A/N: Love to reviewers
This is a companion piece to 'Glitter, sort of.
The phrase 'worthless coin' came from Joe Hill, and the reference to carrying all the night's darkness a very minor homage to Stephen King's "Salem's Lot".
The idea that a person might make an intense emotional connection while reading is also not mine—no idea to whom it belongs. Likewise 'negative capability'.
The reference to being "The son of Fortune" is from the play Oedipus Rex.
On bad nights Draco remembers all of it. He wakes in his bed and reaches for his wand first thing, casts a quick lumos and lies shivering, damp with sweat. On these nights he is glad to be alone, glad no one sees him this way. He wraps himself in the blankets, buries his head in his pillow and does not weep. He is beyond weeping ; this pain is too old and too familiar, like the phantom ache of an amputated limb or the low sour throb of an abscessed tooth.
He cannot bring himself to crawl into bed with his wife, no matter how tempting the thought of warmth against his skin is; and it is. Tempting. Nor will he go to his children and hold them as they sleep, no matter the sweetness of a drowsing little body curled into him, trusting him, safe in the knowledge they are loved.
No, these are nights for solitude. When sleep does not come he rises, shoves his feet into his slippers and dons a dressing gown. Malfoy manor is still and cold, smelling faintly of flowers and cooked food, fire and herbs and wine. He glides down the hall, feeling open to the world and perhaps it to him.
It is these nights he debates taking the children and his wife and going. Going where? Nowhere, because there is nowhere to hide, no rock that will give him shelter. His mind pounds against the futility of things, the way life has closed about him. In the daylight he will pretend it was all a dream, and his wife will look knowingly across the table and say nothing.
For now he will walk and hold within himself all the great darkness of that night and every night since. Inevitably he ends in his study and sits at the desk. There is a pitcher of cold water and he drinks deep of it, unwilling to risk alcohol in his current frame of mind.
He curses Potter as he drinks the icy water, as regularly as a clock and with as much emotion. "Damn you, you bastard. Damn your eyes." Is it Potter he's addressing now? His mind squirms from the thought with long practice, unwilling to parse too much his own thoughts.
The funny thing is, he thought it an honor at the time. He had been so young, too young to understand that honors have a way of turning on us and becoming our prisons, our tormentors, our shrouds. Especially those given by the Dark Lord; if Draco knew who Judas was, he would probably raise a sardonic glass to him, the patron saint of broken promises and worthless coin.
Kneeling in the frigid air, his Mark burning his arm, he'd thought himself blessed, chosen, the mirror of Potter and his better. Even his mother's pinched and bloodless face had not dissuaded him, not then. Not until much later, when he'd held his son and realized exactly what it was he'd been asked to do.
When Draco was fourteen, he'd been poking about in the library one rainy summer day and found a book. He had a bad habit of skimming and did it now, his eyes falling on a phrase in the text. "I am a son of fortune; I cannot be disgraced." He'd closed the book but kept the line in his secret heart.
The line had occurred to him as he knelt there, flushing his face with pride and expectation. He rose with purpose and the monumental arrogance of youth, hiding the trembling in his knees with a swagger. It would be a long time yet before the stagger was knocked out of him, but when it was he was no child, and he'd understood the stakes they played for at last.
It is perhaps a mercy that often we do not see the critical junctures of life for what they are when we face them. Looking back, it seems to us, with benefit of hindsight, that there was no choice when one comes to where it cuts to the bones, the place that is the difference between insomnia and the sleep of the just.
Because of that, Draco perceives that whole year as an example of Doing What One Must, distasteful as that is sometimes. For all his doubt, for all his fear and half conscious self loathing on nights like this, there is never a time when he looks down the long avenue of the years between then and now, between the whey faced boy and the man of almost forty, and sees a point where it might have gone differently.
That too is a mercy. In the years in between he has done things which defy description. He had seen, has ordered, has perpetrated, acts of vilest debauch and unimaginable cruelty, and if he has followed his orders like a good little soldier, then the fact he takes no pleasure in them redeems him somewhat, does it not?
And he can be kind. He has never, for instance, told his wife the hideous truths which slumber uneasily in his brain. When they first married it was little in him to be careful with her; his rage was that of a spoiled, ill used child and he cut her with it to have company in his despair.
With time and experience he sees how much worse it could have been, and the knowledge gentles him as much as he can be gentled. Her despair has never really gone away; he feels the slight cringe when he touches her, the sighs as she falls asleep. He will never ask what drives her to it, any more than he will tell her of his own pain. Some things are understood.
Draco has come to know the value of silence. That first night he was brutal, and if he does not apologize, he strives hard never to repeat it. In return she does not question. This is her greatest quality and the thing that finally caused him to develop a degree of love for her; Hermione's negative capability, her calm acceptance of the mysteries of life which are without answer.
This is, he believes, the message of the dreams of the tower. Dumbledore at his mercy and his mad aunt at his side, wand raised, Greyback's foul breath tainting the air. In the dream he tries to summon the nerve to move, the screw up the hate and malice needed to cast an Avada, and finds he cannot.
Dumbledore's voice is calm and soothing, without reproach. How much easier it might be if the old man had rages, curses Draco's parents, calls him a coward and a traitor. And he would be right. Draco cannot find it in himself to strike, cannot summon that final drop of venom that will mark the twilight of his decline, the one that started years before, perhaps before he was born.
Was there ever a moment when it could have been stopped? Draco takes a huge draught of whiskey and considers as he swallows. Even as a boy he knew he would be great; knew he hated muggles and mudbloods; knew he loved Mummy and Daddy more than absolutely anyone.
These thoughts flash through his mind in the second before the flash of green light from Snape's wand hits Dumbledore's chest, killing him. In his study twenty years after the fact, Draco laughs aloud. In a way, he owes the Dark Lord for starting him on that path ( Did he start him? Or just finish what had been started? No answer springs from his mind but then, Draco did not expect one.)
That was the night Draco learned to hate. He could not cast the Avada because he did not hate enough, did not fester with the diseased resentment needed to put a bolt of death light in the chest of an old man.
The Headmaster had fallen like a great boneless doll, and then Greyback's filthy hands on his arm, half carrying him down the stairs and Bellatrix's cackles and howls. His thought were a tarry whirl of confusion, but under it all he feels the slow and patient burning of something new.
After they arrived at the manor his aunt has slapped him. Hard, across the face, and sworn at him vilely until Narcissa arrived to shoo her off. She said nothing, only swallowed. He too said nothing; they never spoke of it. But the new feeling had persisted, and it took him ages to understand it.
He hated himself, what he had become. Hated it but could not stop it, could not deny it. And he admitted to himself that sometimes it felt good. He found the book again in the library and read it through in his spare time; it's tucked this second into the locked drawer of his desk. He opens the drawer and strokes the spine.
" I am a son of fortune; I cannot be disgraced." He laughs aloud again, just as he had when he'd gotten the true meaning that first time. Except then he was crying, too, trying not to scream. For some lucky few, there are moments in life when, on reading something, they find something of themselves, expressed with such wondrous clarity that it is as if they have shared a fragment of another person and found in their hearts its twin.
Draco is well and classically educated, enough so to believe as the Greeks did that Fate is a box and we can but run about it, hoping to blunder aright from time to time, slamming our heads against the inevitable, much like the luckless Oedipus from whom Draco, in all innocence, took his motto.
And like him, for Draco Malfoy there is no answer, no peace. What could have been done differently? What can one do against the whims of Fate?
Negative capability again. He rises to his feet and goes back to bed, feeling slightly more at ease. His story is but one stitch in the tapestry. He accepts that some things will never be answered and that, because of it, he' ll have nights like this as long as he lives.
The sheets are cool and crisp and without memory. His is the only body to have ever touched them, and he sinks into the feather bed, eyes slowing closing. Like the sheets, he will show no imprint. Fate has bested him but he is a Malfoy.
For Fate, like a prison, is not stone walls, and within in, a man must make his own luck. And if there's one thing about which Draco holds no ambiguity, it's his ability to make luck. He is, for better or worse, a son of fortune.