Assisted Suicide
by Ishafel

Not many people knew that Draco Malfoy had tried to kill himself when he was fifteen. The school had hushed it up, either out of guilt or from some belated wish to spare his feelings (or more probably his father's feelings, because it was his father who was known for Making Large Donations.) One day Draco was in class, the next he was not, and he did not reappear for the rest of the term.

What actually happened was that he sat on the edge of the bath in the prefects' bathroom, surprising since he was not a prefect and should not have had the password (Perfection) and drew the blade of fifteenth century ritual dagger with a diamond and emerald encrusted hilt down his wrist, severing an artery in his right arm. The blood ran out of the neat narrow cut and stained the grout of the marbled tile floor and in the end the whole thing had to be replaced.

When she found him Hermione Granger summoned Draco's Head of House, a tactful but not altogether wise move, since he might very well have bled to death in the interim. Snape, coming to the rescue, summed up the situation at once and Obliviated the girl, and none of the other students ever learned (at least officially) what had happened. Draco was sent home as soon as his condition stabilized; for six months the best doctors and psychiatrists and psychologists and mediwizards and hypnotists and psychics from both worlds tried to cure him.

By the end of the summer they had given up, all of them, and Draco was pronounced healed and sent back to Hogwarts. He was not the same; all his arrogance and vitality had been burned out and he was like a stepped-on match. He drifted through the days, pale and haunting and quiet and undead, and Lucius Malfoy stopped owling Snape, stopped asking for reports of his progress and adding up his grade point average. Draco's mother still sent weekly packages of sweets but she no longer included letters in them.

After a while Draco seemed to get better; he still did not speak unless he was spoken to or participate in class in any way but he began turning in his assignments again. But it was eventually evident that the other Slytherins, having absorbed the relevant details of Draco's situation seemingly by osmosis, were doing his work for him and had, in a tremendous effort of collaboration, sent him to the head of class, above even Granger. This became obvious because Draco handed in his final exams himself, and he had written nothing but his name on the sheets.

None of the teachers expected anything from Draco after that; none of them questioned him, none of them sent him to detention, none of them looked directly at him (as though what he had might be contagious, as if shock therapy can be spread through eye contact) and Draco floated through his sixth year. He was passing all of his classes although he rarely went to them and never brought the books Snape was not even sure he owned. Initially Snape had wanted him to repeat fifth year since he had missed so much of it; Lucius had argued that he would catch up, surely… Now, of course, it did not matter: he could have been studying anything, anywhere, he could be studying nothing at all for all the attention he paid.

Snape had noticed lately that Draco did not eat at mealtimes unless he was reminded--Pansy and Blaise sat on either side of him and jabbed him with their elbows every few moments. Snape would have been horrified (or perhaps he wouldn't, he had a high threshold for horror) to learn that Pansy dressed Draco in the mornings and undressed him at night. She was good at this, having had plenty of practice; her mother was given the Kiss just after Pansy's birth and lived in state at the Parkinson house. To Pansy she was simply a gigantic doll, although in the last fifteen years she had born Pansy's father six healthy sons. (Pansy's father, Sir Dominic Parkinson, had once told Lucius Malfoy that his wife was the perfect woman; she kept her mouth shut and her legs open and perhaps they ought to give the entire gender the Kiss. This goes a long way toward explaining why Pansy was the way she is.)

One day, nearly a year to the day after his botched suicide attempt (worrying in and of itself, because Draco was generally successful) and long after most of the students had forgotten his existence despite his presence, Draco came back to himself. One morning when Snape stared at him as usual, across all the length of the Great Hall, his gaze met a familiar pair of quicksilver eyes. And was Draco pleased? Had his long absence mellowed him? Somehow Snape did not think so. It was as if he had never been away at all.

Within the hour he had quarreled with Potter in the corridor, hexed Weasley, angered McGonagall, and put together a very complicated truth potion, one his class had learned the week before, from memory. To Snape it was as if the school had somehow awakened from a dream. It was as if they had all been dreaming Draco's dream.

After dinner--a dinner which, Snape noted, Draco ate delicately but vastly--Snape called Draco into his office. The old Draco, pre- suicide Draco, had come sulkily when summoned; really, had he been anyone else's son Snape might have said he ponced. This Draco seemed willing enough to comply, but his eyes were hard and cold. At ten past eight he came into Snape's office and flung himself down in the chair, just as the old Draco had done. He had grown, of course, in the intervening year; his hair was longer and one of the Slytherin girls had cut it a little unevenly, and he was too thin. He was exactly the same. He did not look like a failed suicide, like a drawn, exhausted, half-ghost.

"Why did you do it?" Snape asked.

Draco said, in answer, but not really an answer, "I don't remember."

Maybe he was even telling the truth; when Snape demanded to know where he'd been he looked puzzled. "I've been right here," he said, and "where else would I be?" In the end Snape let him go, none the wiser. Perhaps it had been a dream after all. For three weeks Draco was Draco, the same as he had always been. He was back at the top of his class (well, after all, the school year had just started for him) back playing Quidditch (Blaise had given up the Seeker's position with hardly a murmur) back irritating Lucius (Snape had received an owl complaining about the boy's attitude.) When Vincent came, face white and chest heaving, Snape was shocked but somehow not at all surprised. He threw down the papers he had been marking and went at once to Draco.

During his time as a Death Eater Snape had achieved some small renown as a poisoner: the man to see for something effective and undetectable. But he had never been present for a poisoning, never tried to affect a cure. Draco lay white and boneless on the floor between his bed and Gregory's. His breath smelled faintly of lavender, which could have meant anything; on his dresser a small green bottle marked with a skull and crossbones sat harmless and empty. There was only one potion Snape knew of that might work; grim-faced he forced it down Draco's throat and dragged him to the bathroom.

The Antidota was highly experimental and vastly dangerous, and after a while Draco roused enough to be sick on Snape, on himself, on the floor. Snape had never seen anyone so ill. The night went on forever, and he should have sent someone for Dumbledore, for Pomfrey, but somehow he did not, even in the harsh light of morning. "Poison, Draco?" he managed to ask wearily.

Draco's voice was a husky ruin, but his words were audible: "It seemed like the thing to do at the time." After that they took turns watching Draco, making sure he was never alone, but it was hard because he seemed so normal. He went on his merry way, as if there were nothing at all wrong, as if his world was unchanged. As if he had not, twice, tried to kill himself.

Midway through April Slytherin beat Gryffindor decisively at Quidditch and Draco celebrated by throwing himself off of the Astronomy Tower. There was no way this could be kept secret; there was no way to forget the way Draco looked, lying in a pile of broken bones. Snape, closing his eyes, wondered if all the king's horses and all the king's men would be able to put the little idiot together again. When Snape demanded to know why, he only answered haughtily that it didn't matter.

Maybe in the end it didn't. Snape turned his back. Let Dumbledore save Draco, let Lucius; if they succeeded where Snape had failed, so much the better. If they did not, well, perhaps there was nothing left to save. He did not know what, exactly, was done for Draco, only that the boy spent most of the term under heavy guard and that, three days before he was to have left for the summer Dumbledore pronounced him cured. The next night at midnight Draco hung himself from the rafters in the Owlery and was found just in time by two trysting Hufflepuffs. Snape and a sadder, wiser Dumbledore saw him off for the holiday, and Snape at least had no real expectations that he would be back.

After he had finished grading his exams Snape took the Hogwarts Express to Glasgow and searched for a shop he knew must exist. He had learned long ago to recognize the smell of death, however disguised; he had no trouble identifying it in the shape of a gun, the taste of iron and oil and gunpowder (that last used in the making of the Phantasmagora Potion.) He bartered for the weapon and a single bullet, trading what he had because of what he did not have, and he took it without touching it and wrapped it carefully in rags and stored it in the bottom of his office closet.

Somehow Draco managed to survive the summer. The boy who came back was older, his face harder, his wrists and throat scarred from the damage he had done himself, the burns on his hands from an attempt at self-immolation still healing. After the fourth Potions class Snape stopped him at the door and dropped the gun onto his armload of books. Draco did not say anything, did not even look up. Six weeks of silence, and one morning, very early, he put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger and this time he died.

Snape never knew why and he never stopped wondering.


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