Draco is having the worst summer of his life. At least last summer he had hope to go with the fear. This year, there's nothing. His father is out of Azkaban, but that only makes matters worse.
Draco feels as though he's balancing on the edge of something horrible, and he's just doing his best to slip between the cracks and not be noticed.
The Dark Lord is not merciful. He smiles at Draco too much, delighting in his pain. Then he suggests with a smirk that Fenrir Greyback be allowed to stay in Malfoy Manor for the next few months.
Draco, like most pureblood children, grew up being terrified by stories of Greyback and what he does to kids. Now, with him close by, Draco is beginning to see a new and unsettling dimension to the stories. Greyback licks his lips whenever he looks at Draco.
A week after he's allowed into the Malfoys' home, Greyback gets Draco alone for the first time. Father is out desperately trying to lessen Voldemort's seemingly bottomless displeasure with him, and Mother is trying to talk Aunt Bellatrix down from another of her mad rages.
Draco is in the sitting room, pacing nervously. He never could actually sit in this room; it feels too formal and he hates the color of the drapes. When he's paused halfway to the door on his eighth journey around the room, Greyback shoves the door open roughly and slinks inside. Draco is still surprised to find that Greyback isn't ten feet tall and made of teeth, but this is nearly as bad. The mix of violence and subtlety terrifies Draco beyond any embellished fairy tale whispered to him as a child.
"Hey, kid," Greyback says, sounding very pleased with himself.
"Get out," Draco says, but his voice shakes so badly he wishes he hadn't spoken at all.
Greyback begins to walk the path Draco was taking around the room, maybe scenting where Draco laid his bare feet. Draco just stands as still as he possibly can and waits. He can't yell for his parents or his friends this time.
When Greyback completes the circuit and comes up next to Draco, he looks even more pleased than before. "You smell like fear," he says, leering.
Draco wants to say that it doesn't take a genius to see that he's afraid, but talking back is only safe when he's dealing with people who are smaller than him and have fewer fangs. "Sorry," he manages.
Greyback just laughs and presses a hand against Draco's chest. "I'll bet you taste like it, too. I'll bet—" His hand slides down Draco's body, shuffling the thin fabric of his robes aside.
He spends the rest of his day locked in his room, shaking.
He's almost tempted to take his wand and do some real damage, but he isn't even sure how spells will work with him feeling like this. He used to be able to talk back to Father. Even that ability is gone, gone with whatever scrap of courage Draco may have once possessed. At least he's not expected to be brave, like Potter is. He tells himself he's glad he's not in Gryffindor, and he even believes it. Lying is the easiest weapon in his arsenal to wield.
Life continues with difficulty, Mother and Aunt Bella haunting around the Manor like black and white ghosts, respectively pale and vicious.
Worse, though, is Father. He arrives home angry one day, storming into the house in a swirl of robes and flowing blonde hair.
"What is it?" Draco asks, afraid all over again.
Instead of answering, Father fixes him with a piecing stare. "Potter," he spits. "This is all because of Potter. And you, Draco, you allowed that boyto—to—"
Draco has had this argument a hundred times and he won't have it again, not now, not when he's so scared. He makes a final half-hearted attempt at sticking up for himself. "Shut up," he says.
"What did you say?"
"Shut up." Draco sets his jaw. "I'll do what I like."
It sounds hollow, but his father doesn't seem to care about that. He raises his cane, and Draco is too shocked to react when it strikes his shoulder. He half-raises one arm, not really expecting another blow, but Lucius hits him again, in the face this time. After two more sharp, furious strikes, he lets the cane fall to the ground.
"Don't," he hisses, "Don't you ever speak to me like that again, Draco."
His father has never hit him before. This one useful truth was something Draco clung to, and now that's gone as well.
Alone in his room again, Draco stares into the mirror, still in shock. His left eye is puffy and purple around the edges, and his lip is split. This is so fucking surreal. He brings a hand up to his bruised shoulder, which aches from where the snakehead cane came down on it. No, no. This sort of thing doesn't happen to Draco. It happens to sad, scared little kids who can't defend themselves and don't dare try. Draco cringes at his own reflection. He doesn't even know how to process this. He wonders how he'll tell his friends about this summer, or if he'll even be able to.
Soon enough, he manages to force the memory out of his head, and before he knows it he's back at Hogwarts. The castle, of course, has changed since last year.
Draco doesn't know how to feel about the change. He should be glad, proud, even, but he's not. He just feels sick and tired. He gets thin, and he gets shaky. He's always been a coward, but this is just driving the point home. He got it already, thanks.
Eventually, he gets so desperate that he turns to Greg and Vince for help. They're supposed to be his best friends, but they're not generally very reliable on the emotional bits. Still, he has to try.
He finds them together in the dorm, curled up in Vince's bed. He frowns. It's stupid and unfair and it's been going on since fourth year, but he's still not used to it.
He crosses the room and crawls into the bed, snuggling down between them. Vince nudges him aside. "Bugger off, would you, Draco?"
Draco pretends it doesn't sting. He can't say, "I need you." That would be pathetic. Instead, he says, "Fuck you."
A week later, Pansy asks him what's wrong. "You look dreadful. You look pale, Draco."
He wants to laugh and punch her out.
"You look like shit," Blaise remarks from the couch, and Draco appreciates the honesty, at least. It isn't like Blaise to be pointlessly crass, but if there's a point, Draco is missing it.
"Thanks," he says, not even bothering to inject any malice into his voice. The skin beneath his eyes is worn blue with exhaustion and he hasn't really slept in over a week. He's dozed, but that doesn't really count as restful. His eyes prickle and it feels like there are spikes in his temples and at the hinges of his jaw.
He just didn't expect it to all fall apart so quickly. He knew the world was driven mad, but he wasn't prepared for this. He still isn't.
"I'm fine," he says for what is probably the hundredth time since school started.
In truth, though, he's never been this bad before. He's been doing his best to focus on eating and maybe going to class a little and not what everyone else is talking about: Harry Potter.
They way he misses Potter's mouth is like an ache in his jaw. Draco's never been good at managing life on his own. He's always needed Mummy or Daddy or his friends. Now he's discovering that he needed Potter as well. And he can pretend all he wants that it's because he knows that all people have a use to which they can be put, but it's really because he's a needy little bitch who's starved for affection.
Now, he's just scared all the damn time.
That night, he lies in bed sleeplessly again, trying to force his eyes shut. They burn when he blinks. Sleep would be useful at some point, if only to keep him alive, but he has nightmares so often these days.
He hears Greg and Vince come in together, muttering to each other about something, and he sighs. It feels good, having someone else there. At least now he's got something besides himself keeping him from sleep.
"I'm trying to sleep," he announces, just to hear his own voice. It hardly shakes at all.
"We know," Greg says. They do that a lot, saying we, and it makes Draco angry. It makes him feel left out.
"So fuck off," Draco says, yanking another blanket up over his body.
Greg huffs out a little sigh, a sort of Oh, you noise, and Draco grins in spite of himself, glad that he's obscured by the darkness. His friends are bastards. He loves them.
Vince comes and sits on the edge of Draco's bed, making the springs squeak.
"You're so fat," Draco mutters under his breath. This is nice. It feels normal. It feels like his life again.
"So," Greg says, "Feel like talking about it?"
"Nn," Draco says noncommittally.
"It's all been a bit rough lately," Vince says carefully from his perch by Draco's feet. "I mean, what with our parents helping out with the effort and all."
"I know that, Vincent," Draco snaps.
Vince looks at Greg obviously convinced something's wrong because Draco is full-naming them. Greg just shrugs in response.
"I just hate it," Draco says, not really sure what he's saying. "My father's in trouble and my mum in trouble and my aunt's just mad and Fenrir Greyback—touched me, he touched me, and my father hit me, and—"
"Shh," Vince says in his soft voice, wrapping burly arms around Draco, and suddenly Draco is crying, which is the stupidest thing ever.
By the time he manages to stop, Greg is on his other side, arms around both of them.
"I hate you," Draco says, his voice threatening to break. He shuts his eyes, feeling his friends' body heat soaking into him. He doesn't want to talk about it, not any more than he already has, and he thinks they understand that. At least they're good at nonverbal communication.
It's less than a minute before the door opens again and Blaise and Pansy peer around it, Pansy looking somewhat delighted to be in the boys' dorm
"Oi," Blaise says lazily.
Draco has never heard him do so much as drop an h, so he's surprised enough to turn his head from Vince's shoulder and look at Blaise head-on. "Yeah?"
"You do look like shit," Blaise says, a little apologetically.
"Oh, Draco," Pansy says, and before Draco knows it, both of them are across the room and joining in the hug.
It's such a goddamn Gryffindor thing to do, this group hug bollocks, but Draco's starting to see the appeal. He shifts, settling into the curve of Blaise's body, because it's easier than getting too close to Pansy. He doesn't want this to turn into something he'll regret later. She's being cool, though, as cool as she ever gets, and she doesn't do anything but tug on his hair a little and squeeze his arm.
They're an uncomfortable, awkward tangle of limbs and bodies, but Draco isn't about to move now. Instead, he wriggles around until he's situated comfortably in a sort of nest with the four of them.
He'll wait out the storm here, if he has to.