Fic: "Exit the Dragon" - for Femme, with love Title: Exit the Dragon Pairings: None Warnings: None - set at the end of Half-Blood Prince Comments: Thanks muchly to thejennabides for her fabulous and detailed beta. Dedication: For femmequixotic, who has done so much for the fandom and the fen (even more so in recent months). Femme - you mentioned Draco and Snape as your particular loves, so I tried to write to that. You're amazing, and I'm glad I met you.
So Draco runs, and he keeps running, without looking back. He hears Potter try Unforgivable Curses, he hears Professor Snape forestall him, he thinks that he should go back, should help, should make sure Snape gets out, since Snape did the same for him; but he continues to run despite these thoughts. He cannot stop running.
Draco has failed. Draco Malfoy doesn't fail anything except Quidditch when playing against Potter but he has failed the Dark Lord in this, and in doing so he has failed his family as well. His mother, his father – and for all Dumbledore said his father is safe in Azkaban, Draco knows how vast the Dark Lord's reach is.
There is nowhere that is safe, nowhere that will ever be safe again, and Draco keeps running.
Why did he say that? "You are not a killer, Draco"; it repeats over and over until Draco's mind feels stuffed of questions and pain and a longing he thought he'd buried years ago. Dumbledore had faith in him why couldn't you have shown it before; I needed it then, and maybe things would have been different if someone had seen beyond the labels of Malfoy and Slytherin but he hates it, loathes it with a passion previously reserved for tousle-haired, green-eyed Gryffindors, because if you aren't killer, you're killed. There's only predator and prey in the Dark Lord's world, and Draco runs, because he fears ... he knows ... which one he is now. He runs because he knows which one his mother is, his father is now. It's Draco's duty, with his father in prison, to protect their family.
And he has failed.
Draco runs – far outside the gates now, away from Hogwarts, away from the thoughts that he can't escape, away from everything that has become his life. He runs and he runs ... and he runs into the dark figure that Apparates a few strides in front of him.
Strong hands with slender fingers catch him, hold him immobile, and Draco struggles blindly, frantically, furiously against them.
"Draco, stop this nonsense at once."
The voice is firm and commanding, and familiar enough that Draco stills immediately.
"Look at me."
Draco raises wary silver eyes to meet Professor Snape's dark ones.
"The deed is done, and we will return to the Dark Lord to inform him of such."
Draco's voice is soft. "I couldn't kill him, Professor Snape. I'm not a killer."
Snape shakes him violently, then smacks him across the face. Draco's head snaps back and a dangerous light enters his eyes.
"How dare you?!" he demands, pulling himself free with jerky, angry movements. "I will not suffer to be ..."
"Better," Snape cuts him off, and he grabs Draco's chin in a painful grip. "Now. The job is done, and you will return with me to the Dark Lord and tell him so. You will remember that you are a pureblood, a Malfoy and a Slytherin, and you will spare me the whinging of someone who ought to have been Sorted into Hufflepuff, or I will kill you myself, here and now, to save myself the bother and Slytherin the shame."
Draco wrenches his chin free and glares arrogantly at Snape. "I am not some toy to be manhandled about ..."
Snape interrupts him again, coldly and abruptly. "That will do."
Draco's lips firm in irritation, but he subsides. His last thought, before Snape places his hand on Draco's shoulder for side-along Apparation, is determined. I may not be a killer now, but I will protect my family.