It was dawn by the time Draco reached Malfoy manor. He careened through the gates, flying sideways between the metal arch and the topmost spikes of the doors, nearly tearing the tail of his robe in the process. Making a kamikaze descent, Draco leapt from his broom a second before it hit the ground, and left it quivering there, the tip burrowed several inches into the dirt. Draco didn't even bother to uproot it. He was feeling reckless, right now. Reckless and pissed off, and in that state any Malfoy was a danger to himself, not to mention others.
He stamped up the steps, the snitch bouyed behind him, and a house elf, which had been lying in wait behind a stone column, making ready to bite at Draco's ankles, received a sharp kick to the stomach. It spun away, gasping, as Draco dragged open the front door, and proceeded through the hallway, toward the staircase which led to his father's room.
"Father!" Draco yelled.
He went up the stairs at a run, and skidded across the hall way. The snitch bobbed after him, but Draco was too incensed to slap at it. How dare he, Draco thought. How dare he imagine I wasn't good enough to beat Potter? How dare he involve me in whatever cruel plan he dreamt up? How dare he let me get expelled, even though he knew he was the one responsible?
He halted before the closed study door, and took a moment to regain his breath. Calm, composed, Draco thought. I must be calm and composed when I walk in there. I will speak plainly, concisely. I will ask him for his reasons he deserves that much, at least.
And then I'll throw a bloody book at his head.
He jerked open the doors and strode in.
Lucius Malfoy was sitting in his armchair, holding a massive leather-bound book on his lap, a thin finger resting on a particular passage. He gazed up through his reading glasses at Draco and Draco was taken aback: his father no longer wore that terrified expression he'd had before. Instead, it seemed that Lucius was back to normal, pinch-faced and serenely dignified.
"F-father?" Draco stuttered, reeling back on his heels.
"Draco." Lucius removed his glasses, and folded them elegantly on his lap. Extending a hand, he beckoned the boy closer with a curved finger. Draco, on the verge of obeying long years of deference had trained him to automaticly acquiesce to of his father's wishes caught himself just in time.
"No. No father. Just you wait a second," Draco spluttered, remaining in the doorway, framed by the great oaken doors.
"Give me the snitch, Draco. Then we'll talk."
"No!" Draco grasped for the ball as it settled on his shoulders, and held it before him, as if attempting to ward away a demon. "No! First you explain to me what the heck you were "
The snitch was snatched from his hand in a thick gust of air, and Draco cursed aloud, sucking his sore fingers. The ball curved as it headed for the wall, and then shot back again, heading for Lucius' hand. Draco lunged, attempting to intercept it's course, but Lucius was too swift and the ball nestled itself into the curve of the man's palm.
"I had to do that, Draco," said Lucius. "The spell I did to ward myself from reflecting the snitch's power won't last much longer. But I do think you deserve some ah recompensation for what you've been through."
"Hush. What do you feel, Draco."
Draco pulled himself upright, watching his father warily. The cursed snitch was already working its powers on the youth's mind: again, Draco felt that surge of overwhelming emotion he'd experienced when first Harry, then Snape, had held the ball. But the hatred he'd expected to feel, the disappointment, the nuisance they were all there, assuredly, but not to the degree Draco had imagined. Instead, Draco felt a sort of hopeless pride hopeless because it was a pride without a true source, a father's simple devotion to his only son.
It hurt Draco, though it hurt him to think his father wasn't the smartest wizard around, that despite his riches and his heritage of magic, he hadn't yet bested Dumbledore. It made Draco think that perhaps he hadn't done enough, that he hadn't taught his father no, that wasn't it, for Draco was already learning to reinterpret these misplaced emotions. It was his father who felt that he hadn't done enough. It was Lucius who doubted himself, who thought he hadn't taught Draco to the best of his ability, but it was Lucius too who knew, beyond a doubt, that his son would come into his own in due time.
Pride and love mixed with courage and perseverance, feelings so normal, so utterly Muggle-like in their insensible understanding. Draco felt an overwhelming embarrassment and Lucius too looked flushed, as if it pained him to allow anyone insight into what was without a doubt the most private of his thoughts.
"Do you see, Draco?" Lucius murmured. "I had no intention to harm you. And I am truly sorry that this happened."
Draco fell to his knees at his father's feet, and Lucius reached forward to touch his son's silver-blonde hair. It wasn't a hug, but in many ways it was better than a hug, because it was given without the influence of counterfiet compassion.
"Why?" Draco whispered.
Lucius threw the snitch into the air. For a moment it hung there, suspended and still, then exploded a dusting of rainbow-coloured sparks fell down about them both. Draco felt his heart leap, then still, as the last threads of their unified love fled from his mind.
"It was a mistake, Draco. Word had passed to me that Voldemort intended to strike once more; and I did not relish the thought." Lucius smiled, tersely. "Voldemort is not perhaps the smartest Dark Lord to walk the earth. I have no wish to walk into battle again when there is no security of victory from either side. I needed something to divert his attention and I chose the method I thought simplest, and the least likely to be discovered: a cursed snitch for The Boy Who Lived. If Harry had caught the snitch, Voldemort would have felt all the fear that Harry carried for him and he would have ceased his plans. If he had not realised what it was that was affecting his emotions, he might even have cowered away altogether but I forgot how unpredictable those things were. How often it was that they inadvertantly found themselves in the wrong hands."
"My hands," Draco said. "I caught it."
"Yes. I doubted your talent I should not have. For that I am most sorry. But I would hazard the suggestion that I have paid the price for this crime. I don't believe, Draco, I have ever felt so wretched as I did in your presence. Tell me do you feel even the slightest part of what I felt while I was under the spell?"
Draco couldn't meet his father's inquisitive grey eyes. "N-no," he began, looking away, but then changed his mind how could he deny it now, anyway? and admitted: "Yes. Sometimes, father."
Lucius' hand still stroked Draco's fine blonde hair, and now he brought his fingers below Draco's sharp chin, forcing the boy to stare into his face.
"Just as I should never have doubted you, Draco so you should never doubt me," said Lucius, kindly. "While I am sometimes disappointed in you, or hold high expectations of you and your abilities, I believe that this is normal: doesn't every father want to see the best in his son? I am hard on you because I believe in you nothing more, nothing less."
Draco's resolve caved; he began to cry, but even as he did so, he willed himself not to divert his gaze a second time. Lucius opened his mouth to speak further, but Draco shook his head imperceptibly.
"I know I know, father. Malfoys never ever cry," he muttered.
"I've been thinking about that, actually," said Lucius. "Perhaps that rule should be ammended. Malfoys never ever cry unless they have good reason for it. And in such a case, they should be proud to weep. I myself have wept thrice without magical coercion once on the deathbed of your grandfather, once when Narcissa accepted my proposal for marriage, and once the day you were born. It is a release, Draco for at times things are too terrible, too wonderful for us to contain."
"Th-thank you," Draco sobbed.
Lucius squeezed his shoulder, gently, then withdrew his hand. "Of course, crying to excess is an entirely different matter.."
Draco wiped at his eyes, and took a choking breath. "Yes, father."
"You had best repack your things and return to Hogwarts. I will send a letter to Dumbledore informing him of what happened or at least, something which will explain adequately the reasons for those events which have occured over the past week or so. I don't think it's necessary the whole tale be told, do you?"
"And I expect you to study harder for this years exams," Lucius remarked. "Your O.W.Ls certainly weren't anything to be proud about. Second in the class in two subjects, and in the mid-range for all the rest. If it wasn't for your excellent score in Potions.."
"Yes, father." Draco struggled to his feet, still moist-eyed.
His father had his back to him, and was gazing solemnly out the window. Draco staggered from the room, exhilerated, so drunk on his father's admissions that he was surprised he could still walk.
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