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The Unwilling Princess

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Living life on the run was hard. Of course, I hadn’t expected it to be a picnic but I certainly hadn’t expected for Voldemort to extend his search for me into the muggle world. It was stupid, downright naive even, to believe that I’d be able to find security in the muggle world but it was what I did anyway. The moment the death eaters had stormed the school, I had sought refuge in the muggle world and it was a special measure placed by the late headmaster Dumbledore himself that allowed my safe passage out of the wizarding world. After all, he knew better than anyone else just how much I wanted to run away from my parentage. Salazar, it would have been so much easier if I had never found out the truth. But I had and I couldn’t continue to live in the past.

As I clambered onto the muggle bus, I managed to snag one of the window seats and stared out as the bus set off. How much longer would I be able to remain hidden away in this little market town before they managed to find me? Wizarding Britain was only so big and they seemed to be able to find me with relative ease. I had been able to stay in the last place for just over a month before I’d returned to the flat to find a band of Death Eaters outside the door, intent on waiting for me. The flat I had managed to find this time was a small place, easily hidden amongst the newly built houses and it had been my home for just over two weeks. But my time was running out. And as I continued to stare out across the road in time to see a black swirling mass take form, I realised the truth.

I stared in horror as one of the lower rank Death Eaters materialised across the road, having apparated into the muggle world. They weren’t even bothering to be careful anymore. Although it wasn’t as if they need to be careful, was it? Not when my father – no, the sperm donor who had sired me – was in charge now. Because that monster wasn’t my father, he was simply a wizard that had charmed my mother before running off. Merlin, it would have been better if he’d remained unknowing of my existence, then he certainly wouldn’t have sought me out to tell me all about my superior genetics and my place in a greater world.

I continued to watch the Death Eater as he followed the bus before pulling his wand from his pocket and levelling it towards the moving vehicle. Salazar, I had no issue with being the one to get hurt, but it wasn’t fair to let this bus full of muggles get hurt as collateral damage. Rising from my seat, I walked to the front of the bus and pressed the button to get off at the next stop that was less than a minute away. The stop approached quickly and the moment we stopped, I was scrambling off it and waited anxiously for it to pull away. Once it had left, I stared across the road to the waiting Death Eater who was too lazy to even cross the road. He chose, instead, to apparate to myself and I crossed my arms over my chest.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, drawing away from him to put some space between us.

“Your father wants you home,” he said as if it was news to me. Merlin, I was sick of hearing that phrase. He certainly wasn’t my father and neither was being by his side my ‘home’.

Scoffing, I rolled my eyes, “Surely this has been going on long enough for you to realise that I have no intention of returning to him.”

The Death Eater – probably one of the newer ones – sighed as if he was growing tired of this. And who cared if he was? I was certainly growing tired of this continual pestering. “Princess –”

“Would you quit it with the princess bullshit!” I exclaimed, reaching into my pocket to pull out my wand and before he could stop me, I apparated back to the flat.

Emerging on the other side, I instantly crouched down by the bed to retrieve the suitcase I’d shoved underneath it. Throwing it open, I hurried around the small space to pack my things. Now that they knew where to find me, I doubted that I had long until they tracked me to the actual flat. Haphazardly gathering my things from the cupboard, I groaned in annoyance when a pack of hair ties and other things fell to the floor. Kneeling on the floor to gather everything, I faltered for a moment when I came across an all too familiar bracelet. It had been a gift, one I treasured dearly until I was made to take it off by the gifter himself.

Crossing my legs, I held the bracelet in my palm and stared at it for a long moment; Draco had always had good taste. The arrogant bastard had gifted it to me for my fifteen birthday with the declaration that if I accepted it, it meant that I was dating him. Not that we dated for long; daddy dearest found out about his precious son dating a half-blood and that was the end of that. Although from what I remembered, my interaction with the senior male Malfoy really hadn’t been all that pleasant. He’d called me all sorts of names and was the largest reason that I ended both my friendship and relationship with Draco. The younger Malfoy, despite knowing the real reason for the breakup, couldn’t look past the slight on his ego and didn’t approach me again.

Or rather, that was until our sixth year where he learned the truth about my parentage. He had confronted me, naturally, about my hidden father only to falter when I exclaimed that he wasn’t my father, he was nothing more than a sperm donor.

“If I’d have known,” I could still hear Draco’s voice as he faltered, voice trailing off as he stared down at me. “If I had known Tate, I –”

“What, Malfoy?” I’d thrown back as I rolled my eyes, “You’d have no doubt told your father and what? We wouldn’t have had to break up? Salazar, your father was a piece of work, calling me all sorts of things because I was a half-blood whore trying to seduce his son. Only that wouldn’t matter if I was the half-blood whore sired by him? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

He struggled to refute my words, so he didn’t even try to. Instead, he sighed and murmured, “Don’t call yourself that.”

“I’m not,” I said firmly, “I’m just repeating your father’s words for your ears.”

Blinking away the memories, I stared at the bracelet for a moment longer before rising to my feet with a sigh. Salazar, why was I still hanging onto the blasted thing? Returning to bed, I threw the bracelet on the mattress and finished packing my things. When I was done, I pulled the travel map out from under the pillow.

Unfolding the map, I slid the ring from my finger and closed my eyes, randomly dropping it on the map. Opening my eyes, I stared down at where it had landed before putting the ring back onto my finger.

That was where I’d be going next. There was no logic behind my movements, no pattern and Voldemort, even with his massive intellect would struggle to figure out my moves. It was all just a matter of luck.

 


 

With each passing day, the Death Eaters were closer to finding me and they got quicker at doing it each time. And I couldn’t risk sitting around in case they suddenly turned up. Upon arriving in the new town, I’d managed to find a place for me to spend the night but I needed to find somewhere that I could rent for the week because I had come to the decision that it was safest for me to keep moving. There was no point in waiting around until they found me, it just made more sense for me to remain one step ahead at all times.

Looking around the town, I headed towards one of the taxi bays to get a ride into the town centre. Hailing one of the approaching taxis, I went to step into it when my eyes flickered towards the other side of the rode. Salazar, there was just no way that they’d managed to find me so quickly; there was just no way.

And yet that didn’t change the fact that a Death Eater had materialised on the other side of the road, eyes instantly scanning the surrounding area. I recognised this one – one that had been a part of the horrendous regime for many years now and honestly, he had more than one screw loose. His next action just proved it. Reaching out to roughly grab one of the muggles that were casually walking past him, the Death Eater kept his eyes on mine as he silenced the muggle woman and pointed his wand straight at her throat. One spell and that was all it would take to kill her. It would all be my fault.

“Are you getting on or not?” the taxi driver suddenly asked, pulling my eyes away from the struggling muggle.

“Sorry,” I apologised, shutting the door and stepping away from it, “I think I’ll catch another one later.”

“Suit yourself,” he muttered before driving away, not noticing that my eyes were once again focused on the Death Eater that was eyeing me warningly.

Heading further down the road to the crossing, I waited for the sign before running across the road to join the Death Eater. Drawing closer towards him, I cast a cautious look at the struggling woman who was screaming out silently for help.

“Let her go,” I ordered, sounding far braver than I felt. The Death Eater hesitated and I crossed my arms. “Now.”

I didn’t need to repeat myself again. The muggle was promptly released, obliviated and sent on her way. Waiting until the muggle woman had walked away from us, I glared openly at the Death Eater who looked suddenly bored.

“Why don’t you ever approach me civilly?” I demanded.

“Because you’d run,” he pointed out bluntly and I didn’t acknowledge that he had a point.

“I wonder why.” Muttering dryly, I looked the older wizard over, my eyes lingering on the wand drawn at his side. He was reluctant to use it against me, that much was obvious and I couldn’t help but wonder why the order that they weren’t allowed to use magic against me hadn’t been lifted yet. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time before Voldemort lost his patience.

“Just what is it you want from me?”

“You know why.”

“Don’t give me that paternal love bull crap!” Lowering my voice to avoid eavesdropping muggles, I hissed, “We both know that he sees me as nothing more than an asset so you’d better tell me the truth about why – during such an important time – he’s set an entire brigade of hunting dogs on my trail.”

The older man, growing annoyed with my attitude but unable to do anything about it, rolled his eyes before he grumbled, “I don’t know.”

“You really don’t, do you?” Sighing through my nose, I muttered, “You lot are just underlings that know absolutely nothing about this goal you’re all striving towards.”

“Now wait a minute!”

But I didn’t bother to listen to whatever else he had to say to me. Instead, I kept my eyes on the wand at his side even as I reached for the one tucked away into the waistline of my jeans. Really, it didn’t matter how many times I ran into these Death Eaters they never learned; they just continued to underestimate me.

Drawing my wand in an instant, I levelled it out at the wizard before he could even raise his towards me in self-defence. “Obliviate.”

Standing so close to him I could watch as his eyes glazed over but I didn’t stick around for long. Merlin, how much longer was I going to have to continue doing this, I wondered as I apparated away. This would only ever end when he was gone; only then would the search stop.

Salazar, I was growing so very tired of this.

But no matter how I tried to think about it, no matter what new idea I tried to come up with, it seemed like there was just no point in continuing with this. They already knew where I was and it was likely that they’d continue to follow closely after me. Sitting down on the bed with a sigh, I glared down at the ring on my finger. It was all because of the bloody ring.

It was at the end of my fourth year when I found out the truth about my relationship with Voldemort and the bastard had tried to use our supposed ‘bond’ to bring me to his side. I was sure that the only reason he was keeping me around was because of my blood – having an extra source of his DNA, even if it was only part of his DNA, was no doubt a good thing. Dumbledore himself told me that he had no doubt my intellect came from him but honestly was he really that smart to entrust a fourth year with something that was supposedly one of his most treasured possessions? Even if I was his daughter, why did he give me a Horcrux?

But of course, he’d tried to exploit the fact that after my mother’s untimely end – at his hand – I had no family left. Only I didn’t think of him as my family. So, I had no necessity or no wish to be loyal to him.

The moment I had figured out what the ring was, I’d rushed to Dumbledore to seek his advice. My headmaster had given me explicit instructions and after I had an exact replica of the ring made, I’d left him the original ring to destroy. The ring on my finger was a fake, and I was beyond terrified that he’d realise it as soon as he saw it. But that would only be a problem if I hovered around him and that certainly wasn’t my intention.

But realistically, how much longer could I continue to run from the inevitable? They were going to track me down eventually with the resolution of not letting me go. People would only get hurt in the crossfire and I didn’t want that.

Maybe it was better if I handed myself to him? Even if it was just to stop the unnecessary use of violence and to stop the slaughter of the muggles that got in the way.

Rising to my feet, I scrambled to find some paper to write a note. Once I was done with that, I just needed to find the nearest wizarding post office. Merlin, never in my life did I think that I’d ever voluntarily go back to them.

I’m ready to come back. I’ve attached the address on the back of this letter so come and pick me up tomorrow morning by 11 am.

Send Draco only.

If someone else turns up instead, I’ll leave straight away.

 


 

The next morning found me sitting in the hotel room as I waited with my bags packed for Draco’s inevitable arrival. I was trying my best not to run off again and a part of me was always prepared for the chance that they’d disregard my warning and send someone else or more than one person instead. If that happened, I needed to be ready to flee.

There was a knock on the door that had my eyes rooted to it. I stared at it for a moment, pondering over the likelihood that I’d be able to run away before forcing myself to rise to my feet. I was done running away. Crossing the room with steady steps, I took one last moment to calm myself before opening the door to reveal Draco on the other side.

He stood with his hands tucked in his pockets, staring down at the ground before him. The sound of the door opening had him looking up, eyes scanning over each of my features and I took the opportunity to do the same. He looked gaunt, like a shell of his former self. Though, I supposed that helping a psychopath to bring a new regime to a country tended to do that to people. Silently I stepped aside to let him in and he did so after reluctantly pulling his eyes away from me. I shut the door behind him, pressing my back to it and watching as he stepped into the room, eyes scouring its bare entirety.

Draco stopped at the foot of the bed before he turned to look at me. He hesitated for a moment, as if unsure how to begin. “Princess –”

And that was not the right way.

“My father thinks himself a king,” I cut in suddenly, meeting his eyes head-on when his own faltered to meet my stare. “Sitting on the throne he gave himself and playing a game of war with the knights he’s assembled around him. But you all seem to have forgotten that he’s no king and I’m no princess. So, don’t call address me as one – not you too.”

He glanced away from me for a moment, unsure of what to say. Eventually, he settled for a murmured, “You acknowledged him as your father. You never used to do that.”

Scoffing, I pushed away from the door to walk slowly around the room as I gathered the few things I still had scattered around the place. “The entire wizarding world – those on either side of this stupid battle, and those that are too cowardly to make a choice – seem desperate to remind me of the supposed relationship that I share with your Lord. It was inevitable that I had to start calling him that – regardless of whether or not I actually accept him as my father.”

Draco chose not to respond to that. Instead, he followed my movements with his eyes as I placed the last of my things into my suitcase and zipped it up. “Is that all you have with you?”

“I needed to travel light,” I reminded him and he just sighed. “You know, considering that I was on the run and all.”

“Right,” he muttered quietly before looking at his watch. “We should probably head back soon or else they’ll change their mind and send someone else after us.”

“We need to check out first,” I reminded him as he picked my suitcase up for me.

“Lead the way.”

Silently I walked out of the hotel room knowing that he’d follow after me anyway. Reaching the front desk, I checked out quickly and then it was his turn to go first. He walked a few paces in front of me – close enough to keep an eye on me in case I chose to run and far enough that I wasn’t burdened by his presence – and led me toward one of the nearest apparition points. Reaching the point, he silently handed the suitcase off to me and wrapped an arm around my waist. Pulling me into his side, Draco apparated us away without a word and when we emerged in the middle of what seemed to be a sitting room, I looked around curiously.

“We’re in Malfoy Manor,” he explained quietly, dropping his arm from around me. Taking my suitcase from me, he started to walk off again only to stop a few steps later. “You should probably hurry up, they’re waiting in the dining room.”

I was stuck with following him as he led me through his home towards the dining room. When we reached the closed doors, he cleared his throat and I watched closely as he clenched and unclenched his fist at his side before raising it to knock on the door. Draco waited patiently, but not calmly – he was fidgeting too much for that to be true – and when he was ordered to come in, his shoulders tensed before he pushed the door open.

“Walk in first,” he commanded quietly, stepping aside. I hesitated to do as told as I suddenly became aware of all the eyes that turned towards the pair of us. Gathering what little courage I possessed, I took slow, measured steps into the room. The sound of Draco’s own footsteps following slowly after my own had some of the tension easing out of me.

My eyes centred on the long table in the middle of the room before naturally, drifting to the seat at the head of the table where my ‘father’ sat. Merlin, he’d really gone and gotten himself a throne. He rose to his feet suddenly and my steps came to a halt when he suddenly began to smile at me. As if that wasn’t so fucking creepy.

My hand flexed at my side, wanting to reach for my wand as he walked away from the table and headed straight towards me. He didn’t stop until he was right in front of me and even then, he reached out to take me in an embrace. I remained stiff against the fake show to paternal love, drawing away from him as soon as I could and met his eyes firmly, determined not to falter. He could try to read my mind all he wanted, but the ruins I’d had encrypted into the ring wouldn’t grant him access to my mind.

“You’ve finally come home,” he said, the words loud and intended to draw a reaction from his followers who scrambled to give him the reaction they thought he wanted.

“This isn’t my home,” I spoke finally, looking to the table where Draco’s parents were seated side by side. “This is the Malfoy family’s home.”

“Of course,” the psychopath agreed whilst trying to maintain the pleasant smile on his face. But being as close to him as I was, I saw the tick in his jaw that he tried to hide. His eyes iced over as he turned to address his still seated followers. “What do you think you’re doing? Your princess has returned.”

And just like that, the entire table full of Death Eaters hurried to their feet. I watched with mild horror as they inclined their head towards me as if they were bowing. Salazar, they were all absolutely mad – this was only boosting his power trip. I turned suddenly towards Draco, meeting his still raised eyes and shook my head minutely, pleading silently that he didn’t follow along. But it was too much to ask of the boy who had no choice. Sure enough, he too lowered his head and I let out a deep breath before looking back to my father.

“That’s enough, I think you’ve overwhelmed the poor girl.” He laughed as if it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen and slowly his Death Eaters followed along before he silenced them with a firm look. When he turned his eyes back to mine, I tried not to flinch away. “I’m so pleased about your return that I’ll grant you anything you want.”

“I want to go back to Hogwarts,” I said quietly, “there’s something I need to do.”

He narrowed his eyes at that, lowering his voice as he remarked, “You voluntarily avoided going to Hogwarts all this time but now you want to go back? Just what is it you’re after?” Silence was his only answer. Straightening up, he turned suddenly to look at Mrs Malfoy. “Show her to her room.”

“My room?” I repeated quietly, looking at the older woman for an explanation but she didn’t offer one.

“The Malfoys are going to look after you for a while,” he explained, “as a favour to me. Of course, they really do need to redeem their good family name.”

“My Lord,” Mr Malfoy piped up suddenly, voice dying down when he found himself under the receiving end of a killer glare. “Of course, my Lord.”

“Go and rest,” Voldemort ordered as he turned away from me.

I barely resisted the urge to remind him that I wasn’t one of his minions and instead, turned away to wait for Mrs Malfoy’s assistance.

 


 

My confinement in Malfoy Manor was non-negotiable and truthfully, I wasn’t surprised. On some level, I already knew about the fate I was likely to suffer once I turned myself over to the Death Eaters but I hadn’t expected it to be quite so suffocating. I was allowed to leave the room whenever I wanted but was always, without fail, accompanied by one of the minions who trailed silently after me like a shadow.

Their presence was always large but they were rarely ever in my line of sight with the exception of Bellatrix Lestrange. The woman, who I was certain was borderline insane, apparently worshipped the ground that the nose less psychopath walked on. I was also certain that she actually loved him, a fact often exploited by Voldemort himself. And as a result, I chose to stay in the room I’d been assigned, rather than voluntarily making myself the subject of their surveillance.

So far, the blatant acts of rebellion that I managed to pull off whilst in the manor, went unpunished because I was certain that Voldemort had bigger things to concern him over than making sure that I was eating. As a result, one of his followers would come to the room to take back the untouched plate of food without a word. I expected it to be the same today. But it wasn’t because Draco was the one that walked into the room.

He knocked on the door before walking in without waiting for an answer. Stepping into the room, his eyes drifted to the desk in the corner of the room where the plate had been set down just over an hour ago. I watched warily as the corner of his eyes tightened when he realised it was full and he sighed, crossing the room to approach the bed. Shuffling slightly, I pressed my back against the headboard and watched as he settled down on the edge of the bed.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, picking at the blanket beneath me, “Aren’t you supposed to be at Hogwarts?”

“I only went back this year to redeem my family name. Why bother going back to the school when there’s an easier option right here.”

“Babysitting me.”

“You haven’t been eating,” he said bluntly, meeting my eyes when I glanced curiously towards him. “Why?”

“Not hungry,” I grumbled, bringing my knees up towards my chest.

“You’re behaving like a child,” he said with a sigh. “It’s like you’re throwing a temper tantrum.”

I couldn’t help but laugh incredulously at how the roles had managed to change so strikingly. “And just a little while ago we’d have been in the reverse situation; you’d be acting like a child and I’d be the one telling you off.”

Despite not wanting to, he smiled slightly before wiping it from his features. “You need to start eating again Tate, if not for your sake then for everyone else’s.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked quietly, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“Your father – the Dark Lord,” he corrected himself when I narrowed my eyes at him, “he takes out his anger on others. The people that are sent to retrieve your plates are punished if it returns and its full.”

My breath left me in a whoosh; I hadn’t even thought about that. Slowly my gaze trailed across the room to the full plate before shifting to the silent man beside me. He’d be punished because of me.

As if he could read my thoughts, he spoke casually, “Although most of us have been punished by him before so we’re used to it.”

“You’re one of those people,” I guessed, correctly if the way he rose to his feet was any indication. I caught his arm to stop him and he turned to me with hesitant eyes. Staring up at him, I searched his eyes for a moment before asking quietly, “Because of me? Have you been punished because of something I did?”

“Of course not,” he insisted, brushing my hand off. “It’s because I made a stupid mistake.”

“Which was?” I prompted, watching as he crossed the room to pick up the plate of food. Before he could leave the room like he so clearly wanted to, I scrambled off the bed and demanded an answer. “Well?”

“The night the Death Eaters raided the castle,” he began steadily, his back to me. “I made a stupid choice and was punished for it.”

“You called it a mistake earlier, but just now you said it was a choice.” His shoulders stiffened at my words. “Which is it Malfoy? A mistake implies that it happened out of your control, choice suggests otherwise.”

“I chose to let you go, didn’t I?” he shot back sharply, turning towards me. “Getting rid of Dumbledore was only part of it – I failed to do that and failed to do the other part of my mission too; getting you out of that damned castle. I was right behind you but I purposefully let you escape because you’d rather have died then come with me. That’s what I got punished for, is that enough information?”

“So, it was because of me then,” I murmured slowly, watching as he moved to leave the room again. “Why – you likely knew what would happen to you if you let me go, so why did you?”

He sighed roughly, turning towards me and he stared at me for a long moment before his eyes flickered towards my left hand – the one I wore the ring on. Raising his eyes to mine, he spoke softly like he was scared of who would overhear our conversation. “Because I know the truth and he’ll inevitably find out what happened to it – what you did to it. And when that happens what he’ll do to you will be far worse than what I went through. Taking a small crucio seemed better than handing you to your executioner. But how was I supposed to know that you’d walk here on your own feet?”

“I was protecting people,” I muttered feebly. Salazar, the fact that I was here – that I had chosen to return here made his sacrifice redundant. He’d taken the crucio for nothing.

“And I protected you,” he muttered back before letting out another steadying breath. Shaking his head, he declared, “This is a pointless conversation.”

I watched as he turned to leave the room, my untouched plate of food in his hands. He made it to the door when I called out to him suddenly, “Draco.”

He stilled at the call of his name but made no move to glance back at me. But he didn’t need to. Crossing the distance between us, I stole half of the sandwich from the plate before returning to the bed without another word. That would be enough to keep him from getting punished again.

 


 

Draco’s sudden confession left me wanting to see him, if only just to interrogate him further about the other things that had happened whilst I was too busy with my self-loathing. There was bound to be some other things that I hadn’t even contemplated, right? But it seemed like Draco had made it his mission to avoid me now. He didn’t come anywhere near the room and wherever I went around the manor, he was nowhere in sight. It was so bad that when I walked into the library where he was sat looking over a piece of parchment, he stood up and walked out of the room.

It seemed like his days of avoiding me came to an end when the impossible happened; he was the one to walk into my room unannounced. He hovered by the door, watching as I sat on the bed with one of the books in my lap. His family certainly owned a lot of texts laced with Dark Magic and that didn’t surprise me but it certainly limited the number of books that I was willing to get near.

“Get ready,” he said, turning to leave the room. “We’re going out.”

“Where?”

“Hogwarts.”

“But why?” I called out to him as he walked out of the room.

Of course, he didn’t listen to me, and I made a face at his back. Rising from the bed with a sigh, I hurried to change my clothes as I wondered just how the school had changed. From the whispered words that I’d heard, the school was now under Death Eater control and no doubt it was now a mere shadow of its former glory. But what of the students that weren’t granted mercy simply because they were of pure blood? What was happening to them? Salazar, I could only imagine the way they were being treated.

Once I finished dressing, I stepped out of the room and eyed the Death Eater that was standing guard outside of my door. Did they really have nothing better to do than have a guard standing outside of the room? What exactly was I going to do by running away? I was on their home terrain right now, I wasn’t stupid enough to think that I’d be able to get away.

“Where am I supposed to go?” I asked only to receive no answer.

“Are you ready to go yet?” I scanned the corridor at the sound of Draco’s voice and found him striding towards me.

“I’ve been waiting for a while,” I said, hurrying towards him when he gestured for her me to follow.

He continued to lead the way with quick strides, showing no consideration for the fact that I was being forced to practically run in order to catch up with him. By the time he came to a stop, he was standing in front of a fireplace and he gestured for me to step in.

“But why are we going to Hogwarts in the first place?” I asked, even as I took a handful of the floo powder that he held out towards me.

“How should I know?” He rolled his eyes at me, gesturing for me to hurry up. “You were the one that wanted to get into Hogwarts for some reason, weren’t you? Do you have any idea how long it took to convince them to let me be the one to get into Hogwarts to talk to Snape?”

Draco –

“You’re spilling the floo powder everywhere!” Rolling my eyes, I stepped into the fireplace in time to hear him call out, “It’s directly connected to the headmaster’s office.”

The floo network, one I didn’t often use, was far too dirty even if it was one of the fastest methods of transport. The ash from the travel had me coughing to clear my lungs as I stepped out into the office and wiped the soot from my clothes. Snape was sat at his desk and the moment he saw me coming out of the fireplace, he rose to his feet.

“Miss Riddle –”

“That’s not my name,” I bit out, stepping out of the way for Draco to come out of the fireplace.

“Of course,” he agreed quietly, looking away from me and towards his godson. “Draco, what are you doing here?”

“The Dark Lord wanted me to relay a message.” Both men looked towards me as if it was something that I wasn’t supposed to hear. But then again, just sharing blood with him didn’t grant me access to the happenings of his inner circle. “Why don’t you go around the castle Tate, I’ll come and get you when we’re finished.

I nodded silently, preparing to leave the room when suddenly Snape spoke up from behind me as if to warn me, “Be careful in the corridors, the Carrows –”

“Isn’t Hogwarts supposed to be the safest places in the wizarding world,” I wondered aloud as I headed for the door. “My mistake, that was only true when Dumbledore sat in that chair.”

Walking out of the office without giving them the opportunity to say another word, I moved with quick steps towards the outer parts of the school. The students that I passed whispered to themselves at the sight of me, wondering which side I was on. I could feel their eyes lingering on the bared skin on my arms that distinctly lacked a mark. Admittedly I would have been curious in their place too, but to actually be the person on the receiving end of those stares changed things.

Stiffening my shoulders, I changed my route to take the corridors that were used less often, to avoid those eyes.

The last time I had been within the castle walls, it was on the night that Dumbledore had been murdered. By the time the news of the Death Eaters invasion had reached the Slytherin common room, I had grabbed the bag I had hidden under the bed in preparation for that very day. The prefects were surveying the common room, keeping an eye on all the students when I barely managed to sneak out to run away. The number of close run-ins I’d almost had couldn’t be counted on both of my hands and the actual escape took longer than I’d anticipated it would have. And save from a collision with Draco which had me rushing the other way before the boy could react, I’d managed to get out unnoticed. Although, according to Draco he had purposefully let me go.

Whilst the rest of the school paid their final respects to our fallen headmaster, I had been on the run and that was the reason that I wanted to return to the school. Dumbledore had been the first person I sought guidance from once I’d worked everything out but I hadn’t even been able to pay him one final visit.

But before I could complete my route towards Dumbledore’s final resting place, I found myself coming face to face with a wand-wielding Gryffindor. Weasley pointed her wand straight towards me and I eyed it warily.

“Weasley,” I called out cautiously, raising my hands to show her that I wasn’t reaching for my wand, “what’s this about?”

“This is about your bastard of a father,” she hissed, making my eyes widen at just how much venom her words contain. “You’re not welcome here.”

“Listen to me –”

“Don’t try anything,” she spat, approaching me with quick steps. I held myself firm, refusing to back away even as she drew closer. Swallowing nervously, I tried not to fidget when her wand was pressed directly at my neck. “The entire wizarding world know the truth now Tate – Riddle – about whose spawn you are.”

“He’s nothing to me,” I insisted but like everyone I’d ever said those words to, she didn’t believe them. Reaching into my pocket, I flinched when her wand dug reflexively deeper into my neck. It didn’t even ease when I retrieved the DA galleon from my pocket and held it out for her to look at.

She glanced at it before demanding, “Where did you get this from?”

“Potter had it made for me,” I answered truthfully, seeing the disbelief on her features. “He had Granger make it for me when he found out that I was helping Dumbledore. He said it would prove my true allegiance. Or something like that.”

“But how,” she started to ask hesitantly, eyes flickering between my own as she struggled to understand. Her wand faltered, drawing away from my throat but not lowering to her side. She didn’t trust me, not yet.

“If you don’t believe me then believe my actions.” My earnest words had her taking a small step back. “Weasley, I handed Dumbledore one of the Horcruxes myself.”

“Tate, you –”

“What is going on here?” a voice bellowed, making me look further down the corridor towards Snape and Draco as they approached us. I glanced cautiously back to Weasley who slowly lowered her wand to her side but it was already too late; Snape had seen her with her wand pointed towards me.

The two approaching men came to a stop beside us and I watched as Draco came to stand at my side. Silently, he reached out to take my hand and pulled me further away from Weasley.

“Miss Weasley,” Snape called out sharply, eyes on the Gryffindor student, “report to my office and wait for my return.”

“That’s not necessary,” I insisted, calling out to Snape but he didn’t so much as glance my way.

Now! Miss Weasley.”

I watched as Weasley walked away, spine straightened and each step heavy as if she had weights tied to her ankles. She looked like a woman walking to her death and I watched her nervously; I’d heard some of the students talk about the cruciatus being used on the students as punishment. Was that what was going to happen to her? Snape bid goodbye to Draco and me before walking after Weasley.

Turning quickly towards Draco, I waited for him to meet my waiting eyes. “You don’t think he’s going to use the cruciatus on her, do you?”

He chose not to answer and instead asked, “Are you alright?”

“Why won’t you answer my question?” I insisted, feeling him finally release my hand; I hadn’t even realised that he was still holding it. “Draco?”

“Are you alright?” he repeated firmly. I nodded slowly, watching as he looked me over from head to toe, checking carefully for any sign of injury. “Good – now come on, we should get back.”

“By floo?” I asked, eyes shifting in the direction that Snape and Weasley had left in minutes ago.

“No,” he said as if he could read my mind. “The anti-apparition wards have been removed temporarily. Just hold on to me and we can go.”

“But,” I hesitated, casting a look towards the grounds that I hadn’t been able to make it to before I was stopped. It seemed like I would have to wait longer to pay my final respects. “Nothing, let’s just go.”

Draco watched me for a moment longer, looking like he was going to say something but he didn’t. Instead of saying a word, he just apparated us silently away to my room in Malfoy Manor. The moment we appeared in the room, I stepped away from Draco and headed towards the windows that overlooked the gardens. Pressing my hands to the windowsill, I lowered my head and let out a deep breath. Despite never having done anything that remotely involved dark magic, just my association with him ruined my entire reputation. From now on, no matter how often I claimed my innocence, not everyone would believe me. I wasn’t innocent until proven guilty; I was guilty until I proved my innocence.

There was a gentle call of my name that had me lifting my head. Straightening up to cast a glance over my shoulder, I met Draco’s eyes. I’d expected him to leave long ago.

“What is it?” I asked, clearing my throat quietly and turning to face him.

“Here.” I watched as he reached into his pocket to retrieve something and throw it towards me.

Leaning forward to catch it with two hands, I stared down at a very familiar bracelet. Raising my eyes slowly to his, I murmured, “I left this behind.”

“I know.” Draco tucked his hands into his pocket, watching me carefully with cautious eyes. “Don’t go leaving it behind again. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told you to keep it on you.”

I could only hold his eyes for a moment longer before I turned away from him, setting the bracelet down on the window sill. Crossing my arms, I looked back out into the gardens and heard him sigh before walking across the room. Waiting for the sound of the door, I heard it open and close before I looked back to the bracelet. Staring at it for a drawn-out moment, I reached across towards it and ran my fingers over one of the charms. Why couldn’t I ever leave the bloody thing behind?

 


 

Following my eventful trip to Hogwarts, I had taken to confining myself in parts of the house where it was likely that no one else would be. Usually, only the Malfoys, myself and whichever Death Eater had been stationed to guard my bedroom door, were in the Manor. But on the rare occasions where Voldemort returned to the Manor to use it as a meeting point, the dozens of Death Eaters that were part of his inner circle also flocked to the Manor. In those days it was nearly impossible to find a single place in the large house where I couldn’t even hear the sound of their voices.

I just had a lot I needed to think about; my mind was muddled but I didn’t have the capability to clear it all myself. Salazar, what was my place in all of this? Because they were right, weren’t they, that I didn’t really belong to either side. The ‘good’ side didn’t really accept me as one of their own and how could I really belong to the ‘bad’ when I ran from them so often? Merlin, I just wanted to head back to the time before I knew anything about this, to when the biggest concerns were my exams and back to Draco.

A knock sounded, bringing me from my thoughts. Straightening up from my position curled up on a chair in the library, I turned towards the sound. My eyes widened at the sight of Mr Malfoy as he stood beside one of the tables that he had knocked on to get my attention. The change in the behaviour of the older male Malfoy was something I had yet to get used to; I could still remember the way he’d glared into my eyes to curse me out for even daring to corrupt his son. But now, now he struggled to raise his eyes to mine.

Of course, to him, it was a simple matter. At the time I had been a half-blood witch ruining his son’s life. He had thrown a massive fit that forced the pair of us to break up, but now that he knew who my father was, his complaints had been rescinded. Draco’s parents had no idea, but during my first few days in their home, I’d happened to overhear their conversation, planning to pair me with their son again. They honestly believed that through me their family would be able to redeem themselves in their Lord’s eyes. That in itself was a reason for me to run the other way.

“What is it?” I asked eventually, growing irritated when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to say a word.

“Your father is here,” he stated.

“I could tell from the noise.”

“He’s staying for dinner.” Under my watchful eyes, Mr Malfoy shuffled his feet. “He wants you to join us.”

“I’m not hungry,” I murmured, turning away from him.

“Draco’s waiting for you,” he added as if that would convince me. Scoffing quietly, I tried not to roll my eyes. He really was unbelievable. “If you don’t come –”

“Who’s going to be punished this time?” He looked away from me, and I raised an eyebrow. Well wasn’t that interesting. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

Mr Malfoy cleared his throat roughly and I sighed. Rising to my feet, I gestured for him to lead the way. Paying no special attention to some of the tension that eased from his frame, I followed after him and curled my hands into fists at my side as the jubilant voices of the Death Eaters drew closer. From the sound of it, they were celebrating over someone’s death. God, they really were a sick bunch.

Mr Malfoy pushed the door open, gesturing for me to head in first. And when I did, my eyes instantly went to the empty seat beside Draco which I assumed had been saved for me. Heading over to the seat, I ignored the remark my father made about the fact that the table was now ‘complete’.

Settling into the seat, I stared down at the plate of food that was placed in front of me before casting a glance down the long table. There were very few faces seated at the table that I could recognise, and even fewer faces that looked as blatantly scared to be there as Draco did. Something cold slid along my feet and I gasped pulling my feet away at the sensation, only to glare down at Nagini as she slid along the floor towards her master. I needed to find some way to let Potter know that she was one of the Horcruxes, but how –

Draco put his hand on top of mine suddenly, and I glanced sharply at him. Avoiding my eyes, he looked pointedly down the table towards my father who didn’t even attempt to listen to the conversation around him. Instead, he was staring at our joined hands, and I knew that it wasn’t our joined hands that bothered him but what was under Draco’s hand. Curling my hand into a fist, I wondered whether he’d managed to figure out the truth about the ring.

Taking my hand and moving it under the table, Draco placed it on my thigh and patted it twice as if to tell me to keep it there. Removing his hand from on top of mine, Draco didn’t meet my eyes as I watched him lean across me to pour me a glass of water.

“Be careful,” he warned lowly. “He’ll pick up on it if you’re so lax around him.”

 


 

The activity in the Manor faded, as it always did, with the departure of Voldemort. Most of the Death Eaters went back to tending to their own business and completing the missions that they had each been given. I was left to my own devices and, apart from Mr Malfoy’s pitiful attempts at pairing me off with his son, no one approached me. Often during the day, Draco had continued with his job of acting as my protective shadow but even he left the moment I asked for some space. Even as I sat in one of the more deserted quarters of the Manor, I knew that the only reason Draco was striding towards me was because something had happened or because I had been summoned.

“What is it this time?” I asked, closing my book and rising to my feet, ready to follow after him.

“The snatchers have caught them,” he admitted as he, for once, dropped into step beside me. Draco didn’t need to specify who ‘them’ was, and he cast a concerned glance my way when I faltered in my step. Merlin, I wouldn’t believe it unless I saw it with my own eyes. He took my hand, pulling me alongside him. “We need to hurry; my aunt’s here.”

“Aunt?” I repeated, eyes widening, “The insane one?”

“Yes, the insane one,” he repeated and even though it was the wrong time for it, a small smile pulled at his lips. Remembering that we were being summoned, he wiped the smile from his face and began to speed away.

We walked into one of the drawing rooms with Draco leading the way. But he stopped suddenly, an arm outstretched as if to prevent me from going any further. Peering around him, my eyes settled on the three kneeling figures in the corner of my room but Merlin, no matter how Potter tried to disguise his face, as someone that had spent years with him at school, I recognised him in an instant. Draco’s aunt called him forward to identify Potter and I fisted his jacket in my hand, trying to keep him still. But he didn’t listen and instead pulled himself away from me to step forward.

I held my breath as Draco kneeled in front of Potter and tried not to make my relief so obvious when Draco claimed that he couldn’t recognise him. When Draco rose to his feet to return to my side, we shared a look, silently agreeing to keep it to ourselves. And just when I had thought we were out of danger, the sword of bloody Godric Gryffindor was found on them. Apparently, that meant more to Draco then it did to me, or rather he knew his aunt better.

Before I could ask him, what was wrong, Draco reacted even before his aunt ordered for Potter and Weasley to be held in the dungeon. His hand shot out to take a hold of my own, pulling me after him as he sped away out of the room. I tried to resist, trying to pull my arm away from him but he held on firmly. Coming to a sudden still, he pulled me towards him.

“Stop it,” he said fiercely, eyes alight with a fire I hadn’t seen before. “I’m trying to protect you so just stop it.”

“From what?”

“Just follow me –”

Agonised screams pierced through the air, cutting him off and I sucked in a sharp breath. Granger. That was Granger. He had wanted to get me as far away from whatever his aunt was doing to as he could. Eyes widening, I tugged my hand away from Draco and turned as if to run back towards the drawing-room. But, as always, he was one step ahead. Taking a hold of my shoulders, Draco pulled me back towards him and shook me slightly.

“If you run back into there what do you think is going to happen?” he demanded, trying to get me to see sense. “You won’t accomplish anything more than raising suspicion about yourself.”

“Are you saying that I should do nothing?” Staring up at him incredulously, I tried to pull away from him but his hold on me tightened. “Can you not hear Granger’s screams, Draco?”

“Of course, I can. They’re probably going to haunt me for years but we can’t go running into there.” He lowered his head with a sigh before raising it again. “There’s a better way. Trust me, just this once.”

“What’s your plan?”

Dropping his hands from his shoulder, he pulled away from me and spoke firmly, “Follow behind me. Closely.”

And as if to make sure that I did just that, he took my hand in his again before proceeding to lead me through the Manor. He walked through passages that I hadn’t even managed to find during my exploration of the place. By the time we emerged from the hallway, I looked around and wondered just where we were.

“They’ll be just down there,” Draco muttered, pointing further down the passage. “I’ll keep watch so be quick.”

“Be quick?” I repeated in confusion, watching as he reached into his pocket.

Placing a key in my palm, he spoke firmly, “This will open the door but do it in a way that it doesn’t come back to you. The moment it does, that’s where I won’t be able to step in.”

I called his name softly, but he was already gesturing for me to hurry up. Rising to my toes, I pressed a quick kiss to his cheek in thanks before hurrying away. When I reached the cell, they were being kept in, I faltered a little in my steps at an unexpected prisoner.

“Lovegood?” I questioned quietly, looking at the girl in the corner as she worked on cutting through the bindings. “What are you doing here?”

The fair-haired girl looked up at the side of my voice, “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t even know,” I muttered, glancing around before looking at the key in my hand. Slipping it through the bars, I met Potter’s waiting eyes. “This’ll get you out of here; the rest is up to you.”

“Thanks,” he called out to me as I hurried away from him and back to where Draco was waiting.

Draco, spying my approaching figure, gestured for me to hurry up. I almost asked him why, but then I heard the calls for his name and stiffened. Had they figured out something was wrong? He didn’t give me the chance to say anything as he took my hand and led me out of the room.

“We’re going back to the drawing-room,” he warned without glancing at me. “Be prepared for the worst.”

Just what was the worst, I wondered as I stared at his back.

I wasn’t sure if Draco’s expectation of the worst actually came to light. But we ended up staring at the escaping figures of Potter and his friends as a house-elf aided their escape. Draco, who had been thrown aside after his fight with Potter, rose to his feet. My eyes narrowed at him for a moment – he might have acted as though he’d put up a fight but really, I knew better; he hadn’t even tried.

Everyone was too busy staring at the spot where they had escaped from to pay any attention to me. This was it; I could easily leave now. It would be so easy for me to get to Hogwarts even if it was just to escape this place. My hand went to my wand, testing the apparition wards which clearly weren’t in place. Or if they were, they weren’t working properly.

My eyes flickered around the room to the adults as I took small steps back; as long as they continued to focus on Potter and his friends then everything would be fine. But the one person I hadn’t accounted for interfered. Draco was at my side in an instant, wrapping an arm around my waist to halt me and snatching my wand away.

“Draco!” I hissed, moving to steal my wand away but he tucked it into his pocket. Tightening his arm around my waist, he stared down at me.

“I’m sorry but you can’t go.” His voice drew the attention of his family to my failed escape attempt. “It’s not time yet.”

I tried to struggle against him but it was no use. Draco, both taller and sturdier than I was, pulled my resisting form out of the room. And before I realised it, he was shoving me into the room and shutting the door. His voice carried through the door and I heard him cast a locking spell. He really wasn’t on my side.

 


 

It didn’t take long for news of my attempted escape to reach my father and I was placed on lockdown. Quite how long I’d been isolated for I didn’t know but I knew that I’d spent just over a month alone. The only time I actually interacted with people was when my food was brought into the room. Even then, I didn’t exactly talk to the Death Eaters that brought my food either. Salazar, I wanted to get out of here.

My eyes went to the door, as they always did when I heard it open. Draco walked into the room, my tray of food levitating behind him and I did my best to maintain my expression. His eyes shifted towards me as he levitated the tray onto the desk in the corner of the room. My eyes followed him as he turned as if to leave again. But he didn’t.

He stopped and glanced back at me again, holding my stare for a long moment. With a sigh, I crossed my arms and settled back against the headboard.

“What do you want Malfoy?” Brief shock flickered across his face as if he was surprised that I was actually talking to him. But then Draco hesitated, not saying a word. “What? Have they switched the guard dog outside the door to being you now? Is that what you’re here to tell me?”

“It was always my job to watch over you,” he reminded me quietly.

“Your Lord must be so pleased with you – you stopped me from leaving.” Draco had always been so easy to read; no matter how often he tried to hide his thoughts I could read them. Even now I could see that he was struggling with choosing between talking to me or running away. But I wouldn’t give him the choice. Why should I? Especially when I had never been granted that privilege? “Why, Draco?”

“It’s been weeks,” he started eventually. “It’s been weeks but why ask me now?”

“Because this is the first time you’ve approached me,” I said truthfully. “I want to know the truth.”

“Like I already told you – it wasn’t the right time.” He crossed his arms over his chest as he explained, “Say you escaped now, did you think you’d get far? There isn’t a single place in this country where they wouldn’t be able to find you and this time the ban on using magic against you would be lifted.”

“So, you tried to protect me by locking me up in here?” I questioned wryly.

He didn’t answer my question but instead, he suggested, “At least he hasn’t figured out the truth about the ring – with you locked up in here, he’s not close to you.”

“Maybe I should just take this stupid thing off,” I muttered, glaring down at it.

Draco turned away, recognising that I wasn’t going to talk to him again. He sighed, turning with heavy steps to leave the room. I waited to hear the sound of the door opening and closing again but it didn’t come.

“Are you ashamed of me?” he asked quietly, rooted to his spot in front of the door.

“Not ashamed,” I settled for eventually. “Not ashamed, just disappointed.”

He didn’t say another word. Instead, he lifted his head, straightening his spine and walking out of the room without a second glance back at me.

 


 

It was a day like any other within the Malfoy household. Or rather that was what I thought as I remained locked away in a room that was becoming far too suffocating to be in. There was no reason for me to believe that there was anything wrong, that there was anything strange but that didn’t seem to be the case. Not when Draco burst into the room and threw my wand towards me. I caught it with a single hand, staring down at it in surprise before looking towards the Slytherin who tapped his foot impatiently.

“What?” I asked uncertainly, scrambling away from him when he crossed the room towards me with quick steps. “What are you doing – what’s going on?”

He took my hand in his, pulling me after him as he hurried me out of the room. “There’s going to be a battle – no doubt within the next few hours. Everyone’s preparing for this all to end.”

“What does that mean?” I asked incredulously, stumbling after him as he ducked into one of the secret passages to avoid an oncoming group of Death Eaters.

“Why do you ask so many questions?” he demanded, irritation creeping into his voice. “Hurry up, we need to hurry if we’re going to get to Hogwarts before the place is warded shut against anyone.”

“But why do we need to get there?”

He cast an incredulous look back at me as he demanded, “Did you really think that I’d spent these last few weeks doing nothing? Do you really not know me better than that?” He sighed, shaking his head as we ducked into another corridor. Weren’t there supposed to be Death Eaters placed to guard these corridors? “Stop asking me questions and just come along with me, you infuriating woman.”

“I still don’t understand,” I murmured as we suddenly turned into one of the drawing rooms. Draco dropped my hand, shutting the door as I eyed the fireplace. Wasn’t that the one that was linked to the headmaster’s office?

“How did we get through the Death Eaters so quickly?” I questioned, watching as Draco walked back to my side.

“You always have so many questions,” he muttered under his breath. “Listen to me Tate, this new generation of Death Eaters, those of us that have been moulded into following footsteps despite our wishes are sick of it.” His words actually managed to take me by surprise and I simply stared at him for a moment. “We were all just too frightened and downtrodden to say the words aloud. But the whispered words were enough for us to band together.”

“To do what exactly?”

“What we want to do.” He cast an anxious glance towards the door. “And the first step towards that is getting you out of this Manor.”

“Getting me out, but –”

Draco grew more anxious suddenly, pushing me towards the fireplace as he assured me, “You go first and we’ll follow behind you. I promise.”

“We? Who –”

The door swung open suddenly making Draco adopt a defensive stance in front of me. He pulled me behind him, wand raised towards the door to face the sudden intruder. But he dropped it moments later, realising that it was only Theo Nott. I stared at my housemate in shock, wondering when he’d arrived and how long he’d been part of this.

Theo groaned aloud when he saw the two of us and immediately backtracked to press his back against the door as if to force it closed. He cursed under his breath, deciding against it and turning to ward the door shut as quickly as he could.

“What the fuck are you two still doing here?” he exclaimed once he’d put as many locking charms and wards as he could think of in place. “They’ve realised that you’ve both gone missing – hurry the fuck up and get her out of here.”

“Since when have you spoken so much?” I piped up curiously as the two men shared a look and Draco began to push me towards the fireplace.

“He gets like that when he’s anxious,” Draco confessed, reaching out to the top of the fireplace to grab the container of the floo powder. He held it out to me as he reminded me, “This is linked to the headmaster’s office so there’s a chance that the Snape will still be there. We tried to get someone in there but we don’t know if it’s worked out. Be on your guard, Tate.”

Both boys tensed as sudden pounding erupted on the door. It got louder before they slowly the Death Eaters on the other side began to undo each of the wards Theo had placed. From the blatant panic on Theo’s face, they were making quick progress.

Go!” Draco urged, pushing me into the fireplace after pressing a kiss to my forehead.

The fireplace turned on just as I saw Theo and Draco take their places side by side, wands drawn and pointed towards the door as it flung open. My housemates were the ones to begin firing curses first and the approaching Death Eaters flinched, recoiling to defend themselves. I cast one more cautious glance at the boys before throwing the floo powder into the fireplace.

By the time I emerged from the other side of the floo network, I didn’t have the luxury of thinking about how Draco and Theo were coping. I expected to find myself confronted by Snape, what I didn’t expect was to find a hand outstretched towards me to help me. I took it cautiously, meeting the waiting brown eyes.

“Why am I not surprised that it’s you?” I wondered as I let Blaise pull me out of the fireplace.

“I couldn’t let those tossers have all the fun by themselves, now could I?” he asked with a sly smile and I shook my head, brushing the soot off my clothes. Even in a situation like this, Blaise was still Blaise.

“What’s going on in the castle?”

“Snape fled after being confronted by McGonagall and the entire castle is preparing for the battle.” Blaise started to walk out of the room, gesturing for me to follow after him. “Potter’s looking for some tiara thing.”

“Tiara?” I repeated curiously but Blaise simply shrugged at me.

“Do these Gryffindors have some trust issues or something? Do you have any idea how long it took me to convince him that I was on their side?”

“Can’t we have this conversation later?” I asked, following after him as we reached the corridor, “There’s something I need to tell Potter so I’m going to head off first.”

“Draco will kill me if I let you go,” Blaise piped up as I turned to leave.

“I’m sure you can defend yourself,” I called out over my shoulder before rushing away from him, wand drawn at my side.

If Blaise’s words were true then the three Gryffindors had split off into different parts of the corridor so where was I supposed to find one of them to tell them about that godforsaken snake. Not to mention the bloody Horcrux that had been made by mistake. How on earth was I supposed to relay that news to them?

The school was alive with activity as the students rushed to prepare for the oncoming battle and I dodged out of the way. I continued to search for the bloody Boy-who-Lived, wondering where I was supposed to find him in this large castle. Only it was easier than I imagined; I bumped into the three Gryffindors on their way down a set of stairs. Just the sight of me had the three of them stopping still, staring at me in shock.

Potter was the first to react, “How did you –”

“There’s no time for that,” I insisted with a wave of my hand. “There’s something I need to tell you about the Horcruxes. One of them is that blasted snake –”

“Snake?” Weasley repeated, the blood draining from his face.

“I’m sure you’ve seen it before, it’s huge and downright creepy.” Shaking my head dismissively, I rushed on, “That’s not the only thing. There was another Horcrux that was created by accident and it’s –”

“We need to find the diadem,” Granger cut in suddenly, looking at me with wide eyes. I bit my bottom lip, realising that she knew. She knew and she was keeping it from him. But surely, she knew him better than I did so maybe it was better that I said nothing? Granger made the decision for me, stepping towards me to ask, “Do you have your wand? Report to the front of the castle where you’ll find members of the Order and they’ll place you somewhere to defence the castle.”

“We don’t have time,” Potter agreed as they prepared to run.

I did the same, turning and running towards the front of the castle to find the members of the Order. Professor McGonagall smiled welcomingly at me, looking more relieved at the sight of me than I had expected her to. “Welcome back, Miss Tate.”

“It’s good to be back Professor,” I said with a smile that was suddenly much easier to summon. “Where should I go?”

After receiving my orders from Professor McGonagall, I hurried to my place and waited for the battle to begin. It wasn’t a long wait, in fact, it all happened at once. The entire castle became a battleground with hundreds of wizards and witches running around. It got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t be certain that I knew who I was throwing the curses at. But I certainly knew who was throwing curses at me.

The curses thrown towards me were dark, the darkest sort of magic that I had ever come across and I struggled to defend myself against them. But I had to guard myself because I had to survive. Wasn’t that what this all was about? Wanting to survive? Because doing this, fighting for my life, was the only way that I was going to be able to keep it. The moment Voldemort won was the moment that I handed myself to my executioner. As Draco said, it was only a matter of time until he figured out what I had done with the ring.

Draco – the next time I managed to see Draco was once everything was finished and all the activity had died down and a lull had settled across the castle. He was sat in the corner of the hall, listening to Professor McGonagall as she said something to him and patted his shoulder before she headed off to talk to other students. I crossed the hall quickly towards him and he rose slowly to his feet at the sight of my approaching form. Taking the chance to look him over from head to toe, I took in a deep breath as my eyes lingered on the blood staining his side through his shirt.

Not that it deterred me; I hugged him anyway. I felt him wince before he wrapped his arms around me. Slotting myself against him, I buried my head into the crook of his neck and tried my very best not to cry. Why was it that whenever he did his best to protect me he ended up injured?

“What happened?” I asked quietly, “The two of you –”

“It wasn’t just Theo and me,” he assured me. “There were more of us and we managed to hold them off for a while to buy some time for the castle to fortify its defences.”

Sniffling slightly, I drew away from Draco. “Where’s Theo?”

“In the hospital wing with Blaise.” Draco sighed, reaching out to poke the corner of my mouth when my frown deepened. “Don’t look like that; we’re all fine.”

“You should see the mediwitch,” I murmured, eyes lingering on his bloodstained shirt. “Let me take you.”

“Who knew that it’d take me getting hurt for you to stick to my side?” he teased, wrapping an arm around my shoulder and I knew it was to get my mind off of the fact that so much had happened today.

Sure, I had lost my father, but he wasn’t really that, was he? But at least with him around, I had some sense of identity, of belonging but where did I fit now? I knew there was a chance that I would be tried as a Death Eater despite not being one, but I wasn’t one. Only I wasn’t part of the ‘good’ guys either. So just where did I belong?

“Maybe I should get hurt more often?” Draco piped up, bringing me from my thoughts.

“Don’t say something so stupid,” I chastised, hitting his arm and smiling apologetically when he winced. “Sorry.”

“You’ll just have to keep a close eye on me.”

“More like I’ll have to glue you to my side.”

“You’re saying that like I’m going to complain.” He pulled me in closer to him with a grin and I stared up at him with barely concealed awe. Salazar, how long had it been since I’d seen him smile like that?

“Draco?” I called out as we continued towards the hospital wing. He hummed curiously, glancing down at me. “Any chance you can sneak me back into the Manor? I left my bracelet under my pillow.”

Chapter Text

9 YEARS LATER

Draco had long since moved out of the Manor, choosing instead to make his home in a place that had no ties to the ancestral family name. And with his father shipped off to Azkaban following the end of the war, his mother was left alone. But of course, Draco had always been a mother’s boy and he couldn’t stand to leave her on her own for long.

My mother-in-law was far too stubborn to leave the Manor and move into a room in our humble family home and we certainly had no intention of moving back into the Manor either. So, we were left to compromise, and to visit the Manor regularly with our son in tow. I made sure to hide my reluctance from Draco, knowing that if he picked up on it, he’d grow further away from his mother. Besides, my hesitance was less about visiting my mother-in-law and more about having to return to the place where I’d been held captive, where death regularly stalked down the halls and where one of my classmates had bled out on the floor.

The moment we apparated into the Manor, Scorpius clambered out of my arms and ran on unsteady legs into his grandmother’s waiting arms. Mrs Malfoy smiled so largely that it almost looked out of place on her face but that didn’t stop her from lifting Scorpius into her arms as she carried him further inside.

Moving to follow after his mother, Draco hesitated for a moment in his steps when he realised that I was yet to do the same. Salazar, it didn’t matter how many times I returned to this place, it still continued to bring bad memories to surface. It was so bad that I almost couldn’t remember any fond memories made in these halls either.

Calling my name gently, Draco held out his hand for mine and with a small smile, I entwined our fingers. Dropping into step beside him, I let him lead me in the direction that our son and his grandmother had headed off in. Once we reached the sitting room, we found Scorpius settled onto his grandmother’s lap with a content smile. But of course he was content, there was a large levitating plate of cookies in front of him and his grandmother stroked his hair with one hand, holding a glass of milk in the other.

Scorpius, far too perceptive for his age, looked up at the sound of my footsteps and froze as if he knew he’d done something wrong. He grinned adorably moments later and returned to the cookie in his hand. The cheeky boy knew that I couldn’t exactly say anything to Narcissa without making it seem like she wasn’t allowed to dote on her grandson. If there was one thing I had learned since Scorpius was born, it was that his grandmother knew exactly how to work around the rules I placed for him. Merlin, it was no wonder that Draco had been such a spoilt child.

Settling down onto the sofa across from Narcissa, I leaned into Draco’s side as he sat down beside me. When the house-elf appeared to deliver our tea, I took my cup with a grateful smile. Raising the cup to my lips, I faltered slightly when Narcissa spoke up.

“Your father will be released soon,” she spoke up, eyes remaining on Scorpius as he took a large drink from the glass of milk.

Almost at the same time, both Narcissa and I looked cautiously towards Draco to see how he would react. Draco was making very obvious efforts to keep Scorpius away from his grandfather, he had even refused to send a picture of Scorpius to Azkaban for his father to see. And when he found out that Narcissa had sent one anyway, he had blown up and refused to allow his mother to see Scorpius for almost 6 months.

Draco arched an eyebrow coolly, taking a sip from his cup. “Isn’t his punishment supposed to last longer? Considering just how bad his crimes were?”

“The sentence was reduced,” the older witch spoke slowly, finally looking towards Draco. “For good behaviour.”

Draco scoffed harshly, glancing apologetically towards me when Scorpius started at the sound, “Are you sure he didn’t bribe the guards?”

“Draco,” I called out warningly, noticing the way the colour was beginning to drain out of his mother’s face. She was torn between two halves of her world; the husband she loved more than she loved herself – more than he deserved and the son she’d risk her life for.

“Sorry, mother,” Draco said eventually after holding my stare while he tried to resist my silent demand for him to apologise to his mother.

“It’s fine,” she dismissed. Narcissa turned her eyes away from her son to settle onto Scorpius who seemed to recognise the tension that filled the room. She tried to hold him a moment longer but Scorpius forced his way out of her lap and started to walk slowly across the room. “I was thinking that perhaps you’d be here for his release – all of you. It would be good to have the family all together?”

But he had no words. Draco watched in silence as Scorpius headed towards him to clamber onto his lap. Helping Scorpius up, Draco brushed a hand over our son’s fair hair as he lost himself within the depths of his mind. Reaching out to squeeze his thigh gently, I smiled when he came out of his thoughts to meet my eyes. Neither of us had much luck when it came to the fathers we had been born to. It was one of the many reasons that Draco had been so resistant to the idea of us starting a family together. He’d eventually come around and as I watched his eyes soften when they focused on our son, I knew that those worries of his had been unnecessary. Draco was a good father, a much better father than he thought he was.