"To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves."
― Federico García Lorca, Blood Wedding and Yerma.


The Cruciatus Curse had a very distinct feel to it.

Levied, it swallowed nerves as kindling and replaced marrow with agony in a man's bones, the instantaneous Incendio boiling the victim's blood and singeing every single cell with the hellish pain of absolute evil.

It made a man fall to his knees—forget he'd ever had them, really—the subsequent crack of his bloodied forehead against the dirty stone floor of the dungeon a welcome distraction from the anguishing blaze that ripped through his broken body until it reached his very soul, attempting to break it, too.

There was no question that Draco knew exactly how the Unforgivable felt; recalled it as though it were only yesterday when Death Eaters had punished him with the curse that ripped screams from his throat, shattering his organs and scorching his flesh from the inside to the out.

It hadn't been yesterday, though. Not yesterday, nor the one before that, or even the one prior. His new normal.

These days he punished himself.

Gripping the side of the elegant framed archway where he stood, he watched as, across the lobby of the Ministry, a young man entered, hurrying through with bootlaces untied, glasses askew, coffee sloshing from the paper cup hastily Levitated behind him.

The man grappled with his shoulder bag; it had gotten caught on another wizard's briefcase and now threatened to spill folders of paperwork all over the polished floor. An owl swooped into the man's path, intercepting him with a brightly colored memo that he only managed to collect after freeing a hand by shoving a too large piece of scone into his mouth, never once considering, as he tucked the slip of parchment into his wrinkled robe pocket, how fortunate he was that the owl never confused his messy head of hair with an actual nest.

Draco glanced at the ornate clock that decorated the wall behind the fountain and found the smallest hand threatening to reach directly towards "Late to Work" at any second. So too, the man across the room paused to look at the timepiece, his low curse audible as he finished buttoning up his bag and rushed off to destinations unknown, some mysterious place besides the Ministry lobby, which was the only place Draco knew definitively that he would spot the man each day.

So that's where he stood. Today. Yesterday. Would tomorrow, too.

If his father could see him now…

His knuckles white as he clutched the side of the archway, Draco watched the back of the man as he disappeared into the lift.

No, Draco Malfoy knew what Crucio felt like.

This was definitely worse.