**AUTHOR'S NOTE: To those of you who were worried that I wasn't going to follow through on my promise to continue this story… I'm back, and I couldn't be more excited! Thank you so much for your patience over the past few months – it's been very busy around here. A lot has happened in my family while we've been apart. The military hubs has been scheduled for yet ANOTHER surgery on his leg, this time by a well-known specialist in NY; the kiddos have both been told that they have above average intelligence (that was an interesting day O_o); and I have decided to finally write my own book (it's in the works now – my pen name is Piper Revelle, and if you're interested you can check out my Facebook, Twitter, and website on Google.) It obviously has nothing to do with these beautiful characters (who of course are owned by JKR), but it does have all the angsty goodness that can be found throughout my stories.
Enough about me – I know it's really Harry, Sev, and their new family that you're here to see. If you haven't yet, I would highly recommend reading my previous fanfic entitled, "Right in Front of Me." Although I do try to stick as close to canon as possible, there are a few differences that might make this story confusing to those who don't know the whole of it.
I also have to warn you that the dark themes and motifs that you saw throughout "Right in Front of Me" will continue throughout "Right Beside Me" – and it starts off with a heartbreaking bang right here in Chapter 1. Fair warning.
So… Welcome to the new kids on the block, and welcome back to all you old hats. Thank you everyone for sticking with me. I hope you enjoy the continuation of Year 6, and all the trials and tribulations that it entails for our beloved crew. More coming very soon!
Draco was being summoned by the Dark Lord, and experiencing the burning pain in his arm was new enough to still bring immediate tears to his eyes. Crying out, he slapped his hand over the detested mark that he'd been forced to receive earlier that summer. As much as he hated to admit it, Draco had been unable to change his fate. He was weak. Helpless.
Unable to protect his family…
Gritting his teeth against the continuing pain, he angrily swiped the tears from his face and glanced in the gilded, antique mirror hanging on his wall to make sure his emotions were properly in check. He then threw open his bedroom door and hurried down the stairs to the opulent guest quarters of Malfoy Manor, which were currently occupied by the Dark Lord.
Hurrying through the massive entryway to the guest rooms, Draco's eyes darkened in resentment as his gaze landed on Bellatrix. The relationship between he and his aunt had been tense and strained since that fateful night when the Dark Lord punished her for her failed attempt to capture Harry Potter. It may not have been fair, but Draco blamed his aunt for his mother's current predicament. Seeing her now only made the trepidation and resentment he was feeling even worse.
If she wasn't such a fanatic who worshipped the Dark Lord and craved his attention, my mother wouldn't currently be the bastard's… play thing.
His aunt didn't even acknowledge his presence as he approached, and which suited Draco fine. He could never guarantee that he could keep his temper in check when it came to his aunt, so in his opinion the less they spoke to each other, the better.
But as time dragged on and the Dark Lord still did not appear, he couldn't help wondering why he'd been called. He'd only been in the Dark Lord's presence once since he had taken the mark, when the snake bastard had tasked him with the mission of killing Dumbledore. Draco was well aware that he had been given the impossible job in retaliation for his family's failures. For days he'd closed himself in his room, convinced he was going to die it didn't matter by whom. But then, after not hearing from her for weeks, he'd miraculously received word from his mother that Snape had made an Unbreakable Vow to assist him, to keep him safe. And he'd decided in that moment that reaching out to the Hogwarts headmaster was the only way that he and his family were going to make it through this war. Even with Snape's assistance, there was no possible way that they could actually kill the most powerful wizard in history. And so he'd penned a letter to the headmaster, begging for his help. He'd been living in Hell ever since, his mother living as Voldemort's prisoner, and his father a beaten, empty shell of the proud, powerful man he used to be.
Draco gazed around now in an effort to keep the bitter fear at bay, wondering what the Dark Lord wanted with him – agonizing that the snake bastard had somehow discovered his decision to switch allegiances. He tried desperately to think of a reason why the Dark Lord would want to see him, but none of them were good, and the churning in his gut intensified as he considered that these could be the last few moments of his life.
His eyes unintentionally fell upon Bellatrix, and he couldn't hold back the shock at her appearance. Really studying her for the first time in weeks, he had to admit that she looked haggard. After escaping from Azkaban she had thrived while basking in the Dark Lord's presence, and had gotten much of her beauty back – or so he'd overheard many of the other Death Eaters say. Now however, she looked like nothing but a shell of her old self. Her hair was knotted and tangled as if she hadn't bothered to brush it in weeks. The greasy strands hung around her face like a curtain, and the skin beneath her sleepless eyes was smudged so darkly that it appeared she had been severely beaten and was now sporting two black eyes. The hollow beneath her cheekbones was prominent, making her colorless skin look more like a skull than a face.
But what startled Draco the most were her eyes. The orbs were sunken, her irises dark. In all honesty it looked as if the place where her eyes had once been were naught but empty eye sockets. Her gaze was empty and bleak, no longer full of the passionate fervor that she'd always had in the Dark Lord's presence. He knew that she was in love with the Dark Lord, and expected to see some sort of emotion in her eyes. However, Draco couldn't detect anything within their depths – not hurt, not pain, not even anger. It was unnerving.
His aunt looked utterly defeated. Dead, even. And although Draco was standing on the other side of the doorway and was obviously studying her, she never once met his gaze.
Suddenly Draco understood why.
From the other side of the door, he could clearly hear female whimpering, begging for the pain to end. "Please, My Lord. No more. I… I can't – it hurts! No, please!" His breath left his lungs in a whoosh as if he'd been kicked in the gut, and he realized with dawning horror that the begging woman was his mother…
Within moments a rhythmic creaking of a bed along with the unmistakable slap of skin against skin began, and his mother's agonizing cries punctuated clearly through the heavy door. Draco's stomach gave a sudden, violent lurch, and he couldn't stop himself from retching right there on the glossy wooden floors. He squeezed his eyes shut as he tried desperately to block out the sounds, but angry, helpless tears trickled from beneath his lashes nonetheless. His hand shook violently as he lifted it to wipe his mouth.
Oh God… He's brutalizing my mother!
As the painful cries and horrific noises continued, Draco wanted nothing more than to blow the door off its hinges and kill the man that had so thoroughly destroyed his family's lives. His fist clenched hard around his wand, and the wood gave tiny creaks in protest of his rough handling. The fingers of his other hand curled into claw-like points that he fiercely dug into the wall beside him, attempting to steady himself and wishing more than anything that he could claw Voldemort's eyes out of his revolting, snakeish face.
But it was in that moment that Bellatrix's dead, emotionless eyes met his own, freezing him in place. They gazed at one another for long, seemingly never-ending moments as the brutality continued on the other side of the door.
"Don't let him see," his aunt quietly murmured in a raspy voice that obviously hadn't been used in some time. "Get your shields in place before it's done." She raised her wand and murmured a quick scourging spell at the mess laying at Draco's feet, and then her eyes fell away again into the dead, trance-like state.
As much as he hated the woman – as much as he longed to attack her and rip her limb from limb for bringing this misery onto them all – Draco knew she was correct. I have to get myself under control if I want to survive… if I want to be of any help to Dumbledore and the Order. Although he'd continually worried and second-guessed his decision to write to Dumbledore all those weeks ago, the sound of his mother being raped by the snake bastard was all the validation he needed.
He may not be able to help his mother now, but dammit if he wouldn't do everything in his power to annihilate her abuser in the future. It was that thought that finally gave him the strength to raise his Occlumency shields enough to compose himself.
When the door finally opened of its own accord a few minutes later, Draco's eyes were as empty and dead as his aunt's.
Kneeling in submission as was expected of all Death Eaters, it took his eyes a few moments to adjust to the darkness in the chamber. For a moment he thought that the room was empty except for him and Bellatrix. But after blinking away the gloom, he realized that the Dark Lord was sitting in a cushioned wingback chair near the bed. His long black robes were tossed hastily over his back and left open against the pale, slick skin of his chest and stomach, which was glistening with sweat. Draco was extremely grateful that his mother had been sent away before they had been admitted, for he didn't think he had the strength to keep his shields in place and not show his true allegiance had she been there.
"Ah, Draco. Bellatrix. How nice of you to join us," The Dark Lord murmured in a welcoming tone.
And in that horrible, sickening moment Draco felt his stomach drop as he realized that his mother had not been sent away. She was there before them, hunched in the shadows on the other side of the large bed, as far away as she could get from the Dark Lord. Even with her back toward them all, he could see her shoulders trembling, as if she was silently weeping. Her long silvery hair was the only thing covering her nakedness, and her porcelain skin was mottled with bruises of various stages of colors and healing.
"Mother…?" he gasped, almost rising to his feet. His shields slipped ever so slightly and distress tinged his voice. Horrified at his mistake, he quickly forced his emotions back behind his shields and glanced nervously at the Dark Lord to see if he'd noticed.
But the snake bastard had eyes only for his mother, and his lipless mouth curled into an amused smirk. "Come now, Narcissa. We've been having so much fun together, it's been weeks since your family has actually seen you. Come closer and say hello." When his mother simply curled in on herself and made no move to come into the light, the Dark Lord's amused smirk melted into a look of cold fury. "You would do well to remember where you are, Narcissa," he murmured darkly as his eyes narrowed. "I said – come!" And with a flick of his wand, a lash appeared across his mother's naked back, hitting her with enough force to throw her forward, almost onto the floor.
Draco visibly blanched at his mother's cry of pain, his limbs instinctively flinching as if to reach out and catch her from falling, and it was all he could do to keep himself quiet and composed instead of doing just that. His eyes firmly on the Dark Lord, Draco wanted nothing more in that moment than to launch himself at the snake bastard and snap his vile God damn neck. It was this thought that kept him in place – kept him working toward his goal of helping Dumbledore and the Order – but he was careful not to let it show.
He could hear his mother's agonized whimpers as she slowly righted herself. As she reached for a robe to cover her nakedness, the Dark Lord made a tsking sound that halted her. The Dark Lord's eyes flicked to Draco as if to taunt him as he said, "We're all family here, Narcissa. There's no need to cover your beauty."
Draco refused to break eye contact with the Dark Lord, somehow knowing on an instinctive level that he was being tested. Attempting to keep the heat from his eyes, he stared unblinkingly into those evil red slits to prove that the Malfoys were strong enough to survive any punishment or brutality.
But as his mother stood and walked slowly around the edge of the bed, she came clearly into his line of vision. Draco couldn't stop himself. His apprehension caused his gaze to flick unwillingly to his mother, and he suddenly had to swallow back the burning bile attempting yet again to rise in his throat.
Narcissa's mangled back was nothing compared to the rest of her. There were bruises covering almost every square inch of her pale body. Although she refused to meet the horrified gazes of both her son and sister, Draco could clearly see the silent tears that continued to track glistening trails down her battered face. One eye was swollen almost completely shut, and there were marks around her neck and wrists, as if she'd been forcefully tied during a struggle. Her chest was covered in mottled abrasions, and there was a swollen red bite mark above one breast. Draco wanted to scream.
However, it was not he who broke the silence.
"Oh, Cissy…" Bellatrix murmured tearfully.
Shocked at his aunt's vulnerable emotional slip, Draco's gaze flicked nervously between her and the Dark Lord. But the vile bastard only chuckled, seemingly amused by her sorrow.
"Stunning, isn't she?" he asked in response to his aunt's tears. Rising from the wingback chair, he walked slowly around Narcissa, assessing her like one would evaluate a bag of goods before an auction. "And to think – it is all thanks to the errors in judgment made by you and Lucius that I have been able to taste her…" He trailed a long, bone-white finger down a naked arm, "…succulent delights."
Narcissa trembled violently at his touch, and Bellatrix – damn her! – dropped her gaze to the floor, not possessing thestomach to see what she'd done to her own sister. Draco wanted nothing more than to shake her. It's your fault! Your own flesh and blood! Look at what he's done to her!
But Draco refused to look away from the awful sight. He was a devoted son – and he could feel that devotion melting into a fierce determination to fight against the monster before him. He forced himself to see every horrific moment of suffering inflicted upon his mother, and knew that in the months ahead when working for Dumbledore seemed impossible, it would be this that he remembered.
Unaware of Draco's traitorous thoughts, the Dark Lord continued, "The Malfoys have proven themselves to be quite disappointing. But I have given your family one last chance to prove yourselves – one final opportunity to show that you are indeed the devoted servants you claim to be." He turned his gaze on the youngest of the Malfoy clan. "Isn't that right, Draco?"
Clenching his jaw hard enough to break a tooth, Draco forced himself to murmur, "Yes, My Lord."
"And yet, I realize that I have been remiss in my plans for you, boy." Draco glared at him from beneath his lashes, the hair on the back of his neck rising as the Dark Lord smiled, attempting to adopt the kindliness of a favored, elderly uncle as he continued, "Please, don't think that I am doubting your family's many talents – the entire wizarding world is aware of just how exceptional you are. Even so… How could I possibly assume that you could be successful all on your own with the monumental task that I have set you?"
Draco watched apprehensively as the Dark Lord approached his aunt and stood before her like a king. He was disgusted to see a spark of hope – of adoration, even after everything Bellatrix had just witnessed – alight in her eyes at his approach.
"That's why I am requesting that sweet Bella here assist you, Draco. While you are fighting from inside Hogwarts, you aunt will support you from without. I am confident that together you will be successful in your mission."
The look in his eyes said something completely different, however, and it looked as if the bastard was convinced that this would be their downfall. But to Draco's disgust, the nuances that he clearly observed were completely lost on Bellatrix. Blinded by her disturbing adoration, the woman pressed her face against the floor at the Dark Lord's feet.
"Yes, My Lord – we will be successful! Hogwarts will be ours! We will not disappoint you!"
"Let us hope not," the Dark Lord murmured dismissively, turning his back on her and making his way back to Narcissa's side. "I have been disappointed quite enough by the Malfoy family." His mother gasped as he lifted her hand and suggestively ran his tongue along the inside of her wrist. Draco attempted to control his rage as his mother began to tremble in fear, but the Dark Lord addressed he and his aunt as he continued, "I would hope that you are both properly persuaded about the importance of your success. Now, if you wouldn't mind closing the door on your way out. Narcissa and I have some unfinished business to attend to…"
And just like that, they were dismissed. Narcissa's gaze collided with his own as he rose to his feet, pleading with him not to react. His eyes welled with tears of his own, and he felt as though he was betraying his mother as he turned his back.
He heard a soft whimper escape her when he reached the doorway. Glancing over his shoulder, he was horrified to see his mother's eyes squeezed tightly shut as the Dark Lord continued to run his tongue up the inside of her arm to the crook of her elbow.
Draco choked on the sob that desperately tried to escape. Closing the door on his mother was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do.