Hard earth met Draco's feet as they arrived at their destination. Beside him, Yaxley released his arm, almost throwing it away as if touching Draco disgusted him.
Resisting the urge to scowl, Draco stepped away and looked around at his surroundings. They had side-long apparated into a valley. Wind rustled the branches of the trees surrounding them. Even in the darkness, he could feel how alone they were. This knowledge provided him no comfort and he flinched as Yaxley lit his wand with a muttered, "Lumos."
This man was no friend of his. Worse than that, he was an enemy of Lucius's and any failure on Draco's part reflected heavily on his father. Draco did not doubt that Yaxley would make true on his earlier threat to 'sew his mouth shut' at the slightest provocation.
Yaxley was squinting and turning slowly where he stood. His pitiful spell lit only the area around his feet. Keeping his expression cold, Draco internally smirked. Some men depended on the strength of their vocal chords to power the spells they cast. The quieter their casting, the weaker their spell.
A truly powerful wizard could kill with a whisper. Corbin Yaxley was not one of these men.
The smell of rain encompassed them. Draco wondered if it had washed away whatever Yaxley was looking for or if the man had somehow arrived at the wrong location.
"Do you see a house, Malfoy?" Draco shook his head at Yaxley's frustrated question. "I don't see no bloody house either, not even a shack-but it had to have been here. The Dark Lord had it under watch at one point. I would have made the git stay nearby, kept a better eye on him. Bloody bastard," Yaxley spat on the ground. "Should have killed him when I had the chance, knew he wouldn't amount to any good-too chatty."
Patiently, Draco listened as his fellow Death Eater complained and gazed around in the dark. He couldn't imagine what Yaxley was hoping to find here that was worth standing in the wet grass for. This was not what he had envisioned when he'd decided to serve the Dark Lord. There was no glory to be found amongst insect infested woods.
His life had reached an all time low. He wasn't even brave enough to press Yaxley for information on what exactly they were looking for. True cowardice.
"Stop staring at your feet, Malfoy. Make yourself useful and start searching!" Yaxley snapped and stomped off taking his faintly lit wand with him.
Turning away so he could roll his eyes without facing repercussions, Draco cast his own lumos. With a glimmer of his old smugness, he noticed it shone far brighter than his counterpart's and lit a wider area around where he stood. Remnants of rainwater from the sodden grass clung to Draco's pant legs as he stalked off. The stupid man hadn't even told him why they were here beside some incomprehensible muttering and at this point Draco just wanted to get away.
A tad too hopefully, he wondered if getting lost was a possibility. He could apparate back to the manor and crawl into bed or the nearest chair, go back to thinking about the whole pathetic situation in the dry, safe, manor. How sad was it, that he was so well acquainted with his personal form of misery, that it almost brought him comfort to think of going back to it?
Closing his eyes against the brightness of his lumos, Draco let himself simmer in his own self pity. His frown felt like a permanent fixture on his face and smiling more like a memory from childhood. What would Yaxley say if he were to just lay down right there in the valley? He could let the coldness from the earth seep into his bones, then they would match how cold and unfeeling the rest of him was.
A slight gust of wind blew his fair hair askew. He brushed it away from his eyes blankly with the back his wand hand and the light from his lumos shone widely across the field. There was a glimmer in the distance.
Aiming the beam from his wand back in that direction, Draco could barely discern the shape of a small cabin in the distance. He had found it. But, why did this sad looking little place matter to one of the most feared Dark Lord's of his time?
Eyebrows creasing in thought, Draco felt a flicker in interest he hadn't felt since the discovery of the mirror spell. Without even attempting to inform Yaxley, Draco headed to the front door. The last inhabitants had left the door ajar.
Lifting his head, Draco raised the wand defensively and pushed at the door with his foot. It creaked open slowly, revealing a dark interior lit only by the moonlight at his back. Furniture had been haphazardly thrown across the room. A wooden chair leg lay at Draco's feet. Pieces of ceramics with a shiny glaze were scattered across the hearth.
Something unpleasant had happened here. An ominous presence seemed to leak from the walls, reaching out to Draco with long dark fingers of discontent.
With wide eyes, he surveyed the room. What could have happened here and why was the Dark Lord involved? It seemed like some Death Eaters may have already been through here once, destroying the place as they went...his eyes caught on the far left hand side of the room. It was so bare except for the few pieces of broken furniture. As he looked around, Draco noticed the windows had been blacked out with paint.
Had someone wanted to keep people from looking in...or certain inhabitants from looking out?
Cautious not to step on anything sharp, Draco slowly walked deeper into the house. He had this paranoid feeling that the door would slam shut behind him, some ghostly presence announcing itself for the first time-but it remained open.
The beam of light from his wand traveled across the room, looking for clues of what could have happened here. He reached a door to the right side of the small house and discovered it was locked. Someone had wanted this room left undisturbed. That meant Draco had to get in.
Alohomora, the most common charm for this, didn't aid him at all. Eyes alight with a challenge, Draco quickly cast the other unlocking spells he knew. They grew in power, his voice a bit exasperated near the end when suddenly-the door handle flew off and across the room.
"That's right," Draco muttered triumphantly, "bow before my majestic power."
The sudden mental image of the Dark Lord forcing his followers to bow or be tortured came to his mind at those words. Draco's smile fell off his face. The room that had been hiding beyond the door was lived in, but no where near as disastrous as the main living area. Someone had kept this bedroom neat, probably expecting to return and sleep in the partially made up bed.
Snooping was almost second nature to Draco. Growing up an only child, and a rather spoiled one at that, had left him with a rather privileged view of the world. The things that didn't belong to him could easily become his with the right price...and if no one was there to see, why should he not take a gander through someone else's belongings?
In this case, snooping was literally his job...even though Draco still wasn't sure what he was supposed to find.
His eyes passed over robes, most hung neatly in a small closet. There were some other belongings that screamed 'Muggle' that were piled up mostly out of sight.
"Why am I here?" Draco sighed and poked uninterestedly through a stack of books. "Who in the world reads this? 'Adolescent Psychiatry'?"
The pile of books were a mixture of Wizarding and Muggle authors, all about the mind, though some didn't seem as interested in helping. 'How to Prosper Using Other's Weak Points' certainly seemed like an advantageous read, but Draco wasn't sure he'd want to be very close the group of readers that book was aimed at.
The bedside table had two locked drawers, and Draco had to once again use his arsenal of unlocking spells to get the doors open. He noticed the notebook immediately. It lay alone in the top drawer, one long piece of red ribbon was wrapped around it multiple times. It looked old and slightly brittle, and when Draco picked it up, he could feel how well read it was. A lot of time and been spent bent over this book.
Someone had cherished this.
"Could have yelled that you found the place, arsehole!" Yaxley yelled angrily from the other room.
Without even considering why, Draco shoved the notebook inside his robe and secured it there with an almost silent gluing charm.
"Doesn't look like there's anyone here anyway," the older Death Eater said, dark outline appearing in the bedroom door.
"Were we looking for a person? I don't think anyone has been here in a while," Draco said quickly, turning to look around the room as if he hadn't already searched the entire place. He was grateful that one of the Dark Lord's pet werewolves hadn't been invited along, they would have noticed his racing heart before entering the house.
Yaxley grunted noncommittally and walked back out into the main room.
"Bloody prick made a right mess of the place," he grunted, looking around and shaking his head at the mess. "Should have ran right after Potter instead of spending time trashing his own house."
Draco had to remind himself to keep breathing.
Yaxley was too caught up in his own story telling to notice how still Draco had become.
"Thought the Dark Lord would kill the little maggot when he failed, but instead he let him go after Potter and the other brats that escaped. 'Course he didn't come back. Would you come back Malfoy?"
His throat felt so dry, but Draco swallowed and weakly said, "Come back?"
"Exactly, if you lost the fuck'in Boy Who Lived you wouldn't come back either. This was a bloody waste of time, just like I knew it would be." The disgust was obvious in Yaxley's voice and he marched out of the house angrily.
Forcing his feet to move, Draco hurried out of the dark room and back into the wet grass. "Wait-um, Potter was here and he escaped?"
Yaxley ignored him for a moment, a small smirk dancing around his mouth. Slowly the Death Eater straightened his robes and slicked back his hair as if trying to wipe his irritation away. Draco gritted his teeth. He hated when people had knowledge that he was not aware of.
"Potter left the dick head unconscious, stole his wand and took two other captives along with him-"
It wasn't lost on Draco that Yaxley sounded grudgingly amused by this series of events.
"Thomas hasn't been seen or heard from and the Dark Lord wants him dead-but until we catch him we'll just have to destroy every place he's ever stayed-starting here."
With that, Yaxley turned and yelled, "Incendio!"
Small flames shot out of his wand and latched onto the right side of the cabin. A gentle rain could probably wipe them out. Draco was almost embarrassed for him.
"Go on, Malfoy. You were a complete waste of space, but I'll be generous and let you take a shot at it too," Yaxley said in a mocking tone.
The notebook seemed to burn within his coat and it took away any bite the words had. There was something special about it, Draco could feel it he just couldn't imagine what it was.
Turning to face the rising flames, Draco cast his own spell. The house exploded in fire as if the very beams were made of kindling. From his peripheral vision, he noticed Yaxley take a step back in alarm.
Draco smiled. Knowing that Potter had escaped so spectacularly caused a deep sense of satisfaction to hum under his skin. In that moment, the reasons he should feel upset or at least conflicted didn't seem to matter.
He watched as the flames consumed the house, but his mind was already pondering what this latest event meant for him and his future.
It was the most peaceful sleep he'd had in months. There were no dreams in this sleep or those ever occurring nightmares.
His muscles felt relaxed and warm. The room smelt pleasantly of spices and citrus. How odd to think that the overwhelming sense of contentment came from a night spent on Snape's couch. There wasn't even the underlying sense of not being wanted like he often felt at the Dursley's house.
Harry couldn't remember falling asleep, just the remnants of some odd conversation. Something about the Dursley's? A lead weight seemed to land in his stomach painfully and Harry cringed.
Damn. He must have been heavily drugged to talk about his aunt and uncle. The worst part was, he couldn't even recall what all he'd said. Harry sighed.
Though the fireplace was no longer burning, the air around him was not chilly. A heavy blanket had been draped over him sometime during the night. There was an odd moisture on Harry's face and confusedly he blinked open his eyes.
His cheek was wet from drool. Harry groaned softly in embarrassment and wiped his mouth...with Snape's pajama top.
"Dear God," Harry muttered and shut his eyes again. Ron would faint...or choke on his own spit from laughing.
From the quietness in the room, it seemed he was at least alone to think about his inadequacies, such as the fact that his mouth failed to hold in copious amounts of saliva.
With a soft sigh, he sat up and waited a moment to see if his professor would walk back in the room, as if some babysitting charm had been placed on him. The room remained quiet. Several details jumped out to Harry in his inspection. His shoes had been removed and were placed neatly by the edge of the sofa-and if he wasn't mistaken, a cleaning spell had been tossed their way. How odd.
The small coffee table in front of him held a breakfast tray that hadn't been there the night before. On its silver surface were various scones, a little dish of jam and even a steaming teapot with a solitary cup just for him. Harry leaned forward and found a little note with his teacher's familiar spiky handwriting.
It read, 'Potter, eat.' Harry scoffed. Short and sweet, how very unlike Snape. The man normally preferred a good rant while towering over his chosen victim. Looking down at the warm blanket that still covered his legs, curious thoughts went through his mind. He'd been treated very well by Snape since returning to Hogwarts.
Could his Professor have perhaps found a heart while searching for potions ingredients? Not likely, but at the same time he was rather hungry...and honestly who was Harry to ignore orders from authority figures?
Reaching forward, Harry collected a small pile of scones and began scooping generous spoonfuls of raspberry jam onto his plate. This was not a common breakfast item in the Great Hall and if they did show up, some greedy students were likely to shove several into their robe pockets for later.
A warming spell had kept them at the perfect temperature and Harry's eyes closed in pure contentment.
Yes, he could be quite happy here in Snape's rooms...especially with Snape not here. Harry grinned at that thought and fought back a small surge of guilt as he realized how ungrateful he sounded. Tea would help wash that feeling away, he decided, and poured a cup full of the hot brew.
Cup in one hand and a scone in the other, Harry stood and made his way slowly around the room. Yesterday was like one large blur of pain and messy emotions and though he could remember being surprised by Snape's space, nothing else really stood out. He couldn't even remember where the loo was located and that was becoming a rather pressing issue.
Unfortunately for Harry's unyielding curiosity, Snape had not taken a chance when it came to the security of the rooms he wanted left private. Which was to say, all the rooms. The connecting hallway boasted several doors, all with their own unique doorknob-and every single one of them refused to budge under Harry's hand.
His unsuccessful attempts were almost humorous. It seemed his teacher was either paranoid or knew Harry far too well. Either way, the Gryffindor knew when to accept defeat. Casting alohomora would be an even bigger breach in privacy than just a little wiggle of the doorknob. Harry wasn't stupid enough to attempt anything more than that.
There was a short popping noise from the living room and Harry hurried back to find an unwrapped bundle of clothes sitting next to the remains of his breakfast.
Harry dear, it read in a rather hurried script, I'm sorry I didn't think of this sooner, I was so wrapped up in the children that I utterly forgot that you'd probably enjoy a fresh change of clothes yourself. These are Ron's so there might be a need for some shortening charms, not calling you short, dear, Ron is just unlawfully tall. The children are eager to see you, even between bites of breakfast it was 'Harry this' and 'Harry that.' We've made a rather comfortable place for the children in the Gryffindor common room for now. - Molly
The note had reminded him of his other responsibilities, and though Harry was eager to see the children, being someone they looked up to came with its burdens. Even now, the thought of telling them about their mother caused an sharp ache in his chest.
There was an odd sense of resignation that came with knowing it was time to leave this quiet, peaceful room. Even though it does belong to Snape, Harry found the atmosphere to be reassuringly calm-as if the turmoil from the recent events was muted by the stone walls of the dungeon.
Grudgingly he placed his empty tea cup down and began straightening up the living area. Harry folded the blanket that had kept him so warm during the night and neatly lay it across the back of the sofa.
After finding the loo, washing his face off and pulling his shoes on, Harry was ready to leave though still somewhat reluctantly. Once he'd walked out of the rooms and back into the dungeons hallway, Harry turned to watch the magical bricks flip over themselves until the doorway was once again blocked.
There was no way he would ever be able to find his way back here. At that thought, Harry had to snort, because in what world would Snape want him back. That was a laugh.
Still shaking his head, Harry left and went to find Parker and Lizzy.
Several hundred miles away in Wiltshire, England, a certain blond with impeccable manners and a pedigree to match fell to the floor in a ungraceful slump.
His mouth gaped open of its own accord but no words came forth. Small gasps exploded out of his chest but his gray eyes never wavered from the pages before him. Draco Malfoy was shocked speechless.
He had re-read the same words multiple times now. His legs were cramping from the cold floor he couldn't seem to stand up from. This was entirely unexpected. His mind was having trouble processing what it meant. He was having trouble understanding what he had found in that dusty cabin. The very same cabin that had went up in flames less than thirty minutes after he had tucked this ratty old journal into his robes.
This journal filled with dark secrets. Something icy went down Draco's spine and goose bumps rose all across his arms. These were secrets he felt certain the writer had died for knowing. The Dark Lord wouldn't let anyone live that had this sort of knowledge.
Draco was shaking. His body had realized what his mind was just now catching onto, that he was at a precipice. Before him lay two very different decisions, either one could end with his tumbling over that cliff.
Closing his eyes, Draco gritted his teeth and tried to get his breathing back to normal. He had resigned himself to the life it seemed was destined for him. One where his eyes would stay on the ground in the presence of the Dark Lord, because the man held immeasurable power and had defeated death itself.
Should he run from the Dark Lord and then decide he was mistaken, trying to return would mean death more surely than turning away in the first place. That was a terrifying thought...but as Draco knelt there, eyes roving over the words before him, he felt something stir in his heart.
It felt like hope.
Draco shook his head in wonder and squinted at the messy journal he held in his hands. Even with all the dark tomes that resided in his father's library, he'd never heard of something like this. A terrible thing that had kept The Dark Lord from death, granting him 'immortality' and with it, fear. That fear had kept his family in bondage. To think what he could do if that fear was destroyed. It was easier to not be afraid when you understood how something worked.
Along with this new found hope came determination. He did not know how this would play out, but he had cunning on his side...he was a Slytherin after all. He needed a plan. Sitting back on his haunches, Draco closed his eyes and began to plot. One thought was louder in his mind than all the others.
I wonder, Draco thought, if Potter knows about these 'horcruxes.'
Author's Note: HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's to 2018, what is one thing you'd like to do this year that kind of scares you? I'd like to go spelunking, even though small spaces are terrifying-also, I want to get into a new profession (script supervisor, anyone? Sure, it's a pipe dream, but a really lovely one). You guys, I know so many people despise him-but I love Draco, he has such an opportunity here to matter and change the story of not only his life but others as well. Thank you all for the super kind comments and feedback and WELCOME to the 56 new story followers that joined us with the last chapter. I would love to hear what you all think so far. Next couple of chapters will be a little nerve wracking, we've been building up to something a little shocking-possibly more shocking than Draco's discovery. Please review!