. . .
Harry wakes to a knocking at the front door. He rises from his tangled sheets, darkened with a telling stain that speaks to the vivid dreams he’s been plagued with since Draco’s arrival. Rubbing a hand through his over-long hair, he looks around, blurry-eyed for his glasses and Sirius’ pocket watch. It reads 8:40 AM and Harry shrugs, figuring he can’t be mad at whoever is at the door if it’s solidly past eight in the morning. That’s just the harsh reality of adulthood. He Scourgifies the sheets and climbs out of bed.
Shuffling down the stairs in pants and a silk robe Luna gifted him as a break-up present, Harry pulls open the door, yawning, only to choke on air the second he realises who’s on the other side of the threshold.
“Mrs Malfoy,” he says, stunned.
Narcissa Malfoy peers at Harry’s bare chest with narrowed eyes, and Harry quickly wraps the robe tightly around himself, knotting its tie with so much force, he grunts. Narcissa nods her approval.
“Good morning, Harry. And please, it’s Narcissa. Is my son here?”
Her words are clipped and impossibly polite, but there’s an edge to her tone, and a razor-sharp slice to her appearance. She seems to have become more angular and exacting in the years since he’s seen her last—if that were possible. Her hands are nothing but porcelain skin pulled taut over lean bones, tipped with shiny, pointed nails. Her face is gaunt, eyes sitting too far back in their sockets to appear healthy. Harry mentally wrestles with the need to look away from her emaciated frame and the desire to immediately hustle himself to the kitchen to cook her a much-needed meal to help combat her malnourished state.
Remembering his manners seconds too late, he steps back and invites her in, holding his arm out in greeting. She nods again and steps through, eyeing the staircase as if it were a bomb ready to explode.
“He’s upstairs?” she asks, looking more nervous than Harry has ever seen her. She wrings her hands, knuckles grinding together under a sweep of dark, brocade silk. Harry has the urge to reach out and stop her, but doesn’t dare.
“I’m actually not sure, he—” Harry cuts his explanation short when he turns to see Draco standing at the top of the staircase. His windblown hair falls across his forehead, his chest heaving and nostrils flared. Long, inky fingers grip the bannister so tightly Harry hears the wood creak.
Harry nods, though Draco isn’t looking at him. He can see the internal war behind Draco’s eyes; the urge to descend and greet his mother and the desperate want to flee. Harry wonders which instinct will win in the end, but before Harry can find out, Narcissa is brushing past him and advancing up the stairs faster than Harry thought possible for someone in floor-length robes. She moves towards Draco, a single arm outstretched, long fingers reaching as if possessed.
Draco turns and runs.
“Shit.” Harry follows both of them, cursing the whole way. “Draco,” he calls out, watching him jump over the sitting room couch and make for the balcony doors.
Draco halts at the sound of his mother crying his name, his hands on the doorknobs, his back heaving with struggling breaths. His wings are full, puffed out in agitation and his head is bowed.
She left me there to rot, Harry hears. He bites his lip and looks to Narcissa, notes the pain on her weathered face, the tears in her too-large, wild eyes.
I don’t think she meant to, Harry responds, hating how much it sounds like a platitude, even in his mind.
Draco laughs, harsh and loud, a punch of breath out through unused lips. He turns and glares at his mother before his face falls, all the fight melting out of him at whatever he sees reflected in her eyes.
“I’ll make some tea.”
Harry stars, noticing Luna sitting at the kitchen table for the first time, a backdated copy of The Quibbler in her hands. Narcissa and Draco ignore her, but she isn’t deterred. She stands and moves to the kettle on the hob, magicking it to boil.
“Two sugars, Draco?” Luna asks, not even bothering to look over her shoulder.
Yes, Harry hears him snap in his mind. Harry clears his throat. “Erm, yes, please.”
Draco gasps, a small exhalation of surprised breath. Harry aches at that precious sound and he’s terrified to examine why. He closes his eyes against the tumultuous tide of thoughts rushing through his mind at having to hear that surname again after all these years. He always forgets that Sirius and Narcissa were cousins. It’s as if his brain blocks the connection on purpose.
Luna accepts the interruption with a small incline of her head and puts together the same silver tea tray her father had utilised last night, complete with milk and sugar cubes, lemon slices and sprigs of fresh mint. As she carries the tray to the sitting room, a jar of jasmine honey floats along behind her, wanting to join the mix.
“Ms Black, how do you take your tea?”
Narcissa, not having looked away from her son for a single moment since her arrival, lifts her chin at the question and offers, “No milk. Lemon.” She finally slants her eyes towards Luna, adding a belated, “please,” to her request.
Nodding, Luna sets two cups with fine china saucers atop the sitting room table, a shortcake biscuit placed on each rim.
“Harry, shall we?” Luna asks, and Harry blinks at her, confused.
“Let Draco and his mother have a visit.”
Draco tenses and he takes a step in Harry’s direction. No!
Harry looks at him.
Exhaling, Harry almost wants to smile. I wasn’t planning on it.
Luna clears her throat. Harry watches her delicate fist cover the sound, and rolls his eyes.
“I’m staying,” he tells her, squaring his shoulders.
“I appreciate your loyalty to my son, Harry, but if you don’t mind—”
“But I do.” The embers in the hearth spark.
Narcissa’s mouth snaps shut, her lips thinned into a harsh slash across her face. Harry knows that expression well and it does not intimidate him in the slightest. To prove his point, he bangs open the cupboard doors with a flick of his wrist, summons a coffee mug, and then proceeds to pour himself an obnoxiously large cup of tea, ladened heavily with milk and sugar.
Across from him, Luna tries her best to suppress a smirk, but doesn’t move to stand. Harry assumes this reaction to be her approval and he sits in a leather Eames chair in the corner, crossing his legs. He takes a sip of his tea, adjusts his seat, and stares at Narcissa, waiting.
There’s a moment where they watch each other, breath held, the air rippling with tension before Narcissa crumbles, her impeccable posture slipping. Her teacup clangs on its saucer as she places it hard on the table and drops her face in her hands.
“I can’t do this,” she whispers. “I knew I shouldn’t. He was right, I can’t.”
She pushes herself to a standing position. Her hands are shaking. “I’m sorry, Draco.”
She turns to leave, but then Draco is there, an inky hand on her shoulder, holding her in place. Narcissa is bent in on herself like the curl of a parenthesis lingering at the end of a sentence without proper purpose, while Draco is as prickled as an exclamation point at her side, his wings adding emphasis to their visual grammar.
Narcissa’s breaths come quickly, sounding harsh in the quiet room when suddenly, she gasps on a sob. “I can hear you,” she whispers. She looks over her shoulder at him in astonishment.
Behind them, the teapot explodes.
“Shit! I’m sorry,” Harry says, waving a Reparo through the air with his hand and syphoning off the spilt tea with a conjured rag. “Sorry. Fuck.”
Harry didn’t hear anything come from Draco, and yet he managed to communicate with his mother. He curses once more as he sets the repaired teapot to rights on the tray, pretending that whatever connection he and Draco share not being wholly unique doesn’t cut him to the quick.
Narcissa closes her eyes, no doubt taxed by Harry’s excessive language.
Luna, looking perfectly content ensconced in her favourite chair, simply grins at the chaos over the rim of her teacup.
. . .
That voice, its timbre and depth sounds so much like Draco’s father, and yet, it belongs to her son. Her precious child, speaking to her through a connection deeper than words can convey. She hasn’t heard that voice in over three years and its sudden resurgence throws her equilibrium to the wind. With shaking hands, she staggers where she stands, clutching at her skirts for lack of a solid surface to grab onto, a dull headache throbbing at her temples. She barely takes notice of the incident with the teapot nor the Potter boy making a fool of himself. It’s nothing new. Draco and Harry never could help acting ridiculous whenever they were near each other.
She sits back down, forcing a smile as her heart pounds so hard in her chest that the corners of her vision begin to blur—the result is that the only thing she can focus on is her son. “Talk to me, please.”
Draco blinks at her, stunned. His expression is so startling, it throws her resolve. She ducks her head and fiddles with a teaspoon left on the silver tray, her manners slipping. She feels the ghost of her mother reprimanding her for slouching at the table and hunches further at the thought.
You can hear me.
Draco’s words cut through the fog of anxiety in her mind and she nods. Daring to look up, she catches her son’s fierce, preternatural eyes glaring at her and sits straighter on instinct. “I can.”
Good, she hears and smiles, right before Draco adds, then tell me why.
His voice is like acid in her mind, slicing all the wounds of her guilt afresh, and laying her bloody and exposed in the grass. Shaking her head, she wrings her hands, feeling adrift on an open sea, powerless and terrified all at once. She hadn't prepared for this conversation. Her only thought after Xenophilius told her what happened the previous evening was that she wanted to go to Draco. Immediately.
“I didn’t mean to leave you there for so long, Draco.”
Not good enough.
“We were going to find a—”
There is no cure.
“It was Xenophilius’ idea! He’d discovered the city just before we buried your father. He told me only after your illness came upon you.”
I am not ill, mother. I’m a Veela.
“Exactly,” she cries, burying her face in her shaking hands. “My sweet boy. I always hoped that this curse would never touch you. That such a fate would skip over you—” Her eyes sting as tears spill down her cheeks and she tucks her chin to hide them. “I never wanted you to end up like him.”
She listens but no voice comes as she clutches the napkin in her lap, in desperate need of one of Xenophilius’ calming draughts. When she looks up, Draco has retreated. He stands by Harry’s chair across the room, one soot-black hand clasped possessively on Harry’s shoulder. Harry looks up at her son with an awed expression and reverence in his eyes. She opens her mouth to comment but a pop sounds beside her and suddenly, there’s an elf jumping up and down, poking at her skirts.
“Mistress, Mistress! He must be taking his potion. He must!”
Looking to her son, she shifts in her seat and away from the creature, attempting to block the elf’s insistent babbling. “Draco, you haven’t been taking your potion?”
Draco hisses, his hand clenching harder at Harry’s shoulder. Narcissa sees Harry wince in response.
“He must! He must!”
Narcissa shushes the creature. “Yes, yes, of course. Whatever Xenophilius says. Draco, you know this.”
I refuse. It clouds my mind.
“But what if you harm yourself—” she starts, then halts when she notices the look of shock come over Harry’s face, followed curiously by comprehension, as if he has just slotted a puzzle piece into its proper place. He turns, staring at Draco as if seeing him for the first time.
“You didn’t,” Harry says. Draco removes his possessive hold on his shoulder and backs away from him. Harry reaches out and grabs Draco’s arm, keeping him from retreating. “Your face. You didn’t.”
Draco’s wings curl around him as shame paints his features. Narcissa stamps down the raw, gnawing need to run to him, knowing her words have caused him pain. She feels the betrayal in Draco's expression reflected back at her as if it were her own, as if she were peering through a looking glass, watching her own suffering. She wants to take the anguish from him, wants to rip it free from his soul and bundle it away where it can no longer touch him, but the time for such precious coddling has passed. Narcissa knows that it is far too late to ease Draco’s pain.
For Draco's sake, for all of their sake, Narcissa comes to a decision. She stands, the world swaying slightly in front of her, and moves to untie the laces that keep the brocade sleeves of her silk robes in place. One by one, she plucks at the crisscrossed ribbon, feeling the fabric loosen around her forearms. She notes that Xenophilius' daughter is beside her, watching her intently, but this does not change her mind. She too needs to know the consequences of Draco's freedom.
Mother, what are you doing?
“I think you should all know the severity of Draco’s condition.”
Harry spares Narcissa a glance, his eyes falling to the parted fabric on her right arm, and then to Draco before returning once more to what Narcissa has revealed. Under her perfectly tailored robes lies a secret that she’s kept hidden these past four years.
Holding her breath, she releases the final tie, allowing both sleeves to split at the seams. The fabric pools at her elbows, exposing the jagged lines of the raised skin along her forearms, put there by the taloned hands of her beloved son. She does not blame him, she knows these scars were not Draco’s doing, but the creature that poisons his mind and his blood.
Narcissa does not shy away from the disbelief and anger that casts a heavy shadow over Harry’s face. Seeing his hand drop from Draco’s arm emboldens her further, and she steps closer, brandishing her forever altered appearance under the boy’s fool-hardy nose. As if the slash across Draco’s face wasn’t enough to confirm the danger Draco poses to himself, she lets the boy see the damage he’s done to his own mother.
“No,” he says, turning from her. “I can’t—“
“You can, and you must. You must understand.” She steps closer still, taking his arm while reaching out with the other towards Draco. Tethered together, they create a disjointed circle: mother, son, and Saviour.
Tears slip down her cheeks as she holds them both in her frail hands. Once strong enough to bring grown men to their knees and delicate enough to guide Draco through his beautiful childhood into tumultuous adolescence—these hands that have seen and done so much, now tremble without warning, ache when it rains and curl in on themselves in arthritic pain. She despises how weak she’s become in the past few years, yet seeing Draco so calm and lucid before her, leaves her breathless with an unspoken joy. A hand touches her cheek, flushed with the heat of her tears. Draco’s wiping away the wetness on her skin with the soft black pad of his thumb, his sharp nails held purposefully out of the way. With her heart breaking apart in her chest, she raises her chin and leans into his hand, swallowing her emotions in favour of accepting her son’s gentle touch. In that moment, her floundering strength seems tangible once more.
Seeking, and finding within herself, a sense of courage she did not feel at the beginning of this day, she catches her breath and says, “I love you,” to her son.
Draco’s eyes close at the words, his throat working.
She feels his voice before she hears it in her mind, tinged blue with sorrow. I’m so incredibly sorry that I hurt you.
“There is no need, Draco.” Narcissa lets go of Harry to put a hand to Draco’s cheek, mirroring his pose. His skin feels warm and alive beneath her palm. “Take your potion. For me.”
Draco nods, head bowing low, tucking his chin. Narcissa slips into the open space between Draco’s curled wings to hold him close. They were not always such a tactile family, but Narcissa’s need to feel her son, solid and whole, outweighs the stilted strictness archaic pureblood parenting dictates. She can feel his hesitation, the hovering of his hands just above her back, but then, warmth surrounds her as he gives in and embraces her. They stand together as one. It’s as if a part of her soul—once ripped so completely from her—has been returned. It’s only once she pulls away to see the wetness on her son’s cheeks, does Narcissa realise that the warmth she felt against her hair was from Draco’s tears.
. . .