Harry Potter and the Last Year
By Carla Lute
Notes: I tried something unusual with the formatting of this story. There are actually two ways to read it. One way is by levels. That is to read all the Harry chapters to the end, and then read the story again from Draco's point of view. The second is to read chronologically, alternating between the two P.O.V.s. I believe both work. To read by Levels allows for more of a mystery. To read Chronologically, still has some mystery, but plays more as a comedy of errors. I used to have a personal fanfic website, that made it easier to choose your story path, but it's down for now. I have the story listed under two titles on Schnoogle dot com (Harry Potter and the Last Year and Draco Malfoy and the Last Year) also under the Carla Lute pen name. So I decided to post the chapter chronologically on fanfiction dot net.
This is the chronological version of the story. I hope you enjoy it. This is my first time in a long time to post on , so please make me aware of any formatting issues. I've done my best in regards to spelling and grammar, but haven't had much luck keeping a beta tester, so please feel free to drop me a private message if you notice anything off.
I tried very hard to keep the story in line with the Harry Potter canon presented in the first five books. Nit pickers will notice one small "inaccuracy". I did make Lucius Malfoy a bit younger than the Daily Prophet lists him, for my purposes this was a typo on the prophets part, and Lucius wasn't too happy about it.
Disclaimer:This story is based on the Harry Potter novels written by J.K. Rowling. All characters created by J.K. Rowling are owned by J.K. Rowling. The few characters created by me (i.e. Persephone, Hotchet, Kagome…) belong to me, but are available for use in other fics as long as I get credited as their creator. None of us are making any money off this and no infringement is intended.
Level 2.1: The Portrait in the Attic
Draco Malfoy paced along the balcony at the top of the stairs. Below, black capes swam past the staircase into the drawing room. Draco watched the hoods, checking their body language and catching occasional glimpses of faces, trying to figure out who the individual Death Eaters were from those clues. Some of them were easy, some he was quite sure he had never met.
The whole house was in shadows. It was very late at night, the best time for secret gatherings or in this case silent migrations. Downstairs small candles spotlighted corners of the hall. The halls at the top of the stairs were cloaked in shadow. Draco could have been seen quite easily if anyone had bothered to look up, but the Death Eaters kept their faces down. Draco was not too worried about any of them looking up. He could take a few steps back from the stairwell and be completely cloaked by the darkness if he so wished.
Besides this was his home, his manor. There was no reason why he should not know who was coming into it. He would be introduced properly soon. Tonight the Death Eaters were simply too busy relocating to the chambers underneath the manor. His father had promised him that this summer he would finally be taken into the fold, that he had finally grown enough to know everything.
Draco thought it all a great bore. The Death Eaters all looked so dull in the same black robes, the same hunched stride. His father's bright blonde head and tailored clothing stood out as he quietly directed the throng of Death Eaters in the same manner he would have escorted members from the ministry into the parlor for tea. Lucius Malfoy wore black as well, but his black was clean, his cape shiny and lined with a silky, subtly patterned dark green. His long blonde hair fell straight with a little bit from either side of his face tied back with a thick black ribbon. But his father always dressed with great care, so this was of little interest to Draco.
Sometimes before, he would have wanted to be down there, part of the secret society, completely in the know. But right now, he enjoyed looking down on them. He was not sure he wanted them in his home. Not that he was frightened, he just liked having his space and did not know what kind of wizards were under those cloaks. Yes, they were followers of Voldemort and probably pure bloods, but even among the pure blooded wizards was a large population that he would rather not have under his feet.
Still, dull as they were, he could not convince himself to return to his chambers for more stimulating pleasures. He breathed quietly, feeling he could maintain his post as unknown observer and discover something wondrous before he was meant to know it.
Then HE entered. Draco felt his chest grow slightly colder and the coldness followed his veins to the tips of his fingers. The Dark Lord was taller or seemed taller than most of the Death Eaters. His ashen face, snake-like and barely human, surveyed the hall with more alertness. Draco had known Voldemort was coming, but he really had not expected him. He took a few steps back to avoid the Dark Lord's gaze but felt that Voldemort was quite aware of him anyway. He felt the instinct to retreat but did not dare run away from Voldemort, knowing that fast footfalls would only draw more unwanted attention to himself.
And then the Dark Lord was gone. He had moved through into the drawing room where Draco's mother was waiting. More Death Eaters followed. There had really only been twenty of them all together, but it seemed like more. And then the Death Eaters were gone. And then his father was gone.
Draco knew better than to go downstairs before he was asked. He took a deep breath, shook his head slowly, stretching to relieve the tension in his neck. Then he walked to his bedchamber. It was late, and he doubted there would be anything of interest happening that night. He took off his shoes, and not bothering to undress further, laid down on his bed to sleep.
He slept, but not well. After a few hours, he was not sure how many, he awoke. It was still dark and he still had that cold feeling in his veins. He had always laughed at people's reactions to Voldemort. He had laughed at the Mudbloods frightened whispers of "You-Know-Who" and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named". More privately he had laughed at his parents' reverent mentions of "Lord Voldemort" or "The Dark Lord". It had all seemed so overblown. After all, Lord Voldemort had been born the same way any other man was born. He had gone to school at Hogwarts. He had even been a bloody prefect. Draco was a prefect. Draco knew plenty of curses. He could have gone around knocking off Mudbloods if he so fancied. He had never understood the fear and reverence that followed Voldemort.
Not until tonight.
What really chilled him was that he had understood it so completely in one glance. Voldemort had not said anything, had not done anything. Draco could not be sure that he had even looked at him properly, but he had cowered as if Voldemort had been standing over him, rather than passing under his feet like the others.
And he could still feel him. Feel the dark, cold magic where the warmth of the bed should have been on his back.
Draco stood. He stretched his legs, his body, ran his fingers through his hair, which had been put in slight disorder by his nap. His legs kept moving, and he decided to walk to clear his mind. His legs led him out of his bedchamber, into the hall, into another hall lit by the moonlight coming through tall windows.
There were no guests upstairs. His parents were downstairs, settling the black robed migration into the secret chambers below the manor house. He was essentially alone. He climbed the stairs to the third floor. On the third floor, he walked the opposite way down the moonlit corridor and found a door that he had forgotten about. The door led to the attic. He had not been inside the attic in years. It was dusty and dull, all the more interesting items were downstairs for use or display or locked away in secret places under the floor.
Draco did not go to the attic that night. But after a week of midnight wanderings, he had run out of halls and rooms and grounds.
The door to the attic on the third floor was a proper door, but it was a hatched door that led into the attic itself. Draco lifted it and climbed through. The attic was slightly more interesting in the moonlight. It was a large chamber that ran the length of the manor and had a large window at each end. Even with the windows, the attic was dark enough that Draco lit the lantern waiting by the hatch. The lantern bobbed up into the air until it was level with Draco's eyes.
"Follow me," he told it.
The attic was large enough that nothing had needed to be stacked, and there was still a good bit of floor space to walk around. The floors were bare wood. Few of the boxes or crates were higher than Draco's waist. The taller items were pushed against the walls, increasing the cavernous feeling. Draco walked through the boxes, glancing at them as he passed without any real interest. The lantern followed him obediently. He was not worried about anything hiding in the shadows, servants cleared the attic fairly regularly, but there were enough things scattered about the floor. He did not want to trip and cause an unnecessary racket. The ceiling was high, two or three times Draco's height, and Draco was a few inches shy of six feet.
"You could probably fit Weasely's entire house in here with room left over," he mused to himself.
Draco twisted about looking for another person hiding in the attic. His pulse quickened a bit, and his eyes danced from shadow to shadow.
"Is anyone there?" the high, muffled voice came again.
"Come out," Draco said.
"I'm armed," Draco said, pulling his wand out and holding it at ready.
"I would really like to, but I can't."
The voice did not sound threatening. It sounded young and female. Draco wondered why it had the muffled quality. He looked about for an old dresser someone could be hiding in.
"Are you still there?" The voice came again.
Draco followed it. "Yes, I'm still here."
"Please, don't leave."
"Are you a ghost?" Draco asked.
"No, I'm not."
The voice was getting a little louder. Draco walked slowly past a pile of crates and covered things. "What are you then?"
"I'm a girl, silly."
Draco stopped. The sound had come from just behind him. He backtracked to the crates. A tan cloth hung over something about four feet tall, flat with pointed edges. "Wait a minute," he said and pulled the cloth aside. "You're just a painting."
It was a painting of a silver-haired witch. Life sized, but cut off near the waist. Draco sat down in front of it, relief giving him the first rush of warmth that he had had in a while.
"You gave me start," he said, as he studied the painting more closely. The shoulder-length hair sticking out wild and silver about her head had at first made him think that she was an older woman, but her face was that of a young girl close to his own age, perhaps a little younger. The girl was wearing Hogwarts robes with a Slytherin badge. Her irises were silver as well. Her face was round, though not chubby, and her expression one of cautious hope.
"Lucius?" she asked, squinting a bit against the sudden light.
"No," he said. "I'm not Lucius."
She looked slightly disappointed then hopeful again. "Can you help me? Can you get me out of here?"
"Out of the attic?" Draco asked. If paintings could get bored, he supposed being covered in an empty attic would be the fastest way to do it.
"No!" She said, starting to look frustrated again. "Out of the painting."
"What are you at?" Draco said. "You are a painting."
"I'm not," she said, almost in tears. "I'm a girl, and I'm stuck in here."
Draco wrinkled his brow. He wondered if paintings could go mad. If they ever convinced themselves that they were their subjects. But then, his parents did know a lot of dark magic, and they knew a lot of people who knew a lot of dark magic. Maybe it was possible to enchant someone into a painting. If so, his parents may have had a very good reason for putting her in the attic.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I'm Persephone," she said. "Persephone Potter."
She said it very matter of factly as though not thinking the name "Potter" carried any more significance than the name "Smith" or "Creevey". Draco stared, wondering why on earth his family would have a painting of a Potter.
"But why are you wearing Slytherin robes?" he asked.
"I'm in Slytherin," she said with a little pride. "I'm a Fifth year."
"But, you're a Potter?" he said.
"Yes," she said. "Mama was in Ravenclaw in school. Papa was a Gryffindor though, and so is James. But I never wanted to be in a house with him anyway."
Draco knew his mouth was hanging open but was in no hurry to shut it. The name James Potter was familiar. He had heard his father complain about James Potter often enough, whenever he himself had complained about Harry. Persephone...maybe he had heard that name before too, but not often, not in a long time.
"Wait!" The girl said. She was keeping her voice down as Draco was doing, but the excitement came through anyway. "Are you Draco Malfoy?"
"Yes," Draco said.
"Are-are you Lucius's son?"
"I should have known it," she said. "Lucius told me he wanted to name his son Draco." She studied Draco. "Oh dear. How old are you?"
"Nearly seventeen," he said. He was going to be a Seventh Year when the term started, his last year at Hogwarts.
"Seventeen," the portrait repeated. "What year is it? How long have I been here?"
Draco told her the year. Persephone clapped her hands over her mouth. She seemed to fall back in her portrait as though the blotchy orange background made a wall behind her. "Can't be," she said at last. "Can't be. That's twenty years. I mean it felt like a long time, but I thought that was just because I was bored. But-twenty years." She looked ready to cry. Draco was not sure what he could say to comfort her, or if he should comfort her.
"Can't you get me out, please?" she said, regaining herself. "Or get Lucius, he'll get me out!"
"You mean he didn't put you there?" Draco said.
"No, of course not," the portrait said. "He'd never do something like that. At least, I don't think so."
Draco wondered how long she had been in the attic. Even he knew his father had done worse things than that. "Who did then?"
The portrait hesitated, "Who's your mother, Draco? Is it Narcissa Black?"
"Yes," Draco said. The portrait's face fell. She looked down at the ground. "My mother put you in there." Persephone nodded. "Why?"
"I don't know," Persephone said. "I thought Narci was my friend."
"I don't believe you," Draco said defensively. He stood up. His fascination with the painting killed by the accusation against his mother. "I bet you're nothing but a painting gone nutty." He headed swiftly back to the hatch. Ignoring the pitiful cries behind him.
"No! Please, don't go. Please, help me out. Ask them if you don't believe me! Ask them! Please, come back. Draco-"
He closed the door to the attic and stormed back down to his room, too angry to remember his sleeplessness.
Draco told himself that he was just anxious. Once he actually met the Dark Lord, all the tension would melt away. If he could only get that initial meeting over with, everything would be all right. He would be welcomed fully into the adult world, into the world of his father and mother.
But he could not simply burst in upon the Dark Lord and say hello. He had to wait to be formally introduced, something his father appeared to be in no rush to do. Draco tried to push Voldemort out of his mind. He remembered Professor Snape coming up to him in his fifth year at Hogwarts.
I'm teaching Potter Occlumency, a skill that closes the mind from prying eyes. I want you to learn as well.
At the time, he had thought that Professor Snape was just trying to keep Potter from out classing him, but now he wondered if Snape knew the sort of company his father kept. Draco lay in bed, trying to remember the few lessons he had received. They had only had five sessions in all. Two during his fifth year, three last year. He focused, shutting the doors to his mind. He did not know how well it was working, but it helped him relax. He finally got the goodnight's sleep he had been needing.
Draco awoke more refreshed than he had been since the arrival of the Death Eaters. He still did not want to think too much about Voldemort. He was not allowed to have visitors or go visiting. His parents were occupied with their guests. So his thoughts turned back to the portrait in the attic. He looked through his parents' old photo albums, something he usually found very dull. He looked through the album of their Hogwarts days. In his father's fourth year, his mother's third, he started seeing hints of a small silver-haired girl with Slytherin robes in the background. As the next three years progressed, she joined the foreground, and looked more and more like the portrait in the attic. In almost every picture she was laughing or smiling.
Draco stopped at one photograph, which contained only four figures. There was his father proudly displaying a prefect badge. The short silver-haired girl stood beside him pulling a shy, shifty looking boy with limp black hair closer in to the group. She kept jostling him trying to get him to smile, which he would do weakly then look away from the camera. From Lucius' other side, a young Narcissa watched them coolly. The girls would occasionally turn and point at the badge, which would make Lucius laugh.
The next few pages had similar group shots taken at different events, and twice as many photographs with just his father and mother, at a Quidditch game, at Hogsmeade, at a school dance. Then his father disappeared from the pictures having left Hogwarts as head boy and Quidditch Captain.
Most of the photographs became gatherings of different groups of girls, usually Slytherin, all including his mother and several of them had the silver-haired girl. There were a couple of pictures with just the black-haired boy and the silver-haired girl. In one she was hugging him while he stood stiffly and turned slightly pink, in another they were playing some game that involved a small ball and a pair of cricket paddles. Draco guessed his mother had taken the photographs. Then he came to a page that had simply one photo of the silver-haired girl all by herself. She was trying to sit still as if for a formal portrait, but kept wiggling and shifting between looking serious and choking back a laugh.
Underneath in a very neat script was written:
Vanished but Not Forgotten
Draco stared at the picture a long time, then he flipped through the album again.
Draco closed the album. He slipped it back on the shelf.
His father's voice came from behind him. Draco fought the reaction to jump successfully and turned to look at the older Malfoy. His father was dressed in deep red today. "Hello father," he said and was proud of the control in tone.
His father glanced at the albums and smiled. "Bored?"
"Just a bit."
"You must be bored to go through those old things," Lucius said.
Draco saw an opportunity and decided it was an appropriate moment to be curious. "Father, who is Persephone Potter?"
To his surprise, his father started softly singing a nursery song,
"Silver child with hair quite wild,
Radiant and splendid.
A clever girl, a charming girl,
A girl that's well befriended."
Draco blinked, and his father laughed sadly. "Persephone Potter was fine girl. Pure blood and a pure heart. She was James Potter's sister, though you never would have guessed it."
"Why are her hair and eyes like that?"
"She was born that way. Mother Potter made a mess of some charm. I always thought she was rather pretty."
"Not like mom," Draco said.
"Oh, no," Lucius smiled. "Not nearly as pretty as your mother. Persephone came to Hogwarts when I started my fourth year. James was horrid to her, so I took her under my wing. And then the year after I graduated, she vanished into thin air. No one's heard from her since." Draco thought he saw a trace of guilt flicker across his father's face, as though sorry he had left the girl unprotected.
"How did she vanish?"
"No one knows," Lucius said. "She was at Hogwarts of all places when it happened. Right out from under old Dumbledore's nose. Fine headmaster." He said the last sentence with a disgusted snort.
"What do you think happened?" Draco asked.
"Not a clue," Lucius said. "Everyone looked for her. There were no notes, no threats, no warnings, no leads. She was just gone. Narcissa was heart broken about it. They were good friends. She thinks it was James Potter, some cruel gag gone wrong."
"Do you think it was Potter?"
"I wouldn't be surprised," Lucius said.
Draco decided not to ask any more. The memory seemed to be genuinely sad for his father and that was not something Draco saw often. "Everything going well?" Draco asked, indicating the drawing room.
"Yes," his father said. "In fact I was coming to get you. Lord Voldemort is ready to meet you."
Draco felt his heart jump up to his throat. He swallowed it back down. "I'm ready."
Lucius smiled and lead his son into the parlor. It was mid-afternoon. A very nice Tea was set out on the table with plenty of biscuits and jams. The curtains were drawn and sitting on the formal Victorian sofa with the large floral pattern was the Dark Lord Voldemort. Voldemort was taking a small biscuit and placing it in his mouth. If the cold feeling had not returned to Draco's chest, he would have laughed at the absurdity of it.
He sat down in the high backed chair opposite the Dark Lord. His father sat in a second chair. His mother hovered in the corner. No one attempted to share the couch with Voldemort. Draco did his best to look more reverent than petrified.
"So, this is your son, Lucius?" The Dark Lord said in a deep, hissing voice.
"Yes, my lord," Lucius said. "Draco, my only child."
"He takes after you, Lucius. How are your studies at Hogwarts, Draco?"
"I'm third in my class, sir," said Draco not completely keeping the pride out of his voice.
"Oh, yes," the Dark Lord hissed. He took some tea. It was strange watching him drink. He seemed off somehow, as if his mouth did not quite close right on the cup. "Two places behind the Mud-blood Granger."
Draco looked down instead of giving his father the betrayed look that he wanted too. Why had his parents brought that up to the Dark Lord? It was bad enough hearing from his father every year, but now even the Dark Lord was complaining about his perfectly reasonable marks.
"Take some tea, Draco," Voldemort instructed. "Or it will get cold."
Draco wanted to tell him that was absurd. The cups were all enchanted so that tea never got cold prematurely. He held his tongue. He dreaded moving his hand from the safety of his lap. It was threatening to shake. He picked up a small biscuit, which would not clatter as much as the cup could and placed it in his mouth. When he managed to do this without incident, he reached for his teacup.
As Draco sipped his tea, Voldemort took some from his own cup. Draco tried not to stare too hard at his snake like lips.
"Would you die for me, Draco?" Voldemort asked smoothly.
Draco put his cup down very slow. He could sense his father tensing in his own chair. Draco quietly took in a breath. He raised his eyes to look at Voldemort's red ones. "If you require it, sir," he said sounding far more certain than he felt. He used the Occlumency technique Snape had shown him. He was not trying to hide anything in particular but focusing on that rather than his words made it easier to speak. "But I would rather live for you."
Voldemort laughed, a cold abrupt laugh that followed with a hissing wheeze. "Of course. Of course." He turned those burning red eyes to Lucius. "A Malfoy knows better than to grovel."
Lucius allowed a small, tight smile.
Voldemort took a very dainty looking iced butter biscuit and placed it in his mouth. As far as Draco could tell, he did not chew, but when he opened his mouth again the biscuit was gone. "Would you kill for me, Draco?"
"Who do you want to me kill?" Draco asked.
"Potter," Voldemort said. "Weasley, either one, both. Longbottom. Granger."
"Longbottom would be easy," Draco said. "Potter and Weasley more trouble, but given the opportunity, I would."
Draco clamped the Occlumency tighter around his mind and smiled, "That filthy little Mudblood? My pleasure."
Voldemort made a mouth movement that might have been a smile. "Well, don't get yourself expelled. Not yet anyway, but if you have the opportunity, do not hesitate on my account."
"Draco," the Dark Lord narrowed his eyes. "If I required it, would you kill your father?"
"No." The word came out clear and strong without Draco having to think about it. His fear, his nerves were forgotten, and he stared unflinchingly at Voldemort.
He was aware of his father looking at him. Trying to keep his own shock down both at the question and answer.
"Well," said Voldemort, with the smile like expression again. "You have a bit of bravery in you. That is good. I see how far I can push you then. Your honesty helps me know how much I can trust you." Draco's body was still very tense, and his eyes still did not flinch. "Relax," Voldemort hissed, leaning back a bit on the sofa himself. "I do not require your father's death today."
By and by, they finished the tea. Voldemort's questions after that were simpler things, silly pleasantries like what position Draco played on the Quidditch team and if he thought they would be victorious this year. Finally, Draco was excused. He bowed politely and left calmly. His mother followed him out. When they were a few rooms away she put her arms around him.
"Oh, my Draco, I'm so proud of you," she said.
"It's only tea, mother," he told her, though he was glad to get her praise.
She took his face in her hands and looked at it admiringly. "You are my pride and joy." She kissed his cheek, and then returned to the parlor.
Draco walked calmly up the stairs to the second floor. He moved gradually faster until he was running up the attic stares. He slammed open the hatch and crawled up onto the floor.
"You came back," he heard Persephone's hopeful voice say.
He ignored her, slumped down before the painting. He hugged his knees and started shaking uncontrollably.
"Draco," he heard the painting say. "Draco, dear, are you all right?"
He breathed irregularly as though he were to start crying, but his eyes stayed dry. After his shaking subdued into trembling, he turned to the painting.
"I'm such a damn coward," he said.
"Shh," Persephone soothed from the painting. She stretched out a hand as if to touch him but could not get it past the canvas. "Surely not."
"Look at me," he said, showing her his trembling hands. "It was just a tea, and I'm having convulsions." He tried to laugh at himself but it came out as a series of puffy breathes. "He called me brave."
"You think you're a coward because he called you brave?"
"He was mocking me," Draco said. "He knows why I said what I said. He knows it's all just talk. I can't do anything."
"Nonsense." Persephone said. "I bet you're such a talented wizard that you could have me out of this painting in an hour if you put your mind to it."
Draco laughed. "You're as selfish as I am."
"Maybe," Persephone said. "It just been on my mind for a long time, hard to think about anything else."
"I talked to my father," Draco said.
"Is he going to get me out?"
"No. I would be putting him in a bad spot right now to tell him about you, but I asked him."
"He thinks James is responsible for your disappearance."
Persephone looked thoughtful. "No, James is a bully, but he didn't do this. Narcissa did."
"How do you know that for sure?" Draco asked.
"Well, she asked me down to lake, said she wanted to paint my portrait. So I went to meet her. Only, next thing I know I'm in the portrait, and she's pointing and laughing and telling me that 'now, you can't get in my way anymore'. I thought she was playing a gag, but then she put a silence spell on me, wrapped me in brown paper, and mailed me back to her home," Persephone said. "She hung me up in her bedroom for a while, I remember her showing me her engagement ring. Then I guess she married your father, because next thing I know I was moved up to the attic."
Draco blinked. It seemed like a random, elaborately cruel thing for his mother to do. He knew she could be cruel sometimes, not to him but to other people. But he never thought his mother was random. "Why would she do that?"
"I'm not sure," Persephone said. "Only thing I can figure is that maybe she thought Lucius fancied me. He was always kind to me, and I admit I had a bit of a crush on him my first couple years. But he was really more of a big brother. He had promised to take me to dance at the end of term if I couldn't find a date. But Severus asked me, and I knew Narci fancied Lucius, so I was going to tell her that he was off the hook. But then, she slapped that silence spell on me before I could say anything."
That sounded a little more like his mother, but he still was not convinced. They had looked so happy in the pictures. He knew his mother had assembled the photographs. Persephone had her own page. His father had said she was heartbroken when Persephone disappeared.
"Besides, James knew better than to do something like that to me," Persephone said. "Papa and Mama would kill him if he had, and he knows it."
"They're a bit late," Draco said, the words flowing out automatically.
"What do you mean?" Persephone asked, her silver eyes intent on him.
"James Potter is dead," Draco said. There was no sense skirting around it. It was true. She might as well know.
Persephone clamped her hand over her mouth. "Dead?" she repeated. "James is dead? But even if it's been twenty years, he wouldn't yet be forty. How did he die? When?"
"He died sixteen years ago."
"But he would only be about twenty one, that can't be right. Was there an accident?"
"No, Lord Voldemort killed him."
"Who's Voldemort?" Persephone asked.
Malfoy blinked. If he had done his math right, Persephone should have still been out of the portrait when Voldemort had started gathering followers the first time. "He's the most powerful dark wizard that ever lived. He killed many of the most powerful wizards and witches during the eleven years he was gathering power."
"I remember," Persephone said. "In the Daily Prophet, there had been more and more mysterious disappearances, murders and stuff, but I don't think they had figured out if they were connected or who was responsible. But why James? He was so young."
Draco thought she sounded awfully concerned about someone who had been such a terrible bully. "James was just in the way," Draco told her. "Voldemort was really after James' infant son Harry."
"James had a son?" Persephone's eyes grew wide as she took it all in. "Why would he want to kill a baby? Did Harry get away?"
"Oh yeah, he got away," Draco snorted. "He's in my class at Hogwarts. He's a prick, a Gryffindor, and incredibly full of himself."
"Sounds like James."
"And Harry not only got away, he destroyed Voldemort's power, reduced him to a phantom of his former self, sent him into hiding."
"As a baby?"
"Yeah, and all Potter's got to show for it is a big lightning scar on his forehead."
Persephone fell quiet to process it all, and Draco did not mind. He was trying to process things himself. He sat there for while, hoping no one was looking for him. He did not want to look weak after that bluff at tea.
"Poor Mama and Papa. First I go missing, then James..." Persephone looked up at Draco. Her face full of dread. "You said he killed other wizards. My Mama and Papa? Are they-?"
Draco thought. "Harry Potter lives with his Muggle aunt. The rest of his family is supposed to be dead."
"I don't know how they died," Draco said. "It might have had nothing to do with Voldemort. Could have been something completely natural." He had no reassurance in his voice. It could have been Voldemort. He had killed enough people. Two more would not make much difference. But it seemed to make some difference to Persephone.
He looked at her. She was pressed back, hands over her mouth, eyes brimming with tears.
"It gets even better," Draco said flatly.
Persephone's sobs subsided enough for her to say behind her hands. "When you say 'better' you mean 'worse', don't you?"
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Voldemort's here. In the house, downstairs, I just had tea with him."
"That monster's here?" Persephone gasped. "Does Lucius know?"
"Lucius is the one who invited him," Draco said.
Persephone fell silent. Draco realized his shakes were gone and thought he had better get downstairs before someone came up here. "Look, being stuck in that painting may have been the only thing that's kept you alive." He stood back up, dusted himself off, and headed back downstairs.
The following week dragged on. Narcissa did not want to leave the manor even long enough to go to Diagon Alley for Draco's school supplies. She did not allow Draco to leave long enough to get them himself either. His books and things were sent for and arrived by owl. Since he could not go anywhere and no one called on him to entertain Voldemort again, Draco tried to pass his time by reading through his schoolbooks, but that only kept his attention so long.
Within a few days he found himself in the library, searching for a spell that would allow him to trap someone in a painting. At first he had simply meant it to be a way to pass the time, but the less he found, the more he wanted to find it. The Malfoys had a large library that went up two floors with a balcony all around the second. There were quite a number of comfortable chairs and couches, which Draco fell asleep on usually well past midnight, and a few small tables where he had the house-elves leave him food. Lucius Malfoy walked in on him a few times, not finding anything unusual about his son reading. However after Draco's third day of only leaving the library for toiletries, Lucius seemed to think something might be off.
"Draco, what the devil are you up to?" he asked.
"Just getting ready for school, father," Draco said, looking up from The Magic Art of the Moving Masterpiece.
"Those don't look like your school books."
"No sir, they're upstairs." Draco felt his mouth getting slightly dry, but this was only because the person questioning him was his father. If there was anything Draco knew how to do, it was lie well. One of the best tricks was not to lie at all. He gave his father a mock innocent smile. "I was looking for something to help me with my Potter problem."
"Ah," his father said. Lucius unlocked the large but innocent looking cabinet against the far wall. Some of the books in this cabinet had additional locks on them. One of them was rumbling as though it sensed the unlocked door and was trying to make an escape. Lucius selected one. To Draco's relief, it was not the rumbler. He locked the cabinet door and handed the book to Draco. In very happy looking letters with cute stylized stencils of flowers and herbs, it said Horribly Harmful Draughts From Humbly Harmless Herbs.
"Thanks," Draco said, opening the book as though it were a new Christmas present.
Lucius smiled and turned to walk out. "Father," Draco said when Lucius reached the door. "Could I borrow that key so that I could put the book away when I'm done?"
Lucius gave Draco an assessing glance. Draco should have known it would not be that easy. "Aren't we neat?" Lucius said over enunciating the last word. "You had no idea of course of going through the other books in the cabinet."
Another trick to lying really well, Draco knew, was to know when to stop. "Well, that thought may have crossed my mind," Draco said with a smile he found to be very effective against his mother when he was ten. He must have truly impressed his father at tea, because Lucius handed over the key.
"Just don't forget your school books," Lucius said as he let the chain slip from his hand. "You want to at least leave with top marks out of the boys this year."
Draco nodded, the rest of his father's sentence finished in his head, even if you are still behind Granger.
When his father left, Draco flipped through Horribly Harmful Draughts. He knew the chance of Harry Potter drinking anything Draco gave him was fairly nonexistent. He stopped however at the Forgetful Night of Love potion, a draught that promised the willingness of even the most stubborn mind and their complete incapability to remember what they had done while under its effects. Draco's hand caressed the page, something very dark stirring inside him. He slammed the book closed and took it back to the cabinet. "I'm not desperate," he muttered.
He unlocked the cabinet, shoved the book back in place, and searched the other titles. He was having very little luck until he spotted a very small, thin book. He pulled it out. Painting Your Own Secret Room. The rumbling book had managed to squirm out an inch. Draco slapped it back into place and locked the cabinet. He read the little book very thoroughly. The strange thing about it was there was not a hint of dark magic in the pages. It was a set of instructions for enchanting a painting so that you could keep personal treasures stored safely from the effects of time. There was not a word about trying to store people. While constructing the room within the painting was very complicated, actually putting things in and out seemed to be a very simple process. Draco assumed you could get a wizard inside as long as they sat very still and made no question of what you were doing.
Draco thought he might want to reference the book again, so instead of putting it back in the cabinet, he hid it behind some very boring looking books that he doubted had been moved in the last century. Draco yelled for a house-elf. One of the miserable little creatures appeared, and he sent it to fetch the schoolbooks from his room. He would give the key back to his father later in person. While he was waiting for the creature to return, he fell asleep on one of the couches.
He had a very nice dream about Hermione Granger being chained up in a dungeon. She was begging him to let her out so she could take an exam.
No, I'm going to kill you, he told her.
All right all right, but let me take the exam first, Hermione begged.
Are you off your gourd? Draco asked, raising his wand. I'm going to kill you.
But you CAN'T, she said pleadingly. I have to tell you something.
Draco never found out what Hermione wanted to tell him. He woke up to his mother gently shaking his shoulder.
"Draco, dear, I'm starting to worry about you," Narcissa said. "I know you've been cooped up in here. You've been so good not to complain."
Draco blinked at her. All he had done this summer before the Death Eaters had arrived was complained. He had complained about not getting to go anywhere, about not getting to see anyone, about how horribly bored he was going to be, and everything else he could think of just for good measure. He had stopped...well, he had stopped because Voldemort gave him chills.
"I've got a surprise for you," Narcissa said. She reached down and picked up a racing new broom. It was silver with black straw at the end. Timebender was printed in very sharp, blocky slanted letters on the side of the broom. "Top of line model this year. And look, we even had it engraved for you." Pressed in silver against silver was Draco Malfoy - Seeker.
He looked up at her. "Mum, I may not be seeker this year." He had been the Slytherin team seeker for the past five years, but seekers were usually small and light. He had grown tall, and though he was still slim, his shoulders were filling out.
"Oh, don't worry, Draco. It will change to whatever position you're currently playing." Draco nodded. He looked at the broom longingly. His father told him to keep off his broom so he would not draw more attention to the manor. Draco thought that was rubbish. His mother had not been sent to jail, and it was no secret that Draco was here with her. It probably was more suspicious that he was not out on his broom every clear day.
"Why don't you go try it out?" Narcissa said. "Your father said it would be all right."
"Seriously?" Draco said brightly.
But he did not wait for an answer. He snatched the broom and ran for the carriage house. He dragged his set of Quidditch balls out and to the back of the manor where 3 large metal hoops were perched on high metal rods. It was not a proper Quidditch field, only one set of goals, but it was good for practice. He let the Snitch out first and chased it down two or three times. Then he swapped it out for a bat and one of the Bludgers. He thought about letting the second Bludger out, but decided that was just asking for a broken bone. After an hour or so, he wrestled the Bludger down. He tried tossing the Quaffle to himself. It was a little hard to decently practice with the Quaffle without another chaser. Normally...well, a couple of years ago, his father would have come out with him at least once a week to toss the Quaffle around.
Now, he was busy with Lord Voldemort. Now, he was not technically supposed to be out of jail. Another delightful little consequence of the service to the Dark Lord. Draco stopped, suspended in midair, and focused on his Occlumency. Those were not thoughts he should be letting out right now.
Draco was sweaty; drops were rolling out of white blonde hair into his face. He looked up and realized a light rain had started. It was time to pack it up. He dropped the Quaffle into the ball case and flew it back to the carriage house. He found a secure home for his new broom and returned to the manor through the backdoor. He knocked the mud off his shoes, careful not to trail too much into the house. The house-elves would clean up whatever he tracked in, but his mother had instilled a dislike for unintentional chaos in him early on. He kept his room both here and at Hogwarts obsessively neat.
He wandered into the kitchen and dropped into a chair. "Hotchet," he yelled for one of the house-elves. Usually you could find at least one or two hanging around the kitchen, but the house-elves had been unusually scarce since the Death Eaters arrived. The ugly creature appeared and slinked forward in a subservient, hunched position. Draco wanted to kick it for looking so miserable, but he was tired from practice.
"What would the young master like?" Hotchet asked.
"Something cold to drink," he said. "I've been practicing."
Hotchet snapped his fingers and a Cherry-lime Quidditch Cooler appeared. It was exactly what he wanted. Hotchet was one of the smarter house-elves. "Thanks," Draco said.
Hotchet stared at him as if he had just spoken Parseltongue. "What?" Draco snapped, glad his father had not been around to hear him be polite to the house-elf.
"Anything else, young master?" Hotchet managed.
"No, that's all."
Hotchet bowed and scurried away.
"How was practice, Draco?" his mother asked as she glided into the room. "Did you get wet?"
"Not too bad," Draco said.
Narcissa walked to the window and watched the rainfall with a distant expression. She was dressed in green, fitted at the waist, with a mid-length hooded red cape. Her blonde hair was down; her unlined face did not show her years. Draco thought she looked like a run away princess from a fairy tale.
He thought of the sniffling portrait in the attic and knew he had to ask her. "Mum? Who's Persephone Potter?"
Narcissa turned her head sharply in Draco's direction. "Where did you hear that name?"
"She was in the photo albums."
"Oh," Narcissa laughed. "I'd forgotten."
Draco tried not to react too much. "Was she related to Scarhead?"
"Yes," Narcissa said. "I suppose you could consider her Harry's aunt."
"But she was in Slytherin?" Draco said.
Narcissa smiled, "Oh yes, that riled James Potter something awful."
"She was in all those pictures with you and dad."
Narcissa shrugged. "She used to follow Lucius around. She wasn't the bad sort really, just hard to get rid of."
Draco was about to take a sip of his Quidditch Cooler, but he stopped short, pretty sure he would choke on it right now. "Do you think she fancied dad?"
"All the girls in school fancied your father," Narcissa said. "He was rich and handsome. Prefect, Quidditch Captain, Head boy. But there was only one of him, and he was mine."
"What was she like?" Draco said. So far it did not sound like his mother was heart broken or had been good friends with Persephone.
"Bright, I guess, but giggly. She talked too much. Thought Muggles were fascinating and Mudbloods were charity cases. Worst hair I've ever seen, you couldn't tame that mop with a hundred spells."
"Like Granger," Draco said, then focused on his Cooler.
"She wasn't that clever," Narcissa said.
"She disappeared right?" Draco said.
Narcissa ran her hand through her straight blonde hair. "Mm, hm. Poof. No one found her. Sad really," she said in bored voice that did not convince Draco of any sadness. "Broke Severus's little black heart."
"Severus...Professor Snape?" Draco gasped, making the connection from the black-haired boy in the photos to his potions master.
"Oh yes," Narcissa said her smile turning slightly cruel, which let Draco know she was enjoying the gossip. "He used to follow her around like a whipped puppy."
Draco took a drink of his cooler. Professor Snape was head of Slytherin House and had been Draco's favorite teacher at Hogwarts from the start. Snape was cool with a dark flair for the dramatic. He pushed his students hard and kept a strict but protective watch over Slytherin. He knew that his father had known Professor Snape, but they never talked about their past. He would not have pegged them as school chums. When Draco's father had come to Hogwarts to watch his Quidditch matches, he had sat next to Snape, but he could not remember them being chatty. Their manner towards each other had been warm but very formal with a subtext Draco could not read. Draco had assumed it had to do with their shared interest in the Dark Arts, and the sort of hush-hush manner such interests inspired. But it seemed that there was much more to it than he had thought.
Draco had more trouble believing that Snape was younger than his father. Lucius had aged well, but there was something worn about Snape's face that made him look much older. Draco had trouble reconciling him as a twenty-year separation from the pale but otherwise healthy looking boy in the photos.
"It was horribly ironic," Narcissa said. "The day she vanished I had just finished painting her portrait."
This was too much for Draco. His mother was not admitting making Persephone disappear. She was gloating about it. He spewed the drink he had just taken back into the cooler cup.
His mother looked at him in shock. "Draco, what's the matter?"
"F-fly in my Cooler," he stuttered.
His mother looked horrified, and Draco feared she was not completely convinced. "Draco, why-?"
Lucius Malfoy walked in at that moment. "I thought you two might like dinner in the dining room. What are you up to?"
Draco looked up at his father then back at his mother. Her expression was distraught; tears were welling in her eyes. She put on her brave face and smiled steadfastly at Lucius. "Draco was asking me about Persephone," she said.
"Oh," Lucius said in a soothing voice that understood her pain. He stroked Narcissa's hair and kissed her forehead. She sniffed, obviously comforted by this show of affection. Draco felt sick. He stared at his parents. Luckily they were looking at each other, because he was having trouble wrestling the horror and disgust off his face.
Draco looked down until he controlled himself.
"Hungry, Draco?" Lucius asked.
He followed his parents into the dining room. If Draco were in his mother's shoes, he would eat as quickly as he could and run up to the attic and check on the portrait.
One of the advantages of being a teenage boy, Draco realized is that you could eat as quickly as you wanted but no one would find it unusual. He considered shoveling his food in his mouth and racing his mother upstairs, until he realized he had an even better advantage. The advantage of slightly damp clothing. It gave you an excuse to run upstairs and change, which Draco did.
He changed quickly, and he ran to the attic afterwards. He could hear the rain tapping against the roof, and Persephone's quiet sobs.
"You're not still crying, are you?" he said.
"It may be old news to you," she said. "But I just found out that my mother, my father, and my brother are dead. And my best friends are sheltering their murderer."
"Look, just pipe down," he said. "I've got to get you out of here."
"What's it matter?" she said. "Everyone I know is dead, or they forgot or turned against me. I bet Severus is married with ten kids."
"It's not like that," Draco hissed. "Look, my father's not against you, it's my mum. I'm sure everyone can't be dead, and I know Severus isn't married."
Persephone calmed a bit. "He's not?"
"I'll tell you more later. Just shut up, so I can sneak you out of the attic."
Persephone sniffed but did it more quietly than before. Draco tossed the blanket back over her portrait and after a little deliberation found a way to carry it so that he could still move. Draco slung the portrait over his back. He carried it down the stairs, closing the hatch behind him. He hurried back to his bedchamber and propped the portrait against the wall. He checked his hair in the mirror, closed the bedroom door behind him, and raced back downstairs. He walked leisurely into the dining room and sat down.
"Took your time," Lucius said. Draco saw that they had been waiting for him to begin.
"Sorry," he said. "Had to use the toilet."
It was an awkward dinner. As Draco predicted, his mother was putting her dainty bites away as quickly as she could. Draco was trying hard not to look smug. His father seemed rather preoccupied with a Death Eater matter, and the other two were hoping he would not recognize something was off. Even so, Draco took the opportunity to ask how Potter's grandparents died. His father seemed to take this as a healthy, understand your enemy curiosity.
After dinner, he returned to his bedchamber. He barely had the door closed when Persephone started talking again.
"Are you going to get me out?" she asked.
"No," Draco said firmly. "Look, it's not that I've got anything against you, but it would put my parents in a really bad spot right now for you to show up."
"I could sneak out," she said. "Go hide in the mountains."
"No." Draco rubbed his temples. "Maybe later when things settle down, but not now."
Persephone did not look quite as disappointed as before, perhaps she had expected this. She leaned to one side of her portrait looking resigned. "Would you at least come talk to me?"
Draco smiled in spite of himself. "Sure," he said. He felt more at ease knowing that she was not angry with him.
Persephone smiled. "I haven't had anyone to talk to in ages."
"Me neither," Draco said softly.
There was a pounding at Draco's door. "Draco." He heard his mother call. She was trying not to sound panicked.
"Stay quiet," he hissed at the portrait and slid it under his bed. He opened the door, forcing a yawn. "Yes, mum?"
Narcissa swept into his room, looking about her as if Draco might have a banshee leaning up against one his walls. "Draco, have you been in the attic recently?"
Draco shook his head. "Not in a while, why?"
She stared at him, clearly suspecting, but not sure what to do about it.
Draco wanted to tell her it was all right. He would never betray her, never put her in danger. He hated the worried way she was looking at him, but if he said anything, he would have to tell her were the portrait was. He was not sure what she would do in her panic, but he had a feeling it would go very bad for Persephone.
They were spared the discomfort of trying to speak to each other by the appearance of Draco's father. He looked at Draco curiously but was soon drawn to Narcissa's distressed face.
"What's wrong, my dear?"
"I can't find the painting," Narcissa said. She was just as good at this half lie thing as Draco, better really, a true master. "The one I did of Persephone. It can't be gone, that would be like..."
Lucius gathered Narcissa into his arms. "There, there. It's probably up in the attic. Not hard to lose something up there. We can have the house-elves look for it."
"Yes," Narcissa said in relief. "The house-elves."
Draco felt his stomach twist a little. The house-elves would let his mother off the hook. They would find the painting. She could pretend to be so happy that she did not want to know where it had been, which would let her avoid asking Draco why he had hidden it.
His father led his mother out of the room. Draco closed the door quietly behind them. "Hotchet," he called, hoping the house-elf could hear his low summons. He did not dare raise his voice with his parents so close. "Hotchet!"
"You called, young master," Hotchet said.
"Yes," Draco said. "My mother's lost a painting of a young Slytherin girl. She wants you to look for it. I've already searched my rooms, so I do not want any of the house-elves looking through my things. In fact, I really want a bit of privacy right now, so I want the house-elves to pass over my bedroom when they're cleaning. I can take care of it. No one comes in here unless I ask for them."
Hotchet looked at Draco as if he had just spoken parseltongue and a few snakes had popped out his neck. "If that is what the young master wishes," he managed.
"It is," Draco snapped.
Hotchet bowed. He glanced under Draco's bed, and Draco got the distinct feeling he knew exactly where the portrait of Persephone was.
"Honestly," Draco said. "I-I think that portrait's probably gotten thrown out by mistake, but look thoroughly, through the attic in particular."
Hotchet looked like he was trying not to smile, and Draco did not like that. "Would you like anything else, young master?"
He wished that he could bribe the elf but knew that would be a sure tip off that he was hiding something. "No, that's all."
Hotchet snapped his fingers and vanished.
Draco leaned against his bedpost feeling relieved and exhausted. He pulled Persephone's portrait out from under the bed. She was pressing her lips together.
"Did you hear all that?"
Draco took down the Slytherin team logo hanging over his fireplace and moved it into the closet. He hung Persephone over the mantle. "Thank you, Draco," she said softly. "It's nice to have a friend again."
He left her to get his nightclothes out of the dresser. "I'm tired. I'm gonna go to bed." He changed in his bathroom. Persephone was not looking at him when he came out, and Draco climbed straight into bed. He lay very still on his side, feeling the first stages of sleep come over him. He glanced up at Persephone leaning against the side of the canvas, eyes closed and breathing regularly. And then Draco slept.
The next month was not so bad. Being allowed to practice Quidditch gave him an opportunity to get out of the house. He was able to exercise and breathe fresh air. The hot summer sun drove the chill from his bones. On rainy days he had Persephone to keep him company. She was a good listener, always interested, sympathetic, and supportive. Draco understood why his father had been fond of her. Persephone listened to his complaints, and in turn he told her how the world had changed. Well, bits of it anyway.
He was tempted to take her out of the painting. She would be fun to play games with, but he knew his mother's panic was not just that she might get charged with kidnapping. He was certain she had not told Lord Voldemort any more than she had told his father. Persephone's mother had died from illness, but Lord Voldemort been thorough. He or his Death Eaters had wiped out the rest of the Potter clan. Draco had not asked his father if he had had a personal hand in the matter. There were some things he would rather not know.
He was certain Voldemort would not be pleased that Narcissa had kept a Potter alive right under his nose, even if she was trapped in a painting.
The big question that pressed upon him more as the month went on was what to do with Persephone when school started. He could not keep his parents out of his room while he was gone, and he did not trust the house-elves to hide her.
It was on a rainy day in August that he made his decision.
"Only one week 'til Hogwarts," he told Persephone.
"I wish, I could go with you," she said. "I never got to take my O.W.L.s." He did not respond and continued packing his trunk.
Outside the rain beat steadily against the manor. There was a flash of lightning. A loud crash of thunder followed, and Draco's door flew open, slamming against the wall. Draco looked up wide-eyed. Lucius Malfoy was standing at the door looking very serious. The fireplace popped out about a foot from the wall. Lucius would have to come into the room to see Persephone, but he was so close that Draco could look at them both at the same time. Persephone was sliding down into her portrait so that Draco could only see her forehead and the top of her silver hair sticking up.
But Lucius was focused on Draco. He threw a folded black robe at his son, which Draco caught. "Put that on and follow me," he said in tone that would not allow refusal. Draco did as told. The robe was long, full, and black with a large hood. Draco fastened it with a silver pin in the shape of a coiled serpent with green eyes. He hurried after his father, trying not to trip over the long fabric.
His father led him into the drawing room, and Draco's heart sank. The Malfoy's drawing room was a square room with a marble floor. In the center of the floor was a large circle of metal with the Malfoy family crest. Lucius Malfoy pointed his wand at the crest. "Aperire!" he commanded in a soft, strong voice. The crest began to spin and drop away.
"Hood up," he said to Draco. Draco pulled the large black hood up over his head. It shadowed his face and only then did he realize that he was in the uniform of a Death Eater. Draco's heart began to beat a little faster.
Lucius descended into the dark hole that appeared in the floor, and Draco followed. There was a steep, narrow, twisted staircase that led down into a fair sized circular room. The walls of the room all had inset shelves, mostly empty from when the ministry had raided the manor a year or so ago. There had been dark magic artifacts kept in this room. Things that seemed very flashy and wondrous to a child, but nothing as nasty as the ministry had hoped to find.
The room had no doors, only the shelved walls. Lucius Malfoy pointed his wand at his own hand. "Parvus secari." Small cuts appeared on his father's hands and fingers. Lucius Malfoy flinched slightly, then he pressed his bleeding hand against one of the stones. He held it there for a moment then removed it and pointed his wand at it again. "Emendo," he said and the cuts healed themselves.
Draco hoped his father would not ask him to do the same, but Lucius said nothing to him. He pulled down his own sleeve revealing the Death Eater tattoo on his arm. The black tattoo turned red and the blood absorbed into the wall. Then the wall split. The wall of the room divided into two halves and swung back revealing a much larger chamber, with seven passages. Lucius led Draco through a tunnel to his left. The tunnel was twisted but short and ended at the top of a row of long descending steps cut out of the stone. The chamber it led down to was much larger than the first. There was a ring of candelabras around the wall. Nine of the Death Eaters formed a circle in the center of the room. The rest hovered back, some standing on the raised platform near the base of the stairs. At the far end of the chamber stood Lord Voldemort, his snake like features looking more strange, yet far more at home in the flickering candle light.
Draco's dread grew with every step. He knew these chambers existed but had never come this far. This must be some step of his initiation. Lucius led Draco into the center of the chamber. "Stand here," he murmured to him.
Oh damn, Draco thought. This is an initiation.
Lord Voldemort drew closer to Draco, his robes slithering across the ground. Lucius joined the circle that had closed around him. "Are you ready to take my mark, young Draco?"
No, Draco thought. The last thing on earth he wanted was that mark which would bind him directly to Voldemort. He wanted to be far away from that thing, this creature as possible, but...he could feel his fathers eyes on him, watchful and proud. He held tight to his Occlumency, closing his thought securely with its barriers. "If you believe I am ready, Dark Lord," he said, his eyes downcast.
"Do you know why I should not give you my mark, young Draco?" the Dark Lord asked.
At first, Draco thought he was looking for some personality flaw that would make Draco unworthy, but then small light of hope grew inside him. He looked up at Voldemort's slit eyes. "Because, someone would recognize it at Hogwarts," he said. "It would make me an ineffective spy."
Lord Voldemort let out a slow hiss. Draco was not sure if that was the answer he had been wanting or even something he had considered. "You have great potential," Voldemort hissed quietly. "No, you shall not gain my mark today. You will prove yourself worthy of it this year at Hogwarts."
His relief was so great that Draco wanted to jump up and down, but he simply bowed his head and allowed himself a small short smile.
"Pay attention tonight, Draco. Few are privileged to see what you see, but I desire you to understand." Voldemort motioned with his hand. The circle parted, and Draco moved for the opening. His father led him by the shoulder to the base of the stairs.
The Death Eaters started giving Voldemort reports of their nightly wanderings. Draco wondered if they had slipped in and out of the manor without him noticing or if there were other entrances to the tunnels. Then he heard the whines of distress from the top of the stairs. Two Death Eaters were urging a very frightened looking witch down the stairs. She made little begging sounds as they descended.
With a gasp, Draco recognized her. It was the Evra Tomes, the middle aged witch who kept the wizard library in Amesbury. He pulled his hood further forward to hide his face. She would recognize him. He had been inside her library more times than he could count.
"I was lost," she was blubbering. "I didn't mean to Apparate into the Malfoy manor. I was trying to visit the Muffrey's further down the road."
It was probably true, Draco thought. Every time he had come into the library, she had told him a new story about how she had Apparated into a Muggle's bus station instead of her mother's house or the Ministry of Magic in London instead of her dentist's office in Cambridge.
"We've caught a spy," the Death Eater was boasting to Lord Voldemort.
"She not a spy!" Draco snorted. "Just a confused, harmless old witch!"
No one heard Draco's protest because no sound had actually come out of his mouth. His lips had moved, but no air had escaped through them. He thought of the copy of Adventures of Young Slytherin that Evra Tomes had recommended when she heard he had been accepted into Hogwarts. She's Harmless! he tried shouting again, but no sound came out. He remembered the cookies she had made for story time when he was seven.
"I'm not a spy!" Evra exclaimed. "I didn't even know where I was 'til I saw Mrs. Malfoy!"
Draco remembered the Origami snake he had made Mrs. Tomes for Christmas when he was six. His mother had enchanted it so it would slither around inside the box. Draco had never been afraid of snakes, so he had been very confused by her yelp when she opened his box. Harmless! he tried again, unsuccessfully.
The Death Eaters dragged her past Draco. She did not seem to recognize him, but she was in such a panic Draco doubted she would have recognized her own daughter. Harmless.
He had learned to his chagrin later that she was terrified of snakes.
Lord Voldemort motioned her forward, and the two Death Eaters dragged her into the center.
Draco could imagine her fear at the site of Voldemort's snake like visage. She kneeled trembling in the center of the circle. "I'm not a spy," she whimpered.
"Perhaps not," Lord Voldemort said. "However that does not change what you have seen."
Harmless! Harmless! Harmless!
The command that the Dark Lord sent must have been through the unnatural bond of the Death Eaters tattoo. The circle raised their wands in conjunction. "Magna Secari," the circle cried in unison. A hundred significant cuts opened on Evra Tomes's skin and blood shot out from each of them. She screamed a loud gurgling scream, then fell to the floor.
Draco had been hovering next to the wall. He fell back against it to keep himself standing. He felt sick.
His eyes stayed open, but he no longer processed what was going on before him. The Death Eaters cleaned away the body and blood with magic. They discussed more things, but Draco understood none of it. His head was whirling. His father was standing next to him, absurdly calm. He could not get sick, not here, not now. Draco put every ounce of energy he had left into his Occlumency. His emotions seemed so loud. He was surprised the entire room was not staring at him. He clamped them tightly down. All this inner focus left his expression dull, but as long as he did not draw attention to himself that was all right.
Lucius Malfoy tapped Draco's shoulder. If Draco's body had worked, he would have jumped into the air ten feet.
"Not bored are you?" Lucius murmured, as though he could understand a teenage boys disinterest in politics.
"No," Draco replied truthfully, though he figured his eyes must have looked a bit glassy.
"Time to go" Lucius told him. Draco was too dazed to express his gratitude.
He followed his father back up the stairs and out of the passage. At some point on the way to his room, his father had wished him a good night's sleep and taken his leave. Draco numbly found his way to his bedchamber. Once he had closed the door, the horror caught up with him. He stumbled to his bed and collapsed against the post trying desperately not to get sick.
He saw his trunk lying open on the floor. He pushed himself off the bed and started grabbing his belongings and shoving them into the trunk.
"Draco, are you alright?"
He had to get out of here. It did not matter where or how. He just had to get as far away from Voldemort as he could.
"Draco, what's the matter?"
He realized he was still wearing the Death Eater robes and tore them off.
"What's wrong? Draco?"
He finally realized Persephone was speaking to him and looked up at her.
"What's happened?" she asked, concern etched into her features.
He did not want to tell her about Evra Tomes. "We have to get out of here now."
"Something's gone wrong, hasn't it?"
He did not answer but stood back and pointed his wand at the portrait. "Foras!"
The transfer was instantaneous. One moment Persephone was in the portrait. The next she was standing before the fireplace. Fully three dimensional in her Slytherin uniform, knee length skirt and knee high socks almost touching, her silver hair sticking out at odd angles, the black outer robe making her small hands look very white. She touched her own body as if to check that it was solid. Keeping her feet firmly planted, she twisted around slowly taking the world in at three hundred sixty degrees. Then she touched the bedpost.
Draco felt slightly calmer once he saw that the spell had worked, and he had been right about the enchantment his mother had used. His new calm did not deter his determination to flee. If anything, he was more committed now than before.
He stepped forward, smiling in spite of himself at Persephone's awed expression. She looked at him and a second later, flung her arms around his neck. "Thank you so much," she breathed.
"We're not out of this yet," he said as he pulled her off. He looked at his trunk again. "This won't work."
On the other side of his fireplace was the door to his walk in closet. Draco ran inside and found a camping backpack. He hated the woods and had never used it. But it seemed far more practical for the escape that was slowly forming in his mind. A perplexed Persephone watched him quietly as he walked back into the room and started stuffing the more critical items into his travel bag. He packed his books and essential school supplies, his regular and formal dress robes, and squeezed his Quidditch uniform in on top of them. He hefted the backpack and looked about.
"Where are we going?" Persephone asked in a whisper.
"I don't know," he said. "But we might have more of a head start if I make it look like I'm going to Hogwarts."
"You had best leave a note," Persephone said.
"Of course," Draco agreed and took out some parchment and ink from his desk. He stared at it, wondering what to write. Finally he put.
Sorry to run out. I had to have one last fling and see some friends before school started. Please send along the rest of my things. I wanted to travel light.
"That looks all right," Persephone said, reading over his shoulder. "Sign it 'Your Spy,'"
Draco wondered how she had known but realized he had told her enough about his tea with Voldemort that she could have figured that would please them. He finished the note Your Spy, D.M.
"It's how I always sign notes to my parents."
"Come on," he said, heading for the door.
"Wait, if we leave your room like this, they'll know something's up."
Draco looked at his room, and saw the clothes, open trunk, torn robes, and random items strewn about the floor. He knew Persephone was right. Why the hell did he have to be so damn obsessive compulsive?
Draco and Persephone picked up the mess as efficiently as they could, but Draco could feel precious time slipping away. Maybe this was better, he tried to comfort himself. Leaving later might make them think this was a foolish but planned teenage romp rather than a panicked flight. They had the room straight in less than thirty minutes. Draco folded the torn robes as neatly as he could, hoping no one would pull them out and see the rips.
"Do you have any money?" Persephone asked as she quietly shut the lid to Draco's trunk.
Draco blinked. He must have been even more shaken than he realized. He was about to run away from home, possibly forever, and he had not so much as a Sickle in his pocket. Shaking his head, he opened the silver jewelry box on his dresser and took out all the gold Galleons inside.
He went back into his closet where he had another stash of coins. Then he opened his sock drawer, and felt for the small paper envelope taped to the top inside. There were three emeralds and two rubies inside that he knew he could exchange for coins in London.
He put most of the Galleons in the side pockets of his camping bag, put the jewel envelope and a few Galleons in his pocket, and then he gave Persephone a handful of silver Sickles to put in her pockets. The Galleons made the bag even heavier, but he knew that he would appreciate them later.
He opened the door slowly and checked the hall. It was clear. He walk slowly and quietly, worried the Death Eaters might be out looking for more spies. His own presence would be awkward but possible to explain, but Persephone's...
He tried to stay as far from the drawing room as possible as he moved his way downstairs. Persephone followed on his heels, much quieter than he thought she could have been.
I should have scouted first, he rebuked himself. Then he would have better idea of what was lurking in the halls tonight.
By some miracle, they made it to the kitchen door unobserved. Draco opened it slowly.
"Need something, Master Draco?" Hotchet asked. Draco whirled. The house-elf was looking at them with a gleam in his eye. The hidden smile not so well hidden.
He was afraid to threaten, afraid to bribe, not sure where the house-elf's loyalties truly lay. "Hotchet, it's very important that you do not tell anyone you have seen us."
"But, Master Draco, I have to announce strangers."
"Hotchet!" Persephone said in a quiet but suddenly bright voice. "Don't you recognize me?"
Persephone kneeled down into the moonlight and the house-elf drew in a shocked breath. "Miss Persephone?"
"That's right," she said, smiling.
"But, you haven't aged," Hotchet said in awe. He reached up a long bony hand to touch Persephone's cheek. Draco made a face. He would not have wanted the strange little creature to touch him.
"Draco's rescuing me," she said in whisper. "I'm sure Lucius would approve, but you can understand how telling anyone that I'm here would put him in a very bad spot."
"Of course," Hotchet said. The wicked smile was replaced with a gentler expression.
"If they push you about it," Persephone said. "It's all right to tell them that Draco has left. He put a note in his room for them. It's on the desk. Just, please, forget you saw me. Tell them Draco was alone."
"I will, sweet girl," Hotchet said.
Persephone smiled at him and stood back up. Draco squeezed through door, and she followed.
"Miss Persephone," Hotchet added, and she paused. "Welcome back."
Persephone smiled more broadly and closed the door gently behind her.
Draco waited for her impatiently. The rain had subsided, merely leaving the ground rather squishy. He took her hand and dragged her toward the carriage house. The double doors were open. Cautiously, Draco peeked inside and quickly pulled his head back.
Death Eater, he mouthed.
Before he could stop her, Persephone peeked as well. She snapped her head back and pulled out her wand. Draco was a little surprised that she had one. It was not a proper wooden wand either, but either plated or made entirely of silver. It glinted icily in the moonlight.
"You can't, you're underage," he hissed. "There'll be an owl."
"I was born forty years ago," she breathed back. "And if there is an owl, they'll just assume it was you."
That was exactly what worried Draco. If she did something nasty to the Death Eater, he would catch the blame for it. She gave him no time to argue.
"Disruptous," she said pointing her wand around the corner into the carriage house. There was a clattering noise from the far end of the carriage house.
"Who's out there?" he heard the Death Eater shout gruffly, but he was shouting at the other end. The Death Eater hobbled towards the far door of the carriage house looking for the source of the sound.
Persephone repeated her spell. This time there was a large sound outside like a branch snapping. The Death Eater opened the rear door and looked outside. "Phantonus cursus," she whispered, and a sound like feet running on wet grass, came from far away.
"I hear you," the Death Eater said and went running out, chasing the sound.
Draco stepped into the carriage house, scanning for a second Death Eater, but did not detect one. He motioned for Persephone, and she followed him. He took out his new Timebender and stretched out his old Nimbus 2001 to Persephone. She looked horrified.
"I've never had much luck with brooms," she said.
Draco felt panic surging back but pressed it down. He knew from the Quidditch Quarterly that the Timebender was not any faster than last year's top model, but it did hold considerably more weight. It would look strange if he took both brooms anyway. He put his Nimbus down and handed Persephone the backpack.
"Put that on. You'll have to ride with me, just hold on tight."
She looked slightly less horrified at that idea. She slipped the backpack on over her shoulders. Draco mounted his broom and kicked it up to a hover. He inched forward as far as he could while still maintaining a decent grip. Persephone climbed on behind him and squeezed his waist tightly, pressing her face against his back.
Without waiting another second, Draco shot off into the darkness.