I could hear your thoughts, so confused, I could feel your fear and trepidation and I wanted that to stop. I got Hermione and Ron to agree to watch out for you. They had no problem with it. We didn't want to see you die again, Draco. We didn't want to let you punish yourself anymore. We didn't want to see you waste away to nothing again."
"No, we didn't."
You start. Your mind is so caught up in Harry's words you never noticed Hermione and Ron sneak in through the open door. They're both flushed. They must not have known where you went and raced everywhere to find you. Your eyes linger on Ron, who is smiling crookedly, worry hidden beneath that smile. Then you look at Hermione, and she has tears running down her cheeks, even as strong as she is.
You're so, so sorry. She's crying because of you. Even now, you still hurt people, even when you don't intend to. You're just that hopeless.
"You're not hopeless," Harry murmurs into your hair. Hermione locks eyes with Harry. He speaks again, "He wants you."
You flinch. You hadn't been thinking that, had you? Maybe Harry knew your thoughts better than you did. Was that possible? How –
Hermione's face breaks a little more and she falls to her knees by your side. Tenderly, she pulls you away from Harry into a hug. You are stiff in her hands, not knowing what is happening!
"Let go," she breaths to you. "Just let go."
It's hard. But you do.
You sob into her robes, your fists clenching in the fabric. You cry harder than you ever have all before in your life. You feel everything letting go. Your guilt, your cowardice, your feeling of failing. All that exists, suddenly, is you and three others, all crying, sitting in a huddle on the highest tower of Hogwarts.
Crying because the past is unchangeable, because justice is never quite what it should be. Because suddenly they know they will never be the same.
You are changing. So are they.
You blink, rubbing your eyes, pulling your face away from soaked material. You look at each of their faces, smiling sadly, strongly. You feel yourself smiling with them.
Because even at the corner of your vision, at the farthest reach of your mind, there is no grey.