The Cupboard Under the Stairs

In all his years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Draco Malfoy never anticipated spending an abundance of time in a cupboard.  At least, not with his mother.

“Draco, don’t slouch,” Narcissa Malfoy scolded, walking up behind his chair.

“Yes, Mother,” Draco replied, but didn’t straighten his slump.  He eyed the wooden door with longing.  It was one of those days he desperately wanted out.

But the door could only be opened from the other side.  The wards Snape had cast sealed Draco and Narcissa away from the warring world and, more specifically, from You-Know-Who-Was-Supremely-Pissed-Off-At-The-Malfoys.

“You failed, Draco,” Snape had said, as he ushered Draco quickly through Knockturn Alley.  “Which means you will suffer the consequences… or your mother will.”

Draco had nearly stumbled on the cobblestones in his panic.  “What do I do?  How can I stop him from harming Mother?”

“You have to make a choice,” Snape had said, stopping in front of Borgin and Burkes.

“What choice?”

Snape’s gaze had penetrated Draco to the bone.  “To accept Dumbledore’s offer or not.”

As cupboards went, it was rather roomy.  It had two beds with damask curtains, two full wardrobes, matching brocade armchairs angled towards a cheery fireplace, conjured by Narcissa or transfigured from mops, buckets, sponges, and other cleaning supplies.  A tri-fold privacy screen cut across one corner of the room.  A scroll-top desk stood in the opposite corner, stacked with rolls of parchments, quills, inks, and books.

It was still a cupboard, though, one of many hidden within the halls of Hogwarts.  Snape had escorted Draco through the vanishing cabinet at Borgin and Burkes and back to school merely minutes after they’d previously escaped.  The companion vanishing cabinet at Hogwarts hadn’t been destroyed and the Room of Requirement hadn’t been guarded, which would have surprised Draco if he hadn’t been concentrating more on not being cursed to oblivion as Snape led him through the hallways and down a hidden set of stairs.

The cupboard was nestled beneath the stairs on the second floor, in the west wing of the castle.  Narcissa had joined Draco before morning and Snape had warded them both inside with no way to escape unless certain members of the Order of the Phoenix, whatever that was, let them out, not even if the house elves told someone they were in Hogwarts.

Draco didn’t know who it would be that opened the door, or once he was out of the cupboard, how he would avoid Azkaban for letting the Death Eaters into Hogwarts and attempting to kill Dumbledore.  He did know that he hoped they came before he went mad.

“Did you complete the assignment I gave you?”  Narcissa seated herself on the other armchair, adjacent to Draco. 

“You saw me do it.  I was right over there.”  Draco gestured towards the desk.

“Drawing Quidditch players in various stages of undress is not what I assigned.”

Draco felt his face heat.  “I completed my work first.”

“Hmm.”  The fire’s reflection danced devilishly in her eyes.  “I’m sorry that there’s not a N.E.W.T. in Arts.”

“You may leave off any time,” Draco said, shifting in discomfort.

“Very well.  I’ll stop,” Narcissa said, fixing the drape of her robes over her knees.  “Though, perhaps I’ll have Kreacher bring reading material of a different sort for you.”

“Mother, please.”

Narcissa’s laughter rang against the stone, as Draco rose and stalked over to the desk in a huff.  Since being hidden, Narcissa had tried maintain a lighthearted atmosphere, making it like home, to keep the walls from closing in on them.  She, too, suffered from being locked in the cupboard, cut off from everything, all because of Draco’s failure.

But was it failure?  The question plagued him daily.  Draco sifted through the scrolls on the desk.  He’d made the choice to disappear, along with Narcissa, for self-preservation.  He was rather attached to his life and, as unpleasant as living in a cupboard was, it was a sight better than lying dead in a coffin.

As the days turned into months, Draco had started wondering if self-preservation was merely an excuse.  He remembered vividly being on the tower with Dumbledore at wandpoint, how terrified he’d been – though, he hated admitting it – and how, when it came down to it, murdering someone wasn’t easily conscionable.  What had Dumbledore done to him?  And it wasn’t as if Dumbledore was a Mudblood, either.  Pureblood superiority wouldn’t last long if they killed off all the purebloods, even if they were muggle-loving fools.  There were too few pureblooded families left untainted as it was.

He was slowly coming to the conclusion that there had to be another way to effect change than causing death.  His father had made things happen; all it took was a few galleons in the right hands.  Draco’s inability to kill Dumbledore didn’t mean he’d given up his ideals.  Dumbledore had seemed to know that, had praised him for his convictions and cleverness, and had still offered him asylum instead of punishment.  Draco may have gotten much more for his failure than he ever would have gotten from the Dark Lord for his success.

In the end, it was Snape who had given him the choice thought lost when Dumbledore died.  He couldn’t explain why Snape had done it and he wouldn’t even try; he’d just be thankful Snape’s ties to the Malfoys were stronger than those to the Dark Lord. 

Though, he did have some complaints about the accommodations.

Draco unrolled a parchment, looking for his assignment.  He found his Quidditch player sketches and crumpled the page immediately with embarrassment.  Locating the correct scroll, he brought it over to Narcissa and presented it was a perfunctory bow.  “My assignment, Mother.”

But Narcissa took the crumpled parchment from his other hand, instead.  “There was no need to destroy your drawings.”

“It’s rubbish,” Draco said with a blushing scowl.

Narcissa straightened the parchment with a flick of her wand.  She held up the page and studied the sketches in the firelight.  “You shouldn’t disparage your talent like that.”

Draco made a derisive sound.   “Fat load of good drawing blokes will do me.  Just like doing these assignments.”  He waved the scroll in his hand in emphasis.

“I will not allow you to have an incomplete education,” Narcissa said.  “You will take, and pass,  your N.E.W.T.s once we return to the outside world, so that you may have the career of your choosing.”

“Yes.  My illustrious career as an Azkaban inmate.”  Draco flopped onto the other armchair.  “Father always wanted me to follow in his footsteps.”

Draco,” Narcissa said sharply.

Chagrined, Draco straightened his posture.  “My apologies, Mother.”

Narcissa’s frown of censure creased the corners of her mouth, as she snapped the tip of her wand against the parchment in her hand.  She held the page out to him.  “Your assignment.”

Draco traded his assignment scroll for the drawing parchment.  What he thought was a flicker of shadows on the page changed when he spread it on his lap.  Heat infused his face.  His mother had animated the sketches, and his inked locker room was becoming very steamy.

He feigned dignity as he rose and crossed the room to set the parchment casually on his bed.  The smile that darted across Narcissa’s lips when he turned told him he failed.

Draco sniffed haughtily, retaking his seat.  He and Narcissa were close, which was a good thing considering their situation.  Privacy was non-existent.  Silencing spells and the small water closet with bath that Kreacher had created afforded them little solitude.

Still, being alone would have been worse.  House elves weren’t good conversationalists, what with all the head-banging and squeakiness.  Narcissa kept him from utter boredom with her version of schooling and revision.  Draco had learned many new spells, both verbal and non-verbal, in the months they’d been locked away.

“Very well done, Draco,” Narcissa said, when she finished reviewing his work.  “I’m surprised you didn’t receive higher marks in transfiguration.”

“McGonagall is biased.”

“Everyone is biased.  You simply need to use it to your advantage.”  She rolled the parchment and banished it to the pile on the desk.  “Shall we have tea?”

Draco checked his pocket watch, a silver heirloom bearing the Malfoy crest, and agreed by summoning Kreacher.  Kreacher appeared with a pop.  “Young Master is calling for Kreacher?”

“Bring us our tea,” Draco commanded.

“Yes, Master Malfoy.”  Kreacher bowed and disappeared.

Draco drew his wand and conjured a small table between the armchairs.  Kreacher was not gone long.  He returned with food and drink, the Evening Oracle folded on the corner of the ornate serving tray.

Draco unfolded the newspaper with a snap.  The front page displayed a surly and tired-looking Potter.  The Minister had his arm around Potter’s shoulders.  Draco sneered at the image.  “Potter’s in the paper again.”

“And what does the Oracle say about our good Mr. Potter?” Narcissa asked, pouring tea for them both.

“‘The Chosen One, Harry Potter, supports the Ministry in its efforts against You-Know-Who’,” Draco read.  He skimmed the front page article.  “Listen to this: ‘“Sometimes, you have to make a show of solidarity in order to reach your goals.  Just know that there are people working hard to end this war as soon as we can.”’”

Narcissa tittered in amusement.  “Are you certain that boy wasn’t a Slytherin?”

Draco was horrified.  “Of course not!  How could you say such a thing?”

“Because Mr. Potter made a marvelous play on words, there.”

“A play on words?” Draco glanced at the newspaper again.

“What he said was that he supports the Ministry only because they have something he wants,” Narcissa said.  “He’s also saying it’s not those within the Ministry who are going to end this war.”

“The Order of the Phoenix,” Draco bet, skimming Potter’s words.  Upon rereading, Draco had to admit they were quite deceptive.  Draco recalled that Potter’s prior appearances in the papers had no quotes from him.  In fact, most of the time, the articles questioned where he was and what he was doing.  “Well, whatever game he’s playing, I wish he’d hurry up about it.”

“Tired of your dear mother already?” Narcissa said.


Narcissa smiled over the rim of her teacup.  “Impudent boy.”

Draco grinned unrepentantly in return.

The war ended with a proclamation of You-Know-Who’s death in the Daily Prophet.  Draco and Narcissa celebrated by getting moderately tipsy on mulled wine and waxed on about how they’d have done a better job as the head of the Death Eater Movement.  They both vehemently agreed that the uniform would be the first change.

Once the hangover faded, however, Draco’s sense of camaraderie started failing.  The war was over, but they remained trapped in the cupboard.  As the days continued passing, Draco’s anxiousness grew, especially once he’d read about Snape’s posthumous awards.

“What if he didn’t get the chance to tell anyone where we are?”  Draco paced the floor in front of the fire, the distance seeming to shrink with every pass.  “What if we’re stuck in here forever?”

“Draco, you mustn’t think like that,” Narcissa said, turning the newspaper page.

“How can I not?  The scandal will be front page news: ‘Malfoy Abominations: Mother and Son’s Bodies Found in Illicit Tryst’.”

“Don’t be perverse.”

That’s if anyone finds us at all,” Draco went on.  “We’ll rot in here, forgotten and alone.”

“No one will forget about us,” Narcissa said, to deaf ears.

“You’ll die first, because you’re old already.”  Draco’s face twisted in horror.  “I’ll be left with your corpse.  I’ll have to watch your skin wither and become ugly.”

“Really, Draco, you’re letting your imagination run away with you,” Narcissa chided.  “We’re not going to die in a cupboard.  I trust that Severus will have seen to his promise.”

“He made a promise of loyalty to You-Know-Who, and look how he kept it.” Draco flicked the edge of the newspaper in Narcissa’s hands.  “Awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class and the Distinguished Services Award for his pivotal role as an undercover agent for this Order of the Phoenix group.  Even the great and illustrious Potter praised the man, when I know he loathed Snape beyond measure.”

“Would he have given you a choice if he were loyal to the Dark Lord?” Narcissa said with a pointed look.

“No.  I guess not.”  Draco frowned at the scowling picture of Snape on the newspaper cover.  He wasn’t sure how he felt about Snape being on Potter’s side all along, even when he’d killed Dumbledore, which, according to the article, had been at Dumbledore’s request “to save at least one life, if not countless others,” or so Dumbledore’s pensive had said.

Draco wondered if he was the one life referred to, and wavered between being grateful and thinking the old man a fool if he was.  But by Dumbledore and Snape’s actions, Draco’s mother’s life had been spared, and for that he was thankful.  It did bring up a question, though.  “You were loyal, weren’t you?”

“My loyalty begins and ends with you, Draco.”  Narcissa folded the newspaper, set it aside, and rose.  “Wand out.  I’ve had enough of your dithering.  We shall practice your defensive spells until I’ve hexed you unrecognizable.”

Draco loved his mother.

The cupboard door had been closed for so long that when it opened, Draco thought he was hallucinating.  Narcissa’s greeting confirmed he wasn’t.  “Good evening, Mr. Potter.”

“Mrs. Malfoy.”  Potter stood in the doorway, glancing around the furnished cupboard.  One side of his mouth was quirked, as if he found something ironic.  His specky gaze reached Draco.  “Draco.”

Draco rose from behind the desk, a scowl automatically creasing his features.  “Overly familiar, aren’t we, Potter?”

“Whatever.”  Potter folded a parchment of what looked like a map and tucked it into his robe.  As he stepped into the room, Draco pretended not to notice how worn Potter appeared in the light.  “Are you ready to leave?”

“Merlin, yes.  We’ve been waiting for ages,” Draco said.  “What took you?”

“Mainly, securing your freedom with the Ministry,” Potter answered bluntly.

Chagrined, Draco pursed his lips.  Potter didn’t seem to care about rubbing it in.  He turned to Narcissa.  “There won’t be any charges brought against you, Mrs. Malfoy.  The Ministry has found no direct evidence linking you to any Death Eater activities and you’ve been sequestered for nearly a year,” Potter said.  “Malfoy Manor will remain in your possession.  A war reparation, however, will be required paid on behalf of Mr. Malfoy for his crimes.”

“Is my husband still alive?”  Narcissa sounded calm and collected.  The twitch of her fingers gave her anxiousness away.

Potter nodded.  “He’s still in Azkaban for his role in the events at the Department of Mysteries.  He’ll serve a fifty-year sentence and then be released.”

“Fifty years!” Draco exclaimed.  “That’s half of his life.”

Potter’s expression was flat.  “It’s still more than any of his victims had.”

Draco bristled.  “My father—”

“Draco,” Narcissa said his name softly, but Draco heard the warning and shut up.

Narcissa waited a moment, ensuring Draco was going to stay silent, before addressing Potter again.  “What about Draco?”

“He’s in the clear.”  Potter looked down and fiddled with the hem of his sleeve.  “The Ministry knows he’s had zero involvement in anything.”

Draco bit his inner cheek to keep from laughing at the reprieve.  He wasn’t going to Azkaban!

Narcissa reacted visibly, clasping her hand to her breast in relief.  “Is there anything else we should know?” she asked.

“School’s in session, so be quiet as you leave.  Otherwise…” Potter shrugged.

“Thank you, Mr. Potter,” Narcissa said, gratitude and a dismissal in her polite nod.

Potter gave them both a weak smile, turned, and started out the door.  He paused on the threshold.  “Dumbledore offered you something on the tower roof that night, Malfoy,” he said.  He looked over his shoulder and pinned Draco with a hard stare.  “Don’t waste his and Snape’s sacrifices by screwing up.”

Draco didn’t have a comeback for that; it was the truth and advice he’d already vowed to take.

Potter left, and Draco and Narcissa stood silently for a moment in what had been their makeshift refuge for nearly a year.  Now that they could leave, Draco felt almost reluctant to do so.

Narcissa made the first move, holding out her hand, a gentle smile crossing her lips.  “Let’s go home, Draco.”

“Yes,” Draco agreed, with a relieved sigh.  He offered his arm.  Narcissa curled her fingers in the crook of his elbow and they started for the door.

“Oh, wait.”  In the doorway, Draco drew his wand.  Accio drawings.”

The animated sketches scrambled to cover up, as the parchment flew from behind the curtains on Draco’s bed.  He caught it deftly, rolled the page, and tucked it into his robes beneath Narcissa’s amused gaze.  Draco gave her a bland look.  “I have to revise for my Arts N.E.W.T.”

Narcissa’s light laughter accompanied them as they walked arm in arm from the cupboard under the stairs.


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