When it's all over, Draco goes to the seaside.

He sits on the dock.

He's paler than shells.

He's paler than foam.

He's paler than driftwood.

Sand makes him feel small, dirty, helpless.

As he swims the veins stand out in his arms.

The veins are perfect blue.

--

And when that's done with, when he's washed the sand off, when he's gone through his mirror rituals, when he's combed his hair flat in front of his eyes, eaten his breakfast, written mummy a letter, peeled an orange, tossed out an orange, three steps to the door, three steps back, sucking a paper cut, dreaming of genocide, and he's hoped, thought, remembered, half sketched those faces in his mind, trembling amygdala, dark horse knight, yes, when it's all done with and Draco's not sorry at all, well,

that's when he goes to the Burrow.

--

It's half a house now, with the kitchen wall crumbling in.

Furniture's been dragged out, and all those Weasley portraits and artifiacts mostly sold, or salvaged by survivors. Draco was present on the day it was destroyed, and he returns to the scene of the crime with what appears to be no shame at all. Yes. He simply walks right in, ignoring the broken frame of a door, steps over a shattered doll's head, and there he is.

Hard to imagine anyone ever lived here at all. He kicks at some fallen bricks, laughs, and stares up into the shell of the second story. The bedrooms are empty. The objects inside them were most desirable of all: old toys, photographs, bedsheets, pillows, secrets. Etcetera, etcetera. If Draco's home were ever to be torn apart like some Christmas cracker, he knows that's where the wolves would head first: his quarters. But those have a green velvet theme, and the Weasleys', well...

Most of their bedrooms are lacking doors now. Wallpaper torn to shreds. Funny dark stains in funny cobweb corners. Sort of rotting wood floors. Moldy curtains. But there is magic here, still; years and years of wizards living and love being made and babies being born and Potters being Potters. Draco can almost feel sorry when he thinks of all that magic and how it will sit here, like dust, until it fades away: completely useless, just like most of the people who once used the stairs he is now climbing.

For there is one door, one door that is intact and closed. He doesn't remember it from last time, when he came with Pansy; actually, he doesn't remember there being a bedroom there at all. So he's got to investigate, of course. It's so very hard to be afraid in a place that he helped tear down.

Sometimes with bare fists.

--

But anyway.

Vacation has been dull.

There's nothing to do.

He makes a sand castle.

He kicks at waves.

Unbuttons his shirt.

Buttons it back.

Ice cream gets him feeling funny.

--

And if he could take back last year, he'd be head boy. He'd be fucking head boy, they'd have to make him head boy if they knew what was good for them. Carrows, all that. He'd be head boy, and he'd do anything he fucking liked. He'd make the girls scream, make the boys envious, and he'd grow his hair sort of longish and win the Quidditch games like it was his fucking job. Outlaw any mention of Potter. If you said even the first syllable, pot, or something about hair, or fucking anything about weasles, he'd be on you. He'd sic the Carrows on you, fuck yes. And he'd reassemble the old Slytherin team, and force everyone back to school, and it would be the same as always. With alternations. Slight, slight alterations, because Draco's not unrealistic. The most he could get away with is the Potter thing, cos his father's all about that, and saying fuck five times before mum tut-tuts.

Yes.

Fuck doesn't sound right coming out of Draco's mouth, anyway. He'd really like to be the sort of guy who says fuck, fuck yeah, fuck me, fuck you Harry -- but it's just not to be. He tried thousands of times at school, but then, there's the truth: he's just a sissy boy who likes poetry, that crinkle smell of old books, and the only reason he could make fun of Granger so well is because he's sort of like her, too. If she weren't ugly, or pathetic, or if she could get her fucking hair in order. (There -- six times!)

It was horrifying then, and amusing now she's dead: sometimes in class Draco said things only the mudblood reacted to, little jokes. She'd look at him funny before running off or calling her boyfriend(s) like a little fucking pansy.

Oh. Like a pansy, how funny. And there's seven!

Words, words, and when there are too many words it's time to take a walk. Time to reconsider.

--

When the knob won't turn, Draco lets out a harsh breath. He takes out his wand. After a few minutes he's waving his arms, yelling at the door, and as a second thought nearly breaks his shoulder against it. Nothing. Nothing moves. It hurts. It makes his eyes sting. Third try and it makes him sit, slump against the wall he's so frustrated. There's a clicking sound, but he's busy thinking. He decides to wait.

--

Late night.

In his hotel room Draco vomits into a trashcan.

He lies on the bed.

He strokes his chest, his stomach.

Puts a cold washcloth on his face.

He really ought to eat.

He hasn't been sleeping.

It's too difficult.

--

That one time with Harry, with the sectumsempra, that was a mistake, what did all of you think, he's crazy, he was crazy all that year, everyone knew he was crazy and nobody did a thing, Draco was never to blame, anyway not like Harry had anyone breathing down his neck, not like Harry had orders, Harry made it all up himself, Harry is mental, Harry is a psychopath, anyone could tell you, anyone from Slytherin house, maybe the smarter Gryffindors, everyone knew he was losing it there, and then he lost it and now Draco's got a scar like some kind of fault, a great fault in the earth, and it's always like it was his fault but really it was Harry's.

Always.

And doesn't that make him sick inside? Ugh. What's hardest is when, at the end of the day, he realises how much of his life has been because of Potter -- how many things he's said, which led to actions, led to a reputation, led to what father assumed he'd grown up to be. How much of Draco is inborn, how much his roots? How much is Lucius? How much is Harry?

Break it down like this.

Scowling is a definitive Malfoy trait.

Scowling at mudbloods is what Draco was taught; unfortunately it's not something he's ever questioned, as peoples' reactions are just too priceless.

But scowling for no reason, all alone? Scowling at the Quidditch pitch because there is no red and gold? Scowling when Potter is too emotional to stay in class and continue whining? That's fate doing a bunk. That's sick. And Draco scowls for Harry, he's all salt and vinegar for Harry, but then he's got no choice -- it's what the people want, and it's what they're going to get. And it's not like he didn't try to be nice, once or twice; he really did, with his best manners. He made an attempt to save Harry from becoming what he became in the end. The fact that it was because Lucius asked him to means nothing.

And now, Harry is unreachable. Tragic, yes, go and cry about it. Then again...

Mental boys deserve everything they get, when they let themselves go. Everyone is already mental enough -- true off-your-rocker can be hidden if you're good at it. So yes: when you're caught, that's abysmal. Really. That's failure. Draco knows enough about rejection, about doing things wrong; and you wouldn't want to feel like him. You really wouldn't want to. But Harry never came close to that kind of pain, did he? Never fell in love, never had to beg for attention, never got the table scraps. Never had a father to live up to, really.

Though... it's very true, Potter was at the end of his heroic rope. As far as Draco knows, actually, Harry was crazy forever. His whole life. Absolutely nutters. He was crazy when the Burrow was destroyed and he's crazy out in the wilds somewhere now: running from the ministry, being a jackass, doing the things he's always done best. And it's really not a surprise to anyone, considering. Potter looks for alienation. He asks for it.

--

When he gets up again, Draco tries the door a last time.

It slides open as though through molassses; he has to brace against it with his aching shoulder and press, press with all his willowy might. After a minute of effort it's over. He's in the room.

Then: he sucks in a breath. White lashes gleam with salt or tears, his body feels faint. He throws up again, but there's nothing in his stomach: it's all hurt. It's just, it's all, it will be hurt. Forever. And he never imagined death to be familiar, like something he's known all his life -- like a tune he just hummed or heard someone humming, something so mundane he couldn't be bothered to notice the difference.

See, Draco always knows the difference.

The wand in his face wavers, and the fingers holding it twitch. There's a cough, then a sigh. "Oh, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm actually really tired of hurting people." Silence. "Even people like you, I guess."

But Draco doesn't say anything.

--

His hair goes coarse.

His skin burns like paper.

Face peeling.

He bites itching lips.

Sand chafes his knees.

There's no spell to fix weak genes.

Bred to be a creature of indoor pursuits.

--

Draco doesn't like Quidditch because his father paid for all those lessons, or because it's been in the family for years. There are so many Malfoy traditions it makes him sick sometimes, sick to know that so many of his habits are probably just theirs, little boy do this do that; and he gets so furious at the portraits when they nod as he chooses an outfit, laces his boots up tight.

Just as I would have done! So many traditions it makes his sugar head spin. And mummy's family is worse, even, in that none of their traditions make sense: like why Bella is what she is, and why he knows nothing about his other aunt. And mummy is such a pretty woman, too, she's so much more openminded than father -- but when he takes a step back, she's just as awful. Just as wonderful. He loves her desperately, he can't help it. And she adores Pansy, too, about as much as it's possible to adore a girl like that. Merlin knows he doesn't; but tradition, oh, tradition can't keep its hands off her.

No, Draco doesn't like Quidditch for any reasons except his own, and his reasons have nothing to do with pompous old men or pug faces. He likes Quidditch because it's translatable. Because on the field, he understands girls. They're players, like him, with the same rules. He understands Potter, who is really looking for the same thing. And for an hour, two hours, he understands himself: streaking way too quickly through the sky, just asking to be killed.

What a pretty death he'd make, too -- white as a canvas.

And he stays up late reading about strategy and maintenance and fitness and history, but really all he'd like to know is why he's starting to hate himself. It's only the end of fifth year when he realises that that's not what it is -- it's not himself, just what he's doing. And he doesn't hate his father, either, though for a few weeks he avoids owling. Lucius is sanity: he's every step, so methodical. He never forgets anything. He'd protect his family to the death. He wants the best for Narcissa and Draco, that's all it is.

Yes. Really.

--

A few hours later.

Boys sit together by a window, one pensive and the other holding his aching head.

"I'm not going to tell you something like I'm sorry or we should have been friends. If that's what you want, I'm leaving."

Brows raise. "I'd never want something like that from you."

"So why are we sitting here? Are you waiting for me to say something cruel about Granger? I could, you know. Or any of the Weasleys, if you'd prefer."

"Say whatever you want. I just... I want to feel alive again, that's all -- like someone cares."

He scoffs. "I care, you know. I care very much that you're alive. "

"You wouldn't kill me, though."

"I was sort of hoping you'd do the honors. I could watch."

Then Harry Potter laughs. "Right, right."

"So what's it feel like, with all of your friends dead? Nice and lonely?"

"I don't know."

"Doesn't matter what you know, not anymore, I suppose. You're not anyone's hero. You're nothing."

"Yeah."

Then it begins.

--

When it's all over, Draco goes to the seaside.

He swims until he forgets how.

He is shells.

He is foam.

He is driftwood.

And he takes a deep breath.