Happy Traditions, dark_adrenalynn! Title: Sticks and Stones Author: ??? Gift For:dark_adrenalynn Pairing(s): Draco Malfoy/Morag MacDougal Summary: Draco Malfoy's life was a series of trials, one right after another, and even after they were over they haunted him in his dreams. Until he married Morag. Rating: PG-13 Warnings/Requested Kinks: not epilogue compliant, mentions of torture, het, arranged marriage Author's notes: You requested quite a few rare pairings (or at least, pairings that I'd never heard of) and traditions that I had to do quite a bit of research about, so I hope you don't mind the liberties I've taken with Morag (I wasn't really sure how to work in the violence part with your traditions prompts). Thanks very much to both mods and dark_adrenalynn for their patience with me -- and sorry for being a bother. I very much enjoyed writing this for you despite all difficulties, and I hope the finished product is something you like very much :) Also, many thanks to my beta, who will remain nameless until the reveal.
Read it here or at Livejournal, and please leave feedback for all of our lovely authors!
How he had come to be in the middle of nowhere with a basket strapped to his back, Draco wasn't entirely sure.
"You mean," he said to one of the men, "I'm to carry this all the way back to the castle?"
The man grinned at him. "You'll probably have to carry it farther than that," he said, taking a perverse pleasure in Draco's confusion. "Think you'll make it?"
Despite the oddity of actually having to shoulder a burden (he was a Malfoy, and had never had to do that before in his life), Draco was more than a little bit put out at the very idea that he might not be up to the task. He had survived the war and everything that had come after it; this was his chance to earn himself a title more suited to a Malfoy than 'ex-Death Eater'.
Even if it meant complying with this odd tradition, Draco supposed it was worth it. Carrying a basket-load of stones (which was getting heavier every moment) was far easier than facing down Albus Dumbledore. Certainly easier than watching his father come home from prison: his hunched shoulders had scared Draco worse than his ragged, unshaven looks, as if he'd given in. He'd straightened as soon as he'd noticed Draco looking, but Draco had not forgotten.
His father might have given in, but his mother hadn't. And she would be incredibly disappointed in Draco if he didn't go through with this, if he put down such a relatively small burden and gave up.
"... gotten cold feet?"
Draco suddenly became aware of the mens' eyes on him, some accompanied by raised eyebrows. He shifted his weight and straightened his back as much as he could, testing the weight of the full basket on his back, and decided that he could handle it. He raised an aristocratic eyebrow at the men in return and set off walking at a steady pace.
During the war he had become overly conscious of everything that he was physically and emotionally capable of. Now he could feel the strain on his muscles that the extra weight caused, and though he was still fairly athletic, this was a different sort of exercise than he was used to. The sun felt very warm (perfect for the wedding, not so perfect for this) and after a while he began to sweat. If he had been able to get away with Apparating back, he would have.
Upon arriving at his fiancee's door, he attempted to make himself as presentable as possible despite the trial she had put him through. He even managed a little smile when she came to greet him, mostly because he had not stumbled and fallen, and there was something to be said for making it through an experience that was up to his standards. In addition, he really didn't feel like walking the whole town.
"That's quite enough, I think," Morag said, smiling up at him. She stepped forward and kissed him: lightly, because they were not alone.
Draco looked at her, at her fine dress and the smile that seemed reserved just for him, and his smile widened. The worst of it was over.
He was shaking where he stood, feeling far too vulnerable under the Dark Lord's gaze. He'd worked so hard at Occlumency, so hard, but this was something entirely different.
Using an Unforgivable was not supposed to be this difficult, not for him. He simply couldn't mean it enough.
He hated the person in front of him. But they were weak, shivering even more than Draco himself, and he couldn't summon the utter loathing that was required to cast the spell. He was afraid, afraid of what would happen if he couldn't manage it. The dread of failure was so strong that he had not even been able to bring himself to try.
"Draco," the Dark Lord hissed, "Do it, or you will be in his place."
Draco's fear turned to ice in his stomach, sending liquid cold-hot emotion through his veins. He lifted his wand, and cast.
Her fingers dug deep into his muscles, increasing the bone-deep ache for a moment before soothing it. Draco was more sore from the creeling than he had expected, and glad for the touch.
"This isn't exactly the kind of wedding you expected, is it?" she asked lightly. Her breath ghosted against the back of his neck.
Draco smiled into the pillow. "No, not exactly. But I don't mind."
He didn't, not really. Everything here was different, from the castle to the traditions, but he was ready for different. Being stuck in the Manor after what had happened there and continuing on the way his family had always done things had gotten him nowhere. He was lucky that he had found a way to get the change he craved without going against his family.
"I'm glad," Morag said, laughing a little. "It would be a shame if you backed out now, I was so looking forward to seeing you in a kilt."
His laugh was muffled against the pillow. It was lovely to laugh, with genuine mirth. Maybe if he learned to laugh again, he would really be alright.
He could almost feel her smiling as she ran her hands along his arms, stretching them out above his head, fingers finding the tightness in his muscles and making them pliable again. Draco sighed in contentment and relaxed further against the bed, feeling wonderfully pampered. Above him, Morag began to hum, as if he were a little child, and Draco wondered vaguely whether it was possible for this to get any better.
Then her fingers found his left forearm, and Draco flinched. It wasn't a burn, the way it had been once, but the light brush of her fingertips still stung, and for a moment he couldn't breathe.
"I'm sorry," Morag said, startled. "Did I hurt you?"
Draco fought with himself, attempting to ignore the visceral reaction in his gut that flared up whenever he felt pain there--a reaction ingrained in him after a year too long in the Dark Lord's service. He managed a nod.
She undid the buttons at his wrist and peeled his sleeve back, revealing the tattoo on his arm. Nine months after the Dark Lord's death, it was still there: faded, but there. Draco doubted he would ever get rid of it.
Not that it mattered. He was branded, whether it was visible to everyone else or not.
"You know," Morag said softly, still looking at the Mark, "I think it suits you."
The air shocked him when he burst out onto the Tower. He always associated his worst memories with cold--but whether it was because it had actually been cold then or simply because he tended to freeze when he was scared, he wasn't sure.
His veins froze even more at the sight of Dumbledore. This was the moment he'd been preparing for, the moment he'd been planning and hoping to avoid, and now it was staring him in the face. He barely even registered when a spell left his mouth, but it wasn't a flash of green light. Dumbledore's wand was gone, and he was defenseless, but he was still alive.
Some part of him, the part that was still on an adrenaline rush from the fight he had just broken away from, was arguing. Verbally sparring with Dumbledore, but mostly fighting with him -- the other half of him, which was shaking in fear.
Do it, the tiny voice urged, DO it. Do it now.
But he couldn't.
He reassured himself that he would be able to do it before his backup arrived. He would. They would get up here, and it would all seem so much more urgent, so much more important to do it now -- he would remember, then, really remember exactly how important this job was. The benefits of what he was about to do would suddenly outweigh the costs: that he might be on the run for the rest of his life, pursued by the magical government.
The seconds passed, and he was too afraid.
He stared at Dumbledore, reacting instinctively to the things he was saying -- awful things, things that appealed to all of his fears -- and tried very, very hard not to trust him.
If only he had gone to Durmstrang, then he wouldn't know this man, then he wouldn't have been so aptly placed to be given this assignment. Draco clung to his anger, to the adrenaline, to the kind of fear that had driven him, but it was seeping away in the face of the reality of what he had to do.
Then there were people surrounding him, people that cackled at Dumbledore's weakness and leered at Draco. Their faces were gruesome, barely recognizable as his family and his cohorts. Draco was small and terrified next to them.
Snape was not appearing. He was not going to step in and finish it.
Draco awoke with the words Avada Kedavra ringing in his ears. He was laying on his back with his arms spread wide, gasping for breath as he stared at the ceiling.
Breathlessly he cursed, annoyed with himself. He had meant to stop dreaming about this once he was married, because he was now sharing a bed. Morag knew a little about his past, but she didn't know all of it, and he wasn't sure he wanted her to.
He looked over at her, glad to see that her eyes were still peacefully closed. Taking a deep breath, he escaped the bed as quietly as he could. He only hoped the scent of terror he left in his wake wasn't obvious to anyone but himself.
With his back turned, he didn't notice Morag's eyes open and follow him out of the room.
It was a relief to be down in the sunny kitchen. The elves must have heard him coming, because there was a full breakfast waiting on the table when he entered. Draco accepted a cup of coffee but decided against his usual cream and sugar, not entirely sure that his stomach could handle it. He took his seat and picked at the food on his plate, staring absently out the window until his wife came downstairs.
She ran her hands affectionately over his shoulders and pressed a kiss on his temple before joining him at the table. "Did you sleep alright?" she asked him, giving him a smile. "You seemed a bit restless."
Draco managed a nod, and even smiled back. The coffee's warmth had sunk into his veins now, and the caffeine made him feel a bit more human.
"I'm glad," said Morag. Draco noticed that she took her coffee exactly the same way he liked his, which made him smile.
They sat in silence for a moment, and then Morag said, "You know, I've heard that it helps to tell someone about nightmares -- that if you speak of them, they have less of a hold over you."
Draco looked at her in surprise. She looked back knowingly, and much to his relief there was not an ounce of pity or even sympathy in her gaze, only curiosity.
He paused. "I tried to kill Dumbledore," he said after a moment, and pushed his plate away. "But I couldn't."
He was such a coward. It was awful to be on the verge of crying, maybe even collapsing, every second of every day.
It needed to be over, as soon as possible. The waiting was half of what made it so hellish -- the fear that he would never succeed, the absolute terror of what would happen if he didn't. In theory, the equation was simple: Dumbledore's life instead of his parents', possibly instead of his own. In practice, it was not that easy.
He dreamed of the Room of Hidden Things, where the Vanishing Cabinet seemed to loom over him, far larger than it actually was. He didn't see the progress that he had made, only the sheer amount that was left to do. It was complex magic, spells that Draco had not been formally trained in, and he had only books to help him. It wasn't impossible, but it was a large task.
And once it was over, his task would be even worse.
Just thinking about it made the tears start to roll down his face. In the dream, he closed his eyes, and when he opened them he was staring at himself in the mirror. His hands felt cold, and he realized that they were clenched around the cool porcelain of a sink. A female ghost with Snape's face talked to him, urging him to confide in her, but he could only see himself -- his face, drawn and pale, red streaks where his tears had fallen.
The feeling of unfriendly eyes on his back was a jolt of terror to his system. His hands shook for a moment as he spun, raising his wand.
It was Potter. Draco felt the fear in his veins start to burn with the onset of anger as his pride came to his defense. He loathed Potter with every fiber of his being at that moment.
"Cruci--" he cried, but the last syllable never came out. His mouth became a circle, but it formed an O of surprise rather than the end of the spell.
The pain in his chest was immense. He looked down, watching his skin part and his blood rush out like a red wave. It was so cold, so draining. Draco could feel his life dripping from his body, felt the cold water as his limbs were submerged.
He tried to scream, but it was no use.
There was a warm hand on his chest when he woke, rising and falling with his breath. Morag was watching him, her eyes glittering in the dim light of the bedside lamp. She smiled when she saw that he was awake, and leaned in to kiss him.
"What did you dream about this time?" she asked softly.
Draco looked down at his bare chest, at the scar that was still there after all these years. It was nearly invisible, especially in this light, but Madam Pomfrey had not been able to make it go away entirely.
"How I got that," he managed in a whisper. He touched the upper end of it, just below the hollow of his throat. It was easier to feel than it was to see, but it still made his self-confidence diminish a little every time he thought about it.
Vaguely, he realized that he had not been bothered about it the first time she'd seen him nude. He'd forgotten about it completely in the heat of her kiss.
Now her fingertips were tracing the curve of his scar, making him shiver. She started from his throat and after what seemed like forever to Draco she found the end, down near his navel. To Draco's surprise, the soft touch warmed his blood a little, and he felt a rush of gratitude and affection for her.
When she had touched the whole length of the roughest skin on his body, she gave a little breathless laugh and slid on top of him, resting her elbows and knees alongside each of his. Her soft nightgown brushed against his skin, and he smiled against her mouth when she kissed him.
"You have so many secrets," she whispered to him. "I don't mind, I just wish they'd stop haunting you."
Draco's hands framed her face, fingertips buried in her hair. "If I get to wake up to you, I don't think I'll mind," he said, comforted by her closeness. He could feel her lips curve against his cheek, and knew that she was smiling.
Soon enough his nightmares faded entirely, and all was well.