The sound of grumbled curses followed the young wizard through the Summers' house as he carried the various belongings he'd collected over the few months he'd been in Sunnydale from the basement into what would now be his room. He wasn't taking much at a time – not that there was all that much in the first place – and none of the items were very heavy, but he complained about the carrying anyway.
A simple levitating charm, even one of the ones he was learning to cast without his wand, would be easier, and certainly more befitting a wizard of his caliber and heritage, the blond thought as he set the small box down just inside the door. Yet he wasn't using one. No, he, Draco Malfoy, was lugging boxes and clothing by hand, the Muggle way. And not just from one room to the next, but up the basement stairs, through the kitchen and living room, up more stairs, and finally into his new room. It was menial labor, far below his station. But he was doing it anyway.
He'd found himself doing that a lot since ending up here, performing tasks he would never have even contemplated the house elves doing, let alone himself. He wasn't quite sure why either. The fact that these almost-Muggles expected this of him had been shocking and insulting at first, but over the last three months he had somehow managed to get used to the idea. Almost. Willow, Tara, and Xander still had to prod and push him to do his chores every week, but he took great satisfaction in the fact that they often had to do the same to get Dawn to clean her room and wash her clothes and dishes.
If nothing else, he knew the trial of the chores was a large source of amusement for the other blond, the vampire often following him around on chore day just to be there when Willow realized what he hadn't finished and came to lecture him. Lecture. Him, Draco Malfoy, actually received a lecture. Fairly frequently. It was just wrong on so many levels. Yet he put up with it on all of them.
He put up with having to actually cleanup after himself, and perform a few common chores besides. He put up with having to learn an entirely new kind of magic (which he privately found quite fun and interesting) and he put up with being told what to do and being forced to learn Muggle – yes, Muggle – defense. He learned how to kick and punch and block, with his hands – his own hands – instead of his wand.
The former Hogwarts student didn't know why he put up with all of it – he knew he wasn't going to put up with this idea of him going to school with Dawn at the start of the next year. Really, a Malfoy in a Muggle school, don't think so – it wasn't like he actually liked being there, in a too-Muggle world with these not-quite-Muggles. He certainly didn't like this moving business. Not only did he have to carry his own things from one place to the next, he had to trade the comfortably dark basement for this bright cheery monstrosity. Even if he did get a bigger bed, he wasn't sure it was worth it.
A sneer twisted his lips, though with less harsh intensity as it had only a few months before, as he surveyed his new room. Certainly not a Malfoy's room. It was too bright and too airy and too covered with butterflies. He didn't like it. And not just because of the look that had filtered across Dawn's face when they'd started emptying it out for his use.
Another string of curses drifted out under his breath. Why should Dawn's expression have anything to do with anything? What did it matter if the slender brunette got a little misty-eyed? So what if the room he was now going to be living in used to belong to her older sister? More curses spewed from his lips, which curled back slightly as he turned to face the person who had just rapped lightly on the doorframe behind him. Cool silver pools ran over the delicate planes of Dawn Summers' face. Her sad face.
Damn it. He didn't care whether she was sad. He didn't.
Oh bloody hell, he did.
"Stop." Her forehead and nose scrunched up a bit in a way he most certainly did not think was cute, as she looked at him questioningly.
"The look," he clarified, "Stop it." His words were sullen and clipped, but having grown used to the Malfoy sulk-speech, Dawn wasn't all that affected.
"What look?" she asked.
"Your look. The one you wear whenever you see this room, or me in this room. It bothers me, and I hate that it bothers me." All the frustration he'd been feeling over the course of his stay in her home began to build and pulse within him, raising his voice and his anger. "I didn't use to care, you know. I didn't care about anything or anyone. I was an arse, damn it. I was an evil bloody arse and I enjoyed it and I have the fucking mark to prove it."
His voice had grown to a shout and all the emotions bubbling over caused his hands to shake as he yanked up the sleeve of his shirt and shoved his tattooed forearm into Dawn's face. "Do you know what this is?" he yelled. "Do you?"
The tall brunette had been forced to take a step back to avoid getting hit in the face with his arm but she remained inside the room, not making a move or sound that might shatter the precarious control Draco had of himself. This is what he'd been holding back, she realized. This is what he hadn't been able to tell anyone, what he'd needed to tell someone. Well, if he was going to tell then she was going to listen and she'd be damned if anything she did made him stop. No matter how much he yelled or screamed. They were the only ones in the house at the moment, so noise didn't matter, but what he had to say did. Yes, she had a feeling it mattered a lot.
"It's the Dark Mark," Draco continued, oblivious to her thoughts as he crossed his arms over his chest, hugging himself unconsciously as he continued to rail. "It's the mark of the Death Eaters, torturers and murderers of mudbloods, half-bloods, and Muggles; followers of the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Voldemort himself, the cruelest and most powerful dark wizard since Grindlewald. It shows that I was a Death Eater, a dark wizard. I was evil, barely even human."
Half-way through his self-deprecating shouts, the prince of Slytherin had turned away from his almost forgotten audience, though whether it was to hide his anger or his tears he wasn't sure. Either way, the soft words that suddenly broke the tense silence had him spinning on his heel to regard the other teenager with equal parts shock and disbelief.
"Well, humanity can be overrated. I wasn't human either, once upon a time."
His aristocratic mouth hung open in a silent 'what' but he wasn't quite able to form the question into actual words. She answered it anyway. "See, there was this mystical ball of energy – green energy to be precise – that opened a portal to this hell-dimension and these monks wanted to keep it away from this hell-goddess that wanted it to get home. So they sent it to the slayer to protect, and to make sure she'd protect it, they made it into a teenage girl and altered everyone's memories so they'd all think this newly-minted girl was the slayer's sister. That'd be me."
That unexpected bit of news shocked him right out of his own 'woe is evil little me' tirade and he calmly looked her over from head to toe, as if making sure he didn't all of a sudden see a green glow emanating from her skin. "You were energy? And you opened a hell dimension?"
"Yep," she said, nodding decisively. "The Key, they called me, though Xander occasionally likes to call me greenie instead."
"You weren't human?"
"Nope, wasn't even real."
"But now you are?"
"Yeah. My blood only opened the portal at a certain time in a certain place. Now it just makes a mess."
Draco just stared for a few seconds. "But you're human. You're not just a memory or a key, you're a girl with friends and a home. You make weird food that somehow manages to taste good and you help fight vampires and demons and save the world and shite. Right?"
"Right," she stated with another nod as she took the few steps necessary to put her within reach of the still-tense wizard. "And so are you. Well, you're not a girl, and your food tastes terrible no matter what you do," Dawn returned his scowl with one of the sunny Hufflepuff-esque smiles that bugged the hell out of him, "but you have friends here, and a home, and you help us fight the good fight."
She had to pull hard against him to get a hold of his arm, but she did, and as she straightened it out, she looked closely at the skull and snake cursed into his pale flesh. "You aren't the same person you were when you got this, Draco. You've changed."
The brunette kept a firm hold on the arm while she raised her free hand to his chin, tilting it up until he was looking at her. When their eyes had locked, she lowered the hand, resting it lightly on the tattoo. He flinched at the touch, trying his best to pull away but she held on, releasing neither his arm nor his eyes. Blue remained locked with grey and her thumb rubbed lightly back and forth across the blemished skin.
"You've changed, but you still have to move on. You have to live, for yourself. And you have to be happy."
For the first time in the life of the Malfoy heir, he couldn't find it in himself to smirk or sneer or brush her off with a snarky insult. Instead, he raised a single eyebrow in the closest thing to arrogance he could muster and tried to hide the uncertainty in his voice.
"Be happy? And how exactly am I supposed to do that?"
Dawn didn't say a word in response, she just smiled that irritatingly cheerful smile. And then she leaned forward, and kissed him.
Well, that was certainly one way.
End Chapter Six