Draco firmly knocked on the rusty door, carefully avoiding the snake nailed bluntly to the wood. His father had told him it was there when he described the new headquarters, but it still kind of shocked him. Not to mentioned grossed him out. It just hung there… limp and dead. It was nasty, but Voldermort seemed to like it. Even seemed to find pride in it's residence. So it stayed, swinging about lamely whenever the door was open or shut.

He wasn't sure exactly why he was here, but he got an extremely urgent owl from his father saying to come immediately. He'd left for the place a while ago and Draco sat up in his wing of the house, pacing and wondering what could be going on without him. Ever since he failed to kill Dumbledore, he was left out of everything. Impatience and annoyance consumed him like a wildfire, but now that he was finally here, he was scared out of his wits and the fire that was burning his insides was more from nerves than anything else.

At seventeen, he knew he shouldn't be afraid. But then again, even his father feared Voldermort and wasn't ashamed to admit. That's what Voldermort liked. To be feared. He loved it. Lived on it. Thrived on it. Fear breeds influence and influence breeds power… his latest team motto.

Finally, the door opened. Draco knew it was Wormtail without even looking, but didn't even bother to acknowledge him, but just waltzed straight in as everyone else did. Once the doorknob gave that creaky little turn, his face changed to that of self-importance and indifference. His father never showed fear or cowardice, even if that's what he felt inside, so why should he? It was completely un-Malfoy-like. He was destined to follow in his father's footsteps, anyway. He had to act just like him. Nothing less was expected of him.

Draco went into the room off to the right like his father had instructed in the letter. He opened the door only but a crack and heard a cold shrilling voice granting him permission to enter. He inwardly flinched at the voice. It made his bones shiver and his heart skip. It was like death itself speaking to him, but he held his head high and walked inside, again, showing no fear.

"Young Malfoy," Voldermort said, his lips twisted into a smile. He looked at Draco in what would he would probably consider a fatherly way, but it wasn't. Draco knew that and it only made him wish his own father would look at him that way. Draco didn't know which he preferred: this would-be-fatherly manner, or the anger he'd seen after failing his task. Remembering before it was too late, he stumbled and dropped to the floor, kissing the hem of Voldermort's robes.

"Come, come. Sit, sit," Voldermort said busily, ushering him up and into an empty chair. Draco looked around at the two of them after taking the seat, his heart pounding, more nervous than anxious.

"Now Draco," said Voldermort, sitting down next to him. His expression was suddenly less fatherly and more business-like. "You failed me last time, you know that and you've been punished."

"I know, my Lord, again—" Draco fumbled. The punishment he'd been forced to endure the last time made him even more determined to please. But Voldermort held up a gaunt hand to stop him and Draco actually bit down on his lip to keep himself from saying any more.

"No need for apologies," he said dismissively. "I have decided to give you a second chance. My need for you is too great."

Draco didn't know whether to be happy or upset at this news, but smiled anyway. Again, nothing less would be expected of him.

"Getting straight to the point: you are to drink this," Voldermort continued, bringing a small vial out from his billowing black robes. It was filled with a red, smoky liquid. It looked like blood in a gas form, streaked with a disgusting-looking black as though it had congealed in the vial. Draco tried his hardest not to cringe.

He went on. "You are then to go to school as usual. Go about your lessons as you normally would. Your test will become evident to you in time, but I won't tell you what it is. All I can tell you is that, soon enough, your loyalty to me will be tested once more. If you pass this test, someone will die. But Potter will be in my grasp and all past infractions can be excused. Fail… and the punishment will be worse than last time. Oh, so much worse…"

Draco swallowed hard at his blunt threat and looked at his father, who was staring deeply at him. Draco knew his father was waiting for him to say yes and drink the damn stuff already. "Well Draco?" he pressed, raising a blonde eyebrow as though daring him to say no.

"Yes sir," Draco murmured. "I would be no less than happy to prove my loyalty to you," he said louder, looking into Voldermort's expecting red eyes that had haunted his dreams for oh, so long.

Both men smiled and Voldermort uncorked the bottle, pressing it into Draco's hand. "Drink up, boy. I'm sure your father is aching to go home and celebrate with you."

More like brag about it to all of his rich friends, Draco thought. But he placed the vial to his lips and chugged it down. It tasted like nothing, but he did feel it slide down his throat. He was glad there was no taste. He was afraid he would have spit it back up in shock and seem like a complete dunce.

"Your initiation has begun."