Title: Hearthfires and Holocausts
Archiving: just ask.
Rating: Gen, PG.
Date: September 2005.
Summary: Draco grows up.

About a year ago the Fat Lady Digest, a group of HP fans attempting to produce the first ever HP fandom zine, asked me if I would consider writing something for their flagship issue. I did. The 'zine, however, though a brilliant idea, never quite got off the ground. So I am posting the fic that I wrote for them here, with thanks to the zine's creators, [info]delirieuse and [info]earlymorningair, for the inspiration.
Thank you to [info]weatherby, the most important person in the world, for betaing.

Hearth Fires and Holocausts

Draco couldn’t get warm enough. His hands were still shaking. His stomach still felt as though he were falling perpetually off his broom.

He tried to remember the last time he’d played Quidditch. How it had felt, who he had played. Had he won? He had no idea.

His hands wouldn’t stop shaking.

“You don’t use your brain.”


On the other side of the well, Snape sat in the darkness, the firelight somehow managing to avoid him even in the tiny, cramped space they were in. He had been breathing heavily ever since they got there; Draco thought it sounded as if he were gulping down shuddering sobs with every inhalation. Or maybe that was simply how he felt.

“You had ample time,” said Snape, “to realise the position you were in.”

I know that, Draco thought angrily in his head, but he couldn’t form the words. He gripped his robes with both hands and stared at the blue flames of the conjured fire.

Snape had had to start it—Draco had been unable to steady his wand.

“You had, in fact, the entire year,” Snape continued quietly. He sounded older than ever, far older than he ought to. Draco registered this in a kind of detached way, and wondered if murdering someone did that to you, if killing took away years of your life as well as theirs. Dumbledore was too old anyway, he thought, and then, No wonder my father’s hair is white. A dry laugh rang in his head and he knew he was about to be sick.

“You had the entire year to take action against what would happen tonight,” Snape was saying; the rest of his speech was lost upon Draco, who lurched for a bucket in the corner and immediately threw up in it.

There was a long silence. Snape watched him, apparently done with his lecture for the moment. Draco shoved the bucket back into its place among the cobwebs, tried to settle the roiling of his stomach, and wondered who would be the first to find them.

One of Draco’s earliest memories was of a boy—a sandy-haired boy wearing a black-and-yellow Wimbourne jersey that clearly belonged to someone much bigger than him. Draco was six and it was the year of the World Cup, and his father had got season tickets to every game in Dorset, just for him.

They were climbing into the stands and the boy was ahead of Draco by a bit. He wore no robes, and Draco couldn’t see his face because the collar of his jersey stood up past his neck. The bottom came down below his knees. He could have been Draco’s age, maybe a few years older, a year younger. Draco remembered he was short, but at six years old, all children were short.

Draco could not see ahead of him because the boy’s father was tall with long thick legs, and Draco’s mother was behind him gripping him gently by the shoulders in case he stumbled. The world for a few moments shrank to an endless row of steps climbing up to who knew where, and the black and yellow jersey of the kid climbing up just ahead of him.

“They’re going to go all the way, aren’t they?” the boy had said to him.

“Certainly,” said Draco confidently. His father would never pick a team that wouldn’t win, and he had chosen the Wasps as his favourite that year.

“My dad says they’re unbeatable,” the boy continued.

“They are,” said Draco. “My dad thinks so too.”

Ahead of him the boy’s father turned around and said, “Come along, now, Bradley,” and stepped off the row of endless steps into a row of endless wooden benches and a sea of black and gold.

The boy stopped and turned around to look at Draco. Draco could never remember the look on the boy’s face but he forever remembered the sudden flash of surprise and anticipation that washed over him.

“My name’s Brad,” said the boy.

“My name’s Draco,” was what Draco began to say. But Draco’s mother still had her hand on his shoulder, and she suddenly squeezed it bone-tight until he flinched.

“Our box is just a little further up, child,” said his mother, her voice as rigid as her fingers around Draco’s shoulder.

Draco looked at the boy as he felt his mother pushing him gently up the stairs. From the front the boy looked even smaller in the jersey, and his father suddenly seemed very tall. Draco wondered who they were, but his mother’s heels were suddenly clacking very briskly against the steps, and he knew what that meant.

He entered the box quietly, and his mother let go of him only when he had tugged his robes around him and settled back against the cold metal seat. She sat, perfectly straight and still, for a moment, before relaxing slightly and leaning back, her spine still centimeters away from touching the back of the seat.

“Draco, you know what your father has said about talking to strangers,” she said. Her voice was hesitant, soft.

Draco studied his robes and said, “Yes, Mother.”

“You must always be careful, Draco, especially when you talk to children,” his mother continued. “That child was not… not one of our kind.”

“Really?” Draco looked up at her sharp face. “What’s he doing here? He came to watch the Wasps.”

Draco’s mother considered for a moment, and then said, “Draco, if I tossed you a ball, could you catch it?”

“Yes, Mother.” Draco moved to the edge of his seat and sat up straighter, the way his mother was doing.

“And if I threw a ball to you, could you hit it a certain distance?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“And if I told you to throw a ball between two points?”

“I could do it,” said Draco, trying to think ahead, trying to see her point and not understanding.

His mother smiled at him, and lightly ruffled Draco’s hair. “And would you say that all those things are what it takes to play Quidditch?”


His mother pointed up over their heads, out at the pitch. “Do you see where the Quidditch teams will fly?” Draco nodded. “Even if you knew how to do all those things, Draco, would you be able to fly on a Quidditch team like that?”

Slowly, Draco shook his head. “Because they’re really good.”

“Yes. They are.” His mother looked down at him. “Now. Can you understand why someone who might have all the ability to do magic, is not a real witch or a wizard like you and I are?”

Draco thought about it, and slowly nodded. His mother, finally, leaned back in her seat, as if he had somehow given her permission.

“I’m glad you see,” she said, tucking a strand of pale hair behind her ear. “And do you understand why Quidditch players can’t play with the people on the ground?”

Draco looked up at the sky and thought for a moment how wonderful it would be if they could, if the Wimbourne Seeker would swoop down and swing Draco over his broom and soar up into the sunlight.

“They’re real players,” he said. “We’re just the people who watch.” He looked up at her, hoping his answer was right. He found her smiling.

“That’s perfectly correct, my dear,” she said. “When you’re the real thing, it doesn’t do to mix with anyone, or anything, that can bring you down.”

Draco looked back at the child who had introduced himself, a few seats below. All he could see was the black and gold jersey, and a thought struck him. “How do you know?” he asked. “What they look like?”

“You will learn,” his mother said calmly. “Look at that one. See how it’s without its robe?”

Draco looked, and thought: it.

There was a knock at the door, and Draco was on his feet with an energy he thought he'd lost. Snape was there before him, his wand at the ready as he yanked the door open.

Draco's mother entered with her hood still drawn over her head, deep circles under her eyes that he could see even in this awful light. "Mother," he said, his voice as unsteady as his feet. Narcissa managed to gasp, "Shut the door, Severus, quickly--the light--" before dissolving into heavy sobs and wrapping Draco in her arms.

The warmth, the closeness of her should have been comforting. Instead, all he could feel as he clung back was a hollow emptiness deep in his chest. He wondered if he ought to be crying, too, or if he should say he was sorry. He wasn't sorry, though. He was. He wasn't. His mother was boneless, molding herself around him as if she thought she could hide him forever in the folds of her robes. He thought of her, completely undone. There had been a time when he never saw her this way. There had been a time when he never cried.

"It's alright, Draco," his mother said through choked, heaving breaths. She stroked his hair. "It's alright."

"Narcissa," Snape said softly, somewhere off to Draco's right, "This is not safe. If he knows you're here--"

Narcissa sobbed violently and held Draco more tightly. "Bellatrix--she came to the manor to tell me the moment she learned. She wanted me to tell you where you were hiding. I told her I didn't know. I--I lied to my own sister!"

"She is probably having you followed," said Snape. There was something dark in his tone that made Draco stiffen. He pulled back from his mother's distraught embrace and looked over at Snape, who still stood by the door.

"He can't still want to hurt her," he said, looking directly at Snape. "The--the cabinet worked. Dumbledore's... he--he got what he wanted."

Snape was looking away, at the cracks between the door and the jamb, or maybe nowhere.

"It doesn't matter to him," he said after a long moment. "He knows he cannot depend on you to perform what he requires of you. With Lucius in jail your family is of no use to him. You will both be seen as something of a liability."

Draco felt shock course through him as if he had been plunged underwater. When the sensation passed he found himself holding his mother's hand, gripping it without knowing who had reached for whom.

"If you cannot do what needs to be done, then you might as well be expendable," his father was saying. "Do you know what 'expendable' means?"

Draco winced and got to his feet. His shoulder and back ached but he didn't want his dad to see that. "Yes, Father, I do," he said irritably. He did not add, 'Like muggles--worthless and out of place.' He did not need to.

"Try it again," said his father, and if there was any impatience in the edges of his voice, it was smooth, placid enough that Draco could pretend not to tell.

He placed his wand at the ready, front and center opposite his father, who held the dueling position against him as if he were an actual opponent on the battlefield. A surge of determination swept through Draco. I am not expendable, he thought, and concentrated with all his might on the curve of his father's fingers around the wand.

"Impedimenta!" left his mouth before he had really even registered the flick of his father's wrist. His father reeled as the force of the spell hit him, and for half an instant Draco's heart capsized in terror that he'd hurt his dad, that he'd done something truly awful, that the spell had somehow gone horribly wrong. But his father only staggered backwards a few steps and looked at Draco with a smile.

"Much better," he said. Draco watched, afraid to react, as his father shook the spell effects off as if they were nothing and resumed his dueling stance.

"This time," said his father, "come at me with a real curse."

"We have no time," Snape was saying. "Narcissa, you must leave. Are you ready to go to the--"

"Yes," said Draco's mother. "Yes, I'm ready. But Draco--"

"You will be much safer if Draco is not with you," Snape said curtly.

"I don't care," said Narcissa fiercely, wrapping her arm around Draco. "I won't leave my son to--"

"Mother, it's okay," Draco said. He sounded unlike himself. "You need to go. They'll be less likely to look for you if they know I'm not with you."

His mother raised her knuckles to her mouth and closed her eyes, and Draco had to look away because his eyes were raw and burning, and he was suddenly very, very tired.

"Draco should not know where you're going," Snape said. "But as your secret keeper, if you authorise me to tell him--"

"Don't," Draco said. He thought of Dumbledore suddenly, and his bizarre praise of Draco when Draco told him about the cabinet. Wouldn't he be proud of me now, he thought, putting bloody everyone before myself. "I don't want to know," he said. "Just--keep her safe."

Snape looked at Draco for a moment without saying anything, then continued without acknowledging he had spoken, "For the same reasons, Draco, I cannot tell your mother where you are being kept. You will both have to trust that I will not reveal the whereabouts of your location to anyone. Is that understood?"

Draco nodded as his mother answered a muffled affirmative, pushing her hand through the damp hair clinging to Draco's forehead.

"Narcissa, you need to go. Quickly." Snape's voice was not hard, nor was it particularly gentle. Draco's mother kept her cool hand pressed against his forehead, as if he were still eleven years old and she were seeing him off to Hogwarts.

"Draco," she said. Draco looked at the floor reflexively, because there was something in her voice he might not be able to bear if he met her eyes as well.

"Draco," she said again. "Be brave." She tucked his hair behind his ear, and it fell resolutely forward again into his face. "Be as brave as you were tonight."

I wasn't, he thought. I'm not. Instead he blurted, "I love you, Mum," into his mother's starched collar, and shut his eyes as tightly as he could.

When Draco was nine his father had taken him to London on errands, and while they were waiting on their vault car to arrive in Gringotts, a portly gentleman Draco did not recognise tapped Mr. Malfoy on the shoulder and asked him where the loo was.

His robes were a garish yellow colour. He was obviously one of the others. Draco was learning to tell them apart more and more easily now.

Draco's father swept his eyes up and down the fat man's frame, taking in the details Draco had noticed without so much as a raised eyebrow or a change of expression. Then, inclining his head a tiny bit, he replied smoothly, "I believe you'll find it's along the north corridor, to your right."

The fat man had grinned, had said, "Thank you very much," in a course Welsh slur, before he walked away.

"Dad," said Draco after a moment. "That's not the way to the--"

"Yes, Draco, I'm well aware," his father had said coldly. The chill of his voice lodged in Draco's stomach, and did not leave until their car came and Lucius put his hand on Draco's shoulder as they entered.

"Asking is a weakness," he said, once they were safely in the car and the rocking motion on the tracks had lessened. "Always remember."

Draco had remembered.

"Look," said Crabbe, pointing with his big finger. "Some idiot came wearing Hufflepuff robes. What if he'd been put into some other house?"

"You're the idiot," Draco said after glancing up. "Those are Wimbourne colours. Don't you know a Quidditch jersey when you see one?"

Crabbe shrugged, and around them a few other newly-sorted first-years snickered. Draco relaxed a little. The sorting was almost over. So far in Slytherin he knew every boy in his year, and most of the girls. He glanced over to the Gryffindor table. Harry Potter sat near the middle, and they were all sitting aimed towards him, as if he were a star directing their orbits. Draco swallowed once and, when the lump of rage and rejection in his throat did not go away, forced himself to look back at the Sorting Hat just as the last name was called.

"Zabini, Blaise!" and then, moments later, "Slytherin!"

The students in Draco's year, including Draco, clapped and whistled; but Draco, who was used to noticing mood shifts that occurred when no words were spoken, noticed the change among the upper years. The boy, Zabini, walked over and sat down confidently at the Slytherin table, at the end beside Pansy. At the opposite end, Marcus Flint leaned forward and said, "Hey. You bloke, what's your name?"

Draco looked down the long table, and it registered, finally. Zabini was a foreign name. Draco didn't know him. And every other Slytherin was white.

Blaise looked surprised at being addressed by a seventh-year, but he didn't act scared when he repeated his name.

"Who're your mum and dad?" said Flint.

The shift had spread to Draco's half of the table. The other students eyed each other uneasily, none of them wanting to make eye contact with the newcomer being questioned about his parentage.

"I'm a Pureblood, if that's what you're asking," said Zabini, his hands suddenly tensing against the side of the table.

"You heard what I asked," said Flint. "Why don't you answer?"

For a moment silence thickened around them, and Draco wondered in bewilderment how the Sorting Hat could have made such a horrible mistake. What could they do with a mudblood in their house? Could they give it back? Ask for a resorting?

But then Blaise took a deep breath, and rattled off a list of parents and grandparents complete with magical references so thorough Draco wondered if he had rehearsed. Flint listened in silence, and leaned back in his chair when Zabini was done. "Alright, then," he said. "Welcome to Slytherin." Goyle, two seats down, clapped Zabini on the back as if he'd just won them points.

Draco watched Zabini, telling himself it was too early to be convinced. Zabini was a stranger, and strangers, even those in Slytherin, were always a risk. And then the recitation of his family line, as if he'd known it might come up.

Draco pondered and leaned back in his chair, looking at the students in his year, the students he would be sharing the next seven years with. Was it really likely any of them could be half-blooded? Surely Salazar Slytherin would turn over in his grave if that happened.

He would owl his father, he decided at once. His father knew everyone--all the witches and wizards worth knowing in Britain.

His father would tell him what to do.

Draco's mother had gone, and he was trying to focus, but he kept eyeing the bucket of vomit in the corner and thinking that maybe if he threw up in it again Snape would stop talking to him about choices and decisions.

"I--I can't--" he was saying, and god, he sounded pathetic.

"Draco," said Snape. "You're going to. Listen to me."

Draco looked up.

"You have two choices, Draco, if you want to protect your life."

"What about my father?" blurted Draco. "He's not--"

"Your father made his choice," Snape snapped, and Draco, taken aback at the sharpness of his voice, realised all at once how exhausted he looked. "Now you have to make yours."

"I don't want to fight," he said. It was true. He didn't. He was a coward. He'd gotten Dumbledore killed. He'd made Snape a murderer. He'd tried to kill the greatest wizard who'd ever lived. And thought he could do it. He'd broken everything. "I don't want this," he said. His thoughts were swimming, and he wasn't even sure what he meant.

"Do you think, you stupid, foolish boy, that anyone wanted this?" said Snape. Draco had no response.

"Since you no longer have the option of fighting alongside Voldemort," Snape said caustically, "You have only two options left. You can go into hiding or you can throw yourself on the mercy of the--"

"No," Draco said, feeling blood rush to his cheeks. "Prof--he offered me that and I said no."

"Then your only option is to hide," said Snape, his tone turning suddenly brisk as if Draco had made the decision already. "And Draco, if you hide, you must hide. I cannot help you with much of what you will need to do in order to disappear entirely."

"I don't--" Draco began. Be brave, Draco. As brave as you were tonight.

"It's either one or the other, Draco," Snape hissed. "Choose."

Draco took a deep breath. "I can still go back to him," he said shakily. "He took you back, right? Even though you worked for Dumbledore. He took my father back--he--"

"We," said Snape icily, "happened to be very good at what we do."

Draco looked down, feeling his cheeks burn. A moment later he felt Snape's hand on his shoulder.

"None of us wanted to fight," said Snape again, roughly. "You are not a Death Eater, Draco."

"But I--" said Draco, and then he trailed off. He had not wanted to kill Dumbledore. Dumbledore had known. He was weak and useless. Expendable.

"You did it," he said hollowly. "I bet you could have done it when you were my age." His eyes were burning again.

"I did," Snape said.

His voice was utterly full of loathing. Draco lifted his head in astonishment.

"You are more than I was at your age," Snape said. He was looking at a point just past Draco's shoulder, and at the look on Snape's face Draco felt the tears start from a place inside him he couldn't understand. "Do you want to turn into this, Draco?" Snape ground out. His eyes met Draco's. "Do you want to become a friendless killer who destroys the trust of everyone around him?"

Draco stared at Snape. "You didn't want to," he said brokenly. "You didn't want to either."

He had watched, idolized, feared Snape for six years, and never known him until that second. He shouldn't have felt relief. He shouldn't have felt stupidly grateful that he wasn't alone. But he did. He stumbled forward and clutched at Snape like a child, tears blurring his vision till he couldn't tell whether his eyes were open or closed.

He had made Snape a murderer.

He missed his dad.

He wanted to go home.

They surrounded Draco as if he were something on display at a shop window.

"Where'd you get that coat?" one of them said. "A costume shop?"

Draco shouldn't have been afraid. They were just muggles. Just muggle children. But he was afraid, and gripped his wand tightly.

"Hey, look," said the girl who had spotted him alone in the corner of the playground. "He's got a magic wand!"

Draco took a step back in alarm, looking frantically around for his father. He saw no one, took another step back, and felt his wand being yanked from his fingertips by someone behind him.

"Give that back," he hissed, whirling around. A muggle about the same size as he was had its hands on Draco's wand, the wand his father had given him--was touching it with its filthy, dirty hands...

"This is pretty cool," said the boy, twirling it slowly. "Where'd you get it? Does it light up or do anything?"

He held it up and flipped it end over end as if he were looking for an on/off switch, and Draco clutched at his robes in fear and disgust.

"Give it back!" he screamed. The muggle children around him stepped back as though they thought he was dangerous, and muttered things about him under his breath.

The boy who had his wand was Draco's height, dark-haired, and smug like Potter. He looked at the wand, then at Draco, and said:

"What'll you do if I don't?"

Draco closed his eyes and held his breath and counted to three.

There was nothing he could do. They had his wand. He was powerless. They could hurt him and he couldn't so much as throw a punching spell. They could break his wand, snap it in two and kill its magic like stepping on a twig, and never even know. The stupid, ignorant poachers.

One, two, three.


His father had exited the library--Draco was never, ever, coming to this awful muggle place with him again--and was walking towards the ring of children quickly. They saw him and immediately scattered, as if they could read the meaning of his lengthened strides and penetrating expression.

"Hey, here's your toy," said the muggle who'd taken his wand. Before Draco could react the boy had slipped it back into his palm, and Draco's fingers were around it.

His father was here. They hadn't hurt him. Nothing would hurt him.

"Here, Dad," he said, wanting his voice to sound stronger than it did. He started to walk away, but his father had seen the boy with the dark hair and moved closer, fixing him with a look. Draco could tell the boy was afraid.

"It's not polite," said Draco's father, sliding his wand from his robes, "To play with someone else's things without their permission. Crucio."

The spell stopped almost as soon as it started . The boy had no time to scream; instead he crumpled to the ground in a silent heap, as if someone had broken all his bones at once.

"Always remember," Draco's father said to the boy on the ground. "Come, Draco."

Draco looked at the boy, who still looked too stunned even to gasp for air. The other children looked back at him with blank, wide eyes, and Draco could not tell whether he felt cold because of their faces, or because of the crumpled-up look of the boy, or because of the chill of the magic around him in this acrid, washed-out muggle zone.

Draco was eleven years old.

"They call them Molotov cocktails," Blaise was saying, his feet curled around his broom so he could lean straight back against it. They were hovering above Castle Combe, a couple hundred feet in the air, and twilight was obscuring everything but the gleam of Pansy's lip gloss as she flew alongside Draco.

"Jesus, muggles can't even make weapons properly," said Draco, catching her around the waist and squeezing.

She laughed. "How would you do it then?"

Draco grinned. "Easy," he said, and flew lower. The five of them--Vincent, Greg, Pansy, Blaise, and Nott--followed, and they flew in a straight line over Combe down to the tops of the trees.

"We could get expelled," Blaise hissed in a whisper.

Nott replied, "Greg's seventeen. He can memory charm anyone who sees us."

"You sure you want to entrust someone's memory to Greg Goyle?"

"Shut up," Draco ordered, and they did. He reached down and pulled a long, solid branch from the canopy encircling them. They watched, as he muttered, "Petrificus perpetuum inflammare." The top half of the brand burst into flames.

"That's a torch, not a bomb," said Theodore. "You'd have to make it smaller--"

"Reducio," said Draco pointedly, because Nott was a smartass but Draco was utterly smart. The branch shrank to half its former size.

"Hey, look," said Pansy. "That girl from Ravenclaw. Fletcher, right? A year below us." She pointed, and they all looked to where a tall, auburn-haired girl that Draco vaguely recognized as a Hogwarts student got out of a muggle car and walked inside one of the small stone houses lining the narrow streets of Castle Combe.

"Mudblood?" asked Blaise.

"Yeah, looks like." Pansy flew lower, then circled back up. "I think she's with her mum and dad. Visiting relatives, maybe."

Draco looked at the flaming torch in his hand. "We could have some fun with these," he said.

"Or we could get expelled."

"Only if we get caught," said Theodore, flying up beside Draco. "You never could wait things out, Draco."

"Wait for what?" Draco snapped. "The war to start?"

"For an opportune time," said Theodore.

"Maybe you haven't noticed," said Draco as snidely as he could, "but the war has started, and the whole war is an opportunity.”

"Opportunity to end up in Azkaban, maybe," said Theodore calmly.

"Stop talking, both of you," said Pansy edgily, while Draco stared at Theodore with an expression he hoped he had borrowed from his father.

Goyle broke the detente by asking, "So then what do you do?" He pointed to the torch.

Draco relaxed. "You aim it, and then charm it to propel itself and explode on impact," he said.

Then he showed them how.

The explosion was quiet and magnificent: the torch met the windowpane of the first house he aimed at and shattered into a million pieces without a detonation--there was only the giant crunching splinter of glass, and firelight glowing behind a thousand shards at once.

Down below them, someone screamed. Pansy clapped her hands. "Gorgeous," she cooed. "Do it again, darling."

Draco dove for the house where the Ravenclaw had entered with her family. He aimed carefully, and ducked his hood at the last minute so they couldn't see the white of his hair as he flew. The torch found its mark easily, and he spun up and up to avoid the flying debris.

People were coming out on their porches and screaming, yelling. Others were ducking and running for shelter as if two little explosions had robbed them of their sanity.

They took turns, the five of them, swooping down and aiming for windows and carports like bats drawn to light. When Draco's turn came again, someone on the opposite side of the street had emerged onto their porch aiming a long, narrow rifle. Draco laughed and flew like a Seeker, speed and wind and sky all around him. They could not touch him. Their stupid muggle weapons could not touch him. He was power. He was unbeatable.

One day he would stand beside the Dark Lord and break down the walls of Azkaban, and shatter his father to freedom as easily as breaking glass.

Draco had no idea where they were. He caught a glimpse of a dirty, unkempt street shrouded in fog and darkness as Snape hurried him out of the alley and onto the pavement.

"You're sure," Snape said grimly beside him.

Draco nodded. He pushed back his shoulders, straightened his robes, flattened his hair.

"You are clear on what you are to do," said Snape. "What you are to say."

"Yes, sir," said Draco, thinking that he could never call Snape his Professor again. He tucked the letter into his pocket and shivered. It was a cold night, even though it was almost summer, and should have been mild.

"This is all I can do for you, Draco," said Snape. "If you are not accepted then you must hide, and quickly."

"I won't hide," said Draco, barely above a whisper. If Snape heard him, he made no acknowledgment.

"I must return to the Dark Lord," said Snape. "I may not see you again, Draco."

Draco stared desperately at the bottom of Snape's robes, and after a moment, Snape said, in a raspy voice, "Good luck," and vanished from sight.

Crickets chirped, and lamplights flickered farther down the street. Somewhere far off a girl was laughing, and somewhere even farther away, Draco's father was in jail and Dumbledore was dead.

It was a moment before Draco realised he still had no idea where he was, which was the same moment he felt a new weight in the pocket of his robes.

He reached in and removed it, and saw that it was an envelope. On it, in the confident, loopy hand of a dead man, was his name.

He went cold all over and stood there for a long moment, before forcing his hands steady as he opened the envelope and read the contents.

If you cannot do what needs to be done, he thought, and knew that he could do this.

Draco Malfoy stepped up to the door of 12 Grimmauld Place, and knocked.


Author's Note: I recognize that this ending is dubious in terms of HP canon. We don’t know if, when a Secret-Keeper dies, the secret is broken or not. According to the information we have, the nearest I can guess is that the secret will remain closed to anyone who didn’t already know it, so I chose to have Dumbledore prepare for that circumstance in advance.

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