Draco woke in total darkness. With typical Slytherin caution, he remained motionless as he assessed the uncertain situation. He was laying on something very hard and cold; definitely not his bed. There was a light cloth covering his face although it was not heavy enough to hinder his breathing. The faint echo of a persistent drip-drip-drip nearby indicated that he was inside and that the room was quite large but not well kept. There was no rustle of clothes, no creak of furniture moving, and no hint of breathing to indicate that anyone else was present.
Even though he was most likely alone, Draco moved only slightly at first. Twitching his fingers along the smooth surface he was lying on, he decided that his current resting place was made of polished stone. Lifting his hand a bit, he slid it along the underside of the cloth covering him. The material was rougher than his usually bed linen.
Emboldened by the continued lack of sound, Draco carefully raised a hand to push aside the cloth that covered his face. However, even with the cloth removed, the room remained as dark as before. When he attempted to sit up, Draco bumped his head against something hard above him. Using his hands as a guide, Draco discovered that he had hit his head against a rock shelf a few inches thick, polished on the top, but rough on the edge and underside. Further searching proved that Draco was sitting on a shelf similar to the one above him.
As his fingers traced the edge of the shelf he was sitting on, he discovered symbols carved into the stone. Slowly he traced out the letters that spelled his name followed by his date of birth then a more recent date. With a growing sense of dread, Draco stood and traced the symbols on the ledge above his. His breath came in short gasps as he traced out his grandfather's name. Trembling slightly, Draco ran a hand along the ledge until he found a cloth similar to the one that had covered him. Taking in a deep breath to calm himself, Draco reached further back. He shuddered as he found that which he had feared; the cold, stiff body of a well-preserved corpse.
Aghast, Draco realized that he had been entombed in the family mausoleum. Sliding back down to sit on his shelf, Draco forced himself to ponder the situation rationally. His parents would not have placed him in the family tomb unless they believed he was dead, would they? Could they have been mistaken? While his mother may not have had many dealings with corpses, his father had certainly killed enough people to recognize the difference between the living and the dead.
Draco's breath caught in his throat as a sudden memory intruded on his musings; his mother staring lifelessly at him as she lay beside him on the floor.
Choking back a sob, Draco stood and frantically began tracing the edges of the shelves until he found the one he had hoped would not exist; Narcissa Black Malfoy. He slowly felt for the shroud's edge then pulled it back to gently touch his mother's face. Her skin was unnaturally stiff and cold, but her hair was as silky as he remembered from his childhood. He laid his forehead against his mother's shoulder while tears streamed down his face. She had risked the Dark Lord's wrath to protect him and had died for her temerity while his father…
Draco's tears slowly ceased as anger took the place of grief. The memory of those last fateful moments returned in full. The Dark Lord had ordered Lucius to punish Draco for failing once again to satisfactorily complete an assignment. While the command may have been the Dark Lord's, Draco's father had cast the curses that left Draco convulsing on the floor. His mother had begged them to stop then finally threw herself over Draco's body. The pain from the curse had ceased for only seconds before Draco heard his father shout the words, 'Avada Kedavra!'. There was a bright, green light then someone had pushed Draco's mother roughly to the side. After his mother's futile sacrifice, the curses had continued until Draco could feel his body shutting down to escape the agony. As his vision had begun to fade, he clearly remembered hearing his father say the Killing Curse once again.
That was Draco's last memory before waking up here. Was he dead? Was he a ghost? He felt too substantial to be incorporeal. His hands connected quite firmly with the stone around him. In fact, his head had connected so well with the shelf above his that Draco was sure he would have a bruise. Surely, ghosts did not suffer such indignities. Satisfied with his logic, Draco felt justified in concluding that he was not a ghost.
He might possibly be an Inferius, but that did not seem feasible either. The Inferi were mindlessly animated corpses and his mind felt intact and uncontrolled by another. In fact, Draco did not feel the least bit dead. His muscles were a bit sore, but overall he felt quite fit.
Perhaps his father and the Dark Lord had been so confident that the Killing Curse would work that they had not checked that Draco was actually dead. There had been one other who had survived the Killing Curse, even if how it was done had never been explained.
Staring into the darkness as he mulled over the situation, Draco decided that the answer to why he was here was not nearly as important as how to extradite himself from his predicament. The doors to the family mausoleum were warded against entry and, consequently, also against departure. Without a wand, Draco could not remove the wards and was trapped with only the dead to keep him company.
Joe stared in frustration at the setting sun from his table by the inn window. So far, the local Constabulary had no leads on where MacLeod had disappeared.
While it was not odd for Mac to go off by himself without telling anyone, he would not have sent his horse back without him. Mac would know that a horse returning without a rider would be the cause of concern. Not only was Joe worried, but Rachel, a distant relative of Mac's, was alarmed as well.
In his role as MacLeod's Watcher, Joe had often faced the possibility that he would be the one to close the file that chronicled the immortal's life. As Mac's friend, he hoped that he did not live to see that day. Methos often said that even the most skilled immortal was bound to have an off day on occasion. It was unfortunate that having an off day for an immortal most likely meant death by decapitation.
"Joe, this is Inspector Stewart with the Northern Constabulary," Rachel said as she approached. "Inspector, this is Joe Dawson. He and Duncan are friends."
The two men exchanged greetings then the inspector motioned for them to sit. "What brings you to Scotland, Mr. Dawson?"
"Mac wanted to visit Rachel," Joe said. "I needed a vacation so I tagged along." Joe wondered if he would have seen as much of the world as he had if he had not followed Mac so many times in the past. At least this time, it had been by invitation.
"Any idea who Mr. MacLeod would have been meeting at the grave site?" Stewart asked.
"All he said this morning was that he was going for a ride and would be back before sunset," Joe said.
"Then he didn't come here to meet someone," Stewart pressed.
"The only person he's mentioned knowing here is Rachel," Joe answered. "Are you saying that he ran into someone out in the woods?"
"There is always that possibility," Stewart said and then glanced outside at the setting sun. "The dogs are on the way. Hopefully, they'll be able to find something we've missed." Stewart looked back at Joe. "You'll be staying on, Mr. Dawson?"
"I'm not leaving until Mac's found," Joe replied.
The inspector nodded and promised to inform them as soon as he knew anything.
"What was that all about?" Joe asked Rachel after the inspector left.
"The tracker found signs that Duncan had met someone near the graves," Rachel said softly. "There's no way to know if it was planned or accidental, so they're checking both possibilities."
Another man walked over to join them, setting down a round of drinks. "This one be just like the last two. Gone without a trace."
Rachel introduced Joe to Ian MacLeod, the man who backtracked the horse after it had returned.
"What do you mean, 'like the last two'? There have been other disappearances?" Joe asked.
"Aye, that there have. One gone camping, never returned. Found his campsite all set up, but no one there. Second one gone hunting. Found his rifle, but nary a sign of the hunter," Ian replied.
"Could it be some sort of animal?" Joe asked.
"An animal would leave tracks," Ian said. "All three cases, it be the same. Tracks just stop, like the men disappeared into thin air."
"That's not possible. They had to go somewhere," Joe protested.
"There be talk that it be like it was before - when the ones in masks came. Is said they could kill by looking at you and they could disappear like smoke."
"That's a bunch of old man's talk, Ian MacLeod," Rachel chided. "You shouldn't be spreading such fairy tales."
While Ian and Rachel argued over the merits of Ian's tall tale, Joe tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together in some way that made sense, but failed. It was apparent that the local police had no idea what was happening either. Despite all his years as a Watcher, Joe realized that he was out of his depth. There was only one person he knew that might have the knowledge to deal with a situation like this. Someone who had centuries of experience at disappearing without a trace.
MacLeod staggered as his captor shoved him into the dimly lit room. With his arms bound, he was unable to cushion his fall and landed with a grunt on his side. As he rolled to his knees, MacLeod quickly took note of the five, cloaked men standing around the room before his gaze came to rest on one lounging in an ornate, almost throne-like, chair in front of him. The dim light in the corner, even fainter than the rest of the room, allowed MacLeod to see little of the man other than the black robes that draped around his feet.
"And what is this, Lucius? Have you brought a gift?" the lounging man asked.
"A Muggle, my lord," Lucius responded. "A very, special Muggle."
MacLeod barely refrained from shuddering as the man Lucius addressed as 'my lord' stood and glided toward him. The man's face was something out of a horror movie; completely hairless with red eyes, slits where his nose should be and white, scaly skin. He resembled the snake that slithered around the base of his chair.
"I'm intrigued," purred Snake-face. "What makes this Muggle special, Lucius?"
"I've killed him three times, my lord," Lucius said, "and yet, he is still alive."
"How interesting," Red-eyes said softly.
The last words MacLeod heard before the darkness took him were, "Avada Kedavra!".
After casting the Killing Curse, Voldemort gazed thoughtfully at the Muggle for a moment, and then raised a brow as he looked up. "He appears to be quite dead, Lucius," he said in a slightly chiding tone.
"He will not remain that way long," Lucius replied with confidence.
Voldemort swept back to his chair and reseated himself, watching through half-closed eyes as Nagini began to inspect the Muggle's unmoving body. Minutes crawled by with the slight rustle of robes the only sound heard as the Death Eaters shifted nervously where they stood. They all knew that if Lucius failed to back his claim then their lord would be in a foul temper. No one was safe when the Dark Lord raged.
Voldemort was on the verge of reproving Lucius for wasting his time when the Muggle's eyes flew open and he let out a choked gasp.
A predatory light filled Voldemort's red eyes as he rose. "There is only one other to have survived the Killing Curse," he said softly, almost reverently.
"If we could discover the Muggle's secret, my lord, then you could use it to obtain that which you desire," Lucius replied. "As well as destroy Potter once and for all." His tone was contemptuous as he spoke Harry Potter's name, the Boy Who Lived despite the Dark Lord's repeated efforts to kill him.
Voldemort approached the Muggle and slowly circled his prone body. Unable to use his arms as leverage, the Muggle lay on his back as he assessed the situation with narrow eyes.
"What is your name, Muggle?"
MacLeod clenched his teeth as he glared at No-nose. "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
"Well, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, this is a most amazing skill you have. How is it that you are able to recover from death itself?" Voldemort asked, his tone casually curious, as if asking where Mac had bought his shirt.
MacLeod rapidly concluded that the only thing keeping his head attached was this man's ignorance of immortals. He did not intend to give that advantage away. "Go to hell."
MacLeod jerked his gaze away from Voldemort's cold, red stare. There was something unnerving about the snake-faced man's eyes. It was almost as if he were seeing into MacLeod's soul.
"His mind is quite strong for a Muggle," Voldemort said softly. "I believe we will have to use other means to persuade our guest to share the information I require. Lucius, if you would…"
Lucius smiled coldly and, with a flick of his wand, pinned MacLeod to the wall.
Voldemort strolled to where MacLeod was hanging, unable to move. "I will know your secret, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. And once I have it, I will use it."
Voldemort turned abruptly and stalked back to his chair. "See that our guest remains alert, Lucius," Voldemort instructed with a negligent wave of his hand. "Pain has the remarkable ability to loosen the tongue, but one must be aware to receive the full effect."
Methos hung up the phone and sat back to finish his beer as he pondered Joe Dawson's call. Like Ian MacLeod, he had heard the rumors that had circulated almost two decades ago. Unlike most though, Methos had a suspicion of who had been behind the disappearances of an untold number of people. If his guess were right though, Mac was in more trouble than he had ever before been in. A sword, even in the hands of an expert like Mac, might be of little use against someone who knew truly powerful magic.
Finishing his beer, Methos walked over to the computer and pulled up information on flights to Scotland.
"Harry, we should have waited for the others," Hermione scolded in a whisper as they approached the reported Death Eater hideout. "What if there are more than just the five we were told about?"
"My source has been giving us tips for months now and he hasn't been wrong before," Harry argued quietly. After months of searching for and destroying the Horcruxes that Voldemort had created in an attempt at immortality, Harry was ready to end the fight once and for all.
"Leave off, Hermione," Ron said. "The Order are all off fighting the Death Eaters somewhere. If we wait 'til they come back, the place will be crawling with Death Eaters again." He did not mention that while the Order knew they had to let Harry face Voldemort eventually because of the prophecy, they were rather unlikely to allow him and Hermione into such a perilous situation. Especially since Ron's mother was a very vocal part of the Order and didn't want her youngest son placed in danger.
Hermione grumbled under her breath but refrained from saying anything more. She knew they were right, but she had a very bad feeling about the whole situation. She waited impatiently while Harry mumbled a spell and waved his wand to remove the wards that protected the Death Eaters hideout.
"The wards are down," Harry said, then resumed his approach toward the darkened mansion.
"Doesn't it strike you as odd that your mystery source would know the spell to take down the Death Eaters' wards?" Hermione asked in a low, acid tone.
"It only makes sense that he knew what the wards were if he managed to escape them," Harry said crossly.
"Or if he helped put them up," Hermione muttered under her breath, knowing Harry wouldn't listen, just like he hadn't listened the last dozen times she'd tried to convince him that his mystery source could be sending them into a trap.
The trio had barely passed through the front door when they heard screams of pain echoing through the hallway.
Hermione turned pale. "Do you think they're torturing someone?" she managed to choke out.
"I don't think they're having a tea-party," Ron said darkly.
"Head toward the screams," Harry said, his teeth clenched, as he led the way down the hall.
The hallways twisted and turned, leading them deeper into Death Eater territory, but always with the gut-wrenching screams to guide them on.
Harry stopped before a door. A light glowed softly along the gap at the bottom. Hermione sniffled a bit as she brushed aside the tears that ran down her face. She wished her imagination was not painting such a vivid picture of what they were doing to the poor soul inside.
"This is it," Harry hissed. "On the count of three…"
CJ DeanPage 75/13/2007