|Something Like Hope (Antonin/Draco)
||[Nov. 30th, 2014|04:01 pm]
Title: Something Like Hope
Pairing: Antonin Dolohov/Draco Malfoy
Word Count: 3,392
Summary: Draco’s life is falling apart, and Antonin seems to be the only stable thing in it.
Notes: This fic was written for hp_crossgenfest. Thank you to gracerene for the lovely prompt!
Draco’s arm burns badly. He tries to not show how much pain he is in when he leaves the chamber in which he had had his meeting with the Dark Lord, but walking with his arm at his side is impossible, so he cradles his elbow with his right hand.
He isn’t sure where he is, having been portkeyed here straight out of the Manor. All around him is cold, dark stone. There is no honor guard, no one around at all, and his footsteps echo as he makes his way down the long hallway. This certainly is not what he had envisioned for his Marking.
Finally, he reaches what looks like an entrance hall – it’s cramped and dark. Draco pulls out his wand and casts a Lumos in hopes of making out the door. He doesn’t see one straight away and his heartbeat rises. He tries to apparate but hits a wall. He turns around in a circle, feeling like the Dark Lord might come after him, although there is no one there. The portkey that got him here is dead and he still can’t find the door. His arm seems to ache even more as his panic rises—
“Draco.” A firm hand on his shoulder makes Draco jump. His eyes narrow as he struggles to makes out the features of the man before him in the dim light.
“Dolohov?” he mutters uncertainly. Something inside him compresses. All these strange men – father’s friends, people his father seems to trust or had once trusted, but men Draco does not know – have suddenly infiltrated his life. He wants to hate them all, feel revulsion at the sight of their pale faces, even the ones who have caused him no harm. Hatred is easier than trying to understand.
“Good thing we have the anti-apparition barrier up. Otherwise you would have almost certainly splinched yourself in that state you’re in now.” Dolohov’s voice is calm, almost flat. But it is the only thing that isn’t spinning out of control in Draco’s perceptions just at this moment. “Take a couple of deep breaths, Mr. Malfoy. I will portkey us out once you calm down.”
“I’m calm, thanks,” Draco shoots back, still attempting to hide his weakness. His voice rises and breaks, however, and he fumes inwardly at himself.
“Well, let us wait out another moment. I think I startled you.”
Draco bristles. He’s being treated like a child and he is not a child. Something about the steady way Dolohov is looking at him, however, makes him pause. He runs a hand through his hair, looking around the cramped entrance hall. “Where are we?”
“Something of a bunker. A safehouse, if you prefer.” The older man is still watching him in that careful, calculating way that makes Draco’s hair prickle at the nape of his neck.
“Not a very glamorous place for a Marking,” Draco remarks, a little snidely, his confidence returning as the panic and adrenaline slowly drains away.
“No. We used to have a place...a fairly elaborate ceremony. But we can’t afford it these days – would be a resource drain. Here is the safest place, especially for someone as inexperienced as you.”
Draco recognizes the jibe as an answer to his previous impertinence. Banter is more welcome than a curse, he figures, and shrugs half-heartedly at the comment. “I thought this was supposed to be important.”
“It is. The lack of a posh ceremony doesn’t make it any less so.” Draco gives the other Death Eater a questioning look but Dolohov only takes his hand and activates the portkey.
The worst part is the humiliation. Draco watches his father lose control, watches the Dark Lord take over his home, watches the people his family was supposed to be able to trust stand by in silence. In a way, he understands why it is all happening – no one would help those who couldn’t even begin to help themselves. Yet it is hard to know that he and his parents are left to dangle over an abyss, that all their pride is being slowly drained away.
Draco’s own shame eats at him. He can’t think of a single Death Eater, other than Antonin Dolohov, perhaps, who hadn’t given him a contemptuous look afterward. He feels like even Snape despised him for not being able to complete his mission and, deep inside, feels like he deserved it. He had been weak and he is still weak – unable to take the thought of what interrogations goes down in the dungeons. He also knows that these are not the worst of them anymore. The prisoners who are held at Malfoy Manor are more hostages or those somehow useful in their skills, or those awaiting transfer. By June of the summer before seventh year, the prisoners who were to be interrogated for information were moved to other places, places Draco does not want to imagine. He realizes just how faint of heart he is, how much he just wants all of this to be over. He had never liked Mudbloods much, but he had also never wanted a war.
About a month before he is due back at school, there is a large meeting with the Dark Lord at which he is forced to be present. Draco sits and listens to the officers’ reports and to the Dark Lord’s icy replies and acknowledgements. He watches his father, set aside with his gaze lowered in defeat. Draco doesn’t know who he hates more in that moment – the other Death Eaters or his father. His father, who had always been a role model to Draco, was suddenly so terribly pitiful that it was almost unbearable.
After the meeting, Draco waits until the Dark Lord has left, then runs from the room, wanting to get away. He hates feeling helpless, but that is exactly what he is – helpless to stop any of it. He had a chance to restore his family’s honor and failed. All his planning, the careful execution, all gone to waste when he couldn’t cast a single, simple spell—
He barrels into someone loitering in the hallway and is about to snap at the man to not overstay his welcome, but manages to look up before speaking. “Mr. Dolohov.” He feels the man’s steady gaze, the same one as on the night of his Marking, the one Antonin always has, even when before the Dark Lord.
“Do look out, Draco. Someone like Fenrir wouldn’t take too kindly to being run over.” Draco can’t tell if the tone is condescending or teasingly friendly. He stares at Dolohov uncertainly, wondering why he always feels so strangely calm with the man, at least when the Dark Lord isn’t present. “Are you alright, Mr. Malfoy?”
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I thought everyone had left.” Draco pulls himself up, tries for a look of superiority.
“I needed to say some things to your father, but yes, I’m leaving.”
“What things?” Draco is on edge. If one more person tells his father what a failure he is—
“About our papers. Lucius was our Head of Finance during the First War and I was hoping for some expertise from him. I trust him more than the people we have working the books now. That civilian lot—“ he cuts himself off. “Well, really, I shouldn’t be telling you any of this. It’s off the record anyway; I don’t think the Lord would be pleased, as his trust in your father isn’t great at the moment.”
Draco stares at him in disbelief. “Why are you...kind to me? Us.” The words slip out before he can stop himself. This is the first time in months he has heard anyone openly declare trust in anyone he is related to.
“You think I’m doing this out of kindness? Hah.” Antonin lets out a grim, gruff laugh. “Mr. Malfoy, I’m simply doing my job. And that’s to make sure this whole damn Organization doesn’t go to pieces. Good day.” He gives Draco an obviously mocking half-bow and makes a quick exist.
Draco remains standing in the hall, his eyes fixed on the pattern of the wallpaper on the wall in front of him. He can’t think. The house has been too dark and oppressive for thoughts, lately. But suddenly, a realization creeps up to the front of his mind: if Antonin Dolohov is more interested in getting the job done than in holding up appearances, then maybe he’s the only one who could help Draco become something he won’t hate.
“Antonin, this is insane. Draco is only a child.”
“I’m aware of that.”
Draco stands in the dark hallway, listening to the conversation in the drawing room. Since he was a little boy he’d been told multiple times about how rude and dishonorable it was to eavesdrop, but he can’t help it. Too much depends on what his mother will decide to do in the end.
“And yet you want to do this? I’ve already lost my piece of mind, my home... My husband is turning into someone I can’t recognize because he’s so broken by...by all of this. Now you want to take my son away from me?”
“Narcissa, I would never want to take Draco away from you. I’m not even the one who wanted to do this, but he came to me, begging me to train him. Listen to me, Cissy, please. Your son—your son sees what a state Lucius is in. He knows that people are starting to look down on the family – the ones with little honor, who don’t remember what it was like the first time, they’re circling like vultures; it is true. You are losing your son – to despair. Maybe this will give him some agency. You never know, he might even be successful and bring some honor back to the family. That’s all he wants. You’ve raised a good man, Narcissa.”
Narcissa is quiet for some time. Draco can imagine her running her hands over her face of twirling a handkerchief nervously. “I understand you want a protégé, Antonin—“
“I don’t want a protégé. I want Draco.”
“Because he’s the one who asked to be part of this... I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about Regulus and standing there at the funeral and how your aunt looked and the empty coffin—“
“Yes. And Evan Rosier. And Angie Wilkes and Ash Mulciber and that Bonfante boy you loved so much.”
“It’s not the same this time around.”
“No, it’s worse.”
Draco feels like he can no longer listen to any of this. He wanders over to the grand staircase and perches on one of the lower steps. He knew his mother would not be able to let him go. Some part of him feels relieved and he hates that part of himself because it is the same cowardice that made him fail his first large mission.
After several more minutes, Antonin appears before him almost out of nowhere. Draco looks up, waiting to hear that his request won’t be granted. Instead, Dolohov gives him a smirk and says, “Your mother has agreed. We start tomorrow morning. This is a portkey – window is five minutes starting at 8 in the morning. Don’t be late.” He hands Draco the portkey and leaves without waiting for Draco’s response.
Draco takes deep, long breaths, watching the tip of his wand as it sparks with the intensity of the magic that he has managed to build up. He can feel the heat leaving his body and pooling in the tip of his wand. His hand starts to shake as it slowly loses feeling, ice starting to spread from his fingers to his wrist and up his arm.
Very slowly, he pulls his arm back – it feels tense, like a string pulled tight. In front of him is a slowly rotating red sphere. It hovers in a single spot for just a moment, then disappears and reappears once again in a different spot, changing the entire angle. Draco bites his lips and feels the magic at the tip of his wand suck the rest of the warmth from him. He waits, biting his lip until he tastes bitter iron in his mouth.
Finally, the sphere is within his line of fire and Draco releases, his arm slingshotting forward. There is little delicacy to his wand-work – the tip of his wand draws a neat arch in the air, then, with a flick, all the heat it had built up is released. A bright green beam of light shoots out of the tip and hits the rotating red sphere. The sphere quivers, trembles and finally explodes in a cascade of sparks.
Draco lets out a long sigh, feeling the heat slowly return to his body. He’s shaking just slightly, his eyes focused on where his target had been, completely oblivious to the movement around him. Four months of intermittent training and he has finally managed it – a “sniper” shot.
Warm hands land on his shoulders and carefully knead the tight muscles of his upper-back. “Good. Better.” Antonin’s voice is soft against his ear, a low, carrying baritone. Draco closes his eyes and tries to relax. He cannot think straight and he keeps waiting for something to happen, for Dolohov to do something untowardly. But nothing happens, and Draco lets out another breath – this one half-relieved and half-disappointed. “You think you can do that tomorrow night? We’ll need some solid backup.”
“I think so—I mean, yes, sir. Yes.” Draco looks down at his wand, feeling Antonin’s presence behind him. He has gotten so used to the man in the last few months, so used to that steady gaze and calm voice. He associates Antonin with the training room and missions – no matter how insignificant – with a wand in his hand and the freedom to tell people to fuck off without feeling like he’s speaking out of turn. He hasn’t done anything significant enough to warrant the Dark Lord’s praise, but Antonin makes sure to acknowledge a job well done when it’s warranted. These days, that’s about all Draco can really count on, and it means far more than it should.
“Good. I will see you tomorrow then.” Antonin turns Draco around and waits until the boy makes eye-contact. “You’re doing fine. Just don’t panic.”
“I know.” He really does know. When Antonin says it, he does.
Antonin ushers him in out of the rain. Draco is shaking, hardly able to stand. If he thought things couldn’t get any worse, they just did.
“What happened? You look awful,” Antonin comments, shutting the door.
“They were there, at the Manor. The snatchers got them and brought them in. And we...we had them but they got away. Bloody hell, they got away.” Draco runs both hands through his hair, fidgeting and pacing, the movements involuntary. Every movement is at least mildly painful but he can’t stay still.
“Potter and his lot? Yes, I heard. How are your parents? I was going to come by the Manor but didn’t want to come in until the Lord had left. It would have been only worse with me there.” Antonin doesn’t make a move to go deeper into the apartment – he is far too busy watching Draco’s erratic movements.
“How? Oh Merlin... Mama’s alright, I suppose. He didn’t harm her, because she’s a lady and everything, and I actually think Aunt Bella got the worst of it. But Mama is still very upset. She took some soothing potions to sleep. Father is...well he hasn’t been alright for a long time now, so...” Draco stops and looks up into Antonin’s face. “They asked me to identify Potter and his lot and I just froze. I don’t know why, but I just froze. I said I couldn’t be sure if it was them and I think I wasn’t even sure. Potter had something wrong with his face but I knew Granger and Weasley… I don’t know why I didn’t just say it was them, I couldn’t think straight. And then Aunt Bella wanted to interrogate the mudblood and then that bloody elf Dobby showed up and it was all rubbish from there. I had three wands on me and I couldn’t...” Draco breaks off, unable to go on. He feels like he might cry. He hadn’t wanted this, any of this.
“May I see?” Antonin asks. “I’m no bloody good at the mind-reading stuff, so you’d have to let me in...”
Draco shakes his head, closing his eyes briefly. “Fine.” He makes eye-contact again and shows Antonin the entire skirmish. They stand in silence for a while after.
“Cruciatus for everyone except Mama. But she had to watch.”
“I don’t know. Not very though, I think. Longer for Aunt Bella. Mama had to call Mr. Mulciber for her after...”
“Merlin.” Antonin rubs his temples as Draco studies the floor. “Come,” he says finally with a resigned sigh. “Let’s get you some potions. If I know you, you refused to let Mulciber see you. Idiotic decision, by the way. We have medics for a reason.”
“I didn’t wait for him. I came straight here.”
Antonin stops and looks around at Draco briefly, then gestures to the sofa. ‘Sit.” He comes back in a few minutes, carrying a standard potions med kit. Draco had managed to cast some cleaning and drying spells on himself in the interim. “I don’t know what to tell you, Draco,” Antonin says, not quite meeting his eyes. “I must admit to being mildly disappointed, given all our training sessions, but not surprised. Sometimes, it’s hard to fight against people you know, especially when you’re not ready for it. It happens.”
“You think badly of me?”
Antonin looks up, studies Draco for a moment, then shakes his head. “No, I don’t. You’re a lot like your father, Draco – neither of you are suited much to war, no matter what Lucius would like to believe.”
“I never wanted a war. I wanted the mudbloods to go away, but I didn’t want...all this.”
Antonin gives a humorless laugh. “I didn’t either, the first time around.”
“Then why did you join?”
“It’s...complicated. Things were different. The Lord was...this charismatic politician. He had this power, this vision...and there were other things. Long story.”
“What about now?” Draco takes the various healing potions and waits for a reply.
“Now... Now we don’t have much of a choice. Think about it, Mr. Malfoy. If we lose this war, how much mercy would Mr. Potter and his lot show you? And even if they did – could you live with yourself?”
Draco swallows and looks away. He doesn’t think he could; at least, he certainly doesn’t want to find out. In the background, the teakettle begins to whistle. Antonin stands and makes his way to the kitchen.
Before he knows what he’s doing, Draco jumps to his feet and follows him. He corners Antonin against the counter, leans up and kisses him. It’s desperate and despondent; he seems to put all the doom that has been settling around him into that kiss.
Carefully, Antonin pushes him away. “What in the name of Merlin do you think you’re doing?” he asks in a rushed, stunned half-whisper.
“Sometimes, I feel like the world is about to end. I think you feel it too,” Draco says, just as quietly. “I’ll go away tomorrow if you want and never speak of it, but please. I see the way you look at me and I know you care. I don’t know why but I know you do and I just want to feel like something makes sense...”
“And you think this makes sense?” Antonin asks, brushing strands of hair out of his face. Draco wonders, given the far off look on Antonin’s face, if the older man is seeing him or his father, but he doesn’t dwell on it. “This makes no sense.”
“Sure makes a lot more sense than everything else that is going on. In my life anyway.” He waits for several moments, the whistling teakettle picking up in desperation behind them. Finally, realizing he might have gone too far, Draco flushes and looks away.
He starts to leave, but Antonin catches him by the wrist and turns him around. “Wait.” Draco stops and waits.