She was leaving.

It hit him in the gut like a punch, and he curled in on himself, feeling the tears run down his face and drip from his chin onto the Venetian carpet he was standing on.

Little things seemed to matter all of a sudden - the precise shade of gold of the thin sunlight that filtered in through the window, the smell of dust mites in the air, the sound of his chocked breathing and the children's muffled questions through the thick glass.

He'd known it was only a matter of time, this choice. Whether or not to run after her and explain and endanger them all and be the selfish Slytherin he was, or to finally be the hero and lose everything he cared about for those he loved.

He distantly felt his legs tremble, and give out as he fell to the floor, onto his knees. He wanted to be a Slytherin so very badly, but something - morals? - stopped him. It was in the shape of her mouth when she slept, or the look in his son's eyes when he was trying valiantly to stay awake. It was in the set of Potter's jaw when he'd testified on Draco's behalf, and in the smile his tiny daughter gave him as she grabbed his large hand in her tiny one.

He hated himself at that moment.

"I can't do this anymore, Draco." her voice cut through whatever illusion he might have had of having a peaceful lunch with her while a kids played.

He sighed and looked up, feigning a look of surprise and hoping she didn't see past his thin facade to the tired, broken man underneath. "Whatever do you mean, sweetheart?"

"Don't sweetheart me, Malfoy," her voice slid into a hiss, and he feebly attempted not to flinch. "This whole 'disappearing for days on end' thing. The 'I can't tell you' thing. I can't deal with it anymore. You need to start paying attention to this family, or I'm leaving."

She stood then, cheeks flushed under sad eyes. He wanted to pick her up and kiss that sadness from her, but he knew he couldn't.

"I'm just doing my job," he replied calmly, hating how her face fell slightly before she covered it with an expressionless mask. "I'm doing it for the kids - I'm doing it for you."

She snorted, fire returning to her. She was so very beautiful just then, hair wild and eyes glowing with righteousness. "Like we need money. We have money pouring out of our ears!" Suddenly she stilled, eyes widening slightly. "Do you have a mistress? Is that why you're away so much?"

No no no! His heart screamed, but he'd received two letters that morning, detailing just how they'd cut her up and desecrate her remains unless she left him. He simply bowed his head, knowing this was the only way.

The look of total devastation in her eyes rendered him catonic. He'd simply stood there as she ran around gathering things and children, sorting and organising, voice hoarse and thick with unshed tears. The kids knew something was up – his daughter kept trying to hug her Mummy, and his son grabbed his Mummy's hand and would let go. She finally (within minutes!) had them sorted and ready to go, and with grace slowly destroyed all of Draco's happiness.

He'd known it was a risk when he'd married her. A Mudblood and an ex-Death Eater? Everyone would oppose it. But they'd been so madly in love, and he'd so foolishly believed their love would protect him.

But the death threats were piling up, and some had begun to arrive for children. He couldn't let anything hurt them, no matter the cost.

He watched as his wife turned one last time to stare at him through the thick glass of the window with those big brown eyes he loved so much. She stared at him, loss and hate and devastation and blame burning into him and he nearly broke just then, nearly ran outside to tell her what and how and why-

But his daughter's sad cry stopped him. It was his duty, as a Malfoy, father and husband, to protect his family, whatever the cost.

Whatever the cost.

And he kept repeating that to himself until they were far out of sight.