Draco was thrown unceremoniously onto the rough stone floor at the Dark Lord's feet. The rock cut slightly into his face, but little scrapes were the least of his worries. Draco had failed to kill Dumbledore. Instead, Snape had to do the deed. Because of Draco's weakness, he had botched his first mission. He was in trouble, and he knew it. And if one was in trouble with Voldemort, one had a singular option: to beg.
"Please, my Lord. Forgive me. I was weak. I was taken in by the old codger's empty promises. I have failed you." Draco hung his head lower, if such a feat were even possible. His voice was filled with sincere shame and regret.
"Silence!" came Voldemort's authoritative voice from his elevated seat on the red wing-backed chair. "I do not wish to hear your miserable excuses, boy. I wish only to be obeyed, which you have not done. And for that, you deserve only one thing."
Draco steeled himself for death's swift approach. It would not be the first time he awaited the bright green light of the Killing Curse. But instead of death's icy grip, he was dealt an astonishing amount of pain.
Draco writhed on the floor, curling up into a ball and hugging his legs to his chest. Such pain was not unfamiliar to him; he had, after all, lived with his father for 17 years. But as familiar as the pain was, he had not grown accustomed to it. For who could ever adapt to the feeling of his eyes being seared with a white hot poker? Or a wedge being driven under his nails? Or his organs being torn to bits by savages inside his own skin?
His father, Lucius Malfoy, was now looking on as his son was being tortured. His cold eyes held no pity within them. Instead, they were filled with stark disappointment and utmost disgust. His lip curled as he heard Draco pitifully cry out in pain.
The pain stopped almost as suddenly as it had begun, leaving Draco sweaty and panting on the cold floor. Voldemort removed his gaze from the worthless boy at his feet and barked an order to Lucius.
"Remove this boy from my sight! Take him back to Malfoy Manor and teach him a lesson of your own. I expect you back here within the hour to receive further instructions. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Lord," he replied obediently.
Lucius walked over to a motionless Draco and roughly grasped his upper arm. Hauling the young man to his feet, they both Apparated with a small pop and arrived mere seconds later at Malfoy Manor.
Lucius threw Draco down immediately upon their arrival; it was as if he was loathe to touch his son for a moment longer than was necessary. He then started in on his own brand of punishment: a mixture of physical and emotional torture that he had perfected over years of fatherhood.
For nearly an hour, Lucius slung insults at Draco, demeaning him in every possible way. Every so often, he would throw in a well-aimed hex or a kick to the stomach or a whack across Draco's face with his pointed cane. The result was a broken and bleeding boy, lying motionless but still conscious on the white marble floor of the manor's foyer. Blood oozed out of Draco's body steadily, pooling and congealing on the floor, providing a horrifyingly beautiful contrast of crimson upon ivory.
With a final insult and kick to Draco's ribs, Lucius glared at his son with tremendous revulsion and stalked away.
Draco's mind registered the sound of his father's heels and cane upon the hard stone floors and heard the pop of his Disapparation. It was only then that Draco allowed himself to move. With pitiable slowness, he moved to a wall, creating a wide streak of smeared blood across the floor. He pushed himself into a sitting position, wincing with pain and breathing slowly. He could feel one or two of his ribs being pushed into his lungs, impeding his breath. Every slow inhale brought a burst of pain, every burst of pain brought another gasp, and every gasp brought more pain. It was an unendurable cycle.
The pain kept Draco from falling into the coveted state of unconsciousness. He kept the tenuous grasp on his sanity intact by reassuring himself that a release from the pain, be it the blessed unconsciousness or death, would come soon. Unconsciousness was the savior for Draco this time, as it had been all the times before. His head slumped against the wall as he fainted from blood loss.
How much later it was when he woke, Draco was unsure. All he knew was that his wounds had been seen to and his chest had been wrapped. Instead of lying on the marble floor in a pool of his own blood, he was now on the black leather couch in his father's sitting room.
'Mother found me,' he thought with certainty. Had it been his father, Draco would still be bleeding on the floor.
He opened his eyes, feeling too weak to move much more than that. The deep and icy voice of his father came floating to Draco's ears from behind the couch.
"Luckily for you, the Dark Lord said that all was not lost. He has come up with a way for you to redeem yourself. You do not deserve such a chance, but the Dark Lord is merciful."
'Merciful.' Draco inwardly scoffed at this remark, but made no outward gesture of his emotion. To do so would have practically requested another beating, or possibly even death.
Lucius moved to the front of the couch to better regard his son. He sneered at the bandages, as if they too were a sign of weakness.
"But know this: if you fail this mission, he will do worse than kill you. Do you understand me, boy?"
Draco feebly nodded his understanding and tried to stay awake and alert enough to hear the Dark Lord's new orders. When he finished explaining, Lucius rose to leave. "You understand what you need to do, Draco. Do not disappoint me."
The last was said with an unspoken threat. With that, Lucius left.
A week passed. Draco was no where near fully healed, but he had regained enough of his strength and his mind to realize what he had to do.
'I have to get out of here,' he thought desperately. He mounted the long staircase to his room, pausing often to catch his breath. He clutched the banister with shaky white fingers, breathing deeply and simultaneously groaning in pain because of his cracked ribs. He finally reached his room and leaned against the door in exhaustion. More than anything, he wanted to rest. 'But I can't. Not right now. I have to get out of here first.'
As quickly as he could, Draco ripped open his drawers and started haphazardly piling his clothes into a trunk. Pants, shirts, boxers, socks, everything. He would leave nothing in his bureau or his bathroom.
He tried not to think of his mother, the poor woman who had actually cared for her son's well-being. It was she who endured most of his father's wrath when Draco was a child. But now that he was legally an adult, Lucius was able to beat Draco as much as he wanted without fear of retribution from the Wizengamot. He owned half of them anyways, so complaining would do little to no good. Draco hoped that his father would not kill his mother while he was away, but there was no possible way to predict the sadistic man's actions.
Getting downstairs was a bit more difficult than going up. The weakened boy tried to silently lug his heavy trunk down the stairs. His attempt was not met with much success. Halfway down, his shaky fingers, now coated in a thin sheen of sweat, lost their grip on the awkward trunk. It banged down the stairs and loudly echoed in the empty foyer. He knew that it was only a matter of time until his mother would come running to stop him. Ignoring the blackness now threatening his vision and his wounds, newly opened from his physical exertion up and down the stairs, Draco focused his eyes on the door.
With heavy and slow footsteps, Draco continued. The distance, which could have been no more than ten feet, seemed to be ten miles. It was an interminable walk.
'This must be what the steps of a dead man feel like,' he thought.
He finally reached the threshold and took a deep breath. With a determined air, he stepped over it, officially outside the boundary that had trapped him for so long. Once he was halfway down the walk, he turned around to regard his house one last time. The dark and brooding structure held no love for him, and he felt none in return. He hated each gloomy stone, each grotesque gargoyle, each threatening spire, each looming chimney. With a triumphant smile, he Apparated to the address that Dumbledore mentally sent to him just seconds before his death.
The last thing Draco saw as he disappeared was a flash of his mother. She was bracing herself against the doorway of Malfoy Manor with a look of defeat. She, of course, realized what her son was doing and that she was powerless to stop him. Even from the distance he was at, he could see tears falling steadily down her pale face. She raised one hand to her head, cradling it gently. The other was over her heart, her fingers flexing slightly as if the movement was the only thing keeping the worn organ working. Draco felt a tug at his own heart: leaving his mother, the woman that had cared for him and raised him, was harder than he expected.
He saw her only for a moment, and then he was gone.
In an instant, Draco landed in a run-down neighborhood. He could hear the other people living on the street going about their lives as loudly as they possibly could. Babies were crying, lovers were arguing, and children were laughing. All of these normal noises that Draco never really had a chance to experience hit him like a brick.
He sighed. 'So this is how the other half lives.' Draco did not regret his decision, but he did wish it could be another way.
As he walked towards the address, the house slowly materialized. At first came a small and worn door. The door was then surrounded by tatty-looking walls and windows covered in thick cobwebs of pearly white. He raised his hand to the door knocker, shaped like a snake. Draco grimaced as he took another deep breath and knocked twice on the door to 12 Grimmauld Place, headquarters to the Order of the Phoenix.