Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: After Hogwarts, everything changes.
Author's Notes: Thank you so much to my beta, B, without which I wouldn't have had the drive to finish this.
It is a blank feeling inside at first when he hears the news. It’s not an owl, it’s not a note, it’s not a whispered word of farewell.
It’s the Daily Prophet that announces it.
Narcissa Malfoy, 41, found dead in her home in-
But he can’t read anymore. The newspaper crumples to the floor by his foot. He can’t see it, for all the tears swarming his eyes and blurring everything everything everything. He sinks to his knees, staying, unmoving, except for the sobs in his chest, until his legs cramp and the sun sinks beneath the London skyline.
His family, his everything, is gone.
And it is all Potter’s fault.
The winter chill comes. It is unusually cold in London, snow sticks to the pavements, snow sticks to the streets. He’s always cold and he only feels his fingers and toes when the hot water works in the flat bathtub, which isn’t very often.
It might be cold outside, but he’s dead inside.
No one sent cards of condolence, not even Snape, who loved his mother, but his father even more. He’s not stupid. He heard the noises from father’s study, back when they were a family, all alive together, when Snape would come to visit father and mother would flit around the house and order the house elves to make the biggest, best suppers with chocolate cake for dessert, just because it was Draco’s favourite.
He found a chocolate cake, half-eaten and stale, in a rubbish bin last week. He held it in his hands, his mouth salivating, his stomach growling, but he couldn’t bring himself to eat it, not without Mother and Father here.
He’s still hiding, they’re still looking. When he goes out, it is under the cover of darkness, under veils and hoods. He’s too tall to pass for a witch, too straight to pass for a hag. Disillusionment charms only go so far if you don’t want the Ministry on your tail. He refuses to go into Muggle London, though he can see it from the lone dusty window of his flat.
The galleons from the family vault are piled high in the corner, by the mattress he transfigured. He sleeps by them, and wishes that he could spend them all, just to buy a few more minutes with his parents. Mother, suicide, dead in the attic of the Manor, undiscovered for a week. Father’s body, dumped into the North Sea, eaten by fish. No one cares about either, no one but him.
“I’ve failed us,” he whispers. It is his mantra. Semper familia, semper familiae. The Malfoy family code is ingrained into his being and he vows never, never to let them die.
“I’ve failed us,” he whispers, until one morning, a discarded newspaper flutters into his face. He shoves it into his pocket and darts back into his flat, ever the elusive neighbour.
The advertisement is small and simple, but the words are magic to his aching insides. We have what you’re wishing for- Appuleanis Family Apothecary, 993 Knockturn Alley. They ripple across the bottom of the newspage, then disappear.
The apothecary’s shop is tucked away in one of the dingiest corners of Knockturn Alley, not far from a stand where a hag sits, hawking her wares of shriveled hands and hanged man’s livers pickled in jars. Draco pulls his cloak tighter over his face. He can’t be too careful with being recognized. There could be a bounty on his head.
And besides, he’s afraid. The way the shriveled old women sit and leer, as if they know what he is up to. The way wizards turn to him, scowling or glaring or baring filed-down teeth make him shiver. His cloak is woolen, thick and too large. He sweats cold underneath it.
He is the only one inside the shop. He enters a dark room, full of dark wood, paneled everywhere, floor-to-ceiling. There are few shelves and fewer bottles. Dried plants hang from the rafters, along with something furry and moving in the corner. Everywhere it smells of rotten cabbage, marijuana smoke and heavy, heavy incense. He coughs under his cloak.
Shadows stir behind the register, an aged thing, bronze and rusted green, covered in cobwebs.
“May I be of assistance?” something croaks.
Draco spins around. Something tugs at his robes. He jerks away, and sees a little man, wizened as Flitwick from school and nearly as small, except with one bushy eyebrow across his brow. He sneers down at the man.
“I don’t know,” he says after a long pause. “The potion I’m looking for-”
“Is dark?” the man taunts. “Do you put it past me, to carry something dark?”
“I-” He doesn’t know why he has come to this place. Perhaps out of desperation, perhaps out of hope. Perhaps it will take his mind off the ache inside left by his family, even if only for a few minutes. But now that Draco, on the spot, has to think of why he is here, the chill returns. He shakes his head.
“This was a mistake,” he mutters and turns to leave. His robes and cloak swirl heavily around him. The little man, though, scurries as quick as a billwag and blocks the doorway.
“Oh, no, sir, I do think I can help you,” he says. He smiles, a curling lip that covers his whole face. His eyes are as bright as the London skyline, if beady. He rushes off, zigzagging to the back of the shop and behind a stained red velvet curtain.
With a triumphant “Aha!” he emerges again, hardly a moment later. He climbs onto the counter by the register and beckons Draco over with the curl of a finger, no bigger than a child’s.
“I do believe,” he says, placing a small vial down, “that this is what you want.” He waggles half of his eyebrow and moves back, encouraging Draco to pick up the vial.
Draco bunches up the hem of his cloak to pick it up. He’s known too many poisons, too many Dark objects to know to always use gloves. And yet here he is, walking around Knockturn Alley without a pair.
He examines the vial carefully. It’s no bigger than his smallest finger. Thin and fragile, made of the deepest scarlet glass, stopped with a wax seal, dark brown with dust and grime. The label is equally tiny, but the words in a clear, crisp calligrapher’s scrawl.
“What is this?” he asks.
“The solution to all your problems. Your family problems,” the man says.
The blood seems to drain from his face at the man’s words. Draco glances back down at the vial and sets it on the counter. He can’t know. There’s no way. “I can’t take it,” he says.
But the man is gone.
And so is the shop.
He stands in the middle of an alleyway, where a small drift of snow has piled into the side of a brick building. And in the middle of the white, a drop of scarlet. He reaches for the vial with his hand, shivering when his skin touches the frozen glass.
At home, when he mixes the potion with a pot of tepid tea, he feels the aching hole inside start to fill up.