Length: 750 words
Prompt: #1.4 blank; #8 letter torn in half
Time: sixth year
Summary: Draco is nearing the breaking point, but he still has to go through the motions. Also written for romancingwizard's challenge 17.
The blank parchment stared dully back at Draco. The sallow yellow undertone of the paper matched his own cheeks. The months were taking their toll upon him. Two attempts and two failures, not that the failures were surprising. It was inconceivable that he could kill the most powerful wizard who ever lived. A few months ago he would have panicked merely thinking this treasonous thought against the supremacy of the Dark Lord. Now it would be almost a relief to be killed for disrespect rather than failure. He was a Malfoy, he had some certain pride.
Even if the Malfoy pride was already locked up in some dank cell in Azkaban. He was supposed to be writing to his father now, the weekly obeisance to filial piety for the world to see that their family was unbroken. He hated writing these letters, which of course could contain only meaningless blather and lies. Especially when there was so much he needed his father's advice about.
His mind traveled back two years.
"Your attentions to that Parkinson girl are very marked, Draco."
It was the morning after the MacDougal's garden party. Draco scratched his cheek uncomfortably and tried not to meet his mother's eyes. If you called getting caught in the garden shed with robes partly undone "marked attentions", then yes, his attentions were marked.
"I hope you've apologized to your mother for embarrassing her."
"It was nothing so very scandalous, Lucius. Certainly not interesting enough to talk about," his mother said with a chuckle, to Draco's relief. "Fortunately that older MacDougal girl drew all the gossip to herself by bringing that mudblood to her own parents' house! At least Draco has the sense to choose girls of quality."
"Yes. Quality." Somehow Draco found himself looking his father in the eyes. "Do you know who I expect you to marry, Draco?"
His stomach flipped and his mouth went dry. An arranged marriage? Such things still happened, of course, but they had never said... "Sir?"
"She must be utterly devoted to you, and not a fool." The blue eyes that so many called cold locked with his own.
She was utterly devoted to him, and she was anything but a fool. But how long could the former hold out against the latter? He shook his head thinking how much of a fool he'd been, even at the beginning of the year, when he'd imagined that everything would fall into place and he would redeem his family to their rightful place on top of the Dark Lord's order. He'd spent the train ride with his head in her lap. He'd enjoyed it almost as much as he enjoyed stomping on Potter's face. Even now he had to grin at that memory.
Now he hardly had the time to talk with her, let alone treat her as she deserved to be treated. They had planned a date for the day before, but he had thought he was near to a breakthrough with that cabinet and lost track of time. And of course the cabinet remained as stubbornly broken as ever. When he had finally given up and crawled, exhausted, back to the dungeons, he was beyond being able to think of a decent explanation for Pansy, and even felt a flash of annoyance when he came upon her holding court in the common room with Greengrass and the others.
She didn't shriek, throw a tantrum or even demand an explanation. When he entered, she merely said, "Well?"
"Something came up." His standard non-answer.
She bit her lip and looked away. Immediately he felt stricken. "Pansy-"
"It's very well," she said, icily. She stood up and her hangers-on followed her, Greengrass giving him one of her suspiciously vacant glances and Rosier's sneer as off-putting as ever.
In the present, he glanced at the clock. Only ten minutes until his next meeting with Snape, receive another scolding and somehow muster enough energy to repel his legilimens. He picked up his quill and began to write again mechanically.
Afterward he threw the quill down and picked up the parchment to read what he'd written.
No, the weather has not improved at all. I will keep in mind what you wrote about the importance of daily practice, but there is plenty of time before we play Hufflepuff. You may be assured that I will continue to attend weekly practice.
The weather aside, everything is going well here.
With almost a growl, Draco tore the thing in half.
Author's Notes: This gave me so much trouble! I hope it's not too terrible.