A/N: Sorrryyy for the super late update. I hope this one is alright!
"You have failed me, Lucius."
Draco stared in awe as his father and that serpent-like man stood facing each other. His mother stood just a few feet away, looking completely stoic. Well, almost. Her mouth was the only thing that gave away her fear; it quivered uncontrollably, so she resorted to covering her mouth with her bony hand.
"Lord, I-" his father began. He had never heard Lucius speak in such a manner.
"I have no need for your excuses," whispered the man. His slit-like nostrils flared uncontrollably, and his mouth was pursed tightly. Draco couldn't even bother to look up at the scene unfolding. Instead, he stared down at his feet and attempted to ignore what was going on in his very own living room.
He had hated these meetings. His father had always insisted that it be necessary for him to sit in and listen, for one day, he would be in their position. The boy stared down at his hands and traced the lifelines that were scattered on his palms. Everything would be wrapping up soon, he thought. Then he could change out of those starchy, uncomfortable clothes he was forced to wear. And he could eat a hot meal. He smiled a little bit at the thought.
"You have failed me," the man repeated once more, his voice increasing in rigidity. This time, Draco looked up. For some reason, he suddenly couldn't shake the feeling of dread from his shoulders. He had no idea if it was the way Voldemort had spoken, or maybe the battered look on his father's face.
"I understand, my Lord. It won't happen again," his father replied, looking deeply sincere in his words.
"How can I trust you, Lucius? How can I be sure that you can get the job done?" the man continued. Like a grade school bully, his taunting seemed to give him joy and accomplishment. The frown was now clearly etched onto his smooth face, and his teeth were just barely visible under that scowling mouth. And yet, his eyes were bright and curled upward like his very innards were smiling. Draco's mother drew in a sharp breath, as if she had been pierced in the back.
The "Lord" had brandished his wand, and was now holding it carelessly between his index and middle finger. He gripped onto it so sloppily that one would have thought it to be a lit cigarette, or even a quill.
The boy's father looked at the wand with wide eyes, but tried his hardest to keep his composure. The man in front of him licked his cracked lips carefully before grinning a little.
Watching as his father dropped to the floor, Draco could barely suppress a gasp. At his feet, his father began to convulse and seize. His glassy, gray eyes stared up at his son in terror and pain, asking to be released from the curse. Draco could only sit in his seat on the couch and stare. Paralyzed.
His mother let out an awful noise; a noise that sounded like she too had been hit with the Cruciatus curse. Her knees trembled horrifically as she watched her husband grind his teeth and shut his eyes very tightly. The rest of the people in the living room simply watched; the display could have been a dull sitcom on the television.
Finally, he stopped convulsing. For a moment, he stayed on the ground, as if he wasn't sure if he was allowed to get up or not. Then, he hoisted himself onto his arms and knees. His usual stern face was completely and utterly broken; his eyes glistened with painful tears and his mouth was shuddering hysterically. Draco had never seen anything like it before, and it made him want to vomit.
Without notice, his father grasped onto his arm with such a large force that the boy was almost pulled onto the ground himself.
"Listen to me…" he croaked as his fingers dug deep into his son's arm. "Obey him, Draco. If it's the last thing you do, obey."
His words were so desperate that Draco wasn't even sure that they belonged to his own father. The man who held the wand so haphazardly in his hand was now grinning triumphantly, baring his tinted teeth. His father was gripping his forearm so hard that Draco's hand was turning red and his veins were protruding significantly.
An awful, strangled noise came from his mother, who was now completely unconcerned with keeping a calm façade. Her hands were clasped over her trembling mouth and her eyes had begun to water profusely.
Those words were said so carelessly that he could have been saying something as simple as "hello". In fact, the boy wasn't even sure that he had said it at all until a bolt of emerald radiance erupted from the tip of his wand. The force engulfed Lucius, who jolted for a moment and then collapsed. The hand that had once gripped so tightly on his son's arm had gone limp. A trail of fingerprints burned onto Draco's skin from the shock of the curse, but he didn't even seem to notice. Instead, he stared down at his dead father on the floor and felt like he was choking.
His mother was sobbing in an odd manner. He had never seen any such emotion erupt from her, and it seemed that she too was uncertain. Nevertheless, she clutched her hands together for dear life, and her eyes were streaming smoky gray tears down her cheeks. She didn't make a noise, though. She was suddenly too afraid to sob outwardly.
Draco's vision seemed to go in slow motion as the murderer of his father slipped his wand back into his flowing cape. Tears lined his eyes but he didn't dare let them fall; instead, he allowed them to well up in his sockets until he couldn't see a thing anymore. The man in front of him was nothing but a blur now; his twisted smile was no longer visible through the salty tears. The only thing he could see clearly was the body on the floor that had already grown cold and unmoving. He wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and pretend that it never happened, but the evidence was right in front of him. Lucius was dead, and his murderer had a favor to ask of him.
For the second time that week, Draco woke up from an awful fit with sweat dripping down his forehead. His stomach clenched violently inside of him, and it caused him to grasp onto the sheets below his body. He shut his eyes tightly and tried to think of something else, anything else, to get his mind off of that night. He just couldn't shake that image out of his mind, and it was driving him absolutely nuts.
Restlessly, he stood and checked the time on his wristwatch. Only half-past eleven. Lately he had been so exhausted that he had been heading to bed right after dinner, for he knew he would probably wake in the middle of the night anyway. The only thing that could get his mind off of that morose memory was his task. There was still a heated debate going on in his mind about whether or not he was going to do it.
I have to do it, he thought to himself. If I don't, he'll kill me as well.
But his conscience was vehemently arguing against that point. He couldn't do it; he wasn't ready to murder. No matter how convincing of a façade he put on, he knew deep down that he wasn't equipped to kill. But for now he would try to convince himself that he was brave, and that he wasn't going to wimp out in the long run.
Hurriedly, he ruffled through his trunk and pulled out his somewhat tarnished, silver and green prefect badge and a pair of robes. He had no idea how the badge had gotten so rusty in just a year, and he didn't really give a damn. It felt so odd to pin that badge onto his robes and hold his head high like he was a good student, but he did it anyway. He had become a great actor.
Tiptoeing carefully, he left, figured that the badge would give him an excuse to be roaming the halls.
It wasn't a long walk up to the seventh floor, but it seemed grueling when all Draco could think about was his deceased father. He hated that ashen color of his skin just moments after that wretched spell was uttered… it was like all of the life had drained out of his body like the milk out of a spilled carton. Draco rubbed his right arm tentatively, for it seemed to throb every time he thought of that night.
As soon as he entered the Room of Requirement, he rolled up his sleeve and examined the burn marks on his forearm. He traced his pale finger along the red lines, but then quickly pulled his sleeve back down. He was sick of reminiscing.
The room before him was small and rather cluttered, but he always felt better when he found refuge in this place. An old bookshelf rested in the corner with five or six Potion's books, and a cauldron sat in the middle. The only other pieces of furniture were a cupboard and two chairs. Draco slipped off his robes and threw them onto a desolate chair in the corner before walking towards the cauldron. It was only just two days ago that he had decided poisoning would be the best way. Quick, painless, and he didn't even have to see the light leave their eyes like his father's had.
Rather restlessly, he grabbed a book off the shelf and flipped to the dog-eared page.
"Mors Mortis…" he said aloud as he trailed his finger down the ingredients list for the millionth time in the past few days. The potion took a week to brew, and he knew he had to get started soon. He had all the necessary ingredients for the first few days, and soon he would be receiving the rest of them from his father's old messenger owl.
It was one thing to kill, but it was another to kill out of fear. Draco wasn't sure what was worse, but he was sure that the knot in his stomach wouldn't unravel until he made a decision.
The only sound to be heard in the dark, vacant corridor was the faint pitter-patter of footsteps coming from none other than Hermione Granger. She couldn't help but feel a sense of déjà vu as she prowled the halls of the seventh floor with her prefect badge shining brightly on her chest, keeping her eyes peeled for a certain blonde Slytherin. She was determined to catch Malfoy this time. As she neared the Room of Requirement, the hair on her neck rose very slowly. She wondered if he was in there.
For a long while, she stood staring at the blank wall, wondering why Draco would possibly want access to the Room of Requirement. Her thoughts reeled as she considered the options. It could be anything, she thought. Maybe if she just thought of all the possibilities, a door would eventually appear.
After a few moments, Hermione's train of thought was interrupted by a sudden, violent shiver that rolled up her entire spine. Was she being… watched?
"Hello?" she called meekly.
Nothing. Wringing her hands together, she tried to focus on the blank wall in front of her. It's just your imagination, she told herself. Stop letting it get the best of you.
With all of her might, she tried to shove those thoughts out of her mind. But she couldn't; there definitely seemed to be a presence in her immediate vicinity. In the distance, she heard a cat's meow.
"Mrs. Norris," she muttered to herself. The red-eyed beast padded up the hallway, and stopped smugly at her feet. Following the cat was none other than Filch, the ragged groundskeeper.
"What d'you think you're doing out here?" he asked angrily, his lips curling over bright yellow teeth.
"Oh… I heard some commotion, so I had to check it out," she replied as nonchalantly as she could, pointing to her shiny badge "I am a prefect, after all."
Filch snorted. "Yeh, and I'm the Minister of Magic!" he exclaimed, laughing at his own little joke. Mrs. Norris meowed as if she were laughing as well. "I know you're up to something, Granger. You and your little friends better not cause trouble this year, you hear me? Now get out of here!"
Hurriedly, she walked back to the common room without another word. Filch always had to ruin important things like this. She slipped into the common room, still trying to shake the feeling that she was being watched, and not by Mrs. Norris or Filch. No, there had definitely been more than the three of them in the hallway.
"So, Filch caught you?" asked Ron as soon as Hermione got back into the common room. With a sigh, she flopped onto the couch next to him and blew a strand of wiry hair out of her face.
"Yes, but to be honest… I kind of wanted to get away from that spot. It just felt like I was being –"
"Watched?" Harry asked, feeling a familiar creeping sensation run up his spine. Hermione nodded vehemently.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, rubbing at the goosepimples on her arms. Harry nodded all-knowingly. It hadn't exactly been a threatening presence, but it was there, and that was enough to spook the three of them.
"I don't know about this anymore," Hermione told them after a long while. The boys cocked their heads to the side, as if to ask why. "I mean, I don't want to risk getting in trouble over something that's probably not a big deal."
"Of course," said Ron spitefully. "There you go again, fussing about the rules. We're in the midst of battle here, Hermione!"
"No, we're not," she snapped. "And I'd rather not have my prefect privileges revoked for snooping around in something that most likely has nothing to do with our present situation."
"Yeah, well what if it does?" Harry spat suddenly, his face turning a bright shade of magenta. "I don't want anyone else killed because we weren't careful enough."
"But we were!" exclaimed Hermione. "There was nothing you could have done about Siriu-"
"Don't," he said threateningly. After a few moments of heated eye contact, he added, "I'm going upstairs."
With a huff, he snatched his Potions textbook into his arms and headed for the stairs, not bothering with any sort of "goodnight". Ron followed close behind after a few sheepish looks towards Hermione.
She exhaled deeply and sunk backwards into the couch, folding her hands across her stomach. The more she thought about the Malfoy situation, the more uneasy she got… and getting in his business was most likely the last thing she wanted to do. With a tight knot still stuck in her stomach, she too stood and headed for her bed, hoping that everything would blow over in the morning.
A/N: Tell me your thoughts!