Sorry. She said she was sorry. Too often have I heard that word before, so often that the meaning of it is lost upon me. For what, exactly, was she 'sorry'? Sorry for a young life snuffed out before it had a chance to begin? Sorry because that life could have, should have been saved, no matter what the cost? Sorry for the tears she knows I will shed, as soon as she leaves me be - I cannot say 'in peace', for peace is something I have not known for a very long time.

Why should she be sorry? Had the boy lived, he might have become powerful enough to endanger us all, a true threat to everything we hold dear, rather than the overzealous, foolish, misguided brat I had hoped so desperately would do the impossible and choose the harder path. He was zealous, but he was not bright, and he was not strong - not strong enough to fight the will of his twisted father, not bright enough even to desire to fight. He fell into darkness simply because he knew no other way. Ironic that I, the black wraith, the shadow of a man who might have been, should be his only beacon to the Light. A beacon which flickered and failed, inevitably, at the critical moment. There could never be enough Light in my scorched and blackened soul to spill out into another.

On the very day he was born, it was already too late to protect Draco from the dark. His fate was sealed - three paths, three only, were open to the boy: to accept the inevitable, embrace his destiny, and follow his father into Darkness…or to do those things, and return, eventually, to the Light. There was never any question of his refusing the life Lucius chose for him.

The third path, of course, was death…but he would never take that road by choice. Not a Malfoy. Self-important, power-hungry, the ultimate survivor - he who takes and takes, without ever being diminished by giving. Ironic, that he is gone, while they who have given so much remain.

Why is she sorry? She will have her child, her beloved golden boy, safe home once more, his great task completed and his dear heart at ease. She need weep no tears for the evil little brat who brought so much suffering to her fine brave ones. Why should she spare pity for a deceitful and mercurial creature who cared only for himself, his own life, his own power?

Insufferable child…

If she does not weep for him, why must I? In life, he was my burden, in death he is my torment.

I failed him, and my penance is to remember him always.

Draco.

A week old, all huge bright eyes and wide red mouth, screaming his lungs out for his mother, who is not there. Lucius, irritated, shoves the child at me, and I hold him awkwardly, feel the embarrassment slip away as tiny fingers close around mine.

A year old, sitting on my lap, babbling happily away as I gaze into the fire, listening to rain lash against the window pane and wondering what horrors his parents are conjuring up this foul night.

Three years old, sitting on a table in my laboratory, watching with eager eyes as I prepare a bubbling mixture in my cauldron. Taking the ladle excitedly when I offer it, stirring with an enthusiasm I have long since forgotten.

Eight years old, receiving discipline from his father for failing to fully master one of the curses Lucius has insisted I teach the boy, though he is far too young to understand its uses. Biting his lip, determined not to cry, but still a few silver tears slip, mercifully unnoticed, down his cheeks. Coming to me afterwards, burying his pale face in my robes, trembling as I stroke his hair. 'I *will* make father proud of me, I *will*. Some day.' You did, Draco. But you will never know it.

Eleven years old, developing the Malfoy arrogance that is his birthright, being sorted into Slytherin, once more under my care. Sneering at Potter and the other Gryffindors. Emulating his father. Emulating me.

Sixteen years old, at his Initiation, receiving the Mark. Pale face twisted in agony, he is determined not to scream. 'I *will* make father proud of me. I *will*.' Lucius watches, eyes narrowed, judging his son's performance. It is satisfactory. Draco shows no weakness before his father, before the Dark Lord. When they are gone he crumples to the floor, gasping, sobbing. I try to hold him but he pushes me away.

Twenty years old, dying in my arms on a battlefield strewn with the corpses of his kin, his eyes glazed, focussed on nothing. Pale face streaked with sweat, tears, and blood, he turns his sightless eyes to me, small thin fingers closing over mine, whispers, 'Tell father I always loved him.' But Lucius is dead, and soon his son too is lost to me, the grip on my fingers failing, the twisted body falling still. With a trembling hand I close his eyes, and as I do so, a hand falls upon my shoulder.

"I'm sorry." McGonagall says, and for an instant I believe it. Then I turn, see Potter standing behind her, see the look in his once innocent green eyes which means he has killed out of necessity and cannot regret it, and my heart goes cold. She is not truly sorry. My heart alone will grieve for Draco, only my eyes will shed tears over his broken body and his forsaken soul. Only I understand that sacrifices are not made exclusively by the brave and the good. Only I will remember that the blackest soul can feel love as deep and undying as anything a pure heart can experience. We dark ones, we lost ones, do not feel less strongly than the others…we feel more intensely. We suffer more intensely, live and die more intensely than they. And when the end comes, it is our torment which is greatest and most enduring.

The others will heal, and forget, in time, but I…I am doomed to remember always. To remember this. To remember him.

It is my penance, and for it, I am grateful.