Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy :)
I love getting (constructive) feedback, if you've got the time, please review or pm me. **I've fixed my rot/wrought iron mistake, if you see any other obvious mistakes, please let me know so I can fix them! Thank you so much to zeeksmom for pointing that one out!
I'm about halfway done the story, but with finals coming up in a couple weeks, updates will definitely be sporadic.
November 14, 1997
His whole body felt the searing pain emanating from his arm. The brand, seeped in dark magic and whatever other horrible intent the man they called their Lord imbued it with, burned against his left forearm. It called him to his master's side, and closing his eyes in preparation for whatever he was about to experience or witness, he gave in to the call and apparated back to the manor.
It was his home for many years, but it had lost that title in recent times. The gates were familiar wrought iron, covered in magical vines, and the white peacocks which wandered the property were somehow still alive, despite the bodies buried in mass graves in the grounds he learned to play quidditch over. The place had been poisoned, his memories of it soured, and ever since the Dark Lord had taken Malfoy Manor over as headquarters, he was thankful that most of his time was spent at Hogwarts.
Draco was almost relieved when others apparated near him. McNair, Yaxley, and Dolohov were amongst a group also trudging towards the front entrance, with various levels of reluctance and enthusiasm. There was a certain safety in numbers he couldn't deny, even if he found their presence repugnant. He would take anything to decrease the odds that he was the one called forward for some heinous task, or punished for a real or imaginary failure, as a blessing. What was waiting for them inside was anyone's guess.
Draco took his place next to his father, near the middle of the hoard, off to the side somewhere. Drawing as little attention to their family as possible, that seemed to be their goal, at least when his father wasn't pandering to regain favour.
The Dark Lord spoke of the ministry's fall, of the Potter boy's imminent capture, of the success rate of the Muggle-Born registration committee. So they were celebrating, Draco gathered, although there was very little difference between celebrations and whatever the opposite of them were. At the first, there were muggles and mudbloods tortured for sport, while at the later, it was the loved ones of whomever had most recently blundered. He was quite sure that the former sort of 'entertainment' served a double purpose, to appease death eater's like his aunt Bella, and to remind the others why they couldn't leave. This was what happened to the enemies of the cause.
He could hardly bring himself to look when a girl was being marched into the room, presumably under the imperius, by none other than Dolores Umbridge. The woman thought, for reasons that were entirely her own, that it would be appropriate to wear her ghastly pink robes, complete with the girlish bow sitting at the top of her head. Not, he acknowledged, that it really mattered how she was dressed in the scheme of things. The juxtaposition between her attempt at cheerful attire and what was going to begin unfolding in minutes merely highlighted once more the depravity of the meetings.
He looked at the girl more closely. For a horrifying moment, he thought it might be Mudblood Granger herself. Quickly, it became apparent she was not. Not that the outcome was any better. It was a Hufflepuff mudblood, a couple years younger than him. She was the quiet, studious type that liked to avoid conflict. He was sure he'd never even spoken a word to her in all the years they were at school together. It was a fact he was especially glad for tonight, because it would only have made it harder to stand by and watch unfold whatever it was the Dark Lord had planned for her.
It turned out, it didn't make it that much easier once his aunt and her husband got a hold of her. He could feel the bile rising in his throat, and to his horror, found he couldn't keep it down. His eyes teared up as his dinner threatened to expulse itself at his feet. He braced himself for the crucio that would be coming soon, but then his mind relaxed, opening itself to his father's will. Stand up, he was ordered, and stay calm. The calm, euphoric feeling lasted several minutes before Lucius released him from the curse, incapable of holding him under it a moment longer without a wand. A new sense of horror filled him when Draco realized his father, Lucius, had just used the imperius curse on him. He was quite certain he would have prefered a crucio, at least his mind would have remained his own.
Umbridge stood by, looking far too pleased with herself, watching the Dark Lord watching the show. If anything, it unsettled Draco's stomach further. His father stood by him, digging his fingers into his arm with enough strength to cause no small amount of pain, reminding him of where he was, and what the consequences could be if he forgot himself again. He didn't want to die, which was all he could seem to hold onto at the moment. As much as he hated his life, he just didn't want it to end completely. He wasn't ready for that.
It was a blessing for the girl when someone finally killed her, her screams no longer echoing through the hall, piercing through the silent mass of killers. For the most part, people seemed to breathe easier once it was over, although a few fanatics like Rabastan and McNair managed to exude the appropriate disappointment. Draco could feel himself about to be sick once again, and tried to keep it together, knowing the consequences if he failed would be dire. That thought alone did nothing to settle his stomach, and he was more thankful than he'd ever been when the Dark Lord dismissed them.
He quickly walked to the drawing room, followed by his father and his aunt, finally throwing up and giving in to sobs when the door was closed behind him. His breathing was ragged, and he could feel the onslaught of a panic attack, as though he wasn't already fucked enough.
His father gripped his arm once more, "Draco, pull yourself together." he said.
His tone was harsh, angry, frustrated - it drove Draco mad to hear it. He'd failed his father once again, but he didn't even sure he want to live up to his expectations anymore. How could he possibly stand there and watch what had just happened without flinching, keeping the same bored, stoic expression he wore plastered across his face he always did. A look of perfect indifference.
He used to admire his father's ability to keep his emotions in check, now it disgusted him. Did he even feel emotion, did he even recognize that the people being tortured were people? If they'd been alone, he might have began to express just fraction of his anger, but Bellatrix Lestrange began to rail at him.
"I have never been so ashamed to call you family. You disappointed our Lord when you failed to complete your mission, you disappointed our Lord when you abstained from the festivities last week, and you've disappointed him again today by this," she gestured to him, "blatant disrespect."
The woman seemed genuinely distraught at the notion, and it irked Lucius that she sounded like her sister did when someone failed to mention her new robes, or worse, made a passive aggressive comment about her blood-traitor sister. Draco stood up, fully aware that while the dangerous glint habitually in Bella's eyes was still hidden, the disrespect and disappointment stemmed from her obsession with the cause. He knew something was about to come of it when she pulled out her wand, pointing it at him with her arm shaking in anger.
"Crucio." she uttered, all semblance of sanity slipping from her countenance with the use of the curse. It didn't land on its intended, with Lucius stepping in front of his son and taking the curse instead.
By the time Bellatrix had her wand trained on Draco a second time, Narcissa walked into the room. "Enough, sister!"
"You didn't see the boy, Cissy. Crying over the loss of a mudblood," she hissed, although she lowered her wand, rounding on the smaller, blonde woman. "I suppose you bear some of the responsibility for raising such a weak child."
Bellatrix sneered towards Lucius, "Although I know where I place most of the blame." she was speaking to Lucius now, not watching the way her sister's face paled with every word she uttered, "If he steps one more toe out of line, I won't hesitate to take the Dark Lord's suggestion to prune the family tree."
With that, the woman stormed out of the room, leaving the Malfoy family standing uncomfortably mulling over what Bellatrix had threatened.
Narcissa held her son's horrified gaze for a minute, aware that steps needed to be taken immediately. She'd allowed this farce to go on for far too long, allowed her son to be dragged in far too deep. There was no way out, but she would find one, there was no other choice.
November 20th, 1997
He woke in cold sweat, barely refraining from screaming more times than he could acknowledge. The last time he'd gotten a full night's sleep was likely in his fifth year at Hogwarts, when the worst monster he had to contend with was the High Inquisitor, who admittedly, showed a particularly nasty streak as of late.
"Draco," a voice hissed, shaking him awake, pulling him away from yet another nightmare where he relived every last one of his worst memories.
Startled, the terrified, overly young Death Eater sat up, relaxing when he realized it was only his mother.
Narcissa felt her stomach drop at the sight of him, his platinum blonde hair and grey eyes, so clearly his father's. She wondered one more time if she could do this, if she could really leave Lucius behind, break their marriage bond and sever all ties with him. She could see the marked differences. Where Lucius's eyes were filled with cold indifference, her son's were filled with terror. Where her husband's hair always looked pristine, well...less so recently, considering his attempt to drown himself in firewhiskey, her son's was drenched in sweat from his nightmares.
He'd been her husband for nearly twenty years, even if theirs was far from a love match, she supposed that ought to earn him some amount of loyalty. He never hurt her, he was never a cruel husband, but she'd resigned herself to the knowledge that the Dark Lord would always take priority over his family. His master came first in all things, and although it was a cause she herself had once wholeheartedly supported, it meant she couldn't trust him. He would track her and Draco to the ends of the world if it meant proving his devotion. She shot another look towards the door, then stood up and paced, stiffening her resolve one last time. Draco was what mattered, her son was always her priority, the way he ought to have been Lucius's. She halted, spinning towards him.
"Get dressed." she said, "we're leaving."
Draco's eyes widened. He was too surprised to say anything, but obediently, changed while his mother guarded the door. They were leaving. They were leaving. There would be no more Death Eater meetings with ex professors murdered on the dining room table, no more muggles being raped and tortured by his fellow Death Eaters, no more mudbloods screaming and pleading for their lives. They would be free again. They might even be safe again.
Narcissa gestured for him to follow her, making her way towards the only unwarded floo entrance in the manor, in Voldemort's very own study. The corridors were deserted at this time, eerily similar to before the manor became Death Eater headquarters.
One could almost imagine it was welcomed guests sleeping in the rooms that lined them, rather than some of the worst monsters Europe had to offer. Fenrir, Antonin, Rabastan, Rodolphus, Walden, her own sister, Bella. These were people whose humanity had been stripped away, their sanity as far gone as some of the people they tortured. Whether it was Azkaban, or their Lord himself who'd hit them with the cruciatus too many time, she'd never know. All she knew, was that the end results were far from pleasant.
They shuffled along, taking care not to make too much noise.
"Where's Father?" Draco whispered, suddenly horrified.
Narcissa looked at her son, calculating what it was best to say. "There was never any marriage to salvage, and there's little of your father left. He'll sooner turn us over to the Dark Lord then let us leave, now follow me, Draco."
"He'll be killed when they find out we left." Draco said, picturing his father stepping into Bellatrix's curse only a few days earlier. His father, who'd tried to protect him, even if Draco did have mixed feelings about him in recent days.
"Your father can take care of himself." Narcissa snapped, her voice quiet, but cutting. She was growing impatient. Her plan was very time sensitive, and she estimated they had little more than a five minute window if they wanted to make it out safely. The Dark Lord was in a meeting with Bella, safely across the manor, but not for long. If he happened to return early, they would be dead on the spot. The longer they waited, the worse their odds. She'd already hesitated long enough.
"He doesn't even have a wand…" Draco said, swallowing hard.
"He chose this life, Draco. We didn't. We'll all be killed unless we go. Now."
Draco followed her, this time without the undercurrent of joy and relief. His father was going to die. They were going to leave, but his father was going to die as a result. Swallowing hard, he stepped into the office after she dismantled some of the nastier wards, not wanting to know how she'd gotten knowledge specific enough to do so.
He heard the alarms go off, but it was too late, him and his mother were already disappearing in a flash of green flames.
Lucius woke from a painful slumber, his entire body feeling the residual ache from his time in Azkaban and the injuries leading up to it. With the prison escape and subsequent implied house arrest, there had been no opportunity to see a healer. Liquor eased the pain.
He smelled the spilled firewhiskey, and felt immediately nauseous, reminding him of the reason behind the pounding headache he was experiencing. Drinking to ease the pain of his injuries often turned to drinking to ease his guilt. There was little left to do but pray each day to any listening deity that his family would see live through the end of the war.
Draco was safely tucked away at Hogwarts most of the year, but since he'd been home for an extended Christmas, under the Dark Lord's orders, it was all he could do not to fall apart. His own child was subjected to the same type of sick displays he'd been forced to watch growing up. He'd sworn to himself after the first fall of the Dark Lord that his son's childhood would be different than his, it would be happy. He would be able to sleep at night without the screams of countless nameless, faceless victims haunting him.
The Dark Lord was as enthusiastic as ever with muggle sport, but his Death Eaters no longer appeared to have the same stomach for it as they did in their younger days. He watched his peers attentively, relieved at the slow tide of waning support. It didn't matter to him very much whether they slowly disappeared of their own volition, or if they were killed off by their increasingly mad Master - as long as he and his son were part of the lucky few to survive and live to see the end of the second war. The permanent downfall of the Dark Lord.
Lucius groaned at the sound of the alarms reverberating through the manor. It meant something, his groggy mind told him. It was important, something seemed to scream at him.
Finally, when he heard footsteps rushing into the library he knew what had happened. His wife was distant as ever, but she appeared to have found a new purpose to her days for the past week. If he'd spent the days sober, he would have realized she was planning something. He knew now, almost instinctively, that she'd taken Draco away and was currently on the run. She'd done what he couldn't and protected their child, smuggled Draco away from the manor. She was always clever, Narcissa Malfoy, now Narcissa Black once more.
She'd left him there to die. The thought wasn't as bitter as it might have been, once, in the distant past. He removed his wedding ring, examining his unadorned hand. The pain that might have once shot through him at the action was conspicuously absent. He didn't have the time, but he contemplated what it meant anyways. She'd really done it. Severed their marriage bond. It was a practical choice, to be sure, removing the possibility of being tracked by their rings. She probably left the ring in the manor somewhere, regardless, if she was being particularly smart.
Death Eaters surrounded him in the library, wands drawn on him. He stood, leaning heavily on his cane.
"How the mighty have fallen, isn't that right, Malfoy?" McNair taunted. Disgusting man that he was, he didn't know when to keep his mouth shut.
Unarmed, it was foolish to even contemplate fighting his way past them. The Dark Lord would finish him off soon enough, although it would be drawn out and painful. An example of what happens to those who betray his bid to take over the magical world. It might even win the madman back some loyalty, if only temporarily.
Looking at the angry faces surrounding him, the people who'd been swept and dragged into the cause along with him in their younger days, people he used to call friends, he felt the tiniest glimmer of a will to live. He was angry at the degradation he'd suffered from them, he was angry with the smug satisfaction so many held at seeing him sentenced to death.
To hell with all of them, if he died trying to escape, at least his end would be quick. He never dared try and apparate Draco or Narcissa away from the manor, with the wards modified for the Dark Lord. Their master was the only one who was technically given that particular power.
To try and apparate his family away would have been suicide, but alone he might still be able to manage. Even without a wand. The Dark Lord knew little about the manor's magic, nor the wards which guarded ancestral pureblood homes, a particularly strange oversight considering how intertwined the pureblood agenda was with his cause and purpose.
While he was still alive, he remained Master of Malfoy Manor. His life was in danger, and the house would aid him. It was nearly as sentient as Hogwarts, with thousands of years of magic imbued into its walls. He reached out to his own magic, which he couldn't help think was easier when he wasn't hungover and half dead from exhaustion, and even though it was many years since, he remembered with little fondness his ministry appointed apparition instructor chiming 'Destination, Determination, Deliberation' with a fake smile and a cheesy, overdone enthusiastic tone. Lucius could feel it working, feel himself pulling away from the manor, when he heard Bellatrix's screams, something about him being a blood-traitor and a deserter.
When he apparated in his new location, Merlin knew where he was, he crashed into the ground, groaning. A dagger grazed his shoulder, but the wound only causing half of the pain. It was Bellatrix's dagger, a cursed, Black family heirloom her father had presented her with when she bound herself to a lifetime of faithful servitude to the Dark Lord. If the poison hadn't been seeping through him, he might find it entertaining that the witch had finally parted with it. What would Daddy dearest say about her giving her precious knife to a blood-traitor, as she so eloquently called him during his exit.
He winced again as he moved, pressing the shallow wound with his left hand. It slowed the bleeding, but droplets were still falling to the snow. He couldn't believe he'd made it out of the manor only to die alone somewhere of whatever poison the things was coated with, he could only hope it was created to cause pain, rather than to kill. Truly, he thought, pressing harder against the wound, wasn't certain if he was lucky the dagger had merely grazed him, or if Bellatrix was lucky it had hit its target at all.
He needed wards, he was becoming increasingly aware of how exposed he was. He imagined most of the country was crawling with snatchers by now, and the outcome were they to come across him would not be good. Even if it wasn't yet put out to the public that he was a deserter, he was not a well loved man by the masses. The snatchers were likely to kill him regardless what it was that they had heard, and anyone else on the run would be only more eager.
He winced, moving once again and raising his hands in an attempt to perform the magic. He could feel it fizzle out, not even coming close to the required power for the spell. Instead, he gathered some firewood and tossed it into a pile, lighting it with a quick incendio. That he was able to manage, at least. The smoke might draw people, but at least it would provide a modicum of warmth until he died. He could feel his head going fuzzy, thoughts becoming jumbled as he tried to figure out what to do next. His Dark Mark burned, only adding to the overall discomfort. He could feel his resolve growing weaker, the temptation to apparate back to his Master growing with every passing second, even in full awareness of what waited for him.
He would give up, stop calling eventually, he merely had to wait it out. Eventually, he hoped, Voldemort would have to claim he was dead, or else seem to finally be losing his grip. He prayed that it happened sooner than later, because he couldn't stand the thought of the torture continuing much longer. The pain got worse, both from the poison and from the Dark Mark, he could feel the Dark Lord's displeasure in every inch of his body, and it was a thousand times worse than the pain from the cruciatus.
If there was any doubt left that the man was a sadistic bastard, this would have slashed it. Draco would be feeling something similar, in whatever corner of the globe Narcissa whisked him off to, and he hoped for his son's sanity that she'd had the foresight to bring a pain potion, or maybe even a very powerful sleeping draught.
He couldn't tell he was screaming, the anguished cries being ripped from him carried through the snow covered forest. They drew the attention he'd both expected and dreaded when he was still in a coherent state of mind.
Hermione was trudging through the snow, contemplating her next move, trying to think how she could possible get back to Harry for them to complete the mission. It was truly an impossible scenario, and she cursed herself for not thinking of the possibility that they would need a meeting point sooner. Grimmauld place remained good and well compromised, and the only other place they'd lived for any length of time was the Forest of Dean, which she knew neither of them would risk after being spotted. She wiped away a stray tear, frustrated, but mostly scared for her friend.
She was considering if she wanted to set wards up here, wherever here was, or move on to someplace different, when the relative peace was interrupted with a bloodcurdling scream. She shivered, suddenly afraid to move, lest whatever it was that was attacking the man make a move on her. It didn't sound so distant, and for a moment, she considered apparating away immediately. She did not want to find herself in even more trouble than she already was. Her gut told her it was the smart thing to do, but the knowledge that it couldn't possibly be the right thing ate away at her until her conscience gave her no other choice.
With her mind made up, and the anguished cries only increasing in volume, Hermione made haste towards the sound, jogging as she got closer, her wand drawn and ready for whatever trouble was waiting for her. She stopped, when she realized she wasn't the only one who'd heard the cries. Snatchers stood by, peering down at the man. One was laughing, apparently finding amusement in his pain, while the other cast some spell at him, which was either a silencing spell, or the killing curse, considering how suddenly the screams had come to a halt.
She was surprised they hadn't noticed her yet, and she pressed herself closer to the tree which blocked her from their sight. If she could take one out by surprise, she could conceivably take the second in a duel. Her eyes fell to their bags, and she knew they'd been living in the forest, hunting muggle-borns on the run from the ministry. Those bags could be a gold mine by way of food and necessities. She wondered if her conscience would let her steal them.
Stepping out from the tree quickly, she shot a stunner towards the woman, narrowly missing when her partner pulled her out of the way. She swore under her breath, ducking behind a shield as a jet of light flew back towards her. After she managed to steady her breathing, she dropped the shield and sent a second stunner, relieved that it hit its intended target.
Lucius was beginning to recover, the pain from the mark dwindling as the Dark Lord was distracted by something he considered more important than retrieving a stray follower. Not that he was complaining, but Lucius was fairly certain that was a mistake. Letting him and Draco go would signal to the others that there was the possibility to defect, to go into hiding. Not his problem any longer, considering he was now firmly estranged from that side of the war.
He was vaguely aware that there was a duel occurring around him, and one of the snatchers crumbled beside him. It took another moment to realize there was still a duel going on, and that by all appearances the woman's rage at her partner's demise fueled her. She was winning, and it wouldn't be long before whoever it was that had stunned the man would be subdued.
Hermione was out of breath, dodging spells at best she could, and her horror was palpable when a jet of green light skimmed by her. This woman was fighting to win, fighting to kill. She ducked behind a tree, relieved that yet another spell passed by her. She would never be the dueller Harry was, even if she was better at every other useless thing they'd been taught at Hogwarts.
She saw another flash of green light illuminate the forest, and heard the sound of a body hitting the ground. Her mouth felt dry, and she peeked around the tree once again, terrified of what she would find.
The second snatcher had fallen, dead, to the ground, and she saw the man they'd cornered earlier with his wand pointed, shaking, in the direction of the spell. She stepped out, her wand still drawn, eyes widening in horror when she realized who it was. Stunned, and terrified, she was about to take the only sensible course of action and apparate away, when his wand dropped, his arm crossing over his chest again as he cradled it biting back what appeared to be a scream.
She pitied him, Circe and Merlin help her, but she felt sorry for the man. She moved forward, halting when she saw a knife in the snow. She leaned over to pick it up, both driven by curiosity, and by fear that he would turn it on her if given the chance.
"Don't touch the blade." he hissed, "it's laced with poison."
Hermione stood straight, staring at him. "Wouldn't that play right into your goals, Malfoy. One less mudblood it the world." She might pity him, but that was where her sympathy ended.
"Spare me." he hissed, letting out another pained rasp, "besides, it won't kill you, as far as I know. I suppose if you let it run it's course in me," he gasped again, "you'll know exactly what it does."
Hermione rolled her eyes, suddenly less sympathetic. The bastard had probably cut himself on his own knife while doing Voldemort's dirty work. She told him as much, smirking when his eyes went comically wide at his master's name.
"You stupid girl, you've killed us both" he said, closing his eyes, hiding a wince, "there's a taboo on his name." he explained, when she looked at him in obvious confusion.
The effect was immediate, Hermione's hand flew to her mouth, horror filling her with the sound of people apparating around them. Before she knew what was happening, she found herself experiencing the familiar feeling of being shoved through a bottle a pulled out again, disappearing from the forest with a loud 'crack'.