Lucius Malfoy's study continued to baffle Severus. He looked around the room and held back a grimace. The Malfoy house was the epitome of the word ostentatious with the rich colors, extravagant fabrics, and artistic masterpieces that donned the walls. Severus grew increasingly irritated each time he had to visit the place, as it was so completely unnecessary. People like the Malfoys thought they were better simply because they could afford things like that. Things that they didn't need or sometimes even want. They purchased countless priceless objects to show off their wealth. As a spy, it was his job to tolerate it though, and Lucius was his longtime acquaintance.
This evening, Lord Malfoy had his house elves toiling away decorating the table with fancy finger foods and beverages for his visit, even though Severus could never remember eating food during any of the many meetings that they had shared. Severus grabbed a small cup of tea from the table and sank down in an oversized armchair donned with ornate, golden swirls.
"So, tell me, is Draco still doing well in class?" Lucius asked with a raised eyebrow, pouring himself a bit of tea from a golden pitcher, which Severus guessed was probably solid gold.
"Oh, yes. Of course. Draco appears to be miles ahead of the other third years. He's one of the only competent children in his class." Severus reassured the man. He would never tell Lucius, but he had always disliked Draco. The spoiled child ran around with a giant attitude problem and a sense of entitlement that rivalled the great James Potter. Severus had to admit he was slightly gifted at Potions, but not exceptionally so.
"Good, good…" He trailed off. "So, the main reason I've asked you here today, is that I haven't been able to get in touch with Dolohov. You haven't heard anything from Dumbledore about him, have you?"
"No. Dumbledore hasn't said anything about Dolo-"
Lucius cut him off. "Damn. I really need to get in touch with him. I thought you would be able to help me, Severus."
"You did not let me finish," Severus drawled slowly. "Dumbledore knows nothing, but I know where Dolohov is."
A wide smile erupted on Lord Malfoy's face, presenting Severus with a flash of his perfect, white teeth. "Severus, you continue to surprise me. Where has Antonin gotten off to?"
"Excuse me?" Lucius gaped.
"He was killed by a muggleborn child about a month ago."
"Please explain," he replied, looking intrigued.
"From what I could ascertain, he attacked the boy, and the boy fought back. He shot through his brain with a pistol. Then the child fled the scene."
"It's a muggle weapon," Severus explained.
"And how do you know all of this?" Lucius questioned, hanging on Severus's every word.
"I had seen the child in the apothecary. He was young, alone, and disheveled looking. I approached him, and he fled from the store, stealing some potions." Severus paused, and Lucius nodded slowly. "I attempted to track him down, but I was unsuccessful. Then I heard the gun fire and I found Antonin's body. Most of his face was detached, and I knew he was dead, so I banished the body to the usual spot. I knew it wouldn't be wise to leave him lying around, especially since his dark mark was still visible. We wouldn't want to place his family under suspicion." He trailed off and then continued when Lucius nodded. "I found some empty potion containers at the scene from the child."
"And the boy?" Lucius asked, captivated by the story.
"I haven't been able to find any trace of him. I thought perhaps he would be coming to Hogwarts at the start of term; he looked to be about the age of a first-year student, but I haven't seen him."
"And you're sure he survived?"
"I believe so," Severus answered dryly.
"It seems peculiar that a child that young would be able to escape an accomplished wizard." Lucius said skeptically.
"Well, you underestimate the power of muggle weapons."
Neither of them spoke for a moment. Lucius seemed to be ruminating on the new information, and Severus took a small sip of his tea to hide his smirk. It was only when he had useful information that Lucius gave him the time of day. It wasn't often that someone knew something that Lord Malfoy did not.
Finally, Lucius spoke. "So, what do you plan to do about the boy?"
Severus stared at him for a moment, perplexed. "What do you mean?"
"Well, we can't let the murder of one of our own go unpunished, Severus. Though the Dark Lord is not present, we both know he would never allow that mudblood child to take the life of a pureblood without consequences."
"We don't know for sure that the child is muggleborn. I only assumed so because of his muggle clothes. He could be a half-blood or even a pureblood who is familiar with muggle culture."
"Calm down, Severus. I'm not saying we should kill him, but something should be done. He has taken the life of a powerful death eater, we deserve compensation. Besides, if the boy has already killed, he's obviously cunning, and he may make a promising addition to the Dark Lord's army one day." Lucius flashed a wistful grin and Severus stifled a grimace.
"Why don't you describe him closely to me, and I'll search around for magical children that fit his description."
Severus regretted telling Lucius about the boy. He had thought that maybe his exciting information would prompt Lord Malfoy to expose an even darker secret; Albus had been trying to get new death eater information for months. But it appeared as though his plan had failed.
He pondered his options for a moment. He could lie about the boy's appearance, ensuring that the child would be safe from death eater intervention, but he was still very interested in finding the boy. He decided that if Lucius were able to find the child, he could inform Albus and ensure his protection.
"He appeared to be around ten or eleven with short brown hair and dark brown eyes. He was around five feet tall and seemed to be extremely underweight. He wore average muggle attire," Severus explained.
"Is that all you remember?" Lucius questioned.
"He had a noticeable limp and many fresh bruises around his neck. He was skittish when he noticed my presence, and based on his behavior, I would guess that he has been exposed to long term abuse or trauma."
"I see... Well, I'll do some searches at the ministry, and I'll alert you if I find any matches."
When Severus didn't respond, Lucius reached over and placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, Severus, we'll find him."
Harry was sitting silently in his seat, gazing around the room blankly, when he heard it.
"Father said it was a muggle weapon. Blew his head clean off his body." Malfoy whispered.
Harry's head perked up, and he was instantly alert. A few students were huddled around Draco, listening intently. Malfoy was talking about the man from the alley, the man that he'd killed.
"I didn't know muggles could do that sort of thing," another voice whispered back with incredulity. Harry wasn't sure who said it, but he assumed it was Crabbe or Goyle. Their deep, growly voices sounded nearly identical to him.
"I didn't know either, but Father says that they have all kinds of dangerous weapons like that. They're not nearly as powerful as curses or anything, but it would still be nice to get something like that. It'd be untraceable, and no one would even see it coming!" Malfoy told them.
"I bet it wouldn't be too hard to get one." A low voice mumbled.
"And guess who it killed?" Malfoy hissed, turning to look individually at each member of the group for dramatic effect. When he had their attention, he continued. "Antonin Dolohov."
"But how? He's one of the most powerful death eaters!" exclaimed a Slytherin boy who Harry had never learned the name of.
"The muggle gadget must have surprised him." Said Malfoy.
Then another voice interrupted. "Did your father say who did it?" asked Pansy Parkinson. She fumbled with a bit of her hair, twirling it around her finger and doing her best to look captivated by the conversation.
"No, he doesn't know," Draco paused. "yet."
Harry gulped and sunk down lower in his chair. His alertness had returned to him and he felt fully awake for the first time in weeks. Fear overtook him. His heart pounded quickly in his chest, and his hands grew clammy with a light layer of perspiration. Lucius Malfoy was looking for him.
At that moment, Hermione and Ron traipsed through the door and sat down at his table. They both offered him terse nods and then took out their materials for class. They didn't seem fazed by his panicked expression, but Harry supposed they were used to it by now.
Panicked breaths escaped from his mouth in quick, short gasps as he struggled to maintain his composure. He reminded himself that no one knew what he'd done, and therefore he was safe for now, but he had trouble convincing his body. His hands shook slightly, and he buried them between his knees, under the table.
When Snape walked in a few minutes later, Harry forced himself to watch the man to try and occupy his racing mind. He knew that if he had another panic attack in front of the man, he'd be sure to take him to Madame Pomfrey. Even the greasy dungeon bat wouldn't be allowed to ignore such obvious signs that something was amiss; or would he? Harry wasn't sure.
He watched as Snape strode over to the board and scrawled the directions for today's potion in precise, cursive writing. With spastic, darting eyes, Harry attempted to read over the steps. His eyes ran over the gently-flowing cursive letters until they appeared jumbled and blurry, as if they were just white smudges, all floating together in a sea of blackness. He pulled his cauldron on to the lit flame, and started throwing in ingredients, one by one. He wasn't even sure if he was adding the right materials. He just needed to keep busy. He couldn't panic. He just needed to work. Work had always been good at distracting him. Even at the Dursley's when he'd been young, scrubbing dishes or vacuuming the floors had provided him with a soothing sense of comfort. But right now, it wasn't working.
He peered up to peek at the directions again, but he found that the words on the board no longer resembled anything comprehensible. In fact, he couldn't even discern the black chalkboard from the gray, stone walls anymore. Dark spots clouded the edge of his vision, and he finally realized that he wasn't breathing.
The lack of oxygen was affecting his motor control, and he dropped his stirring rod, with a loud clang, as he struggled to suck in a breath. He breathed in deeply, but it wasn't working. It seemed as though his lungs were only filling with sand. Why can't I breathe? I need to breathe… HOW CAN I BREATHE? LUCIUS BLOODY MALFOY IS LOOKING FOR ME!
Hermione's soft hand gently touched his shoulder, and Harry could see his friend speaking, but he couldn't make out any of her words. Her bright eyes were wide and terrified looking, and she seemed to be shouting to someone near the front of the room. He knew he was making a scene. He was going to be in trouble. He needed to get away.
Harry whirled around, ready to shoot out the door, but he felt terribly off balance. He took in the blurry confused faces of his classmates as he stumbled sideways. The steam from his bubbling cauldron seemed to be getting warmer and warmer. Harry tried to steady himself, but he found himself toppling to the right. He hit against the side of the burning cauldron, sending it flying out in front of him. The liquid inside splattered against the floor, creating a steaming mess of bright green goop. The last thing that Harry registered before he crumpled to the cool floor was the sound of heavy footsteps rushing toward him.
Then all he knew was blackness.
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