"What say you, Draco?" asked Voldemort, and though his voice was quiet, it carried clearly through the catcalls and jeers. "Will you babysit the cubs?"
The hilarity mounted; Draco Malfoy looked in terror at his father, who was staring down into his own lap, then caught his mother's eye. She shook her head almost imperceptibly, then resumed her own deadpan stare at the opposite wall...
His hands grasped metal so cold he wouldn't have dared stick his tongue to it, lest it freeze immediately into place. Not that Draco had a habit of touching his tongue to metal fences normally. Despite the shame and dishonor and bad reputation his family had continually suffered after the war, he still had his pride. It was barely enough to keep his chin parallel to the ground at times, but he persisted. He had to. What else could he do?
He still had to care for Narcissa and the Manor, and deal with his father's old business associates who seemed convinced that he shared Lucius's views and tactics. Draco needed a real job very soon, but he just couldn't bring himself to show his face at the Ministry quite yet. Last time he'd been there was for his and his parents' trials.
Lucius had been found guilty straight off and was immediately sent back to Azkaban. Having already been convicted to a life sentence, he'd barely even had a trial.
They'd debated over Narcissa for a while, however, trying to decide whether she was guilty due to her obvious associations with Voldemort and the Death Eaters, despite the fact that she was not a Death Eater herself and there was no evidence that she had ever directly participated in any Death Eater activities. Only when Potter was called to the bench and testified that Narcissa had saved his life was she pardoned.
Draco was not released so easily. Due to testimonies from persons the Wizengamot refused to name and his own confessions, he was eventually sentenced to a year and a half in Azkaban, under the knowledge that the Ministry would keep a careful eye on him once he was released. He thought with bitter amusement that perhaps that might actually help him get a job there. The Ministry could certainly keep a close eye on him if he worked for them, no?
He tried pushing the negative thoughts out of his head, but the memories came faster and faster once they'd begun, blurring together in a sickening whirl. There was the sense of power he held over the other students that was so dark and delightful at the time, but now was almost painful to recall. There was also the memory of Granger being tortured in his living room while he was forced to silently look on.
But even worse than that was having to practice the Cruciatus curse himself, over and over under the Dark Lord's critical, unmerciful eye. There'd been no hiding from Voldemort, and even with Draco's use of Legitimens, the Dark Lord was able to break into his thoughts with sickening ease. Voldemort had infested the Manor, filling Draco's bright, happy childhood home with darkness. He'd reduced Lucius, the man Draco had grown up so terrified of, to a whimpering, wandless minion.
And Draco had been no better, slaving away with a thirst for power so great that he'd been willing to sell his soul to the devil to get what he desired.
Funnily enough, he didn't want that power anymore. He'd seen where all of it led, seen it with his own eyes. The death, pain, and destruction had overwhelmed his senses and he'd watched as his world was torn apart. And, worse, he'd helped it along.
His knuckles were white on the wrought iron fence now, its top lined with spikes placed just far enough apart to fit his hands in between. The place was enchanted to look like a run-down cemetery to Muggles, but any wizard or witch that walked past would know what it was. Built shortly after the war had ended, it was a monument to those that had died fighting for justice and peace. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of statues, stood sized real to life and frozen with fake smiles on their faces.
Draco couldn't stop looking at them.
His insides were shrinking from more than the chill wind and he kept expecting the statues' heads to turn suddenly and look at him. At the same time, however, they were so very still, snow dusting the tops of their heads and producing a white carpet at their feet. He recognized few of them, but his gut twisted at the smaller of the statues among them, spotting children and even a mother clutching an infant to her chest.
Guilt was a horrible, crushing thing, pinning him to the earth, to a hateful reality, when all he wanted to do was run away. But he stayed, hands frozen in place and wand buried deep in his pocket, and he stared at those faces and no matter how hard he tried not to, he couldn't help but think that he was responsible.
Draco's fingers had gone numb when he turned his head slightly toward the empty street, perhaps thinking he heard something or sensing someone's presence, his eyes caught immediately by a flash of bright blue. He turned to look at the thing almost against his will; his eyes kept wanting to veer back to the statues' faces. However, his attention was swiftly caught by the child before him, a toddler running on short legs down the sidewalk without even a coat on, though he did wear a red and gold knit sweater that clashed horribly with his hair.
Draco's eyebrows arched and he pulled his hands off the fence, taking a step back as he realized that the boy was headed toward him. Malfoy looked about, wondering where the boy's guardian was, and who would be so cruel as to dye the boy's hair such an unlikely color. Draco had just turned back toward the child when the young boy tripped on a crack in the sidewall and tumbled down, barely holding out small hands in time to catch himself. A sudden wave of terror swept over Draco as the boy let out an ear-piercing wail. Bloody hell, he didn't know how to deal with this sort of crisis, not did he know how to deal with children, and he certainly could not be expected to handle a situation in which both were thrown together.
Crouching hesitantly before the crying boy, he put out a hand to gingerly touch the child's shoulder, attempting to console to boy in a poor imitation of vague memories of his mother.
"Hey, shush, you're alright, then. Just a little fall, no? You don't have to cry..."
To his great surprise, the boy looked up at him with a slightly revolting face that was splotchy red and covered in tears and held out his small arms in the universal cry to be held. Completely at a loss as to what to do, Malfoy slowly wrapped his arms around the boy, and the child immediately attached himself to Draco's front, sniffling into Malfoy's shoulder.
"Where's your mum and dad?" Draco murmured, but the boy gave no reply.
"You live nearby?" he tried again. "Where's your house? Home? Where do you live?"
Again there was no reply from the boy but a few last sniffles, and Draco let out a small sigh. He very well couldn't leave the kid out in the cold, and since he supposed that the boy's parents were bound to come looking for him sooner or later, the only logical conclusion was for Draco to stay with him until he was collected.
The boy, now quite calm, suddenly cried, "Da!" and reached a hand over Draco's shoulder toward the statues. Turning his head, Draco glanced at the still figures before looking back down at the boy. It suddenly dawned on him that if the boy could see the statues, he had to be a wizarding child, although the idea of him being a Muggle child hadn't actually crossed Malfoy's mind.
At once Draco could not help but think that him holding Merlin-knew-who's child was a very bad idea. His and Lucius's incarcerations had been blown all over the papers, along with his courtroom confessions. He could not think of any parents who would feel kindly about an ex Death Eater holding their son if he was recognized. But the boy had quite the grip and showed no signs of wanting to let go, so Draco simply stood there, allowing the child to cling to him as he cast nervous glances about the empty street.
"Harry, is Teddy with you?"
Harry Potter looked up to see Ginny coming out of the kitchen and entering the living room of number twelve Grimmauld Place, looking vaguely concerned.
"No," he said, sounding surprised. "He's not with you?"
"No!" she exclaimed, looking suddenly frantic. "Oh, no, Harry! Where is he?"
"Calm down," Harry chuckled, making no move to get up off the couch. "I'm sure he's fine."
"He's only two years old!" Ginny cried. "Young children have to be watched at all times!" She immediately set off down the main hall, Harry leaping up to follow.
"Gin, look, he can't've gotten out of the house anyway--"
He was suddenly cut off as Ginny froze in front of him, both their eyes moving toward the front door, hanging ajar.
"Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no!" Ginny cried, whirling on him. Harry opened his mouth, prepared to defend himself from her accusations, but instead she cried, "A locating spell! You know how to cast one of those, don't you? And we can apparate to wherever Teddy is!"
"Yes, alright," he assured her hastily, moving the rest of the way down the hall to pull the door closed.
"Oh, what if we don't find him?" Ginny cried into her hands. "Mother will never forgive me!"
"We'll find him," Harry said firmly, taking her by the wrists. "Calm down! The last thing I need is for you to be splinched when we apparate."
Ginny took a shaky breath and nodded. "Oh, do it quickly! We don't even know how long he's been out there, and it's so cold!"
Harry looked slightly exasperated, but obeyed, swiftly casting the complicated enchantment and concentrating before swiftly taking hold of her arm and twisting them both into a sudden darkness.
They appeared with a crack outside of the Memorial, immediately spying the back of a blond head a few meters before them, the man holding Teddy in his arms.
"Hahee!" the boy yelled happily in Draco's ear, suddenly making an upward jerking movement that caused Draco to have to tighten his grip in order to not drop the child. Malfoy twisted about halfway, turning his head to see Potter and the Weaselette walking quickly toward him. The boy giggled and dropped his head lazily into Draco's neck, blue hair brushing against Malfoy's pointed chin.
"Is that Malfoy?" Ginny was the first to softly exclaim, and Harry's jaw tightened slightly, eyes taking on a wary but curious glint.
Draco quickly tried to pry the child off him, but the boy increased the strength of his grip, and Draco feared that he might injure the boy if he used all his might to tear him off. So he was forced to hold Teddy as Potter and Ginny neared, his mouth swiftly turning into sandpaper.
Harry paused awkwardly a few steps from Draco, and Ginny followed suit, her eyes fixed with obvious worry on the boy, now smiling with his fists tightly gripping the shoulders of Malfoy's dark jacket.
"His name's Teddy Lupin," Harry finally supplied. "He's Remus and Tonks's son..." Potter's voice quickly died away and Draco slowly recalled that both had died in the war.
"Come on, Teddy," Ginny finally said brusquely, stepping forward and reaching out to grab the boy. As soon as she pulled, though, the blue haired child let out a furious cry of "No!" and Draco could feel the boy's grip tighten further against him.
"I-- I'm sorry," Draco sputtered helplessly, but when he looked up he saw a small, crooked smile pass over Harry's lips.
Ginny looked incredulous and almost angry, but Harry put a hand on her waist and said quite pointedly, "Why don't you come back to the house with us? Seeing as Teddy doesn't seem quite willing to give you up yet."
Draco hesitated and Ginny fixed him with a glare. "It is very cold out," she started indignantly, but Draco interrupted her, apparently not interested in being yelled at.
"Fine," Malfoy said quickly, his arms already curled about the boy once more. Teddy rested his head between Draco's collarbones and closed his eyes as Harry turned to lead the way back. Ginny paused to let Draco catch up before starting, unwilling to turn her back on him while he still held the Teddy in his arms.