Wow, it's been a long time since I updated. I'm really sorry about that all, but it's been an unbelievably hectic couple months for me. Part of the reason is because I was working on an HP site. I hope you'll all go and check it out at marauders hyphen map dot org . There's also a steadily growing ff archive, this ff will soon be on it. Go to fanfiction dot marauders hyphen map dot org and join up! I'd love to see all your ffs on there!
Thanks to everyone who reviewed, and all my little silent readers. You all are great. I appreciate feedback, so feel free to give it! One last thing, this story obviously isn't in line with the HBP anymore (though, to my pride, I DID get a lot of things right about Draco), and all of this was planned out before HBP. So keep that in mind.
Chapter 24: Assignments
With the end of the year fast approaching, the farthest thing from Draco's mind was studying. When Draco wasn't sneaking off with Ginny, he was practicing for the quidditch house cup, or studying for his N.E.W.T.S. Like every other student, all aspects of school had completely taken over his life.
And yet, it was odd. Draco hadn't been summoned or even owled from the Death Eaters since that night in the field. He had always assumed when he, Draco, became a member he'd be rushing off at all hours of the night to meetings, receiving secret messages, or at least receiving some type of instruction—just like Draco had seen his father do. Yet nothing. No communication, no news, no command, no missions, just silence. That is, until one overly warm March day.
Draco had been studying, at least pretending to, in the library while Ginny studied at another table a few rows down. They had been scribbling messages back and forth to each other over the last hour. As a result, Draco had managed to read only the first five sentences of the N.E.W.T. Preparation Guide book Ginny bought for him. "You're not taking it seriously," Ginny had cautioned as she presented the guide to him. With a grimace, Draco had taken the book—it was not worth refusing, Ginny would just continue the lecture.
"It's no good, I can't study," Draco scrawled on his parchment, watching it disappear.
Ginny's words appeared a few seconds later. "Just concentrate harder."
Draco's quill scratched against the parchment with his reply. "I can't. Let's take a five minute broom closet break." Again, his hopeful words vanished.
"No," Ginny's words came back quickly. "You know we won't be able to study again if we… take a break."
Quill hovering over the parchment, Draco considered begging. He really couldn't handle the silence of the library anymore. Whats more, his head felt like it was going to explode from all the information he had been cramming into it over the last few hours. They had to leave. Draco would just threaten to go find amusement elsewhere and then Ginny would cons-…
Without warning, a burning sensation tore across the skin of Draco's forearm. Dropping his quill and pushing up his sleeve, Draco watched as the normally blurry Dark Mark became instantly clear. Draco had never been summoned before, though he had often seen his father clutch his forearm and leave the room directly, somehow knowing where to go.
Following suit, Draco got to his feet and hastily stuffed his books, parchment, and quills into his bag. He could feel Ginny's eyes on him, but Draco purposely looked away. This was the part of his life he could not share. Without so much as a glance, Draco slung his bag over his shoulder and left the library.
After quickly dropping his bag off and retrieving his cloak, Draco emerged from the Slytherin common room still unsure of what to do. Go outside—it was more an impression then an actual voice. Feeling a little silly, he headed for the front door. Afterall, it was the only thing Draco had to go on.
This was his first meeting as an official Death Eater, a thought that made Draco feel a bit uneasy. He had no idea what to expect. Would he be asked to prove his loyalty again? No, Draco thought—he had already done that. Would there be another induction ceremony? Would they plan another muggle attack like the one his father led during the quidditch World Cup? Draco smirked, that could be fun.
Having lost himself to his musings, Draco was slightly surprised when he reached the entry-way so quickly. Draco looked around, there would be questions if another student or teacher saw him leaving the castle at this time of night. Draco quickly pulled one of the large oak doors wide enough to slip through.
Now where, Draco thought as he stepped out into the dark night. His eyes traveled across the deserted lawns, over the placid lake, until resting on the Forbidden Forest. The forest—the impression came just as easily as before, though Draco rather wished he hadn't felt it. Despite the warm weather, Draco fastened his cloak and pulled the hood over his face. He didn't want some nosy Gryffindor seeing him cross the lawn into the Forbidden Forest, particularly Potter.
That'd be just the thing Potty would do, sneered Draco as he made his way over the grounds. He probably stands by his window every night just hoping to catch me so he can send me to Azkaban, just like my father. He'd really love that. Draco pulled his cloak closer.
Draco hesitated at the periphery of the forest for an instant before plunging into the darkness. Not wanting to be seen from the castle, he took a few blind steps before lighting his wand. Further in. The feeling came to him again, and again he obeyed. The forest seemed to drain away the light, and even with his wand light, had to stop a number of times to unhook his cloak from the thorns. He continued to trip over roots and run head-on into branches as he pushed further into the forest. All the meetings had better not be in the forest, Draco thought as he tried to shield his face from the sharp brush.
All sense of time seemed to slip away as Draco stepped deeper into the overwhelming darkness. Draco tried not to listen to all the creaks and moans of the trees and the cracking of the twigs—now was not the time to be scared.
When Draco was sure he would never get to wherever he was supposed to go he noticed a bright glow coming from what seemed to be a clearing among the trees. It was as if Draco were looking at a simple photograph—all was eerily silent and still except for the occasional pop and constant flickering of the torch light, and the circle of hooded figures stood as if frozen. There was an empty space between two cloaked Death Eaters, and Draco crossed over to stand between them.
"Welcome," the familiar voice said in an authoritative tone that could have moved the tallest mountain. The circle of Death Eaters parted in unison, Draco joining in, until closing once again once the Dark Lord entered. "This is a special night for all of us," Lord Voldemort began from his stance in the center of the circle. "I have learned certain information that will help me in my quest to defeat Harry Potter.
Several Death Eaters turned to each other to whisper. Lord Voldemort raise a long-fingered hand to silence them. "One of you, my loyal servants, will be blessed by helping me see the plan through. One of you," he continued, beginning to pace in front of them and surveying each Death Eater in turn as if assessing their value, "will have the opportunity to become the most beloved of my servants."
"Please, Lord. Let me serve you." Despite his concealed face, Draco recognized the voice of his father instantly. Lucius stepped forward as Lord Voldemort gazed at him with his fiery eyes. "I will do it."
"No, let me," a man with a high-pitched, squeaky voice. "I have proved my loyalty before," the man said, raising a metallic, silver hand.
For a moment the Dark Lord seemed to be considering the two volunteers in turn. "No, no," he finally said. "This job cannot be trusted to just anyone." Lucius and the silver-handed man shrunk back to their positions in the circle and Lord Voldemort continued his slow march around the circle.
"This Death Easter has proven his resilience so far. He is in the best position to complete the task. He is cunning and resourceful, from all that I have seen. He has a very bright future ahead of him if he succeeds." Draco's breath hitched as the Dark Lord drew nearer and finally stepped in front of him with a gleam in his eye. "Draco Malfoy."
Draco exhaled, feeling as if he'd just been pushed down a dark pit.
"It is indeed a dangerous mission. There is much to lose, but there is much to gain." Somehow Draco managed to hold the Dark Lord's gaze and his eyes seemed to burn. "You will spy on Harry Potter, do what you have to find out about the prophecy and then you will bring him to me so that I can kill him."
Draco felt all the hidden eyes penetrating him, wondering how a young boy could do what they had never been able to. Suddenly Draco wished he was in bed, having pleasant dreams.
"My son will do what you command and he will succeed," Lucius said, his voice ringing in Draco's ears.
The Dark Lord appeared to have not hear him and continued to stare at Draco as if waiting for a response. "Thank you for entrusting me with this responsibility. I will do it," Draco heard himself say in a confident tone he wasn't sure he'd be able to muster.
"Excellent," the Dark Lord said with what Draco assumed was a smile. "Now if you will all leave us, young Malfoy and I have much to discuss."