Disclaimer: Not Mine
Author's notes: Originally written for aoifene's cancelled Seven Deadly Sins Angst collection. The prompt I chose was Envy. Thanks to aoifene, weasleywench and nocturnali for their unwavering support and encouragement. And thank you yo groolover for the beta on this chapter.
The title is a line from Dante's The Divine Comedy: Purgatory, Canto XIII. Translated by The Rev. H. F. Cary, M.A.
Finally finished it! I make no apologies for Draco's condition. I know some of you will hate it, but the whole idea behind writing the story was to write angst about the deadly sin of Envy. Dante's punishment for Envy was to lose one's eyes - blindness in this case. And in the end, blindness is not the worst thing that could happen to a person.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this last chapter.
Somewhere in the haze of pain, Draco heard voices. They seemed to be speaking quietly, though he could tell by their tone they were tense. Not that he could understand a word they were saying past the pounding in his head.
So he supposed he wasn't dead then, unless he'd taken Pansy with him, because he did recognise hers as one of the voices. Hospital must be the only other alternative.
How…? Everything came rushing back in a flood of memories and with them came the fear: the very real fear that Nott had carried out his threat. He was sure he must have whimpered or made some sort of noise as the voices moved closer and became excited. The only word he could make out though was his name. The only voice he recognised was Pansy's.
As he concentrated on trying to will the pain in his head away, a louder, much more strident male voice dominated.
'Everyone move away from the bed while I do some tests!'
Draco tried to open his eyes, but felt a pressure over them that he assumed was a bandage of some sort. He opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the male voice he'd just heard.
'Mr. Malfoy. You are in St. Mungo's after an attack on your person. Do you remember what happened?'
Draco nodded, then grimaced at the added pain this caused..
'Good. Are you in any pain?'
Draco nodded once more.
'All right, we'll get you something for that. I have to tell you that there is extensive damage to your eyes. Please don't try and remove the bandages.' The voice was assertive and yet held compassion. He assumed the man was a Healer. Draco felt like he needed to cry.
Strong arms helped him to sit up, and for a moment the pain in his head made him so dizzy that he gripped onto the arms tightly. The support remained until he felt more stable and released them. A cup was held to his lips and he was instructed to drink. He did so, tasting familiar pain relief potion. After a few moments the pain receded enough that he could think more clearly.
Then he smelled her perfume and almost broke down. 'Mother,' he called, reaching out in front of him like a plea. A soft rustle and then she was there, squeezing his hand for all she was worth.
'Oh, Draco,' she whispered, and took Draco into her arms where he clung, curling up into her like he had as a child when he'd been afraid of the dark.
'I'm all right, now,' he said, trying to console her. She rocked him, murmuring softly into his hair, and he could feel the trembling in her arms as they held him tight, her heart beating rapidly under his ear.
'He's going to need a lot of care while he adjusts to not having his sight,' the Healer said.
Draco heard Pansy gasp in the background. 'There's nothing…?' her voice strained.
'Not with this curse. I'm so very sorry. I wish there was more we could do. We've managed to keep the scarring to a minimum, but…' The Healer sounded defeated.
Pansy sniffled in the corner and his mother tightened her arms around him.
Draco had no idea how to feel; the whole idea of being blind seemed too unbelievable to be true. Surely when they removed the bandages he'd open his eyes and be able to see as normal. Nott wasn't powerful enough that he'd be able to permanently blind him.
He opened his mouth to say just that, but realised that he didn't know how he'd ended up in St. Mungo's. He asked that instead.
'Harry found you,' his mother said. 'He arrived too late to prevent the attack but he bound Theo and then brought you here.'
'Where is he?' Draco asked, disentangling himself from his mother's arms. The slight hope that Harry was still here and had maybe forgiven him was dashed in the silence that followed his question.
After several more moments, Draco sighed. 'I see. Well, no I don't actually, do I?' Bitter helplessness rose in his throat. 'I'm tired. I want to sleep now. Would you all leave me alone?'
'I said, leave me alone.' His voice rose, desperate for them to just go. 'I don't want your help, I don't want your pity, I don't want to even speak to you, Pansy. Just, please, leave me alone!'
He heard Pansy sniffle again as she left, and his mother placed a soft kiss on his head before giving him a final squeeze and letting him go. 'I'll come back later, then,' she said softly. Draco nodded.
'I'm sorry, mother, I love you but I need to be alone.'
'I understand.' Draco could hear the sadness in her tone and he cringed and wondered if she would sound like that every time she spoke to him for the rest of his life.
When she left, the Healer came to stand beside him. Draco had almost forgotten he was still in the room.
'This is a big shock to you, I understand that. I've done all the tests I can do at the moment and, apart from the loss of your eyesight and some slight scarring around them, you have several bruises around your face, which will heal with no additional scarring. Other than that, you're perfectly healthy, so you can go home tomorrow probably, after we determine that there are no other side effects of the curse.'
Draco nodded, appreciating the straightforward explanation of his condition.
'I'll be back later to check on you.'
Draco nodded again. 'Thank you.'
As soon as Draco heard the door close, he curled up on his bed and wept, desolate. Harry had saved him – again – but still wanted nothing to do with him. Part of him wished Harry had just left him to his fate. Maybe Nott should have finished the job after all.
Draco inhaled. It smelled like home at least. The thought of being somewhere safe again revived him a little until he realised that this haven would become his prison.
'Master Draco, you is home!' Pippy squeaked. It was lucky Draco had paused at the door because Pippy flung himself at Draco's legs and clung tightly. Had Draco been walking still, he would have tripped and been brought to ground.
'Get off me,' he snapped at the creature, reining in most of his temper because, oddly enough, he held some fondness for the house-elf.
His mother still held tightly to his arm as if to guide him, and Draco hated that he needed assistance to move around in his own home.
'Sorry, Master. Pippy is so happy to have Master Draco back home again. Pippy is taking very good care of Master now he is home.'
'Yes, Pippy, thank you.' His mother's voice was terse and worried. Draco wasn't sure what she had to worry about. She could see. He realised with regret that it was an uncharitable thought and added it to the pile of despairing thoughts he was accumulating. 'We'll take tea in the –'
'I'd rather go to my room,' Draco interrupted.
'I don't want to talk about it,' he said. 'I just want to be on my own.'
'Sooner or later you're going to have to talk about it,' his mother insisted.
'Ignoring the problem won't make it go away, Draco, we need to make adjustments. You'll need–'
'I don't need anything!' Draco yelled, agitated and desperately wanting to just get away.
'You may be blind, Draco but you will mind your manners when addressing me. There is no excuse for rudeness.'
Draco sighed. 'You're right, I apologise. You make whatever adjustments you need to and I'll fit in with your wishes.' He may as well; he had no control over what happened any more. Without his sight he would never be independent; never need to not rely on someone to assist him. 'Pippy, lead me to my room, please.'
Draco held out an arm and after a short silence, he felt a tiny hand take his timidly. 'This way, Master Draco.'
His mother sighed as he followed Pippy, listening carefully to the instructions about stairs and corners. When they reached his room and Draco found his bed, he lay down, quite determined to never rise again.
The next morning – well he assumed it was morning; he could smell toast and coffee in the room – someone banged on his door.
'Go away,' he yelled, pulling the covers over his head, although why he bothered he had no idea; it made no difference to the light, seeing as he couldn't see light or dark.
'You have to come downstairs and deal with this! There are reporters camped on the front lawns all waiting for some statement from you.'
'Get Pansy to do it; she's supposed to be my manager.'
The door opened and his mother entered the room. 'They want to see you, Draco, and know that you're all right.'
'Well, I'm not going out there. You think I want people to see me like this? Why can't they just all leave me alone?'
'There's a lot of people concerned about you. We've received hundreds of letters and cards all wishing you well. People love you and they want to know that you're all right.'
Draco felt her sit down on the edge of his bed. The covers were withdrawn from over his head and a cool hand brushed his hair back from his face. He leant into her touch, grateful.
'I want my privacy, I don't want to be gawked at like some kind of freak.'
'You can't stay in here forever.' Her voice was soft, full of love, and Draco knew she was right, but he couldn't face anyone. Not yet. And he definitely wasn't going to face reporters and assorted hangers-on. Not any time soon. Probably never. Pity was an emotion he'd never dealt with well.
'Living your life in here is not living, Draco,' she replied sternly.
'I know, but there's nothing for me out there, anyway.'
'I'm disappointed in you, Draco,' he heard her say, sadness in her tone. 'Everything you had before is still there for you, you only have to make some adjustments and it can still all be yours.'
It wasn't true. Harry wasn't there, and Draco thought that hurt more than being blind.
'Pippy! I want a shower!'
A week of lying in bed feeling sorry for himself had allowed Draco plenty of time to think about his situation. He'd had visits from his mother and Blaise, but he'd refused to see Pansy. He knew he shouldn't blame her but he couldn't help feeling resentment towards her. Neither Blaise nor his mother had mentioned the smell of an unwashed Draco, even though he could smell himself, but they had tried to make him get up.
He'd ignored them, preferring to wallow in memories of things he'd never see again. He'd never see Harry's crooked smile, never be able to read every emotion expressed clearly in Harry's face, never be able to see the love shining in his eyes, never again be able to see that curious blend of pain and ecstasy on Harry's face as he came.
After several days, Draco realised that even had he not been blind he'd still never see those things again as he'd lost Harry anyway.
Pippy had been helpful: assisting him to the toilet and bringing him his meals, placing the tray just so and explaining what sort of food there was and where each dish was placed. Draco had eaten desultorily at first but then noticed how much he could tell just by using his other senses. Most of the food Pippy brought had a smell and that told him how to eat it. He also noticed the texture of the food in his mouth and the taste of it more.
He began to wonder how much else he could discern just by paying attention. Every time someone walked into his room, he knew who it was from their smell and the sound of their walk. His mother's perfume gave her away, but also the swish of her robes.
He still wore something covering his eyes, as the last time he'd tried to go without, he'd spent so long blinking, instinctively thinking that surely the next time he blinked his sight would come back, that he had tears streaming down his face in frustration. Better not to tempt his brain into thinking that would happen again.
But now after a week, the inactivity was making him restless. Nothing was going to bring Harry back and nothing was going to be able to make him see again, and possibly it was about time he resigned himself to this and started to find out what he could do, instead of fixating on what he couldn't.
After showering and feeling rather pleased with himself that he only suffered the sting of shampoo in his eyes the once and even managed to dress himself after Pippy laid out his clothes, Draco sat on the edge of his bed and took a deep breath.
'Right, Pippy, you'll have to help me learn my bedroom. I want you to tell me where everything is and we'll work out how many steps away things are.'
Draco could practically feel the house-elf bouncing. 'Pippy is helping Master Draco! Pippy can be helping master Draco by putting cushioning spells on Master's furniture.'
Draco frowned. 'I don't want the house having to be cushioned in case I bump into everything. Is there something you can do on me instead, like a proximity charm that will let me know when I am too close to an obstacle?' For the other thing that Draco regretted was the loss of the ability to perform many of the spells he'd always taken for granted. Most needed to be aimed at something specific and Draco had no point of reference. In time he would try and relearn how to use magic differently. One thing at a time, though.
'Oh, yes, Master is very clever! Pippy can be doing that.'
'That will do, Pippy.'
Over the next several weeks, Draco learned the entire Manor. He made many mistakes and often ended up in the study rather than the dining room, and once nearly fell down the stairs when he miscounted the steps but, overall, he felt rather proud of himself for being able to move relatively freely around his own home.
He knew his mother was pleased by his change of attitude; her bright voice and pleasure at seeing him making an effort were evident.
There were still times when his despair got the better of him; times when he thought he could smell Harry, for instance. Those times reopened the wound in his heart; leaving it gaping and making him lash out at everyone around him. He was never proud of his behaviour at those times, but pushed that guilt aside; he had too many other important things to feel guilty about.
He was still hounded by reporters looking for a story on Draco Malfoy and what he was doing with his time now. Draco refused all interviews and invitations, saying that he'd prefer his privacy. Eventually they dwindled down to one or two a week. Draco almost laughed at how he would have hated that only months ago. Now he was merely grateful.
Pansy began visiting again. After a few tense meetings, she flung herself into his arms and begged him to forgive her. By then he'd already worked through his issues with her, accepting finally that it had not been her fault, even though he'd have liked to blame someone other than himself.
'There's nothing to forgive, Pans,' he said as he held her close, feeling her trembling and smelling her perfume. 'I should never have done the spell in the first place.'
'But I still feel responsible,' she said, pulling away and taking hold of his hands.
Draco shook his head and gave her a smile. 'Don't. What's done is done and there's not much I can do about it.'
'What will you do now?'
Draco shrugged. 'I'm not sure. I'm still working out what I can do. I've only just worked out how to get around the Manor without Pippy or mother holding my hand. It will be a long time before I start thinking of doing something with my life. Tell me about what you've been up to?'
She pulled him over to a seat and he sat down beside her. 'I left Markus,' she said.
Draco smiled. 'Really? How did that go?'
'Not as badly as I'd feared. He was very decent in the end and settled a large sum of money on me so I wouldn't be without anything.'
'Good. I'm glad.'
Pansy squeezed his hand. 'Now I can marry you and we can have a million Malfoy babies,' she said and Draco found it hard to understand the tone in her voice. He wondered if she was serious. He'd often said in the past that he'd have married her, and it had been true then because he loved her as a friend and wanted her happy. Now…now he knew what real love felt like and he wouldn't consign her to that. Or himself for that matter. And if she was offering out of pity, well, that was an even stronger reason not to do it.
He decided to assume she was joking and he chuckled. 'You and my mother living under the same roof? I don't think so.'
Pansy went still next to him; he could feel the tension in her body. 'Are you saying you don't want to marry me?'
'Pansy,' he started. 'Why would you even want to marry me? You'd be swapping one loveless marriage for another.'
'So all the times you said you'd have married me were all just lies?' Her voice was becoming hard and he knew it was a prelude to her letting her temper get the better of her.
'No! But circumstances are different now.'
'Why? I'm still me, and you're still Draco.'
'But I'm blind, Pansy, and–'
'I don't care about that!' She raised her voice over Draco's.
'–and I am in love with someone else.'
Pansy dropped his hand with a sound of disgust and he felt her stand and heard her pacing the room. 'Bloody Potter. Well, where is he now, then? Where was he while you were recovering? He's not bloody here, is he? And he's not coming back.'
'He might,' Draco said in a small voice, not even realising he still held out some hope of Harry returning until he voiced it.
Pansy snorted. 'Don't hold out too much hope, Draco. He refused all attempts to speak to me when I contacted him and tried to get him to come back. And he's been seen out with the Weasley girl again.'
The unexpected pain in his chest at that news made Draco gasp. He really should have expected it, though. Harry would want his life to return to how it was prior to the spell.
Everything was returning to how it was before the spell. Perhaps it was returning to how it should always have been. Harry hated him, the public had all but forgotten all about him, letting him slide back into anonymity…he supposed that as long as people didn't curse or spit on him when – if – he went out then that was a bonus.
Still, he felt like a knife had been shoved between his ribs and he placed his hand over his heart as if he expected there to be a real wound there. He was almost surprised when there wasn't; just his heart thumping heavily under his hand.
'I hope he's happy,' Draco managed to whisper, though it cost him every ounce of strength to push the words past his lips.
'He's an arse,' Pansy snapped. 'He should be here with you. If he hadn't been so pig-headed as to leave you in the first place you wouldn't be in this position.'
'Wait.' Draco was confused. 'You're confusing me. One minute you feel responsible for my blindness, the next you want to marry me and then you're blaming Harry for all this? Make your mind up, woman, it's hard enough being blind let alone having to decipher your moods as well.'
'Oh…' Pansy flung herself down onto the chair again in disgust. 'I'm bloody annoyed with Potter. I want you to be happy, that's all, and I figured if it couldn't be with Potter then we would make a great team. But I see you're still madly in love with the prick and so I'm mad at him all over again.'
Dear, dear Pansy. Draco smiled.
'I can't fix anything, Draco,' she said and he could hear the tears in her voice.
'You don't need to fix a thing,' he said and reached in her direction. She fell against his side and he wrapped his arms around her while she cried. 'We'll be all right, I promise.'
And he was all right. As well as could be expected, in any case. Pippy's proximity charms worked well, though he barely needed them these days. After his discussion with Pansy, he'd decided to find out ways he could take on running the family estates once more. His mother was still seeing her friend Hortin, though they spent a lot more time at the Manor to keep Draco company than he'd like. Draco liked Hortin well enough, but his mother needed to go out and leave Draco to be independent as possible.
These days he had a good excuse for escaping their company: the estate books needed to be constantly updated and letters written and orders given… Draco had found a voice he liked to listen to and charmed the books to read themselves out loud, and used a properly charmed quill to write down his words. He found the work relaxing while making him feel productive and able to contribute something.
He rarely went out; the stress of being in a strange place, and the disorientation he felt at not being able to give himself a point of reference unnerved him too much. Pansy's, Blaise's and occasionally a trip to Gringott's to speak directly to the goblins were the extent of Draco's ventures outside the Manor.
Oddly enough, as time went on he became content with his life to a certain extent. He had family and friends who loved him – and he really understood that now and vowed never ever to again take that for granted. Apart from his eyesight he was fit and healthy; he had no money worries and didn't live in fear of attack any longer. The fact that he'd lost Harry left a huge crushing hole in his heart every time he thought about it, so he tried not to think about it much. He only partially succeeded.
When it was all said and done, though, life was good.
He knew it was Harry the moment he stepped into the study. He wasn't sure why, really, as the cologne was different, but he just knew. The movement of the person was like no regular visitor to the Manor and no stranger would be allowed near Draco without being announced.
'Harry?' Draco's heart stuttered and then began to beat faster.
'Why are you here?'
'May I sit down?' Draco could hear the smile in his voice and could imagine the look on his face. He nodded.
'A while, I know.'
'Seven months, one week and three days,' Draco said, frowning.
'Of course I do. I remember everything,' Harry replied softly.
Draco remained silent; knowing that if he opened his mouth he'd stuff something up again. Whatever this was – one last meeting before cutting off all contact for good, or the start of something resembling a friendship again – Draco wasn't going to do or say anything to ruin that.
'I tried to go back to the way it was before. Tried to get my life back again. I hated you for a while, you know?'
Draco nodded, heart in his mouth. 'I can understand that.' His voice hurt his throat as it forced its way past the lump.
'And I realised that if I could hate you then I wasn't affected by the spell anyway.' Draco heard him sigh. He wanted to feel Harry's strong, safe arms around him again. How he had ached with loneliness after Harry had left. And it had never gone away, no matter how satisfying the rest of his life had become.
'So what does that mean?'
'And then nothing felt right about my old life any more,' Harry continued. 'I wasn't the same person any more and I didn't fit into that life. I'd gone and fallen in love with someone else and even while I hated you I still loved you more than anything.'
Draco gave a tired smile. 'I always said I'd not make things easy for you.'
'It's certainly not been that,' Harry replied, a short laugh suddenly cementing the inevitability of Harry coming home to him.
'Have you come home to me, then?'
A simple touch to the side of his face was his answer. He could imagine how those strong brown hands looked settling gently but surely against the side of his face. He wished he could see them for himself. Just once more.
'Tea?' It was the only thing he could say without bursting into tears of relief. Of happiness.
As snow fell quietly outside, they talked and drank their tea. Draco acquiesced to Earl Grey for once as it was Harry's favourite, and Harry rewarded him by running his fingers over Draco's knuckles.
Draco could feel the tension sliding out from between his ribs, leaving behind an expanding feeling of well-being, a balm that soothed the scars on his soul.
The crushing sense of loss that had pervaded every hint of happiness since he'd been plunged into darkness became less so. Here and now, faced with the force of Harry's love and the certainty of all his tomorrows, Draco knew that he'd be okay. That whatsoever he had lost in the journey to getting here was well worth what it had gained him.
It was something after all.