Title: The Baron of Brackley
Summary: "It's afore I'm a man, avenged I'll be."
Characters/Pairings: Draco-centric; canon Lucius/Narcissa; Narcissa/Moody
Rating: PG for implications
A/N: Fifth in my Ballads series of pastiches; for goseaward, who introduced me to this ballad and said she wondered if I could do something for it. That was years ago but after writing it multiple times in my head I thought I should finally get it down. Lyrics for one version of The Baron of Brackley can be found here.
There's slight AU at play here; I have aged up Draco a bit for this point in canon history.
Much thanks to fabularasa for beta duty.
Face pressed between the staircase bars, Draco watched.
He was sure they knew he was there, even if they hadn't looked up. He'd never seen Mamma and Papa--Father, he remembered to say, even in his own head. Father said he was getting to be a big boy now and he should call him that. Father was holding Mamma very close, and Mamma had her arms around him very tightly, the way she sometimes hugged Draco until he'd yowl he couldn't breathe, and Mamma would laugh and kiss him. But neither Mamma nor Father looked as though they would laugh.
"If you go..." said Mamma.
"I must," said Father, so soft against Mamma's hair Draco could barely hear it. "Rookwood is waiting for me. No doubt your sister and Rodolphus are already there to run resistance."
They were using words he didn't understand. Mamma said something about Auntie Bella then, something he didn't understand either but it didn't sound nice. "Bella," she went on, "hasn't children."
"Which is why you'll be excused. Not me." Father took his arms from around Mamma's waist and put his hands on hers instead, trying to loosen them from around him without hurting Mamma. "Let me go, Narcissa."
"Lucius..." said Mamma, as though she were asking him for something, looking into his face in the same way Draco would look into Dobby's big eyes when he would beg the house-elf to let him have just one more biscuit.
Draco didn't think he'd made any noise just then, but that was when Father looked up at him. He stopped trying to loosen Mamma's hands and instead reached one hand up towards him. "Come down here, Draco."
Mamma's face turned towards him as well and Draco saw her wipe at her eye quickly with her fingertips. "Draco, sweetheart," she said.
Father was still reaching towards him. Draco rose guiltily, wondering if he was going to be scolded. Father never raised his voice when he scolded, but Draco felt miserable all the same when he did it. He wanted to please Father so much and didn't want to do anything worth scolding.
At the foot of the stairs Draco stopped. Father's fingers beckoned him forward. "Come here," he said again. "There's no need to spy on the stairs."
So he was going to be scolded. Draco tried hard not to let his feet drag as he walked to Father, knowing that would be babyish.
But then Father bent and lifted him up in his arms, making a sound as if Draco was terribly heavy. "How big you're getting," Father said. "Much too big of a burden for a weak old man like your father."
Draco knew when he was being teased. Perhaps a scolding wasn't coming after all. "You aren't old," he said.
"Perhaps not," said Father, "but you, on the other hand, are old enough to be the man of the house when I'm gone. Aren't you?"
Was he? Mamma made a noise like there was something in her throat, but the way Father was looking at him Draco didn't look away. He couldn't answer, so he nodded.
"Of course you are," said Father. "I'm very proud of you. You'll be very good while I'm gone, won't you? Until I come back."
"Where are you going, Father?" Draco's hands clutched at his father's sleeves and didn't want to let go, just the way Mamma hadn't wanted to let Father go.
Father looked at him for a moment and then said, "I must go to my duties. Every man has them, so I must go to mine. Do you understand?"
Draco shook his head. He wanted very much to have father explain it. "But Mamma doesn't want you to go."
There was only the littlest pause before Mamma said, "That's not true, Draco." Both Father's and Draco's faces turned to look at Mamma's. "It's only that I'll miss him when he's gone. That's a wife's duty, after all." She smiled and made a sound that Draco thought was trying to be a laugh, but it wasn't a laugh as though something were funny, Draco thought he could tell the difference. Mamma picked up one of Draco's hands and held it between hers. It was damp but Draco didn't pull his hand away. "So you and I will wait for him together until he comes home. Of course he must go to his duties." She looked back at Father. "I'm very proud of your father for always remembering them."
Father was looking back at Mamma and he looked very calm. "Remember," he said. "Whatever you must do to keep the two of you--" A noise from Mamma, and Father stopped speaking. What word had he been about to say, that Mamma hadn't wanted him to say in front of Draco? Father reached out with his free hand and pushed a bit of hair out of Mamma's face. "Be well, until I return." He looked back at Draco then, staring at him for a moment before he set a kiss on Draco's forehead, then shifted his hold on him to set Draco on his feet once more. "Do as your mother says."
Mamma kept Draco's hand in hers as Father set him down, pressing it so hard it hurt. Father was going and Mamma was afraid for him.
Draco pulled his hand from Mamma's damp one, running forward. "Papa!" he cried, the word breaking out of him in a sob he hadn't known was coming.
Draco's arms were around Father's knees, and Father was bending, arms going about Draco, kneeling next to him. Draco's arms wound about Father's neck. "Don't go, Papa. I don't want you to go." He knew it was babyish of him to cling like this but he couldn't stop himself, even if Father might be angry.
But Father wasn't angry. "It's all right. I'll come back before long. If I give you a task to do while I'm gone, can you do it for me?"
Draco nodded, scared to promise when he didn't know what it was. But if it would help Father he would promise anything.
"If you're afraid but you're careful not to show it, it helps you not to be so afraid," Father said. "Can you do that? While I'm gone, can you pretend to everyone that you're not really afraid?"
Draco nodded. He understood pretending.
"Show me," said Father.
Draco understood that too. He pulled his arms away from Father's neck, planted his feet, set his fists at his sides.
Father laid a hand on the top of Draco's head. "Good little man." He stood, and this time Draco made himself stand still as Father opened the great door and let himself out into the black night.
The door closed, and Draco's breath caught in his throat. He'd let Father leave. No. He hadn't wanted to do that. Hadn't meant to. But Father had asked him to. Father had wanted him to.
Draco could do his duty as well as Father.
When the strange men came, they came without Father.
Draco thought Mamma must have known the men were coming. Almost as soon as the door had closed behind Father, she'd been calling for Dobby, telling the elf to light the chandeliers, the fireplaces in the grand room, to fetch the best wine from the cellars. And she'd gone to her room and put on her blue dress, Draco's favorite, that made his Mamma look so pretty.
When Dobby called out that men were coming up the manor walk, and that Father was not among them, Mamma had gone to the big upstairs window to see. He saw her press her fingernails into her fists, and her mouth got very thin. He even thought she might be shaking a little. But then she said, "So I prepared correctly, then," and a smile came to her mouth, but it was another one of those smiles that didn't look like anything was funny.
Draco couldn't help but ask, "Are we having a party, Mamma?"
Mamma knelt by him just as Father had done. "Yes, Draco. We must pretend it is a party, to show everyone we are not afraid just because your father isn't here." She put her hands on his shoulders. "Will you help me with his pretend party?"
Draco nodded. Mamma had her jewels around her neck; she was so pretty, even if her cheeks looked so very white.
"If I tell you tonight that you must go to your room, you must do it. Promise, Draco."
Draco nodded again. "I promise."
Mamma kissed his cheek, rubbed at his cheek to remove the mark of her lipstick, and Draco stayed still for that rather than squirm away as he usually would, to show her he meant to be good.
But Draco found it hard to imagine it was a party when Dobby let the men come in. They were so very stern, and none of them had nice clothes on and most looked and smelled dirty. The first man who came in was very big and very ugly, the ugliest man Draco had seen, stumping along on a wooden leg and a wooden cane, and he had scars on his face and an eye made of glass which whirled about in its socket. Draco couldn't keep from staring at him whenever the eye wasn't fixed on him.
The other men ignored him completely. They carried their wands in their hands and looked at Mamma instead, who smiled at them as if it really were a party. "Come in, gentlemen. You look as if you've had a wearying night. We must offer you some rest and refreshment for a while."
The big ugly man didn't smile back at Mamma. "None of your schemes, Mrs. Malfoy. You know why we've come."
Mamma kept smiling. "I assure you that I don't. Nevertheless, even if you think I do, I do ask you to be courteous. If aurors do have business with me, do it politely. Won't you sit? There's wine for all."
The big ugly man grunted, but softly, in a way that made Draco think Mamma had said something to make him ashamed. "I touch nothing that isn't out of my own stores, Madam."
"Speak for yourself, Moody," said one of the other men, bald as an egg and his coat smelling of damp. "I'll drink the Malfoy's wine. Miserable night, and there's a reason for celebration tonight, isn't there?"
It did get to be a little more like a party after that, and Draco did his best to pretend. The men moved into the grand room and stood near the huge fireplace and drank the wine, and Mamma even gave some wine to Draco. Father had given him a taste of wine before and Draco hadn't liked it at all, but he had felt big to be offered it. Now he saw the men watching him when Mamma asked him to pick a goblet from Dobby's tray, waiting for him, so he sipped at it and tried not to make a face as the stuff sat sour on his tongue. Mamma brushed his cheek with her hand as if he'd done something very good, and the men drank their wine after that.
It was the big ugly man who talked to Mamma, while the other men talked among themselves in soft mutters, in a way that didn't invite Draco to talk with them. So Draco thought maybe he should try to listen to them anyway, in case what they were saying was important. They didn't seem to care that he was standing near.
But of course he couldn't understand more than a little of what they were saying. "...don't know which is the greater coup," said the bald one. "You-Know-Who in retreat, or ten Death Eaters in custody."
"You don't think he's dead?" said the other man, whose black beard had grey bits in it.
The bald man shrugged. "That'll be how they'll tell it, no doubt. No body, but they'll say that means he's been destroyed altogether. The world will want to believe it for their safety."
Draco was lost. Who was You-Know-Who? They were talking about a man who might be dead. Was it Father?
He couldn't ask the men. Trying not to run, he went straight to Mamma, who was still talking to the big ugly man. "Mamma, is someone dead?"
She didn't scold him for interrupting her. She knelt immediately and hugged him. "No one you know, darling."
"Didn't start this one in his service yet, did you?" said the big ugly man. "Thought your lot got them started young."
Mamma didn't look up at him. "Auror Moody, I haven't any idea what you mean." She smoothed Draco's hair.
"You do, Mrs. Malfoy, you do. It's a fair act, to protect you and your cub. I suppose you might escape the justice facing your husband and sister."
"My husband would not do what you are implying, Auror Moody," Mamma said, standing.
The big ugly man snorted. "Abandoned your sister to her fate, have you? Well-chosen, my practical Mrs. Malfoy." He drank from a square silver bottle he carried. "Your husband's money, and his influence, will get him off in the end, most like. Not sure anything can spare him his current incarceration, though. I suppose he's tough enough to stand it."
Mamma had one hand on Draco's shoulder and Draco felt it tighten. Mamma said, "Draco, you must go to bed. It's very late, darling."
"I want to stay." Pushing against Mamma's skirt, he stepped between her and the big ugly man, staring up at him. "You're making my Mamma unhappy. I don't like you." He was trembling all over. What if the big man hit him? No one had ever hit him but he thought this man might do it.
Now both Mamma's hands were on his shoulders. "Draco, you must go. Remember how you promised both your father and I."
He had. He didn't want to leave Mamma with this man in the house; this wasn't like having a tantrum because he wanted to stay up later and play. But he would show the big ugly man that he knew how to be good and to obey Mamma.
But once he got to the top of the stairs, the same place where he'd watched Mamma and Father at the door, he didn't want to go all the way to his room. If he watched from here, maybe he could still protect Mamma if anything happened.
He couldn't see all the way into the grand room from here, only as far as the doorway. He could hear the low murmurs of the men, but he couldn't hear Mamma's voice at all. She wasn't talking, or she was talking very quietly. Should he go down there? Should he just go to his room as Mamma had told him?
Then he did hear Mamma's voice. She was coming to the doorway. "...discuss this further privately." He heard the big ugly man stumping along with her; Draco realized he'd be seen if they did come up the stairs, so he stood and ran as quietly as he could towards the door of his own room.
He didn't go in it, though. He could hear that Mamma and the man were coming up the stairs, the man's wooden leg and walking stick thumping on every step. Mamma's voice was quiet again, but he could make out a little of what she was saying: "...underestimate me, Auror Moody. We are nothing to do with those mad fiends of whom you speak, but I would fight as fiercely for my family as any wife and mother."
"Never doubted it for a minute, my practical Mrs. Malfoy."
The voices were moving away from him. Where were they going? Draco crept down the long hallway, peeking around the corner. The door to Father and Mamma's room had clicked shut; he held his breath and crept up to the door, listening. Yes, they were in there together, why? Why was the big ugly man in his Father's room with Mamma?
He wanted to pound on the door, open it and demand the big ugly man get out. But Mamma had told him to go to his room. Mamma was beautiful and she was smart; maybe she was going to do something that would get rid of the big ugly man.
He waited. Waited and listened. He could tell they were talking, moving about the room. The man's wooden leg was loud. Then there wasn't any more talking, but he could still hear them moving, and then the moving was faint, as if they'd stopped in one place.
He was listening for a long time; the sound of movement never quite stopped but neither Mamma's nor the man's voice rose. Once he thought he heard Mamma make a noise like she was surprised or hurt, and that was when Draco did try the door handle. It was locked. Draco trembled, knowing he wouldn't be able to get in if Mamma did need him after all.
But there were no more sounds like that. A while later Draco heard the man stumping about the room once more, thought he heard Mamma moving about too.
He was listening so hard to whatever it was Mamma was saying that it surprised him when the door opened. He should have heard the man's wooden leg coming up to the door, but now the man had opened it, stood there in the doorway, grunted as he stopped, seeing Draco. The glass eye spun and then held on him.
Draco didn't have to pretend he wasn't afraid. He was angry, not afraid of the big ugly man at all. "Get out of my Mamma's room. That's her room. That's--that's my Father's room. Go, on, get out! Get out of our house!"
"Fierce little cub, aren't you. Pity you're on the wrong side."
Draco tried to see past the man into the room. He couldn't, the man was too big. But he heard Mamma say, "Leave my son alone. Draco, it's all right." He thought he heard a sob in her voice.
"Go away," Draco said, fists at his sides. "Or I'll make you go. You're making my Mamma cry. You're a bad man."
The big ugly man's hand came down to touch him on the top of his head, the way Father did it but harder. "I am that, lad. But your father's a different kind of bad man. Don't expect you to understand the difference yet." He ruffled Draco's hair with that hand. Draco squirmed away. "Well, thanks to your mother, you'll see him all the sooner. I've no purpose fighting a battle I'll lose in the long run when I can strike at an enemy's manhood all the more effectively." The man gave him a nudge with his walking stick. "I'm going, lad."
Draco watched him stump away down the hallway for a moment, then turned back and ran into the room. Mamma was sitting on the side of the bed and both her dress and the bed looked very wrinkled, and her hair was messy. Draco flung his arms about her and pressed his face to her lap. "Mamma," he said. He was starting to cry. He didn't know why.
Mamma's arms had gone around him, her hands stroking the back of his neck. "My brave boy," she said. She didn't sound like she was crying anymore. She pulled him up, kissed his face. "Your father will be home soon. It will be all right. My good, good boy."
"Did that man hurt you?" Draco choked. He had. Draco didn't understand it but something had happened to Mamma, something bad. "I hate him. When I'm bigger I'll hurt him for making you cry."
"Oh, baby," said Mamma, drawing him up to her lap, and Draco wanted to say that he wasn't a baby, but instead he held onto her and let himself cry as she petted him, while he listened to the sounds of the big front door opening to let the men out and shutting behind them, leaving them alone in the house once more, waiting, waiting for Papa to come home.