With thanks to my beta, Poseida Lunar.
The planet ended in a wild tempest.
Nearly everybody died.
He roamed the empty, hallowed halls of his school, the mighty castle of Hogwarts with its stone turrets and strong battlements. His footsteps echoed upon abandoned stones, his eyes gazed upon the upturned desks and the scattered chairs. Students had learned in these rooms, walked down these halls, lived in these dormitories. He brushed his fingertips against cold stones as he walked up the stairs. He noticed how they dipped in the middle from years of endurance, from years of students stepping upon them. Thousands and thousands of beautiful, happy, eager people. All the children growing into fine young witches and wizards, prepared and proud to walk from these hallowed halls of learning and knowledge.
And yet two nights ago they had not walked prepared and proud. They had fled, screaming and bleeding, stumbling, abandoning each other in their last panicky flight. Others had turned and fought viciously, the snarl of death upon their faces. Draco had been one of the ones who had fled into the dark seething night. The sky had not been speckled with stars but a deep heaving orange-grey. It thickened like a toxic stew, soaking up the magic from the earth and air.
Draco remembered his last moments in Hogwarts. He had ran from empty dorm to empty dorm, finding them all abandoned. Every Slytherin was gone. He had shouted useless names down silent halls and into bare rooms. He had stumbled into his favourite professor's classroom. He didn't know why. He knew it would be empty, bereft of any human face or welcoming voice. But into it he fled anyway, and hearing the cries draw closer he had searched wildly for a weapon, flinging open desk drawers and raiding the potion stores. Dried bat claws, powdered nightshade, gillyweed, unicorn horn, bezoars. Nothing he could possibly use against an enemy. He heard a scream, something falling heavily against the classroom door, and stood with his heart pounding for ten minutes. When no more noises could be heard he fled into the castle and then out into the night. The vials clinked wildly in his pockets, blood throbbing in his ears, his throat burning.
At first he thought his throat was burning from the cold air but he had a strangely chemical taste in his mouth, a metallic tang like blood. His skin tingled. Somebody started screaming, not a short ear-piercing burst like the others but a drawn-out wail. It was the sound of a bell's final toll, the sound of death. Draco looked up.
A single burning, blindingly-bright bolt sizzled through the lashing sky. Pure magic.
The tempest had begun, the magic unleashed. A low boom rumbled the sky like thunder, except it got louder and louder until the earth shuddered beneath Draco's feet. He began running as the lightning struck, as fire rained from the sky. He remembered following people, running towards something-
Water. It sloshed unexpectedly around his knees then rapidly raised to his thighs, his abdomen, his chest.
The great lake.
It too swirled angrily, reflecting the furious sky above it, but it felt cool and refreshing to his touch. Draco stood for a moment, gasping for air and yet receiving none. It took him a moment to realise that all oxygen was being sucked up by the magic. Without further ado he dived in to the cool, dark depths.
His robe billowed out behind him like a ship's sail, vials floating out of the pockets and away into the darkness of the lake. Draco grabbed at them. Deadly Nightshade. Powdered Unicorn Horn. The ink melted away in the water. His godfather's cursive handwriting faded into nothing.
Draco became aware of a burning in his lungs, of black spots dancing before his eyes. And yet he did not want to return to the land, to the wild storm and wicked bloodthirstiness above. He wanted to float forever in this dark quiet world. He imagined he was floating in a little bubble, high above the world, drifting alone through the endless universe and all its cold, icy stars...
But his right hand, as though his brain seemed not to be operating it, reached for the phial of Gillyweed and uncorked it, forcing it into his mouth.
He wanted to live.
Gills formed and water rushed in like air. Draco breathed easy for a while, floating through his own private universe. And after a while, when the gills finally melted back into his skin and he drew deep lungfuls of painful water, he bobbed towards the surface of the lake like a lost cork.
It was silent when he emerged, dripping and dry-eyed. The water streamed from his hair, his hands and his cloak. Bodies floated on the top of the lake; students who, like him, had ran for the sanctity of the lake but had been forced to either emerge and suffocate or drown themselves.
He didn't look at the bodies, at the white waxy hands and dark straggles of hair. Instead he continued up the banks of the lake.
The sky had settled, darkened, run out of magic to throw at the world. The earth was scorched beneath Draco's feet. The Forbidden Forest was a wreckage of blackened stumps. Charred corpses of centaurs and unicorns littered the ground. Draco remembered thinking it was unlucky to kill a unicorn. Was the world unlucky? Was humanity cursed?
Fires burned here and there but rain now speckled the burned earth, increasing slowly to a steady downpour and Draco knew it was over. The sky had exhausted itself. And so he returned to Hogwarts to roam the empty halls and the abandoned classrooms. Somebody's bag lay open, parchment, quills and joke items spilling over the stones. Draco picked up something and stared at it blankly. A prefect badge.
He allowed it to fall away from his hands. It cluttered noisily, echoing around the empty school.
He flew on his Nimbus 2001 after he found it still safe in his dormitory. He flew home to Wiltshire. He didn't look down much at the patchwork of ruins beneath him. Sometimes he closed his eyes and pretended he was just chasing an eternal snitch, flying not towards darkness but towards a beautiful summer sky, a pale blue morning washed clean, a waiting canvas for Draco to paint his day upon.
But he had to open his eyes again to see the wrecked world, the charred reality. Wiltshire was blackened too, like all the other counties Draco had seen on his journey. The manor still stood, the west wing collapsed. Draco gazed at it, unable to comprehend the reality of his situation. His beloved home, standing strong and steady throughout the generations of Malfoys, grand and untouchable. And now half destroyed by fire.
He landed gracefully despite the shock, despite the dull ache in his body and heart. The wards still stood; he could feel them, thin and weak but still there.
Draco walked into the grand entrance and up the beautiful marble staircase. Ashy footprints marked his trail.
He didn't call his parents' names. He didn't need to.
He walked the corridors. The portraits were silent, their frames empty. No movement or sound. He walked alone through the rooms and halls. Some were destroyed by the wild fire, ravaged to nothing but pitted floors and blackened rafters. Some were perfect and pristine. In the breakfast room the table was beautifully polished, the curtains tied back prettily. A pot of honey congealed on the table, a knife balanced across the top of it delicately.
Draco left the room after examining the newspaper lying open on the table:
"New Breakthroughs In Magic Will Save Us!" Claims Ministry.
He walked slowly up the staircase to the final top floor of the west wing, past his parents' bedroom. He imagined how they had died at the Battle. Holding onto each other, standing together as they waited for the world to end.
In a fire, you can only save what you can carry. His father's voice echoed softly in his ear and Draco shook away the tatters of memories.
He opened his bedroom door. His room had remained exactly the way he had left it. Upon one wall, a Puddlemere United poster slowly uncurled from the wall. The curtains had been left open but Draco did not go to the window, did not gaze upon the stars and pretty moon. Instead he walked in a dreamlike trance to his bed and collapsed upon it, feeling the soft cotton against his face, the familiar smell. He buried deep into the covers, cocooning himself into the soft memories of his childhood, forgetting it all and falling into a deep slumber.
It is the first of June. Today marks the one month anniversary since the Battle of Hogwarts. It is also the first day of summer. Today the roses should start to bloom, the orchard should be heavy with fruit. In the hothouse, Mother's olive tree should have produced a magnificent harvest. I wish you were here to try some. You should see the orchids too, they're beautiful. So bright and pretty...
The sound of a quill scratching on parchment was the only noise in the entire room. In the morning light the solitary boy sat at his desk. Sunbeams illuminated his blonde hair, warmed his pallid skin. His hand moved across the parchment, swift and sure.
...think it's your birthday in three weeks, I'm sorry, you know how terrible I am with dates...what would you like? A silver necklace? A first edition of your favourite book? An autographed Weird Sisters record? Anything just to see you smile. Just to see you.
He had now spent one month living in the manor. In the morning he would have honey and bread; there was enough food in the pantries to last at least three months if he used nonperishable spells. He would clean the rooms, rearrange the furniture, practice the piano. Sometimes he went out for a walk before dinner. After supper he would practice spells, pretty spells. He would watch, mesmerised, as a ribbon flowed from the end of his wand and danced in the air. Defence spells did not interest him anymore. There were no enemies. Just him and the world.
It's my birthday in four days, Pansy. I'm not sure what I want. A hug would be nice. Even a smile. Maybe just to hear your voice. That'd be nice. I'd like that. You wouldn't have to say much. Just my name, if you want.
Once a week, every week, he'd faithfully and unfailingly write a letter to Pansy. Whenever they were apart it had been a habit. Once a week. Every Monday.
I'd better go now, Pansy, but I'll write again. Soon as Maximus returns.
The boy signed off without flourish or ado and folded the letter briskly, putting it into an envelope and carefully placing the hot wax seal upon. He left it to dry on the sill for a few moments before placing it in the desk drawer. The drawer was already overflowing with waiting missives, waiting for a bird that would never fly again.
After two months at the manor it suddenly occurred to Draco that he could go anywhere. He could stay anywhere, live anywhere.
You can only save what you can carry.
He took his wand, the Potions phials he had rescued three months ago and a photograph of his parents. He took it from their wedding album, easing it out past the plastic. They looked so young and radiant. The back of it was unmarked but Draco added in his careful script:
Lucius & Narcissa Malfoy
14th August, 1979
He carefully placed the items into the shirt pocket just above his heart and left.