The Carnivorous House
by Penelope-Z


He wakes up from a nightmare he can't remember, opens his eyes wide and sees light. The house-elf brings breakfast in his bedroom, just as tradition dictates, even though there is nothing but a cup of murky tea on the tray.

Draco works his way down the endless flights of stairs to the south- west wing, searching for a decent shirt in closets crowded with faded velvet and moth-eaten lace. Most of the rooms are bare, toothless; gaping empty spaces where chairs, beds, and suits of armour once stood.

They have sold everything they could, silver trays and embroidered tablecloths, carved daggers and crystal vases. China and silk, ebony and gold, keepsakes treasured devoutly from generation to generation, they all fetched a good price in the end. But the ancestral portraits are still hanging on the walls, Malfoy after Malfoy after Malfoy, their embarrassed faces sheeted. Nobody would be convinced to buy them.

Stillness reigns over the Manor, decay has descended and covered the leftovers. Rust is sawing into the bronze bed rails, the fine teeth of woodworm carve intricate designs on the chairs, dirt sinks into the cracks on the walls, the sharp knives are made blunt.

Draco dresses, studying himself in the mirror reflection. His hair has darkened, the lines around his face have disappeared, but new lines and unfamiliar expressions have emerged. Lucius has been dead for two years now and every day his face looks less like his father's. As if that resemblance was an illusion, as if he just wanted to look like him, and now that father is gone the skin has lost hope.

But behind him there's the evidence: a straight line of footsteps on the dusty floor, a shirt thrown on a chair, his shadow; all proving Draco exists.



The dining room at the south-east wing is the only place left unaltered. That is where they spend their days, Draco and Narcissa, avoiding each other's eyes as they stand around the room like stray ships in a harbour after storm.

Sometimes the family ghosts come, they rise from the crypts and the catacombs underneath, they walk out of the fireplace, they fall from the ceiling, they fall from the sky. Grey, silent and tombstone-eyed they burst into the room in a tidal wave, with the suffocating weight of a life that has ended. Sometimes father joins the family for dinner, his transparent body hovering over the table just beneath the chandelier, his face indifferent and unchangeable like a god's.

Narcissa sits on the armchair, a book resting open on her lap. Draco stands by the fireplace, admiring the collection of swords on the shelf for the hundredth time. He picks up his favourite one and flicking his wrist he slashes through the stale air. There are words carved on the hilt, Draco Malfoy 1742.

Draco Malfoy, father of Lucius Malfoy, father of Draco Malfoy, father of Lucius, father of Draco forever and ever. Until there was finally Lucius, and then finally Draco. But his hair has darkened over the past years.

'He wasn't my real father, was he?'

Mother looks up from the book. It's the moment when the film reel is cut and everything on screen freezes; faces, arms and legs are left dangling in the air, waiting.

'No,' she says 'No- you see- my Draco- you see- before- there was this man- this Muggle- there was this man - he couldn't- no, he couldn't- '

Then silence creeps into her mouth, lengthens out, stretching across the room like a cat being stroked. Narcissa bends over her book, face locked in her palms.

So what is he supposed to do? Walk over and kiss her goodbye, as though his life never happened?

He looks outside. It's raining, the window glass is flecked and streaked with water. Beyond the garden gates the rain smudges the world into a grey pastel nothing. He can pretend he is waiting for the rain to stop so that he can walk outside, but the truth is he has got accustomed to standing behind the window, invisible, invincible, with the sword of one Draco Malfoy or another in his hands.



After the Peace Treaty was signed they were advised to confine themselves to the Manor for some time, the Ministry couldn't guarantee their safety otherwise. At the beginning there was much to do, scrolls to burn, evidence to hide, corpses to bury, doors to nail shut. The house-elves worked day and night, sweeping, mopping, cleaning. They scrubbed the floors, washed the marble well, because it kept sweating out blood, that carnivorous house. Until they died from exhaustion, all apart from one. And the stone always at it- puking more and more blood. Mudblood blood, like the one running in his veins.

Afterwards there was nothing left to do. But they felt they still couldn't leave. Abandoning everything, everything had abandoned them. If the world has edges, the Manor is one of them.

He looks out of the window again. The rain has stopped. Thick fog is covering the garden, tendrils of fog move through the decrepit gates, dimming the lights across the street to blurs of radiance, reducing people and buildings to bulks and wraiths without clear form or place. In the fog that lonely stroller could be Harry, yes, it could be.

He could come here, wrapped in his invisibility cloak, casting weary glances over his shoulder. And Draco could open his body, that soft and submissive body, and break it and cut it into pieces. He could build a road, following the veins and the nerves and each vertebra of the spine and they could walk away, walk out of this place.

But he won't come. He can never come again.

Memories, unbound, inexplicable, distort every hour of the day. What he wanted and never found. What he wanted and will never come. What he forgot somewhere in this place, on a chair, in a corner and will never leave him. All these years, living in this same house, waiting for nothing, for a day or a night, for all these years, oh god, for all these years.

Draco walks away from the window and comes to stand in front of the mirror again. There is still all the evidence behind him; the footsteps, the shadow, the sword on the shelf, friendly weapon. In the firelight the blade is working its own magic. Draco doesn't need the window, like he doesn't need anyone, not even Harry, not even a father.

The mirror is a window too. If he dives in it he will fall into his own arms.

Slowly, slowly, at the edge of the world, he is building a country.



Draco wakes up from a nightmare he can remember, opens his eyes wide and sees darkness. There is somebody in the room. Lucius is watching him from the other end of the room, a spectre carved out of fog, grey, transparent and fragrant with death.

'Father?' the question escapes his lips before he can stop it. His voice seems to tear through the ghost, it quivers until it's dissolved, dispersed to nothing, gone. Only the word remains in the room, irrevocable. It hovers in the air, it rattles against the walls, it echoes through the maze of empty rooms and corridors for what it seems like forever.


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