The Lost Boys
by Ishafel

Nothing he has ever done is his life has been good enough for them; his father looks at him sideways out of the corner of his eyes and his mother does not look at him at all. And his failures accumulate, one by one, stacked like children's blocks in a tower that will someday reach the sky if it does not fall and cover him the way he sometimes hopes it will. People think that his father hits him (his father is known for his temper, for icy control always just on the verge of breaking becoming a waterfall that washes over Draco and pulls him down and drowns him) but the truth is his father goes out of his way to avoid touching Draco. The truth is that until he went to Hogwarts no one had ever laid a hand on him in anger.

He deserves it, though; he deserves to be beaten. He is lazy and careless and foolish and when Narcissa says that sometimes she doesn't love him, sometimes no one could love him, he agrees. No one should love him. There has never been an unsuccessful Malfoy but he knows that he will be the first. He must do this on purpose, to embarrass them. He must not be trying; he is certainly not living up to his potential. He cannot possibly be doing his best, and why isn't he? His grades, his performance on the Quidditch field, are abysmal.

Anger, hatred; these are strong emotions, the kinds of things you only feel for those you care deeply about. There is nothing in Draco that can raise such feelings in his parents and sometimes he plays little games designed to attract their attention, to make them care even if he only makes them angry, because that is better than nothing and nothing is what he has now. He plays the doesn't eat game, and pushes his dinner around on his plate, but Lucius and Narcissa rarely notice and in the end Draco goes to bed hungry so often that he stops noticing. He cuts himself and waits for someone to say something, anyone to say anything, and they don't and eventually it becomes a little ritual all his own.

He says inappropriate things, picks fights, fails his classes, and Lucius calls him stupid but it is a vague insult, thrown in passing. He means it, he is truly disappointed in Draco, but not really disappointed, not enough to punish him. He does not expect much and so Draco must constantly find new lows, new ways to fail his parents. He is nothing to them; they do not love him because they realized long ago that he is not what they wanted. He is not perfect. Compared to other children he is nothing special and never has been.

Mid way through fifth year Snape catches on to Draco, bags him in the corridor and drags him into his office and rolls back the sleeves of his robes. He and Draco both look, expressionlessly, at Draco's wrists which are skeleton thin and skeleton pale except where the lurid red scars twine like ivy down a pillar. Draco struggles for words to explain this, words that mean what he needs to say: if I cannot be what they want why should I be anything? Or, I know there's something wrong with me, and I'm trying to fix it.

It seems that after all he does not want to disappoint his parents; now when it is too late he realizes that they will be hurt, that they have only ever wanted him to be the best that he can be. He should have known that they were trying to make him smarter, better, faster: he should have known but he didn't think, he never thinks, he's so stupid. He opens his mouth to tell Snape this but somehow all that comes out is, "Please don't tell my father."

And Snape, damn him, bless him, answers, "I won't."


When Ron was eight his mother forgot him in Diagon Alley and did not realize for three hours he had been left behind. That was when they got the clock that pinpointed everyone's locations. When he was nine he ran away for three days and hid in a shed in the back of the yard and Fred and George snuck him food. In the end he got tired and came back and there was no hero's welcome waiting for him; the note on his desk was unopened, and no one had even noticed his bed had not been slept in. He is not surprised, really, that they did not miss him: he has always been rather on the edge of things. Bill is the oldest and Charlie is a drama queen and Percy is perfect and the twins have each other and Ginny is the only girl. Ron is just another face at meal times, no more conspicuous by his absence than for his presence.

Ron had hoped that when he got old enough to go to Hogwarts things would be different but they weren't. His parents seemed to have forgotten he existed. At the last minute there was a desperate scramble to put together a trunk for him -- secondhand robes, secondhand wand, secondhand rat even -- before they packed him off. And how is it that they have managed to make him feel guilty for wanting the same things the others had had?

Neglect can be as much a form of abuse as any violence, as the cruelest words. The day Ron began to realize this was the third day of summer after his fifth year, when his father came home from the office with a scowling Snape and a silent Draco Malfoy, and Fred said something rude about strays and his mother sent them all to their rooms. After that Draco lived with them. He was given Ron's room, and Ron was made to bunk in with Percy. ("Honestly, Ron," his mother snapped when he dared to complain, "Draco's been through a lot and he needs his privacy, and besides Percy's hardly ever here.") In truth, if Draco had been anyone else, and if Ron's parents had not spent so much time fussing over their newest child, Ron might have been rather sorry for him.

Draco drifted through their house like a ghost of himself, polite and quiet, and Ron's mother made him special meals he did not eat and ironed his clothes with lavender and plied him with tea and cushions and sweets. His father said she clucked over him like a hen with one chick but she wasn't a hen and she had she had Ron and Ginny, Fred and George, and Percy on weekends. Ron rather hated himself, sometimes, for being so jealous. The truth, though, was that she had never shown so much interest in him. Often, in fact, she called him by the wrong name -- Fred-Percy-Charlie-Ron, and once or twice, George-Ginny-Ron. It was as if the mere fact of his existence somehow surprised her.

Midway through the summer, on what was surely the hottest day yet, Ron's mother sent Ron and Draco out to do their homework in the sun. Ron complained bitterly, and even Draco ventured some slight protest (by saying that he'd done his homework the first week, but still) and she sent them out anyway. By the time they came back, sunburnt and miserable and on the verge of quarreling, Harry had been installed in Ron's father's study. Ron's mother was too busy to make them dinner, too busy to look over their Potions essays, to help them find the aloe, to even look them in the face. When she had gone, Draco looked at Ron, and for the first time there was sympathy on his face. "She's something else," he said softly, and Ron had the feeling he should be defending her but he was suddenly too sad to bother.


Ron and Draco gave him dirty looks whenever he came out of the kitchen. It didn't matter; Harry was content to spend his time handing Molly Weasley recipe ingredients, winding yarn for her while she labored over hideous and unappreciated sweaters for her children, listening to her talk. She was, after all, the only one unreservedly on his side. She had not ever forgiven Sirius for standing up to her, anymore than Harry had forgiven him for dying.

It had been a long, long year and Harry was tired and it was pleasant to have an uncritical audience for once. It was pleasant to close his eyes and pretend that Molly was his mother and the Burrow was his house (pleasant if not productive.) This, of course, made Ron his brother, and not only Ron but also the others: up to and including Draco Malfoy, of whom Molly confided she had become increasingly fond. Draco looked like a greyhound being raised by wolfhounds, short and thin and pale, moving warily out of the way of his littermates' larger paws. Unlike Ron, there was no endearing clumsiness to Draco.

It should probably have bothered Harry that Draco and Ron seemed to have formed an alliance against him. Somehow, though, Ron has ceased to matter. Perhaps he had outgrown Ron; certainly he had outgrown Draco. He could not summon any interest in their small battles any longer. He was tired, and having resigned himself to a summer at the Dursleys' had been taken by surprise when Remus Lupin turned up after only three weeks to rescue him from the drudgery and peace of Privet Drive.

When he had been at the Burrow for six days, Molly sent Harry out to play in the sun and after an hour of poking at the garden gnomes with a stick he summoned his broom and flew up to the field the Weasleys used as a Quidditch pitch. Ron and Draco were neither playing nor fighting; Harry found them sprawled under a tree smoking illicit cigarettes and talking. Harry was shocked to see that Ron had been crying.

Without a word, Harry turned away. He had never considered that it might be Ron who had moved on, Ron who had outgrown Harry. And Draco, whose face had been neither hard nor cold. Could it be that what they had shared had nothing at all to do with Harry, with the Order, the war? Harry was moving before he realized it; in a heartbeat it seemed he was back at the house, dropping his broom outside the back door and cannoning into the kitchen.

"Harry, what is it?" and he was being pressed against Molly's generous breasts. It was enough, then, to be comforted, to be still. They were standing so, still, when Ron and Draco came in for lunch. When the door opened Harry stepped back but it was too late. Ron stopped just inside the door, his face quite blank. Draco, behind him, froze holding the door open with one with one hand; after a moment Ron turned and pushed by him without a word. Harry started after him and Draco said, "Don't, Potter," and went instead. When he had let the door slam, Molly sat down hard at the table. Harry went into the study and closed the door and did not come out until dinner time.

Every night since he had come Molly had made one of his favourite meals but tonight there was no welcoming smell of food. The lights in the kitchen were brighter than usual and at the unlaid table Severus Snape was as out of place as a vulture in full sunlight. Beside him Molly knelt, bandaging a horrific wound on his wrist.

Shock enough, but what shattered Harry was the look on her face. She was not a beautiful woman but at times she approached beauty. Kindness blazed on her face, and tenderness. In fact, the look she wore was one Harry had only ever seen turned on himself. He had thought that what she felt for him was -- unique? Stronger than what she felt for Malfoy? Stronger than what she felt for her own children. The only thing Harry had going for him was his status, and now even that was gone.


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