FIC: "Be Here Now" for alley_skywalker Recipient:alley_skywalker Author/Artist: ??? Title: Be Here Now Rating: PG-13 (ish) Pairings: Antonin/Narcissa, Antonin/Igor Karkaroff, Antonin/Bellatrix Word Count: ~5700 Medium: Fic Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *Angst, unrequited love, character death*. Summary: If Antonin has learned anything in his life, it is that trust is rarely deserved, and love does not follow reason. Author's/Artist's Notes: I played a little loose with Antonin's canon, making his father a contemporary of Tom Riddle and Antonin himself a generation younger. I hope you like this, alley_skywalker! I loved writing it. So many thanks to my two speedy betas, E and S!
When Antonin Dolohov is a fourteen-year-old student at Durmstrang, a representative of the Russian Ministry pulls him from Advanced Potions. He wonders as they walk down the long, grey corridor, dampness seeping in from every angle, if he is about to pay for the sins of his father. He has long known who his father is, what his father is, and Antonin has made every effort to be nothing like his father. They open the door to a small, plain room deep in the dungeons. Three chairs are set out, one is empty, and of the other two placed side-by-side facing the first. A tall, severe-looking witch occupies the one furthest from the door.
It is because his best marks are in the Dark Arts, Antonin thinks, though that is not his fault. At the age of eleven, he learned to defend himself against the Cruciatus, at his father's instruction. He knew more than nearly all of his classmates by the time he first set foot inside Durmstrang. So instead of studying, Antonin took to the library, reading volume after volume of anything within reach. He has read nearly half the library by now.
Antonin hands over his wand at the door and sits in the singular chair. The Ministry representative sits opposite him, beside the witch. He prepares himself for an interrogation that never comes.
"We know who your father is," says the witch.
"So do I," Antonin replies.
"We want to help you," says the witch.
"At what cost to myself? My mother?" Antonin has known that this, too, has always been a possibility.
They exchange looks. The witch smiles. Her smile is cold and cruel, like Antonin's father's. He thinks his father is not so different than these people from the Russian Ministry.
"The first thing you need to understand," she says, slowly, as if she is going to enjoy every moment of this, "is that this is not a negotiation."
At sixteen, Antonin feels completely isolated from his peers. He has been a spy for the Russian Ministry for two years now. He has made contacts with the darkest of wizards, friends of his father, men and women his father actually feared. There is no one at Durmstrang capable of relating to Antonin now, not that he ever had many friends in the first place. He is a permanent fixture in the library when not gathering information. When summer comes, his relief is palpable. He will work all summer long, at the Ministry's beck and call, but for a few blessed months he will not have a daily reminder of the boy he is not allowed to be.
He is in Paris, a mission just completed. On the seventh floor of a lavish Muggle hotel, a supporter of the rising dark lord lies dead, poisoned by the third course of his indulgent meal. Antonin wonders if he should feel guilty, it is all so clinical. But he is far too young, too unassuming. He is beyond suspicion and his government knows it. This is the third man Antonin has killed.
She is standing at the threshold to wizarding Paris when he sees her for the first time. Her nose is in the air, a cool gaze sliding down the slender line of it. She is watching the little dog hopping about at the feet of the girl beside her, clearly uninterested in the conversation. She is the most stunning thing Antonin has ever seen.
He follows her down the narrow streets, between towering buildings lined with baskets of magically blooming flowers. He is mesmerized by everything she does, and the easy, privileged air with which she does it. Her friends are of no consequence to her, she is without a care for anything or anyone. Antonin is drawn to this freedom of hers, to the lightness of her being. He has no idea what it is like to be so free. He wants to touch it, to touch her. He is standing so close now that he can smell her perfume.
"Cissy! Cissy! Come see!" The voice is high pitched and it rattles like a starving raven trying to escape its cage.
Antonin falls back.
"Bella," she hisses back, her voice a chastising whisper. "We're not supposed to be down there. You know that. We're too young!"
"You're too young," says Bella, and she cackles. "I'm of age."
Antonin has heard a laugh like that before. His first target was a wizard at the Hospital of the Sacred Wand in Prague, on the floor for severe spell-damage injuries. The Russian Ministry of Magic had tried to assassinate this man once before, but had only succeeded in torturing him into perpetual confusion. Antonin was asked to finish the job. It was there, in that ward, that he first heard a cackle like this one, with its distinct note of madness.
Then Bella has her by the arm and is dragging her down the shadowy alley where Antonin bought his poison yesterday afternoon. He follows, careful to keep out of sight beneath the hood of his cloak. He knows how to be invisible. It is his most practiced talent.
"Bella, please," she says, her voice high and breathy now, and Antonin can sense her fear. It is the first thing he has seen her feel since he saw her and he realizes that he wants her to be free of that, too, free of fear itself. He wants to be the one to free her.
"Oh, Narcissa. You're no fun at all. Fine. You wait out here. I'm going shopping!" Bella disappears into a dusty storefront, the window piled high with dark artifacts.
Narcissa raises her chin, her pale skin and golden blonde hair standing out boldly against this palette of black and grey. Antonin sees the wizard's intent to approach her from several shops away, and has his wand at the ready. He has seen that face before, in a file at the Ministry office. "Potential Enemy" was the official label. Antonin read the file. "Homocidal Maniac" might have been more appropriate.
The wizard, tall and gangly with sunken eyes and layers of tattered robes, is leering as he lowers his head to speak to her, his words to soft for Antonin to hear. But Narcissa recoils, stumbling back half a step as her heel catches a cobblestone, and in a flash, Antonin is there at his side, one arm around her back to catch her.
"Sweetheart," he says. "Were you waiting long?" And he hopes that she trusts the look in his eyes long enough to follow him.
To his surprise, she doesn't flinch. "Oh, there you are," she says, as if she's said it to him a thousand times. "You mustn't keep me waiting like this. It's impolite."
"I am so sorry," says Antonin, and then, to the wizard, "will you excuse us, please? I haven't long to make my tardiness up to her."
The wizard narrows his eyes, murmurs something lewd, then turns with a flare of his ragged robes and stalks away. Antonin has memorized his face already. That man will not live to see the seasons change again.
He ushers Narcissa to a less conspicuous spot beneath the potions shop awning.
"You shouldn't have done that," she says, her voice full of ice. "You don't know how dangerous it was!"
Antonin stiffens. It is not the gratitude he is expecting. "I know exactly how dangerous he is," he says, and suddenly he doesn't sound like a spy anymore. He sounds like a petulant boy.
"Not him," she hisses. "I'm spoken for. If word of this gets back to Abraxas… Or Lucius for that matter…"
Spoken for. He lets the words wash over him in all their absurdity. He cannot imagine a man in his right mind would be capable of speaking for this girl. She is far too grand, too self-possessed for that.
"How old are you?" he asks, and again it is a boy asking the questions.
"Fourteen," she says. She straightens her shoulders. "Why should that matter?"
"It does not," Antonin says. He wants to touch her cheek, her hair. He wants her to touch him back. "I was just… thinking."
Her voice softens now, just slightly, and he realizes his face has given everything away. He doesn't remember the last time his face reflected his heart. "Thinking what?"
"You are so beautiful," he says, and it is all right for him to say it because he is going to run after this, and he will not look back. "Too beautiful to be caged. You should be free. Entirely free."
Her lips part in silence. She has no response.
"Good day," Antonin says. "Narcissa."
And then he is gone.
At nineteen, Antonin knows more about the way the world works than most men twice his age. He knows that the world will fuck you over, and that there is no just side in any war. His own government has hung him out to dry, left him embedded within The Dark Lord's circle, not deep enough to be a trusted member, but far beyond any hope of getting out on his own.
He does not understand why The Dark Lord insists on using this abandoned manor, the halls cold and grey and damp. They have killed so many powerful witches and wizards, looted so many finer manors, surely there is a more comfortable place to hold court. Antonin has grown weary of the phrase "soon enough." Nothing good ever comes soon enough. In Antonin's experience, nothing good ever comes at all.
Bellatrix Black cackles down the corridor, draped over the back of Rodolphus Lestrange. They are to be married in a matter of weeks. Antonin watches bitterly from an alcove. He doesn't understand why Bellatrix is here but Narcissa is not. He has had enough of Narcissa's intended, Lucius Malfoy, who struts around these halls as if the rest of the Death Eaters work for him.
As soon as they have passed, Antonin slips down the corridor in the other direction, rounding the corner and just barely missing the toes of the young man standing there, wand brandished.
"Igor," he says.
"Hello, Antonin." Karkaroff carefully sheaths his wand. "I was not expecting you."
They have never been friends, these two nearly grown men, but they were familiar enough with one another's names at Durmstrang. Igor loved the school and every opportunity it afforded him while Antonin hated it and the way it showed him what he could never have. In the Dark Lord's Circle, however, suspicion and fear have forced them together time and again. Once the certainty of righteousness evaporated, familiarity was all Antonin had left.
"Amycus and I have… a wager of sorts," says Karkaroff. "The first wizard to fire a hex gets to keep all his toes."
"That sounds unwise."
"Amycus Carrow is stupid and his aim inaccurate. I am not concerned." Karkaroff pauses for a moment and Antonin gets the feeling he is being assessed. "You sent owl post from the north wing in the middle of the night and it was returned to you."
Antonin feels his stomach contract. He has become sloppy in his desperation. All the men he has killed, all the tracks he has covered, and it is Igor Karkaroff who catches him in the act.
"It was nothing," says Antonin.
"Not nothing," says Igor. "I heard you. When you locked yourself in that empty bedroom. I heard."
A slow chill replaces the blood as it drains from Antonin's face. This is worse than being found out, worse than Karkaroff knowing that the returned owl had been addressed to the Russian Ministry. Karkaroff knows that Antonin is vulnerable, and for a Death Eater, that can be more dangerous than treason.
"It was the Black girl, yes?" says Karkaroff, when Antonin doesn't answer.
"You told her you love her and she chooses Malfoy." Karkaroff looks at his feet for a moment.
"Da," Antonin says quickly. It is not the cover story he would have chosen himself, it is too close to the painful truth, but it will work. It must.
Karkaroff nods. "I understand," he says. And then, unexpectedly, he takes a step closer to Antonin.
It is all on the surface right now and Antonin is so unaccustomed to that feeling that it makes him nauseous. The betrayal of his own Ministry, the reality of the man he must remain if he is to stay alive, the approaching end to any illusion that Narcissa could ever be his. It is all right here, bubbling at the surface of his skin, and it makes him ill with a need he has never known before.
He craves comfort.
Karkaroff's face is long and narrow, the lines too harsh for his age, his eyes cold and black, but when Antonin looks closer, he can see how very young Karkaroff really is, and how very afraid. He has narrowed in on Antonin's vulnerability not because he wants to exploit it, but because he wants to touch it, to pull it close and hold it against his own. Antonin has read a thousand faces, and in Igor Karkaroff, he sees an unsettling reflection of his own.
"Have you… ever been with a man, Antonin?" says Karkaroff, and his gaze darts back up to Antonin's face.
It is an ill-executed attempt at seduction, but it has been far too long since Antonin has seen any being in this manor express humanity. Igor has long, dark hair that always seems to fall raggedly across half his face. Antonin reaches up and brushes it back.
"I have been with many men," he says, and it is true. He has been with more men and women than he can count. Whatever the job required, that is what he promised the Ministry. That is what he did.
"I have only been with one." Karkaroff sounds unsure.
"Ivan?" says Antonin. He remembers well that the two were inseparable, on and off the Quidditch pitch.
Karkaroff nods. "Before."
The word itself is the rest of the story. Before Ivan found out what Igor was. Before the rest of Durmstrang turned on Ivan and his idealism, and Igor stood by and did nothing. Before this war separated the monsters from the rest of them. Antonin is still not sure on which side he has found himself.
Igor turns his head, presses his lips to the inside of Antonin's wrist, and the small hairs on the back of Antonin's neck stand on end. He winds his fingers into Igor's hair and drags him to the nearest private room.
The Prewett brothers prove to be some of the most capable fighters the Order of the Phoenix has to offer. It takes a host of Death Eaters to even get close to them. Antonin is shaken on the day he is sent to help kill them.
Narcissa has made an appearance in their ranks. The Dark Lord requested that she bring her child before him, as he does with all children of Death Eaters, and she has complied, though her reluctance is clear, especially in the ever-troubling presence of Fenrir Greyback, who gazes at the bundle in her arms as if she has brought him a snack.
Antonin wants to put himself between them, wants to assure her that he will always make sure she is safe. Lucius just stands by and watches. As she raises the baby to the Dark Lord's narrow gaze, Antonin wants to hex Lucius Malfoy to pieces. She looks back, over her shoulder, and Antonin sees a plea in her eyes. Lucius stares back blankly. His obedience eclipses his love for his wife.
Her eyes slide across the crowd and for just a second they meet Antonin's and he is paralyzed. Then someone is pulling his robes and he is dragged toward a portkey and Narcissa and her child and her useless, spineless husband disappear in a sickening whirl.
They fight the Prewetts for hours before the Death Eaters get the upper hand. It is through nothing but a bit of good luck. Rodolphus barely misses Fabian with a hex that rebounds off an overturned tea kettle and hits Gideon in the back of the head. Everything after that is a blur of blood and destruction. Bellatrix is mad with bloodlust, torturing Gideon as he twists and writhes on the kitchen floor. Rodolphus is shouting joyously as he blasts every possession in the meager house to smithereens.
Travers and Yaxley have already started looting what is left as Antonin corners Fabian, injured and exhausted in the library. It takes one one well-placed hex to take him down and Antonin is glad of it. For all the messy deeds he has done, he has no stomach for the Lestranges' sport. He can hear Rodolphus coming closer, glass shattering, wood splintering in his wake.
"Please," Fabian whispers, his lower lip shiny and red with blood. "I made a promise. My nephew." He pushes something out from underneath him, a tiny stone dragon coughing out fiery sparks, a gift tag dangling from its rear leg.
Perhaps it is the influence of Narcissa, of the way she cradled the child against her, the way she looked to him for help, but Antonin feels a moment of uncharacteristic pity. He reaches out with his boot, pulls the dragon to a gap between the floorboards, and kicks it in. It will be safe from Rudolphus's wrath there.
There is something in Prewett's eyes then, not gratitude exactly but relief, and Antonin raises his wand.
When Prewett's suffering ends, Antonin can breathe again.
"Look at what the baby Death Eater has done all by himself." Bellatrix is in the doorway, grinning at him madly. "That was hot, Antonin, now let's have some fun."
The bookshelf behind his head explodes into ashen scraps that drift like snow to the ground around Fabian Prewett's dead body. Antonin cannot watch her do this here. Not on this day.
She pauses thoughtfully as she decides what to destroy next and for just a moment, he sees the hint of her sister in the rise of her cheekbone, in the flutter of her lashes. Everything inside him is red hot now and he lunges at her, pressing her up against a bookcase and fisting his hand in her velvet cloak.
"Yes," he says. "Let's."
Bellatrix and her husband are well known for their indiscretions by now, and their favorite times seem to be right beneath one another's noses. Her grin is wide and wicked as she takes his hand and pushes it between her legs. Antonin feels what may be the last decent piece of him split apart as he takes her up against a dead man's library wall, but when they leave the house beneath the glowing Dark Mark, Fabian's body lies intact on the floor, the gift for his nephew safe just a meter away.
The years in Azkaban are set in stone in the back of Antonin's mind, a permanent scar across the inside of his skull. His entire adult life has been moulded by dementors and prison guards, by the cold, empty stone rooms and by Bellatrix's maddening cackle. At night, Antonin thinks of the steady, regal sound of Narcissa's voice, letting it overcome the insanity of her sister's. And when he is released, finally, back into the Dark Lord's grasp, it is not all that different, really.
His first assignment is delivered by Lucius Malfoy. Antonin reads the note impassively, no flicker of recognition on his face.
"We are weeding out traitors in our former ranks," says Malfoy. "And this is where you begin."
Antonin does not look up. He can tell this irritates Malfoy, who cannot keep his mouth shut.
"What's the matter, Antonin? Is this assignment too… personal?"
Narcissa has not been here, and Antonin supposes that it is the only decision Lucius has ever made.
"Not at all," Antonin says, and then, to make certain Lucius knows that he recognizes the animosity, he adds, "I suppose he is sending you to take care of Snape?"
For just a moment, one beautiful moment, Lucius reacts, icy eyes flaring with anger, the line of his lips drawn tight and pale, and he inhales slowly through his nose. Antonin secretly prays for a duel, to have at this here and now and finish Lucius Malfoy off forever. But Malfoy, ever the coward, turns and walks away.
Antonin looks down at the paper in his hands again. Igor Karkaroff. They all knew this was coming, but that fails to comfort him at all.He must kill Igor, prove his allegiance to the Dark Lord beyond any doubt. And he knows he will succeed. He doesn't expect to save his soul anyway. Not after all he has done. It is too late for him.
Finding Karkaroff is not as difficult as Antonin expects. Perhaps the other man has grown tired of running, or has run short of hiding places. Either way, when Antonin finds him, he is ready to die.
"I was not expecting you," Igor says, and Antonin knows that Igor never understood their leader at all.
"But you are not surprised that someone has come."
"And you will not make this difficult?"
Antonin raises his wand, his hand surprisingly steady. Igor's fingers tighten around his own wand. Antonin wonders if he is about to fight back. He can see the thought rise in Igor's mind, the careful furrowing of his brow as he weighs his chances against Antonin's reflexes. Then his shoulders sag in defeat.
The flash of green light is blinding. And it is over.
When Antonin returns to the abandoned building where he has been stationed, he is not alone. She is seated in the only piece of fine furniture on this floor, a nineteenth century chaise which she has moved closer to the fire. Antonin steps through the fireplace and nearly stumbles onto her.
"Sorry," she says, "I hope I didn't startle you."
"I do not startle easily."
"What are you doing here, Narcissa?"
"I know about the assignment," she says, and she raises her chin to look at him. It is the first time she has looked at him since he went to prison. "I overheard Lucius…"
Antonin holds up one hand. She knows he was close to Karkaroff, that the Dark Lord chose him for this mission to send a message about loyalty to the rest. Everyone knows that.
"What are you doing here, Narcissa?" he says again.
"I wanted to see you," she says.
"You've seen me. Now go." He has long ago given up sentimentality, and though he would have fought an army to earn this moment twenty years ago, now he feels like he is standing on the edge of a cliff and to reach for her hand is to let himself plummet down.
"Why have you come now?"
"Have you killed him?"
"Answer the question," he says.
"He's given Lucius a mission," she says quietly. "I don't know if he can... I would like for you to help him."
"You cannot be serious."
"I am no longer a lovesick fool, Narcissa."
"I never thought you were. I have never asked anything of you before. Not one thing."
"Why don't you ask Severus? He was always Lucius's favorite."
She lowers her gaze again, and Antonin knows now that he is the second choice. "No one has heard from him."
Yet Igor was the first to be killed. Antonin snorts. Sometimes he feels like the only one who can see the truth. It would be dangerous for Severus if Antonin cared about this fight, but he does not. He cares about survival and little else.
"I will do our Lord's bidding. No more and no less," Antonin says. "If that involves keeping your husband alive, I will see to it that he stays alive. You should go."
Somewhere inside him there is a boy, a frightened, manipulated boy, who wants nothing more than to reach out and touch her cheek, to brush her hair back from her face and kiss her, to tell her he is worth a thousand Lucius Malfoys to her if only she would listen to him.
Instead of any of that, he steps aside, gestures toward the fireplace to hasten her exit.
Narcissa stands, her heels making their height even, and as she leaves, she darts in like a snake, her lips brushing the rise of his cheekbone as she sweeps into the flames. Without hesitation, Antonin touches his cheek, then the faintest of smiles curls the corners of his mouth. If the Dark Lord were wiser, he would entrust Narcissa instead of Lucius. Her skilled manipulation is unmatched.
Malfoy Manor is a bitter, dark place. It seems not to matter that they are winning the war; this hollow building is more like a tomb than a home. Antonin would prefer to spend as little time here as possible, but circumstances force his presence. He resents watching Narcissa worry over the pathetic state of her husband, but though he is loath to admit it, he cannot bear to watch the fear in her eyes when his fellow Death Eaters take to tormenting her son.
Bellatrix is not the worst, but as his aunt, she is probably the most malicious. She delights in his discomfort, in the ease with which she can psychologically torture the boy. Narcissa is capable of handling it on her own, though, perhaps the only voice of reason that can still break through Bellatrix's madness.
The worst fo the lot is not a Death Eater at all, it is a monster forbidden from ever wearing the Mark. Fenrir Greyback, who misses no opportunity to announce to anyone who will listen that the boy is nearly too old for his taste, has cornered Draco on several occasions, favoring unannounced visits to the Manor, catching the boy before anyone knows he is there.
The first time Antonin witnesses this, he mistakes, for just a moment, Draco Malfoy for his mother. The slim, graceful face, the same cascade of hair across the forehead as he turns away from Greyback's hot breath, the sneer of disgust. Only a few years older than his mother the first time Antonin laid eyes on her.
A second later, Antonin's wand is pressed into the base of Greyback's neck.
"I will split your spine down its center, werewolf, with one word."
Greyback snorts, the sound of an animal, not a man, and finally drops the boy, pulling away and turning slowly.
"You're interrupting playtime, Antonin," he says.
"Go find someone else to torment," says Antonin. "Perhaps Potter and his friends, as is your job."
The standoff lasts only a few seconds, and Greyback breaks eye contact. Antonin doesn't wait for him to walk away. Instead, he takes the boy by the shoulder and drags him off down the hallway and around the corner.
When they are finally alone, Antonin lets go of the boy's shirt, but to his surprise, Draco doesn't pull away. Instead, he lunges in at Antonin, flinging his arms around Antonin's ribcage and holding on. Antonin can feel him trembling straight through. Blond hair tickles Antonin's nose. Then, just as abruptly, Draco jerks back, wiping his nose with his sleeve, then his eyes with his palm.
"Fuck," he hisses, and his face scrunches up as if he is in pain. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
Antonin doesn't know what to make of any of this. "Did he hurt you?"
"No. Fuck." Draco stomps one foot and wipes his eyes again, this time roughly.
And then Antonin understands that Greyback met one of his goals. The boy has been humiliated.
"You have no need to feel ashamed," Antonin says finally.
Draco looks up, his chin jutting out but his lower lip trembling.
"Draco?" The clap of Narcissa's heels against the stone echoes down the hall. "Draco, are you--"
"I'm fine," Draco snaps. Then he softens. "Mother, I'm fine."
Narcissa exhales, wraps her arm around him. She looks up over her shoulder as she ushers him away.
"Antonin, thank you."
Three more times Antonin will intervene with Greyback on the boy's behalf, and then Greyback will make the mistake of bringing Potter back to the Manor, and when he escapes the Dark Lord's wrath will be intense and painful. Antonin will wonder, when he arrives to witness the results, if perhaps Draco's misidentification of Potter was intentional. That Greyback suffers the worst is not lost on him.
The rumor that Potter has appeared at Hogwarts has spread like fiendfyre, and most Death Eaters Disapparate from the Manor immediately. Antonin does not see Draco gathered with the others as they leave, so he lingers behind in the shadows. He finds Draco sitting on his bed, gazing at the wand on his lap. Draco does not look up.
"It's my mother's wand," he says quietly. "Now that is reason to be ashamed."
"Your mother is a strong witch," Antonin says, and he steps over the threshold, into Draco's room. "I assume her wand is the same."
"I know that," says Draco. "She should have her own wand for this."
"Your mother will be safe."
"Are you going to see to that?"
Antonin straightens, nods over his shoulder, for Draco to follow. "No," he says, "but I am quite certain that she is."
Draco doesn't move. "What do I do?" he says, and he sounds helpless, and so young.
These child soldiers fighting this war, they are all so very young. Antonin walks to the bed and sits down beside him.
"When I was fourteen years old," he begins. He has never told this story before, not to a living soul. It has never mattered. But tonight he will likely die, either at the hands of the enemy, or fellow Death Eaters, and there is no sense in taking it with him.
He tells Draco of the betrayal, the feeling of entrapment when he realized there was nothing left for him but this. He tells him of the gradual chipping away of Antonin's soul, of the way he clung like a spider in the rain to any small piece of humanity left for him. He tells of how he learned that if you do not want your trust broken, you keep the precious things at arm's length and don't trust them in the first place. In the end, he can see Draco trying to make sense out of it all.
"So you're saying," says Draco, "that every possible choice is the wrong one. If I fight Potter, if I don't fight Potter, it will all end the same way."
"No," says Antonin. "I am just telling you my story. In the hope that perhaps someday, you will tell me yours. But first, it must be written."
Draco frowns for a long moment, then rises to his feet. "We should go," he says. "The others will be waiting for us." He tucks his mother's wand away.
Antonin has been back in prison for nearly a decade when his first visitor arrives. Narcissa, he has heard, through the guards' whispers in the hallways, has turned her attention toward rebuilding her family, and keeping Lucius on a short leash. He does not expect her to come to him. He is surprised when they lead him shackled into the visitors' room, to find her son sitting there in wait for him.
With the sliver of dignity that remains, Antonin raises his chin as he sits down.
"Hello, Antonin." Draco folds his hands on the table and the first thing Antonin notices is how clean they are. Azkaban is a filthy place, and Antonin has forgotten what clean hands look like.
Draco looks around the room then, as if he has suddenly realized that he has nothing to say.
"Why are you here?" Antonin asks.
"Fenrir Greyback," says Draco. "Or, rather, what you did at the Manor to keep him away from me."
"I did very little then. It was my reputation that drove him away."
"I don't know what he would have done to me if you hadn't intervened," Draco says, and he looks away. "I don't want to know, either."
"No. You do not," says Antonin.
Draco shakes his head. "Anyway, I'm here to thank you."
"You have come to Azkaban to thank me for something that happened ten years ago?"
"Partly," says Draco. "I… I have a son now. Scorpius. Time gets away from me since he was born. There are things that should have been dealt with more promptly." His gaze meets Antonin's. "You see, it all had to be done through Percy Weasley, and the man is a pompous blowhard at the best of times. When my family name comes into it… Nevertheless, I've managed to accomplish something, I suppose."
"I will ask again. Why are you here?" Surely he hasn't come to ramble nonsensically.
"I," Draco runs a finger beneath his collar and Antonin watches his Adam's apple bob as he swallows, "have spoken to several people in the Russian Ministry. A case is being made for their intervention on your behalf."
"The Russian Ministry does not care that I am here."
"In general, no. But with a little pressure put on the right places, they may be convinced to act."
"I see," Antonin says. It is an odd thing, hope, a tiny, unfamiliar flutter deep inside his gut, and he refuses to acknowledge it now. Maybe someday, but not now. "Why did you do this?"
"It's no less than what you did for me," says Draco. "And you left something out of that story you told me."
"That you loved my mother."
Antonin's expression goes grim. "That was inconsequential. It was unrequited."
Draco looks at him for a moment, smiles just slightly. "Love doesn't have to be returned," he says, and he rises to his feet. "It doesn't even have to be noticed in order to matter. It all matters."
Antonin gazes up at him and wonders, just for a moment, if there is something more than admiration in Draco's eyes, if he is really seeing that thing that he always wanted to see reflected on Narcissa's face. And for the first time, he wonders what the rest of the war was like for Draco Malfoy, the parts Antonin didn't see.
Before he leaves, Draco speaks again. "Here's hoping that the next time we meet, you're a free man. I'd like to tell you my story."
"Da," Antonin says softly, and he watches Draco leave.