Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, Harry Potter. I'm just taking the characters out for a spin.
AN: This takes place in year 6. Basically, I'm ignoring everything that happened in HBP. Also, this story is finished and will be posted in three parts, all of which will be up by May, barring some unforeseen disaster. The title comes from the poem "Prayer for a Very New Angel." The poem has nothing at all to do with this story, the line just worked well.
Fearless in the Dark
The cries of the crowd, wind screaming in his ears, his own heart pounding furiously, it all faded into one great roar that disappeared so suddenly that Draco Malfoy jumped in shock.
"Oh, there you are." He recognized Madam Pomfrey's voice, heavy with relief. A hand soft with age touched his brow, pushing away his hair and feeling carefully along his forehead. The pads of her fingers pressed gently and he winced only once.
"You took quite a tumble," she said, pulling back finally.
He remembered. Gryffindor versus Slytherin. First quidditch match of the year. He'd been determined to get the snitch. He and Potter saw it at the same time, both dove for the stands where it was hovering. It dropped and jumped twice but they both followed. When it flew straight for the ground, holding close to the wall of the stands neither boy even paused. Draco and Potter had been side by side, nearly touching as they dove.
Draco still felt that triumph from when Potter had pulled up, unable to go any further without slamming headfirst into the ground. In that moment any pain or injury was worth it because he'd held on longer, finally bested the golden boy. When his fingers curled around the snitch, catching sand and dirt from the pitch as well, he was ecstatic. He'd already begun pulling up but felt the tail of his broom drag on the ground just as the corner of the wall slammed into him.
"How are you feeling?" Pomfrey asked. "Is there any pain?"
He took stock of himself slowly, moving fingers and toes in careful experimentation. He could feel the blanket tugging around his chest when his toes curled and his fingernails dug into his side so he hadn't gotten himself paralyzed. There was a dull ache in his head but that was to be expected. He reported it though, not wanting to leave anything to chance. Pomfrey agreed with his assessment and said she would leave him alone to rest for a while.
"How long have I been out?" he asked before she could walk away. There was some other question he wanted to ask but it stayed very securely in the deep corner of his mind, not allowed to form.
"Nearly a day," she said kindly. "Your bones needed the time to heal though so you should be thankful you didn't wake up before now."
Nearly a day. Draco remembered his last moments of consciousness, how the sand of the pitch had been blindingly white in the afternoon sun and every crack and stain on the side of the stands stood out as he went barreling into them. Then he remembered every time he'd been in the infirmary, how the light had streamed in through the tall windows, soothing and comforting.
"Why is it dark?" he asked and was ashamed at how small and scared his voice sounded.
"What?" Pomfrey asked, confusion and just a bit of wariness in her tone.
"It's dark," he said, fighting to keep the terror from showing, fisting his hands in the blanket lest his whole body begin to shake. "I can't see a thing."
After that it was all tests and potions and whispered conversations between Pomfrey and Snape and Dumbledore. He couldn't make out what they were saying from his bed but he could imagine well enough. There was nothing to be done, all possible cures had failed and any other options would be reckless.
He was blind. Blind. A crippled Malfoy. Barely any better than a muggle - worse! He had magic, certainly, but what was he to do with it when he couldn't even see where his wand was pointing?
He kept it in his hand at all times now. Ran his fingers over the smooth hawthorn, matching the feel of it to his memory of the sight of it. The wholeness that filled him when its magic met his was almost enough to make him forget. But only almost.
He knew every inch of his infirmary bed by now, knew the subtle indent made by generations of Hogwarts students spending countless nights laid up here, knew how many springs wide and long it was. What he didn't know was the sheets' exact shade of white or whether there was a stain somewhere. Perhaps four brown drops five inches from the edge were leftover from someone's bloody nose a decade ago. He didn't know and spent hours in the darkness wondering.
"Draco." The word came just before a hand rested on his shoulder. He could tell by the way the pressure shifted that Snape was sitting. Once he was settled Draco turned his head the tiniest bit in his direction. Draco kept his eyes closed. It was a small point of pride: don't let them see that you can't see them, it's better if it seems you won't.
Snape had been gentle with him ever since it happened. It was scarier than being blind, hearing the man's voice so soft and caring.
"You don't have to tell me," Draco said. "She's not coming."
His father being in Azkaban, Narcissa had been informed of her son's condition. She loved him, cared for him deeply, but he would never expect her to come now, not given who was watching.
"It would be a sign of weakness," Snape whispered. "You understand that. The Dark Lord would use you against her."
It was the same reason she had barely written all year, the same reason she had been cold and distant that summer. Their lives were very much Voldemort's and it wouldn't do to give him anymore control than he'd already taken. It wasn't that the Malfoys were traitorous, they were simply survivors.
"I understand," Draco said, purposefully not matching Snape's quiet tone.
"She sends her love."
Draco did not respond. The silence that followed fell upon them like a blanket. It was uncomfortable and it chafed but it was something to occupy a mind that couldn't seem to quiet these days, so Draco let it go on much longer than he should have. Snape, he imagined, understood since he too kept quiet.
"What will happen to me?" Draco asked finally. He'd been in the infirmary for six days now, longer than anyone he remembered since that Chamber of Secrets madness in his second year.
"New quarters have been prepared for you on the ground floor."
Draco chuckled mirthlessly. "It wouldn't do for me to fall out a window to my death."
"No, it would not," Snape said dryly. "You will be taken there tonight. Madam Pomfrey wished to release you this afternoon but I convinced her to wait until after dinner."
After curfew, he meant. After everyone would be in their beds and no one would see Draco Malfoy being led about by the hand like an idiot child.
"What about classes?" Draco asked. He couldn't read his books, couldn't take notes, couldn't even get to class.
"One step at a time," Snape said, at once snide and serene, like he'd asked the same question and Dumbledore had answered in typical crazy old coot fashion.
Two steps from the door to the chest resting at the foot of his bed. Turn left. Two and a half steps to the desk, two steps long with a chair sticking out half a hand-length. To the left was his dresser and if he walked before it he'd hit wall after only one and a half steps. Two feet of nothing lined the wall there, between the dresser and the fireplace beside the door. If he turned left again at the wall, walked carefully over the two and a half steps of tile before the fireplace, he'd hit the wall between the door and his chest. Here was a second door, leading to the completely different adventure that was his private bath.
To the right of the desk was a bookcase, just as wide as the dresser. There was only one foot of wall between it and the window seat. It was curved outward and went up taller than he could reach standing upon the cushions, though he did feel the beginnings of a half-domed top. It was a supreme act of universal spite that he finally had a window and couldn't enjoy it.
The only remaining piece of furniture was a small bedside table between the window and his bed. Were circumstances different he would keep a book there for late night reading. As it was he kept only his wand there, easily within reach when he woke up.
He spent two painfully quiet days in the room. A house-elf named Peech brought him his meals and started up the fire to ward off the chilly nights. She offered to read to him and from the direction of her voice he imagined she was perusing the shelves where his books had been carefully placed prior to his arrival. He refused.
On the third day, when the clock on his mantle struck one o'clock, someone knocked on the door. He wanted more than anything to tell them to go away, leave him to wallow in peace, but he also wanted something to occupy him and so said, "Enter."
The door opened and closed. He could hear someone breathing but since he did not hear anyone moving he assumed they were remaining where they were.
"You know," he drawled, "it's very rude not to announce yourself to a blind man."
"What the hell are you doing here?" he nearly snarled.
She walked across the room and he heard her drop several books on the desk. "I'm here to tutor you."
Oh, this was too rich. "No."
"This is a school, Malfoy. You have to study." It grated that her patronizing tone was softened by pity.
"Not with you, I don't."
"And how do you plan on passing your classes otherwise?"
"I'm not even going to my classes! Are you going to give me my tests? Grade my papers? You jumped at the chance to do this, didn't you? You get a head start on your dream job annoying future generations of Hogwarts students."
There were several moments of silence. "I'm sorry," she said finally. "I was trying to work up some tears to make you feel better since you're obviously attempting to share your own pain, but that was probably the least effective insult you've tried since the second time you called me a mudblood."
She moved towards the door, her footsteps sharp and purposeful.
"I have my own homework to do. You have the next two hours to adjust yourself to the idea of me helping you. That's when I get out of Potions and I'll be back here to get started."
"You will not-" he began, turning towards her voice.
"And I didn't 'jump at the chance,'" she snapped. "Snape asked me to do this. He figured it'd be easier if you already hated whoever did it, that way no love would be lost on either end. Two hours." The click of the door opening, shutting, and she was gone.
She returned promptly two hours later and they spent the next three hours working tensely. He would not let her review, insisting that he was more than capable of moving on despite the week and a half since his last lessons. And so they plowed ahead. She would read him passages from their textbooks and he would snap at her that he'd already read those and if she wasn't there to teach him anything new then she might as well leave. When they moved onto the next subject she would inevitably try to skip ahead to the practical side of things, only to be told that he hadn't read the chapter and how dare she assume such things.
He could feel her aggravation from across the room and it was delicious. But even better, not that he would ever admit it, was learning again, talking again. Even a mudblood was company.
She didn't leave until Peech popped in to light the fire.
"It's been - interesting, Malfoy," she said and he heard the shuffle of books and papers being shoved into her bag.
"Will you be back tomorrow?" he asked, trying not to sound hopeful.
"Of course," she said. "I'm not about to start my teaching career with a failure." He could hear her wry smile and smirked, letting his head fall back against his headboard. "Three o'clock again?"
He nodded, listened to the crackle of the fire starting and the soft shuffle of her footsteps across the carpet. The door opened, didn't close.
"By the way," she said, "congratulations. Even Ron had to admit that was the most fantastic dive he'd ever seen."
It came back to him. The game. The thrill of knowing he'd beaten Potter, the shock of the wall directly before him…
"Did we win?" he asked quietly.
"No one's told you?" she asked, shocked. The door creaked slightly as if she were leaning on it. "I don't know how true this is but rumor has it that you held onto the snitch so tight that Madam Pomfrey had to break two of your fingers to get it free once you got to the infirmary. You won, Malfoy."
He nodded, his lips curving into a smile. It didn't make it worth it, but it hurt a little less.
It took a month, which Draco thought was rather good, considering. Hermione told him afterward that no one in the Weasley twins' pool - how they ran it from outside Hogwarts, Draco did not know or bother to ask - thought he would make it so long.
They'd fallen into a routine, him and Granger. They had an unspoken agreement that they were only allowed one dig for every half-hour they spent in each other's company. Sometimes this meant they spent the first few minutes of their three hour study session insulting each other and sometimes it meant they saved things up for when they were bored.
He didn't have to write papers, though occasionally Granger would bring up some muggle invention that would allow him to. Instead he would give an oral report to professors, explaining his thought process and answering any questions they put to him. These reports were almost always given in his own rooms or a classroom somewhere on the ground floor.
He didn't often leave his room, not seeing any point even when Granger asked him to accompany her to the library so that she wouldn't have to lug books up and down four floors just for him. She didn't press the subject though and he figured she'd realized he was too proud to allow others to see him like this.
Then came the day when she couldn't hold it in any longer - and consequently, neither could he.
"You can't stay cooped up in here forever," she said, shutting what he presumed was her Potions text. She was sitting in the window seat, enjoying what she'd grudgingly assured him was a magnificent view of the south lawn. He had moved from his usual seat on the bed and had his feet propped up on the desk, the chair tilted beneath him at a precarious angle. He twirled his wand idly in his fingers, wishing for a reason to use it.
"What exactly am I missing?" he asked. "The Halloween decorations going up? Has McGonagall dyed her hair some horrid color? Are the merpeople showing off-"
"Stop it!" she snapped. "That's not what I mean and you know it! You're missing life. Who was the last person you spoke to who wasn't me or Peech or one of the professors? Do you even let your friends come see you?"
He didn't have to let them because they didn't. Slytherins didn't want to be visited and pitied when they were hurt, they wanted to endure the pain and shame in privacy so that they might steel themselves to return as if nothing had happened. But there would be no return for Draco Malfoy. He would live the rest of his life like this and he'd be damned before he endured pity friendships.
The front legs of the chair hit the floor with a bang. "You're here to teach me, not judge me," he said coldly. "If you're not going to do that, you can leave."
"No," she said and he could tell she'd risen from the way her voice fell upon him. He did the same, turning his head towards the chill that always flowed through the window.
"This is my room, Granger. You have no right to-"
"I don't care! You can't just sit in here feeling sorry for yourself! There are plenty of blind people in the world who live full lives!"
"Muggle people," he snarled, which was a lie. He knew there were blind wizards - most were like Moody with his glass eye that was even better than the original - but some, who'd been hit by curses or, like him, endured damage to the brain that not even magic could understand, had to live with their condition.
"You're a coward," she said viciously.
He laughed. "I'm a Slytherin," he said, "not some idiotic Gryffindor! What you people call cowardice we call sneakiness."
"This isn't sneaky! This is cowardice, plain and simple. You're afraid of what you'll find on the other side of that door. You're afraid to live. You're afraid to try. And that's just pathetic, Malfoy. Even a Slytherin has the guts to go out and do something."
Tingling warmth shot past Draco's right leg and he felt the floor beneath his feet shudder. He'd fired a spell. Not a strong one, not a good one, not any one he knew consciously, but it was enough to make Granger gasp.
"Get out," he said quietly. Every muscle in his body was tense, even his eyelids were straining he was holding them shut so tight.
"Malfoy," she said cautiously, caringly. That was the last straw.
"Get out!" he thundered and brought his wand up in a wide arch.
She screamed, not long, not in fear, but in shock that was less satisfying than he hoped. She scampered past him towards the door while he heard glass shatter and wood split. He whirled, following the sound of her steps and lashing out again. The door slammed and cracked under his spell at the same moment.
Draco didn't stop now that he was alone. He spun, slashing up, down, left, right. He didn't care, he just wanted to hurt something, anything. There was a fluttering sound and he realized some of his books had fallen apart and the pages were floating on the waves of magic he was letting out. At first he didn't have any real aim in his attacks but then he started chasing the noise, it was loud and low and hurt him to hear. It kept moving, just out of his reach and it was only when he slammed his fists down on his splintered desktop that he realized it was him, sounding like some wounded animal.