The letter had been in his pocket all day. He knew who it was from, and what it said. The falcon had come the moment he set foot in the hall that morning, tossing the cream-colored parchment to him before circling once and heading back to the Manor. Draco ran a finger over the emerald seal, helplessness forming a lump in his throat, and slipped the parchment into his pocket. He didn't want to read it. But he would need to eventually.
That evening, Malfoy slipped out of the Slytherin common room to read the thing in peace. He picked a deserted classroom at random. Desks stood, silently, in neat rows facing a dusty chalkboard. He sat down at a desk in the back. He read the note, and then crumpled it in his fist. It was the usual: a note from his father. A note expressing a father's disappointment with his son.
The boy wandered the halls. It was the time of evening when the last of the students were making their way back to their houses. Draco avoided them, his feet taking him from hall to hall, aimless, merely walking away from everywhere and everyone. As the hour grew late and his steps led him deeper into the castle, the students grew scarce, and then disappeared. He was alone.
He paced up and down, wondering- hoping- for a solution. Wishing he knew what to do.
His steps echoed off the walls of the corridor.
And there was a door. Where there had not been one before.
The boy frowned at the door, his skin a ghostly white against the black of his robes. He turned the handle and entered the room. Draco stepped into a corridor, one he could not remember being in before. He walked down its length, passing by pairs and pairs of unlit torches.
Then he noticed the mirror.
It was facing him; he could see some of his reflection. But what caught his attention was the light. It was as if the mirror held a light of its own, displaying the dark room as if it were bright as day. Draco walked toward it, fascinated.
There was a figure reflected in the mirror. A man, bathed in light, standing defiantly with his wand in his hand. His skin was white as snow and his robes were black as night. There was a tiny cut on his cheek, and from it dripped a single drop of crimson blood. Despite his wound, the man's grey eyes met Draco's with calm resolve.
As dissimilar as the reflection was, there was no mistaking the figure. Draco recognized himself. He looked longingly at the man in the mirror.
But there was something else. Behind the man in the mirror were more figures. Men, woman- one by one Draco recognized their faces. Arthur Weasley. Remus Lupin. Harry Potter and Granger. Dumbledore.
Draco stepped back in surprise and looked away. Why was the reflection of himself standing with these people? But he looked back; he had to. He saw the peace in this other Draco's eyes.
And suddenly he knew what he had to do.
It was raining at the Burrow when Molly Weasley heard the knock on the door. It was the first day of the summer break for Ginny and Ron, and they had their first family dinner, all of them together… except for Charlie and – Molly pursed her lips- Percy. With a final flick of her wand at the dishes in the sink, she bustled over the door.
It was Draco Malfoy. He had a bag swung over one shoulder, and he was dripping from the rain.
She raised her wand. "Arthur!" Molly yelled up the stairs. Malfoy held up his empty hands.
"What do you want?"
Molly saw the hollow look in his eyes. "From the rain or from something else?" she said.
He didn't answer, but looked down at his muddy boots. "May I come in, Mrs. Weasley?" he said, after a moment.
A maternal instinct caused Molly to lower her wand and shuffle away from the entrance. "Yes of course dear…"
It was an evening of raised voices and a great many pots of tea. At the end of the night, it was decided that Malfoy would stay. They were hard-pressed for room, what with seven Weasleys in the house, but Arthur transfigured a broken rocking chair into a cot and they put it in the attic. For the first time in his life, Malfoy was sent up the stairs to bed with an armful of hand-knitted blankets and a reminder to introduce himself to the ghoul.
It was with great effort that Draco suppressed a sneer when he reached the cramped attic. But as the days turned into weeks it became easier for him to overlook the creaking stairs, the old, discolored table, and the chip on the handle of the teacup that Mrs. Weasley always gave him. He acted with civility toward the seven Weasleys and they returned the favor. Conversations no longer came to a halt when he entered the room; Ginny stopped reaching for her wand every time he moved; and even Ron's customary morning glare melted into a curt "good morning."
They fell into a routine. The Weasleys would go about their business; Arthur to the Ministry, Bill to the Gringotts. Molly would be off shopping from time to time. Fred and George, when not locked up in their room experimenting for their joke shop, would leave to look for supplies on the cheap. Ron and Ginny hung around, playing chess and Exploding Sap, and sometimes they would go out on the moor with their ancient brooms to practice. Meanwhile, Draco would sit in his attic and read. Sometimes he looked out the tiny window and thought. And he waited.
The disappearance of the Malfoy heir did not go unnoticed. When the boy never stepped off the train, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy sprung to action. They apparated away, calling in a favor from every useful source they knew to locate the child. By sunset, they both sat in the drawing room at the Manor, a tense silence filling the considerable space between them.
Lucius sat ramrod straight, an impassive face staring at his steepled fingers, masking the boiling anger beneath his calm facade. Narcissa sat stiffly on the divan, a crystal glass and a quickly emptying bottle of firewhiskey beside her.
Narcissa would say that it was all Lucius' fault: he had been too hard on the boy. And Lucius would insist that it was Narcissa who had been too lenient.
They both knew exactly the points of the argument, and so neither bothered to say a word. The unspoken disagreement hung in the air.
Lucius finally rose and stalked off to his chambers. Narcissa finished the bottle of firewhiskey.
The Malfoys went nearly a month with no news of their son. The days grew warmer, but the masters of the Manor lived in icy silence. Finally the day came when their last favor reported back in the negative, and they were forced to face the facts: if Draco was alive, he was hiding somewhere where a Malfoy heir had no business being.
The two promptly disowned the child, and came up with a plan.
"Noddy," Lucius said, and the trembling elf appeared. "We have a task for you." The tiny elf bobbed his head, and his ears flapped.
"You are to deliver this box," Narcissa said, gesturing to the package on the table.
"Disguise yourself," Lucius continued, "to look like another elf."
"And wait until all the occupants of the house have gone out before delivering," Narcissa said. She consulted a list, "The locations are: The Lupin Cabin, Pine Row, one occupant…" she continued, listing eight locations to the tiny elf.
"You are a delivery elf for Braston & Bruckles' Kitchen Supply. These are tea towels," Lucius said, his lip curling. "You know no one that you meet. Is that understood?"
"Yes master!" The elf replied, frightened by Lucius' suddenly stern tone.
"Off with you!" Lucius snapped. The elf seized the box, and disappeared with a crack!
The days came and went. It was a cheerful, sunny day when a knock came at the door.
The magically amplified sound carried up, and up the rickety stairs, up to the attic, where Draco sat, reading a faded muggle novel he had found in a box. He looked up at the sound, and went back to reading.
A moment later, the sound came again. Knock knock knock! Draco set aside the book and made his way down the stairs. The Weasleys must be out, he realized. He had heard Ginny and Ron rummaging in the broom closet a quarter of an hour ago, and that was the last of them.
Draco stepped of the last stair and padded softly over to the door in his stockinged feet. He pulled open the door to find a tiny elf, sporting enormous nose and cheeks, staring up at him over a box far too big for the poor thing to carry. The elf's eyes grew wide as he saw Draco, and whatever the thing was about to say died on its lips as the elf's mouth fell open.
Draco raised an eyebrow at the elf. "Yes?" he said, impatiently. The muggle novel was rather good. Not that he would ever let on that he thought so.
The elf recovered itself. "Delivery from Braston & Bruckles' Kitchen Supply!" it squeaked, holding up the package to Draco.
"Ah," Draco said, taking the proffered box. He was about to shut the door, when he turned to the elf again. "What's in it?"
"Tea towels!" The elf squealed. Then, as an afterthought, it added, "the finest!"
"Of course," Draco said, trying his best not to sound too sarcastic. He nodded to the elf and closed the door.
Draco put the box down on a counter in the kitchen and grabbed a scone from the cupboard, something that had become a habit every time he was on the first floor. Mrs. Weasley had obviously left in a hurry that morning; the dishes sat washed in the sink, still a bit wet, and there were hampers full of the houses' laundry waiting to be done. Not knowing how to do laundry or dishes but wanting to be useful for once, Draco glanced at the old pile of tea towels. They were grey from wear, and rather less square than they had once been. Curious as to the condition of the 'finest' new tea towels, Draco cut the twine on the package with his wand, and pulled back the cardboard flaps-
-something white and soft flew toward his face and wrapped around his neck, pulling tighter and tighter until he struggled to breath. Another knocked his wand out of his hand, and several pulled his hands behind his back, to keep them from grasping at the towel around his neck and throwing it away. He struggled and tried to call out, but his efforts only resulted in falling to the floor-
"Not a lot of life left in these bludgers I think. Maybe we could get Fred and George to take a look."
As Draco hit the floor he could feel his lungs on fire from lack of air. Darkness threatened him from the edges of his vision.
"Are you kidding? You want to play with a bludger they've 'fixed!?'"
With a final burst of strength, he kicked over the umbrella stand with a spectacular clatter, and closed his eyes to the darkness.
"What was that?" Ron said, pausing on the first step of the stairs.
"Probably the ghoul." Ginny said. "C'mon. Let's put the brooms away."
"… sounded like it knocked something over, bloody annoying- Malfoy!? ARGH!" At the sound of Malfoy's name, a towel came flying toward Ron's face.
"RON!" Ginny dropped her boom and ran forward, vanishing the towel attacking Ron and then making quick work of the remainder. When they were gone, the two knelt beside Malfoy. He wasn't moving, and his white-blond hair was tousled out of its usual perfection.
"What do we do?" Ron said, frantic.
"I think he's just passed out," Ginny said, feeling a pulse. "Ennervate!"
Draco's eyes flew open and he gulped long, shaky breaths.
It was another night of debate at the Burrow. A member of the household had been attacked, and only barely escaped with his life. Better protection was in order. After a great deal of shouting, two things were decided: Malfoy was not to answer the door and he was not to be left alone in the house. As Draco retired to his attic and the seven Weasleys retired to their rooms, there were many whispers of "good night," and one reminder to "try not to let your pillow suffocate you. They can do that, you know." Draco smirked, thanked George for the warning, and fell asleep on his cot without another thought.
Narcissa was on the veranda, writing a thank-you note in perfect, floral cursive. She was just rhapsodizing about how lovely the set of hair potions were that Elisa Bonne had given her when the snap of her husband's boots drew her attention. Lucius told her the news in a few crisp sentences, and a horrid drop of ink fell from her quill, seeping deep through the fine cream-colored parchment.
She put down her quill and stared thoughtfully out on the garden, pondering the best way to kill her son. After a moment, she stood.
"I have an idea," she said, gliding toward her boudoir.
July arrived at the Burrow in a blaze of heat. The grass on the moor faded to brown and Errol fell off his perch from heat exhaustion twice in the space of a week. Molly threw the windows open every morning, and a single Japanese hand fan fluttered about the house, cooling first whoever seemed to be most annoyed by the temperature.
One afternoon, after Bill had finished fixing the old bludgers, the Weasleys gathered around the broom closet just down the stair from the attic. Draco could hear their chatter from where he lay on his cot, flopped on his stomach, trying to transfigure an old bicycle into something more interesting.
"Hey Malfoy." Draco craned his neck around to see one of the twin's heads poke through his door. "Join us? Bill's playing, so we have an odd number."
Malfoy stared at him for a moment. Then he rolled off the bed and followed the twin down the stairs to fetch a broom.
"Oh good." Ginny gave him the smallest of smiles as he took a broom. "Teams of three then. I claim George and Malfoy!"
It was the first of many afternoons spent outside. After seeing the tension dissipate between Malfoy and her children, Mrs. Weasley even recruited him to de-gnome the garden, which he did with a great deal less complaint than Ron. Bill made an effort to include Malfoy in conversations over dinner, and soon even Fred and George were striking up lively conversations about the relative effectiveness of various sticking spells, a topic in which they were greatly interested (everyone thought it rather sinister when they refused to elaborate on their reasons).
August came, and with it, whispers behind closed doors as the Weasleys conspired to get gifts for Ginny's birthday. Noticing, perhaps, as mothers are wont to do, that Draco was left out of the scheming, Mrs. Weasley pulled him aside and enlisted his help in cooking the cake, creating for him a number of menial tasks that were easy even for a boy who had never made his own toast. "The best cakes are made with love, not magic," she assured him, un-charming a stirring spoon and handing it to Draco to use by hand. He raised an eyebrow at Mrs. Weasley's back, but said nothing, and stirred the saucepan as instructed.
A massive chocolate cake resulted from their efforts, frosted nicely in a sunny yellow and topped with a few frosting roses that Mrs. Weasley had charmed to sparkle. She carried the cake out to the dining table after dinner, to a chorus of 'oooh!'s and 'how many pieces can I have?' Malfoy did the honors of lighting the candles with a flick of his wand, and sat back to watch Ginny blow them out and make a wish.
As the boys were digging into their pieces, Ginny passed him a slice- an edge piece with extra frosting. "Thanks for the cake, Malfoy," she said, with a wide, genuine smile.
"Happy birthday, Weasley," he replied with his best approximation of a smile. It was closer to a smirk, but Ginny seemed to appreciate the effort.
The presents were revealed one by one. Arthur had splurged and bought a brand new set of bludgers- the charm patching the old ones had stopped working. Fred and George made a miniature demonstration of one of their new products: innocent looking paper hats that would sprout enormous, gaudy ornamentation as soon as they touched someone's head, and, of course, took hours for the sticking charm to come off. They had specially made the hats to be ineffective on Ginny and presented her with six hats, each with a different design. Mrs. Weasley had gotten Ginny a sampler of a number of different hair potions, "for special occasions." Ron and Bill produced a signed first edition copy of Lockhart's Marauding with Monsters, which they claimed to have unearthed at an estate sale after a dramatic encounter with a cursed bookshelf. There were laughs and smiles all round, and the lot of them went to bed in the wee hours of the morning after a final round of lemonade.
A week later, Draco was climbing down the stairs, intent on snatching a scone from the kitchen before Molly got back, when Ginny came out of the bathroom and nearly bumped into him.
"Oh Malfoy. I keep meaning to talk to you. One minute." She disappeared back into the bathroom, leaving Draco standing curiously on the landing. She returned with a bottle of hair potion. "This one's called… 'Stephens-Style Sleek.' I think it's the same as the stuff you used before you ran out."
Malfoy sneered at the pink label. "It's a girls potion."
"It's the same stuff, just a different bottle. It even smells the same, see?" She opened the bottle and sniffed it, then held it out to Draco.
"How do you know…?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Oh come one. You used to use so much of the stuff to slick your hair back I could smell it clean across the Great Hall."
Malfoy took the bottle and sniffed it suspiciously. To his surprise, she was right- it was definitely the same. "Hmm."
"Well I like my hair with some body," Ginny said airily, "and it would be a pity for it to go to waste." She glided down the stairs, leaving Malfoy behind, holding a pink bottle of hair potion. "You're welcome," her voice floated up the stair.
Draco shook his head, put the potion away, and finally got his scone.
Malfoy rose late the next morning. He had been absorbed in a history of the Goblin wars, and lost track of time the night before, only going to bed when the ghoul tired of his nightly haunts and returned to the attic. He grabbed some coffee, muttering a greeting to Ron, who was sitting at the dining table, and took a long shower. Donning an enormous fluffy robe, which might once have been green, Draco ran a hand through his hair and noticed the bright pink bottle of Stephens-Style Sleek, calling to him from the cabinet. It had been a long time since he'd bothered with his hair, and while the freedom of less-than-perfect hair was liberating, it might be nice to return to his old pattern- for a change. He opened the tiny pink bottle, poured a dollop of potion onto his palm, and ran it through his hair.
For a moment, Draco basked in the familiar scent of the potion, and its cool sensation on his scalp. And then suddenly, a new feeling overwhelmed him. It was burning! His head and hands were suddenly crawling with pain. He screamed and tried to wash away the potion, but it was too late- he could feel the pain entering his skin and permeating his fingers, sticking his brain with needles of fire-
"Draco!?" As he collapsed, Ginny reached the bathroom door, Ron and the twins right behind her. "Alohomora!" The four of them entered the room to see Malfoy lying on the floor, his head and hands covered in bubbling red and black liquid, smoking slightly.
"Baneberry potion," said George. "Fred?"
"On it." Fred dashed toward their rooms.
"Don't try to vanish it!" George said, running down the stairs.
Ginny and Ron tried to wash off the potion with jets of water from their wands until Fred returned with essence of bitterroot and George with burn paste, and soon Malfoy stopped squirming and insisted that the pain was gone, although he was left a bit charred.
"What was that?" Ron said, his pants soaked from all the water.
"That, little brother, was baneberry potion," Fred said, "we were experimenting with it a while back as something to put in candies to give them a kick."
"Can't tone down the effects though," George said sadly. "Would'a been a best-seller."
"Lucky we still had some antidote on hand," Fred said. "That would have killed you in minutes, mate."
Later, when Mrs. Weasley heard the news she burst into tears. "I should have known!" she howled, "That Elisa Bonne at the apothecary was awfully pushy about selling that sample set! And we know what a good friend she is of the Malfoys! But…" she blew her nose between huge sobs, "she gave me a… discount." She wailed into her handkerchief.
Ginny patted her mother sympathetically on the shoulder.
"You weren't to know, Mrs. Weasley…" Draco began.
"NO! I should have known!" she sobbed. "I'm so sorry dear!"
Not knowing what else to say, Draco said nothing.
"I guess you'll need to lay off the hair gel for a while, eh?" Fred said, clapping Malfoy on the back.
"Apparently." Malfoy scowled, a piece of soot flaking off his forehead. His hair had been entirely burned off, and there would be nothing to slick back for a few months.
Suddenly the thought of death by hair gel was too funny for words, and everyone except Mrs. Weasley roared with laughter.
September came, and news of the boy's reappearance at Hogwarts reached the ears of the elder Malfoys. They were at a benefit for St. Mungos, Lucius in imperial silver robes and Narcissa covered in lace and chiffon. Mr. Nott mentioned casually that Draco Malfoy was Head Boy and Hermione Granger was Head Girl, followed by the obligatory snide remark about how blood shouldn't mix. Narcissa and Lucius laughed lightly along with the rest of the group- not too much or too little- and then departed as swiftly as Narcissa's chiffon allowed.
They apparated into the entrance hall of the Manor. A vein throbbed in Lucius' temple and Narcissa gritted her teeth, ruining whatever haughty beauty had once been in her expression.
"Idiotic woman," Lucius began, "poisoning the hair potion- what an absurd idea."
"Hardly less insane than the tea towels, and let's not forget whose idea that was," Narcissa sneered.
Lucius fumed silently and flexed his fingers on the handle of his cane.
"Besides," Narcissa continued, a hard unladylike edge to her voice, "perhaps my potion killed that little Weasley brat."
Lucius raised an eyebrow. It was a nice thought.
"Lucius," Narcissa said, suddenly all charm. She looked entreatingly into his eyes, "we've been going about this all wrong. We should take a more straightforward approach."
Lucius thought for a moment. "You're right," he finally decided, tapping his cane definitively on the floor.
The two spent a night and a day in the Manor's dungeon, where they kept a fully stocked potions laboratory. They sent Noddy to and fro to gather information about the boy's living arrangements. They studied book after book to find the perfect poison for their son. Finally, their preparations neared completion.
Narcissa stood over the bubbling cauldron. Her hair had turned into a mass of stringy clumps from the heat and steam of brewing. She added the final ingredient- a strand of Draco's hair- and pronounced the potion complete. When the sickly yellow mixture cooled, Lucius took an apple and placed a single droplet on its stem. The potion glistened for a moment, and then was absorbed into the apple, permeating the juicy fruit.
"Noddy," Lucius said, turning the apple over in his hand. He knelt and presented it to the elf. "You know what to do."
Draco draped his cloak over the armchair and loosened his tie, taking a seat before the fire in the common room he shared with Granger and pulling out his Arithmancy textbook. The essay he was about to start wasn't due for days, but he felt like working and didn't have much else to do. Since his return to school, his former Slytherin companions had kept their distance, not quite sure where his (or their) loyalties lay. The Weasleys were still friendly to him, and to some extent Granger and Potter had followed suit. But years of preconceptions were difficult to overcome, and he was neither welcome in the Gryffindor common room nor did he have the desire to intrude. He spent his days in relative quiet, with the occasional DA meeting or game of chess with Ron in the Great Hall. It had done him good; when he looked in the mirror the hollow look in his eyes that had been with him for so many years was gone.
He worked until the ancient clock on the mantle struck ten. His essay was complete, but it wouldn't hurt to read it over one more time. He picked up the roll of parchment and paced to and fro in front of the fire, reading it through. He grabbed an apple from the bowl the house elves stocked for them. He continued reading, absent-mindedly taking a bite.
The apple tasted odd, acrid- as if it had been grown with lead for soil. A tingle of magic shot up his fingers from the apple and he realized, too late, that something was wrong. He dropped the essay and the apple. A convulsion ran through his body and he inhaled the bit of apple the wrong way. He started to cough, he reached for the chair to steady himself, but his movements stilled. He couldn't move, he couldn't cough even though he needed to, and then the world went black, and he knew no more.
The clock struck eleven. The clock struck twelve. Draco stood immobile, a cough frozen in time.
At a quarter past, Hermione returned. She had just finished her nightly rounds and hung her cloak up on the peg before noticing Malfoy- unmoving. A glance at the roll of parchment and the apple lying on the floor were all that were needed to send Hermione running toward McGonagall's office.
Before the night was out Draco had been carefully moved to the hospital wing, his stiff body placed behind a curtain in the corner of the room. The Weasleys stood by while Madame Pomfrey did everything in her power. The apple, she announced, should have killed him- and only him- it was a poison designed for Draco alone. How and why he could be alive and unmoving she could not tell, but she sent Ron and Ginny back to bed with the promise that no avenue would go unexplored.
Weeks turned into months, and Draco Malfoy still stood frozen behind a curtain in the hospital wing. The cause of his disappearance was left deliberately vague, in the hopes that Malfoy's would-be-killers would not make another attempt.
Now and then, Ron or Ginny would come by to say a few words of encouragement to their friend, but he never gave any indication of hearing them. On their way out they would ask Madame Pomfrey if… perhaps? And she would say that no, not this time. Maybe next.
Astoria Greengrass was not a clumsy person, but for whatever reason (maybe it was her horoscope, or the curse her sister had muttered when Astoria had worn their favorite dress to Lady Nott's winter ball) this week had not been kind to her. On Monday an over-eager first year had barreled into her in the hall, sending her sprawling and knocking her books to the floor. During transfiguration on Tuesday, she had sat down at her customary desk and, much to her horror, the chair had broken beneath her. On Wednesday the wake-up potion she had tasted under Snape's usual glare had given her the jitters for the rest of the day ("when it says to stir slowly, Miss Greengrass, it means to stir slowly."). On Thursday she knocked her head, hard, against a pointy shelf in the Defense Against the Dark Arts closet when rummaging around for the doxy cages. She went through Friday cringing, keeping a sharp eye out in the halls, gingerly testing every chair she sat on, following the potion instructions to the letter, and watching her head at all times. She made it all the way through dinner without incident, but met her doom in the library. Above where Astoria was working, Hermione Granger had climbed one of the two-story latters and calmly began taking notes, standing on the very top rung. The next thing Astoria knew, the glass inkwell shattered on the desk right in front of her, splattering her with shards of glass and speckling her robes and the essay she'd been working on with black ink.
"Oh no- I'm sorry! Are you alright?" Granger hurried down the latter.
Astoria sighed and gingerly moved her fingers to inspect the damage. A few shards of glass fell off her hands, leaving cuts, and she could see the telltale glint of more shards still in her skin.
"I'll be quite alright, Granger," Astoria said calmly to the ball of bushy hair and concerned glances that approached her. "I'll just be off to the hospital wing now."
"Should I come with you?"
"No, no." Astoria said over her shoulder, "just clean up here, would you?"
When she didn't move her hands, they didn't hurt, and Astoria made it to the hospital wing in minutes. Madame Pomfrey bustled over, removed the ink stains ("so that I can see what I'm doing"), and sat her patient down on a cot. She put Astoria's hands over a bowl and popped the slivers of glass out one by one with her wand. The cuts were covered with Murtlap Essence, Madame Pomfrey gave her some gloves, and she was on her way.
She was about to leave when a shadow behind a curtain caught her attention. It was a man standing slightly hunched over, unmoving- and the figure looked familiar. She remembered hearing rumors about Draco Malfoy's disappearance; "I heard he was petrified," Theodore Nott muttered in hushed tones over breakfast. With a glance around for Madame Pomfrey, she slipped past the curtain.
Her guess had been right; it was Draco Malfoy. He stood bent forward slightly, facing a cot, his hand reaching for an invisible something by his waist to steady himself. An expression of horrified realization was frozen on his features, and whatever color had once been in his face was gone, leaving his skin white as snow. Astoria frowned at his predicament. It was said that his parents had somehow arranged for his disappearance, and Astoria had no doubt that it was true. Her own parents would do the same if she ever dared to contradict them on matters of great importance. She patted Draco on the back, and turned to leave.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Draco's body slowly fall forward. The touch to his shoulder had been all that was needed to upset the balance of his stiff body. She tried to catch him, but it was too late- he fell, his stomach striking the edge of the cot. Something flew from his mouth, and he doubled over like a rag doll, no longer stiff.
Astoria stood uncertainly, torn between the urge to run from Madame Pomfrey's approaching footsteps and the want to see what damage she had done. Her decision was made for her when Draco let out a groan, and slid off the bed and onto the floor. This time Astoria caught him before his head hit the ground. "Draco?"
His eyes rolled under their eyelids and he coughed again. "What's going on?" he said in a horse voice, his eyes opening and squinting at the light. "Astoria?"
"OH MY GOODNESS!" Madame Pomfrey announced, flinging back the curtain dramatically. Draco cringed at the noise. "Can you hear me Mr. Malfoy!"
"Restoring draught!" She exclaimed, and moved off at top speed.
The evening was filled with activity. Madame Pomfrey poked and prodded Draco until he began to look worse rather than better, insisting that he needed rest. Much to Astoria's surprise, all the Weasleys filed in to express their genuine delight at Draco's recovery. They each shook Astoria's hand with a "Thanks, Greengrass," and left to let Draco sleep.
Finally, she was the last one left, and she voiced the question that had been bothering her all evening. "What exactly happened to you?"
Draco smiled softly. "I ate an apple."
"A cursed apple," he said, defensively.
Astoria nodded and turned to go. Draco caught her wrist. "Hey, thanks Astoria."
"I only knocked you over."
"Yeah? Well thanks anyway." He looked her in the eye and smiled. Then she left.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Battle of Hogwarts took place not long after Draco's recovery, and he fought alongside the Order of the Phoenix. No man fought more bravely than Draco Malfoy and no wand was surer in its aim than his. He did not face his parents in battle, and they both lived to see the inside of an Azkaban cell.
The Ministry of Magic, faced with a number of convicts with life sentences and no parole, decided to confiscate their property, and give it to productive members of society. And so it came to be that Draco Malfoy claimed his inheritance at the age of twenty (despite the loud protests of both his parents, which no one heard through the thick walls of Azkaban).
It was lucky that this happened, for a lavish feast was held at the Malfoy Manor that very spring to celebrate the wedding of Draco Malfoy and Astoria Greengrass. The Weasleys were present, their red hair clashing magnificently with the pale green dress code of the wedding. Through the years they kept in touch, and there was a great deal of floo powder used to travel between the Manor and the Burrow. Soon the games of quidditch were brought closer to the ground and bludgers abolished altogether to accommodate toddlers on their little brooms.
And they all lived happily ever after.
A/N: I've always loved reading re-imagined fairy tales, so when I saw Mockingjaybird's Based on Fairy Tales Competition I just had to write something. This is for the prompt "Snow White," and I've tried to stay true to the original: mirror causes Snow White to leave home, Snow White is attacked with laces, a comb, and an apple, and a random handsome prince arrives to end the story and marry her.
This was also written for CBlack19's Harry Potter Spells Competition for the prompt "Impervius: write about a character that makes the decision of not having anything to do with something," and for Lady Phoenix Fire Rose's If You Dare… Challenge for the prompt "shelter."
I had a little trouble figuring out which seven Weasleys I wanted. The beginning of this story is set at the end of Draco's seventh year, so it's not HBP or DH compliant. I hope that wasn't too confusing.
I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading and sorry for the ginormous author's note!