Chapter 44: Testing the Waters


Friday, 30th June 1995.

"The array is active." Harry heard Hermione say from the other side of the bluestone ring.

He sighed softly as he looked at the large upright stones nearby. They were around the same size as the incredible black stones that kept the Manor safe and secure in its little bubble. Though these were far older. Having been placed on this plain almost four and a half thousand years ago.

Harry knew his family history well, but the records did not go back nearly that far. For all he knew, members of his family could have been involved in placing some of these stones in place. Going back so far, he would be connected to nearly every family alive in Britain today. Magical or muggle.

"Right. Let's get in position." He replied to her, letting his voice carry now that the runic array they had spent over a day preparing, and hours placing, was active and projecting a silencing effect and a repelling charm that would work on more than just muggles.

Stonehenge was a well-known and travelled site, so sneaking in and placing the runes had been hard enough. It had been difficult just learning how to make themselves invisible as the elves did. But making a ward that could keep the collective consciousness of the entire world from thinking about the site for a few hours while they executed their plan was the real effort.

He smiled as he recalled Hermione's rampant study that had allowed them to prepare this effort so quickly. He adored watching her learn. Seeing that eager fire burning in her eyes as she devoured new information always made his heart hammer harder in his chest. And he was delighted to watch her throw the professors for a loop when she asked such complex questions about their fields of study.

Professor Babbling had certainly lived up to her surname when Hermione had shown her the planned array. The woman had even assigned them a project as homework to report how it worked and any new information that they learned during the practical test. She had wanted to attend in person, but they had been forced to decline.

While more and more people had learned their little secret, it was dangerous for too many to know the details. That would put a target on her back. And Harry simply refused to put others in danger like that.

"Harry?" Her voice came from right at his side and he looked up into those bright brown eyes. Visible even in the dim light of early night. "Are you ready?"

He nodded and the two shifted over to stand by the massive recumbent Stone 80, looking north-east over the plain.

Holding Hermione's hand, Harry took several steadying breaths as he allowed the magic of the site to begin filling his body. While even in the magical world today, no one truly knew the purpose of this megalithic structure of stonework, everyone knew that the site held incredible magical energy. Energy that their ritual would now use to aid their efforts.

Opening his eyes, Harry felt his hair crackling with the accumulated energy inside the massive circle.

"Keep our secrets and come forth." He said, Hermione matching his words perfectly at his side. "We command you, all elves come to us and remain in the circle."

A cacophonous crack rent the quiet evening air as a massive amount of air was suddenly and violently displaced by hundreds and hundreds of house-elves appearing between and even on the massive stonework around the site. Harry was momentarily stunned, not by the fact their ritual had worked, but by just how many elves there were out there.

But his stunned disbelief soon gave way to anger as he saw how many of those elves looked as ragged and mistreated as Dobby once had. He would be keeping those behind for a little bit longer tonight and ensuring they had the same commands he had given Dobby all those years earlier.

A significant number of those present bore the markings of Hogwarts. Several hundred of them were dotted all about the groups assembled before them. And yet, some elves looked as if they were even better kept than those from the school. It helped to see that there were people who kept their elves as family, as the Potters did.

Harry smirked as he noticed that his own elves and elfin were all present as well. But they had listened well and had spread amongst the others so as not to all gather immediately at his feet.

Finally glancing that close, Harry noticed a few of the most ragged-looking elves he'd ever seen. Releasing Hermione's hand, he knelt down and gently guided some of the magic of Stonehenge into their weak bodies. He thought they may not have even been conscious, and only the sheer power of the ritual command they had sent out had pulled their magic to him.

The idea that he may have hurt them further by their efforts upset Harry deeply, so he focused his attention on driving as much healing energy into their bodies as he could.

When the last of the elves gasped aloud and opened its eyes, he sat back on his heels as they slowly sat upright once more.

"Are you alright?" He asked, one of the elves looking up at him with something akin to longing.

"You helped Tinny?" The wee figure replied, their voice sounding almost unused.

"Of course." He replied and noticed that Hermione was once more matching his position before a slew of elves that she had obviously energised as well. Though they had both been careful to only use the ambient magic of their location and not their own. "Can I get you anything? Food, water?"

Tinny smiled at him and rolled onto her knees, bowing her head to him in response. "You are truly great, master."

"No. You don't need to do that. I should not be thanked for common decency. Your masters should keep you better. Did they do this to you?" He enquired, helping the elf back to a sitting position.

All of the elves he had energised nodded in reply. Though some still seemed to be fighting a compulsion not to respond. Harry could feel the magical tethers leading off the elves branching out in all directions. Some of them were strong and pulsing with energy while others were extremely weak. Practically failing on their own, but the reason for that near failure angered Harry further. It was incredibly tempting to sever those weak connections here and now.

His anger boiled in his stomach and he instead focused on using that power for something constructive. They had a purpose tonight, and it wasn't time to forcibly free the slaves before him just yet. Tonight had mostly been a proof of concept. To see whether Dobby was unique amongst elves, or if they truly had the power to override the commands of their masters.

Harry snapped his fingers, letting the pulse of magic ring out over the ancient site as food and water appeared across the plain.

"Please, eat and drink. We mean none of you harm, so long as you do the same in return. We just need to talk with you all for a bit. When you are ready." He said, standing up and helping Hermione to her feet.

The two stepped back and found themselves resting against the altar stone behind them. It was humbling to see all of the elves chattering and interacting before them. Several appeared to be experiencing reunions as they hugged and cried together. Others were simply sitting in place curiously observing their fellows and snacking on the food Harry had provided. While a small few were directing glares in their direction instead.

"There are so many," Hermione whispered in disbelief.

Harry followed her gaze and saw she was looking over the stone behind him. He glanced that way too and saw even more elves gathered over there. The entirety of Stonehenge was covered in house-elves. It was hard to be sure from where they were standing, but they probably extended as far out as the original bank and ditch that was the first known activity on the site. And the edge of the ward they had created for the night.

"I promise, once Riddle is dealt with, we will find a way to fix this too." He said to her softly. "I think we've proven tonight that we might have the power to do so for good."

"I don't want to let them go back to those awful people. You felt how drained they were."

Harry nodded in response. Many of the elves would be staying back for a while with them. "I know. We can protect them. But freeing them all is something we need to think about. We know better than most their requirements. We will have to make sure that whatever method we use does not harm them in the long term."

They watched in silence for an unknown amount of time before the elves began to sit once more, and almost every one of them fell silent. Focusing their attention inwards to the two human magicals that had summoned them forth.

Harry could see the occasional twitch in an elf as they looked to the horizon, obviously hearing a command they were presently unable to follow. It both pleased and horrified him that he had somehow overridden those commands. And it worried him when he considered just how badly a wrongly worded freedom could be for them.

They had thought that to be possible after his experiences with Dobby. But the fact that these poor souls were so irrevocably bound to others' whims was a problem that needed to be resolved for good. The bond should be made by choice, not by force. And it should be possible for them to leave if their masters were cruel or unreasonable. Or for any other reason that the elf desired. Free will should be a right for all sapient life.

But their time tonight was limited. They could not keep attention off of such a well-known monument for long. And there were night guards that would soon be challenging their ward.

"So, er… Thank you for coming." Harry opened, trying to ignore the fact that his unique magical oddity had compelled them to follow the command.

Although he and Hermione had discussed what to do while preparing their ritual, he was still somewhat unsure where they should begin. He glanced at Hermione who smiled at him and he felt a sense of peace extend over to him through her magic. He took a deep breath, allowing the feeling to wash through him.

"Well, I guess the first thing is unfortunately a little harsh. We must command you not to speak of anything you see, hear or are commanded tonight with anyone else without our express advance permission." He said and he could see the command wash out from him like a wave over the thousands of elves present.

Seeing it in action over them all made him extremely glad that the magical world had a foolish taboo against bonding with elves as he and Hermione had done. This was a level of power that no one should have over other sentient creatures.

A comforting hand found his own and Harry used it to centre himself again after the incredible and horrible sight.

"Next, we command that you do not bring anyone we have not vetted in advance to any of the locations protected by Potter or Peverell magic. I know that by us summoning you here tonight, you can identify the feel of our magic by now. We are preparing an enclave in southern Wales where any elves can come and go as they please, but it's not quite ready yet.

"Thirdly," Harry began, taking another calming breath. "We command you to never again allow your masters to harm you." This command swept through the Salisbury Plain like a shot of adrenaline, before leaving a majority of the tiny figures looking completely at ease. More than half the elves seemed to sag with abject relief at the freedom to not only ignore such commands, but to resist them entirely. A sight that only further fueled Harry's anger.

"You have free reign to figure out ways to make it look like you have acceded to your master's awful wishes for the time being, but I forbid you to harm yourselves or allow them to harm you."

It was beyond empowering to feel the commands settle over the elves, and Harry hated the way it made him feel. Having such absolute control over other lifeforms was disturbing. He would probably need a long bath to help soak away the ickiness that was left behind after every command, even though the commands they were issuing helped the elves avoid their masters' despicable desires.

"How's that? Did I forget anything?" Harry asked Hermione. The unavoidable rush of issuing the commands was affecting him badly.

"You did really well. My turn?" She asked with a soft supportive smile.

Harry nodded and watched as Hermione stepped forward and began to speak. He listened at first, as Hermione explained the other things they wanted from and for the house elves. But soon he found his attention drifting to the feelings in his magic.

As it did whenever he lost focus, it had spread outwards from his body. And it was gently rubbing over the magic of every elf in the space. Feeling their own and testing the edges. Getting a feel for each and every one of them on an incredibly personal level. He was still conscious enough of what his magic was doing to ensure it let go of each one as it moved.

There was a reason they had chosen to do this outside of the Manor and its protective Bubble of powerful wards. He did not want some random Death Eater's house-elf being able to slip them inside the wards of his home. Their place of safety.

Not that he would be unaware. Harry's connection to the wards was extremely deep in his magic. He could feel every time that someone passed in or out of the Bubble. Be it Sirius and Remus via magical means, or the Grangers through the magical doorway he had provided years ago. And even when he was away, like now or at Hogwarts, Harry knew that he could eject people from the wards.

Sirius had once asked him to do so, as he was curious what it would be like, but Harry had refused. Just comfortably living within their grip, Sirius did not feel the true weight of the wards. And having now compared their weight to places like Gringotts and Hogwarts, Harry knew that coming afoul of them was dangerous.

Not to mention he wasn't entirely sure he even could rescind permission to someone so central to his life. Someone he loved dearly. The wards would surely know he did not mean for Sirius to be removed from his life, and likely not even eject the man.

As Harry's magic slid across the outer edges of the elves, he felt overwhelmed once again by the sheer number of them. And the colour of some of the magic he felt. It felt nothing like the magic of those here in England, but it did remind him of the magic he had sensed during their few visits to other countries around the world. So powerful had the ritual been that they had quite possibly summoned every single house-elf on Earth. There were tens of thousands at least. Once numbers became so high, it was hard to be certain of them with only the human brain, so he couldn't be sure of his figure.

At least it bore promise for the idea that he and Hermione could truly free them all, once and for all.

"Do you understand?" Hermione asked, drawing his attention once more as his magic receded back into his body. That line meant that their purpose was nearly fulfilled for the night. And he needed to ensure his magic was not touching any of the elves when they left.

All of the elves nodded and a large number vocalised a positive response.

"Very good." She said, before turning to look at Harry for a moment. He gave her a warm smile and she turned back. "Any of you that are feeling weak, and we know who you are, so don't try to hide it. Please remain behind. The rest of you are free to return home now. Remember our commands. If we have any further need of your services, we will call. Stay safe, and stay vigilant."

Unlike the simultaneous arrival, the house-elves now began to disperse slowly. Some popped away the instant Hermione permitted them to do so, even before she had finished speaking. Others took a moment to simply enjoy the atmosphere of the highly magically-charged site in which they sat before they too departed.

Still more were hugging once more and saying their goodbyes to old friends and family they had long been separated from by the nature of the house-elf bond. It took almost twenty minutes for all those who were departing to leave. Harry was happy to note that none of the Hogwarts elves had remained, indicating that none of the students had been taking advantage of them.

But there were still several hundred elves dotted around Stonehenge, watching Hermione and himself closely. Harry could feel that most of these were the ones with the weakest magic and bonds. Though with a couple of exceptions, these bonds were far from failing on their own. And those exceptions were due to the health of the elf, not the master or bond.

Harry once again reigned in his anger at the people who would intentionally harm others in that way. He did not want to frighten the elves due to his anger at others' actions.

He walked over to the nearest elf and sat down in front of them, allowing his magic to wash them in the ambient energy of the site once more. It cheered him back up to watch the colour return to their features as the elf's tiny body absorbed the magical energy, recharging their own drained reserves.

"How are you feeling?" He asked softly.

He was no longer surprised when the elf did not seem shocked at his question. He knew that Dobby had inadvertently spread the word of their first meeting amongst the community of elves. It seemed that they expected such behaviour from him nowadays.

"Bitsy is feeling much better now, thank you." The tiny figure replied. His clothing was certainly cleaner than most that remained, but their energy level was severely diminished. Whoever their owner was, a question Harry knew not to bother asking, they were seriously overworking Bitsy.

"Would I be correct in assuming that you are very busy at home?" He asked the elf, who looked away to the horizon for a moment before they nodded slowly. "I thought as much. I want you to do something for me. For the next little while, until I say otherwise, if a job is too big for you to manage safely, I want you to call for one of my friends here."

Harry gestured to the Potter elves that were now walking amongst the other seated elves, handing out food and generally tending to them as he and Hermione were. While they could not issue commands to the other elves, it did not hurt for them to socialise with them.

"They will come when they can, or send one of our few elfin if they're currently busy. They will help you manage the load until we can find a more permanent fix. Does that sound good?"

Bitsy looked at him oddly before glancing at the wandering elves. Eventually, he nodded. "Bitsy can do that. But what if the master sees them?"

Harry smiled at Bitsy. "Don't worry. My friends are extremely good at going unnoticed. I will also reiterate, you are not to harm yourself or allow yourself to be harmed. No matter what your master says or wishes. Understood?"

He could see the command settle over Bitsy and the elf nodded once more. "If things at home become overwhelming, call for one of the elves. They will take you somewhere you can be safe and recuperate. We want all the house-elves to be safe and well. Someday soon, we will ensure it. By force if necessary. You need to stay safe until then. Deal?"

Harry offered his hand to the tiny figure and he took it gingerly. Harry was careful to keep his elven magic out of the shake, but he still felt the shock of his personal magic making the accord with the elf's now much stronger magic.

"Excellent. Eat and drink your fill. Feel free to talk with the others if you like. You can return home again once you are feeling up to it."

Bitsy nodded once again and Harry stood, giving them a slight wave before turning to look for the next nearest elf that Hermione had not already helped. There were still hundreds of them to see.

This was going to be a long night. Hopefully, the ward held until they were done.

ϟ

Saturday, 1st July 1995.

Narcissa Malfoy was utterly terrified.

Which was a truly new experience for the woman. Not once during the first attempt to bring this country to its senses had she ever felt fear like this. A bone-deep terror that filled her entire being.

Many considered her nothing more than a trophy wife. The beautiful woman on the arm of an influential, although practically speaking unemployed, man. The eye candy he used to warm his bed and bear his heir. Only a select few ever saw the truth of her character.

She was not the second-best choice contracted out to the Malfoys by her family when her older sister had betrayed them all by marrying the mudblood. Narcissa had been Lucius's intended bride from the very beginning. They had clicked while they were still at Hogwarts, bonding over their shared beliefs and rather dashing features. It had not taken Abraxas long to approach Cygnus with the marriage proposal that had seen them wed shortly after her eighteenth birthday.

Although her sister's betrayal had sullied the announcement and spurred the rumour, Narcissa had been truly happy during that time. She and Lucius had joined the Dark Lord's ranks and together with her true sister, Bellatrix, they had sought to bring a golden age to their homeland.

They had been on the verge of victory when that disastrous Halloween had struck. The Potters had somehow diminished the Dark Lord through ancient magics. And while she and Lucius knew him not to be truly gone at the time, the Dark Lord did not seek them out for aid then and there.

Instead, she had been forced to hide her true nature. Blend into society and it's disgusting need to play nice with the mudbloods and muggles who should be no more than their slaves. If the mighty magicals deigned even to allow them to live at all in their world.

While she was good at concealing her desires, better even than her husband, she did make sure to raise their son correctly. She had done away with the boy's nurse the moment he was eating only solid food. Done away in a manner she had since been denied after the events of 1981. But even the thought of dispatching the nosy little half-blood didn't cure her despair now.

And it was a Potter once more that had her so concerned.

The past year had been so promising. Somehow, Barty Crouch Jr had survived his imprisonment and apparent death in Azkaban, the fortress that still held her sister captive for daring to be loyal to the Dark Lord. And he had come to their doorstep with a horrid creature that turned her stomach to behold.

But she was also able to sense the presence of the Dark Lord in the shape. And its words filled her with the hope that soon they would once more embark upon their noble undertaking to purge the magical world of the lesser beings and take their true place atop the pile.

Months of preparation, politicking by both Lucius and herself, and corralling the nigh untamable thirsts of Macnair had led to the previous Saturday evening. She had not been permitted to be present during the ritual itself, though she of course knew the particulars. Lucius had never been able to keep anything secret from her.

The two men would prepare the space while Barty ensured the boy would be the one to arrive. The enemy that had caused the delay in their victory would restore the Dark Lord to power once more. And when she had finally felt that long absent burn in her left arm, she had followed the feeling immediately.

Narcissa had been one of the first to attend their restored leader. And his new form had been even more glorious than his old one. Shimmering with power in the cold night air. He had informed them of what had happened in his exile. How even without form he had grown stronger. And how he would now prove his power over the Boy-Who-Lived.

She had watched with delight as the Dark Lord taunted and toyed with the child. The stories that Draco had sent home in his letters confirmed their suspicions that the boy was nothing special. While admittedly more powerful than the general filth that filled the once noble school, he appeared to be no more than a spoiled brat riding his fame undeservedly.

The group of Death Eaters had cheered when the bright green spell had struck the boy as he cowered, kneeling on the ground, panting under the assault of the Dark Lord. It was admittedly impressive that Potter had held up so long, but Narcissa had seen the Dark Lord lay waste to a dozen Aurors before. She knew he had been toying with the child.

Potter's body had fallen limp and their celebration had begun as they congratulated the Dark Lord on his return to power.

Only for that celebration to be interrupted by a blast of energy shattering the bodies of Goyle and Avery mere feet from her and something solid crashing through Jugson, Mulciber and Nott before disappearing into the darkness beyond.

Narcissa had turned to see the Potter boy stand once more, a cold anger present in his eyes that chilled her through to the bone. She finally understood the moniker the child had been given. No one had ever defied the Dark Lord that way in her life. But here he was, a child she had watched die standing defiant before them, raising his wand.

That was when the terror had first settled over her. It had filled her magic and whisked her quickly away from the graveyard. And that was the second cause of her fear.

She had betrayed the Dark Lord. Abandoned him to the fight out of concern for her own well-being.

The Dark Lord most assuredly still lived. She could feel his might thrumming in the Dark Mark on her arm. But he had not yet summoned her forth to pay for her treason. He had made no obvious moves of any kind so far as she could see. There was the possibility that he had burned down a building full of filth in London on the morning after his return, but Narcissa could not fathom why he would have singled out such an otherwise unremarkable site to demonstrate his power.

The news that Potter had torn through those who remained only mollified her slightly. She had survived whatever wrath the boy had let loose, but the Dark Lord would have an accounting from her, of that she was certain.

Draco's near-constant whining about his condition was nothing compared to the concern she bore over when that accounting might come. She did not know how to explain her cowardice. Or what she could offer that might placate the Dark Lord so that he might not torture her until she was left a powerless, mindless lump of flesh.

She tried to quiet her thoughts as she apparated back into the atrium of her impressive home. A place she and Lucius had purchased shortly before their wedding. Leaving the elves to properly furnish it for them. To have it ready for their wedding night.

And yet, those happier memories were now tainted by the fear that gripped her every waking moment and twisted her dreams into nightmares.

It took her a moment to notice the smug boy standing at the far end of the hall, watching her silently.

Perhaps the curse breaker the boy had summoned had been successful. Narcissa had not seen him standing so easily in days. Whatever the Lovegood girl had done had caused him tremendous pain. But in her present condition, she had no hope of removing it herself. Even if the Lovegoods were poor excuses for magicals, just like the Weasleys her husband had so despised.

"Welcome home, mother," Draco said, a slight smirk on his face. "It's about time. We were getting worried."

Narcissa took a steadying breath before she stepped towards the boy. While it was good to see that he was on the mend, she had greater concerns than his whining today.

However, she paused as she parsed what her son had just said. We?

She tilted her head in confusion as Draco stepped into the dining hall to the right. "Come on, mother. We should not keep our guests waiting."

"Guests?" She asked, now growing angry that her son had invited strangers into her home without her permission. Everyone she knew was presently missing after the debacle of the previous weekend. She had already checked their homes and none of them were in. She was just returning from checking another one now, only to find the home just as empty as the others. "Draco, you should have checked with me before letting someone into our…"

"Hello, Narcissa." She froze as the icy voice rang across the large hall as she entered, her eyes refusing to glance at the far end of the room where the voice had originated. "Young Draco here had been wondering when you would return."

The Dark Lord's voice had the unique ability to sound calm and cool, and yet convey absolute power and ferocity all at once. Narcissa could feel her heart hammering away in her chest as she felt her body finally turn towards the Dark Lord.

There he sat, perched at the far end of the table in the chair reserved for the master of the house. A place Lucius would never again sit. The cold pale skin of the Dark Lord glimmered in the firelight, and his hard red eyes were entirely fixed on her.

"He has been so concerned for you this week. He tells me that you have been distant and seem troubled. Does Lucius's death truly weigh upon you so much?" The Dark Lord asked, slowly standing, the move graceful and sinister in equal measure.

"I…" she mumbled helplessly, unable to form words, so heavy was the terror now gripping her mind and body. "My Lord…"

"Crucio." The Dark Lord incanted, as if it was nothing. Narcissa felt her body clench and twitch at the same time.

Every fibre of her body screamed in pain. Her very bones were on fire, the marrow within boiled and surged like lava. Her muscles were overwhelmed and she was barely cognizant enough to realize she had fallen to the floor.

Suddenly, the pain stopped. Her body continued to ache, but no new painful sensations were filling her form. The thrumming blood in her ears slowed and she could hear the soft footfalls approaching her.

"You were there, were you not, Narcissa?" The Dark Lord whispered, though the power in his voice carried it to her nonetheless. "You were present when Lord Voldemort explained that he does not forget. He does not forgive. You came when called, ready to join the fight. That was what you all promised."

The spots in her eyes cleared enough that she could see the Dark Lord standing a short distance away. Standing behind Draco as he watched. She could not read the boy's face at all. Her mind was still too scrambled by the pain signals from her entire body to focus on such minute detail.

"Instead, at the first sign of danger, you fled. Betrayed your dear husband to die." The Dark Lord continued, almost whispering the sentence into Draco's ear he was so close to the boy. "Betrayed me. Crucio."

The pain returned in full. It felt as though her muscles were trying to snap her bones all at once. Even her organs were in pain, shifting and surging about under the force of the Dark Lord's magic. Her lungs were the only part of her body that seemed to function properly, providing the air needed to scream her agony to the world. Her voice was already hoarse from it. And yet, the pain endured.

She had sworn her fealty and then fled anyway. This was the reward for her cowardice. At least, what tiny fragment of her mind still functioned prayed that this pain was her punishment. Narcissa was completely unaware of how much time was passing, only the immense agony.

The pain stopped once more as the Dark Lord lowered his wand. Narcissa was still conscious, but it was a close thing. Her mind was foggy, unable to cope with all of the pain being reported by her body. She was barely even able to fathom that words were being spoken nearby.

Her head lolled about, loose on twitching muscles she no longer had any conscious control over. Her eyes eventually fell on two pale shapes nearby and her brain tried to clear the fog away so that she might understand who they were. She blinked a few times and the pale shapes took actual form. Her son and her master.

"Does it anger you, Draco? To learn the truth." The Dark Lord whispered, his eyes fixed on her as he spoke to her son. "To know that she left your father to die. His death was horrible to witness. But she fled long before his end came. Perhaps, if she were not so weak, she could have helped me to save his life."

Narcissa's eyes widened, but she could make no other movements. No words would form in her throat, only a pitiful gargle of the spittle she had begun choking on. The Dark Lord was working his most powerful magic on her son. And she could see by the look in his eyes that Draco was listening.

"Do you not want vengeance? To show those who wronged us their place."

Draco nodded, his eyes still fixed on Narcissa.

While pregnant, Lucius had suggested their child might one day join the Dark Lord's ranks. Take his place at their side as they broke the world apart and remade it anew. A perfect paradise formed by the Dark Lord and the Malfoys. And yet, now, the idea filled her with dread.

She loved her son, as she had truly loved her husband. But she knew his power. His skill. He was no match for what little she had seen of Potter the other night. This would certainly be his end.

The Dark Lord placed the pale fingers of his right hand on Draco's shoulder. "Show me your resolve, and Lord Voldemort will make it so."

The hand slid slowly down the boy's arm. As it passed the elbow, Narcissa became aware that Draco had his wand in his hand. The Dark Lord guided his arm to lift and extend and now her son was pointing his wand at her.

"Prove your worth to me now and I shall Mark you for all time as one of mine. My most trusted. I shall teach you the power to break your enemies and punish your slaves. Prove to me that you are worthy of Lord Voldemort."

Narcissa could not speak, but she tried anyway. She didn't know what she wanted to say. Even now, on the floor of her dining hall, twitching from the torture she had endured. But no words formed on her numb lips. Only pitiful sounds of despair and anguish.

"Crucio," Draco said, and pain split her mind once more.