WARNING: This short story contains strong language and mild references to sexual activity.
"That damn McGonagall," hissed Draco under his breath. "That damn, bloody bitch..."
He was seated at the entrance of a small cave with legs and arms crossed, resting his head on his hands and his back on the bare stone. He stared outside, thinking. A cave: a grandiose word for just a recess in the stone. But it was the only place he could get to easily. The Muggle clothes he had been forced to wear were a bit soaked at the legs and arms, but, thank Merlin, he had found a place to weather in before the rain really started to fall heavily.
"What did you say?" asked a childish voice at his left.
Draco sighed and rolled his eyes, raising his stare to the ceiling of the cave. A bat was flying into the small shelter they had just found. He turned to look at the child who had spoken. "Nothing. Don't worry," he muttered, trying not to raise his voice. He couldn't stand to hear the child crying yet again.
Yeah, damn McGonagall. He had insulted Granger again before the Transfiguration lesson started two days ago. He had called her Mudblood and had said that she disgusted him. Unfortunately, he had turned around to find the professor right behind him, looking extremely displeased after hearing every word he had said.
"Very well, Mr. Malfoy. Detention for you, and ten points from Slytherin for your behaviour," she had said. Draco had wanted to hex her, to smash her ugly, wrinkled face, to tear her hair out by the roots ... to hurt her badly. But he just couldn't. He had to lower his head, as always. How much did he hate it! Malfoys should never lower their heads. They should raise their chins high over everyone else. Especially that sodding Gryffindor bitch!
But he had hated her even more when he found out what his detention would entail.
"You will go to a Muggle farm and will stay there, working, the whole weekend, Mr. Malfoy. And you're not allowed to use magic. You will have permission to bring your wand with you. These days, since You-Know-Who has returned, we must all be careful. But you're not allowed to use it unless you're in life-threatening danger. Let's just say that you'll be under the same restrictions that are in effect during summer holiday. And don't stare at me like that," she had said sharply, noticing that his eyes had gone wider and wider as she talked, and that now they had narrowed into a glance of pure and utter loathing. "It's for your own good."
"How can it be for my own good?" he had asked, his fists clenched and shaking.
McGonagall had given him a piercing glare and had replied, her voice lofty with the ease of years spent disciplining students: "You must learn some respect for Muggles, Mr. Malfoy. If we cannot teach you that with theory, we'll teach you with practical methods."
"But,…" he had tried to say.
"Don't you dare complain. You will leave tomorrow and your detention will continue every weekend until I deem you've learned your lesson. When your classes are over, you'll find some Muggle clothes you ought to wear on your bed." She had looked at him very seriously as she had spoken.
"But... my father won't ever approve,…" he had tried once again to say, but Professor McGonagall had smashed her right hand over her desk, forcing him to shut up.
"No buts. Your father is going to approve it, like it or no. Money could earn him freedom from Azkaban once this year, Mr. Malfoy, but it won't help him forever." She had sent him yet another piercing stare, frowning, then she had continued. "And remember that if those Muggles feel anything strange from you, we will know it." Draco had glared at her, but she hadn't cared. "Now, you better go back to your dorm," she had commanded, giving him a nod of dismissal.
So, he had been stuck on that Muggle farm for the whole weekend. A Hogsmeade weekend, no less. Pansy had been very angry at him when he had informed her that he wouldn't be able to go on a date with her this time. But nothing had annoyed him more than noticing the mocking glances and mutters of those three bloody Gryffindors as he had left.
The day he had passed in the house hadn't been that bad. If only those Muggles didn't force him to ... work. He, a Malfoy, doing menial chores! Damn! All the muscles of his body were aching, and his hands were reddened and stiff, covered in blisters. He had been forced to paint a wall -- an enormous wall, nay, a gargantuan wall -- and he wasn't allowed to use magic.
He had had his wand in his pocket. He had known that it was there but was not allowed to use it; this annoyed him the most. He had finished late after sunset, starving. He couldn't feel his wrists anymore, especially the right one, and he had been completely spotted with white paint. Draco had a sudden vision of McGonagall falling down a flight of stairs and breaking both legs.
‘First thing I want to do when I become a Death Eater is go to Hogwarts and kill that wench,' he thought. But he almost immediately banished the thought from his mind. He wasn't exactly sure whether or not he wanted become a Death Eater. He didn't want to take orders from the Dark Lord; servitude went against every fibre of his Malfoy pride. Of course, the promise of power, which would be the reward for that obedience, was tempting him. It always had tempted him. ‘However,...'
The soft rain that had been falling through the forest had now become a huge storm. A lightning flash, followed by the sudden roar of thunder, appeared like a wound across the grey sky. The wind was howling all around them, ripping through the foliage of the trees and bushes, and driving sudden bursts of rain showers into their shelter, soaking their clothes until they were wet to the bone.
"AAAAH!" the child screamed and instinctively moved closer to hug him. She was trembling with fear, her eyes shut and her teeth chattering. Draco jerked a bit. He didn't like the idea of a Muggle, even a child, touching him so intimately.
"Oh come ... are you scared of thunderstorms?" he drawled, giving her a disparaging glance and trying to increase the distance between them. The child didn't look at him; she didn't move at all. She stayed perfectly still, hugging his chest and burying her face into his clothes, coiling up even more as he spoke. Draco sighed again in annoyance. He just couldn't stand her.
Her father, the head of the household that was hosting him, was laid up with a broken leg. He could walk, but he wasn't allowed to do hard labour, so Draco had to replace him because of his detention. How many times had he cursed this hellish sentence? He hated doing manual work.
Today, Mr. McAberdeen had asked him to go collect some firewood in the forest. Draco had stared at him, eyes wide for a few moments. He didn't know even how to start doing such a thing, but the man had said that he'd just need to gather some small branches from the ground. He didn't need to cut down any trees. The man had also said that his daughter would accompany Draco, so he wouldn't get lost.
So, they had walked all day through the forest, looking for fallen branches. He had to admit that the child had been very useful. It had been somewhat irksome, though, when she had twisted a foot the wrong way and hurt her ankle. He had been forced to carry her on his back and leave the branches they had picked up because she wasn't able to walk anymore.
This already had annoyed him enough. ‘What am I? A pack mule?' he had thought, fuming in anger. Then, the rain started. The girl had said that when the rain fell all of a sudden like that, it would turn very quickly into a storm and they'd better find a shelter. So, here they were, hidden under that recess in the stone, which of course, didn't help that much, as it was raining cats and dogs. Draco's left shoulder, arm and knee were completely soaked by now. And the child was still curled up against his chest.
"Now ... stop it!" said Draco, trying to get rid of her. But she buried even closer to his chest and trembled more.
"But I'm sc... AAAAH!" she muttered and then yelled, as a fresh round of lightning and thunder burst through the air.
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" retorted Draco, sneering. Finally the child moved her face to stare at him, her scared eyes filled with tears. She shook her head to say no, and buried it again into his chest. Draco sighed as another rumble of thunder made her little fists clench on his shirt reflexively. She was still shivering.
"No ... I'm not. I'm scared ... and I feel cold, and my leg hurts,..." she complained in a monotone. Draco sighed again. He could've fixed that foot immediately with magic. It wasn't a life-threatening situation, though, and he'd need to Obliviate her if he was going to do such a thing.
Professor McGonagall wouldn't have elaborated on the terms of his detention when explaining it to his parents, he was sure of that. He had hoped that his father, after fully understanding the situation, would storm up to the school and kick her bloody arse. Before leaving for the detention, he had sent an owl to his family, trying to use their influence to make the punishment shorter. But it hadn't helped.
‘Maybe she just has a cold,' he thought, noticing that the child's clothes were soaked like his. He moved his arms reluctantly and tried an indifferent sort of hug. At first, he thought it was disgusting. He, Draco Malfoy, hugging a Muggle willingly. But as the child increased her hold and trembled less, Draco decided to abandon his reservations, momentarily. He moved his arms around her small body, hugging her tightly. He didn't know why, but it was ... comforting ... even for him.
Lightning wounded the dark sky, and a huge burst of thunder echoed in the sudden darkness that followed it. The child sobbed, and he held her tighter.
Yes, he suddenly remembered. It was like that time.…
He didn't quite recall how old he was, perhaps just as old as this child--five years old. He was sleeping in his room at the manor and had been awakened by the sudden roar of a thunder. The sound had made the windows of his room shake and had scared him to death.
He had cuddled into his bed, holding his blankets tightly, trying to find comfort in their warmth. The darkness of the room was creepy; never had he seen his room completely dark. When he went to bed, normally, a few small candles lighted the space near the bed, and when he woke up in the morning, the sun had already risen. So he never had seen that huge obscurity wrapping around him.
He hadn't been able to recognize the shapes of the furniture, and the eyes of the people moving into the portraits were giving him the creeps. They were illuminated with a ghastly light as a fork of lightning flashed into the room through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
He had felt cold, had shivered in fear. He knew that he was scared, deadly scared. He wanted his Mum. Yes, last time that there had been a storm, this one during the day, he had ran to his Mum and she had consoled him. He had tried to embrace her, but she had refused and had told him not to do that when his Father was at home.
"Draco, your father wouldn't approve. He wants you to be cold; he wants you not to show your emotion, you know," she had murmured into his ear. Draco had nodded that time, content with her kind voice and satisfied by her gentle strokes over his hair.
This time, Father was at home. And it was also the very first time he was alone during a storm ... at night. A shiver ran through his spine as the sound of thunder had resounded in the room, again shaking the glass of the window. The wind outside was howling madly, and loud showers of rain were hitting everywhere, pausing briefly and then coming back, louder than before.
He had stayed huddled in his bed for a while, shaking as the temperature inside the room seemed to decrease by a good ten degrees. He had felt as if his feet and hands were made of ice, and he couldn't help but shiver even though he was trying to not do so. The ceiling of his room itself was frightening, showing strange moving shadows he wasn't able to identify.
Then, another howl had resounded outside, and the window smashed open. The cold wind had suddenly came into the room, turning everything upside down and causing the dark green curtains of his window to whip around madly. Draco had thought a ghost would come into his room, ready to kill him. He hadn't been able stand it any more. He had stood up from his bed and had ran out of the room, tearing down the corridor in fright.
He had started to run through the darkness, trying to orientate himself. It was hard; he didn't know the house very well. Mother had always wanted him to play in his room or in the garden. So, he had walked through the corridors just to move from his room to the bathroom, to the living room, to the garden.
That night, though, everything was scary. The wind still howled on the outside, and he jumped at each thunder crash, allowing himself a small moan of terror.
"What are you doing here?" A male voice that definitely not his father's was speaking behind him. He turned back to see who had talked to him and met the mocking gaze of a man in armour from one of the portraits on the wall.
"Who … who are you?" Draco had stammered, trembling and walking backwards.
"Who do you think we are?" had asked another voice, this time a female. He had turned suddenly once again and had seen a witch with a hooked nose and greasy hair, dressed in an old-fashioned black robe, passing from one picture to another until she was standing in the one at which he was staring.
"We are the images of your ancestors," another voice had replied from behind. Draco turned again and saw yet another scary and slimy face. He yelped when he met this new person's glance. It was unsettling; his eyes were cold and dark. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" had said another voice from a distance.
"A Malfoy! A Malfoy, for Merlin's sake!"
"What did your father teach you?"
"What did he tell you?"
"It must be that damn Black heritage on his mother's side. The blood traitors!"
"Did he teach you to run away like a scared little lamb? Is this the Malfoy pride?" A new flash of lightning had underscored these words, and another clap of thunder had roared into the dark and cold corridor. Draco couldn't help but jerk and yelp.
"Oh, he taught you to jump at every little sound. What a Malfoy you are!"
"I told Lucius not to marry that wench...."
"Yes, you're a disgrace to the family name. Thank Merlin we have never seen your face before."
"Look at yourself, paler than ever and shaking in fear," said another voice. The voices of the pictures had started to echo into his head as if they were hitting him. He couldn't stand them anymore. He had resumed his flight through the corridors, while thunder threatened to break through the windows.
He had ran blankly until he had reached the staircase that led upward. Draco knew that his parents' room was on the second floor and on the other side of the manor from his own first-floor room. As he had ran up the steps, each time he had dared look at the walls he had seen new pictures staring at him, judging him, screaming at him....
"Don't you dare call yourself Malfoy again!"
"You're the shame of the family!"
"Bloody weak, showing his emotions like that.…"
"Stupid child, he's crying!"
"He's crying!" the accusing voice had echoed through the corridor, followed by the laughs which made him shudder again. No, he didn't want to hear those voices again! Who were those people? He didn't know them! But they were his family....
Resting himself against the wall, Draco had dared to look in front of him. He had seen a glimpse of shining eyes glaring at him from behind yet another picture. He couldn't conceal a yell and fallen to the floor, crawling to stand up again and bumping into something. He had screamed and turned to run in the opposite direction.
Then, suddenly, he had recognized the door of his Mother's room. He had stopped in front of it, his heart bumping madly in his chest. There were some noises from the inside: moans, groans, and hard breathing. What was happening? He had shyly opened the door and timidly looked inside. A lightning bolt flashed on cue, lighting up the whole room in stark detail so Draco could see everything.
He had seen his father lying over his mother on the bed; he was moving on her as if he was riding her, while she followed his movement in a sort of dance. What was that? Their bodies were tensed, and loud groans and moans resounded in the room. Draco yelped as thunder followed the lightning bolt that had illuminated this awful scene. At that sound, his father had suddenly stopped and crashed over his mother's body. Blood drained from Draco's face.
"DAMN, DRACO! WHAT THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?" Lucius had yelled, and a cold feeling of fear shot down Draco's spine. He had fallen to the floor and had sat down, resting his back to the door. He hadn't had the strength to reply, though; he was too scared to utter a word. But his fear had turned into hot terror when his father had roared and stood up from the bed, grabbing a pillow to cover his naked body and approaching him.
"WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING. HERE," Lucius had hissed, holding him by the pyjama collar and glaring directly into his eyes. That firm and cold glance had frozen Draco. He lost the ability to say anything; he desired to disappear from the world.
"Lucius, he's a child; he was scared by the storm," had begged Narcissa standing up from their bed and wrapping the sheet around her body, approaching her husband with caution.
"Scared,…" had muttered Lucius. His eyes had flashed with a mocking light as a horrible laugh resounded from his throat. "Scared ... in tears ... a MALFOY!" he had said, emphasizing the last word and increasing his hold on Draco's clothes. Lucius had forced him to stand up and had glared at him with an expression which bordered on madness.
"Lucius, please. He's a child!" begged Narcissa once again. She tried to comfort Draco, stroking his hair with a light caress, but Lucius had pushed her hand away sharply.
"He's a Malfoy, not a child. He has shamed me and all our ancestors acting like a girl! He, the heir of the Malfoy family!" Lucius had tossed Narcissa's hand away from Draco's hair, rage visible in his eyes as he glared at her. Then his cold glance had returned to staring at Draco's eyes. "Lesson number one, son. Malfoys never show weakness. Malfoys never show their emotions. Malfoys never cry. Remember this, son." He had emphasized each ‘never' by shoving Draco to the wall.
Draco was trembling to the deepest part of his soul. He didn't even dare say anything and could just move his head to nod yes. Slowly, his father had released him, and he could breathe again. Narcissa had stroked his hair, trying to set it back in order and had murmured some comforting words into his ears. Lucius had sent him a disgusted glance, and had walked away to bed.
"Go back to your room, son. And you, Narcissa, leave him alone," he had ordered. Draco's face was as pale as a sheet. He had nodded again and had hurried to leave.
Yes, he had remembered the lesson. He never had forgotten it. Since that day, he never had came back to his parents' room during the night. He had tried to behave himself in a manner worthy of the Malfoy's name. He couldn't care less about what the ancestors' pictures thought of him, but he didn't want to see that disgusted look in his Father's eyes. No, he wanted Lucius to be proud of him. He wanted Lucius to look at him with satisfaction.
A hand on his shoulder woke him up from his memory. He gasped, turning around to see who had awakened him, and met Mr. McAberdeen's friendly eyes. He suddenly remembered everything and noticed that Eileen, the child, was sleeping curled up in his arms. He had fallen asleep with her. His pale cheeks coloured with a soft shade of pink.
"Thank God you were safe," the man said, still staring directly into Draco's eyes. "We were looking for you the whole night."
A second face appeared from behind the man, and Draco noticed that Mrs. McAberdeen was there as well and that both Muggles appeared completely drenched.
‘Probably they really were out all night looking for us,' Draco thought.
"Why? The brat was with me, she was safe." Draco's eyes narrowed to small slits on his face. The man shook his head and sighed; then, he grabbed the boy by the shoulder and forced him to a hug. Draco's eyes went wide in shock. He tried to wriggle out, but he found he didn't really want to.
"I know. I knew Eileen would tell you to find a shelter; she's a smart girl. But I was worried. What if lightning had struck you? Or if a wild animal had come by? You were both defenceless. And I had responsibility for you as well, you're underage."
Draco felt the man shaking in his hold. He wasn't defenceless, he was itching to spit out. He had his wand, he could defend himself. But, he couldn't say that.
"Bullshit," Draco drawled and stood up, gasping from the sudden pain -- his muscles hadn't recovered yet from the hard work of the day before. Besides, they had lost all feeling from the cold and wet, and weren't quite awakened yet. Draco slapped his legs, trying to get the blood flowing.
"I'm so glad that it was just that," murmured Mrs. McAberdeen. The woman hugged her child, who was rubbing her eyes, still half-asleep. She then picked up the girl in her arms.
"Mummy,..." Eileen said, giving her mother a hug.
"Was everything OK, darling? Were you scared?" the woman asked with a sweet voice.
"No, Mummy ... I wasn't scared. He was with me," she said, smiling at Draco. The jealous pang that he felt staring at Eileen, enveloped in her mother's hug, caught him unprepared. They were just Muggles, after all. However, how much had he wanted something like that when he was a child.
The weather, after the storm, had turned chilly that mid-March day. The sun was rising from the east and it was invading the cloudy sky with its red and violet shades. Draco shivered in his damp clothes and hugged his arms, trying to warm himself. Mr McAberdeen tossed a jacket over his back, and Draco stared at him, for once with a sort of thankful light in his grey eyes. The jacket was damp from the rain as well, but it had been warmed by the man's body.
"Let's go home," said Mr. McAberdeen, throwing an arm over Draco's shoulder and stroking his back. Was that Muggle really trying to reassure him? He didn't need it anymore. He shrugged the arm off of him.
It was all he had wanted as a child: some warmth, some comfort. A hug. But he had never had it, and it was too late. Because he had learned to be strong, he had learned to be cold and distant. He had learned to be ... a Malfoy.