A week passes by. An excruciatingly slow week. A pathetic week of wishing myself back to that cold, damp dungeon. Wishing myself back to Potter.
I keep myself busy. An easy task while trying to gain the Dark Lord's favour. But in the silent hours of the night, when I climb into bed exhausted, I can't keep him out. Potter invades my thoughts like a plague, crawling under my skin and wrapping coldly around my intestines until I find it hard to breathe.
I keep trying to tell myself that I don't want to go back. I try to tell myself that I don't regret the decision I've made. That it wasn't even my decision to make. That I had no choice.
But it all come back to the fact that if I didn't, why do I feel so fucking guilty?
I doubt that Potter is worse off now than when I was his guard. But it bothers me to be away from him. To not be able to see him. To think of someone else, down there right now in the dungeon, our dungeon, with him.
I am a Malfoy. We do not like to share things. And loathe that I am to admit it, I do not like to share Potter.
But of course, I am not. Sharing him. He was never mine.
Heroes are no one's private property.
Another sleepless night. I light the fire in the drawing room, sitting down in an armchair, desperately trying to think of anything besides Potter.
Naturally, I fail miserably.
The thing is, it is this particular moment that is the worst. It never lets up. I feel this sick, this disgusted every fucking minute of every fucking day.
Still, I know that I can endure. This is not the first time I have felt guilt or regret or longing. This is nothing new for me. And in my most ignorant moments I think that it cannot get any worse.
Until I remember why Potter is here. As a prisoner.
He will die. One day he will be killed, one way or another. Why the Dark Lord has kept him alive for this long is a mystery to me, but I am not ignorant enough to believe it will last forever.
Harry Potter will die. And I will be here to watch him draw his last breath, to hear his last screams. Knowing that I could have saved him.
In the end, the decision is made easily. Without much thought I grab one of the black wrought iron forks from beside the fire place and make my way towards the dungeon, my wand in my other hand. Casting a Disillusionment Charm, I creep as silently as possible down the stairs, making my way through the complicated network of chambers and dark tunnels. Approaching the familiar green door, I slowly open it and see Theodore Nott standing with his back towards me. He doesn't notice the door opening, he is busy saying something to Potter who looks thoroughly pissed.
Looking away from Potter, Nott yawns and stretches his arms towards the roof. I take the opportunity to open the door enough for me to slip through it. Potter's eyes shift to the door, a suspicious furrow immediately forming between his eyebrows. I can only pray that his expression doesn't alert Nott to the fact that the door just swung open for no apparent reason.
Luckily Potter is smart enough to realise that anyone sneaking invisibly into the dungeon must be his ally and not Nott's, and he quickly turns his head back towards his guard, his eyes still flickering towards the door.
In the end, it is all much easier than I could have imagined.
I sneak up behind Nott, making sure not to make a sound, to not even breathe too loudly. Lifting the iron fork I hold my breath and hope to Merlin that I'm making the right choice.
I swing the weapon, the heavy wrought iron feeling surprisingly light and airy in my hands. The fork hits Nott hard at the back of his head, and he is out like a candle. Without uttering a sound he falls to the floor before me, and in spite of my heart pumping with fear, the entire scenario seems to fill me up from within with an intoxicating feeling of power. I stifle the urge to let out a huff at the pathetic lump before me. Nott was never worthy of being in Slytherin. A true Slytherin would have never turned his back on that door and found himself being hit down by a simple fireplace utensil.
Letting the fork fall to the floor, appearing into sight as it leaves my grip, I crouch down and check Nott's pulse. When I have confirmed that he is alive, I grab his wand and perform a silent binding and gagging spell on him. My own wand would be too easy to trace.
"Who are you?"
I had almost forgotten Potter. He is standing just behind the bars, looking directly at where he thinks I am. I take a deep breath and remove the Disillusionment Charm.
Potter's jaw falls as he lays eyes upon me. "Malfoy—" he states, staring at me with his green eyes wide in surprise and shock. I guess I was the last person he expected to save him after all that has happened.
The thrill of seeing him again sends a shiver through my body, and I open my mouth to tell him… something. Luckily I immediately realise that our time is scarce and most importantly; getting sentimental with Potter would ruin my plan entirely.
Again, I raise Nott's wand and point it at the cell. It takes more power and concentration than it would with my own, but I manage to open the door. "Get out," I tell Potter, who stares at me silently for a second before hurrying to obey.
I crouch down again and pull Nott's shoes violently off his feet, tossing them at Potter. "Put these on," I order, moving over to the chair where Nott's winter cloak lays scattered. To my satisfaction Potter is done putting on the shoes on his bare feet, and I hand him the cloak, careful not to touch him or to look him in the eyes for too long.
"Good, let's go," I mutter when Potter has fastened the cloak. I let Nott's wand fall to the floor beside the immobile man, and step directly over the body and towards the door. I am just about to reach for the handle when Potter tugs at my sleeve, forcing me to stop.
"Why are you doing this?" he whispers behind me, his voice low and reserved. I fight to collect my thoughts before I am able to turn around and face him.
"I don't know," I respond. And I honestly don't. The reasons go so far beyond quilt, regret, and affection for Potter that I am at loss for words. I move to turn again and continue through the door, when Potter grabs me violently and swings his arms around my neck, forcefully pressing his lips to mine. I don't know if the kiss is caused by relief or plain gratitude, but in the moment I fail to care. The kiss is breathy, desperate, and sloppy, and I find it to be over much too soon. I pull away breathlessly, remaining standing where I am and looking into Potter's eyes.
For once he doesn't move an inch, and I myself feel as if I am rooted to the floor. For a moment I let myself be sucked into those green pools, feeling as if the entire universe is standing still around us. When I finally manage to rip myself out of the trance, I turn away rapidly to hide the flush on my face.
"Come on," I mutter, opening the door hurriedly. Potter obeys, but he grabs my hand insistently as we ascend the stairs. The entire situation feels ridiculously surreal and excruciatingly intimate at the same time.
The house is dark and completely silent. I perform a quick Disillusionment Charm on Potter, just in case, as we sneak through the hall, shadows mixed with the blue moonlight falling on us through the windows. I lead Potter to the backdoor, opening the door as silently as I manage and hurrying out into the garden.
The air is cold and dry, and I shiver in my thin pyjamas and morning robe, wishing I'd planned this far enough to wear a cloak.
Potter stills for a moment outside the door, staring dreamily out into the garden where a thin layer of snow has covered the ground and leafless trees.
"It's beautiful," he says, drawing in a deep breath of cold air. I feel as if I'm watching him regain all his strength right before my eyes, and suddenly he is no longer the scrawny boy I have grown to know during these past months. Something tightens painfully in my chest at the knowledge.
"Come on!" I order irritably, grabbing Potter's sleeve and dragging him forward into the grove of oaks. With every couple of yards I swing my wand behind us to erase the traces of our feet left in the snow. Potter struggles to keep up with me, but I only slow down slightly when the shadows have swallowed us completely and no light from the house can reach us.
I walk with him for a long way, far further than I would need to. The reason is not only that I cannot seem to be able to let go of his hand, but also that I do not want to turn around and see his face.
Because when I do, I will have to say goodbye.
Finally, I realise I have to get back. I take in a deep breath, licking my dry lips. "This is where I leave you," I state, turning towards Potter. His face is pale and ghostlike in the moonlight, and he stops as if into a wall at my words.
"You're— You're not coming with me?" he asks, his voice shaky. I hate him for asking when he already knows the answer.
"No," I respond as coldly and indifferently as I can.
"You'll be killed." Potter states the words so bluntly that I am caught off guard, completely unable to prevent the shivers running down my back. I cannot deny to myself that that is an option. Nevertheless, I put on my best show of confidence for Potter.
"Of course I won't," I drawl. "I didn't use my own wand, they won't be able to trace any other magical signature than Nott's own wand. I will go back to my room and get up in the morning just like any other day. Even if someone were to suspect anything, they won't be able to prove it." I smirk smugly, trying desperately to believe my own words.
Potter stares at me silently for a long moment, apparently uncertain if he should believe me or not. Finally, he sighs, looking at me sadly.
"You do know I love you, right?"
The unexpected words strike something deep inside me, wrapping around my heart so tightly I can't seem to catch my breath. He is right, I did know. But hearing him say it, confirm it… it affects me far more than I could ever admit.
"I know," is all I can say.
He leans in to press a soft kiss to my lips, withdrawing far too soon. A desperate urge awakes in me to grab him and pull him back towards me. Of course, I don't. Instead I cast a look behind me into the darkness and croak:
"You should go."
When I turn back Potter is still staring at me, nodding softly. "…Yeah."
He grabs my hand, squeezing it softly one last time before letting go and stepping past me. A cold feeling takes over my hand as he lets go, a terrible freezing flame spreading from my fingers up my arm to the rest of my body like internal, suffocating hypothermia.
I want to scream at him 'No! Don't go!", but I clamp my mouth shut. But as if he heard my thoughts, he turns around.
"I know you don't love me." His voice is dry and a sad smile has spread on his lips. "But when all of this is over, I'll look for you," he says, and suddenly his smile is all sunshine in spite of the cold moonlight.
"When I win this war, I'll look for you," he repeats softly, fully confident in that what he's saying is true.
Only smiling at him leniently, I don't have the heart to tell him that if he indeed does win this war, even he won't be able to save me from the Dementor's kiss or the dungeons of Azkaban.
He turns away, disappearing silently into the shadows. I watch him as he goes. And I long to follow, to run with him. But I am a Malfoy, I know better than that. I will stay here, where I belong, do what I can for my family. I have already done what I can for Potter.
He was wrong. I do love him, as I know love. No more, no less. But Harry will never hear me say that four letter word.
I will stay here, where I belong. And I will do horrible things. Unforgivable, terrible deeds. So that if Harry does win and the Ministry gets to me, he won't suffer. I will stay in the darkness, engage in this so-called evil, so that when I am prosecuted, Harry will feel no remorse. So that my betrayal won't hurt that badly.
I will stay here and find the me I once was. So that when the world tells him that he hates me, he can believe it.