Tissue of Silver, Scene 4
by Fearless Diva

 

Writer's Commentary

I'm a little wary of doing this commentary because this scene has a lot of magical mechanics stuff that I hoped no one would look at very closely. I didn't really have it worked out in more than a half-assed way, except on a thematic level. But it was requested, so here it is.

Another morning, another breakfast at Malfoy Manor, but for the second time in a week, no Malfoy. Harry went next door to the workroom, since by this time of morning Malfoy could usually be found reading in the parlour, reading in the workroom, or locked away in his bedroom, presumably reading. He knocked on the closed door but didn't wait for an answer to enter.

Draco's bookishness is pure invention here, though it's a common enough in fanfic to be almost fanon; there's no evidence anywhere in canon that the character is particularly academically inclined or accomplished. But I wanted Silververse!Draco to have a close relationship with Snape, which seemed to require that they have things in common. Since Snape's most obvious characteristic is his disdain of the stupid and anti-intellectual, I figured Silververse!Draco would have to have an intellect worthy of Snape's continued interest. And I liked the idea of drawing familial parallels between Snape and Draco, pointing out all the ways in which Draco was influenced by Snape, and having them both be bookish seemed an easy way to do that. It also gave Draco something to do while he was lurking around the Manor aside from drinking.

What he saw when he opened the door was rather startling. Malfoy was sitting at his worktable with his sleeves rolled up and an ornate silver dagger poised over his wrist, blood just beginning to ooze down in shocking scarlet contrast to the delicate white skin of his inner arm. Harry shouted and was across the room before Malfoy could move. He grabbed the hand that held the dagger. "What the hell are you doing?" Harry screamed.

"What the fuck, Potter! Get off me! You're wasting it." Malfoy wrenched his hand away from Harry and exchanged the dagger for a little vial off the worktable, holding it to the wound to collect the blood. There were three other little vials on the table that had already been filled, and two empty ones waiting. Now that it was lying on the table, Harry could see that the knife's elaborate silver handle had a dragon etched into it. So very Malfoy.

I became so enchanted with Draco's silver dragon-handled knife that I asked for a dragon-handled letter opener as a valentine's day present. It's pewter and dull, though; I wouldn't be able to use it to collect blood for potions' use.

I also liked it so much that when I expanded the story during rewrites, I made it a more integral part of the plot. I have a bit of an edged weapons kink, but it did seem like the sort of affectation that Draco would have.

"Please tell me that this is something other than what it looks like," Harry sighed.

Malfoy glared at him. "Well, I suppose if you're a moron it looks like a very slow, controlled suicide attempt. If there were a person here who had a modicum of intelligence, which clearly there is not, he might think it looked like blood collection for potions' use."

Harry could see a few other small cuts on Malfoy's wrists, some obviously fresh, others in various stages of healing. "How long have you been doing this?"

"Since the day after the poisoning," Malfoy answered, his voice still tight and cross. "My blood has certain properties required for the Near Universal Poison Antidote. I'm putting away as much as I safely can into preservative vials so it won't deteriorate. So Professor Snape can use it if I'm not around."

"Because you're a Seer?"

"That's part of it, Potter. I'm sure it's a bit beyond you." That was the exact tone that Malfoy used to use on Harry when they were both eleven.

"Oh, I'm sure it would be," Harry sneered back. "You don't have to be such a wanker about it, Malfoy. Anybody would find it alarming to see someone sitting there bleeding with a knife against their wrist."

There is something attractive about the image, though, isn't there? Dark blood against very pale skin, with the ornate silver knife against it. Most important here, of course, is the recurring theme of Draco harming himself or allowing himself to be harmed for others' benefit. Despite all his protests of selfishness, Silververse!Draco is something of a martyr. Unable to escape what he believes to be his certain early death, he tries to control his situation by imbuing his life (and death) with as much meaning as he can, attempting to accomplish as much as possible with both.

Malfoy capped off the vial and smoothly exchanged it for an empty one, losing only a drop or two of blood in the process. "I apologise if I startled you," he said absently.

Harry could hardly believe his ears. "What did you say?"

"I said I'm sorry I startled you. What?"

"I've never heard you apologise before. Not sincerely."

Malfoy laughed. "Potter, we've hardly spoken since 1996. I did eventually grow beyond the snotty little brat stage." He picked up the dagger and reopened the shallow wound expertly and reapplied the vial. "Well, sort of."

Harry grinned. "Not to hear Snape tell it."

"And I'll bet he sneaked away to Hogwarts this morning without waking me up to say goodbye, didn't he?"

I think Snape's off-screen arrival and disappearance is something of a weakness here, and if it were an original novel I probably would have written the whole thing out, both for the sake of completeness and for the sake of trying to pad the novel out to an appropriate length (most publishers are looking for about 100,000 words in a novel nowdays). But since I didn't have to pad it, and it didn't actually have any bearing on the plot, I didn't bother. In retrospect, I think it leaves a bit of a gap in the story, though.

"That's what Janice said," Harry answered, helping himself to a chair next to the table. "She was on the early shift this morning. And she also gave me this." He took a letter out of his pocket, unfolded it and removed the article enclosed inside, laying it on the table where Malfoy could read it without needing his hands. "The Daily Prophet strikes again. Moody sent it. He says they've run several articles like it in the last few days, and he's been getting a lot of mail complaining about the cost of keeping the team here. He and Arthur want to meet with me this afternoon to discuss it."

You may notice in the article itself, which is included in the text after this scene, the Prophet's claims about how many Aurors are there (and therefore how much it's costing) are approximately double the number that Draco mentions in his letter to Snape. I spent a good deal of time trying to estimate what an Auror's daily salary would be in US dollars, converting that into pounds and then Galleons, and then inflating it to a Prophet-esque degree.

"I often wish Lucius hadn't sold the Prophet off. I'd make a few editorial changes if I could." Malfoy's tone was bland, his attention split between his task and the article. He skimmed through the piece quickly, snorted a laugh at one point and muttered "teen heartthrob," and then returned his focus to the nearly full vial. "I wondered why Professor Snape was hiding the newspapers. When I was at Hogwarts recovering after the War, he always hid the paper if there was something negative about me in it. So, what do you want to do about this?"

Many people have said that Snape and Draco's relationship is one of their favorite things about this story, and it's one of mine too. I think it's terribly sweet of Snape to be so snarlingly protective of Draco, trying to fend off every possible problem or discomfort no matter how well he knows Draco can take care of himself.

"Well, I certainly don't want to pull my team out. We're no closer to catching the perpetrator than we were a week ago, and it's obvious you're still in very real danger. But I don't know what kind of compromises Arthur's going to be forced to make."

"Tell Weasley I'll pay." He capped off the vial, took up the knife and cut his wrist again, a new wound this time, producing a faster flow. He managed to get the blood dripping into the new container with a minimum of waste, graceful even in exsanguination.

"You'll pay for what?"

"Everything. The Prophet says I'm one of the richest wizards in England and we all know how reliable they are." Harry snickered. "Seriously, you know I've got more money than I'll ever be able to spend. Whatever is left when I die is mostly going to charity. Lord Snape certainly doesn't need it and I don't have any other family. If the Ministry wants me to pay for your team being here, it makes no difference to me. I'm already paying for their grocery bill, and I must say for a group of dainty little girls they eat a prodigious amount. Paying their salaries or whatever else is no burden to me."

Making Sev Lord Snape and filthy rich is a bit much, a bit Mary Sueish (or Mary Sevish?), but it seemed necessary if he were to have the connections to the Malfoy family that I wanted. Yet another place where I accepted fanon lore because I had a specific use for it.

Harry shrugged. "All right. I'll tell him. That's probably going to solve a lot of his problems." He folded the article back up and returned it to his pocket.

"I exist only to serve."

I say this all the time; I think it might be a corruption of the platitude from Dune, but I'm not sure exactly where I got it.

Malfoy smiled and continued dispassionately watching his blood drip into a preservative vial. Perhaps in the end it was just another commodity to him, no different than strangleroot or toad's toes, something to appear on an inventory list. Seer's blood, one fourth-ounce, unadulterated, pure wizarding stock, aristocratic.

More evidence of Draco's indifference to his own welfare.

"Now is there something I can do for you this morning, Potter, or did you just have a sudden urge to make a dramatic entrance to my workroom?"

"I've got a couple of things I need to discuss with you, and I was hoping you might be able to help me with a project. But I'm starving. Can you finish up there and we'll talk over breakfast?"

"A potions project?" Malfoy capped off the vial and pulled a handkerchief out of his robe pocket to hold against his wrist.

"No, Dark Arts. Defence Against, actually."

Malfoy raised an eyebrow but followed him into the parlour without further questions. As they sat at the table, Malfoy went to pour himself a cup of tea but was hampered by the necessity of holding the handkerchief against his still-bleeding arm. "Would you mind giving me a hand here, Potter?"

Harry reached over to pour the tea for him. "Aren't you going to spell those closed?"

He shook his head. "No, I'm not done. I plan to keep collecting as much as I can safely manage, and using magic on the skin would contaminate the blood when I collect again in the morning."

There was no real plot-driven reason to have Draco unable to spell the wounds closed and have Harry buy him some band-aids, but it accomplishes a few things in theme and character development. Again, it's more evidence of the lengths to which Draco is willing to go to be of service somewhere and makes him look somewhat stoic and admirable - nobody likes a whiner, after all. It gives Harry something to admire in him, and a chance to do him a good turn by sharing specific knowledge that Draco doesn't have. It provides an opportunity later for them to have a sexual tension-laden moment when Harry puts the band-aid on him. And it's the kind of detail that helps to provide convincing world-building for the magical elements that I'm not pulling from canon.

"You need an Elastoplast." Malfoy gave him a blank look and Harry had to smile. "It's a self-adhesive bandage. A Muggle thing." Harry pushed the cup of tea over to him and poured himself some coffee, then began piling food on a plate.

"It's usually not a problem, I only cut a little too deeply on that last one. It will stop bleeding in a moment. Well, let's hear about this Dark Arts project of yours, then." Malfoy sipped his tea, looking a little silly holding one hand to the other wrist as he lifted his cup.

"It's good to know that even you look like a giant prat every now and then, Malfoy."

"Do not mock me. I am a martyr to the cause of research. Are you going to tell me about this project, or are you going to keep dodging the subject until teatime?"

Harry sighed. "It's about the spell that Voldemort used to kill Albus."

"Exanimus." Malfoy's expression was grim.

"What do you know about it?" Harry took a croissant and began drizzling honey on it.

"Lucius did some of the research that led to Riddle finding that spell. The book it came from was in the set of Dark Grimoires that I donated to the Aurors' Library after the War."

"Yeah, I found it." Harry pulled the copy he'd made out of his pocket and handed it to Malfoy, who checked beneath the handkerchief to see if the bleeding had stopped, seemed satisfied that it had and put the handkerchief back in his robes. He unfolded the parchment and took a look.

"That's it all right. If you've read through the book you probably know as much about it as I do."

"I'm trying to develop a counter-measure," Harry said with a mouth full of croissant. "If you were me, where would you start?"

Malfoy whistled as he buttered a piece of toast, carefully spreading a perfectly even coat all the way to the edge of the crust. Trust Malfoy to make buttering toast an operation requiring surveying equipment. "That's not going to be easy," he said as he took a bite.

"I know. That's why I'm coming to you. You probably have more direct knowledge of the Dark Arts than anyone else still living; I thought you might have some advice."

"Did you ask Professor Snape about it?"

Harry nodded. "He suggested I speak with you. He said that you have more recent experience with Dark charms and hexes."

"Huh. It's not like him to be so modest. He was probably too busy to talk to you." Malfoy swallowed the last of his tea and set his cup down. "Well, I can tell you that this spell runs on raw power, which is why it's so uncommon. There's a tremendous danger of losing your grip on your own magic in a spell like this and burning yourself out. Basically the person casting the spell is using his own magic directly to suck the life force or magic out of the victim. It's crucial that the caster be certain that he is more powerful than the victim. If he isn't, two things can happen. One is that the caster can't get a hold on the victim's life force and there's no effect. The second is that the victim's magical power can overload the caster and it basically explodes. Very messy, that. It's not easy to ascertain the level of someone's magical power, but once you have, you've also established that the victim's not going to have much chance of protecting himself. Even if you could develop a counter-spell, the victim probably wouldn't be powerful enough to maintain it in the face of the caster's greater power."

Here's me talking out of my ass. I typically think about magic as an energy source and the person's body as a conduit, which is sort of based along the lines of how people who do reiki and chinese medicince talk about energy and meridians - energy essentially goes into and comes out of the earth (and everything else, I suppose) and your body has channels and uses the energy to operate. Under that theory of magic, a powerful wizard simply has a larger pipe than everyone else, is able to channel more energy than a less powerful person. But for this, for plot reasons, I ended up developing this spell where magic is sort of like life energy that everyone has a finite amount of, that can be taken from one person and put into another. I tried to fudge this in my own head by imagining that the victim of Exanimus has their magical energy consumed faster than their pipeline can replace it, and that the caster's pipeline is able to expand to a certain degree to accommodate more energy than they're accustomed to, but no further than a certain point. But none of it was all that well worked out. Plot's not really my best thing, which is probably tragically obvious by now.

"So by casting Exanimus you're adding the victim's magical power to your own on a permanent basis?"

Malfoy nodded. "Assuming you can handle the extra power in addition to your own. That's the danger of the spell. It was an incredible risk on Riddle's part to try it on Dumbledore. With his typical arrogance, he presumed he would be able to channel his own power and all of Dumbledore's power on top of it. But if it had worked, I can't imagine that anyone would ever have been able to stand against him again."

Harry shuddered. "It looked like it was working. He drained enough power out of Dumbledore to kill him."

"It might have run over and burned him out or exploded on him at the last minute. Or maybe it's a really good thing that you took him out while he was distracted."

Harry was silent for a moment, considering. "What could you do with that power?"

"Anything," was the shrugged answer. "Everything. It's raw power, just like what you always draw upon to work magic. You'd just have that much more with which to work."

"Could you pass it along to someone else?"

"You mean split it up and give it to a group of other people? To keep from burning yourself out?"

"Yeah."

Malfoy looked thoughtful. "I don't know. You'd need a second step to the spell. Sucking energy in isn't quite the same as infusing it. You'd need an opposite equivalent, Perfundere or something, I should think. But I imagine it would be possible if you could hold all the extra energy long enough to dole it out, and if you didn't force more magic into anyone than they could handle. It would be a very tricky business though. On more than one level, Potter. Look, spells are considered Dark for what two reasons?"

"The spell is created through a process which causes grievous harm to a sentient being, or the spell is cast with the intent to cause grievous harm to a sentient being," Harry answered immediately.

I made this up. I don't think Rowling's ever made a statement about how Dark magic works or what makes a given spell Dark or not.

"So at the very least Exanimus is equivalent in Darkness to Avada Kedavra; it would kill whomever you were using as a power source. I'd make an argument that it's Darker, since you're killing someone to devour their power for your own ends."

"I'm just looking at the spell theoretically."

Malfoy's expression made it quite clear how likely he thought that. "Theoretically, you're treading on dangerous ground. Look, Potter, I know you're one of the good guys, but I also know how seductive this kind of Dark Magic can be. You start looking at these issues theoretically, but before long it occurs to you that you actually have the means to make the spell work. If there's anyone left alive who could manage this spell, Potter, it's you. I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole, myself. I'm a powerful wizard, but I know I couldn't handle this. But you, you've got power you haven't even begun to tap. You're a dynamo. And somewhere in the deepest recesses of your heart you know it."

Harry held up his hands. "I'm not saying I'm going to try to -"

"Let me finish. Say you learn to do Exanimus, and then you use it in the field. It's a perfectly legal use of deadly force by an Auror in the line of fire, because even though it's Dark no one knows about this spell and it's not on the forbidden lists. You're defending yourself or your comrades, and the person you kill is a bad guy whom no one is going to miss. The bad guy's not as powerful as you are, and you manage the spell just fine. You get that extra hit of power and suddenly everything's easier. What then? Are you really going to be able to put this spell on the shelf and never use it again? Or say you do manage to dole the power out among your colleagues, do you think they're going to be anxious to set that aside? A queue will be forming outside your office of people wanting in on the windfall. The cat's well and truly out of the bag then, and suddenly people are blowing themselves up left and right and killing each other for a chance to swallow some extra power." "I see what you mean, and I know it's a slippery slope. But I want to know if there's any way I could have saved Dumbledore that night. If I could save someone in the same position if it happened again."

"Theoretically," Malfoy's voice was dripping with irony. "I suppose if you'd been able to cast Exanimus on Riddle that night while he was casting it on Dumbledore, and you'd been able to carry not only your power but also Riddle's and Dumbledore's, you could have returned Dumbledore's power to him and split Riddle's between the two of you, thereby saving Dumbledore and killing Riddle. But I'd be very surprised if even you could have managed that. You're talking about holding the combined energy of three of the most powerful wizards of the last two centuries in one body. Even if it's only for a few moments while you're reapportioning it, I can't imagine that there would be anything left of you but your spectacles and a greasy spot on the floor."

"Nice image."

"It's a gift of mine." He gave Harry his patented wry smirk before turning sombre again. "Potter, you need to understand that the possibility for corruption here isn't just the temptation to misuse the spell. Using Dark magic, particularly a spell this elemental, this powerful, changes a person. It clears a path in your heart for your darkest impulses. Bit by bit, the more you use it, the easier it is to use it, until things which should be truly horrifying begin to seem ordinary. How many times have you used Avada Kedavra?"

Harry blinked at the sudden change of subject. "Um, I don't know. Dozens of times during the War, I'd think. Once in the line of duty as an Auror."

"And how difficult was it to throw that curse the first time?"

"Very. I wasn't even sure it was going to work."

"And how difficult was it the twentieth time? How long did you stop to think before you used it the last time?"

Harry got the point. He hardly thought about it anymore. Casting Avada Kedavra took no more effort now than it took to cast a Leglocker Curse or Stupefy. And there were times during the War when he gave it about the same amount of thought.

Draco eyed him steadily. "Exanimus is considerably more advanced than the Killing Curse. It could probably be considered a form of Necromancy, though I haven't studied it enough to be sure. Using magic that Dark and that powerful hollows out the decent parts of yourself. You've already made a start by using what Dark Magic you have. If you think you're harder, colder after the War, it's probably not just the War, Potter. There's a thing called metaphysical damage. It's what happens when your personality begins to be corrupted and twisted from using Dark Magic. If you want to know how Tom Marvolo Riddle became Lord Voldemort, if you want to know how Lucius Malfoy became someone who would happily torture his only son, his heir, to death, metaphysical damage is your answer."

Okay, Harry thought, that's pretty fucking scary. "So if you're damaged that way, can you recover? If there anything that can be done to fix it?"

"By the time you're far gone enough for the damage to be obvious, you don't want to be fixed." The look in his eye was sardonic and sharp. "But yes, there are things that can be done to mitigate the damage, if it's caught early enough. There are exercises, and using Light magic for positive ends helps restore some balance."

"And you know how to do the exercises?"

"What I chiefly know is that I have far too much experience already, and believe me, even the noblest person has a shadow side, Potter. Even the Lion of Gryffindor. If you want to get to know yours, there are less dangerous methods than experimenting with ancient high-level Dark magic."

Harry shivered despite himself. "So if you don't recommend trying to fashion a counter for Exanimus out of Exanimus itself, where would you start instead?"

"With something defensive, probably shielding of some kind. Extraordinarily strong shields, portable wards almost. Shields are generally founded on Light magic and it takes less power to hold a defensive position than to initiate an offensive one."

The important thing about all of this isn't really how it all works, of course, but what it means thematically. I think of magic (in any given fantasy universe, really) as standing in for power and sometimes also violence. In this case, I see Dark Magic as being like misuse of power or use/misuse of violence; the more you operate in the world that way, the easier it is to operate that way in the world. I think that when you get into the habit of thinking of others in a utilitarian way, as obstacles to be destroyed or tools to be used, it becomes very difficult to think of them as sentient beings for whom you should have compassion. It doesn't even occur to you to do so, you're only thinking about what you can get out of them one way or another, and eventually you lose the capacity to function in any other way. You can commit violence, atrocities even, with a light heart. But the world isn't black and white. Somewhere I read the Dalai Lama quoting a parable about a man who is trapped on a boat with several other sailors and a homicidal lunatic. If the man kills the lunatic, he must accept the karmic consquences of taking another person's life, but if he doesn't, he must accept the karmic consquences of allowing the lunatic to kill everyone else. Sometimes there's no real right answer. In the end, Harry decides to accept the consequences of using his power in a negative way in order to save Draco's life, and risks the possibility that he might end up losing his mind, killing Draco and a whole lot of other people in the process. Whether that's the right decision is open to debate.

They were interrupted by Anna coughing at the doorway. "Harry, the intelligence report from headquarters just arrived. I'd thought you'd want to see it right away."

She stepped into the room and handed a slim report to Harry. "Thanks, Anna." She nodded as if she were giving a salute and left.

Harry read through the report quickly. "It's about you," he told Malfoy. "They've found a great pile of nothing on the poison and the poisoner. The top suspect remains Mortimer Higgs, mainly because he has opportunity and motivation and they're after him already anyway. Dr. Tayce had a possible opportunity at the courthouse but no one could envision a likely motive."

"Not to mention the fact that she's a bleeding War hero, vetted by Fawkes himself into the Order," Malfoy interjected. "The Ministry's wasting its time with her."

Harry looked up at him and grinned. "Leave no stone unturned, no matter how stupid, that's our motto at DMLE." He pronounced it "dimly," and Malfoy rolled his eyes.

"They toss in the house elves and the gate guards as possible but not likely. There's not a single recorded case of a house elf being involved in the murder of a head of household, and the gate guards don't come inside the wards. And there you have it. Eight pages to say they're still at square one." "What about the Aurors?"

"What about us?"

"You aren't counting the Aurors as possible suspects?"

Harry was vaguely horrified. "Of course not. I hand-picked this team myself."

"From volunteers. I'm sure there were several Aurors who weren't interested in keeping me alive."

"Well," Harry caged, "it's an open-ended assignment on-site. We only ever take volunteers for those. Some people's family or personal situations prevent them from being on call for long hours."

Malfoy looked smug. "I'm sure. So, what if one or more of those volunteers were something less than a fan of mine. The Aurors are coming in and out of the house at all hours completely unrestricted. They have plenty of opportunity, and they all have plenty of motive to hate Death Eaters."

Obviously, I'm trying to use the Aurors as a red herring here, but I think it's a bit clumsy.

"You're not a Death Eater!"

In response Malfoy rolled up his left sleeve. On his forearm was knot of pink scar tissue in the shape of Voldemort's death's head symbol. "This tars me with the same brush as anyone else who wore it. To say I'm not or wasn't a Death Eater is to wilfully misunderstand the lengths to which I was willing to go in order to defeat Riddle and my father. To those who loved the people I killed, there is no difference between Lucius and myself."

The idea here is that when Voldemort was killed, all the dark marks burned themselves out so that all that's left is scar tissue. I tried to find a place to make this more explicit but I could never find one that was graceful and ultimately I decided to just allow it to stand and be a bit mysterious.

Harry ran a hand through the thick disaster of his hair. "Anyone who thinks that you and Lucius are the same needs to have their head examined."

This is a veiled reference to Catherine Tayce who later says that she thought Draco would be more like his father, and who does in fact need to have her head examined. It's not the kind of thing that anyone's going to pick up but me, except maybe on a second reading, but it amused me.

Malfoy just looked at him steadily and Harry sighed. "I'll administer Veritaserum to my team just to be on the safe side. At least we can rule them out as suspects, then. I'll have to take a dose, too. Bloody potion always gives me a headache."

"Can I come ask you questions until it wears off?" Malfoy asked hopefully.

The idea of Draco thinking of questions to ask Harry was so cute that I added a list of them later on.

"No. Now that we've established that I'm a complete failure at my job and we have no leads whatsoever, I'll go begin the rest of my day. I really appreciate your talking with me about Exanimus. I know it probably brings up some bad memories." Harry drank down the last of his coffee.

"Ah, yes, the Malfoy family research parties were always such a lovely time. Lucius set a new personal record for ugliness to get his grubby paws on that book, and probably everyone else who ever owned it had done the same. It was steeped in blood from first to last. I was delighted to hand it over to the Ministry and never have to lay my hands on it again."

People have asked me what Lucius did to the house elves, and also what he did to get the grimoire (and what Draco did to get rid of his teenage acne, for that matter), but I don't have any answers to these questions. For the most part, whatever you imagine is going to be worse than anything I could come up with, so it works better if I leave it vague. The one exception to this was Draco's war wounds, which I described in much less detail in the first draft, but which seemed to require more explanation because you didn't get a sense of how much he had suffered without a catalogue of his injuries. Because he's in fairly good health throughout the story, I think it's easy for the reader to assume that it wasn't all that bad. I was also trying to make it clearer that his eating and nervous issues were a result of physiological damage sustained during the war, rather than just some aristocratic eccentricities. I spent a good deal of time trying to make his injuries as nasty as possible - stopping short of disfiguration, obviously.

Imagine growing up with that sort of thing just lying around your house, Harry thought. It was a monument to Snape that Malfoy didn't turn out completely twisted. "I'll give your regards to Minister Weasley and Secretary Moody this afternoon."

Malfoy picked at the remains of his toast. "I imagine they'll be more pleased to have my money than my regards, but they're welcome to both."

"Oh, and I'm having dinner with Sirius and Remus tonight, so I may not see you until tomorrow morning. Janice is off but Hydrangea's on the interior tonight; you'll be in good hands."

"Hydrangea's hands aren't exactly what I dream of at night, but I'm comforted by your faith in her," Malfoy smirked as Harry took his leave.

Excuse me for a moment while I indulge in self-congratulations. I've always found that little quip pleasing, I'm not sure why. It just seems very Draco to me, and the rhythm of it seems to end the scene nicely. A strong ending to a scene or chapter is something that I cherish and will spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over. And they don't always work out, but I'm fairly happy with this one.