He’d learned how to think quickly and critically—how to isolate
alternative exits and easily accessible windows immediately upon entering a new
room, how to evaluate escape routes and measure the weight of excuses, omissions,
denials and exaggerations and lies.
Similarly, he’d learned how to strategize; how to infiltrate
an enemy stronghold and capitalize on fear, disorganization, surprise—how to plot a successful
murder, too, even if he hadn’t quite had the stomach to finish the job.
The Dark Lord had been incredibly generous with his
He’d taught Draco how to hide in the shadows of his own
house, how to deflect attention and, perhaps more importantly, how to steal attention, how to keep that narrow,
endlessly curious crimson gaze away from his mother and firmly on himself.
He’d taught Draco how to differentiate between what was nice and what was necessary, and he’d taught Draco how to correctly identify the
appropriate times in which to utilize the Unforgivable curses; because it wasn’t
about not getting caught, no, that was child’s
play—adequate advice for the Draco who’d been young and stupid and frozen, maybe, desperate to fix what he’d
broken but unable to rationalize why;
the Draco who’d been stripped raw, flayed to the bone, left to haunt the roof
of the Hogwarts astronomy tower like the dried-out husk of a long-shed
And Draco, he had adapted
since then, he’d had to, had felt the shift in his temperament—in his demeanor—in
his veins, and he had relished it,
absolutely and resolutely—and it was entirely thanks to the Dark Lord.
Draco now knew how to properly barricade a door, how to
pretend—how to believe, truly
believe, that was the trick—that a solid mahogany chest of drawers could
protect him from the things that went bump and bang and boom in the middle of the night.
He knew how to avoid a mirror and block out reality and grit
his teeth against the sudden, blinding pain of having to listen to Hermione
Granger be tortured on his sitting room floor—and hadn’t that been a particularly illuminating lesson in humility, his
mother’s fingernails digging deep and sharp and hard into the bend of his elbow as if she’d understood that this
was going to be it, this was going to
be the thing, the moment, that finally shattered his composure and attacked
what remained of his conscience with all the efficacy of an ice pick against a
glacier—because in all the years that he’d been acquainted with her, Hermione
Granger had been equal parts annoying and infuriating and captivating, unfairly so, and as much as he’d loathed her—sometimes,
only ever sometimes—he could not watch that,
could not watch the tears streak her face and the breath get trapped in her
But he knew better than to speak up.
The Dark Lord had made sure of that.
He’d made sure that Draco knew how to stay quiet; knew how to
keep his head down and his mouth shut and his screams—thick like honey in the
quivering cavern of his lungs, thick like Granger’s blood as it seeped into and
around and across his mother’s priceless antique rugs—locked tight inside, always,
always, always inside—right where
Really, the Dark Lord had been an excellent