Week 51

I woke up this morning with shafts of sunlight prying open the sleep-gummed apertures of my eyelids open like some over-enthusiastic celestial chisel. Somewhere, God was giggling with glee at the thought of robbing another poor sod of rest.

I made my way blearily to the loo, and there I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I panicked for a good two minutes, convinced that the corruption percolating in my brain was somehow spreading outward, manifesting itself in shiny pinkish criss-crossing puddles of rawness all over my face.

Was that even possible? Could something that was all in my head find its way into the plane of physical reality?

Great. Thank you, God.

I brought a hand to my face to touch the bruise-flecked flesh, wondering how I could possibly show up at the waiting room now, when I thought that my mirror image's answering movements were delayed by a scant second.

I remembered reading in a silly little book once that mirrors were portals into a different dimension. That time is not linear, and every time someone made a choice, it branched out into these infinitely varied rivulets of possibility. The birth of a universe with every trivial decision. And the only way you could access these alien worlds was through a mirror.

Good evening, sir. May I take your coat? Have a seat. Welcome to the Great Sisyphean Tragedy of Life.

Thank you, God.

I considered staying home today. I was just one week short of a whole year of going to therapy. Surely they'd be considerate. I could send them a note.

I'm sorry, Wallace old boy. I just couldn't make it. My crazy is bleeding out into my face, and the next dimension over is bleeding out into mine. We'll re-schedule, eh?

I looked at the mirror and waited. It felt like an important moment, like one of those grand episodes of sudden self-discovery. Maybe today was the day I'd finally remember. I was expecting something astounding to happen—maybe spontaneous chemical disincorporation, or for my reflection to start speaking to me or whatever—but nothing unusual came. I blinked again and our movements matched up. My skin looked perfectly normal.

I thought it might be the insomnia acting up again. When you have insomnia everything comes at you from inside the slow shimmer of a heat haze. Everything is slippery and languorous. The air takes its sweet time getting to your brain, and you have to take extra special care trying to think a thought all the way to its completion. You start out with a coherent idea and you follow it down the channels of your brain, and then suddenly the path does a complete screwdriver twist on you and there was no thought, no path, no nothing, and you are left lost and gasping and thirsty as all hell and everyone is staring at you like what the fuck is wrong with you, mate?

Nothing can come from nothing. Shakespeare and Parmenides and Darwin all said that.

My skin felt tight and old like scar tissue. It looked normal, though. In the mirror my cross-dimensional visitor prodded his cheeks and grinned at me. I made up a story for him. His name was Maco Dralfoy. He had loving parents. He had everything he'd ever wanted, including a dog. He was studying to be an astronaut.

The end.

In Muggle studies they told us that the human brain is made up of about one hundred billion nerve cells called neurons. Each of these neurons makes from one to ten thousand contacts with other neurons. These points are called synapses. Each synapse can be on or off at any given moment. With all these permutations, the number of possible brain states easily smokes the number of elementary particles in the known universe.

There is the fimbria. The fornix. The indium griseum. The locus ceoruleus. The nucleus motoris dissipatus formationis of Riley. The medulla oblongata. The corpus callosum. The substantia inominata. I didn't learn these names in Muggle Studies. I read about them all by myself. Somewhere in all that pulsing grey matter, there is a specific pattern of zapping electrochemical impulses that the poets have collectively labelled 'love.'

My parents loved me. Me. Draco, not Maco. They just had a strange way of showing it.

After Goyle died Mother cried and told me she loved me. That she was sorry. That it wasn't my fault, and what could she do to help?

Father turned the full piercing impact of his silver stare at me and placed his warm palm around my collarbone and said, "We are a dying breed, son." Like Goyle's death was just another notch in the casualty list for him. At times I've thought that despite all his anger at the Muggles and the Mudbloods stealing our birthright, he was glad to be a part of a dying breed. It gave him purpose and direction. Without all the impending doom pressing in from all directions, he was just another Pure-blooded puff of smoke.

A dying breed.

It made me think of mushrooms, or moss, or things that grow in the dark and smell of earth and ammonia and decay. We were like the lichen clinging to the cracked bark of the trees around the Manor: slimy and desperate.

Mother and Father were supportive. They insisted that I go to therapy.

It's time for you to move on, they said.

Please, Draco. Move on.

Mother's hand was cool against my fever-glazed forehead. In that moment I hardly knew who she was. My parents were both unfamiliar to me.

Alien.

Impostors.

I looked at Maco and Maco looked at me and in perfect synchrony we contemplated our doppelgängers.

His parents were Marcissa and Mucius Dralfoy. They lived in a big house ringed all around by large, forbidding trees. They had no dark thoughts, or shame, or malice. They lived lives of Apricot Ice and Strawberry Cheesecake. The trees kept them safe. If a war or a nuclear disaster or a tornado were to find them in their placid tree-ringed idyll, they would dust themselves off, pick themselves up, and say: Move on. Move on. Move on.

This is how Sisyphus stayed sane.

Thank you, God.


Week 54

"For a second there I thought you were Harry."

I looked around, trying to figure out which bespectacled tosser she was talking to, before I realized she was looking straight at me. I made a quizzical gesture toward the glasses perched on my nose. "Are you serious? I resent that."

I handed her coffee and sat in an empty seat three spots away. I ignored the very obvious eye-rolling coming from Jones' direction.

"Well, you don't really look like him. I think it's just a Pavlovian response to glasses on my part. So?"

"So… what?"

"So why are you wearing the glasses? Do keep up," she scoffed. She was wearing her hair in a thick plait down her back. I supposed it was an attempt to get it under control, but it just made her entire head look fuzzy with all the curls that were trying to escape their constraints. It didn't look bad.

"Can't see," I grumbled, hiding the bottom half of my face behind my mug.

"Oh, come on, don't give me that. I know for a fact that you have perfect vision."

"Oh?"

"I've noticed you read over my shoulder from six seats away. How else could you come up with such detailed insults about my choice of reading material if you weren't so intimately acquainted with its contents?" She rose from her seat and settled herself in the one next to me. This happened every week, and I wondered why we didn't just sit together in the first place. I guess we were both the type of people who needed excuses to do things. Jones elbowed Mallory and they both slipped me a salacious wink.

"Yes, hmmm," she frowned, getting all up in my face with an expression of mock concentration. "Up close, you don't look like Harry at all."

"Don't be daft. You could tell us apart from two bloody miles."

"You're right. Harry's the handsome one."

"If handsome is code for grotesquely malformed glans-headed spunk gobbler, then, yeah, I guess—"

"Ugh, yuck. Don't be crude. Anyway, how can you possibly see in those? The lenses are practically six inches thick."

"I don't need to see. The big show is in my head."

"Take them off."

"What? No—"

She ducked under my arm and made a sly pass for them. The metal slid coolly against my temples, and then she had the glasses in her hands.

"What's the big deal? There's nothi—"

"Just fuck off, alright?" I snarled. I grabbed the glasses from her slackening fingers before they fell and jammed them back over my eyes. My throat felt so dry and empty I was sure it was going to implode on me.

"What… I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—"

I wanted to say: Are you fucking happy now?

But what came out was: "It's fine. Whatever."

Last night I couldn't sleep again, so I decided to systematically rid myself of the little tidbits of childhood that Dooley inserted into my life. I took all the pictures and the natty old duvet and the bedroom slippers and the miniature broomstick and the chipped coffee mug with all my quills still in it and in my head I yelled: Good riddance to the bloody lot of you! I put everything in a little pile and denuded one of my pillows of its satin covering and stuck everything in there. The moon looked like white paper in the velvet screen of the night sky, and I thought it was a good night to take a walk, so I went out hefting my childhood in a pillowcase. I dumped it in someone's herb garden.

Then I went out and got drunk enough to start blabbing to a complete stranger about Granger, and the bloke asked me why I haven't fucked her already, and that made me angry so I hit him. And then he hit me back. Cause and effect.

The point was that I hardly got any sleep, and my insomnia was back to crawl over everything leaving behind its artificial anemic epidermis, and this morning I looked into the mirror and my face was all fucked up again. I wasn't sure if it was all in my head or not. Hence the last minute decision to wear my spare glasses supplemented with your average entry-level Glamour Charm.

"I don't understand… Why are you so angry?"

"I'm not angry, alright? I just… I slipped in the shower."

The look she gave me was dripping with disbelief.

There was a poem I heard once. Something, something, shut my eyes and the world drops dead. Something, something, I lift my lids and all is born again.

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

And then she smiled at me, a conspiratorial little smile like she was in on my big, bad secret. And maybe she was. And maybe I didn't mind.

"Liar," she said in a low voice.

Ba-dum-dum-dum went my pushover heart.

"Prove it."

"That's not very nice." Her voice was breathy in a way I'd never heard before, her lips a pouty little pink moue.

"What's not nice?"

"If this is some sort of sneaky Slytherin attempt to get me to imagine what you look like in the shower… Well, it worked." She'd painted her nails electric blue. They were all chipped and torn up at the edges, and I wondered if she gnawed on them like she used to at school.

Ba-dump.

"Well… Good." I could have punched myself.

Her fingers were warm and white against my wrist. When did she get so close?

"Draco… You don't have to hide them, you know. Your scars. Not from me. I… We all have them."

"What… What scars?"

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

"I mean… The ones on your face. They've always been—" Her mouth crumpled into a frown, and it made me want to hold her hand and exclaim that I would support her every endeavor until the day I died. Her eyes didn't leave her hands, and I knew that withholding eye contact wasn't her style. I wondered when I began recognizing her habits, what point in time she stopped being a stranger to me. She bit her lip and forced out a smile and finally met my gaze. Something poignant in that small action ground me to my seat. "You know what, never mind. I didn't mean to pry. I'm sorry."

The pressure of the moment caved into itself, and we were back in the waiting room. Pressure was a funny thing. 14.7 pounds per square inch of air bearing down on our bodies, and yet we don't notice it. Not until it's gone, anyway. And there's nothing at all left to hold your seams stitched together.

(Darling, darling, let me be your drizzle.)

"You know… You don't smell like blackberries anymore."

"Dooley was being clingy. I told her to stop coming."

I threw the blackberry sedative into the herb garden along with the detritus of my past. I was getting bad again. Sorry, Wallace.

It was getting harder and harder to keep reminding myself that Granger was no miracle, and that I was no saint, and it would never ever work. Her brain-dead husband was vegetating somewhere within the same building. I had no leg to stand on. We were just two crazy kids who found each other while waiting for the world to rearrange itself in conformation to the laws of gravity. Two half-hewn unfinished fluxions of chemistry and instinct, trapped in a state of quantum entanglement. I felt a sprawling sense of ill-usage, but my lips could form no accusation. Not against her. It wasn't her fault, after all. I was nothing to her but a convenient shock absorber.

(Darling, you can be my hurricane.)

"Shame. I like blackberries."

She slipped her fingers off my wrist. It's a funny thing, pressure. You don't notice it until it's gone. Her eyes were stones. Muddy, muddy, glimmering stones.

Cold and brown and dappled with golden shadows. Like looking at the sun through a drippy window.

"So get yourself some blackberries. Stop sniffing me like some kind of mental patient."

All that stood between her and the atomic meltdown in my ribcage was my chest wall, and I hoped she didn't notice the beating raging branding iron bonfire of my heartbeat.

She gave me a playful shove and I smiled.

Go on. Move along. Nothing to see here.


Week 56

"What happened on the night of the 27th of December?"

Wallace, you depraved, grubby little capitalist. You brown-nosing, myopic eunuch. I hate you.

All I want is a bit of catharsis.

Must you be so selfish?

I hate you.

"I'm not crazy."

"No, of course you aren't."

He looked at me and I looked at him. This was our little game. My denial, followed by his complicit acquiescence. It helped keep me calm. Usually, anyway. I don't think it was working now, though. I felt wasted and faded and antsy and angry and I wanted to feel the cartilage in his nose crumple under my fist.

Must be the insomnia.

Or the caffeine.

"Don't… Don't say it like that, like…"

"Like what, Mister Malfoy?"

"Like… Like… Never mind."

"What happened on the night of the 27th of December?"

Maybe I shouldn't have got rid of that sedative.

Maybe they sedated me not to make it easier for them to handle me, but to make it easier for me to handle myself.

"You know what happened?" I said, forcing myself to breathe out slowly. I felt the truth—or some semblance of it—hammering blindly and violently in my brain, stretching my meningeal envelope with its seeking fingers.

"My best friend died on that day. That's what happened. He just up and dissolved himself from the face of the Earth. One thing led to another, I suppose. But it's never just one thing, is it? It's a multitude of things. It's a billion decisions and twice as many consequences. It's like little streams all flowing into each other, coalescing into larger and larger bodies and eventually running into the sea. Maybe that's why people go crazy."

Cause and effect.

Outside, the sky was strange and flat, the sun faking the daylight. It was like looking at the universe from inside a big, dusty dome.

"Why do people go crazy?"

"Because everything that's important is all so temporary. Because we live everything as it comes—without warning, without rehearsal. Because a world of infinite cause and effect is a world where nothing is condemnable. Because in the grand scheme of things nothing really means anything. And I know that all this shouldn't hurt me so I don't understand why it's like… like I have a special receptor for it."

"A special receptor for what?"

"You know how pain is a signaling system for your body to tell your brain that something is damaged? Well, I think my signaling system is all fucked up. Maybe it's in my spinal cord. Or my medulla. Whatever the hell it is, I feel things too much. I'm… I'm a human-shaped pain receptacle. And it's not fair because there's enough pain to go around, but everyone else's nerves have calcified. They just don't… They don't see any of it. We went through two wars, for fuck's sake. It's like I'm surrounded by… by trees. By suicide trees. All stiff and wooden and impassive."

I imagined a pocket of empty colour. Flickering festoons of run-for-your-life orange and delirious green and supernova blue licking sinuously at each other in a forgotten corner of space and time. That was me. Maco Dralfoy, the black hole.

"I see… What happened on the night of the 27th of December?"

"People who think that everything has a reason are fools. Sad, sad little fools."

"Mister Malfoy, do you remember what happened?"

"I tried to fix it."

"Fix what?"

"My pain receptors."


Week 60

At the Battle of Hogwarts, the floor buckled beneath my feet, then my knees jammed up on me, then I skidded to the ground, and I was lost.

There are a lot of things we take for granted simply because they're always there. Like pressure. And air. And love and hope and light and illusion and all that crap.

The floor too.

You don't really think about how much faith you put into the floor beneath your feet until it starts to cave in.

It was, overall, a rather romantic scene. Milk-and-water mist. Everything a watercolor wash of angry greys and sinister greens held captive in the sly advance of dusk. The sounds of battle that really were more feeling than anything audible. The awareness that someone somewhere in the castle was right now breathing their death rattle. The world all around me smeared by high velocity.

The floor rumbled aggressively under my stomach as if for my edification.

See this here?

It's called gravity.

Now, we call it the Theory of Gravitation, but it doesn't seem so theoretical now, does it?

I remembered thinking that I just wanted to lie there forever until the heartbeat pulsing viciously in my eardrums started to feel normal while everyone went off to die meaningful deaths in the candy-flash death-parade that was Hogwarts besieged, and that they all thought I was a coward anyway, and I might as well save my skin while I was at it. It comforted me to know that I had fallen and could fall no further.

And I was lying there, the floor pressing so intimately against my cheek that I could taste it in my mouth, when Crabbe grabbed a handful of the back of my robes and hauled my to my feet. I shoved him away. Then there was a spell that lit up the corridor in a sickly green flash lurid and blunt as high noon, and the bling of it got caught in his eye, and the look I found there made me shiver.

He said: Get yourself together, you fucking shit dick.

Goyle was standing behind him looking like a gigantic, terrified baby. His face was sheened with sweat and blackened with soot. It was at that moment that I decided that I hated Voldemort, but by then it was too late.

And then, not five minutes later, Crabbe was dead. But everyone knows that story already.

Move on, they said.

That was the big mantra of the year.

Did you take part in the war?

Move on.

Did your family lose everything it once held dear?

Move on.

Are your friends all dead?

Move on.

And I would be moving on too, if my brain didn't insist on puking up the past every bloody time I went to bed.

Goyle's dead too, right?

Right.

Of course.

What was I thinking?

Crabbe is dead. Goyle is also dead.

And I…

I was left behind lying with the floor quaking beneath my stomach, just like I wanted.

(I am the heir to white gold decay.)

When both your friends die in a fire, it gets really hard to tell who is who.

(I am a fucking coward.)

Move on.

I woke up this morning with a big dry feathery crack attached to my neck instead of a face.

I felt for it slowly with my fingertips.

Yeah, my face was still there.

My skin was dry, though. Like a capital, top-shelf case of sunburn. My fingertips came into contact with the stinging rawness of newly-healed skin. I would have checked the mirror, but Maco Dralfoy was starting to get on my nerves with his stupid pale eyes and his thin wry little mouth.

Then I had a funny thought. I thought: this is how it starts. Little dry papery folds here and there that criss-cross their way across your face. You don't notice them at first. They take advantage of your leniency and pretend like they aren't there to stay, that they're only sleeping over for the night because they're in town and your face was so conveniently spacious. You weren't using all that extra skin anyway, were you? And your eyes have just the right amount of sheen and your cheeks so blank and empty so they invite their corrugated cousins and their pleated pals and before you know it your face is rumpled and puckered and tucked and you've forgot how to smile. Then it spreads out until it eats you, and you are just one big wrinkle.

(Like death grown over with bark.)

One big, sad wrinkle in the fabric of space and time.

That's what I am.

(We'll never get away. And even if we could—even if we could—)

A sad scar-stippled little wanker who could no longer tell the difference between what was real and what was only pretending to be.


Week 62

"So a guy's wife gets into a terrible car accident."

"Excuse me?"

"It's a joke I heard from George. George Weasley. Listen."

"Do I have a choice?" My lips formed themselves into a smile before I could help it. So I liked her jokes. So what?

"Well, there's this terrible car accident—you do know what a car is, don't you?"

"Yeah, sure, go on."

"And the driver is injured and has to go to hospital—hospital's basically St. Mungo's for Muggl—"

"I know what bloody hospital is."

"O-kay, sorry. Just making sure. Anyway, he goes to hospital and speaks with the doctor. A doctor is a Heale—"

She cut herself off when I glared at her.

"Alright. I get it, you know what a doctor is. Well, the guy goes to speak with the doctor."

"And…"

"And the doctor says, 'I'm sorry Mister Jones, I'm afraid we have nothing but bad news. Your wife survived the crash but she's in a coma and there's no telling when she'll wake up. Even if she does regain consciousness, she will most likely be a borderline vegetable for the remainder of her life. Your insurance declined coverage, and we can only keep her here for another couple of days. She will require expensive machinery and full time care to keep her alive. You may want to look into hiring a live-in nurse, or perhaps quit your job to become your wife's caretaker. You ought to consider selling your house to afford her care. After that, I'm not sure what to tell you.' Meanwhile, the husband is distraught. He asks the doctor, 'Are you sure about all of this?' And the doctor says… the doctor says…"

At this point Granger was having a right hard time controlling her laughter. I wasn't sure what was so funny, but the sight of her biting her lip around a guffaw in a valiant effort to deliver her punch line made my own mouth twitch. She had a laugh like wind chimes, or glass chips, and I drank the sound in like I was a man buried alive, and she was my coup de grace.

"Get on with it, Granger."

"The doctor slaps him on the back and says… 'Nah, mate. I'm only messing with you. She's dead.'"

The Mediwitch gave us a stern squinting as Granger's laughter pealed across the waiting room.

"I'm not sure it's healthy for you to be making such morbid jokes," I grinned at her. She shrugged.

"Healthy shmealthy. Learn to live a little, you fusty old man."

She had all the wrong reactions to things, and maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. At least I was sure she wasn't just some passive, programmed creature. She was alive. And real. I was starting to get worried. Because here she was: Solid, burnout Granger with her sickly sense of humour and her hair and her aesthetic philosophical ramblings, and I knew without doubt or pretense that she was the most real thing I've encountered in a long, long time.

What the hell did that say about me?

Cross your fingers, lads. Hold onto your hats. Right here, right now, is your last chance to feel human.

"Hey, Draco, do you want to… maybe…"

"Yeah?" I looked up too quickly for my brain to catch up with my movements.

"I don't know, it's silly. But maybe if sometime you're not busy, we could—"

"Granger, Hermione." The Mediwitch's voice had a way of cutting through your reality like a great big sobering blade.

I looked at Granger. She looked at me. Her cheeks were pink. She gave me a wan smile.

I'll have whatever Live Wire Granger over here is having, bartender. Get me a fix of some of that vicious hypnosis.

"Sorry. I guess I'll see you later, Draco."

"Yeah."

(You and me, baby, we're like entropy.)

It was Granger, Hermione.

(Spontaneous combustion in a sealed chamber.)

And then Jones, Mallory.

(Stars dying an ecstatic death.)

And then Jackman, Wayne.

(Perpetual motion machines breeding rust in our gaskets.)

And then Malfoy, Draco.

(Darling, you're beautiful.)

Jones had lost a lot of his paunch and was now done with the juice fast. He wasn't allowed to eat solids yet, though. He ate mashed bananas, protein shakes, and other such half-masticated looking fare. You get your stomach used to liquids, and the moment you re-introduce something substantial it turns inside out on you. Jackman lost the anarchist air. He was on his way to recovery, I've heard. He was more wet blanket than live wire now. He was healed.


Week 65

Wait!

No, no.

Stop!

That was what I wanted to say, but somehow the words never left my mouth. They got stuck there somewhere on the tortuous path between my frontal lobe and my palpitating tongue. Maybe the letters got tangled up with my optic nerve and they dangled there, right behind my eyeballs. It certainly felt like it. I had a raging headache. I thought longingly of the cool white sheets and dappled purpling shadows of my room back home.

Mrs Crabbe looked at me funny and I started, noticing for the first time that I had my hand half stretched out and that my mouth was skewed around a gimpy little grimace. I looked around, taking inventory of my universe—who I am, where I was, what was happening. I remembered. I put my hand back down. I clenched my jaw and tried to concentrate on the pressure at the back of my teeth instead of the angry thump, thump, thumping of blood at my temple.

Wait!

Stop that!

Bring him back up!

No one deserves to be shut up under six feet of clod.

I am the artificial byproduct of the stinking morass of your soul. I am God's lazy eye. I am a worm farm.

For fuck's sake.

I thought it should have been raining. In my mind the weather was very different. It was supposed to be grey and wet—all steely sharp solemnity, the air humid with tears pretending to be unshed. In my mind the rain would slam down on us from a low sky, and I would stand there by his tombstone—a solitary black figure in all that misted gloom, my hair plastered to my scalp with rainwater—and I would maybe kneel, or maybe just bow my head. A bundle of morose, shadowy clouds hanging over the middle distance. The subterranean rumble of approaching thunder. The sweetish, earthy scent of spreading damp getting in my throat.

But instead the sun was crackling along happily like nothing happened. The air was so fucking crisp it wasn't even funny. No one was crying. No one bowing. The ground was wet though, which I couldn't understand at all. It was like it was trying to compensate for the obdurately inappropriate cheeriness of the sky. It was a cold, cold January morning, and nothing felt right.

I'd heard my parents discussing the fact that Mr and Mrs Crabbe didn't want me or Goyle there. Obviously they couldn't say no to my father. Small mercies, I guess. Or not.

So there I stood, squelching the wet mud beneath my ridiculously shiny black shoes and wondering what it was we thought we were burying. I heard there was nothing left of him but molars, but that's not true. I knew. I was there. There were bones, too. Bits of charred might-have-beens. Flakes of desiccated probably-will-not-bes.

I itched in my dress robes. You'd think that with a lifestyle like mine, I ought to have been used to the silky suffocating drag of brocade already, but no. Overhead, the sun was a flash of buttery gold. I wondered if it were possible to Apparate into space. Across interstellar distances. Theoretically, it should be possible. I wondered what Crabbe would have thought of it. He was a surprisingly thoughtful fellow, once you got to know him, but he was the sort to get caught up in mundane little technicalities.

Like: Oh, but why would you even want to do that?

Or: You can't breathe in space, Draco.

Or: You could, but you'd probably splinch yourself horribly.

I had a sudden image of Crabbe, toothless and confused, floating around in empty space. He'd tried to Apparate to the sun, splinching himself right across the gums, and so he'd left his molars behind for us to bury. I couldn't help it. I laughed. It sounded like something flayed and canned and slipped in furtively through the gap underneath the door from another room. Mrs Crabbe flashed me a dirty, dirty look like she would have liked nothing more than to blow out my guts through my spine with a quick and nasty Entrail-Expelling Curse. I felt my father's hard-knuckled hand tighten around my shoulder. Goyle dug his elbow into my ribs. My throat corroded with bile, and I wanted to hurl all over my mud-shined shoes.

"Shut up, Malfoy," Goyle whispered into my ear. He looked like a puppet in his robes. We all did. Like automatons programmed to leak salty water out of our seeing holes whenever unfortunate things happened and then, when enough time for polite grief has passed, to move on.

Psychotic breakdowns are so last season, a voice that sounded remarkably like Pansy's simpered in my head. Pansy wasn't at the funeral. She said it was my fault. She called me a self-absorbed motherfucking shit heel waste of space. She said it in that lilting intonation she uses whenever she's boiling angry: Mo-ther-fu-cker! She said she never wanted to see me again. I sucked my tongue off the back of my teeth and counted to ten in my head. Every number marked another second of my life that I would never get back.

Move on. Move on. Move on.

I thought of light and heat and phosphorescence. Of how something can be so hot that it starts to emit a radioactive glow, like the aftermath of an atom bomb. Of dry heaving desperation and the sensation of your insides turning slowly into powder. Too-tight skin and aching bones and heat, heat, heat.


Week 66

When I was around Granger I didn't think so much of trees.

The trees around the Manor were static and unmoving and dead dead dead like so many self-murderers condemned to a half-life of arrested momentum. So much around me was cracked bereft of life. So much. The first war blew its icy acid breath across Wizarding England and left it blasted and traumatized and weak-kneed. The second war finished the job. With all the talk about 'recovery' and 'rebuilding' and 'renewing' and the medals and awards and honours flung about like confetti you'd think it never happened.

Granger was... different. She wasn't special or extraordinary. Nothing about her was beatific or sublime. She was just... different. I didn't get her, but I knew that I was wrong about her.

She looked her best in bright, bright daylight. Almost like the sun was especially crafted for the sole purpose of getting caught in the twisted depths of her hair. In the sunlight, she was copper and flame and softly pink fingertips. Like the rust corroding a twisted metal joint. Like an old Knut.

"Do you ever think about... About what your life would have been like, if none of this ever happened?" She was holding the coffee mug with both hands like a child.

"It's marvelous how you can read and talk at the same time."

"I'm not reading anything, see?"

"Hmm."

"Draco."

"Huh."

"Draco."

"What?"

"Answer my question. Do you think... if we didn't play the parts we did in the war... Do you ever wonder what we would have been like? Sometimes... Sometimes I'm afraid that the only reason I'm brave and kind is because I was forced to grow up in the circumstances we inherited."

(Fall apart with me, Granger.)

"That's stupid."

She glared at me. I sighed and turned my full attention on her. "You're not just a product of your generation. You're... you. You're Hermione Granger."

(Tell me something that makes you cry, Granger.)

"But what if you're wrong? What if the only reason we are who we are is because of some bizarre coincidental alignment of events—"

"Look, why are you here anyway?"

"That's... a pretty loaded question."

"Oh, shut up. I mean why are you here, in the waiting room?"

"Hmm... I guess... You know how money was your crutch? Oh, don't make that face, we all know it's true. Well, money was your crutch, and logic was mine. And I couldn't take it as soon as I realized that things don't always happen in a way that makes sense."

I squinted my eyes and tried to look at her like I was a searchlight, and she was an errant convict. I wasn't really sure what I was doing. "No, no," I said, shaking my head, "Why are you really here?"

She swallowed. I thought her eyes were starting to water, but it was just a trick of the light. "Because... Because I lost my husband."

"You're here because you were damaged by the war. We all were. You're here because you want to fix the hole it left behind. Because you know that there's something worth salvaging there, alright?"

"Sometimes I think if I weren't friends with Harry I probably would have fled Wizarding England altogether. Given up my wand. Run for the hills."

"Oh, bullshit. Bull. Shit. You know as well as I do that that's what all of us would have done. Yes, including Saint Potter. I would probably have been sipping tea somewhere if my family weren't involved. Screw upholding my heritage. It's only human. Weren't you the one preaching to me about beauty and all that crap?"

"I suppose..."

"Alright, let's put it this way. In Muggle Studies I learned that all our molecules come from the stars. That all the heavier elements in the universe were forged in the bowels of a fucking supernova. Somehow, from all that chaos, organic matter came about and here we are now, waging wars and having juice fasts and getting therapy. Just because it came about from coincidence doesn't mean it's any less profound. Or any less real."

I hardly knew if I believed any of the words that came out of my mouth. All I knew was that it was more important to me at that moment that she believed it. Because she was Live Wire Granger, and I knew without a doubt that if the world were to snuff her out, then I might as well...

I might as well...

"That was beautiful," she said in deadpan, rolling her eyes. I wanted to shake her. Or kiss her. Whichever.

(Be my lover, Granger.)

I felt on the verge of a glorious epiphany, and I wasn't sure if I wanted it to peak. Epiphanies can be bloody scary. So I backed down and let my cresting excitement melt along the slope of my shoulders.

In the sunlight, she was milk-and-honey bioluminescence. She was sour cherries, and dew-painted mockeries, and a vertigo so deep-seated I felt it all the way down to every vein and every artery. She was a pulsing neutron star, and I wanted in on her gravity.

Jesus. I could spend the rest of my life trying to forget this girl.

"Don't... Don't let them take it away from you, Granger. Somewhere under all that hair and among all that stellar leftover gunk is something worth saving."

"Are you talking about my... my soul? Ha. Very funny." She tapped her foot impatiently and I wondered if she had somewhere else to be. "You know, I don't get you. You're the most irreverent, most cynical, most naive little boy I've ever met. None of those things should work together."

(My lovely lady river.)

"Whatever."

It was her turn to squint. She crossed her arms and gave me that look. It was my turn to be the criminal. "What about yours?"

"Excuse me?"

"You almost had me falling for that, Draco. What about your soul? Do you think it's worth saving?"

"Last time I checked, we were talking about you. Don't turn this around on me."

"Well, alright. As long as you acknowledge that all you just said applies to you too," she said carefully, nodding. "You know, I wasn't really serious when I said you'd be a creme brulee-flavoured bean, but now I see it fits you perfectly. You're just a hard shell with a creamy, creamy center aren't you? Oh, come on, don't look away. Let me see those pretty baby greys."

"This conversation got real sappy real quick. Can we stop?"

"I'm sorry, are you embarrassed?" She giggled. "If it makes you feel any better, when I was little I used to think fellatio was a type of pasta."

I snorted.

"You're an idiot."

"You really do have beautiful eyes, you know."

I wanted to say: Granger, I will leave my eyes with you when I die. You can have them. You can scoop them right out of my skull and keep them in a little glass box.

(Ever wonder if it's all for you, Granger?)

She graced me with a smile that was pure warmth and I knew that despite her waxy pallor, the slump to her shoulders, and the sense of doom that was palpable in the air around her, she was the lingering ghost of all we had lost during the war.

I am Draco Malfoy, the stellar remnant. I am the used rags of my ancestry, a defective brain, fruit of chance, hair after my father's side of the family, nose glued together from a few dead noses from my mother's side. She is Hermione Granger, byproduct of dead, defective stars. Maybe we were perfect for each other after all. Maybe I ought to ask her out.

"How long do you have to keep coming here?" she asked me.

(Forever. Forever. Get me out of here, will you?)

"I don't know. Wallace said I'm halfway out already. It shouldn't be too long. What about you?"

Her chin trembled, but then she bit down and laughed. I was confused. "This is my last day. I wish I could... But I can't. I can't come back here. It's unhealthy."

(Let me build castles for you, Granger.)

"Oh," I said.

"Granger, Hermione." The Mediwitch was prompt. So prompt. So fucking prompt.

And then it would be Jones, Mallory.

Then Jackman, Wayne.

Then Malfoy, Draco.

How are you, Draco? Are you still seeing the trees everywhere? Are you smelling colours and hearing lights and tasting last breaths and squeezing death rattles between your fingers, Draco? Are you still stuck in the past, Draco? Why can't you move on? Do you still see Goyle in your dreams? Are you still thinking of parallel dimensions and alien impostors?

What happened on the 27th of December, Draco?

Are you still trying to kill yourself?

"—ou're not nearly as tragic as you make yourself out to be, Malfoy," Granger tutted sagely, standing from her seat and smoothing her skirt. "You'll be fine."

"Huh?"

(Let's run away.)

She frowned, and again her chin trembled. The lines of her jaw were graceful, and I wanted to run my knuckle down its tapered slope. She made to touch my arm, but she drew her fingers back at the last second.

"Draco... Please. Please, Draco. Don't make this harder for me. I can't... It's been a pleasure getting to know more about you. And I'm sorry, but I can't ever see you again."

(We could take a train that goes Eastward forever and ever. Follow the dawn's grey and gold gossamer trail.)

"You're... You're healed, aren't you?" I said dumbly. I wanted to go now. I wanted awareness to sink into the silence of the unused lobes of my brain.

"What?"

The Mediwitch tutted loudly.

"You're better now, so you can't see me anymore. That's it, isn't it? You're moving on."

I watched her face as she took in what I said. To my surprise, she looked almost angry. "No. No. That's not it at a—"

"Don't you see, Malfoy? There is symmetry in life. We all live according to a symmetrical composition. Yeah, you are so full of shit." I was on my feet and in her face before I even realized what I was doing. In my head I was shouting, but my voice came out as a bitter, angry whisper. The Mediwitch made a move forward, but Granger signaled her to stop.

"You are such a Goddamn hypocrite. It's so easy to waffle about beauty and symmetry and balance when you aren't a fucking basket case, isn't it? Tell me, do you get off on preaching from your pure pedesta—"

"Shut up, Malfoy. Shut up. You think I'm okay? Draco, the world is not made up of either-or dichotomies. Just because someone seems happy doesn't mean he can't feel pain."

She was whispering too, rapidly and with quick, staccato rhythm. Then I thought: maybe she doesn't want to wake her husband. I almost laughed. It wasn't amusement I felt, but something cold, and trenchant, and painfully anonymous. It must have shown on my face. She curled her top lip around a sneer that didn't quite reach her eyes.

"And just because someone's in pain doesn't mean he can't ever be happy again."

Her words knocked the wind right out of me like a roundhouse to my diaphragm. I sat down. I heard a voice speaking. It sounded like mine. "I thought you were... I thought you were like me. I thought you were broken. But you're not. You're perfectly fine. You'll pick yourself up and move on. Just like the rest of them."

(I see the sky in you, Granger.)

She ducked her head and placed a finger to her temple. The mass of her hair tipped forward along her shoulders, and I caught the faintest tinge of lemon.

"You know how..." she hesitated, and I thought she was going to stop talking right then and there. But then again, she was never one to mince words. "You know how they say you can only love someone else if you love yourself first? Well, it's... kind of like that. I'm just as fucked up as you are, Draco. We'd be horrible together. Horrible." She made a face to compound her point. My head was a dead weight dangling from my neck. The lighting was doing that funny glowy thing to her hair again.

In the sunlight she was...

She was...

She was a fucking angel.

"Who said anything about love?"

She shook her head. "Everyone has his own scrap of the universe to keep, Draco. You just have to find yours."

I felt a pressure against my hands, and I realized that she was handing me back my traveller's mug. It was half-empty. Half-full. Whatever.

"Thanks for bringing me coffee. I'm sorry. I meant to tell you earlier, but I... It just never came up."

(I hear the sea in you, Granger.)

My scrap of universe was a flat that was barely anything more than four bare walls surrounding a vacuum of inertia. It wasn't enough. I felt anxiety clamp around my ribcage.

"Miss Granger, come along please. Healer Smith is waiting."

"You don't need my permission to get better, Granger."

She smiled her honeysuckle sun-drenched smile at me. Her coup de grace smile. Her tough-as-nails, deaf-as-granite, chipped concrete smile. They all said she was tough. That she was made of metal. They were wrong. She was made of glass, Granger was. She's the type to break you even as you break her. I wanted to grab her and hold her and see if my breath would leave its pattern across her skin.

"See you on the other side, Malfoy."

Exit Granger, stage right.

"Okay," I replied, nodding dumbly.

Okay.

Okay.

Okay.

That was my last word to Hermione Granger. To the fucking light that made the air breathable in my little scrap of universe. To my pretty little left-behind Knut.

Here in the waiting room my pacing desperation was just another symptom, and I was just another crazy fellow who tried to off himself.

My lungs expanded with the utter validity of my personal catastrophe. With the truth. What is this word, truth? The truth doesn't set you free; all of that was bollocks that was said by someone who's never really found it. The truth leaves you with gaping wounds and it hurts like three-inch nails in your feet, like water flooding your nostrils, like cigarette burns to your insides, melted asphalt running through your unyielding veins.

The truth can gash you so deeply that you can't live with the wounds any longer, and after the war, most of us, even though we will never admit it, wanted only to live.

As painlessly as possible.

It's only human.

I am Maco Dralfoy, the misplaced quasar. I am the starry-eyed idealist trapped on a sinking ship. I am the queasy-stomached stockpiler of broken hearts. What could Granger possibly want with me?

In my head, I heard the rustling of a thousand trees.


Week 68

"I'm tired, Wallace. I'm tired of... all of this. What are we trying to accomplish?"

"We are trying to heal you, Mister Malfoy."

"I can't... I don't..."

"You are worth it."

"Huh."

"Mister Malfoy, have you read the letter yet? Have you looked at it at all?"

"No. I don't want to. You can't make me."

"You may read it now, if you wish. I give you my permission."

"Like I'm touching that. I'm going to toss it in the fireplace first thing when I get home."

Wallace looked at me with a wry twist to his flaccid mouth. Outside, the sky was one long nicotine smear. "Are you going to burn it, then?"

"Fuck off."


Week ?

There is that space in time that I like to occupy. It's small and fleeting, and if you look too hard, you will lose it altogether.

It's that stretch of seconds between a thought and a word, the silence that predicates a contraction of muscle against bone. It's a pretty little capsule of frozen time when your mind is blissfully blank. It is getting a glass of water and being entranced by the stream of clear sparkle pouring from the spigot, or scratching the back of your neck, or staring out the window at various moving nothings, or making indeterminate, never-to-be-fulfilled plans to skip town. It's a century crammed into a heartbeat, when life decides that you deserve a breather.

On my bed was the envelope from Wallace. I made a small slit in it, but it lay there, closed and inert and unmoving like someone's pale, discarded, amputated hand.

I've heard of bombs. Of radiation. Of cells bursting outwards forever and ever.

I've heard of cyanide. I've heard of carbon monoxide. I've heard of butane and pesticides and olanzapine. Potassium chloride. Hydrogen sulfide. Lye.

You could pour a hundred to two hundred milliliters of chloroform into a washcloth and slap it over your nose and mouth and Spellotape it there so it doesn't fall off when you become unconscious.

You could down over thirty grams of aspirin and wash it into your stomach with antihistamines and vodka. The antihistamines are to prevent the aspirin from splattering onto the bathroom floor in a rainbow cascade of sick. The vodka... Well. The vodka is for coping.

I've heard of sodium phenobarbital. I've heard of electric shock. I've heard of overdosing.

You could jump off the top of the Ministry.

You could get yourself trampled by the Hogwarts Express, your bones getting caught in its spokes.

You could get yourself a handful of sleeping pills and just... get dirty with it.

I've heard of these substances called chemicals. The Muggles invented them. Some are harmless, some are toxic. Everything in the world is made of some combination or other of chemicals. Sometimes, if you mix certain chemicals together, exciting things would happen. Three in particular: potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulphur. Together they make a listless grey chalky kind of powder. Innocuous enough stuff. But touch it with fire, and it turns violently into gas. The Muggles managed to harvest this rapid combustion. If you somehow direct all this expanding pressure in one direction, you have a weapon. Muggles figured out that they can use this gas expansion to blow projectiles out of metal tubes at terrific velocities. The projectiles are fast enough that they make nothing of flesh, sinew, meat and bone. I've heard of guns and gunpowder.

I think this is similar to how people get crazy. My head was full. It was full of things that people put in there, and those things don't fit at all together. They are artificial, useless, hideous. I was malfunctioning, my brain fertile ground for neuroses aplenty. I was a lunatic, and I needed an outlet for all that incipient lunacy roiling in my head.

Who bound us together, me and my body? Why should I die together with it? Why should I be subject to my imbalanced chemicals? Why shouldn't I have the right to prod and poke at myself until I knew where the borderline between us is drawn?

One day you are thinking and hauling yourself all over the place, and the next you are cold plant food. It's so easy to make a ghost.

Look at Crabbe.

Look at Goyle.

Move on, they said. Move on. I tried. I really did. I made no protest and tried to go along with the flow. I promise.

What happened on the 27th?

It was winter in the Manor. Everyone's a little crazier in the winter. When it gets that cold things start to feel a little slow, a little surreal, and you are stuck in an echo-chamber mentality while the air shifts and settles around you like a stale paradigm. There's nothing like a sterling-fresh snowfall.

In the winter the trees are silent.

Last night I dreamt of my mother and father and Crabbe and Goyle and Wallace and Mallory Jones and Wayne Jackman all sprouting leaves where their hair should be. Maco Dralfoy was there too. Maco Dralfoy was a good boy. He never sinned.

In the winter no one is who they say they are. They were trying to trap me. They were trying to get me to join their cold, sick little charade. Skin turning into bark, blood congealing into clear, unfeeling sap. Everyone was all too eager to hibernate themselves into a stupor. To move on, move on, move on. In the winter everything is shiny like the polished surface of a mirror, and I was Maco Dralfoy and Draco Malfoy was me. Maco hid my sins well. He moved on with the rest of them.

So I set him on fire.

Draco, Draco, you are no killer.

Dumbledore said that. Goyle said that too. He tried to stop me. He was always an emotional dickhead.

Sometimes I would dream of Goyle and in my dream he'd be alive. Sometimes I would dream of Goyle and in my dream he'd be looking at me like I'd just stolen something precious to him. Sometimes we'd switch places. I no longer knew who was killing who. Those were the best dreams and I hated them as much as I longed for them. They were like flying—like when you're flying away from the pitch and every second the people and the hoops and the stands get smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, only you feel it's really you that's getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all you've ever known at about a million miles an hour.

Maco was burning, burning, burning, his hair a flaxen daubing adding to the conflagration. I was on my knees crying. His lips were purpling, his body flayed outwards, the whole thing stilted and granular like an old, forgotten tragedy. But then he turned around, and I saw that it wasn't Maco Dralfoy at all. It was Goyle. Few people in this world know that Goyle was blond. They all forgot. I didn't.

Draco, Draco, you are no killer.

There is no justice, no truth, no forgiveness. No turning back. There are only shadows of you and me.

Whenever I wasn't dreaming about Goyle I was dreaming about Granger. Sometimes in the dark I wonder about her, and about how many miles of night there were between us, and if the same milky starlight puddle that wafted across my walls wafted across hers. If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?

Granger no longer came to the waiting room. She told me about beauty and surviving and finding little glints of sustenance along the way, and then she left me. She was healed. She moved on.

It was alright, though. I was almost out of there too. I'm getting better. I'm always getting better, according to Wallace. I've always just turned the corner.


Week ?

"It's strange..."

"What is, Mister Malfoy?"

"When I think about how I'm going to stop coming here soon. I've been coming here for so long. I think I might actually miss this place. Not you, though. I won't miss you."

"Ah, indeed. Well, I shall certainly miss you. You are a most unique case, but more than that, you are a frighteningly insightful young man."

"It's almost... unreal."

"Draco, do you remember?"

"I think I do..."

There was no voice in my head telling me that the first step to eternal life was death. No, no voices. Maybe it would have made more sense if there were, but I have no one but myself to blame. Me and my solipsistic whimseys. Me and my creme brulee soul. I was a symptom of the times. I was the archetype of a generation set adrift by war.

All I want out of life is a bit of excitement. A bit of arbitrary ignition.

"When the fierce soul has quit the fleshly case it tore itself from, Minos sends it down to the seventh depth."

"Ah, I see you finally remember your Dante."

"Yeah. I never forgot it. Crazy blokes like me are suckers for poetry. Delusions of grandeur and all that."

"Do you remember the rest of it?"

"It falls to this wooded place, no chosen spot, but where fortune flings it in—and there it sprouts like a grain of spelt, to shoot up to a sapling, then a wild plant: and then the Harpies, feeding on the foliage, create pain, and an outlet for the pain as well."

"Draco... Are you alright? Do you need a moment?"

"I'm... fine. I've made it this far, haven't I? Like I said, everything feels just a little strange to me."

"How so?"

"I don't know. I mean... How is it even possible to tell if something is real or not? We don't have direct access to reality. The world around us is filtered through our own individual perceptions. We're all just fish in a bowl. After the war it was even harder to tell what was real from what was just pretending to be."

"Is that what drove you to depression?"

"Fuck. Of course. That, and the fact that I'd just had my whole world view turned upside down on me. I was eighteen. What do you expect? But what really got me was how quickly it ended. They killed and maimed and died themselves, but then they snapped their joints back into their sockets and patched their outsides all together. They moved on. It was like they were made of wood. Just like the trees in Dante's forest. Like suicide-souls condemned to a life of inertia."

Souls.

There is the fimbria. The fornix. The indusium griseum. The locus coeruleus. The nucleus motoris dissipatus formationis of Riley. The medulla oblongata. The corpus callosum. The substantia innominata. Somewhere in all that pulsing grey matter is my soul.

It's easy to take its existence for granted.

It's so easy to move on when your pain receptors aren't tuned to the highest possible setting.

Reality is zapping a series of nerve combinations in your brain, and getting you to respond a certain way. Reality is responding to stimuli, that's all it is.

"When I was younger I used to have panic attacks whenever I got close to trees. My mother thought it would be funny to convince me that the trees were really ghouls in disguise to keep me out of the woods back at the Manor. It worked. It got really bad at Hogwarts. That time I had to do detention with Potter in the Forbidden Forest, my parents had to take me home for a weekend to calm me down."

Wallace gave me a pseudo-sympathetic smile.

Oh, Wallace. How I would love to dissect you, cell by cell, so I could lovingly hate each part of you individually and at great leisure.

"Maybe I was too jaded. Maybe I was too hopeful. Maybe I was some weird combination of both, and that's why I couldn't take it. I thought it was a trick. They were trying to trap me in this zombie dimension. I was scared of turning into one of them. I just... I thought it was the right thing to do."

"What was the right thing to do?"

"It was winter. It was cold. I thought it would be symbolic... You know, leave a lasting impression. I left a note. That was stupid of me. I spelled it to reach Goyle at a certain time, you know, after... After I did it. I messed up the timing. He got it too early. He saw me dousing myself. He pushed me into the river."

The last thing I remembered feeling was my cheek glancing off muddy brown silty stones. The last thing I saw was Goyle. Burning.

I felt light and dizzy. The room hovered around me, the chairs and the tables withholding their weight out of sympathy.

I looked down at my arms. The skin was flushed pink and swirled, coming together at unnatural seams. Third degree burns left scars that even magic couldn't completely get rid of. It was an appropriate look, for someone who descended from the furnace of a supernova.

"I didn't want to die, Wallace. I just thought it was the only way out."

(How do you reckon I'd get my hands on Muggle petrol?)

"Congratulations, Mister Malfoy. You are cured."

"Thanks," I sneered. "No, really. It's like a fucking dream come true."


Week ?

Mother, the letter began.

The word 'Mother' was crossed through hastily with two angry black lines.

It was replaced with 'Goyle.'

Goyle,

You probably won't even read this. If you do read it, I'm drunk. Sorry. Half this shit won't make an ounce of sense.

You know that tree outside that window? I swear it's getting closer and closer. It uproots itself whenever I'm not looking and creeps its way toward the Manor. It's probably a good ten meters closer now than it was before. Maybe I'm having a psychotic break, I don't know. It smells funny. Like burnt hair. I smell its foliage, hear the rustling of its great big branches, I feel the second-hand wind whistling smug-faced through a forest of blue-black. I don't know what this means. I'm on my second bottle of Firewhiskey. Wish me luck. Dooley is trying to get in my door. I've warded it well.

You know how we were planning on joining the Ministry after Hogwarts? Father would have got us prime spots. Greengrass was being groomed for the Ministry too. We would have made beautiful fucking babies.

I don't know about that anymore though. I think I want to do it, but then again the thought of making another decision makes me sick to my bones. I have a lot of options, but I find each one more unpalatable than the last. I see the potential outcomes of my decisions branching out gnarled before me like the branches of that fucking tree, and it makes me want to kill myself.

Have you ever read Dante, Goyle? Of course you haven't. In one bit he talks about the wood of the suicides, how everyone who killed himself was turned into a tree forever.

Something is wrong, Goyle. Something is wrong with my family. They're all... well. That's the thing. They're fine. With everything that happened, they're all just fine. I see them walking around like nothing is wrong with the world. Like the stars aren't shooting down from the sky, or the sun isn't out of alignment. They walk around and go about their lives and it drives me 're all fish in a bloody bowl. Instinct wrapped in impotent flesh. Smoke and coloured water. It's all like one big joke that everyone's in on, but nobody gets.

Sometimes I think I made it all up inside my head.

But no.

It's a lie, Goyle. They're trying to put you under.

Everyone is stiffened into a grotesque simulacrum of life. Like dead trees. Like burnt nerves.

Goyle, I wrote this letter to warn you.

I just want to reach my fist into the core of it and pull out its still-beating heart, and I want to swallow it all. I just want to take my life and pack it up and bring it with me in a box.

You see, we're all dead in the long run. In the end we're dirt. Our whole civilization is a layer of sediment. But not me. I am heir to nothing but white gold decay. I want no part of it.

I hate it here, Goyle. I wish I weren't a Pureblood. I wish someone would come and unbuckle my wrists. Get me out.

I fought the war, but the war won.

I don't want to die, Goyle. I want to set it all on fire.

Floo me when you get this. Or maybe not. I won't be home.

Your friend,

Draco Malfoy


End Notes: So this is kind of the final chapter, but not really. I have just the epilogue after this, and then it's done! Maybe we'll have a happy ending, who knows? Thanks again for reading, guys! Please let me know what you think :) As a side note, I haven't abandoned Dirt Nap Dispatches, in case anyone was wondering. I just really had to get this story off my chest first.