Author's Note: Written for the lovely Simmysim and her bottom!draco emporium.
The Candle Burns
"How was your day?"
He looked up into her blue eyes, smiled, and answered courteously, "Very good, thank you. And how was yours?"
She smiled back, face lighting up with his attention. "It was wonderful." Then she paused.
He sighed inwardly. They all needed that little push. "Really? Then please, tell me about it."
The words flowed as she chatted animatedly by his side. He must have a template stored in his brain for every occasion such as these. The words never changed. Just the clothes they wore, and the food. Damned if the Malfoys serve the exact same menu on different formal dinners.
He soon tuned her out, his head nodding automatically after each pause, the slight smile never leaving his face. He was the perfect picture of polite interest, earnestly listening to the girl's narrative. And she obviously reveled in this. The other people on the table shot fond looks at them from time to time, delighting in the youngsters' companionship. They saw what he had worked for them to see, and he knew, for he always succeeded.
Grey eyes narrowed.
Except when it came to his father.
"What do you mean?" He took off his outer robe and threw it on the bed. How he hated the thing. It weighed on his shoulders, strangling him with its golden clasps. He turned around, face carefully blank. His father never followed him to his room except when they had to talk. And this seemed like a very trivial matter for Lucius to be so riled up about.
"Your behavior at the table earlier." He shut the door and faced his son. "You know what I mean." His eyes swept over the bed, noting the carelessly strewn formal robes.
"I did nothing wrong during dinner." Firm. As always.
"They all thought you were perfect, those fools." Lucius stepped closer. "But, Draco, we know better. Don't we?"
His mouth thinned, annoyed with his father's meddling. That's what he always did, or at least, what he always tried to do. But he wouldn't let him get away with this one. "I'm not interested, Father."
He nodded, but Draco knew he didn't listen. He never did. "She is a lovely girl."
He never gave up. Draco controlled his urge to yell, knowing that it would never do to give in to anger. He balled his fists, nails digging through his palm, producing blood. It took much to suppress a lifetime of choking. "She is. For someone else."
"I just want what's best for you."
Startled out of his reverie, Lucius looked down at his son. "Yes?":
"My wand." Draco held out a hand.
"Oh..." His father colored a bit, then suddenly smiled. He laughed as he handed the magical tool back to his son. "Your first wand. You're all grown up now, Draco. I must have drifted off while examining it."
"Yes you did." White teeth gleamed between pink lips as Draco grinned—a rare occasion even for his father. Only, they disappeared as fast as they came. The train whistled piercingly, breaking the low buzz of conversations around them. "I have to leave now."
"I know." Soft as a whisper. The first goodbye. He pondered the word bitterly, for there was nothing good with separation. "I'll see you in a few months." He didn't dare ask him to take care of himself.
"You will." Nodding his head lightly, as if it didn't really matter, Draco bid his father farewell. He walked to the train, his carriage proud. And as the doors closed behind his retreating figure, Lucius finally saw... the rest of the world.
"Is she the best for me?"
Blond brows furrowed angrily. "You know that Miss Parkinson is not an ordinary girl. Any young man would have been lucky to have her pay attention to him. She is—"
"—smart, lovely, and incredibly rich." He had heard this speech before as well. "And not to mention Pureblood. I know, Father. You've said that so many times before."
"Since when have you learned to interrupt me?"
"Not tonight, Draco."
"But, Father, I need to talk about—"
"I said not tonight! I'm too busy to listen to your idle chatter."
The words cut deep, like they were meant to be. He watched Lucius turn his back and walk away to his study, leaving him standing alone in the doorway. He touched the wall, feeling the heat gather behind his eyes. But he wouldn't cry. His Father said brave boys never cried. And he was brave. Wasn't he?
"Since I learned to listen to myself," Draco replied bitterly. "Don't bother selling her merits. I do not intend to settle with Pansy in the near future — whether you want me to or not."
"Don't be a fool!" Lucius hissed. "Your rebelliousness would only bring you nowhere. Generations of men have learned that the hard way."
"Then why don't you just leave me alone?"
"Don't you understand, Draco? We just want what's best for you."
"No," he stated firmly. "You want what you think is best for me. After all, you always get what you want."
He touched the antique signet ring on his hand. It was time.
He raised it, watched it flash in the sunlight—the jade glittering with its ageless, solemn beauty.
Just like his son.
He allowed himself to be proud, for once, as he stared at his young son's figure. Draco flew above the trees with reckless grace, not heeding the screaming protests of his flying instructor who was frantically trying to calm him down from his much lower position on the ground. Lucius knew that he should be more worried, but he was confident that his son knew what he was doing.
"Happy Birthday, Draco."
"Do not misunderstand my attempts to protect you. We have to carry the honor of our heritage—"
"Always the honor of our name!" The last words dripped with sarcasm. He threw his hands in the air, his voice rising. "I'm sick of hearing about the Malfoy name: about how I must continue to be an upstanding wizard and carry the privilege I have been given at birth."
"You will not shirk your duties!"
"Ahh... duties." He rushed to his father, stopping suddenly, their faces separated by mere inches — spaces of hatred. "Am I just a duty for you, Father? An obligation that one must raise for your immortality?"
The grey eyes sparked; rage beneath the icy mirrors.
"Daddy, look!" He held out his hand, small and chubby. It was slightly sticky, owing to the crushed insect that lay between his fingers. "Oh no! I've killed it!" Tears sparkled in his eyes as he stared at his father, his tiny mouth quivering.
"Here, son. Don't worry." Lucius wiped the mess off with a handkerchief, picking up the child in his arms. "There'll be other butterflies. Just don't grab them that way again so they won't get hurt."
"I didn't want to hurt those pretty wings," the boy said morosely, brushing his tears awkwardly with one hand. "I didn't mean to!"
"Hush... I know." Then he smiled, taking a deep breath of the toddler's sweet scent. He held Draco close, shutting his eyes in peace as he felt the baby softness of his son against him. Wispy blond hair tickled his skin, smelling faintly of sun, leaves, and of course... Draco.
Heaven could not have been more perfect.
"Is this what we have become?" He straightened, looking oddly at his son, who, over the years, had somehow transformed into a stranger. "You have learned to hate me."
The storm stilled. Draco stared back warily, unwilling to back down. But one can only resist so much. "I do not hate you." He spun away from Lucius, facing his bed. The robes with the family crest lay draped over the covers, provoking him. "Why do you want to get rid of me?"
Lucius blinked, surprised with the question.
Draco turned back, now composed, and challenged his father. "Why do you insist on pushing me to her? Are that eager to dispense of my company?"
But how can one tire of such a boy? "Because she would be good for you," he lied through his teeth.
That sounded funny, even to him. He laughed bitterly. "I don't think so. She would be good for anyone. Except me." He smiled, cocking his head. "You used to love me."
That hurt. How does a father reassure his only son of his own worth? Draco was his world, his life.
The boy moved closer. "Do you even remember?"
The anger had gone. What was left was sadness. And for those few precious seconds, Lucius could see behind the wall that his son had built around him. That he needed to hide pained him. No one, least of all his son, deserved to lead the life he had led. His choices had been his own, and it was too late to change anything. But maybe, just maybe... he could still save Draco.
Lucius smiled wistfully. "I just want you to be happy."
"Can I have one of those when I grow up?" Draco pointed at the cane.
"Of course, son." He laughed. "But that won't be for a very long time."
The child smiled, eyes lighting up as he looked at his father adoringly. "I want to be just like you, Daddy."
"Happy?" Draco echoed. What did the word mean? Had he ever known it before?
He felt the touch of a hand on his face, a father's caress. The slightest whisper of a kiss on his cheek.
"Draco..." Their eyes met, reflections of each other. "I wanted you to go..."
"...because you loved me too much." He knew now. And his father could not deny the truth. It lay before him, bared for him to despise.
He sat in the middle of his son's room, staring at the walls that contained his child during his first seventeen years—except for the months he spent in school. The pile of old robes in the middle of the bed was ready for the house elf to give away. But not before Lucius checked them one by one.
He felt the cotton cloths, imagining his exquisite son who wore them. The robes slid across his skin, touching him where they had once touched Draco.
He could no longer stand to be with anyone else. It burned him, killing his brain slowly with its poison.
Love was one thing. His love for Draco was another.
He buried his face in the robes, missing their scent.
He backed away instantly, shocked at what he just did.
"Wait!" Draco pulled him back.
"I... I didn't know what I was doing," the words rushed out. What had he done? This was his son, not some cheap trumpet that he picked up in the middle of nowhere. His lips still tingled with their contact. "I should go."
"Father..." Draco didn't let go. He hung on to his sleeve tightly, preventing his escape.
Lucius stopped, suddenly afraid to look at his son. Draco touched his chin, forcing his father to look down at him.
"It's all right."
The stood in the room, holding each other, foreheads touching.
"I really should go," Lucius whispered, his lips on Draco's hair. Had he said the same thing minutes ago? Or was it hours before? His mind told him to run, move away from this boy—his own beautiful boy. But his arms stayed where they were—around Draco—refusing to move.
"But I don't want you to." Draco looked up, lips curving in that rare smile of his, eyes saying what he couldn't dare confess with words.
That was all the persuasion he needed. And he stayed.
The room soon sank into darkness, wrapping those that lay inside its womb.
But they didn't really care.
Their light shone within.
My candle burns at both ends, it will not last the night. But ah, my foes and oh, my friends, It gives a lovely light!
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
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